Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tunnels and Trolls in French

In case you were not aware, a revised version of the Tunnels and Trolls rules were recently published in French by Patrice Geille with the support of Ken St. Andre and Rick Loomis of Flying Buffalo. This new edition is based on the 7.5 edition of the rules with additional material incorporated from the 5.5 edition rules. From what I've been able to tell it is an excellent combination of the two rules sets and clears up many ambiguities from the 7th edition. Amazingly it also contains some original new artwork by Liz Danforth. Patrice and his colleagues have also been releasing some revised classic Flying Buffalo solo and GM adventures in French, again with all new art. These include Rick Loomis' Buffalo Castle (Chateau Bison), Ken St. Andre's A Riverboat Adventure (Le Nain Ivre), as well as Ken St. Andre's Lair of the Silver Serpent (A la Poursuite du Serpent D'argent) also known as Trollstone Caverns which includes some new material by Andy Holmes and a fantastic cover by Simon Lee Tranter.

Visually these books are amazing, but I don't read or speak French so I have somewhat limited use of them; but if you do you should certainly pick them up. There are rumors that Flying Buffalo may release English versions of these books but nothing definitive has been said on the matter.

Check out the T&T French website for details and updates on new products being released.

You can purchase printed copies of the rules and adventures from the Lulu storefront. There is also a quick-start free version of the rules available from RPGnow.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Hobb Sized Adventures: A New T&T Solo Blog

Hobb Sized Adventures is an exciting new blog by Charlie Flemming (aka Charrl Flemmning) that promises to feature micro-solo adventures for Tunnels and Trolls.

The first installment is Tomb of the Toad, an 11-paragraph tomb-raid solo. This adventure starts the way I love solos to start, right in the middle of the action. Fleeing from a creature too tough to fight you find yourself lost in a marsh. You then stumble upon an ancient tomb. What else is a delver to do but to go inside? What follows is an excellent adventure full of danger, hazards, and likely death. No one said a delvers life would be long. There are more that a few creatures waiting to make a meal out of your character and all are well suited to the setting. The writing is very good and the descriptions of the tomb are superb. Be aware that the adventure is linear in nature which is largely a byproduct of it's small size; once you start down a path there is no option for turning around, although you could easily do this yourself by mapping your progress and recording the paragraph numbers. There are a few typos here and there as well as some missing words, but nothing serious. Finally, the victory paragraph is lacking a definitive end. If you'd like to have one, I recommend reading the last few sentences of paragraph 10. Overall, Tomb of the Toad is a very good solo and an excellent example of what can be done in less than 20 paragraphs. I look forward to seeing and playing more of these solos in the future.

Charlie promises new solos about every two weeks and has invited submissions from others. There is also a chance of solos for other game systems such as BEAN! and Awesomesauce!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Tome of Advanced Specialist Mages: A Review

The Tome of Advanced Specialist Mages is a new item from Eposic and Michael Eidson. This book provides rules for various types of new Specialist types that make use of the Wizardry attribute. Some of these new types are loosely based on the generic Specialist Mage type introduced in the Tunnels and Trolls 7th edition rules. The original Specialist Mage was designed to make use of a specific school of magic (Combat, Cosmic, Conjuring, and Metabolic). A Specialist Mage has access to all spells within that school once he/she had achieved the appropriate level, intelligence, and dexterity. The only way for a character to become a Specialist Mage, however, is to roll a 15 or higher on the Wizardry attribute when the character is created. Other Specialist types described are entirely new creations.

The Tome includes five new character types. There are three kinds of traditional spell-casting types called Advanced Spell Casting Specialists as well as two other types that use magic but do not use the standard T&T spell lists.

The Advanced Spell Casting Specialists include: 1) the Flex Mage that can use any attribute to power spells, 2) the Parasitic Mage that can draw Kremm from the Wizardry attribute of others (either voluntarily or involuntarily), and 3) the Themed Specialist Mage that can only cast a limited number of spells based on a specific theme chosen by the player. The first two Advanced Specialists obviously give the character more spell-casting power. There are also other interesting and very useful side effects to their abilities. Their chief drawback is that they start with only one first level spell and may not learn new spells from the Wizards Guild just like Rogues. The third type is my favorite and seems the most useful in solo play. Themed Specialist Mages get to choose any five spells of any level from the T&T spell lists to start with regardless of the Intelligence and Dexterity requirements. The only stipulation is that the Theme Mage must have enough Wizardry to cast that spell at it's base cost. This presents a lot of room for creativity and grants starting characters some rather potent magic since many high-level spells have low Wizardry costs. The only drawback is that the Theme Mage will never be able to cast another spell outside the starting five. Mike provides fifteen examples of Theme Mages that provide a good overview of the possibilities including: The Dark Flames Mage, The Dominant Force, The Healing Hand, and The Summoner.

The first new Specialist described is the Combat Psychic. As the name implies, the Combat Psychic uses WIZ to power psychic abilities rather than spells. The Combat Psychic is modeled after the Rogue type and even includes a Psychic Roguery talent which I personally find rather brilliant. Basically the Psychic is able to use his/her psychic powers in place of physical action. Combat Psychics use WIZ to perform Psychic Actions which amount to dealing or taking damage in combat and Psychic Tweaks which allow the Psychic to alter the difficulty of saving rolls either up or down depending on the target and situation. The descriptions of the Combat Psychic's abilities also provides rules and suggestions needed to run a Combat Psychic in solo adventures; a rather handy detail. At the end of the Combat Psychic rules is a nice detailed and entertaining description of play where you can see all of the abilities in use.

The second new Specialist described is the Kremm Warrior. Kremm Warriors are an interesting mix of warrior and wizard. They are not spell casters but instead create items such as weapons, armor, and even miscellaneous equipment by using WIZ. These items are referred to as Kremm Items. Kremm Warriors can make as many of these Kremm items as they have the WIZ to generate instantly. This means that a Kremm Warrior could be walking through the woods in his underwear when suddenly three goblins spring out from behind a tree wielding daggers and demanding gold or blood. The next moment the Kremm Warrior is encased in a shimmering suit of plate armor and wielding a sword and shield. The goblins subsequently crap themselves and run. A major limitation of Kremm Warriors is that they get limited use of normal, material items made of iron, steel, wood, leather, etc. This is reflected by a reduction in the dice and adds of normal and magical material weapons, a reduction in the hits taken by normal and magical material armor, and an overall reduction in the amount of material equipment a Kremm Warrior can carry (i.e. reduced weight capacity). The Kremm Warrior description takes up the most pages of any of the new character types included in the book primarily due to it's completely unique nature.

The Tome of Advanced Specialist Mages is an excellent set of rules for new character types. Most importantly, the writing is clear and concise making even the most complex of the new types easy to roll up and play in very little time. If you are interested in adding new character types to your T&T GM or solo games you should definitely pick up a copy. If you are satisfied with those types given in the published rules, then this book might not be for you. There are plenty of ideas in there, however, and you could easily use them to make your own house rules for standard Wizards and Rogues.

You can get a pdf copy of The Tome of Advanced Specialist Mages at RPGnow for only $2.99. The download consists of three files including a file designed to be viewed on an e-reader device.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Pocket Troll: A New T&T Fanzine

Troll Hammer Press has released it's first Tunnels and Trolls product, Pocket Troll: A T&T Microzine! Pocket Troll is a new fan-supported magazine set up in a pocket-mod format. This format produces a small micro-zine that can be printed out and folded into an approximately 3" x 4" booklet.

The premiere issue of Pocket Troll includes five short articles, a one-room GM adventure, and a full, 30-paragraph solo adventure by me entitled "In Deep." Other contributors to Pocket Troll #0 include Jeff Freels who provided the cover art, Ken St. Andre, Roy Cram, Mike Eidson, Tom Loney, Mark Evans, and Paul Ingrassia the Troll Hammer himself.

I found writing the solo adventure to be a real challenge provided the limitations of the format, but in the end I was very happy with the final result. I think I packed as many experiences into 30 paragraphs as possible. The articles are necessarily short but provide some great T&T material including two monster descriptions. The one-room GM adventure is nicely designed, requiring fast-thinking players.

You can get your copy of Pocket Troll Issue #0 from RPGnow for only $2 USD. You'll get four pdf files: one for the articles and another for the solo adventure in pocket-mod format as well as two more files in standard 8.5" x 11"" format.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

May's Lone Delver

Here is yet another classic Lone Delver courtesy of the talented Liz Danforth from the 5th edition of the Tunnels and Trolls rules.

There are several reasons that I like this illustration. I'll number them so that I can keep them all straight:

1. He's armed to the teeth. He has a long bow, a two-handed broadsword, and a magic-negating kris dagger. A good lone delver always has a variety of weapons to deal with unexpected situations. This delver is well-prepared.

2. Despite all of those weapons he's not very well armored. He has a helm, greaves, and a leather jerkin, but that's all. He must have great confidence in his skill and agility to keep him from harm; however he is smart enough to protect his head. Of course he may have also spent most of his money on all of those weapons leaving none for good armor.

3. He's barefoot. This could have simply been an oversight at the market, but perhaps there's a better story there. Maybe he stepped in a pool of toxic slime or highly corrosive acid that forced him to leave his boots behind. Or maybe it was something a bit more benign yet no less horrifying; a heap of dragon dung perhaps?

4. He has a bow with an arrow drawn and ready as he enters the room. How many solo delvers think of doing this? The use of missile weapons at the start of an encounter are typically not mentioned in solo adventures, but there is no reason that you cannot house rule this sort of tactic. Given that longbow, this delver could likely slay an opponent with a single shot. The obvious problem would be light, but denizens of this place were kind enough to provide torches.

5. The torches. Nicely detailed sconces with hands clutching the torch and a frame that has the appearance of a face. But could they actually be talking? Maybe they are enchanted and shout "INTRUDER!" as the delver enters warning who or whatever dwells within? It's a good thing the delver has that bow ready.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

New Trollworld Campaign Idea - The New World

After reading A Fragmentary History of Trollworld I came up with a seed of a campaign idea that I rather like and plan on developing further.

The campaign starts with the characters first entering Trollworld through a dimensional gate as humans (or possibly other kin) in the service of the Wizard Kalban Adamto at 15,000 B.K. Talk about awe and wonder. This campaign provides the players with an entirely alien world to explore; basically a sword-and-planet style adventure set in the dim past of Trollworld. The character will have no knowledge of the world they are thrust into or the beings that inhabit it and will be charged with establishing a kingdom for Kalban Adamto. Establishing this new, and hopefully secure, home should be the driving motivation for the characters.

This is an idea I really like because it has the potential to make use of my favorite character kindred, humans, in a major way. The majority of the players will obviously need to be human (2/3 or 3/4). There could be hobbs or leprechauns as well, but a player choosing one of these kin would need to have a good explanation as to how they came into the service of the wizard. Elves and dwarves are out; these are just two of the alien beings that inhabit Trollworld. The characters will eventually encounter these kindred and will likely be at odds with them as they try to carve out a new territory. This campaign could also make good use of my revised citizen type. After all, a colonizing force needs more than warriors and wizard. Specialists of all types will be required to conquer the new world and the players will be forced to use more than swords and spells.

The range of possible adventures to be had in this campaign is fairly unlimited. My idea is that the human colonists arrive in a remote part of the Dragon Continent. They would then start trying to tame the surrounding wilderness facing wild animals and monsters, discovering ancient ruins, and eventually dealing with first contacts with the various intelligent kindred who may or may not be hostile to their presence. From there, a range of adventures are possible involving diplomacy, espionage, guerrilla activity, or even open warfare.

There is still a lot to think about and many details to fill in, but it is a campaign I would enjoy playing in and running. As the pieces start to come together I will post them here with published material coming later.

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Fragmentary History of Trollworld: A Review

Ok, so I've had an autographed copy of A Fragmentary History of Trollworld on my shelf since October 2010, but I have not gotten around to reading it from cover to cover until recently. Given the things I learned about Ken St. Andre's personal Tunnels and Trolls setting, I regret that delay.

There have been many comments about needing a unified setting for T&T similar to that other game; well here it is in one small volume. The world is simply called Trollworld. But keep in mind that this is a Ken St. Andre style presentation. It is far from complete, but instead presents a general history of the major event in his world over a span of over 100,000 years. Rather impressive in my opinion.

The history is presented as a series of events, some linked some not, some involving important figures in the history or Trollworld, given year by year. Some of the events are only a few years apart while others are separated by thousands.

There is quite a bit of interesting information unique to Trollworld that I learned in my reading. Here are just a handful that grabbed my attention:

1. Trolls were the first sentient beings on Trollworld.

2. Elves and dragons arrived on Trollworld at the same time through dimensional gates. The elves were fleeing the destruction of their world by dragons. The dragons followed.

3. Wizards with god-like powers enter Trollworld through the same gates many bringing their own servant kindred including humans and dwarves.

4. Dwarves were created by one of these wizard gods from stone.

5. The Wizard Wars, which last for about 45,000 years (!!), involve many of these wizard-gods with most of the destruction being laid against their servant kingdoms.

The series of events provides a nice framework for setting individual adventures or entire campaigns anywhere within this history. You could set your campaign at the end of the chronology; it is certainly a chaotic time and ripe for adventure (you'll just have to read about it to see). But you could have your characters engaged in the Wizard Wars 52,000 years earlier. You could place your adventure in a time before dwarves or humans even arrived on Trollworld. You could even start a game in the dim past when elves and dragons first passed through the dimensional gates. There are boundless possibilities.

In addition to the chronology of the history of Trollworld there are also descriptions of the history and ecology of Trolls, Elves, and Dwarves in Trollworld. In addition to presenting Ken's own interpretation of these kindred, they also provide some interesting information that could be incorporated into the game.

For example:

1. Trolls are actually shape shifters. The did not take on humanoid forms until after the arrival of the elves and dragons (and their eventual war with both).

2. Elves are intolerant of iron; most elf adventurers who generally have some sort of iron in their presence are actually half elves.

3. Dwarves were carved from stone and brought to life by the wizard-god Gristlegrim. The new born, but fully grown, dwarves were then educated by beings from, of all places, Earth.

The layout of A Fragmentary History is well done, even if the text is a little small. You should certainly read this one in a well-lit room. The book is well-illustrated by David Ullery, Garen Ewing, Chad Thorson, and Robin Stacey and features some illustrations that you may recognize, but the majority are new.

The only thing I felt was missing from the book were maps. There is a map included with the 7.5 edition boxed set of Tunnels and Trolls but I certainly would have liked to have had a map included in the book that I could refer to whenever specific places were mentioned. Just a thought for future editions.

Overall, A Fragmentary History of Trollworld is quite good and I recommend it to any T&T fan. The book provides a nice framework for campaigns in the world of Ken St. Andre, just as long as you are willing to provide your own details. Remember, it is not a fully fleshed out campaign world, but it provides the seeds to develop many of them.

A Fragmentary History is sold by Peryton Publishing as is available as a pdf for $5 through RPGnow. You can also get a hard copy for around $12 from Peryton's Lulu store.