Monday, February 24, 2014

Rules Supplements for T&T: Sci-Fi, Science Fantasy, and Horror

Tunnels & Trolls has its roots in the sword and sorcery genre. Having been written in 1975 at the very beginning of RPGs this is to be expected. But the basic mechanics of T&T are very flexible and can be adapted to work in a variety of genres from old west, gangsters, modern, superheroes, cyberpunk, space opera, and horror. The only thing needed are a few extra rules and equipment to cover the world you are creating. Luckily several members of the T&T community have already done this and there are many rules supplements available to tale your T&T game in completely different directions.

New Khazan is a science fiction fantasy supplement by Tom Loney of Peryton Publishing. The game is set in the far future of Trollworld, where magic and technology have developed side-by-side. New Khazan includes modifications to the standard character types and kindred plus details on kindred special abilities, some changes to the magic system, rules for building spaceships and space combat (of course), a large list of sample ships, and new equipment. There is also a complete description of the 9,000 Worlds and a number of adventure seeds to get you going. There have also been a handful of GM adventures and even solo adventures published to support New Khazan. You can get a PDF copy of the rule book through RPGNow for $7 or a print copy through Amazon for $18.

Millenniums and Mutations is a sci-fi post apocalypse supplement available through Wizardawn in the vein of Gamma World and similar games. Mutants, lost futuristic technology, rogue robots, and aliens abound. The book includes a vast array of abilities and mutations, modifications to character kindreds (human, mammal, reptile, insect, plant, etc.) and types, new equipment, rules for scavenging, artifacts (laser rifles and power armor anyone?), vehicles, monster creation, treasure tables, and ideas for designing your own post-apocalyptic world. Best of all this supplement is available for free from Wizardawn Tabletop Games.

Porphyry: World of the Burn is a science fantasy post apocalypse supplement by Kyrinn Eis. In this world, magic and technology are intertwined in a universe torn apart by demonic entities in an event calls The Burn. Civilizations have been destroyed, strange machines roam the world exterminating humans, and mutant animals have risen to build their own civilizations. In this world humans struggle to rebuild and forge a new place in a chaotic world. Porphyry includes a number of modifications to the T&T rules including new character types, professions, new kindred, new equipment equipment, new spells and some new rules elaborations including modified ranged combat rules with firearms and social combat. There is detailed description of the World of the Burn with history, location descriptions, monsters, and artifacts. Porphyry features some really excellent B&W art by Jez Gordan that does a great job setting the tone for the world. You can get a PDF copy of the rule book through RPGNow for $10 or a print copy through Lulu for $15 (a bargain given the size of the book and quality of the art).

Stay Alive! is a survival horror supplement developed by Jerry Teleha. While it has been most strongly associated with zombie apocalypse type games (especially given the prevalence of interior zombie art), Stay Alive! is suitable for any type of modern horror game featuring vampires, werewolves, demons, crab people, cultists, or whatever. Of course modern does not simply mean today's world but can include pre-industrial, late 19th century, early twentieth century, or future worlds. The current version of the book is labeled as a "Lite" edition and includes modifications for character kindred (humans only), character types (citizens and warriors only), and character attributes, new equipment including modern firearms and armor, and rules for handling firearms in combat. Stay Alive! is available in PDF format at RPGNow for only $1 or as printed book through Amazon for $6.

There are certainly a lot more options for new setting and new worlds to use with the T&T rules (giant robots anyone?). These four supplements represent a perfect starting point for a lot more development. I'm also looking forward to seeing some additional support material for these settings, especially solo adventures.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Updates to Free Adventure Lists

It's been a while since I updated the lists of free T&T adventure links to the right; not since July of last year! There have been a lot of new free solos released in that time and even a couple of GM adventures.

In TrollsZine! #7 there was a solo adventure by J.C. Lambert, The Wizards Hut, and a GM adventure by Tori Berquist, The Ruins of the Castle Pynnesse.

New free releases at RPGNow include the solos Legends of Ogul-Duhr II: The Hidden Halls by Andy Holmes from Tavernmaster Games and Mark Thornton's Longest Night from Khaghbboommm Press. There is also a GM adventure, Keep of Count Habbish, by Douglas Mitten also from Khaghbboommm Press.

Charlie Flemming has released seven new mini-solos through his Hobb Sized Adventures blog, including Oasis of Dust, Dungeon of Deathtrap Doors, Duchy of the Drakes, Tomb of the Unexpected, When the Hero Saves the Princess, The Night That Brought Evil, and Black Friday. As always, these solos are only about 20 paragraphs long but most contain lots of random elements so that there is a lot of potential for re-playability.

It's great to see so much material being generated for T&T. The fact that so much of it is made available for free is pretty amazing. They make a great way to introduce new players to the game. My thanks to all of the authors and publishers who make this possible.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

But What About That Dragon?

A good question. Just how powerful is the dragon that Frederick is about to face? Does he stand a chance or is Frederick just another in a long line of self-delivering meals?

Dragons are a very special kind of monster in my opinion. They should not be thrown about haphazardly by GMs and they should never be taken lightly by players regardless of their age, size, or apparent strength. Sure most dragons look ferocious and deadly, but the power they possess goes far beyond their obvious physical attributes.

The dragon pictured here looks small as far as dragons go in comparison to the warrior standing against him. But the cloud of gas being released from his nostrils speaks of hidden powers. What about those sharp fangs; do they deliver more than a simple bite? Those scales are likely quite sturdy and may easily turn the sharpest blade. The dragon's small size also hints at quickness and speed, while it's large eyes show signs of great intellect. Dragons are magical creatures, and many have learned the use of spells; this one is likely no different. I think Frederick has his work cut out for him. Meet Eitr.


ST 40 DEX 80 CON 60 SPD 80 INT 80 LK 40 WIZ 80
CHR 20

ADDS: +192

ATTACK: Teeth, claws, and talons (9D6 total).

ABILITIES: Poison gas cloud (same as the spell Smog, costs 10 WIZ; creates a 40' diameter cloud of poison gas; any character or creature caught in the cloud must make a L4SR on CON or lose half their CON or MR; each subsequent turn requires another L4SR on CON or the victim loses 1 CON; roll each turn until the SR is made); Venom (any character taking CON damage from a physical attack must make a L4SR on current CON or take an additional 4D6 in damage; armor offers no protection); Scaly Hide (30 hits protection)

MAGIC: Detect Magic, Hold That Pose, Oh Go Away, Oh There It Is, Take That You Fiend!, Poor Baby, Spirit Mastery, Blasting Power

DESCRIPTION: Eitr was born in the Great Swamp. Like all dragons he was left to fend for himself, hatching into a cruel world filled with creatures that sought to eat him before he had a chance to grow. But Eitr was too fast, too quick, and too deadly for them. More than one felt the sting of his venom. Eitr gorged himself on those foolish enough to think him easy prey. He grew and soon he was the hunter and all in the swamp fled before him. As he matured and his intellect grew, raising him above the level of the simple beasts around him, Eitr began to hunger for more. He felt the desire for power, knowledge, and wealth. Eitr left the Great Swamp and went in search of richer prey. While wandering the lands of humans, Eitr learned their language and acquired a taste for their flesh. He was able to convince some humans to teach him the ways of magic before he filled their veins with venom and feasted on their innards. Eitr then chose to stop his wandering. He found a large population of humans suitable to keep him fed, to provide him with treasure, and to provide him with entertainment. Eitr attacked the town several times, slaughtering their warriors and blasting the few Wizards the human leaders sent against him. Finally Eitr made the humans an offer; he would stop his attacks if they brought him sacrifices of food, gold, jewels, and magic every season. The humans agreed without hesitation and so Eitr has lived in a large cavern outside the town and has been brought everything he desired for years. But now he has grown bored. He remembers the joy of hearing the humans scream and seeing them fall. The memories are there, but they have faded. It is time to make new memories.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Weapons and Armor in dT&T

In a post at the Outer Sanctum of Trollhalla, Ken St. Andre has written up some Q&A on the role of weapons in Trollworld in the Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls rules. In this article, Ken describes who makes weapons, where they can be found, and how easily they can be acquired by needy delvers.

An interesting comment by Ken was that his current thinking is that that players should be able to outfit their starting characters with any basic weapons and armor they wish to without worrying about their cost. His rationale is that the characters have already been living and adventuring for some time and would therefore be pretty well outfitted. The players simply need to come up with a story to explain how they acquired all of their gear.

While I think this can be a great way to start up a quick game (i.e., everyone gets scale armor, a broadsword, a spear, and a target shield, go!), and certainly would not have any negative impact on the game, I've always liked the idea of rolling dice for money to see exactly what my character can start with. To me this is just another randomized attribute. Sure every character should start with some equipment. I never assume that the character starts off with a bag of gold and then goes to the mega-mall to buy all of the things he or she needs for a new start as an adventurer. These are the items the delver has acquired over his life so far. How much the delver has varies from person to person. This status or history of the delver is partially determined by the roll of 3D6 to determine starting gold. If the delver has done well, he may start with 180 gold pieces (or more if using TARO) worth of equipment. If his life has been harder, maybe having recently been robbed on the road, he may only have 40 gold pieces worth of gear.

Take the example of Frederick Halfacre. In my vision of the character, he started off very poor. He had some great attributes, but had little in the way of gear because he was the son of a destitute farmer.

So, if the player rolled 3D6 for gold and suddenly sat facing a 4, that really helps to define the characters story.

But what can you do with 40 gold pieces? Can the character survive? Certainly. Here is an example of the gear a player may choose with that small amount of money:

Hatchet (2D+3) (8 gp), Sling w/ 100 stones (2D) (8 gp), Coif (2 hits) (10 gp), Buckler (3 hits) (10 gp), Ankle-high soft boots (10 sp), Backpack (5 sp), 5 torches (5 sp), Flint and Steel (10 sp), Waterskin (10 sp)

Can this character make it? With the right starting attributes and maybe a few friends, absolutely. That is a decent set of equipment. Would most players choose to equip their new character this way if given unlimited funds? Probably not. But that's the point and it adds some extra flavor to the game. He can quickly improve his situation by surviving just a single delve. Taking the weapons of your fallen foes is the best way to get some nice new gear. I've often had the most fun playing characters that start off with very little.

Overall I like the idea of some characters starting off with a lot of nice weapons and armor and some, not so much. If every character gets to start with a large array of gear, then I feel that something is lost and it loses it's value. The best way to maintain this variability, and provide players options, is the starting gold roll.

Friday, February 7, 2014

New Lone Delver

In keeping with the theme of legendary monsters, our new lone delver is facing off with a dragon. Ok, it's a small dragon, but even small dragons are dangerous. This one is sure to have some hidden secret, otherwise someone else would have killed it already.

Instead of simply discussing the art, I thought I would start fleshing out some of these lone delvers and making them come to life as T&T characters.

This warrior certainly does not look that impressive. I imagine that he must have some magic up his sleeve (or in his hands) to have the confidence to take on this dragon by himself. His sword and helmet are the most obvious candidates. The warrior's overall lack of armor is also interesting; he only wears a short mail shirt in addition to his helmet and a target shield. This could be a sign of poverty; armor is expensive after all. The sword and helmet were likely found on some previous delve. Maybe he was the only survivor and got to keep all of the hard won loot for himself? With his newly found power, this warrior may be seeking a quick payoff. What better victim than a dragon? It appears that this warrior is going to just charge the dragon; that may not be the best idea. But maybe he has something else in store for the beast? Is he just trying to lure it out of his cave? Perhaps there's a ballista waiting just out of view?

Here is our lone delver as T&T 7.5 edition character:

Frederick Halfacre

TYPE: Warrior

STR 60 (30) DEX 25 CON 40 SPD 30 INT 15 LK 35 CHR 7 (14) WIZ 13

ADDS: +108

ATTACK: 9D+112

ARMOR: 26 (13)

TALENTS: Endurance (CON+4); Brawling (ST+3); Gambling (LK+6)

Weapons: Skaere (Broadsword): a blade of exceptional sharpness that cuts through steel as though it were cloth (has the effect of a permanent Whammy spell) (9D+4, STR15 DEX10, 120 wu), 2 Dirks (2D+1, STR1 DEX4/10, 16 wu)

Armor: Haubergeon (4 hits, STR4, 240 wu), Greaves (2 hits, STR2, 20 wu), Target shield (4 hits, STR10, 300 wu), Helm of the Bull: grants the wearer the strength of a bull; unfortunately it also grants the smell of a bull, which is generally not well received (x2 STR; x0.5 CHR) (3 hits, STR2, 50 wu)

Other Equipment: Sandals

Background: Frederick was one of four sons of a poor farmer. His family worked a half an acre of land, barely growing enough to keep them alive. Frederick grew tired of the life of a poor farmer and set out to seek his fortune as a wandering adventurer. He was strong, healthy, quick, and lucky (in a way), so even though he left home with only a knife and some homemade armor, he survived long enough to earn some formal training in combat. But despite his relative success, Frederick was never able to hold on to the gold he won often gambling it away or spending it quickly at expensive inns and fine taverns. On his last delve, Frederick entered an ancient catacomb with some new comrades. After a long search, many encounters with the living dead, and several deaths, they finally found a trove of magical treasure. It was there that Frederick claimed Skaere and the Helm of the Bull. His surviving comrades, a Wizard and a Rogue, wanted nothing to do with either item. With these new weapons, Frederick felt as though he could make one big score and retire in luxury. There was a dragon terrorizing a nearby town. The townspeople had been appeasing the dragon for years by giving it tribute in gold, silver, and livestock. Recently the dragon had started attacking the town again. The townspeople were now offering a large reward to anyone who would kill the dragon. They were promising a manor, land, servants, and all of the treasure the dragon had been given or taken over the years. It was too good of an offer for the son of a poor farmer to refuse. All he had to do was kill a dragon.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Legendary Monsters in T&T

Beasts of great strength and power exist in the mythology of every culture. These are the monsters of legend: the Lernaean Hydra, Grendel, the Minotaur of Crete, Cerebus, Scylla, Medusa, the Chimera, Huwawa, Fafnir, Black Annis. They strike fear in the hearts of even the bravest men and women. They terrorize, raze, burn, plunder and, most importantly, kill would-be heroes seeking fame and fortune. Some come to be masters of or even worshiped by their victims, receiving tribute and sacrifices in return for their "protection."

There are some great sources out there for researching legendary monsters or finding inspiration for creating some of your own. Two good ones that I found are the Monstropedia and Mythical Creatures List.

What makes these monsters special? They are certainly not the run-of-the-mill fodder that you encounter in most adventures. These monsters are unique. Once they are defeated, they are gone from the world forever. To become such a monster of legend requires great abilities, whether it is brute strength, fearsome magic, divine or demonic power, horrible mutations, or a unimaginable combination of all of these traits. These are not adversaries to be taken lightly. To face one invites certain death or worse. Of course, defeating such monsters brings instant fame and most have acquired massive hoards of unthinkable wealth (see Fafnir), so for all of the risk there is certainly significant reward.

Legendary monsters in T&T, therefore, require more than just a Monster Rating, they need their own set of attributes, many special abilities, and definitely a history. In designing a monster of this magnitude one must be careful to make it powerful, but not overly powerful. They should be capable of being defeated since most are defeated in the myths in which they appear. Of course the means of their downfall does not have to be through force or arms or magical attack; guile and deceit are powerful weapons as well (just ask Odysseus).

Here is an example of a less well-known creature of legend from Sumerian mythology, Huwawa:
HUWAWA (aka Humbaba)

ST 150 DEX 50 CON 200 SPD 40 INT 15 LK 80 WIZ 100
CHR 10

ADDS: +272

ATTACK: Teeth, claws, talons, and horns (12D6 total).

ABILITIES: Flame Breath (same as Blasting Power; 15D+272; WIZ Cost 9); Roar of Death (same as Death Spell #9, WIZ Cost 60); Scaly Hide (50 hits protection)

DESCRIPTION: Huwawa is a giant man, standing about 15 feet tall. He has the face and paws of a lion and his body is covered with horny scales. His feet have sharp talons like those of a vulture and he has a pair of bulls horns on his head. Huwawa is the guardian of the Cedar Forest and was sent by the god Enlil to be a terror to mankind.

Huwawa has keen hearing, and is very rarely surprised. Huwawa favored attack is to breath fire upon his victims. If faced with a great opponent, he can kill with a single roar. In hand-to-hand combat, Huwawa uses his claws, talons, teeth, and horns to great effect.

Huwawa is a creature of strength and magical power. But he is not overly intelligent; his final downfall at the hands of Gilgamesh and Enkidu (Epic of Gilgamesh) was largely the result of trickery.

I like the concept of adventures built around the goal of defeating a single, powerful monster. No random goblins, zombies, giant spiders, or jellies scattered about a tunnel complex. There is a creature of legend that must be faced and defeated or at the very least driven off to go bother someone else.

The key to an adventure like this would be creating the appropriate atmosphere and anxiety. There should be a very likely chance of defeat and death for some, if not all, of the characters undertaking such a deed. But there would be great reward if successful, both in fame and treasure. The players should be provided with enough information up front to know that they should not just go charging in and try to defeat the monster by going toe-to-toe, rolling a bunch of D6s, and hope for the best. If the monster breathes fire, that should be common knowledge. If it can kill a man by wiggling it's little finger, let them know. At this point the players should realize that they need information and a good plan. So a large part of the adventure should involve these important steps. They can talk to the locals, visit ruined farms or villages, even scout out the lair of the beast. Armed with this knowledge the players can devise a cunning plan, playing on any weaknesses they think they have discovered. Executing the plan will obviously be the exciting part, and maintaining the tension should not be too difficult here. It's important not to pull any punches (in my opinion). If it's a good plan, it should have a chance of succeeding, but that does not mean it has to and certainly does not mean every character is going to survive. Defeating the monster should be tough, so that if it happens it feels like a real achievement. The rewards that come after could be another adventure. What and where is the monsters treasure? How do the characters secure it and keep it? What kind of party do the locals have in store for them? Is there a price to be paid for defeating such a monster, especially if it was created by a god? While an unsuccessful encounter can be viewed as a failure, it can also lead to further adventures. How do the remaining characters get away? What does the monster do next? How do the locals react?

These effects are likely best achieved in a GM adventure, but the same could also be done in a solo adventure, although it would certainly be more difficult. I'm going to try my hand at both. The GM adventure will be a switch for me, but if I'm happy with the results I'll publish it through Lone Delver Games. The solo will a short one (20-30 paragraphs) and I'll post it here for free when it is done.