It looks like our Tunnels & Trolls episode maybe our most popular podcast of the year.
I don’t want to appear like I obsess about these things, but it has already reached more hits than the previous couple of episodes about That Other Game (TM) put together* It demonstrates that there is a great deal of latent affection for Tunnels and Trolls from the UK GROGNARD community.
There have been many supporting comments via social media to0, from people who have shared our retrospective appreciation for the influence that T&T had on their formative years of role-playing. If you listen very closely, you can hear the sound of middle-aged men’s aching bones creaking as they reach for the loft ladder to reclaim their battered gold box from the attic.
For those who do not have an edition sealed in aspic, they’ve wanted to know how they can get their hands on a copy of the game to discover its under appreciated charms. The latest edition of the rules is available via drive thru , the Delux Edition, which was produced following a successful kickstarter by the oldest surviving RPG publisher Flying Buffalo. Unfortunately, hard copies are hard to come by in the UK, although I understand there maybe copies about to be distributed to FLGS.
It’s a striking production for those of us who are familiar with the 5th edition gold box, for this is a thick, perfect bound, book with mock-marbalised pages and fully illustrated with familiar images plus new artwork, notably Steve Crompton’s maps. The same team that put the game together over forty years ago are still working on the game: Ken St Andre, Liz Danforth, Jim ‘Bear’ Peters and the publisher Rick Loomis. There is a sense of continuity as they are still actively playing the game. There’s also extensive input from fans from the T&T community too.
As I fluffed about in the potted history section, the real joy from this version of the rules, comes from the sidebars, or call out boxes, featuring sage wisdom about the game and a running commentary about how this version compares to other editions.
They acknowledge that the combat system is simple, perhaps simplistic, so there are some elaborations included here that I like, such as SPITE damage that makes it possible to score a point of damage if a 6 is rolled. The rules for berserker combat are good too, allowing a character to give up their ‘adds’ in exchange for exploding dice re-rolls. There are times back in the day when I’d like to have thrown myself at a crowd of orcs wailing and screaming.
There’s sort of bestiary included in this edition too, with descriptions of ‘ill kin’ such as Hrogrs (ogre), and the racial characteristics of some of the main monster races. There’s an entertaining debate about the moral relativism prevalent in the 21st Century and the difficulties creating opposition in the world of equal opportunities for monsters.
The book also provides elaborations and embellishments that have been developed by players and lovers of the game, including some notable characters and the Trollworld setting, which is described with examples of how the people and places have evolved during the gameplay. There’s an infectious enthusiasm built into the way that its written that really encourages players to discover and invent for the game themselves:
Any scenario, any piece of fiction or nonfiction can be mined for inspiration, from Sherlock Holmes to Kipling’s Mowgli, from classical Greece to the African veldt. Anything can be adapted with a little work and imagination on your part. Don’t stop at the tunnels! There are countless worlds beyond the dungeon.
GROG POD II
In the next part of the GROG POD episode I interview Big Jack Brass (Jon Hancock) about his experiences of playing T&T, where he makes the point that the editions co-exsist with each other. Part of the charm of this edition and earlier versions is that it happily lets you decide whether are not to apply a new innovation or not. There’s a WIZ attribute as an alternative to spending STR when casting spells, but if you don’t want to use it, that’s ok, carry on as you were. Character Sheets are provided, but if you’re happy to keep using index cards that’s ok too.
Also in the next part we’ll be looking at solos for T&T and there’s one provided here. Abyss provides an opportunity to put a dead character through the wringer to see if it can live on and return to play. It might persuade Blythy that resurrection in some circumstances can work, however he’s going to be less impressed that the spell names remain daft.
If anything, DING-A-LING looks even more daft in a fancy cursive font.
Don’t let them put you off, otherwise you’ll be missing loads of RPG fun. –Dirk
Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls is nominated for a DRAGON AWARD – help your fellow delvers by voting for it – find the details here: http://deluxetunnelsandtrolls.com
* I’m going off page views of the web site here, I haven’t worked out how to measure the feed yet.