Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Leap Troll

The Leap Troll is a smaller species of troll, but one of the more crafty and deadliest of encounters that delvers will ever have to face. Not only are these trolls, leapers they are the most accomplished kin at camouflaging themselves in whatever environment they happen to be in.

Here is one that got stuck in daylight in a civilized place. Only the most astute observer will see it i this picture.
Adventurers encountering a Leap Troll should be prepared to withstand a creature that can deal out eleven dice plus fifty points worth of damage, and can absorb up to 7 Hits because of its elastic skin. As always the Leap Trolls do not like to be copied and pasted from on-line where they are available for free into a print magazine for profit without the author's permission. They are low to average intelligence, despite their cunning and propensity towards stealth.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Snow Troll

Snow Trolls are said to be the illegitimate off-spring of the Great Cyclops and the Troll Mistress, well before the Wizard Wars that waged throughout the worlds of the Cosm. These are not to be confused with the species of trolls known as Ice Trolls, because the two despite similar proclivity towards cold climates are definitely not the same.

A physical description of these trolls is hard to come by, because their kindred's adaptation is the use of illusion. They love to vex the farther out settlements of civilization with apparitions both benign and horrifying in aspect, but ultimately malicious in intent. Often appearing as a derelicts and offering to perform menial tasks for pay during snow storms in the dead of night. What indicates that these are Snow Trolls is that ultimately the illusion is contradictory towards normal civilized behavior. A snow troll will appear to brush away snow from your front doorstep, but not be wearing a coat or shoes but have gloves on.

Of course, if the villager loves their daughters and wives, they will not let these trolls into their abodes. Offering to say a prayer for them, will foil their Mirage spell and the person, if they survive the encounter will see the Snow Troll as it truly is. No descriptions are available to date.

When wandering through the wilderness worshipers of the Christian god should take extra care, the Snow Troll can smell Christian blood and they hunger for it.

Statistics for this most evil of all trolls are not available.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Red Belly Troll

This species of troll would be a smallish giant and rather rare, but their physical characteristics and magical abilities mark them as a very distinctive breed among the delvers that survive their encounters with them. Rather human-like except for a massive nose and gnarled boulder-sized teeth, often with a tusk, these predators tend to the wilds. What separates them from human-like ogres and giants, is that despite their human-like like appearance their intelligence is more akin to an animal, and certain magical traits.

Red Bellies have been encountered in both torrid savannah and colder mountainous terrain. They like to dwell with social predators, such as lions or wolves, but not with other humanoids. They do not like to copied and pasted from on-line where they are available for free and printed up to published elsewhere without the author's permission. They do not control or master these animals around them, indeed, it seems that the trolls emulate them and seek to learn their tricks as to hunting things. They have no idea what treasure is or how to use tools or weapons.
These trolls do not like the confines of caverns or ruins, instead sticking to wildernesses of the regions where they are found.

The term "red belly" comes from the fact that their lower abdomens are a reddish color no matter what pigment the rest of their hairy and naked bodies are. This red increases in hue as they breath in just before releasing a torrent of flame when being attacked by particularly dangerous foes, or when chasing multiple targets. Their amputated limbs do also regenerate, though rather slowly compared to say a Chaos Troll.

Adventurers encountering them should be prepared to face a beast that can do sixteen dice worth of damage plus 75 points of combat adds. The belched flame acts at the Call Flame spell, with a WZ score at 1/4 of the beast's overall MR.

Note: As Paul Ingrassia's Troll Hammer blog is back up and running, once I am done with "the Trolls Over the Holidays" thing, I will post my T&T monsters there once again. Here I'll stick to T&T rules and game news/discussion.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Sea Troll

The Sea Troll, often called "water trolls" or even "aqua-trolls," are a kin of trolls that dwell for the most part of their lives in the depths of the seas and oceans of the planet. They are capable of moving about on dry land thanks to their humanoid form and can breath open air, but are by far much more comfortable in seawater. As ever these trolls are very adaptable to their chosen territory. Some racial variations include ice covered areas where they assume the black and white colors similar to an orca whale, and grow until the same size in length and weight. Others is warmer climes tend to grow hammer-head shark like heads and remain much sleeker though perhaps a bit taller. All variations of Sea Troll do not like to be copied and pasted from the web where they are available for free to a print publication that costs money without the author's permission.

While very predatory, the Speaking Peoples in the waters around them, like the otgan and talkipi, do not consider them strictly predators. They are treated more like monster-kin, similar to the Kuda, who, by the way, are often referred to as orks of the seas. If an area is built up enough, the Sea Troll will behave itself and its trollish hunger pains, and stick to chasing schools of tuna and land-dwellers knocked from small boats. More information on the sea-dwelling Speaking Peoples will be available this upcoming year.

Delvers encountering a beginning level Sea Troll should be expect to face a creature that can do 17 dice worth of damage plus 80 combat add points on top of that. Their shark-like skin can vary greatly from individual, generally around two dice worth plus another die added to that, and the GM should not remember the DARO rule. A general rule of thumb from those that would know about facing hungry or enraged Sea Trolls, is, "... the more scars them has, the tougher its hide be." Many a peg-legged and hook-handed pirate adventurer has repeated this bit of lore.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Chaos Troll

Chaos Trolls are, sadly, some of the best known trolls, mostly because they are so distinguishable. Usually the height of two adult humans to a smallish giant, they always have greasy, green skin with pitted black pores. Their eyes are more akin to a shark's solid black "doll-like" eye, as black as the wiry hair that adorns their heads. Their noses tend to be long, skinny and come to a carrot-like point usually the length of a man's arm. As species of trolls go this lot makes hobgoblins look like rocket scientists when it comes to the brains department.

As these trolls are marked by chaos, they do have a range of special traits that ensures their survival despite their ping-pong ball sized brains. These chaos traits include regeneration or lost parts as well as hit points. Burn damage, if the flame is intense enough to get through the creatures' nature slime. A dislike of being copied and pasted from online where available for for free to be reprinted in magazines at a price without the author's consent. Sometimes they have the ability to disjoint their bodies and move through edifices, nooks and crannies that should be too small for the large creatures to do so. Sometimes it is the ability to move attributes around depending on the environment around them. Infrequently, the WIZ score of an individual will vary each combat round by a certain number of dice. And even more rarely, the Chaos Troll may have all of these traits at once.

There are other traits, but those listed above are the most common.

A party of adventurers encountering a young Chaos Troll should be able to handle twenty-one dice plus 100 points worth of potential damage. Their thick skin is more rubbery than leather-like, enabling ten point natural armor. Their like of shiny things, means that they may wear armor from fallen PCs as trinkets, also adding to their defense in combat. This also means that their loot is also pretty awesome and can be quite magic laden, which they are luckily too dumb to use.

The Chaos Troll is both a sticky challenge for the average delver as well as sometimes interesting opportunity.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Cave Troll

Sometimes called a "bridge troll," or a "rock ogre," or even, oddly enough, a "goblin." These creatures can be as tall as a leprechaun when very young to about as tall as three adult humans standing on the lower ones shoulders, in case you don't have your T&T to DnDHead Translator application up and running on your smart phone JerryTel. Though their skin is a thick leathery hide that acts as three points of armor, it is indeed flesh not mineral like say the better known Rock Trolls of Trollworld.

The Delvers encountering these trolls, in their caves or say under bridges, where the creatures like to dwell when unable to find a suitable cave, should not underestimate their strength.
The size of this sort of troll depends as much on its environs as its maturation-- as with most of the troll family this reflects the amazing adaptability of any species called a "troll." One as small as a leprechaun can be as aged, capable and as strong as a giant-sized cave troll depending on where it lives.

These trolls like to shun daylight, as their eyes are best suited for low-light levels. They have nearly magical hearing, which is akin to a bat's hearing and can navigate in complete darkness, or especially in the case of bright sunlight, with their eyes shut. Like all trolls they do not like to be copied and pasted from on-line free sources to be republished at a cost in print magazines. This keen hearing also keeps them away from large gathers of other creatures, unless it is to shut the rowdy noise makers up. The antagonism can go both ways, towns near suspected cave troll habitats often use bells or horns to make them feel unwelcome and warned.

Most often cave trolls have no use for treasure or craftsmanship of anything. They have a base outlook, that is only made worse by a hunger that requires as many liftings of food as their strength score is each day. Though distinctly carnivorous and rather ill-tempered in general, these trolls can be social to those that they cannot overcome immediately. Often they will demand tolls at bridges that they lay claim to so that they can buy cattle (or sheep, or goats, or pigs, or orphans...etc...etc) instead of stealing them to get along with their neighbors.

The heroes encountering a cave troll should be able to withstand four dice plus 15 points worth of damage to begin with, if the creature is young. If older, well the GM can adjust the Monster Rating to where he needs. There have been cave trolls that have been worshiped as dark and horrible gods, that only God-Wizards have been able to defeat. There have been tales of cave trolls with spell-like abilities, though these seem to vary from individual to individual and definitely not a proven norm.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Loping To the Attack (follow up)

I am surprised at the level of response that I received to the "Lope Troll" earlier. Thanks for the emails and praise folks really. Thought I'd take the time to answer one question that has come up multiple (three and half times) in different emails. So Tisi, Matt, Geoffry and Daelga (there are T&T players and troll fans in Portugal?), here goes nothing.

To paraphrase the question, "Does a single player or the whole party have to be able to withstand fifteen six-sided dice plus seventy added points?"

My answer, "Yes."

I thought I covered this sort of thing earlier, but here let me go into more depth. As in real life, sometimes a task can be handled by a single person, other times it has to handled by a team, or at least a group within proximity to the situation.

Now a single high level PC can indeed around the on average 112 points that the Lope Troll can dish out, maybe even from an Ambush style of attack. A Warrior-Wizard, err Paragon with a lot of armor and high Cn might be on a god-quest or something, the Lope Troll will make an interesting encounter, maybe even a whole side story, in that saga.

And in T&T, the Player-Character group can absorb damage from combat, though not the Spite damage, as the players see fit. So a group of say four near beginning level delvers might be able to handle the beastie as well. Well, thinking about it, make that five adventurers, because the single PC ambushed more than likely will be dead before he knows it, and his player will have thrown her Mountain Dew can at me and stepped outside to smoke a cigarette and key my car by the next round. Hey, death happens in sword and sorcery RPG campaigns. If I don't get the players used to early on, it'll more than likely get ugly later on in the campaign when I, as the GM, kill 7th or even 10th level heroes. To me it's about the narrative not the personal "daydream fulfillment."

As usual, I digress, I suppose my real point here, is that this question strikes me as being posed from people unfamiliar with an open-ended and not balanced rules matrix like T&T. But I am flattered to get such attention, and hope you all will become fans of my favorite RPG game.

As for questions like "What's the MR?," "Do Lope Trolls eat leprechauns?" or "Are you being surreal with mentions of periodicals?," I can only answer with... (not responding).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Lope Troll

The Lope Troll- Often called the "brush troll," or "the gully troll" or "the wombat;" the nicknames depend on the area where they are from. "Brush" and "gully" trolls tend to be around temperate to torrid climates while "wombats" tend to be places south of the equator.

This humanoid is two-lengths tall (9-10 feet) when full grown. As trolls go it is a very short species. But that does not make it any sort of a push-over as monstrous sorts go. The loper is named for its habit to dip down to all fours when charging at prey or fleeing from stronger foes. The lope troll does not like to be copied and pasted from the web where they are available for free to be printed up in a magazine for sale. They have a slow-acting camouflage ability that takes days for them to blend, somewhat, into the foliage around them.

Monster Rating: PCs should be able to handle monsters that can deliver 15 dice plus 70 points worth of damage.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Trolls Upon Trolls

I can't exactly explain why, but I am a troll fan versus being a dragon groupie. Part of it has to do with being a T&T versus D&D and its hype, I mean I could keep myself entertained with Solo dungeons for an entire Summer without a gamer-laden group of friends. But there was more than that going on. Trolls are human, well human-like, or just humanoid. It just makes them that much more interesting. You see, the fantasy in front or you, an imaginary character, expressed as tallied numbers on a shet of paper, are suddenly Face-to-Face with the ugliest aspect of a person that you never wanted to encounter. No Expressionism-laden "dinosauric" conjuring of the injustices of the world; just the heaviness of brutality and coldness bearing down on your small, tiny really, figure.

Trolls just rock. So this month, November, I think I'll illustrate, verbally, what I picture trolls as. Now I know that I am only riding the crest of rocking movie Troll Hunter, but for some reason, I think this film deserves as much attention as it can get. AND I was into trolls well before this movie, and what seems to be sudden Norwegian marketing of trolls and trolldom (TROLL MANIA) came about. But at the same time, I just don't think that Norway is actually cool enough for my trolls.

My trolls actually come from Ken St Andre's philosophy of "troll making." I don't have the text in front of me here, but I am pretty sure that trolls tend to be adaptive, when they aren't actually elemental. And I have more than a few realms for them to be from. Enjoy.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Monster Mash

This next month, I am going to be outlining some thoughts I have on "trolls," following the Ken St Andre philosophy. But high fantasy is best left for the High Months of Novemeber and December. For right now, it's the Harvest season, and that means Halloween and Dagenhalo. So just a little treat.

Now JerryTel has an awesome Halloween treat for all the guys and ghouls hanging about the place.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Arrow on String or Arrow in Hand: Complex Combat in T&T

I think pretty much everyone reading this blog knows the "stages of T&T combat" as per the book. But just in case you live in a cavern in Le Petit Mont (That's in France), here they are summarized:

1. Surprise Attack
2. Magic Casting
3. Missile Combat
4. Picking Melee Target(s)
5. Rolling of Massive Amounts of Dice.
6. Calculate Damage

Now while other Delvers will come up with other ways of handling determining damage besides massive amounts of dice, I don't really worry about that. Actually I kind of like dealing with tons of dice results. But the overall sequence isn't very "visual" in my mind. So I've developed some little "tweaks" to make the combat turn into a narrative scene that strives for a bit of graphic drama.

The biggest is that I just calculate the damage of each each sequence while it is occurring.
It has the by-product of sometimes reducing the number of dice. And this for the most part, it definitely reduces the bit of number crunching at the end of every Combat Turn. All this is on top of making a better tabletop story. Now while this might draw someone thinking that initiative needs to occur, I rarely need to do that. Magic and missiles are fired at stated targets, I let the PCs go first. Then the NPCs or monsters have their turn. Then both sides state their damage. Unless someone is killed or knocked down to a single hit point, I usually assume that the stricken stay around for the Hand-to-Hand coming up.

Also helpful is to increase, every so slightly, tactical situations with ranged weapons. The missile category during a non-static combat situation is a limited option. That translates as, if the archer, or whatnot, is not in a set and protected position, the missile weapon
user will have to move to a melee weapon after the first turn, or take the next turn moving to an area where he can fire again-- hopefully without a follower. The spell caster can continue to use spells as long as she, or he, is able, but will not be able to partake in the melee portion of the fisticuffs. It is assumed that he is doing the dodging and making spiffy quips bits so popular on TV, while the rest fight on around him.

Then there is my "After Turn Commentary," where after all the damage is tallied up, I go through and narrate how things occurred. I hope this adds a bit of thrill for the players at the table, because it is a task to be a "lyrical" GM outside of set story-points in a session. But even if it doesn't, it helps establish what the tactical situation is for the upcoming next Turn. Of course, I work in things like how hurt certain of my NPCs are and a few if not all will flee. May the Trollgod forgive me for working in a "morale" more into fray, but it really does reduce the number of dice required to roll, as well as add a level of drama that isn't just two sets of numbers clashing until o
ne is zero. You can probably tell that I tend to avoid gladiatorial events, liking the fracas of a brawl or a clash of armed gangs.

I have a pretty set houserule these days, that unless otherwise stated, creatures natural abilities, a specific T&T spell or projectile weapon, occurs at Wz cost, but doesn't affect their melee combat. But this doesn't count for an encounter with a Type, like a Wizard or Rogue, like say a "Dark Elf," or "Ash Gnome," or a 'Weird-beard Dwarf."

My experienced players at the table seem to appreciate the way I handle combats, which I think is the best sign of whether my system is working out or not.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ego-tripping about PowerTrip'ping

While I should be posting about my thoughts on the T&T magic system, and its spells, even more specifically making new spells, Paul Ingrassia, Mist-Tikk, has diverted my attention. It isn't hard for him to do. he does it to me often, because the guy is a bubbling well-spring of ideas if not always energy. His blog The Troll Hammer was one of my favorite quieter events of this year, 2011 up until the depths of Summer, and then Jaws got him or something. Now he's no Malthouse, but his run of ideas mixes in with our tributaries and sloughs keeping the mighty T&T river, the Crocodile, flowing throughout our season.

...And everyone knows the Crocodile River is no stranger to flooding...

So what has gotten me distracted this time around, superheroes. Yes, yes, I know; I've been working on superhero-ey stuff for "Nixon's World." And I don't forget all the superhero movies that are the staple of every Summer since the Lord of the Rings and Star Wars finished their runs as CGI mega-block busters heralding the new millennium, heralding a new age of programming and media manipulation over craftsmanship and talent. But understand that I haven't been thinking about the rules and how to make superheroes in an efficient manner like I feel T&T derivatives should do so for more than a trio of years.

Instead, while lo
oking at the formatting requirements of my Nixon villains for The PowerTrip, I noticed that the game system went the direction of removing the character Type. Not a bad idea, Ken St Andre has been playing with that since Stormbringer(TM), though if I remember correctly, he didn't quite make the leap. MSPE did so, not an overly phantasmal RPG system, but with paranormal abilities available to the heroes participating, went the same way. But this freedom from PCs being "boxed" into a narrow confine of a rather stereotypical character concepts are once again replaced with "Skill Lists." But until Tunnels & Trolls(TM) is renamed "Rune-Inscribed Tunnels with Source Books About Trolls" this just won't smell right to me. D&D and various successful on-line games seem to have noticed the strength of having types of characters as opposed to free-form, if a bit constructed more like Tax Return forms than classic archetypes. In superheroes if not shamans and pirates, it just works. Gimme the Types, baby. Pour them over me.

In my book, these classical types would be the following five categories:

Brawler/Tank- Takes lotsa damage, and can dish it out.
Quirk/Gimmick- One power, err ability, defines that character.
Sneaker- A gal who can duck in and out of a dicey situation.
Blaster/Artillery- Ranged specialist.
Ace- The inventor guy or gal, who with a "gimmick" can be a rather fun player-character.

Now at this point, my self-viewed cumbersome "Skill Lists" like to creep up again. Very often they're arranged into categories and sub categories, with varying "costs" to purchase this or that special ability versus that throw-away one over there. I already have a "Skill List," it's called "T&T Spells." These spells should only be able to be used when the PC's attributes match those of the required levels. But the tests of their character that the characters must face must be empowered to allow him, or her, to increase those stats during the conflicts before him. With great drama must come great opportunity... Stan Lee should be taking notes, instead of writing Peter Parker's suicide note for the umpteenth time everyone, including his blood relatives kick him in the balls.

The characters in this superhero construct, that I am developing as I type this blog entry, gain a "super power" that is es
sentially from the T&T rules book spell list. I recommend using the 5th Edition for this, the 7th gets a little "idiopathic." But allowing each superhero and evil-villain one spell per level, provides a wide basis for diverse characters for any saga without out too much scratching of quills and gnashing of teeth. And practically, even the most established of gaming groups will only have 14-100 game sessions to start to get bored of things. Mind you, the GM should have plenty of graphics of geometrically aligned males and a couple females for players to sketch out and make the PC into a fuller protagonist in the drama being presented.

But I am getting ahead of myself...

What in game terms defines a superhero? Well firstly, greatly reducing the magical perks available to to world around them. Ken is doing this his PowerTrip, w
ith his "Newman," as opposed to human, premise. it is a universe, well setting, where the "magic goes away," to quote Larry Niven, but the supernatural resides in each character playing. But even so the designer of this setting has to draw his players into their characters. This actually isn't hard, just a simple house rule, a certain number of the PC's attributes are multiplied by ten BUT they still start out at first level.

These game-wise unrecognized, but way overly endowed individuals will indeed raise aspects that draw them, the Player-Characters, involved beyond the boundaries of the
mere humanity around them, demand a tabletop (world) full of challenges and obstacles to develop their abilities. And the GM will provide them with such challenges and obstacles in the shape, err shapes, of super-villains and world threatening crises. As for leveling, I'd stick with the 7plus norm of making it attribute-based, but only one of the enhanced ones. The matrix would be something like the next level comes about whenever one particular attribute increases by 10 points from it's starting point.

Well there's the abstract, maybe one day I'll get around to making the game itself.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

If not on about modernity, how about halflings?

Chatting Ken up at GenCon was fun, but when I mentioned my deep secret to the man about what would make a T&T rules set, he basically just shook his head. You see, I still think there is a need for a modern set of T&T rules as I feel both Mercenary, Spies and Private Eyes (MSPE) and my own Wildly Heroic Action Pulp (WHAP) go off on tangents. I was never overly impressed by PowerTrip, but don't the set of rules available at my desk to review them. He stated that his modern rules were in the PowerTrip superhero rules from 2009. Which I find kind of ironic as he will not release them again because of disputes with Outlaw Press, but hey. He did play around with the idea of re-releasing the rules under another name back in 2010, but really none of the names that he was replacing the title with were any good. So anyway, so much for the idea clanking around my head.

Now about halflings in T&T; it's really not what most of you are thinking. I happen to have just finished a scenario of PeryPub's Elder Tunnels. In this scenario I use were-sharks, and while describing them in their half-human form I couldn't think of a name for them. There is the White Wolf styled term "metis," and I believe they came up with a were-shark back in the day -- one of the best things that happened in gamer literature since Dave Hargrave had sky sharks lurking the skies of Arduin--
alas and probably Trademarked, as well. Well I could not find the right term. And then wallah, why not use the term "halfling?"

Can anyone tell me why not? "Halfling" for the D&D headset, and most of the gaming world in general, is a term for hobbits used by Tolkien but not trademarked by his estate. Well T&T already has a take on that, listed as the "hobb." I already have fun turning hobbs into all sorts of monsters as is. And while everyone at the Halls, Trollhalla uses the term hobbits, instead of hobbs, when talking about big footed short folk; generally I haven't seen much use of the term halfling.

Technically it's no different than calling half-elves and half whatnots "half-breed." To me using the term halfling as the half-way point for a were-creature not only makes since, it spices up my T&T dishes with an ingredient that is not seen elsewhere in other RPGs as well D&D. Anybody else like the idea? If nothing else, just think of the look on the guest D&D player at your T&T session when he sees a fellow player turn into a halfling of a wolf under the full moon!

Monday, August 1, 2011

I have a secret

Stay tuned, delvers. Something occurred to me while reading Shippy's "Apshalt Warrior: Highway to Hades" "modern" T&T scenario a couple of weeks ago. I've been looking over my WHAP! and MSPE rules since. Want to run something past Ken St. Andre at GenCon coming up this week.

It'll be a Lovecraftian monster of an idea if it comes to fruition.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Getting lost

Back from a nearly-yearly gamer get-together which we call "TrollHoots". Of course it was a lot of fun, and maybe the occurrence may even be getting some traction towards being something of tradition among local T&T-familiar gamers and even a little farther. While these gatherings have become synonymous with the attending GMs running their favorite quirky games, T&T remains the default reason that ties all of its attendants together. These days the time-slots are from Friday 7pm until Sunday 1am, or about 18 hours of broken up gaming. But if no one else runs anything there will always be a T&T delver filling up the space-- hence the name TrollHoot.

So at this party, with two newcomer GMs/game designers as well Peryton and Caed and her friend Brock, I only had to provide a four hour T&T adventure. Since two and half out of five players have been regulars in a campaign rooted in continuous games set up at conventions where we see each other, I pretty much turned the scenario into one of my "Journey" scenarios as opposed to my "Tunnel Crawls" or "Who-Dun-It" formats; I expect to continue the story thread with the same characters into the next session if not more. But I still was inspired at the sit down for some pure straight T&T thought.

There has been a certain convention, as in a certain normative-device (in anthropological terms) that has been bugging me. This convention in gaming terms, or or less "How do I mathematically illustrate uncertainty?" This question means in table-top terms, how do I share with player the decision-making yet random process of how well he, or she, process as to the possible fortune or despair because of decisions made earlier on. Other systems have developed a "challenged dice roll" in when the player rolls against the GM and whomever has a higher result has better results. I am not comfortable with that for this situation. But last weekend, Athena spoke to me on the issue.

The background on this decision is that in this session a player-character who was not really keen on landmarks or navigation, was hired as a guide because he was from the place where the other PCs wanted to go. The man, playing a hobgoblin from the sticks, had no real expertise on how to get to the desired point as he was kind of following his feet while getting someplace else, nor much deep insight on the world around him that I, the GM, had created. So I asked what his INT and LK were and I rolled the SR. I asked for the two stats because I wanted to elevate the air of uncertainty. I set the level in my head and rolled the two six-siders. Of course with a result of a "2" and a "1" it was a failure anyway. So the group ended up walking in a big circle.

I feel I could have done things better. Having the player roll the dice would have told him that he failed critically and spoiled some of the drama of the season when the PCs realized that they were walking in a circle. So then it occurred to me, next time I roll one of the dice, the player rolls the other. So the player has an inclination as to how well he rolled or not, but still with me rolling the second there is the nagging uncertainty that I rolled low, or the hope that I rolled high. Simple enough, I will have to try out this convention next game session.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Kremm-Vs-Kremm; a separation not a divorce.

In T&T some of more persistent complaints has been the magical system.

Often it comes in the form of criticizing the various spell names, especially as they have occurred in previous editions of the game. Apparently the spell "Yassa Massa" itself is too racist a term for the Gygaxian crowd. That same crowd that defines entirely separate species as "races" and happened upon the "Dark Elf," which was an elf who was an elf, but evil because of the color of its skin and where it lived, away from sunlight where skin tones would actually become lighter-- but hey, let's not get cogent or anything. Lordheads know that the role-playing spells of "Charming" persons and monsters aren't about enslaving anybody, and any flippancy in the matter of subjecting someones freewill to yours was just juvenile. Then there was the camp that just thought that casting spells based off of a Attribute point system was simplistic. Indeed, spells, of a certain level, could be learned by the score, but only s few, maybe even only one, maybe as many as three, depending on how many spells the PC, rather player would "choose" (write down, in pencil, to erase, as needed, on his character sheet), that could be cast, at least in a 24-hour elapsed amount of time on the game table, as defined by the GM. If that last bit is starting to sound a little to over-thought, we are in agreement.

And there was the more specific crowd, who worried about T&T's main spell-casting attribute being Strength. Why they argued that every picture they ever saw of a real magic user, they should have said "magician," was of someone that was not built like Conan the Barbarian. And any mention of Zeus and Merlin being rather muscular, or at least endurable, would be countered by mentions of Gandalf, hidden behind so many robes (but wielding a sword to some effect) and a pointy hat. And these days, there is Harry Potter. But hey, it could be said that Ken St Andre's rule about Wizards being only able to carry smaller weapons (less than three six-sided dice worth of damage) supported these arguments-- which in my opinion is wrong and ill-thought in the first place. Still it was a popular point of contention, regardless of my thoughts on the matter.

So in the 7th edition and 5.5 edition of T&T, the solution of the magical Attribute was created. In 5.5 it was the POW Attribute, to be used instead of STR according to the real rules of the 5th edition. So solid a thought that a few thousand paper sets of rules ought to be published a few weeks before the 7th edition would come out, despite 30 years of obstinate silence before then. Now the 7th edition, at least as written by Ken St Andre, was a little cleverer. He came up with the Wizardry Attribute, which by itself was not that big of a deal-- WIZ was POW which had been STR, no deep thinking there. But not only was spell-casting constrained by the DEX and INT requirements, which was always the case in earlier editions, probably negating criticisms of "magic being too easy in T&T;" but the Kremm Vs Kremm rule came into existence.

Now for those of you around here that aren't in the Know of the latest and hippest T&T happenings, the
Kremm Vs Kremm rule states, "... a character with a lower (WIZ) score cannot cast normally cast spells directly upon beings with higher (WIZ) scores...". Not surprisingly, as with most decrees that Ken St Andre proclaims, the rule works. But in this case, only up until a certain point. I find it a little problematic at least in formatting my adventures for the group at the table in front of me when I run T&T.

Okay when a group of less than a handful of players and only one Wizard is rated at first level, it makes a lot of sense for that group to not challenge the group of the same number of hobgoblins and a goblin Wizard rated at third level. But, any GM or player who has read the rules can figure this out. I spent many a night staying awake, actually that would be Thursday AM, between 10am and noon, for me, staying awaking worrying about whether my opponents would over power my player-characters. And as willing as they were, the math could heavily outweigh any strategy that they could come up, outside of me mustering up a few "Wizardly" NPCs to help out. And in case anyone here reading this blog hasn't noticed, it's only kinky the first time. Yes gathering a platoon of magi is fun and can provide a few laughs, but not when the occurrence takes every other day of the week.

So then I'd add this or that artifact to help matters out, a Skull of the First Ork, a "major artifact," should certainly add a boost to any Attribute given right? But after about three sessions it became a little cardboard-based better suited for a video game. I mixed it up with level-based matrices and even more magical artifacts; but the truth was never far away.

The question was, could the Wizard every really challenge anything that he could not already beat? In play my solution was rather breath-taking. This in both terms as to the GM and the players, and it added a lot to campaign which was on-going in front of the both of us.

When my campaign's 10th level Wizard, G.- went up against a certain Balrog, named Dh....j'Q... , with a score of mini-Wizards, and his true friends; a sudden collapsing of the floor beneath the thirty-some odd Wizardlings,
would mean a sudden and unexpected 37 "power" point discrepancy for the heroes in the upcoming conflict. Of the four players at the table in front of me, I had only John that was reckoning what was happening around the PCs. And so when they came to the skeletal remains of the long lost Wizard-king Heraphous the following encounter would ensue :

"Make an SR, a "Saving Throw," on your WIZ score." I said.

"What Level?" Was John's, the Wizard's, question.

"Just roll your dice and add your Wizardry to it." I answered.

Now John rolled a "132" result (DARO Rules always rule, by the way).

Well, I've got "'129' and the group was engaged in 'Spectral combat.'"

Essentially I had the PC, in front of me make a SR versus his WIZ score and the opponent's(s). In short both opposing parts of the conflict had to roll over their opponent's WIZ score, using two six-sided dice and adding their respective Wizardry scores, as expressed on their character sheet. I could go so far as to say that having the Wizard and Rogue character roll above their target's WIZ score works as a drama-enhancing convention when it comes to T&T role-playing.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Guide to Creating Monsters.

One of the biggest complaints about T&T is the often unbalanced encounters that players will find in group and solo scenarios. Not helping matters, T&T doesn't really have an established list of monsters that are described in great detail, why the rules say something about liking to avoid complete attributes and long listings of Talents. While there is a compiled sampling of monsters from various T&T contributors called the Monstrum Codex, a title that I came up with for the original publisher, Outlaw Press, by the way, and many of my own creations were included; the encounters presented vary greatly depending on who developed them. There is also a complete lack of details that help GMs translate things into a miniature session for wargaming-style presentation, like a Size rating to help buy the right miniatures, or what scale should be used. This can be viewed as a major flaw in the game.

And all that,
except the part about the title bit and my contributions to the work, is total bunk to the T&T player/GM/designer.

T&T was designed to avoid pages and pages of overly detailed rules and statistics in doing the table-top exercise of play-pretending. While other games like D&D and GURPS require these detailed rules and long lists for role-playing, the true kernel of T&T inspiration has decided to go the other way. And even though some T&T GMs think an ogre is so big and worth so many attacking dice and others might think differently, this actually doesn't turn out to be a problem when these different GMs sit down and play in each others games, or when they run the others scenario. A common trait among delvers, as we T&T-heads call ourselves, is a sense of variable scales. In our fantasy exploits, just like in life, there isn't a uniform standard to what can pop up. Sometimes an ork can be more than an ork, and all trolls are not the same.

Now there is a legitimate complaint in that a GM can vary his monsters' MR (Monster Rating, in case you've teleported here from Mars and never read a T&T book) within a single piece that the player cannot realistically design his adventurer using the rules at hand to be prepared for the tasks ahead of it. That is on the GM, not the rules system and matrix of T&T. And to be fair it takes a bit of time before most GMs get all the moss from other game systems out of their brain, and learn how to craft monsters without too many pointers. Here's the basics, as I have implemented them.

First thing the adventure author, whether he's the GM or someone writing for others, is to decide upon a consistent format. Simple as that sounds, I've noticed newcomers to T&T-dom have a problem with this. Many start out a scenario full of energy with all sorts of information, usually hangovers from whatever edition of D&D they happen to have played recently, stuff like "alignment" or "Dungeon Level Usually Encountered" or the ever important "THAC0." And then by the end of it, they slip in a simple MR 60 and refer to TSR Monster Manual for guidelines for any sort of colorful description or nuance. Creating encounters can indeed be tiring when you don't have cookie cutter monsters listed elsewhere to refer to. Now if they'd have started simple and used a bit of description from the get-go, the later encounters wouldn't have been such a chore. Here's a simple, yet descriptive, format:

Monster, generic
MR 40 (5 dice plus 20 Combat Adds) (I go ahead a write how many dice and CA next to the MR)
Special: (List Talents or Magical Abilities here.)
Notes: (Write a sentence or two for a description to be read by or to others.)

Sure that is what a monster can look like, but I haven't addressed how to create monsters for specific Experience Levels of PCs. This is actually easier than one would think. The trick is the GM actually understanding T&T rules, this can be a rare trait even among famous T&T authors. As played on the table most T&T groups allow for a lot of mutual creation and less than strict observation to the numbers written down. But then this translates into a solo will be listed as a "beginning level" scenario and then the first monster is a MR 150 Ballywog that breathes fire requiring a 4th level SR on DX to avoid taking 10d worth of damage, and after two combat turns, the PC is dead. There's multiple approaches for the author-GM to avoid this problem.

The first is for the GM to decide from get go what level the adventure is going to be and develop abstract PCs to model his monsters to. Nice thing about the 7plus edition of T&T, this is easier than it was before in previous editions. Character levels are based on Attributes and the Type of the character being played. In short if a Warrior is first level, I can expect that his ST, DX, SP, and Lk not to be any higher than "19" points. So I can expect Combat Adds to be at most "+28" and figuring for an average weapon, let's say a gladius (which does 3d+2 damage), I have a potential damage of 28 + 20 (and maybe even more) points per combat round. So a monster that can take 48 points of damage in one round isn't unreasonable. There is a bit more to it than that though.

Now as the astute delver that you are, you know that a MR 48 ork, because I get tire of generic monsters, does 5d plus 24 damage itself. That's a potential 30 + 24 damage points, that's 54, a whole six point advantage for the critter over the player. As a GM, I am comfortable with that, but to exercise the simplicity of T&T monster creation, let's try to even things out. If I reduce the MR to 40, that translates as 5d + 20, which gives a potential strike of 50 points. Ah what the hey, let's do an MR of 38, 4d + 19, a potential of 43, some five whole points to the advantage of our maximized model of a 1st level Warrior.

The above strategy is using a Warrior, but what about if I have a Wizard? My initial reaction is to tell the questioner to go play a video game. I have seen a whole slew of "Wizard-friendly" solitaire adventures waste everyone's time with cumbersome game conventions that defeated the point of playing a solo in the first place. And when a group is involved, the magic that is added to a party makes life easier on the Warriors and Rogues around them. BUT there this approach to module design can even be applied to the Wizard Type as well, and I consider that reaffirmation of my point that belief that T&T monsters are easy to make.

Our 1st level Wizard will have no more than 19 points in her DX, IN, WZ, and CH. So while I know her Combat Adds may be abysmal, I do know her ability to cast Take That You Fiend up to three times in an encounter and the spell will do up to 19 points of damage each time. That's a total of 57 damage points delivered through the expenditure of 18 Wz points. Since Wizards are notorious for having rather low CNs, I'd go so far to only reckon for two combat rounds, which brings us back to the number 38 and a tried and maybe true indicator, as to what MR I should put the beast at.

Okay there is the simplicity of making balanced monsters in T&T. Now how do we make them special? You now, besides just a couple numbers and math equations. The obvious answer is illustrations and video game graphics, but for the traditional table-topper author-GM he has to keep it literary. That is where the creating person gets to add special Talents and additional notes. Let's go back to my favored format and work with it from there.

Ork, Philosoper
MR 40 (5 dice plus 20 Combat Adds)
Special: Has a Wizardry score of 17. Not as Simple as You'd Think (Lk+6) Gets a special saving throw when party reacts stereotypically to encountering him, meaning a successful SR here will negate one specific successful SR by the player-characters. Knows the spell Oh There It Is.
Notes: The fact that this ork is wearing a toga, while quoting Aristotle should indicate something is not quite right in this encounter.

The T&T GM can have the tough task of creating things from scratch, often having to deconstruct norms and archetypes from popular fantasy material and other FRPG systems while doing so. But the math and expression of his findings shouldn't be overwrought.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tom's T&T "X Edition:" Character Types

Within the pages of my "super version" of T&T it's all about the basics when it comes to Types, that's "classes" to the D&D-head reading this blog. In the 7 Plus edition of T&T Ken St. Andre expanded and refitted the first through fifth-plus editions Types from Warrior, Wizard, Rogue and sometimes a Warrior-Wizard. These are the Citizen, Rogue, Warrior, Wizard, Paragon and then Specialist.

While the Warrior and Wizard remained essentially the same, the Rogue was given a bit more definition with the Talent ("skill" for the GURPS accountant set) of Roguery. Roguery allows the PC to have a bonus on any Luck, Charisma and Intelligence based Saving Roll.

The Citizen is essentially Ken exploring the "0-Level NPC" of the D&D world, but with usual the T&T adaptive flexibility where a player could actually play one if he, or she (have to say it once to be hip and modern), wanted to. No special traits, but the ability learn everything and develop Talents.

The Paragon is a Warrior-Wizard given an name with a "p" at the front of it so D&D-heads could identify which T&T Type was the Paladin class. Of course the Warrior-Wizard of T&T was not really the equivalent of the Paladin of D&D ever, so a pretty short treatise about exceptionally talented people and socioeconomic stratification is written in to try and rationalize changing the name. I suppose it's better than reading through the D&D "multiclass" rules, but it didn't add anything for me. And I noticed the people who played dwarf Paladins in D&D, had a tendency to like to roll up Leprechaun Wizards, as that is the special combination where the T&T player can optimize rolling potentials.

And then there is the Specialist, where Ken leaves room for players, and GMs, I suppose, to design their own Types. He even gives two examples of special Types that can be considered unique from other classes in other games, the Leader and the Combat Mage; but neither of these turn out to be very useful. At the game table, the Specialist turned out to be "add your D&D class/subclass here" slot.

So for my perfect set of T&T Types, here's what I have, along with some explanation why.

Warrior, well duh.

Wizard, ayup. Fer ser.

Rogue, keeping the Roguery Talent. It works out well, and avoids the "socioeconomic" babble that seems to permeate multiple editions of T&T to no real meaning. I will get into this further as we get along.

Wizard-Warrior, willfully losing the "P-lettered title" could miff a lot of people who think that T&T should resemble D&D, but not much else. And it focuses on the attributes that make up the Type not long-winded speeches about background and resources that beg for diversions into debates as pointless as D&D alignment and how it should be really interpreted.

The Specialist, okay I'll cede a little to the D&D-head who's willing to play T&T. I'll even work with the player who wants to introduce a new Type into play-- that is as long as he uses the word "type" not "class."

I'd definitely lose the Citizen. The arguments for it, even as a term for uninspired, plain-Jane and worthless NPCs is that socioeconomic thing that I don't like. Not because I do not understand the thinking, I just think that it adds nothing to role-playing and the narrative of an on-going campaign. One of the fantastic qualities of T&T was that it takes an amazingly open-minded view of the world(s) that it would inhabit. Monsters could be players, that were not Typed by their creature form. Wizards have an arsenal of helpful spells even at first level, only inhibited by their attributes. Attributes themselves can sky-rocket from 3 points until infinity. So why can't everyone in a T&T be a Type?

Characters do not need a world where bakers are only bakers to become special. Why having an unadventurous baker that is a 3rd level Wizard adds depths of perspective into a virtual world. It is my argument here that PCs shouldn't walk around any village or "towne" thinking that they might not be in for a surprise from any of its citizenry before the "sheriff" comes swaggering up. This approach to role-playing could help some people out in real life, and we all know the sorts of gamers that I am talking about here.

So there are my Types. Any thoughts?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A "T&T Thoughts-Only" Blog?

Though I have been keeping "notebooks" since I was six, and blogging for over half a decade now, for some reason I have never felt ready for the blog where I concentrate on my favorite table-top RPG Tunnels and Trolls only. My other main blog has been a mixture of a travelogue and talking up my projects through my wife and my Peryton Publishing outfit. Often delving into just being the random narcissistic page that we all place on the web these days, Kopfy's Kreche, just didn't seem like the right place. And the works in the hobby of the likes of Scott Malthouse, Andreas Davour and Paul Ingrassia have definitely set the standard pretty high in terms of how entertaining and well-done T&T blogs can be. And though it is only a hobby, I old my T&T up pretty high, and don't think think someone should have to wade through my ramblings on travel and dining to get to my take on T&T subjects.

There are many others as well which I don't have the time to list. Another thing holding me back, has been the lack of a catalyst to start discussing T&T in depth outside of private "house ruling" or quick monster blurb, both of which don't require much more than a quick jot on paper to be transferred later to a private forum online for future reference. The more detailed and longer ideas or articles could be shot over to an associate's fanzine or blog. But not too long I finished up my playtest campaign of T&T 7th/7.5, the 7plus edition.

This "playtest" lasted from the autumn of 2005 until February of this year. And over the last couple of months thoughts have been cropping up in my head as to things that I feel will make the next campaign better. Now everyone who knows T&T knows that there is quite a group norm of "tweaking" T&T already, but hopefully the fact that my observations are based on real play, not just a quick read, this will be helpful towards insightful improvements to T&T, any edition, rules for real and lasting tabletop play at various levels.

Rules tweaking isn't going to be the only focus here, but also comments on trends and movers and shakers in the T&T community. Now don't expect these in the fashion of Tunnels & Trolls.com, but instead in the old "Kopfy Just Got To Noticing Something" fashion that I do with most things. Still hopefully these posts will entertaining and helpful to the T&T enthusiast or even just the casual viewer.