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Author Topic: Tunnels & Trolls advice  (Read 13643 times)
Peter Nordstrand
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« on: October 15, 2008, 09:05:25 AM »

I'm about to start a Tunnels & Trolls campaign. I've wanted to try it out ever since Ron published his actual play reports a few years back. We are aiming at a mini campaign of about five play sessions or so. Three players plus me is probably best, to make it scheduling easier.

I bought the 7th edition (30th anniversary rules) about a year ago. However, I have been hearing that these rules may not be the best for providing the ultimate T&T experience. I would like some advice in this regard. What is the difference between the variuos editions. Is there any rules I should ignore in the 7th edition? If so, why?

What about character generation and gm prep? I am thinking of coming up with a simple backstory, a basic setting and a couple of dungeons to explore befor we start making characters. I am thinking about something simple, like the old Keep on the Borderlands setup as I remember it from my early D&D experiences. Is this a good approach, do you think?

I'm a little unsure how to best prepare dungeons for this game. Advice anyone?

Thanks in advance.     


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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2008, 10:27:28 AM »

I actually agree with the 7th edition being worse than the older stuff. The problem is, I don't have the older editions at hand, so I can't reliably check to see if I'm just imagining some better rules in the older stuff.

The classic campaign set-up in Tunnels & Trolls used to revolve around one large dungeon which the GM stocks and restocks in between adventures; delving to the bottom of the dungeon would take a lot of sessions. The game would be framed such that this dungeon is the point and substance of play; there is no question of where the characters go or what they do, because the dungeon is the only option. The GM would not necessarily do more than sketch the overall dungeon at the beginning, as he could anticipate the progress of the players and stock up as the game progresses. The 7th edition has considerably loosened up these assumptions, of course, but you might wish to consider this set-up for the simplicity of it.

One thing that I'm sure about in comparing the 7th and older editions is that there is much less verbiage in the new text about character stables than there used to be. The new text has moved towards pre-loading character significance in general, so perhaps you'll want to tone that back a bit; the game works better when 1st level characters can get killed without the player losing a lot of backstory investment and having to stay out of the game for the rest of the session. The older editions used to work with this by having the players create several characters, between which they'd switch at times.

The new characters classes, or at least a part of them, are pretty strange. In general, though, when I read the new edition and almost ended up playing it, I got stuck in a bit of a revision cycle that threatened to swallow the whole game; for some reason the new edition has all sorts of bits that do not satisfy me. I could swear that the game used to have different xp rewards for failed and successful saves, for instance, while the new edition rewards both based on how difficult the save was to make.

If you feel interested in how the game might be GMed in practice, check out what I wrote about my own challengeful fantasy adventure that I ran a couple of weeks ago; it might have something useful in terms of approach and techniques for your purposes as well. I ultimately ended up using a homebrew D&D variant for the game due to not getting a grip on my dissatisfaction with the new T&T edition, but the method of play is essentially identical.
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Ante
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« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2008, 11:45:28 AM »

Hope you'll have a good time Peter! T&T is one of my favourite games. It is an interesting blend of old-school gamism and more modern narrative gaming.

The 5th ed have some differences from the 7th, but none that I feel is of major importance. There are more types in the new one (that's "classes" for the D&D crowd) but they don't add that much. The biggies are Talents, Magic Resistance and Experience. I absolutely do *not* agree with Eero that 7th ed should be worse, and I don't understand who he in agreement with.

The way magic works now, with a Saving Roll to activate and with Magic Resistance, some feel it's tougher on the magic users that it should be. Note though that it's balanced by the fact that you'll get more AP from all those Saving Rolls and it should even out.

If there is something that should make or break a 7th ed game compared to a 5th ed one is "Kremm Resistance". If you feel magic should be something that can be resisted just take it out. The game wont break without it. Personally I like it.

The way T&T is usually set up is with a dungeon, but it's not like any other game can't be played with it. Actually, if you've played a game before by using Bangs I think you can use similar thinking in T&T to good effect.

Since the combat is very abstract, there's tons of opportunity to let the players narrate what's happening. The Saving Rolls is the main way to generate experience points and when the players know that they will want to get any opportunity to ask you to make a roll! Throw them a bone (like a Bang) and see what they do with it and then move on. You could build a dungeon like a vague tree of rooms that's populated with "bangs" in every room they encounter. An old school dungeon with any kind of crazyness in each and every room works excellent for this.

"Let's throw in a bizarre trap and let them call for SR's and narrate cool stuff while rolling dice!"

or the next room

"Let's throw in a bunch of hobgoblins here that have a thing for tauting hobbits and see what the party hobbit does with that!"

Hope you have fun. I play both Dogs and T&T these days and they complement each other perfectly.
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Andreas Davour
Ante
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« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2008, 12:01:20 PM »

Oops! Forgot one thing Peter! You'd probably like to make the standard advancement be 10x the value of a stat and not 100x like the 7.0 book says. In the newest 7.5 ed that's how it works. It's also more in line with 5th ed.

Go wild
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Andreas Davour
Peter Nordstrand
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« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2008, 02:41:36 PM »

Thank you both for your insights. I do appreciate it. You seem to agree on scenario/dungeon design principles, which I am taking to heart.

Regarding the rules:

Here's an old thread discussing (amongst other things) the virtues and flaws with 7.0 versus earlier editions. That's probably where I first picked up the idea that 7.0 is not quite as good. I'm rereading it right now. Indeed, there seems to be some significant differences, and the subject is surprisingly thoroughly examined in a wikipedia article. I also found an abrrevated version of the rules at http://www.freedungeons.com/rules/, and am using it for comparison. (Not that I'm quite sure what version this actually is. My guess is 5.5.)

The only problem is that all of these online resources is making me even more confused, and are giving me a hard time deciding what route to follow, rules wise. Something tells me that the more complex later rules aren't really needed for what I am looking for (which is a "look what funky moves I just made up, please reward me by oohing and aahing" kind of gamism).
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rafial
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« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2008, 02:50:26 PM »

7.0 is not bad at all,  it's primarily what I use, with just a few hacks. The only real drawback is since 7.0 was banged out in a hurry, organization and clarity suffers in a few places compared to 5.x.  I'd recommend completely ignoring all classes except for the standard Wizard/Rogue/Warrior.  I'm amused that advancement got set to 10x in 7.5, since that's what I've used with 7.0 since day one ;)
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Callan S.
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« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2008, 03:52:59 PM »

Hi Peter,
The only problem is that all of these online resources is making me even more confused, and are giving me a hard time deciding what route to follow, rules wise. Something tells me that the more complex later rules aren't really needed for what I am looking for (which is a "look what funky moves I just made up, please reward me by oohing and aahing" kind of gamism).
Did you start this, wanting to follow a route, rules wise? Or did you want to just want to test if the product is fun for you?
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Ante
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« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2008, 04:26:49 PM »

Thanks to some really odd business decisions by Rick Loomis there are some confusion about 5, 5.5, 7 and 7.5 I fear. It sure would have helped to only have one in print...

Now, ignore everything online that confuse you. You have the 7th ed rulebook and while it could have been better organized it works just fine. The complexity of 7th isn't. Ignore that thread that confused you. The differences between editions aren't that great and the most important thing is you can pick up and adventure for T&T from 1978 and run it with 7.5th ed rules.

The arguments between fans of different editions can reach silly levels, but it don't have to affect your play. Take what you have and ignore what you don't like and add more of the fun. That's advice from Ken St Andre. The suggestion by rafial to only use the three basic types of characters is one way to streamline it, dropping magic resistance is another one by me.

Are there anything in particular you wonder about your 7th ed rules feel free to ask, otherwise I'd advice you to run with what you have.

It would be fun to see a thread about your dungeon design thoughts later on.
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Andreas Davour
Finarvyn
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« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2008, 05:17:38 PM »

Personally, I like 5E better than 7E.

I apologize if it's bad form to give a link to another discussion board, but there is a somewhat active T&T board run here and they should be able to give you more feedback.
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Marv (Finarvyn)
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Peter Nordstrand
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« Reply #9 on: October 16, 2008, 05:20:04 AM »

Thank you for the link. It's not bad form at all.

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Ante
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« Reply #10 on: October 16, 2008, 05:24:19 AM »

That's the main T&T point of discussion, yes. I didn't mention it since I didn't thought it would help Peter to get more religious wars to read. It is a good resource for T&T discussions, though. I can be found there as the mountain troll Koraq.

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Andreas Davour
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #11 on: October 16, 2008, 07:07:39 AM »

Hi Peter,

I'd like to address your biggest question, which although you didn't state it, is implied by many of your questions. It is, "How do we play, and how do I prep for that?"

The answer is, you will all play with the utmost "pushy" abandon. Characters will die, and that is OK, because each person has several characters. The characters who live will leap up very quickly in effectiveness and fun color, far past their initial puny states. The basic resolution, combat, money, EP, and magic mechanics all work together beautifully to create a kind of rhythm for play, and the Saving Roll rules add a level of crazy fun (and above all fast) creativity on top of that rhythm.

What I mean is that the players should be active, direct, ruthless, and basically unstoppably enthusiastic, and you as GM should be organized, ruthless, fair, and a little bit crazy. Here are some of the relevant points for preparing on that basis, taken directly from the 5.0 rules, and unfortunately not in any coherent order beyond my typing fingers.

1. There really isn't any "town" or outside to the dungeon, and if you make any such thing, it's pretty much just an extension of the dungeon concept anyway. In-character play ceases when they emerge into the light - instantly, wounds heal, new spells, weapons, and armor may be bought, and all EP/level rewards occur. (As a correlated point, which isn't mentioned in the rules, there's no reason to come up with interesting or driving back-stories for characters prior to play.)

2. Levels matter greatly. Remember that characters get EPs simply for touching their toes onto a new level, so decide carefully how many levels are involved, how dangerous they are, and whether it's easy or hard to get to the next one down.

3. You have several dials to decide upon regarding bestowing EPs. To use the level issue as an example, let's say the delvers penetrate to the third level in a given "raid." A slow-rise GM only gives them 300 points; a quick-rise GM gives them 100 + 200 + 300 for all three levels they touched. There are several of these sorts of dials in the rules, particularly regarding defeating foes, so find them and make decisions about them before play.

4. T&T relies on menaces. They can be funny, sinister, clever, realistic, unrealistic, brutal, subtle, or whatever you want, as you see fit - but there is no point at all in trying to make it some kind of "authentic" fantasy experience in the sense of D&D Second Edition, Rolemaster, or Der Schwarze Auge. Maybe some creatures or characters are allies, but the point is to have menaces around, everywhere, if not in their faces, then at least in the next room. Use whatever logic you like to justify them, but remember these things have a game purpose that outweighs in-setting logic.

5. A dungeon has a reason to exist that relies not on some kind of in-setting fantasy history, but on an in-joke: there's a being of some kind who lives at the bottom and uses it for something. That being should be a lot like you, or some satirical version of you. Some of the areas might be unimportant to this being, and hence overrun with Black Hobbits or spiders or something, but as the delvers experience the dungeon over and over, and as they get powerful and go deeper, they'll start discovering and certainly interfering with the aims of that "owner" being. So there is in-game history to use, but it shouldn't be very complicated or overly concerned with realism of any kind.

6. The dungeon is dynamic. When characters kill something, then other things from nearby move in and modify the area. If they defeat but do not obliterate a foe or group of foes, then when they return, the remaining ones will set a trap for them.

7. T&T play relies on repeated visits to a dungeon. I can't over-emphasize that. The logic of the rules make no sense unless the players strategize across raids, deciding whether they want to go deeper after a certain point, and so on. This also brings up the related issue of retreats - remember, magic or magic items aside, they won't heal until they get back outside (h'm, double-check the rules on that one, but mostly that's the case). My point is that the group goes in, gets a certain distance, and must face the tricky question of whether to press on or whether to start fighting a rear-guard action on their way out.

8. Personalities, personalities, personalities. Monsters care about stuff, even if it's just their smelly lairs. Make up names for them, play them to the hilt, give them funny hats or scary details. You will find, especially if there are charismatic player-characters, that a certain number of your monsters will become surprising allies instead, especially since players often realize "divide and conquer" is their best hope. So be prepared for that to happen and do not force it either way.

9. Make magic items and scatter them all over the place, especially if they require Saving Rolls to use properly, have limited charges, or carry fun side-effects like attracting rabid rats. The more random and colorful the better; I was amazed at how often players found a use for things of that sort.

In my current T&T prep, for whenever I play again, I am using a random generator for the floors, and then I put them in whatever vertical order I want, and then I stock it all myself. I think the Demonweb may be too helpful in that it stocks the dungeon by itself (I guess one might ignore that output); I love Gozzy's Random Map Creator. Do a search of your own and choose one you like.

I may be your primary reference for preferring the 5.0 rules. I don't mind admitting that this is partly historical - I did buy them in 1979, after all, and my great love dates from that time (and a crush on Liz Danforth, sight unseen, that remains to this day). But although I also think my preference is substantive, not merely historical/personal, that shouldn't stop you from using whatever you've got.

I do recommend stopping, now, all this obsession with resources and materials from on-line. T&T is supposed to be your game.

Best, Ron
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Ante
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« Reply #12 on: October 16, 2008, 08:28:02 AM »

Hi Peter,

I'd like to address your biggest question, which although you didn't state it, is implied by many of your questions. It is, "How do we play, and how do I prep for that?"

The answer is, you will all play with the utmost "pushy" abandon. Characters will die, and that is OK, because each person has several characters. The characters who live will leap up very quickly in effectiveness and fun color, far past their initial puny states. The basic resolution, combat, money, EP, and magic mechanics all work together beautifully to create a kind of rhythm for play, and the Saving Roll rules add a level of crazy fun (and above all fast) creativity on top of that rhythm.

Quote
4. T&T relies on menaces. They can be funny, sinister, clever, realistic, unrealistic, brutal, subtle, or whatever you want, as you see fit - but there is no point at all in trying to make it some kind of "authentic" fantasy experience in the sense of D&D Second Edition, Rolemaster, or Der Schwarze Auge. Maybe some creatures or characters are allies, but the point is to have menaces around, everywhere, if not in their faces, then at least in the next room. Use whatever logic you like to justify them, but remember these things have a game purpose that outweighs in-setting logic.

Quote
8. Personalities, personalities, personalities. Monsters care about stuff, even if it's just their smelly lairs. Make up names for them, play them to the hilt, give them funny hats or scary details. You will find, especially if there are charismatic player-characters, that a certain number of your monsters will become surprising allies instead, especially since players often realize "divide and conquer" is their best hope. So be prepared for that to happen and do not force it either way.


Ron's points above is my vague waffling about the dungeon like a tree with "bangs" for leaves, just much more lucid and clear.

Toss in funny, sinister, clever, realistic, unrealistic, brutal, subtle menaces and go wild! It's supposed to be colourful.

Quote
I may be your primary reference for preferring the 5.0 rules. I don't mind admitting that this is partly historical - I did buy them in 1979, after all, and my great love dates from that time (and a crush on Liz Danforth, sight unseen, that remains to this day). But although I also think my preference is substantive, not merely historical/personal, that shouldn't stop you from using whatever you've got.

I do recommend stopping, now, all this obsession with resources and materials from on-line. T&T is supposed to be your game.

Quoted for truth. Ignore the editions wars and do like KSA and Ron say. Make it your own.
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Andreas Davour
rafial
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« Reply #13 on: October 16, 2008, 09:22:21 AM »

Quote
Quote
I do recommend stopping, now, all this obsession with resources and materials from on-line. T&T is supposed to be your game.
Quoted for truth. Ignore the editions wars and do like KSA and Ron say. Make it your own.
Double quoted for truth!  Nobody, not even Ken St. Andre plays T&T exactly according to ANY printed rule set.  There are two common core mechanics (Saving Rolls, buckets-o-dice combat) that are virtually identical across all editions, and the rest is fit to taste.  Pick some rules, any rules, run them, see what you like, what you don't, customize to taste, rinse lather repeat.  In T&T, house rules are king!
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Callan S.
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« Reply #14 on: October 16, 2008, 04:01:09 PM »

Terrible, horrible person here asking, why would you make it your own, when you don't even know if it's any good yet?

Is this like choosing what sports team you barrack for - it's not a matter of their past performance, it's more about just believing in one? Fair enough I would say, if that's the case. I don't knock peoples passion for a team, whether the teams behind or ahead. I respect that passion.

But if your not choosing that way, then going straight to making it your own is skipping any qualitive evaluation of the product and going straight to making it your own, as if the product is inherantly good somehow and already deserves to be made your own.

If you want to run a qualitive assessment; I would suggest that if it's intended that to play the game you choose what rules components you employ, then choosing those components is actually gameplay itself, even before your sketching out a dungeon, let alone rolling dice against a monster in a particular room of it.

Since the start of play is choosing components...if you want to do a qualitivie analysis, is finding all the components you can, fun? If so, choose some components, then see if that felt fun to do so. If that's fun, move on to the next steps, and so on. I think that's one way of evaluating it.

Qualitive assessment or believing in it like your loyal to your sports team. Either is a good choice. I'm not sure if there's a third way of doing it or not. Peter, which way are you coming from, or does neither seem applicable?
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