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[Tunnels & Trolls] Second level characters

Started by Ron Edwards, May 05, 2003, 05:29:03 PM

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Ron Edwards


Our second session of Tunnels & Trolls brought two of the characters to second level and provided amazing depth and profundity to the game ... well, insofar as it included finding out the name of one of the player-characters (Maura's hobbit woman-warrior is Henk, now unfortunately dubbed "Handy Henk") and the name of the nearby town ("Toronto" backwards is "Otnorot," which was too good to pass up).

I think I'll provide a list of snippets and impressions, in hopes that they will convey some of the strange re-arrangements my brain has to undergo in prepping and GMing such a fast-playing, rather gore-spattered Gamist RPG.

1. I'm using the Adventure Point option of awarding full Monster Value to each player involved in executing the thing, rather than splitting it up. So if they take out a 50 MR creature, everyone who rolled against it or spent STR against it gets 50 APs. I'm also using the "go to the 3rd level, get 100 + 200 + 300 APs when you leave" option. They haven't gone deeper than the dungeon's first level, but that's cha-ching 100 APs every time they set foot on that top stair on the way out.

This means they level up pretty quick, which is on purpose - I'm not certain that my poor brain can provide enough imaginative adversity for a slower-paced T&T game.

2. I have always disliked traps in dungeon role-playing, but this time I realized how much fun it would be to have trap-laying be personal - in other words, once some of the more customized monsters realize that these annoying player-characters are mounting periodic raids, they'll start setting traps for them specifically.

I thus came to realize that good long-term dungeon play is dynamic for the GM from session to session; it's not like setting up a tournament module in which once you've been in room 22, there ain't no reason for GM or player ever to return to it.

3. T&T dungeoneering seems to me to be highly centralized on "personality monsters," such as Malfred, a troll on my first level who's pretty much the janitor assigned to be there by the [censored] who's running the whole dungeon (according to him). He is peeved that the player-characters are (a) creating big messes, making him look bad; and (b) taking the coins amassed by the bandits, which Malfred had been looking forward to collecting later for himself; but he is also perfectly happy to see if he can make the characters do a little cleaning up too. Above all else, Malfred is lazy.

Dealing with Malfred and the similar characters or barriers is the key to getting down into the second level. Avoiding confused snakes, dealing with structural damage, and massacring berserk bandits were all just context for these more central and personality-based conflicts (themselves full of potential violence, yes, but also representing more adversity than just "it attacks").

And glory be, there's a whole section in the T&T rulebook that spells this principle out in detail.

4. Dwarves are a real pain in the ass as T&T characters. Not only do they have tons of STR (for spells and damage), but tons of CON too (so with armor, they bounce lots of damage). Hobbits are almost as bad with their mondo CON and, in this case, a very lucky roll which gained Henk a whopping +6 to STR from a magic imp (1d6, go figure).

Well, perhaps not a pain in the ass. Perhaps just a good context for being able to whack'em good every so often. Yeah ....

5. Upon emerging from the dungeon this time, Julie's dwarven wizard was second level, and she had enough $$ to pay for two new spells. I was amused by her refusal to get the Poor Baby spell on the grounds that she "didn't want to be the cleric!" delivered in no uncertain terms.

6. The firebelch mushrooms were a wonderful successful in terms of enjoyable and strategic game-play.

7. Mapping is a bit of a challenge, mainly because I have to rein myself in from helping too much. I caught myself being too invested in Julie getting the map right, as opposed merely to providing basic impressions and size-estimates and letting them cope.



Not being familiar with the T&T rules interface (and somehow, really not feeling ashamed because of this), I have to ask a question...

When characters interact or "defeat" a personality-based monster (such as you lazy troll), are they awarded AP as if they had killed the bugger?  Also, T&T seems hellbent of "getting closer to Satan" (meaning going deeper in the dungeon), is there any actual reason for this built-in to the game, or is it presumed that "of course you want to go in the dark hole filled with things designed to kill you"?  Hell, either is fine, I just wanted to know if there is an endgame or goal for the jaunt downward into the darkness.


Ron Edwards

Hi there,

The basic Monster Rating AP reward is, as far as I can tell, based on slaughter alone. You can get AP rewards for cleverness and role-playing, but the text in question is very stern about how only exceptional moments merit such rewards, so that people will compete for them (I'm telling you, this book is something!).

As for the "getting closer to Satan" effect, your term is perhaps more accurate than you'd anticipate ... the default T&T dungeon is "owned" or "managed" by someone, whether a dotty wizard or a demon babe, or someone anyway. A great deal of the fun of play is based on doping out just what his or her deal is, which not only explains some of the loopy things that go on in the dungeon but also provides a whole new degree of challenge. The "someone" is encouraged to be any sort of alter-ego, satirical or otherwise, for the GM as a person.



Quote from: Ron EdwardsThe "someone" is encouraged to be any sort of alter-ego, satirical or otherwise, for the GM as a person.

Hmmmm....and Ron Edwards is the GM....that should prove Veeery Interestinck

Mike Holmes

Quote from: Ron EdwardsJulie's dwarven wizard was second level, and she had enough $$ to pay for two new spells. I was amused by her refusal to get the Poor Baby spell on the grounds that she "didn't want to be the cleric!" delivered in no uncertain terms.
Heh, I suppose she's gone straight for "Take That, You Fiend" and/or "Oh, Go Away, You."

Gotta love the spell names. :-)

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Ron Edwards

Take That You Fiend and Oh Go Away are first-level spells; you get'em automatically if you're a wizard or warrior-wizard. Julie was stuck on Cateyes at first, but cries of dismay from the fellow players led her to Omnipotent Eye and Little Feets.

The really important point, though, is that she boosted her IQ with her levelling points, and in conjunction with the level multiplier, that makes her Take That You Fiend into a terrifying thing. As we pointed out during play, in T&T, you get the "bazooka" spell right up front. It sort of becomes a bigger one as you go ...



T&T to this day remains one of my favorite of that "genre of games" that is dungeon delving sorts. Its fun, its relativly simple, but got support. I remember long hours of using it in the early 80's for gaming. Just something fun. I wonder where my current rulebooks are.

Ron Edwards


I'll continue my account of play in this thread, at least while the characters are still second level.

After much scheming and an interesting sojourn as assistant janitors, they killed Malfred! Much to their surprise, he wasn't that tough ... and Tod's character Karn, who'd delivered the most damage, magically transformed into a troll cursed to clean the first level!

Heh heh. This is the really fun part of Gamist-GMing, subset-dungeon crawl: the twists that, given prior information, the players might or might not see coming. I ripped this one off straight from the Trollstone Caverns sample dungeon in the rulebook, although I modestly claim that my "janitor" twist on it provided a much more enjoyable bite.

The curse isn't insurmountable; the magic Queen Spider struck'em a deal which negates it for brief periods, and they have some hope of finding a nest of ghosts which is all about cursing-magic. Again, all this comes out of my prep and doesn't represent me adjusting the dungeon retroactively (which I see as part of the Social Contract of T&T play, to a great extent).

They did get off lightly in one regard - Malfred had taken an admittedly-understandable disliking to Henk the halfling (really, this is one obnoxious character, only one teeny step into the "lovably" side of obnoxious, and I'm talking about Henk, not Malfred), and she nearly got eaten by a serpent except that Julie rolled amazingly on a Saving Roll and actually talked the serpent down (I had not anticipated that the Talking Dagger they'd found would help against the serpent, when I put it into a spider-wrapped corpse's pocket during prep). I'd kind of looked forward to a real smacker of a serpent-combat, but this was a classic instance when player acumen, the specifics of previous loot, and a good roll saved their bacon.

Final point: they are now descending into the second level of the dungeon for what I find to be most enjoyable in-game reasons: (1) the magic goblins they keep having to fight in order to exit topside keep getting tougher; (2) the curse won't let Karn leave the first level for long, and who wants to go back to town with a troll anyway; and (3) the ghosts who might lift the curse are down below.

What I'm liking about this is that we have now made the transition from the brief delves punctuated by trips back to town for healing and re-weaponing, to the extended delve that's only one shade away from "trapped down here." Now the real resource-strategizing begins ...


P.S. Henk made it to second level now too. Maura put the points into Luck, dammit.