A blog about tabletop hobby and or strategy games, with a side order of electronic turn based goodness here and there. Now with tons of retro gaming content both electronic and tabletop. Also with 20% more self loathing douchebaggery!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Some Thoughts on Why I Like Tunnels & Trolls

I am sure y'all have read my Tunnels & Trolls review last year: http://wargamedork.blogspot.com/2008/09/tunnels-trolls-75-unboxing-and-first.html http://wargamedork.blogspot.com/2008/09/my-playtest-review-of-tunnels-trolls.html
And thus know the basics of what the game is and why I like it.

Well, with some rather sad news that a publisher of authorized supplements and magazines may be illegally using other creator's art if not outright adventures, its brought T&T to the forefront of people's minds again. ( I don't feel like linking to it, but RPGnet and Vin's T&T Trollbridge both have 10-70!! page threads with far more info. Plus as of this writing we do not know if said publisher did it intentionally or not. It doesn't look good, but there is still too much missing information at this time to utterly decry the guy. That being said he has a 50% off sale and I won't take advantage of it just because I don't want to support such actions if true.)

At least you crazy types who pay attention to the Internet.

So I might as well say why I like what T&T does!

T&T is an interesting system in that its really the origin of the game systems behind most console RPGs AND its the beginning of narrative less mechanical RPGs.

The combat system really is Japanese Console RPGs' daddy, not D&D. Strong characters are universally BETTER than weak ones. A guy with 100 combat adds will ROCK 10 guys with 10.

However.. if you play miniatures based or your GM has a good eye for where everyone is you can get mad strategic with it. Does 100 guy just wade into all 10 guys which makes it hard for him to win, but if he does he might wipe out 1 or 2 of them, or does he go for a small group ensuring he will kill 3-4 of them? Can the 10 guys set themselves up to attack as a unit so they can wear him down, or do they sacrifice a few, giving the others a chance to each get a couple hits on him?

One thing I love is in the 7.5 rules (now sadly tainted by association with said 2nd publisher who may or may not be guilty of stealing adventures and art..) is that Ken St. Andre himself says "if you aren't houseruling you aren't playing T&T". That's TOTAL old school.

(Isn't that Old School Primer PDF saying "Rulings not RULES"? That's T&T!)

And then you get into the Saving Rolls system which is so Narrative/Old School its not funny. The rulesbook uses an example of 2 weak sad goblins fighting a big billy bad butt troll. By basic game rules they are doomed. No chance. One of the goblin players comes up with a plan involving kicking the troll in his dangly bits. GM says make a Saving Roll Level Y on Attribute X which works. He decides it works and the other goblin can do automatic damage while Mr. Troll his clutching his junk in pain.

That's GOOD GAMIN right there. It is encouraging the players to think creatively instead of just letting pure game mechanics inform them what they can do. I love putting PCs up against mechanically impossible odds and having them win because they can outfox and outthink the bad guys.

T&T encourages this, while D&D 3-4th really discourages it.

Reminds me of an early 3.0 game I ran. I was in TWO solid groups. One as a player the other a DM.

My DMed group was gonna fight a siege where the enemies outnumbered them 20 to 1 AND had a fort. PCs mostly had surprise on their side. I mention the basic fight to the group I played in, which was more mechanical based. (And also we averaged 7 games in 2 months. In 2 years the highest level PC was 6. Good gravy that's entirely too slow!)

They said my players were doomed.

My players OWNED the bad guys. Because they used clever tactics and I rewarded them. (An illusionary meteor bearing down on the fort caused a number of baddies to cower with a chance to save from the illusion each turn. Since goblins are dumb, but after a point even they are gonna be iffy on a 2-3rd level spell..) They kicked tail and I don't think a single PC even went into negative HP.

Tunnels & Trolls WANTS you to do this. It begs you to do this.

And that's why the game impresses the hell out of me.

Its light, fast, yet with just enough crunch to do what it needs to, and simple enough that you can bolt some stuff on if you really want.

So some spell names are silly. Change them maybe?

I mean, for AD&D Ravenloft felt totally different from Forgotten Realms which was totally different from Planescape which was totally different from Dark Sun. Same mechanics, totally different feel.

That's really the only major flaw of T&T. Silly spell names and not much world setting info. The few things that annoy me (like the Spell Resistance rules) can easily be changed with no serious gameplay balance changes.

Its simple enough that there are rules books for doing Spy/Pulp Noir modern day games, Sci Fi, Post Holocaust, and Superheroes and they are 90-95% compatible.

(I plan on reviewing the Post Holocaust one, but as it is by the suspect publisher I will probably wait a little bit so its not like I am joining in on Net Bashing the guy, even though I bought and read the book before I knew of the situation. And my opinion is REALLY negative of the book. Its TERRIBLE. But I do not want to be accused of bias so I will wait a bit.)

That and I love house ruling rules light games because they are so gloriously simple I can add in what I need without breaking the game or adding needless detail.

And making my own rules IS half the fun of gaming after all. Otherwise I would just sit and play Console and Computer RPG and Strategy games which are cheaper to get going and don't require other people. Or even putting on a pair of pants.

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