Thursday, December 10, 2009

Something for Nothing

One of the best features of T&T is how easy it is to creat new stuff. Here are a handful of magic items and a new take on a classic character type. Inspirations run the gamut on these, the Wizard of Oz, Vampire Hunter D, a long ago PC of mine, and REH Conan stories.

Time Still Candle: Time stops for all but the lighter while the candle flame burns.

Sun Candle: The light this candle gives is the same as full, direct sunlight. It has the same area of illumination as a regular candle however.

Midnight Candle: Instead of light, this candle gives off darkness.

Lotus Blossom Incense: Brings deep sleep to all who breathe its smoke. While the smoke lasts they cannot be wakened by any means. When not inhaling the smoke the sleep becomes a normal deep sleep.

The Ruby Slippers: The weare need only clap their heels together three times saying "There's no place like ___________" to be instantly transported to that place.

Tattooed Mages: These Rogue Wizards carry their spells recored in magical magical tattoos on their bodies. To activate a spell they tap the appropriate tattoo. In all respects they are treated as per Rogues in the rulebook. Memebers of their order can read each other's tattoos to know what spells each carries. They do not teach this to outsiders.

For the candles and insence above the GM may want to use actual candles and insence to determine the duration of effect. When it burns out the magic is finished. These items can be extinguished and relit as many times as desired.

I leave it as an exercise for those like extra crunch to work out which spells etc opperate these items. I have always liked magical items that were "magical" and just functioned the way they did... If a justification is needed for this, the item was crafted by a very high level NPC wizard. The Magical Item creation rules in the Monsters&Magic book are great for PCs who wish to craft similar items.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Hocus Pocus Focus!

Well, it has been pointed out to me that the "Hocus Focus" spell is for creating a makeshift staff or focus.

With that in mind I am revsing my spell.

Wittle Wand [Cosmic]
WIZ Cost:1
Duration:Permanent (but see below)
Power Up: No

Description: Enchants a stick of wood to serve as a temporary magic wand. The first time the wand is used to cast a spell the Wizard needs to make a Level 1 SR on WIZ to see if the wand is able to withstand the flow of magic. If the SR fails, the wand explodes. If the makeshift wand does not explode, the Wizard can cast spells through it with a total WIZ cost of up to the mage's INT. The final WIZ cost paid by the mage to cast the spell is what is counted, not the base cost of the spells. The wand provides a cost reduction of 1 point as well as doubling the cost reduction for casting spells at lower level.
When the total number of WIZ points has been cast through it the makeshift wand burns out and may no longer be used as a casting focus.

This is an apprentice spell. Thus the spell level of zero. The standard SR for spell casting is still needed, but the spell only fails if a 3 is rolled on the SR.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Makeshift Staff

One item from 5th edition that did not make the transition to 7th is the "makeshift staff". This handy little item allowed a Wizard to enchant any old piece of wood into a temporary magic staff.

Earthsea fans will doubtless remember the scene where Sparrowhawk grows a new staff from a blade of grass. I am not sure that the original intent was to allow quite this dramatic an effect, but I see no reason why it should not.

Not seeing any reason why 7th edition Wizards should miss out on the fun I have decided to write up a "Makeshift Staff" spell.

Makeshift Staff [Cosmic]
Level:1 WIZ Cost:1 Range:Touch
Duration:Permanent (but see below)

Description: Enchants any appropriate common object to serve as a temporary magic staff. For the duration of the spell the makeshift staff functions as a Staff Ordinaire.
The first time the obect is used to cast a spell the Wizard needs to make a Level 1 SR on WIZ to see if the object is able to withstand the flow of magic. If the SR fails, the object explodes. If the makeshift staff does not explode, the Wizard can cast spells with a total WIZ cost of up to twice the mage's INT. The final WIZ cost paid by the mage to cast the spell is what is counted, not the base cost of the spells. When the total number of WIZ points has been cast through it the makeshift staff burns out and may no longer be used as a casting focus.

In looking over the 7e magic rules I also becamemore aware of the subtle differences between a "Staff" and a "Wand". A staff provides a reduction in spell cost equal to the Wizard's level. A wand provides a reduction of 1 point as well as doubling the cost reduction for casting spells at lower level.

It is not specifically stated in the rules but I assume that either enchantment could be placed on an alternative focus object. Thus an enchanted brooch might be found that functioned as a Staff Ordinaire, or a rune inscribed ring might function as a Magic Wand.

T&T is your game now, fell free to adjust the "special effects" to suit your own taste.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A rose by any other name...

One of the most contentious elements of T&T is and always has been the spell names. These tend to be somewhat humerous and based on the effect of the spell.

"Take That, You Fiend!" (TTYF) is a perfect example. It sounds exactly like what it is, a combat spell that does damage to a single foe. The exact form of the spell is left to the individual player to describe.

A certain other game tends towards such rather prosaic names as 'Magic Missile". This conjures a glowing magical dart which never misses it's target.

Jack Vance in his Dying Earth gave us "The Excellent Prismatic Spray".

This last is the one I find most inspiring. It is a spell name to work magic with. A TTYF spell might be renamed "The Crawling Doom of Karnath" and summon a swarm of cockroach-like beatles to devour the target, stripping flesh from bone. "The Evervsion of Inards" would do damage by turning the target inside out. "The Acidic Arrow" would launch an arrow of acid to disolve the victim. All of these and more would function in game terms like a TTYF, only the name would be changed.

In a game I ran in college, which started as house rules for OD&D then slowly became a new game in it's own right, all spells had their own new and unique names. Part of the fun was creating new names for old favourites like "Fireball". All mage spells had spoken, gestural and material components. The material components could be prepared ahead of time and often bore a clear association with the magic of the related spell. Thus a "Tanglewebs" spell had as its material component a small ball of spiderweb.

If spells are considered to be a bit unique to eachg mage or guildhouse it is not a problem that they have different names than the ones in the rule book. As long as the mechanics are clear and at hand, it doesn't matter what the spell is called.

I found that re-naming spells, and giving players the option of doing so in T&T brought a lot more creativity to magic. Players took delight in developing "signature" styles of magic. One mage based all of his spells on insects, another playing an Ice Witch wrote up ice and cold based special effects and descriptions. When the Ice Witch cast a "Tanglewebs" spell it did not create a mass of sticky spiders web, but instead a wreath of hoarfrost and ice.

Is "Wall of Thorns" a bit to plain and generic for your game? How about "the Raising of the Impenitrable Bramble-hedge" in its place?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I don't think we're in Kansas anymore...

The more I work on my T&T Mythic Greek project the more it becomes clear that this is not Trollworld. It started out as being a sort of bolt-on Sword&Sandal T&T supplement. It has changed. It no longer feels like Trollworld, or the predecessor of some pseudo-medieval fantasy world.

This world is on the cusp of the iron age, but it is not going to develop the same way Earth did. The geography is very different for one thing. As I develop the world background it is coming clearer that this world is flat. It centers on Mount Olympus where the gods live. It is surrounded by Ocean, and if you dig deep enough you will enter the realm of Hades. Surrounding Olympus and Greece the world spreads out bearing less and less resemblance to our world the farther you go. In the far North lie Ultima Thule and Hyperboria lands of ice and fog. To the south beyond Aethiopia, Aegypt and Kush lie jungles and deserts. To the West the Atlantic named for the island continent of Atlantis. To the East Asia, the land of the Hittites, the Persians, and beyond that unknown realms of men with faces in their chests and other marvels.

Lemuria may or may not have a place in this world. The Norse lands and vikings of saga do not. They have their own Midgard, perhaps reachable from this world, but still a different world. Albion, which corresponds in this world to Britannia in Midgard or Great Britain in our world is the farthest reach of trade, beyond it lie seas of ice and endless ocean.

Pharaoh rules in his palace on the Nile, the Aegyptians worship their strange animal-headed gods, and lay their kings to rest in pyramids.

Amazons, a noble tribe of horse nomads ride the plains north of the Black Sea. They are a culture dominated by women.

There are rumours of snake-men in the jungles of Kush. Islands that drift about in the Ocean, castles in the clouds home to Titans and giants, and other wonders abound.

Goblins, Orcs, Trolls, Dwarves, Hobbits and many other common fantasy tropes are unknown in this world. Dragons do exist, as do various other serpentine monsters. Magical items exist, most being single objects imbued with unique magic.

World building is hobby with in a hobby for me. I have already concieved of several other related Mythic Worlds that can tie to this one. The cosmology is perhaps best explained by likening each world to a pocket universe hanging like a fruit on the Ygdrasil or World-tree. Travel between this group of related worlds is comparatively easy. Travelling to more distant worlds such as Michael Moorcock's Million Spheres, Tolkien's Middle Earth, Trollworld, Krynn, et al is possible but may require first travelling to an intermediary world with greater affinity for the two worlds one whishes to travel between.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Magical Items

Here are a few magical items from the Mythic Greek project.

Shoon of Hermes: These magical sandals allow the wearer to cast Fly Me for no cost in WIZ.

Sword of Slicing: This short sword is effected by Vorpal Blade and Unerring Blade spells. It scores 3 dice x2 damage and always does at least 1 point of spite damage.

Cap of Darkness, also known as the Helm of Hades: This is an open faced helm forged of plain dark iron. While wearing the helm the wearer is automatically subject to the Nameless Visage spell, and can cast Concealing Cloak at will.

Black Root: This small plant with a black root and a white flower will cause any poison it comes into contact with to bubble and smoke.

Monster's Teeth: When the teeth of large and fearsome monsters like drgons, hydras, or great serpents are planted n the ground they will spring up fierce warriors who will fight for the planter.

Friday, November 20, 2009

And Now for Something Completely Different

I have discovered a game that is giving me serious pause in my Mythic Greece T&T project.
This is Mazes&Minotaurs the first published role playing game from 1972. Or so the website would have us believe.

M&M is a glorious pastiche of Old School RPGS. it is also a playable game in its own right. It has it'sown Yahoo group and quarterly e-zine. Best of all it is Free!

It is D&D as it might have been if inspired by Greek Myth and the Odyssey rather than Tolkien and Lankhmar.

Check it out and see what you think.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Pankratist: a new Character Type

New Character Type: Pankratist (Specialist Subtype)
The Greeks placed a high premium on athletics, wrestling, boxing, running, javelin throwing, etc. One of the esteemed forms of athleticism was the no-holds-barred combination of wrestling and boxing known as the Pankration. The Pankratist is a Specialist for characters of exceptional Constitution. A character rolling natural triples on CON with a final score of 15 or more can become a Pankratist. When fighting without armor they will be able to use the rules outlined below. They also have the skill of Pankration. This will be a Level One Saving Roll on STR or DEX to grapple and hold, disarm, or throw an opponent in hand to hand combat. When a Pankratist chooses to grapple he is unable to contribute any dice to combat, so if a grappling attempt is unsuccessful the Pankratist will take his full share of the HPT rolled by his opponent, after deducting for armor or fighting unarmored as appropriate.
Pankratists wearing no armor can deflect 1D6 points of damage per level, this does not apply to Spite Damage. Pankratists take spite damage normally. Unarmed Pankratists use their bodies as weapons. Standard unarmed combat damage is 1D6 +Personal Adds. Warriors get to add their level to their HPT. Pankratists use 1D6 per level + Adds + level to determine HPT in combat.
Pankratists can wear any armor and use any weapon they choose, but they will not receive the Warrior's bonuses, and will lose the Pamkratist's bonuses for unarmed and unarmored fighting. Brass knuckles and the like are considered to be boxing weapons for Pankratists, they may therefor be combined with the unarmed fighting bonus.

Coming soon: the Pankratist

The development of the Warior Monk, and my thinking towards Ancient Greece as a setting for T&T gaming have combined to produce a new character type, the Pancratist. This is a character trained in the no-holds-barred combination of wrestling and boxing that began in Ancient Greece.

Pancratists are skilled unarmed fighters and so gain special bonuses and abilities when fighting without armour and weapons. They may be thought of as a Western version of the "Monk" so frequently found in fantasy gaming. Although a fun caracter to play the traditional Monk has always felt a bit out of place when grafted on to the traditional Fantasy Medieval Europe of most RPGs.

The Pancratist is my attempt to offer the same sorts of abilities, but with a mind set that is more in tune with Western than Eastern culture.

Look for details of this character type soon. As well as further thoughs and developments of Mythic Greece as a game setting.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Athletes a new Specialist

I am in the process of writing up a campaign basedon Mythic Greece, Ray Harryhausen's classic "Jason and the Argonaughts", Sword&Sandal movies and TV, and of course T&T.

For that setting an adaptation of my Warrior Monk seems a good fit. The Greeks placed a high premium on athletics, wrestling, boxing, running, javelin throwing, etc. The Athlete will be a Specialist for characters of exceptional Strength. When fighting with out armour they will be able to box, using the rules I outlined below under kung fu fighting. They will also begin with a Talent for Wrestling. This will be a Level One Saving Roll on STR to grapple and hold, disarm, or throw an opponent in hand to hand combat. When an athlete chooses to grapple he is unable to contribute any dice to combat, so if a grappling attempt is unsuccessful the athlete will take their full share of the HPT rolled by their opponent, after deducting for armour or figting unarmoured as appropriate.

Athletes can wear any armour and use any weapon they choose, but they will not recieve the Warrior's bonuses, and will lose the Athletes bounuses for unarmed and unarmoured fighting. Brass knuckles and the like are not considered to be weapons for Athletes, they may therefor be combined with the unarmed fighting bonus.

Roman style Gladiators are better reflected by the Warrior type.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Monks and Swashbucklers

In giving further thought to warrior monks it came to me that they are really not all that different to swashbucklers.

Both are fighters who dedicate themselves to perfecting their art. Both wear little if any armour. Both adhere to a code of proper conduct, even when it works to their disadvantage. Both have martial and acrobatic abilities beyond those of common warriors.

This makes me think that perhaps what I am actually trying to capture is the flashy, lightly armed fighter, who dedicates himself to training. So i think I will abandon Chi powers and magic for my monks and instead concentrate on their martial abilities.

I am thinking of a Talent for acrobatic fighting based on the highest of Speed, Dexterity or Luck. This talent would allow for dodgeing blows, fighting while balancing on furniture, tightropes, beams etc, swinging down into melee, disarming opponents etc. SR level would be the opponent's level or 1/10 MR.

Other options I am considering include a weapons type specialization allowing for parrying, disarming opponents and increased Adds when using weapons of that type.

The unarmed and unarmoured combat options I outlined previously still seem to work reasonably well.

I still am not absolutely convinced that this needs to be a new character type, it may evolve into a package that can be added to one of the existing types to produce a swashbuckler or martial artist.

Game design is ever a fluid and evolving thing.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Some Old Notes on Kindreds

I found these stuck in with some other papers.

Uruks: Pstoralits and besast-tamers. Live on subarctic steppes and taiga with ice age megafauna. Use Mammoths as primary beasts of burden. Reindeer, sabretooth tigers, dire wolves also domesticated, sometimes used to pull sleighs or chariots. Metal use is rare and metals of all sorts are considered extremely prized valuables. Coinage is ivory and amber. Technology is based on worked bone, ivory, horn and hide with a little wood. Peat and dried dung are used as fuel.

Elves: Forest elves are similar to Celtic barbarians, bronze smiths. Mountain elves work stone, silver and gold, hihg renaissance culture. Sea elves have gills, live amphibian lifestyle, make use of many forms of sea life as well as driftwood etc. Sea elves are prized as sailors and ships' crew.

Dwarves: Live predominantly underground in mountain caves and mines. Metal smelters, stone workers, industrialists. Make use of limited steam, clockwork and gunpowder technology.

Humans: Generalists, ive in mixed communities. Generally medieval technology level.

Lizardmen: Live in swamps, serve Nagas.

Centaurs: Nomads, rove in herds, horse breeders and traders, also herd and trade other ungulates.

Leprechauns: Dwell in crannogs, use Wik-wing to teleport in and out.

Hobbs: Live in well appointed holes in hill country. Horticulturalists, raise vegetables, crops and herbs of all sorts.

Gnomes: Fine craftsmen and tinkers, excellent jewlers, locksmiths, clockworkers, wood carvers etc.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Been Awhile

OK It's been a while and I appologize. Life outside the Hovel has taken several turns towards the chaotic.

Still, I am here.

If you haven't already done so, go over to 'The Omnipotent Eye' scroll down and click the link for the Three Clue Mystery. This is an excellent essay on how to write successful mysteries for RPGs.

In other news, the Trollgod caused quite a stir when he announced the impending "Chaotic 8th Edition T&T Game". Now that the dust has settled a bit it appears that the Chaotic 8th Edition does not mean a wholesale rewriting of the T&T game. Instead Ken has decided to write a T&T game set during the Wizard Wars, a period some 5,000 years before present day Trollworld. This game will feature T&T mechanics, but also new Kindreds, possibly new Character Types, and all sorts of new background, history etc.

As 5.5 and 7.5 editions will be remaining in print for the forseeable future T&T fans need not despair that their game is going the way of someothers and will require them to shell out for awhole new set of rulebooks.

I am excited about the Wizard Wars, and look forward to seeing what Ken comesup with. It is nice to know the Trollgod still has new ideas under his hat.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Games I Play When I'm Not Playing T&T

T&T is not the only game I play. I enjoy miniature wargaming especially of the historical variety. Ancients and 18th Century are probably my two favorite periods.

I do some fantasy miniatures gaming. These days it is mostly with the Mighty Armies sytem from Rebel Miniatures.

In role playing I greatly enjoy Stormbringer, King Arthur Pendragon and Faeries' Tale. The last is a great game to play with kids.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Power of Chi

Warrior Monks train their minds and spirits as well as their bodies. This gives them the ability to manifest spell-like effects by channelling Kremm.

Warrior monks are treated as Rouges for purposes of spell casting, learning spells, using magical items and spell foci, etc. The diffference is in how they obtain more spells. Instead of buying spells from PC Wizards (or Thieves' Guilds and the like) Monks obtain new spells from mastering inner discipline and training at temple monestaries. This training is accompanied by donations of 1,000 GP x Spell Level for each new spell ability learned.

Unlike Rouges Monks do not start play knowing any spells.

Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting

A few thoughts and ideas about Warrior Monks in combat.

Unarmed Monks obviously use their bodies as weapons. Standard unarmed combat damage is 1D6 +Personal Adds. Warriors get to add their level to their HPT. Monks use 1D6 per level + Adds + level to determine HPT in combat.

Monks using weapons get the Warriors benefit of adding their level to their HPT.

Monks wearing no armour can deflect 1D6 points of damage per level, this includes damage from magical attacks which would otherwise bypass armour and shields, but does not apply to Spite Damage. Monks take spite damage normally. Monks wearing light armour do not get the Warrior's doubling benefit, but may add their level to the Hits absorbed by the armour.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Warrior Monks in T&T

Warrior Monks, characters like David Caradine in Kung Fu, Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, and many heroes of martial arts and wuxia movies are a common trope in some RPGs. With the notable exception of the Blood Guard in the Chronicals of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever they are rare in sword and sorcery fiction.

Portraying such characters in T&T 7th Edition will require a bit of rules tinkering. Warrior Monks can perhaps best be thought of as a sub-Type of the Specialist. In this case a Specialist devoted to mental and physical training in a monastic setting developing disciplines that may manifest as a variety of effects.

Warrior Monks typically shun the use of armour entirely, although the use of some of the lighter and less restricting types, such as bracers, greaves, steel caps, arming doublets or leather jerkins may be considered. Some may even wear full or partial suits of armour suited to their discipline such as the bogu worn by modern Kendoists.

The use of weapons is broad and varried. Some practitioners shun the use of any weapons beyond the body itself. Others will specialize in the use of a set of weapons particular to their monastic affiliation.

Warrior Monks do not cast spells per se, but they do gain control over body, mind, and spirit that manifests itself in spell like effects.

So there is just a brief synopsis of what Warrior Monks are all about. Still to come specific game mechanis to make them work, and a ground up example of a temple and its monks.

H'rrrothgarrr's Hovel Request Line

It's toll free, but not troll free.

Fell free to use the comments to request explorations of fantasy and gaming subjects that interest you. Blogs can be a means of two way communication. Besides then I'll knowI'm not just talking to myself here.

About the Guilds

Guilds seem to be a part of many RPG settings. Most are based on the medieval European craftsmens' trade associations. This is all well and good as long as we don't push the model too far. Guilds like this work fine on a local, city, regional or even kingdom level, but beyond that a strain starts to set in. The only organization in medieval Europe that operated above and beyond the kingdom level was the Roman Catholic Church, and even that was not a monolithic homogenous entity.

In my games I usually have two types or levels of guild. The first is the local crafts guilds. These are trade associations of blacksmiths, potters, weavers, carters, and so on. Most of these guilds have no formal organization beyond the local or regional level. They usually recognize members of similar guilds in other areas as associate members, offering them hospitality. There are some rivalries between guilds however.

The second type of guild are those which span the world. These are a combination of trade association, religious cult, and secret society.

The best known of these is the Wizards Guild. This is a vast sprawling guild whith control over magic, wizardry and not a little politics.

Often whispered of, but not well known, are the Theives Guild and the Assassins Guild. These two organizations, along with the Beggars Guild, control most organized crime, death for hire, spying, adult entertainment, gambling and other ilicit activities. These Guilds have Rouges and the occasional Guild Wizard in their employ to provide magical aid as needed. They often do not take well to infringement on their turf.

The Warriors Guild, also known as the Blades Guild provides weapons training, maintains mercenary companies, and provides body guards and hired muscle.

The Merchants Guild are nominally in control of all commerce, the smaller crafts guilds paying a fee to the Merchants Guild. In practice this system is rife with corruption.

The Temples are devoted to a host of cults, philosophies, gods and godlings. These have among their memberships all Types and Kin.

A word should be said about guilds with conflicting oroverlapping spheres of influence. Depending on the local situation relations between guilds can range from friendly cooperation to outright hostility. Many times relations between guilds are spelled out in Guild memberships and Hiring contracts. Thus a Warrior hired through the Blades Guild as a bodyguard may in the course of his duties kill a hitman hired through a contract with the Assassins Guild and not have to worry about incurring the wrath of the Assassins as a result. The killing would be seen aspart of the job for both parties. If the same Warrior was to kill the Assassin in a street brawl he might well spark a vendetta against him.

In future posts I will explore some of the more prominent or interesting guilds in more detail.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


We all need the occasional aid to inspiration for writing RPG adventures. One wellspring I turn to quite frequently is music.

Not just classical works like Holt's "the Planets", but also good old Rock&Roll.

I have three or four albums that never fail to get me inspired and many other songs have provided that little nudge.

Blue Oyster Cult's Imaginos is a campaign waiting to be played. There is so much great stuff in this album. It is a never fail source for me. The band has written and recorded with Michael Moorcock so it should be no surprise. The songs "Veteran of the Psychic Wars" and "Black Blade" are specific tributes to Elric of Melnibone. Neither of those is on this album but many other great cuts are. "The Seige and Investiture of Baron von Frankenstein's Castle at Weisseria" in addition to a long title has a great driving beat. "In the Presence of Another World" is also a great tune for RPG.

After (or before) BOC is King Crimson. "In the Court of the Crimson King" is another fantastic album for gaming inspiration. The title song just about lays out a whole campaign, complete with NPCs.

Led Zeppelin, of course, with their many Lord of the Rings inspired songs provide fertile ground.

Another often overlooked source is Genesis, especially their earlier works. "All in a Mouse's Night" is a classic. "The Battle of Epping Forest" has a Clockwork Orange sort of vibe to it. "White Mountain" from the album trespass will never let you look at wolves in quite the same way again. Then there is "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" the lyrics and liner notes of this extravaganza are very rich in source material indeed. The Chamber of 32 doors, the Colony of Slippermen, the Carpet Crawlers have all shown up in games, as have the Lamia and the Supernatural Anesthetist. I wrote a monster description for teh Squonk based on the song of the same name. Shippy published it in HH.

Uriah Heep although sounding somewhat dated these days (OK a lot dated, but I still like them) have many songs dealing with fantasy subjects. The album Demons and Wizards is a good place to start.

Jethro Tull offer us Broadsword and other great songs.

This should do as a starter list.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Brave New World

As mentioned in the preceeding post I have a whole new world to create, or a new part of it anyway.

I will probably stick the jungle where the current game is set in some corner of my Dragon's Dream world. This is my slowly evolving T&T world. The basic premise is that the world is not actually real, it is in fact a dream being drempt by an ancient dragon. The most advanced metaphysical thinkers and explorers of the world are aware of this, but the general inhabitants are not. Who or what the Dragon is beyond being the Dreamer-of-the-World and what happens to the world when the Dragon wakes are not answered questions and by and large are not relevant to the game.

The most useful aspect of this conciept for a gaming world is that it gives me great creative freedom, magic can work, dungeons can be inhabited by all sorts of quarrelsome treasure hoarding monsters, innumerable species of sentient life (including some very evolutionarily improbable ones) can co-exist, and I can place what ever geographical features I feel like without being overly constrained by logic (or the laws of nature). This is a world which is self-awarely ficticious.

So we have now a jungle, inhabited at the very least by Hobbs, elves and Sloth-people. We also have an archepelago of small islands inhabited by marine iguana like lizardmen. The Aztec inspired urooks I mentioned in my World Building post seem a likely candidate for villains. The Centaurs I described are rather less likely to make an appearance (despite Emma's love of all things equine).

Dragons and Wyrms are a bit problematical. I really like them, and Nagas too, but when the world is the dreamof onesuch it poses an odd metaphysical/theological situation, and if I include dinosaurs in the immediate vicinity do I need dragons too?

Of course I probably will sucomb to the temptation to put some sort of crocodilian or serpentine intelligent menace in the swamps and rivers. Maybe that is where the Nagas will fit?

Now to see if I can find a good plot hook for inspiration....

Now my daughter wants to play!

Last night my nine year old daughter decided she wanted to play T&T. She is a huge fantasy fan, read all the Harry Potter books, and some chunk of LotR so we're on good footing.

I took her through character generation last night and she now has a Level 2 Elf Wizard. With a very impressive 30-something in Adds (gotta love TARO and Elvish Luck). Interestingly she chose a talent in Healing based off her WIZ of 20(!)

She decided that her elf is from a group of elves who live in the jungle. So now I have an elven civilization living on treehouse platforms conected by rope bridges far up in the rainforest canopy. Hobbs live in house built between the buttress roots of the trees. (Emma insisted I play too, so I created a Hobb Rogue who is trader travelling between jungle tribes.)

Even though it was way past bedtime (for me as well as her) she wanted to keepon going last night.

Doing some quick world building, nothing like eager players to get the creative juices flowing, I have come up with the local sages. These are sloth people who live almost their entire lives upside down in the trees. Think humanoid sloths, some grow orchids or other plants in their fur, they are very slow moving and contemplative, a shaggy, mossy Yoda if you will.

The adventure, which I still have yet to create will be sparked by a request fromone of the sloth-sages. Perhaps an unknown danger threatens or a mysterious event has been heard of...

Lots of oversize jungle beasts will feature as monsters of course. Probably there will be dinosaurs and such living in the jungle, part of me is thinking of Skull Island from King Kong, part of the lost city of Opar. Rich possibilities.

Nicely for me she is still fresh to RPGs so she doesn't have a lot of tropes to unlearn. She is also as keen on the world building and story telling aspects as she is on "kill it and take its treasure". This means I can write non-combat oriented adventures and posts with a chance for them actually coming off.

Now what to do if her 5 1/2 year old little sister wants to play? Probably in that case I will break out their Faerie's Tale characters and play that instead. Nice to have something special just for big sister.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A new spell

Here is a brand new shiny T&T spell.

I Can See You Through the Key Hole (Peep Hole)
Second Level
WIZ Cost: 6
Range: Touch
Duration: 10 minutes (5 combat turns)
Power Up? Yes. Double duration for each level increase.
Description: Opens a magical "key hole" on the surface touched by the caster. This peep hole will penetrate one wall, door, tapestry or similar surface. It is visible from both sides and allows the passage of small objects (it is about the diameter of a pencil).

The spell does not provide a light source, the ability to see invisible objects or any other special powers, it simply opens a hole.

It should be noted that the spell will only penatrate one layer of "wall". Thus if it is cast on a wall that is in turn covered by a hanging tapestry it will create a hole through the wall, but will not produce a hole in the tapestry.

Spells like Cat's Eyes or Oh There It Is will function normally through the hole.
A version of this spell is taught by the Thieves' Guild.

Jig the Goblin

If you haven't yet discovered Jig you owe yourself the pleasure.

Jig is a weedy little, nearsighted goblin who by the unlikeliest of means manages to become a great hero. I won't spoil the books by giving away any of the plot points. The first book reads like an old school dungeon crawl told from the monter's point of view. The other two are not so directly RPG inspired. All three are wickedly funny and skewer many popular heroic fantasy tropes.

This is great inspirational reading for T&T gamers. It captures all the elements that make T&T fun. Deadly traps, monsters, magic, and a sharp wit.

If you meet jim C Hinesbuy him a drink for me.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A great(?) honor is mine.

Today after being away from T&T and RPGs in general for too long I decided to swing by Outlaw Press. Lo and behold, my short story "Meeting With the Editor" is being published in Hobbit Hole #16.

For those of you who don't know, Hobbit Hole is one of two T&T fanzines published by Outlaw Press. The other is Dungeoneer's Digest. Both serve to showcase the talents of the T&T fandom community as well as providing lots of new gaming goodness.

Contributing to these publications will not bring you fame and fortune, nor will it make you irresistable to supermodels. I think I get a free contributor's copy. But I can now say that I am both a published fiction author and a published RPG designer (I had an article on new monsters published in DD).

These publications are largely labours of love, but if you have an adventure, a new monster, a spell, or other idea write it up and send it in. You too could join the proud ranks of T&T authors.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

How to Detail the World Without Really Trying

There is an old saying "fake it till you make it". This goes double for world building. You don't actually have to have a fully detailed world all mapped out and meticulously recorded for it to seem like you do. All you need is mastery of two techniques.

The first is record keeping. Everytime you add a detail to your world or even just have a flash of inspiration, write it down. Any kind of notebook, card file, or what have you will do. Just be sure and write down what you came up with so you can refer to it later. Over time these random jottings will accumulate into a fully fledged world.

The "world map" can be as simple as a large blank sheet of paper with the names of major geographical features jotted down in their relative positions until you fill in what else is there. Just being able to see that the Boiling Sea is south of the Avacado Jungle of Death can help you decide where the Cold Wastes should *not* go. (Hint: they would be unlikely candidates for southeast of the AJD)

Record keeping also allows you to have recurring themes. If you establish a group of raiding bandits in one adventure as the "Riders of the Red Hand" your world will grow more depth if the next time the players hear rumors of nefarious activity it is also attributed to agents of the Red Hand. (NB: you do not have to establish at this point who or what the Red Hand is. Simple repetition of the name will give the world depth and resonance.)

The second technique to practice is broad stroke improvised description.

A colourful, ineresting name, such as "Riders of the Red Hand", will set the players imaginations to wondering who or what the Red Hand is. Much more interesting than just "you are attacked by a bunch of wandering bandits". Keep notes of what your players guess or speculate. It may or may not prove to be correct, but it is always a rich source for later inspiration.

Keep mental tabs on interesting bits of news, pictures, etc. They can often be recycled for game use. A current news example is the ice floe that broke off in Lake Erie carrying away about a hundred ice fishermen with it. This presents the germ of an idea of a large piece of land/ice/flying castle drifting off with the players (or their goal) on it. Will it break up before they complete their mission/escape/rescue? Why did it break off in the first place? Lots of possible adventure seeds.

National Geographic or other magazines that give one or two word summaries of the articles inside can also be a great idea generator. Just look at the subjects and try to think of some way to tie them together. A glance at today's Yahoo headlines gives huge wildfires in Australia, China diverting rivers to combat drought, and huge numbers fleeing a Sri Lankan warzone. Tying these together gives a huge population of refugees fleeing a war between two wizards. One wizard is a master of fire and is sending flame elemantals to devastate his rival's kingdom. The defending wizard is diverting rivers from their beds to combat the fire elementals. The players could be siding with eiother wizard, or just caught in the middle.

Or perhaps the story above is ancient history or local legend, and the adventure is a quest to find some powerful artefact left over from the now ancient conflict? I don't know, I just picked the headlines and made up the story while I was typing.

Making different Kindreds have unique cultures is just as easy. Pick an interesting culture (or even just an interesting practice) and give it to one of the Trollworld Kindred. My lizardman at left is based on a photo of a Maori warrior and a marine iguana. Adding these two together gives us lizardmen who are culturally similar to Pacific islanders, catamarans, tebutjes, headhunting, and are also vegetarian (iguanas are herbavores) they likely are in demand as sailors and perhaps are skilled navigators. Instant unique lizardmen. No longer crocodile or aligator like swamp dwellers.

For centaurs, how about combining plains Indian culture from the Old West with knights of high chivalry? Armoured fighters who contest with lances to score the first touch (or the first fall) then seek another opponent. Proud, haughty and independant. Living in mobile tent cities, raiding other tribes and engaging in very formalized mutually agreed upon wars. Vey different from their classical Greek origins, yet it still works.

What about the Aztecs? Feather bedecked jaguar and eagle knights, pyramids and bloody sacrifices. Perhaps Urooks? Or a tribe of bloodthirty Hobbs?

A long as you can come up with a vivid image or two on the spot, and something that hints at deeper levels no-one will know that you don't have the whole world built in detail.

JRR Tolkien admits in the preface to Lord of the Rings that "the tale grew in the telling". In the Hobbit, the Necromancer, the elf-goblin wars, Gondolin and even the Ring itself were not fully developed in Tolkien's thought. It was only with time that they became the threads that wove the Hobbit into the tapestry of Middle Earth.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

H'rrrothgarrr's Rough Guide to Tunnels and Trolls

Here are some thoughts and ideas for those new to Tunnels and Trolls

You've Got “Class”

For players coming to T&T from other games the selection of character types can seem very limited. No Thieves, Druids, Clerics, Assassins, Paladins, Bards, Illusionists, Monks, etc. Even Rogues are very different, being “Rogue Wizards” rather than rogues in the sense of con-men, burglars, and thieves. This is in part due to what a T&T Character “Type” represents. At the most basic level a character who has no ability to work magic is a Warrior, a character who has both the aptitude and the training to work magic is a Wizard, a character who has the aptitude but for whatever reason lacks the training is a Rogue

Often what would be a character's class in other games can be thought of as the character's occupation or focus in T&T. For instance a thief is a person who steals for a living. Thieves can be of any character type. Early in his career the Warrior Conan was a thief. The Grey Mouser a Rogue Wizard is a thief as is his Warrior companion Fafhrd.

For most of the classes that seem to be “missing” from T&T careful selection of Talents will shape the character as desired. A Monk is a Warrior with a Talent in unarmed combat, alternatively a Monk could be a Rogue or Specialist Wizard with a Talent for unarmed combat and spells chosen to reflect the spiritual disciplines of martial arts.

Clerics and Druids are both priests or worshipers of divine entities. These could be Warriors, Rogues or Specialist Wizards focusing on spells relating to their deity's sphere of influence.

Illusionists are clearly specialist mages, Assassins are simply hired killers, Bards can be any Type with a Talent for singing.
Some characters may be Citizens with a couple of Talents or Special Abilities. The village Wise Woman could easily be a Citizen who knows the Poor Baby, Healing Feeling, and possibly Too Bad Toxin spells, allowing her to put a little extra punch in her potions and salves.

In standard T&T rules wizards are individuals who are able to psychically manipulate the magical energy around them, but lack martial training. Thus they can wear any armour, but are restricted in weapons training. As an option for those who cannot picture wizards in anything but the traditional robes, allow wizards to use any weapon, but not wear armour.

What About Race?

In T&T characters can be of any Kindred the GM deems to have sufficient intelligence to be playable. Not only the traditional Elves, Humans, Dwarves, Hobbits, etc are available, but also Orcs, Goblins, Trolls, Balruhks, Centaurs and more. Depending on where the character is in the campaign world a character is any Kin may be found as accepted members of society. In some cities there is an Orcish quarter where orcs, goblins, hobgoblins, bugbears, and kobolds freely walk the streets, in other cities orcs and the like are considered vermin.

Stunts, Skills and Saving Rolls

This is where T&T gets interesting. At first glance it appears to totally lack any system for skills, stunts and special abilities. On closer examination all of this and more is provided for by the Saving Roll. This is mentioned in the rule book but is worth emphasizing. For any action a character wants to take the GM can choose an Attribute and assign an appropriate level of difficulty for the task. The player then rolls an SR. If the action is appropriate to one of the character's Talents then the Talent is used instead of an Attribute and the player can add the character's level to the roll.

Some examples of common tasks for various attributes: Strength: Bending bars, lifting gates, forcing open doors, moving boulders, crushing objects, etc. Constitution: Resisting the effects of drugs or alcohol, holding your breath, eating a nauseating meal served by goblins. Dexterity: Dodging, avoiding traps, climbing walls and cliffs, balancing, juggling, picking locks. Speed: Running, playing slap jack. Intelligence: Remembering, reading maps, deciphering documents, speaking foreign languages, puzzle solving. Wizardry: Casting, resisting and manipulating magic. Luck: Gambling, dodging traps, being in the right place at the right time, catching a lucky break. Charisma: Personality, leadership, persuasiveness.

GM Tips or “How Do I Run This Crazy Game?

I am indebted to Weird Ollie for summing up the spirit of T&T. “The game is 90% player and GM imagination and 10% rules. For T&T being 'rules lite' isn't a deficiency, it's freedom to be creative."

This is important to keep in mind. T&T has few hard and fast rules. In fact it has been intentionally designed to be backwards compatible. As of this writing both 5.5 edition and 7.0 edition are being supported with new material, and version 7.5 is in preparation for publishing. Although some of minor details have changed from edition to edition, the core rules have remained the same. This allows 7.0 edition characters to be used in adventures written for 5.0 edition or vice versa quite freely. (Author's note v7.5 is now available from Firey Dragon )

T&T has a very loosely defined default setting of “Trollworld” based on the game world shared by the original designers. But even this world is not set forth in great detail and the details can change from adventure to adventure. Many T&T GMs will build a world to set their adventures in, but really the world can be as simple as “the City”, surrounded by “the Wilderness”, and having one or more entrances to “the Dungeon”. As the game continues the world will grow in detail as new places are discovered and new people met.

Balancing encounters is always a delicate act, but a rough guide is to try to have the monsters and the delving party roll roughly equal numbers of dice. Thus the GM can total the characters' weapon dice and multiply by 10 to get rough MR. This MR can be one large monster or several smaller monsters. Remember that smarter monsters that use missile weapons, magic, or clever tactics may be more of a challenge than their MR would indicate. For special encounters the monsters can be fully developed characters just like the Players, but for most encounters a simple MR suffices.
Magic items can be relatively straightforward items that cast one or more spells from the rulebook. These can have a set number of charges, draw WIZ from their user or draw WIZ from the world around them. GMs should also feel free to create special magical items that have unique effects. In Norse mythology the giants challenge Thor to a drinking contest and give him a drinking horn which is magically connected to the sea. Try as he might even this mighty god is unable to drain it. Other enchanted items could include objects that raise or lower attributes permanently, teleport the user to a new location, change gender, Kindred, or character Type.

Build a Better Monster!

Monsters in T&T can be as simple as an MR score. Higher MRs can mean larger or more dangerous creatures. These can be easily fleshed out a bit by giving them a name and a brief description.

For example the “Gakk” with MR 13.
As it is it's not very interesting. It rolls 2d6+7 in combat, about the same as a Sax or Kukri. Let us begin to flesh it out and make it more interesting. The name “Gakk” suggests something slimy and disgusting. So let's make the Gakk a sort of cross between a banana slug and a leech, with a mouth full of raspy teeth. They live in swamps, sewers and other damp slimy places.

The Gakk shows one of the easiest ways to create descriptions of monsters, just pick a couple of animals and combine some features.

A second source of monsters is literature and mythology. With creatures drawn from these sources the abilities and description have already been established, although you should feel free to add your own twists.A straight forward example of this type is the venomous sheep found in Celtic myth. These were powerful enough that a flock of them killed three hundred warriors! We will give them an MR of 95 (10d6+48), this is equivalent to a Dire Wolf. Remember they come in large flocks! Their venomous bite can be treated as Spider Venom or other poison as the GM prefers. Their thick wool provides 2 hits worth of armour. Mix them in with a flock of normal sheep to give your Delvers a nasty surprise.

A third source of inspiration for creatures and monsters is Spells, weapons, or equipment from the T&T rules. While reading through the Codex Incantatum I came across the various book and library related spells. One of these included the note that the spell would even allow blinded creatures to read. From this was born the “Blind Librarians of Karthank”. This is an order of monastic librarians who use the various book and library spells to archive and retrieve information in their vast libraries. Sensitive information is “blanked' by magic and then read by magic, this prevents the unauthorized from reading over the Librarian's shoulder. The Librarians dress in long flowing robes and wear masks that cover their eyes completely. They speak only in hollow whispers. They do not really need MR or other stats as these are unlikely to become an issue in play.


Welcome to H'rrrothgarrr's Hovel! This is a blog dedicated to my ramblings about the Tunnels&Trolls RPG. Expect new creatures, spells, equipment, random musings, links to inspirational stuff, and more.

I have been gaming T&T and other games since the late 70s and have quite the febrile imagination as a result.