Friday, June 11, 2010

Flying Buffalo call for new material!

Flying Buffalo have issued new submission guidelines for aspiring T&T authors.

This is good news not only for T&T writers, but also for T&T players.

I will be polishing up my "Sailing the Wine Dark Sea" module and submitting it.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Wizard Duels

Ah, the crackle of arcane energies. Two wizards of great power face off against each other, wands and staves at the ready. Then...Check your WIZ and "You've Got a Bad Feeling."? Seems a bit anti-climactic doesn't it?

That is the view of Wizards' duels under T&T 7.5 that seem sto have become wide spread. I think it is wrong. We may not see battles like Gandalf putting the smackdown on Saruman in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy shouting "Expelliamous!" while wands go flying, but 7.5e Wiazards' duels need not be boring either.

Single combat duels, especially between evenly matched oponents, are often actually quite boring to play out in RPGs. They consist of both opponents rolling to strike, calculating damage inflicted (if any), adjusting character sheets, lather, rinse, repeat. Rules to add stunts, tricks and detail to combat often get complex and slow down play. The result is that duels are either fairly quick, but bland and devoid of detail, or detailed but slow. T&T's Saving Roll rules and freeform combat system strike a middle ground. Either combatant can at any time declare a special tactic, and make an apropriate SR to see if they succeed or fail. Works great for armed combat. But what about Wizards?

According to many Wizards are completely nerfed by the 7th edition magic rules. They have to maka an INT SR equal to the level of the spell just to cast it properly, and they can't directly affect anyone with a higher current WIZ.

Let's look at these two points in detail.

First the INT SR. Looking at the maths, and don't worry I am not going to post lots of formulae here, after the INT and DEX to cast 9th level spells is aquired the Wizard will always fail his INT SR only on a roll of 3. For lower level mages the required INT to cast successfuly except on a 3 is higher, but still well within reach, starting at 15 for 1st level spells, and progressing up to 47 for 8th level spells. Considering that a minimum INT of 45 is required to cast those 8th level spells it is hardly burdensome. A Wizard with an INT of 30 will fail only on a roll of 3 to cast any spell of 4th level and below. To cast spells of level 6, the highest he can cast, he will need to roll a 12. So a Wizard should be fairly confident of getting his spells off.

Second the Kremm Resistance. The rules state that "a character with a lower Wizardry score can’t normally cast spells directly upon beings with higher Wizardry scores." That is the rule. Not, as many seem to think, "cannot effect beings with higher Kremm with a spell". This is the key to Wizard Dueling. If your target has a higher WIZ do not target him directly.

How do I use indirect targeting? Don't use Call Flame in an attempt to sear your enemy, use it to set his robes on fire instead. Cast Slush-Yuck on the ground beneeth his feet. Followed up with Hard Stuff this is particularly debilitating. Upsidaisy can be used to levitate a large, heavy object, say a boulder and whack your opponent with it for damage.

There are a few tricks to give better odds in all out assault as well. Cast Doublke Double on your self and boost your WIZ score... Then let fly with TTYF or Death Spell #9.

Any of the defensive spells will protect in magical as well as mundane combat.

Summonings can be effective.

In short unless you are very high level, think subtltey instead of force in spell combat.

I will be writing up a longer and more detailed version of this article, including a blow-by-blow, or should that be Spell-by-Spell account of a Wizards' Duel for Trollzine.

Friday, June 4, 2010

"Tunnels&Trolls Specialist Classes"

The title of this entry is in quotes because I am not talking much about specialist classes in general, but rather about the new T&T supplement from Postmortem Studios.

"Specialist Classes" is a 13 page pdf available from,, etc. It is light on text, one page is the cover, one the publishing information, and the remaining pages have large illustrations and copious white space. It is however well worth the price of admission.

Included are 5 new specialist types, one each for the attributes of Strength, Intelligence, Constitution, Luck, and Speed. These are respectively the Brute, Tinker, Defender, Trickster, and Swashbuckler. Each has a different style and provides a nice expansion to character options. None of them seem to be so powerful or so weak that they will unbalance the game. With the partial exception of the Tinker all could be fit into almost any campaign background with little or no trouble.

The Brute, Defender, and Swashbuckler are the most combat oriented of the new types. Each takes a different approach, and along with the Ranger provide for fighting characters of many different styles. The "Warrior" remains the best overall Jack-of-all-Trades.

The Trickster has some very clever mechanics for using their Luck to influence the world around them. These are card-sharps, gamblers, but also confidence men and smooth talkers.

Tinkers are characters who rely on technology instead of magic. They are able construct gadgets that produce effects similar to spells. The Tinker is perhaps the most weakly developed. The weakness comes from the lack of rules for developing new constructs and devices. Several pages of clever examples are given and it should be easy to create new ones following their example, but a few guidelines would have been useful. Obviously Tinkers will be a poor fit in worlds with lower than a late medieval technology level. Not impossible though as the example of Archimedes demonstrates.

Overall this is a usefull addition to T&T games. I hope that we see more specialist types in future.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Lycanthropy or werewolf? There wolf!

I was reading the thoughts on weretypes as characters in T&T at the Lone Delver and this caused my to think about it for my self.

I have had one player opt to play a werebear in a long ago campaign and have played a werewolf myself. These characters were both simple shapechangers and so did not require much thought about rules. I have also used traditional weres as villains.

In thinking about were-types one thing to decide early on is what do they change into. It could be a normal animal, a man with animal features (like the Wolfman), or a giant man-animal hybrid. In White Wolf's World of Darkness werewolves pass through no fewer than 5 stages beween amn and giant wolf.

Having decided that, give some thought to vulnerabilities. Are they hurt by normal weapons? Silver, magic, wolvesbane? Does it depend what form they are in?

Do they retain memory and conciousness when they switch forms? In some versions the two forms do not share any memories or knowledge.

How is the change effected? Is it a curse, a disease, as spell, or a Kindred type ability? In some versions of folklore the change is effected by litterally changing skins.

Are these "rules" the same for all were-types? Are there other types of shape-changer in the world?

One of my were-wolf villains was ripped straight from Stephen King's "Cycle of the Werewolf". Luckilly my players had not read it. He was a deranged priest who changed when the moon was full. He shifted into a giant man-wolf hybrid. He could only be hurt by silver or magic when in werewolf form. His index finger was the same length as his middle finger, hair grew on his palms and his eyebrows met in the middle. In his home was a complete abscence of anything made of silver. (I gave lots of clues).

I have also had fun with Selkies who shed their seal skins to walk on land as humans. Anyone finding them could put the skins on and dive in to the ocean as a seal.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Making Dragons Fly

Of all the iconic creatures of High Fantasy the Dragon is probably the least likely.

A fearsome flying, fire-breathing, often speaking, some times spell casting, giant lizard with near unpiercable hide and a seemingly insatiable appetite for princesses.

Such a creature is so unlikely that it has become my standard response to players who insist on questioning the "realism" of a fantasy world. "You have no trouble with flying, fire-breathing dragons but you have a problem with X?"

What's wrong with dragons? Well let's start with what's right. Size, we know from dinosaurs etc that reptiles can grow to enormous size. Sleeping for years after eating, again reptiles eat infrequently and many species undergo periods of prolonged hybernation. Intelligence, well...if you have a brain as large as a dragon's, why not? Armoured hide, the Romans made armour of crocodile hide, and scales and bony plates can be quite an effective defense. Fangs and claws, just look at nature red in tooth and claw. Even the bed of gold has its parallels in jackdaws and packrats stashing away interesting and shiny trinkets. And spell casting is no problem, after all this is Fantasy and magic is de riguer.

So what about the rest?

First, flight. How do dragon's fly? Most illustrations of drgons have wings that are too small for flight, and some have wings of almost impossible anatomy. Then there is the weight of the creature. Dragons are going to be very heavy... If we give them hollow bones and internal airsacs like birds to reduce weight they can fly (maybe) but become extremely fragile. Look at the Pterosaurs that grew to enormous size, they were spindly creatures.

Second, firey breath. How on earth do you make this one work? Do dragons have respiratory tracts lined with asbestos? Terminal GERD? The most sensible explanation I have seen is highly inflamable venom that the dragon spits or sprays. Belching hydrogen gas or similar might also work. Belching hydrogen would also help with flight as those airsacs I mentioned above could be filled with it.

I do however have an answer to all the issues with dragons. It is admitedly a bit of a cop out, but... MAGIC. Dragons fly because they are magic. Same reason they breathe fire, elves have pointed ears, wizards cast spells, orcs are ugly, etc. Magic. Also known as the Walter Cronkite rationale "And that's the way it is."

I do find suspension of disbelief easier if things are kept semi-plausable, but in a fantasy world you have freedom to break the rules occasionally.

A world with realistic dragons would be a less magical place.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


I am in the midst of writing a solo adventure as part of my "Sailing the Wine Dark Sea" T&T sourcebook. I wanted to share some of my experiences with solo adventures.

Let me start by saying it is hard work. A lot harder than writing a GM adventure. In writing a solo you must include everything needed to run the adventure. This includes all the GM rulings as to what is anis not possible when the player wants to try something creative. It you don't write it in to the solo, it simply is not there. In a GM adventure if a player asks to dive for cover behind some rocks, the GM can quickly decide if there are suitible rocks at hand and how easy or difficult it is to dive behind them. In a solo if you do not write in a "duck behind the rocks" option it simply isn't possible. There is no fall back on the give and take of roleplaying. This give ant take allows a GM in face to face play to seemlessly work suggestions and ideas from the players into the adventure. As if it wasn't enough to have to think of every possible action and write up results, you also need to write a story that is interesting and entertaining enough to keep the player reading. The adventure also must be balanced to be neither too difficult nor too easy.

Unless it is being written as part of a series you do have the advantage that a solo does not need to maintain any external continuity. This can be a great venue for epic quests with the fate of the world at stake. It is rather daunting to introduce a quest like the Lord of the Rings, destroy this powerful artefact or the world is doomed, into a long running campaign world. If the quest fails you need to start over from scratch. In a solo if the quest fails just flip back to the beging and try again or pick up a different solo.

One popular gimmick in solo adventures that I feel is best used extremely sparingly is the "Sudden Death" paragraph. This a paragraph that without warning kills your character in the middle of the adventure. The set up may be something like this "If you want to search the desk go to Paragraph AA," followed by paragraph AA which reads "You beging riffling through the papers on the desk, saddly the desk is home to a colony of fire ants who devour you alive. The End" Not much fun is that? Better to give at least some clue that the desk might house a danger. This could include giving an option to examine the desk before searching it, thus revealing tiny holes all over the surface of the desk; a description of mouse skeletons on the floor beneath the desk; or a warning given at some other point in the adventure. The player then feels less railroaded. "I didn't recognize the signs" is a lot easier to swallow than "There were no signs." I do have several death pargraphs, but each comes after at least one chance to avoid this fate.

Special bonuses and penalties that apply during the adventure can be fun. Some may apply for the entire adventure: There is a terrible storm raging so missile fire of any kind is impossible. Others may only apply to part of the adventure: After you eat the Red Mushroom you are immune to the first 5 attacks from flame dragons. A unique magical item can make a nice reward for completing a solo. If the character is going to be able to take it with them be sure to limmit it in some way. A "Sword of Victory" which allows the character to always win every combat is not a good reward for a solo. In a long running campaign such an item could easily be stolen, but going from one solo to the next this is not so readilly available an option. An advenure that ends with the character stripped of all their gear will likely prove unpopular, although this can make an effective begining.

Other difficulties of writing a solo include balancing combat encounters, T&T's MR rating can give you an idea of how tough the opposition is. Non-combat encounters based either on the player's thinking and puzzlesolving abilities or SRs on the character's attributes can make a solo more enjoyable for cerebral type characters.

For Sailing the Wind Dark Sea I have several encounters with very tough opposition for single characters, however most of these encounters provide an option to opt out of fighting. A character who doesn't fight will not recieve the rewards of victory, but they will not die either.

As it is quite possible that character's entering the adventure will have a range of equipment (or lack there of) I have provided several oportunities for equipment. In some cases this is specific to a sub-adventure, in other cases it is access to a general market.

In writing this solo I have written each sub-adventure in fairly linear order, and have numbered the esections A, B, C etc with A1, A2 being sub paragraphs of strand A. This makes it easier to keep track of how paragraphs relate to one another. Only after the adventure is complete and thoroughly playtest will I scramble the oder of the paragraphs. I have already found several sections that lack a connection at either the begining or the end, these would be much harder to trace in scrambled paragraphs.

Give some thought to the overall story and what you want to accomplish in the solo. I may yet decide to cut out some of the options have created and use them in other solos. I have a hunt that currently includes 6 different quarry animals plus two additional sub-encounters. This is a huge number of paragraphs, it does however allow for a good replay value. My purpose in writing the solo for Wind Dark Sea is to showcase a number of possible encounters, adventure seeds, bits of the setting, etc for Mythic Greece. Subsequent solos in this same setting will likely be more linear in story.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Arms make the man

A brief description of the common classes of warrior and their arms and equipment.

The ruler of the battlefield in the Classical Age was the Hoplite in full panoply. These men were armoured nearly head to foot, a linen arming coat covered by a back and breast plate, vambraces, greaves, an armoured skirt and an open face helm. In addition they bore the mighty hoplon shield from which they took their name. They were armed with two throwing javelins, a long thrusting spear, a short sword and a dagger.

Peltasts were medium weight infantry fighting in looser order than teh dense phalanx of hoplites. They carried a half-moon shaped shield, often with a leather drape to protect the legs. Greaves and vambraces might be worn, as could helmets or skull caps. Most wore only a linen arming doublet rather than a breast plate. They were armed with javelins and short swords.

Psiloi were light skirmishers. Often they were unarmoured, sometimes even naked. They fought with bow and arrow, javelin, rocks, or other light missile weapons.

The knights of the day were the chariot warriors who wore full suits of plate and bore large shields and long lances.

One common type of helmet was constructed of slices of boar's teeth. It could take the tusks of as amany as 32 boars to craft a single helmet.

Shields ranged from small bucklers used by psiloi, through the peltast's shield, the hoplon and the great figure-of-eight and tower shields that could shelter a man from crown to ankle.

Warriors often fought in light armour to prove their valour and avoid the heat and cumbersomeness of armour. Arms and armour of a fallen foe were highly sought after trophies.