Saturday, January 8, 2011


Shortly after Dungeons & Dragons was released back in 1974, a man named Ken St. Andre flipped through the rules, liked the idea, but disliked the actual implementation. He would go on to write Tunnels & Trolls, the second published RPG. For a while there, T&T was the #2 RPG out there, primarily on the strength of its simple rules, as well as a large number of solo adventures available for the game. Over the years, it's relative strength in the RPG market has diminished, but T&T has refused to disappear, thanks in part to a small-but-dedicated fan base.

I have been on the periphery of T&T fandom for several years, as the game is one that has simultaneously intrigued and frustrated me. I like the simple rules, the unabashed old-school feel it has, and the DIY attitude it seems to encourage. That said, there were also several elements present that didn't appeal to me. Some of these were fairly easy to house-rule, but others were more problematic; re-writing them to my liking would effectively mean re-writing the game from the ground up, instead of merely having some house-rules in effect.

In the past, I've always stopped short of making that extra step; too much work, and it's not like there were any lack of other games to vie for my interest. But recently, the kernel of an idea on how to rework T&T more to my personal tastes began to take hold, and wouldn't go away. Very little is on paper (or computer) as of yet, but the ideas are swimming around in my head; altering the basic attributes, scaling them so that increases are more linear that geometric, using the 'saving throw' roll as a universal action mechanic, deleting the need for a separate damage roll, re-writing magic from the ground up, adding some simple rules for professions and talents, and a few other changes here and there.

The tentative name for this new set of rules would be Trollslayers; I want to be honest and acknowledge the game's heritage, and having 'troll' somewhere in the title seems to be a good step in that direction. It would be very much 'old-school' in feel, with rules for things like hiring henchmen, morale checks, an emphasis on exploration, not shying away from player-character mortality, rules for building castles and ruling domains, etc. It would not be a 'retro-clone', but rather more of a 'heartbreaker' (albeit a self-aware one). It would have bits and pieces of several other games (D&D, Runequest, TFT, among others) mixed in, hopefully hitting that sweet spot between simplicity and detail that I like. It probably won't appeal to anyone else – if it does, great, but that's not the primary goal – but if it keeps me happy while running it, and my players happy while playing it, then I will have accomplished my goal.

So that's the mission statement, I guess. Future posts will break down and detail different aspects of the rule system as I work on them. Hopefully, by year's end I'll have enough to knock out a basic playtest document, and then see what happens from there.

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