Tunnels and Trolls, U. K. Edition

“Fantasy Game Rules”

Strategy Games Limited, 1977.

Ken St. Andre; additional rules by Steve McAllister, Jim Peters, and Hilde Brown.
Edited by Selwyn Ward.

Tunnels and Trolls

5 3/4 x 8 1/4 inch saddle stapled booklet. 48 pages.

Donated by Paul Holman

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The first commercially published role playing game, Dungeons & Dragons, appeared in 1974. Tunnels and Trolls (T&T) appeared the next year. Designer Ken St. Andre wrote that T&T was designed to improve on some of D&D's basic rules mechanics, and perhaps more importantly, be cheaper. The former is a matter of opinion; the latter was unquestionably true. It's also undeniable that T&T was less ponderous than D&D and took itself far less seriously.

Much like its inspiration, T&T had no real setting: it was simply a game for a referee or Dungeon Master to design a series of fiendish underground tunnel complexes filled with monsters and horrible traps guarding rich treasures. Players would control one or more characters who would defeat the monsters, dodge the traps, and loot the treasures. In the process, the characters would gain gold and experience points. Experience would be used to boost characters' basic abilities, while treasure could be used to purchase more effective weapons and armor, so that deeper levels of the tunnels could be explored, where the challenges and rewards would be commensurably greater.

Unlike other early RPGs, T&T had no monsters. Instead, DMs were expected to create their own, using the rules provided.

 

Character creation

T&T characters were created by rolling 3d6 and assigning them, in order, to the character's six Prime Attributes: Strength, IQ, Luck, Constitution, Dexterity, and Charisma. Players then rolled 3d6 again and multiplied the result by ten for starting gold. A character had as many hit points as his constitution score.

There were three character classes: Warriors, Magic-Users, and Rogues. Warriors could use all weapons but not cast spells, Magic-Users could cast spells but not use any but the most basic weapons, and Rogues could fight and cast spells, but started the game without magic and needed to pay a magic-user character to teach them spells. Rogues could also only reach seventh level, at which point they needed to change to one of the other two classes.

Once characters were created, players would spend their gold to purchase armor, weapons, and incidentals off the buying tables. The price lists included a few general supplies (food, clothing, lights), weapons, and armor.

Combat

Monsters didn't need much detailing, as the combat system was simple, even for an early RPG. The only description monsters needed was their rating, which could range from zero to anything. (The rules mentioned a fire-breathing dragon with a rating of five hundred.) The monster's hit points were the same as its rating, and it received a number of combat dice based on the rating, found on a chart. Monsters with ratings of less than ten received no dice; for ratings of ten and above, monsters got a die for every rating increase of five, and the table gradually increased the size of the increments to ratings increases of ten and then to twenty five. The table implied that ratings of over one hundred ignored the hundred's place of the rating, looked up the combat dice for the tens and ones places and added ten dice to that result, so that a monster with a rating of 120 would have the dice of a monster with a rating of twenty (two dice), plus ten more, for a total of twelve dice.

Since the game did not include any statistics for monsters, DMs were on their own as to how tough each type of monster should be. Since monsters were expected to be tougher in the deeper levels of the dungeons, T&T gave some suggestions as to how to do this: for example, "grey gibberings" found on the fourth level should be tougher than those found on the second level. DMs could give them higher ratings, create monsters as though they were characters with their own unique abilities, or simply multiply their combat results by how many levels underground they were found.

Combat involved both sides rolling a pool of six-sided dice and adding bonuses to the results. Monsters rolled their combat dice and added one quarter of their monster rating to the result. (They got double this bonus on the first combat round.) Characters rolled a number of dice based on the weapon they used, and modified their result for high or low strength, luck, and dexterity. The lower total was subtracted from the higher, and the remaining points were subtracted from the hit points of the losing side, evenly distributed among that side's figures. Characters could wear armor, which subtracted damage. When a character's constitution reached zero, he was dead.

Combat could be done en masse, with all of the figures on each side pooling their attack dice, or done with subsets of figures. The combat system could thus be as crude and simple as "both sides attack with everybody," or run with an eye as to the tactical situation: St. Andre cautioned that only a few figures could effectively engage a monster in a narrow tunnel. The outcome need not be a fight to the death, either: the losing side could flee, or victorious adventurers could capture monsters and tame them. The game had a reaction table, too, so that monsters might choose to parlay or ignore the adventurers rather than automatically springing to the attack.

Missiles used a slightly different system, in that characters had to hit before damage could be calculated. The characters dexterity, minus any wounds taken, was matched against the range (close, medium, or long) on a table. The result gave a die range; scoring within the range indicated a hit. A character with an average dexterity of ten to twelve, with no wounds, had a fifty-fifty chance to hit at close range (within ten feet). For medium range, the attacker had to roll a one for her missile to strike home.

There were extra rules for men and monsters to go berserk in combat. Rolling doubles in the combat roll might make a character go berserk, depending on his IQ score. (Monsters went berserk as a result of a die roll when they were losing a battle or had nowhere to flee—in essence, for a failed morale check.) Berserk characters would keep re-rolling doubles, increasing their combat score. This cost a character two strength each combat round, with the madness ending when the character's strength dropped to five or less. A berserk party member could be a danger to his friends, as he'd keep fighting even if there were no foes to fight—or he might drop from exhaustion in the middle of the battle.

Non-combat mechanics were essentially the same, with players rolling a number of dice and trying to beat a target number. These were primarily saving rolls, desperate attempts to avoid negative consequences. Players rolled two dice and tried to beat a target value based on the level of the dungeon less the character's Luck score.

 

Character Advancement

The main goal for players was character advancement through earning experience points. There were several means suggested for gaining these: defeating monsters, obtaining treasure, casting spells, succeeding at a saving roll, and returning alive to the surface all returned some number of experience points. These were used to go up levels on an increasing scale: a character needed 1,000 points to reach second level, but 15,000 to reach fifth level, and an even million to reach seventeenth level, the top of the chart.

Advancing a level permitted players to boost their Prime Attributes, usually by adding half of their new level to one Prime Attribute. Characters who "leveled up" outside of the dungeon could add their entire new level to Strength or Constitution, or even half to each. After characters reached seventh level, they could split their bonus among several attributes, with the permission of the DM.

 

Magic

Magic user characters started the game knowing all first level spells. They could cast as many spells as they wanted, but each spell cost some of the magic user's strength. If the magic user had a staff (either purchased or manufactured by the character herself), the caster's level was subtracted from the strength cost of the spell.

As they obtained money, magic users could buy higher level spells, up to seventeenth level. While we could not find it put out explicitly in the rules, it seems likely that one had to be a second level character to use second level spells, and so forth. In addition to being of the proper level, magic users had to spend gold to learn the list, and needed a minimum Intelligence and dexterity score to cast them. Spells were typical for a fantasy role playing game, but with humorous names: "zappathingum" (enchant weapons), "wink-wing!" (a short-range teleportation spell), "mind pox" (a confusion spell), and the infamous "Take That You Fiend" (an attack spell) are a few examples.

 

The rest of the book included "Optional and Additional Rules and Elaborations." These included saving rolls for monsters, rules for creating nonhuman characters, modifying their attribute scores with multipliers, a short section of rules on using monsters as characters (they earn experience points for evil actions, of course), and advanced weapon and armor options. Some of the weapons were very obscure: shamsheer, shotel, terbutje, harpin, francisca, mitre, sax, uxtongue, prodd, chakram, madu? These tables had a surprising amount of detail for the simple system, including minimum dexterity and strength to use the weapons, and a dexterity penalty for using in the off-hand. Note that the rules did not describe these weapons: interested readers were advised to consult reference books. There were even rules for weapons made of different materials than steel.

Finally, Ken St. Andre wrote a two page postscript on taking T & T out of the dungeons and letting PCs explore alternate worlds. Notably, this edition still lacked any lists of monsters.

 

Summary

One cannot properly summarize T&T without comparing it to its competitor. T&T used a far simpler combat system, used common dice instead of D&D's polyhedrals, had a better system for earning experience points, and got rid of some of the more problematic features of D&D, such as alignment and the unpopular limited magic system. On the other hand, T&T lacked a good deal of D&D's most popular features: lists of monsters with statistics, treasures and treasure tables, and encounter tables. D&D also expected players to leave the dungeons eventually, with rules on building above-ground strongholds and recruiting armies for miniatures battles.

T&T did have one advantage over its rival that gave it longevity: the combat system made it possible to play T&T in solo adventures, while D&D's more elaborate combat system meant solitaire games would devolve into long, dull sessions of die rolling. Flying Buffalo produced many solo gamebooks for T&T, and the game did well in this niche.

While D&D became synonymous with RPGs, T&T has also prospered and thrived. Version 7.0 of the rules were released shortly before we obtained our early version. There is a vibrant web-presence for the game, such as sites by the publisher, Flying Buffalo (http://www.flyingbuffalo.com/tandt.htm), and The Hobgoblin's Tavern (http://web.ukonline.co.uk/angora/).

We are delighted to have finally made the acquaintance of this classic game. Our thanks to museum patrons who suggested we acquire it, and whose constructive criticism helped us to improve our site.

—RAD

June 26, 2010; updated April 4, 2011.

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