Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Surfeit of d6s

I pulled a little switcheroo on the gang at the Armored Gopher last night.  Hot off my Monsters! Monsters! con run I was eager to see how the Tunnels & Trolls engine would work for normal dungeoneering operations.  So last week I got the crazy idea to convert all active PCs in my campaign to T&T 7th edition standards.  Then I grabbed a couple of old T&T dungeons from e23: Uncle Ugly's Underground and Dungeon of the Bear.  Both adventures have this "Tomb of Horrors, Jr." killer gonzo vibe to them, but I eventually settles on running level 1 of Dungeon of the Bear.  Ryan, Carl and Charles were extremely good sports about the whole thing.  Some players aren't up switching systems for a session just to humor the jerk behind the screen.

So we discovered some things about playing T&T instead of D&D.

The slightly more abstracted combat system (where you don't roll initiative and you don't target specific baddies most of the time and to-hit & damage are merged into a signle throw) is too little player interaction for some tastes.  Sure, the Saving Throw mechanic (which is also the skill system and the 'do everything else' mechanic) is wide-open, but the simple act of beating mooks up seemed less satisfactory than baseline D&D.  At least to these players.

The spells with the stupid names ("Take That You Fiend", etc.) that turn off so many people were a big hit, both for the names and what they do.  The first level wizard especially enjoyed summoning up some skeletons.  They weren't that hot in combat but they absorbed some blows intended for the PCs. 

Also, I think my one page, one line per spell handout really helped.  I ought to do that for my D&D games.  As soon as I finish my custom spell list.  Have I mentioned here I've got about 160 spells in a draft google doc, based upon completely scrapping the present D&D list (but not mechanics) and going with spells powered by invoking angels and demons?  Here's a randomly selected entry:

Yellow Ray of Iophiel  - power: Iophiel  - party: heaven  - level: 2  - magical light, bullseye lantern in dimensions, sunlight illumination, lasts 12 turns - d6 damage per round against vampires, etc. blinds and possibly routes nocturnal monsters such as orcs
I'm currently working on adding spells based upon the demons in the Pseudomonarchia Daemonum, a 16th century work listing infernal dudes that can be invoked.  But now I'm left wondering if maybe my players would prefer less showboaty book-learning based spells and more Take That You Fiend.

Another thing that I discovered is that rolling 5d6+20 for each of four or five monsters gets to be a pain in the ass after a while, even though I can roll it all at once as 25d6+100.  Carl and Charles, being computer science guys, spent some of the time I was rolling and adding discussing the technical details of how the players can total their side's attack in parallel versus the serial approach of the GM.

7th edition T&T introduces a concept called Spite Damage.  In previous editions the side with the lower combat total took damage equal to the differences between the two attack totals.  Spite Damage is where every 6 rolled on a die indicates a point of damage is inflicted no matter which side wins and that damage ignores armor.  I can see why the mechanic was developed, but I'm not sure whether I like it or not.  I do enjoy all the monsters in the 7th edition monster pamphlet that have some sort of subsitute to Spite.  As an example, a medusa might get off a gaze attack only when it rolls at least 2 sixes in combat.  Or a chimera might only breath fire on 3 sixes.  It's an interesting concept whereby some monster behavior is random, somewhat akin to my Stupid Dracula Tricks chart.

Another thing that I like is that different weapons and armor are rated for Str and/or Dex required to use it. You can wield a weapon that's too heavy for you, but it makes you tired (you lose Str equal to the amount you're short to qualify).  Traveller also uses these minima to great effect and Empire of the Petal Throne requires a certain Str rating to use various two-handed weapons.  Maybe I could put variable damage back into my game if I used a similar system.  One has to be careful when setting the mins, though.  As it stands in T&T 7th and ordinary Broadsword has a Str min of 15, meaning most starting warrior types won't qualify to use it without penalty.  I'm not sure I dig on that.

Anyways, the game itself was a pretty good time.  Traps were activated.  Giant snakes, trolls, vampires, orcs and batwinged toadmonsters were all defeated.  The party members scored over 500gp apiece in loot.  And one of Carl's Welsh bowmen put on a magic ring that turned him into a vampire.  At first we considered ignoring that item for continuity purposes.  But then I decided we'd turn that call over to the dice.  The roll said his PC will continue to be a vampire in the D&D campaign.  I can't wait to see how that turns out.


  1. "Another thing that I like is that different weapons and armor are rated for Str and/or Dex required to use it."

    I really like those kinds of requirements too.

    One of our fellow blogging types put out a list for old school D&D a while back, wish I could remember who.

  2. I'd really like to see that list of spells and there effects. Sounds like just the thing I need for my Dark Country Campaign.

  3. Spite damage: "...It's an interesting concept whereby some monster behavior is random..."

    The Dragon Age rpg (by Green Ronin) does this very well. It is a 3d6 + mods mechanic, but when any 2 of the 3 dice come up 'doubles', you get "stunt" points to do cool things.

  4. We have done something very similar to your stripped-down spell descriptions in our homebrew game (with mostly standard spells) and we have been liking it.

  5. My favorite -absolute favorite- thing about T&T, beyond the simplicity of the rules and the narrative combat and MR and Talents, is Ken St Andre's statement that "my conception of the T&T world was based on The Lord of The Rings as it would have been done by Marvel Comics in 1974 with Conan, Elric, the Gray Mouser and a host of badguys thrown in."

  6. Using STR requirements for the "best" weapons and armor also works as a mental justification (or a flat-out substitution??) for the rules about weapon restrictions for magic-users and clerics. Who else is going to have a low strength but those guys? :-)

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  8. @ckutalik: I think it was Planet Algol. I'd do it with AD&D these days too so that not every fighter would buy a longsword...

  9. Anonymous8:07 AM

    I can't help myself. I have to say try 5th edition. Verily, it doth rock!

    Anyway, enough edition partisanship. One of the weird litle things about MR's is that the actual MR score tends to be about the average you roll using the MR's dice + Adds. So sometimes you can just look at the MR and use the score as the total dam, instead of rolling. You wouldn't want to do that all the time, depends on the situation.

  10. I seem to remember a note to the effect that when the number of dice starts to get unwieldy St Andre suggests dividing the number of dice by some factor, rolling, multiplying the result by that factor & adding total adds. So the 25+100 force would roll 5d6, multiply the result by 5, add 100, & count each 6 as 5 sixes for spite.

    I'm cool with the STR requirements for weapons in principle, but the bit about tiring yourself to death if you persist in using them leaves me cold.

  11. I think it was Planet Algol. I'd do it with AD&D these days too so that not every fighter would buy a longsword...

  12. I love the spell names in T&T and the idea of your alternative D&D spell list. Keep it up (and post or publish it)!

  13. One cool thing you can do with Spite, which is a very cool invention, is to allow the player to either use them as "anti spite" against the opponents, or to cache them in for 50 AP a pop. It sounds like a very cool option that someone, I don't remember who, suggested.