Wednesday, May 05, 2021

a solo sandbox for Tunnels & Trolls

So I decided to put this together after being inspired by Tony Bath's Setting Up a Wargames Campaign. First I built a matchbox map, using 72 matchboxes and a hot glue gun.

Top-down view. You can get empty plain white matchboxes at craft supply prices, but buying boxed matches in bulk is actually cheaper if you look around a bit. True story: I was looking into this at the end of November, but I got distracted by something shiny just as I found the right thing on Amazon. I meant to add the matchboxes to my cart and come back to buy them later that day, but I put them on my wishlist instead. I dunno how I did that, but it was the end of the semester and I wasn't exactly thinking straight. I then promptly forgot about the whole thing until my sister bought them for me for Christmas. My suspicion is that she likes to order the dumbest thing on my wishlist. Which is fine by me. I have dumb tastes. 

Anyway, the idea is that each matchbox represents an area on the map. When my PC moves into a space, you slide open the draw (pushing from behind is the easiest way to do this). Inside is a chit I made by printing the numbers 1-72 and gluing them to a panel from a Cheerios box.

The chits are mostly randomly shuffled, but I seeded the coastal locations to the easternmost two columns and one "up north" location to the top two rows.

So location 0205 leads to adventure #58. What does that mean? To find out, you look in this little booklet I made.

Major Digression: I decided to lean into the fact that I hate the bloodbats that have killed numerous of my T&T pcs. The cover illo is actually a tarrahook bat by Aaron Arocho and Jennell Jaquays. It appears in the Dungeoneer Compedium, one of the best things published in the early days of D&D. This creature flies up to you and stabs you in the gut with a big hook-stinger on its tail. When I was killed by vampire bats, I tossed out my theory that bloodbats was just the T&T name for those critters. Tarrahook bats popped into my head unbidden. Anyhoo, here's the original tarrahook bat illo:

Terrifying as heck, but only the second creepiest monster in the Dungeoneer Compedium.

So the numbered entries in this booklet come in three broad categories. About one in six of them lead directly to a Tunnels & Trolls solo adventure. Like so:

You have found the entrance to the Dungeon of Umslopagaas of the Shiny Teeth, otherwise known as the Deathtrap Equalizer Dungeon! Anyone with less than 5 levels and 70 combat adds may enter this dungeon.

A bunch of the rest are terrain:

You are travelling through a hilly region. You have a 1 in 6 chance of a random encounter from the table at 75.

All the random encounter tables have bloodbats on them. I don't know why I am doing this to myself. Some of the terrain have special rules. You can get lost in the woods and you must make a Strength roll to climb a mountain or else turn back.

I also wrote a handful of special areas to be discovered, like this:

You have found the Riddling Tree. Will you undertake its challenge? If you can succeed at a level 3 Intelligence saving throw it gives you a reward:

1-2 Random jewel

3-4 Random magic item (See T&T Bonus Pack #1)

5-6 Add +1d6 to a random ability score

If you fail, determine your penalty:

1-2 Teleported into a random Deathtrap Equalizer challenge. If you survive, you return to a random overland map location.

2-3  Lose 1d6 from a random ability score

4-6 You are turned into a nasty little gremlin rogue (undo kin bonuses and apply those of a gremlin, class benefits change as well).

You may only challenge the Riddling Tree once.

So the basic idea is to drop a PC onto either the edge of the map or a randomly generated location and discover what can be found in Bloodbat Country. I made a players map by drawing a 6 x 12 grid onto a sheet of Blackblade extra large hex paper. That way, with a little artistic license, I can make a hexmap out of my findings.

Finally, here's what 72 boxes of matches look like. I only smoke my pipe once in a great while (twice so far this year), so this ought to last me a while.


  1. Since you already have a hot glue gun...

  2. I don't smoke anything anymore, but I've been grilling (with charcoal) a LOT the last year and a half, and I could definitely use those matches!

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  5. Just looked the Tarrahook Bat up in my Compendium. I gotta say, not making it poisonous and not calling it a "Scorpion Bat" seems like a missed opportunity to me.