Sunday, April 20, 2014

Another Tunnels & Trolls Post

Art by Liz Danforth

The original Tunnels & Trolls has a familiar assortment of Prime Attributes:  Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, Constitution, and Charisma.  Forsaking Wisdom, T&T includes Luck as a Prime Attribute.  “The names of the attributes are really self explanatory,” writes Ken St. Andre, “with the possible exception of Constitution.”  St. Andre explains, “When the character is hit, hurt, or wounded, it comes off his constitution, and when constitution reaches zero, he is dead.”  Also familiar is the procedure for determining the value for each attribute:  roll 3d6.  Optionally, 'size' and 'weight' can both be determined by rolling 3d6, with size ranging from 4' to 7'2" and weight from 45 lbs. to 350 lbs.

For non-human characters, attributes are modified by certain multiples.  For instance, a “hobbit” character's strength is halved, constitution is doubled, and luck is multiplied by 1.5 – also, size and weight are halved.  There are no special abilities listed for non-human characters with one exception.  We are informed that, “Fairies with a strength greater than 2 are too solid and heavy to fly.”  How fast can a fairy fly?  No information is given.  Can elves see in the dark?  No information is given.  Can dwarves detect slanting passages?  No information is given.  The 'D.M.' is left to his or her own devices with regard to non-human character abilities.

In the Men & Magic volume of the original Dungeons & Dragons, experience is explained as follows:
As characters meet monsters in mortal combat and defeat them, and when they obtain various forms of treasure...they gain “experience.”
Tunnels & Trolls provides a more comprehensive system.  Similar to D&D, characters receive experience points for slaying or subduing foes and for bringing treasure (mundane or magical) out of the dungeon.  However, experience may be gained in other ways as well.  When a character returns to the surface alive he or she gains one hundred experience points times “the deepest dungeon level he penetrated.”  This falls under the category of “daring.”  Characters gain experience points for successful saving rolls.  “Multiply the saving roll by the dungeon level” to determine the experience points gained.  Even failed saving rolls can generate experience if their failure causes injury to the character – “multiply the number of hit points...times saving roll for e.p.”  Finally, spell casters get experience for...casting spells; more powerful spells garner more experience.

Level progression is the same for all three character types.  While T&T has an experience point/level system similar to D&D, the effect of T&T 's system is different.  In D&D, experience level defines a character's capability; in T&T, experience levels are only a means to an end.  For the sake of example, look at how adventure modules are rated.  The 'difficulty' of a D&D module is often expressed in such terms as “for 3 - 5 characters of levels 4 - 6.”  While T&T modules may refer to levels, they are most often classified in terms of adds (e.g., “up to 45 adds” or “up to 110 adds”).  “Adds,” as mentioned previously, reflect a character's (melee) combat effectiveness.  For each point of Strength, Dexterity, or Luck over 12, a character has +1 add; for each point of Strength, Dexterity, or Luck under 9, a character has “–1 add.”  In T&T, the benefit – and essentially the only benefit – of gaining a level is to increase Primary Attributes.

When gaining a level, one of the following options is selected for a character:
  • Add half of new level number to Intelligence (round up)
  • Add twice new level number to Luck
  • Add half of new level number to Dexterity (round down)
  • Add new level number to Charisma
  • Add new level number to Strength
  • Add new level number to Constitution
  • Add half of new level number to Strength and half to Constitution
At the discretion of the 'D.M.', any of the first four options can be applied while the character is still in the dungeon; the last three options cannot take effect until the character leaves the dungeon.  So, upon reaching fifth level, a character could add 3 to Intelligence or add 10 to Luck or add 2 to Dexterity or add 5 to either Charisma, Constitution, or Strength or...  For the half Strength/half Constitution option,we are not told which way to round.  Perhaps that option can only be selected upon reaching even levels or perhaps the remaining point can be assigned to either attribute.  In any event, we see how an increase in level can change a character's adds.  Assuming our fifth level character has at least a value of 12 in Strength, Luck, and Dexterity, the improvement option selected can increase adds by 0, 2, 5, or 10.  Thus, 'personal adds' are a better measure of a character's effectiveness than experience level.

I conclude this post with a quote from St. Andre about experience in T&T.
This is a game of growth, and it is hoped that while your paper alter egos are growing in power and wisdom, you will too.
I guess he's speaking figuratively.

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