Sunday, May 4, 2014

Spells in Tunnels & Trolls

I think that the aversion to Tunnels & Trolls that some gamers possess is attributable in some degree to the light-hearted nature with which Ken St. Andre approached the rules.  After all, pretending to be an elf is serious business.  St. Adre's whimsy is readily apparent in his choice of spell names, some of which include:  'Zingum', 'Freeze Pleeze', 'Poor Baby', 'Little Feets', 'Hidey Hole', and 'Yassa-Massa'.  It has not been my experience that the names of spells were detrimental to the course of play (Dare I say 'immersion'?).  Sometimes, it's liberating to say, “Take That, You Fiend” (i.e., the name of a first level offensive spell).  Of course, nothing prevents a gaming group from changing the spell names if they dislike the ones given.

Some spells in earlier editions of T&T did not survive to later editions.  The 'Oh Dread' spell “predicts next group of monsters to meet you and when it will happen, but not where.”  'Green Tongue' allows “one to speak to and command all plants.”  Lastly, the 'Greasy Geas' spell “compels men or monsters to either perform a given task or to refrain from certain actions.”

In St. Andre's Monsters! Monsters!, it is noted that:
Certain types of monsters have their own magical powers, sometimes analogous to and sometimes completely different from...human magic...These spells may not be used by any other type of monster or by humans – except, possibly, if they were used by a monster carrying a deluxe staff, which would then learn the spell, and could enable any subsequent owner to use it.
Among the spells listed, there spells for trolls and goblins which – while not “kindred” races – are playable races in T&T.  Goblins have 'Darkest Hour', which can drain light “from any natural source except the sun.” Trolls have 'Ole Stonewall' (which creates a stone wall), 'Rock-a-bye-bye' (which can change an opponent to stone or backfire against the troll), and 'Reconstr-yuch-tion' (a 'cheaper' version of a 'human' spell that converts “rock to mud or quicksand”).

Upon reaching fifth level, a magic-user “can start inventing his own spells.” (Rogues are not capable of designing original spells.)  Rules about the time and cost for research are not provided; only the instruction that “[h]ome-brewed spells must be subject to the approval of the G. M. who should ensure that the spells are not too powerful for the level and cost assigned in terms of strength expenditure.”  Interestingly, early editions of T&T allowed magic-users to improvise spells – a rule not carried over into later editions.
The effort of composing a spell on the spot in a game situation will require the expenditure of 90 percent of the magic-user's strength, and can only be attempted by wizards with more than 10 strength points available.  Otherwise it is fatal to the magician and does no good.
It's a shame that this rule was suppressed.  When a game undergoes a new edition, it should be improved; removing an opportunity for player creativity cannot be considered improvement.  I can certainly see how the rule could be abused; assuming that the GM/DM approves of the spell and the magic-user has at least ten points of strength, success is automatic.  Magic-users recover strength points at a rate of one per ten minutes, so magic-users can frequently create “impromptu” spells.  A chance of failure might be appropriate.

T&T has rules about “saving rolls.”  For a saving roll, the player rolls two dice and attempts to equal or exceed a target number.  The target number for a “first level” saving roll is 20 minus the character's 'luck' attribute, with a minimum target number of five.  Rolling doubles entitles the player to re-roll and add the result.  For each “level” of difficulty, 5 is added to the number from which luck is subtracted (e.g., a second level target number would be 25 – luck; third level, 30 – luck, etc.).  Later editions would introduce saving rolls using attributes other than luck.  I don't know why static target numbers weren't adopted with a saving roll being 2d6 + attribute.  For improvisational spells, the level of the saving roll could be equivalent to the level of the prospective spell.  Of course, with no penalty in effect for failure, the potential for abuse is not curbed.

What if a magic-user could only attempt improvisational spells once (or a limited number of times) per experience level?  I suppose that method is viable, but one must keep track of attempts.  Perhaps a failure causes a permanent loss of one point of strength (or 'wizardry' as later editions would have it).  What if a point of wizardry needs to be sacrificed to merely attempt the improvisational spell?

No comments:

Post a Comment