Sunday, July 26, 2015

Civil Rights in Trollworld

In the recently released Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls, Section 7 (“The Hostile Opposition”) offers the following statement:
          In fantasy role-playing games, as in all storytelling of heroic derring-do, the good guys battle the bad guys. The forces of order verses (sic) the forces of chaos. If you want to invoke the shade of Joseph Campbell, it’s because solar heroes must slay the evils lurking in darkness to restore light to the world. It is the quintessential Us versus Them...
          For better or worse, 21st Century relativism complicates this simple equation. Monster rights have become civil rights in the Empire of Khazan, and Trollworld harbors many sentient beings who don’t consider themselves monsters...They may, in fact, consider the armies of the “good kindred” to be the monstrous ones when they come rampaging through their territory and looting their dungeon homes.
(See Eric Goldberg's essay, “A Hole in the Ground,” for a similarly 'teratocentric' viewpoint.)  The “good kindred” (also known as the humanoid kindred) consist of T&T 's standard array of player character races:  humans, elves, dwarves, fairies, leprechauns, and hobbs.  However, T&T has never been adverse to 'monsters as player characters'; there are even published adventures intended exclusively for 'monster' characters.  For the 'non-good' kindred, T&T uses the term illkin.  (I would have gone with fellkin.)  The entirety of Section 7 is only three pages;  Section 13 (“Other Playable Kindreds”) provides 23 pages of details about the other sentient races of Trollworld.

The “illkin” are divided into three categories:  familiar, less common (or “scarier”), and extraordinary (or “terrifying”).  For familiar illkin, “Charisma ratings emphasize personality first...,” while for extraordinary illkin, “Charisma ratings reflect implied threat of force...”  Regarding the in-between category, 'less common' illkin, “Charisma ratings immediately favor neither personality nor force, but fear or disgust can be triggered very easily.”  Among the ranks of the familiar illkin, there are centaurs, gnomes, selkies, vampires, et al.  The less common illkin include (but are not limited to) harpies, 'flesh' trolls, minotaurs, and policani (like a centaur, but think 'dog' instead of 'horse').  In the extraordinary illkin category, we find gargoyles, demons, ghouls, 'true' trolls, et al.

Section 13 includes at least one paragraph of information on each of the illkin.  Among various interesting tidbits, we learn that gnomes have a “rather bipolar mix of clever wackiness and entrenched bitterness.”  Also, their collaborations with dwarves “inflate gnomish perseptions (sic) of themselves as one of the unsung greats...”  Rapscallions – “disreputable hobbs...notable but for their scraggly hair and squinty dark eyes,” were known in prior editions as “Black Hobbits.”  Kobolds are “natural shapeshifters, but their choice of forms is limited to small animals like cats, dogs, foxes, and small children.”  Also, kobolds “can briefly project their consciousness into small fires...and both speak and listen.”

Finally, in Section 14, we are given a discourse on Trollworld languages.  We are told:
Many character types are mentioned here that do not appear in the playable list of non-human kindreds.  These sections were originally generated at completely different times.  Because both lists are optional elaborations, we did not try to reconcile the two lists for this book.
Well, the authors can't claim they were pressed for time.

Included in this section is a language chart designed for a d100.  Given that one of the game's  design goals was not to require 'non-standard' dice, this represents a complete betrayal of everything Tunnels & Trolls stands for.  In the fifth edition, Ken St. Andre wrote, “I've tried to keep only 6-sided dice in use in T&T, but multi-sided dice are becoming more available, and I feel their use in this table is somewhat justified.”  In the deluxe edition, no 'justification' is offered.  Just how hard would it have been to create an equivalent table for six-siders?  Not hard at all.  In fact, below is a 'd6-ified' version of the dT&T table.

The dT&T language table has some differences from earlier versions.  Instead of “Orcish,” we have the more politically correct “Uurrk” (also called Uurrkish).  Whereas balrogs (now known as “balrukhs”) and dragons once had distinct languages, they now both speak “flame-tongue.”  Similarly, goblins and gremlins had separate languages; now there is merely “Gobble.”  Leprechauns used to speak the same language as gremlins; apparently, they now speak an Elven dialect.

'The Low Tongues' previously had separate listings on the language chart; now they are grouped as 'animal languages'.  Cats and dogs had different languages; now they share “blood speech.”  Once they had separate languages, but now pigs and pachyderms share “herdspeak.”  “These are not really language names,” dT&T assures us, “but simply descriptions covering a wide variety of noises and body movements made by such animals when they are communicating.”

Although it does warrant a paragraph on page 204, “Wizard Speech” is not listed on the dT&T language table.  Fifth edition T&T – where Wizard Speech is listed on the language table – provides the following definition:
Wizard Speech, despite its name, is not known to all wizards.  As a natural linguistic ability it is so rare that less than 1% of the population of the world knows it.  There is a 13th level spell, however, which can unlock the ability to use Wizard Speech in any sentient being.
(In dT&T, the spell is 10th level.)

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