Thursday, January 30, 2014

"Classless" T&T?

There has always been discussion about making T&T classless, moving instead to a skill-based system. But in my mind T&T has always has been "classless". There are basic Types that are chosen when creating a character, warrior, wizard, and rogue, that help define the training your character has received in weapons and magic. Unlike strict Classes, however, magic is not necessarily limited to a small select set of types and neither are weapons and armor. Rogues represent a mix of both abilities while Wizards still get to use a nice variety of weapons and armor. Warriors obviously get left out of the magic game completely. There are no other abilities described for the Types other than their abilities to wield magic and weapons. Therefore, outside of weapon and magic use you are free to make your character whatever you want.

Instead of basing abilities on a predefined class, your characters basic abilities are defined by their attributes. Your characters can do pretty much anything you want simply by making a Saving Roll on an attribute that corresponds to the action. You can make up a back story to help explain why your character might be able to walk a tight rope, scale a sheer cliff, or decipher a set of complex runes, but in the end your character's ability is based on the attribute and not the Type. These attributes can be quite variable between characters of a single Type and are increased with the acquisition of Adventure Points as the player sees fit. This gives the player the flexibility to mold his or her character in any way. If you want a really smart Warrior capable of solving complex problems you can invest in Intelligence. If you want a Wizard that is good at gambling, you can have that too by investing in Luck.

The addition of Talents in 7th edition took this concept one step further. Talents provide a special advantage to characters based upon some ability or training outside of the standard Type. So you could have three beginning Warriors each choosing a different Talent, perhaps Tracking, Thievery, and Persuasion. All three characters are Warriors with the same abilities with weapons and armor, but each brings something different to the table with their unique Talents. They have been further refined so that they are more than just sword-swinging roustabouts. One is a ranger, the other a thief, and the third may be a priest. As these Warriors gain experience, their attributes will increase and they may acquire new talents to either support their original talent (perhaps acrobatics, hunting, and singing, respectively) or go in some new direction (dancing?).

In this way T&T is truly classless. Types are not restrictive of character abilities and with the addition of talents, players are free to craft their character however they see fit. I am glad to hear that Talents will remain a part of dT&T, even if only part of an Elaborations section. In my opinion Talents added an important element missing from the 5th edition rules.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tales of Stercoran: Five Mini-Solos from Tavernmaster Games

Tales of Stercoran is a collection of five mini-solos published by Tavernmaster Games last year. Each of the solos consist of approximately 20 paragraphs, so they are easy to play in a limited amount of time. For me, play time was between 10 minutes (the first solo) and 25 minutes (the last solo). But, just because they are short does not mean they are not richly detailed, fun to play, and replayable. The solos are written by four different authors from the Tavernmaster team including Sid Orpin, Jason Mills, Andy James, and Andy Holmes. This makes for some nice shifts in voice, style, and game play. There are also some excellent examples of how to make the most of a solo adventure set in a limited space, whether it's a small tower, a simple cave, or even a rock in the middle of a bay.

The five solos are linked, following a consistent storyline centered around two coastal villages and a sea god named Stercoran. There is even a cult of a rival god that turns up later to wreck some havoc. The first four solos are designed for a 1st or 2nd level character with no more than 20 adds. That means that these four adventures can easily be played one after another with the same character, provided your character survives of course. The fifth solo, however, takes a more experienced delver. The recommendation is "for characters up to level 4 with no more than 50 adds" and that's about right. If you want to use the same character you used in solos 1-4, you'll need to send him or her off on some other adventures first.

After a few attempts and delvers I was able to make my way through the first four in succession. The last one I completed with a higher level character. As I mentioned before, the great thing about these solos is that despite the limited number of paragraphs, there are a lot of choices to be made and, as a result, many possible outcomes for each one. There are many ways to win and lose each adventure so that even if you come out victorious, it's worth trying again to see if greater rewards are possible. There are even options to bail entirely; there are obviously consequences for such actions, but I view any adventure that does not end in death to be at least a small victory.

I highly recommend Tales of Stercoran. You can get a PDF for only $4.00 from the Tavernmaster Games store at RPGnow. As with all of Tavernmaster's products, all profits earned go to the Jeff Freels Transplant Fund so you're not only getting some great solos, you're donating to a good cause.

I wanted to provide some brief descriptions of the five solos and my thoughts on each one. As a result, there might be some information ahead that you may not want if you've not played them before. While I won't give anything away, it is possible there may be some spoilers included.

***Possible Spoilers Ahead***

In the first solo, Stercoran's Shrine by Sid Orpin, you find yourself in the small fishing village of Hakesend waiting for your ship to be repaired. You are sitting in the local tavern (of course), drinking and minding your own business (or not) when you are given (in a couple of possible ways) a map to the lost Shrine of Stercoran, the local deity, with an offer to split any loot you may find fifty-fifty. You can accept this quest or not, but being an adventurer the choice is pretty obvious. The map leads you to a sea cave in which you find either certain death or the Shrine of Stercoran. There are some important choices to make along the way and the possibility of a good fight at the end, unless you have a charming personality. There are a few possible final rewards depending on the actions you take, each with a different value. Which one is best is really a matter of personal opinion.

The second solo, Attack of the Morgawr by Sid Orpin, you return to Hakesend which is currently being terrorized by a great sea monster that has been attacking the local fishermen. This creature has been dubbed the Morgawr. Someone has to take care of it and that someone is you. To fight this monster you are given a harpoon and sent out to sea either standing alone on a big rock in the middle of the bay or (if you're lucky) in a boat with someone to help you. Given that you are hunting a sea monster there is a chance that it will never come to face you, so there are a number of Luck Saving Rolls to make. Even if the monster does strike and you succeed in killing it, there are more challenges to face. The sea is cruel after all.

The third solo, Getting the Bird by Jason Mills, occurs in the aftermath of your activities in Stercoran's Shrine. It seems that someone (who?) has looted the Shrine of Stercoran and stolen the god's idol. The result has been a string of bad luck and misfortune for the people of Hakesend. A representative of the town arrive in the neighboring town of Trondhelm to ask for help with an offer of 50 gold coins for the safe return of the idol. The problem is that it is currently in the hands of a powerful alchemist holed up in a tower outside of town. The tower turns out to be a rather small structure, only two stories. Once inside you must deal with the strange (and disgusting) guards that the alchemist has set in place. There are also some fun liquids and powders to play with (as you'd expect of an alchemists home) that could help or hurt you (or both). I followed my favorite bit of advice and followed the directions. As with the other solos there are many possible outcomes to this adventure. The tower is quite small, but there is a lot of trouble to get into and many different rewards and punishments. Don't be afraid to sacrifice a little and watch out for that alchemist.

The fourth solo, Guard Duty by Andy James, gives you the opportunity to escort the idol of Stercoran back to Hakesend. Of course it cannot be as simple as that; there's always someone looking to steal that idol. Here we see the arrival of outside forces wishing to capture the power of Stercoran. It's up to you to steal the idol back, or not. You have full control of what you want to do here; some choices are less moral that others, but sometimes tough choices need to be made. Just be sure you can handle the opposition. This is guard duty after all, make sure you're equipped for it.

The fifth and final solo, Blood for the Tiger Cult by Andy Holmes, plays out what happens after someone steals the idol of Stercoran back from the Tiger Cult. They are obviously not too happy about that, so they arrive at Hakesend looking for a little pay back. Of all of the solos, this one is the most combat heavy. You can fight your way around town taking out the bad guys. Just be aware that some are tougher than others and you can quickly get overwhelmed. Don't worry though, you are often given the chance to abandon the town and save yourself. It's a nice touch that I always like to see in solos. Keep in mind that the final enemy and the key to ultimate victory in this solo is very tough, so you will need those 40-50 adds mentioned in the instructions to succeed.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

BashCon XXIX 2014

As part of my return to gaming in the new year I'll be making the trek north up to Toldedo for BASHCon XXIX held at the University of Toledo on February 14-16. This is an event that I've meant to go to the past few years, but the timing was never quite right.

I'm registered for two games right now, Tom Loney's "Goblin Hack: The Bloodying" Tunnels and Trolls game on Friday night and Jerry Teleha's "Stay Alive! Gaslight" T&T game on Saturday morning. They both sound like they'll be a lot of fun.

There are, of course, many other games being run. To name just a few, Jerry is running an introductory T&T game (On the Road to Baru-Kesh) and an AD&D game, Tom is running games using his Wobble, Crawlspace, and Glow systems, and Robin Lea will be running a Qualidar: Resistance game. There are lots of Pathfinder RPG games as well as various board and card games. What's not to like? Let's just hope the weather holds.

Here are some of the game descriptions if you are in the region and interested in attending:

Goblin Hack: The Bloodying (T&T) - Tom Loney
From lake Bloodmoon and nearby Swamp of Doom, is the warren of the Goblin King, and where there are kings there is gold and booty, at least according to Sir Hobo, the Murdering. Care to join him on his quest to bring civilization to the heathen monsters?

On the Road to Baru-Kesh (T&T) - Jerry Teleha
An introductory game to learn how to play Tunnels & Trolls or start a new character if you are an experienced delver. Delving is a dangerous business, but think of all stories you can tell if you survive.

Eye of the Needle (Wobble) - Tom Loney
The space station known as the Needle has been abandoned for a score of millennia. No one exactly knows why it's in the little pocket universe where it is. What a great place to look into. Wait a second... what's that other vessel doing here?

Party Nights (Crawlspace 13) - Tom Loney
The scientists at the Steinhold-Brensji Radio and Atmospheric Laboratories have stumbled across an anomaly in the night sky. At certain times, an asteroid the size of New Jersey is in orbit between the Earth and the moon. One can say that the celestial body, called "the Blind Spot," only appears when the stars are right. But when it is there, what we'd call paranormal occurrences occur, and supernatural entities can take a hold of our world.

Stay Alive! Gaslight (T&T) - Jerry Teleha
It is the late 19th century and the world is filled with monsters. You have been invited to join a group that secretly fights the things that go bump in the night. Will you survive your first mission? Stay Alive! is a Tunnels & Trolls horror variant appropriate for all ages.

The Liberation of Katun (Qualidar) - Robin Lea
Your investigation of a grotesque organ trading scheme has led you to a slave colony on another world. Find out who's running the show and shut it down.

Toxic Island (Glow) - Tom Loney
The Skeeters from the Great Swamplands are getting more organized and fighting like real warriors. Something in the ruins of Tol-Do island is behind this. Somebody has to go check things out.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Tunneling Out

The last part of 2013 was busy, but I am beginning to dig my way out and carve out some time for gaming and, I hope, this blog.

Currently I am playing my way through Tales of Stercoran, a series of five, short (~20 paragraph) interconnected solo adventures published by Tavernmaster Games. I've managed to get a character through the first two solos alive. Once I make it through all five I'll write up a summary of the lucky survivors exploits. So far I am really enjoying the solos; they are short, but richly detailed and a lot of fun. Best of all they can be played even when time is limited.

I'm also getting my play-by-post games up and running again at the Trollbridge and Roleplay Online. If you're a player in any of my T&T games on these sites and have not checked back in, please do so.

My other big obligation is TrollsZine! #8. I had to let this project slide for a couple of months, but I am back to work getting the latest issue out. We have a full complement of articles for TZ8 including a new solo adventure, GM adventure, monsters, weapons, and short stories. Now I am working on editing and gathering artwork. I expect to have TZ8 finished by February or March.

I released a new GM adventure through Lone Delver Games in 2013, The Skolari Vaults, written by Mike Hill and illustrated by Jeff Freels. If you have not done so you can pick up a PDF copy at RPGnow. All profits go to the Jeff Freels Transplant Fund, a worthy cause that will go a long way to help a good friend. I will be working on a print version as well which will be available through Lulu so stay tuned. I plan to get back to work on my own writing projects as well. I have started development of a new solo adventure that will be the second in the solo sandbox series I started with Crypt of the Wolf Prince. If all goes according plan (chuckle) that should be finished around June 2014.

As far as The Lone Delver is concerned, I have several drafts of posts to get back to covering combat, magic, monsters, and more. So much to do...