Tunnels & Trolls v7.5 First Impressions

Since Scott at the super-cool World of Thool has settled on Tunnels and Trolls as the game system for the setting, I’ve been kind of curious about it.  T&T is one of the first RPGs ever in the wake of D&D (first published the year after the original D&D came out), and has had a loyal fan-following every since.  I never played it way back when, though I did play a couple sessions of Monsters! Monsters!, a version of T&T where you played the monsters instead of the heroes.  So because I expressed an interest, my friend Russell gave me Tunnels & Trolls v7.5 for my recent birthday.  At the same time he picked up a copy of v5.5 for his nephew, which let me at least glance through the earlier version for comparison.

Here’s the blurb for the boxed 7.5 set:

Fiery Dragon Productions : Tunnels and Trolls v7.5

Tunnels & Trolls v7.5

The most jam packed edition of Tunnels & Trolls ever to be released in one box. Includes the following items:

  • Version 7.5 of the rules [additional equipment and combat examples previous found only in PDF format as well as a new treasure generator by Ken St. Andre, and a Trollworld chronology]. Page count increased from 120 to 174!
  • A gm-based adventure ‘Hot Pursuit’
  • A solo adventure ‘Strange Destinies’
  • A color world map of Kaball for gm’s to use as a campaign base
  • A monstrous compendium, containing over 70 monsters
  • A spell compendium with many dozens of new spells
  • Special Edition Monsters & Magic book from 7.0 for completeness
  • Die-cut monster and PC counters mounted on 50pt cardstock
  • Several blank character sheets, easy to copy
  • 4 DICE!

The boxed version is quite nice, and I like the digest-sized spiral bound rule book and supplements, which fit neatly into my coat pocket.  The dice are cute, and quite readable.  The pad of character sheets seems like a bit of a waste.  T&T characters fit quite neatly on a 3 x 5 card, and there aren’t any formulas or game-aids that the character sheets serve as a reminder of.

The game is…interesting. I’ll have to see what it’s like in actual play, but there are several things that strike me quite favorably…as well as a few that I think could be a bit problematic.  In particular, I can see why it’s been a success as a solitaire game and for play-by-post, while perhaps being a bit harder to GM well face-to-face without some software assistance (even if it’s just a programmable calculator or dice-rolling program).  The combat system is straightforward, but the numbers can get large.

The rules are written in a conversational tone, and Ken St. Andre isn’t shy about giving advice or opinions.  “Combat,” he says in the introduction to that section, “is the true heart of any fantasy role-playing game.”  “Players should, as much as it is easily possible, role-play their characters.  Try not to think of yourself as an Olympian god moving little chessmen around a mapboard, but instead be Snargblat the Goblin Thief who joined these adventurers at the last moment.”  The game is entertaining to read, not at all like a technical manual or assembly instructions.

I’ll be looking at it in more detail in subsequent posts, more or less the way Nathan Mahney of Save or Die! has been going over OD&D, though perhaps not quite so thoroughly.

update: DriveThruRPG.com currently has the PDF version (contains everything in that box except the dice) for the unbelievably good price of $11.25  (compared to $35 for the physical boxed set) as part of their GM day sale through March 8th.  I was just planning on linking so people could take a look, but I ended up buying it just so I’d have the PDFs to carry around on my netbook….

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