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Monthly Archives: May 2011


Once upon a time, 18 was the best number you could roll on 3D6 when creating a Dungeons and Dragons or Tunnels and Trolls character.  Triple sixes, the Venus throw in ancient Roman dice gambling–it’s the epitome of a perfect die roll.  Now T & T uses the TARO rule–six, six, six or 18 is a really good roll and the start of an incredible Specialist character.  So, 18 is for Specialist in T & T 7.5.

18 is for really tall, or really heavy under 5th edition rules–7 feet 2 inches or 350 pounds.

level 18 requires 4 million adventure points under 5th edition rules.

18 is the STR necessary to use the infamous Beak of a Crow weapon–the warhammer especially made for cracking open armored helmets.

18 is a great age to be–still a teenager, graduating high school, entering college.  I wish I was 18.

If you have any notable 18s to add, please put them in the comments below.  Today is May 23, and the blogging challenge is fading now.  Still, I will flog this dying blog as long as I can.

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17 is for Morning Star.

My apologies, brave ones–as the d numbers get bigger, it gets harder and harder to add anything significant about T & T.  I’m really just continuing this because of the challenge I set myself.

17 is for Trollworld basketball player.  When rolling 3D6 for a human character’s height, a 17 generates a height of 6 feet 11 inches tall.  It generates a weight of 310 pounds.  And that’s all pure power-packed barbarian muscle.

17 is the Strength required to bend an extra-heavy bow (one with a draw weight of over 100 pounds.  17 is also the Strength required to wield a heavy mace or a morningstar.

It seems to me that 17 was a magic number in 1st edition Dungeons and Dragons, being the number of character levels possible.  In my naivete circa 1975, I thought 17 was as high as levels needed to go in role-playing games.  Thus, my ultimate magic spells in 1st edition T & T were 17th level, and they were Summoning, Banishing, and Deluxe Staff.  The Deluxe Staff spell is kind of special: the text reads: This is a spell you can’t do, folks.  You may buy deluxe staves from the (Wizards) Guild (5000 gold pieces), but they are actually made by a small, very secretive clan of wizards who like their privacy.  There is no such thing as “deluxe staff material” for weapons or armor.  Considering that the deluxe staff is described as absolutely indestructible, that’s a good thing.

If you know any other good 17s for Tunnels and Trolls, feel free to list them in the comments below. I’m a day late on these blogs already, but I’ll catch up some time.  (ha! and if you believe that, I have some swamp land I’d like to show you.)

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Liz Danforth's picture of a goblin in goblin Lake has always been the way I visualized these little 2D6 monsters.

Sixteen is a good number for Goblins–they like to run in packs, and 16 is a good monster rating for them, too.  A monster rating of 16 gets the goblin 2D6 + 8 combat adds–average combat roll around 15.  Almost any first level T & T fighter can beat a single goblin in a fight, but 16 of them at a time might be a bit much.  Time for strategy, tactics, and a quick retreat if you meet 16 Goblins at one time.

In 5th edition, Level 16 magic is for anti-magic spells and Exorcism.

16 is the Dexterity required to use heavy bows in combat effectively.  It is also the Strength needed for a hand and a half sword–sometimes called a bastard sword.  They called it that because they hated what it, not because they couldn’t find its father.

Sixteen is also for sweet 16–a very good age to start role-playing.

If you have some sweet 16s to add about Tunnels and Trolls, please put them in the comments below, and come back tomorrow to see if I have anything for 17 in Tunnels and Trolls.

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The Troll's treasure hoard.

Fifteen is for the Troll’s Hoard in Trollstone Caverns.  TC is the short GM adventure that I wrote for 5th edition T & T.  While much of the text in 5th edition actually came from Liz Danforth, the Trollstone Caverns is all mine.  The map has 18 key locations, but location 15 is the deepest point, and the spot where any adventurers are most likely to get good loot.

Fifteen is a number widely used in the weapons tables of the 5th edition.  Medium self bows and medium longbows both require a DEX of 15 to use them.  I took 2 semesters of archery a million years ago when I was in college.  It’s harder than it looks.  Really light bows don’t have much penetrating power.  Heavier weapons that take more strength to draw tend to wobble.  Modern bowmen all want to be sharpshooters–too much of the Robin Hood legend, I think.  Ancient and medieveal bowmen didn’t worry so much about shooting straight.  They were grouped in companies, and they laid down barrages of arrow fire by making high arcing shots.  The bow was the artillery of its time.

15 is also the number of weapon adds that all the early forms of pistols get in combat.  If your character gets shot with a gunne in T & T, he/she is gonna get hurt, and hurt pretty bad.

Yes, there are guns in Tunnels & Trolls. They are rare, but deadly.

There is one 15th level spell in 5th edition T & T.  Air, Earth, Fire, and Water allows the caster to conjure an elemental to use as a servant for 5 game turns.  Its monster rating will equal the total of the caster’s attributes times two.  That will usually generate a humongously powerful servant.  300 years later in 7th edition T & T, this spell has been lost.

If you can think of any other fine fifteens used in Tunnels and Trolls, please list them in the comments below, and come back tomorrow to see what I can do with sweet Sixteen.

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Oz, the god wizard of the land of Oz. Being a god can be a lot of work.

Fourteen is for fortnight–a term never once used in Tunnels and Trolls.

Fourteenth-level Spells and Beyond: Spells of 14th level and higher are not sold by the Wizards Guild in the Empire of Khazan.  There are rumors that they can be learned from the Nagas, but they are generally considered to be god-level magic and should be distributed only at the discretion of the GM.

Which leads me to talk for a little bit about god-level wizards.  Originally, there were no gods postulated for Tunnels and Trolls.  The game developed in a religious vacuum.  As far as I know, no human society yet has ever existed without the idea of gods.  The gods might be benevolent, malevolent, or indifferent, but there were always gods.  On some basic level, people need to believe in powers greater than themselves.  They need explanations for such questions as “why is there lightning?”

Well, we all know the answer to why questions.  The answer is because.  There is lighting because Zeus is throwing thunderbolts at things on Earth.  Or if not Zeus, then Thor.  How can they be powerful enough to hurl lighting?  They can do it because they are gods.

On Earth we made up gods to explain the unexplainable.  In Trollworld, there are people–wizards–who can do unexplainable things.  They can fly.  They can cast lightning bolts.  They can disappear and reappear in different places.  These people are wizards–magic users.

And some wizards are clearly more powerful than others.  Some wizards like Gristlegrim or Loopo the mad mage are so powerful that they have created whole new races/kindreds to be their people.  Gristlegrim literally made the Dwarves of Trollwold.  He carved them from stone and brought them to life.  Loopo made the uruks.  He warped and twisted the basic nature of elves into a vile parody.  Yet, elves and uruks can mate–Lerotra’hh, the Death Goddess of Khazan, is one such example of what happens when such a mating takes place.

Wizards who have learned to transcend any imaginable limits of power are known as god-wizards.  They can do anything.  They use the natural kremm energy of Trollworld itself to get their effects.  The only ones who can oppose them are other god-wizards.

You should have noticed that I’ve avoided giving these so-called god-wizards any other supreme titles.  None are known as all-wise, all-loving, all-evil.  That is because they are not supreme gods–not even real gods.  They are just beings of such power that they might as well be considered to be gods.  Some of them even think of themselves as gods.

They aren’t gods.  There are no true gods on Trollworld.  There are, however, a lot of god-wizards.

That’s all 7th edition theology, or lack of it.  There is a 14th level of spells in 5th edition T & T, though it only has one spell.  Force Shield is the 14th level spell in the old days.  A force shield is a wall of colored light that cannot be penetrated by any lower-level magic or weapons.  The wizard can shape and move the Force Shield as he wishes.

Fourteen is used frequently in the weapons tables as STR or DEX requirements for various hard to manage weapons.

If you can think of any notable uses of 14 in T & T, please add them in the comments below.  And come back tomorrow to see if there is anything good to be said about the number 15.

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Hey, wow, it’s Friday the 13th!  I haven’t seen one of those in a long time.  On this day associated with bad luck I’ve had one really bad leg cramp at 3 in the morning–I’ll be limping for the rest of the week, and I’ve experienced a bit of lethargy, but that’s all.  However, your bad luck is just beginning.  Read on!

You could be born again in Tunnels and Trolls buy you might come out looking like this.

Thirteen is the highest level of spells available from the Wizards Guild in Trollworld.  There is only one spell, and it is the Born Again spell.  The fifth edition featured two level 13 spells: Invisible Fiend and Wizard Speech.  Ot the three, I’d say Wizard Speech is the most useful–it is a universal translator for the wizard.  The Born Again spell has to be cast in advance, and it allows the character to re-materialize in a younger form when he dies.  Only high level wizards capable  of spending 208 WIZ at a shot can cast it.

Tunnels and Trolls never had the endless reincarnations so prominent in D & D.  Dead is pretty much dead in Tunnels & Trolls unless the G.M. wants to bring your character back to life.  Yes, characters come back sometimes as zombies or vampires, but you can’t just haul the body to the nearest temple and come back to life.  The gods could do that for characters, but mostly they don’t, so be careful when you’re playing.  Dead is dead in T & T.

Dead is usually dead in Tunnels and Trolls. Try not to die.

One of my favorite swords is the falchion–a kind of wide-bladed sabre with a heavy slashing head that bends backwards a bit towards the swordsman.  It requires a DEX of 13 to use it effectively.  So does the black-eagle blade and the fish spine sword.  All of these weapons do more damage than the standard broadsword, but the falchion is the best of them.

As warrior maids go, she could use better armor, but she has a real nice sword.

If you know any good 13s that I’ve missed for T & T, please list them in the comments below, and come back tomorrow to see if I can do anything with the number 14.

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Twelve is the number of difference.  For example: the pages aren’t numbered in the 5th edition, but if there was a page 12, it would have the information on equipping your characters on it.  In 7th edition, page 12 is a description of Warriors.

12A is the random treasure table in Buffalo Castle.  Oddly enough, it only has 6 treasures in it.

12 is the best number you can roll on 2D6, especially when trying to make a saving roll.  Doubles add and roll over.

IN T & T 5.5 we offered the Mike Stackpole system of skills for T & T.  IQ 12 was what you needed to get the First Aid skill.  I don’t know if Mike ever used his Intelligence based system of skills in a T & T game.  I’m sure he used it a lot in Mercenaries, Spies and Private Eyes.  And we used it in the computer game Wasteland.

In 5th edition it took 280,000 adventure points to reach 12th level.

Section 2.12 describes the various character kindreds in the 5th edtion.

12 is the number that you had to roll for every attribute to gain a warrior-wizard in the 5th edition.  Back in the day, we calculated what the odds were against rolling 6 12s or better on 3D6 in sequence.  A quick calculation shows there are only 9 combinations of 3D6 that total 12 or higher.  9/36 reduces to 1/4.  That means the odds of fairly rolling a warrior wizard 1/4 to the 6th power or 1 in 4096 or 4095 to 1 against it happening.  We love long odds in Tunnels and Trolls.  The odds come down a little if you use the TARO rule to get additional rolls for the triples: one one one, two two two, and three three three.  In the beginning we didn’thave a TARO rule.

Elric of Melnibone was a warrior-wizard, though it could be argued that his STR was normally way less than 12.

If you can think of some good 12s in Tunnels and Trolls, please add them into the comments below, and come back tomorrow when I talk about lucky number 13.

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Ten is for money! Ten is the number of Gold!

There’s no getting around it.  I’m just going to have to do 2 days at a time to catch up.

D10 is for the super simple money system in Trollworld.  Basically, there are 10 copper pieces to the silver piece and 10 silver pieces to the gold piece.  10 gold pieces weigh a pound  Now if coins had anything like their real value in today’s world, it would lood more like this: 9 copper pieces to the silver piece and 41 silver pieces to the gold piece.  But the rule for Tunnels & T rolls is KI.S.S. and the ten to 1 ratio is nice and simple.  Besides, nobody ever uses anything but gold pieces in these frp games anyway.  It’s an inflationary world for sure.

(I looked up metal prices this morning.  Copper sells for about $4 per ounce, silver goes at about $37 per ounce and gold is at a whopping $1510 per ounce.)

Back when I was writing Stormbringer for the Chaosium, I wanted to introduce a more realitic and more chaotic monetary system into that game.  I was going to base things on the chaotic number 8.  There would be 8 copper per silver and 64 silver per gold, but they made me drop it back to base 10 again just to keep the money conversions easy to manage.

I have postulated that Trollworld is a very metal-rich planet.  Thus, I have gold pieces serving as the equivalent of dollars.  So, 5 gold pieces for a meal is not unreasonable if you look at it that way.  In retrospect, I should have adopted the silver standard from the beginning.  If gold had been incredibly hard to get in T & T, it would have made the game a bit more realistic, and the money would have had a different standard from D & D.  These are the kind of things one learns over time.  On page 42 of the 7th edition rules I mention that silver pieces are the more commonly used coin.  Having a gold piece would be like having a $10 bill.  (In reality it should be like having a $50 bill.)

Soft ankle-high boots (i.e. tennis shoes) cost 10 silver pieces in Khazan.  A rabbit fur loin-cloth costs 10 silvers; a wolf-fur loin-cloth costs 10 gold pieces.  Little did Conan know that he was walking around in pocket money most of the time.  I wonder if he ever had to sell his loincloth to pay for his next meal.  Thee are lots of other things that cost 10 silver pieces in the 7th edition rules.

Ten is also a convenient range for throwing things.  Ten feet is hard enough.  Ten yards is about maximum and is so listed as the range for throwing daggers like the bich’wa, the butterfly knife, the common dirk, and the hungamunga among others.

D10 is also for Tenth Level.  Tenth level has always seemed like the dividing point between mid-level characters and challenges and high-level characters and challenges.  In 7th edition T & T, a character has to be pretty darn tough to be tenth level.  One of her significant attributes has to be in the range of 100 to 109.  A L10SR is 65 – ATT.

Ten is for 10th level spells–my favorite being the Hellbomb Burst.  It has a WIZ cost of 100 (10 times 10), and a range of 100 feet (10 times 10) and the damage it does is equal to 10 times the combined INT and DEX of the caster.  That is going to be a humongous number for anyone with the WIZ to actually cast such a spell.  It could easily take out dragons.

Ten is also for D10–the ten-sided die.  We don’t really use D10 for anything in T & T, although it can be handy to have a few of them around.  Back in the fifth edition, there is a Languages table based on D100, which is easilly simulated with 2D10, but that table has fallen out of 7th edition.

Ten is also for 10-foot pole–standard dungeon delving equipment back in the 5th edition days.  Back when we drew all our dungeon maps on graph paper, it was very convenient to have each little square segment be 10 feet by 10 feet.  The lead member of the party would carry a 10-foot pole for testing the next sector in the passageway for traps.

It's hard to find a good picture of a 10-foot pole.

Actually, the number ten comes up in Tunnels and Trolls quite a lot.  I’ve been thinking that maybe I should skip the Chaotic 8th edition and the Nihilistic 9th edition of T & T and go straight to the Terrific Tenth editon of T & T, but darn it, 2010 has already come and gone.

Actually ten comes up a lot in Tunnels and Trolls.  If you can think of some good tens that I’ve missed, please post them in the comments below.

Onward to 11!

Eleven is for the 11-foot pole.  It costs 11 gold pieces and is for all those situations where you wouldn’t touch something with a 10-foot pole.  Yeah, I know, old joke.

11 if for 11th level spells.  I could not imagine 11 of them, and settled for 4.

11 is a prime number.  If you include Height, Weight, and Combat Adds as important numbers to describe your player characters, then there are 11 attributes to keep track of.

And that’s about it.  11 isn’t used much in Tunnels and Trolls, or anywhere else that I’ve ever seen.

If you can think of some elevens in T & T, or any frp game, please post them in the comments.  I’ll send a prize to the eleventh poster.

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Well, actually it’s day 10 in the mundane world, so I’m still behind.  If I make the D9 blog short, maybe I can catch up with the D10 blog tonight.

Nine is for Death Spell #9.  The name kind of implies that there ought to be death spells one through eight and maybe ten and higher, but there aren’t.  The only one called a death spell in Tunnels and Trolls is Death Spell #9.  I must admit that the inspiration for the spell name came from the song “Love Potion #9”.

Death Spell #9 is a 9th level spell.  It has a range of 100 feet, although in retrospect I should have given it a range of 99 feet.  It happens instantaneously when the magic-user casts it.  The spell cost is 81 WIZ  points which is 9 times 9 for 9 times the deadliness.  You can power it up by making it harder to resist.  Death Spell #9 was a first edition spell, and it was more powerful back in the day.  It was meant to be the spell that would kill almost anything.  The spell description reads:  The target of the spell must make a L9SR on Luck or have all bodily functions cease at once, resulting in instant death for any living being. (DS9 doesn’t work on the undead or on non-living magically animated beings.)  The spell can only target one being at a time.  Before the 7th edition, that spell would kill anything less than a 10th level monster most of the time.  Now, however, the spell has been weakened.  It won’t affect a target with a higher WIZ rating than the caster, and the caster has to make a L9SR on INT or the spell fizzles and rebounds upon the caster.  That’s a serious drawback, and a player character would have to be pretty desperate to try casting the Death Spell #9.

When you see this sign, you die!

There’s another 9th level spell that has some 9s in it. Oddly enough, it’s a life spell called Pygmalion.  The WIZ cost is 99, and it happens instantly.  Yes, friends, it is quite possible to have attributes in Tunnels and Trolls of 99 and above.  You won’t start with anything that high, but you could get there in a year or two of play.  The caster can bring stone statues to life and turn them into playable characters.

If  you know any great connections with 9, please list them in the comments below, and come on back tomorrow when I will be a day late with the D10 section of this blog.

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Sorry! I spent the day playing cards instead of blogging.

Sunday was the last day of LepreCon this year–I spent all of May 8 at the convention and had very little computer time.  That means I missed the D8 blog, but the D8 blog is too important to miss, therefore I’m doing it here late on D9 which was also very busy for me.  Heck, it’s probably D10 already for most of the world.  I will try to catch up.

8 is for the 8 character attributes in T & T 7 and 7.5.  Their order of importance has changed since the 5th edition.  The 8 important attributes are: Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Speed, Intelligence, Wizsardry, Luck, and Charisma.  They are divided into two groups of four.  The first four are physcial attributes–they describe the character’s body.  The last four are mental attributes–they describe the character’s personality and innate abilities.

Speed has been the 7th attribute for some time in Tunnels and Trolls–you will find it described in the extra rules in the 5.5th edition of the game.   It is very important to understand that Speed is a measure of reflex speed, not a measure of absolute velocity.  Generally speaking, the faster one’s reflexes, the faster one can go, but that comparison is only true for beings of the approximate same size.  If I had a man who was 6 feet tall with a speed of 10, and a troll who was 18 feet tall with a speed of 10, the troll would move 3 times as far as the man in a race on open ground over the same period of time, and hence would actually be traveling 3 times as fast.  The troll simply takes strides 3 times as long as the man’s strides, and he takes just as many of them.  In playing T & T I generally use Speed for such things as initiative or saving rolls that depend on quickness.

Wizardry is a new attribute introduced in T & T 7.  It represents the number of units of kremm (magical force on Trollworld) available to the wizard.  It is also a kind of magical inertia–greater kremm levels resist change by lesser kremm levels.  We have toyed with the idea of having a special magic attribute for wizards for a decade or two before the 7th edition came out.  Various people called that force such things as Mana and Power.  In the end I decided to make up a new unit of magical power and call it kremm (it’s a bad pun–think of creme de la creme).  The word Power is too vague for an unit of magical force.  The word mana is Hawaiian and is best used in terms of kahunas.  Sorry, surfer dudes!  Surfing is not a big part of Trollworld culture.

10th level wizard in 5th edition Tunnels & Trolls.

In earlier editions of T & T magic was powered by the character’s personal Strength attribute.  This led to the idea of people thinking of wizards as body-builders or incredible monsters like the Hulk.  I decided that a paradigm shift was needed–something that would get us back to the Gandalf-Merlin-Zatanna-Circe image of wizards and witches.  Thus the change was written into the history of Trollworld, and I bumped the timeline ahead 300 years to account for it.  Wizards were really using kremm all the time, but because they misunderstood the nature of reality they were doing it wrong, and taking a Strength penalty for it.  Note that the god-wizards have an even better understanding of how magical force works on Trollworld, and don’t really have a WIZ rating at all.  They just tap into the world’s kremm force and redirect it to work their sorceries.

Eight is also for the Chaotic 8th edition of Tunnels and Trolls–the one that hasn’t been produced yet.  Author Michael Moorcock first explained the connection between the number 8 and chaos to me.  He made the sign of chaos as 8 arrows extending to all the compass directions (N, NW, W, SW, S, SE, E, NE) from a central location–symbolizing infinite possiblity extending in all directions.  Chaos has often been equated with Bad or Evil, but Chaos itself is neither of those things.  Chaos is Possibility.  From Possibility arises Change, and from Change comes New Creations.  A certain amount of Chaos is a very good thing indeed.  Too much, however is usually fatal.

Thus, if I ever do an 8th edition of Tunnels and Trolls, I will change all the rules on the players.  I may do away with the idea of character classes and levels.  Why have Magic constrained by levels of difficulty and power?  Why have spellbooks at all?  I’m thinking that 8th edition wizards each have their own spellbooks, created dynamically as they game.  The wizard would have a process to go through each time he/she wanted to work magic.  If it works, he creates a spell.  If it fails, she fizzles and no spell is created.  The kremm costs of spells created in this fashion would vary from character to character.  Heh!  Players might have to keep spellbooks for each character and show them to the Game Master before starting play.

Another idea for the 8th edition is to make weapon effectiveness depend on the abilities of the user instead of the size and weight of the weapon.  A tiny dagger can be just as deadly as a 2-handed broadsword when in the hands of the right user.  That kind of model would need a different type of fighting style for the game–it would lead to strike ranks.  Instead of simultaneous damage, it would be very important to strike first.

Other ways to change the 8th edition would be to re-think the idea of the Kindreds.  What if Dwarves really were just short humans?  What if Elves were actually humanoid aliens with telepathic powers?  What if trolls were super-evolved gorillas?

The trouble with the Chaotic 8th edition of T & T is that there are so many marvelous chaotic ideas available for it, that I will probably never get around to choosing and making any subset of them available as the official Chaotic 8th edition.

Trolls are creatures of Chaos. So am I.

Eight is also for D8.  We don’t use D8s for anything in Tunnels and Trolls.

Come back tomorrow as I struggle to find any connection between T & T and the number 9.  Meanwhile, if you can think of any eightish things that I left out, please add them into the comments.

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