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Category Archives: Swords and Sorcery

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.


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.



The D6 blog is, of course, about the D6–the six-sided die.

Dice are very important in role-playing games like Tunnels & Trolls.

Tunnels and Trolls is the original D6 roleplaying game.  When I first wrote it back in 1975, I had never seen any other form of dice.  You didn’t buy dice at a game store, back them.  You took them from other games–most notably Monopoly and Yahtzee, but sometimes from wargames like Battle of the Bulge or Civil War.  Even in my earliest dreams of T & T, I knew that dice would be important, and so I decided to use the most common dice of all, the six-sider that came in all my other games.

1D6 is what anyone gets in unarmed combat.  What really makes the difference is combat adds.

Tunnels and Trolls originally had only 6 attributes.  They were–in the order in which I thought of them–Strength, Intelligence, Luck, Constitution, Dexterity, Charisma.  And yes, that looks a lot like early Dungeons and Dragons.  The difference is that T & T has Luck, D & D has Wisdom.  There are also differences in how the attributes are used.  T & T uses the attributes directly in the saving roll process–your chance to succeed in anything is proportional to the magnitude of the attribute being tested.  Thus, T & T has more of a probablity factor in play that relates directly to the characters.

6 is also for 6 feet tall.  That’s the ideal height for a man, imho, and I used it as the basis of the height and weight chart in the early rules.  It also happens to be how tall I was back in the 70s when I still had a lot of hair on my head.  Now that I’m bald on top, my height has gone down to 5’11.75 inches.  Rats!

Come back on May 7 for the importance of 7 in Tunnels and Trolls!


Welcome back to the Numerology of Tunnels and Trolls!

When it was all said and done, I realized that I left out an important 4 thing in Tunnels and Trolls.  In 7th edition  you learn that Magic can be divided into 4 schools: (1) Combat Magic  (2) Cosmic Magic  (3) Conjuring Magic, and (4) Metabolic Magic.

Combat Magic deals with all spells meant to be used to  harm foes.  Its most famous example is: the spell called Take That You Fiend!  TTYF does the caster’s INTelligence rating in damage to the foe’s CONstitution rating.  At higher levels it does multiples of the Casters INT in damage.

Cosmic Magic deals with all spells that have a direct effect on the ral universe including “divinatory”‘ magic.  Levitation is a cosmic spell.

Conjuring Magic deals with all spells that summon, banish, or control beings, substances, and energies.  Summoning Invisible Fiends is conjuring magic.

Metabolic Magic deals with all spells that directly affect character health or attributes.  Attributes in T & T are used much more directly than they are in D & D (and its many clones).  For this reason, metabolic magic could be called Constitutional Magic.  Although the 4 C’s of magic sounds pretty good, I used metabolic instead, as I didn’t want anyone to get confused and think the 4th type of magic dealt with writing political and governmental documents.  🙂

Now on to D5:

This is how T & T looked in its prime.

Five is for the classic 5th edition of Tunnels and Trolls.  Rewritten from my notes, organized, and mostly illustrated by Liz Danforth in 1979, back in the days when we honestly thought we might compete with Dungeons and Dragons and get into book and game stores all over the country, the 5th edition was the definative form of Tunnels and Trolls for about 25 years give or take half a year.  At the end of 2004 Rick Loomis decided to increase the size of the fifth edition and add a few new rules and articles.  Although the job didn’t get back from the printer until early 2005, edition 5.5 was conceived at the end of 5 times 5 years of plain old 5th edition.  Many gamers still consider 5th edition T & T to be the best and classic form of the game.

But the truth was we really needed something new to invigorate the game.  In 2005 Jason Kempton and the Fiery Dragon staff proposed a 30 year memorial edition.  They had an idea for a kind of miniatures game based on T & T which they would sell in one of their trademark tin boxes.  When I heard of this, I offered them a complete rewrite of the T & T  rule.  Jason very kindly allowed me to do that, and so the 7th edition of Tunnels and Trolls came into being.

5 can also be for Fifth Level spells which contains the all new Trollgod’s Blessing combat spell.  With little touches like this, I inject a tiny bit of my own wacky, chaotic personality into the rules.  I don’t know if the revered Mr.Arneson or Mr. Gygax ever did anything like that to their frp rules.  (I really haven’t read them.)  The Trollgod’s Blessing spell (created by Trollhalla member Mahrundl who lives in South Australia–isn’t the worldwide web wonderful?) has this description: A large club appears avove the head of the target and “blesses” him–that is, hits him on the head.  The club does 5D6 points of damage plus the caster’s personal adds.  Only head armor may absorb the damage from this effect.  If the caster fails his INT saving roll when trying to cast, the Trollgod’s Blessing hits the caster instead.

I think that’s pretty cool, and it would be absolutely hilarious in a game.

The Trollgod's Blessing just waiting to happen . . .

5 is also the number of Humans and humanoid races.  Human is a 5 letter word.  Oddly enough, Troll is also a 5 letter word.  So is Dwarf.  So is Fairy.  So is Hrogr–the real word for Ogre.  5 is an important number for kindred types.  Humans have 5 appendages on the body–1 head, 2 arms, 2 feet.  Each hand should have 5 fingers.  Each foot should have 5 toes.  5 is a prime number, and the only prime number that actually ends in 5. 

Come back again on May 6, and I’ll tell  you the importance of the number 6 in Tunnels and Trolls.


P.S.  Please feel free to point out any other numerical correspondences in your comments.  I write these blogs fairly fast, and it’s easy to miss things–even important things.



Three is for 3D6 (three six-sided dice).  That’s what you roll to create the beginning statistics for Tunnels and Trolls characters.  That should produce a nice bell curve of numbers ranging from 3 to 18 with average values being betwen 9 and 12.  But it doesn’t!  Because in T & T, triples add and roll over (TARO).  Thus, the lowest possible attribute a character could have is a 4.  Except it isn’t.  Some characters have reduced or multiplied attribute ratings.  For example: a Hobb only has 1/2 X STR.  Thus if you rolled a 1, 1, 2 on your 3D6,  you’d have a 4 times 1/2 = STR of 2.  That’s a terrible attribute, even for Hobb, so throw that character away and start again.

Three is also for triples.  When you roll the same 3 numbers on your dice for an attribute,  you may create a Specialist character in Tunnels & Troll 7.5.  His/Her specialization should be based on the attribute that is a mutant ability as indicated by the triples.  If you tripled in Speed, for example,  you might want to create a Messenger specialist–the character has the unique ability to move around very quickly.  All sorts of specialists could be created–it just depends on your imagination and how much rope the Game Master is willing to give  you.

Three should also be for the Triune Goddess.  I love the Goddess, and she’s in Tunnels and Trolls as Lerotra’hh, the Death Goddess, patroness of the Monster Kindreds, but she really isn’t triple, so that connection simply isn’t there.

Half elf, half uruk, the Death Goddess of Khazan is all hellcat!

Three is for Third Level.  T & T characters are third level if they have one of their key attributes in the 30s.  Thus, a Warrior with a Strength of 35 would be third level; a Wizard with an Intelligence of 39 would still be third level.  Third level is a great level to play–powerful enough to do a few unusual things–not so powerful that the character overshadows everyone else.

Of course, the level thing could be said for any number (grin).  I’ll try not to use it again, but I might have to use it for 31.

There really aren’t that many threes in Tunnels and Trolls, but I can think of one more.  You’ll see it on my site at  The challenge reads:  If a member of Trollhalla you would be, you must answer questions three.

I’ll award a free membership to Trollhalla or 300 trollish victory points to the first person to identify the source of that quote in a comment.

Come back on May 4 to see what I have for the number 4. 

end (a word with 3 letters)

Mike Monaco, who does the very fine Swords and Dorkery blog (which you can find here: seens to be issuing an rpg challenge to fill the month with blogs based on numbers.  Since May is a month with 31 days in it, I have to go his d30 one better by rolling a d31 .

Counting starts with 1, unless you’re a computer programmer who starts things with zero.  In fact, you could start counting wherever you want, but one seems both logical and traditional.  As rpg ers we are nothing if not traditional.

So, 1 is for Once Upon a Time.  Once upon a time there was a world full of crazy godlike wizards who created many underground habitats which they called “dungeons”.  They stocked these dungeons with every kind of monster and trap, and they baited them with fabulous treasures.  What value does mere wealth have to a wizard of godlike power?  He, She, or It can create its own wealth, or steal the wealth of kings with relative ease.  Wealth is just a tool for wizards of godlike power.  Once upon a time, and that time still continues in the modern era, god-wizards like Gristlegrim, and K’snarganblatzen, and Huit!!zi!!lo!!  (where !! represents a shrill whistle impossible for human vocal chords to articulate) and thousands of others,  filled Trollworld with dangerous places (with lots of tunnels in them) and then sat back to watch the fun as mere mortals tried to take that wealth for themselves.

What’s more fun than life and death? Especially someone else’s life and death!  This is the basic premise behind the world of Tunnels and Trolls.

Has your curiosity been whetted?  Come back on May 2, and I’ll explain the importance of 2 in Tunnels and Trolls.