Skip navigation

Category Archives: Trollworld

Introduction by Ken St. Andre

The following tale of wizardly cunning was created by playing a solo dungeon authored by Scott Grant–a dungeon expressly designed for wizards, instead of those more commonly created for warriors.  Using magic well within a solo dungeon is a difficult task for a game master/scenario writer to manage, and Scott, one of the many rather brilliant members of Trollhalla, has managed it very well.

I did all the writing here, but because Scott created all the situations and characters, and because the members of Trollhalla voted to determine the hero’s next action each time, I have given them authorship credits as well.  An adventure created from a solo may or may not end happily but what I want here is fiction, not an exhaustive retelling of the game. I have decided to leave some of the game mechanics visible (usually in parenthesis) in order for those who are not familiar with Tunnels and Trolls to have some idea what is happening and why.  If I submitted the story for professional publication, I would take all the game mechanics out of the narrative.  It’s really just a short story.  Such a narrative typically only shows a small part of the total adventure. Markus was supposed to retrieve at least 9 out of 10  tokens, but . . .

I have also left in some of the commentary I  wrote while playing through the adventure the first time. This breaking of the fourth wall between narrative and readers is generally frowned upon by the literary establishment, but this tale is a kind of special case.  I am hoping that it will not only give you a few minutes of reading pleasure, but also illustrate some of the gaming principles involved in roleplaying a game like Tunnels and Trolls.

And now, on with our tale . . .

Final Exam

by Scott Grant, Ken St. Andre, and members of Trollhalla

Markus of the Myre looked good in his new dungeon delving gear. He had a complete suit of leather armor with high-topped boots and fingerless gauntlets–protection for the hand, but maximum dexterity for casting spells and fighting. A wickedly curved jambiya was thrust through the belt at his waist–he counted on his armor to keep it from cutting him–and his trusty staff was in his left hand. He kept a serious expression on his face with some difficulty as his gnarled old instructor droned on and on.

“You have one final test to complete your education,” said old Oinkenwartz. “All those who train in Cormac’s School of Wizardry, also known as the Cedar Corral Wizards Guild, must learn to use their training in a very real way. We don’t just send you out into the world with a pat on the backside and hope for the best; we want you to be truly prepared.”

“I appreciate that, Sir,” said Markus, when what he really meant was “Can we get on with this?”

“Follow me.” Oinkenwartz pushed aside a curtain and revealed a stairway heading down to the Tower’s basement. They had gone that way many times before on training exercises. The old wizard muttered a word “Tnalov” and levitated about six inches.  He then floated effortlessly down the stairs. Markus had to walk.

The young apprentice thought he knew everything that the basement had to offer, from the Library of Stone to the Practice Room to the Janitors Closet, but Oinkenwartz put his hand on a stretch of blank wall, muttered something. Then the wall shimmered and disappeared, revealing another stairway leading down into unknown depths.

“I survived this dungeon myself many years ago.  Though it has seen many changes, it is still very challenging—and very deadly.  You will need more than just your magic; you will need to be smart, clever and lucky. Less than half of our students ever make it out. Perhaps you will meet some of them down there.” Oinkenwartz snorted, making a wheezing noise that could have been a laugh, a spell, or perhaps his last breath.

The old teacher pulled a gem out of thin air—actually he reached up and pulled it from behind Markus’s ear. The apprentice wished the old coot wasn’t such a stage magician at heart. “Before you enter the dungeon, you may cast two spells. This gem will allow me to restore your kremm after each casting.  Choose your spells wisely.”

Markus looked at his instructor quizzically.  “That’s a very kind offer, Sir, but what good does it do me to cast a spell now, when I will undoubtedly need it later?”

“Good thinking, lad. Most of the spells would be useless to you now. But surely there are some that might come in handy later.”

“Hmmm, well, hocus focus might be useful, but I already have a staff ordinaire.”

“That was a wise investment on your part.”

“I’d like a Do-Over spell, then and a Ground Rule Double.”

“Excellent, Lad, excellent!” Oinkenwartz extended the jewel toward Markus.  “Cast those now, if you please.” Markus concentrated, did some finger flexing, intoned mystic syllables. The jewel cast off some unlikely glows and remained glowing brightly in the teacher’s hand. “You take it my boy! When you want the Do-Over just rub the gem and say do-over. When you want the Ground rule double, rub it and say double.”

“Thank you, Sir. May I go now?” Markus took the gem.

“Oh, yes, go now!” The old wizard lunged forward and pushed Marcus through the portal. Caught unexpectedly, Markus staggered back a few steps and teetered on the edge of the stairway. The stone beneath his feet flattened out; the stairway turned into a spiral slide, and Markus found himself sliding down into the darkness. He barely managed to hold onto the gem, and he did drop the staff, but it didn’t matter. The staff slid down into the pit with him. Then he found himself flying through the air and falling. [L1SR on DEX—rolls 3, 3 plus 3,4 for a total of 13—makes it handily.]

Markus found himself in a dimly-lit room. One stone just above the chute that had dropped him here glowed weakly. He put the jewel in a small pouch that was tied to his belt, picked up his staff and got to his feet. There was a door in the north wall. The chute was in the south wall. There didn’t appear to be anything interesting, although there could have been something hidden on the walls—the light was really too faint to tell.

[Note: only 3 spells had any result on the gem. Hocus Focus was one of them, but it was a waste since Markus already had a great focus in his staff ordinaire. One person suggested the Ground Rule Double. Nobody suggested Do-Over. Spells like Detect Magic are inherently useless in this solo. Markus is a wizard. He detects magic automatically—he can’t help it. Sligo may think it’s a great joke to kick you out of the dungeon on the first paragraph, but I think it’s a waste of our time, so I gave Markus the only two spells that might help him. In my opinion, Vorpal Blade would have been a possibility if the player had a sword or knife. He does have a knife, but the adventure didn’t allow that to work either.]

Markus got up and looked around. It didn’t take long. Two steps in any direction brought him to the wall. Yes, the stone above the entry chute was glowing, a cool light, and not very bright, but as his eyes adjusted to the semi-darkness, he found he could see well enough. For a moment he thought about casting Will-o-Wisp to get a little more light, but why bother? This dungeon, like all the best dungeons he’d ever heard of, seemed to provide its own light. That made sense. If creatures were going to live down here, they’d have to be able to  see to get around.

He thumped on the walls as he walked, just to see if there were any hollow-sounding spots, but that just scuffed up his knuckles. Solid stone has a way of doing that when you rap on it. When he reached the door he found some markings, all done in the Dwarvish runes that everyone was using for writing these days. He stopped to read it. “Dang! Wasted an Oh There It Is. Nothing here.” And “Trrrommm was here.” And a few other comments with about as much content. It did make him wonder if he had brought anything to write with. A quick check of his delver’s pack ™ showed him that he had two large pieces of white chalk—they would do. He made his own mark by the door, M. M. and the date 6/28/1320 A.K.

Then he opened the door and looked outside. He was at a T intersection.  Dimly-lit corridors stretched off to the left, right, and straight ahead. He stepped out into the intersection and closed the door behind him. As he put his foot down, he skidded a little. Looking more carefully at the floor, he saw that he had stepped in something. Ew!

He drew an M on the door behind him and arrow indicating which way he went.

Markus turned left and set off on his explorations. He took a moment to mark his trail with a chalk arrow and an M.  He walked for a while and came to another intersection. Again he turned left, and walked until the corridor ended in a door. He put his ear to the door, and heard muffled voices. They sounded human.

Having decided to go through every door he found, Markus pushed the door open. He found himself looking into a sort of arena.  The room was a good fifty feet square and well-lighted with several open-sided oil lamps. There was a large ring painted on the floor in heavy black paint, and two armored warriors stood outside of it in opposite sides of the room. One had a sword and shield. The other carried mace and shield. Both wore full plate armor. Shield and armor showed a few dents, and both men were breathing heavily.  It appeared that the fighters were very evenly matched.

Markus stood near the northern door. There were exits to the east and west.  On the south wall was a golden podium with a small trophy upon it. The two men had been talking, but when they saw Markus enter, they lowered their visors and turned to face him.

“Good evening, Gentlemen,” said Markus. “Pardon me if I have interrupted anything important. My name is Markus of the Myre. May I ask who you are?”

The one with the sword said, “Hello, Markus, my name is Scott. Is it evening already?”

“Well, the sun had gone down when I entered this dungeon.”

The one with the mace said, “Greetings, Markus, my name is Grant. We’ll get back to our fight soon. Would you care to stay and watch, just to be sure that Scott doesn’t cheat?”

The question made Markus a bit uncomfortable. “Um, why are you two men fighting? Wouldn’t it be better to save it for the monsters in this place? I could use a bodyguard, or two.”

“Monsters?” Both men looked at Markus like he was crazy and burst out laughing.

“Grant is the only monster around here,” said Scott. “He wants to keep me from the prize I deserve.” He pointed almost reverently at the small gold trophy.

“What makes you think you deserve it?” asked Markus.

Scott puffed out his chest. “It should be mine because I am a gallant and brave fighter, and the trophy would make a nice addition to the long list of honors and awards I have received.”

“You, Scott, are a pompous braggart,” sneered Grant, “and you deserve to be taken down a notch. If I win the trophy, I’ll sell it for gold, and give half the money to the poor.”

“I don’t trust you, Grant. I think you lie, and you would do anything to take away the honors that I deserve.”

Grant shrugged and looked at Markus. “See how he is. Who can trust a man who knows no humility? Someone like him would think it’s honorable to cheat, because he thinks it’s his right to win.”

“Cheat! Me? I would never do such a thing!”

“Hah! You would take every advantage you could get, because you know that a dead foe will never complain about your underhanded tactics.”

“Are you calling me dishonorable and a liar?”

“I only speak the truth. It’s not my fault you can’t deal with it.”

The swordsman raised his blade and rushed into the ring toward his foe. “I’ll show you how I deal with those who challenge my honor.”

The mace wielder charged also. They came together with a clang of armor. Grant blocked the swordsman’s swing easily with his shield and then countered with a blow of his own. The fight was on again.

“Hmph!” snorted Markus to himself. “These guys act like jealous brothers. Well, they are going to fight. What am I going to do?” He paused to think for a moment.

It was a very long fight—it lasted a full hour. (30 combat rounds—I fought it out.) Markus took a seat near the door and watched—one would normally have to pay for this kind of entertainment back on the surface. The fighters were indeed fairly even, but it became obvious after a while that the swordsman Scott had more skill, or perhaps the sword was simply the superior weapon. He seemed to get past Grant’s shield more often, and when he scored, he left a bleeding wound behind. The mace dealt crushing blows that sometimes staggered the swordsman, but he wasn’t bleeding much.

(GM’s note: Scott won 18 rounds, Grant won 8, there were 4 ties.)

For the first half hour it appeared that Scott was oh so slowly winning, and then for about fifteen minutes the tide turned—Grant beat his foe back and back. Then it looked like the mace wielder simply ran out of energy. His blows lacked force. He staggered from side to side. His parries missed. Scott saw his chance, and with a final blow to the helm, smashed Grant to the floor, where he lay motionless—perhaps dead, perhaps too weak to go on.

“Ha! Victory!” gasped Scott. “I told you the trophy was rightfully mine.”  He kicked his fallen opponent, and staggered off toward the trophy. He seemed to have completely forgotten that Markus was even in the room.

Scott sheathed his sword. “That was a glorious fight! I shall now claim my prize.” He went over and picked up the trophy.

Markus thought how easy it would be to cast a Take That You Fiend spell on Scott. Then he could take the gold trophy, and anything else these losers had.

“That wasn’t so glorious,” he muttered. “You had him beat for the last five  minutes, but you had to finish beating him to death.”

“That’s what warriors do,” sneered Scott. “He tried to steal my trophy. He deserved to die.”

Markus could feel the spell forming in his mind.  How easy it would be to take him down.  Then he heard the groan. It was very faint, but Grant still lived. The young wizard turned away from the swordsman and went over and knelt beside the defeated. He pulled off the man’s helmet.

Scott took his trophy and staggered out of the room.

Markus opened his pack and took out his first aid kit. He had a couple of vials of healing potion inside it. He opened  one and carefully dribbled the fluid down Grant’s throat. The part he spilled he rubbed into the nearest cut on Grant’s neck. The man’s breathing, which had been  very weak, strengthened a bit.

Grant opened his eyes. He looked a bit surprised to see the stranger bending over him.  “I lost, didn’t I?”

“You almost died,” Markus answered. “You were on your last gasp when I got a little healing potion into you.”

“Thank you, Markus. If you ever need a friend, I’m yours to command.”

“You’re not saved yet, friend. I am a wizard, but healing isn’t one of my talents. That’s why I carry the potions.”

“Just get me to a door, and I’ll be alright. I have a little magic of my own.”

Markus dragged Grant toward the eastern door. The man seemed to get stronger by the second,  and he managed to pull himself to his feet before they reached the side of the room. As they lurched through the door there was a flash of light and Grant was gone. Markus found himself alone in a short corridor. The hall continued straight ahead, and also went right, with the door behind him.

“Nice trick,” Markus muttered. “I wish I knew it.” He continued down the hall until he reached a four-way intersection. Then he turned left. That left him in a short corridor with a closed door at the end. Markus walked up to it. When he got up close to it, he found a small sign near the handle that said, “If you like adventure, please come in.’

“I love adventure,” Markus told himself. He turned the handle and  pushed the door open. The room was about 20 feet square, and much brighter inside than outside; several of the glow stones bedecked the walls. A handsome young man stood in the center, dressed in chain mail, and with a broadsword on his hip, looking into the mirror and smiling.  When he heard the door open, he turned to look at Markus.

“Come in, my new friend,” said the stranger. “My name is Tragan, and it was foretold that you would come to help me with my quest.”

Markus stepped into the room. “My name is Markus. What quest are you talking about?”

“This portal leads to an ogre’s lair. I must go through and steal its treasure. Perhaps you would be willing to help me.”

Markus looked at the young fool so eager to rush off and try his luck against an ogre. “Well, what kind of help do you want from me?” he asked.

Tragan thought about it for just a second. “Maybe you could teach me a spell to help me vanquish the ogre,” he suggested.

Markus looked at Tragan dubiously. Something about the handsome rogue bothered him. At first he seemed so eager for help, but he didn’t  really offer very much information. Markus throught about where he was—in the Wizards Guild Dungeon. One of the Guild’s most important rules was DO NOT TEACH MAGIC TO OUTSIDERS AND NON-GUILD MEMBERS. Could this just be a trap to see if he would break the rule?

“I’m sorry, Friend,” said Markus. “I have no idea what spell would help you best, and it is against my vows to share my magical knowledge with others. But, I might be able to help by . . .

Markus was wondering if this magic mirror could be his way out of the dungeon. There was only one way to find out.

“I can’t teach you a spell, Tragan, but I’m willing to go along and help you rob this ogre. What are we waiting for? Let’s go.”

The offer didn’t get quite the reaction Markus was expecting. “You can’t go through the portal with me,” barked Tragan, “not even if we’re holding hands.” The expression of disgusted disappointment on his face was very clear now. “Since you don’t seem very smart, just leave this room. Someone else will come along and help me sooner or later.”

Markus felt his anger starting to rise.

Markus seriously thought about seeing how ready for combat this Tragan fellow really was. A Take That You Fiend spell might teach him a little courtesy. On the other hand, it might just make him mad. He decided to write the whole thing off to experience  and simply leave.

There were three doors in the room. Markus had entered by the one on the north wall, and determined to leave via the one on the south wall. He was already near the center of the room, talking to Tragan. He said, “Good luck with the ogre, Mr. Nimblebrains.”

Then he quickly walked to the south door, pulled it open and stepped through. He found himself in another dimly-lit corridor running north and south. He continued in his southward direction. He walked until he reached another 4-way intersection. Once again he turned left and walked on. When the straight tunnel ended, he turned left again.  This eventually led to a door that blocked his path. Listening proved futile, and when he was ready, he cautiously opened it.

The chamber inside consisted chiefly of a pit that extended from wall to wall blocking his passage. On the far side of the pit about 20 feet away there was another door. Markus stood on a narrow ledge next to a free-standing pole—the kind of pole that would be ideal for tying a rope to, Being a well-equpped young delver, Markus looked in his pack to see what he had for such situations. He found 30 feet of silk rope, a piton hammer, and ten pitons.

Markus moved over to the right side of the room, located a seam in the mortal between stone blocks, took out piton hammer and piton, and pounded the piton into the wall. (12 a.p.) Then he tested it to see if it would hold his weight.  (4 a.p.) The mortar crumbled and the small piece of metal came out of the wall and fell into the pit. Markus almost fell in with it, but managed to catch himself in time.

“This is a stupid idea,” said Markus. He put his pitons and hammer back in his pack. Then he looked at his rope. He could easily tie it to the pole on this side of the pit, but how could he attach it to the pole on the other side of the pit. The rope was made of silk. Light. Extremely strong. He couldn’t throw it worth a darn. It was too light. And he was supposed to lasso the top of a pole higher than his head more than 20 feet away. No. That wasn’t going to happen either.

“This would be easy enough if I could fly,” he muttered. He checked his spell book. No. There was nothing there that would enable him to fly.  “Oh, well, no flying today.”

“Maybe I could just jump across,” suggested his daredevil self.

“And maybe you’d fall short of the other side. It’s a long way down. I think I’ll save that attempt for some time when I’m being pursued by the hordes of hell,” wisely counseled his more prudent self.

That only left one reasonable thing to do—turn around and depart the way he had come. He wandered the halls for a good long time, trying not to retrace his steps. Once he heard what sounded like distant roaring. He didn’t go that way.  Finally, he came to another hall that dead-ended at a door.  He opened the door and found . . . a library.

The walls were lined with shelves, and the shelves held hundreds of books. The door was in the north wall and across from it on the south wall was a marble-framed fireplace containing a cheery fire. Near the fireplace was a large, overstuffed easy chair, the perfect place to sit and read. A lovely mahogany table graced the center of the room, and on the table were various covered containers. Something smelled delicious.

Markus investigated the table and found there were a variety of foods available, and a plate, knife, fork, and goblet. He suddenly felt voraciously hungry. He detected magic of some sort, seemingly all around him in this room.  There was no one else in the room with him.

Markus felt amazingly hungry all of a sudden, but he didn’t trust a meal laid out by someone else.  He reached into his pack, got a couple of strips of lizard jerky, took a swig from his canteen, and gnawed off a bite of meat.  As he chewed on that his hunger came under control, and he began looking at the closest shelf full of books.  He was a bit surprised to see a library in a dungeon, and he wondered what kind of books it would contain.

He closed his eyes, reached out and grabbed a book at random, pulled it off the shelf, and then looked at the cover.  He read the title: Curses, and saw a crudely drawn eye squinting at him.  The eye winked at him. He felt a cold shudder move through his body, felt malevolent magic, and knew that he had just been cursed. However, he had no idea what the curse was.

So much for the idea that reading is good for you!  He hastily dropped the book and kicked it across the room.

Then found himself in the same situation as he was before.

Markus continued to ignore the food. He thought it was a trap. He wasn’t ready to give up on reading yet. Libraries are wonderful places, and he was sure there was a book here for him. He picked another book. This one was called THE WIZARD’S DILEMMA. He settled down in the comfy chair. The tale grabbed him immediately—it was about a young wizard named Slip who indentured himself to a mad philosopher. The philosopher set him on one task after another, each involving some sort of moral choice that Slip had to make. Indeed, the book was written so cunningly that it seemed like Slip could not make a choice until Markus made his.  As Markus read, he felt ever more strongly that Slip’s perilous choices were his own. When he finally finished the book, and the hero, Slip lay dead at the feet of the Mad Philosopher, he felt that he had somehow failed, and that both he and Slip had suffered for it. Slip certainly had.  He had a terrible headache.

(In game terms Markus had to make a L2SR on WIZ.  He rolled a 7. With a WIZ score of 17, and a character level of 1, that would have been just enough to make the saving roll, but Markus is under a curse to miss his next 3 saving rolls. He does not get his level bonus of 1. 17 + 7 = 24. He needed 25. He missed the saving roll.  That’s one.  The effect of missing the saving roll is that he has taken permanent brain damage, but not very much. His INT fell from 33 to 31.)

Markus put the book back on the shelf upside down. He walked around the room and admired the paintings on the walls. He gnawed on another strip of beef jerky. It had been hours since he last ate. He thought about how this room seemed like a place where one could stay forever—if only there was a bathroom attached. Just after he had that thought, he discovered a clean chamber pot, discreetly hidden in a corner.  The room definitely had a magical aura to it. He wondered if that were the trap.  A person could just lose himself in a life of reading in this room.  Hundreds of books, a magical food supply, a comfy chair that one could easily fall asleep in—what more could a person want?

“This is all cozy enough,” mumbled Markus. He had been in this library so long now that he talked just to hear the sound of his own voice, “but I didn’t come down here to get stuck in a library. On the other hand, I am kind of tired. A nap wouldn’t hurt.”

He went over and cast lock tight on the entrance to the room. “No point in letting someone or something surprise me while I’m asleep.” Then he made himself as comfortable as possible in the comfy chair and closed his eyes.  In a short time he fell asleep, and he had a strange dream.

But he couldn’t remember it when he woke up. He felt rested. He took an apple out of his pack and ate it. Then went to the door and cast Knock-Knock to unlock it.  Click. He wet his palm from his canteen and scrubbed the sleep out of his eyes, noting that the canteen was now half empty. He needed to find a safe water source. He could take the wine from the table, but he didn’t trust it. It made him think that someone ought to invent a purify spell for such situations to eliminate drugs, poisons, dirt, etc.

Then he pushed open the door and headed out.

The crowette attacked. Markus didn’t realize it, but he had been secretly hoping for a fight ever since he entered the dungeon. He just had time to point his staff and shout “Take that you fiend!” He visualized a bolt of purple lightning.

And got nothing. (L1SR on INT. Rolled 7. Failed because of the curse) The crowette tore into him in a fury of raking claws, flapping wings, and pecking beak. Markus’s leather armor served him well—indeed it saved his life, but he was still hideously wounded. Blood poured off him from a dozen wounds. (Crowette has a monster rating of 12. 2D6 + 6. Rolled a 5 for a total of 11. Leather armor absorbed 6 hits; thus Markus takes 5 points of damage. His CON drops from 13 to 8.)

His magic had failed him. As the crowette broke free of him and circled up towards the ceiling preparing for another attack, Markus wondered what to do next.

The idea of being knocked down from behind caused Markus to discount the idea of fleeing. Although badly hurt, he didn’t want to be beaten by a crow.  As the huge bird dived at him once again he got ready to smack it with his staff.

(Combat roll: Crowette rolled 2D6 + 6 = 12. Markus rolled 2D6 + 7 = 14.  Markus needed a L1SR on DEX to hit. He did no damage.)

The giant crow nimbly avoided Markus swing, but it did not manage to sink its talons into the wizard that time. As he flailed at it, and missed, Markus felt like a heavy burden was lifted off his spirit. He thought he heard a voice saying “The curse has expired.” But there was no one nearby.

The bird flapped its way back up into the upper reaches of the room again.   It landed on a projecting stone and cocked its head at Markus. The man thought the bird might be actually considering whether to attack again or not.

The crowette perched up near the ceiling on a small outcropping of stone. Markus thought maybe it would leave him alone now, having failed twice to take him down. He could feel himself bleeding, and knew he had to administer some first aid to himself quickly. He pulled off his pack and reached for both bandages and the half a healing potion he had left.

When he took his eyes off the crowette for a second, it attacked again. He had been expecting it, and the harsh caw croaking sound the bird couldn’t help but make also alerted him. He closed his eyes for just a second, visualized the purple lighting, and tried his Take That You Fiend spell one more time. (L1SR on INT to cast. Rolled 8, gets 8 a.p. Succeeds.) Purple lighting shot from his staff to the body of the diving black bird and enveloped it in purple flame. The crowing noise abruptly stopped as the bird died instantly. Its dive fell short, and it impacted the floor at Markus’s feet. (12 a.p. for killing it.)

Markus kicked the bird once just to make sure it was dead. Yep. He then finished digging bandages and healing potion out of his pack, and fixed himself up as best he could. The healing potion brought his Constitution back up to its normal value (13). The bandages and astringent stopped the bleeding.  He ate and drank from his supplies, and rested, and in about two hours he felt ready to go on.

Markus took a crowette feather as a trophy.  Then he headed for the west door.  He walked through an intersection and continued down his narrow corridor until it finally ended in another door. He listened and heard nothing, tried the door, and walked in. The first thing he noticed was a very bright, hot light set in the ceiling far above him. The room was so hot that he immediately broke into a sweat.  In the center of the room was a short pedestal made of an unknown material, but glowing redly—perhaps from the heat. Sitting atop the pedestal was an orange token.

Markus looked at the token. His mentor hadn’t said anything about needing tokens, but he had a feeling that he needed this one. He sensed for magic. The strongest source was the light in the ceiling, but the pillar also seemed a bit more than ordinary. The sweat trickled down his face in hot little streams.

“I’m pretty sure this is a trap of some sort,” Markus mused. “But what can I do about it?

Of the 36 spells that Markus knew only a few of them seemed useful in this situation. Finally he narrowed his choices down to five:

  1. Call Water. Costs 8. Briefly summons a forceful dash of water.
  2. Cloud o Dust. Costs 4. Raises a 10 foot wide cloud of dust, obscuring vision.
  3. Complete Drip. Costs 3. Drops 20 gallons of water on the target.
  4. Spit in your eyes. Costs 2. Produces a drop of mildly stinging liquid in the eye of a foe.)
  5. Call Ice. Costs 8. Briefly summons an icy blast of frost.

Markus had figured out that the token itself was superheated. He cast Complete Drip (10 a.p.) and 20 gallons of water materialized and splashed over the token. A flash of steam arose when the water hit  the hot token. He had hoped that the water would wash the token off the pedestal but that didn’t happen. Perhaps it was stuck or attached to the pedestal in some way. The big splash of water cooled it off for a few moments, but because of the extremely bright light overhead, it started to steam and heated up again immediately.

It occurred to him that he would have to do something about the light overhead. There was some kind of magical reaction going on between the light and the token that produced enough heat to make it glow.  It would certainly hurt him to grab the token while it was red hot. Yes, the light up above was hot, but it couldn’t be hot enough to have that kind of effect without magic being involved.

Markus thought about the trap a bit more, and decided that the Cloud o Dust spell might obscure the light enough to allow him to get the token. He had never thought that spell would be good for anything, and he had a hard time remembering how to cast it, but finally he managed to get it right. (4 a.p.) The room filled with a big cloud of dust, making everything kind of hard to see.

As he approached the token, Markus could see that it was still glowing with heat. It occurred to him that perhaps he could knock the token off the pedestal with his staff, and push it out of the room to get it out of the light, but he decided against trying that. This was meant to be a magical test, and if his instructors were watching him, he wouldn’t get any points with them by figuring out a non-magical way of beating the test.

The Complete Drip spell had seemed to work before, and it was the least expensive of the ways available to cool the token. Markus stood far enough away that no steam would hit him, and cast it again. (7 a.p.) The deluge cooled the token enough for Markus to grab it and stuff it in his pouch.

As the dust settled, he noticed that the room seemed to be heating up again, and he decided to make a rapid exit. He saw a door other than the one he had entered by and headed for it. He came out into another hallway.

Closing the door behind him, he sat down, had a meal and a drink, and rested for more than an hour until his kremm was completely restored. He also examined the token. It was a curious coin made of iron—perhaps it was magnetism that held it to the pillar. Markus had noticed that it was difficult to pull it away from its resting place. One side of the coin had a small picture of a well on it. The other side showed a hill with a fortified village on top.  He wondered if the token had a secret message for him.

Markus continued to wander through the walls until he reached another door. Entering it, he found himself in the exit room. On the opposite wall was a portal, and beyond the portal, a fiery pit. In the wall next to the pit were a number of slots of curious shapes meant to hold tokens. Each slot was a different shape and color.

Also inside the room were five of his classmates. They all seemed to be in a trance. One of them held a piece of paper, and on it was a message.

“We have assembled 8 of the 9 tokens necessary to leave this place. If you have brought the 9th, please insert it in its slot, waken us, and let us all leave together.”

“I do have the ninth,” Markus mumbled. He searched the walls until he found a slot where the token would fit.  Before he put his coin in its place he thought, “I haven’t really seen that much of this dungeon. Perhaps I should just keep the coin and wander around a bit more.”

(Khenn’s commentary: having reached the exit room completely randomly, and learning that you need 9 of a possible 10 tokens to get out, I have to say, Scott, that I consider this challenge way too tough.  Three tokens would be fair; five would be tough but perhaps do-able. Nine out of ten?  Yikes!

By all means, O Ye Elite who love a challenge, be sure to get your own copy of Final Exam. It is mappable, and should make you think a lot. If you manage to find the exit room with any tokens in hand, I do think you should give yourself the option of escaping.)

Markus put his token in the slot designed for it. For a moment nothing happened, and then the portal shimmered and changed. The other side now showed an examination room in the tower of the Wizards Guild.

Markus shook his classmates awake. They snapped out of the trance fairly easily.  Holding hands they all stepped through the portal together. They felt an electrical shock that made every hair on their bodies stand up, and heard a loud zapping noise. The portal vanished behind them.

Old Professor Oinkenwartz had been dozing in his chair. He woke with a start when the loud zapping noise told him that someone had found the way out of the training dungeon. He opened his rheumy old eyes to see Markus and five other students beaming at him.

“Here! What’s this?” he snarled. “You’re supposed to get out one at a time, not in gaggles.”

“Why is that, Sir?” asked Markus. “Don’t you think that cooperation is a viable survival strategy in the outside world?”

“NO!” snarled the professor. “Er, well, um, maybe it could be once in a while, but in my day, we wouldn’t . . .”

The sound of Markus and the other students laughing at him further ruined the old professor’s day.

The end.


Chapter 1: Jungles of Phantog
. . .
“Master Mage, we are half a day’s trek from Apys, and that is as far as I have
contracted to transport you. We must make good speed now. There is something
that has picked up your trail, and I have not been able to hide your scent from
it. You must tell me now that you will honor our bargain.”

Kennarith Ko frowned. “How do you know that something has picked up my scent?”
he snarled. “If you had told me there was any necessity to hide my scent, I
could have been doing so for days. Perhaps it is you that something trails.”

“Perhaps, but I have been here before. When faced with a choice of taking me or
taking the wizard with me, it has always chosen the wizard. Perhaps it is magic
that the creature desires. You, you are full of magic, and I have none.”

The Huntmaster looked at Kennarith grimly, staring straight into the icy blue
eyes of the foreign wizard. “Think what you like,” he said calmly. “I need to
know. Will you pay me exactly half of the dowry you will gain should you win a
bride from Apys?”

“I told you I would,” answered the wizard, “but let us be clear about this. If
the dowry is money, then you can have it all. If the dowry is magical objects,
then we can divide them between us. but I get first choice, and we take turns
choosing the other objects. If there is an odd number then you can have the last
item. If the dowry is some spiritual thing,” he hesitated to let the concept
sink in, “if it is increased magical ability or souls or something as yet
inconceivable to me, then you get nothing. I am a wizard, yes, but I am no
master, and I cannot divide the intangible, nor set values on unknown objects.”

Krokett the Huntmaster looked disconcerted. No one had ever spelled out these
different possibilities for him before, but than no one had ever paid him
before. “Will you take an oath on those words?’ he asked.

Late afternoon sunlight slanted down through the heavy foliage above them and
stray beam caught the wizard and made him shine for a just a moment in the
general gloom of the forest. “I vow that I will pay Krokett, and only Krokett,
as I have sworn to do with the dowry from Apys. This I swear on my mother’s
head, and on my spirit’s freedom, and on he honor of the Wizards Guild of

“I accept your vow. Try to keep up!” said the rugged huntsman. He strode off
between two trees and promptly vanished, just as if he had become invisible or
were only an illusion to begin with.

“So,” mused Kennarith, “The huntmaster seeks to test me. Very well!”  The bracken fern parted as kennarith swiftly followed after the Huntmaster. His years doing menial labor for his magical training had toughened not only his mind, but his reflexes as well. Indeed it had spared him from more than one mishap with Osrek the Alchemists… accidents. His side still tingled when he smelled distilled essence of flame demons.

Kennarith broke into a trot and followed the Huntmaster. He saw movement some forty feet ahead–something pushing through a tangle of vegetation. In seconds he reached it, and shoved through himself. On the other side were two paths leading in two different directions, and the guide was not visible on either one. How did he move so fast, and why?

One path was fairly open and empty as far as the eye could see. The other quickly clogged with the malodorous shrubbery that infested this jungle. Kennarith chose that one, and pushed rapidly forward.

A strong hand reached out from behind a tree and grabbed the wizard’s upper arm, pulling him roughly to the side.
The wizard breathed a sign of relief.

“Good, you kept up with me. Now get ready to fight. Watch!”

A strange beast appeared on the path the wizard had just left. It had the size of a large cat, the face of a fiend, and the tusks of a saber-toothed cave tiger. Krokett locked his gaze on its slitted yellow eyes, took one step forward with knife in hand and let out an explosive yell.

. . .
Krokett’s yell startled the Fiend, because in the blink of an eye, it was gone.

“Whew,” the wizard gasped. “What was that?”

“Don’t relax!” snapped the Huntsman. “It is only changing the direction of attack.  His head moved from side to side as he scanned the forest. Then he grabbed Kennarith’s shoulder and spun him to face the Fiend as it materialized in a leap coming right at him.

Kennarith Ko had thought about what to do, but when the time came for action, he reverted to the most basic kill spell he knew and he put all his wizardly energy into it.  The wizard’s staff crackled with purple energy and an eye-searing bolt of killing force shot out of it and struck the fiend fully in its tentacled chest.

The Thing fell to earth just shy of the two men because of the magical impact, but then shrugged it off, and gathered itself to continue the attack.  In that momentary hesitation, Krokett leaped on it, flailing madly with the great bush knife. Man and beast rolled across the ground in a cacophany of growling (from the man) and a kind of whistling screech (from the fiend).

For the first minute of the fight the wizard watched with eyes agape as man and creature struggled. He quickly understood that this was more than just a physical fight between a man and a beast–it was more of a spiritual struggle manifested on the worldly plane. Once he saw a fiendish claw rip a gaping hole in Krokett’s stomach, but neither blood nor entrail flew out of it. In the next instant the wound closed again af it had never been.

Then the two moved in his direction and it seemed as if the fiend would break free of the man. Kennarith threw off his horror and leaped into the fight, jabbing at the monster with his staff, wielding it like a spear to poke and smash the horrible creature. Every blow seemed to simply glance off the fiend, but Krokett threw him a grim smile, more of a twitch of the lips as battled. Every little bit helped.

And then it was over. With a final howl the unnatural beast stiffened and lay still. Now wounds began to appear on its body, dozens of wounds where none had been visible before. Dead!

Krokett forced himself to his feet, leaned down and cleaned his gore-encrusted blade on the animal’s hide. His clothing had been torn and slashed in many places. Purple bruises began to rise on his flesh.

“Are you all right?” the wizard asked.

“I will live.”

Krokett knelt and pushed a mass of tentacles aside, then made a deep incision in the fiend’s chest. Thrusting his hand into the bloody opening all the way up to the elbow, he felt around and then jerked his arm back out, bringing with it an internal organ.

“What?” The wizard gaped in amazement.

“Its heart. If I do not take it, the creature will live again. See, it still beats.” The bloody red organ still shivered and squirmed in the Huntmaster’s hand.

“What will you do with it?”

“We should eat it. You helped beat it, so you are entitled to a share. Of course, it may poison us, but if it doesn’t . . .” he left the implications unspoken.

. . .
Kennerith’s mind raced as his stomach churned. The thought of eating a
still-beating heart disgusted him, but the though of facing a beast
immune to his spells a second time chilled him to the bone. Furthermore,
if the heart was unhealthy to eat, then letting Krokett eat it all would
place himself in dire peril as well. He could ill afford to let his
guide die – without his help he would quickly become lost in this
jungle, not to mention the other unknown dangers that could lurk in a
place where monsters had developed immunity to magic.

No, far safer if both he and Krokett became ill, but remained able to travel. of course, this was assuming that a single bite would not prove fatal…

This was no time for dithering. Faint heart never won fair maiden, and winning a fair maiden was what he was here to do.

“We’ll split it half and half,” said Kennerith reaching out his hand, “but perhaps it would be safer to eat cooked?” Fire appeared and danced in the wizard’s palm.

“Are you going to cook it in your hand, wizard? I think I’ll eat my part raw.” Krokett used both hands and tore the still throbbing heart into two pieces. He handed the smaller piece to the wizard, then bit into the larger one. Blood dribbled from the sides of his mouth and into his beard.

Kennarith Ko did cook the fragment of fiend heart in his hand. Spitting the fragment on the point of his own sax, he directed little blasts of flame at the meat until it darkened, stopped bleeding, and actually began to smell good.

(Lest you think that the wizard was fireproof, let it be known that calling flame in this manner is usually the first spell a wizard learns. The flame never actually touches him, but springs into existence far enough from the wizard’s hand to not actually burn him.)

“Mmmmm, chewy,” said the wizard as he bit into the fiend’s heart. When he swallowed it, it felt as if a ball of flame passed through his throat, through his chest, and into his stomach. But even as it went down he felt his body being recharged with the kremm energy of magic.

The huntsman washed his bloody meal down with several gulps from his canteen, then offered it to the wizard. Ko took it, wiped the mouth with the sleeve of his robe, and took a big gulp. He was in for it now, no point in being cautious or timid if he hoped to keep his guide’s respect.

“Let us go on,” said Krokett. We are not that far from our destination.” He stepped back onto the path he had been following and set off briskly. Kennarith grabbed his staff and hastened to follow him.

They walked for a couple of hours as the sky grew darker and afternoon advanced. They climbed, and the vegetation changed, somehow seeming lighter in both color and tone as they gained altitude. At the same time, the ground grew soggier, and the muddy forest floor squelched with every step.

Then they crested a ridge, and Krokett pointed. In the center of a rocky hollow stood a great hive building more than 200 meters in height and twice as broad, a building unlike any the wizard had ever seen before.

“This is it,” said the guide, “the home of the Manukans, the People of the Buzzing Bees. This is where you must go to win the Bride of Nature that you seek.”



Chapter Two: Into the City of the Manukans

Kennarith looked down and saw six soldiers striding up the eastern side of the crater towards him. They walked on stiff-jointed hind legs with a pair of similarly inflexible arms coming out of the mid-point of their bodies. The ebonic sheen of their chitinous skin was swathed with bands of shaggy brown-gold fur. Multi-faceted eyes and twin antenna completed the inhuman picture. Each guard also carried a large pair of diaphanous wings that vibrated as they walked, not enough to lift them into the air, but perhaps it lightened their steps because they approached swiftly. Each guard also carried a long bronze-headed halbard.

“I will leave you now,” said Krokett. “Remember our bargain, and seek me where we first met if you make it out of the hive successfully.” The Huntsman faded back into the jungle.

When they reached his side the leading bee-man looked the wizard over intently. Apparently satisfied, he began to speak in a buzzing version of the Common Speech. It took a few sentences for Kennarith to understand, but the bee-man rejpeated himself until finally Kennarith interrupted him.

“You speak my tongue strangely,” he said slowly, “but I am beginning to understand. You want me to follow you.”

“Correct.” The leader turned and strode away. Kennarith immediately followed him back down the hill. The other five fell in behind him.

In a short time they reached a broad ramp leading up into the hive-building. It led to an arched doorway illuminated by a large sphere that glowed with crimson radiance. Kennarith wondered how many men had passed through this ominous doorway. One of the escorts touched his shoulder and buzzed, “You are the seven thousand five hundred and sixty-first.”

The number seemed absurdly high to the Khazani wizard, but then he reflected that the Manukans were said to have been on Trollworld longer than the men had, and almost as long as the elves.

The soldier continued to speak. “This portal is a means of destruction should our queens decree. The photonic forces it subjugates may be released in any direction they desire. The effect is stark; existence is negated.”

The red light energy made his flesh crawl with a kind of tickling sensation as Kennarith passed through the doorway. The chamber inside held at least a thousand burning beeswax candles, and the air hung heavy, cloying and sweet in his lungs. A wave of sleepiness assailed him, but the wizard clenched his hands and fought it off. It would not be wise to lose consciousness here.

Many more of the soldier Manukans flanked both sides of the atrium. Kennarith could see now that it was but a passageway connecting the exterior with the interior of the structure. A larger, heavier beeman crawled from a passageway above and to Kennarith’s left. He fluttered down to stand directly in front of the wizard.

“You are the thirty-sixth and last of this cycle’s contenders for royal marriage,” he droned. “I repeat, you are the last. This means that the wooing will begin on the morrow.”

“I understand,” answered the wizard.

‘You may rest, take nourishment, and think about what level you would like to compete for.”

Fed with unfamiliar foods, lulled by the humming that seemed to permeate the strange city, Kennarith Ko was taken to a sleeping chamber and left to his devices. He quickly fell asleep.

When he awakened he found cool water and a scroll waiting for him on the bedside table. He washed his face and quenched his thirst. He had eaten so well before his sleep that he felt no hunger. Turning to the scroll he read these cryptic words:


There was a space to indicate his choice, and a pen and ink for writing it.

After some deliberation, Kennarith Ko decided to go for the easiest challenge, and wrote the number 2 in the space provided. As soon as he had done so, the paper magically faded out of his hand. At that moment he realized that he was sensing magic from all sides, and was unlikely to have any warning should enchantment come upon him.

His chamber door opened and in came the large man, or his twin. “Be thou ready for your challenge?” he asked.

“What is my challenge?” asked the Wizard.

“You have chosen to woo Apida the Harvest Queen. It is her duty to ensure that the Phantagonian flowers come to no harm, that they are free from disease, and protected from herbivores that her people may be assured of plentiful pollen supplies.”

“Sounds like a vital task,” Kennarith muttered to himself.

The guide led Kennarith to another chamber deeper inside the hive. Five other wizards were already there. The bee man made introductions and Kennarith Ko met Nux Fractor, Spontaneous Combustius, Perry Stroika, Ali Bongo and Sly Toffand. All were human except for Perry, who despite have rounded ears, was a half-elf.

The bee man led the six contestants into another chamber even deeper inside the hive. There, draped languorously upon a couch reposed the young queen, Apida.

As Manukan women go, Apida was truly lovely. She sported a full and firm thorax, cute stripes of ochre and burnt umber, two lively antennas, and bee’guiling. (Ken’s note: Mark has filled this section of the adventure with as many bee puns as he could come up with, and they are plentiful, but I may skip most of them. If you want to bee entertained by them, get the adventure.)

Apida was besotted with all her suitors. She clapped her four hands together and dismissed the bee man, whose name was Bee’de. “My bee’trothed must have a fine voice,” she buzzed. “You shall all sing for me.” She opened a cabinet and brought out 6 scrolls. “These are some of my most bee’loved songs. Each of you shall choose one and sing for me.”

The six songs are:
1. Honey for my Honey
2. Let it Be’e
3. Be’e My Baby
4. The Buzz of it All
5. Just Can’t Help Be’elievin’
6. Be’e Good to Me


By the luck of the draw, Kennarith Ko got to be the last singer.

The six wizards studied their scrolls for a few minutes. None of them were puzzled by them, though some figured then out a little faster than others. Their bee’havior was very civilized, and they took turns singing for the queen. It took a little about an hour for them all to have a turn.

The queen kept score in her head, but did not give any sign of whose singing she liked it best. (the adventure as written says to give the 6 contestants wooing points. Having made all the necessary attribute and saving rolls this is how it stands after the first round of competition:


When the singing was over Bee’de the bee man attendant came in with a tray upon which there were six golden goblets, each brimming with a thick brown brew. An overwhelmingly sweet aroma rose from the liquor.

“Drink, or do not drink, as you choose,” said the bee man, “but be aware that this is very potent liquor, and it may becloud your thinking.”

Because he was the last to arrive, Kennarith was the last to confront the queen and give her his one word description. Though many ideas had run through his head, the word he finally decided to use was “majestic”.

After seeing what had happened to Sly, none of the other wizards dared even touch the queen. When his turn came, Kennarith simply knelt before the queen and said “you are the most majestic person I have ever met, but then again, I not met many kings or queens.” A line like that would have made most humans smile, at least, but Apida’s face showed no emotion.
The tests had been gentle so far, but Apida’s thoughts turned to the physical.  She feared that her mate might break during the exchange of genetic material  that must eventually come. It had happened in the past, and so, a test of physical capability was developed.

The queen retired through one door, and the bee man Bee’de took the six of you off in another direction. He brought you all to a hollowed-out honeycomb that was a replica of the queen’s nuptial chamber. There were six divans made of sculpted wax, and he told  you all to lie down upon them.  He then began to spurt honey on Perry from a bell-shaped receptacle on wheels with a hose and nozzle attachment.

“Ewww!” said Perry.  When Bee’de finished he was completely immersed except for his head.

“Are we in any danger from this?” asked Ali Bongo.

“You will not be harmed if you do not struggle,” answered Bee’de, “but you may be seriously injured if you resist.”

It occurred to Kennarith Ko that he as a wizard, and that whatever was in store for him when he was coccooned in a Manukan miasma of melted molasses (okay, honey, but the feeling would be much the same), he should not just take it lying down as a warrior would. He might be able to do something to himself as a wizard, and he wondered what spell he might cast upon himself to better his chances.

Because he was the last to arrive, Kennarith was the last to confront the queen and give her his one word description. Though many ideas had run through his head, the word he finally decided to use was “majestic”.

After seeing what had happened to Sly, none of the other wizards dared even touch the queen. When his turn came, Kennarith simply knelt before the queen and said “you are the most majestic person I have ever met, but then again, I not met many kings or queens.” A line like that would have made most humans smile, at least, but Apida’s face showed no emotion.
The tests had been gentle so far, but Apida’s thoughts turned to the physical.  She feared that her mate might break during the exchange of genetic material  that must eventually come. It had happened in the past, and so, a test of physical capability was developed.

The queen retired through one door, and the bee man Bee’de took the six of you off in another direction. He brought you all to a hollowed-out honeycomb that was a replica of the queen’s nuptial chamber. There were six divans made of sculpted wax, and he told  you all to lie down upon them.  He then began to spurt honey on Perry from a bell-shaped receptacle on wheels with a hose and nozzle attachment.

“Ewww!” said Perry.  When Bee’de finished he was completely immersed except for his head.

“Are we in any danger from this?” asked Ali Bongo.

“You will not be harmed if you do not struggle,” answered Bee’de, “but you may be seriously injured if you resist.”

It occurred to Kennarith Ko that he as a wizard, and that whatever was in store for him when he was coccooned in a Manukan miasma of melted molasses (okay, honey, but the feeling would be much the same), he should not just take it lying down as a warrior would. He might be able to do something to himself as a wizard, and he wondered what spell he might cast upon himself to better his chances.

Kennarith thought about the warning–he had been told not to move, and the one spell that would freeze him in his tracks was Hold That Pose.  He cast it on himself at level 3, knowing that would hold him for up to 8 minutes, and hoping that would be enough.

The honey was extremely hot, and beneath it the wizards heated up very quickly. However, all of them had the same thought, and all had cast Hold That Pose. They all endured the heat well enough, and a few minutes later, Bee’de brought attendants to clean them off. He was somewhat surprised to see that all six contestants came through the ordeal unscathed.

The Queen took one look at her wooers and smiled slightly.

“And now, my would-be wooers,” she buzzed, “it is time for us to take a walk in the forest.  Gather what protective gear you may have, and meet me at the entrance to the hive one hour from now.” She departed to make herself ready for the excursion.

Kennarith did not have much in the way of special provisions to make for himself. He had no armor and little in the way of weapons, since he had counted on the Huntsman to protect him in the jungle. Instead he made certain that he had plenty of water in two canteens, some high energy food, and he put two healing potions in the  pockets inside his robe. He wore knee-high boots and a leather cap inside his wizard’s cowl, and hoped that would be sufficient.

An hour later the six wizards stood at the entrance to the hive. Apida appeared with an escort of 20 soldiers, all fully armed and armored.  The bee men and the queen have protections that outsiders such as Kennarith and the other wizards would never dream of. No such protections were offered to the wizards.

“This walk may be extremely dangerous for you,” warned Bee’de. “Before you risk your lives in the Phantagonian jungles, think, and if you wish, you may back out now.”

The bee soldiers escorted Apida, Perry, Ali, Spon, Sly, and Kennarith along a trail visible only to them. Nux had announced at the beginning that he really didn’t feel up to trekking through the jungle that day, and had retired back to the hive. The constantly beating wings of the soldiers did at least provide enough of a breeze to evaporate the sweat off your body, and thus provide some measure of coolness.

After several minutes of walking, Ali Bongo sidled over to Kennarith and began to speak in the Thieves Cant of the Khazan ghettos. “Ey, matey, ‘ow you like der tests zo far? Gotta offer for ya. Innerested?”

Kennarith looked at the other wizard coldly. “Wotch gots in yer mind?” he answered in the same almost unintelligible jargon.

“Look ere, Palzy. Itz gonna be hard ta know how to win dis ere game. Wotcha say we nooj der oddz a bit. Iffin I wins, i do give you a top job ere, an’ you does der same fer me iffen you gets der young missy. And,” he waggled an eyebrow knowingly, “we alzo duz  wut we kin ter ‘elp each udder wen we kin gainst der odders ere. Woddya say? Deal or no deal?”

Kennarith smiled at Ali, and made a
thief’s sign with his left thumb and forefinger. “Deal,
Palsy,” he whispered, “but keep it on der downlow, hokay?”

“Ri-ite!” grinned the other wizard. “Laters!” He wandered
off. As the walk continued, Kennarith noticed that Ali
approached some of the other wizards as well. Sly gave him a
big grin, Spontaneous looked confused and Perry said, “Wut?
Get away from me!”

Suddenly the brisk march through Phantog ended. The party
entered an octagonal clearing filled with luscious
lascivious, lurid blooms of epic proportions.  Another
twenty Manukan soldiers were standing around the clearing to
protect these flowers.

Some workers opened a large wooden chest they had been
carrying and took from it several large goblets carved from
a translucent, jade-like stone. They gave one cup to each

“Go to the flowers and collect the pollen within them,”
buzzed the queen.

The wizards set to work.  For a half-elf, Perry did not
seem to react very well to plants. After only a short time,
he sneezed so hard that he dropped his collecting cup and
spilled what little pollen he had gathered on the ground.
Bee’de approached and told him to stop–his part of the test
was over. The others all managed their tasks with varying
degrees of success.  Surprisingly, Sly was the best at
accumulating flower pollen. When he presented his cup to the
queen, it had half again as much pollen in it as the second
best (Ali) and nearly three times as much as Kennarith had
collected. On the other hand, the other wizards all looked
both tired and dehydrated after collecting pollen for half
an hour, but Kennarith, who had brought plenty of water, and
drank liberally from it as he worked, just felt better and

Just as the queen finished checking Kennarith’s cup, a
strange beast charged into the clearing–a wide-nostriled
mucous wrangler.  It charged, head down, nose down,
firing a shower of snot pellets in all directions.  One
noxious missile hit Ali in the forehead and spattered all
over his face. He went down flailing; his skin turned green,
and he began to vomit, all very quickly.

The soldiers ruahed to attack the elephant-sized beast. It
had already trampled one flower and was bearing down upon
the queen.

With 40 guards coming to the defense of the queen, not to mention three other wizards, Kennarith figured that his best option was to try and save Ali’s life.

His first action was to cast a Call Water spell and wash the poisonous mucous off of Ali’s head, reasoning that the sooner the infection was removed, the less damage would be done. He wished he knew a Too Bad Toxin spell, but he didn’t. It was within his powers to cast it, but a fourth level spell, and as a 2nd level wizard who had recently graduated to 3rd level, he simply hadn’t learned it yet. 4th level spells cost 1500 gold to learn, and the truth was that many wizards learned their higher level spells by getting  more advanced wizards to simply teach them outside the guild offices.

Ali still looked like he might die, his complexion distinctly green and his breath coming in short harsh gasps. Kennarith reached into one of his inner robe pockets and pulled out one of the two healing potions that he had brought with him.  He poured it down Ali’s throat and hoped for the best.

Between the death spells of the other wizards and the furious halbard work of the bee soldiers, the mighty Mucous Wrangler didn’t last long. One soldier was hit by the falling monster and squashed flat.

Queen Apida noticed that three wizards had cast spells in her defense, but that Kennarith had rushed to the aid of the only person in serious danger from the attack. She awarded points to the three wizards who defended her, and none to Kennarith and Ali, but kept in mind that Kennarith had kept his head during the emergency and preserved a life.

When the excitement subsided it was time to return to the hive. The cups full of pollen were closed with lids on top, and the four functional wizards were told that they must carry their cups back to the hive balanced atop their heads in order to leave their hands free for self defense. Kennarith and the other wizards tried balancing the flat-bottomed cups on their heads, and managed for a short time, but they were constantly in danger of falling off.  “This is silly,” Kennarith declared. He removed the cup from his head, pulled open his robe, placed the sealed cup in his largest pocket, and then proceeded along the path with little danger of losing the precious pollen. The other three wizards made similar arrangements.  Sly simply used his hands after the first near mishap, figuring that there were plenty of soldiers to defend him in case of another attack.

Suddenly Apida pointed into the dense lushness of the jungle. “We will take the short cut back. There is something I want to show you. Quick! Find the secret door and we shall be safe and have time to play!”

Perry, Spon, and Sly dashed forward, magic crackling from their fingertips.  Ali remained in the litter that two of the soldiers were carrying. His condition had stabilized, but he was still in no shape for a rigorous walk in the woods.

For the last few days, members of Trollhalla have been seeing me talk about a new T & T novel that I am thinking about writing.  Scenes and situations have been going off inside my head.  Sometimes I have lain awake for hours in the early morning, mentally writing and imagining parts of the new book. 

The book is to be based on a solo adventure that I wrote back in 2010.  It has been a year since I created it, and I think it is just about ready for publication.  Last week it came to me–in that half waking trance between midnight and morning–that the solo was only a preface to a much better work of fantasy fiction that I could do.  And then, this scene came to me, and played itself out in my mind.  I didn’t get a chance to write anything until I got to school, and then I sat for a couple of hours, creating what you will see here.  I am fairly slow as typists and writers go, but I don’t need a lot of revision either.

The best thing with a novel is probably to keep it to oneself, write it, revise it, and try to get it published.  Mostly, that is what I will do.  However, as I have struggled with this idea over the last week, I have also taunted the members of Trollhalla with hints and questions.  Darrgh Tarrho, and Garrlakk, and Moondragon have seen the solo–nobody else has, so they have some idea of what I’m thinking about.  I hope you all get the chance to read and play the solo before the month is over.  Meanwhile, it is time for me to start getting these ideas out of my head and into written form.  They may not come out in a nice orderly sequence.  The story will probably assemble itself like a jigsaw puzzle, but . . . here is the first scene.

Vvvarrr, the dragon that made Lerotra’hh an immortal.
The art is by Miika Spray, also known as Moondragon, a terrific artist and a valued friend and member of Trollhalla.  I hope she won’t mind me showing the first sign of it here.


Vvvarrr looked at her new servant, and wondered if this human man was smart enough to be her servant.  The urukin woman, Lerotra’hh, was already an accomplished wizardess when she came to the dragon and offered herself over seven centuries earlier, but this man, this Neth was only a rogue.  Yes, he had daring and courage, but did he have wit?  She decided to test him.

“Thiss iss your firsst tassk as my sservant,” she hissed.  “Give me everything you own.  Jusst put it all on the treassure heap!”

Neth thought it was a very strange command.  The dragon owned so much, and he owned so little.  Why would she want to take that little away from him.  Perhaps it was some kind of test.  He shrugged out of the straps that held his pack, and then swung it off his back, and pitched it onto the treasure heap.  It didn’t contain anything breakable.  Then he unbuckled his sword belt, and lightly tossed it along with the attached sword and dagger onto the pile of gold.  Finally, he turned out his pockets, producing a few gold and silver coins along with a very small folding knife, some string, and a few pieces of flint.  Tossing that bric-a-brac onto the edge of the pile, he turned to face the dragon.  “I think that is everything I own.”

“NO!” Her voice was louder now, with an undertone of menace.  “I ssaid, give me everything you own.

Neth looked at the great green reptile in dismay.  He had just given her everything he owned, right down to the lint in his pockets.  Pockets!  He still had pockets and clothing.  Could she want that too?  She did say everything.  He hastily took off his fur jacket, and tossed it on the pile.  Vvvarrr watched him, and did not say a word.  She just let a bit of steam escape from one of her nostrils.  After the coat he lost his shirt, his trousers, his boots, his loincloth, tossing each item onto the dragon’s pile, until he stood there naked.  He had no rings, no jewelry to add.

“That is absolutely everything I own,” he told her with hands spread wide.

Vvvarrr roared and a jet of flame shot above the rogue’s head.  The sudden heat made sweat pour out of his body.  Her eyes glowed with hellish red light, and her mighty talons clenched and unclenched.  “I tell you for the third and lasst time!” she bellowed.  “GIVE ME EVERYTHING YOU OWN.”

Neth knew that he was failing his new mistress in some way, but he could not think how.  He had given her everything he owned.  And she wasn’t satisfied.  In that moment he knew he was going to die horribly in the next few seconds.  He could see her inhaling.  The next gout of flame would roast him.  What else could the dragon want?  Did she want his hair, his teeth, his immortal spirit?

And then it came to him.  Maybe she wanted all of those things.  Closing his eyes, Neth threw his body on the great pile of treasure, landing spread-eagled and butt up just as a blast of dragonfire blossomed in the place where he had been standing.
“Much better,” purred the dragon.  “You could have ssaved much time if you had done that at the beginning.  Being a sservant iss new to you, but I expect intelligence and obedience from you.  I gave you three chancess thiss time, but it will not happen again.  If you cannot undersstand ssimple commandss, then you are not worthy of immortality–not worthy to sserve me.”

“Yes, mistress,” Neth answered, remaining on his bed of gold.  “I am sorry.  I did not truly understand what you meant.”

The dragon simply glared at him for a while.  He lay quietly and did not dare to look at her.  Then he felt a human hand smack into his buttocks and heard a silvery laugh.  Looking up, he saw the sorceress who had called herself Rav now standing beside him.  “Dress yourself and take your old weapons and gear, but remember that those items as well as you yourself belong to me now.”  She spoke now without a trace of the sibilance that had marked the dragon’s voice.

He quickly put his clothing back on, all except for the heavy coat.  The cavern had grown much too warm for him to need it.

“We must find a place for you to rest,” said Rav.  “Follow me.  I think perhaps the urukin’s old bedding place might serve.”

(to be continued)

The following strange tale comes to me from a member of Trollhalla, one Roy Cram by name.  Back in the day he published a couple of solo dungeons with Flying Buffalo.  He mentions places I’ve never heard of, and mating practices that seem unlikely to say the least.  He seems somewhat confused, but I’ll let him tell his tale.  The troll mother he describes must be one of the fleshy trolls and not a true rock troll as rock trolls do not mate and reproduce in the fashion he describes.  Aside from that I suppose we should believe most of this delirium–after all, we do actually have Yorrdamma Vrsash himself as proof that some sort of miscegenation produced him.


combination Goblin and Troll--guess at the appearance of Yorrdamma Vrash.

Yorrrdamma Vrash’s story part one

Oh Great Khenn Arrth:  I, Yorrdamma Vrash, crave Your attention. Attend me I beg you. Here,  on this crude stone altar that I raised, I offer You the life blood of this Goblin who, with his companions, now dead, tried to murder me as I rested here in the midst of the Mistywood (Sound of squealling cut short by the Whack! of a Sax severing a neck). Long I have wished to tell my story, and since the recent battle with the goblin thieves has made sleep impossible, I now propose to narrate the tale of my life. May it please You to hear it.

If not, You are a Deity, and can do as You please. If I displease You, pray do not smite me.

Ignore me if I am beneath or unworthy of Your notice, but my life passes burning through my memory now, and tell the tale I must, if only to these four dead Goblins and these mist enshrouded trees.

Yorrdamma was born in the Troll warrens beneath Castle Gedokrist on Mount Angwich. This was in the days before Zekrim Gedokrist buried the great city of Mora beneath a sea of mud. It was in this time that the Gedokrist was busy raising a huge army to make war on his half-brother, King Valikorum of Valesia. Zekrim was determined to have a large contingent of Trolls in his army for ‘shock’ troops. Since the hill and rock trolls of this region were unruly and mostly opposed to serving as his vassals, Zekrim assigned the wizard Aylgamer to ‘recruit and train’ a group of Troll soldiers. To this hard task Aylgamer diligently applied himself.  He rounded up a large number of trolls and began to ‘train’ them, using magic and harsh discipline. In addition he started a series of experiments in selective and magic enhanced breeding to produce a creature more suitable than the rough and hard to control feral Trolls. His efforts began to create a race of Trolls that were smarter, tougher (!), more tractable, and able to sustain exposure to sunlight. All seemed to be going well.

Yorrdamma’s mother was one of the first generation progeny using Rock Trolls. She was impressive physically and relatively docile, but smart enough not to let on to her masters that she was a good deal smarter than they thought she was. When she reached the age of bearing young she was impregnated with Troll semen laced with traces of magically enhanced human, Ogre, and Demon seed.  Her gestation proceeded at a rapid pace, and Yorrdamma came into the world early and unattended. He was tiny and ugly, a ‘runt’ troll or Trollish equivalent to a human dwarf. But Urdammu’s heart was overwhelmed with love for this tiny ugly helpless creature. She had seen the progeny of her Troll sisters removed from them at birth, and knew that this babe would go straight to the kitchen to enrich some pot of stew. This was the first thing in her life that she felt really truly belonged to her. So, when Aylgamer’s Orc assistants saw she had borne offspring and tried to take the whelp from her, she tore the arm off the first and beat the second one to death with the bloody end of the amputated limb.

Now at this time Zekrim was mustering his army for the assault on Valesia and there was much confusion in the camp.  Urdammu wrapped her baby in a blanket, put him in a box of supplies, found a big cudgel and took off through the camp looking like she had business to attend to. She left in her wake, with crushed heads, a couple of orcs who dared to try and hinder her with questions, and made it to the woods before her escape from the warrens was noticed and an alarm raised.

This is the end of part one – part two to follow soon.


Here the narrative breaks off, although the writer has promised me more of this weird tale.  Note the antique language–orc instead of uruk, also the antiquated notion that gods require blood sacrifices.  In these modern times blood isn’t that much good to us.  Money is the sacrifice we really want from our followers.

Well, we will see what comes of Yorrdamma Vrash’s autobiography.



The Trollgod talks about the Way Things Are Meant to Be

Some question has come up about what I might have meant when I say the GM is
God. It’s a common principle in all role-playing, so let’s talk about it a

Some GMs like a free form game. They set up a situation and let the
players do whatever they can with it. I’m like that most of the time.

Other GMs have a story that needs to be told. The characters become
actors in that one story, and have very little freedom. Certain things have to
be done or the story doesn’t get told.

In the first case you don’t have
to mess with the rules much at all. The only thing that can trip you up is the
unspoken/unwritten rules. If the player misses a saving roll and dies, let him.
If he takes on a monster that’s way too tough for him and dies, too bad. The
players have a responsibility to make good decisions and have a good game.

In the second case the story is paramount. If a player gets himself
killed, and the story needs that character, then the god GM can fudge the
results. What should have been a killing blow to the head turns into a glancing
blow that only knocks the character down. Unconscious and left for dead, the
character lies there and takes no harm while the fight moves on. This is good
storytelling. It can make for a great game. It ignores the fact that the GM
threw the game rules out the window in this one case. A skillful GM would never
even let the players know what he had done. After all, it is the GM who narrates
the action, and if he narrated a knockout instead of a kill, then that’s what
happened. That is what I mean when I say the GM is God.

example–could happen in my kind of game. The party is dying, down to its last
few hit points and surrounded by Uruks. You know that the way the dice are
rolling, they will die on the next combat turn. So, suddenly the GM says, “You
hear a loud whistling noise. The Uruks look startled. They turn and run for
their lives, completely ignoring the party. Some of them even drop their
weapons. The party looks around in astonishment. What the heck was that? They
may never find out, but they are alive, and not dead. The game can continue. Did
I break any rules there? No. But the GM played God and saved everyone. The game
continues, with the players wondering what saved them. It may even turn into a
plot hook for later.

The GM has a responsibility to his players–he’s
not there to either pamper or torture them. He’s there to provide a good, fun,
challenging game. Show off the game world. Display your GM creativity. Make
people laugh! Believe me, it takes godlike powers to do all that, so . . . the
GM is God.

T & T can be played mechanically, obeying every “rule”,
but such a game has no “heart”. I want you all to invest your own creativity in
play and in game/world design. Trollworld is my world. You’re welcome to play
there, but you don’t have to. Other worlds may work a bit differently–voila!
House Rules!

You will forgive me if I spend most of my time and effort
working on my own world. When I go play on Beanworld, or Glorantha, or Middle
Earth, it’s different, and I play by the local rules. You should, too, and if
you don’t care for the local rules, don’t bitch about it. Just don’t go back.
I’m a big believer in voting with your feet. The object is to enjoy your gaming,
not to make others unhappy.

Go forth and do great things!”

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.)


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.


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.


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.


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.