Thursday, 12 March 2009

The beauty and madness of T&T

My book shelf is creaking under the weight of sourcebooks, player's handbooks and modules, many of them belong to just one system such as D&D 3rd edition. My hard drive is packed with PDF RPGs I've bought and downloaded from DriveThru RPG and I have a suspicion that most will only be played a few times.

But I reserve a special place for my Tunnels and Trolls materials. They sit in a small pile on my desk, waiting to be flipped through again and again. I also have a couple of PDF solos that I feel the urge to print out on luxury paper and bind just so my physical collection can grow.

The beauty of T&T is in its quiet, unassuming existence. It never pounces out at you on a banner ad and it doesn't take up a third of a bookcase at the local gaming store. It's not a bad thing to market a product, hell I'm all for getting more people's fingers stained with ink and rolling plastic rather than tapping the W,A,S,D keys for hours on end, but there's something dignified about the second ever roleplaying game to exist that is only known by a handful of gamers.

"Ah", interjects the critic, well-versed in RPGs, "But the T&T system is far too simple for our Jupiter-sized intellects. I prefer games with setting, backstory, economy, exotic means of transportation, a food catalogue. I want to know the population of each city and what they prefer to wear and I want to feel that I have a world already formed for me to step into." Then he laughs smugly whilst swishing his fine wine around.

Whilst the criticisms are justified they just highlight the beauty of T&T. It's easy to learn - you can get a game started on the same day that you've read the rules. It doesn't need a full background setting (although Trollworld is a good one) for the game to be fun. It presents an exercise in the limitless boundaries of the imagination whilst allowing interpretation in combat and carrying out skills. In T&T you won't find "Roll to hit," then, "I roll for defense," then, "Roll for damage." But you will find the dice flying and the party cheering as spite damage is inflicted upon a seemingly impossible opponent.

"Perhaps, but it still seems somewhat crazy," offers the the slightly drunk critic, "The spells are so stupid sounding and the monsters just have a Monster Rating and nothing else to show for themselves being a ferocious monster."

T&T is mad, it's funny and it's refreshing. Some games can get so dark and bloodthirsty that comedic respite is the much needed elixir. You can make T&T as relentlessly evil as you like, but the fact that there are spell names such as Take That You Fiend and Little Feets reminds the players that it's a game and there's no need to get too absorbed in the darkness.

As for the monsters I will refer you to a post by Joshua that sums up how basic or detailed monsters can bee in T&T. Having a single number to sum up a monster is pretty ingenious and allows the GM to easily create monsters of the top of her head.
Tunnels and Trolls finds beauty in its madness and it will always have a special place in my room, one that is easily accessible.