Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Review: Tunnels and Trolls 8th edition

It's been a long time coming but it's finally here, Tunnels and Trolls 8th edition, and for the first time this looks like it could be a competitor in the major RPG market, bashing heads with the likes of WotC and White Wolf.

There are three core rulebooks, all gorgeously illustrated: Trollmaster's Guide, Delver's Handbook, and Tome of Monsters. Although T&T had grown popular in the past because of its simple system that only required one rulebook, to compete with the best Ken St.Andre decided that complicating the rules and endeavoring to make as much cash as possible would be the best way to go.

The Delver's Handbook outlines the rules of character creation and gameplay, both of which have undergone rule surgery to make them bigger and better. There are now seven types of kindred: Human, Elf, Dwarf, Ghastheim, Half-Orc, Half-Troll, and Wolfkin. They have slashed away pesky imbalanced creatures like Leprechaun and Fairy and also got rid of all the rare kindred. But now we have four new kindred who stand much more of a chance of getting through a dungeon than a Fairy Wizard.

Character classes have also been revamped. Whereas before there were Warrior, Wizard, Rogue, Citizen and Specialist, they have gone the D&D route to make the classes stand out more and give greater roleplaying options. The Warrior still remains but under the name Knight, but the Wizard has been split into Sorcerer and Mage. Ranger is now a class of its own, along with Cleric, Paladin, Ninja and Shapeshifter. All the new classes add more flavour to the game, with special powers and abilities that compliment each other in battle.

The system had been overhauled in favour of different polyhedrons rather than the old and used D6 method. Now character creation is done by rolling four d8s and discarding the lowest to find the attributes. Adds are gone, instead there is a set Fighting attribute for each class that you add to attacks. Armour is no longer absorbed, instead the number reflects how hard you are to hit, which is always a winning mechanic. Gone are the 5d6 broadswords, they have been replaced with '+' weapons, such as +3 dagger or +4 axe. The weapon chart is another thing that's been trimmed. It has lost all of those silly exotic knives and spears and now we have seven swords, three axes and four bows.

Magic is now free for every class to use and you don't need to pay to get new spells, they just instantly come to your head. WIZ has been taken out because spells are now once a day powers unless they are level 0, in which case they can be used as many times as you want. All the stupid spell names that Ken thought were hilarious have been replaced with serious labels. What used to be 'Take That You Fiend' is now the much better 'Energy Missile'. This aims to take the childishness out of the game and make it more accessible to serious players who want dark and bloody games.

The Trollmaster's Guide sets out rules for opening locks, sailing ships, making rope, eating round fruit, stroking sheep, close harmony singing etc. Everything now has a rule, instead of that silly universal saving roll mechanic. If you want to climb a ladder and smash a window you must first roll d10 then add your strength minus climbing modifier which will give you the target number on a d12. Once you have that number you must plus your dexterity and willpower, subtracting Common Fears and armour weight to get the final target result. It's fast, simple and effective.

The Tome of Monsters is an exquisite book outlining no less than 6000 monsters to use in your campaign. There are no more Monster Ratings, as they were far too simplistic for super intelligent gamer brains, so we have full stats for each monster with the inclusion of stats for different sizes, ages and weights for each monster. This offers a much deeper game and better encounters.

For £130, the three core rulebooks are a steal. St. Andre has said that there will be many more supplements to come so save your pennies. 8th edition is the game for the new market, with harder rules, less fun and a money grubbing mindset that will keep gamers coming back for years to come.