Thursday, 8 March 2012

Every Tom, Dick and Harry - Citizens in Tunnels & Trolls {T&T}

Fantasy role-playing generally focuses on the players slipping into the well-worn boots of hardy warriors or fire-wielding mages. After all, why would anyone want to be a regular shmo in an imaginary world when most of us are like that in reality?

But hold that thought. Some of the best stories ever told feature normal people are their protagonists, people without skills with a longsword or knowledge of forgotten magical tomes. Take the daddy of all stories, The Lord of the Rings for instance. While we admire characters like Aragorn and Legolas for their combat prowess, the main protagonists are a handful of Hobbits, regular, simple folk who have been taken out of their comfort zone and thrust into a dark world of giant spiders, Ringwraiths and Balrogs. Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin weren't trained to fight: they like sitting around smoking kingsfoil and eating cakes. But we identified with these characters on their epic journey because they were ordinary, just like us.

Indeed, being a run-of-the-mill dishwasher or butcher who is cast into a dungeon teeming with ghouls, goblins and ghosts can increase tension, making combat that bit more nail-biting. Three hulking warriors and a wizard with electricity crackling from his eyes taking on a horde of orcs is cool, but this is a very normal thing. If you take four shepherds with skinning knives and dropped them into that scenario then you've got yourself a combat that's a little bit different than usual.

In Tunnels & Trolls 7.x, Citizens is described as "your average dweller in Trollworld" with "no special training in combat or magic". To represent their inability to use weapons well, their combat adds are halved from their attributes. If a Citizen wants to attempt to cast a spell, they have to make two saving rolls, one on INT and the second on DEX. The odds are certainly against the citizen and Ken even says in the rules that there is little point in players running Citizen characters as they're most suited to stock NPCs.

Yet, I don't think a Citizen-based adventure or campaign is a bad idea. If the GM scales encounters and creates a good 'fish out of water' story then I reckon solid gold role-playing opportunities will arise. Tom K Loney must have seen this potential so he created Under the Sundered Moon, an adventure that explores the under-used character type. I'd love to see more of these adventures or regular solos that allow for Citizens to be played without being killed off before paragraph 2.