Sunday, 12 July 2015

Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls - first impressions



To say that it's been a long time coming is an understatement. Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls funded on February 6th 2013 and since then fans have been waiting with bated breath to get their hands on the latest edition of one of the oldest and most beloved roleplaying games ever. After a couple of setbacks the team behind the game have finally released Deluxe T&T in PDF form, with the promise of a physical copy to follow shortly. So, was it worth the wait?

Yes, yes it was.

I'm not going to fully review the rules just yet, but I wanted to give my first impressions of the book. In a word, it's impressive. In two words, it's bloody impressive.

Previous editions of T&T have had somewhat lean rulebooks. Not anymore. The new edition is just over 360 pages and packed to the brim with new stuff. This looks like the most complete edition so far, with setting details, adventures, maps and more little extras that really reinforce why this is called Deluxe.

Cover Art

A Liz Danforth special and, in my opinion, one of her best pieces she's done for T&T. It's definitely in-keeping with previous covers, showing adventurers fighting monsters, but this is by far the most effective cover I've seen from the series.

Character Creation

The first thing anyone wants to look at in a new game edition is how much the rules have changed. Thankfully, the elegant core rules that T&T has almost always had is still there. Your characters have eight attributes and combat adds, just like they always have. As in 7.x, there are no missile adds in order to stop people just pumping their dice into dexterity and strength, which is a relief. The biggest change is that if you roll under nine when creating your character, you no longer get a minus to your adds. This means that smaller, more fragile kindred like fairies aren't going to begin with -4 combat adds while the brawny dwarf warrior starts with 17.

Similarly, the three basic character types are still there: warrior, rogue and wizard, although there have been tweaks to their abilities. Warriors get a weapon bonus to any melee weapon they are using, granting them an extra d6 per level. If you're level 1 and using a 3d6 sword, then you're going to be rolling 4d6. If you were level 5 then you would be rolling a whopping 8d6. That's crazy powerful - so powerful that it's acknowledged that you can change to a standard +2 per level instead if you feel like it's game-breaking. Warriors also have the standard armour bonus skill that doubles any armour they are wearing. This has always been a bit much for me, but in the latest rules armour can actually break, so it's a little less crazy.

Wizards are essentially entirely the same as in the previous edition. They can cast spells, use a focus to make those spells cheaper and they can only use weapons of 2d6 unless they want to not be able to include their combat adds.

Rogues are also very similar. They are still lite magic-users who can choose to be a rogue-wizard or rogue-warrior at level 7. They have the Talented skill that allows them to select another talent on character creation - different from the previous edition where they received the 'roguery' talent.

There are also Specialists, like in 7.x, who work in the same way - roll natural triples on a prime attribute in character creation and you have the option to become a specialist. Specialists are detailed later on in the Elaborations section.

Now let's move onto kindred, which again, is pretty similar but has some key differences. The Good Kindred is now the catch-all term for Common Kindred, which includes Humans, Dwarves, Elves, Fairies, Leprechauns and Hobbs. There is more information about each kindred than in previous editions, giving you a better overview of what they're all about. Dwarves even have two sub-races: Gristlegrim and Midgardian, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

Humans were always pretty boring in T&T as they only get a multiplier of 1 for each of their skills, making them balanced, but kind of weak. Now they have a rule where they can re-roll a failed saving roll (except if they fumble), which at least gives them some kind of advantage.

Character leveling is the same as in the previous edition, where levels are tied directly to attributes. If one of your primary attributes is 20, then you're level 2 (divide by 10 and round down).

Talents are still here, but they have changed slightly. Talents now provide a +3 to any saving roll for a relevant skill or knowledge, which can be added to any attribute as long as there's good reason. Previously, you would assign a talent to a specific attribute, but that never accounted for the wider context that talent presented. For instance, if I have knowledge about demonic entities, I'd likely add that talent to an IQ roll when coming up with information about a certain demon, or Strength when fighting a demon, or even Charisma if trying to be diplomatic with a demon. There's also now a pretty comprehensive list of talents to inspire you during character creation.

Weapons and Armour

T&T has always been known for having a lengthy list of weapons and fans won't be disappointed to see that this edition has a tonne. However, instead of listing every weapon individually, weapons are split into umbrella categories. For examples, in swords there are straight swords, curved swords and unusual/odd swords. Each of those categories lists different sword sizes, with sword examples given for each. Under long/great sword the examples given are broad sword, fish spine, bastard, large pata and cross-thrust. I really like this layout as it makes things easy to find. Also, the damage dice for each make much more sense now. There are few weapons with a +X to the damage dice, meaning you're usually going to be rolling whole dice, which makes things seem a bit cleaner in some way, but that's just my preference.

The armour section is also massive - much larger than in previous editions. The biggest change to armour is that it's destructable and will wear down over time. Basically, when your armour receives more damage than it can take you make a Luck saving roll. If you fail, then the armour takes a -1 to its hits. If it gets damaged in the same way again you have to make a level 2 saving roll and it takes -2 on a failure, and so on.

There are rules for fixing weapons and armour as well as getting new weapons forged. For instance, you can now have a sword that was created by a master swordsmith, forged from meteoric iron in dragonfire with a balanced design, that offers a total bonus of +8 and is virtually indestructible. This really adds a new depth to buying or finding new weapons and I can see this part being a lot of fun for players and the GM.

Combat

Combat is pretty much exactly the same as the last edition and almost the same as it always has been. The classic 'everyone rolls, adds their totals and compares' method is still there. However, there are oodles more rules and considerations for the different aspects of combat that are brand new here, including rules for stunning opponents and for going berserk. There has been a very slight change to missile combat in that if you fail a Dex saving throw to hit the opponent, you still add your adds to the hit point total.

Magic

Magic works in pretty much the same way it did in 7.x, except that spells can no longer backfire if you fumble. There is now an explanation on how spells 'stack' against each other and how to logically work out how a spell resolves.

There are now 10 schools of magic, and some spells fall into multiple schools. A wizard gets to specialise in a school of magic in order to cast spells from that school more easily. The spellbook now contains spells up to level 18 and further rules on creating your own spells.

Elaborations

The second half of the book is pretty much all 'elaborations' new rules to flesh out your game but are entirely optional. I adore this section, as it allows you to really pick and choose any new rules you would like to add, making T&T a much more modular game. There are rules on warrior training, specialists, kindred magic, new Illkin (previously rare monsters) that you can play as, quite a bit on languages, extended talents, a calendar with holidays (!), steeds, using minis, and even a debate between designers Liz Danforth and Ken St. Andre about the reality of dice.

I love this section so much.

Atlas

Now this is something T&T fans have been waiting all our lives for: full setting information about Trollworld, and there's a decent amount of it too. There are details about every continent, lots of maps and details about some of the major cities in Trollworld, along with a nice history (similar to the one that can be found in the Chronology of Trollworld). There's so much detail here and I can't wait to get my teeth into it.

Adventures

If all that wasn't enough, the guys have packed the end with adventures, both a regular and a solo adventures. The solo is called Abyss, which is interestingly for a character that has recently died. The GM adventure is quite a large 3-parter called Into Zorr.

Summary

I'm really impressed by DT&T. It's by far the most ambitious edition and you can tell how much love and care has gone into its creation. The inclusion of so much incredible art by Danforth really gives it an old school feel - after all, it's a game that hasn't really changed since its inception.

After a read through, I'm fairly confident that this is going to be my go-to edition. It really feels like the ultimate edition of the game and if no other editions were released after it, I'd be ok with that.