I’ve been listening to the latest podcast from ‘the Grognard RPG Files’ which has been taking a look back at ‘Tunnels and Trolls’, my first and one of my favourite RPGs. The discussion between the lads at Dirk Towers (namely Dirk the Dice and Judge Blithy) covered their experience of getting into and playing TnT (as I shall refer to it now). Whilst listening to it driving to and from work (the podcast is about 90 minutes long), all the memories of my first delve into a TnT dungeon came flooding back.
So here is my take on TnT somewhat in response to the Grognard lads experience – I wonder what yours was like with TnT?
My cousin Carl introduced me to TnT in July 1983; I’d stop over at my aunt and uncles and crash out in a sleeping bag on the floor in Carls room, which helped with those all-night dungeon-delving sessions. My first party was a mixed group of delvers with Humans, Elves and Dwarves, so there was a good balance of attributes between them. The first dungeon was what I’ve always considered as the ‘biggie’ – the ‘Dungeon of the Bear’. Filled to the brim over three levels with traps, monsters and treasure, if there was ever an embodiment of a hack and slay dungeon, this was it. My party came out of the dungeon (just about!) but I only managed to get as far as the first level and reaching the entrance to the second. I needed to cash in those experience points and bump those stats up, re-arm and re-supply and get ready for the next session. I was hooked!
But what was it that hooked me about TnT and not wanting to play The Other Game? I’ve always had a bit of an artistic streak and I came into gaming through painting miniatures. When I started to pick up RPG books at Games Workshop in Birmingham, I would flick through their pages and study the rules but it was the artwork that caught my eye equally. The unique style of the Liz Danforth and Rob Carver art in the TnT rules set and dungeons instantly attracted me and I picked up a copy of the TnT rules myself so I could make up my own dungeons and play the solos myself.
The fifth edition rules cover (I’m talking about the orange-yellow cover with black line art version with the three delvers ready to step into the dungeon and all its adventures really sparked the imagination in me. This was backed up with the examples provided where the delvers are described with a running commentary how they get on fighting a pair of Orcs. These examples helped me to get my head around the rules set so I knew I was playing the game ‘properly’, something that was discussed in the Grognard podcast. That sense that you understood the rules correctly and the way that you were ‘complying’ with the way the game should be run was important. The simplicity of the TnT rules, the way that all the stats could be written out on an index card was what made the game addictive; and those 5th edition rules have the best weapons and armour charts of any RPG anywhere. I would spend hours pouring over those charts, trying to work out how much offensive capability my hapless delver could squeeze out of 3D6x10 gold pieces. That ‘delvers package’ for 20gp was a bargain in any market…
In the Grog-pod, the lads discussed the spell names and why it put them off the game somewhat. Judge Blithy suggested it was the certain type of humour that was evident in the TnT games and preferred the more ‘serious’ spell names that could be found in The Other Game. Personally it was a level of humour that I got into and transferred to my own games; to me an RPG game should be fun and that means a certain amount of humour. I’m not saying that the Armchair Adventurers Club games were devoid of humour, it was that I got into the TnT-style and it was something that wasn’t necessarily for them; Judge Blithy specifically mentioned the spell names such as the classic TTYF (‘Take That You Fiend’, a form of fireball spell), ‘Fly Me’ or ‘Oh-Go-Away’. Everybody is different and as long as your game is enjoyable for you, then thats fine.
Whilst I’ve been putting this article together I noticed that the second part of the TnT Grog-pod is out, so I will give that a listen. In the second part of this article, I’ll take a look at the solo dungeons and how I built my collection up.