Continuing my review of how I got started in Tunnels and Trolls, inspired by the GROGNard RPG files podcast. I picked up the solo dungeons back in 1983 through a close friend; ‘Buffalo Castle’, ‘Naked Doom’, ‘Arena of Khazan’, ‘Gamesmen of Kasar’ and the large-format ‘City of Terrors’. All the dungeons I’m writing about are the A5 format produced under license by Chris Harvey Games in Walsall, West Midlands. I never bought any of the Corgi colour versions, preferring the monochrome Chris Harvey versions with single-colour card covers. Comparing Buffalo Castle and Naked Doom, they couldn’t contrast each other even more if they tried; Buffalo Castle I found to be a bit easy, but a sod to make your way around. Too many adjoining corridors in between stuff happening. Naked Doom is a ba***rd of a dungeon; there is a 90% chance that your character will die in it, but it was immensely enjoyable! Finally seeing the Rob Carver graphic at the end ‘If ya got it, flaunt it’ gave me a huge sense of satisfaction in completing it.
Arena of Khazan is tough, but beatable. You become a gladiator fighting in the arena and can potentially earn a large amount of cash quickly by fighting various opponents. What I did like about the book was the variations and special combat situations where both you and your opponent could use unusual combat tactics. It added colour to otherwise what could end up as a ‘monster-bash-collect-the-cash’ type of adventure. When you get the hang of the betting system, you can make some cash quickly; invest it in arms and armour for the next rounds and you’ve have a chance of beating it. I’ve only managed to beat the dungeon one or twice by running through 10 fights and getting the 1000gp bonus.
Finally the City of Terrors (in the large A4-ish format with the gorgeous Liz Danforth and Rob Carver artwork); I’ve spent weeks in this mega-solo, be warned there is a good chance you won’t come out looking like you did before…! There are some truly odd situations that you can get into, but it does last and was incredible value for money.
Amongst these solo’s, I also ran through the GM adventures ‘Dungeon of the Bear’, ‘Catacombs of the Bear Cult’ and ‘Uncle Ugly’s Underground’ just about managing to complete them. Just like Big Jack Brass on the Grog-pod I’ll never forget the trolls in the Zoot-suits that were the elite troll guard in Uncle Ugly’s. At the same time, it was things like that, that you remember; the bizarre humour, the slightly unhinged fun gained by dodging giant crossbows, the feeling that the dungeon denizens were working as a collective to kill your characters and after a hard days slaying, would go down the pub afterwards for a pint.
I alsomanaged to pick up other dungeons througha school friend Andrew who was also interested. I introduced him to the solo dungeons and we trotted off to Games Workshop in Birmingham where he bought a load, including:
Beyond the Silvered Pane
Sword for Hire
Sea of Mystery
Blue Frog Tavern
…whilst I picked up The Sewers of Oblivion by Mike Stackpole.
Andy DM’ed the dungeons after running through them solo and I ran through the Sewers of Oblivion. Credit to Mike Stackpole, the latter is a brilliant dungeon and extremely tough. It took several attempts to beat it with all the twists and turns, which made it all the more satisfying when I eventually did.
By the summer of 1985, exams were taking over and Andy and my TnT sessions were having to take second preference to revising. Just before I left school, Andy said he wanted to sell his TnT stuff as he needed money to contribute to buying a bike (I think) so I bought all the above dungeons off him. Games Workshop had stopped selling TnT stuff as it was becoming more of a ‘house’ store selling GW branded productions, so this was my last chance to pick up some TnT stuff.
I kept all the TnT books very safe and well looked after over the coming years, getting the books out every so often when something would remind me of TnT and re-running those solos again.
Despite it being maligned by certain members of the gaming community (unfairly, for whatever reason) TnT has had a big influence on me and my gaming over the years which formed the basis of ‘The Fantasy Traveller’ articles, where I’ve married Classic Traveller into an FRPG format. Despite the limitations of the solo format, I for one am grateful for the writers and Flying Buffalo for providing me with many hours of enjoyment and the most important things for me in gaming – ‘fun’ and ‘humour’!