10 September 2015

Return of Tunnels and Trolls

The new book!
A couple of weeks ago I attended the release party for the new deluxe edition of Tunnels & Trolls, this volume appropriately named Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls. It was held at Game Depot in Tempe, AZ, and it was a packed house.

The creator of the game, Ken St. Andre was there, and he even ran an adventure which I participated in, and died early in; nine spears through the chest. That is what happens on an important critical failure, but I was happy to die because it was such an old school death. I love to play in games ran by creators, because you get to see how they envisioned their game to be played, which may differ to the way you play it (who is right: both of you).

Ken is a legend in RPGs. He wrote the first real competitor to D&D (T&T was published in 1975), but took a radically different approach. Instead of lots of rules, he made his simple and based on the idea is that the players are at the table to have fun. It also allows a wide variety of character types. In my group there was a dwarf, human, faerie (who was very small), Minotaur, elf, and a couple of gnomes.  Other races in the book cover just about everything, including FREAKIN DRAGONS!

The spell system is also different from the fire and forget D&D style. This one is based on power points and a large selection of spells, many with strange and funny names. Spells include "Poor Baby" for healing, "Glue-You" to stick opponents in place, and "Breaker Breaker" which has nothing to do with CB radio; it is a spell to break ordinary weapons.

That is Ken St. Andre. The one with the hat.
While continuing to refine the T&T game (without complicating it), Ken also wrote one of the first sci-fi games, Stormbringer for Chaosium, and even a few novels. All this while being a librarian, a job from which he recently retired after thirty-six years of service.

What is cool about this game is that it is really an old school game. It is not a game that plays like we think old school games played (like Dungeon Crawl Classics, which is a hoot in itself, or D&D 5e, which they say is old school but it is nothing like the old D&D), it is the same game from 1975 but with added coolness. So if you are looking for old school, check out the new book at your FLGS.

For more information, see the Tunnels and Trolls page.

02 September 2015

Off Topic: Pillars of Eternity, the next best thing to actual role laying

Feel the awesomeness!
I have been busy on an important project the past week: finding out why babies are being born without souls. As I investigate the mystery of the hollowborn a conspiracy is unearthed that is both complex and strewn with tragedy. I am talking about a computer game called Pillars of Eternity.

Now, I would normally not talk about CRPGs, but I will make an exception here because it is so full of character and story it is almost as good as playing on a tabletop, minus the social interaction. There have been few computer games that have come this close to capturing that feeling, perhaps only the series from BioWare from 1998 to 2002 did that during four of the best years ever in CRPG history. This series included these classics: Baldur's Gate I & II, Icewind Dale I & II, and Planescape Torment. In these games you lead a party of up to six adventurers made up a D&D characters on a quest with a strong main story and hundreds of side quests.

Wizard casting in the midst of battle.
That is exactly what Pillars of Eternity is, a clone of the look and feel of those old games (with sharper graphics) mixed with a fantastic story. While it is not based on D&D rules (it has its own original system), if you played the old games you are going to master it in a half hour. What is better about it is that the creators fixed a lot of annoying little things in the old game, such as the old inventory systems that made sharing items harder among characters, inventory not big enough, and stores that return items that you accidentally sold without a massive markup. It also adds crafting of potions and enchantment of armor and weapons in the least convoluted system yet in these games. Bravo! Also included is a stronghold for you to capture, clear out a multi-level dungeon, and rebuild to give you advantages in game.

The inventory screen.
The best new feature is reputation. Your choices in game affect how different groups look at you. Decide not to kill a person one group wants killed, you may drop in reputation with that group, but get a good reputation with the person's group. You reputation affects the game, closing some choices, opening others. For instance, I needed to get one of three groups to assist me in getting to a conference so I can warn the Duc (sic). Two of the groups was shaky with, the other I am a hero to. Because I am a hero they offered to help me for the honor of my representing them, instead of having to do something to cajole the other groups. An interesting point is that you can get a real negative reputation in a group, and that will be noticed by their rivals.

The World of Eora (click to make big)
It is out now for Windows, OS X, and Linux, with an XBOX One release coming later. Also, the first expansion was just released. It looks big and it is only part one of a two part story. Yum.

You can get it for Windows from Steam.

Now, for me, I must return for a secret meeting in Defiance Bay.