15 September 2017

D&D -vs- T&T: Magic

Or, Are Healing Potions Too D&D?

Being a comparison of the original 1974 boxed set edition of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) and Tunnels & Trolls 5th Edition (T&T).

In the D&D rules we have a Vancian-based magic system. For those of you unfamiliar with Jack Vance's writings? Let us simply say this is a fire and forget system. The magic-user (MU) studies his spells, imprinting and storing the magick in his mind. This potential is then unleashed when the MU speaks the final part of the spell with accompanying hand gestures. Releasing the spell energy removes that spell from the MU's mind. More powerful spells take longer to both memorize and cast, and take up more room in the MU's mind. With experience, the magic-user can hold great numbers of spells in memory, making him a dangerous foe. This is balanced by the fact he cannot cast a spell he does not have memorized, as well as his relative weakness in combat (though a first level fighter in melee with a 9th level magic-user would still be candy).

T&T magic is based upon some kind of psi-factor [...] all powered by an inner strength. Any spells the wizard knows can be cast at will, provided the wizard has enough Strength (changed to WIZ in later editions) to do so. STR can be exceeded but run the risk of draining the wizard and killing him. Wizards in this system are also poorer in combat, but do have the advantage of being able to wear armor and carry a shield if they so desire.

Though it is a rather useless comparison, magic spells in D&D go as high as 6th level and eventually up to 9th in later editions. T&T's magic goes to level 20. Because the two systems are so different, however, this comparison is of little value. We mention it here because the question has arisen an number of times in discussions of the two rules sets.

Both systems allow spell-casters to research and write new spells. MUs must have a spellbook to relearn any cast spells, or to change their memorized spells to a different one. Wizards either know a spell or do not, though they can learn new spells by studying another wizard's spell books.

Wizards carry staves as an aid to spell-casting (termed a focus in later editions) in the T&T universe, the better the staff the better the magic effects of the cast spells. A wand may be used for the same purpose. D&D MUs use staves for combat. Magical D&D staves are like giant wands, holding specific spell casting abilities and a finite number of charges.

The oddest difference we have found? T&T has no potions! Obviously these would be a simple matter to add to the rules. In point of fact, out of curiosity we checked the most recent edition of the game: Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls. We found potions and rules for them included.

T&T spells aren't fixed in power, they can be increased in effect when cast by a wizard of higher level. Additionally, as a wizard increases in level he can cast spells of lower level more easily. This is shown by requiring less STR to cast them. A staff also reduces STR needed to cast spells, though no spell can ever be reduced to less than 1 point cost.

10 September 2017

D&D -vs- T&T: Community

Or, What's That Crawling Up From Under The Bridge? 

I've been struck by the stark comparison between the D&D and T&T online communities. Granted, the community for the former is (comparatively) huge. More numbers means a larger sampling of populations and greater opportunity for outliers. Additionally, my time with the T&T community is far more limited than D&D. Still ...

I have to say that I've seen a lot of ridiculous arguments over the years about D&D. I recall when Gary was alive and, both in person and online, always encouraged folks to shape the game to their vision. The one thing that would set him off in a big hurry was somebody arguing rules with him, the dreaded rules lawyer. He despised gamers who did that. He frequently answered rules questions by asking how the questioner handled it and his usual reply was "sounds good." I never had the pleasure of meeting Dave Arneson but his approach to the questions I saw him field online was similar.

But now? Both these innovators have left us. Those among us who actually played D&D back in the day (as current OD&D revivalists often term it) are being increasingly shouted down by persons who weren't around then. Of course, this doesn't prevent them from informing us and the gaming community at large how it was really done back then or even what Gary (or Dave) actually meant when he wrote that. Often this is merely doubled down on when presented with a direct quote from the authors disproving their supposition, or contradiction to their statement by the players who were actually worked with Gygax or Arneson or regularly played in their games.

But even that isn't all of it. The so-called Old Guard representing the TSR staff of core gaming group members during the formative years of D&D's development are increasingly active in the community. Most of them are supportive of the old school gaming movement but a vocal few spend most of their time criticizing everything the fans do. In these cases (no, I won't ID them) the critique has ranged from snarky but somewhat helpful up to strident and outright taunting. The latter is becoming more frequent as the same arguments about this, that, and the other thing get repeated or old threads revived.

I can't help but contrast this with my interactions with T&T fanbase and still active folks who brought that game to reality. I've only interacted with author Ken St. Andre on non-gaming related issues on Facebook but he seems to very approachable. I just haven't known enough about his rules to be able to even cogently frame a question about them. Same with Flying Buffalo notable Rick Loomis. I was looking for an out-of-print edition of the game and Loomis was very helpful. I also interacted with him during the dT&T Kickstarter and, again, he was approachable and willing to answer all my questions.

Finally, this brings me to the one major remaining forum for T&T gamers: the TrollBridge. As a neophyte I have been online and asking questions I'm sure they've heard many times before. Not a single person has given any trouble over these inquiries. Every time my question has been answered in a way that didn't make me feel like something scraped off the bottom of one's shoe for asking. I appreciate this. I don't feel I'm thin-skinned but I have grown weary of the constant bickering over playing a freaking game that bedevils the D&D community.

09 September 2017

What's The Difference? The Various T&T Editions

This list was swiped from the T&T Trollbridge Forum in response to a poster's questions. The answer was written by Aramis of Erak and can be read here. I've edited his words slightly, so my apologies to Aramis.

4E and earlier have lower dice for monsters and weapons, and Rogues are limited to 7th level. Original Monsters! Monsters! (M!M!) is 4E variant. Citizens originate in M!M!... but are different in 7.0.

5.0 is the 25 year baseline. M!M! 2E is 5E subset, but with only 2 types: Monster and Citizen. Shorter spell list. Loads of monster races with special abilities.

5.5 adds options in the back: skills ala Mercenaries, Spies, & Private Eyes; an additional statistic (WIZ); with the optional SPD stat being made a prime; TARO for stats.

6.0 is a fan job. it's got loads of little differences.

7.0 is essentially a redesign from first principles. Same 8 stats as 5.5 and same basic combat mechanics as 5.X. Spells differ in casting procedures, level requisites, and spell lists. Adds a different skill mechanic, Ken's Talent system. Types are: Warrior, Wizard, Specialist Wizard (4 sub-types), Rogue, Leader, Ranger, Citizen. The Citizen here is different, and less limited than the M!M! one. There is an implied extra type (monster), but that's a debate for another day.

7.5 nerfs the talents, and lessens the experience costs. It's better edited than 7.0, but is essentially the same except for talents and experience costs.

05 September 2017

D&D -vs- T&T: Classes & Races

Or, Magic-Users Still Can't Use Swords!

Being a comparison between original edition Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) and 5th Edition Tunnels & Trolls (T&T).


D&D: Fighting-Man or Fighter
T&T Warriors

Note: these two classes are very similar. This is hardly surprising, since an adventurer with a bad attitude and a sharp blade is a basic and fairly easy archetype to render into most game systems. In D&D a fighting-man's skill is illustrated by his slightly higher and more favorable hit dice progression. T&T takes a slightly different approach, instead allowing armor to provide double the protection when worn by a warrior (and only for warriors). I believe both methods serve their respective systems well. In both systems fighters are unable to cast spells but can fight with pretty much anything they can get their hands on, though T&T does further limit weapon selection with minimum strength and dexterity requirements.

D&D: Magic-User
T&T: Wizard

Note: members of both professions should have high Intelligence, both are limited in weapon selection. Magic works differently in T&T, being psi-based rather than Vancian. Wizards in T&T face limitations on the power of magic spells they may cast based upon their IQ score, a feature added to D&D with the first supplement (Greyhawk). Unlike any pre-1983 edition of D&D the T&T rules also factors strength and dexterity into spell-casting, and allow the wizard class use of armor and shield. Wizards gain the use of the best magic staves, though this ability is shared with the Warrior-Wizard.

D&D: Thief (from Supplement I: Greyhawk)
T&T: Rogue

Note: The rogue is much more in the vein of "almost wizard" per Lieber's Gray Mouser than the Thief. Though limited as to accumulation of magic spells and capped with regard to spell power he can employ, the rogue is very much a spell-caster in T&T. Rogues, unlike thieves, have no rules-based thieving skills listed, just a stated mandate to "live best by their wit and luck."

D&D: Elf
T&T: Warrior-Wizard

Note: the elf, as originally presented, was a rather odd character. He could be a mage or a fighter for an adventure, but not both simultaneously. As written an elf serving as fighter was only a fighter and unable to cast spells, and elf magic-users could not wear armor or use swords. Whereas the warrior-wizard is both classes at once. They suffer some limitations to both classes, but overall function rather effectively. By the time 5th Edition T&T (the rules used for this comparison) come about, the W-W is limited by ability score requirements. The W-W gains a bonus, smaller than that for full warriors, to their armor protection.

Further note the similarities between the rogue and the warrior-wizard classes. The rules go so far as to state the latter is what the former tended to evolve into (case 2.11.3), but as a tyro to these rules it seems to me both still have their places. I would play a rogue as the traditional sneak and the warrior-wizard as the mage filled with battle-lust (Tenser, anyone?).


D&D: humans, dwarves (and gnomes), elves,  hobbits (renamed halflings in later editions)
T&T: humans, dwarves, elves, fairies, hobbits, leprechauns (and weres)

Note: while technically OD&D doesn't have "race as class" one sees in other pre-1983 editions of the game, it does practically. Dwarves can be fighting-men, as can hobbbits; while both are limited in progression. Neither can be anything else. Elves are an odd mix of fighting-man and magic-user almost everyone house-rules. Only humans can be anything.

On the other hand, in T&T every race, with the exception of leprechaun, can be any class. Even the warrior-wizard, though tough to qualify for, is attainable by all. Players can be were-creatures, werebears and werewolves are specifically mentioned, and allowed to remain under player control. Leprechauns are excepted because of their size rather than race or class, leaving a loophole open for a clever player to exploit. At least I, as referee, reward clever play and I assume most others do as well.

In both systems, fighters are unable to cast spells, while wizards are poor at martial skills (though T&T's wizard has a bit of an edge in combat over the D&D magic-user). T&T has no cleric class though the wizard does have healing and curative magicks. Both have a stealthy class, and both have a combination of warrior/wizard, though the D&D version is rather clumsily implemented and (some feel) poorly explained.*

Humans: are the baseline in D&D, able to be a member of any class. T&T uses a similar idea, but rather than the various special powers such as infravision or secret door spotting, this game instead adjusts the ability scores per race chosen. Humans use ability scores as rolled, all other kindred (the T&T equivalent of the demi-humans) adjust some scores upward and others downward. Since ability scores play a much greater roll in every aspect of T&T, this represents some significant differences in the races.

*I've never had an issue with it. It is sparsely explained but what one needs is there. It's just that most folks don't like the explanation. Particularly in light of the PC Class the elf eventually evolved into. 

30 August 2017

D&D -vs- T&T: Character Generation

Or, How To Roll Yer Own! 

Being a comparison of original Dungeons & Dragons (1974 Boxed Set) with 5th Edition Tunnels & Trolls (T&T).

D&D: polyhedral dice, based on platonic solids
T&T: six-siders only, but bring a bunch of them

Note: and here we encounter the first notable difference between the two systems, the dice. However one may feel about this design decision, in 1975 when T&T was published (and 1 year after D&D was published) d6 were a lot easier to come by than polyhedral dice.

Character Record
Both: use 3 x 5 index cards, though D&D quickly moved away from that model.

Ability Scores
D&D: strength, intelligence, wisdom, constitution, dexterity, charisma
T&T: strength, intelligence, luck, constitution, dexterity, charisma

Note: at first? The only difference is a seemingly cosmetic one. Instead of wisdom T&T uses luck, and T&T refers to all 6 abilities as prime attributes. As one reads this section of rules, however, more differences arise. Abilities, all of them, can and will change as the character gains experience. Ability scores also figure much more prominently into T&T's rules system.

  • Strength: determines how much you can carry and which weapons you can wield, and depleting your strength to zero kills your character. 
  • Intelligence: used similarly to D&D to determine number of languages spoken. It also determines how high a level of spell your wizard can cast, a feature added to OD&D with the release of its first supplement. 
  • Luck: used for a lot of saving rolls. Luck's D&D counterpart, wisdom, would come to modify saving throws in later editions of the game though not in OD&D. 
  • Constitution: these are basically your hit points in T&T and if they reach zero? Better grab 3d6 and get to rolling. 
  • Dexterity: used similarly to D&D to modify missile combat rolls. But, see below. 
  • Charisma: similar to D&D's charisma, though negative scores are possible. 
  • Strength + Luck + Dexterity = "Adds" and Adds are added to your combat rolls, though it's worthy of note adds can also be negative so one may wonder why they weren't termed "mods." 

Starting Gold
Both: use 3d6 x 10

Both: short list of general supplies, somewhat longer list of weapons.

Note: T&T weapon damage is variable by type and weapons have both a strength and dexterity requirement; you can also poison your weapons if you wish (poison is not "save or die"). The best armor in T&T is out of reach of starting players.

D&D: Law, Neutral, Chaos
T&T: no alignment

Note: no alignment sheds a lot of role-playing baggage with regard to D&D's wargaming roots. 

D&D: human, dwarf (and gnome), elf, hobbit
T&T: human, dwarf, elf, fairy, hobbit, leprechaun, were-creatures

Note: T&T also includes height and weight charts for your player-character.

D&D: fighting-man, magic-user, cleric
T&T: warrior, wizard, rogue, warrior-wizard

Note: OD&D has no thief but added one quickly with the release of its first supplement. T&T has no cleric but never added one to its rules. T&T's warrior-wizard is much improved over D&D's closest analog, the elf, being able to function in both classes simultaneously with most of the benefits of both. Unfortunately, the warrior-wizard is difficult to qualify for.

D&D: each class has its own progression chart
T&T: every class uses the same chart, and adds to their abilities with progression

Next up: more on player classes, with additional information about the races.

29 August 2017

D&D -vs- T&T: The Basics

A Series Of Essays

This is the first in a series of articles comparing the 1974 boxed set of Dungeons & Dragons and 5th Edition Tunnels & Trolls, abbreviated hereafter respectively as D&D and T&T. Your comments are invited, but be advised I'm not seeking a debate as to which is better or which edition of either I should be using. I'm merely curious as to how the basic systems compare.

As an aside, I stated yesterday I'd begin with classes but, upon review of both texts? It seems to me comparing the introductions and basics of the systems in the order as presented in T&T was thematically a better choice. Please forgive this editorial decision. A comparison of classes will be put off until later. 

A basic thought I've heard about 'net seems to hold true upon closer inspection:

D&D was a fantasy RPG written by wargamers to appeal to wargamers, while T&T was written for persons not otherwise drawn to wargames but loved fantasy literature and fairy tales. 

If this proves true? I may continue to explore this theme throughout these articles.

The Basics

In a nutshell, D&D arose from a couple of ideas. Wargames can include fantasy elements, these fantastic bits gave rise to the idea of heroes of similar heroic stature, and the players not wanting their heroes to die an ignoble death. In time and through the efforts of Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax this thought went from interesting idea for a continuing wargame campaign to an ongoing fantasy campaign. A game in which characters not only continue from game to game, but have a history and personality. When D&D started spreading to non-wargamers it inspired a librarian in Arizona named Ken St. Andre. Ken liked the idea but had two big problems with D&D as written. First, it was too expensive. Having lived in this time, the author will attest that $10 was a lot of money. Second, it was too complicated and contained parts he didn't like. So, like a lot of gamers then and now? He rewrote the rules to suit himself.

St. Andre spends a few sentences in his introduction defending his game about being a rewritten D&D. He states T&T can no more be an imitation of that other game than Chevrolet is a derivative of Ford. I'll leave you, gentle reader, to decide the merits of that statement. For my part? It doesn't matter if it's a derivative or not, I think he wrote a great game and it most assuredly has a distinct personality apart from D&D.

So ... was it cheaper? Yes, his first few printings were being sold for $2. Was it simpler? I believe so, yes. Of course, simplicity has its own cost and much is left for the potential game master (GM) to do for himself. This not a mark against T&T, the first edition of D&D did likewise, though the latter did include more information to get the new referee started on his campaign.

Playing The Game

Not much difference in this section! Create a dungeon or tunnel, key it with monstrous encounters and treasure. Of course, the creation of a campaign and starting scenario is how all role-playing games start.

Both games tell briefly the overall scope of what the referee or GM is taking on. What will be needed to begin the first session of play follows. Both include encouragement to use one's imagination and include notes on recommended party size.

Then, of course, we come to character creation. Here is where the games begin to diverge a bit more. Character Generation will be covered in the next essay in this series.

28 August 2017

First Thoughts About Tunnels & Trolls

I started playing Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) way back when it was first published in the mid-70's. I lived in a small town Texas lacking even the rather limited means of communicating with fans of games and gaming in other states available back then. As a result, T&T escaped my notice for a long time. When I asked around nobody really knew anything about it. When I got to college another gamer I met told me it was just a badly written knock-off of D&D. I was firmly embedded in the TSR camp at that time and let it go at that.

Then years later I joined the Kickstarter for Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls. Maybe it was a renewed interest in a game I knew nothing about, maybe it was just a desire to support a company that helped promote the gaming hobby back in the day. At any rate? Deluxe Edition was a lot of book so I decided to read the 5th edition of the game first (available as a PDF from DriveThru et al.).

So in the following weeks I'll be presenting a series of posts regarding my thoughts about T&T. These will often be given in comparison with D&D, specifically the 1974 boxed set edition of the game though I may reference some of the supplements and other pre-1983 editions of the game.

Right away one may be excused for thinking "but is really fair to compare a later edition of T&T with the first edition of D&D? Shouldn't you compare the first editions of both?" This isn't really a comparison with a desire to find which is the best game. I'm really no more interested in game rules wars than I am D&D edition wars. I'm just interested in how the D&D I'm most familiar with compares to the version of T&T many players of same like the best.

You, fellow gamer, are invited to share this journey of discovery with me. I'll discuss a variety of observations and opinions about both sets of rules, you're invited to join in if you so desire. First post will be tomorrow and will cover player-character classes. I'll try to post once per week until I've covered the T&T 5th edition rules from cover to cover.

Until tomorrow!