Saturday, September 24, 2011

Further Thoughts on the Viability of the Tunnels & Trolls System For Group Play

I got some really thoughtful responses to yesterday's post, and now I'm here with a need to elaborate on my previous thoughts (and possibly repeat myself).

Tunnels & Trolls, as written, assumes that the rules will be used in "Group Play".  Most of the rulebook is geared to group play.

The saving roll mechanism introduced in later editions needs a GM's interpretation as to is applicability and use.  It's only useful in group play.

Most of the spells in T&T assume group play.  Heck, the vast majority of solos don't allow for spell casting - generally speaking, they need to have a spell matrix to refer to allow for most spell use.

Solo play is a warrior's game.  Which means you can chuck about half of the rulebook if you're going solo.  Actually, solo play needs nothing more then the T&T Free Quickstart rules.  Ever.  Seriously, who's going to make it past 5th level playing HONESTLY through T&T solos?

It's not that it doesn't work well as a solo game.  T&T EXCELS as a solo game.  It's just as viable as a group play rpg, but that part often gets overlooked by the solo aspect.

Flying Buffalo is the major culprit here, as it took square aim at the solo market years ago and pretty much defined T&T as a solo game to the RPG masses.  It may have good business decision at the time, but the long term repercussion is that a game written for group play was never truly supported for group play.

Players are generally introduced to the RPG hobby by other players.  T&T as a solo game does not lend itself to introducing others to the hobby.  The 5e rules are pretty poorly organized, and probably wouldn't make for a great game to introduce new players without some experienced handholding, but the 7.5e rules are much clearer to understand (even if T&T enthusiasts like to argue the pros and cons between editions, in the end the gameplay is nearly identical) and would make for a nice introduction to the hobby.

Tunnels & Trolls could be a tool to add players to the RPG fold in general.  I'm glad to see that there will be a steady release of GM adventures for T&T in the near future.  Most of the currently available ones are on the "tho shalt not patronize list".  I hope Peryton and some other publishers can bring some fresh life to an enjoyable game system.


  1. I've only ever used T&T for group play -- and believe me, I've used it a lot. As you've written-- it's by mere serendipity that Flying Buffalo have hit the solo niche in the fantasy rpg market, but T&T had obviously been written by Ken St André as a "normal" fantasy rpg in the first place.

  2. I remember when I first saw T&T on shelves in the nineties, I ignored it since it was a game for "losers" who didn't have a group. Now, without a steady group for long I shake my head the ironies of that line of thinking.

    It is indeed true that T&T is designed for group play, and that FBI have not really supported that style of play much.

    When I had my last steady group who was interested in fantasy, we played T&T as an old school dungeoneering group play game. It worked like a charm, go figure...

  3. AD, I know the irony ;)

    I'm pretty much a T&T completist, and the lack of non-solo adventures in my collection is sad...


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