Sunday, December 30, 2012

Tunnels & Trolls: Actual Play

Last night, we played Session 1 of my Tunnels & Trolls campaign on Google Plus.  The following is a summary of what occurred.

I'd helped the players build characters in accordance with my house rules below, with the added conditions that they should come up only with a physical description and personality for their character, with no background information or names.  I also told them to purchase armor and weapons only for their characters.  Any extra money would disappear, but all necessary gear and so forth would be provided.  I find that characters usually like having more money to spend on armament, so we didn't have a lot of trouble with that condition.

The game opened with all three characters waking up.  I informed them that they had total biographical amnesia, and did not know who they were, where they were, how they had got there, etc.  Each character was dressed in sturdy garments and leather boots, all of which appeared to be well-fitting but of standard issue, and never worn before.  Even their boot soles showed no signs of wear whatsoever.  They each had two large belt pouches and a backpack, also of good workmanship and with no identifying insignia at all.  Their gear consisted of:

1. A one-gallon waterskin, full.
2. Fourteen days of rations, in the form of flavored protein cubes about two inches on a side.  They come in a variety of flavors, which the players were free to define for themselves.
3. Three chemical glow-sticks, fairly large and high-powered.  I informed them they would produce light equivalent to a lantern or a little better, and were rated to last six hours.
4.  1 magnesium road flare.
5.  And one special bonus item, which they rolled for.  One character got a notebook and mapping kit, two others rolled the same result and gained lockpick sets.

At this point the players asked a number of questions.  I confirmed that their characters knew what the protein cubes and light sticks were, and that they had a modern understanding of the sciences appropriate to their intelligence score.  I also confirmed for them that their equipment was medieval in character, consisting of shields, swords, whatever they had purchased.  One character closely examined his steel cap, and was curious if it was medieval in style or like a modern army helmet.  I told him it looked pretty much like something someone in the 14th or 15th century might have worn, but on inspection he could tell it wasn't hand-forged, and had instead been machined.

I actually like this kind of thing, because it shows they're paying attention.  And I'm typically fairly careful to have an internal logic to my campaign worlds, which is susceptible to examination and inference.

They moved on to their situation.  They found that they had been laying on a stone floor, surrounded by a thirty foot diameter copper circle set into the surface of the stone.  It had no arcane sigils, and didn't produce any energy field or other dangerous effects when a spear was nudged across it.  The circle was in the center of a forty foot across square dais, which itself was in the center of a cruciform room.  The room was one hundred feet across by one hundred feet across at the widest points, and was a square with four 20 by 20 areas "cut out" of each of the corners.  It was one hundred feet high, and above that was a huge glass or crystal dome surrounded by inaccessible galleries or balconies of some kind.  The red light of sunset was streaming through the dome, enough to dimly illuminate the room.  By watching the shadows climb the wall and marking their orientation, the adventurers were able to approximate the cardinal directions.  Clever, clever adventurers.  I like seeing that kind of resourcefulness.  (In a later post, I should discuss my own personal biased thoughts on the changing character of fantasy fiction.)

There were some simple but polished stone furnishings (tables, chairs, couches) and bas-relief murals on the walls.  There was a small, partial breach in the northern wall that could have been cleared with application of sufficient muscle, probably allowing passage to the other side.  Other than that there were two doors, one in the northwest cut-out area and one in the southeast.  Both doors were barred from the PC's side.

The characters speculated that they might be the victim of some kind of Saw or Cube type of scenario, and that there might be cameras watching them.  They couldn't find any cameras.  The area was totally silent except for any noises they made themselves, and it was all spotlessly clean and free of any sign of habitation. So, they decided there was nothing for it but to explore and look for a chance to escape, or at least determine who they were and why they were there.

They eschewed attempting to clear the partial breach in the Northern wall, after examining it and concluding that it had probably been caused by something striking the other side with great force.  They reasoned whatever could have done this was likely very strong, and might still be there.  

They listened at the other two doors, and examined them in turn (they re-barred the one they were not examining.  They found that the cut-out areas were sort of like towers internal to the structure, and went up to the same height of approximately one hundred feet before hitting a ceiling.  The northwest one did, anyway.  It had a ladder of steel rungs set into the wall, descending down through a manhole in the stone floor that went down maybe thirty or thirty-five feet, and up to a height of twenty feet where it simply stopped.  The southeast tower also had a ladder, although its ceiling was only twenty feet off the ground, and the adventurers could not tell what might be above that.  It had manholes in the ceiling and the floor, with a similar ladder.  Both manholes were sealed with a thick steel plate, that on examination apparently slid in from the side.  Neither had any apparent way to open them.  The adventurers then descended the manhole in the northwest tower.

Down below, they found a dungeon that was just as clean as the arrival chamber.  It had neat, square stone corridors that were also made of polished, cut stone bricks.  The doors were mostly dungeon standard wooden planks with iron reinforcements, which were typically not locked or stuck.  The rooms usually had a small vent at ground level somewhere, about a foot high with an iron barred grating.  They were drawing a very small amount of air, detectable if one put a hand over them.  

The corridors twisted and split in an apparently random fashion (as is all too often the case!) but the rooms were generally at least 20x20 feet in size, and were used for storage.  They found rooms full of chests of cloth and sewing supplies, a room full of preserved bamboo stalks suitable for construction or other uses, a few rooms with massive stockpiles of preserved food, a game room full of various dice, card, and board games, and a billiard's table.  That room did contain some treasure, as there was one Go set made of marble and silver inlay, with pieces of polished ebony and ivory.  It was valuable, but also relatively heavy and delicate to transport.  They resolved to later obtain some cloth from the appropriate storage room to pack it in so that it wouldn't be scratched in transport.  Not that they knew where they would take it!

They had to fight a few creatures during their explorations.  They were attacked by a swarm of voracious beetles the size of an adult hand in the cloth room, which had infested one of the chests.  They didn't like the look of that fight, and so they distracted the beetles with a Cloud of Dust spell while they fled and shut the door behind them.  That seemed to work. They also fought two pairs of skeletons, and were assaulted by tiny wooden men that burst free from one of the grates and "came at them like a spider monkey."

The tiny wooden men were unnaturally strong and resilient, and were almost as hard to beat as the skeletons were (I personally think that monsters in T&T tend to be a bit too tough, although maybe that's just part of the vibe, but I wanted these to be dangerous, comparable to goblins.)  In any event, they looked like the poseable wooden mannequins that artists use.  The fights weren't too hard, but they gave the players a chance to familiarize themselves with how combat works in T&T, and get a feel for when it's appropriate to use spells and when it isn't necessary.

The party reasoned that the mannequins were maybe the cleaning crew, and that they used the system of vents and grates to get around.  The players also noted that they had seen no signs of anything living or intelligent (other than the beetles) and were also seeing signs that the complex they were in might be quite large.  This seemed to creep them out just a tiny bit, which I also enjoyed a lot.

They returned to the arrival chamber to rest for an hour or two and regain their Spirit Points (used to cast spells), which seemed wise because they could bar the entrances.  While there, they did some further exploration.  One character searched the stone furniture, and found a small slot on the bottom side of a stone couch that had a very large, very complicated steel key.  Another checked the murals.  The eastern one pictured a tornado destroying an army of misshapen monsters, the southern a meteor storm destroying a burning forest, the western a kraken in the ocean, and the northern a mine entrance going into the side of a mountain face, in a snowy forest.  One player immediately said, "air, earth, fire, and water."  I gave him 50 bonus AP on the spot.  I hadn't expected anyone to catch it that quickly.  

The party explored a little more after the break, and encountered a trap, which dealt damage but inflicted no casualties.  I think that a little damage and inconvenience from traps is healthy for an adventurer.

So, a few final notes:

The players were engaged, interested, and willing to examine their surroundings and try to make inferences from what they found.  They made at least a few clever guesses and observations, some of which were correct and some of which were not.  But all of them were reasonable, and that's what I look for.

I may need to tinker a little more with the way I'm awarding XP.  Right now I'm giving double XP for any Spirit used, and double XP for monsters.  I'm giving 5x XP for most saving rolls, which I think I may need to adjust.  I want the PCs to advance quickly, and be able to buy at least a couple attribute points after every session.  However, the proportions might need to be changed a bit.  I'm thinking of drawing down the SR awards to 1x, 2x, and 5x depending on the importance of the SR instead of 1x, 5x, and 20x.  I think I might also triple instead of double monster XP, and also maybe triple or quintuple instead of double the XP from spending Spirit to cast spells.

The reason for that is that spellcasting actually carries its own penalties, in the form of lost Strength, and so making it more attractive in terms of XP gain makes it a more interesting choice.  Obviously, I wouldn't grant XP for random spellcasting done outside of an adventuring context, but the PCs are kind of stuck where they are, so almost anything they do might have some risk attached.  If only the risk of suddenly being attacked in their supposed safe room, and finding they have no Spirit and much reduced Strength.

The problem with SRs is that big ones might represent too much of a windfall.  If someone DAROs and gets a 19 on the die, on an SR3, and it's a Stressful SR, then they might get nearly 300AP right there, which is an individual award.  If I reduce the AP gain from SRs and increase the AP gain from combat, where awards are divided evenly among the party, then there's still an incentive to have your PC take some of the risks, but the characters should stay overall closer together in terms of advancement.

I've also considered awarding AP only for failed SRs, which tickles my imagination but is probably not actually a good rule.  Then, success is its own reward, and AP are a balm for failure.  If the PC survives, anyway.

Comments, welcome, especially by anyone who was a player!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Tunnels & Trolls, House Rules IV

So, this will hopefully be my last House Rules post for a while, because my fingers are getting sore.  In this post, I intend to finally address Talents and Languages, which I've been avoiding.


Talents are a matter of philosophical importance for me, because I essentially dislike adding exclusionary abilities to Fantasy RPGs, but I also like to let characters be better or worse at different things depending on factors other than raw Attribute scores.  So, my preference is that a character can accomplish basic tasks in any field of endeavor with an SR of appropriate level, and to allow Talents to give additional bonuses and special options.  Under my own personal Talent rules, there are lists of defined Talents.  The use of a rating for the talent that gives bonuses to the attribute used in SRs, ala 7.5, is not used with the following rules.  I also intend to arrange Talents into something like Trees, which shouldn't be very deep because characters don't get a lot of them.  

Characters have one Talent per character level.  NPCs and Monsters may have more or less, of course, because their level isn't really tracked and they may well be concentrating on pursuits other than fighting and spellcasting.  On the other hand, NPCs often have lesser versions of these talents.  A village blacksmith might be able to perform all the functions of his profession, without having the breadth and depth of a PC with Metalcrafting.

I may refer to a Tool Bonus in these sections.  A Tool Bonus is given in a situation where a character has tools that are of a quality and appropriateness beyond what would typically be required for a given SR, and thus make the task easier.  The character may roll their Tool Bonus dice along with the 2d6 for their SR, and discard back down to two dice, thus increasing the likelihood of high rolls or a DARO.  If they do DARO, the tool bonus does not apply to subsequent rolls.  Tool Bonuses should be limited to one or two dice, as the character's competence should always be the major deciding factor in any endeavor.

Crafting Talents

The following are used to build things.  Any character may create simple tools and so forth with an appropriate SR, a character with a Talent is able to do more things, and do them more quickly and efficiently.

Woodcrafting: The character may go beyond the simple and create functioning wooden weapons such as truly sturdy staves, quality bows, or similar.  They may create finely wrought things of wood, such as puzzle boxes or intricate carving, and are able to find, make, and apply good lacquer and paints.

Metalcrafting:  This is the hardest to do without the talent.  The character can tool up to and operate forges and anvils, and make metal goods, weapons, and armor. 

Jewelcrafting:  This includes gemcutting and the crafting of small and intricate bits of precious metals, and similar.

Textiles: Cloth and leather goods, armor and fine clothing.  Includes elements of fashion design.  A high SR would probably allow the creation of clothing that is both ballroom-appropriate and gives an armor rating equivalent to Leather.

Technology: This allows the creation of various items of science-fantasy technology.  It will almost always require the acquisition of rare and expensive components and tools, and probably requires the use of other crafting techniques in order to alter them or build from scratch.  The GM should require Science talents for its use, depending on what is to be built.

Alchemy: This allows the identification and creation of various potions and other substances.  Some NPCs with this Art are not actual spellcasters, although the creation of some potions does require the Wizardry attribute.

Advanced Materials: The character can perform any other Crafting ability he has using advanced and unusual materials such as dragonhide or mithril or whatever.

Enchantment Preparation: The character can make items suitable for receiving Enchantment.  The character requires the Wizardry attribute.  

Engineering: The character can design, direct the construction of, or analyze fortifications, buildings, aqueducts, siege weaponry, and similar large-scale projects.  

Wizardry Talents

These Talents can only be used by those possessing a Wizardry score.

Detect Magic: This allows the character to sense the presence of strong magic within a number of feet equal to his Intelligence.  He can also identify whether an object is magical and otherwise "see" the presence of magic if it is within range and in his line of vision.  He can also sense whether a character within range and sight has a Wizardry score.

Analyze Magic: With the prerequisite of Detect Magic, the character can (with appropriate amounts of time and an SR) determine the function of magical items or enchantments, and so on and so forth.  She can also recognize a particular wizard's style of magic if she has an opportunity to study his spells.

Arcane Theory: This is an exception in that Wizardry is not required.  It is an understanding of the theory and practice of magic, and is generally useful in analyzing unknown magics or applying the principles of magic.  A character versed in Arcane Theory knows of the existence and function of many spells they may not personally know or be able to cast, and will typically know the appropriate counter to any spell they can examine.  This Talent is a prerequisite to researching or creating new spells.

Darksight: The character can see better than others in conditions of dim lighting, and can see in the dark to a range equal to his Wizardry in feet.

Adaptability: The character is highly resistant to mundane heat and cold, and does not need to make Constitution SRs in cases of freezing or very hot temperatures.  This provides no protection against Magical effects.

Dreamweaver: The character can visit others in their dreams.  The attempt requires the user to be asleep, expend ten spirit, and attempt a Wizardry SR1.  The character will be allowed to make a five minute visitation to the target, where they can converse and interact, although not cast spells on each other.  The target will realize it is a real visitation and not a normal dream, and will remember it as clearly as any waking event when they wake up.  The user can double the range or duration by increasing the level of the SR by 1. The ability will fail if the target is out of range or not asleep, but the user will under no circumstances gain any information about why the ability failed or where the target is, unless she tells him.  The target can attempt a contested IQ roll to keep the user out of her dreams.  Like any contested roll, she selects a level of the SR and resists if she makes it, the Dreamweaver can attempt to overcome the resistance with an Intelligence SR of the same level.  If the Dreamweaver becomes hostile, the dreamer may attempt to wake up with a Charisma SR3, which the Dreamweaver may not resist.

Combat Talents

Kung Fu: The possessor of this Talent has 2d and their full adds in unarmed combat, even against armored or supernatural monsters or beasts.  They should get a 1d tool bonus in attempts to break objects with their bare hands at the GM's discretion.

Hairy Eyeball: The character may gain information about the combat ability and experience of another character with an L2SR against INT.  This will also allow the character to infer the presence of typically concealed weapons and similar assets or weaknesses of the target.  Adventurers and those accustomed to rough crowds will certainly notice if someone is giving them the Hairy Eyeball.

Assassin Training: The character can competently conceal small weapons, vials of poison, etc. about their person, and is used to doing so such that their posture will not give away tells that are visible to someone giving them the Hairy Eyeball.  Finding these things about the target's person requires at least a strip search, and may not work even then.  A garrote sewn into the hem of a cloak, for example, might not be found by any typical examination.

Backstab: The character can, if they possess total surprise and enough opportunity to plan the attack, make a melee attack against a character that allows no use of the target's normal combat adds to defend.  The target may subtract his Luck from the damage dealt, rather than his armor, if his Luck is higher.

Danger Sense: The character cannot be surprised under normal circumstances (and in a fantasy world, "normal" can include invisible monsters and superhuman ninjas), and will awaken in the presence of danger.  Effectively, the character should not ever be denied his combat dice and adds merely because he could not reasonably have predicted or sensed the oncoming attack.  If he is unable to see or detect an opponent, his full HPT will still count for defense if not offense.

Adventuring Talents

Efficient Packing: The character halves the weight units of gear other than weapons or armor (So, tools, treasure, etc.) for purposes of determining how much he can carry.  This does require the character to have a backpack, pouches, etc.

Wilderness Survival: The character can forage for food successfully in any reasonable environment, and does not slow the party down while doing so.  An SR1 allows her to feed one person, and each additional level of the SR doubles the number of persons fed.  As always, the level must be selected before the dice are rolled.  She can automatically find and identify potable water in natural environs if there is any to be found.  

Tracking: Any character can attempt basic tracking with an IQ SR of appropriate level. The character with this talent can determine more information about the targets tracked, such as their numbers, composition, encumbrance, what they are up to, approximately how long ago they passed, etc.

Sailing: The character can captain and maintain a ship, teach the willing the basics of how to sail during a voyage, navigate by the stars and maps, and otherwise handle seafaring tasks.  The character also probably knows a fair amount about the business of sailing, such as the names and reputations of pirate captains, the flags of seafaring nations, and so forth.

Navigation: This character will not become lost on land or sea under normal circumstances, and can engage in professional-quality cartography and exploration.  They know the best ways to traverse any terrain.

Logistics: The character can plan and execute the necessary provisioning, equipment, and composition of merchant caravans, military companies, etc.  They can determine how long a journey will take and what risks are likely, make camping and decamping more efficient, manage supplies, and generally be of immense use to any group of persons larger than just the PCs themselves.  Because this kind of beancounting is boring as shit to play out, it is best resolved as an Intelligence SR.  A group of persons assisted by a character with logistics will always be able to overtake or outmaneuver another group of similar speed, over a long enough period of time and distance.

Science Skills

The character can take skills in any field of science they choose, which gives a science-fantasy level of understanding appropriate to the character's IQ.  This will let them use technological equipment of the appropriate types, and build it if they have the appropriate Crafting skills.  Appropriate Science skills include Physics, Chemistry, Bio-Engineering, Dimensional Dynamics, Electronic Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Materials Science, Astrophysics (this includes such outrageous topics as Dark Energy Manipulation and other practical uses), Inertia/Mass/Gravity Manipulation (this is all one field), Zero Point Energy Collectors, etc.

Other Talents

Many, many other talents are possible, even likely and suggested.  This is just how many I felt like writing up today, in order to give a good sampling of what kinds of abilities are available.  

Tunnels & Trolls: House Rules III

In this post, I'm going to talk about the various Mental Attributes, Talents, and Spellcasting.

Intelligence SRs

Intelligence is a tricky one, because for typical uses of cunning and guile I will rely on the Player's own ingenuity.  However, Intelligence is a vital attribute nonetheless.  For certain styles of play, it is arguably the most important.  Firstly, Intelligence will control the use of a great many Talents.  It covers much of what would be controlled by Wisdom in Dungeons and Dragons, and so includes the character's perceptual abilities.  Attempts to craft objects and so forth will involve a talent and an Intelligence SR.  It is also vital to the practice of magic, because it determines the damage of the most basic attack spell and is also a prerequisite for the use of higher-level magic.  Further, it determines starting languages.  A character will be able to roll on the Languages table once for each point of Intelligence over 12.  In order to give some variety, duplicate results are wasted in T&T.  In this campaign, due to the characters' affliction with Amnesia, they will be unable to recall any of their languages other than Common until they encounter them in the field, and suddenly realize they comprehend and can speak that language.

Wizardry SRs

Wizardry represents the character's psychic or mental "strength."  The vast majority of humans and other creatures simply do not have this statistic.  At character generation, they may roll it as an "extra" score, and then switch it with any other attribute which is lower.  Then, they cross it off their character sheet forever.  It is easiest to think of characters without Wizardry as being insubstantial ghosts in the Psychic realm.  They have no psychic force, and cannot touch or be touched.  There are a few spells that simply do not work on anyone without a Wizardry attribute, which will be specifically noted.  Also, there are a few simple techniques that anyone with a Wizardry attribute can learn, which do not require the use of a spell.  All PCs are assumed to know all of them.  NPCs who have a Wizardry attribute but have no training can be taught these simple techniques in a matter of days at most, less time if they have a good IQ.  Further, a character has Spirit points equal to their Wizardry attribute.  These are spent to power Spells.

Light: The Will-o-Wisp spell is replaced by this ability.  With the expenditure of one point of Spirit and a successful SR at a difficulty of the player's choice, they can make a light (attached to their person or item of power) which lasts for ten minutes.  An SR of 1 gives a light equivalent to a candle. An SR2 gives a light equivalent to a torch. An SR3 gives a light equivalent to a good lantern.  An SR4 gives a light equivalent to a bonfire.  An SR5 gives a light equivalent to strong artificial lighting, of the kind that doesn't exist in a fantasy world.  The player may add +1 to the SR to double the duration of the effect, repeatedly if they so desire, but they must select the SR and effects they wish before rolling.  So, a player could roll an SR5 to make a lantern-equivalent light of quadruple duration (40 minutes.)  

Breaching Magical Seals: A character can use their raw magical ability to breach magical seals on doors, items, enchanted portals, etc.  This costs a number of points of Spirit to attempt equal to the level of the SR that is required to breach the seal.  A simple magical locking spell might require an SR1.  A powerful forbiddance on an enchanted castle might require an SR5.

The Challenge of Wizardry: With the expenditure of 1 spirit and an SR of any level of their choosing, a character can determine whether another character or creature has a Wizardry attribute at all, and whether it is stronger or weaker than the challenging character.  The challenged character may choose to attempt a Wizardry SR of 1 level higher, and if they succeed they may choose to appear weaker than they really are (although they cannot hide that they do have a Wizardry attribute.)

Luck SRs

Luck is an actual psychic or mental attribute, which represents a character's ability to be favored by destiny.  It is not an attribute that has a real-world equivalent.  It probably has some use in gambling, although I am not certain what.  The best use of Luck is in avoiding misfortune.  A character may always choose to use a Luck SR to resist any spell, at one level higher of the SR.  So, if a spell requires a Constitution SR4 to resist, a character who is much luckier than they are tough can attempt an SR5 against Luck instead.  They must choose before rolling, and cannot then attempt the other attribute.  It is similarly useful for avoiding traps or other hazards.

Because educated people in the game world know that Luck is a thing that some people have much more of than others (much the same way some people are much stronger than others!) this does have effects on society and culture.  A sailing ship, for example, will always endeavor to have at least one "lucky" sailor, to help them avoid dangerous storms.  

Charisma SRs

Charisma represents both the character's force of will and personality.  It may or may not indicate physical attractiveness, but it does indicate a powerful personal magnetism if it is very high, or something indefinably repellent about the character if it is very low.  A character may make Charisma SRs to gain the favor of or to frighten characters or creatures.  The target may make their own Charisma SR to resist, as their own will-force opposes the character attempting to dominate the situation.  The aggressor selects an SR level to roll against.  The target should select an SR of at least equal level.  They may be able to turn the tables if they roll against an even higher SR than the initial aggressor...being made to look ridiculous in front of a crowd you hoped to impress is a serious hazard if you endeavor to sway the masses.


Spells are learned techniques for using the forces of Magic to affect the world in specific ways.  Each character begins play knowing three first-level spells, and they may learn a maximum number of spells equal to five times their current level.  Additional spells beyond those known at the start must be gained by research, fortunate happenstance, or training by other magic-capable characters.  The character may learn spells of any level, provided they meet the prerequisites.  When a spell is cast, the character must expend the appropriate number of points of Spirit, and one point of Strength.  Both are recovered over time, although the loss of Strength does affect carrying capacity and combat adds.

Points of Spirit return at the rate of one point per ten minutes, if the character does nothing more strenuous than move at a walking pace.  Points of expended Strength return with a night's rest.

There are two ways to reduce the Spirit point cost of Spells.  A character may reduce by one point the Spirit cost of a spell for each character level he has attained above the level at which the spell is being cast.  Additionally, a caster with an Item of Power (often a staff, but can be a ring or whatever) can reduce the cost of the spell by one point per his character level.  This never reduces the Spirit cost below 1.

The typical spell requires no roll to cast, although if for some reason a roll is required the caster still expends at least some Spirit and one point of Strength if the spell fails.

They may "Know" their three starting spells even if they do not have the prerequisites, but cannot cast them until their attributes are raised to the necessary level.  The following are some of the lower-level spells:

1st Level Spells: IQ 10, Dex 8

Lock Tight: This magically seals a door or object that can be opened or closed.  It costs 1 point of spirit to cast, and lasts for half an hour.  It is an SR1 to breach it open with Wizardry.  The character may double the duration or raise the SR required to open it by one level, each doubling or increase of the SR requires doubling the expenditure of Spirit, and the character must meet the prerequisites to cast higher-level spells.  Each increase of duration or SR counts as the spell being one level higher.  Breaching a magically sealed door with main Strength requires an SR three levels higher than breaching it with Wizardry.

Knock Knock: This spell opens locks, doors, etc.  It requires two points of Spirit to cast, and has no effect on magically sealed locks or objects.  It may need to be cast as a higher-level spell to open particularly complex or large locks, those enchanted in some way, or to open barred doors.  For example, raising a portcullis is probably at least an SR4.

Oh There It Is: This reveals concealed things such as pit traps or secret doors.  It requires four points of spirit to cast, and the caster must be relatively close to the area to be searched.

Take That You Fiend: This is the basic attack spell.  It has a range of 250', and inflicts damage equal to the caster's IQ.  It works only on a single creature (although the shock of the damage does count towards the party's HPT regardless), and has no effect on inanimate objects.  It has a cost of six spirit points.  It may be cast at a higher level than first.  Add half again the caster's IQ  for each additional level of the spell to determine the damage amount.  It costs six points more spirit for each level of the spell, and the caster must meet the prerequisites for higher-level spells.

Vorpal Blade: This doubles the number of dice rolled for any bladed weapon used to attack.  It lasts for one round, and costs five points of Spirit to cast.  It may be cast at a higher level than first, in which case the spell lasts for double the length of time for each increase of the level.  Additionally, the cost of the spell increases by five for each additional level.  A character may attempt to cast this spell and attack in the same turn!  This requires an IQ SR of a level equal to the level of the spell, and if it is failed the character both expends the Spirit required and loses their attack for the round.

Oh Go Away: The caster adds up his Intelligence, Charisma, and Wizardry attributes, and compares them to the Monster's MR.  If the caster's total is the greater, the monster is driven to flee.  This costs 5 points of spirit, and the GM is not obligated to inform the caster of the monster's MR beforehand.  The caster may attempt to cast the spell at a higher level.  Each increased level requires the caster to spend 5 more points of spirit, to meet the prerequisites of the higher spell level, and doubles the number of targets they may affect.  If an opponent does not have an MR, then use their Intelligence, Charisma, and Wizardry total to oppose the character's own.  

Hocus Pocus: This creates a makeshift magical implement from some object.  It costs one point of Spirit, and the object is likely to burn out and break after only a few uses.  It requires a Level 1 Luck SR to not burn out on the first use.  A fumble may cause it to explode or otherwise destroy itself in an inconvenient way.  In any event, it may channel a total amount of Wizardry equal to twice the user's IQ before becoming useless.

Alarum: This spell costs four spirit to cast, and lasts for 24 hours.  It allows the character to designate a ten-foot-radius area.  If the area is crossed or disturbed, the character receives a psychic "ping" that informs them of this.  The character has some discretion over what counts as "crossed" or "disturbed" at the time of casting, but does not know what caused the disturbance if she is "pinged."  The area or duration may be doubled by increasing the level of the spell, using the usual conditions.

Blank Script: This spell causes writing on a page to disappear or be encrypted or scrambled.  It requires 3 Spirit to cast, plus 1 for each page to be concealed.  It conceals a number of pages equal to the caster's level, and that number may be doubled by increasing the level of the spell.

Blast of [Element]: This is a wide variety of spells, each element being a separate spell.  The character must select the element when the spell is learned.  It costs 8 Spirit to cast, and deals 1d6 damage per level of the caster.  Its range is only 50 feet, but it can affect inanimate objects.

Cloud of Dust: This creates a cloud of choking particulate ten feet across.  It requires 4 Spirit to cast, and lasts for one combat round.  Targets must make an L2SR against Constitution or begin choking, which reduces their effective Strength by half for the duration of the round.  It cuts visibility in half in any case.

Cold Drunk: This spell thoroughly inebriates the target.  It requires 4 Spirit plus 1 for every full or fractional ten points of the target's constitution.  The caster selects a level of Wizardry SR at the time of casting, and rolls against it.  The spell fails if the SR fails.  If it succeeds, the target must make a Constitution SR of equal level to resist the spell.  This does not work on creatures that are for reasons of their physical characteristics unable to be intoxicated by chemical means.

Complete Drip: This spell conjures 20 gallons of water and, if the spellcaster wishes, dumps it atop a target.  It requires 3 Spirit to cast.  If the spellcaster wishes to target a creature with this effect, she should choose a level of Intelligence SR and roll against it.  A failure misses automatically.  Otherwise the target must make a Speed SR of equivalent level to dodge the spell, or a Luck SR of one level higher to somehow avoid it by fortunate happenstance.  

Copycat: The caster can emulate the voice of a target perfectly for the cost of 4 spirit.  They must have heard the target speak, this allows inflection and accent but does not allow the speaker to use languages they do not know.  It lasts for two minutes.  The duration may be doubled by increasing the level of the spell under the usual conditions.

Determine Topic: This allows the character to gain an understanding of the general topic of any single body of text or book, whether he understands the language or not.  It is akin to examining the table of contents and index.  It costs 1 point of Spirit and has a range of thirty feet.

Good Night: This spell creates magical darkness.  It has a radius of fifteen feet, which must contain the spellcaster but need not be centered on him.  It costs 3 Spirit and lasts for five minutes.  Each level increase of the spell doubles either the size or duration of the effect, using the normal rules for level increases.

Match: For a cost of 1 Spirit, the caster produces a flame from his hand or staff or whatever.  It is nearly useless in combat, but lasts for up to a minute and is very effective at lighting flammables.

Luck Charm: This spell costs 10 Spirit to cast and lasts for up to a day.  When cast, the user selects either SR to resist spells or misfortune, or SRs to use a talent or accomplish a task.  (These are two distinct and inclusive categories, and should cover all 2d6 die rolls between the two of them.) The caster can only ever have one Luck Charm in effect.  The first time after casting that the user makes the appropriate type of SR for any reason, the lower of the two die is changed to match the higher one, giving an single automatic DARO on the first roll.

Hello Sunshine: For a cost of 1 Wizardry, the Caster emits a beam of pure light from his hand or item of power, which may be shined into a creature's eyes to dazzle them for one combat round.  The caster makes a Dexterity SR at the time of casting, at a level of their choosing.  A failure misses automatically.  The target may make an SR against Speed at the same level to avoid the effect.  They may also attempt to tough it out by checking against Constitution, at an SR two levels higher.

Hotfoot: This spell affects a single target for two combat rounds, within a range of 30 feet and for a cost of 7 Spirit.  The target feels a terrible burning sensation, and is thus distracted.  The caster selects a level of Intelligence SR they must pass in order to succeed with the spell, the target must succeed on a Charisma SR of equal level to resist its effects.  Increasing the level of the spell doubles the number of targets, or the range.  Each target is rendered unable to deal Spite Damage if the spell affects them, and their HPT is also reduced by one per level the spell is cast at.

Illuminated Manuscript: This spell causes any body of writing to become visible to the caster, regardless of the lighting conditions or indeed if the caster is blind.  It costs 1 Wizardry and lasts for ten minutes.  The duration may be doubled by increasing the spell's level under the usual rules.  It does not have any effect on anyone besides the caster.

Confabulation: This spell causes a slight mental hiccup or strange idea in the mind of a single target.  It does not allow commands or the creation of illusions, but does allow the target to be convinced of some fact that is not directly against the evidence of their senses and does not fly in the face of their capacity for reason.  It can be tricky to adjudicate.  It costs 6 points of Spirit and has a range of 20 feet.  Increasing the level of the spell doubles the range or number of targets (all targets must receive the same confabulated idea.)  Upon casting, the user selects an SR level, which they must succeed against with Charisma in order for the spell to work.  The target may attempt to resist the spell with a Charisma SR of equal level.  If they fail to resist, they do not know they have been targeted by the spell.  If they do resist, they can realize what has happened with an Intelligence SR against the same level.  If the caster is within sight, and the target has a Wizardry score, they will know who attempted the spell on them.  Targets without Wizardry might infer the identity of the caster from other evidence if they are clever enough to do so.

Itch: The target is plagued by itching for one combat turn, at a cost of four spirit, at a range of ten feet.  This halves the creature's combat adds, but not dice.  The duration may be doubled for each level increase of the spell.  The caster must make an Intelligence SR at the time of casting, and the target can attempt to save against the spell with a Constitution SR of the same level, or a Charisma SR of two levels higher.  

Mask: This spell renders the single touched target anonymous for ten minutes, at a cost of 1 Spirit per ten points of the target's Charisma, fractions being rounded up.  It will not hide genuinely unusual characteristics or the target's voice, but it will make his face, body type, clothing, and most equipment completely unremarkable and impossible to remember.  The target is impossible to notice in a crowd if he does not behave in an abnormal manner.  The duration or number of targets can be doubled for each increase of the level of the spell (base the cost on the highest Charisma among any of the targets). At the time of casting the caster selects a level of Intelligence SR and must succeed against it to cast the spell.  Any onlooker who does notice the target and wishes to pierce the glamour and see the target for what they truly are must make an SR of the same level.  If they attempt and fail, they cannot recall even the target's voice, unusual characteristics, ostentatious or unusual equipment, etc.

Hair it is: At a cost of 4 spirit and a range of 20 feet, the caster can alter the head, facial, and body hair of the target to any degree that is plausibly within the normal variation of the species.  Generally, the GM should be generous with any suggestion which does not have a direct mechanical impact.  This can include full-body denudement, the growth of a ZZ Top beard, the replacement of the target's normal hairstyle with an ostentatiously-colored mohawk, etc.  The range or number of targets can be doubled by increasing the level of the spell.  The caster must choose a level of Intelligence SR which she must pass to cast the spell successfully.  The target may attempt a Constitution SR of the equivalent level to avoid the effect.  This spell may be reversed with another casting, even if the new caster does not know the target's original hair configuration.

Assassination Sanitation: A target corpse within 20 feet is totally and instantaneously disintegrated at a cost of 3 spirit.  The range or number of targets can be doubled by increasing the spell level by 1.

Power Strike: The caster's staff or other blunt instrument deals 4d6 extra damage in melee for two combat turns at a cost of 5 Spirit.  The caster may double the duration or add another 4d6 damage with each increase in level of the spell.  This spell may be cast in the same round as an attack.

Compass: The touched target immediately knows the direction of true North (or the direction to any other place they have visited and have knowledge of), regardless of circumstances, at a cost of 3 Spirit.

Bartleby's Blessing: The caster enchants a quill by touch, which becomes magically animated and able to take dictation in a neat and tidy script.  It will cover approximately one page per ten minutes of dictation.  The spell costs two Spirit per page.

Skylight: The caster, at a cost of 3 spirit, makes a hole in the clouds directly between himself and the best available source of celestial light (sun, moon, stars, world-destroying comet, etc.)  It will typically last for two minutes, which can be doubled by increasing the level of the spell.  It is ridiculously impressive, and will provide the normal illumination of a cloudless sky for a radius of around thirty feet centered on the caster.

Cleansing: All surfaces and creatures within ten feet of the caster are magically cleansed and made hygienic, for a cost of 3 Spirit.  The radius can be doubled by increasing the level of the spell.

Whisper: The caster can whisper a sentence of up to his Wizardry in words into the ear of any visible target within 50 feet, at a cost of 1 Spirit.  Each increase of the level of the spell doubles the range or number of targets.  No one other than the targets can hear the whisper, which is enchanted to be audible above environmental noise.  However, it is not telepathic and is not effective to communicate with the deaf.

Nonsanguination: This causes the immediate halt of any blood loss by a single target within 10 feet, at a cost of 1 Spirit.  The range or number of targets can be doubled by increasing the level of the spell as normal.  It is often used to frustrate the purpose of Vampires or Giant Leeches, who must re-establish their hold if this spell is used.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Tunnels & Trolls: House Rules II

This is a continuation of my earlier post, covering a set of house rules I'm constructing for a planned campaign of Tunnels and Trolls.  One of the major load-bearing mechanics of T&T is the use of Saving Rolls.  These are essentially attribute checks, and they are intended to be used for a wide array of circumstances.  However, one thing that T&T hasn't usually done is give many "benchmarks," or samples of SRs and their difficulties for various tasks.  That drives me nuts, because I think that a game should give the players and GMs some information on which to base an understanding of the world and what their characters can accomplish in it.  So, much of what follows is going to be using the SR system and Attribute levels to give game-world meaning to the raw numbers on people's sheets.

Saving Roll Adjudication

Firstly, I am adopting a number of conventions from Burning Wheel.  

Let It Ride: A PC only rolls once for any given task, and that roll represents their best effort to accomplish the task.  

Stakes-Setting: When a player proposes a course of action, the GM tells them the SR Level, and the consequences for success and failure.  This gives the player enough information to know whether or not they should pursue that course of action.  It does mean that the DM needs to be fairly strategic in giving out information.  

Yes and No: There's a whole lot of techniques called "Yes, and..." and "No, but..." and stuff, which are more like guidelines than rules, and are intended to help GMs give more information and options rather than accidentally stonewalling players without meaning to.  

Importance: A new factor I am adding is something called Importance, which is intended to deal with the fact that not all SRs are created equal, and that you get XP for them.  Color SRs have consequences for success or failure, and are for whatever reason worth rolling for, but don't have any major risk or reward attached to them.  They are almost always used for non-adventuring activities.  Stressful SRs are the meat and potatoes of adventuring.  Use this SR if there's a real potential benefit for succeeding or a real risk of someone getting hurt if you fail, or both.  Or if for whatever reason the GM thinks it's appropriate.  Critical SRs are really bad news.  An SR is critical if failing at it is likely to kill the character or seriously endanger the whole party, and especially if the PCs don't have any other substantially better options.  The GM should reveal the Importance of the SR as part of stakes-setting.

Secondly, I am going to try to give the players a number of alternatives whenever possible.  Let's say that there's a poison dart trap.  A character steps on it.  I might give them the following options to choose from: A level 2 Speed SR to duck or dodge just in time. A level 3 Luck SR for the dart trap to misfire.  A Level 5 Dexterity SR to block, parry, or catch the dart.  The player could pick any one, but only one, of these to attempt.  If they failed, I might give them a Constitution SR to partially resist the poison, as well.

No Level Bonus: One thing that 7.5 added that I don't think is so great is the ability to add your level to an SR if you would otherwise have failed it.  I just don't see the point.  Raise your stats, people.  That's why I'm handing out so much AP.

Speaking of XP: I intend to hand out a lot of it.  PCs get the normal amount of Adventure Points from Color SRs.  That is, they multiply their roll times the level of the SR.  So, if you roll a nine on the dice on an SR2 to bake the best birthday cake ever, you get 18 AP.  Yeehaw!  Stressful SRs give out five times that much AP. Critical SRs give out twenty times as much AP.  If you're willing to stake your character's life on a die roll and win, you damn well ought to get paid.

Saving Rolls & Benchmarks

So, now that I've made it clear how I'm going to be handling SRs in general, I should talk about what I mean to do with them specifically.  

Strength SRs

Strength is pretty easy.  You mostly use it to break things.  Breaking something that is an inch thick is an SR1 if it's made of soft wood, SR2 if it's made out of reinforced or unusually hard wood, SR3 if it's made out of soft metal, SR4 if it's made out of stone, and SR5 if it's made out of hard metal.  For each doubling of thickness, add one to the SR level.

So, kicking down a soft, thin wooden door is an SR1, and a normal person can do it if they don't roll badly.  Kicking down a two inch thick door of good aged oak is an SR3, and requires a moderate roll from someone stronger than average.  Punching through an inch-thick steel plate takes an SR5, and can only be done by someone who either rolls extremely well or is verging into superhuman territory.  

Constitution SRs

Constitution is really a stat that you use to resist things more than you use to do things.  Constitution should be useful when a character wants to exert effort over a long period of time, or attempt something that most people couldn't survive or tolerate.  So, let me throw out a few sample SRs:

A PC who is underwater and trying not to drown needs to roll an SR of a level equal to the number of minutes they have not been able to breathe.  This only applies if they are doing something stressful, like trying to struggle free of a bear-trap that will not let them reach the surface.

An SR1 allows a character to take a day-long hike.  An SR2 allows a character to finish a marathon without giving up, provided they aren't carrying adventuring gear.  An SR3 allows a character to finish a marathon in an amount of time that is not embarrassing.  An SR4 allows them to turn in a respectable time, or a non-embarrassing one while carrying a light load.  An SR5 allows them to win or at least take a top-ranked place in a marathon if competing against only normal humans.  An SR6 allows a character to undergo a forced march for days on end, an SR7 allows them to do so and be battle-ready as soon as they stop.

Dexterity SRs

Dexterity is one of those things that should be pretty good.  As such, characters with a high Dexterity should feel free to use it to pick people's pockets, throw small items with deadly accuracy, etc.  However, I want to give it at least one specific use, as well.

Catching Missiles: It is an SR3 to catch or deflect a hurled weapon such as a spear, dagger, or hand axe.  It is an SR4 to do the same to an arrow or a spear thrown with a spear-thrower, and an SR5 to do the same to a sling bullet or crossbow bolt.  You can wait to see whether the shot hits or not, but can't wait for the damage roll.  If you succeed on the roll, then that specific missile does not hit, and you can continue on with your round.  If you fail on the roll, then you take the damage and you cannot act for the rest of the round.  This means that it's a great tactic for spellcasters, because magical spells are resolved before missile fire.  You can cast your spell, and then try to knock aside any arrows coming at you.  If two archers both want to fire at each other and also attempt to deflect the other's arrow, then the one with higher dex chooses whose shot is resolved first.  Typically, he will want to fire his own arrow first, so that if the other party attempts to parry it and fails they will be unable to return fire.  It's a riskier tactic for melee fighters.  Even if their dexterity is very high, they would lose their action if they fumbled the roll.

English: A character can, before rolling, put some "English" on their missile.  This adds to the SR level of the shot and any attempt to catch or parry it.  A character, firing a bow, whose shot would normally be SR2, for example, can put two points of English on the arrow, and then must roll against an SR4.  The amount of English on a missile also adds to the difficulty of catching or parrying it, so the target would need an SR6 to attempt catching that one.

The Bullseye: A character can, with an initial SR of suitable difficulty, use any solid object as a hurled weapon that does 0 points of damage.  They must commit to the attack before rolling.  For example a character who is in prison and stripped of all weapons might nonetheless trick his jailors into a game of poker for a piece of information that he has and they desire.  So armed, a playing card might require an SR4.  Our character has a highly notable Dexterity Score of 50, and he chooses to make the attack.  He hurls the card at the enemy.  He doesn't roll a fumble, and so the card will do damage.  It has zero base damage, but with a dexterity of fifty his adds are enough to kill a normal man from clear across the room...

Speed SRs

There's going to be a lot of stuff here, because Speed is going to generally cover "mobility" in these rules, and that's a big topic.

Breaking Falls: A character can fall five feet without taking damage, and after that they take 1d6 damage for each five feet of distance.  Armor does not protect against this, but a PC's level bonus does, and the extra bonus from magical armor would as well.  

A PC who falls from a height can attempt an SR to break the fall.  They must choose the level of SR they will attempt before the damage dice are rolled.  For each level of the SR, if they succeed, they negate 1d6 worth of damage.  The SR must be rolled at a +1 level penalty if they were pushed or otherwise did not voluntarily jump from the height.  So, a PC who wants to jump off of a ten foot wall rather than simply lowering themselves down can take no damage if they succeed at an L1SR on Speed.  If they were knocked off involuntarily, it is an SR2 to avoid that die of damage.

Jumping: Under non-stressful circumstances, a character can jump across a distance equal to their speed in feet, or half that without a running start.  They can jump to a height of one foot for every five full points of Speed.  

To jump under stressful circumstances, such as being chased by monsters, determine what Speed score would allow you to make such a jump automatically under non-stressful circumstances.  Round up from there to the nearest 5, to get an SR difficulty.  Add one to that SR level.  That is the SR required to make a jump under a stressful circumstance.  Example: A character needs to make a thirteen foot leap with a running start (he was already running from the goblins when he came to the chasm!)  Rounding that up to the nearest five gives a result of fifteen.  That is a level 1 SR.  Add one to the level.  That is a level 2 SR.  So, a L2SR against Speed is required to jump a thirteen foot chasm when being chased by Goblins.

Example 2: Another character is being chased through the street by werewolves.  He is coming to a dead end in an alleyway, and the wall is ten feet high!  That would require a speed of Fifty to clear.  An SR that you need to roll a Fifty to beat is an SR8.  Adding +1 penalty level is an SR of 9.  That character is probably doomed, but if he makes it he is going to get a lot of AP.  However, if he does succeed, he won't have to use his movement allowance or scramble on the surface!  He'll just clear that ten-foot obstacle as part of his normal move.  And if he has a Speed high enough to jump that wall, he might be able to outrun the werewolves anyway...

Surfaces and Scrambling: Climbing a surface in a slow and measured way is probably a Strength or Constitution SR, or something the PCs simply accomplish automatically in a totally unstressful environment.  However, if you need to get up a surface immediately, then you can try to Scramble up the surface.

A character who wants to scale a vertical surface instead of making their normal movement in a round has to pick how far they want to climb.  The SR level is 1 for every five foot increment of distance.  The SR is 1 level higher if the wall is made out of glass or some other sheer substance that can't reasonably be climbed.  If they character doesn't reach the top or another good landing spot with their Scramble, then they probably need to make a Strength check to hold on!  Example: A character can scramble up a 25-foot rock wall with nice handholds with an SR5.  If it's made of glass and he has to just run up it, it's an SR6.  If there isn't a place to stand or hold on once he gets up there, he's going to have to talk the GM into letting him cling onto glass, or else try to break the resulting fall...


Okay, that's all the physical stats.  In my next post few posts, I'll start talking more about what you can do with the mental stats, Talents, and Spellcasting.

Tunnels & Trolls: House Rules

The following are a set of house rules I'm planning on using for a campaign of Tunnels and Trolls.  I'm usually somewhat unsure about Tunnels & Trolls, because while I think the mechanics are elegant, I also think that they're sloppy at times.  Basically, the designers have not spent a lot of time considering the implications of what they are doing.  So, like gamers throughout history, I am convinced I can make this game perfect if I just write enough pages of house rules.  That may not be true, but I think that I can take it in a direction that's more interesting to me, personally.  

As an aside, I think part of the reason I like T&T so well is that in some respects it resembles The Fantasy Trip.  Attributes that go up (and are the major advancement mechanic), spells that sap physical strength, etc.  

Introduction & Goals

I'm working here from a base of T&T7, which is the most current version I have to hand.  My goal is to create rules that are (mostly) for running a specific campaign I have in mind, and so they will probably result in a fairly specific "feel" that isn't appropriate for more general campaigns.  My intention is for the game to produce characters that are hopefully a bit more balanced than normal starting T&T characters, somewhat higher-powered, and have a steady but interesting power curve.  Truly high-powered PCs should feel at least demigod-like.  

Kindreds: Only humans are allowed in this campaign.  


Attributes are generated by rolling 4d6 in order, dropping any one die from the set, and totaling the others.  I am using the TARO rule, "Triple and roll over."  If you roll triples, you can roll 3d6 again and add it to your first result.  You can keep doing this as many times as you can keep rolling triples, although you only get the extra d6 on your first roll.  The attributes do mostly what they do in normal T&T, and are as follows:

Strength:  Strength is already pretty good.  It gives you combat adds as normal, and it controls how much you can carry.  I think that the standard T&T rules give you too much carrying capacity, though, so I'm halving it.  Each point of strength gives only 50 weight units (five pounds) instead of 100.  This will make high Strength scores more important and impressive, and give people something to seek after if they want to wear the best armor and so forth.

Constitution:  Constitution is also close to right where it should be, in mechanical terms.  It gives you your hit points, and everyone needs those.  Thanks to the existence of Spite Damage, having HP is vital to all characters.  However, in this campaign, it will also do something else.  

If your constitution is 20 or higher, you can divide it by ten and round down, divide the passing years by it to determine how much your character actually ages.  So: If your Constitution is 20-29, your character ages at half the normal rate.  If your Constitution is 30-39, you age at only one third the normal rate.  At 40-49, you age only one year for each four that pass.  Etc.

This allows PCs to feel epic and gives them something to strive for, while still remaining mechanically very lightweight.

Dexterity: Dexterity covers hand-eye coordination and how fast your hands are.  It gives you combat adds and is very important for ranged attacks.  Rather than give specific benefits like I do for Strength and Con, though, I intend to do a lot with "benchmarked" SRs, or SRs with set difficulties.

Speed: Speed gives combat adds already.  However, I also want it to function as a general mobility stat, and I'm going to use it to determine a movement rate.  While I am not going to use actual tactical combat, there are lots of times in an RPG when it might matter who is the fastest (or slowest!) character in the room.  So, a character can move a number of yards equal to their speed in a six second combat round.  Extremely fast characters will be able to pull off impressive feats of mobility.

Intelligence: Intelligence is kind of good, but not fantastic.  It is vital to the practice of magic, but is of less importance if you want to do other things.  It does give you languages, and that's pretty decent.  My plan here is to produce a number of Talents and tasks with standardized Intelligence SRs that players will be interested in.  This should be sufficient to make Intelligence an attractive attribute, even if you don't want to cast Take That You Fiend all the time.

Wizardry: Wizardry, at its simplest, gives you the juice to cast spells.  I think that making up new words out of whole cloth is not really necessary or desirable, and so I'm not going to talk about Kremm.  Instead, characters get a number of points of Spirit equal to their Wizardry stat, and those are expended when they cast spells or do other things that require magical force.

I was a little conflicted about whether or not to use Wizardry.  I've decided to use it, in order to have an attribute that separately measures the raw psychic potential of a character.  With the addition of a couple of house rules, I think this will work pretty well.  One, there is a bunch of stuff you can do with Wizardry besides merely having Spirit points to spend, and Two, each spell cast also requires expending a single point of Strength.  More on this later.

Luck: I must confess, I don't like how good Luck is in normal T&T.  I want it to be useful, and something that is worth spending Adventure Points to increase, but not your go-to stat for so much of the game.  Therefore, Luck does not give you combat adds.  I intend for it to have some other functions, that I'll go into more as I get into SRs, below.

Charisma: Charisma, given enough SR benchmarks and other ideas of how to use it, should be a very desirable attribute.  It measures the charm and force of personality that a character can bring to bear on the world around them, and should be every bit as noticeable in its impact as having a high Strength or Wizardry score.

Classes and Levels:  

This is where I start getting more distant from T&T7 as it is written.  I don't think that T&T benefits much from having a profusion of different classes, and for the specific game I intend to run there isn't any point in fiddling with them much because PCs won't be selecting classes.  Gasp!  I've always wanted to run a Fantasy RPG where all characters could both fight and use magic effectively (although maybe in not the same way or to the same degree), and now I'm doing it.  Or at least trying to.

All PCs are members of the same Class, which doesn't really have a name, but which is intended to be at least potentially superior to the other classes.  

PCs: All PCs begin knowing any three first-level spells of their choice, and as magic-using characters can also attempt Wizardry SRs to perform supernatural feats.  They may be unable to cast those spells if they have poor attributes, but they do intuitively know them and can attempt them immediately upon gaining sufficient attribute scores without further training.  PCs may also know up to five spells for each level they have obtained.  So, a first-level PC could learn two more beyond those three they start with, and could learn five more upon gaining their Second level.  PCs may learn any spell which they meet the prerequisites for, regardless of their character level.

PCs may otherwise learn and research spells just as Wizards, and may also use staves or other items of power just as Wizards.  They may wear any weapon and armor for which they reach the prerequisites.

All PCs may add their level to their combat adds, as a Warrior does.  All PCs may further add their level to their Armor, regardless of whether they are wearing any physical armor or not.  All PCs gain one Talent per level.

Wizards: NPC Wizards, should any appear, are as presented in the books.  However, they cannot wear armor heavier than Leather.

Warriors: NPC Warriors, should any appear, are much as presented in the books.  However, instead of doubling their armor rating, they instead may add their level to their armor rating up to a maximum of the rating of the actual armor they are wearing.  So, they get no benefit if they are wearing no armor, and cannot more than double the effectiveness of their worn armor in any case.

NPCs Generally:  The vast majority of NPCs do not have a Wizardry score.  If you are generating them randomly, then go ahead and roll a complete set of stats for them.  Then, there is a 95% chance they have no aptitude for magic.  If that is the case, the GM may on their behalf trade their Wizardry score for any other Attribute that is lower than it, and then simply cross Wizardry off.  Even if they do have an aptitude for magic, they may never have learned anything about it.  The various other classes presented in the 7.5 book probably do not exist, except the Citizen, maybe.  Really, I'm comfortable with the vast majority of NPCs having no class at all.  The GM can just give them whatever Talents they need, after all, it's not like the Game Police will show up if everyone in the world isn't generated like a PC would be.

SRs and Level

Okay, the most heretical thing I am going to do is change the SR scale, and I am doing it because it makes a lot of the mathematical underpinnings of this project more elegant.  More than any other house rule I'm constructing, this is the one that made me think I might be going too far.  

Here it is: An SR1 needs a fifteen or higher, not a twenty.  After that, it goes up by five per level as per usual.  An SR2 requires a twenty or higher, an SR3 requires a twenty-five or higher.  If you are new to T&T, you probably wonder what we're talking about.  The major meat-and-potatoes of T&T, outside of the combat system using Hit Point Totals, is Saving Rolls.  They are simple.  They are tied to an attribute, and have a level indicating the difficulty.  You roll 2d6, add it to your attribute, and try to equal or exceed the difficulty.  So, if you have a Luck of 10, and need to succeed at a Luck SR1, then you need to roll 2d6 and get at least a five on the dice.  

But there are some wrinkles!  The DARO rule says that if you roll doubles, you can roll 2d6 again and add your initial result.  You can keep doing that as long as you keep rolling doubles.  Secondly, a natural three (one and two on the dice) is always a failure. Snakeyes isn't, because you can DARO it.  I don't rule that PCs fail if they roll a three on a subsequent DARO roll, but I guess other GMs might.  This means that one in eighteen throws will fail even if a character's attributes are so high that they exceed the difficulty of the SR in the first place.  So, they are worth requiring if the situation is stressful.  Also, PCs get Adventure Points for making SRs whether they succeed or fail.  

Now, how does this relate to character level? Well, I'm using the experience system from 7.5, where PCs pay to increase their attributes with XP.  All PCs start at Level 1.  They gain levels when their second-highest attribute is equal to the difficulty of a higher-level SR.  This will make way more sense if you look at it like a chart.

SR1: 15
SR2: 20
SR3: 25
SR4: 30
SR5: 35
SR6: 40

So, all PCs are level one even if their attributes are terrible.  But if your second-highest attribute reaches 20, then you are level 2.  If your second-highest attribute is 25 or better, you are level three.  And so on and so forth.  This is intended to keep the pace of leveling fairly rapid, and also to discourage PCs from becoming too hyper-specialized.  In addition to all attributes being useful (I hope!), it is of course much cheaper to improve the lower ones than the higher ones.

It is possible, if a PC TAROs twice during character creation, that a character might start out at level two or higher.  Just let them revel in it.

In later posts: More on SRs and Talents!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Champions

The following is a short story intended as a campaign riff.

The adventurers stumbled through the rain.  They were almost back to the ancient Crossroads Inn, the closest thing that seemed like civilization.  The bard mumbled feverishly, "The stories say there has been an inn at this spot for over a thousand years.  It was built to commemorate..." he didn't finish the sentence, but he didn't stop breathing yet, either.

The gate opened when they shouted and pounded on it, and the stableboy slammed it shut behind them.  Soggy travelers looked at them, and then went back to their poor meals and watered beer.  The roof leaked, and the low fire smoked and spit.  It didn't do much to drive away the chill, but it was better than outside.  The poor young priest who joined the party to try and gain the favor of his god and a better position in his temple went to work, and did the best he could with hot water, herbs, and a needle and thread.  He thought he might be able to save the bard, but gut wounds were tricky things.  The magician, the oldest of the four, ordered whiskey and lit a pipe with shaking hands.  He'd thought so highly of his few magics, thought that surely his education and wisdom would help his comrades prevail.  It all had gone so wrong...

The warrior looked at the battered gauntlets covering his hands.  He had killed several, exulted in the feel of shedding blows from his armor.  It had accomplished nothing.  The enemy had outflanked them.  He couldn't cut through them fast enough, and the magician's spells couldn't staunch the flow of screaming humanoids.  He spoke loudly, too stunned to be certain who to address.  "We couldn't save her.  The Orcs were too many.  We were too late.  The gone."

The innkeeper nodded.  They'd been hired right in front of him.  The mayor from a tiny hamlet had come all the way here with a tiny bag of shining golden coins to find these men, the armed wanderers that stopped from time to time.  "I'll send word to the family.  Next few farmers going to the duke's market.  They'll hear of it.  You needn't stay.  Nobody expects you to tell them yourself.  I'll say you came back sore hurt, everyone will know you did your best."  He knew they had been an unlikely gamble.  They were too green, and the world was grown too dark.  It always was.  Still, he considered, it was fortunate that it had happened a few days ago.  Not today.  Any day but today.  One day every ten years, the inn must be open from dawn to midnight.  It had been explained to him on his father's knee.  Every curse must have an out, for there could never be a perfect prison in the world.  They must open the inn, day after day, and on those special days they could only pray that certain things did not come to pass.

The warrior kept talking.  "The money they paid us...I don't want it anymore.  I'd give it all up, if it'd change things."

The other band.  The one in the back corner.  The ones who had been coming here so, so long.  One of them turned to look.  "It's been a long time, my friends.  Let us offer our services."  His beard was long and ratty, matted.  When he reached for his cup his fist was like a huge cudgel.  Gnarled, scarred, solid-looking.

The one next to him was slender, with eyes that glittered out from beneath his deep black hood.  "We were sworn.  We cannot ask, nor seek."  A third leaned forward on the table, deep black tattoos flowing up and down his forearms.  His voice was like opening a trap door into a dusty, disused attic.  "And yet no geas can be utterly binding.  If the path is open, we may walk it and pass out of this prison.  I sense that opening flowers before us."

The warrior cradled his face in his hands.  "I want revenge!  We were too weak, but there must be others."  The barkeep had dropped his rag, and was speeding across the floor with hands outstretched, "Silence, sir!  Speak no more, I beg you!"  He knew the tale.  It had been passed down from father to son, for generation upon generation.  The inn must always stand, the binding must be undisturbed.

The warrior looked up at him with reddened yes, "And why shouldn't I give voice to what my heart says?  My friend lies wounded unto death, and I want revenge!."

A hush fell over the bar.  A crackle of something that couldn't be seen or heard or felt passed through the air, and the magician jumped as though he'd been pinched.  "What is this?  I sense old magic."  The innkeep dashed forward, attempted to clamp his hand over the warrior's mouth, "You do not know!  Please, listen, please! Do not offer them gold!"

The warrior stood and shoved the innkeep to the ground.  "Don't dare to lay a hand on me!  I've slain greater men for less.  And I would give all the gold I have, if it would avenge what I have seen this day.  I cannot rest until we are free from this scourge of orcs, though my strength is not enough-"

A shadow fell upon him, and the magician gasped.  "Something has broken."

The warrior turned, and saw the cloaked figures from the shadowed corner.  They seemed somehow brighter now.  More present.  Before they had been hard to attend to, but now they demanded his attention.  He could not look away.

"Our price is not so high."  An aged hand extended.  Old, but still living, blood pulsing beneath the scarred flesh.  Still strong.  "One single coin of gold is our fee, but it must be gold no matter how small it might be.  Such are the ancient ways, old already when we kept the contract.  Gold for blood, a pact made under the roof of an inn.  And this one is at a crossroads, besides.  Even the Gods must respect a contract, if it be made at a crossroads.  So it is, so it must be."

The innkeeper grabbed at the warrior's knees, "Do not do it!  It will all start again!  Some powers were better left alone!"  The tattooed man snapped his fingers, and solid ice three inches thick snapped into place around the barkeep.  He was frozen solid, and if he yet lived there was no sign of it. "No interference!  If this man would be our client, we have the right to accept his bond and give our pledge."  The magician paled.  The energy required for such a spell was beyond him, beyond his master, beyond his master's master.  He knew of no one who could accomplish such a thing.

The whole tavern held its breath.  Woodenly the warrior took one shining yellow coin, and put it in the hand that waited for it.  Five cloaked figures, as different as the forest from the mountains, or the sea from the desert, cast off their motheaten cloaks.

"After twelve centuries, we shall ride again."  Ancient weapons gleamed, flawless as the day they came forth from enchanted forges.  "The old tales will be remembered."  Life and youth flowed back into the five, as they stood straighter.  Their hair darkened, their skin shed wrinkles for heartiness, though the scars remained.  A man who seemed now to have the muscles of an ogre tucked a single gold coin into a pouch at his waist.  "We accept your quest.  You shall have your revenge.  They will die.  All of them."

The five walked out of the inn and disappeared into the rain and darkness.  Drops of water glistened on the block of ice surrounding the barkeep.

That night, thunder split the sky like the screaming of the gods.  The next night, great fires could be seen on the mountains.  On the third, bands of orcs with terrified eyes fled through.  They slashed madly at those who stood in their way, but did not slow even to steal food.  On the fourth, the king's knights rode through.  They apologized to the innkeeper, but still they put his inn to the torch.  A thousand orcs had died.  Their tales had reached the tribes.  War was brewing.  The Five rode once more, with blades and sorcery that had not been known since ancient days.  Men not even the gods could kill, men who had written themselves into the very bedrock of the universe, laughed at time and mortality, built legends and burned empires.  They had found their way back from their long-forgotten half-life, resurrected by gold and revenge.

The stories had come to life.  The dragons stirred in deep caverns that had been beyond the ken of men.  Monsters yawned in the utterest darkness.  Demons in forgotten places felt their bindings loosen.  Young men and women pushed against their limits, and felt those limits give before them.  The Heroes had returned, a new Age of Heroes dawned.

The gods wept, and the earth quavered in its bones at memories of blood and fire.  It was all happening again.