Saturday, December 22, 2012

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!

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