Tunnels & Trolls (abbreviated T&T) is a 1975 fantasy role-playing game designed by Ken St. Andre and published by Flying Buffalo. The second modern role-playing game ever published, it was developed to be a simpler alternative to Dungeons and Dragons suitable for solitaire and play-by-mail gameplay.
The Tunnels & Trolls
core ruleset does not detail a specific setting, saying only that gameplay occurs in "a world somewhat but not exactly similar to Tolkien's Middle Earth
." In an interview in 1986, Ken St Andre stated that "my conception of the T&T world was based on The Lord of The Rings as it would have been done by Marvel Comics in 1974 with Conan, Elric, the Gray Mouser and a host of badguys thrown in".
The 5.5 Edition includes Ken St. Andre's house campaign setting, Trollworld.
Six prime attributes define characters in Tunnels & Trolls
- Strength (ST) determines which weapons the character can use and how much the character can carry. It also serves as magic points.
- Intelligence (IQ) measures the character's ability to think and remember facts.
- Luck (LK) affects combat results and saving throws.
- Constitution (CON) measures how healthy the character is and how much damage the character can take before being killed.
- Dexterity (DEX) represents agility and nimbleness and affects marksmanship.
- Charisma (CHR) represents attractiveness and leadership ability.
Some editions add the following prime attributes:
- Wizardry (WIZ) replaces Strength for powering magic points. Also called Power (POW) in the 5.5 Edition.
- Speed (SPD) represents reaction speed and, in some editions, movement rate.
A new character begins with a randomly generated score for each attribute, determined by rolling three six-side dice.
The rules recommend that novice players create human characters, but also offer the recommendation of elves
, and hobbits
. Other races, like leprechauns
, serve as additional character options. A character's race affects his or her attributes.
Players also choose a character class for their character. The two base classes are Warriors and Wizards. Wizards can cast spells but have combat limitations, while Warriors cannot cast magic but receive combat bonuses. Rogues and Warrior-Wizards are also available as character classes. These two classes both combine the abilities of the Warrior and the Wizard. Rogues in Tunnels & Trolls
are not thieves, unlike the Rogue classes in Dungeons & Dragons
. Rogues are limited in their spell-casting abilities, and do not receive the Warrior's armor bonus. Warrior-Wizards are not so limited, but the player must be lucky with the dice when creating the character: high minimum attribute scores are required. Later editions include new classes such as Specialist Mage, Paragon, Leader, and Ranger.
Starting equipment and money
New characters begin with an amount of gold pieces determined by rolling three six-sided dice and multiplying the total by ten. These gold pieces can be used to buy weapons, armor, and other equipment.
Combat is handled by comparing dice rolls between a character and his opponent. Both sides roll a number of dice determined by which weapon is in use, then modify the appropriate result by "personal adds". Totals are compared, with the higher roll damaging the opposing combatant by the difference in totals. Armor absorbs this damage taken, and any amount remaining is subtracted from the Constitution attribute.
Tunnels & Trolls is unusual among roleplaying games in conducting mass combat resolution with one set of rolls, as the above system applies to combats between any number of opponents.
Personal adds are determined by Strength, Luck, and Dexterity. For every point above 12 possessed in each of these attributes, the character receives a one-point bonus to his personal adds. Similarly, for every point below 9 possessed in each of these attributes, the character receives a one-point penalty.
In the 7th Edition, the formula was changed to include Speed in the personal adds.
The 5.5 edition (and 7th) introduced 'spite damage' whereby each "6" rolled on the combat dice causes a minimum of one damage to be inflicted on the opposing side, regardless of armor or the respective combat totals. This helped resolve the interminable stalemate that could occur between evenly-matched, heavily-armored opponents.
Tunnels & Trolls
is the first role-playing game to offer a universal task resolution system. In game terms, it involves saving rolls, which are checks made against a character's attributes that factor in a difficulty level based on the task at hand.
Tunnels & Trolls
introduced multiple innovations to the role-playing games of the time, including:
- The ability to play a wide range of non-human player characters.
- Armor that absorbs damage instead of making a character harder to hit.
- A spell point, rather than a memory slot, spell system.
It also contained some amusingly named spells, the most famous of which will forever remain TTYF (Take That You Fiend!), which was similar to D&D's Magic Missile.
Greg Stafford, the co-creator of Runequest, dedicated it to 'Gary Gygax, who opened Pandoras box, and to Ken St. Andre, who proved it could be opened again'. Like Tunnels & Trolls, Runequest uses attribute based saving rolls, armor damage absorption, and a mix of a spell point system and a 'memory slot' system.
Tunnels & Trolls was also the first system to publish a series of fantasy-themed gamebooks - adventures which are designed to be played by one person, without the need for a referee. At least twenty such adventures were published by Flying Buffalo. The Fighting Fantasy series achieved great popularity using this format.
Tunnels & Trolls
underwent several modifications between 1975 and 1979 when the 5th edition of the rules was published. This edition was also translated and published abroad in the United Kingdom
, and Japan
, and it entered these markets before Dungeons & Dragons
did in most cases. Corgi Books in the United Kingdom produced mass-market paperback-sized versions of the core rulebook as well as many of the solo adventures (occasionally with adult content removed), a format which paved the way for the renowned Fighting Fantasy
series of gamebooks.
In 2005, Flying Buffalo
updated the 5th edition rules with a 5.5 publication that added about 40 pages of extra material. That same year, Fiery Dragon Productions
produced a 30th Anniversary Edition
under license in a tin box complete with CD, map, and monster counters, two new versions of the rules, and the Crusaders of Khazan
computer game. Ken St. Andre used the opportunity to extensively update the style of play and introduce new role-playing concepts, such as character level determined by character attribute statistics instead of arbitrary numbers of experience points. The 30th Anniversary
rules are generally known as the 7th edition, rather than 6th. One of the most significant innovations of 7th edition is the introduction of a skills system. There is no official 6th edition, though an unofficial 6th edition was produced by Outlaw Press. Outlaw Press and Flying Buffalo reached an agreement for the production of new Tunnels & Trolls
materials by Outlaw Press under license. The fanzine 'The Hobbit Hole' includes scenarios and articles by the designer of T&T
, Ken St. Andre. The relatively simple rules for Tunnels & Trolls
have lead to it being used for a wide variety of genres. Modern discussion of the game is found at Trollhalla and the Trollbridge. The 7.5 edition was released in 2008 by Fiery Dragon Productions, being an update and clarification on the 30th Anniversary Edition.
In 1999 Pyramid magazine named Tunnels & Trolls as one of The Millennium's Most Underrated Games. Editor Scott Haring said of the game "everybody knows this was the second ever fantasy roleplaying game ... But to dismiss it as just an opportunistic ripoff would be grossly unfair. Flying Buffalo's T&T had it's[sic] own zany feel -- it was much less serious than D&D -- and a less-complicated game system.
is a subset of the T&T
rules tailored to playing monsters. It is fully compatible with 5th edition. Copyright dates listed are 1976 and 1979, published by Flying Buffalo. It is occasionally reprinted as photocopies by the author, Ken St. Andre. It has now been reprinted by Outlaw Press.
Mercenaries, Spies and Private Eyes is a variant system, credited to Michael A. Stackpole. Publication was by Flying Buffalo, who released it in 1983, and Sleuth Publications Ltd. in 1986. While the basics are the same, it adds a skill system, changes the time scale of combat rounds, and includes rules for modern weapons.
In the 1980s, a ColecoVision
adaptation was announced but never released.
In 1990 a computer version (Crusaders of Khazan) was published by New World Computing, which embedded portions of many of the favorite old solo modules. Crusaders of Khazan is often said to be buggy and somewhat difficult to play. Crusaders of Khazan is included in the 30th Anniversary Edition tin, but not the PDF version.