* Note that this link is for a review of previous version of Tunnels & Trolls. A review of the latest edition, Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls will appear at some point in the future.
It appears that Tunnels & Trolls is big in Japan, where it appeared before Dungeons & Dragons. Group SNE not only publishes a translated version of Tunnels & Trolls, it also publishes its own content as well as a magazine in the form of TtT Adventures Japan. The supplement, T&T Adventures Japan collects some of the content from the magazine and translates it into English. Free RPG Day T&T Adventures Japan presents some of the Manga from TtT Adventures Japan, the mini-rules, a quartet of pre-generated characters, and a complete solo mini-adventure.
It opens with an excerpt from the manga, ‘Adventures in Tunnels with Trolls’, in which Laila the Elven Wizard breaks the fourth wall and introduces Tunnels & Trolls. It is all rather charming even if the goblins look weird, more like Deep Ones than goblins. Art from the manga is used throughout the Free RPG Day T&T Adventures Japan to illustrate various rules and situations and it all adds a bit of whimsy to the booklet. The mini version of the Tunnels & Trolls rules cover character creation, including attributes, kindred (Human, Elf, Fairy, or Dwarf), and Class (Warriors, Wizards, and Rogues). It then explains combat and magic, as well as the core mechanic for doing just about everything else—the Saving Roll. This is a simplified version of what is one the earliest roleplaying games and one of the least complex, more so given that Tunnels & Trolls only ever uses six-sided dice.
To roll up a character, a player rolls three dice for each attribute and assigns the results as he wants. Dwarves, Elves, and Fairies all get to add bonuses to various attributes. Humans are just lucky and get to roll failed Saving Throws a second time. Of the three Classes, Warriors are great in combat, Wizards get to cast throw spells, and Rogues get to do both, just not with as much proficiency. Rogues are not anything like the Thief Class of other roleplaying games. So Rogues and Wizards will also need to choose some spells, but all Classes need to determine their Combat Adds. These are the bonuses to any combat roll derived from a character’s high Strength, Dexterity, Luck, and Speed attributes.
Class: Warrior Level: 05
Strength 51 Constitution 13
Dexterity 12 Speed 14
Intelligence 12 Luck 14
Wizardry 08 Charisma 15
Combat Adds: +43
Samurai sword 4d6
Samurai armour 9 Hits
Tunnels & Trolls is not a game that relies heavily on skills and skill checks. What the game has instead is Saving Rolls, usually made against a set attribute, for example, Luck or Dexterity. Simply, two dice are rolled—doubles roll over and add—and added to the attribute in question to beat a set target. For a Level One Saving Roll or ‘L1SR’, this target is twenty, and then goes up by five for each level. So Haruto would really be in trouble if he had to make a L1SR on Wizardry, but then he is not a Wizard or a Rogue. For most of the other attributes, Haruto would be able to pass an L1SR with greater ease.
Combat in Tunnels & Trolls has changed relatively little in thirty five years. Each side involved rolls up their dice and adds the results to get a total. This total is compared with the opponent’s, the highest winning that round. The difference between the two rolls is inflicted on the loser! In fact, this was always so easy that it was very straightforward to write computer programs that would handle the process for you. Then again, rolling the handfuls of dice was always much more fun.
While monsters can have full statistics similar to that of player characters or NPCs, they can also be simplified to a Monster Rating or MR. A creature’s MR is rounded by the nearest ten to get the number of dice rolled each round, while half the MR is the value added to the roll as its ‘Adds’. So Waakeg the Ogre Magi with an MR of 44 rolls 4d6 and adds 22. When a player character suffers damage he takes it from his Constitution, whereas a monster takes it from its Adds, in effect, both reducing the equivalent of its Hit Points and its ability to bring its best to any fight. Think of this as the monster growing fatigued as a fight continues.
So for example, Haruto, comes across Waakeg the Ogre Magi menacing a caravan. With an MR of 34, we already know that the Ogre Magi rolls 4d6+22 in combat, while Haruto rolls 9d (for his sword and an extra die per Level as a Warrior) and adds 43. The Game Master rolls 2, 4, 5, and 6 for Waakeg the Ogre Magi, which with the Adds, gives a total of 51. Things are not looking good for the Ogre Magi as Haruto’s player rolls 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 4, 5, and 5, when combined with Haruto’s Adds, gives a total of 72. Deducting Waakeg’s total of 51 from Haruto’s 72, gives a result of 21. This is deducted from Waakeg’s Adds, so that on the next Round, the Game Master will roll 3d6+1 for the Ogre Magi. Might be time for Waakeg to run for his life or surrender…Magic in Tunnels & Trolls is a point spend system, a Wizard or Rogue spending Kreem—the energy which fuels spells in Trollworld—represented by points of their Wizardry attribute to cast their spells. The main difference between Wizards and Rogues is that Rogues know fewer spells, so need to be more careful in what dweomers they learn. Most spells also have a minimum Intelligence and Dexterity requirement before they can be cast. Famously, the name of the spells in Tunnels &Trolls are somewhat tongue in cheek and some of the more well known ones are listed here in Free RPG Day T&T Adventures Japan, such as It’s Elementary, Take That, You Fiend, and Poor Baby.
Free RPG Day T&T Adventures Japan also includes four sample player characters—the four from the manga and the examples earlier in the booklet, a little advice for the Game Master, and a treasure generator. Almost half of Free RPG Day T&T Adventures Japan is made up of ‘Coming Down the Mountain; a Mystic T&T adventure’ written by the roleplaying game’s designer, Ken St. Andre. It is designed for use with Warrior character of Third to Seventh Level, which really sets up the only real issue with Free RPG Day T&T Adventures Japan. There is no advice on creating a character for it. To be fair, it is a simple matter of creating a Warrior character and then adjusting it up from First Level to Third—or greater—Level, but the advice should have been included. If a player decides not to create a character, then one is provided although the adventure will be a tough challenge as it is only Third Level.
Consisting of some seventy nine entries, in ‘Coming Down the Mountain; a Mystic T&T adventure’, the player character is a samurai who is sent up Mount Kitsune by his daimyo to bring back a holy man who live atop the mountain. It contains a decent mix of martial and mystic challenges as well as matters of honour too. Overall, this is a decent solo adventure which should provide half an hour’s worth of play.
Decently presented, Free RPG Day T&T Adventures Japan gives a good explanation of the Tunnels & Trolls Mini Rules, an engaging introduction to Tunnels & Trolls Japanese style, and an enjoyable solo adventure full of Chanbara flavour. Of course it is a pity that no group adventure could have been included, but that down to a design decision and space. One other issue is that it never quite really identifies what makes a Japanese Tunnels & Trolls game different from an American one, but the adventure more than makes up for that by showing that it can be done. Overall, a good taster for Tunnels & Trolls and T&T Adventures Japan, but really only for the one player.