Thursday, February 16, 2017

The RPG Character Library: Tunnels & Trolls Power Trip

This is a game I bought on a whim back in 2009 or so. It was an eye-catching little hardcover book and it featured a rules-set copied from Tunnels & Trolls, a game I really enjoy. I never played it, of course, but if I played every game I've ever bought, I'd still be going through them.

I was tired last night, but also wanted to get back on the character library train. I picked this book as a balance. It's short (72 pages) and it's based on a rules-set I already sort of know, so I figured it wouldn't be all that difficult to make a character.

Alas, I was wrong, so very, very wrong. The rulebook is laid out in kind of a bizarre fashion (there's character creation, then basic rules, then talents and superpowers, which are, rightly, part of character creation). Rules are buried in long paragraphs. There are some misspellings (at one point the book talks about someone having "powers over mature"). And also, there's a couple of chat tags sprinkled throughout the text (grin). This made making a character much more complicated than it would have otherwise been, since I had to hop around the book willy-nilly looking for the next step in the process.

Okay, so a bit of backstory. The canonical setting for the game is Trollworld, which is the world that Tunnels & Trolls takes place on. According to the book, something happened to the kremm (magic) field, killing all the wizards and magical creatures. When the kremm field came back, it was much weaker and harder to use. This caused a shift to science and technology, as well as interbreeding among the kindred species. Once we get to the time the game is set, their technology is no different from ours and the dominant species is a humanish looking creature called a newman (hello, Jerry.).

That said, I could be a dragon or an elf if I wanted to, or, if the book art is to be believed, something that looks like a giant spider in a trenchcoat and a fedora (m'andible).

There are rules for playing on Earth, or on another planet, but this mostly involves saying that you play humans and not newmen, and also that there is no Wizardry stat. Eh. Let's go with Trollworld.

There's a bunch of stats. Most of them are created using the old standby of 3d6 place in order. The one notable exception is the Tunnels & Trolls rule of TARO, Triples Add and Roll Over. This is, from what I can tell, the only way to get superpowers in this game. The rule works like this:

If you roll a triple, you roll again and add. You also gain a superpower tied to the power. If your subsequent roll is a triple, you get another power and the stat increases by a power of ten, and so on. So, if I rolled 1,1,1 on Strength, I could take Super Strength and roll again. If I got 6,6,6, I get another superpower and my Strength is now 210, not 21. If I rolled a 2,2,2 after that, I'd get another superpower and my Strength is now 2,700 (well, a little more than that, because I get another roll).

Suffice it to say that I did not roll any triples for my stats, so I am, in effect, a normal person. Well, a normal, very big person. My Height stat is a 14. Since the rulebook says that a Height of 12 = 6', and since I can just barely do basic math, this means that I am 7' tall. My Weight is 17. There is no correlation in the rules to explain how much I weigh, however.

The last two stats (Wealth and Experience) are calculated a bit differently. Wealth can either be assigned by the GM or randomly rolled on 3d6. So I randomly rolled it. Experience isn't actually XP in the D&D sense, but is more like Fate or Drama Points. At least, I think it is--the section in which Experience is supposed to be explained doesn't mention them at all. I rolled a 1, but I get another point for each adventure I complete. Huzzah.

At this point, I'd like to point out that there are two adventures in the back of the book that clearly have been written with an earlier/different version of the rules-set in mind. For instance, there is Astounding Girl--who can either be a GM-controlled PC or a quick character for the GM's bored friend to play--who has STR 14,000, CON 13,000, DEX 100, Speed 90. I am not even sure that the math is right for those rolls, and I also don't know how they rolled that many triples for her.

I also note that this section contains a villain (Flowstone), who has numerous superpowers but no super attributes, as well as ninjas who have no superpowers but lots of skills, even though there's no such thing as skills in this game.

I should also point out that the game is very specific about calling them "superior" powers and not "super" powers. The reasoning for this is that the game is meant to have a more low-power supers feel, as if we're playing nobody heroes in the DC/Marvel 'verses. That's fine, but I don't know how that works when you could theoretically have a character with 2,700 strength.

Anyway, back to character generation. I don't get powers, but I do get one talent. This is something that I can name myself. Then I pick an associated stat and roll a 1d6. When I use the talent, I use the adjusted stat instead of the base stat. Since Charisma is my best stat, I decided to make my character Intimidating. Then I rolled a 2, so my total is 17.

The book states that I have three Undiscovered Talents, which the GM will allow me to unlock if I roleplay well. The talents I unlock will be based on the roleplay that I do to unlock them. As someone who tried to make a freeform magic system where the GM decides what happens by fiat, I have a feeling this isn't going to work out too well in practice.

Now it's time to get equipment. The game states that I may not have superpowers, but I can get gadgets that give me superpowers. Neat! The gadgets, however, have punishingly high Strength and Dexterity requirements (18-35 or more). If I had stats that high, it would also mean that I had superpowers, so I wouldn't really need gadgets, so I don't know.

Also, some of these gadgets are devastating. One of the things I can get (ST 10, DX 19) is a disintegration pistol that will vaporize someone if they fail a save.

I can also get regular equipment, such as weapons and armor. Again, stat requirements for these are very, very high. I need a DX of 16 to use a rifle and a DX of 17 to use a bow. Gah! Armor is interesting in that ST requirements from different armor pieces stack. I can wear a police stab vest (ST 10), but I cannot also use a police riot shield (ST 5), because that makes the ST requirement of my armor a 15.

It is interesting to note that none of the items in the book have a Wealth requirement. This became rather obvious to me when I came to the Other Equipment section and found that I could live in an apartment, house, or mansion. Since there was no Wealth requirement, I picked mansion. Hello, Alfred!

In the end, this results in one of the shortest character sheets I have yet designed. A pity it took so much work getting there!

The Towering Terror



Talents: Intimidating (17)

Equipment: Police Stab Vest (4 Protection), Cool Black Cloak, Staff with Skull that has LEDs in its Eyes (2d6+4 Damage, ST 6, DX 7)

No comments:

Post a Comment