In an almost a cosmic coincidence on Saturday afternoon of this year’s Gen Con (2013) Terrible Gamers ran smack dab into Flying Buffalo’s (publishers of Tunnels & Trolls) booth on the retail floor. Just 45 minutes earlier, while engaged in spirited conversation near the Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game booth, Terrible Gamers had recommended Tunnels & Trolls to a gamer looking for solo “choose your own adventure” style games for his young son. Ashamed as we are to admit it now, at that time Terrible Gamers was not even aware that Flying Buffalo still supported Tunnels & Trolls or that both were present at Gen Con. If we had been we would have sent the man their way.
For those of you who do not know, Tunnels & Trolls is a game that has been around for nearly as long as roleplaying has been a genre of games. Having been written and published in 1975 by Ken St. Andre (here is a link to Ken’s blog if you are interested), just a year after Gary Gygax invented the roleplaying genre with Dungeons & Dragons, Tunnels & Trolls still holds a special place in the hearts of many of the older generation of gamers. In fact, Terrible Gamers’ Scott Mills became aware of Tunnels & Trolls when he was little because Scott’s dad, who never did get into roleplaying games that involved other players, owned and played a dozen Tunnels & Trolls Solo Adventures from the late 1970s. It is, perhaps, for this strong support for game masterless solo play that Tunnels & Trolls has become best known.
What we have here for you is an excerpt from our interview with Steve Crompton, an artist and one of the original designers, artists, and editors of the original Tunnels & Trolls game line. Steve is also back for, and an active participant in, the rebirth of the game line which started last year and has continued through a series of successful kickstarter campaigns.
We really enjoyed our talk with Steve, the topic of which covered a wide variety of things from what the future holds for Flying Buffalo to the current re-popularization of more “old school” roleplaying game systems. Unfortunately… much of our conversation failed to record. This is our fault because we are terrible.
Have no fear though, we remember this conversation very well as it was one of the most engaging conversations we had the privilege to be part of during Gen Con 2013. Coming in the next couple weeks you should see a number of articles directly related to this interview, which will include our musings on the “old school” rpg movement and, as soon as they are written, reports about the Tunnels & Trolls–both the Solo and GM modules–in action. Until then, we hope you find the excerpt of our “interview” entertaining and informative.
And before we forget, Terrible Gamers would like to extend a big thank you to Steve and the entire Flying Buffalo team! They are all great guys with a clear passion for gaming and a respect for those who enjoy their games like no other. Here’s to you guys.
So, Steve, tell me a little about Tunnels & Trolls. I remember my father having the solo adventure books from the late 1970s. It is a d6 [six sided die] system isn’t it?
Yeah.. yeah it is. It’s based on d6 [six sided dice] and it really easy to play… a lot of the play is based on saving rolls based on your stats. If you’re trying to convince someone of something it’s going to be a saving roll on your charisma, and if you trying to outrun a lion it’s going to be a saving roll based on your speed.
So I see a lot of older solo adventure stuff here. Are you guys just reprinting the old modules or are you writing new stuff, and if you are writing new stuff are you guys going to be releasing a core rulebook?
Yes to both… and that [a core rulebook] is coming in October. We are working on it right now. It is part of our kickstarter. People wanted a really comprehensive updated version… its written and [currently] being edited and will be out in October.
What sorts of things are going to be in the core rulebook? Are you going to have a detailed section on lore or other GMing tools?
The beginning section is going to be the basic rules… then [we are including]… things you can do… and the last section is going to be [stuff you might need] to run an adventure in our world. [We wanted a place where we could say] here is the world, here are the cities, here are the religions, here are some creatures and you can use them or not.
So you bring up the community. What kind of feedback have you gotten from the community, particularly since Tunnels & Trolls is such an “old school”, well established, title? Has there been any criticism?
Oh, no. There has been none of that. There has been a lot of [suggestions like] you should do this, you should add that…
So it [the community] has been mostly constrictive? There hasn’t been any outcry, like “I can’t believe you guys did that!”
Yeah [it has been constructive]… (Steve pondered a bit before continuing)… there is always going to be a little of that [outcry].
So how does community feedback work in the development process for Tunnels & Trolls? Do you try to get a consensus when you are adding or changing things significantly in the game?
Almost all of the things we are adding to the game are things that… [our community] asked for, or things that looking back, we wished we had included [in earlier versions of the game]. Almost all the new additions to the game are things people who play the game have been asking for… for years.
But. you know, look around you [at Gen Con]… every other game that out is a result of people thinking they can do better if they only did this. So when we go to the community and ask their opinion [sometimes] we will get 40 different answers. So at that point we will decide… well these are the suggestions and this is what we are going for… we have to balance that.
(c) Scott Mills 2013