27 October 2014

Deluxe T&T − The Last Hurdle?

Back in June, I expressed my sense of elation at having received a draft PDF of deluxe Tunnels and Trolls in such an advanced state of completion. Much more than the usual draft PDF one receives at the various stages of a Kickstarter project, the PDF file we backers of dT&T received was almost as good as the final product — except for one area: Magic.

Now without Magic, you can't really talk about a fantasy role-playing game, so this was really still a big hole in the project. In September, we received word that Steve Crompton was about to start laying out pages for the much revised section about Magic.

Well, a few days a go we finally received a link to download the dT&T chapters about Magic, all 73 pages of them. Basically, this latest PDF corresponds to the missing 'Section 9' from the summary of the draft version of deluxe Tunnels & Trolls.

Detailed contents of the PDF:
  • Magic IQ & DEX requirements per Spell level,
  • Generalities about spells,
  • Generalities about kremm (Power/mana in T&T parlance),
  • Technical intricacies about spells (damage, learning, stacking…),
  • Schools of Magic — This is pretty new stuff if I'm not mistaken. There are ten Colleges of Magic; each spell may be taught in one or several of these colleges. My understanding after having merely skimmed through the PDF is that these colleges are only there for added flavour. There is an optional rule, however, to allow magicians to specialise in a given college of Magic; basically, this functions as a Talent that enables a Conjurer, say, to cast Conjuration spells at a reduced cost.
  • Spell Book (35 pages),
  • Equipment for magicians (staves, wands…),
  • Creating magical items (amulets, potions, talismans…),
  • Kremm batteries — I believe these are new. They basically function like the original RuneQuest's crystals and matrices, so this is über cool,
  • Creating new spells.

The ten Colleges of Magic are (notice how they all start with the letter 'C'):
  • Clairvoyant [it should be called Clairvoyance, by the way]
  • Combat
  • Communication
  • Concealment
  • Conformation [all spells related with metamorphoses]
  • Conjuration
  • Construction
  • Conveyance [all spells related with movement]
  • Cosmic [catch-all category]
  • Curative

Each college comes with a neat icon used to illustrate the relationship of the various spells with the ten colleges throughout the Spell Book.

At this point, I believe we backers have received everything related with Magic, except the Elaborations section (again from the summary of the draft version of dT&T).

14 October 2014

13th Age in Glorantha Madness!

OK, so the 13th Age in Glorantha Kickstarter project has ended with an incredible grand total of pledges at $116,150. Wow... that's more than €90,000!

Jeff and Rob have just kept adding stretches to entice us fans into parting from our hard-earned cash... Which we are grateful for :)

  • The Trickster† as a character class!
  • Uz characters in, and in particular Zorak Zorani
  • Duck characters in
  • The magicians of the Sartar Magical Union as a secret society for the PCs
  • The Crimson Bat and its evil attending priests as NPCs
  • Further evil Lunar‡ NPCs: the Comet Seers, the Blue Moon School, the Spell Archers, and the Crater Makers
  • Cults of Chaos: Bagog, Krarsht, Thanatar
  • Plenty of new, additional, full-colour art!
  • Three adventures

† The Hero Wars has let Eurmal free from his bindings and slip openly into the world. Prince Argrath has placed those initiated to Eurmal under his protection and his magical societies are havens for Tricksters, outlaws, and other holy madmen. Some rumours claim that the new prince is himself a Trickster.  Others claim that Harrek White Bear is the physical incarnation of the Destroyer aspect of the Trickster. Still others claim that the entire Hero Wars is orchestrated by the Trickster. [Jeff on G+]

‡ You will notice that 13th Age in Glorantha is, alas, heavily slanted in favour of the Sartarite hillbillies. I hope a future Lunar book will enable us to play normal civilised people.

09 October 2014

Gagix, the Scorpion Queen of Jab

Why is 13th Age in Glorantha kewl?

Because Gagix:

Woman body: Gagix has the chest, head, and arms of a queenly woman. She has long black hair, yellow eyes, and wears a golden diadem with the Runes of Chaos, Beast, and Man given to her by the previous Lunar Governor-General of Dragon Pass. Her teeth are sharp and there is blood around her mouth.
She wears a vest or bodice (note: she is NOT busty - she is not truly mammalian). Her arms are covered in jewellery taken from her dead victims, and she has many necklaces draped around her neck. She is NOT tattooed. Around her waist (which connects to her scorpion body), she wears a loose girdle of human heads.

Scorpion body: Gagix has the abdomen, tail, stinger, and eight legs of a gigantic, bloated, black scorpion. She does not have pincers or Chelicerae. Her scorpion body is over 8m long.

05 October 2014

13th Age in Glorantha Interview Podcast

Idle Red Hands is a blog that features podcasts on various gaming-related issues.

Episode 171 is titled ‘Interview: 13th Age in Glorantha’; the Idle Red Hands team interview Rob Heinsoo & Jeff Richard, who are currently managing a Kickstarter project called 13th Age in Glorantha [but you already know this if you read my blog...]

The podcast of the interview is available here.
Its duration is 1hr 33min 24s, which is quite long, so read on if you don't have the time to listen to it.

Highlights of the interview
As we already know, 13th Age in Glorantha (13G) is going to be set in 1627-28, during the Hero Wars. The player characters will be heroes embarking on heroquests (called "mythcrawls") to save the world from Chaos. Apparently, at the core of 13G will be the fact that PCs from various conflicting backgrounds need to co-operate, with the common goal of defeating Chaos and/or the Lunar Empire†, whilst having to overcome their differences at the same time.

Since the 'Uz' stretch goal has been reached, there will be Uz character classes, and since heroquests will strongly feature in the game, all-new myths centred on Uz and Wonderhome will be added to 13G.

One way the Uz might be played (this is still being playtested) is that a troll character starts as a trollkin, then at around 4th level it gets eaten by a dark troll, and then you play the dark troll who's eaten your trollkin...

Interesting part @ 37min 30s: “What's in for us [hardcore Gloranthan fans]?”

☞ Chiefly, “play a D20 system game and like it”

☞ The “One Unique Thing” mechanism of 13th Age will basically enable players to tell the GM in what direction they want the campaign to go

Rob says that Gloranthan icons will be implemented differently to the Dragon Empire, without giving much further detail, except that there will be clearer explanations for the various results of the icon relationship die roll.

That was an interesting question from the hosts, who stressed the huge difference between D&D- and RQ-type magic. Unfortunately, Rob flatly said that 13G Magic would be 13th Age magic, period, and that they wouldn't try and implement Glorantha-style magic, except for the fact that your magic will be a combination of who you worship and what your class is. Essentially, the system remains 13th Age.
Anyway, since 13G will focus on Dragon Pass and the Holy Country, and not the West, there won't be many wizards. On the other hand, sorcerers will probably feature prominently.

Future Books?
At the moment Jeff & Rob have two adventure packs in mind:

☞ The Upland Marsh, ruled by Delecti the Necromancer

☞ Snakepipe Hollow, a dungeon crawl with mythic elements

† Can someone please tell Rob that the Red Goddess is not a Chaos goddess, it's more complex than that...

02 October 2014

An Alternative Combat System for T&T

TrollsZine is a free PDF 'zine for Tunnels & Trolls. Being a zine and being fed by contributors, and thus basically a labour of love, TrollsZine has a very irregular publication schedule, and it also shows, I am afraid, quite an uneven quality in terms of content.

The latest instalment, issue No.8, however, is a great issue! Amongst the highlights:

☞ A 33-page space-fantasy solo adventure set in New Khazan, consisting of 141 paragraphs of gung ho adventure, with outer space random encounters such as mining drones and space syrens, basic spaceship stats, a simple space travel system, etc. Lots of material that you may fruitfully scavenge for your own space-fantasy games!

☞ A 16-page GM wilderness adventure. This is particularly noteworthy as T&T adventures tend to stick to the dungeon bash model.

☞ A fully-fledged alternative combat system for Tunnels & Trolls, by Dan Hembree (TrollsZine's editor), based on the T&T Saving Rolls (SR) mechanism. At 9 pages, this is quite a hefty article. Now, since I have myself got rid of the standard T&T mêlée combat system for my own T&T homebrew, I have read Dan's article with utmost interest. Here are my thoughts.

Dan's alternative combat system is based on man-to-man combat, and not on T&T's seminal "each side totals all" mechanism. As a result, each combatant needs:
  • an attribute to base the SR upon,
  • a difficulty level for said SR
There is indeed a new attribute, Combat Ability (CA), which, for player characters, is calculated on the average of STR, LK, DEX, and SPD. For monsters, Dan suggests to base the CA on their Monster Rating (MR) but to "raise or lower it as necessary". This is my first criticism of the system. The CA should be clearly defined for monsters; if Dan thinks CA = MR yields too strong opponents, as in the case of the MR 50 ogre in his example on p30, then why not settle for CA = MR/2 or MR/4 or whatever. Obviously, in other cases, CA = MR yields too weak opponents, as in the case of the MR 15 goblins in his example on p32. Basically, what this shows is that it is wrong to equate a monster's MR with its fighting prowess. This is also why I have removed the standard T&T mêlée combat system from my homebrew. I think a monster's CA should be assigned independently from its MR— which is more or less what Dan ends up suggesting through the sentence "raise or lower it as necessary".

The difficulty level for the combat SRs is based upon the opponent's level or upon a monster's MR/10. I really don't like this— in almost all frp games, determining whether a combatant hits or not is based on their fighting capability, not their opponent's: in classic fantasy, it's based on the combatant's level, in D100-based games, on the combatant's skill, etc. In my homebrew, the SR actually doesn't have a difficulty level: each combatant rolls their SR, and then the actual difficulty levels reached are compared, so as to create a kind of opposed SR mechanism.
The cool thing, however, is that Dan's system allows for simultaneous combat results with weapon-dependent damage, part of which is stopped by armour, whereas my system does not take weapon and armour into account: I have opted for a more abstract system, à la HeroQuest.

Anyway, whatever criticisms I may have, I still think Dan's system is definitely worth a try, even if it kind of makes T&T mêlée combat closer to the D&D approach, where armour class (which depends on the opponent and not on the combatant) does influence the combatant's hit probabilities.