Updating Tunnels and Trolls Character Generation

by Karl Brown

Tunnels and Trolls (T&T) has at its core a simple fast scalable mechanic that in many ways foreshadowed many modern ‘pool of dice’ games like World of Darkness and Ubiquity. Despite being ahead of its time in some ways, T&T was created during the ‘70’s when RPG was a new and developing hobby many of the assumptions built into T&T are different to those that gamers currently expect. In T&T characters for the game are created in a predominantly random manner, each player is assumed to have 3 or 4 characters in play at a time, low level characters are very easily killed, and characters are primarily defined by their combat abilities. In this article I introduce small tweaks to help players build the one character they want and add more depth to how characters are defined. A future article revamping combat will increase low-level PC survivability and support further tactical depth to the combat system.

This article is to be used alongside the skills system presented in RPG Review 12 and the T&T core rules version 5.5 by Ken St Andre published by Flying Buffalo. Information in this document is numbered and presented in the same order as in that rules set. Other T&T articles in RPG Review issues past and future are referred to but are not required to use this article. Most of this material will be compatible with other versions of T&T including the Corgi edition (1986) and the free cut down version (2007) still available online from Drive Thru RPG. This article can be used with the solo adventures published by Flying Buffalo and Corgi. I have not viewed T&T versions 6 and 7 and cannot comment on the compatibility with these newer versions of the game.

Italics: quotes from Tunnels and Trolls edition 5.5 unless indicated otherwise.

1.3 Creating Characters

The layout for T&T introduces creating human warriors first then later adds other types and kindred (fantasy races). This splits the information you need to make a character across several chapters. This is a quick list to guide you through the process of creating a character. Be sure to check the sections in the core rules and the notes for those sections in this article.
First choose a kin (2.12), type (2.11), and concept (notes for 2.1 in this article).
Next generate attributes (1.3) and determine how much gold you have to spend (1.3).
Then note down your type (2.11) and kin (2.12) abilities including a wizard’s spells (2.22).
Next determine your weight, height (2.13) and age (3.9). These may be chosen from within the roll-able ranges.
Now choose your skills and languages (3.4) guided by concept, kin and type.
Determine your weight possible (1.3) and effects of loads on your movement (2.36).
Buy your equipment (1.51, 1.52, 1.53). Be sure to note down all the details of your weapons and armour. For non-humans don’t forget to think about scaling your gear (see notes for 1.5).
Now determine how loaded down you actually are (2.36).
Finally give your character a name.
During play you can make up details about the character’s background and personality as inspiration comes. If your character is joining an existing party the character may be awarded levels up to one level less than the lowest existing party member (see 2.14 core rules and this article).

1.3 Generating Attributes
Wizards need at least IQ10 and DEX8 after kin adjustment. Warrior-wizards need at least 12 in all attributes before kin adjustment. In my world elves are perceptive, graceful and blessed; LK must be at least 14 for a character to be an elf. If you are a non-human, want to speak your native language, know the common tongue, and know a trade or other skill you will need to take the civilian type, no type, or have at least IQ14 after kin adjustment.
Humans roll 26 dice then assign 3 to 5 whole dice to each prime attribute, including speed, and three dice to gold. Multiply the gold dice total by ten.
Other kin roll 24 dice then assign 3 whole dice to each prime attribute, including speed, (see 2.1 for more on other kin) and three dice to gold. Adjust these attributes for your kin (2.12) and multiply the gold dice by ten.
Record your adds (1.3)
Why? Humans get extra dice to make up for the slight advantage non-humans have through their attribute multipliers. Gold is determined in this manner because some concepts require more wealth. This system just barely allows armoured knights with ring-joined plate or scale, helms, shields, and weapons. Be aware that the trade off for higher starting wealth is lower attributes that are less transient than poverty. This method also makes warrior-wizards more likely to be available but at a cost of few attributes over 12 and poverty. There is no guarantee that a warrior-wizard can be created, a good second option is a rogue with the same character concept planned for a warrior-wizard.
Speed is considered a prime attribute (see 2.36). Saving rolls that depend on reaction time (rather than say agility) are made against SP. Note: SP never improves with experience.
How good are my attributes? Based on the charisma chart attributes rated 1-2 are very poor, 3-7 poor, 8-13 average, 14-25 good, 26-50 excellent, and 50+ heroic. One of the good things about the T&T system is that the attributes are close to linear so, for example, a ST20 character can carry twice as much as a ST10 one. This makes comparison of attributes easy.
Maximum Strength is initial STx2. Experience may never raise a character above this. This prevents experienced humans from lifting 8’ bronze statues or the like. Trolls, dragons, and other kindred that grow in size throughout adult life do not have a maximum ST.
Dexterity is manual dexterity under this update. For agility, use luck.
IQ: represents raw intelligence, experience, and general education.
Luck also covers agility, balance, and perception as well as blind luck. Archetypal rogues have high luck, as do cats.
Charisma: see RPG Review 15 for more on charisma, negative values, and monsters.

1.5 Provisions and Equipment
See issue 12 for a few more items.

Scaled Gear: Firstly, elves and dwarves are similar enough to humans in size that they can find armour that fits in any large human market. Elves and dwarves can ignore these rules if they wish. If you have sufficient ST and DEX you can use an item regardless of scale (except armour and worn gear). At character creation scaled gear is only available to kindred of that scale.

To scale gear multiply ST needed and weight by the kindred’s weight modifier. Use the highest of a kin’s weight and size modifier to modify the items cost. Elf goods are of slightly better quality than those of humans but cost a little more. Leave DEX requirements as is. Multiply length, range, damage, and armour protection by the size modifier. Min. 1 for ST, dice, and hits taken, round down everything except: treat fraction of ½ dice or greater for weapons as +3 adds and fractions of dice less than ½ as zero. The weights of fairy items are rounded to the nearest tenth (0.1), and costs should include gp, sp and cp amounts but not amounts less than 1cp. A future article will include examples of scaled gear.

Exceptions: Hobbit provisions and meals are x1 cost and mass. As armourers of exceptional merit dwarf scaled armour made by dwarfs has protection modified by weight (7/8) not size (2/3). The cost of magical or rare objects, such as wizard’s staves, is never decreased.

2.1 Characters (Other Kin and Types)
2.11 Types
Rather than tens of specialised classes T&T uses just a few types to describe any possible character. All character types are based on a universal of the world; to what degree the character can use magic. Warriors are at one end of the continuum then rogues, warrior-wizards, and finally wizards. Character Types can also be rated by the extent of their martial training. Warriors are able to use most weapons and are trained in getting the most from armour. At the other end of the spectrum wizards are limited in the weapons they can use and are untrained in armour use. The graph below summarises the abilities of the various types. A new type, Civilian, has been added to cover those not trained for adventuring. Civilians are represented by a shaded area on the graph because they vary in the degree to which they are magic blind and in fighting skill. Also described here are characters that have No Type.

Warriors gain double protection from armour. While a warrior’s type ability does not improve with levels, a warrior need not raise IQ and DEX to meet the requirements of higher level spells as rogues and wizards do. This allows warriors to build ST, DEX, LK and CON in a manner that further enhances their survivability in combat with each new level. Adjusting the warrior ability to improve with levels is redundant. The double protection of armour makes warriors tough but in a functional party they are the characters who are in the thick of the danger to protect the others.
Wizards the rules for wizards demand that a powerful Wizards’ Guild exists. Wizards take the cost of spell casting from CON not ST (rogues and warrior wizards still use ST). Keep track of CON lost from spell casting since it returns as per the rules for lost ST (1 per full turn, faster than wounds). Wizards are taught to draw energies from deeper within themselves than untrained spell casters use. Wizards don’t appear to be fatigued by spell casting, as are rogues, and can fight on at full ST. However, after spell casting wizard bodies are weakened at the core and are more susceptible to shock, blood loss, poisoning, and other insults. A wizard with only 1 or 2 CON left will appear pale and drained. At zero or lower they die.

A good many wizards of legend and literature wield swords and other weapons to allow T&T wizards the same stylistic choices assume a wizard’s lack of training prevents them from receiving more than two dice regardless of the number of dice a weapon normally gets, the other dice are converted into weapon adds. After converting extra dice, weapon adds may not exceed +5, For example the famous Gandalf wields a broad sword normally 3d+4, in the wizard’s hands the weapon does 2d+5. Another example: a great axe (5d+3) in a wizard’s hands does 2d+5 not 2d+6.
Rogues will find that casting spells lowers ST and this may cause the loss of personal adds until they recover.
Warrior-Wizards SP must be 12 or more as well. Casting spells lowers ST; this may reduce personal adds until they recover.

Civilians are a new type representing those whose previous experience and training has not prepared them for adventuring and danger. Civilians have little or no arcane or martial training. Peasants, trades-people, merchants, most hobbits, competent nobles, are typical civilians. In game terms treat as a rogues except that the character may not begin with any martial skills* then add one or more of the following limitations (player’s choice):
Weapon choice limited as per a wizard.
Magic blind and like a warrior, may never learn spells.
May never learn any martial skills*.

For each limitation chosen the character may take a bonus skill or language to represent training or experience in lieu of martial or arcane education.

*A martial skill is one that provides a familiarity bonus to any of these: parry, dodge, acrobatic dodge attack, missile attacks; or allows knock out attacks.

No Type: A character with little formal training can have No Type. Unskilled labourers, most goblins, and idle nobles are typical No Types. Also represented are people with ‘natural talent’, represented a high attribute, that has caused them to neglect training. A thief who gets by on very high DEX or a guard who relies on massive ST are good examples. All No Types are as magic blind as a warrior and can never learn spells. They have no armour training, and do not get additional skills as does the civilian. Unlike civilians, they may begin with martial skills. As compensation at first level No Type characters have 2pt to spend as if they had attained a level (2.14). When these poorly trained individuals advance a level add one to the number of points they have to spend as per 2.14 (as usual they may choose as skill instead), e.g. on attaining second level a No Type has three points to spend not two. No Types need not raise IQ and DEX to meet the requirements of higher-level spells. This allows them to build ST, DEX, LK and CON in a manner that enhances combat capability with each new level. No Types are a good choice for unarmoured and undisciplined fighting characters such as barbarian fighters and ‘monster’ humanoids. Despite this No Types will never have the martial prowess of true warriors because they lack double protection from armour.

The character Types are very broad groups. To create more specific concepts new types are not needed. Each player should jot down a 1-3 word concept. Examples: Warriors: ranger, knight, salty sea dog; Rogues: burglar, ‘likeable rogue’, minstrel; Wizards: academic, mysterious stranger, necromancer; Warrior-wizard: renaissance man, archetypal hero, megalomaniac; Civilian: burly blacksmith, shepherd, trader; No Type: idle noble, vagabond, typical goblin, massively strong fighter. Concepts are an aid to roleplaying, there are no hard rules for such concepts. They are used as guides for choosing languages, skills, height, weight, age, equipment, and spells.

2.12 Kindred
Where ST is altered by kindred maximum ST is altered as well.
Rules for Firbolgs, Weres, Awakened Beasts, Monsters, and other kindreds as PCs appear RPG Review 15, 18, and 20.
Dwarf abilities as given in T&T and they mine or dig at double normal rates (based on notes for pick axe 1.52).
Elves’ hearing grants them a hearing saves at one level lower.
Hobbits make stealth (eg. hiding or sneaking) saves at one level lower.
Leprechauns cast spells using CON not ST.

2.13 Height and Weight
Height and Weight can be chosen rather than rolled. As a guide compare ST to the chart to find the typical size of someone of your ST.

2.14 Character Levels
Character Levels: on gaining a level a character may instead of the options A-G given choose a new skill or language based on activities up to that point in consultation with the referee. The number of skills a character has is designed to be limited; taking a skill is economical only at low levels. Characters can use option F two ways. Firstly, they can add to charisma. Alternatively, subtract CHR as merciless behaviour and sheer power spreads a reputation of fear. Characters with negative charisma can build good reputations and learn to mimic the social behaviour of the good kin until eventually their CHR will reach positive values.

Those used to D&D 3.5 and AD&D should note that each T&T level is a smaller increase in power than an increased level in that more popular level based game. A D&D level is worth about 2.67 T&T levels; a 53rd level T&T hero is roughly a match for a 20th level in D&D.

Creating higher level characters. A referee may allow a new character to begin one level lower than the lowest level in an experienced party. The new character also has no AP so must earn all the points necessary to advance a level from scratch. An easy fix for the low survivability of starting T&T characters is to allow all characters to begin at a higher level chosen by the referee, 3rd to 7th is recommended.

Such characters multiply gold by level. A new wizard must purchase spells as usual, a warrior-wizard always begins with only first level spells, and a rogue with none. Every level a wizard or warrior-wizard is created with after the first adds 2 years to her age. For example if a 4th level wizard is created, 6 years are added to the characters starting age. A character with the optional Favoured skill created at higher level begins with the save level for this skill equal to the character’s level to represent previous lucky breaks.

3.9 Time and Ageing
You can choose an age within the range you could roll. During play ageing can be handled as follows: every birthday after the maximum starting age (humans 28, elves/fairies/dwarves/trolls 68, hobbits/leprechauns 48) ‘permanently’ subtract 1pt from all seven prime attributes. After the age listed as the start of old age in 3.9, subtract one die worth from each prime attribute each birthday instead. At any time you may choose to penalise CON instead of another attribute. No other substitutions are allowed. Early on the losses can be more than made up for by rising in level (you need to work at keeping fit) but as time goes on this gets harder. Reduced levels in attributes are interpreted in the usual way: zero or less ST results in permanent unconsciousness, zero CON from aging results in death. Interestingly, under these alternate rules wizards will tend to pump up CON so perhaps this explains why powerful wizards tend to live to very old ages.

Languages and Skills
See RPG Review 12 for the skills system.

Character Sheets
Two character sheets are provided on the RPG Review website. One includedhere is a generic guard that can be used as a NPC or given to players visiting your table.