Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tunnels & Trolls: Combat

I still haven't found time to play this, even a solo. My comments are untested observations on a reading of the rules. You've been warned.

The first time I read T&T some time ago, one of the things that initially put me off was combat. I was in a hyper-tactical frame of mind, and upon reading T&T doesn't seem to fit that bill. Wrong answer.

Combat in T&T is bog-simple. Combatants roll a number of d6, that number being derived from chosen weapon modified by three stats. This modification is called "Adds", and that is exactly what is does, it adds to the roll. Weapons can have adds too, so you might have a weapon that is rated 3 dice +2 Adds. Your stats might yield another +2 in Adds. So, you would roll 3d6+4 when using the weapon. Monsters do the same thing, but their numbers are arrived at differently.

Essentially, there is no "to hit" roll in T&T. There is only one roll, and it does determine who does the most damage, so in a sense it is a hit roll, but not really. Each combatant rolls his dice and totals them. The lower number is the loser. That lower number is subtracted from the higher number and the remainder is the damage. Armor reduces damage directly, so it is subtracted from the damage remainder, and the final result is deducted from the victim's Constitution score. Zero Constitution equals dead guy. There is also a rule for the winner of the combat potentially getting nicked up in the fracas, which is reasonable.

That, to my eyes, seems very simple, straight-forward, and quick to play through. Upon my initial reading there were two things about it that jumped out at me. I'll admit to not really opening myself up to the spirit of the rules, which hindered my understanding greatly. The two things were:

  1. All combatants on a side in combat pool all their dice and Adds. There is a single roll per side, compared for a final result, per side, with damage being evenly divided amongst all combatants on that side.
  2. A distinct and total lack of tactical options.

The thing about #1 that never occurred to me is to split a big combat into individual combats. It is not carved in stone that all combats must be reduced to a single roll per side. Split it up however you want to. It is actually very handy to have a "mass" combat system built right into the base combat system. Who wants to waste half the session in a combat with 14 goblins that were a random encounter to start with? Not me. Just lump it all together and get it over with.

As far as #2, I wasn't applying the Saving Roll concept in combat. In a nutshell, Saving Rolls make it easy to adjudicate anything a player wants his character to attempt. Swinging on chandeliers, kicking sand, flipping table, tangling somebody in your cloak, whatever the player can think of. In a nutshell, there are endless tactical options, they just aren't spelled out.

So, now that I've read it more thoroughly and with a more open mind, what started out as a turn-off for me has become one of the game's selling points for me. Isn't life strange?


  1. David, I think you're getting it--the simplicity of the game that speeds things up--the flexibility of doing an attribute-based saving roll whenever a player is smart enough to think of another option. Now, the solos don't give you the second option most of the time--if it's a saving roll situation they tell you, but you really ought to make a character, get one of the free solos, and play through one. You could do it half an hour. Then if you're curious at all, join Trollhalla.com and talk with the greatest T & T gamers in the world.

  2. Thanks for the comment. I plan on giving Buffalo Castle a go tomorrow morning. I'll definitely be posting about my experiences with the solo and the system in general. Thanks for the tip about Trollhalla, too. I joined those worthies about a week ago. I am Ilvarrin-Gorrrar in the Halla of the Elite Champions.