Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Gods of Ardis - Human Deities

So, Krohll is one of the elder gods of Ardis. In general, they have to do with creation in one aspect or another. Krohll, being a kin-creator, is one of the lesser of the elder gods.

Most human gods are not among them; for the most part, these are the younger gods.

Many of these gods are what happens when wizards or heroes become powerful enough. None of them - not even the elder gods - are anywhere near omnicient. They might notice when they're invoked, especially if the ceremony is attention-grabbing enough, but they do tend to be more watchful in their spheres of influence.

For most of my lesser gods, I like to pull characters from modern myth.

For example:

Errol of the Sword A hero's god. His sphere of influence is victory through dramatic flair. He favors the boldly good. (He won't help much with healing or planning or wisdom, but if you're about to swing from the rigging of a burning ship with an oil-drenched sword in your hand, he's got your back.) The darker side of Errol is that his high rites require propitiation of his darker aspect, Errol of the Cradle. (These rites require the assistance of one or more more-or-less-willing virgins.)

Orson of the Pen A god of creativity, drama and perfectionism; a meticulous planner. Orson's younger manifestation is the patron of painstaking creativity. Wizards like him. Given that most gods are created in the image of their worshppers, most of the gods are creatures of great mediocrity. It is said that the incompetence of the gods caused Orson to rage and storm off; he only returned after taking his manifestation as Orson of The Jug, who is the patron of wine.

Since gods are almost as common as villages, there's really no limit to this sort of thing.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


So, for the longest time, I only played T&T using solos, because I didn't have a regular gamer crowd. Also, for a long time, I wasn't anywhere near a game store that carried T&T and I didn't have much in the way of disposable cash anyhow, so I actually only had two solos: Buffalo Castle and Sorcerer Solitaire.

I treated both those solos as "testing grounds" for new characters, and then ran them through randomly-generated solos of my own device, or based on the random dungeon in That Other Game's GM guide... but this led me to try to open things up a bit by, well, I guess, cheating.

Things I've done:
I've run rogues through Buffalo Castle (forbidding them their magic.) Likewise, wizards whose fighting chops seemed sufficient.

I've had my own wizards sell spells to rogues. Extortionately, but they've done it.

Oh and! I tend to allow myself one re-roll per game.

Things I need to try:
Thinking in terms of solos, like Sword for Hire, where the delver gets a companion  for the journey, I'm thinking it's not to big a bend of the rules for most solos to bring in a hireling or two, derived as per the book.Such an arrangement would only work for hiring bring-along muscle for fighting: the player would still have to take point (any hireling taking point would certainly run more risk, and rate better pay, and would in any case benefit from most of the magical gimmies.)

There's a nifty card game called Space Pirate Amazon Ninja Catgirls which breaks the game up into "capers," each caper has a loot reward for success,  and is broken up into four "challenges." It seems that a sort of abstract solo could be handled the same way:

Each "adventure" has 1-6 challenges.
A challenge can be 1-3 a monster encounter, 4-5 a "trap", or 6 both.
Each challenge may (1-3) have treasure

Upon defeating all the challenges, the delver(s) receive a further treasure.

Higher levels bring tougher monsters and higher level saves for the "traps"; also, more treasures.

Traps represent puzzles, traps, or other obstacles: roll 1D to determine which Stat it should be based on. The player chooses the adventurer to attempt the task: failure should result in taking hits, at the very least.

More as I think on it...

Friday, April 6, 2012

Gods of Ardis - Krohll

Famously, T&T has no gods and no specific rules for dealing with them. But I like having them in my game, so I'm adding them. Ardis is simply crawling with gods, godlets, god-kings and death-lords. I'll elaborate on them as time goes along - starting with:

Krohll. He built the forge that burns in the foundations of Ardis, and whose smokes and fires can be seen in volcanoes. That was his first work. For his second work, he made the breastplate of the sun-god, and all of the gods admired it. Drunk on ambrosia, he rashly vowed that he would make a treasure for each of the gods, each unique. The assembled gods mercifully tried to let him off the hook, knowing the task to be impossible, there being an infinity of deities. But Krohll raged at them, saying, "Am I a coward, that I should forswear myself thus? What I have spoken, so shall I do!" And forthwith, Krohll forged for himself a chain, his third work, and bound himself to his forge in the deep, and began his labors, which continue to this day: not without complaint, for Krohll is a wroth god, and his cursing makes the ground shake, especially when he hits his thumb.

Krohll figured that though he had to make the treasures himself, he didn't have to do it without help: so he made the dwarves to be his servants. They dug his ores, coal for his forge, for so long that they eventually came out into the sunlight. They multiplied, so the labor became lighter, but Krohll's faithful -virtually all dwarves- are never quite certain that they are not about to be set to hard labor again. Dwarves call on him, but do not really expect aid: they're supposed to help him, not the other way around. In the face of misfortune, a dwarf is apt to shrug and say, "Krohll is busy." Oaths invoking Krohll are SERIOUS business: There is nothing more likely to bring Krohll's wrath than breaking or neglecting an oath.

Virtues: Strength, endurance, steadfastness, oath-keeping, and technological cunning all fall within Krohll's sphere of influence.

Sacrifices: Treasure, basically: very worshipful dwarves make a votive hoard dedicated to Krohll; dwarvish craftsmen will dedicate a masterpiece to Krohll which they then keep in, or on, a shrine to the god in their workplace. After quenching a blade, As a token of this, a dwarf will throw a coin down a well, or flip a coin over his left shoulder. Picking up s"Krohll's penny" is widely considered to be bad luck.

Game play ideas: An adherent of Krohll seeking the god's aid must perform a ceremony rather like a potlatch, wherein no less than a tenth part of his wealth is expended, either in coin or metal goods. These should be buried in stony ground, marked with one of the god's symbols: a hammer or anvil, or a chain. Oaths taken in Krohll's name must be kept: saving rolls will be missed, consistently, if the character is not doing something to fulfill his oath. It is best that such oaths be specific.

"By Krohll's chain! I will drink more beer this night than any man at this table, or I will dance naked upon it before you!"
"But Helrig! You already do that... both of them! ALWAYS."
"Never swear to ANYTHING by Krohll that you don't know you can do for certain." 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Monsters in Ardis 1: Hobs and Draugr

 Heck, there are lots. But I've got to get cracking on some beasties that aren't standard fare: So far, my players' foes have been pretty well-known: A fair number of goblins, ogres, the odd troll; a specter or two; a horde of rats.

There's been magically animated plate armor: hard to crack in a straight fight but not terribly dangerous, easy to defeat once you get the knack of it, but very VERY noisy. Sort of an armed doorbell.

Hobs: I get a little squirrelly at the term "Black Hobbits" in the sample monsters listed in the 5th edition rules, (the same reason I get squirrelly about "Yassa Massa") but I do like the idea of tweaking Tolkien and villainizing halflings, at least to some degree. So yeah, I'll have villainous halflings - Hobs will do- and yeah, they'll go in nice big packs. But I'm inclined to stat them out using Peters-McAllister, at least in rough rather than go for MRs: Like all hobbits, they're puny, but they're very sturdy, and they're very nimble. They're not going to charge in and attack tooth and claw: they haven't got claws. They've got knives, for the most part, and they've got bows. And they've got stealth.  Encountering Hobs in the field, the first sign of them might be a hail of arrows.

And I like the idea of a lot of them, LOTS of them, being adherents to a horrifying spider goddess - which might be a good way to add hobs to a game without coaxing the party out into the woods to be slaughtered by silent guerilla archers. "The Temple of the Patient Weaver"  has a nice ring to it.

Draugr: These Norse undead appear to be the source for Tolkien's Barrow-Wight. Draugar live in the graves of important men - indeed, they are the re-animated corpses of those men. A draugr's mound emits a great light, like a large will-o-wisp or marsh gas. The graves contain burial treasures, and the draugr jealously guards them. They're very strong (STR + CON x3. )They and stink of death, though they don't exhibit rot. They can increase their size at will, though this does not change their attributes otherwise. They can rise from the grave, even through solid rock, as wisps of smoke. They attack individuals physically, crushing them, devouring their flesh, swallowing them whole. They can attack slowly at a distance by driving their victims mad, especially by entering their dreams. Animals feeding near the grave can be driven mad; even birds will drop dead flying over the grave.

Anyone approaching the grave, or sleeping nearby, must save IQ, or wake berzerk - either fighting, or running themselves to exhaustion. They can be calmed by any non-berzerk making a save on CHA.

Some draugar can shape-change or control the weather, in the immediate region; they have been known to cause (local) eclipses. (if their IQ is above 10); they will often claim to be able to see the future, and the more clever and charismatic may try to fool victims into thinking this is so. They can also cast a Curse You on their victims: one point per day per victim. Some can cause disease to villages.

They are immune to mortal weapons: they hurt, and work defensively, but will not wound them. Bare hands, sufficiently strong, will work. A party can wrestle a Draugr down barehanded if they can withstand him. If they can wrestle him into his grave, that will defeat him temporarily. The only permanent solution is to obliterate the body with fire and scatter them wide, preferably in the sea.

Anyone killed by a draugr may come back as one.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Oh, Bondage! Slavery In Ardis

When I were a tyke, first learning Tunnels and Trolls, I remember being off-put by the presence of slaves in the game, both in terms of the ones a delver could buy by the point and the ones who could be enslaved with the awkwardly-named "Yassa Massa."  (Actually, I am still off-put by "Yassa Massa" - not the presence of an enslavement spell, but by its invocation of the awful "Stepin Fetchit" stereotype. I think a superior name for the spell might be "Charmed, I'm Sure," or "OBEY." Or "Simon Says." Anything, really.)EDIT : I 'b'lieve I saw on someone's blog that the name has been changed to Spirit Mastery... Correct? Not a bad name, though I should have liked something closer to the flavor of Take That You Fiend while avoiding the wincing qualities of the original...

Back then, I tended to play fairly egalitarian, neutral good type characters most of the time - even in the absence of official alignments- and so I found the whole idea of slave dealing abhorrent for my characters. So I tended to ignore the whole thing. (Now, hirelings I did indeed hire, and they tended to die like flies while my goodygoody heroes somehow survived. How is this better, I ask myself?) 

But now, here we are in 2011, I've a sight more history under my belt, and the idea of slaves happening to one extent or another in a T&T setting makes more sense to me. Most of the historical periods modeled in heroic fiction had slavery. Most raiding societies captured slaves; Rome was heavily slave-based; slavery continued to happen throughout the middle ages all around the Mediterranean. Really, most peasants could be construed as slaves, tied to the lands of their feudal lords. And as far as the pages of heroic fiction are concerned, there's plenty slaves to go around, and not just the Barely Nubile Slave Girls dancing in the Adjective Animal Inn. Leiber's  underground city of Quarmall was chock with slaves, many of whom were there just to carry torches. (Now that, I thought, will come in handy next time I'm a delver...)  Plus, the heroes Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser themselves have slaves: Ourph and his companion Mingols, their lives spared in return for life service.

SO. Yes, Virginia, there is slavery in Ardis. Many of the galleys plying the inner sea have slaves at the oars. Most of the big cities have arenas. The Volods' lands are mostly tilled by peasants; the granaries of the cities of  Angapam and Khurasan are all filled by slave labor in the fields.

The berzerk tribes of Ys enslave one another constantly as their feuds broil back and forth from fjord to fort.

Galiana's fields and vinyards are cultivated by tenant farmers more than not: but their quarries and mines are often worked by gangs of enslaved goblins and orcs captured in the incessant war with the hordes of the Dire Mountains.

The brutal poverty of almost all the cities and towns drives many to sell themselves into slavery, if only to eat; Elves, Fairies and Leprechauns never find themselves in these straits and are never to be found enslaved except by magic. Humans, Hobbits and Dwarves are not always so fortunate, and can be found in chains.

As alluded to above, one result of the endemic conflict between monsters and the "good" kindreds is that defeated monsters get brought into slavery. Aberrant monsters, dragons and other higher, magical monsters won't be: but goblins and orcs are virtually always slaves to begin with. Indeed, the great goblin armies of the northwest are made up of little more than slaves, as the whole hierarchy of goblinish society is based on enslavement by fear and force.

So should a character be inclined to buy a slave at market (by the point) they are constrained only by budget, conscience, and their ability to control their charges: a slave that can easily overpower its master is swiftly gone! Many characters, I think, will blench at enslaving a human, dwarf or hobbit - but not be so worried about a goblin slave; on the other hand, a warrior intending to employ a slave as a torchbearer in a dungeon excursion might be more inclined to buy a wretched human than to trust a goblin in the depths.

Bringing a slave along on an adventure is a dodgy business, though. What's to stop them from running at the first sign of trouble, or deciding to help out the opposition? The slave-owning delver will certainly have to make saves on CHA of appropriate levels whenever the slave has an opportunity to break for it, or turn; good treatment might help; promises of reward - either of creature comforts or emancipation - might instill a degree of loyalty. Mistreatment, a history of promise-breaking, or exceeding risk will work the other way around. I'm away from the rulebook just now, and forget whether it said anything about arming your slaves or having them fight for you; I'll think about that for later...

Friday, March 30, 2012

Historical Models for a T&T World

As a young gamer, which I no longer am, I was entranced by the extensive ironmongery list offered in 5th Edition Tunnels & Trolls, and I still find it entertaining. As I grew more aware of history and various cultures, I saw that the weapons list taken as a whole was an Anachronism Stew: a first or second century pilum and gladius might appear in the same adventure with a 16th century zwiehander; western european broadswords share the stage with subcontinental hardware like the madu, pata, katar and kukri. A berzerker warrior (11th century Northern European) might take time after slaughtering an orc (20th century high fantasy) to clean the gore off his grand shamsheer (18th century Persian) and slather on a new coat of curare (indigenous South America).

But I like all that stuff, so I'm inclined to make Ardis a world where that can happen.

Everything on the central part of the main continent south of the Teeth of the Gods is modeled on 16th-17th century Persia and India; it's the heart of civilization in Ardis and so all those wacky, curvy swords and knives tend to crop up in all the big cities.

Vladria gets its model from 15th and 16th century central and eastern Europe: Lots of the halberds and elaborate plate armor crop up there.

Ys, and the rest of the extreme northlands, are an unabashed melange of 8th to 13th century Scandinavia. I like having hairy berzerk northlanders, I read too much Fritz Leiber not to (hence my albeit unconscious robbing of The Trollstep Mountains; they're too good a name for the place to change it now.)

For the southwestern part of the main continent, Galiana, I'm thinking of drawing heavily on the 15th century Mediterranean: Italy, Spain, southern France: touchy swordsmen.

Traditionally "Roman" weapons like the gladius and pilum will be found either as ancient artifacts or in the hands of monstrous armies: goblins, orcs, and whatever else comes boiling up from underground.

Any thoughts? 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Musing on Melee

To start, I'd like to draw your attention to The Push Of Pike:

Otherwise known as "Bad War." Two relatively evenly matched masses of footsoldiers armed with pikes or polearms, locked in combat until one side or the other is overwhelmed. As soon as I read about this, I instantly thought, "Wow. Tunnels and Trolls combat isn't so unrealistic after all, is it?"

I read further. The push of pike was a big problem on the battlefield, and armies of the day (fifteenth, sixteenth century; right about where my more "modern" peoples in Ardis are situated) were hard pressed to figure out how to undo stalemates like this. German mercenaries, the Landsknechts,  employed soldiers armed with two-handed swords to break into the entangled front lines, break the opposition's pikes, and cut down the front line of pikemen (who were ill able to defend themselves against anything in closer quarters.) Spanish armies became well known for employing a combined formation of pike, sword and arquebus to break up opposing pike or halbard-squares.

This is all very easily translated into T&T combat. Suppose we have two bands of warriors, each armed with pikes and comparable armor: their fight can be handled with straight melee, and it's liable to be a long one if they're evenly matched. Even if one band is twice the size of the other, if geographical or dungeon features limit the number that can reach the front of the fight, numerical advantages are neutralized: what we have here is a Push of Pike.

Supposing, then that either or both side has warriors armed with closer-reach weapons - say, a broadsword or a two-hander, or a dwarf with an axe. If those warriors can get inside the effective range of the enemy pikes, they should be able to deliver any hits they can. A suitable save on dexterity should do the trick! If BOTH sides have this idea, depending on the breadth of the line of battle, either both swordsmen should be wreaking havoc on their target pikemen, or they could form a little sub-melee underneath the pikes. As a matter of fact, a pikeman faced with an onrushing warrior with a short sword might be afforded the option of dropping his pike and drawing his own blade to defend himself: perhaps another save on dexterity to pull it off. And not just swords: Look up at the engraving, in the foreground: a fellow's got his poleaxe gripped up high, in order to engage a foe at closer quarters.

As I think of it, the option of trying to get inside an opponent's guard should be available where practicable: A hobbit with a dagger against a giant? Certainly.  A man with a short sword facing another with a greatsword? Probably - but a more challenging maneuver, calling for a higher save. Doing this with closely matched weapons - say, rapier versus rapier - would be much riskier. Your warriors are barely holding on in a melee with a passle of orcs - can the fairy zip around back and hamstring one of them with her little hatpin sword? Why not?

Delvers should always try ways to break through the push of pike - especially when they're on the losing end of it!