Liz Danforth’s insight and update on dT&T Aug 2013

Steve Crompton, Rick Loomis, Ken St Andre, Liz Danforth & Bear Peters give an update on Deluxe T&T at TrollCon 2013.

Steve Crompton, Rick Loomis, Ken St Andre, Liz Danforth & Bear Peters give an update on Deluxe T&T at TrollCon 2013.

A week ago, I went up to Phoenix (well, Scottsdale actually) to attend Trollcon/FBIcon. This is a mini-relaxacon where I could visit with friends and the fans of FBInc and T&T, and to have a confab with the Fellowship to discuss the new edition of the T&T rules. Coincidentally, it let everyone see that I was back on my feet, at least to a degree, after my bout of pneumonia earlier in the summer.

On Sunday, the Fellowship gave a talk about what we had been doing, showed off the products completed so far, and answered questions from the audience. That talk was videotaped, and I understand you’ll see it on YouTube once all the umms and ahhs and dead air pauses have been edited into a watchable package.

Here are the Deluxe T&T products we have release so far; Deluxe mini-rules, Buffalo Castle, Deathtrap Equalizer, City of Terrors, TrollWorld Map,Saving Fang Solo, City of Terrors, Dungeon of the Bear & new Dice.

Here are the Deluxe T&T products we have released so far; Deluxe mini-rules, Buffalo Castle, 1st Edition T&T Reprint, Deathtrap Equalizer, TrollWorld Map,Saving Fang Solo, City of Terrors, Dungeon of the Bear & new dice.

After the convention, I had some people tell me privately that they were glad to hear from me, and I gave them a renewed confidence in the success of the project. Eeek? NO PRESSURE, AMIRITE? But they were right that I am not as visible as some, at least in terms of this project specifically. Being sick dried up even my Twitter and Facebook feeds, and my personal blog (www.lizdanforth.com) covers many topics of which T&T is only one.

I thought it was time to bring readers and fans into my back room, and let them see what I’m up to for Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls. Fans of the game know my artwork, so you know what to expect. What I’m writing here is about the editing and game development of the rules, because that’s a less obvious thing.

WHAT I AM NOT DOING
Let me start by saying that what I am doing with this edition is not what I did bringing out Fifth Edition. That edition, I worked from Ken’s original concepts but rewrote the whole shebang from top to bottom, and massaged the whole thing into a conceptual flow that daisy-chained from one step to the next. Ken answered questions when I had them, and put up with my stupid ideas (like negative charisma that evidently makes sense to no one but me).

“Game developer” wasn’t a term we used back in the day, so I am listed as “editor.” And while “game developer” is the term I am using now, I don’t intend the kind of draconian rewrite I did then. The game has changed over time, and Ken has produced a number of editions with no participation from me. Edition 5.5, 7.0 and 7.5 all have their adherents. (There never was a legitimate 6th edition, no matter what anyone tries to tell you.) Patrice Geille’s French edition had additional tweaks and is a kind of unofficial (but approved and licensed) 8th edition.

Here are some of the various editions of T&T that have been released since 1975.

Here are some of the various editions of T&T that have been released since 1975.

The game morphed until if feels like everyone is playing slightly different games. Personalization of the rules is great, but the Kickstarter gave us the opportunity to put together a full blown, definitive new edition that will set a new standard for T&T, and we hope the majority of fans will be able to use and enjoy playing it for a long time to come.

WHAT I AM WORKING WITH
Ken put his nose to the grindstone and delivered the manuscript in May, just about the time I started feeling ill. Reading through the draft, I had questions for him, and many of them wound up being discussed on Trollhalla. I asked the most motivated people to write me emails, and every one I got was read and put in my files for consideration as I worked.

Trollhallans will argue with anyone about anything — I consider that a sign of a healthy community — but it’s clear that no decision of Ken’s or of mine will please everyone. I knew the job was dangerous when I took it. Even Ken and I don’t always agree on every decision, but we are united in wanting to put together the best possible result.

WHAT I AM DOING
“Best” has many definitions, of course. Over time, as I worked and read and listened and conversed, I came to a few conclusions about the key principles I wanted to guide me.

  1. The game should remain recognizably Tunnels & Trolls. I am against changes so extreme that it is no longer recognizable as the same game. But if even large changes improve on Point 2, I’m glad to have them. Changes that do not improve on Point 2 are on the firing line.
  2. Game mechanics and accessibility are a primary consideration. I’m less involved in the society/ies or worldmaking. Nevertheless, if worldmaking decisions damage simplicity and elegance of mechanics, or raise a barrier to accessibility, I’ll take issue with them.
  3. The “shape” of the book will mirror Fifth Edition. The basic core rules for play remain up front, and the optional/alternative rules material are separated out. The narrowest world-content material comes after that. Concepts will build on prior concepts.

WHAT YOU WILL BE GETTING
I’m still mentally moving things from one section to another but here are some things I can say for sure.

In the front section you will find the basic rules for character creation — humans and a few widely-known non-human types. There are warriors, wizards and rogues, and the rules for playing them. The primary mechanics for combat, talents, and saving rolls are all there, as well as the familiar array of magic and how to wield it. There are weapons and armor to buy, delver’s packs, and more.

More colorful mechanics and optional rules will be next. Ken’s manuscript for Deluxe had many spells not seen in earlier editions, and at the confab, Bear described a model of differing spellbooks. There will be variant systems to create characters, and variations on the classes. Adopt these options if they improve your game, and know that others are working with the same concepts out in the wider world. You will all have common ground, with consistent standards, from which to build up the inevitable house rules.

And in the last section, the rules will feature Trollworld. The specifics of what will go in there are still being hammered out, but one of my fingerposts came from a correspondent’s concern that the game was becoming Tunnels & Trollworld instead of Tunnels & Trolls.

After almost four decades of the original designers telling players to create your own worlds, it is no surprise that you have done so. That may or may not resemble the Trollworld that Ken has created, and it won’t do to force the game’s mechanics and structure to support only Trollworld. To be honest, the world has changed so that I can hardly recognize it as the nameless fantasy world this group played decades ago. And that’s okay – Trollworld is still a lively, interesting creation with enormous potential and variety. Bear’s city of Khosht and my Knor still bear traces of that old world, and you’ll get those in the back section with much more as well.

Map-Khosht-Knor

Ultimately, my intention is to see that Ken’s creation, the Trollworld he has built up and explored in his fiction and for this game, is available to be played for those who want to do so. I do not, however, think that Trollworld’s specific ecology and cultures represent the only way to play T&T, and I am trying to balance the wonderful, but sometimes bizarre vision Ken brings to fantasy role playing with also delivering a game that gives the players room to make it their own without throwing away the core game itself. It makes no sense to me for us to say “Here’s a tight, narrowly-defined world and the rules to go with it, or… you can just go make it all up for yourself.” My aim is to give you a well-constructed skeleton which can be fleshed out like Trollworld or in the image of your own creation without missing a beat. I want the commonly-shared tropes of sword and sorcery fantasy fiction and our earlier games to remain accessible, the things that say “this is a fantasy game I recognize as such” … but with ample room to tweak and personalize, but without having to reinvent the wheel.

If you can’t recognize the final result as Tunnels & Trolls, the fantasy role playing game you fell in love with, the game that over 1600 of you elected to support with your dollars and your Euros and your hopes and dreams, then we will have failed to deliver what we promised. It’s coming a little later than planned – check out my own blog to understand why I’ve not been working as hard as I intended to this summer – but we promised you the best edition of Tunnels & Trolls that the Fellowship could make.

I intend to deliver on that promise, with everything in my ability.

— Liz Danforth

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Categories: Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls, Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls News, fantasy role-playing games, game design, Trollworld | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Liz Danforth’s insight and update on dT&T Aug 2013

  1. atroll

    I agree with everything Liz has said here, and completely support her efforts to bring some form of Order out of the Chaos that is my imagination.–Ken St. Andre

    • Thank you, Ken. I recognize and appreciate the trust you and the fans have put in my hands. The results will have to speak for themselves, but I believe what you and I and the rest of the Fellowship are making will be exceptionally good in the end. I’m glad to be part of this.

  2. Rob Barrett

    Exactly what I was hoping to hear, Liz. Looking forward to the game!

  3. This is WONDERFUl to hear! I was psyched for the new edition, but one thing I thought was lost in the new editions (7, 7.5) was the way that 5th edition was particularly open to make-your-own-worlds and not specifically focused on Trollworld. The fact that that is coming back (general stuff first, specific stuff afterwards) means we’re getting the best of all possible worlds (a T&T for both Trollworld enthusiasts and DIY enthusiasts!). This is truly going to be the new definitive edition!

  4. SSCrompton

    I just thought I’d add some info about our 2 new items; Saving Fang and Dungeon of the Bear.
    Deluxe Dungeon of the Bear has all updated stats so that it is compatible with dT&T Plus NEW material including several pages of maps. There is a map I inked of Woods Town, a small village located about 5 miles south of the Dungeon of the Bear – (along with a list of its inhabitants. Bear sketched out this map over 30 years ago and used it as a starting point when he would run the Dungeon. This map has never been seen before in print. There is also (for the first time) a map that shows how Castle Ward and the DoB fit together, so that a GM can better run them. We also included a close-up map of Rrr’lff, that reveals for the first time where DoB is in relationship to Khosht and Khazan, plus shows where the Wood’s Edge in (from Monsters! Monsters! and Overkill (the solo) are located.

    Saving Fang is an entirely new solitaire adventure written by Ken St Andre. It has much more of a narrative story to it and is a great read. You could play this with any version of the T&T rules and you’ll be meeting some familiar characters from Ken’s previous stories and adventures. The art by Simon Lee Trantor is gorgeous and in my opinion may be some of the best art in a solo since City of Terrors.

    We should have both of these at GenCon next week, so we hope to see you there! Liz will not be able to attend this year, but I’ll have her prints and art for sale at the Flying Buffalo booth. Stop by and say hi! Ken and Rick will also be at GenCon!

  5. Mark Spencer

    Great news. Looking forward to purchasing a copy when it is released. I am sorry that I missed Trollcon this year. I wanted to win the best RP’er votes again this year (like I did at Trollcon 1) and to see all of you wonderful, hard working game developers.

    I am a big fan of the 5th edition and would like to see the game maintain the simplicity of that edition. Far too many times, I have seen games become complex monstrosities in subsequent editions. This complexity becomes a limitation and a hinderance to gameplay, at least in my opinion. I consider myself a very old school player and GM who enjoys simple game play and massive use of one’s imagination over “realism” mechanics. I have seen the other editions of the game and find that while they did offer more expanded elements (alternate character classes, skills, etc.), I felt that I was losing that wonderful simplicity of the original (5th Edition) that I feel in love with. I was seeing Tunnels &Trolls start down the same path as their widely known compeditor. A path I never want to see this game go down.

    Of course, this is merely my opinion and should be treated as such. Still, I am glad to see the game growing as it ages. All of you are still special to me and always will be. Thank you again for sigming my copy if Monsters! Monsters! and the opportunity to thank you for giving me a start in this hobby if 36 wnderful and fun filled hobby. Keep safe and well. Hopefully next year I will be able to see all if you again at Trollcon. – Mark Spencer

  6. It seems that the good ship ‘Troll’ has a wise and strong hand on the rudder and that the Captain has charted a course that will lead the crew to buried treasure. The ship’s designer has given them all a boat that will weather any storm and out-gun anyone on the high seas.

    Drink plenty of rum, Liz!

  7. anen kram

    Thanks for working so hard Liz! My favorite edition of T&T is the 5th edition. I’m sure your contributions will be long lasting as the 5th. Saving Fang was great. I think this is Ken’s best solo far in the modern era of T&T.

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