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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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