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GenCon 2017: Tunnels & Trolls Adventures

GenCon 2017: Tunnels & Trolls Adventures

Written by Russell Archey on 8/31/2017 for MOB  
More On: Tunnels & Trolls Adventures

As a kid one of my favorite types of books was the Choose Your Own Adventure series.  They were books where after reading a page or paragraph you’d be given an option as to what to do next which led to picking from a couple of pages to turn to.  Depending on what you chose you might have continued on your adventure or met an untimely doom.  The series was mainly published from 1979 to 1998 and was pretty successful.  Imagine though if instead of just reading a bit and picking a choice you threw in some Dungeons & Dragons elements with it such as stats and dice rolling.  That’s essentially what Tunnels & Trolls Adventures did.

To make a long story short, Tunnels & Trolls was an RPG system created by Ken St. Andre, a public librarian in Phoenix Arizona in 1975. After liking the idea of fantasy role-playing after reading a friends D&D Player’s Handbook he found the rules too confusing, so he created his own.  The series saw several editions since then with the latest being released just two years ago.  Flying Buffalo also released at least twenty single-player gamebooks that were made in the style of the Choose Your Own Adventure books, though they came out a couple of years prior to the CYOA series.  The simplicity of the rules for Tunnels & Trolls and their use of six-sided dice instead of the various multi-sided dice of Dungeons & Dragons made it an interesting alternative.  While at GenCon this year I got the chance to not only check out the digital versions of those books, but also a preview of their adventure editor to see how an adventure is created.

At the time of this writing Tunnels & Trolls Adventures had been out for a short while on mobile devices, allowing players around a half-dozen or so adventures to currently choose from.  For those who haven’t played it yet themselves, after downloading the game you’ll choose from one of the adventures in the game to check out and can also choose from one of a few pre-made characters or you can create your own.  After that you’ll begin your chosen adventure which, as stated, works like a choose your own adventure story with some RPG elements thrown in which require dice rolls.  You’ll roll certain dice depending on the situation such as combat and saving throws similar to Dungeons & Dragons.  Depending on your results you might be able to progress or you’ll take damage…or downright die.  One of my attempts through the first adventure saw me miss the first saving throw to see if I spot any danger, then I miserably failed another saving throw that saw me get pelted with arrows.

As you complete adventures your character will gain adventure points, gold and other items they find along the way which they’ll keep provided you do indeed finish the adventure.  All of this is saved to that character and you can then take them through more adventures, or the same one again if you need to level them up more.  I actually like that concept as it mirrors your traditional tabletop RPGs in that once a character is done with one adventure, you can then use them in more adventures after that with everything he’s gained in the past as a natural progression of that character.  You can also use this to somewhat break the game open a bit, but it’s such a slow process that it might not be worth it unless you have a lot of time on your hands.

I’ll get more into the concept of how often you can play an adventure in a moment but from the start you have two adventures which you permanently own for free: the tutorial and Naked Doom.  The tutorial will walk you through how the game is played and at the end you’ll earn Adventure Points and gold for finishing it…both of which are permanently on your character since you finished an adventure.  While you only get around 20 AP (it might be more or less depending on how you do during it, I’m not sure on that), you could just keep completing the tutorial over and over until you get the 1000 AP to move up a level to increase a stat or two before moving to Naked Doom.

In terms of the adventures, not counting the tutorial there are six actual adventures you can play at this time including two created by Tunnels & Trolls creator Ken St. Andre (Naked Doom and Grimtina’s Guard), two by RPG designer and Star Wars author Michael Stackpole (Golden Dust and Red Death), and Boffalo Castle, the first solo adventure created for any RPG.  Except for Naked Doom which is free, you can go through an adventure for the cost of one heart (you start with twenty) until either you die or you complete the adventure.  If you run out of hearts you can watch a short video to get a heart back or purchase hearts with micro-transactions.  On the other hand, you can outright purchase an adventure for a certain number of gems (most of the adventures currently cost 10 gems except for Buffalo Castle which costs 40).  This unlocks the adventure permanently and you can go through it as often as you like.  Both hearts and gems can be purchased in amounts of ten ($0.99), fifty ($4.99), and one-hundred ten ($9.99).  That’s actually an interesting concept and similar to buying modules for other RPGs as they each cost one to four dollars or so.

After dying a few times in Naked Doom I got to check out the Adventure Creator with designers to see how an adventure is made.  The program they use, which will be made available to everyone at some point in the future, is pretty simple.  You start out with a box or two, depending on how you want to begin your adventure, then you can split it off into multiple paths depending on the results of things such as combat and saving throws.  You can easily click and drag things onto the editor, add music and art from a lot of different choices that match any fantasy setting, and overall it takes what appears at first to be a somewhat complicated process and makes it relatively simple to create your own adventure, pun not intended.  The art featured in the game comes from well-known fantasy artists including Liz Danforth, artist and co-designer of the game, and the late Josh Kirby, known for his cover art for Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels.  What’s more is that when someone creates and adventure and if its accepted into the game, that person will get a share of however much the story makes in the game.

It had been a long time since I’ve read any Choose Your Own Adventure books and once I was done at the MetaArcade booth I immediately downloaded Tunnels & Trolls Adventures on my phone.  I tried rolling my own character and botched that up so badly I can barely last a minute in Naked Doom…which to this day I still have yet to survive.  Then again that’s most RPGs for you; you don’t always survive your adventure.  Otherwise, what would be the point of playing if you knew you would always win?  If you’re a fan of the Choose Your Own Adventure books or Dungeons & Dragons, I highly recommended downloading Tunnels & Trolls Adventures and checking it out.  I didn’t get a date as to when the editor will be finished and made public, though I was told that realistically they were looking at next year at some point as there’s still quite a bit to work out and if players will be publishing their own stories for others to play, they want to make sure it’s as perfect as possible.  I will say that if I can ever come up with something half as good as the stories in the game now I might try to work something up, but as of now I can easily say that if I ever finish Naked Doom I’ll likely pick up the other stories.

GenCon 2017: Tunnels & Trolls Adventures GenCon 2017: Tunnels & Trolls Adventures GenCon 2017: Tunnels & Trolls Adventures GenCon 2017: Tunnels & Trolls Adventures GenCon 2017: Tunnels & Trolls Adventures

About Author

I began my lifelong love of gaming at an early age with my parent's Atari 2600.  Living in the small town that I did arcades were pretty much non-existent so I had to settle for the less than stellar ports on the Atari 2600, but for a young kid my age it was the perfect past time, giving me something to do before Boy Scout meetings, after school, whenever I had the time and my parents weren't watching anything on TV.  I recall seeing Super Mario Bros. played on the NES at that young age and it was something I really wanted.  Come Christmas of 1988 (if I recall) Santa brought the family an NES with Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt and I've been hooked ever since.

Over 25 years from the first time I picked up an Atari joystick and I'm more hooked on gaming than I ever have been.  If you name a system, classics to moderns, there's a good chance I've not only played it, but own it.  My collection of systems spans multiple decades, from the Odyssey 2, Atari 2600, and Colecovision, to the NES, Sega Genesis, and Panasonic 3DO, to more modern systems such as the Xbox and Wii, and multiple systems in between as well as multiple handhelds.  As much as I consider myself a gamer I'm also a game collector.  I love collecting the older systems not only to collect but to play (I even own and still play a Virtual Boy from time to time).  I hope to bring those multiple decades of gaming experience to my time here at Gaming Nexus in some fashion.

In my spare time I like to write computer programs using VB.NET (currently learning C# as well) as well as create review videos and other gaming projects over on YouTube.  I know it does seem like I have a lot on my plate now with the addition of Gaming Nexus to my gaming portfolio, but that's one more challenge I'm willing to overcome.
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