Sunday, 7 February 2010

Forward and Back

I've just finished the preparation for my first big wargaming weekend of the year. I'm mostly known as a historical wargamer these days, but like a lot of people of a certain age who grew up in the 1970's my late teen years were dominated with the RPG craze. (That's "Role Playing Games" not "Rocket Propelled Grenades" if the clarity is required).

We - my school friends, older brother, other hangers on and me - played a rule set called "Tunnels and Trolls". We played it because when we went to a show to but D&D all the traders had sold out, and the guy on a stand suggested we tried this newly imported set. It was 50 or 60 gestetnered* pages, stapled together. At the time it was one of the best buys I think my brother or I ever made.

T&T had two advantages over D&D. It was cheaper and simpler. You could get up and running in a pretty short period of time and there was none of that silly mucking about with allegiances and all that. You just bought armour, tooled up and went and kicked some doors down. Actually, 3 advantages. It only used d6, and none of that multi-sided d8/d12/d20 nonsense.

When we got back from that show I took hold of the rules and built a dungeon pretty quickly. Looking back it had no logic, and the 15' x 15' room with a door in each wall was ubiquitous. However out of our group I got the first levels completed first (hey, - I had the rules and being at school had the time). We played our first game in my parents dining room, with about 4 figures painted (if that) and a whole load of imagination. It climaxed with an epic duel with a blue, chocolate cake eating ogre. From that point on there was no looking back. We trawled shows and shops looking for the right figures (it is difficult to remember that Minifigs "ME" range was still the main source, although they were just launching their "S&S" range at that time), building props, - I had an infamous chest made out of a carved up radio battery.

We spent hours playing that game. One summer we had full run of an old church hall where a youth club was held (The old Congregationalist Church in Rugby). We met there every day and multiple games were run for must have been 20 people or so. If you got killed then you went into the next room and played darts or table tennis until another game started.

We moved on from that to a system called Bifrost and then went off to university where I quickly dropped fantasy and started playing and designing historical games.

Any how I was clearing out a bookshelf and found my 2nd edition T&T rules a few weeks ago (the gestetnered set has disappeared in the mists of time), so I thought why not give it a go again? So I managed to agree a date with the 4 of the original players I sort of keep in contact with and set about putting a new dungeon together. As we are going for a retro feel there can't be any of of that quest/mission stuff. It's all money, monsters & magic. And traps. Got to have traps.

I think my brain must be slowing down. I recall having loads of levels to my dungeon, populated with loads of interesting items. This time I've struggled to put three together, and some of the traps are decidedly lame. Alas the maps and file cards of my old set up went out years ago.

To get final inspiration I went in search of any figures I may have left. I found a few in a box in the attic of the garage, - those left after bring and buy sales and conversion to other usage, or trades with other gamers. It's not a bad selection, but I seem to be heavy on Wizards and light on Warriors. Ah well, gone the way of my massive Middle Earth armies I guess.

That has sort of got me over the finish line. I hope the effort is worth it, and we all enjoy the planned day. After all, we are all much older and the fantasy RPG genre has moved on. When we started playing Games Workshop was a reseller of other people's products (still was when I had a holiday job there), and there were no Terry Pratchett novels and the only film version of Lord of the Rings was that horrible cartoon thing done by Ralph Bakshi.

So in summary, whereas Corinthians 13:11 may say "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.", speaking as a Grown Up, I can still enjoy the odd childish thing, and fully intend to do so.

* A gestner machine was a form of office printing. You typed up your work on a translucent "skin" that was then put on an ink roller. Making a mistake at the bottom of a page was a real pain. I produced several school magazines on one.


  1. I remember T&T but never actually played it.

    There was a great booklet on traps and other devices for T&T which we used for AD&D - including a corridor that was actually on a pivot. As you walked down you could make out the glint of spear points at the far end. As you walked towards it, the corridor tipped - and became a pit with spears at the bottom! No-one could escape - instant party kill.

    Always a popular one with players!

  2. I remember that trap book from when I had a part-time job on GW (pre-Warhammer days!). Some good stuff in that.

    If you played AD&D you'd be unlikely to have gone back to TnT, - much too simplistic.

    Glad I never "graduated" to the TSR products.

  3. My forum moniker is the name I gave to my first RPG character who started life in Tunnels & Trolls. Thanks to an article in White Dwarf I was able to convert him into a character in other games. He is still going strong in a couple of online games I occasionally play.

    1. Blimey! I hadn't realised it is now over 5 years since I wrote this post. Maybe time to revisit!