Thursday, April 6, 2017

I Just (Re)Discovered Old-School Gold - It's 1st Edition Tunnels & Trolls

Rob Carver, cover of 1st edition Tunnels & Trolls

After getting back into the hobby in 2011, I rediscovered, or more accurately, discovered (for me) many vintage role-playing games. I based my own neo-clone on the original 1974 edition of Dungeons & Dragons, which I had just missed, back in the day, and had never really read very closely.

I kind of started on a spree, which to a large extent still continues, acquiring and reading the original editions of Gamma World, Metamorphosis Alpha, Bunnies & Burrows, Traveller and the like along with aids and supplements such as the Arduin books, All the World's Monsters and so on.

But I neglected early Tunnels & Trolls.

Or, rather, it wasn't so much that I neglected it, as that it was impossible to find. (I learned today that this was because only 100 copies of the 1st edition were originally printed.) Later, I took a hiatus from game writing and blogging for a bit, during which time a Kickstarter got going for a "Deluxe Edition" of Tunnels & Trolls. The original designer of the game, Ken St. Andre, offered his last remaining copy of the 1st edition as an incentive for the project. It was subsequently made available as a PDF, and is now being sold on RPGNow for $1.95.

That's right, $1.95.

For some reason, I missed that until now, which is proof, if proof is even needed, that the author of this blog is often an idiot. Regardless, it is today in my virtual hands.

Back in the day, I had a dim awareness of T&T. But I turned up my nose at it at that time, taking Gary Gygax at his implied word that Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was the "official" fantasy game of record and everything else was either for weirdos or kids. Plus I had heard that Tunnels & Trolls was sort of jokey - with silly names for spells and the like. Also, it had what seemed to me to be an excessive amount of solo adventures, further evidence that its purchasers and players were weirdos - they had no friends.

I wasn't a weirdo then, or so I thought. I guess I am a weirdo now.

Despite the title of this post, I do not think 1st edition Tunnels & Trolls is old-school gold, precisely.

It's a 5,000 g.p. gem.

If I didn't know that I could repurchase it on RPGNow for $1.95, I wouldn't trade my virtual copy for hard-copies of the complete D&D 5th edition core-books. And I say that even with the proviso that I could resell those core-books (which is immediately what I would do if they ever fell into my lap).

I'm going to write a series of reviews, starting tomorrow, but let me just say here that although I knew I would probably like 1st edition T&T, I was still pleasantly delighted when I actually read through the booklet.

Among other things, there are all sorts of neat ideas and variants in its 43 pamphlet-sized pages. And like the original 1974 edition of D&D, it's written in a distinctive style that's both fun and and makes you want to immediately play the game.

Gary Gygax and Ken St. Andre both had a twinkle in their eye. Or so one imagines. If anything St. Andre's twinkle was even more mischievous. They don't write game text like that anymore.

So, not only am I weird, but I'm also a kid. Or at least I'm gushing like one.

Enough. Review to follow. If you haven't picked up the PDF, it's the best $1.95 you'll ever spend.

It's even less than a pair of sandals (T&T General Supplies, p. 16).

Next: Sex, Jokes and a 1917 Remington.


  1. Its always gratifying to read how someone who was told to "ignore that other silly game" finally comes to discover it for themselves. You will find that in many ways the subsequent editions of T&T keep that twinkle. Thanks for writing about your discovery of T&T

  2. Wow. You got Crompton to reply to you.

    Crompton, your art is awesome.

  3. I've been running T&T as long as I can remember. D&D has its place, certainly, but T&T is an elegant engine which in th ehands of a creative GM can be used to run pretty much any kind of game that you want.