So I GMed my first game session of Tunnels and Trolls today (5th edition). I found it very interesting, it was fun, but a number of rules questions came up. Anyway, here’s what happened.
So the setting of the game is my own; some of you may recognize where my inspiration for this comes. The evil queen Aletheia, recently released from centuries of imprisonment, and her right hand mage Judore, took over the realm of Varhold, enslaving its inhabitants. From there, she called all the remnants of the Elven diaspora to her. Together, they continued enslaving and conscripting humans and other races into her army, and began a campaign of imperial conquest. None seem to be able to stand against her forces. Desperate for any chance, any hint of weapons or items to fight against the evil queen, rulers of the surrounding territories are willing to pay high prices. So, brave adventures roam the land, exploring caverns and ancient ruins in search of such treasure.
In the dwarven town of Boltheim, refugees fleeing from the depredations of the elven forces have found that their trials are only just beginning. The locals tell of how strange creatures are coming into town and abducting people, who are never seen again. Recently, a teenage abductee successfully escaped, and told how she was held captive in some sort of cave, where she could see chests full of crystals glowing with strange magic. Pleading for someone to help rescue her family, she gave directions to the location from which she escaped.
So the adventure begins with the player characters in front of an iron door leading further into the caverns. I was GMing for two players, each of who controlled two characters, who included warriors Hayoshiko, Atticus, and Enneada, and Sezerain the rogue. The characters were able to enter the door, forcing it open with a combined strength roll. One rules point here: the fifth edition rules talk about saving rolls, but these are really attribute checks. The easiest way for me to understand them was that the player rolls two dice (doubles explode), and adds the relevant attribute value to the total. They need to equal or exceed the difficulty number, which is five times the difficult level +15. The level of difficulty is determined by the GM. So 2d6+attribute >= 15 + (difficulty level X 5). This is mathematically equivalent to what the text describes, but it is more intuitive for me.
The characters quickly found themselves in a room with a fancy rug on the floor, and three doors to choose from. They noticed the rug was clean and looked pristine, so they were quite suspicious of it and avoided stepping on it. I asked for some IQ checks here as basically perception rolls; for those who didn’t roll a 20 or above, I just gave very basic information. One character rolled above 20, and I mentioned how they could hear people screaming faintly in the distance, and that the doors to the east and south were closest to the sound.
The players open the door to the east, and see nothing inside, except a chest and another door. They are suspicious, and don’t go in. They then proceed to the door to the south. One character opens it, and because they didn’t use the key, it triggers a trap. Three giant, hungry spiders are released from above them, and proceed to attack.
Now, when creating the spiders, I gave them the following features. I thought I would give them a monster rating of 20 – but that would mean they’d roll three dice each, and add 15. This seemed too harsh, so I gave them three dice and an add of just five. I was then worried this would make them too easy, so I thought that I would make it so that they didn’t get weaker (roll fewer dice) until they were down to a 5 constitution. In other words, instead of them taking damage to their monster rating they’d take damage to their Constitution of 20. In addition, I gave them a web spinning attack: they can spit out webs, forcing the targeted character to make a dexterity save of 20 or be trapped; once entangled, a character would have to make a Strength roll of 25 or above to escape.
Unfortunately, I didn’t realize just how challenging the spiders would be. A giant spider managed to corner one of the characters, Hayoshiko, into a one-on-one battle. This became a bit of a grind, as the character was a warrior with 12 points of armor. After several rounds where no one did any damage to each other, we quickly instituted the spite damage rule: if you roll a six, then someone on the opposing side takes one point of damage, regardless of armor. Slowly, they were each getting hurt. Hayoshiko tried to retreat to join the other characters so they could fight together. I interpreted this to be a dexterity roll. Unfortunately the character failed (they rolled less than 20). Now here is the first rules question: when someone does a stunt like this, how to adjudicate the attack from the opponent? Normally, you compare the total of weapon rolls from each side, but when one side isn’t using a weapon roll, how to determine the result of the opposing attack? In this particular case, I rolled for the spider as usual, and compared this total to the player’s total for their dexterity roll, basically substituting it for the weapon roll. The spider’s total was less than the player’s. So I interpreted this to mean that the character was not able to reach his companions, but also the spider was not able to damage him. But I’m not clear on how this works in general.
Meanwhile, Enneada, Sezerain, and Atticus were fighting together against two spiders. The first round goes well for them, and they’re able to do 20 points above the spiders’ total, so do 10 points of damage to each spider. The spiders then unleash their web attacks. Atticus and Enneada fail their dexterity saving throws, and are entangled. Facing two giant spiders, Sezerain backs into the room with the chest, hoping to use the doorway to keep both spiders from attacking him at once. I winced inwardly as the player told me this, because I knew there was a pit trap just inside the door to the chest room! The pit trap opens. However, the player makes their saving throw – they needed a 25, and they got a 26. So I say they’re able to roll to the side, their lantern rolling onto the floor beside them.
So now we have three separate fights going on. Hayoshiko is fighting one spider to the west side of the room, one spider is attacking the entangled characters, while another spider is trying to get at Sezerain, who is in the room with the chest, balanced on the edge of the pit trap.
Over the course of several rounds, Hayoshiko tries a number of maneuvers, retreating and trying to get back out the main entrance, trying to get the spider to flee using his torch, and again trying to reach the other characters. Unfortunately, each maneuver fails. I interpreted them as dexterity rolls, with maybe one luck roll in there. Now, the way that I read the rules, when someone does a stunt like this I should give them the difficulty level, consequences for failure, and the benefit of success. The benefits of success were easy to determine each time, but I wound up being continually confused about what failure would mean, in particular how to adjudicate the spider’s attack after the player failed. What I wound up doing was just applying the spider attack to the total of the players dexterity roll. The result was a slow grind, with spite damage slowly wearing away at each combatant.
Sezerain fought the giant spider with his spear, and the results were similar to Hayoshiko’s battle: they were slowly grinding each other down. Meanwhile, the third giant spider made free attacks on the entangled Atticus, eventually killing him. Enneada tried several strength rolls to get free, failing several times, helpless to prevent the spider from savaging the poor Atticus.
The battle continues, Enneada fails to escape, and gets bit for some damage; Sezerain keeps fighting the spider and finally kills it. Enneada finally breaks free of her web, and attacks the spider. Sezerain throws his spear at the spider, so I interpreted that as a combined melee attack. This attack is able to take that spider out.
At this point, after several failed rolls, Hayoshiko is fighting a giant spider in the dark, armed only with a rock. Sezerain and Enneada want to quickly join him, so I gave them a choice: Enneada can help Sezerain across the pit trap quickly with a combined strength roll; if successful, they’ll be able to reach Hayoshiko in time to make a combined attack against the remaining spider this round. Or, they can play it safe, Sezerain can cross automatically without a roll required, but they won’t be able to reach Hayoshiko until the next round.
Here’s where another rules question comes in. They each made a strength roll, Enneada succeeding, but Sezerain failed by rolling a 4. Now their combined total was more than enough to beat the level of difficulty of 25 – but because one of them failed their roll, how to interpret the results? In this case, I erred on the side of harshness, saying that Sezerain almost slips but he manages to get across, but not in time to help Hayoshiko this round.
Regardless, Hayoshiko and the spider do only a slight bit of damage to each other from spite damage. The next round, the characters join up, and are able to take the spider out with their combined attack.
I felt a little bit embarrassed, because I hadn’t meant the spiders to be that much of a challenge. They were powerful enough to almost take out the entire party. But I suppose that’s just my inexperience with the system. I felt sorry for the characters, and wanted to change the spider stats on the spot to help them out, but the players saw what I was doing and spoke up, refusing to let me go easy on them, which of course was the right call.
The rest of the game went smoothly in my opinion. The characters cleverly disarmed a trap in the chest by pushing it into the pit trap so that it broke open. The sleeping gas it contained was released, but it dispersed sufficiently that it didn’t get anyone. The party proceeded further into the caverns, and found where the screams were coming from. They observed humans tied onto stone slabs, their blood being slowly drained and dripping into containers which glowed, gradually getting brighter the more blood dripped into them. In addition, they found a humanoid mushroom tied onto the one of the slabs, with a battle hardened Elven veteran and a pair of orcs experimenting on it, trying to get it to bleed. They also saw a couple of human slaves, with iron collars on their necks. One of the slaves noticed Enneada, but turned their head, not acknowledging her presence.
After a brief discussion, the party decided they were too wounded to attempt a rescue, and took the treasure they found and ran back to town. And that’s where that session ended.
Overall I had a lot of fun, but I admit that, during prep, I had a very hard time understanding this text of Tunnels and Trolls. I’m speaking of the fifth edition here. To me, some of the most important parts of play were completely left out. It’s like, the game text makes perfect sense if you already know how to play the game – but if you don’t, it’s very difficult to know how to play from reading the text. I often find this problem; the authors are so familiar with their game that some of the most important practices or rules are so obvious to them that they don’t even think of writing them down. However, these are not obvious to most other people. Without exception, when I’ve heard a game designer say, “it’s obvious that you’re supposed to do such-and-such in that situation,” or the like, they’ve been completely wrong. Certainly their point was not obvious to me at all.
Anyway I would appreciate any feedback on how to interpret these rules, or what useful practices you bring to this game, or my GMing, or any other observations y’all might have.
41 responses to “A Session of Tunnels and Trolls”
Some notes from player side
The game was good enough a test of our strategy, tactics, character builds and luck. I had poor luck and prepared for wrong things, so my character with an actually good statline died, while the one with an awful stat line survived, as tends to happen surprisingly often. This did show the game has teeth and is not just theatre. Same as our call to just leave the victims of elven blood draining there; it was not a decision we wanted to take, but that we had to make it shows that the game has teeth.
I think the mechanical treatment of the spiders sounds convoluted. Just have a monster rating plus maybe a special ability and go with that!
I would not have saving throws versus combat totals; as mentioned, they work on different scales.
Rather, I think the saving throw happens before/between the combat clashes and might affect those clashes. The effect should depend on the fiction: after a successful maneuver, who is left capable of fighting whom? After a failed maneuver, who is left capable of fighting whom?
If you commit to cutting someone free from the webs, you commit to not fighting the spider. A risky act! Your combat total is zero, success or failure (or maybe with a high level saving throw you could do it fast enough for at least one of you to participate in the fight, too, if one wants to get elaborate). If you running for your life to escape, you commit to not fighting. If you are doing just a fighting retreat, you do not get to move as far, but can fight regardless of success/failure; you will just fight in a different position or as a part of a different group.
Just my take on the rules, with my creative goals (playing to win, conflict simulation).
Adventure points clearly are an incentive to do things, rather than a scorekeeping device as I prefer experience to be used as in D&D. They are earned for participating, not for success.
Earning adventure points for tasks means that we should fish for low-stakes saving throws at all times, because we get adventure points. To counteract this, one has to either not play hard to earn adventure points, or there has to be sufficiently painful consequeces for failing them. The latter leads to Burning wheel -type "if you fail, this and that happens" type things, which are often dramatic takes on the fiction; that is, one does not ask what kind of natural consequence a failure would have, but rather what kind of dramatic set-back would be credible and exciting.
Not using them as a generic task system, but only using them as saving throws, that is, for avoiding danger, is one way to go, if one does not want to do the dramatic failure consequences thing.
It takes guts to have a triply trapped chest and a trap of giant spiders, plus a dynamic enemy and puzzle scenario stuff in the same dungeon. I liked it. The fictional content was also interesting enough.
Game mastering methodology
You seem to awfully worried about things being fun and fair and dramatic; that is, the emotional outcome of play. I asked you to not go easy on us during the session for a reason, and the same applies to not steering us to experience your fantastic imagery. I, as a player, would strongly prefer you to not worry about this stuff at all. My opinions follow.
In a crawl the players are responsible for how far they go, which fantastic things they experience, whether they triumph or lose, and so on; they have the right to (try to) retreat, run away, maneuver, choose where they go, and so on. The game master takes their hands off the steering wheel; otherwise there is no game for the players.
So no thinking whether the spiders were too tough; that is for us, the players, to decide. Also, be very careful about participating in the stragegy and tactics work. In the worst case your perspective as the game master influences your suggestions, and that would turn the game into one of reading the game master, rather than interpreting the fiction. Interpreting the fiction is much more interesting than reading cues from game master descriptions and brainstorming.
You got to play to get to do the strategy and tactics fully, or you need to be very disciplined about how you go about it.
You’re probably on the right
You're probably on the right track with the rules, but I'm still confused. Suppose there's a group melee of your PCs vs. some goblins; your character decides to try to disarm one of the goblins instead of attacking with their weapon. So that will be a Dex "saving roll". If you succeed, then that goblin will only be able to attack unarmed, but if you fail – what? Maybe you take a point of damage? Or maybe the goblin does full damage dice against you? And then how is the melee adjudicated? Does your "saving roll" add to your side's total or not? If not, why would anyone do anything other than attack with their weapon? You'd be leaving your companions without support otherwise. And then if you do the stunt, do you take shared damage if your side loses? None of this is clear from the text.
One quick response to your last point: imo, it's part of the GM's job to make sure the players are aware of all the options their characters would reasonably be expected to consider, given their knowledge and circumstances. Doing this does not mean I as the GM *want* you to do any particular thing, or are hinting that you should do X or Y – I don't, and didn't, so please don't misunderstand this. But when players don't mention a course of action that would be obvious to their characters in the situation (good or bad, for them or others doesn't matter – the point is that the possibility would at least occur to the characters), I will speak up to make sure the players know the option exists. Again, don't mistake this for any kind of a hint or preference, it is not, it's just a matter of being fair.
This is a timely post on T&T
This is a timely post on T&T because I've been going through the process of learning the game myself lately (some of you have seen my posts and other people's post on it on the Discord server).
For context, I have not played the game yet, but I have read the 5th edition's text, read parts of 1st and 4th and compared it to 5th, and have also skimmed through 7.5th and Deluxe and compared it to 5th. I have also by now read several "GM-adventures" and solos. I have also read through several years worth (!!!) of posts/discussions at the Trollbridge website and at T&T dedicated blogs. I have also read a few different versions of condensed T&T 5th edition rules available in some of the solos and GM-adventures, with the benefit that sometimes they help clear up some rough spots in the main text.
All of the above combined has cleared several aspects of the rules that were not clear to me from the main text alone. But I haven't yet played the game, so keep that in mind. Also, some of what I'll say below is what *I* would have done in your situation as first time GM and based on material on the main text as well as discussions and material in solos and GM-adventures. Do not take it as "the right way to do it" but simply as something for you to consider.
So here we go:
I think MR 20 means 3 dice and 10 adds (20/2 = 10), not 15 adds. Probably a typo on your part.
I would not have reduced their adds; instead I'd reduce their MR to 19 so that they would get only 2 dice and 10 adds. I like to keep consistency in the system and just reducing adds feels arbitrary to me, given that there is a direct relationship between the MR and the adds.
Using both MR and CON like you did is something that people do often and is in the main text. It has the advantage of maintaining the MR constant to the very end (if that is what you wish for a particular monster) while reducing their CON instead. Notice also that the CON does not need to match the MR (there are several examples in the main text about this).
I think this is an issue that we first timers will have at the beginning. It's difficult to gauge how much of a challenge something will be. My perception at the moment would be to consider how many characters there are, how many dice and adds they have for the Total Hit Points sum fo the group, and then compare that to the monsters. This should help gauge the challenge. Of course, if the monsters also have Special Attacks like your spiders, you'll have to factor that in too.
I probably would do what you did here, which is to start playing with rules as written, but the use of Spite damage seems somewhat unavoidable at some point. From what I gathered, even 5th edition fans use Spite damage regularly to at least get "attrition" damage.
I'm a bit confused about your examples, but never mind. There are some examples in the main text about consequences from failled SRs. Some of those examples include damage. I do not remember them by heart, though. I think in some cases it amounts to "the player takes damage by the amount by which they failed the SR" or something to that effect. I'd start with that kind of thing. But there's an important element here: T&T really doesn't have specific procedures for this kind of thing. It's all up to fictional context and what feels right in that context. It may be a bit frustrating in the beginning, but I think it's for the best. However, from what I understand of your example, I would not have mixed a DEX roll as a player total vs HPT of the spider. These are different things, as Tommi pointed out. Different scales. But I could be wrong. maybe it works fine, at least sometimes.
Are these "combined" attribute rolls something that is in the text? I'm a bit confused. And maybe that could be why you are confused too about how to interpret the results of one success and one failure in a combined roll in which both are "supposed" to succeed.
I agree with you to a great extent. It's not that there needs to be an example or "right" procedure for each possible situation. As I mentioned above, T&T doesn't need that and flourishes on using the mechanics by fictional context instead. But there NEEDS to be clarity regarding the use of the system to even begin to adjudicate procedures based on context. The text fails on providing that clarity on several instances. And this does not change in any edition before or since 5th. In many cases it's not that some clues aren't in there; it's that you have to derive them for somewhat unrelated examples and/or find them buried somewhere in the text. It was also frustrating for me to grok certain things. I did a lot of back and forth between certain statements in the text and examples somewhere else before I realised what the "right answer" was. My copy has a lot of notes crossing over information. And most of the time they don't answer the question directly; all you can do is infer something from various disparate and unrelated examples scattered throughout the text. The text is needlessly muddled regarding several aspects of gameplay. Most of the answers are there, though, if you don't mind the fustration.
This is a case in which it depends on context and your own interpretation. I think it's intentional that there isn't a right answer. I think the text points in some specific directions, though: for example, if you failed in your example above, you could take damage equal to the amount by which you failed the SR. I think there's an example of this in the text, iirc. The SR never adds to any side's HPT, as far as I can see it. Full damage from the goblin could be an option, though. But keep enemy damage related to failed SRs separate from HPTs, these don't interact.
You would do it because the pay off if successful is worth it. It reduces the MR of the opponent, and consequently the dice and adds. And you get ap/xp for it. If you fail, well…
Your side doesn't take shared damage from your failure, as I see it. You tried, you failed, you take the consequences, before counting up the HPTs for both sides. Shared damage is for the HPT differences between sides, not SRs for stunts. I could be wrong.
This is how I see it too.
I'm also interested in other people's opinions. Gaptooth can probablly help clarify some of this stuff, he played the game for many years. I'm just learning here. Thanks for posting this!
I have opinions about combat stunts like disarming; my current thinking is not line with the rules as written, but would instead convert spite damage into stunts. One reason is exactly that disarming is an entirely normal part of combat, and making it a separate maneuver that somehow goes past the combat system is very strange, and fundamentally not healthy for the game, I think. This, however, leads to making my own game built on the published T&T rules, but quite distinct in other ways.
Within the more orthodox written rules, I would do one of the following, depending on the particulars of the situation: have you not create a combat contribution if you fail the save to disarm, have you be disarmed or another relevant consequence, or allow you to fight with another weapon or even as usual (for example, if you are much quicker and have a reach advantage on the opponents, plus good mobility).
For the suggestions: my own preference would be to allow me as a player to have my mistakes, including any cases of tactical or strategic tunnel vision that might happen. I did not feel any of the suggestions were useful and they were more distracting.
With new players, I sometimes do suggest causes of action, but I try to do that only if new players are stuck, and then I try to give at least three suggestions.
Session post-mortems are good places to discuss what kinds of choices were made during play and why, and what could have been done differently. It allows the players to play the game while allowing everyone to learn and improve.
However, I am not so worried about the suggestions; rather, about your seeming desire to make things fair or balanced or suitably dangerous, whichever terminology you prefer, and feeling bad about the adventure design, which you absolutely should not feel. Get the attitude right and the suggestions will find their place and role. It might just be that we have different preferences here, which is okay.
Yep, my bad.
I think you're probably right, I should have tried it "by the book" before modifying it. But my quick calculations made me concerned that would be too tough.
I think this was my big mistake – I underestimated how much tougher this would make the spiders. I know now though, and will probably only use it for the opponents I want to be the toughest.
GM had no obligation to point
GM had no obligation to point out options to players back in the game club I played in 1977, at least in D&D dungeon crawls. Challenges to the players were part of the game. I expect it was the same with T&T of the time as well. Later RPG philosophy shifted most of the challenge to players to challenge to characters.
Same for me when I played
Same for me when I played back then, but my current thinking is different, I'm hoping for the better 🙂
I have not played the game, so I am just interpreting text and intent here.
Reading the rules closely, I think the intent for failed saving rolls is that you suffer full damage. In your case where Hayoshiko tried to retreat and failed, I'd say he fails to retreat and takes full damage from the Spider. The rules also talk about partial successes (I think in section 2.37), so making a save within 5 points of the needed number might achieve a retreat, but take the damage, or it might half the damage but fail the retreat.
If a character is not specifically fighting, but instead focuses on another action such as cutting a web, I'd say they just suck up their full share of incoming damage.
There is a rules example in the section on Unusual Combat Situations that is similar to this, it describes a hobbit trying to dodge a giant, and if failing has to take full damage from it. So I'd say your interpretation is good.
With respect to the guy trying to cut someone out of the web, I posed some questions about it in a reply to Pedro, below.
Some Specific Examples and Questions
OK let’s start with the easier issue, at least for me, which is the point about “suggestions”. IMO, a better word would be “reminders”. Let me describe an example of what I’m talking about.
Suppose in a modern genre game, the player characters are trying to enter a house, and are discussing whether to pick the lock or to use a plastic explosive. Now, also suppose that in the previous session, one of the characters found the key to the house and has it in their pocket, but their player forgot about this. In this case, I would definitely remind the players of this fact. It would simply strain credibility that the player character would not remember that they had the key.
This is the kind of circumstance when I “suggest” something to the players, when they’ve forgotten something that their characters would remember, or when they don’t understand something about the scene, but their characters in that situation would.
Note that my own preference, if I have one, of what the players should do plays no role in this decision. I would do the same thing if they had the wrong key, say, and were thinking of giving up and leaving the scene, and forgot that they had plastic explosive. I’d remind them that they had it. That by no means suggests that I *want* them to use it, or that it would be a good idea for them to use it, at all. I’m simply making sure they are aware of the options in the scene that their characters would (reasonably be said to) be aware of.
In fact, I think if I were not to do so in such cases, it would be bad GMing. If the players decide to blow up the front door with plastic explosive, when they forgot they had a key to the front door in their pocket the whole time, that strains credibility and makes the whole game seem stupid. It might be OK for a comedy game or the like, but IMO not for most games. Most of the time I will err on the side of making sure the players are well-informed of their options (or at least as well-informed as their characters would be in the context). YMMV, but that’s how I roll (pun intended).
OK, now with respect to how to adjudicate stunts. Let me describe a very specific example, so that we can be clear on what we’re talking about and what the questions are.
Suppose players A, B, and C, are fighting goblins numbers one, two, three, and four. During the first round, everyone uses their weapons, so we compare hit point totals of each side; the players lose, and damage is distributed among their characters.
Player B then decides his character is going to try to disarm goblin number two, who has a particularly big battleaxe with a lot of dice, and is thus creating problems for the party. So, the GM’s job is to come up with a difficulty level for this saving role/attribute check, and the benefits of success and consequences of failure. Let’s say I decide it’s a level three difficulty, so they need a 30 or above to succeed. Now, the obvious benefit of success is that the goblin will be without his large battleaxe for at least one round, so the hit point total of the goblin side will be lowered.
Now it’s not clear to me what the consequence of failure should be in this instance. It might be: (1) getting disarmed himself; (2) getting tripped, thrown, or being put in some other kind of compromising position; (3) taking damage, but how much is unclear to me – one suggestion I’ve heard is a number of points equal to the degree of failure, but I guess you could just as easily say he takes full damage from the goblin’s battleaxe. I have no idea which option is more appropriate.
OK let’s take a look at the different possibilities:
Player succeeds: so the goblin has been disarmed. Now the other characters are using their weapons in melee, as are the other goblins.
(1) Does B’s rolled total (his attribute check that disarmed the goblin) add to the HPT of the rest of the group? Or is it considered completely separate?
(2) Suppose the players roll poorly and still lose. So damage gets distributed among the PCs, right? So, does B also take damage along with the rest of the party? If not, it seems illogical, as he was in thick of the battle.
(3) Suppose the players win the roll against the goblins; does the disarmed goblin take damage along with the rest of his group, or is she taken out of the group for this purpose?
Player fails, part one: so in this case player B does not make his roll, and let’s say the consequence is that instead of disarming the goblin, he gets disarmed himself. The rest of the group rolls their hit point totals, and come up short against the goblins.
(4) So in this case, is his rolled (attribute check) total added to the rest of the group’s rolls?
(5) Suppose it’s not, then does he have to take his share of damage along with the rest of the party?
If he does, it makes a certain amount of sense – he was in the thick of the battle. It’s a bit of a double-whammy, as the rest of the group was deprived of his roll adding to their hit point total, since he tried this maneuver instead.
The same analysis should work if the consequence of failure was being thrown or tripped, etc.
Player fails, part two: now suppose the consequence of B’s failure is that he takes damage.
(6) OK, now if the party loses in the melee, does he again take damage with the rest of the group?
(7) What about the goblin with the battleaxe? Is she considered to have already used her action, because she damaged B? Or does she roll her damage dice along with the other goblins, adding to their hit point total?
OK, I think those are all my questions for now.
I'm with you. I don't think a player should be penalised for bad memory, ADHD, or the unavoidable murk about a situation that always occurs at some point or another. There's definitely a balance to be had here.
This may not be the answer you'd like, but as far as T&T goes, all of those are legit choices. None of them is objectively more appropriate except in your own sense of what's appropriate/fair/etc.
1) As I mentioned in a previous reply, Attribute checks don't add to HPTs. You'd just roll again for player B as part of the HPT calculation. The feat/SR for disarming was something that occurred "just before" the next combat turn procedure started. So, yes, the SR for disarm is completely separate. There may be some edge cases but I'd try to keep it simple for a start.
2) Yes, he takes damage along with the party. He's in the group and has calculated his contribution to the group's HPT during the combat turn. And even if he didn't, as long as he/she is part of the group he/she will take damage along with everyone else.
3) Yes, the goblin will take damage too, she's part of the other group and she's part of the combat turn along with everyone else on that group.
4) Nope, Attribute check results have nothing to do with HPTs.
5) Yes, even if he does not contribute to the HPTs of his group due to loss of weapons (he can still fight with his hands, though, but let's ignore that), he's still in the group and taking it. Actually, even an unconscious character in a group will take damage along with everyone else (example in the text, but you can rule it out on a case by case basis if you want). Double-whammy is the price to pay to try to get the advantage on your opponents and faill, so it's fair.
6) Yes, the SR for disarming happens "outside" of the main procedure for the combat turn. He pays the price for failing the disarm (he knew the risks) and he pays the price for his side losing the combat round. They're independent. That's the whole point of risking an SR.
7) Nope, she will still compute her contribution for her group's HPT for the combat turn. Same as player B in the examples above.
Note, this is how I interpret the rules at the moment, but I've seen no contradiction so far from all the examples of play I've read in the text or in supplements, APs reports, forums, etc.
Another related matter: I
Another related matter: I would do the same if we were talking about monster special attacks. No matter if they were triggered by X amount of spite damage inflicted on the delvers during combat (as in T&T7.5) or if they were triggered by some other criteria, I would make them "go" just before the next round starts, just like I'd do with delver feats/SRs. Right now I think this is the less complicated, cleanest, straighforward way of using these procedures.
Thanks so much for your replies! So regarding:
It sounds like you’re giving B a free extra attack; he successfully disarms the goblin, and then gets to attack again immediately. Is that correct?
If so, I think your interpretation is functional – having an additional combat roll solves most of the puzzles I was confused about. It directly contradicts the text’s combat rules, which say characters get only one attack per combat round/turn. I’m willing to live with that, though!
Now suppose we have a situation like when Sezerain is trying to cut Atticus out of the web, while spiders are attacking.
Would you consider this:
That’s basically what I did with the spider web attacks, although I wasn’t thinking in formal terms at the time. I figured the spiders would be able to do one web attack each per combat, and that as special attacks they were extra attacks, outside of the normal melee rules. The spiders then attacked again with their regular dice of damage for the group melee.
“It sounds like you’re giving
Kind of. The "next attack" is a normal combat turn based on comparing HPTs between all partipants on all sides. The SR-based feat is separate from that, with it's own risks, and it only involves the delver and his target(s).
There's no contradiction with the text. The SR-based feat (disarm, whatever) isn't part of the standard combat turn procedure, so there is no extra attack per combat turn on the character's part. It's solved independently.
"Now suppose we have a situation like when Sezerain is trying to cut Atticus out of the web, while spiders are attacking.
Would you consider this:
1) No. If there's a character trying to help another out of a web, then that character isn't fighting. Therefore he makes no roll to contribute to the HPT. He does take damage together with the other character if the spiders are attacking them both. That situation seems to me to be just a normal combat turn except that neither the webbed guy nor the guy trying to help him can make a HPT contribution. They just take the spiders' HPT in the face and eat it.
2) If he's considered as being in a combat group, yes, he doesn't do any damage to the spiders but he does get damaged by them like the others.
3) He only gets full damage from a spider or spiders if he (and/or the webbed guy) are the only targets of the spiders.
Ok let’s make it more
Ok let's make it more specific. Case 1: Sezerain is trying to cut Atticus out of the webbing, while two spiders are attacking them. There are no other combatants. Case 2: the same, except Enneada is on their team and fighting the spiders.
Case 2: we simply compare hit point totals of Enneada vs. the spiders; if the spiders win, the damage is distributed between Sezerain, Atticus, and Enneada. Sezerain's roll is resolved separately.
Question: if his roll is resolved separately- before the regular melee rolls – why shouldn't Sezerain get another combat roll, the same as player B in the example above? I don't see a difference. A quick slash at some webbing wouldn't take more time than an attempted disarm.
Case 1: I think you can see my question, why isn't the attempt to cut through the webbing resolved first, then a combat roll made as in the previous example. If he gets no weapons roll, then I assume we just total the spiders' rolls and divide them between Sezerain and Atticus.
Just a quick note about:
Just a quick note about:
This is really nitpicky on my part, but on any straightforward reading, the text isn't referring to the procedure there, it's talking about attacks during the combat turn, so it's that roughly 2-minute period of time: during that time, you only get one attack.
You could get out of it by saying stunts aren't attacks, but that's a stretch, as the hobbit vs. giant example explicitly mentions doing damage.
I really don't care, though; if we can get a functional procedure by ignoring this one bit of text, I'm all for it!
Question: if his roll is
I imagined freeing someone from the webs to be more of a sawing operation than a quick slash, given the Str saving throw level two to escape from them.
But sure, if something requires just a quick slash to accomplish, just let them do it, no roll required, and then fight. Or maybe let them try it with a roll and still allow them to contribute in the combat.
I imagine the T&T combat to take place in bouts (an opposed combat roll), and the fighter momentarily separate, probably the losing side pushed a little bit back, and they have a few moment to breathe and then might go at it again, or try something fast. But any action that takes more than a moment leaves you vulnerable to enemy aggression (you do not get to roll a combat total at all; hopefully your friends are there to protect you).
So essentially I think of actions taking just a moment (can do it and fight), taking long (no fighting while doing it), or being part of the combat (I would prefer to use spite damage for stunting, as mentioned, but going more orthodox maybe allow disarming and creating a combat total if the disarm succeeds; on failure, maybe no combat total, maybe combat total but under worse conditions, depending on the fiction as always).
This is probably not by the book.
Suppose in a modern genre
Here I would consider three different situations:
However, the situations we had in play were not elementary observations we were missing. Like sure, if we discuss charging into the chest room and pay no heed to the pit trap, then say something; probably there is some miscommunication about where we or the pit trap is that is the cause, and better to find it out immediately. but giving tactical advice like "you could go into the room and use the doorway so that only one spider could get to you at once" is of a different nature; you are not reminding us of an elementary fact in the fiction, but rather about affordances and creative use of the environment. With such cases, I would really prefer to play the game myself, come up with such or fail to do so.
Like of course I was aware of the possibility, but since our characters were not really communicating, I would rather give the other player the courtesy of letting them play their own game. It would be a different matter if they were completely stuck or visibly struggling; then, sure, I would help.
I'll try to convey my thoughts here. I should point out this: one of the problems you're facing right now with these examples is that T&T simply doesn't have the granurality that would give you a clear answer, like in e..g. any version of D&D with things like Actions, Half-Actions, move 2 hexes and strike, move 3 but you're done, etc. T&T is way more abstract and you have to go with what feels right for the mess of a melee that takes about 2 mins fictionaly. And then you also have to deal with "feats" and fit them in there somehow without messing with the standard ordered list of actions from the Combat Turn procedure. And here's the thing: there's no right answer. You have to do it the way that feels right to you.
Here's an example of possible confusion that relates to what we're talking about here: imagine that you have delvers A and B attacked by two spiders. There's nothing else going on, no one else, etc. A is trying to help B by cutting the webs enveloping B. Spiders are there watching the show and attacking them both. Player of A says he's trying to cut the webs. You say "OK, do a Level 2 SR to see if you manage to do that". He succeedes. You now say "Cool! You do it quickly, just in time that you are now both free to fight the spiders. Make your rolls, calculate HPTs, etc". All fine and good. But now let's say that A fails. And you say "Oh well, you trying to cut the stuff, but you don't manage to do it quickly enough and the spiders attack. Both of you take full damage during the Combat Turn."
I know what you're thinking: Why would they be able to have time to fight back if the SR was successful but not if it fails? Yep, it's not in the book or in any example. It's simply my decision as GM . There are no rules for this. I simply considered that the sucessful SR includes the pay-off of doing it fast enough that both A and B can get into action and be part of the standard Combat Turn procedure with compared HPTs etc. But in the failed SR I just adjudicate that A is there, frantically trying to cut the ropes, and that the failue of the SR includes taking the damage up the nose. That's it. I decided that A should not be able to fight back the spiders and simply try again after that Combat Turn. It's a wimp failure consequence for the failed SR. The game does not have any rules that will tell you how much time cutting ropes takes. You'll have to make these decisions taking into account that the SR failure state should be honored with consequences that have some meat to them. Same for the sucess of the SR. The system will never give you a clear answer for these questions. The granularity isn't there.
Now with that in mind:
My adjudication in this case woud be that yes, Enneada contributes for the HPT, no one else. All take damage since the spiders are attacking them all.
Suzerain can get another roll if you think he should. The mechanics of T&T are silent on this. It's up to you. If you think it's a "quick slashing" at the web, then fine, allow him to contribute to the HPT. But for me it hinges on the sucess of the SR. Good pay-off if he succeedes, bad pay-off if he doesn't, as represented by allowing him or not to participate in the HPT. See what I said at the beginning of this post. How long should it take? What should meaty consequences for failure or succes be? The adjudication of the failed or successful SR and what the consequences should be in each case are the key. You then incorporate that into the fiction state that goes into the Combat Turn resolution. The rules will never tell you if he can get another roll or not because SRs for feats, actions, etc are not a formal part of the Combat Turn procedure.
The Hobbit vs Giant example also says "…if he simply tries to fight the giant in the conventional manner, there will be hobbit puree all over the floor". That example is not using the standard Combat Turn protocol with comparison of HPTs etc. It's a one vs one example using SRs instead. "His player asks if Snarfi can try to dodge, run between the giant's legs, and hamstring the monster." The GM says yes. See what I mean?
“This is really nitpicky on
Again, we're not ignoring the text. When I'm taking in these posts about the formal Combat Turn procedure, I'm talking about in mechanical, system terms, as a clearly defined protocol with steps that need to be followed. It's on section 2.31, with numbered steps. There's no place in there for SR-based feats, how much damage from that, and what not. The two minutes per turn don't mater for this discussion, they're a distraction for you right now; the SR-feats are just part of the fictional combat, everything is going on at the same time fictionally, but procedurely we need to resolve them somehow. And what I'm saying is that resolving them in-between formal/procedural Combat Turns (whos there, roll for them, check HPTs from both sides, then Magic damage, then missile damage, etc) is the best option. Resolve those SRs and then incorporate the results into the state of the fiction when you go into the regular Combat Turn procedure.
Our GMing styles differ, and I see that example very differently than you do. I can try to say less to you in our next session, though, no problem; but the other player will need to speak up on what their preference is.
As I read the game, (2.31
As I read the game, (2.31 Combat Squence step 4. Us vs. Them and 2.37 Unusual Combat Situations) it seems the expectation is you either try to do the thing that requires the saving roll OR you fight back and oppose incoming damage.
"The SR-based feat (disarm, whatever) isn't part of the standard combat turn procedure"
I don't find that in the text. It seems to me that saving rolls are integral to whatever action the character chooses. One might roll before the damage roll, but the roll is not a separate "stunt" it's part of what the character was doing that round. So there's no "achieve something before the combat step" it _is_ the combat step.
As I see it, how Manu's cases play out depend on what the player characters and the monsters declare they are doing.
Case 1: Sezerain is trying to cut Atticus out of the webbing, while two spiders are attacking them. There are no other combatants.
— In the Us vs them step, Sezerain declares he's trying to free Atticus. Atticus declares he's trying to break out with strength. Neither Sezerain nor Atticus are/can engage in general melee, so we break into engagement groups. The GM declares one spider will attack Sezerain while the other attacks Atticus. In the combat step, Sezerain rolls to free Atticus, and Atticus also rolls to free himself. Meanwhile each spider does full unopposed damage to each PC. (Alternately, the GM may have declared both spiders on Sezerain, in which case he gets damage from both. No reduction in incoming damage. It's the costs of the action Sezerain chose — neither were defending.
Case 2: the same, except Enneada is on their team and fighting the spiders.
– Case 2a: Us vs Them step: Again, Sezerain declares he's trying to free Atticus. Atticus declares he's trying to break out with strength. Neither are available for general melee. Enneada declares she's fighting one of the spiders. The GM then has options: 1) one spider on Enneada and one on one of the other two; 2) both spiders on Enneada. For 1), Enneada and the spider exchange hits as normal, while one spider does full damage to one of the other poor sods with no opposition. For 2) Enneada opposes the combined damage of both spiders, while the other two PCs are unharmed.
Case 2b: But wait! Enneada declares she's trying to engage both Spiders and protect her friends. The GM rules this requires a saving roll. If the roll succeeds, Enneada opposes both spiders. If it fails, the GM may rule one spider fights Enneada while the other does unopposed damage to one of the others — or maybe both spiders attack Sezerain and Atticus, allowing Enneada to do full unopposed damage to one of the spiders.
Lol, oh my gosh what a can of worms this whole thing is. I don't think I've been this confused by a system in my entire life, and believe me, that's saying something!
So my first question is, on your interpretation, how would you answer my earlier questions 1-7 with player B and the goblin?
Regarding case 1 and 2 immediately above, your interpretation seems consistent, until the last case, 2b. Your answer there seems more in line with Pedro's way of thinking: you have a separate roll, made before the melee, that determines how many spiders Enneada will fight, and then another roll during the melee itself that's the actual damage roll. Well if that's the case, why shouldn't Sezerain also get two rolls? One roll to see if he cuts through the webbing, another for fighting the spiders? Can't his player say, "I'm slashing at the web, then turning with the momentum to cut at a spider." A combat turn is two minutes, after all.
Also, as a side note: I've looked through the text but can't find any stated limit to the number of saving rolls a character can make during a turn…
Also, as a side note: I’ve
As many as the fiction demands, surely; often you only do one thing, but I could see Sezarain jumping over the bit to free Enneida, and thereby first roll to cross the pit and then against the webs, if it is credible they could try both.
Honestly, I don’t see any
Honestly, I don't see any complication from what I read. I can see complication in this discussion. The problem with those "experience of thoughts – imagine this situation, then this other one, then this other one" not rooted in real play is that it assumes that narration has no importance and is just colour, when the narration is the important missing key to define what is possible or not.
Manu, I see the same pattern in your posts about The Pool, it seems that you consider that mechanical procedures are the only constrains on fiction, and that narration cannot put constrain on fiction if it's not clearly related to a mechanical procedure. Every experiences of thoughts that try to "understand the system" with potential situation are speculation that lack the account of narration and its fundamental function in setting constrains on the situation.
As I never played the game, that's the only insight I'll be able to provide.
I've been up too late, I think, so I may not be understanding you correctly, but:
Great, then please enlighten us. How would you answer the various questions I and others have asked?
LOL, what? Did you read my actual play report? All of my questions are rooted in play.
This is complete nonsense. I never wrote any such thing, nor did I even think it. I take strong exception to this characterization.
I'd better go to sleep before I say anything else.
"I don't find that in the text. It seems to me that saving rolls are integral to whatever action the character chooses. One might roll before the damage roll, but the roll is not a separate "stunt" it's part of what the character was doing that round. So there's no "achieve something before the combat step" it _is_ the combat step."
You're now getting distracted by thinking about this from a fictional point of view instead of the Combat Turn as a formal procedure that has a specific order of actions as per section 2.31. If you can do an SR at any point you feel like, then you could say" I wanna try X" right before the HPTs are calculated. Or you could say "right after magic damage is calculated but before missile damage is calculated." Or "after effects of hits but before figuring out effects of poisons." See the mess you'd be getting into?
Man, people are posting like mad. That's great, but I find it next to impossible to reply to everyone at this point, I can barely keep track of where the new posts are and where the reply function is for each one. I think this would be better dealt with at this point but videocall on Discord or something. It has become very unwieldy.
When to use saving rolls?
For me, this is the most interesting question that was raised by the session.
Some questions related to this.
I am especially interested in how people have used them and what the texts say.
Both. Section 1.8 talks about them as avoiding nastiness, but later in section 2.31 the text describes them as being the chance for the character to "do something unusual".
The section on unusual combat situations includes the example of the hobbit doing a stunt against a giant using a saving roll; the player asks for a certain benefit, the GM tells them they'll take full damage if they fail.
Almost nothing useful, that I could find, other than what I already mentioned.
I'd love to know this too.
Not from me – I was just going straight from the text on that.
How much can a character do
How much can a character do in their combat turn?
I disagree with Tommi — it's not about rules procedures, it is in fact about how much a charcter can do in their combat turn.
Can Sezerain both cut the web and fight the spiders? I say no. Can Enneada attempt to maneuver and fight at the same time? I say yes.
The GM then applies the rules of saving rolls and combat damage rolls as tools to express the difficulty of the chosen action and its outcome.
On consideration, I can see how Sezerain might say "I'm going to fight the spiders and also take slashes of opportunity at the web" to which the GM replies "That's pretty difficult and dangerous. If you do that it's a hugely high level saving roll and if you fail, you take full unopposed damage from both spiders and don't cut the web either."
Do you see how the mechanics are tools that are brought in to express the action? They are not rights that every character has every round.
I agree fully with your post,
I agree fully with your post, aside from the disagreeing with me part.
My Preliminary Conclusions
Ok, based on everything said so far, the only consistent application of the rules I can come up with is as follows:
(1) if everyone is using weapon attacks intended to damage an opponent, the standard procedure is applied – apply magic, then missile attacks, then total rolls for hit points (adding magic damage in when applicable); the losing side gets damage distributed among them.
(2) If anyone wants to do a stunt, i.e., some sort of maneuver that will be advantageous if successful, this is adjudicated before the melee roll. The GM determines the level of difficulty, and failure will always have a robust consequence of some sort. If the stunt is a success, the player gets another action, and can roll weapon dice in the general melee. If the stunt is a failure, depending on exactly how they failed, they may have to take full damage from an attack, or they may be able to roll dice in the general melee but in some impaired fashion (for example, if they lost their weapon they'll only get one die for an unarmed attack).
Where I differ from some of you is the example of Sezerain cutting Atticus free. If he succeeds, I will rule he gets to make a weapons roll against the spiders as well; if he fails, then perhaps his weapon gets stuck in the webbing, and he'll have to fight the spiders unarmed (but he'll get the roll). If he rolls so badly it's a fumble, then maybe not just his weapon but his arm gets stuck, and he'll get no roll vs. the spider and will just have to take full damage.
I respect the fact that the rules are not spelled out enough to definitively answer my questions, and that others may have different interpretations. But for now this procedure seems functional to me. Is there any reason to think this wouldn't work?
What you are doing here is
What you are doing here is reducing the ways to interpret the rules. I think this is a reasonable guideline, but I would not set it in stone.
Say, for example, that I roll a strength saving roll to prevent a pillar from crushing us, holding it heroically up. Certainly I can not fight at the same time! But you have written that on a succesful saving throw I manage to both hold the pillar up and fight normally.
Of course, if you treat the decision here as a guideline, willing to do other things when the fiction so demands, it is all good.
Sure we always have to be flexible when applying rules to unusual circumstances, but I need some baseline to begin with, or I feel GM decisions can easily become too inconsistent, which has unfortunate effects. I'd say the same with a failed save – if after the bad consequence happens, if somehow you're still in a good position to fight you can get a roll.
So some of the confusion
So some of the confusion around stunts is, as Alan mentioned, how much a character can do in a combat turn, which is related to whether the character performing a stunt gets to contribute to their side’s hit point total, which in turn is related to whether they take damage along with the rest of their group. All of these things are interconnected. It’s a serious flaw of the rules texts, imo, that there’s no guidance given on these issues.
As I’ve been digging around on the internet, I found Trollszine 1 (available on Drivethrurpg), which has an article on stunts. It doesn’t directly address my questions, but indirectly the author seems to be proceeding from the type of perspective that I got from Pedro and Alan, i.e., what I mentioned in my preliminary conclusions.
Dan Prentice, the author, lists a number of possibilities for benefits of success and consequences of failure for stunts. For benefits, some examples are: getting more damage dice to add to the group HPT (a success means you roll again to add to the HPT with more dice), or ignoring enemy armor (suppose you’re fighting one large monster, a success here means your subsequent damage roll will not be reduced by the creature’s armor).
In these and several other cases Prentice mentions, a follow-up weapons roll to add to group HPT is assumed – which is what I concluded made sense, thanks to Pedro. This doesn’t mean that we’re “right”, only that this procedure or something close to it has been functional for at least some other people.
I encourage everyone with opinions on this to try running the game accordingly, and report your experiences back here. It will be interesting to see what differing results any particular procedures or techniques might have on play.
What were the effects of collective combat resolution?
I have spent some time with T&T over the last few months, including quite a bit of solo play. I really appreciate this discussion because it will help inform how I approach these issues when I eventually play with a group.
I think my approach will be more or less what AlanRB said, with the addition of the spite damage rules. A certain amount of this is my reading of the rules and a certain amount is a preference. I adore the combat rules of T&T, in particular how things are resolved collectively and how damage is distributed. For this reason, I don't think I'd like play to get bogged down with a lot of attempts to overload the SR mechanics to emulate combat feats — even if I enjoy that sort of tactical play in other games such as Bushido. Although I do appreciate the possibility of using SRs in combat to turn the tables against superior opponents, as is illustrated a few times in the text. But of course I am holding my understanding and preferences lightly until they are validated or invalidated in play.
Something I am very curious about is how (or if) collective combat resolution may have changed how actions were declared, when dice were rolled, and how outcomes were narrated. A frame of reference would be how people are used to doing this in D&D (in general). Basically the IIEE (intent, initiation, execution, and effect) and possibly the distribution of authorities stuff. Can anybody who has played (in this game or at all) comment on that?
Regarding stunts, it's interesting- when I first read T&T I missed them completely. So the combat system looked boring to me; there were a few tactical decisions to be made using magic and missiles, but otherwise nothing much (which is actually what you read in a lot of online reviews). So I ignored the game, until I came across comments from Ron and others praising how stunts transformed the action. It's the main reason I personally wanted to try it.
So I'll be very curious how your game goes, I hope you'll post about your experience here!
Regarding IIEE, it seems like the dice rolling comes immediately after intent; then we figure out what happened after we see the dice result.
I did not see a huge
I did not see a huge difference when compared to D&D. In D&D we would find out what everyone is doing and then roll to see which side acts first. Here, the actions are simultaneous instead.
There would be a difference if one was using individual initiative with no pre-initiative action declarations.
David which D&D are you
David which D&D are you thinking of? Initiative for example is very different in different editions
I suppose we can’t really
I suppose we can't really generalize on D&D versions due to things like different initiative mechanics. But I think you both (Manu and Tommi) answered the question to my satisfaction. Thanks! 🙂
An interesting situation for third session
Our situation at the start of the third session is quite interesting.
One of the characters fell down a trapdoor (due to a risky action and failed saving throw); the others do not really know if they are alive or dead, not to speak of any details, since this falling happened in the middle of a fight.
An orc escaped from the fight; if we do not act immediately, we will lose the strategic surprise and initiative.
My mage is down to pretty low strength, but otherwise we are in a pretty good fighting condition, still.
So we could:
There are slaves or torture subjects to be rescued; we already released a number of slaves, so we have already accomplish something; should we try do more and if yes, how?
This is the kind of question and situation one plays to meet.