Tunnels and Trolls: Creator Interview

Last week I introduced many of you to Tunnels and Trolls, an often overlooked RPG that has been around almost as long as any other.  If you haven’t read last week’s retrospective, I recommend you start there.  This week, I’ve compiled a list of crowd sourced questions for the game’s creator Ken St. Andre.  Thank you Troll ITC readers, and special thanks to the community at Reddit.com/r/rpg – if you aren’t subscribed to that subreddit, get to it.

Nundahl: Ken, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview, I think our community can really benefit from your years of experience in the industry.  I’d like to start with a question of my own, and I’m sure it is one you’ve heard countless times before.  What do you say to the young game designer looking to break into the RPG market, particularly advice for starting up?

Ken: Hello, young game designer.  What’s  new?  Everyone has their own way of getting into game design.  Don’t waste a lot of time preparing, or getting advice.  Do what works for you, and what makes you happy.  Don’t count on success—you are not Crom’s Gift to Game Design (heh, neither am I), but believe in yourself and never give up.

Nundahl:  Do you or Rick Loomis from Flying Buffalo have plans that would sustain Tunnels and Trolls for the next 35 years?  Do you think T&T will be forced to evolve in relation to new game systems and technological advances or do you think it will instead remain as-is for the “old school” niche market?

Ken: Of course T&T evolves, but I don’t think it is being forced to do so.  We’re not big enough as a game to actually worry about market forces.  T&T glories in the creativity of its players.  If they evolve, so will the game.

Nundahl: What, if any, games do you play currently, other than T&T?

Ken:  I play dozens of games.  Nothing dominates my gaming life.  I very much like Shadowfist, but I spend more time playing Magic.  Should you meet me at a Con, I’m up for any rpg I can get into.  If I don’t know the rules of something like Pathfinder (and believe me, I don’t) I will just role play the character, let the Game Master tell me what to do next, and seek explanations when needed from the person sitting next to me.  The WHAP system is a lot of fun, and I did a module for it called Cowboys and Dinosaurs.  When it comes to computer gaming, Runescape, not World of Warcraft, is my game of choice.  I really believe simpler is better in computer games too.  I wish I had time to play Lord of the Rings, or Conan, or Star Trek, or Star Wars online, but there is simply not enough time or money in my life for those games.  Damn!

Nundahl:  The Outlaw Press controversy brought a lot of gamer and artist press on T&T.  Do you think this negatively impacted the way people might look at 7.5 T&T, in spite of this edition and publisher not being linked to the art infringement?

Ken:  I don’t believe the Outlaw Press fiasco has had much effect on T&T 7.5.  Fiery Dragon uses their own art and everyone knows it.

Nundahl: That’s all for me, now I want to get into the good stuff, our reader questions.

Reader Questions

Undergarden: “I remember how unique and fun the solo T&T adventures were.  How influential do you think T&T’s solo-support was upon future game books like Fighting Fantasy, Fabled Lands, etc?”

Ken:  I honestly don’t know. Do you think there’s a connection?

Tomatospike:  “You’ve been involved in the RPG and gaming industry from the beginning.  What other projects [do] you have other than Tunnels and Trolls?”

Ken:  Do you mean now or in the past? I am a freelance designer. I have worked on Stormbringer, Shadowrun, Wasteland, WHAP, Monsters! Monsters!, Starfaring, and some other stuff that I forget.  Cross my palm with silver and I’ll be happy to work on games for any company  out there. J  Currently I just released a T&T card game called OgreOcre. Look for it on Lulu and Drive-Thru RPG.

YakumoFuji:  “Wasteland is one of my top 5 favourite CRPG’s of all time.  How much influence in the design did you have?  Did your Wasteland experience sour you on CRPG’s [or] are you are not listed as having worked on other computer game designs?”

Ken:  Wasteland was a team effort.  My greatest contribution was the idea for the Southwestern setting, the Terminator style robotic bad guys, and the general story arc.  I also recommended that we bring my friends Mike Stackpole, Liz Danforth, and Dan Carver into the design team.  They added most of the brilliance for which the game is famous.

GameHermit:  “One thing I would like to have him discuss [is, what] are some tips and tricks to keep the magic alive in the game?”

Ken:  Enthusiasm is more important than anything.  Keep the game moving.  Don’t let it bog down.

Khayd’haik:  “[I]f the intent was to design a simplified system, why do the combat rules for higher level adventures require buckets of dice?”

Ken:  I like buckets of dice.  The mere idea of rolling a couple hundred dice at a time is inherently funny. Besides, I knew that clever gamers would find ways around the problem of too many dice.  If you can’t solve that problem, you’re really too dumb to be playing this game.  Anyway, Khayd’haik, the original intent was not to produce a simplified system—it was to produce a game I could actually play.  Being simpler was just a good side effect.

Graal:  “[I]s the Ranger a ‘Warrior Plus’, with all the normal warrior’s abilities plus the Missile Mastery Talent?”

Ken: No. He’s a specialist, great with missile weapons, but he doesn’t get the warrior’s extra armor protection.

Deez:  “What was the process to bring the game from a cool idea to print production?”

Ken:  I turned a manuscript in to Jason Kempton of Fiery Dragon, and the rest of the job was up to him and his production crew.

Thor: “D&D is widely known for dorkdom all over the world.  Does he think that if T&T was released before D&D, would T&T hold that title?”

Ken: No. Dungeons and Dragons has the cooler name.  It even alliterates with dork. D&D has always had the money, distribution, and publicity that T&T has lacked. None of that makes D&D a better game—I think T&T is better in many ways.  It just means that more “dorks” will be attracted to it.

Eric: “Ask him if there is any way to resist hold that pose. That’s always bugged me.”

Ken: In the first 5 editions of T&T there was no way to resist spells cast upon a creature, except to carry a kris made of meteroric iron.  The character can still do that, but he can also resist being bespelled by simply having a higher Wizardry attribute than the attacking wizard.

Afterword

Nundahl: Anything else you’d like to say?

Ken: I’d like to thank you, Nick, for the chance to talk about Tunnels & Trolls and some of my other games.  Readers of this interview who actually play and enjoy T&T are invited to join the greatest bunch of T&T players in the world.  Details can be found at Trollhalla.com.  You have to make a level 1 saving roll on your intelligence to get in.

Nundahl: Thank you a thousand times over Ken, Reddit, and Troll ITC readers!

Stone T&T Logo

[tags]Interview, rpg, T&T, Tunnels-and-Trolls, role playing games[/tags]

8 thoughts on “Tunnels and Trolls: Creator Interview

Add yours

  1. Very nicely done! I very much enjoy reading game creator’s thoughts on the actual act of playing. I also think Ken’s a busy guy, so good on him for giving us the time!

    Like

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