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3 December 2009

Today’s Tabbloid

ROGUE FEED plastic Indians in this scale, and a bit of conversion has
produced sufficient numbers of black, grey, green and purple
1972 Gygax Article creatures of this ilk.
DEC 02, 2009 04:07P.M.
Metal mediaeval figures in 25mm scale can easily be painted
Reader Jervis Johnson kindly sent along the following short article by up to make goblins and dwarves, while converted Airfix
Gary Gygax, published in the October 1972 (No. 127) issue of “Robin Hood” men serve as Hobbits.
Wargamer’s Newsletter. There’s no copyright statement on the issue
from which this is taken, but it’s assumed to be copyrighted to Donald Giants are made from the 70mm Elastolin figures. At the
Featherstone, who began this venerable periodical in 1962. moment we have only a pale blue fellow with a head of bushy
hair (snipped from one of my daughter’s dolls when they
Here’s the text of the article, typos and misspellings included: weren’t looking), who is brandishing a huge club. He was
originally a Viking with a sword and shield, but the shield was
stripped off, the sword removed and a puttied matchstick
FANTASY BATTLES became the bludgeon.
The Balrog has caused considerable problems, and right now
By we are using a giant sloth from an assortment of plastic
prehistoric animals, which (converted) makes a fearsome
GARY GYGAX looking beast, albeit not quite as Tolkien described it.

I offer the following details of our fantasy battles: Nazgul, like the Balrog, are also difficult. Presently we are
employing unconverted 40mm Huns on black horses, but we
The rules used are those designed by Jeff Perran and I – would like to put wings on the steeds and cloak the figures
CHAINMAIL, Guidon Games, P.O. Box 1123, Evansville, IN riding them.
47713, U.S.A., at $2 plus postage. The revised and expanded
version should be available by the time this is read. The There are two dragons in our force of fantasy figures. One I
booklet contains brief information about the scales used for made stegosaurus: First, the head was enlarged with auto
different figure-types, and the expanded edition has things body putty, a wire was inserted into the tail and puttied to
like how fast goblins, orcs and dwarves can tunnel under the make it longer – and barbed, the spikes of the tail were
walls of a besieged stronghold. clipped off and added as horns to the head end, cardboard bat
wings were puttied into place, and finally the entire affair was
Tolkien purists will not find these rules entirely satisfactory, I given many coats of paint, gilding and glitter (as sparkling
believe, for many of the fantastic creatures do not follow his gems on its belly). The other was made by Don Kaye using a
“specifications”, mainly because I believe that other writers brontosaurus, with two smaller heads added to the long neck,
were as “authoritative” as he. spikes along the back, wings, and so on.

Because I have a large force of 40mm Elastolin figures, we A large stock of plastic wolves, bears, vultures, and the like
use a base 40mm as man-size, but 30mm will do as well. are used for lycanthropes or whatever other fairly normal
Regular troops have only a few added touches of paint, but looking creatures are called for. Soft plastic “horrors” and
hero-types have such things as gilded or enamelled armour, insects from the dime store serve as elementals and giant
jewels, and carefully painted devices on their shields. insects.

Orcs and elves are 30mm – that is what it says in our book. Perhaps the best part of fantasy wargaming is being able to
However, because we have not got around to preparing them, allow your imagination full rein. Whatever the players desire
Orcs are 40mm Turks and Elves are bowmen of the same can be used or done in games. For example, for one match I
scale. built a chest of jewels as the object to be obtained to win.
However, I did not mention to either team that I had added a
Trolls and ogres are 54mm. I located some inexpensive pair of “basilisk eyes” (large pin heads dotted appropriately)

Today’s Tabbloid PERSONAL NEWS FOR 3 December 2009

which immediately turned the first ogre who opened it to were seen as unfit for play by discerning gamers. Ludicrous though this
stone. The possibilities are boundless. position is, it’s one against which I nevertheless have to fight even now
and, while, I’ve been largely successful in keeping it in check, it still pops
The way the rules are selling here, it seems a good bat for up every now and again, despite my best efforts to the contrary.
some model figures firm to start producing a line of properly
scaled fantasy figures! If I were to pick a single mistake I made in my gaming education to call
“tragic,” it would be my rejection of Tunnels & Trolls back when I had
Mr Botham’s observations about the possibilities of Airfix the chance to become better acquainted with it. A friend of mine
“Astronauts” as Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers” (or other purchased the 5th edition of the game sometime in the early 80s. He was
future warriors) has also crossed my mind as a fair quite keen on the game and wanted to free me from my regular
possibility. In fact, if Mr Botham eventually puts his ideas refereeing duties by starting a T&T campaign with me as a player. If I
into a set of rules I can state, as Rules Editor at Guidon recall correctly, I created a human rogue — rogues being not thieves but
Games, that I would like to see them with eventual rather hedge wizards — modeled somewhat on the Gray Mouser and was
publication in mind. initially excited about the prospect of playing him.

It’s an intriguing article for a number of reasons, not least because of his That is, until I read T&T‘s spell list. Among the 1st-level spells are Oh
comment about other authors being as “authoritative” as Tolkien when it There It Is, Take That, You Fiend, and Oh-Go-Away. For some reason, I
comes to describing fantastical creatures. That ought to add more fuel just couldn’t accept these spells names and every tale I’d been told by the
for the fire of future discussions on that topic. older guys at the hobby shop about how the game was silly came rushing
back to my memory. I made a feeble effort to try playing the game, whose
Thanks for sending this along, Jervis! mechanics I found intriguing, but it didn’t last too long. I tried a few
more times later and got a little more into the game. By that time,
though, my opinion had ossified and I wasn’t willing to look beyond the
surface of T&T, a situation I didn’t rectify until this year, actually.
I made a point of acquiring both the 5th edition rules I played way back
Retrospective: Tunnels & Trolls when and the latest edition (v7.5), along with a number of solo
DEC 02, 2009 09:21A.M. adventures. I also started lurking at various T&T oriented forums,
including Trollhalla, to get a better sense of the game and what I might
have been missing. And I’ve been missing quite a lot. T&T is a very
cleverly designed game: complete, simple, and flexible, yet easily
expandable. It’s not math-heavy and looks to be quite amenable to the
kind of off-the-cuff gaming I enjoy these days. It’s also unambiguously
old school, as its rules demand both player cleverness and referee
adjudication for satisfying use. Likewise, both editions I own are
paragons of verbal economy — there’s barely a wasted word in either and
their page count is well within my limited tolerance.

And, yes, Tunnels & Trolls is a bit silly, at least compared to the
stolidness of most other RPGs, but that’s OK. Older and wiser now, I no
longer see silliness as necessarily antithetical to seriousness. Indeed, I
often think it’s an important complement to it. My games nowadays are
filled with whimsical asides and comedic moments, in addition to grim
and perilous encounters and philosophical musings. This isn’t an
either/or situation, at least not in the way I used to think it had to be.
I’ve mentioned before that part of my initiation into the hobby was the Gaming is supposed to be, above all else, fun and, reading T&T, you can
adoption of certain prejudices about games other than Dungeons & tell that author Ken St. Andre had a lot of fun with his creation.
Dragons. One of the main targets of such irrationality was Tunnels &
Trolls, the second RPG published (in 1975) and whose greatest flaw — That’s as it should be with any RPG and, while I don’t think Tunnels &
aside from not being D&D — was that it was “silly.” You have to Trolls should become a model for all other RPGs any more than I think
remember that, while 1979, the year I started gaming, was still several that of OD&D, I do think the hobby might be a more enjoyable place for
years before fantastic realism became the norm, it was nevertheless a all if the ethos of T&T were more widely imitated. That, for me, is the
powerful force in many places, including, apparently, among the people greatest lesson I took away from my investigations into this venerable
by whom I was brought into the hobby. Whimsy and humor were game, whose community, while smaller than that of my own preferred
antithetical to “serious roleplaying” and so games that evinced either system, is no less enthusiastic, creative, and open to newcomers.

Today’s Tabbloid PERSONAL NEWS FOR 3 December 2009

More creditable still is the fact that, after 30+ years, T&T is, essentially,
the same game it was at its debut. Certainly there are differences
between v7.5 and the 1975 1st edition, but those differences are
minuscule compared to the differences between the LBBs and D&D IV.
From where I’m sitting, T&T remains the kind of hobbyist game that old
school D&D fans wish our game had remained and without the need for
imagining an alternate history. In short, there’s a lot to like about it and I
wouldn’t hesitate to play in a game if I were ever asked to do so again.

I still don’t like the spell names, though.

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