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Item - Arena of Khazan

(fourth printing)
(fifth printing)
Series: Tunnels and Trolls — no. 12
Contained In: The Amulet of the Salkti and Arena of Khazan (Collection)
Author: St. Andre, Ken
Illustrators: Day, Gene (original cover)
Danforth, Elizabeth (Liz) T. (both covers)
Laird, Peter (interior)
Date: 1979
castiglione's Thoughts: Arena of Khazan, from what I've read of it on the Internet, seems to have been one of the more popular Tunnels & Trolls solitaire adventures.

I found this strange since, as a kid, I thought it was a bit of a dud.

The backstory of the adventure is rather simple - you essentially participate in a series of gladiatorial combats in an arena reminiscent of those of ancient Rome in a quest for fame and fortune. As it is, the "adventure" is basically a series of random fights against a variety of combatants, some of them "normal" (other gladiators) and others quite abnormal (being some variety of beasty). For me, this wasn't particularly interesting - my idea of adventuring was EXPLORING some geographic location. Arena of Khazan didn't quite fit this need. On the bright side, it was full of rather imaginative monsters (enough to stimulate one's creative juices when it came to creating one's own) and was crammed full of some very beautiful artwork (typical of many of the T & T solitaires).

Another problem with Arena of Khazan was how it rewarded the successful player - characters who survived the adventure often were overloaded with weapons and artifacts which made them virtually invincible... and therefore, no more fun to play anymore. One particular weapon, the Bronze Bodkin, still sticks in my mind even after all these years (I think it's been 20 years or so since I actively played Tunnels & Trolls). This weapons rolled sixty-six (66!!!!) dice in hand to hand combat. Compare that with your humble broadsword from the 5th edition rules which rolled 3 dice + 4 adds (in the 4th edition rules, a broadsword rolled a mere 2 dice). This weapon basically conferred upon its owner an almost god like status, able to take out hordes of orcs in a single go. Unfortunately, there were a plethora of weapons like this which the player could gain during the course of his career as a gladiator. Usually, the only recourse left to a player after completing a tour in the arena was to "retire" his character... because from then on, NONE of the published adventures could really provide a challenge and would be a push-over... and any game master (GM) trying to provide a challenge for such a character in a face-to-face game would probably have his work cut out for him.

However, where Arena of Khazan really shines is showing EXAMPLES of how different fights can be set up using the relatively (compared to other RPG systems) simple combat system of Tunnels & Trolls. Using just the regular plain-Jane combat system plus liberal use of Tunnels & Trolls' saving roll system (one of the system's shining points IMHO), almost ANY combat situation can be covered and the various fights in Arena of Khazan show this quite clearly - each of the choices one makes in the adventure, rather than being the usual "go left," "talk to the orc," "open the treasure chest," etc. type choices that one makes in the other solitaire adventures covers choices in TACTICS that one would use against one's opponents, i.e. "try to grab his net" (when fighting a gladiator fighting with a net and trident), "fire arrows" (at an opponent at a distance that is attempting to close the distance), "dodge between his legs and slash away" (when fighting a MUCH larger opponent), "drop to my knees and beg for mercy" (when you realize the fight quite isn't going your way), etc.

One of the most common critiques of Tunnels & Trolls was of how its combat system lacked "detail" - this adventure shows how detail can easily be inserted into battles without resorting to complicated rules by just using saving rolls! It's really only limited by the imagination of the game master and the players! And isn't that what role-playing was all about?

NOTE: Saving rolls are probably the "heart-and-soul" of the Tunnels & Trolls rules, providing a basis by which a character's success (or failure) at some task can be determined. Essentially, a task can be graded on a scale of easy (like charming that naive barmaid at the local tavern) or nigh impossible (taking a full on blast of dragon breath at point blank range and surviving) and rolled against an appropriate attribute (usually LUCK, but it could easily be another attribute like CHARISMA - if one were trying to charm someone - or STRENGTH (if one were trying to lift a heavy object), etc.). Nowadays, the concept of rolling one's attribute (with appropriate modifiers) to achieve a task is pretty common but to the best of my knowledge, Tunnels & Trolls was the first role-playing game which had a mechanic by which players could attempt tasks whose percentage chance of succeeding was directly related to an appropriate attribute rather than being a generic number one had to roll.

More reviews by castiglione

Special Thanks:Thanks to Braldt Haak for the 4th printing cover scan and to Ed Jolley for letting me scan his 5th printing.
Users Who Own This Item: AlHazred, bigcobra, Braldt, castiglione, dave2002a, Ed, kinderstef, le maudit, nerelax, rebeltech2, Sir Olli (small original & large original & large reissue), twar, TWolf
Users Who Want This Item: NEMO (orig.&reissue)
Users with Extra Copies: rebeltech2
Sir Olli - small original

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