Tunnels and Trolls
Gamesmen of Kasar and Mistywood (Collection)
Gamesmen of Kasar (Digital Gamebook)
Herring, Douglas (interior)
Writing solitaire adventures for T & T poses some problems for the potential writer. First, there is the problem of actually coming up with what is hopefully an interesting concept or hook. Then, there is the problem of making the challenges in the adventure appropriate, i.e. neither too easy or too difficult. Then, there is the problem of all the magical weapons, i.e. T & T's equivalent of weapons of mass destruction, that a character may have picked up in previous solitaire adventures.
Early T & T adventures were notorious for gifting characters that survived them with some horrendously powerful weapons. To get an idea of how powerful these weapons were, just watch the first 10 minutes of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Remember that scene where Sauron lays waste to all those men and elves surrounding him. Well, you could do the same thing with some of the weapons you could find in some of these adventures.
Later adventures had to deal with the fact that these weapons were floating around, just waiting to completely unbalance whatever carefully laid out adventure someone had written. Some of the later adventures dealt with these weapons in interesting ways (those that didn't ended up having their "powerful" inhabitants being massacred by characters possessing these weapons). In Sewers of Oblivion, before your muggers throw you uncerimoniously down a manhole, they strip you of all magical weapons! In Sword for Hire, you're told that due to the magical nature of the tower you are exploring, your magical weapons won't work! In Sea of Mystery, you often end up being captured and sold off into slavery by pirates so that solves that. Possibly the most imaginative way to prevent you from unbalancing an adventure with WMD's is in Dark Temple - you're simply told that the local gun control laws forbid your overpowered weapons in the region.
What is the game?
Basically, the hook for this adventure goes as follows - in Kasar, a caravan of merchants arrives, buys one of the buildings, builds something there and then they announce 'The Game' in which anyone who enters and survives is rewarded his body's weight in gold (see - all this time you thought rolling for your character's height and weight had no impact on the game!). The single catch is, you must enter the game without any weapons or armor, armed with only your wits and the shirt on your back.
Besides that, Gamesmen of Kasar is pretty conventional, being a dungeon crawl of the 'forced march' variety, similar to Naked Doom. The dungeon is quite well 'scaled' to the capabilities of one's character since, in many cases, the level of whatever saving rolls you must make are dependant on your character's attribute levels, as is the ferocity of the monsters that he/she must face. Thus, the tougher your character is, the higher the level of the saving rolls he must make and the tougher the monsters that he/she will face; however, the way the scaling works, in many cases, tougher characters will still have a slightly easier time than weaker characters (which, if you think about it, is only fair - after all, they ARE tougher).
Many of the threats in this dungeon are of the mechanical variety - robots of one sort of other are everywhere. T & T has an established "universe," but there is really nothing keeping writers within this universe, so I have often wondered why there haven't been more adventures that didn't rely on the traditional 'orcs and trolls' for their threats. Well, this one has robots. Slightly incongruous is the presence of a troll among all these mechanical contrivances but a troll DOES (or has the potential to) show up. However, with the game being called Tunnels & TROLLS, its presence is probably more an homage than anything else (he usually isn't that tough).
Overall, Gamesmen of Kasar is fun and a nice change of pace compared to adventures with more "conventional" structures. And when you find out the ultimate purpose of "The Game," it actually kind of makes sense... well, it makes sense if you've seen a lot of bad science fiction movies on the Sci-Fi channel, but it's still fun.
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