Archive for February 2012

Not a T & T Pantheon, Part two   1 comment

We have gone through about half of the Gameless Pantheon.  There are still beauties and horrors yet to come.  Let’s finish the tour of  these godlings.


K!Ning, God of Torture. The letter N is or me the essence of paiN.

K'Bronzr is the god of heroes. You can just see that he's the kind who likes to go around defeating evil.

K'tring is the goddess of cats--a loose tribute to my wife Catherine at the time. She was, and still is, a great cat lover. And it could easily be argued that the tiger is the greatest of cats, or perhaps this tigress.

Lillitu was inspired by Lilith, Adam's first wife, she who went on to become the first succubus. She is a sex and pleasure goddess..

Maquuatl was mean to be a warrior god--I was thinking of the maquahuitl, the Aztec sword club made of obsidian and wood, but I was also thinking a bit of my friend Stephen MacAllister,who had the best beard of anyone I knew. I must have mentioned my bearded friend, and this is what came out--a wild hermit dervish instead of an Aztec warrior..

Minos, the bull god of strength is clearly a minotaur. Ernest Hogan and I were on the same page with this monstrous embodiment of virility and power.

Every pantheon needs a god or goddess to express the inexpressible, explain the unexplainble, and embody that which has no form. Ernest got off lightly by drawing his Nameless Spirit in invisible ink.

Nook-nook is the Creature from the Black Lagoon. He is the masculine God of Water and all watery things. As such, he is also a fertility deity.

As you can clearly see O is Adonis, giver of light and life itself.

Oxnard is the God of Dragons. You can see his name almost spells dragon if you look at it backwards and the number of letters is the same. Oxnard is also God of Fire.

Pyssyr is the Goddess of Water and of the Sea. Yes, there is a dirty pun hidden in that name.

Shagreen is the god of merchants and of money. The name came from shagreen leather, a rough knobbly form of leather commonly made from shark hides. As you can see, the association of merchants with sharks is a fair one.

Ttex is the Goddess of Justice and Balance. The name comes from Texas, Land of the Fair Deal/

Welbi is the Goddess of Medicine and Healing. With so many beings in the pantheon that would just love to hurt you, we need one that's willing and able to cure you. Yes, the name came from the tv show of the time--Dr. Welby.

Zlaz in the Lord of Shadows. Inspired by Roger Zelazny who was just starting the Amber series at the time, it seemed fitting to make the last deity in the list a master of Shadow.

And that’s it, my friends, a pantheon of deities that never existed, tributes to the things I thought about back then.  As a writer, I have only words, only feeble concepts to express their glory and importance.  But my artistic friend Ernest had much more.  He had then, and still has as far as I can tell,  a weird and unusual way of looking at the world.  He showed me things in my godlings that I could never have imagined for myself.  Thank you, Ernest.

If you worship any of these strange gods, perhaps under different names, feel free to leave a comment.


The Dice Make the Decisions   2 comments

I like action in my swords and sorcery stories. This one features a charming ogress, a mean Minotaur and a few nasty elves.

I just do the details.  Way back in the late 70s I was much more obsessed with swords and sorcery fiction than I am now, and also more obsessed with dice, and with creating systems that would do the work for me.  I don’t remember when exactly, but I made a dice-determined chart for creating fantasy adventure fiction.  The instructions in parentheses (like so) have been added now in order to make the chart clear for you the reader—I understand my original notes without the explanations.)  Here it is:



To start: (roll) two dice.  (d6 of course—that’s all I had when I made this chart)

On a roll of 2 to 7, the hero is alone.  On a roll of 8 to 12 the hero is not alone.

(If the hero is alone, roll 2D6 again.)

Step 1.  (Setting)

(Dice roll =) 4, 6, or 8—the hero is in his (her) own city.

3, 7, 9, or 12 in another city (I really liked cities back then)

2, 5, 10, or 11 in wasteland (and by wasteland I mean any wild, non-urban setting)

Step 2  (Conflict starts the story).  He is attacked by

(Roll 2 dice)

7, 8, 9, 10   human attackers

5, 6, 11  beasts  (including monsters of a nonmagical nature)

2, 3, 4, 12   Magic (including nonhuman, monsters, wizards, etc.)

Step 3  (Complications)  He fights against men and

I wonder if she's mad because the dragon ate her clothing.

(Roll 2 dice)

2, 3, 4, 10, 11, 12     he wins and takes a prisoner  (to find out why he was attacked in the first place and what he needs to do next)

5, 6, 7, 8, 9       he loses and is captured  (and taken to meet his foe where things are explained)


He fights against beasts

(Roll 2 dice)

Even—he wins and meets (rescues) a girl

Odd—(the foe is too strong for him and) he flees

(Roll 2 dice) (and)

2, 3, 4, 5  (he is) rescued by men (women/humans)

6, 7, 8, 9  (he is) rescued by magic

10, 11, 12  (he) meets a girl.  (Don’t know what I was thinking—she probably rescues him somehow, but perhaps the critters eat them both.)


He fights against magic and he is captured.

(On a roll of) 8 through 12 (the hero is) not alone.  (He may start that way or have acquired a companion in steps 1 through 3)

Step 4  (Who is with our hero?)

(Roll 2 dice)

Even (he is)     with friends

(Roll 2 dice)

Even—with his army (or group of companions)

Odd—with 1 companion.

Odd  (he is)     captured by enemies.

(if you haven’t done step 1, go back and do that now to determne where he is.)

Step 5  If he is with his army he fights a pitched battle.

(Roll 2 dice)

Even—he loses

Odd—he wins

Step 6  (how does the battle go?)

(whether he wins or loses, determine why.  Roll 2 dice.)

2-6  he was outnumbered  (or if he wins, he outnumbered his foes)

7-9  magic (was involved)

10-12    superior strategy.

Step 7     (who is the foe?)  His enemy is a

(Roll 2 dice)

Even—a man

Odd—a woman

(If he loses the battle he will be captured alone by his foe.  If he wins, then he captures his foe.)

(If the hero is with a single companion at the start, go back and do steps 1, 2, and 3 to determine what happens to them.)

Other Determinants


(If the hero is in a wasteland, then) the waseland is:

(Roll 2 dice)

3, 6 9—forest (includes swamps and jungles)

2, 5, 11—mountains

4, 7, 12—desert

8, 10—icelands

(I see I made no provisions for having the hero be out at sea.  We could modify the chart to say

2, 5—mountains

4, 7—desert

11, 12—at or under seas or lakes or any body of water)

8, 10—icelands)

Step 8  When attacked by men roll (2) dice and multiply by 3/2.  Half a man always counts an an extra attacker.

(When attacked by) Beasts (roll 2 dice.)

Even—a pack of animals

Odd—a single monster

Step 9  When meeting a girl (or a guy) (determine what he/she looks like.  It is taken for granted that this romantic interest will always be attractive)

(Roll 2 dice 8 times)

  1. Even—voluptuous (big breasts, big hair)

Odd—slender  (rather boyish or childlike)

  1. Even—she is nobility (princesses are always good)

Odd—of common blood

  1. Even—clever


  1. Her hair is:  (roll 2 dice)

6, 7  auburn (that is light brown)

5, 8  black

4, 9  blonde

3, 10  red

2, 11  dark brown

12  platinum  (I had in mind a kind of shiny silver color, but any weird color would do on 12.

  1. She is:

(Roll 2 dice)

2-6   tall

7-9   medium height

10-12  short

  1. She is:

(Roll 2 dice)


Odd—not  (at this stage in my life I don’t know why that would be important to me as a writer, but perhaps I was thinking that virgins are naturally innocent while non-virgins are more worldy and wise)

  1. She is:

(Roll 2 dice)

Even—very brave




All the best swords and sorcery has the hero wading through lakes of gore. Bit of an exaggeration, eh?

(Now we get into a series of If-then statements.  The dice will reappear when they are needed.)

If the hero has a prisoner he learns of a fabulous treasure nearby with hostile guardians, but the prisoner somehow gets away.

If he meets a girl he learns of a fabulous treasure nearby, etc. & they decide to try to get it.

If rescued by men he makes common cause with them and soon goes through step 5 with them.  If they win, that ends the story.  (Also determine steps 6 and 7.)  If they lose, he is captured.  See below.

If rescued by magic, determine sex of magician who enlists his aid to secure some treasure, etc.

If captured, determine age & sex of captor.





(If) captured & imprisoned by mortal foes

(Roll 2 dice)

The arena bit  2-6

The dungeon bit  7-12.

The Arena

(Roll 2 dice)

2-5  fights men

6-9  fights beasts

10-12  fights both

After winning in the arena roll dice.

Doubles—(hero is) propositioned by queen, princess, etc.  Otherwise, the dungeon bit.  If propositioned determine whether young (even) or old (odd) & what she looks like.  Roll dice if young:  Even—accept (become a royal lapdog, so to speak).  Odd—back to the dungeons.

The Dungeon


(Roll 2 dice)

2, 12—rescued by friendly forces—ends story.

3, 11—(discover) secret passage

4, 10—trick jailor

5-9—released by girl

Secret passage

(Roll 2 dice)

2, 3, 11, 12—leads out of city.  Hero leaves place behind.  End story.

4-6—leads to  ruler’s apartment.  Kill or defeat the ruler and swipe some valuables.

Even—sneak out and escape—end story

Odd—meet guards and fight.

(Roll 2 dice)

2-5  (defeat guards and) get away—end story.

6+  recaptured

7,8—end up in girl’s room.

(Roll 2 dice)

Even—make love to her.

Odd—she calls the guards but (hero) kidnaps her and escapes.

9—wind up in treasure room trapped.  Die of starvation among the bones.  Too bad.  (Jeez, what a hard-hearted cynic I was back then.)

(heh! I didn’t do anything with the number 10 at all.)

Trick Jailor

(Roll 2 dice)

2, 12  escape from city—end story.

3, 11  wind up in the ruler’s room—see above.

4, 10  meet guards.  Roll for how many.

Over 8 guards—recaptured.

Under 8—fight.

Even—win and escape—end story

Odd—hero killed—end story

5-9  end up in girl’s room—see above.

Released by Girl

(Roll 2 dice)

Even—go to ruler’s room, take goodies and leave—end story.

Odd—girl captured but he escapes

(Roll 2 dice)

Even—he rescues girl; kills ruler, and escapes—end story.

Odd—girl killed; he kills ruler, but is recaptured.

Captured and Imprisoned by Wizard

(Roll 2 dice)

2, 3, 11, 12—held for some kind of ransom

4-10—held for some kind of sacrifice

even—by wizard in person

odd—by some beastly supernatural being.

Possibilities (to end the story if it hasn’t ended yet)

(Roll 2 dice)

2, 12—rescued by friendly forces—end story.

3, 11—killed—end story.

4-10—escape (again)


(Roll 2 dice)

2-4—via magic

5-8—via a girl (see above)

9-10—via a man

11, 12—via own efforts (see above)

End of Story


Fabulous treasure

(Roll 2 dice)

Even—guarded by sentient beings.

Odd—guarded by non-sentient beings.

If sentient:

(Roll 2 dice)

Even—defeat them, take treasure, end story.


If non-sentient

(Roll 2 dice)

2-8—kill (guardians) and take treasure—end story

9-10—chased back, give it up—end story

11-12—killed by them—end story.


(Roll 2 dice)

Even—mortal captors—see above

Odd—magical captors—see above.

If Propositioned, then plots are made against hero by her former lover

(Roll 2 dice)

2, 3, 11, 12—hero killed—end story (as you can see, by this time in making up these tables I was desperate to end the story, any way I could.)

4, 10—she is turned against hero who flees city—end story.

5, 9—she is killed, flee city, end story.

6-8—plotters foiled.  Happy ending as city ruler.

If Recaptured (the hero will be) sentenced to be executed

(Roll 2 dice)

2, 12—(execution carried out) hero killed—end story.

3, 10,. 11—rescued by friendly forces—end story.  (way back then I knew it was both good and important to have friends.)

4, 5, 8, 9—rescued by magic, determine sex & age of magician, and go to the rescued by magic section above.

6, 7—fight way out somehow, but end story.

Kidnap Girl & Escape

Roll dice

Even—recaptured but girl is killed—see above.

Odd—get out of city, escape pursuit, make love to girl, win her over, end story.

Escape from Magcian via magic

Two magicians fight it out.  Hero helps his rescuer and they triumph—end story.

Escape from Magician via girl

Both flee, magician pursues.

(Roll 2 dice)

Even—both escape; tricks defeated, but magician vows vengeance—end story.

Odd—girl and magician both killed—end story.

Escape from Magician via man

(Roll 2 dice)

2, 3, 4, 11, 12—kill magician

5-10—fight beast-god(s)

(Roll 2 dice)

2, 3, 11, 12—defeat them and escape—end.

4, 5, 9, 10—defeat them but man killed, hero escapes, end story.

6-8—fail.  Both killed.  End story.

Escape from Magician via own efforts

Defeat the gods & kill the magician.  Take some of his treasure and leave.  End Story.

(Note)  If the hero wins the first battle, it’s a short, short story.

(The dice table chart of story determinants ends here but there are 10 story guides—stories that I never got around to writing.  I give them here:)

(The outlines for stories I thought III are lost.)

It would sure be a faster way to travel than horseback, but I imagine the problems of taking care of one's own dragon would be enormous.

Story IV

Setting:  on or along a river.

Motivation:  rescue girl

Opposition:  demons

Hero’s weapon:  spear and shield

Girl:  short, muscular, virgin, common, redhead (same girl—did I use her in stories one, two, or three?)

Change:  change scene and add more opposition

New setting:  teeming jungles  (all jungles were lush and rife with wildlife in my youth)

New opposition:  more demons

Number good:  three—hero, girl, and one other

Number bad:  A band.

Story V

Setting:  on the ocean

Motivation:  stealing plunder (must have been thinking of pirates)

Opposition: primal force and men  (storm at sea?)

Hero’s weapons:  Sword and knife.

Girl:  None

Change:  None.

Number good:  two

Second hero: Spear and shield

Number bad:  an army

Story VI

Setting:  burning desert (as opposed to a cold desert)

Motivation:  rescue girl

Opposition:  monsters and demons

Hero’s weapon: bow & arrow & armor

Girl:  short, muscular, common, carnal redhead (same girl—apparently hero and girl have become intimate by story 6)

Change:  Add 2nd girl, more enemies, and change scene

New Setting:  a city

New girl: tall, tough, royal, carnal black-haired girl

New opposition:  witch and men

Number of good:  hero and 1st girl (2nd girl a witch)

Number of bad:  a band, a goodly group  (what was I thinking?  Probably that the witch had plenty of henchmen)

Story VII

Setting:  underground

Motivation:  overcome an enemy

Opposition:  monsters and men

Hero’s weapon:  a sword

Girl:  None

Change:  None

Number good:  small group

Number bad:  an army

Story VIII

Setting:  on or along a river

Motivation:  stealing plunder

Opposition:  demons and men

Hero’s weapon:  Axe and armor

Girl:  None

Change:  None

Number good:  alone

Number bad:  1 demon, 1 man.

Story IX

Setting:  icy wastes

Motivation:  rescue girl

Opposition:  primal force and men

Hero’s weapons:  sword and bow & arrow and armor

Girl:  short, soft, common, carnal redhead

Change:  None

Number good:  hero and girl

Number bad:  army

Story X

Setting:  on the ocean

Motivation:  overcome an enemy

Opposition:  demons and men

Hero’s weapon:  spear and shield

Girl:  None

Change:  None

Number good:  alone

Number bad:  small group

Story XI

Setting:  on the ocean

Motivation:  stealing plunder

Opposition:  monsters

Hero’s weapon:  knife and armor

Girl:  None

Change:  None

Number good:  Band

Number bad:  Band

Story XII

Setting:  rolling plains (damn! I loved those geographical clichés when I was young)

Motivation:  Rescuing girl

Opposition:  Primal force and men

Hero’s weapon:  sword

Girl:  Tall, soft, common, carnal black-haired girl

Change:  Add a second hero.

Number good:  Small group

Number bad:  three men.

Story XIII

Setting:  on the ocean

Motivation:  stealing plunder

Opposition:  primal force and men

Hero’s weapon:  bow & arrows

Girl:  None

Change:  Add a girl, 2nd hero, more opposition, and change scene.

New setting:  in a canyon

New opposition:  Monsters and demons

New girl:  Tall, soft, noble, virgin redhead

Number good:  three—2 heroes and girl

Number bad:  small group.

(These stories were never written, but judging by the repetitive elements they obviously came from a set of tables—probably the tables I showed you at the start of this article.  In the same batch of notes I have the following story synopsis.)

Demons of the Black Lands

Delara has been separated from Dyrrghat on the river Tzactheth when they were attacked by a party of black men.  Delara had been pulled overboard and captured while Dyrrghat had been carried downriver still fighting boarders.  Now she was captive of Innak, a native chief, a magnificent giant black.

Innak took Delara deep into the jungle.  The land rose beneath them getting steeper and steeper until they reached a cliff.  A narrow trail led up it.  Innak led his men up it, passing three sentry posts before they reached the top.  There was no jungle on the summit.  Instead, there was a half-ruined city of white marble.  Here, Delara learned her fate.   These people worshipped a white goddess, Hosiris, whom they believed dwelt incarnate on Earth.  Their previous goddess had died, but Innak’s scouts had reported her presence, and so they captured her.

Delara, unable to retrace her steps to the river, agreed to be their goddess.  She was prepared and led to her throne by late afternoon.

A party of blacks bring in a white man captive, not Dyrrghat, but Mradelarr, who had come to the ancient city of Nohosiris seeking treasure.  Innak ordered him put to death, but Delara, seeing now a chance for escape, contradicted him.  They argue, for Innak was used to controlling a puppet goddess.

Mradelarr is imprisoned while they argue.  At moonrise the natives are horrified to see Delara exercise supernatural powers.  A demon of Set, true to the curse upon her, appears, (She pretended to call it.) and begins to slay the people.  Warriors fight bravely with it, but to no avail.  Innak, though, is a shaman himself.  He calls upon some black fiends of his own to fight the servant of Set.

During the confusion Delara gathers up Mradelarr’s weapons and a bag of jewels and goes to free him.  Mradelarr is overjoyed.  They fight their way out of the city and down the escarpment.

Innak’s fiends overcome Set’s demon, but not before the city is further destroyed.  Setting his fiends on Delara’s hour-old trail, Innak sets out in solitary pursuit of the two.

Mradelarr makes for his boat on the River Tzactheth, but they are overtaken about dawn.  As the sky brightens Innak’s creatures lose their power, becoming no more than hideous beasts.

When Innak catches them, the 2 parties fight.  After a tough struggle, Mradelarr and Delara kill the 2 fiends with Innak and overcome the giant black.  Mradelarr spares Innak, pledging him by an oath he cannot break, to eternal slavery to himself and Delara, for in the night Delara had told him of her curse and how Innak’s fiends could overcome Set’s solitary nightly demon.  The three reach Mradelarr’s boat and head downriver toward the sea.

The End.

(I didn’t say it was good.  Apparently I was heavily influenced by Robert E. Howard’s Queen of the Black Coast when I dreamed  up this tale.  It is the third of three short story outlines that I did at that time set in the world of Conan.  Thank God, I never actually wrote or tried to publish the stories.  The other two stories were called DELARA THE DEMON-HAUNTED (about the meeting of Dyrrghat and Delara who slew a priest of Set) and HEART OF STONE (about Mradelarr, a Bossonian lost in the jungles of Punt who took a jewel from an evil statue, only to see that statue come to life and follow him.  I reproduced these notes exactly as I wrote them, spelling errors and all, some 35 years or more ago, as a record of how I was thinking and dreaming of swords and sorcery in the earliest days of Tunnels and Trolls.)

(The art in this article is all created by British render-artist Robin Stacey, known as @Greywulf on Twitter.  He’s great, and his art is so much more fantastic than the story ideas I came up with in my dice-determined situations.  And I like fantasy art.  Even if the words aren’t fantastic enough, you’ve all had a treat in getting to see so many of Robin’s masterpieces.)

If you ever created your own dice tables for making up stories out of thin air, or even if you didn’t, go ahead and leave a comment.


And now, ye author, like the goblin in the picture, makes a hasty retreat.

Posted February 22, 2012 by atroll in Uncategorized

Not a Tunnels and Trolls Pantheon   5 comments

I have been rescuing some of my juvenilia from a well-deserved oblivion.  I figure that once I’ve published it on the internet, it will exist forever, thus assuring my own undying fame–heh.  Well, actually, I figure that I took a lot of time and effort to creat this stuff once, and as I look at it now, I still like it.  Maybe somebody else will like it too.  Maybe it will make someone smile.  I know it will make me smile to get a blog out of it.  And so . . .

Once upon a time, long long ago in the late seventies, probably around 1977, I created a pantheon of gods and goddesses which I hoped to use in a complex astrological scheme for character generation in a fantasy role-playing game that would be nothing like Tunnels and Trolls or Dungeons and Dragons.  Then I talked my friend Ernest Hogan into drawing them for me.  Then Rick Loomis told me he had no interest in a different fantasy role-playing game–I should just stick with doing things for Tunnels and Trolls.  Then the whole project died.  But, I still have the drawings that Ernest did for me, and I like them.  They are pretty damn weird if you ask me.  For the first time ever, someone besides me and Ernest, who has probably forgotten all about these portraits, will get to see them.

Aa is the beginning, the maiden and the crone.

Ambr came from Roger Zelazny's Nine Princes in Amber--it represents the true reality at the heart of creation.

Amra was Conan's name when he harried the Black Kingdoms with Belit. Somehow Hogan thought it meant Dog, so Amrra became Man's best friend.

Bhahl is a reference to Baal, a demon god.

Bjorn was inspired by my friend "Bear" Peters. He is a were-creature, sometimes man, sometimes bear, and the god of carnivorous animals.

Blotar is the god of rough sex, something I dreamed about a good deal in those days. He degraded women and they loved him for it. He was also partly inspired by Bluto from the Popeye cartoons.

Bugsnak was the god of insects and disease.

Ceemdiceecee (C M D C C) was a pseudonym for my friend Liz Danforth. She is the Goddess of Art.

Deth is, or course, the God of Death. He has much the same look in many pantheons. Deth gets around.

Dyse is the Goddess of Chance. She personifies my love of rolling dice--in more ways than one.

Fandalgundarbugaloo is the Jolly Green Giant from the vegetable commercials. He represents the force of Nature and of all growing things. Logically, that makes him the God of Agriculture.

Festawg is the God of Bad Luck and Misfortune. As you can see in this picture, he is literally the Fool from the Tarot. I loved the tarot then, and I love it now. Several of these deities have counterparts in the tarot.

Gax-Arn was a demonic deity of evil. He represented all I feared from that other game. Gy-Gax. Arn-eson. It's a kind of tribute. In those days I didn't know either man. I later became good friends with Dave Arneson, but I never showed him this pantheon.

Gnivring is the God of Wisdom--one of the evil gods. The word is put together from gnashing and shivering--gnivring. Go figure!

This brings us to the halfway mark in the pantheon.  Next time I’ll show you the other half of this unlikely set of deities.

If you ever met a deity, worshipped one, or invented one of your own, feel free to leave a comment below.


Tunnels and Trolls Fantasy Calendar   10 comments

You can find many different races (called Kindreds in T & T) on Trollworld. Here are three of the less common: Minotaur, Youwarkee, and Hunding.

Fantasy art calendars are commonplace today and have been for decades, but, I believe that Tunnels and Trolls was the first role-playing game to produce a fantasy calendar.  Flying Buffalo did one in black and white way back in 1978.  At least I think it was 1978.  I don’t have that calendar any more, but it featured art by Liz Danforth, Rob Carver, and a few others whose names I have forgotten.

Well, everything old is new again.  In December I upgraded my  personal computer to a Macintosh.  The Mac comes with all sorts of nifty software bundled with it.  One of the programs, Iphoto, includes the option of making your own calendar.  Back in January this began to look like a really good idea to me, so I did it.  With the help of my artistic friends, I have created a brand new fantasy art calendar with a Tunnels and Trolls theme.  For example, it includes Trollish holidays like Longest Night (Dec. 21) and Trollgod’s Birthday (Apr. 28) and Sky Dragon eats Khazan (the moon) (June 4).

The new calendar runs from March 2012 through March 2013.  The idea is to update it with fresh art every 3 months, and to sell the dates to help finance it and pay the artists.  You can buy one day on the calendar for $8, two days for $15, and three days for $20.  After that the pricing starts over.  Want your birthday on a beautiful fantasy calendar?  This is your chance.  Dates are sold on a first-come basis, so if you want June 5, and somebody already has that date, too bad.  Interested, leave a comment and I will contact you.

Art in the current calendar comes from:

Steve Crompton

Liz Danforth

Ed Heil

Katje Romanov

Miika Spray

Christa St. Jean

Robin Stacey

David Ullery.

Some very strange beings can be found in this calendar. This is the demon Bel-Zaratak as imagined by Ken St. Andre and rendered by Christa St. Jean.

If you’ve ever done art for a calendar, created your own calendar, or wanted to be on a calendar, go ahead and leave a comment below.


Double Dodecahedrons   3 comments

I invent games.  It’s no great talent.  Anyone can do it, but most people don’t.  Most people are content to play the games that others make.  Me, on the other hand, I see possibilities for games everywhere–I can make them out of anything, or nothing.

I want to share with you all a little game that I made a few months ago while I was waiting for my son to get back in street clothes and come out and join me after his performance in Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.  I had a couple of 20-sided dice in my pocket–yes, I usually do walk around with dice in my pocket–so I invented a simple game of who can roll the highest number.

Such dice games go way back to the beginning of time.  The Romans used 3 6-sided dice with pips on them the same way we do today, and it was simply who rolls the highest number.  Three sixes was called the Venus throw, and it won automatically.  I wonder if 3 ones were called the Inferno throw.

So here are the rules for Double Dodecahedron–my gift to everyone who simply likes to roll dice.  Play it and improve your skills in addition and calculation.

Equipment needed: 2 20-sided dice numbered 1 to 20.  Your brains and memory.

Object of the game: Roll the highest total to win.

Rules:  Roll 2 20-sided dice and total them.  Example one die rolls a 17, the other a 4, the total is 21.  If the player rolls the same number on both dice or consecutive numbers on both dice, he totals them and rolls again.  Example: I roll a 16 on one die and a 17 on the other.  The total is 33.  Then I roll the dice again and get a 2 on one die and a 2 on the other for a total of 4.  33 + 4 = 37.  Then I roll them again.  This time I get a 5 on one die and a 20 on the other for a total of 25.  37 + 25 = 62.  That is a very good roll and probably wins the game for me.

Each player has 3 chances to beat the previous high total.  Using the example above let us say the first player was my son Corencio, and I was the second player.  He rolled a 21.  Then he gave the dice to me.  I got really lucky and rolled a 62.  Then I hand the dice to you.  On the first roll you got a 3 and an 18–fails.  On the second roll you got a 14 and a 16–total is 30–a good roll, but still it doesn’t beat my 62.  On the third roll you roll 20 and 20 for a total of 40 and then you roll 20 and 7 for another 27.  40 + 27 = 67.  You are winning.

Then Corencio has another 3 chances to beat you.  And I get 3 more chances.  Let us say that neither of us can beat a 67.  You win!

Simple, right?  But surprisingly fun.  This game depends on pure luck, but some people seem to win more often than others.  Is it a flick of the wrist when rolling the dice?  Subtle telekinesis in controlling which faces come up?  Or just pure luck?  I believe in Luck.  One of the rules I live by is that IT IS BETTER TO BE LUCKY THAN GOOD.  Of course, if you are both lucky and good (like I am–grin) that is better still.

Double Dodecahedrons can easily be turned into a gambling game.  You could bet a fixed amount of money on each round of play.  Let’s say you have 3 players and each puts $1.00 in the pot.  The winner makes a net profit of $2 on the round.  Or, let’s say you have the old coin jar handy.  Each player contributes a penny for each point on the dice.  If you roll the dice and get a 3 and a 5, you would put 8 cents in the pot.  The next person would roll and get perhaps a 20 and a 15 and put 35 cents in the pot.  A third person rolls a 17 and a 2 on the first try and puts 19 cents in the pot–that doesn’t win.  He can roll again. Let’s say he rolls a second time and gets 7 and an 8.  15 doesn’t win, but it does get to add and roll again.  He puts 15 cents in the pot.  Then he rolls a 20 and a 4.  He puts 24 cents in the pot and his total is 39.  That is high enough to take the lead so he passes the dice.  Using just a penny a point and several players, this game could get very exciting very quickly.

So, put some 20-siders in your pocket, gamers.  I know you own the dice.  And next time you have some time to kill, get them out and play Double Dodecahedrons.  It’s fun, and the time goes by very quickly when you’re gaming and having fun.

If you ever play dice games, or make games up on the spot, leave a comment, ok?


Posted February 15, 2012 by atroll in 20-sided dice, dice games, inventing games, Uncategorized

My Tunnels and Trolls, Part 1   3 comments

I thought it might be fun to lay out a list of the Tunnels and Trolls products that I have personally written and are currently for sale.  So here it goes, more of a catalog than a blog.  These are just the games available on  I’ll also give you a bit of background on each one.

Deathtrap was the first solo I ever wrote, way back in 1976.  So early in my role-playing career, I had already gotten tired of all the wandering around in tunnels and passageways.  It seemed to me that all the action was in the rooms, so why bother with passages.  I give the delver a ring that magically transported him in and out of the adventure.  There were two rings.  The Frog Ring took the delver into a single room in the dungeon.  Solve that room and the player got out with a treasure.  Fail and die.  It wasn’t called “Deathtrap” for nothing.  The four-armed demon on the cover and the blade-handed bandit inside were actually “borrowed” from Marvel’s Conan comics as scripted at that time by Roy Thomas.  This dungeon produced a lot of characters with hands made of living diamond.  It was perhaps the least dangerous trap in the adventure.  The other ring was called The Lion Ring, and it sent you on the Trip of the Lion.  The character had to go through every adventure, one right after the other. I don’t know if any character or player has ever been good enough to go through all the traps and dangers of Deathtrap Equalizer.  Certainly, I could never do it.

The second solo adventure I ever did also shattered a stereotype–the one of the heavily armed adventurer or group of adventurers venturing into the monsters’ lair to  slay vermin and take their stuff.  I was all about shattering stereotypes back in the seventies. (Now, it seems, I may be all about perpetuating them. heh!).  It seemed to me that adventures took too long to get going because the players needed to “buy” stuff and equip their characters.  T & T offered lots of choices for equipping characters right from the very beginnning.  How could I speed that up?  One way would be not to give the character anything at the beginning of the adventure.  It’s a time-honored technique going back to such heroes as John Carter of Mars, who arrived on the planet in his birthday suit.  My artist, Rob Carver, took me at my word and drew the title character in full frontal nudity.  Back in the day there were plenty of books and magazines featuring nude  women in peril.  I figured if it worked for naked women, it should be the same for naked men.  Flying Buffalo publisher Rick Loomis was scandalized and disagreed.  Reluctantly, Rob altered the picture and drew in the loin cloth.  Adventure modules were in their infancy.  I think I may have been the first game designer to throw characters into an adventure with nothing but their wits to save them.  I may have also been first to tie two modules together.  Deep inside the Naked Doom Gauntlet of Criminal Rehabilitation there is a place where the player can find a Frog Ring.  If you put it on, the character was magically teleported out of Naked Doom and into a Deathtrap Equalizer Adventure.  I still like that trick, and you’ll find it again in The DewDrop Inn that was written in 2011.

A short solitaire adventure intended for Tunnels & Trolls. Do you have what it takes to be an Agent of the Death Goddess?  Khara Khang’s Random Rainbow Maze is a simple test for warriors who want to serve their Empress.  Show that you have what it takes by getting through it alive. Two simple strategies will serve you well–Fight! and Flight!  My personal goal for 2011 was to publish as many T & T solos as I could.  I wanted to start with something short and sweet.  I found a simple maze and filled it with simple traps and monsters.  Your task was to go in one end and come out the other.  I had also been dreaming about these walls where the colors faded into each other–orange to red, blue to green, sort of like a rainbow.  I had an idea of coordinating the colors with the difficulty of the traps–red being the easiest and violet the most difficult.  Oh, yeah, let’s tie it into the Khazan mythos somehow.  The result was Khara Khang’s Random Rainbow Maze, a mazingly illustrated by David Ullery.  The printer screwed up the first edition, and just photocopied it all on plain paper.  Grrrrr!  This is a good adventure for people just learning the game.

The classic Tunnels & Trolls supplement that lets the players play the monsters, defending their dungeon dwellings and other holdings from marauding adventurers!  Originally created for Howard Thompson of Metagaming, this twisted variant of T & T in which players were supposed to be the monsters, and to behave as evilly and chaotically as they could, only lasted for a couple of years there until Steve Jackson created The Fantasy Trip.  Not willing to publish 2 different fantasy rpgs, Metagaming decided to lose Monsters! Monsters!  I bought the rights to the game back for $300 and then cut a deal with Flying Buffalo to republish it.  Flying Buffalo did a low budget reprint with Liz Danforth’s beautiful cover reduced to two colors.  Rick sold out of his copies in a year or two, and Monsters! went out of print for at least a decade.  Rick Loomis often made noises about  updating and reprinting it, but somehow there was never enough money for it until about 2009 when a reprint edition finally came back into circulation.  A reviewer has pointed out that this is a Tunnels & Trolls variant, but that it features the original 2nd edition T & T rules.  Heh!  Will it ever get updated to the current 7.5 edition rules?  I don’t know.  I wouldn’t count on it.  So reading and playing Monsters! Monsters! is like time travel back to roleplaying as it was in 1977.  I’d like to point out that my idea of having the players be the monsters predated White Wolf’s World of Darkness monster-based rpgs by about a decade at least.

Well, that’s 4 of my products available at  I was just going to keep going until I had talked about everything currently available from them, but I’m tired of typing, so this is part one.  It is the usual chaotic St  Andre product–in this case 3 oldies and one fairly new item.  Straight chronology is ignored.  I’ve added a few notes that you might not have known about, and certainly wouldn’t have cared about, and when I can’t think of anything else to write about, I’ll probably do part two.

If  you have any comments about these adventures, the early days of roleplaying, or what  you’d like to see me write about next, then please leave a comment.


Heavenly Bodies   6 comments

I am taking an astronomy survey class at Phoenix College this spring.  It has a textbook that costs over $150 new.  Such outrageous prices are not uncommon for college textbooks these days.  I’m poor.  I really don’t want to spend that kind of money on one book that will be of limited use to me for about 3 months.  So, I went to and found a used copy for about $65.  That’s still high but I can afford it.  I sent off for the book.

The book arrived–in not too good of condition.  Pages tabbed and highlighted in yellow.  Spine broken at the front cover.  But it’s all there.  I can use it as a text.  And it came with a bonus.  Take a look.

I've got your back.

And there was a second one.  Here it is:

Some interracial mingling here.

All right, the art isn’t really that good.  Better than I could do, but not very good.  The artist has some talent–the bodies go together nicely in a romance paperback cover sort of way.  She didn’t sign her work, so I have no idea who did these.  Probably just doodles.  Found in an astronomy textbook.  I’m pretty sure the artist was female–a man wouldn’t draw this kind of picture.

But stars and planets were not on the mind of whoever drew these pictures.  She  had other kinds of heavenly bodies in mind.  And they came to me as a kind of gift from the universe.  And I appreciate them.  Now I’m sharing them, so that these particular dreams will not be completely lost.

If your dreams ever come out on paper, leave a comment.


Posted February 10, 2012 by atroll in Uncategorized

Too Much Good Stuff   21 comments

Fantasy role-playing game production has exploded in a most amazing way over the last few years, and the explosion continuess.  Because I have written a few reviews of products on which is really the same company as, I get the opportunity to review every new product that comes along.  Well, I can’t do that.  There is only so much time in a day, and I need most of it simply to handle my own needs and write/promote my own gaming projects, but for some time now I have been thinking of chronicling the terrific production of rpg modules being offered on the web.  What follows is just the offerings for one day, today, Feb. 9, 2012, and i’ll go through them in the order in which I learned about them.

Eastern Raider Games offers Image

which is a collection of 14 royalty free images of this young lady that anyone can use as art for anything they like.  Rendering for fun and profit.  I’m no render artist, but I imagine the images could be further transformed by the skilled.

Fat Goblin Games is offeringImage

which looks like a Pathfinder scenario for a certain type of Assassin character type, but it may just be a description of that D & D subclass.

NUELOW Games usually has one or more products every day.  Todays product is Image

a superhero scenario from the ROLF superhero rpg, which I had never heard of before. Looks like a story game–players go through a certain romantic triangle story game.

Rite Publishing brings us Image

1001 Spells gives you – yes, you guessed it – 1001 spells, that will help you realize the vision you’ve had for your spellcaster.   Another Pathfinder product–I imagine Game Masters could quickly adapt this to the game system of their choice.

Raging Swan Press has had 4 releases today.  I’m only going to show the latest one:


This is royalty free art for GMs or Scenario Designers to use to add some black and white color to their products.  Not all of us have a stable of talented artists to turn to when we want a piece of art to enliven our new scenario.  This seems like an awkward pose for a warrior, but I haven’t looked inside to see whether our protagonist gets more dynamic or not.  Raging Swan also offered stock art for a Harp Sorcerer and a Bugbear Warrior today.  Yesterday they offered a scenario builder for Marsh Encounters.  These guys are working all the time.

For today’s would-be authors E=zines are what the pulps were for people like Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft back in the 20s, 30s, and 40s of the early 20th century.  They’re great.  I love e-zines, and have appeared in a few of them like Elder Tunnels and Fight On.  This Stories in the Ether from Nevermet Press looks like a very good one.  I might download this, just to see if it could be a possible future market for some of my own tales.  Writers, this is a very good thing to do.  Study the publishers–see what they want, and how your tales are likely to be presented.  You might not get paid for contributing to an e-zine.  Pulp authors didn’t make much either, and they had a much bigger real as opposed to potential audience.  The internet gives us a potential audience of billions although the real audience is more likely to be dozens.  Dozens is better than none, my friends.  Find the publishers and send them your best work!

Attention Span Games adds to the fun with

A sequel to the Carmine rpg.

Okay, I’ve never heard of the Carmne rpg, but it’s plain that author Ron F. Leota has his own dark fantasy universe going, and is having good fun with it.

We’re not done yet.  Cubicles 7 releases 

This is a roleplaying scenario set in Middle Earth during the War of the Ring.

Hey, I haven’t finished mentioning all the things that could have come to me today.  Ten more have arrived while I was putting this blog together, and who knows how many might come before midnight?  I haven’t downloaded any of them, but I saved the emails just in case I’m persuaded somehow to change my mind.  If I download, I will write a short review, probably not here, but right at the download site.  The prices on all of these games and entertainment objects are extremely reasonable.  Support your hard-working game designers, writers, and artists.  Buy the one you like the best, or go hunting at  If you’re not familiar with the place, you will be amazed at the superabundance of gaming, art, and other forms or entertainment goodness.  Search for your favorite system or style or creator.  Better yet, search for me, Ken St. Andre  (grin–shameless plug) or my friend John Wick.  I had a new product just last week, and so did he.  I might have another next week if current efforts go well–a fantasy art calendar for Tunnels and Trolls.  I’m starting it in March so you won’t feel cheated by having days that have already gone by.

If you buy or download games online, please leave a comment.  Tell us what you think of the selection or the service.


My Favorite Editorial   6 comments

That Frisson of Disgust, That Tingle of Fear

I haven’t been very good about doing blogs lately.  Either I’m not having that much fun, or I just can’t find time to write them.  I have been working on a fantasy art calendar for Tunnels and Trolls, and I hope to have that published in the next week.  Meanwhile, tho I’m sure I’ve run this editorial before, probably just last year, let me run it again, and I’ll stick some new art into it.

Two weeks ago at HuntCon, a friendly gaming get together here in Phoenix, I got to run A T & T adventure for 4 gamers.  We did, as far as I know, the first ever adventure in Dwarf World.  My players all had new characters.  I started them out in the frying pan–being chased by the Black Dog people (I invented the Black Dog people on the spot because there were two big black dogs at the party, pets of the host, who were hanging around with us gamers on the back patio) who simply wanted to kill them all, and they swiftly jumped out of it into the fire.

This was the first T & T game ever for 2 of my 4 players.  They were horrendously outnumbered, and in a terrible situation.  Don’t you just love it when you can set up a game like that?  Players really have to get creative when just running out and killing everything in their path isn’t going to work.


Do you remember your first fantasy role-playing experience? Do you remember struggling to understand unfamiliar rules, the effort to fit your character into that of someone not yourself? Do you remember the dread with which you faced your first monstrous foe?

There has never been anything else quite like it, has there?

As you continued to play, you learned what to expect, and how to turn the tables on your Game Master. You learned how to balance a party of delvers to deal with all emergencies, how to anticipate traps, and trick monsters. You learned when to fight and when to talk. And as you learned all these things, your character found artifacts of power and grew ever more potent and dangerous.

And now that you are a 20th level wizard-warrior with a pet dragon capable of dishing out 6421 points of hit damage, spells capable of halting time or destroying a mountain, armor that can protect you from a nuclear explosion – now that you have achieved all your desires, don’t you find yourself looking around wondering where the next challenge will come from, and not finding any?

Wasn’t it better when you were just a first level wizard, agonizing over whether to throw a TTYF for 16 whole points of damage on that charging monster, and then hope the party can protect you until the combat is over, or whether to vorpal the blade of the best warrior and possibly strike a few blows of your own with the quarterstaff?

The truth is that we as human beings gain just as much pleasure from making small decisions and gaining small victories as we do from making earth-shattering decisions and saving the world. We are each our own world, and when you manage to elude that horde of MR-5 rats and scramble to safety, it is as good or better than causing the earth to open and swallow 20,000 attacking Ores. The first is just a personal triumph; the second example is history. But what do you as a person relate to more – personal triumphs or history?

There is no doubt that the longer you continue to role-play, the better a role-player you will become, and the more effective your character will be during the game. But when you can effortlessly wave your hand and destroy that hulking troll, the satisfaction is gone from the game. When you had to think fast, dodge, rig a landslide, lure it into a pit, the challenge and thus the fun was greater.

The Black Dog People probably looked like this.

Which brings me to my point – low level games are more fun than high level games. Being powerless and fighting for your life is more of a thrill than being godlike and annihilating the opponent. High level games turn into bragging contests, where players and Game Masters try to top each other with one super feat after another. Low level adventures are more the kind of thing you could see yourself actually participating in.

And that is why, in over 25 years of role-playing, I have never actually developed a character higher than 9th level. High level characters are like gods, and if I need a god, I’ll make one up (Gristlegrim, Lerotra’hh) when I’m the Game Master. Or. I’ll ask the current G.M. to do a divine intervention.

Then again, if a beginning character dies, you can always roll up a new one – no great loss! But if a high level character gets toasted, then you lose months or years of role-playing labor. No wonder AD&D allows practically unlimited resurrection of dead characters. It’s a power trip, and once you accumulate a fair amount of power, you really hate to lose it.

The solution to having the most fun, of course, is to retire those high level monstrosities – turn them into NPCs. Perhaps someone will encounter old Drax the Demon Dodger and get his help on a particularly difficult mission that all those first to third level types had no chance with, but your emotional investment is not tied up in Drax. Instead, it’s with Itchy the Kid who’s just finding his first magic kazoo.

Turn your high level characters into Kings and important NPCs when you run an adventure for others.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. High level games can be awesome, but low level games are a lot more fun!

Oh, and I’m happy to report that my characters got a chance to do something heroic at the end of the adventure.  They fought and killed an Obsidian Spider that was tougher than all of them put together, saved their Dwarf guide who had earlier saved them, and wound up with a fortune in rubies.  Then, since we had been playing for about 3 hours, I used a Deus Ex Machina device to wrap up the adventure in a hurry and end the game.  Everybody felt both tested and rewarded.  I thought it was an excellent way to introduce new players to T  & T.

If you’ve ever played Dwarf World, or have any opinion about high level vs. low level adventuring in frps, please go ahead and leave a comment.


P.S.  All the art in this blog was done by David Ullery.  He has a massive new solo adventure available at  And guess what?  It’s for low level characters, and is lots of fun.

An elemental battle--delver versus hungry reptile.