I design games. It’s what I do. And not just role-playing games and scenarios. I can make any kind of game, out of virtually any kind of material. Before the end, I would like to show the world some of my other game designs.
Another TrollCon is coming up at the end of July. 20 or 30 people will get together in Scottsdale to play Tunnels and Trolls and other games and just have a good time. I’ll be there. This year I wanted to do something a little special for the people who come from other parts of the country to game with me. So, I created this game. I’ll give it to you if you come to the con. Otherwise, I’ll sell it to you.
It’s a simple game. Steal the dragon’s gold!
This one isn’t a complicated roleplaying game. It’s snatch and grab. Cunning versus Power. Would you like to try it out? Are you clever enough, swift enough, to steal gold from a dragon?
The game will be available in pdf at the beginning of August. In the meantime, if you’d like to have a hardcopy, send me an email. The price will be $8 in the U.S.A, or $12 in any other country, and I’ll cover the postage and have it autographed by the artist and me. Need a birthday present, or a Christmas gift for a gamer friend? This could be a good option for you.
I’ll demo the game at GenCon, and we (meaning Flying Buffalo) will sell it there. In the meantime, if you’d like a copy hot off the presses, send me an email: email@example.com. Or just paypal some money to me at that address.
If you’ve ever tried to steal gold from a dragon, or if you think stealing is wrong, why not leave a comment?
Two days later, and I’m back from the post office. I’ve just sent off some 42 copies of Dwarves and Dragons to the first people who were kind enough to order it. Those who are close to me should get their copies tomorrow, further away by Saturday, and the rest of the world before the end of next week.
If this game came in a box from Z-man or some other good-sized game producer, I might have included some extra components. The game needs 1D6 in order to play. I didn’t put it in. Who out there doesn’t already own dice? Now that production is done, and I have a chance to think about it, it could be fun to make a couple of custom D6s for it. I could have a Dwarf Die with a pair of eyes on it where the one should be indicating invisibility for the Dwarf when he rolls a 1. I could have a Dragon Die with a Dragon head on it instead of a six to indicate when the dragon is breathing fire. You don’t need special dice for this, but it would be nice.
There’s another component I expect the players to provide on their own: coins. Three or more pennies can serve as the dragon’s hoard. Everybody can produce a handful of copper or silver to use as treasure pieces. Or I could have designed some cardboard gold coins. It’s another non-essential that would have driven production costs up. If the game becomes very popular, which I am not counting on, it would be fun to design some fantasy coins for it.
Miniature lovers, Dwarves and Dragons is the perfect opportunity to use your minis in play. If you have dwarf minis, you should use them; if you have a dragon mini of about the right size, you should use it. You could also use the transparent stones/counters used in Magic and other card games for the boulders in the cave instead of the cardstock counters that I provided. By taking the game out of the realm of cardboard and cardstock, and pushing it into the realm of realia, players could get even more fun out of it.
It’s sort of like using a fancy chess set versus using a plain chess set. The game is the same, no matter which set you use to play it. The fancy set is kind of distractiong at first, and you might not play your best game when admiring your crystal queens and rooks and things. I’d like to see it fancy, but I’m happy to see the game as it is. It’s a start!
My 50 signed and autographed copies are almost gone. Don’t let that stop you from buying one from me. If I need more copies of the game, I will get more. And I’ll sign and number them for you. However, this first release is special, and I’m making the price as low as I can to encourage people to get one, and to reward those who support me at the beginning, When the first 50 are all gone, the price will go up to what it really ought to be. So, it’s a case of EARLY BIRD GETTING WORM, or early buyer getting a deal.
The last two movies I have seen were both fairy tales. It is good to know that Hollywood will still make movies that are fairy tales. They were both what I would call okay. I rate Snow White a solid B, and Brave as a C+.
Both movies were fairy tales about a princess. Both movies were swords and sorcery, though actual swords didn’t feature much in either one of them. Both princesses were courageous and beautiful and firmly in the British tradition. I hope it’s not too much of a spoiler if I say both movies carry through to a happy ending, but then I told you they were fairy tales.
Brave is a tale of loving conflict between a daughter coming of age and her prim and proper but oh-so-competent mother. Mother Elinor wants Merida to grow up, accept responsibility, and behave like an adult. Merida wants to be a free person and a legendary hero(ine).
Robin Hood has nothing on this girl. She both brave and bow-tiful.
Pixar always does great animation, and that’s true for Disney also. Everything is technically well done. But I have to say that I kind of hated the fact that the women are all Disney princess beautiful and the men are all outrageously silly-looking and ugly. If I were Scottish, I’d be offended by this movie. The setting is clearly Scotland some time back before the time of William Wallace and Braveheart. And it’s a comedy with dark undertones of an ancient curse that must be laid to rest. Let me not go into the plot. I’m just going to quote critic Andrew O’heihir who sums it up thusly: it’s an entertainment whose good intentions can’t conceal the fact that its story is thin and loopy, its characters (especially Elinor) woefully undercooked and its happy ending slapdash even by Disney standards. I completely agree with him. The move was okay. It made me laugh here and there, but I wanted more of a hero story, and I got a little moral fable on what happens when headstrong children disobey their loving parents. All packed in with a message that says men are generally silly and self-important, but good-hearted women love them anyway. As a man, that’s not a message I’m going to subscribe to. Well, the movie wasn’t made for me, obviously–it’s more for pre-teen girls and their frazzled mothers.
Snow White was better. Screenwriters Evan Daugherty and John Lee Hancock took the Grimm fairytale and turned it into swords and sorcery. They made it grim. There are no laughs in Snow White, but plenty of death and destruction. Our Snow White is a true heroine who spends her teen years in prison, fights her way out of a cell, escapes through a sewer, braves an enchanted forest, escapes all pursuit, and leads the rebels on a mad attack to retake her kingdom from the Witch Queen who killed her father and stole the throne.
I actually went to see the movie because I was told (more than once) that it has a great troll scene in it. As a kind of champion for fantasy trolls here in America, I had to see this great troll. It is indeed awesome. The whole scene with the troll is just a short action sequence designed to show off how dangerous the land is, and how brave the protagonists are. Here’s the scene that lured me into the movie–thanks to youtube.com.
I only have one problem with this fight. The troll actually hit our heroic huntsman twice–hit him hard enough to send him flying 20 feet through the air. Either one of those blows would have killed him, caved in his chest, broken his neck, separated head from shoulders. He’s knocked out for 5 seconds, gets up, walks away without even a wince or a drop of blood. Now it is the same actor who played the mighty Thor in the Marvel movie, and he must still be Thor, because only a god could survive such a beating. Just look at what one trollish blow did to that tree stump. Nope. Lost me right there. Huntsman should be dead. They worked so hard to make this a realistic fairy tale. Why not show the huntsman dodging every blow, or being merely grazed instead of taking a full backhand swing?
To give Snow White her due, the movie production was excellent. The sets and the special effects were amazing. There is a sense of magic and wonder permeating this film that Brave never captured or even approached. The writers know their folklore. I especially liked the unique version of the fairies. Watch closely–they appear for just a second in this Magic Forest clip. You also get to see the Dwarves, as villainous a bunch of outlaws as you never want to run into.
I enjoyed the Snow White movie, even though there was virtually no humor in it. The troll was an original and powerful conception, and it was unconquered. The evil queen’s magic was clearly sympathetic in principal. Hollywood added an original gimmick–creatures made of chips of obsidian–many parts magically uniting to form a whole. There is no precedent for that in actual magical tradition–it’s pure Hollywood “look what we can do with computer effects” bullshit. Very slick effects, but hokier than the natural wonders achieved with the creatures. I could accept a golem army, or a demon army, but not one made of chips of black glass. Save that stuff for your nanotech sci-fi thrillers where it might make more sense.
I liked John Carter better. Still, I’d be willing to watch Snow White again. I really wouldn’t do that for Brave.
If you like Hollywood fairytales on film, or even if you don’t, leave a comment.
Let me tell you a history.
For more than two years now I’ve been reviewing movies and comics and conventions. I told you about my cancer, and my dancing, and lord knows what all. But I haven’t really spent much time on the most important thing of all to me–my writing. So, one of the things that amuses and entertains me a great deal is simply making things up–whether it’s world creation, or story creation, or game creation, the process of letting my imagination go and making something new is the most satisfying thing that I can do. And I’d like to share some of it with you.
For years people have asked me questions about the world of Tunnels and Trolls. The T & T rules can be used in any setting, but of course I made up my own fantasy world to go with it. My world is, inevitably, a hodge podge of other fantasy worlds that came before it, not all that original, but at least combined in a way that is unique to me. So, if Trollworld looks a bit like Middle Earth and the Hyborean Kingdoms and Nehwon and Melnibone’ and and several other places, that is because those are all very important and inspiring places for me. And I’d like to think that I have added some lore that was never before known in any of those places so that Trollworld has its own life. Let me share one such piece of lore with you readers, and perhaps in the future, I will share more.
Peoples of Trollworld
STR X2 IQ X 1 LK X 4/5 CON X2 DEX X 1 CHR X 3/4 POW X 1 SPD X 1. (To create a character in Tunnels and Trolls, roll 3D6. To specify the Kindred (we say Kindred not Race–T & T is not Racist), you multiply the numbers rolled by certain multipliers–humans are all ones. You can see the Dwarf multipliers above.) And by the way, it isn’t Dungeons and Dragons. Triples add and roll again. Attributes can easily go far above 18. They also start with Gold Pieces X 2. (I went over all the arguments about Dwarves being unlucky and uncharismatic, and I think they may have some slight deficiencies in these areas, but nothing overwhelming.–Ken)
The Dwarves of Trollworld are the people of Gristlegrim. (Actually there are several different races of Dwarves on Trollworld, and only one kind are the people of Gristlegrim, but I didn’t know that when I first wrote this essay.–Ken in 2011) They are a sturdy race–larger than Hobbs and Goblins, smaller than Men and Elves. They are generally not considered to be beautiful–being too broad and somewhat asymmetrical–but their faces have great character and integrity, and their bodies and minds are strong.
Gristlegrim made them–literally carved them out of stone, then used a more powerful version of the Pygmalion spell to bring them to life. He did it because he noticed that all the other great wizards of Trollworld had subject races to use in their wars against each other.
People freshly carved out of stone have but little in the way of mind or memory. After verifying that he could indeed bring stony statues to life, but then finding that they simply sat around and watched him unless he magically seized their minds and used them as living puppets, the Dwarf God saw that it takes more than bodies to make a people. He set his first few dozen Dwarves to simple tasks, carving a tunnel into a mountain, and went off by himself to study the situation. From time to time he sent them food. Because they were living creatures they needed living food, but he wasn’t too interested in feeding them, so he only sent a kind of moss and lichen stew–rich in vitamins and minerals. To this day, Dwarves still love to chomp on scummy mossy things that other races wouldn’t even consider as food. It explains why moss is so often seen in their beards–they are messy eaters.
Scrying the multiverse, Gristlegrim found another race of Dwarves somewhat like his own on the world of Midgard (sometimes known as Earth). These ancient creatures (the maggots of Ymir) were accomplished stoneworkers, mages, fighters, and traders. Gristlegrim admired their industry and decided to mold his new minions in their likeness, but how to do so? He came up with a simple plan–he abducted a few dozen Dwarves from Midgard, brought them to Trollworld, and told them he wouldn’t send them back until they had taught his Dwarves all they needed to know to survive on their own. Imagine being abducted from your own world by some sort of mad deity, and told to perform a hopeless task before you would be allowed to return. Those kidnapped Dwarves didn’t like the idea much, but when one of them tried to physically attack Gristlegrim, he was exploded like a blood sausage, and when a mage tried a magical attack, Gristlegrim turned his head inside out while leaving him still alive. Sickened and terrified, the remaining captives agreed to teach Gristlegrim’s Dwarves how to live. Laughing hugely, Gris then reversed his spells, restoring both Dwarves to life and health, and set them free.
Getting a couple of stone-masons from Midgard to help him, Gristlegrim went back to carving Dwarven statues. But, they were all male–as Gristlegrim was male, and hadn’t associated with females for millenia. However, one of the Midgardian masons liked women, and he began carving some female, beardless, and quite voluptuous statues, and thus the khzd race came to include both sexes. To aid in bringing multitudes of statues to life at once, each new Dwarf was carved with a G rune hidden somewhere on its body. A favorite spot was the bottom of the chin, another was the soles of the feet. All of Gristlegrim’s Dwarves have a G rune that looks like a tattoo somewhere on their person–without it they could not live.
The Dwarves from Midgard found that they did not age and die on Trollworld as swiftly as they had on Midgard. It took centuries, but they trained and educated Gristlegrim’s Dwarves into fair replicas of themselves. They learned stone-carving and metal-smithing, and architecture, and combat, and wizardry. Not many of the carven Dwarves seemed to have any natural talent for magic, but a few, perhaps one percent, those whose raw ore had contained some silver, became powerful magicians. Something about the silver seemed to allow the natural magical power of the planet to infuse them to a greater degree than their fellows.
It took about 2000 years, but finally Gristlegrim had what he wanted; namely, a race of tens of thousands of strong, sturdy, and fearless fighters with some magical talent. They thrived in great subterranean fortresses, meeting and beating Uruks and Trolls on their own ground. They were manlike enough to pass among humans without arousing much alarm or suspicion. He scattered them around the world on all continents, and they have been ubiquitous ever since. And he returned his teaching cadre to Midgard, where time seemed to pass slower than it did on Trollworld. 2000 years in the other world was a mere 400 years on Earth. They came back with riches and magical power beyond belief, and many of them became legendary Dwarven kings and rulers.
A well-equipped Dwarf warrior as visualized by Greywulf.
There are some definite oddities about the Dwarves of Trollworld. Standing from one-half to two-thirds average human stature, they have no children among them. That is because new Dwarves are still made by carving a figure from stone, complete with a G rune which is the last thing to be added, and then magically brought to life. It takes from twenty to fifty years to infuse the blank Dwarf with knowledge and personality, and during that “growing period”, it is kept as a laborer in the deepest Dwarven caverns.
Dwarves generally speak three languages: the Root Tongue which is Gristlegrim’s native language brought from a vanished world. It is notable because it has no vowels in it at all. The original Dwarven people were called “khzd”, now pronounced as Kah-zahd in Dwarvish which is the root tongue with vowels added. All Dwarves also learn the Common Tongue of Men, as it is the most widely spoken language on the planet.
Because of their origin as statues, Dwarves rarely change size or weight. Dwarves can eat as much as they want and never get fat; conversely, if they were carved fat to begin with, they can starve themselves and never get thin. Dwarves have neither fingernails nor toenails, but both fingers and toes are broad, spatulate, and strong. They have only one kind of tooth, squarish molars good for grinding away the roughest plants. A Dwarvish smile is a frigtening thing. If a Dwarf was carved hairy, then it is exceedingly hairy when it comes to life. If carved bald, then it never grows hair at all.
Because they all started as stone, and retain a certain implicit rockiness (although they are not the true living stone of Trolls), Dwarves have exceptional strength and constitutions. Gristlegrim wanted them to be strong and hard to kill in order to fight the Uruks and Trolls who share their environment. Their essentially rocky nature makes them immune to certain spells and magics. Seeing a Medusa does not turn a Dwarf to stone. Medusas are also powerless against Rock Trolls.
Dwarven senses are generally keen. They can see well in conditions with very little light; their hearing is acute; and it is said that they can smell gold or other metals. This is actually only true for those Dwarves that were trained as miners. They are quite sensitive to vibrations, especially vibrations in rock. They do not seem to feel pain and pleasure in the same way that humans do, experiencing both as just varieties of pressure which rarely bothers them. Because of this immunity to pain, they can fight on with terrible wounds that would leave other life-forms gasping in agony. Dwarves seldom mention how things taste, except to comment on various mineral flavors. They love alcoholic beverages, but it takes a great deal to intoxicate them.
The great majority of Dwarves never leave their cavern strongholds. Only a relative few go forth to live and adventure in the outer world, and this they do as a form of service to their people. Dwarves need traders to bring foods and cloth and other luxuries to their underground cities. Those who venture above ground generally fall into three classes–warriors, traders, and craftsmen. They can also be wizards, thieves, artists, politicians, farmers. But, warriors, traders, and craftsmen such as blacksmiths are the most common.
Whatever can be made from rock or metal, the subsurface Dwarves can make for themselves, but organic goods are harder for them to obtain. They also need knowledge. They are excellent craftsmen and tireless workers and searchers, but there are few Dwarven inventors or innovators. Luckily, for the reputation of the Dwarves as master technologists, they have strong alliances with the Gnomes, and Gnomes are full of wacky ideas. Sometimes the Dwarves can actually make some Gnomish flight of fancy work, and when that happens there is a technological advance.
Although the Dwarves who venture to the surface appear to be a bluff, good-hearted, friendly people, their rulers and masters in the caverns are secretive, suspicious, and greedy. They never allow outsiders to penetrate into the true Dwarven fortresses–going so far as to construct whole mock-cities on upper levels where surface dwellers can be suitably entertained and impressed. A showpiece city can be extensive and beautiful, but it always seems to be sparsely populated, leading outsiders to believe that Dwarves are not a numerous race. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Half a mile deeper in the Earth lies the true Dwarf metropolis with untold thousands of inhabitants performing their countless jobs: mining, smelting, building, tunneling, creating weapons, tending the vast fungi farms that provide their basic food. New Dwarves are carved at the very deepest levels–miles below the surface, and they wait in uncounted millions to be released into life. Meanwhile, the Dwarven population increases slowly but steadily, and the outside world never knows.
Dwarves have only one truly natural enemy–the great stone Trolls of Trollworld. Only those Trolls can penetrate into the deepest Dwarven cities, and Dwarves, being of rocky origin to begin with, are considered a great delicacy by the Trolls. To them, Dwarves taste better than anything. The Trolls also resent the fact that the Dwarves are carving ever bigger and deeper caverns, turning living rock into unliving metal, and driving them from their ancient haunts and homes. Deep under the earth there is a never-ending war between Dwarves and Trolls, with raw power and savagery going to the Trolls, but numbers, organization, and planning going to the Dwarves. Ever so slowly, the Trolls are losing this war also.
Dwarves encountered on the surface of Trollworld are generally good fellows–stout, axe-swinging maniacs, and the best dungeon-delving bodies you could ever ask for.
There is a great deal more to be said about Gristlegrim’s Dwarves, and about Gristlegrim himself and his great floating fortress of stone, but this is enough for now. The first portrait of a Dwarf warrior was done by the talented David Ullery who has illustrated several of my T & T solo adventures this year. The second was done by master renderer Robin Stacey. I appreciate their ability and willingness to work with me very much.
If you would like to say something about Dwarves, or any of the other Kindreds of Trollworld, please feel free to leave a short comment below. (heh! short comment, get it?)
When my children were small we had a game that we played when we were riding in the car. A simple game–just count the fire hydrants on your side of the street. We called them yellow dwarves. The yellow dwarf was a magical figure who had the ability to be anyplace he wanted to be–sometimes he could be in more than one place at the same time.
Children grow up and forget about childhood games. It is the parent who remembers them. But fire hydrants are forever, and to me they will always be the Yellow Dwarf. I sometimes greet them as I pass by. “Hello, Yellow Dwarf. I see you are still watching over me.”
- I see my old friend, the Yellow Dwarf, standing tall as a Dwarf can stand and greet him.
- He comes out to meet me at a corner and I get a strange feeling.
Is the Yellow Dwarf talking to me?
Yes, the Yellow Dwarf is talking to me. He doesn’t have much to say, but he’s friendly, and sometimes I don’t have any more to say than he does. Thanks, Dwarf. I will have a good day.
Silent again, and back on guard, the Yellow Dwarf stands near a taller friend this time. It is good to know that the Yellow Dwarf is my friend.
Have you had any magical experiences in the real world? Feel free to tell me about them in the comments.