Archive for the ‘Tunnels and Trolls’ Category

GenCon 2013   2 comments

I really didn’t have a plan this year.  i took my camera. I took some pictures.  Here they are.

After seeking out a CVS drugstore on the streets of Indianapolis, I spotted this awesome monument in downtown Indie that I had never seen before. More on this later.

After seeking out a CVS drugstore on the streets of Indianapolis, I spotted this awesome monument in downtown Indie that I had never seen before. More on this later.

Another shot. I went and stood in the middle of the street for this one.

Another shot. I went and stood in the middle of the street for this one.

Wednesday evening, i wind up demoing my new Dwarves and Dragon game. This guy is looking at the components.

Wednesday evening, i wind up demoing my new Dwarves and Dragon game. This guy is looking at the components.

That's me on the left, pushing the dragon around.

That’s me on the left, pushing the dragon around.

A slightly better picture. You can see the cover insert now.

A slightly better picture. You can see the cover insert now.

Thursday morning, walking around early, went to that monument I started the tour with and found this old church with its tall skinny steeple.

Thursday morning, walking around early, went to that monument I started the tour with and found this old church with its tall skinny steeple.

Doing my best to look awesome from above in front of Indianapolis's most impressive concrete.

Doing my best to look awesome from above in front of Indianapolis’s most impressive concrete.

Close-up.  Steve Crompton is acting cameraman for me.

Close-up. Steve Crompton is acting cameraman for me.

There's Steve, doing the Trollgod salute.

There’s Steve, doing the Trollgod salute.

Closeup of Steve. Doesn't he look kinda like a Guido to you?

Closeup of Steve. Doesn’t he look kinda like a Guido to you?

If there's something wrong in the neighborhood . . . who ya gonna call?

If there’s something wrong in the neighborhood . . . who ya gonna call?

I loved that monument. It had all this erotic, exotic statuary attached to it. Lady Liberty here looks like the figurehead of a ship.

I loved that monument. It had all this erotic, exotic statuary attached to it. Lady Liberty here looks like the figurehead of a ship.



Inside the convention center at last.  This is the entrance to the open roleplay area--dominated, of course, by That Other Game.

Inside the convention center at last. This is the entrance to the open roleplay area–dominated, of course, by That Other Game.


-Out in the general hall, there were plenty of minis, including this fine castle.

I finally spent some time in the Flying Buffalo booth on the exhibition floor.  Several of my favorite comic superheroes stopped to chat with me.  Here's the Rocketeer.

I finally spent some time in the Flying Buffalo booth on the exhibition floor. Several of my favorite comic superheroes stopped to chat with me. Here’s the Rocketeer.

I met a beautiful barbarian. She told me 3 times what anime she was from, but it was Japanese to me.

I met a beautiful barbarian. She told me 3 times what anime she was from, but it was Japanese to me.

This booth babe looked so good I just had to take her picture.

This booth babe looked so good I just had to take her picture. She was guiding people into a room to try a new online game.

Men in blue robot suits--I don't get it, but these were fine examples of some of the hall costumes on display.

Men in blue robot suits–I don’t get it, but these were fine examples of some of the hall costumes on display.


Rick Loomis, Steve Crompton, and I participated in a gigantic Settlers of Catan game sponsored by Mayfair Games on Friday night.  It was an attempt to set a world record for greatest number of gamers playing a board game simultaneously–the same game.  We did set a new record. 922 contestants in the same game, and someone won it on turn 48.  I had fun, but didn’t come even remotely close to the prize money.  What you see here is a couple of people sitting between me and the screens where they projected the dice roll for each turn.

Saturday in the Exhibitor's Hall, Sir Lancelot stopped by to see me.  It was a truly impressive set of armor.

Saturday in the Exhibitor’s Hall, Sir Lancelot stopped by to see me. It was a truly impressive set of armor.

Last picture in my camera: Steve and Rick are sitting in the food court of the Indianapolis airport posing with the Catan map I got 3 nights earlier. While waiting for our plane back to Phoenix, the three of us played 3 Catan variants on it.  Kinda fun.  It's a pretty well-designed board for a small Catan game.

Last picture in my camera: Steve and Rick are sitting in the food court of the Indianapolis airport posing with the Catan map I got 3 nights earlier. While waiting for our plane back to Phoenix, the three of us played 3 Catan variants on it. Kinda fun. It’s a pretty well-designed board for a small Catan game.

And that’s it.  I told you I didn’t do a very good job of taking pictures this year, and I’m not saying anything about the 4 Tunnels and Trolls games that I ran, or the people that I talked to, or the delicious suppers I had at restaurants on the far edges of town. Yes, we ate once in Steak & Shake, and it was deliicous.  Other places, including a Denny’s not far from our hotel, were even better.  I brought home a few purchases, and samples that I picked up at the con–nothing very impressive.  Maybe I’ll show those off in my next blog.

Hope you enjoyed the incoherent pictures.  Please forgive me for inflicting this on you. And if you weren’t there this year, don’t you wish you had been?

If you have done a better GenCon blog than this, please leave a comment, and a link so others can see the Con from your point of view.


Dwarves and Dragon   1 comment

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!

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:  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.


RinCon 2012   2 comments

39 years ago I helped start LepreCon, the first sfnal Con in Arizona.  At least if anything else preceeded it, my friends and I had never heard of it, though we knew about cons in California and back east.  Since then the number of cons has increased tremendously, and it reached a point where cons weren’t just for science fiction any more–they spread out into all sorts of related fields, like Gaming.

It all blurs together after a while, but I don’t remember going to any gaming specific cons before the 1990s.  However, once the idea caught on, it became quite popular.  This year, I have attended three Gaming Cons here in Arizona–VulCon I, Conflagration 1, and RinCon 2012.  In addition, I have spent most of my con time gaming at DarkCon, LepreCon, ComiCon, and CopperCon.  And those were just the cons in Arizona, which I tend to attend because they are close and don’t cost me much money.  Out of state I went to Origins, OSRcon, and GenCon.   And I’m planning on LaughingMoonCon on Oct. 20.  That makes 8 weekends minimum spent at conventions, mostly gaming–slightly more than 1/5th of the year’s weekends up to my neck in cards and dice mostly.

Last week, Sept 28-30. I was in South Tucson for RinCon 2012.   This southern Arizona convention is about 5 years old now, and I have attended it once before.  This year the Con committee made me an offer I couldn’t refuse (a hotel room for my stay at the con–I’m easy, folks, you can have me for as little as a place to stay while at the con (grin)).  My son and I went to the Con.  I played Tunnels & Trolls twice, and a few other games.  I was on two interesting panels with John Wick and Mark Truman who were the other major frp people at the con.  We talked about such things as GM technique, things to keep in mind if you want to create your own frp game, and how the sport of role-playing has developed and is likely to continue developing.

I took my little camera along and took a few pictures, which I will now share with you.  They don’t really make a story this time, but it should give you an idea of what it was like.

There was plenty of function space at the Airport Holiday Inn in South Tucson. About half of the gaming took place in this large hall. The dealers have an area down at the far end.

I broke a rule, and actually played That Other Game. Jim McKenzie, the big guy on the left ran Pathfinder for most of the weekend, and I sat in on a game Friday afternoon as a wizard. Had to leave after about an hour of play, and I got back just in time for the grand finale. My wizard wasn’t missed, and got to throw one magic missile in the whole game.

Although you will find I prefer my own Tunnels and Trolls to all other frp systems, I am willing to play other games from time to time.  Really, it isn’t the system that matters.  It’s the role-playing that counts and having a good time with others.

That evening, Jamie, the cutie on the right taught my son James, the blurry fellow on the left, and me how to play the World of Warcraft CCG. James won–twice. I prefer Magic ™, but if one were a WoW player (and I’m not), I could see how one might grow fond of this game.

James Ernest was the Guest of Honor at RinCon. James is an amazingly smart game designer of mostly board games, but he could do anything. We know each other, but don’t mingle that much. Here he is having breakfast at the hotel buffet on Saturday morning. Bacon, eggs, and orange juice–yum!

The major Event of the convention was a GM conference on Saturday morning from 10 a.m. till 1 p.m.  5 game designers including me down front and 20 to 30 people in the audience at various times.

Audience, right side, Matthew Nielson down in front.

Audience, left side.

John Wick sat to the right of me. John pretty much dominates any panel he is on.

John said he had designed 10 rpgs this year already.  I said, big deal, designing them isn’t so hard.  Getting them published and out to the gamers in an attractive format is the hard thing.  John amended his statement to say he had published 10 rpgs already this year.

Mark Truman sat to the left of me on the panel. Mark is a game designer on the rise.

You won’t see any pictures of me at this Con, at least none that I own.  I was always pretty much at the center of the action and looking out admiring the great works of other people.

RinCon pays its GMs in RinCoins–tokens that dealers have agreed to take as part of the purchase price of games. Alas, I spent my RinCoins buying more Magic.

This BEN HVRT (clever play on Roman letters and a movie title) looked like a lot of fun. It represents all the great games I saw at RinCon but never got the actual chance to play.

After 2.5 days of gaming goodness, RinCon came to an end on Sunday afternoon.  While I was there I participated in a Pathfinder game, 2 Tunnels and Trolls sessions, a Settlers of Catan game, several rounds of Magic with my son, a WoW demo, a game of Gloom with my son, and a long session of Legacy the other t & t game (time travel and technology).  It was a good weekend for gaming.

If you were at RinCon, or some other gaming convention recently, why not leave a comment and mention your exploits there?


Beyond the Tunnels   9 comments

People ask me what I’m doing now that I’m retired.  Usually I tell them that I’m writing, and that usually means blogging.  I am writing some new material, but a lot of what I’m doing is rescuing old material.  People have asked me why I don’t simply donate my papers to a college somewhere.  I think that would be a great idea, but there are problems with it.  The biggest problem is that in this new electronic world, who gives a damn about some forgotten old papers?  Few enough cared before computers dominated everything.  The other problem is one that I know about from being on the other side.  Such donations are always “no strings attached” which means that if the receiver decides the gift is trash, that’s where it goes, into the trash.  That’s bad enough if the gift is simply a book or magazine–those things existed in hundreds or thousands of copies.  If a librarian throws away a copy of National Geographic from 1961, nothing but paper is really lost.  Other copies of that magazine exist.  On the other hands, there is only 1 copy of my papers, especially the stuff that was never published.  If it gets thrown away, it’s gone forever.  The world might say “no loss” and 9999 out of 10,000 might agree.  It would be a loss to me.  Therefore, I am amusing myself by translating this stuff–my notes, my papers, my rough drafts and such–into electronic format and putting some of it here in my blogs.  A few people will see it.

The following essay dates back to  1976 or 77.  I seem to remember publishing it in an early edition of T & T, but maybe not.  It is not present in the 4th or 5th edition, although something similar is in the 5th.  The insights offered below are nothing new or radical here in 2012, but this was the cutting edge of roleplaying in 1976–at least I think it was.

Original document with bordered paper by Denise Burgess. I don’t remember her.


Beyond the Tunnels


What to do with a 10th level wizard

By Ken St. Andre

            There will come a time when the basic concept of going down into dark tunnels to meet monsters and search for treasure will start to seem stifling.  Underground, limited by space, there are many neat and fantastic things that just can’t very easily be done, such as an aerial battle with a squadron of dragons, or the siege of a castle, or the exploration of an enchanted forest.  Even the best designed of tunnel complexes or dungeons can be fully explored and its novelty used up, but what if you had a whole continent or better yet a whole world to go adventuring in?

You can have it.  There is no good reason for limiting one’s exploits to subsurface  realms.  With a few minor modifications one can turn one’s dungeon-designing ability into world-designing.  I did it first when I invented the whole city of Khosht to give monsters something to attack on the surface.  (Eventually, the monsters did a number on that city that involved major carnage in three quarters and a fire that razed half the town.  Khosht then acquired a new governor and was largely rebuilt across the river, where it thrives and flourishes today.)

Once your characters begin to take on a life of their own (and they will if they survive more than a few trips), you will find that they need a world of their own to flesh out the background of their lives.  In Phoenix such world-building started with the creation of Khosht, and now includes at least two other full-sized cities, and all the land in between, plus several pocket universes (small, independent worlds with some of the same natural laws and some different).  The creation of your own pocket universe is really what this article is about, and in doing so you get a chance to vary some of the original T & T principles (such as how magic works, or the strength of gravity, or the prevalent form of intelligent life, etc.)

One of the minor weaknesses of this game has proven to be the fact that upper level magic-users gain truly god-like powers.  You are being attacked by a giant dragon when Tumuch the sorcerer (10th level) throws an 8th level Take-that-you-fiend! And scores 4264 hits on the poor dragon which is instantly reduced to a fine red powder.  It feels tremendous the first time you do that, but it gets old after a while.  Not much can worry a magician with that kind of power in his fingertips.  The situation then evolves to where the D.M. is designing monsters with a rating of 10000 or more, just to give them an even chance against high-level magic-users.  Of course, no ordinary character even has a chance against such a foe.

Here is where designing a new pocket universe can be most fascinating.  By changing some of the basic laws of nature, you can make high level wizards more nearly equal to other characters and thus put more suspense and fun back into the game.  With this in mind, let us design a place called Warriorworld—a place where warriors and rogues have a chance and wizards don’t have a pushover.

First we want to spell out some of the basic rules that govern Warriorworld.  (1) The laws of nature and magic are the same as for the T & T universe with the following exceptions.  (2) the cost of magic in strength units is four times as much as it is in the T & T world.  (3) The force of gravity is twice as strong (which means that strength, constitution, and probably dexterity would be reduced by half.  Also that missile weapons would not be effective beyond close range).  (3) No elves, dwarves, fairies, or hobbits are native to this world.  These few basic changes will completely alter the powers of your T & T characters, and consequently their behavior.

[Note the mistake in the paragraph above where I count: 1, 2, 3, 3.  I am reproducing this manuscript exactly as the rough draft shows it, and not in the finished form that appeared in the 4th edition of T & T, I think.]

Now we’re ready to move on to the geography of Warriorworld.  Let us assume that both geography and climate are earth-like, but a bit harsher.  The typical landscape is not the sylvan greenery of New England or Europe, but the harsher dryer world of the western desert.  Average daily temperature is 100 degrees F.  Cactus are commoner than trees.  Water is hard to find.  The uplands and high hills are covered with evergreen pine forests.  In the lowlands, active volcanoes are common.  Cities are few, small, and near water.

With this much information postulated, we let our imagination loose and draw up a map.  Every little detail does not need to be filled in.  Later, with characters playing the game and exploring certain locales, we can drw more detailed diagrams to show, say, the vicinity of Kharrgh at the foot of the J’nuurH mountain of fire.  This imaginative work will be done by the Game Master while the game is being played.  (A good technique is to enlist the imaginations of your players in describing the place, by asking what they see, but retaining the veto power so as to maintain the general mood desired.)  If possible, before bringing player characters to places where your characters might go, who and what they will find there, and what kind of actions are likely to occurr.

Now that the world is beginning to take shape, you are ready to populate it, just as you would populate a dungeon. Human beings exist on Warriorworld, but they are a slave race to a non-human race of Demons. No humans here have ever been allowed to develop any magical powers. On the other hand, the Demons have both magical and military abilities, but only up through the 5th level spells in the T & T rulebook. Demons are comparatively rare, however, being only 1% of the total population. (Demons need not be the villains (a loaded and unpleasant word) in this world, but I have deliberately set them up to be first-class adversaries.)

Animal life in Warriorworld is surprisingly plentiful (People who live in the western deserts know that there is a good deal of wildlife who live well in harsh country.) Much of it is reptilian, either poisonous or of respectable size, ranging right up to full-grown dragons, which are not the intelligent variety we know and love from European folklore. There are plenty of snakes. There are strange and unusual insects. There are even some kinds of mammals, but most of them are domesticated species.

We begin to have a pretty good idea of what to expect in Warriorworld. To add a little more interest, let us have a mutated, four-armed variety of Trolls living in the wilderness in small nomadic bandit communities.

The next thing you need for this game to work is a purpose. Purposes may vary as much as your imagination can make them. A simple one could be just to survive for a given period of time and find the way back to the T & T world. This would involve, at the least, a journey under unfavorable circumstances. Another purpose could be a quest of some kind–to bring back a pre-determined gem, mineral, substance, person, book, etc. A different goal might be to lead a group of humans in revolt against their Demon master. The possibilities are endless. A good G.M. should be able to keep things happening for his players.

A few points of practical play need to be mentioned here–how to handle time and movement. The G.M. will need to keep track separately of how much time has gone by. A game turn may be as short as a minute or as long as a day. Certain activities may take hours to perform. There is no point in breaking them up into 10 minute segments. The only time it is really necessary to count time is when strength has been lost, (like in working magic) and it is necessary to recuperate it. Since the gravity is twice as strong in Warriorworld, you can invoke the inverse square law which would cause people to regenerate 1 strength unit every 4 game turns (or 40 minutes). As for movement, it is no longer necessary to put an arbitrary rate on it. Most of us could probably walk 500 meters in 10 minutes and run 100 meters in 20 seconds without undue effort. For long overland trips it is more sensible to measure speed in miles per hour. We could walk 3 m.p.h. without much difficulty for several hours. Pushing it, we could do 5 or 6 m.p.h. In rough terrain we might be reduced to 1 m.p.h. On horseback, if a horse could negotiate the terrain, we would probably be five times as fast. For an adventure that takes days instead of hours, food would be important, and should be considered.

One thing that makes play in such a vaguely-defined world easier is a greater use of dice to randomly determine terrain features, sudden appearance of buildings and how many people (or other creatures) occupy them, appearance of monsters, etc. This will require that the G.M. take some forethought ahead of time and draw up a few lists or charts of possibilities, but it will greatly speed up the play of the game.

I hope I have shown you how relatively easy, and at the same time how much fun it can be, to expand the fantasy concepts of T & T beyond the limits of the subterranean. Pocket-universes can be great fun. Or, if you wanted an enchanted forest similar to Tolkien’s Mirkwood as a stronghold for Elves and other strange creatures, you could sit down and design it right there on the surface of your own T & T world. For that matter, it is a blast to design medievalistic cities, castles, etc. and then use them for surface adventures or as targets for monsters’ retaliatory expeditions. Just remember to consider geography, demography, and economics and you will be well on your way beyond the tunnels.


If you have ever created your own city or world for roleplaying, why not leave a comment?  Or you could tell me whether you’d be willing to go adventuring in Warriorworld or not.

Ken St. Andre–Fantasy Cartographer   8 comments

The map is truncated by the size of my scanner, so you don’t sea the far east or south parts.

Back in the day (the mid seventies) I used to draw maps for all the fantasy stories and games I made up. The Dragon continent of Ralf was originally created by James “Bear” Peters. When I started talking to him about the geography of places in Trollworld, he decided his Dragon continent map would be the perfect place to locate cities like Khazan and Khosht. Well, he made his map, and I made mine, and they only had a few things in common other than the general shape of the landmass. The numbers on the map correspond to the locations of various dungeons talked about in Flying Buffalo T & T products, but I couldn’t tell you which ones now. Liz Danforth modified the map again when I asked her to do an illustration for an article I wrote called Ten Days in the Arena of Khazan. Her map became the basis for the map inserted into the Crusaders of Khazan computer game, originally programmed in Japan, and then converted and released in the U.S. by New World Computing.

It’s kind of amazing how a creator’s original versions and visions of things can be modified almost beyond recognition by others who have to deal with the material later, and with a different point of view.

Look how much fancier the map got when the professionals got hold of it.

The computer game map is so large that to scan it all would require me folding it into sixths. Until Mike Stackpole invented the island city of Gull for his City of Terrors solitaire, the two most important parts of the empire were Khazan and Khosht. Here’s the computer game version of Khosht.

Khosht was meant to be the largest human city in this part of the continent. It was the scene of the first T & T adventures I ever played/invented/designed.

Oh well, this whole blog came into being because I somehow was not able to upload these maps to the Trollhalla wordpress page, which was very frustrating for me. I had some frustration creating this one also, but here it is–online where people can see it, and that’s all that matters.

If you ever drew your own map of imaginary lands, why not leave a comment and tell us about it?


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.


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.


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.


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.

Trollhalla–the Board Game   2 comments

About 9 or 10 years ago–it’s hard to remember that far back–I decided to scrap my old Tunnels and Trolls web page and start something new–an online club for all T & T fans.  It didn’t take much thinking to come up with the name TROLLHALLA–a combination of the word Troll with the word Valhalla.  And that is what the place would be–a sort of Valhalla for T & T players–a place to get together with friends, both for fun, and also to promote T & T.

An internet search showed that the name Trollhalla had been used once before at least–for a guest cottage in a tourist resort in Norway.  Not much conflict of interest there.  So, I used the name and for roughly 9 years Trollhalla was mine.

Then Alf Seegert, who had done a  Bridge Troll board game earlier, decided to send his trolls plundering on northern seas, and came up with the name Trollhalla for his new board game. I have Google search words like Trollhalla for me every day, and when I heard about it, I wrote him a pained letter complaining.  He and Z-Man were doing a game that swiped the name of my gaming club.  It’s not a direct conflict, but it’s certainly a lot closer than the guest house connection. Too late!  The game and the boxes for it were already in production.  He couldn’t change the name.

Alf and I made a deal.  He gave me a copy of the game, and he joined Trollhalla as a member (haven’t seen much of him in 2011 though), and he explained the confusion between the names very nicely in a few places around the web.  Ugh!  I’m not real happy with the way that worked out–I kinda feel that Trollhalla is my name, but I didn’t trademark it or anything, and ideas should be free, and he certainly uses the word in a different sense than I do.

Anyway, it’s an amusing board game, complicated enough that it takes some real study, or two or more playings to fully understand it–simple enough that you can stagger through a game and have fun even if you do get a few rules mechanics wrong on the first try.  The trolls in the game are indistinguishable from 10th century vikings–yo ho, yo ho, a viking’s life for me!  Sail from island to island, grab as much loot as you can, try to frustrate the efforts of other players.  An hour later you’re done. Somebody won.  It was probably close.  You had a few laughs along the way.

Trollhalla the board game is fun and funny–at least I enjoyed it when I played it.  Seegert is an accomplished game designer, and board gamers should look for his work for some lighthearted entertainment.

Ironically enough, for a game about ocean-going trolls, it doesn’t stand up to water very well.  The first time I tried to play it, I accidentally knocked over a glass of water, and pretty much ruined half the paper components of my game.  Arrrrgh!  I can still play Trollhalla, but it is certainly the worse for wear.


If  you have played Trollhalla the board game, or are a member of Trollhalla the gaming society, go ahead an leave some comments here.