Archive for the ‘World creation’ Category

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.