Tunnels & Trolls

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Tunnels & Trolls
Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls cover by Liz Danfroth.jpg
2015 cover for the current version of T&T. Painting is by Liz Danforth
Designer(s) Ken St. Andre
Publisher(s) Flying Buffalo
Publication date 1975 (1st ed.), 1977 (4th ed.), 1979 (5th ed.), 2005 (5.5th ed.), 2005 (30th Anniversary Edition, by Fiery Dragon, also known as 7th ed.), 2008 (7.5th ed., by Fiery Dragon), 2012 (8th ed., French only, by Grimtooth), 2015 (Deluxe ed.)
Genre(s) Fantasy
System(s) Customizable rpg

Tunnels & Trolls (abbreviated T&T) is a fantasy role-playing game designed by Ken St. Andre and first published in 1975 by Flying Buffalo. The second modern role-playing game published, it was written by Ken St. Andre to be a more accessible alternative to Dungeons and Dragons[1][2] and is suitable for solitaire, group, and play-by-mail gameplay.


The 5th editionTunnels & Trolls core ruleset does not detail a specific setting, saying only that gameplay occurs in "a world somewhat but not exactly similar to Tolkien's Middle Earth." In an interview in 1986, Ken St Andre stated that "my conception of the T&T world was based on The Lord of The Rings as it would have been done by Marvel Comics in 1974 with Conan, Elric, the Gray Mouser and a host of badguys thrown in."[3]

The current Deluxe Edition includes Ken St. Andre's house campaign setting, Trollworld. Along with additional material by early players Jim "Bear" Peters and Liz Danforth.


Prime attributes[edit]

EIght prime attributes define characters in Tunnels & Trolls:

  • Strength (ST) determines which weapons the character can use and how much the character can carry. It also serves as magic points in 5th and earlier editions.
  • Intelligence (IQ) measures the character's ability to think and remember facts.
  • Luck (LK) affects combat results and saving throws.
  • Constitution (CON) measures how healthy the character is and how much damage the character can take before being killed.
  • Dexterity (DEX) represents agility, nimbleness and affects marksmanship.
  • Charisma (CHR) represents attractiveness and leadership ability.

Later editions add the following prime attributes:

  • Wizardry (WIZ) replaces Strength for powering magic points. Also called Power (POW) in the 5.5 Edition.
  • Speed (SPD) represents reaction speed and, in some editions, movement rate.

A new character begins with a randomly generated score for each attribute, determined by rolling three six-side dice.

Character races[edit]

The rules recommend that novice players create human characters, but also offer the options of elves, dwarves, and hobbits. Other races, like leprechauns and fairies, serve as additional character options. A character's race affects his or her attributes. A player may also choose to play as a "monster race" such as a zombie or vampire.

Character classes[edit]

Players also choose a character class for their character. The two base classes are Warriors and Wizards. Wizards can cast spells but have combat limitations. While Warriors cannot cast magic, they are allowed the full use of weapons and armor is twice as effective in blocking damage. Rogues and Warrior-Wizards are also available as character classes. These two classes both combine the abilities of the Warrior and the Wizard. Rogues in Tunnels & Trolls are not thieves, unlike the Rogue classes in Dungeons & Dragons, but could be more accurately described as 'Rogue Wizards'. Rogues are limited in their spell-casting abilities, can utilize the full range of combat weapons and armor as a warrior but do not receive the Warrior's armor bonus or the Wizard's spell-creating ability. Warrior-Wizards are not so limited, but the player must be lucky with the dice when creating the character: high minimum attribute scores are required. Later editions include new classes such as Specialist Mage, Paragon (a renaming of the Warrior-Wizard), Leader, and Ranger.

Starting equipment and money[edit]

New characters begin with a number of gold pieces determined by rolling three six-sided dice and multiplying the total by ten. These gold pieces can be used to buy weapons, armor, and other equipment.


Combat is handled by comparing dice rolls between a character and his opponent. Both sides roll a number of dice determined by which weapon is in use, then modify the appropriate result by "personal adds". Totals are compared, with the higher roll damaging the opposing combatant by the difference in totals. Armor absorbs this damage taken, and any amount remaining is subtracted from the Constitution attribute.

Tunnels & Trolls is unusual among roleplaying games in conducting mass combat resolution with one set of rolls, as the above system applies to combats between any number of opponents.

Personal adds are determined by Strength, Luck, and Dexterity. For every point above 12 possessed in each of these attributes, the character receives a one-point bonus to his personal adds. Similarly, for every point below 9 possessed in each of these attributes, the character receives a one-point penalty.

In the 7th Edition, the formula was changed to include Speed in the personal adds. This also applies to the Deluxe Edition.

The 5.5, 7th and Deluxe edition include 'spite damage' whereby each "6" rolled on the combat dice causes a minimum of one damage to be inflicted on the opposing side, regardless of armor or the respective combat totals. This helped resolve the interminable stalemate that could occur between evenly matched, heavily armored opponents.

Saving rolls[edit]

The Saving Roll (SR) is used during combat to break a stalemate or overcome the characters being outmatched as well as for use of ranged weapons. The SR is also used in all other tests of skill or luck the characters may be presented with by the GM or solo adventure. Checks are made using a character's attribute plus 2d6 (doubles add and roll over) against a difficulty level based on the task at hand. For every level of saving, roll the formula is 10+5x, with x being the level of difficulty. This was one of the earliest uses of this mechanic in RPGs.

List of Tunnels & Trolls publications[edit]

Tunnels & Trolls was also the first system to publish a series of fantasy-themed gamebooks - adventures which are designed to be played by one person, without the need for a referee. At least twenty such adventures were published by Flying Buffalo. The Fighting Fantasy series achieved great popularity using this format. Both T&T's simplicity and its reliance on use of six-sided dice (as compared to the various polyhedral dice used by Dungeons and Dragons) contributed to its success in this format.

Solo adventures[edit]

  • Buffalo Castle by Rick Loomis
  • Deathtrap Equalizer by Ken St. Andre
  • Labyrinth by Lee Russell
  • Naked Doom by Ken St. Andre
  • Dargon's Dungeon by Michael Stackpole
  • Weirdworld by Keith Abbott
  • Overkill by Michael Stackpole
  • Beyond the Silvered Pane by James & Steven Marciniak
  • City of Terrors by Michael Stackpole
  • Sorcerer Solitaire by Walker Vaning
  • Sword for Hire by James Wilson
  • Arena of Khazan by Ken St. Andre
  • Sewers of Oblivion by Michael Stackpole
  • Sea of Mystery by Gienn Rahman
  • Blue Frog Tavern by James Wilson
  • Mistywood by Roy Cram Jr.
  • Gamesmen of Kazar by Roy Cram
  • Beyond the Wall of Tears by K. Martin Aul
  • Captif d'Yvoire by Steven Estvanik
  • The Amulet of Salkti by David Steven Moskowitz
  • Red Circle by Michael Stackpole
  • Caravan to Tiern by Andrea Mills
  • The Dark Temple by Stefan E. Jones
  • When the Cat's Away by Catherine DeMott, James L. Walker & Rick Loomis
  • Elven Lords by Michael Stackpole, Limited Edition
  • Rescue Mission by Ken St. Andre in 2011 Free RPG Day publication
  • Adventurers Compendium 10 solos by various authors
  • Toughest Dungeon in the World by Ken St. Andre published by Judges Guild

GM adventures[edit]

  • The Complete Dungeon of the Bear by Jim "Bear" Peters
  • Uncle Ugly's Underground - Level 1 by Ugly John Carver
  • Catacombs of the Bear Cult by Jim "Bear" Peters
  • Isle of Darksmoke by Larry DiTillio
  • Rat on a Stick by George R. Paczolt published by Judges Guild
  • Jungle of Lost Souls by Glenn Rahman published by Judges Guild
  • Riverboat Adventure by Ken St. Andre in 2011 Free RPG Day publication

Pocket solo adventures[edit]

  • Goblin Lake by Ken St. Andre
  • Abyss by Paul Creelman
  • Circle of Ice by Paul Creelman

Sorcerer's Apprentice Magazine[edit]

Sorcerer's Apprentice was the Tunnels & Trolls magazine published by Flying Buffalo. In Ken St. Andre's editorial in the first issue (Winter 1978) the magazine was described as a "'zine based around T&T specifically and fantasy role-playing in general".

Reference publications[edit]

A number of books were published that support GMs by giving them ideas for "traps" and other tools for creating adventures when designing a dungeon or adventure. One example is the Grimtooth's Traps series, authored by Paul O'Connor, that is a listing of traps that GMs can insert into their adventures.


David M. Ewalt, in his book Of Dice and Men, commented that Tunnels & Trolls stuck closer to the swords-and-sorcery setting of Dungeons & Dragons than other early role-playing games like En Garde! and Bunnies & Burrows: "Ken St. Andre, a public librarian in Phoenix, Arizona, fell in love with the idea of fantasy role-playing after reading a friend's D&D rule books but found the actual rules confusing, so he wrote his own. Tunnels & Trolls, self-published in early 1975, simplified D&D in a way that emphasized entertainment over simulation: it dropped a lot of war-game derived rules for combat and movement; only required six-sided dice instead of hard-to-find polyhedrals; assigned wizards spell points, not spell books; and implemented dozens of other small changes that made the game looser. In June 1975, Illinois publisher Flying Buffalo Inc. released a second edition of the game, and Tunnels & Trolls quickly became D&D's biggest competitor."[4] Ewalt noted that Gary Gygax was not pleased: "When ads and reviews of Tunnels & Trolls started showing up in game magazines, TSR had its lawyers send cease-and-desist letters to Flying Buffalo owner Rick Loomis and magazine publisher Metagaming Concepts. The lawyers claimed that even using the words "Dungeons & Dragons" to help describe Tunnels & Trolls infringed on TSR's rights. Flying Buffalo deleted any such comparisons from future advertisements."[4]

The first edition of Tunnels & Trolls was published in April 1975,[5] and underwent several modifications between then and 1979 when the 5th edition of the rules was published. This edition was also translated and published abroad in the United Kingdom, Germany,[6] France, Italy, Finland, Japan, and it entered these markets before Dungeons & Dragons did in most cases.[citation needed] Polish translation of the 1st edition of Tunnels & Trolls was published in 2015. Tunnels & Trolls had similar statistics, classes, and adventures to Dungeons & Dragons, but did introduce a points-based magic system and used six-sided dice exclusively.[7] According to Michael Tresca, Tunnels & Trolls presented a better overall explanation of its rules, and "brought a sense of impish fun to the genre".[7] Corgi Books in the United Kingdom produced mass-market paperback-sized versions of the core rulebook as well as many of the solo adventures (occasionally with adult content removed), a format which paved the way for the renowned Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks. In 2005, Flying Buffalo updated the 5th edition rules with a 5.5 publication that added about 40 pages of extra material. That same year, Fiery Dragon Productions of Canada produced a 30th Anniversary Edition under license in a tin box complete with CD, map, and monster counters, two new versions of the rules. Ken St. Andre used the opportunity to extensively update the style of play and introduce new role-playing concepts, such as character level determined by character attribute statistics instead of arbitrary numbers of experience points. The 30th Anniversary rules are generally known as the 7th edition. One of the most significant innovations of 7th edition is the introduction of a skills system.

The relatively simple rules for Tunnels & Trolls have led to it being used for a wide variety of genres. The 7.5 edition was released in 2008 by Fiery Dragon Productions, being an update and clarification on the 30th Anniversary Edition.

In 1999 Pyramid magazine named Tunnels & Trolls as one of The Millennium's Most Underrated Games. Editor Scott Haring said of the game "everybody knows this was the second ever fantasy roleplaying game ... But to dismiss it as just an opportunistic ripoff would be grossly unfair. Flying Buffalo's T&T had its own zany feel -- it was much less serious than D&D -- and a less-complicated game system."[8]

In 2012, Tunnels & Trolls was re-introduced on the French-speaking market, under license by Flying Buffalo. The French rulebook, which is officially the 8th edition, is based on the 7th edition, but includes elements taken from the 5.5 edition as well as clarifications by Ken St. Andre. The interior artwork includes the illustrations of the 5th edition, plus new inks by Liz Danforth. Several other products (solos and GM adventures) have already been released via Lulu.com and others have been announced: see the French T&T website. The production work for the 8th edition has prompted Flying Buffalo to start working on a Deluxe (9th) Edition of the rulebook.[9] As Rick Loomis, head of Flying Buffalo Inc., put it, "The French edition came out so beautiful that now that I have run out of 5.5, I am not satisfied to just reprint 5.5. I wanted to have a deluxe edition even better than the French one. (Competition is what drives us to be better!)". The deluxe edition will be financed through Kickstarter.[10]

In August, 2015, Flying Buffalo published Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls, a 386-page new edition of the rules written by Ken St. Andre, with additional design input and editing from Liz Danforth and Bear Peters. This edition has 166 pages of core rules and 60 pages of Elaborations (optional rules). The book also includes a 50-page Trollworld atlas with maps and descriptions of the world including 4 major cities. There is also a 12-page solitaire adventure and a 27-page, 3 part GM adventure, along with a 12-page weapons glossary. The illustrations are mostly by Liz Danforth and Rob Carver; Layout and maps were done by Steve Crompton.[11]


Monsters! Monsters! is a subset of the T&T rules tailored to playing monsters. It is fully compatible with 5th edition. Copyright dates listed are 1976 and 1979, published by Metagaming and then Flying Buffalo. It is occasionally reprinted as photocopies by the author, Ken St. Andre. It is currently available from Flying Buffalo.

Mercenaries, Spies and Private Eyes is a variant system, credited to Michael A. Stackpole. Publication was by Flying Buffalo, who released it in 1983, and Sleuth Publications Ltd. in 1986. While the basics are the same, it adds a skill system, changes the time scale of combat rounds, and includes rules for modern weapons.

Video games[edit]

In the 1980s, a ColecoVision adaptation was announced but never released.

In 1990 a computer version (Crusaders of Khazan) was published by New World Computing, which embedded portions of many of the favorite old solo modules. Crusaders of Khazan is included in the 30th Anniversary Edition tin, but not the PDF version.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "A Chat with Ken St Andre Part 1". LordStrange YouTube.com. 
  2. ^ "A Chat with Ken St Andre Part 2". LordStrange YouTube.com. 
  3. ^ "T&T Interviews". Garenewing.co.uk. Retrieved 2009-08-24. 
  4. ^ a b Ewalt, David M. (2013). Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It. Scribner. p. 107-108. ISBN 978-1-4516-4052-6. 
  5. ^ "The Ken St Andre/Demon Issue Interview". 1986. 
  6. ^ In Germany Tunnels & Trolls was released as Schwerter & Dämonen in September 1983, two months earlier than Dungeons & Dragons , it was the very first roleplaying game available in German.
    Evers, Momo (January 2005). Magische Zeiten (in German) (1st ed.). Fantasy Productions. ISBN 3-89064-516-X. 
    Ken St. Andre, Rick Loomis (September 1983). Schwerter & Dämonen (in German) (1st ed.). Fantasy Productions. ISBN 3-89064-000-1. 
  7. ^ a b Tresca, Michael J. (2010), The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, McFarland, p. 63, ISBN 078645895X 
  8. ^ Haring, Scott D. (1999-11-25). "Second Sight: The Millennium's Most Influential Company and The Millennium's Most Underrated Game". Pyramid (online). Retrieved 2008-02-17. 
  9. ^ Ken St.Andre Announcing Tunnels and Trolls Deluxe Explanations on the context of the Deluxe edition project by Liz Danforth and Steve Crompton
  10. ^ Rick Loomis on the future deluxe edition
  11. ^ [1]

External links[edit]