Monday, 27 May 2013

Fighting The Power Creep: Part The Second

Carrying on from my last Tunnels & Trolls post, where I set out to slay the power creep; an evil creature from the Mountains of Dice, and with attributes running into the thousands; I have created a couple of more house rules that can significantly help alter the tempo of game play..

I have also come to notice that what initially started out as a series of quick fixes is fast becoming / may well become its own rulebook!

AP scaling and the "Goldilocks Zone"
One of the biggest problems with the 7.x rules as they are written is the amount of AP it takes to raise any one attribute, a mere 10 times the current value of the attribute. This seems way too generous to me and, takes a lot of challenge out of the delving experience. Especially when you compare this to older editions, for example 5.5.

Example: A truly average character, Generic Erik has a score of 10 in each and every attribute. The 1000 AP that it would ordinarily take to raise one attribute under 5.x by at best two could equally raise five separate attributes by one point a piece using 7.x.

The other end of the scale that I have seen amongst the rulebooks (7.0 I believe), costs increasing any attribute at 100 times its current value in AP. This seems way too harsh to me. It bogs down character development, and can detract from fun and spontaneous play. Players need a measure of their progress and, their characters are it.

My solution would be to set the AP cost of increasing any given attribute by one at 50 times the current attribute value. You can of course set the value to whatever you wish but, I find that 50 works best for me. It keeps play moving, but doesn't remove the element of challenge from the game.

Whatever value decide to elect though should be carefully considered, as it will have a HUGE impact on your game.

Modified Modifiers
Not a big problem but, a common criticism of Tunnels & Trolls is how the modifiers massively effect play and, player choice. Let's face it, you'd have to be mad to play as a Human off the bat, especially in solo land where survival is the name of the game.
It's not that Humans are a bad choice (an extra Talent is nothing to be sneezed at) but, when the modifiers given to a Dwarf make them excellent Warriors, and Warriors are the only character Type that can play through most solo's, it's clear to see why most players pick them.

This also creates a problem with the way that level is measured in 7.x. Whilst it makes more sense to me to have level measured against your actual ability (your attributes), the scale used to measure your level is set to a "Human Average". So starting play as a Dwarf in 7.x can often mean that you roll up a second level character, which just doesn't "feel" right.
My solution, convert the multipliers in the rulebook into more manageable modifiers, akin to those in the "other game". Here's what I have for the Common Kindreds so far:

New Common Kindred Modifiers

CON: +3, LK: -1, STR: +3

CON: -1, CHR: +3, INT: +2, LK: +2, WIZ: +3

CON: -3, CHR: +3, DEX: +3, LK: +3, STR: -3, WIZ: +3

CON: +3, DEX: +2, LK: +2, STR: -2

DEX: +2, INT: +2, LK: +2, STR: -2

I'm still working on few further house rules to accompany the new system but  my current thoughts are that no attribute should ever drop below three at creation. If it does, it's value becomes three. The alternative to this is to say that if the modifier would drop an attribute to below three, that character cannot become that Kindred. Favoring freedom though, I much prefer the former.

I'm also considering a number of other options related to Kindred, including inherent powers, where for example a Minotaur may be better at charging his foe, whilst Skeletons take less damage from slashing weapons (but more from smashing ones). There's also the matter of drawing a line between "natural" and "created" Kindreds, along with any number of other loose ends..

Yup, there's a lot more in the power creep yet but, that's all for now folks.


  1. In fact, initially, in the 7th edition rulebook (or "30th Anniversary Edition"), the rule was: "To find the number of AP it
    costs to raise an attribute by one
    point, you multiply the
    attribute’s current value by 100."
    In the 8th edition, the default rule is as above, with an option to adopt the V.7.5 rule.
    That being said, many players have the same house rule as you, and use a factor of 50.
    No matter the coefficient, the point is to keep the APs awards consistent with the chosen coefficient.

    I have nothing against certain kinds of characters starting at level 2 or more. Having most Dwarves start at level 2 or most trolls starting at level 4 makes a lot of sense to me. It's a reflection of how powerful they are.
    You can also create your Humans at level 2 to balance a group of characters (in fact, that's what Kyrinn S. Eis did in her Porphyry campaign). I suggest that you just use the Advanced Character Creation method and allocate, say, 150 points. With 8 attributes, that means an average score of a little less than 19. Just have a few attributes reach 20 or more.

    And, yes, new kindred options would be great!

    1. Hi Grrraall.

      Thank you for the feedback, and sorry about the slow reply.

      Since posting this up I have been doing further work on this project and found that almost as soon as I get beyond the basic Kindreds, this idea of keeping all starting characters at level 1 sort of falls flat. Even when with the conversion I'm using smaller bonuses, instead of multipliers, the power creep soon sets in.

      As a result, this idea has very much been returned to the drawing board as I am still very much convinced that there is a way around this, beyond reverting to the 5.0 method of measuring level (although this would certainly work). Unfortunately, this is a lot like picking at a ball of entwined threads. I pick at something, soon find that I have to pull at another thread to free this one up and, which in-turn tightens a knot elsewhere in the mess of loose ends.

      That said, I am very much intent on perusing this course of action. It's proving quite the task, but I feel it's one that's well worth my while.

      I do like the idea of Point Based character builds, particularly for group play where no-one should outshine anyone else but, without taking modifiers to task, I can still see it being a problem. There are a couple of quick-fixes that a GM can throw in here:

      Ignore Modifiers: Points spent = Attribute Value.
      Purely Human Parties: So modifiers are moot.

      Neither of these really appeals to me though. I don't like limiting player options and, I do believe that every Kindred should have it's own distinct "flavor".

      As you can see from my ramblings, things are still very much up in the air when it comes to this matter. I have a lot (a LOT) of ideas, but actually tacking them all together to form something coherent is proving to be at the heart of this challenging task.

      When it's done though, I have no doubt that the finished product should be pretty damn awesome! :0).