Hyper Tunnels & Trolls

Information about ハイパートンネルズ&トロールズ “Hyper Tunnels & Trolls” (1991) in the English speaking world is scant, but think I can answer some of the questions I’ve seen people ask!

Miyuki Kiyomatsu, who did the game design for Sword World, contributed a T&T column to Warlock magazine. From Dec. ’89 to Aug. ’90 his column was called “How to Make Hyper Tunnels & Trolls”. Much of the content that would eventually appear in the 448 page bunkobon by Shakaishisosha first appeared there. Development and test play took place at Group SNE.

The 1991 version is a complete set of rules recapitulating the content from 5th edition T&T needed for play. The races are the same: human, elf, dwarf, hobbit, fairy, and leprechaun, as are the ability scores: strength, intelligence, luck, constitution, dexterity, and charisma. Kiyomatsu admired the T&T combat system, calling it fast paced and exciting, so he left it as is. To the 4 classes: 戦士 “warrior”, 盗賊 “rogue”, 魔術師 “wizard”, and 魔法戦士 “warrior-wizard”, HT&T adds 6 more: 武闘家 “martial artist”, 僧侶 “priest, 聖闘家 “holy warrior”, 怪盗 “phantom thief”, 呪術師 “shaman”, and 魔道士 “sorcerer”. New spells are a significant portion of the new content.

When Group SNE published a Record of Lodoss replay in Warlock magazine using the T&T rules, they dropped Etoh the cleric. If they had the HT&T rules they could have made Etoh a priest, which approximates the cleric of Dungeons & Dragons. Like wizards, priests must expend strength to cast spells. Some spells require the priest to have a minimum charisma. There are priest spells for detecting, turning, and destroying undead.

HT&T adds a skill system. Every skill is associated with an ability score. If the character has a skill he has a skill level for it from 1 to 9, though just how high the level can go depends on the skill. Saving throws in T&T are ability score checks: the player rolls 2d6 and adds the relevant ability score. Skill checks add the character’s skill level to the roll too. HT&T awards characters a number of “hyper points” equal to their level at the start of each adventure. These can be spent to increase the number of dice used in saving throws and skill checks. Each point spent adds one die.

Warlock Magazine: Vol. 14

Let’s take a look at an issue of ウォーロック, the Japanese edition of Warlock magazine, for which Hitoshi Yasuda of Group SNE served as editor-in-chief. The parent magazine was a British publication dedicated to the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. It lasted for 13 issues. The Japanese edition lasted longer, expanding its scope beyond gamebooks and becoming the leading RPG magazine in Japan for a few years.

Volume 14 (February 1988) promoted Tunnels & Trolls, newly published in Japanese by Shakaishisosha. For this purpose the Group SNE team decided to exploit the popular Record of Lodoss War replays then being serialized in Comptiq magazine. As Yasuda explained it, Lodoss was a setting that could be used with any number of fantasy RPGs. At the time the Comptiq replays were explicitly using the Dungeons & Dragons rules, but that would change with the September 1988 issue of Comptiq.

Previously, the only people mentioned by name in the credits of the Lodoss replays were Group SNE founder Yasuda and the artist Yutaka Izubuchi. However, in the Warlock replay we get to meet the entire staff at Group SNE. It turns out the Dungeon Master was Ryo Mizuno, Deedlit was played by Hiroshi Yamamoto, Parn by Nao Kitakawa, and Slayn by Taro Yoshioka. I believe Ghim was played by Yasuda but Warlock magazine doesn’t confirm that detail.

The Warlock replay starts with everyone getting premade 1st level T&T versions of their characters. Etoh the cleric is missing, no doubt because there is no cleric class in T&T. Although the setting is the same, this is to be an adventure unrelated to their previous campaign on Lodoss Island. Kitakawa, playing Parn and having read some Appendix N literature it would seem, describes himself as an Eternal Champion.

The starting location is a tavern in the town of Novice on the western border of Allania. A priestess is looking for adventurers, and deeming the party suitable she takes them to a temple where she reveals a fairy she found while looking for medicinal herbs near the enchanted Forest of No Return. Fairies are seldom seen these days in Lodoss and this one has lost her memory. The priestess asks the party to return the fairy to her home, giving them directions to the location where she was found and where the priestess saw a hole in the ground.

The party uses a rope to lower themselves down the hole into a dungeon. The first encounter is with goblins. At this point there is a digression on how combat works in T&T. The goblins are defeated, but a group of trolls are not so easy and the party is forced to flee. Things look grim until they open a gate which reveals a magical fairy light which turns the trolls to stone. The amnesiac fairy suddenly remembers that she is Luck, the queen of the fairies. Also it turns out the party can’t go back home because hundreds of years have now passed in the outside world due to a quirk in how time works in Fairy Land. The Forest of Return, it would seem, lives up to its name. Yoshioka (Slayn) notes the similarity to the fairy tale Urashima Taro and the story of Rip Van Winkle.

The GM suggests that maybe they should create fairy characters for the players. Since the replay ends there I don’t know if those characters ever got created and used in an adventure. I haven’t seen the write-up at least.

By the way, vol. 14 also has product reviews, a map of the city of Novice, and a stand-alone adventure game called “King of Four People” with over 20 illustrations. The magazine was packed with good content!

A4 magazine, 68 pp.

Tunnels & Trolls

The 5th edition of Tunnels & Trolls was published twice in the UK, the 2nd time by Corgi Press who discarded the illustrations of the American edition and instead used the work of Josh Kirby for both the cover and interior art. The Kirby art was also used for the 1987 Japanese edition of Tunnels & Trolls (とンネルズ&とロールズ). This was Shakaishisosha’s first RPG book and it sold well enough for them to justify another 12 books for the game. The success might owe something to the inexpensive bunkobon format (the Corgi Press edition was a British mass market paperback) and the game’s exclusive use of six-sided dice. These traits would be adopted by later Japanese games.

Kirby’s interior illustrations depict Higley (a warrior), Rethe (a female elf rogue), and Myrmar (an elf wizard) fighting a manticore and two ogres—all stuff straight out of the sample combat section from the text. Tunnels & Trolls combat has characters rolling a number of dice depending on their choice of weapon and adding modifiers for reasons such as high strength, dexterity, or luck. The party adds all their rolls together as do the monsters and the two numbers are compared, with the difference coming off the constitution of the players if they had the lower number. Otherwise it comes off the MR (monster rating) of the monsters. The system works well for solo play since there isn’t any need to make tactical choices for the monsters. On the other hand, it turns out that if the MR of the monsters is not in a narrow range, the outcome of the battle is pretty much a foregone conclusion. If the MR is in that narrow range the combat can go on for a long time, requiring 40 or more rolls to resolve.

The Japanese edition comes with a folded sheet with four character cards on it. Three are blank and one is filled out with a sample human male warrior called “Our Fang”. My copy also has an advertisement for the T&T Gamemaster’s Screen, sold separately.

Bunkobon 366 pp.