Thursday, October 21, 2010

Halloween, Rings, and Solo Things

Two things.  I finished re-reading The Lord of the Rings, and I played a Tunnels & Trolls solo.

There's not a lot to say about The Lord of the Rings.  It's still Tolkien: fascinating world-building, moldy old morals, fun travel & exploration, some poignant scenes, some eagles ex machina, and a huge nostalgia trip.  It's been a long time since I've gone all the way through the series, although I've re-read the first one several times over the years.  This may, in fact, be only the second time since I was nine years old that I've read The Return of the King.

The T&T solo was "The Farmer's Daughter," one of the entries in our Elder Tunnels Halloween Special.  Since I didn't have to edit this one, I had the luxury of not reading anything but my own scenario until after it was published.  Apart from a Longest Night special by Ken which was more of an imaginative multi-page Christmas card than an actual adventure, this is my first T&T solo. I had always enjoyed the Endless Quest books and kind of liked the crunchier D&D solo adventures with actual dice-rolling that followed, and I adore Steve Jackson's disturbing Sorcery epic, so I was curious to see how this would compare.

The adventure is well done.  The writing is moody and atmospheric without dragging, and the twists and turns are exciting. I thought the zombie scene was especially creepy. (I don't think I'm spoiling anything by saying that, somewhere in the story, there are zombies.) Still, maybe I can't help a certain amount of bias towards anything from Peryton Publishing, so I'll keep the praise to a minimum. On to the downside of my solo experience:

The T&T community loves its solos, so you'd think the rules would be really well adapted to that style of play. In some respects, they are, but T&T combat is kind of depressing when you have to take both parts yourself. Calculate dice+adds from monster rating, roll monster dice+adds, roll your dice+adds, subtract, apply difference (minus armor) to constitution score, blah, blah, blah. And if it's not really one-sided, it takes forever. At least, it seems like forever. It's fun with someone else taking half (or more) of the burden and facilitating unexpected ideas. Not so much when you're huddled over a book alone and you just want to get on with the story. The drag is compounded when you're doing high-level combat. Even with dice-reducing formulae in play, the eternal grind of those enormous numbers makes going to bed early sound better and better.

So, yeah, I sort of cheated. I scaled everything down to a lower level, called the fights early when the direction seemed clear, and had a good time.

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