My Games

Monday, July 19, 2021

Tunnels & Trolls / Mark of the Odd Hack

I haven't posted any TNT stuff in a long time but I had a random Mark of the Odd (Into the Odd / Electric Bastionland) alternate combat system idea that takes inspiration from Tunnels & Trolls and Maze Rats. I had always wanted to do something similar to this for D&D, but actually, I think it would be a lot more straightforward for MotO.

Just the combat mechanic alone could be like a MotO Hack for TNT-style combat, but I had intended at some point to make a TNT Hack that was going to be basically my attempt at an NSR-ification of TNT (New School Revolution), but actually, I feel like replacing the core combat mechanics of MotO with those of TNT gets me like 80% of the way to what I would have wanted out of such a hack anyway, so it kind of works as both.

Index of Prior TNT Posts

Martians (Part 1 and Part 2, never finished Part 3...)
TNT Character Subtypes (Part 1 and Part 2)
Character Types (Mystic, Huntsman, War Dogs, Warlord)

Also, I deleted my Reddit a while back and would prefer not to create a new one, but a few of my TNT posts on the tunnels and trolls subreddit have been pretty popular, one of them even got pinned onto the subreddit I think, so I would very much appreciate it if somebody could share this post there for me! As I said, I think it could be framed just as much as an NSR-ification of TNT as a MotO Hack with TNT-style combat.

Base Combat Mechanic

During combat, characters (PCs and enemies) can take non-attack actions on their turn, and then once all characters have taken their actions, there is a group opposed roll for combat. In Tunnels & Trolls, this group opposed roll is the default assumption, but you could also choose to break it up into individual opposed rolls between just two characters.

The order of operations may vary; like you could say certain kinds of actions resolve before or after the opposed roll- it's not the kind of thing I get too hung up on, but somebody could codify this.

All characters roll their damage dice, and then you add up the totals for each side, take the difference, and the losing side takes the difference in damage spread between the characters evenly or in whatever other way would be sensible.

Rolling the highest value on a die deals spite damage, meaning even if you lose the opposed roll, you deal the damage anyway. In TNT there are dice pools of only d6s, and you only deal 1 damage for each 6 on a d6. Because more dice are being rolled, it makes sense to only give 1 spite damage per die, but in MotO I think it makes more sense to just have it deal the full damage since you only have one die, or maybe two in some special cases, but not dice pools.

TNT has a rule that I think is really interesting, where ranged weapons have fewer dice, but can bypass the opposed roll. I would translate that here as ranged weapons or small weapons like daggers have d4 or lower as default die size instead of d6. This way, they have a higher probability of dealing spite damage (1 in 4 or 25% as opposed to 1 in 6 or ~16.67%), which is a more streamlined way to implement something like the ability to bypass opposed rolls by leveraging a feature of MotO that is unique compared to TNT; that you can have variable damage die sizes, and that the size of the die is inversely proportional to the likelihood of dealing spite damage. This likelihood difference is still a lot less than the default for ranged weapons in TNT, but also, the difference in the amount of damage dealt is also going to be much smaller in most cases, so I think it balances out (but that remains to be seen with playtesting...).

Armor still exists in this hack, where MotO armor is damage reduction just as in TNT, so it doesn't add to your side of the opposed roll, it only decreases the amount of damage you would take if your side loses the opposed roll. I also think you could add the shield rule from Maze Rats into this, where the shield can be destroyed to negate all damage; this would be somewhat similar to one of the abilities the warrior class has in TNT.

Why do this (if you're coming from a MotO perspective)?

  • If you like MotO but want to try out a different kind of combat system.
  • It makes combat a little less deadly and more dynamic (maybe, this is untested...).
  • It adds an interesting tactical layer for smaller / weaker weapons or ranged weapons that I think is both interesting, and kind of appropriate for this style of game, without making it significantly crunchier.
  • It seems like a pretty easy conversion, easier than trying to convert D&D combat to opposed rolls, so why not try it out?

Why do this (if you're coming from a TNT perspective)?

    • Mark of the Odd is a really nice, streamlined system that evokes many of the core values of old-school D&D and TNT, but with some more modern sensibilities.
    • If you dislike the dice pools of TNT.
    • If you want to try something new but familiar.

    Full NSR/TNT Hack?

    To make a full hack, I'd need to think about how to convert TNT WIZ (basically spellcasting points) for MotO, and also how to deal with progression and class balance given that there is no obvious equivalent to dice pools or combat adds in this system as-is. I'd need to decide if those are core elements that need to be converted, or come up with some different but equivalent way to treat the ability scores and how they relate to the classes, spellcasting, advancement, etc.

    I think by the end, I would wind up with a system that is conceptually, mechanically, and legally distinct from MotO or TNT, while still evocative of them, in much the same way that MotO itself is meant to evoke the underlying values of old-school D&D, while effectively being an entirely new and unrelated system.