Friday, December 11, 2009

Reading T&T 7.5 - Trollworld p.162-171

Today I wanted to close this series with the last section of the 7.5 rulebook, the Trollworld Chronology.

From page 162 to page 171 we are treated to a long list of happenings on Trollworld. It begins at 100,000 B.K. and ends 1799 A.K. It's quite a long history. What? You have no idea what B.K. and A.K. means? Well, two pages into the chronology it's explained. It wouldn't have hurt to have had it mentioned in the beginning, no.

The history of the whole world is fascinating reading, but kind of useless for actual gaming. Well, maybe I'm too harsh in saying "useless", but it's not exactly brimming with opportunities to use in your regular games either. Frankly, I don't find these chronologies very useful. The worst offender, though, is the books for Shadow World put out by Kevin Amthor. In those the chronologies are even more verbose.

So, what's the problem with chronologies like that? Well, to start with they usually chronicle eras during which nobody would set a game. So what if the world was created 876,023 years ago from grape jelly? I don't care, unless I can go there and game. Also, with a chronology of the whole world, the focus will be on earth shattering events, done by powerful people. Those people aren't your player characters, because this is stuff the designer thought up beforehand.

As chronologies go, this one in T&T 7.5 aren't that bad, though. We get to read some fairly humorous stories about the origin of some monsters, and the reason there are dungeons. Since the big dungeons are fortresses made by mad wizards millenia old for their own demented amusement, I think believability and "dungeon ecology" got handled pretty well. That is a stroke of genius by Ken St. Andre. If you think it doesn't make sense, you're right! But, it's magic so it doesn't matter, since you are there to get rich and have fun. Relax. We are all here to have fun. God knows if someone of us will get rich, though. Probably not.

Apart from this chronology, we don't get much of an overview of Trollworld. Scattered across the rules are small snippets of information, like the fact that leprechauns can teleport at will, and that dwarfs can smell metals. Naturally, the list of spells tells us a bit about the life on Trollworld as well, but not much. For those who hate the over detailed descriptions of modern Forgotten Realms, this of course is a boon. But, those of us who like a good overview of the world and broad sketches of lands we can make our own, are also left out in the cold. There are just too few of those sketches in the book.

Having heard Ken talk about Trollworld I get the impression, reinforced by reading this rulebook, that his game world is not very detailed. Anything goes as long as it is fun, and if you say something different from him it's all because the many magic portals make it just another "version" of Trollworld.

While this leaves a lot of opportunity for the individual game master, it also means that there is little or no shared experience. It's very hard to imagine anyone harbouring any nostalgic feelings for Trollworld like lot of gamers have for e.g. Greyhawk. I'd even go so far as to claim that one reason T&T is not as widely known and loved as D&D is that it never had that focal point of the game as a common game world!

Personally I would love to know more about the world as it was depicted by the "Phoenix Cosmic Circle" in their games, but somehow I'm getting the impression there never was much world building going on. Dig a hole in the ground and go there and have fun. I nothing wrong with that, mind you, I have learnt to love the dungeon. I have my sword, some torches and a delver's pack. Let's go.

5 comments:

  1. I think if take all things into consideration, assuming the Trollworld Chronology is of a troll-world works best. And yes you are being way too harsh, in my opinion.

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  2. You're kind of right. Trollworld, as a world, was never the issue in the early days of T & T. You were supposed to make your own adventures. Over time, some places sprang up and became better known than others--there is actually quite a lot of info about the western lands of the Dragon continent, Khazan, Khosht, Gull, for example. The rest of the world was meant to be a big unknown so you, the player, could put anything you wanted on it.

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  3. I would love to see the information there is collected. I know there's some information on Gull in City of Terrors, but then you would have to buy the solo, play it and extract the information and draw the map yourself.

    A Wilderlands of High Fantasy-style sketch of the world would be a good start to make the world be easier to make your own, I think.

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  4. But I like histories, even sketchy timelines. So it must have been written just for me, since no one else likes them.
    –––––––––––––––Mensa

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  5. Chet,

    May be, may be. :)

    Considering those time lines keep getting written I think some people like them. I have never found any use for them, though.

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