Bootleg Tunnels & Trolls, Reduced!

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I have been playing a lot of Dungeon World while the waiting for Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls to ship. I’ve given several other games a spin too, including Old School Hack and Swords & Wizardry, which emulates the original D&D (though with the added benefit of making sense).

One of the things I like about Dungeon World and the others compared to T&T is that they use small numbers: Unlike T&T, you never have to crunch 2 or 3-digit numbers, which makes addition and subtraction in the game blazingly fast.

It’s a minor quibble, but T&T routinely requires adding (or subtracting) 2-digit numbers to resolve Saving Rolls, and combat roll totals can involve adding and subtracting numbers in the hundreds. That makes it great practice for kids of a certain age who need the math exercise, and there’s definitely a certain thrill to seeing dozens of dice hit the table and getting an attack total over 100. But it can also slow the action when everyone pauses in the middle of combat to tot up dice and Adds.

In my reading of the upcoming Deluxe rules, this feature is even further amplified. Many of the changes to the game result in More And Bigger Numbers across the board.1 In fact, they used so many big numbers in the Deluxe edition, that there were none left for the rest of us. ;)

Anyway, here is a hack you can use to play Tunnels & Trolls without as much number crunching, using mostly single-digit numbers, and without writing a new game entirely from scratch. The following assumes that you are familiar with the game already—if not, you’ll probably want to skip this post.

This should be 99% compatible with both 1st edition (when using the basic weapons list) and Deluxe, but for other editions you may have to modify the weapons list. I will assume you are using 1st edition, and include notes for Deluxe in square brackets. You can probably use any other edition of the rules instead, you would just need to adjust the weapons charts.

Characters and advancement

The first place where T&T characters get big numbers is their ability scores.

Ability scores
To roll up a new character, roll 2d6 for each attribute. Subtract the smaller number from the bigger number, giving you a rating from 0–5.23
Combat Adds
Warriors and Rogues get Combat Adds equal to the median of DEX, LCK, or STR ratings [plus SPD in Deluxe]. If you arrange the ratings from lowest to highest, the median is the middle number.
1st edition Magic-Users get 0 Combat Adds. [Wizards get the lowest rating for Combat Adds.]
Combat Adds represent extra dice you can roll in combat.
Each session, or any time you take a rest, roll 2d6 (DARO) + STR, and take the new result if it’s higher than current Power.
Warriors can spend Power to achieve feats of strength and other stunts. Magic-Users [Wizards] and Rogues can spend Power to cast spells.
When you gain a level, add 1 to one ability rating that is equal to or lower than the new level number.
[In Deluxe, your level is equal to your highest ability rating. Spend AP equal to 100x your current rating to raise an ability by 1 point.]
Armor may be rated from 1 (for light armor, ie. leather) to 3 (for extra heavy armor, like full plate). Using a shield grants +1 armor versus melee attacks, +2 vs. ranged and shock attacks.4

Saving Rolls

Roll 2d6 (DARO) and add the ability score. You must roll 5+ on the dice, and hit the target number to succeed.

Level Target
1 10
2 15
3 20
4 25
5 30
6 35
+1 +5

[If you’re using Deluxe, you only need to roll 4+ on the dice and hit the target number.]


The GM may define a foe by giving it a Monster Rating of 1–12 (or more, if she is particularly sadistic). In combat, monsters roll 1d6 + dice equal to their MR, and their MR counts as their CON for purposes of wounds (see below).



  1. Each side rolls all their dice from weapons and Adds.
  2. Select the highest single die or the sum of any dice showing the same number (whichever is higher). This is your score.
  3. Count the dice included in your score—these are your damage dice.
  4. Whoever gets the highest score wins.
    If that’s a tie, whoever has more damage dice wins. If it’s still a tie, whoever rolled fewer dice wins with 1 damage die. Do you still have a tie? The clash is indecisive.5
  5. The loser suffers injuries: Deduct 1 point from their CON (or MR) for each damage die.
  • When you suffer a hit that reduces your CON to zero or lower, make a Saving Roll on CON + Armor. On a miss, you are reeling: You defend yourself with half dice until you do nothing but catch your breath for an entire combat round.
  • When you suffer a hit while you are reeling, make a SR on CON + Armor. If you succeed, you are disabled: You can do nothing but wimper or grit your teeth, fading in and out of consciousness, until someone revives you. If you miss, you have perished.

Shock and ranged attacks

The attacker rolls her attack dice and the defender rolls dice equal his LCK, +2 dice if using a shield. Resolve it like Melee, but the defender can’t injure the attacker.

When you make a ranged attack, the GM may give the target bonus dice to represent cover, concealment, or a target that is hard to hit because of size or distance.

In shock conflict, the defender can choose to retreat—if he can—instead of taking a hit.


When you run out of Power, make a Saving Roll on STR [or WIZ] every time you cast a spell. On a miss, you are exhausted, and can cast no spells until you gather Power again.

[In Deluxe, Wizards and Rogues can use WIZ instead of STR to gather Power.]

1 Is that what makes it deluxe? I haven’t given it a thorough read yet, but I plan to pore over it once my hard copy arrives, which should be any day now. I ought to say, though, that the art and presentation are spectacular.

2 Here’s a quick conversion chart for ability scores rolled in the usual method. This might help address parts of the system, like weapons and magic, that rely on minimum scores in certain abilities.

Attribute conversion chart
Standard T&T “Reduced”
<5 0
5–8 1
9–12 2
13–16 3
17–20 4
21–24 5
25–28 6
29–32 7
“Reduced” rating = ( Std. rating – 4 ) / 4; round any fractions up.

3 Kindred ability multipliers: If you play non-human characters in the tradition of Peters and McAllister, you might wonder how to compute ability scores for your Dwarfs and Fairies in this system:

  • If your rating is 0 and you must apply a multiplier greater than 1, add 1 to the ability first.
  • Otherwise, apply the multiplier to your current rating, and round normally.
  • No attribute may be reduced below 0, but there is no upper limit.

4 In 1st edition, armor is ablative. That is, every time you take a hit, reduce your amor rating instead of suffering a wound (see Combat). [In Deluxe, armor keeps taking blow after blow without falling apart, but Warriors have an ability to double their armor value at the risk of ablating it.]

5 Optional rule for ties: Either side can spend 1 point of Power for each of their enemy’s damage dice to win the clash with 1 damage die. The other side has a chance to spend the same amount of Power to keep their enemies at bay.


v0.1.5 ~ 26 Aug 2015
More playtesting!
Tweaked Combat resolution to prevent deadlocks when rolling bunches of dice on both sides.
Power is for more than just Rogues and Magic-Users now.
v0.1.4 ~ 24 Aug 2015
After a very quick playtest, I realized the method of generating “reduced” ability scores resulted in very uniform characters. Now, the ability scores have a wider range, with an interesting spread of possibilities.
Revised Saving Roll target numbers and attribute conversion chart to scale to the new attribute range.
v0.1.3 ~ 23 Aug 2015
Add a note for computing kindred ability scores.
v0.1.2 ~ 23 Aug 2015
Add a changelog: I’ve been adding things I left out of the first draft, so I ought to keep track of revisions.
Even smaller numbers: The first draft had a weird way to generate ability scores ranging from -5–+5. This draft eliminates the negative numbers, uses smaller numbers, and smaller increments for Saving Rolls.

Categories Tunnels & Trolls


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