Twisted Tunnels RPG: Playing the Game (Updated 1 Jul 2016)

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This post is part of the Twisted Tunnels RPG project. Jump to Index

These are rules from the earliest rendition of the game. I’ve done a lot of playtesting and I have a completely revised playtest draft. Contact me at “deeperdelvings” at Gmail if you’d like to check it out!

You know how to play a role-playing game: The referee preps a dungeon, and the other players make characters. Play begins with the referee describing a scene, usually the entrance to a dungeon or some other adventure site. Players take turns narrating what their delvers say and do, and the referee narrates the world around them and the results of their actions.

Conversation like this is the medium of play, and it’s the first method of resolving events in the shared fiction: players and the referee narrate situations and build on those situations through common assent.

But adventures in the Twisted Tunnels are rife with deadly dangers. As the referee introduces hazards, and the delvers face peril, there will be times when the outcome depends on dice. The most common trials are usually settled by Saving Rolls or Clashes, as follows.

Saving Rolls

When you suffer Sudden Death or some other indignity, the referee may call for a Saving Roll. Saving Rolls are usually the province of Luck, but the referee might let you test another ability if you describe a daring maneuver. If you make your Saving Roll, the danger is averted, at least in part. If you fail, you suffer your fate. Resolve a Saving Roll by rolling two dice to hit a difficulty number, like so:

  1. Roll two six-sided dice (2d6), and add them together.
    • The flop: If the result is a 3 (rolling a 1 and 2), the Saving Roll fails, no matter how high your ability rating.
    • Doubles Add and Roll Over (DARO): If you roll doubles, take the sum and roll both dice again. Keep rolling and adding the result until you roll something other than doubles.
  2. If the result is 4 or higher, add the rating of the ability being tested—usually Luck.
  3. Compare your total to the dungeon’s difficulty number on the table below.
    • If your total meets or beats the difficulty number, you succeed!
    • If you roll a flop, or if your total is less than the difficulty number, the Saving Roll fails: The tension escalates, or the calamity strikes. The referee will tell you what happens. Whatever it is, missing a Saving Roll is bad news!

As you delve deeper into the Twisted Tunnels, the threats grow more dangerous and depraved. Use the table below to find the difficulty number for Saving Rolls based on the current dungeon level:

Saving Rolls
Dungeon Level Difficulty #
1 9
2 12
3 15
4 18
5 21
Difficulty = Level × 3 + 6

Sometimes dungeon delvers think they are performing a Shakespearean drama or plotting Machiavellian intrigue. A missed Saving Roll is a good time to remind them that they are merely balloons filled with blood, just one sharp poke away from spray-painting the tunnel walls—and all their companions—with a shower of red.


When you get into a ruckus with some enemies, the contest is settled in one or more Clashes. A Clash includes all the positioning, feints, dodges, parries, flurries of blows, and locked swords until opponents pause, panting, to regroup.

To resolve a Clash, each side will roll all their dice for attack or defense, add up some of the dice, and compare scores. The side who gets the lower score loses the Clash, and they suffer damage. Here’s how it works:

  1. Each side rolls all their Combat dice, plus any bonus dice that apply to this Clash.
  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 not included in your score—these are your hits. The numbers showing on hit dice don’t matter, just the number of dice.
  4. Whoever gets the highest score wins.
    If that’s a tie, whoever has more hits wins. If it’s still a tie, whoever rolled fewer dice wins. Do you still have a tie? The Clash is indecisive.
  5. Count wounds.
    Subtract the loser’s hits from the winner’s hits. If the winner has any hits left, those represent wounds suffered by the losing side, but the losing side will always suffer at least one hit. Unless the loser uses armor to deflect the blows, subtract the hits 1 for 1 from the loser’s Constitution or Monster Rating.

Combat has it’s own section further on where we delve into further details, but Clashes are the central idea.

Better tools or tactics

Using the right tools and tactics for the situation makes it easier for you to smite your foes and avoid getting smote.

  • Having the upper hand gives you +1 to your Combat dice before you roll. You get the upper hand when your weapons or position give you an advantage, but your enemy can still counter your attack.
  • Having an overwhelming advantage doesn’t give you any bonus dice but your enemy is flat-footed. A flat-footed fighter gets no Combat dice to defend or counterattack. This might happen when your enemy is pretty much defenseless.
  • When you are caught in a Clash flat-footed, count your Luck rating as your score, plus 7 if you could block the attack with a shield. If you win, you suffer no harm, but you don’t have any hits to hurt your enemy.

Injury and death

  • When you suffer a hit while your Constitution is zero, subtract all the damage from your Combat dice. You are reeling, and your defenses suffer until you do nothing but catch your breath for an entire combat round.
  • When you suffer a hit while you are reeling, make a Saving Roll, adding any remaining armor to your rating. 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.

Clashes offer a very flexible way to resolve any conflict where two sides are competing and exchanging knocks until one side is exhausted or gives up. When there’s something important at stake, a Clash might involve any ability rating in place of Combat dice, and the hits might be counted against ratings other than Constitution or MR.

The following examples offer some possibilities, without being dictates:

  • A wizardly duel might pit warlocks against eachother in a Clash of Intelligence, with hits coming off the loser’s Strength. It’s up to you to imagine the fireworks and time-space distortions and random mutations of local wildlife that may ensue. And that’s not to discard the possibility that the warlocks may cast other spells in their store to tip the odds!
  • During a fencing bout, one duelist might attempt to disarm her opponent, rolling her Combat dice against her enemy’s. If she wins, she can count her hits against the rival’s Dexterity instead of Constitution—perhaps forcing the foe to drop his rapier.
  • A mesmerist commanding a simpleton might roll dice for his Charisma against the simpleton’s raw Intelligence, with hits coming off the former’s CHA or the latter’s INT. If the mesmerist loses, the blow to his Charisma would represent his shaken confidence.
  • Bravely running away after a bad Clash? If your enemies pursue you and you are evenly matched in speed, the referee may simply call for a Saving Roll, or require each pursuer to roll their Combat dice versus your Luck score, flat-footed! Anyone who hits caught up with you, and anyone who misses was left behind.

We leave it up to the referee whether and when to indulge these whims. Officially, these rules set out Clashes for the sole purpose of goring your enemies or being gored; making your enemies beg as you spill their guts, or fading out of consciosness while howling evils tear your limbs apart.

Any time dice hit the table, there should be something just as crucial at stake. If you wish to use Clashes to model abstract social or mental contests, that is your right. But please, don’t tell anyone. ;)

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