New Tunnels & Trolls App Perfect For The D&D Curious

  • Android
  • iOS
  • OS X
  • Windows
  • RPG
NOTE: This article is a contribution and do not necessarily represent the views of Player One.
Playing Tunnels & Trolls Adventures always involves a lot of die. Who doesn't love die?
Playing Tunnels & Trolls Adventures always involves a lot of die. Who doesn't love die? MetaArcade

Tabletop RPG campaigns are tough to get together, particularly if you’ve never played before. The obstacles to starting, say, a Dungeons & Dragons campaign are numerous: finding players, crafting the campaign, building everyone’s characters, buying into the books. These aren’t new challenges, which is why Ken St. Andre created his Tunnels & Trolls knockoff in 1975, a year after the first publication of Dungeons & Dragons. T&T was designed for simplified play, with quick hit campaigns and basic mechanics for solo adventuring and even play-by-mail campaigning. This makes Tunnels & Trolls Adventures, a new adaptation of classic T&T campaigns for Android and iOS, the perfect intro for anyone too intimidated to dive headfirst into more elaborate tabletop gaming.

After the quick tutorial (though anyone cursorily familiar with RPGs should be fine skipping it), Tunnels & Trolls Adventures offers direct ports of classic Tunnels & Trolls campaigns, which players can tackle with a default human, elf, dwarf, or “Hobb” (more even than D&D, T&T is a genre pastiche, tossing Middle Earth types in with Conan barbarians and Gray Mouser rogues), or create their own. Which is worthwhile; T&T character creation is fun, with lots of dice rolling and juggling “kindred” bonuses.

Character stats and inventory in Tunnels & Trolls Adventures.
Character stats and inventory in Tunnels & Trolls Adventures. MetaArcade

Tunnels & Trolls Adventures gameplay is probably best thought of as Choose Your Own Adventure s plus dice. After a quick couple of paragraphs — you’ve arrived in X town, someone at the tavern sends you to X dungeon — you’ll be picking which of three tunnels to go down or rolling dice to dodge arrows. Storytelling is spare: less in a spartan, kinetic, imaginative Robert E. Howard way, more in a back of the video game box way. Rerunning old fantasy tropes can be fun, but Tunnels & Trolls Adventures is much more about searching out loot and killing hordes of goblins than sparking your imagination.

Campaigns in Tunnels & Trolls Adventures feel very old-school. Sometimes this is great. Combat involves throwing out great gobs of six-sided dice, resulting in simplified and zippy combat against orcs, trolls, guards, thieves and bigger fiends, like the Balrog boss of Naked Doom, one of St. Andre’s earliest T&T campaigns. The art design appears to be mostly original, ripping illustrations straight from the original gamebooks.

But sometimes the old-school vibes can feel limiting. The aesthetic might be treasured by classic RPG aficionados, but it does feel a little sketchy and dated when placed against the lush art of more recent tabletop gamebooks like 5th Edition D&D or Call of Cthulhu. There’s a conflict inherent in Tunnels & Trolls Adventures, in that it’s simultaneously a museum piece — recreating vintage RPG experiences — and best suited for beginners curious about tabletop RPGs and looking for the experience pared back to its essence.

The first campaign, Naked Doom is one of the better ones, but also dramatizes one of T&T Adventures main problems: you only gain experience and loot by beating a campaign. After a few times fighting through all the branching caverns, only to suffer poor rolls against the boss, beating the campaign gets reduced to repetitive button pushing, as you hope luck aligns in your favor this time.

T&T Adventures is forgiving as far as freemium games go. T&T Adventures comes with seven solo campaign adventures, which vary in length and quality. Each can be purchased outright, for between approximately $0.99 and $4.00, or can be played with Hearts: purchasable extra lives (you can also watch ads). With the 20 included Hearts I was able to beat every available campaign with extra lives to spare.

As a mobile game adaptation, Tunnels & Trolls Adventures feels capable, with good baseline mechanics, but probably an update or two away from really sizzling. Little bugs like dice taking too long to settle can be frustrating, but the bigger problem is the half-complete character system, which currently only includes a “fighter” class, making the rudimentary mechanics of T&T a little too basic.

That Tunnels & Trolls Adventures feels a little incomplete, for now, fits with developer MetaArcade’s ambitious plans to roll out a complete “Adventure Creator” platform, where players can share their own T&T-style solo adventures. While campaigns like Buffalo Castle keep the base T&T Adventures gameplay interesting for a few hours, only new adventures (and lots of ‘em) can justify an investment in character building. As it stands, T&T Adventures is a few diverting hours, but it’s easy to see where it could become something more.

Tunnels & Trolls Adventures
New Tunnels & Trolls App Perfect For The D&D Curious
New iOS and Android game Tunnels & Trolls Adventures is perfect for anyone curious about D&D and tabletop RPGs.
  • old-school RPG gameplay
  • gobs of dice
  • great for D&D curious
  • unique archive of classic tabletop adventures
  • repeating dungeons over and over
  • limited character options
  • difficulty is often too hard or to too easy
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