Certified ginger holding down the fort in Cincinnati, Ohio. The banker day job pays the bills, but the nerdy night job keeps the blood pumping. Lover of cats, baseball, anything Blizzard spits out and yellow question marks.
In recent years, more and more people have been able to publicly embrace their inner nerd without fear of persecution. A couple of decades ago this wasn’t common, and many “geeks” were torn down for their passions. Thankfully, gone are the days where telling someone that you were off to a 6-hour RPG session meant you were then criticized and ridiculed for being oh-so-lame. More and more game developers, both digital and tabletop, are bringing out the big guns, giving players of all ages new, awesome game experiences to dive into. It has also led to a bit of a revival for the games that have been around the block once or twice, giving a sly wink to a new generation that they hold the key to hours of fun. Their games have held up against the test of both time and evolution, and are ready for you whenever you are ready for them.
While at Gen Con 2016, which proudly calls itself “the best four days in gaming” (and it is, let’s be honest), I was able to take a moment between purchasing too many sets of dice, and ogling every game within a one-mile radius, to sit down with some awesome creators and designers. The newly-founded MetaArcade, an indie developer ready to give power to the creators of the world, and the designer of the classic RPG Tunnels & Trolls, Ken St. Andre, took some time out of their day to show me their latest tabletop-gone-digital concoction.
Tunnels & Trolls, the second RPG ever made, has been molded into a very cool tablet-friendly version through MetaArcade. Meeting up at their booth, I spoke with Ken St. Andre, who happily encouraged me to try the game app out.
Tossing on headphones and getting in the gaming mindset, I tried my best to get my poor Human through the treacherous tunnels that she was thrown into.
One of the perks of the application that’s different from normal tabletop RPGs is that there is no math; you roll the dice and the app does the calculations for you, giving you 3 or 4 choices on where you’d like to go next. Do you take a turn to the right, where the air smells damp and rancid, or do you head left, where a tiny light flickers in the distance?
It was fun reading the dialogue and encounter details that went along with each decision you made, and even better that I didn’t have to chase after rogue dice that occasionally roll off the table when playing RPGs. Designer St. Andre sat behind me, urging me on a certain way, and I was convinced he was just trying to see me perish even faster! Watching me pick between choices, rolling really poorly on gaining, or not gaining things (no weapon = bad), St. Andre was enjoying watching me play the app as much as I was trying to survive within it. Eventually some Goblins pounced on my inexperienced butt and sent me 6 feet under.
The application debuted at GenCon and by the way it looked and functioned, you wouldn’t believe it was only a few weeks into production. The gameplay was smooth, there weren’t any glitches or app crashes in the middle of an encounter, and while I wasn’t physically rolling dice, tossing digital ones across the screen was oddly satisfying. I enjoy the physical part of RPGs, feeling the dice fall from my hand, but I was just as eager watching them dance around the screen, holding my breath for the right number to keep me alive just a little bit longer.
The outstanding thing about Tunnels & Trolls is that unlike Dungeons & Dragons, it reveres storylines and creative experiences over math. Both games are great in their own right, but the simplicity with Tunnels & Trolls makes it a fan favorite.Not only is it easy to get going, rather than spending hours building a character, you can fly through an adventure solo, if you so choose. So naturally, an individual adventure can easily take place on a phone or tablet and this gaming app is a great step in the right direction. While there it’s currently no release date for the app, I can’t wait to take a rich, fun, and personal digital adventure with me everywhere I go.