Remastering Tunnels & Trolls™ adventures

Content is a crucial part of any role-playing game, and as we prepare for launch of Tunnels & Trolls™ Adventures on August 17th, we strive to ensure that the stories you will encounter on Day 1 are interesting, engaging and fun. We’ve started with classic Tunnels & Trolls adventures published by Flying Buffalo in the 1970s and 1980s, written by industry legends including Ken St. Andre, Rick Loomis and New York Times best-selling author Michael Stackpole.

We soon discovered adapting content originally made for pen and paper to a screen of a mobile device is not as straightforward as it may seem. There are some specific challenges that our team had to overcome in order to make sure these adventures are as interesting to play on an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy in 2017 as they were on paper in 1976.

In the original solo adventures, the player assumes the roles of both the Game Master and the adventurer at the same time. This means that the text of these adventures contains a lot of game mechanics, instructions, and other “out-of-character” information. In MetaArcade’s Tunnels & Trolls Adventures, the system takes care of mechanics such as conflict resolution and dice rolling, allowing us to focus on the narrative and make the experience more immersive for the player. In most cases, our writers have the leeway to expand the original story considerably, adding interesting descriptions and dialogues.

On the other hand, freeform instructions of the original adventures allow for a lot of special cases which the player can interpret better than any computer. The prototype of the Adventure Creator we currently use in-house to remaster adventures can already handle many of these cases, and we keep expanding the functionality. However, other cases must be hand-coded, or the narrative changed to fit the current constraints in our early tech.

A small glimpse into the epic challenge that is Michael Stackpole’s Overkill

A small glimpse into the epic challenge that is Michael Stackpole’s Overkill

And while these original solo adventures were designed almost exclusively for the ‘old school’ RPG enthusiasts, the feedback we received from the earliest days of MetaArcade shows that these adventures are also very compelling for a much broader audience. With that in mind, we’ve adapted this material accordingly, all while preserving the ‘sword-and-sorcery’ spirit of these adventures.

All this remastering work serves as a basis for the Style Guide – an internal living document that captures the best practices of creating digital adventures. It includes technical information on the medium the creators work with (smartphones and tablets), guidance on addressing the players and engaging them with the narrative, and tips on developing interesting storylines and choices. Once the Adventure Creator is released, we’ll share our Style Guide with the community and seek your feedback towards helping all of us create and publish amazing Tunnels & Trolls adventures.

An excerpt from the internal MetaArcade Style Guide

An excerpt from the internal MetaArcade Style Guide

See you in three weeks at Gen Con, and stay tuned for more news about our initial adventure lineup!