Combat magic in Tunnels and Trolls was never meant to be Silent Death. It was originally conceived to be part of a wild melee of men and monsters making mayhem. TTYF was flash, bang, sizzle, explode! Blasting Power spells went Kaboom. In the 5th edition it was explained in section 2.32, I will now quote directly from 5th edition, and it’s too bad we lost this explanation in 7th edition.
The common everyday spell which magicians use when faced with charging foes is the Take That You Fiend. Among Phoenix players it is conceptualized as the channeling of a person’s IQ into an energy bolt which may do anything from disrupting cells, jelling brain matter, to actual matter disruption. Take another look at the front cover of thix booklet–that’s a Take That You Fiend. Bright light, searing flame, a probably a certain amount of loud noise accompanying the whole thing.
Unless there is some special reason why the spell is deflected, this kind of magic always takes its maximum effect, even if the spellcaster is on the losing side of a fight. Furthermore, a Take That You Fiend (TTYF for short) is almost alone among the available spells in having what is termed a “shock effect”. What this means is that if two orcs are charging a party of delvers (one a wizard), and the orc sees his buddy vaporized halfway through the fight, it will probably throw the first orc a little off his stride. That is why TTYF is included in the party’s hit point total.
. . . When the magic user is on the losing end of the battle, things are fairly clear. A troll might generate 40 hits against a warrior and a wizard he is fighting. The warrior generates 20 and the wizard casts a TTYF worth 15. The warrior and the wizard have to share 5 hits between them (3 for the warrior, 2 for the wizard) but the troll has to absorb 15 for the spell. The troll was affected by the spell during combat in that the 15 worth of the spell took 15 from his attack (i.e. when hit point totals were compared, the physical attack of the troll was compared against the physical attack of the warrior and the magic attack of the wizard).
Let’s advance to 7th edition thinking now. Casting magic in combat is every bit as dangerous and time-consuming as actual physical fighting. While it may be said that magic happens first and always has its effect, it doesn’t go off a minute before the physical attacks take place. Usually you should think of it in terms of split seconds. No! The wizard does not have time to cast a TTYF, then pull out his twin daggers and become a physical death machine. You get one thing–magic or melee, not both.
But, the shock effect is real. So, let’s bring things down to a simple solo dungeon kind of situation. Dupin is a first level wizard with an INT of 17 and a WIZ of 14. He carries a staff and knows how to use it, either as a focus for casting spells or as a 2D6 weapon. He has 4 personal adds for combat and is wearing leather armor that takes 6 hits of damage. Dupin is ambushed by a throgmorton with a monster rating of 30 (4D6 + 15 in combat.) In combat round 1 Dupin decides to cast a TTYF at his foe. He makes the INT saving roll and doesn’t get a Bad Feeling when trying to cast. He does 17 points of damage to the throgmorton. Throggy rolls 5, 3, 2, 2 on its 4 dice and adds 15 for a total of 27. Dupin gets the shock effect of his spell. 27 minus 17 is 10. Dupin must take 10 points of damage, not 27 points of damage. He is wearing leather armor that absorbs 6 of those points, so only 4 get through to his CON. Dupin has a CON of 10 to start with, and it goes down to 6. The throgmorton has its monster rating reduced by 17–it goes down to 13, but it still keeps its full amount of dice. In combat round 2, Throggy will get 4D6 + 7. Dupin hopes that a second TTYF spell will kill the beast, so he casts again. Again he succeeds in hitting the throgmorton with his full wizardly might and does 17 points of damage. The throgmorton gets a roll of 6, 2, 1, 1 plus 7 for a total of 17. 17 minus 17 equals zero. Throggy takes 17 hits of magic–he couldn’t stop it. Dupin takes 1 point of spite damage for that 6 the throgmorton got. The fight is over. Dupin survives, although he has taken 5 hits of damage to his 10 point CON, and the throgmorton is dead. It was a difficult fight, but the wizard won it. Dupin gets 30 adventure points for killing the throgmorton along with points for the 2 INT saving rolls that he made and 10 points for the WIZ expended in casting the 2 spells. He’s pretty tired, and should hole up and recover his WIZ before trying anything else.
Let’s try another example. Dupin is back to full wizardly power and health, trudging along through a sewer when suddenly he is attacked by a pack of 5 giant rats. The rats only have monster ratings of 6 points, so they each get !D5 + 3, but there are 5 of them. Dupin is surprised by the attack, and combat begins.
To make things go quickly, the GM rolls for all the rats at once–5D6 + 15.. He gets a terrible roll of 4, 2, 2, 1, 1 plus 15 for a total of 25. Dupin instinctively casts TTYF at the rat closest to his throat, doing 17 points of damage to that 1 rat, but also having a shock effect of 17. 25 – 17 is 8. Dupin’s armor takes 6 of it, and he is wounded for 2 points off his CON. We go to round 2 of the combat.
In round 2 there are 4 rats–Dupin killed one outright. They roll 4D6 + 12 for a total of 6, 5, 3, 2 + 12 or 28. Dupin gets his 17. 28 minus 17 is 9. Dupin’s armor takes 6 of it, and his CON goes down by 3 points. Note that the rats are entitled to a point of spite damage, but because they are already doing 3 points of damage the Spite is not extra. That point of Spite is one of the 3 points Dupin had to take.
Well, ouch, that combat didn’t go so well for our wizard, but a second rat is dead. On combat round 3, Dupin no longer has enough WIZ to cast a TTYF spell. He fights with his staff getting 2D6 + 4. The rats get 3D6 + 9. Dupin rolls a 1, 1 + 4 for a total of 6. The rats roll 6, 3, 3 + 9 for a total of 21. Armor takes 6 of the 15 hits that get through, and Dupin has to take the other 9 on his CON. Alas, poor Dupin–eaten by giant rats in a sewer.
Well, dang! That didn’t turn out so well. Is there any magical thing Dupin might have done to survive that thrid combat round? Suppose he had chosen to cast Oh Go Away at one of the rats. He has just enough WIZ left to do it–it is a 5 point spell, but his staff brings it down to a 4 for him. Using his last 4 points of magic, he sends one giant rat fleeing. There is no shock effect to Oh Go Away. 2 rats get to do their damage 2D6 + 6. The rats roll 3, 1 and add 6 for a total of 10. 10 minus 6 for armor is 4 points of damage to Dupin. The wizard is down to his last CON point, and the rats still outnumber him.
Combat round 4 pits Dupin with his staff (2D6 + 4) against 2 giant rats (2D6 + 6). Dupin gets 5, 2 and 4 for a total of 11. The rats get 5, 4, and 3 for a total of 12. The rats won but didn’t get through the armor. Dupin takes no damage and fights on.
Combat round 5 shows Dupin with 5, 4, and 4 while the rats get 3, 1 and 6. 13 minus 10 is 3 points of damage. Dupin half-kills a rat this time. It reduces the wounded rat to 2 adds in combat.
Combat round 6 gives Dupin 6, 1 and 4 whle the rats get 2, 2, and 5. 11 to 9. A rat takes 2 more points of damage and they lose another add.
Combat round 7 has Dupin at 3, 1 and 4 while the rats get 5, 1, and 4. Rats win, but the wizard’s armor saves him again.
Combat round 8 gives Dupin a total of 3, 3 and 4 while the rats get 1, 1 and 4. The rats take 4 more points of damage. One of them dies. The other is badly hurt. It scurries away.
Whew! By drawing out the fight and using everything he had, Dupin could survive that battle. Now he really needs to rest and recuperate. I hope he has a healing potion or two in his pack.
Let’s talk about Shock Effect in combat a bit more. Some spells like TTYF would clearly have a shock effect, and some wouldn’t. Let’s look at the spells in T & T 7.5 and pick out the ones that have shock effect.
Level 1: Call Flame, Call Water, Dem Bones Gonna Rise (no real shock effect, but the skeletons will fight), TTYF.
Level 2: none.
Level 3: Blasting Power, Fire at Will, Freeze Please,
Level 4: none.
Level 5: Trollgod’s Blessing, Reversal of Fortune.
You can see the principle at work. If a combat spell does damage of any sort in terms of dice rolls or absolute numbers, then it has a shock effect that helps the wizard who cast it. If it doesn’t do any numerical damage, then it has no shock effect.
Do you see how a lone wizard might survive in a dungeon even against heavy odds? In part 3 we will talk about a third course of action that a wizard might take in situations where he doesn’t think he’s going to win–namely RUNNING AWAY!