Demon Issue interview in 1986 Reproduced by kind permission of Garen Ewing
As all Tunnels & Trolls players should know, Ken St Andre is the man responsible for the game, or as the Runequest second edition puts it the man who reopened pandoras box (dedications). He very kindly responded to some questions that I put forward to him. As you may or may not know, he also produces his own fanzine, called TnT, it is produced by photocopy (as is DI) and usually costs $1 per issue, although nowadays he is publishing double and triple issues, the current one when I heard were issues 19-21 which include the Gauntlet of Doom GM adventure and the comments caused by the previous issue which dealt with Tunnels & Trolls as a super hero FRP. So anyway! Onward…
– Garen Ewing.
Demon Issue: Have you always been interested in Fantasy?
Ken St Andre: Yes, when I was a kid of 13 or so I discovered a library that had some of the old Tarzan books in it. I think what got me started on fantasy forever was reading Tarzan and the Ant Men. In the next year or so I discovered cheap copies of some of the Tarzan books published by Grosset and Dunlap for only $1.50 each. Every penny I earned went towards buying these books. At the same time I was already into comics, the more fantastic the better, and had quite a good Tarzan collection. A couple of years later in high school I discovered Conan in some of the Gnome press editions, and after reading those, I was hooked on fantasy forever. Today I have a huge collection of fantasy/adventure books, and I very much doubt that you could name any major fantasy hero that I haven’t read or collected.
DI: Did you have any heroes that inspired T&T?
KSA: Yes. My conception of the T&T world was based on The Lord of The Rings as it would have been done by Marvel Comics in 1974 with Conan, Elric, the Gray Mouser and a host of badguys thrown in.
DI: How long did it take to develop the T&T system?
KSA: After I got the initial idea, it took me five days to write the first draft of what became T&T. After a bit of playtesting with my friends, it took a month to type up the first edition and get it illustrated. That was April 1975. T&T has never stopped growing and changing since then, though many of the changes have come from other people. The game as it currently exists in the 5th and mythical 6th edition owes an awful lot to everyone who liked it well enough to make it their own.
DI: Did you enjoy working on T&T?
KSA: I did the first draft in a white heat of inspiration. I have always enjoyed the game, and sometimes sit around rereading the rules just to luxuriate my own writing. I hope it’s fun to read for others too.
DI: Did you ever feel like giving up?
KSA: No. T&T may well turn out to be the most important thing I do in this life, and the enthusiasm that the game has generated among others, and the friends it has won for me from all over the world, help keep my interest at a high level.
DI: Did your ideas come from any other role playing games?
KSA: When T&T was first written back in April 1975 the only other role playing game that existed was the first edition of Dungeons and Dragons, which I had seen exactly once. Great idea… lousy execution; hence my decision to write my own FRP game. I remember that I was determined to keep it simple, amusing and easy to play with commonly available equipment. In those days I didn’t know any place where a person could buy dice. I got mine from Monopoly sets and Yahtzee. I’ll admit that I was influenced a bit by the early D&D, but not nearly as much as some people who came after me… like Hargrave’s Arduin for example.
DI: Who helped most with T&T?
KSA: The people who helped with T&T are all credited in the rules. You see their names on the charts dedications etc… But I’ll list them one more time in order of appearance. Mark Antony, Steve McAllister, James Peters, Greg Brown, Rob Carver and Liz Danforth. Then, too, I do owe Rick Loomis a lot for publishing and distributing it, and for writing the first solitaire Buffalo Castle.
DI: Did you encounter any amusing episodes during the systems development?
KSA: More than I can count or remember. The first time we ever played the game, I strewed the floor of the exit room in Gristlegrim with thousands of uncut diamonds. Talk about getting rich in a hurry! When I needed illustrations for the first edition, Mark and I went over to the college apartment of the only artist I knew, Rob Carver, and told him we weren’t leaving until we got enough pictures to fill the booklet. And we didn’t either. It was a fun afternoon, brainstorming out illo ideas, and watching Rob create them on the spot. Then there’s the classic dungeon delving joke… Orc with arrow through head laughing and saying , “You missed all my vital organs.” This developed out of an adventure I ran in Gristlegrim for Rob and several others. At one point I jumped the delvers with a monstrous cave lion, and they shot it with bows and arrows, but did not kill it. Rob was upset… he figured that lion should have died. I suggested that maybe he didn’t hit any vital organs. He growled. The next day he gave me the cartoon. In the earliest days we called the game Dungeons and Dragons, but when I went to publish my own first edition, I knew I couldn’t use that name. So I came up with a better name… Tunnels and Troglodytes… which was promptly hooted out of the house by my players. I think it was Bear Peters who said it should be Tunnels and Trolls, whose name was chosen by acclamation.
DI: How involved are you now with Tunnels & Trolls?
KSA: I’m very involved at a private level, but in reality, the fate of the game has depended almost entirely on Rick Loomis, Chris Harvey, Mike Stackpole and Liz Danforth for the last five years or so. Since I don’t work for Flying Buffalo, and never have, I’m usually not on the scene when gaming decisions are made. The 5th edition for example owes much of it’s contents to Liz Danforth, the FBI editor in 1979, who asked me to rewrite the rules, and who rewrote them with my permission when I had done all I could.
DI: Do you do much role playing now?
KSA: Unfortunately, no. My old gang of players has broken up, and I don’t get many chances. I’d like to role play more, but only manage it at special occasions or at gaming or SF conventions.
DI: What about Sorcerers Apprentice?
KSA: The magazine was originally my idea, and I was the managing editor for the first six issues. With my contacts in the SF world I was able to get articles and stories for it, mostly by asking people to contribute. Liz Danforth was production editor, and actually did the work that made sure the magazine was produced. After a while, Rick Loomis got smart, and made her the managing editor as well as production. This saved FBI $100 an issue since he didn’t have to pay me anymore. Sorcerers Apprentice has not been published for a couple of years now, but it was recently acquired by Bob Liddil who is planning to put out his first issue sometime in early 1986, maybe April. Or you might ask me about back issues. I have a few extras that I can sell off, but I warn you they are expensive.
DI: Do you have any hints for the GM?
KSA: Keep the game moving along. Keep it fun for the players. Play by the rule that if they say something, then they’ve done it.
DI: Finally, how do you feel about the way T&T has turned out?
KSA: I wish it had gotten some mass distribution and a good computer version of the game earlier. I’m very disappointed with the Coleco fiasco… if they had done the job right Tunnels and Trolls could have been the major hit that the Ultima games are. Still on the whole, T&T has given me thousands of hours of fun, and made me some money also. I’ll always love the game, and a few special people will always support it. As long as I keep my interest, I don’t think the game will completely die, it may change but it won’t die…
Garen Ewing is an illustrator, comic strip writer, artist and author of The Rainbow Orchid.
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