PAX West IMPRESSIONS: Tunnels and Trolls

Friday, September 9th, 2016

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Tunnels and Trolls deluxe cover

I like tabletop RPGs. I haven’t played a whole lot in my life, only starting in the last couple years, but I’ve enjoyed my time I’ve spent playing Shadowrun and various editions of Dungeons and Dragons. There are a lot of them out there, a lot of which I’ve never even heard of. One such game, at least until PAX West this year, is an old one called Tunnels and Trolls. It was originally created shortly after the original Dungeons and Dragons – in fact, it was the second modern RPG to be written – and apparently is still going on today with the most recent edition released in 2015. It was originally intended to be a more accessible alternative to the much more well-known D&D. And now, Seattle-based indie developer MetaArcade is creating a new video game based on the RPG. Well, kind of. There’s more to it than that, and I had a chance to speak with MetaArcade founder and CEO David Reid about what exactly is coming down the pipeline.

Tunnels and Trolls Kirby art

Tunnels and Trolls is more than just the digital version of a 40-year-old RPG; it’s the first project out of a new game creation platform being released by MetaArcade. According to David, the goal is to create a platform similar to the RPGMaker series, and what I’m seeing is something that’s sort of a hybrid of traditional game creation software with writing a campaign in a tabletop RPG or a choose-your-own-adventure story. The demo that MetaArcade was showing off at PAX West was an adaptation of the Tunnels and Trolls adventure “Naked Doom”, where your character starts out having been thrown into prison and needing to find their way out. Unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to see how it plays out before my session was brought to an abrupt and premature end, as my character died a heroic and tragic death by drowning in beer.

MetaArcade Adventures Platform logo

Incidentally, the MetaArcade booth had a poster keeping a running tally of the number of times players have died in different ways. It turns out that “drowned in beer” was a pretty common one.

I played Tunnels and Trolls on an Android tablet, but apparently the MetaArcade platform will be multiplatform, including the publishing tools. The platform will also be free, while also providing the option to distribute games commercially after being approved by MetaArcade. There’s no word from MetaArcade on when their MetaArcade Adventures Platform will be available, but when it is it will be on Steam, iOS and Android. I’ll be keeping an eye on it, since it’s always nice to see ways for people to get into development coming into the market.

About Chris Melchin

Chris is a computer science student who has been gaming ever since he knew what to do with a Super Nintendo controller. Since then, he's owned every Nintendo console to be released. His favourite games include Xenoblade Chronicles, Persona 4 Golden, and Little Busters. He started watching anime in high school, and his favourite series is Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. He also writes Vocaloid music for his personal YouTube channel, and has a (slight) obsession with Megurine Luka.