Deluxe City of Terrors: Flying Buffalo Offers “Old School” Adventure Time for Solo Play!

OK, Fellow RPG Fans… Pop Quiz time!

What was the second modern role-playing game ever published – D&D being the first?


If you quickly answered, “Tunnels & Trolls”, then give yourself a gold star!

Following in the wake of a rising star in the role-playing game market called Dungeons & Dragons (original edition), T&T made its debut back in 1975 and is still going strong today – and it’s still published by Flying Buffalo. Back in the day, many considered the game system to be a blatant D&D “ripoff” - even by yours truly (mea culpa), who was utterly devoted to TSR’s flagship RPG system. But then again, I did find myself picking up a T&T adventure or supplement occasionally, and adapting it to my D&D campaign. Flying Buffalo’s T&T product line was old school gaming right to the core, even if a bit tongue-in-cheek - and occasionally, quite ribald.

This past summer, Flying Buffalo re-released an updated version of a T&T adventure from 1978, a module designed for use by a single player, with no game master required. Deluxe City of Terrors has been updated for use with the Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls rule set, and now offers an opportunity for gamers to experience an Old School Rules blast-from-the-past!

Deluxe City of Terrors (for Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls)

  • Designers/Writers: Michael A. Stackpole
  • Illustrations: Rob Carver, Liz Danforth & Steve Crompton (cover); Rob Carver and Liz Danforth (interior)
  • Publisher: Flying Buffalo
  • Year: 2013
  • Media: PDF (226 pages)
  • Price: $4.95 (PDF available from the RPGNow)

Deluxe City of Terrors
is a solo adventure for Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls, updated from its original release in 1978. The “solitaire” adventure comes complete with numerous adventure paths set in a single city, and includes rules for adapting T&T characters for use in this adventure.


Product Quality

The production quality of Deluxe City of Terrors is very good, with the sharp and humorous writing style known throughout many of the T&T product line. The adventure paragraphs are numbered in a huge bold font that is hard to miss, allowing the player to find the correct section to read quickly from a page full of adventure bits.

Regretfully, flipping through to find which page an adventure bit is lurking on is not always easy, and the PDF bookmarks do nothing to assist here. They are matched to each page (e.g. page 01) which is not really a benefit. I think the publisher missed a golden opportunity here in a PDF to label the bookmarks with the range of paragraphs found on a page (e.g. 4A – 4F), which would have made them really useful. Alas, as with many other solo pick-a-path style adventures, one simply has to riffle through the pages to continue to the next step.

The artwork in Deluxe City of Terrors is definitely “old school” and very evocative of that era in RPG history. The cover itself, drawn as a wrap-around single scene on front and back, goes right to the core of depicting a strange bustling fantasy city, populated by strange folk, strange beasts, and unknown dangers. While some of the interior art might seem crude by today’s Photoshop-illustration standards, it will still undoubtedly poke the nostalgia button in many OSR fans.


Streets of Many Dangers!

As one would expect, most of Deluxe City of Terrors is taken up with the paragraphs and adventure bits required to make a solitaire style adventure work for the player. But there are a couple of other sections worth noting before delving into a (hopefully) non-spoiler discussion of the adventure itself.

First off, the author includes some notes on modifications needed for Deluxe T&T player-characters do deal with a few anachronisms left over in the adventure from the previous version. I should note that one can download a copy of the basic T&T rules for free from RPGNow to check out the game system before trying the solo adventure. And I was also heartened to see that the author makes it a point in this section to note that the erotic encounters which can occur in the book need not always be heterosexual in nature. Given the number of “gaymer” guys and gals out there in our RPG community, it’s welcome to see a game publishing company make an effort at inclusivity in role-playing.

Then follows a Preface by Ken St. Andre, discussing how this new version of the book came about. And most importantly, lets you know that the City of Gull is a dangerous and often lethal adventure locale. He touts that there are 23 unique quests waiting to be experienced in the Deluxe City of Terrors, and that the whole thing can be run as an adventure for a small group of players if they have a GM handy.

At the end of the book, there can be found a list of Wandering People, instead of “wandering monsters”, with T&T stat blocks and instructions on how they react to the PC hero. The author instructs that this set of 10 NPCs should be written onto cards so that they can be randomly selected whenever a Wandering People encounter is called for in the book. Given the odd assortment of personae, such as Mardoc the Medic, Pietr the Pickpocket, and Inram the Wizard, it definitely offers that feeling of traveling through a big high fantasy cityscape.

Unlike other pick-a-path style adventures, the Deluxe City of Terrors is built to be a very sand-boxy gaming experience, with a huge range of adventure themes and scenarios for a player to investigate. There are multiple ways to explore the City of Gulls, and that lends a certain replayability to the Deluxe City of Terrors. The author did a great job of capturing that sense of wonder and creepiness that one experiences reading about fantasy cities in those short stories about heroes like Conan, Elric, or Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser. The adventures in the book range from sword-and-sorcery battles, to classic delve situations, and even gothic horror. Magic is treated in the Deluxe City of Terrors as powerful, scary, mysterious, and almost always dangerous, while the physical threats from monsters and NPCs are often just as unexpected and potentially deadly. Even adventure elements of the science fiction genre can be found lurking amidst the streets and alleys of Gull, adding some extra strangeness to an already strange locale.

And would-be adventurers to the City of Gull should know that not every encounter is fair, and that knowing when to escape is just as important as knowing how to fight or sling spells around. But there are a few “escape” clauses scattered throughout the book, so that a character death might not be the end of the adventure. But one must still tread cautiously at all times – they didn’t name this adventure the Deluxe City of Terrors on a whim!

Overall Score: 4.25 out of 5.0


Conclusions

If you’ve been jonsing for some OSR game play or a fan of high fantasy adventuring, then the Deluxe City of Terrors is definitely worth consideration. It’s possibly one of the best written solo-style adventure modules I’ve ever read, and the plotlines are both plentiful and fascinating.

While I might chide the publisher for not using the PDF bookmarks to their full potential, the book is still well-organized and easy-to-use by even a neophyte gamer. And even in death, that humor element found so often in Flying Buffalo products makes sure that a player can at least smirk a bit when their character ends an adventuring career in a very heroic, and often strange, way.

This T&T product is priced to make you think you’ve stolen it from the publisher, and well worth a look-see by any RPG fan. And yes, the adventures in the Deluxe City of Terrors are utterly usable in almost any other fantasy role-playing system, so even if T&T is not your preference, chances are the story lines and plots found in the City of Gulls can be tons of inspiration for all sorts of campaigns.

Editor’s Note
: This Reviewer received a complimentary copy of the product in PDF format from which the review was written.

Grade Card (Ratings 1 to 5)

  • Presentation: 3.75
  • - Design: 4.0 (Excellent writing; solid layout; PDF bookmarks could have been used better here)
  • - Illustrations: 3.5 (Cool “Old School” art everywhere; good cover; nice nostalgia pieces inside)
  • Content: 4.0
  • - Crunch: 4.0 (Good logical presentation of choices; interesting encounters and challenges)
  • - Fluff: 4.0 (Amazing variety of plotlines; lots of high fantasy flavor; interesting outcomes)
  • Value: 5.0 (It’s a steal! And you can get the basic rules to play T&T for free!)
 

Comments

I still have my original copy of this book. Lots of fun. I'd love to see more of the T&T world released in a more traditional format for regular campaigning.
 

JeffB

Hero
Had a big T&T phase around 1982ish. Bought this along with about 10 other T&T solos. Awesome stuff. I keep thinking I want to run a few sessions these days.

Take That You Fiend!!!
 

mach1.9pants

Adventurer
I was in the KS (and can't wait for my real wood box set!) and have the PDF too. But really waiting for the physical copy before I give this a crack. Thanks for whetting my appetite tho :D
 

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