Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ken St Andre Interview

My latest column for "Days of High Adventure" in The Escapist is an interview with Tunnels & Trolls creator, Ken St Andre. Ken answers some questions about the origins of T&T, game design, and related topics. It's one of my better interviews, I think, and there's more of it to come, since Ken provided -- and is still providing -- me with more material than I could use for the article. Expect to see more here at Grognardia in the days to come.


  1. Very interesting to hear from Ken about the origins of T&T.

    One of it's several innovations was it made stats relevant! You got combat adds or minuses based on your stats and saving throws based on them too. If I remember rightly, in contemporary D&D you rolled your stats, decided your class, and for the most part never looked at them again.

    Thank Ken for me, James, for many hours of fun with T&T.

  2. Great to hear from him. I hope he talked a little bit about Stormbringer.

  3. From strength to strength! Thanks for all of this!

  4. T&T is an awesome game, very simple to run, and very Old School in philosophy. Thanks for interviewing Ken and helping to spread the word!

  5. I agree, that is a good interview. I have actually met Ken before and bounced T&T game ideas back and forth with him in the late '90s and early '00s, and he is a very personable guy. Thanks for giving him some "face time," James.

  6. I have some mad respect for Ken St. Andre (and still love T&T)...but did anyone else get kind of offended at this sentence-

    "In the sense that some computer games, World of Warcraft for example, are better designed, more colorful, and more exciting than anything your local group of gamers could ever offer, they not only compete, but they blow traditional face to face gaming away"

    Or was it just me?

  7. I'm not sure I agree with Ken on that, but I'm not offended. It's certainly a valid point of view. MMO's have a lot to offer, but few people actually roleplay in them.

  8. MMO's have a lot to offer, but few people actually roleplay in them.

    I think that was actually Ken's point, as he alludes to in the sentences that follow. Speaking personally, I think it's a mistake for tabletop RPG designers to attempt to beat computer games (not just MMOs) at their own game. There's no easy way to compete with their visual appeal. On the other hand, no computer game, no matter how well written, can beat a human referee and human players interacting with one another in real time. That's part of the reason why I'm no fan of overly complex games that try to systematize everything; they feel too much like attempts to produce "analog video games" and that approach is more or less conceding the field to the digital realm from the get-go.

  9. Well, I think the reason why I was slightly offended (not greatly, just slightly) was the-

    "better designed, more colorful, and more exciting than anything your local group of gamers could ever offer"

    part, which struck me as a put down of sorts...not sure why. I think it's the more exciting/better designed part, which I think is completely untrue (but this is coming from a person who finds video games boring these days, and hasn't played one in about 5 years)...

    If, on the other hand, he means we shouldn't try to emulate them, I agree on that 100%, and think that RPG's should push their uniqueness rather than their similar nature.

  10. That was a great interview, James, one of the most interesting I've read in your series. The background on T&T was fascinating, and I was really interested to read about Ken's philosophy of GMing - very close to my own.

    Will there be a follow up? I'd love to read his thoughts on Stormbringer. His essay at the start of Stormbringer 4th is a great succinct introduction to the setting, and the GM advice essay at the end is likewise good.

    security word: "guredu," the name for the young of the Galeb-duhr.

  11. Will there be a follow up?

    Oh yes. I'll be posting some more stuff from Ken in the not too distant future.