Tunnels & Trolls has inspired a number of magazines over the years, and I've often been surprised at how good most of them are. In this, TnT has fared better than most game, and far better than the only rpg to get to market before it. (For the record, TnT was and is the first rpg which was designed AS a roleplaying game. See Jim Peters about this.)
Elder Tunnels is assuredly in the top 1 or 2 percent of these, offering, as it does, a smorgasbord. If one article doesn't please you, the next one will, and it is a rare issue (Can't think of one!) in which there isn't two or three things you'll find useful.
In the past, ET (I like that acronym!) has taken itself a bit seriously at time, but a sense of playfulness begins this issue, starting with an introduction that is as corny and enjoyable as Raymond Edward Johnson. (Inner Sanctum. Look it up.)
That corn was to, evidently, set us up for a shock! Two pages later, we are treated to what could easily be a chilling Call of Cthulhu adventure. The antagonist, who is also our protagonist of the story, is a combination of Lennie Small (Of Mice & Men) and Jason (Friday the infinite-numbers), and one can't help but feel sorry for the guy. With little difficulty, this scenario could provide real moral quandaries for the players. Roleplayers will thrill, yet there's enough action to satisfy the most hacker-type of player. Kudos to David Moskowitz for a great plot and follow-through, and to Christopher Lee Rowan for a funny-until-you-look-at-it portrait of a truly suspenseful scene. This is an adventure which proves the versatility of TnT, for it can be played in any time period, any place, from TnT's usual fantasy setting to a modern - or even future - environment.
"The Bone Lords," Tom Loney informs us, "are beings of loathsome, evil vileness so despicable that the softness that was their living flesh has been discarded ages past." If THAT doesn't send a cold shiver up your spine, the sight of one just might. For such a terrifying new monster (Its monster rating STARTS at 100!) it was surprising that all the information fit on one page. Score another point for TnT's system, which allows stats to be kept short, and the verbosity to be used on flavor.
"Woe Hounds" by Jerry Teleha takes a few more pages - but then, there is more than one hound. Woe Hounds are the demonic terrors that the Hound of the Baskervilles could only pretend to be. Jerry's description, and Mike Hartlieb's illustration, should frighten the wits out of your players. Perhaps it's time for a statistic such as Sanity or Fear to be introduced into TnT. (Something like it was written in the late, lamented Sorcerer's Apprentice magazine."
Solo adventures have been TnT's meat & potatoes since Buffalo Castle, and "Curse of the 3-Eyed Stone" by David Crowell does not disappoint. (We could, I suppose, have a TnT magazine without a solo, but why would we want to?) Like many solos, you're railroaded into a specific character type. If we fault this solo for that, we have to fault most of them, so let's not bother. Because the adventure is quite good, and the solo prompts you with real personality traits for this thief you are to play. Clues, puzzles, and violence are anticipated, and it doesn't let us down. Care and cleverness is called for, because it seems everything that exists is powerful enough to squash you like a bug. The illustration by Mr Rowan indicates a Chinese setting (At least that LOOKS like Zhongwen to me. It could be Hangul, which would make it Korean.) yet there's nothing stopping you from imagining it in any locale. I played it as if I was Slate Shannon (played by Humphrey Bogart in Bold Venture) and it works fine. I would've paid the six bucks for this alone!
Sadly, I end giving short shrift to more art throughout the magazine, and a really nice cover. Peryton is classy and kind, in that they include a "printer friendly" PDF along with the regular version, which will eat up black ink like mad.
And speaking of "mad," the adventures in this issue really could drive adventurers into insanity. Yes, we really do need to decide how to handle stress in TnT. Because I, a nastymean GM, homerule that if it entertains me, my players go insane.
Not necessarily the characters. I mean my PLAYERS.
[5 of 5 Stars!]