Interview with the @Trollgodfather: Ken St. Andre!

I first met Ken in about 1980, when I was a store clerk at Flying Buffalo. One day he came in and ran a demo of Gristlegrim, his infamous “Index card dungeon.” It was slow in the store that day, so I was allowed to join in and actually play with THE creator of T&T. I sat down at the table and a group of other players and we entered the first room. Ken elaborately described the scene and told us to make a 3rd level saving roll. I missed the roll and was immediately struck by a bolt of lightning — and I was dead. My first adventure with Ken St. Andre had lasted less than 5 minutes. Little did I know that he would become an important figure in my future…
— Steve Crompton

Ken St. Andre can be considered one of the founding fathers of role-playing games, having created Tunnels & Trolls in 1975. T&T is the 2nd oldest RPG and was in fact copyrighted before D&D. It also got to Japan and England before D&D was widely distributed in those countries, thanks to the ease of play and the efforts of Flying Buffalo. Ken hooked up with Rick Loomis of Flying Buffalo and Rick sold the 1st edition of T&T at conventions, where it sold very well. Ken continued to hone and update the T&T rules creating a 2nd, 3rd and 4th edition. In 1978, with the help of Liz Danforth (the first female art director of a role-playing company) the 5th edition of T&T became THE version of game that most RPG gamers recognize today. 

Ken also wrote numerous other T&T solitaire adventures including Deathtrap Equalizer, Naked Doom, Arena of Khazan, Toughest Dungeon in the World and others. He created Monsters! Monsters!, a role playing game where you get to be the horrible creatures raiding the village. And he designed the Stormbringer RPG for Chaosium. He is also one of the designers of the Hall of Fame video game Wasteland — the first post atomic war computer RPG using both modern and futuristic weapons. He wrote numerous works of fiction and articles for a variety of publishers. And he was the first editor of Sorcerer’s Apprentice, a T&T magazine which was responsible for a fair number of the solos that MetaArcade have published for the T&T app.

In 2015, Ken and a group of us known as the Fellowship of the Troll created Deluxe T&T, the 386-page behemoth that covers everything you might possibly need for the game including the Trollworld history and maps of major cites.

Ken continues to write and create new T&T adventures for Flying Buffalo, Trollhalla Press and for T&T publishers in Japan and France.  And of course, he’s updated some of his adventures for use by MetaArcade, including Naked Doom and Deathtrap Equalizer.

I came up with some questions for the man himself in the same style as the creator profiles we’ve been posting on the blog. So without further ado, here are Ken St. Andre’s answers to those questions…     

Q: If you were stranded on a Desert Island with 3 other gamers and could bring one game with you to play what would it be? (besides T&T)

KEN: I would probably just bring a pack of cards — preferably a tarot deck. One can play so many different games with a pack of cards.

Q: You created T&T and must have shown and played it thousands of times. You’ve seen computer versions of the game and had it published in other languages. You’ve had fans and groupies… What is your favorite memory connected to Tunnels & Trolls?

KEN: A long, long time ago, probably back in the 1970s, my friends Liz Danforth, Mike Stackpole and Jim Peters got together to throw a T&T birthday party for me. That was a really fine night.

T&T editions.jpg

Q: Did you ever think that T&T would be as popular as it is over 40 years after you created it?

KEN: As a writer, one always hopes one’s work will be noticed and popular. I never set any particular numeric goals for T&T, but even back as early as 1976, I had a premonition that the game would turn into my life’s work, and it has.

Q: What is YOUR favorite solo adventure, either one you wrote or played in?

KEN:  My very favorite solo adventure is one I originally created for Judges Guild instead of Flying Buffalo — the Toughest Dungeon in the World. I’m prejudiced. I like my own adventures better than those written by other people.  Another favorite is a Trollhalla Press publication called Deep Delving — it tells what it’s like to be a rock troll living underground. I also really like Naked Doom. (which is available on the T&T App)

Q: What advice do you have for those who want to design their own solo adventures?

KEN: Think up a good story or adventure situation before you start writing. Try to structure things so that everything follows logically and there are no silly restrictions such as “you can’t enter that room because the door is locked.” Dovetail the choices to keep players on the main story line, but don’t railroad them onto the one true path — there should always be meaningful choices with different outcomes available. IMNSHO

Q: What are your hobbies outside of gaming?

KEN: I never think of my activities as hobbies. I don’t belong to any hobbyist groups. I read, write, and collect fantasy fiction. I love comics, all types, but especially superhero stuff, and I think of both Tarzan and Conan as superheroes.

Q: If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

KEN: Invincible good luck. Come to think of it, I might already have that super power. I’m not dead yet though there have been plenty of opportunities to get myself killed (mostly through my own folly). My game had a worldwide popularity and following out of all proportion for its quality. I have some of the best friends and family anyone could ask for. I firmly believe its better to be lucky than good.

Q: What your favorite fantasy fiction and or movie?

KEN: My all time favorite movie is Tarzan the Ape Man starring Johnny Weismuller.  The fantasy in the movie is kind of hard to see unless you think about it. Baby raised by the apes to be a superior specimen of humanity — utterly fantastic. There have been feral children raised by animals, but they die young and are idiots as adults because they never got any human training as children. The lost land in the center of Africa. The Elephants’ graveyard. Tarzan’s easy communication with animals of all sorts. Think about it. He is rescued by chimpanzees, hippos, and elephants in the course of a single movie. Pure fantasy. Likewise, the Tarzan novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs are my absolute favorite fantasy.

Q: Any final words for the T&T App players?

KEN: Yes. Never give up. I hope you players all love the app and use it to get into the even larger world of face to face role-playing gaming. Oh, and you ain’t seen nothing yet.  MetaArcade is working hard on making T&T Adventures better every week. GAME ON!


This week’s question is still about the newest adventure Deathtrap Equalizer. This time it will be a bit harder.  Let’s see how good you remember your visits there…

The Question: In Deathtrap Equalizer you meet the deity of love. What is that deity’s name?

Post your answer in the comments section below or on the MetaArcade or Tunnels & Trolls Facebook Pages. I (Steve) will choose an answer at random from the correct answers, contact the winner and mail you a free signed copy of Grimtina’s Guard, plus a free signed comic. (If you already have Grimtina’s solo I’ll send you a different T&T item) 

Note: you must live within the continental US so we can ship it to you. The deadline for posting your answer is Monday April 16th, 6 pm pacific time.

Last week’s Trivia answer

In Deathtrap Equalizer you meet a sorceress who may take liking to you or may cast a nasty spell on you. What is her name? The correct answer is “Ursla.”

 Our Trivia Contest winner is Elizabeth Assaf who was chosen at random from the correct answers. We’ll send her a signed copy of the Grimtina’s Guard solo! (or an alternate prize if she has that)

Thanks for playing everyone and you have another chance to win this week, so try again!