My Flying Buffalo Solos

For me at least during my teens these were the real heart of T & T. I know players younger than me may have had the Corgi solo books and consider them the best material but these small booklets with card covers were what I dreamt about saving up enough money to be able to afford to buy. In the UK they were printed in Walsall in the West Midlands. I had no idea where that was in 1980 but I now work in this region and have even worked in Walsall itself. Small world.

Normally I'm not a big fan of doing ratings but I've decided to give my own personal score out of ten. If you vehemently agree or disagree with my opinion then by all means let me know.

Buffalo Castle and Deathtrap Equalizer Dungeon1. Buffalo Castle A bit basic perhaps but where solo gaming all began. Thanks are due to Rick Loomis for introducing the concept to the world of roleplaying games. I never owned this in the 1980s but my brother did and I could occasionally persuade him to lend it to me. I was never a big fan and only added this to my collection in the last few years 6/10.

2. Deathtrap Equalizer Dungeon The classic or perhaps more correctly speaking prototype teleport dungeon by Ken St.Andre. I loved this adventure and in particular the fact that you could just dip in, face one scenario and assuming you survived take the money and run 7/10.

Labyrinth and Naked Doom3. Labyrinth This adventure had almost everything. The concept behind it was great and the idea of having wandering deities was unusual. There was a splendid mix of different sorts of challenges as well. Unfortunately, I always felt like you spent too much time wandering long corridors than actually adventuring and for me it just failed to deliver though it was in a small way part of the inspiration for my own solo The Tree of Life 4/10.

4. Naked Doom I'm pretty sure this was the first solo I ever owned. I remember rushing home, rolling up a character and being horribly disappointed when the archers at the beginning transformed my alter ego into a humanoid pincushion. How I cursed that hateful St.Andre person for writing it but eventually I had a survivor and explored a bit further. One of my all time favourites 9/10.

Dargon's Dungeon and Weirdworld5. Dargon's Dungeon Definitely one of my favourites of the early solos. I've often wondered what the 1st edition would be like but at $85 for the copy available at Noble Knight I'll probably remain in ignorance on this point. Later on I took great joy in mapping the corridors and rooms and colouring in the 'four paths of chromatic doom'. Simple things please simple minds I guess 8/10.

NEWS FLASH - I have obtained a copy of the 1st edition from eBay. I can only say that the writing and artwork are of such a standard that a second edition was a must!

6. Weirdworld For some reason I just could never find this solo during my teens so I never got to discover what it was like then. I picked up this copy two or three years ago - isn't eBay great? I've only played it a few times and I think 'the jury is still out' for me. It seems to live up to its name not having any sort of internal logic that I can fathom anyway. This may explain why I have had universally deadly outcomes for my characters 5/10.

Overkill and Beyond the Silvered Pane7. Overkill Another Michael Stackpole great in my opinion. The first solo to allow you to take a party of characters in just like you might if you were taking part in a GM moderated gaming session. I also thought this was very atmospheric and showed how the author would go on to handle further solo projects such as 'Red Circle'. Never understood why the booklet was a little bit smaller than all the others 8/10.

8. Beyond the Silvered Plane As I've mentioned elsewhere in 'The Den' this was my first experience of T & T and I still have a bit of a soft spot for it. As the Trollgod himself says in his introduction it is clearly something of a parody on his own DED. Again I like this format of dip in and have a very short, quick adventure. I know there are some who don't like this random format, though perhaps I should say 'dice assigned'; it isn't all that random if you just roll 3 dice as there is a tendency to roll the middle numbers in the range with the triples at either end less likely 7/10.

City of Terrors

9. City of Terrors So large it clearly couldn't be published in the digest format. I spent months drooling over this mega-solo before I could afford to buy it. Personally, I like this version compared to the later one. I much prefer Liz Danforth and Rob Carver's cover art to that of the colour version though at least it is part of the interior illustrations in the reprint. The adventure itself lives up to the artwork with lots of places to explore and different stories to get involved in. Fantastic! 10/10.

Sorceror Solitaire and Sword for Hire10. Sorceror Solitaire What a beautifully simple idea from Walker Vanning, a solo for wizards only. Really the game was crying out for this book as magic users under the older editions of the rules had the odds stacked against them a little. This was the second solo I ever owned having bartered it from a lad in the year above me at school. I forget what I exchanged for it. Another one I have a real soft spot for 8/10.

11. Sword for Hire The copy I have of this solo was my brother's - don't let him know I sort of inherited it when he left home. The idea of having a companion with you who can help and/or hinder depending on the situation you find yourself in was new and added a certain freshness and some comic moments as well. If I have a complaint it is that there is really only one way to achieve success and get out of the basement area. A must to map your route 7/10.

Arena of Khazan and Sewers of Oblivion12. Arena of Khazan Another classic from Ken St.Andre. I suspect most of us basically learnt the finer points of combat in T & T by exploring the 'Arena'. It was also a useful way to try to earn some gold to be able to equip a character for the serious business of attempting a GM dungeon. How many players haven't included an arena-like combat situation in their own adventures? Another of my favourites 9/10.

13. Sewers of Oblivion Michael Stackpole was probably top of my list of solo authors. I enjoy all of his T & T work and this solo is no exception. This time exploring the sewers beneath the streets of Gull that we bestrode in 'City of Terrors'. Again a bit of a departure because this adventure was aimed at higher level characters with high numbers of combat adds 8/10.

Sea of Mystery and Blue Frog Tavern14. Sea of Mystery When I bought this solo I don't think I quite knew what to make of it. The idea that there were multiple story streams and some of your destinations were determined by the roll of a dice was quite new. I know at least one of my fellow trolls from Trollhalla who dislikes this structure in a solitaire adventure intensely. Now I can see that this was a genuine attempt to prolong the playability of a programmed adventure and the author nearly brings it off 6/10.

15. Blue Frog tavern James Wilson revisits the 'buddy solo' and produces another enjoyable romp through his world of dwarf barges and red robed priests. Quartz the beer-soaked rock troll once again helps and hinders your quest for the blue frog amulet in equal proportion. Another of my favourites 8/10.

Misty Wood and Gamesmen of Kasar16. Misty Wood I never really took to this solo and I don't really have a good reason why. In the same way that I really connect with all things Stackpole I just don't with this. Perhaps it is because this is another of my brother's purchases that I have managed to inherit but frankly I know I'm being a bit unfair on Roy Cram. After all the adventure seems to be a perfectly good one. Just not my cup of tea 5/10.

[September 2013 - My 10 year-old just ran a character through Misty Wood with me acting as GM and he/we had a whale of a time. Defeated the Barghest at the end and moved on to fresh adventures elsewhere. I had clearly missed lots of good parts in here as a teenager. New score 8/10]

17. Gamesmen of Kasar Despite not being a fan of Roy Cram's previous offering I rather like this one. It is a bit more of a traditional dungeon crawl albeit in the strange rooms of the Gamesmen's building rather than the dark caverns of some subterranean complex. Definitely more to my liking 7/10.

Beyond the Wall of Tears

18. Beyond the Wall of Tears I don't think I've ever got to play this solo much. The setting is brilliant though, wandering through a deadly dreamscape in an effort to rescue your sister. I'm pretty sure I've never survived the attempt and managed to complete the quest. Right up my alley 8/10.

Sid Orpin (aka Darrgh Tarrrho)

January 2011

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