City of Terrors: A Solitaire Adventure

City of Terrors
As I remember it…

Way back in late December 1976, I started playing Tunnels & Trolls from Flying Buffalo, Inc.. I’d previously tried to play D&D, but I wasn’t acquainted with miniatures gaming, thus having a book that told me “a horse may move 2 inches,” made no sense whatsoever. T&T was the only alternative out there, and had the added advantage of having Solitaire Adventures. Being as how RPGs were all but unknown back in those days, being able to play by myself was a huge advantage.

Buffalo Castle by Rick Loomis was the first solo adventure, and I played that thing to death. Fairly quickly I decided to take a shot at writing a solo adventure myself, and began corresponding with Ken St. Andre—T&T’s designer and author of more solo adventures. With his encouragement I wrote two solos that were very reminiscent of Buffalo Castle. I typed them up and send them off to Rick and Ken for comments. (I suppose, somewhere around here, I have the typescripts of them, but part of me hopes I don’t. They were pretty basic.)

While Rick and Ken were kind about what I’d produced, Flying Buffalo didn’t want to buy either. But Ken did offer to let me write an article on designing a world. I agreed, and in the process designed the city of Gull and its surroundings. That article came out in 1977.

It launched my publishing career.

I decided to try another solo adventure, and wanted it to be different. I didn’t want to have the adventure underground, so I decided to set it in this city I’d newly created. I also decided that instead of just having choices of direction (north, south, east, west), I wanted moral choices. “If you choose to head toward the scream for help, choose 5B…” I wanted players to be making choices based on who they imagined their characters to be. And while that sounds wickedly insightful, I pretty much thought those choices were a lot more exciting than street directions. (Later, as the Flying Buffalo solo adventure line editor, I’d formalize the desire for heroic choices because players really responded to them.)

City of Terrors consisted of roughly a dozen different adventures. I’d written something that dwarfed the previous solo adventures primarily because I had so much fun writing it, I used tons of words. Luckily both Ken and Rick liked it, and by the end of 1977 agreed that Flying Buffalo would publish it. Rick turned the manuscript over to both Liz Danforth and Rob Carver for illustration, including the collaboration on the cover. (The above illustration also includes coloring by Steve Crompton.)

The first printing had two separate editions, including 300 signed/numbered copies. The book came out at the end of summer in 1978. It’s had a UK edition and a Japanese edition that I know of for certain. The one pictured above is the latest edition, which was part of the T&T Kickstarter program. As nearly as I know it’s seldom been out of print. Back when Flying Buffalo ran polls, COT usually came in first or second in terms of favorite solo adventures.

One of the fun things is that the trio of characters on the front, from right to left, were modeled after Rob Carver, Liz Danforth, and me. The city of Gull comes back in another solo adventure, Sewers of Oblivion and featured in my story “Wind Tiger” in the anthology of Tunnels & Trolls fiction, Mages’ Blood and Old Bones. Gull also gets a passing mention in my novel Talion: Revenant.

Next year will be City of Terrors‘ 40th Anniversary. I’m still very proud of it. In a recent trip back to Vermont to clean out of family home, I ran across notes when when I was writing it and they made me smile. Even now, at various book signings, someone invariably comes up with it, citing it as where they started reading me. And that, too, brings a smile.


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