Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Troika! Character Sheet And Thoughts

My vision of a Chaos Champion.

  1. A Russian carriage, wagon, or sleigh drawn by a team of three horses abreast.
  2. Any group of three persons, nations, etc., acting equally in unison to exert influence, control, or the like; a triumvirate. 
In the game, Troika is the name of a city.

Troika! is a game based on the Advanced Fighting Fantasy books of yesteryear, which I swear, I only heard about this year. How is that possible? I don't know. I must have seen them in bookstores way back when, but maybe not, were they even sold here in the states?

It's a little hardback book with cool interior art that reminds me of a deck of cards. The imagery is surreal and abstract which allows you to make of Troika! what you will and as you can see by my art above, I chose to make of it -- Sword & Sorcery, Dungeon-Crawl, Savage  Bad-Assery!

Things I like:
  • 3 main stats (Skill, Stamina, and Luck) randomly rolled that never change. I would keep it that way. Though, I could see adding to stamina a tiny bit here and there over time.
  • The Luck stat is your all-encompassing saving throw that diminishes every time you use it, pass or fail. Awesome. Push your luck and you'll be out of luck. This is like a built in clock that tells the party, "It's time to rest."
  • Provisions that heal when eaten. A tangible reason to pay attention to food.
  • An inventory system that makes you pay attention to where you store that food.
  • As many (Advanced) skills as you want or need.
  • As many flavorful backgrounds (classes) as you can dream up. 36 in the Troika! book. 36 more in Acid Death Fantasy. Many more all over the web. Not created equally, but all full of flavor. This is the old-school way.
  • You can create a monster in seconds.
  • A magic system that cost stamina to use. Cast too many spells, you die. Cast any spell and you risk death no matter who you are do to the OOPS! table (rolling double 6's.) All of the usual tropes are there, but they're powered down, e.g., you can try to put one person to sleep.
  • A roll under and roll over system. Keeps you on your toes. 
  • Opposed roll combat, loser takes damage (I mention below that I would separate this into attack and defend.)
  • Damage charts for weapons. At first glance I was like, eh no, but upon further examination, I approve. Some weapons are more dependable than others (swords), dealing moderate but steady damage. Yet, a clumsy weapon like a heavy maul varies from a little damage to a bruising lot.
  • If you like the sci-fi element to the game, rifles are long barreled "Fusils" and guns are "pistolets." Ammo is a "plasmic core" that can also be huffed by wizards to fuel spells. I kid you not, this is cool stuff. Even if I left out the guns I would keep the plasmic core and rename it in some sorcerous way. Fallen Angel Dust, Essence of Dragon, etc.
  • Deadly combat.
  • Armor matters, but takes up space. This will break down if you ignore the inventory system and then everybody will be wearing heavy armor + shield. In which case, you should apply some sort of attack or damage roll penalty.
  • You can use these rules for any genre.

Things I would alter or add:
  • Initiative. It's cute, I get what they're going for: Chaos! But, collecting and drawing tokens (potentially lots of them) every time there's a fight, is way to fidgety for my taste. I would keep it more traditional, players roll a d6, monsters roll a d6 and add their initiative score. This way initiative still favors monsters. Perhaps a monster can attack after every PC goes. Perhaps you could roll a chaos die after every one goes, on a 6 the round ends and if you didn't get to act, too bad. Anyway, I would do something different.
  • I would add an XP system. I'm not a fan of "getting better" whenever the GM says so. I like something a bit more concrete. I would keep the numbers low, hundreds not thousands. You would get it for the usual reasons, killing things (XP = their stamina) finding things, etc. And when you have enough to "level up" you would get 3 improvement rolls wherever you want them (or use the tick system and only improve skills used successfully as in the rules) of course they're not guaranteed to succeed. Perhaps every few "levels" you add 1 stamina. And every so many few levels, you can add a new skill or spell -- randomly(?). Something like that. You could maybe even create specific advancement skill/spell roll charts based on specific backgrounds.
  • Prices. There are no prices (some baubles are priced in the intro adventure, listed in P (Pence) and SP (Silver Pence). No conversion is mentioned. This is no biggy, make up your own system. Of the top of my head, a weapon would cost in SP a number equal to its damage column 7+ (plus or minus 1d6 due to market prices.) Armor could cost it's bonus x 10. Any "item" might cost 2d6, 3d6 or 4d6 depending on the market (multiply by 5 or 10 for homebrew magic items.) Perhaps it takes a skill roll to find something. Perhaps create a black market skill for shady types. A Barter skill could be cool. To keep things simple, I would probably ignore the P and just use SP. Anything listed as P would be 1 SP. Or maybe gold with a silver standard.
  • Magic items. Have to be careful here, a +1 to hit or to damage roll, that's it. If an item granted a +2 there should be a serious price to pay. Many items would simply grant spell-like powers. I would give magic items an unknown finite number of uses, a "depletion" score like in Numenera (an idea I like for any game.)
  • Scrolls and a Use Scroll skill. Pretty straight forward here. Perhaps they don't drain you, but you can still roll OOPS! Or perhaps they drain you unless you roll doubles. And they would be expensive, 100 SP per casting cost. Or maybe just 50.
  • Separate combat into attack and defense rolls. You might live a little longer. Combat seems more like a duel. More interesting. You defend as many times as you are attacked.
  • The Strength skill could add +1 to damage rolls or perhaps let you carry more. Just a thought.
  • Mighty Blows damage armor (as well as ((or instead of)) doing double damage) so that heavy becomes modest and modest becomes light and light becomes nothing. Likewise, a mighty blow could destroy a shield.
  • Rolling doubles. Double 1's & 6's are both good and bad in this game, but you could make any doubles interesting to add a little spice to combat. You hit on a double, you get a free attack or action. Or you add +1 to your damage roll. Or maybe your spell cost 1 point less. Roll doubles on defense, get a free riposte, etc. Snake-Eyes and your weapon breaks or your foe gets a free attack. Also could add effects for magic weapons (1d6 extra armor-ignoring shock damage, or some such thing.) Roll doubles on a successful spell casting and it costs 1 point less, doubles on a failure and it costs 1 point more.
  • Mutants. You could always add a random list of mutations for weird magic or mutant backgrounds, claws, wings, acid spit, chitinous skin, etc. But, for every beneficial mutation there should also be a negative one.

Once again, another cool game, not unlike the magnificent Mörk Borg. This game's mechanics hit a lot of the right buttons for me. And to think most of these rules have been around for decades.

So here's the character sheet I came up with. At first, I thought the rules were too simple for a full page sheet, but that's when you can make it interesting. I'm pretty pleased with this one.

Here's the sheet in action with the Chaos Champion I drew at the top of the post...

And as a bonus, here are stats I made for a Morning Star (flail.) It's not quite as good as a Mace, but it ignores shields. So, if you're fighting someone protected only by a shield, rolling a 2, 4, or 6 will result in 1 more point of damage than a mace would. It's also 1 point better than the mace in the 7+ column to account for the extra momentum gained from that perfect strike. Still, the more armor involved, the mace becomes a better choice. (And for God's sake when wielding a Morning Star, wear gauntlets!)

Until 2021...


  1. Old post, but just wanted to say thanks for the character sheet, it's great! Nice review as well. I love Troika!

  2. Just found this and your blog. Love the art! I'm getting ready to run Troika again (at a Con this time) and am reviewing things. The more I tinker the more I just end up reversing course and leaving the base rules the way they are. But I don't love the attack-back thing. One answer I've thought of is that can only use your weapon's damage on your initiative. On defense you can use your weapon skill (or an evasive one), but you only do unarmed damage (1,1,1,2,2,3,4).

    1. Yep, the simpler the system, the more "tinkering" can unsettle it. Everything will definitely live longer with this idea, might be good for a home campaign, but maybe not for Con one-shots. Then again, what better place to experiment than at a Convention.


Three Hearts And Three Lions

One of the inspirations for D&D as listed in Appendix N. Poul Anderson, Three Hearts and Three Lions , 1953/1961. You have:  a paladin ...