Troika is Amazing British Weirdness
Originally published at technicalgrimoire.com:
"Troika is really good. Iâ€™ve written and re-written this review several times, and i eventually settled on just rambling about why I like it. I hope you can follow the meandering nonsense.
So if youâ€™re just looking for a review, Troika is a really interesting and fun RPG that provides a nice contrast to D&Dish games we see so much of. You should buy it. Be sure to get the physical copy if you can, because itâ€™s VERY pretty and well-organized for use at the table.
Also I made a handy rules reference for Troika. Oh! and a mobile-friendly character generator. Did I mention that I really like this game?
Also, Also I donâ€™t use the word â€œweirdâ€ as a negative thing. Especially in this review I use it to mean a breath of fresh air, something unique and exciting.
A Quick History Lesson:
Dungeons and Dragons was published in 1974 and was very popular (perhaps youâ€™ve heard of it). Most of the games that Iâ€™ve played are either derived from D&D, or are actively being different from D&D. Itâ€™s hard to find any game that hasnâ€™t been affected by Gygax.
However in Britain there was a game called Fighting Fantasy (published in 1982) that really took off. Similar to â€œChoose Your Own Adventureâ€ books, Fighting Fantasy expanded the concept with a simple RPG system that included character creation, combat, and overcoming obstacles. So it might say something like â€œRocks are falling on you. Roll a Luck test. If you succeed, turn to pg 34, if you fail turn to page 97â€. The book itself was your GM! What a cool concept.
I donâ€™t actually know how much/little Gygax impacted FF, but it FEELS very different from D&D.
I had never heard of Fighting Fantasy until I started doing research for Troika, and now I wish I had grown up in the UK. I really loved CYOA books as a kid, and the idea that a D&Dish book adventure existed would have blown my 8 year old mind. Heck, it blows my 28 year old mind!
Troika uses FF as the base for its rules, but is a more traditional RPG (requires a GM, multiple players, etc). And to further set itself apart from Fighting Fantasy it injects a huge dose of quirky British fantasy weirdness into the game.
The Importance of â€œFlavorâ€
My first RPG was 4th edition. I played as a Deva Healer. I read the race description, all the rules, the culture, etc. But it didnâ€™t really come to life. Perhaps I should have read more, or invested more energy; but my race felt more like a collection of skats and skills rather than a backstory.
Compare that to Troika, where every character background is overflowing with evocative imagery.
Sorcerer of the College of Friends: â€œAs an integral part of your tutelage in the sub-dimensional academy of the Cordial Wizard God you spent your childhood learning about the fate of pixies, the colour of magic, ritual grammar, and endless other theoretical topics. Now youâ€™re out in the world, discovering that your education hardly accounted for any of the things that youâ€™ve seen.â€
Canâ€™t you immediately see how to play that kind of character? Unfamiliar with market haggling, doesnâ€™t know about local politics, perhaps naive or snobby. And thatâ€™s one of the more common/familiar backgrounds. Go click the character generator a few times, and youâ€™ll get a good feel for the kind of flavor Troika provides.
The praise for â€œflavorâ€ is pretty rare for me; Iâ€™m usually more of a mechanics-first kind of gamer. Luckily Troika delivers in that area as well.
I Love Skills
I dislike intensive, drawn out character creation. I also prefer games that allow for flexible character advancement. Picking from a huge list of 1000 pre-made feats doesnâ€™t count! Kintsugi and Clink were both heavily focused on building your character through play, rather than frontloading everything.
And Troika has a similar way of learning and growing character skills. Instead of increasing stats or health, characters can only learn/improve skills. This is not a limitation, but a freedom! Skills are a flexible system for representing character ability. Even spells are skills! Skills can include stuff like:
3 Spell - Life Link
So far my players have really enjoyed the potential that skills bring, and theyâ€™re eager to learn more.
And now some random facts that made me fall in love with the game:
Troika includes an adventure with the book. Is it a dungeon crawl? Maybe a monster hunt? No, itâ€™s a strange hotel filled with colorful characters and strange situations.
Initiative is handled by placing tokens into a bag and pulling them out to see who goes next. And one of the tokens is the â€œEnd Roundâ€ token. This makes combat unpredictable and crazy.
Luck is one of your primary stats and is rolled whenever something happens TO you (dodging an explosion, avoiding detection, bandaging a wound, etc). And it goes down the more its used; so characters end the day out of luck and close to danger.
Weapons use a â€œdamage chartâ€. So a sword might have a chart like the one below:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7+
3 3 3 6 6 7 12
Which means you roll a d6, add any modifers to the roll, and consult the chart to see how much damage it actually does. This allows weapons to have VERY different damage spreads and flavor.
As I said at the top, itâ€™s really good. And different. And weird. You should buy it.
Melsonia | Melsonia | September 2021