The Dragon Deal with Troika!

The Dragon Deal with Troika!

Played tonight despite everyone being a bit low energy but still, we played and finished up the Sword Temple and established a cool next adventure. We’ve got another game on the calendar for next week but agreed that we’d ditch the game in favor of some social bonfire enjoyment if the weather is nice, not wanting to squander these last days of summer. We are treading dangerously close to having a weekly game on our hands if we aren’t careful.

PIC: Red dragon eye with scaly eye ridge. Don't tell anyone it is an alligator with red and blank radiant gradient over it.

TEXT: The Dragon Deal with Troika!

The artifact that they use to traverse the worlds is a Wind Throne and it has a dot matrix printer that prints out all of their maps for them. I like having a map on the table to draw on and give everyone a sense of place. I edit out secret doors. Dyson Logos maps are too good not to share. I made a basement map, where the dragon is sleeping and where its treasure used to be. When one of the monks was asked where the dragon’s treasure was, he said it was in a bank. The floor of the lair was largely empty with only the dragon’s three favorite swords on stands near where it sleeps.

We returned to the game right where we left off, with disarmed sword-monks on one side and vengeful children on the other. A dead sword-monk was nearby, his face decimated by the nunslinger’s laser pistol. The children wanted the dragon dead for destroying their village. Sister Falconius was cutting a new notch into the pistol’s grip in remembrance the kill.

Mental Note: I should have the old 2d6 Moldvay reaction table on hand for when I’m just not sure how NPC’s will react and no skills work.

I read the amazing description of the dragon to the table from the Troika! book and shared the cool art too. The knew the dragon would likely kill them. The vengeful children were grabbing swords off the wall and debating about which one is the best dragonslaying sword.

Sister Falconius talked to the children, urging them to go outside and wait for them to flush the dragon out to them and told the monks to bar the doors and not beat anymore children. Then, Mallory cut a deal with the dragon. In flattering and flowery turns of phrase, Mallory asked that the dragon (“Lord Dragon is fine.”) never harm the village again and in return, they would do something for the dragon.

The dragon asked the nunslinger about the fresh notch on her pistol and she said something poignant about not only doing it to warn off would-be aggressors but to remember the violence she’s done.

They agreed to retrieve a sword from a king who slayed one of the dragon’s kin. This dragonslaying king stole a flame brand blade meant for a dragon’s own champion. In return, the dragon would not go near the village as long as one of the children still lived – as long as none ever entered the temple again.

When this was explained to the vengeful children, they complained that it wasn’t fair. In the end, I had them go home but I think we’ll see them again.

Science Fantasy Sword Subject Divider

Now I’m daydreaming about a city ruled by a dragonslaying king. Slaga means slayer and cwealmdr√©or is blood shed in death in Old English.

https://dysonlogos.blog/2020/10/19/marpenoth-river-city/

I’ll fill the blanks below with character options from Troika!’s d66 chargen tables, using those character options as factions. I’ll probably roll or choose on the game day.

The Slayer King took the throne when the Wizard-King never returned, killed in the attempt to slay the dragon.

The Slayer King took the throne and holds on to his power with the zealous backing of the _____________________________.

The Slayer King is dangerously close to losing the support of the _____________________________.

Across the channel, a monarch trained originally as a _____________________________ watches for signs of weakness in Slaga.

Science Fantasy Sword Subject Divider

Wind Throners,

The Slayer King is a difficult man to see. You’ve all been in the city of Slaga for a month now.

What is your favorite part of life in Slaga?

Does anyone get a job or do you crash in barns outside of Slaga’s walls, trading a roof for a hard day’s choring?

Does anyone fall in with the wrong sort?

Does anyone fall in love?

Does anyone grow up a bit? How does this maturity manifest?

Who seeks out what kind of training?

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Solving Problems with Swords, Necromancy & Laser Pistols ala Troika!

Solving Problems with Swords, Necromancy & Laser Pistols ala Troika!

We played our first game in June, so it was a bit hazy. Luckily, it was a good stopping point, jumping to another world aboard an artifact throne. I asked folks to remember moments where they felt their character come forward and that led to a fun discussion about things we did in the last session.

Solving Problems with Swords, Necromancy & Laser Pistols with Troika!

We ended on the Throne of Air, with young Mallory, a runaway squire from a Temple of Telak (“No, it is tel-AK.”) the Swordbringer asking the artifact to bring them somewhere cool. I said that we’d start the game at the Temple of Ten Thousand Swords but I think there is an adventure with that name already, so in an ancient tongue, ten thousand is shorthand for, more swords than is reasonable to count. Many.

A nameless Necromancer with a co-dependent ghost named Rory, a Nunslinger named Sister Falconius Silvanus and Adamson ‘The Kraken’ Mallory, runaway temple knight of Telak the Swordbringer found themselves in a mountain range, near a temple. Mallory could tell it was a Telakite temple but something seemed off.

Tech Sword Subject Divider

The Prep

Last time we played I rolled dice and inserted factions based on the d66 character types but this time I knew I wanted a temple to Telak the Swordbringer but with a dragon sleeping in it. When I opened the book to look over some rules, I found the Vengeful Child character type. Instead of making a mad libs and rolling dice, I wrote:

Vengeful Children are running amok, wanting to kill the dragon and avenge the burning and pillaging of their town.

BLANK has a spy among the Telakite Monks.

Telakite Sword-Monks are trying to avert the dragons’ wrathful awakening.

I grabbed a map from the amazing Dyson Logos and did a touch of editing. More on editing next time, we ended this session in the midst of some Big Decisions. When we sat down, I filled in the BLANK and it fit into the story whole mess perfectly.

I knew I’d need to make swords and so I made three tables.

SWORDS! Type
1 Longsword
2 Gladius
3 Katana
4 Rapier
5 Saber
6 Two-Hander
SWORDS! Magic
1 Runes
2 Star-Metal
3 Tech
4 Blessing
5 Elemental 
6 Spell
SWORDS! Purpose
1 War
2 Fashion
3 Dueling
4 Executions
5 Slaying
6 Ornamental

Shit, do I now need a table of elements? Sure. Do I need two tables of elements? Yes.

Elements
1 Fire
2 Earth
3 Water
4 Air
5 See Strange
6 See Strange
Elements, Strange
1 Ice
2 Smoke
3 Mirrors
4 Magma
5 Steam
6 Black Hole

These were dropped into a pretty format for the blog but were just jotted down into my notebook quickly so that I could get this thing down in hopes of getting in a workout and a shower before the game (I got both in!).

I only used the tables once during the game. When they met their first vengeful child, I decided that he had grabbed a sword off the wall and rolled. I got a katana that I called Spring Blossoms on the Wall. Later in the game, when Mallory would use this magical katana to try to thwart a 13 year old girl with a longsword from stabbing the abbot, he’d fail his roll. I asked if he wanted to Try His Luck and see if he could activate the sword’s arcane power. He declined, not wanting to hurt her by accident, which I really liked – felt like a soulful, very real reaction.

Tech Sword Subject Divider

The Characters

The posse we’ve made are in their teens and early twenties and they feel very young. We laugh a whole lot at their shenanigans but it isn’t goofy. There is an emotional core there that I dig. Sister Falconius is a kind of old, cool sister with a laser pistol. The Necromancer without a name who is in an unhealthy relationship with a ghost feels so very much like a young woman before she comes into her own. Mallory is the teenage boy who wants to see the dragon, even though it might spell death for the entire party, because its cool. He carries around swords and has spent his life worshipping a sword-god but isn’t good at swordplay.

They are a hot mess and I adore these teens. Will we see them grow up? Will they survive?

Even without dragons, how did any of us survive those decades growing up?

Tech Sword Subject Divider

Dice

For whatever reason, I don’t like the roll under option and use the versus roll for everything. I need to think through what exactly I’m doing when I do that and write that down.

As the game began, I wasn’t sure how the Vengeful Children were doing as they tore through the Temple. I rolled 2d6 for the Sword-Monks and another 2d6 for the Vengeful Children. It was clear that the Sword-Monks had the upper hand and so the game began with a few monks tossing out a bruised and battered kid. I used those numbers I initially rolled for the first few conflicts where the characters tried to use their skills to get some kind of upper hand.

At one point, Sister Falconius tried to kneecap a Sword-Monk and failed the roll. A miss felt wrong. She shot the monk in the head, killing them instantly and accidentally. The monks dropped their staves and put their hands up after that but I feel like we’ll need to see a consequence of that death at some point. I’ve got ideas. I want failed rolls with firearms to be messy affairs.

Tech Sword Subject Divider

Next Time…

This is what happens when you send teens out into the worlds with only laser pistols, swords and necromancy to solve their problems but they also have tools, right out of the Troika! chargen that are better suited for solving actual problems – skills like Awareness, Etiquette and Relationship Counseling.

When we left the group, they had the vengeful children and the Sword-Monks rounded up. The abbot had been stabbed by a child. The six-step countdown clock for the dragon waking up had a few ticks on it. As always, I have no idea where this is going.

After our next game I’ll write about how this mess resolved and will also peel back the curtain more on the prep without worrying about spoiling any sense of mystery for friends at the table.

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Quick and Ugly Troika Setting Hack

Quick and Ugly Troika Setting Hack

Maybe you’ve got Troika but the setting as presented in the d66 Background Table isn’t doing it for you (I adore it but to each their own) but you want to see the Initiative Stack in action or think the way characters learn skills is keen (it is). Okay, I’ve got you covered.

Roll your 3 stats: 1d3+3 for Skill, 2d6+12 for Stamina, 1d6+6 for Luck.

Troika has a solid list of baseline possessions if you’d like but don’t worry about that. Let’s talk about populating the setting, which is to say, populating your own d66 Background Table.

Executioner's Sword Subject Divider

Using Pathfinder Iconics

Drop your 36 favorite Pathfinder Iconics into each slot. Read the iconic’s entry in the Pathfinder wiki that you rolled up or don’t read anything just riff off of the class name and the cool Wayne Reynolds art or don’t even read the class name and just riff off of the Wayne Reynolds art.

Executioner's Sword Subject Divider

Using Whatever You Remember From D&D

Name D&D NPC’s from settings or old campaigns or novels and/or name settings and exciting vocations.

Asteroid Stranded Spelljammer Sailor.

Dark Sun Gladiator.

Sword Coast Caravan Guard.

Elminster.

Greyhawk Arch-Mage.

Sigil Crimelord.

Escaped Soul from Acheron.

Cultist from Temple of Elemental Evil.

That One NPC you Remember from Homlett.

Your Favorite NPC from the Keep on the Borderlands.

Strahd’s Vampire Spawn.

Vecna’s Apprentice.

That Lady with the 80’s Hair Throwing Lightning on the Spellfire Cover.

The dinosaur-looking lizard guy from the cover of Curse of the Azure bonds with the cool sword-axe-thing.

Etc.

P.S. Now you only need 22 more.

Executioner's Sword Subject Divider

Fantasy Word Vomit Way

Name strange fantasy shit with your friends until you get to 36 total. Order of the Sun Holy Knight, Broken Moon Lycanthrope, Witch from the Edge of the First City, Talking Wolf, etc. Bonus points for naming places or saying something about the world through the title.

If you want to get fancy, give everyone index cards so folks can also write up Advanced Skills and Possessions for each of the 36 entries. If not, whoever rolls the entry up, they make it up on their own.

d66 tables in 2 columns

After each player has rolled up a concept (or, let’s be real, picked their favorite)…

Stat them up, 10 points in total Advanced Skills (what Troika calls skills because Skills is already a stat) and whatever equipment makes sense. Spells are also Advanced Skills. Name the spells you’ve got and come up with a 2 sentence description of the spells you have.

Make your own d66 table or print out the table above.

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“Someplace cool,” with Troika! Numinous Edition

A Necromancer, a Nunslinger and a Temple Knight of Telak the Swordbringer walk into a dungeon…

"Someplace cool," with Troika! Numinous Edition

Throne of Wind, ancient artifact of the Sky Monarchs, floating through a fractal universe.

We had made characters and agreed to play the following Friday. I knew how I wanted to prepare but didn’t get to it until the Friday afternoon before the game. I had read the rules but couldn’t quite picture the initiative system but was game to try. I grabbed a Dyson Logos map from this book (always worth every penny, even if it wasn’t just a way to say thanks for the tremendous library of free maps and it isn’t just that). I numbered areas, coming up with about 12, so I could still come up with something random with 6 siders if I needed to.

I like how in this game everything is random.

Charlotte, providing my AHA! moment with Troika
Old Sword Subject Divider
From: https://www.clevelandart.org/art/1942.552

Jotted down a 2-12 list, 2 is always a Wizard and 12 is always a Dragon. I rolled a bunch of times, putting results into rooms and the place made sense – an ecology was developing. It was nothing complicated but enough to understand what was in each area and how it was all interacting. I had a haunted dungeon with a Mirror Demon in its depths. There were constructs guarding certain rooms and giant beetles who had been summoned by recent adventurers and then abandoned. There were questions I didn’t have answers to and that was fine.

It was a mess. I liked it but I still wasn’t sure how to describe anything. What did the floor feel like? What were the doorways like?

Random tables are world-building.

Stras
Old Sword Subject Divider
From: https://www.clevelandart.org/art/1942.552

I made a mad-libs with the following:

This place was made by the BLANK when they were at war with the BLANK.

It was re-purposed by the BLANK, when they were on the run from the BLANK.

When we got together to game, I asked everyone to roll on the d66 chargen table that we used to make characters, continuing to use it for world-building. Since the game was set up to celebrate Ken helping me get the mailbox up, he rolled twice.

This place was made by the Wizard Hunters when they were at war with the Sorcerers of the Academy of Doors.

It was re-purposed by the Lonesome Monarch, when they were on the run from the Zoanthropists.

Now I can see this place clearly. Love it. Mad libs and the d66 chargen table it is from here on in. I am going to make random tables with solid world-building and cool choices. If a boring result occurs, the table was made poorly. If something doesn’t make sense, we haven’t applied science-fantasy Troikan! logic to it hard enough or waited until the answer becomes clear.

In future uses of the d66 table as a mad libs dungeon/world building tool, I’ll use the character concept’s equipment for treasure ideas.

Old Sword Subject Divider
From: https://www.clevelandart.org/art/1942.552

Troika! is fun. I might replace a few of the choices on the d66 chart rolled for chargen. A few feel off to me. I house-ruled the damage roll away, using the higher of the 2d6 to-hit dice as the damage result. The initiative system is really fun. We used some Campaign Coins and a dice bag. Next time I’ll throw the bag around and ask everyone to take a pick to decide who goes next.

My favorite cover by Better Legends
https://betterlegends.com/

The way characters learn skills is fun and fast. I love learning systems in games. When the players met a Wizard-Robot (a robot made to look like a wizard) the Wizard Hunters had used for training, it taught the necromancer how to fire the laser pistol the ghost nun had given her in return for a successful therapy session and it taught the petulant teen with six swords on his back to use those swords a bit better. The way to make a ruling on that to make it happen was clear with the rules scaffolding given.

The real question is, how long until I write up my own d66 tables and start making my own Troika! hack. I can feel its pull.

Old Sword Subject Divider
From: https://www.clevelandart.org/art/1942.552

How’d the game go in the mirror-demon haunted Wizard Hunter enclave turned Lonesome Monarch hideaway? When Charlotte said, “I didn’t think I would be learning how to fire a laser pistol given to me by a ghost nun,” I considered it a win. Those are the kinds of sentences this kind of science-fantasy generates so beautifully, piercing the gloom like the Nunslinger’s pistol’s blue laser bolts.

The petulant teen with 6 swords on his back sat on the magic artifact that the Sky Monarchs had used to travel the worlds and see the sunsets and starscapes of a thousand thousand skies – the Throne of Winds.

The wind asked, “Where do you want go, Sky Monarch?”

The runaway Temple Knight of Telak the Swordbringer replied, “Someplace cool.”

The next game is taking place in the Temple of Ten Thousand Swords.

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Troika emerges from a pile of games

Troika emerges from a pile of games

Our friend, Ken, came over a few months ago and offered his skill and expertise in getting a new mailbox up after our embarrassing mailbox took its last jolt from a car and fell over. As a thank you, I offered to run a game. For whatever reason, I thought he liked scifi more than fantasy, so I suggested the following premise:

hovbulance Medical Response Team
cyberpunk action using Apocalypse World: Burned Over
https://lumpley.games/burnedover/

But after the previous week’s news, I wasn’t sure I was up for running a game in which a hovbulance descending through a Blade Runner-inspired cityscape into the midst of a gunfight to grab a corporate asshole with an insurance policy that afforded medical extraction.

So, I brought a pile of books (and when possible, corresponding character sheets) and we sat around for a while, ate, talked about our weeks and looked over games. I offered a sentence or two on each with the thought that we might not want to play any of them or we might make characters for each and every one. My hope is that we’d go through the books as if we had found this strange crate with these odd books in it and were spending the evening trying to figure one or more out. Charlotte brought down a few of her books too and the night was off to a lovely start.

I grabbed my Troika!: Numinous Edition off the pile and rolled up a character. Amused by the result I read it out loud. The d66 tables have fun options. We each rolled and it didn’t feel real until the character sheets hit the table. Luckily, Dyson Logos had a Troika character sheet that I had printed out.

Beyond that what you have here is Troika!: a science-fantasy RPG in which players travel by eldritch portal and non-Euclidean labyrinth and golden-sailed barge between the uncountable crystal spheres strung delicately across the hump-backed sky.

What you encounter on those spheres and in those liminal places is anybody’s guess – I wouldn’t presume to tell you., though inside this book you will find people and artefacts from these worlds which will suggest the shape of things. The adventure and wonder is in the gaps; your game will be defined by the ways in which you fill them.

Troika! Numinous Edition by Daniel Sell
A giant angel, a final fantasy wizard with a sword, a rhino person with a halbred, a winged lionish person, a shirtless sailor and a horned metal person on a ship in the void.
https://betterlegends.com/

After a few minutes we had a Necromancer, a Temple Knight of Telak the Swordbringer and a Nunslinger. I had rolled up a Demon Stalker, who might be an NPC. I asked some questions and wrote up some tables.

It turned out that the Necromancer didn’t know their name because their teacher stole their name from them during their apprenticeship. The ghost they have bound is named Rory and was also an apprentice. They refer to themselves as Rory’s friend.

The Temple Knight had been a squire, doomed to mediocrity but stole 6 swords and left. We rolled the swords up. 3 were cursed. One talks. One is holy but looks identical to one that is cursed. The player found a cursed sword table and rolled on it several times until they knew what the cursed swords did.

The Nunslinger also seems to have left her holy order but still has an energy pistol of some kind. She’s killed bandits who tried to rob the monks her order safeguards. She uncovered a monk who was working in cahoots with the bandits and that got her exiled.

Thanks to the Fantasy Name Generator the Nunslinger is named Sister Falconus Silvanus and the Temple Knight is Adamson “The Kraken” Mallory. The Necromancer, not using the Fantasy Name Generator because their name was stolen, is called Rory’s Friend, which is the saddest name I’ve ever seen in more than three decades in this hobby.

While they were making characters and chatting, I made up a 3d6 treasure table to see what kind of treasure they’d be seeking. And made up a pair of d6 tables to make interesting swords. Also, seen in that page is my Demon Stalker, Garr, who killed a human claiming to be a demon and gave up the vocation soon after.

I asked each of them to roll a d6 and came up with a Wind/Throne/Olde Gods. “You each have a third of a map to the Wind Throne made by the Olde Gods.” I’ll find a map, read over the rules and write up an adventure, probably with lots of d6 tables for good measure and we’ll play next week.

Pile of books including Troika!, The Warren, Old School Essentials Boxed Set, Heart: the City Beneath, Electric Bastionland and Wolfspell.

Advice for a pile of books game night:

Don’t be leaning towards any of the books in particular. If you want to play one thing or playtest something – tell your friends and bring that.

The less you’ve interacted with the books the better.

Be at peace with an evening of friends looking at books and only a few characters or half-made characters to show for it.

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