AvocaD&D and Tabletop Gaming: Yig Snake Grandaddy, Part 31

Welcome back to the weekly D&D and Tabletop Gaming thread!  Here’s a place where we can talk about Dungeons & Dragons or any other tabletop games that you nerds might be into.  Tell us about the games you’re playing, speculate about future expansions, recruit your fellow Avocados into new groups, whatever you want.

Our discussion topic this week comes from Handsome Young Dugong. Thanks for contributing this write-up, Dugong!

Good day, my friends.  I’m here to tell you about one of my favorite rpg systems, TROIKA!  Described by some (me) alternatively as “the game that was created when, in an alternate timestream, Monty Python made an unauthorized adaptation of a Terry Prachett novel and got Pablo Picasso to illustrate it” and “aggressively weird,”  Troika! uses easy-to-handle but robust mechanics to support a psychedelic multiverse setting.  I first acquired Troika in one of Itch.io’s social justice bundles, and can’t get enough of it. 

The Mechanics

Troika! is a 2d6 system, using standard six-sided dice for rolls and character creation.  The dice do a lot of work, sometimes acting as d3s, d6, 2d6, d66, or d666, but the most common rolls are either skill checks, where you roll under a skill number with 2d6, or contested rolls, where you roll 2d6 over the roll by the GM.  A stamina pool acts both as hit points and magic fuel, and you are occasionally asked to “test your luck,” using a dwindling pool of luck points.  Troika! has an interesting method for determining initiative in combat, making for quick and somewhat frenzied combat: each combatant puts a number of colored (or otherwise specific) tokens in a bag, and takes an action whenever their token is taken out of the bag.  In a turn, the attacker and the defender roll against each other and the higher of the contested rolls deals damage, so a character may deal (or receive) several blows in the course of a round.  There are a couple of other interestingly pragmatic mechanics, like the inventory system (keep the important stuff on top) and the benefits of firing ranged weapons into a melee (there are none). 

The Setting

Hmm, where to begin…The Troika! setting is equal parts preposterously specific and excessively wide open.  The character classes (or backgrounds, as they call them), bestiary and example campaign (in the Numinous edition), all point to a sixties/seventies pulp science-fantasy hallucinogenic landscape.  Imagine a more mirthful Heavy Metal, or perhaps some experimental animation that almost makes sense when you watch it in the wee hours of the morning.  Even the fantasy staples go off the beaten path, where dragons are beings of experimental geometry and salamanders attach themselves to the shadows of your golden barge.  Despite this aesthetic, the setting is a multiverse, an unending line of “spheres” that are traveled using the aforementioned barges, so you can really work in any setting that catches your fancy.  The handbook gives guidelines for creating your own character classes, which is probably necessary considering how focused they tend to be (although gremlin catchers will always find themselves gainfully employed). 

The Pros:

-The aesthetic is unique and refreshing

-The mechanics are easy to explain, but solid enough for gameplay

-There is baked-in support for homebrewed backgrounds and spheres

The Cons:

-The game may not suit every playgroup, as you have to dive wholesale into the weirdness

-At face value, the backgrounds can be unbalanced (I think this is meant to be a feature, rather than a bug). 

Troika is available as a pdf through online vendors such as Itch.io and drivethrurpg.  It is also available in print from the Melsonian Arts Council, although may require overseas shipping.  I hope you have an opportunity to spend as much time enjoying Troika! as I have spent un-autocorrecting capital letters inserted after exclamation points for this article. 

Players and Characters

Wafflicious is back in the DM’s seat this week to continue our 5e Cthulhu Mythos adventure. Our players include:

  • JosephusBrown as Anton Illinois (Human Inquisitive Rogue/Fighter), a disgraced archaeology professor who has turned to seeking arcane rituals
  • CleverGuy as Bastian Updelver (Deep Gnome Alchemist Artificer), an eccentric local potionmaker
  • TheHayesCode as Hazel Green (Dhampir Spirits Bard), a flapper, séance MC, and aspiring spiritualist
  • Spiny Creature as Ku (Kenku Twilight Cleric), a local priestess of Bastet, goddess of protection
  • The Wasp as Leah Zann (Tiefling Great Old One Warlock), a professor from Miskatonic University who accepted a deal with Yog Sothoth to get an advantage over her male colleagues
  • The Ugly One with the Jewels as Minty Rocksmasher (Dwarf Berserker Barbarian), survivor of an eldritch accident which decimated her tribe

Credit for this week’s game recap goes to TheHayesCode, who brings us another entry from Hazel’s Diary. Thanks, Hayes!

The Armory

Well, Diary, we’re still stuck in these big, ungainly Yithian bodies. I’m sure glad nobody from back home is getting an eyeful of me like this – there’s nothing that makes you appreciate the ol’ chassis that being stuck in a big rubbery slug-squid, I’ll tell you that. ‘Course, these big claws DO come in handy in a pinch (pun definitely intended!) and speaking of which…

We’d just snooped our way through an orange door, thanks to that handy badge we’d picked up, and – hot dog! – it was the armory at last! Unfortunately the armory came complete with some armed guards (who’da thunk it?) and we had to, uh, improvise. By which I mean rush ’em. I like this we all did pretty well with what we had to work with, especially Minty, who really tore the place up. I couldn’t help but try taking a shot with one of the nifty-looking electricity guns hangin’ on the wall, but I missed. Ugh! Okay, no more Missus Nice Hazel. I summoned up all the ambient ghosts I could get my claws out and stuffed ’em in the guns so they could fly around whomping our armored pal. Just call me a poltergeist wrangler!

Leah almost got splattered – not sure what happens to her if she buys the farm in one of these things, but it can’t be good – but we managed to get away with our lives and … one less explosive charge than we need. Could the last one be behind that creepy black door? Guess we’re goin’ black badge hunting.

After that we got a little stymied by a couple of complicated looking whatzits with a lot of buttons which we couldn’t really do much with except experiment. We got one of their scientists eaten by something big and ugly (kinda fun) and set off an alarm (less fun.) Plus I stuck my head in some kind of electric talking hole. We’re holed up now in a room with our cheerful little guide She Sucks Lou (or somethin’ like that) who’s been giving us the business for setting off that alarm. Hey, we got it turned off again eventually!