2019/11/13

OSR: Review: Troika! vs. Electric Bastionland

Two systems, both alike in dignity,
In fair Discourse, where we lay our scene,
From ancient sludge break to new heresy,
Where drunken blood makes drunken hands unclean.
This review is sponsored by Dubonnet and gin. You've been warned.

Because I'm fussy, peevish, and peculiar, these review also has an enormous negative bias. I usually review books by listing problems or issues and then saying "but it's still very good." This review is no different. You've been warned again.

Also, I intermittently stop by both Chris McDowall's Discord and the Melsonia Arts Council Discord. Does one need to declare these things in a review? Well it can't hurt. That's three warnings. You're out. Go, get, shoo!


Troika!

Troika! is a Fighting Fantasy hack by Daniel Sell. The original version vaguely assumed you knew what Fighting Fantasy is and are possibly in the grip of The Nostalgia. If you don't and aren't, it's a choose-your-own-adventure book with a dice mechanic. The new version (Numinous Edition) doesn't assume much, which is good.

Choose-your-own-adventure books are weird from an RPG perspective. Half the fun of RPGs is not flipping to one of 3 options, but instead writing your own pages and sticking them in. Should we 1) Fight 2) Flee or 3) Bargain with the Orc guarding the pie? Neither, for you see, I've concealed a pie-summoning wand in my hat just for this occasion. Flicking it, I...

You see what I mean?

Anyway, Troika! uses the 3 core stats of FF (Skill, Stamina, and Luck).

The Book
The first two pages are convenient reference tables. Handy, but I'm leery of unexplained tables before explanations. Or even explained tables. You're basically announcing "Prepare For The Dreaded Mathematics, Ye Who Enter Here". The moment I see text like "Weapon that ignores 1 point of Armour", before anyone's told me what Armour is, the crash-zoom effect from Death Rides A Horse plays in my head. This is a personal peeve. Inside cover tables are a best practice.

The license is broad and sensible, and seems to inspire people.

There's a big backgrounds table (d66). You start with basic adventuring gear.

Side Note: Starting With Basic Gear
Call me old fashioned, but I don't really like gear packages or adventurers kits. They're convenient as heck, and for games where inventory and resource management are less of a concern it's perfect, but for more dying-in-a-hole-for-gold game I prefer to pass around the price sheet and rely on player skill.

Because it is a skill to check if someone's remembered to buy a latern. It is a skill to make do with scavenged gear. An adventuring kit implies that there's a correct way to adventure. This is the optimal package. But it might not be.
Troika! Backgrounds
My god, there are a lot of them. And people keep making more!

Right from page 2, the core book tells you to write your own. More importantly it tells you how. Brilliant.

In the old edition (art free? I'm not sure how I got this PDF.), the backgrounds had no art. In the Numinous Edition, they've each got a piece of art. The art is nice and tasteful, but it isn't particularly useful, in that it doesn't really add much to the text. Each background now takes up 1 page and each page will only maybe be used once at character generation. So every time I reference the rules, I've got to flap over a stack of paper.

Additionally, there's no divider page between rules and backgrounds.

Side Note: Divider Pages
Magical Industrial Revolution
doesn't have many pages without table-ready text, but I insisted that each chapter have its own chapter title page. In the physical version, they're always on the right hand side of a spread, in the same format, spaced more-or-less equally through the book. They're navigational markers. Weenies.

Pages like that might seem like wasted space, but they're kind of important. They are the signposts that let a reader navigate a heterogeneous text. Images stick in the mind.
Rules are numbered. Why? The rules insist the only type of dice is a d6, then proceed to list 15 numbered rules or section. I can't roll a d15 on d6s without doing the Dreaded Mathematics. For shame, Daniel Sell. For shame. Who the heck is going to reference Rule 8.2 instead of giving a) a page # or b) the generalized description of the rule?

EDIT (for clarity): The rules text on pp. 40-70 also feels homogeneous . Skimming, the rules blend together. Heading after heading, page after page. A few pieces of art aid recognition, but there are relatively few text-based markers aside from the rules numbers, and numbers are poor signposts.

How do the rules work in play? You're asking the wrong blogger. I haven't tested Troika! at all. I rolled a d666 and I wasn't struck by lightning, but that's about it. I am not a systems person. I've watched a number of games and talked to people who have run it though.

Reading them, the text usually answers questions as they are presented. A dying character must be healed? Next paragraph, rules for healing.

The armour rules are slightly clunky to my eye. For anything frequently referenced with more than 2 options, either tabulate or bullet point. I doubt it's an issue once you're familiar with the system. Rules are explained (i.e. there are "Why" sections). That's cool.

Spells

Spells are listed in alphabetical order, but aren't numbered.
Why are rules numbered but not spells? Rolling for a random spells (on a scroll, a wizard, a dark brain-engine) is actually useful.

EDIT: There's a spell table on the inside cover that I didn't see. Shame on me.

Bestiary

It's short, but a quick table of contents with page numbers would still help. If I'm looking for a Zombie, I don't want to flip all the way to Z to find out it's not listed. I want to look at one page and see that there's no Zombie, but Living Dead is listed. The descriptions are great and the stats are elegant. There's a useful table of monster moods with each monster, but a few are bit dull; some of the entries for some monsters seem repetitive. It's hard to spread 4 decent ideas into 6 decent ideas.

Art Quality
Highly consistent, vibrant, and neat.
Look, last time I did a review I said the art was good and people ended with weird impressions. So yes, the art is good, but I Cannot Into Art. I was not blown away or underwhelmed. I was moderately whelmed.

PDF Optimization
It might be the Dubonnet talking, but some sections have different background colours that can't be disabled via layers, making home printing difficult. Optimize your PDFs, humans! The PDF also loads very slowly while scrolling for some reason.

Viability of Long Term Play

To repeat, I haven't run Troika! or even tested it in a one-shot. 35/133 pages (31%) are devoted purely to character backgrounds. There are lots of one-shot play reports out there. Multisession reports are sparse, but they do exist. Some math-based humans have pointed out Troika!'s core d6 system might suffer under repeated rolls. The leveling system is less about motivation and more about reinforcement. As with any system, players with strong and complex goals will help drive longer games.

Backgrounds are loaded with flavour. They immediately grab people.Their vibrant, irreverent, and intriguing nature dominates most reviews. This has its pros and cons. Flavour fades fast. Rolling up a Troika! character is like biting into a new and delicious pastry; eating that pastry week after week, month after month doesn't seem to appeal to many people. .

That's not nessesarily an issue, but it's something to be aware of when you're picking a system. Do you front-load on superb character generation and backgrounds, or spread the goodness out over a longer play period? What's right for your group and style? How often do you expect to roll to find out?

How Likely Is It That This Book Will Be Burned As A Satanic Object

Moderately likely. Intermittent dick-wizards.

Is This Book OSR?

Fucked if I know. Fighting Fantasy has pedigree. The backgrounds seem to reward item-based problem solving. Compatibility seems to vary.

Price
$12 for a PDF of the Numinous Edition, though it's probably on sale. There's a bundle that contains... things? Not sober enough to examine. EDIT: More bundles. Physical copies here.

Final Notes
Troika! is a fun, hackable, fairly rules-light game. A setting is vaguely implied but never stated. The ideal use-case seems to be a one- or two-shot systemless dungeon or adventure; heavier than Kobolds Ate My Baby but lighter than B/X. People say it also pairs well with fun dungeons like The Mysterious Menagerie of Doctor Orville Boros.


Electric Bastionland

Electric Bastionland is Chris McDowall's updated version of Into the Odd. Since it's currently being Kickstarted, this review is based on a mix of Into the Odd and previews. You've been warned four times. Shoo!

The original Into the Odd assumed you knew... pretty much everything about D&D-type RPGs. Maybe even a bit more. Full terms from page 1, no intro, no context, just rules and guidance.

The system uses 3 condensed stats (Strength, Dexterity and Willpower) instead of the traditional D&D 6. This makes cross-compatibility with other OSR products slightly harder, but still easier than Troika!.

Backgrounds
Backgrounds have a gimmick. They're HP derived. High HP, worse items. Low HP, better items. It's neat and symmetrical, but it also shows where the system is focused. Electric Bastionland has 100 backgrounds. Each background is a 2-page spread. The book is ~300 pages long. You do the math.

The backgrounds are cool and evocative, and that's clearly what the Kickstarter is focusing on. All the ones I've read immediately make me want to roll up a character, which is the point... but it's also a concern. Much like Troika!, if the bulk of the book is devoted to material you'll only use once, at character generation, how suitable is the material for long-term play?

HP correlated to starting items. In most 5+ session games, how critical is the starting item to everyday play? Compare that to one-shots.

I totally get why Chris wants each background to be a 2-page spread. The art is lovely. It helps build the implied setting. It's consistent. It's natural. It's smooth. But it's still ~120 words for 2 pages. That's a huge cost. It's reflected in the book's price tag and shipping. You're paying for an awful lot of ink that's sitting dead on the page instead of springing to life.

Side Note: Page Weighting
In a novel, all pages have the same weight. In nonfiction books, footnote, endnote, map, or illustration pages might be referenced more than a text page.

But in an RPG, density is all over the place. A background gets referenced once, at character generation. The rules page might get referenced every session. Optimizing layout to avoid flipping through dead pages is critical, the ease of PDFs often makes authors forget this step.Two crucial elements might be separated by 20+ pages of bulk.

There's another level. If your system has 1 page on dungeon exploration and 1 page on goat farming, casual readers might be tempted to think your game places equal weight on both, when in reality most sessions will be spent on the minutiae of hoof-rot and wet feed, with dungeons as an intermittent distraction available to one fringe class.

It's an issue that's hard to avoid, but it's worth considering when you're laying out a book. In play, pages have different weight. On a first readthrough, they all weigh the same.
Physical weight is important too, as mentioned in the Troika! section. I believe Chris is working on a method to avoid having to flap over 200+ background pages to get between everday rules sections, so that should be fine, but it's still a concern.
Side Note: Highly Amorphous Settings
I don't like 'em.

RPGs have a shared conceit. A number of otherwise fairly sensible humans get together and pretend that a world that exists only in their heads is real, or at least sort-of real.
This is hard when the rules that govern the imaginary world are explicitly ambiguous. I don't mean rules as in game rules, like how hard it is to hit an orc. I mean rules as distance, time, space, theme, and tone.

And stakes. Why is Age of Sigmar so watery compared to Warhammer Fantasy? Because the world of Age of Sigmar isn't real. It's an amorphous collection of abstracts. Floating cities and chaotic realms. Exploding continents instead of forests. Rivers of blood instead of rivers of river. For all its faults, Warhammer Fantasy was a mirror of real-world history, in all its richness and relatability. 

There’s no timeline, no history, no reading comprehension exercise to undertake before you get started with play. Instead, the setting of Bastion is communicated through Spark Tables: lists of random events, characters, locations, and items all written around the central themes of the game. These Sparks keep the city in a constant state of flux, and no two excursions into the mad streets (or the treacherous underground) will be the same.
-Electric Bastionland Kickstarter
Bastionland, as far as I can tell from the previews and blogposts, is a chaotic ur-city, a protoplasmic urban 'scape. Its broadness tries and, in my opinion, fails to evoke much of anything. While trying to be general, it becomes watered down; a city where the stakes don't matter because the stakes are explicitly pointed out as fatuous constructs. The book can't help but lean against the cardboard scenery. Troika! has bumble-logic; Bastionland lacks even that folk-tale stopgap.


By rights, I should like Bastionland. It compliments Magical Industrial Revolution like chocolate and orange; games run using both should be spectacular. But the implied setting just feels like a collection Capitalized Nouns instead of a real place. Not sure if this is really an issue or if it's intentional design.
Rules
All the rules fit on 2 pages. These two pages, in fact. Fitting your rules onto 2 pages is great.

Compared to traditional D&D, the rules are a little bit weird. The combined pick-the-highest-result damage and attack rolls are probably the single highest barrier to compatibly with other products.

They also feel... very gamey. Does that make sense at all? Somehow, rolling a bunch of dice and picking the highest number shown feels less diegetic than rolling once dice and relaying the result to the GM. Could be personal. Not sure.

Maze Rats is a rapidly mutating strain of Into the Odd that's mostly tables. Good tables.


Spells

Haven't been previewed yet, but are probably similar to ItO's Oddities. Item-based problem solving writ large.

Bestiary

ItO's bestiary fit on one page and was, in my opinion, pretty mediocre. Some new ideas, some basic ideas expanded at length, no guidance, and no indexing. Some were more like traps or environmental effects than beasts. No idea what Electric Bastionland's will look like, or even if it will have one.

Art Quality

Electric Bastionland seems to be wholly illustrated by one artist (Alec Sorensen). I like it. It's consistent, tidy, and well done. Heavy use of black ink to define space is not ideal for a product people might want to print at home, but so it goes.

PDF Optimization
Still in progress, I'd imagine. ItO was optimized by 2015's standards. Let's hope Electric Bastionland does better.

Viability of Long Term Play

The advancement system is based around Scars. If I'm reading the draft rules correctly (no guarantees! You should've been warned!), Scars are accumulated by dropping to exactly 0 HP. Not the most OSR advancement system. Why reward failure? Staying at comfortably high HP requires skill. ItO was even more basic; as you level up, only your reputation changes.

It seems, vaguely, like ItO and Bastionland characters start off good and slowly get whittled away. Perfect for short term play or West Marches games; less viable for long-term games.

Compared to Troika!, I've also seen fewer ItO / Bastionland hacks out there in the blogosphere. Could just be a perception issue. Could also be that the background system is slightly less modular. Who knows. I am not an expert.
EDIT: turns out they're just trickier to find. Here's a link to a collection of adjacent material.
Side Note: Write More Play Reports
A small percentage of people who run games write about them online. It's valuable data. If you've got a blog, even the most intermittent summary or play report helps.
How Likely Is It That This Book Will Be Burned As A Satanic Object?
Less likely. Probably rated PG, even.

Is Electric Bastionland OSR?
Again, fucked if I know. Probably? While I'm not sure the core gameplay loop promotes clever play, it does seem to fit the Ten Commandments.


Final Notes
Electric Bastionland is (going to be) a fun, focused, relatively rules-light game. An amorphous mixed-up tech-based urban setting is implied. The ideal use-case of the new book is up in the air, but I suspect shorter games or open table / West Marches games (where the adventuring company / job board exists but players drop in or out) will suit the system nicely. Shane Liebling's playtest sessions of Magical Murder Mansion were run in a playtest version of Electric Bastionland and they seemed to work pretty well.

Final Final Notes

Should You Buy These Games?
For the third time, fucked if I know. If you can afford it, sure. If not, no. Both seem to be great for one shots, convention games, OSR intros, or games where rapidly generating a new and evocative character is the goal. Both books are pretty. Both are written by what seem to be fairly decent human beings. Both are well worth examining from a design standpoint, and have plenty of good tools that can be used in many games.

But for long term, month-after-month play, I'm deeply skeptical about both systems. The downside of background-loaded is that the characters can grow stale. Having tasted one delicious and perfect background, players desire another. Like soft sugary fruit candies they melt away after a few moments of exquisite flavour. Both games weight backgrounds heavily. I like foregrounds.This isn't a flaw in the systems. It's a choice.

Post complaints below. This review was mostly an excuse to write the side notes.

Also, note to self, don't write while drunk and edit while sober. It never seems to work.

31 comments:

  1. I enjoy the occasional writing of a tipsy Skerples.

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  2. I'm a huge fan of ItO and am very hyped for Electric Bastionland, but I definitely don't think it's super suitable for long term play. That said, for me, ItO absolutely shines as a way to introduce new players to RPGs, specifically to OSRish ones. The rules can be explained very quickly, are very easy to remember, and are just a good solid beer-and-pretzels ish base for quick romps through horrifying terrains.

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  3. I'm fairly confused by your critique of the setting... as far as I know, the preview didn't actually contain any of the setting sections, which are confirmed to be in the final product.

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    1. Not that your criticisms were overly harsh, I just didn't see the content you're actually critiquing, and as far as I know, it isn't available to the public yet. But from what we've seen of random screencaps, the tables used to construct the setting are fairly extensive and particular (cocktail tables, bar game tables, etc)

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    2. Ah, I'm going off blogposts, blog previews (like this one: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/--4-LaQYWq-o/XbwbWP0CN8I/AAAAAAAAc-A/4XRymh60gpsS-X_X4Poa6F7lmRTqIj6VQCK4BGAYYCw/s1600/Understanding%2BB.png), and Into the Odd.

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  4. Copied from a Discord:

    "- Yeah, the starting characters defined mostly by items was a huge problem the one time I played Into The Odd
    - Because I had a player that, uh, stress tested the game by killing herself three times
    - In ways where the starting items could be recovered
    - By the end of the session the characters had little defining them
    - EB backgrounds seem like they'll be a step forward in that starting characters at least have an occupation to define them
    - The other thing was that STR and DEX basically didn't matter except as saves which are "nice to have" but add nothing to what the character is good at achieving. At that point I realized... I kinda miss attack rolls"

    On the other hand, I really like the magic items, and the setting is fine for me.

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    1. Commiting suicide in a game is fantastic! That's playing smart. I would have also allowed the new character to retain the dead one's memories... and then, a sudden realization that he is a human cat and he has only 4 more lives available.

      The characters are defined and differentiated by what they can do, and what they can do comes from their Arcana (now called Oddities, which is a terrible name).

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  5. As for there not being a lot ItO hacks - I have to disagree. There are a TON. Many started as blog posts. I put a bunch here:

    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ipMsbNE5EH6-1_d58o_JfneF2XA4yWqfr5XxJInSzqI/edit?usp=drivesdk

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    1. Thank you! I had trouble finding some, so it's great to see this material collected and organized. Link added.

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    2. Yeah, they were. That's why I made the dang thing. Thanks for the edit!

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  6. To be fair, I thought the same thing regarding long-term play viability when I first looked at the GLOG.

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    1. For sure, though even on a casual reading, the GLOG's got a level 1-4 thing going on. Subsequent levels look pretty flat. There's a similar character focus though usually much less about backgrounds.

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    2. Hrm, being a big Troika! fan and a new GloG fan, I wonder how a set of Backgrounds for GloG might work. I came up with a set of characters for a solo game I hope to run soon, and I was trying to engineer the Temple Knight of Telak the Swordbringer into the GloG and decided it needed to be treated as a race instead of a class.

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    3. Hrm, not sure. At a glance, I'd say:
      -Special either becomes Template A or the Race Bonus/Drawback. Possibly both.
      -Background spell lists get split into the usual 12. Some will need to be added.
      -Background skills... well, some of them are rolled into the core GLOG, some of them can be used as skills, and some might need to be Template abilities.
      As a source for ideas, it's quite good.

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  7. How do you judge long term playability? I'm not so interested in level up systems as I am in how invested in the world players get. Screw arbitrarily assigning some numbers. I want to gain infamy and wealth, I want a menagerie of ghoulish henchman following me around to show how far I've made it in life. Both systems seem to hunt at that kind of aesthetic investment (though without providing the gm very many tools to facilitate such advancement).

    Anyways I think purchasing depends on what you want to do with it. I've never played Troika, but I consider it among my most valuable rpg books purely for writing style inspiration. I get more ideas from 1 paragraph of Sell's writing than form 10 pages of most other rpg authors.

    I funded bastionland for the setting. I think it's odd that you don't seem to like the amorphous table based setting when MIR is pretty much all "use as you please" tools and tables for setting. I will probably never play the bastionland setting, but then again I never play any setting I buy. I buy books to get inspiration for my own settings.

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    1. "How do you judge long term playability?"
      There are a few factors, but book focus is one of them. Both Troika! and ItO/EB(as far as can be determined from preview materials) focus on character generation. Lots of tools are provided for creating interesting and vibrant new characters. Relatively few tools are provided to facilitate long-term play, either from a mechanical perspective or a

      Compare that to the GLOG, which has clearly defined power gain from levels 1-4. It's fair to evaluate that as "Oh, the GLOG seems to mostly be designed for medium-length campaigns where level 4 is reached but level 10, say, is rare."

      Or take 5th Edition, which has clearly defined power gain from level 1 to level Many. It's fair to evaluate that as "5th Edition has support for long-term games, where the same characters are expected to go from low level and power to very high level and power."

      Now, *all* systems can work for long-term play if the players are motivated and invested in the world. You could run an RPG that's just rock-paper-scissors and your imagination and the players, if sufficiently invested and interested, would turn up for years. But since that factor is the same for all games, and since tools to support that motivation are very difficult to evaluate, I can't really do much with it. Hinting at aesthetic investment is great but difficult to use to judge long-term viability.

      Oh for sure, Troika's very well written and it's a great resource.

      I guess, with Bastionland vs. MIR/Endon, the difference is that Endon is a stable "real" platform onto which tables and tools are layered. Bastionland doesn't have that foundation (see comment above about "as far as I can be determined..."). It's tables all the way down and up. MIR treats Endon as a real-ish place to be explored; Bastionland has always felt as exploration that sometimes creates a real-ish place.

      As a collection of tools and inspiration, it's superb.

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    2. (same person as before, I'm using a work computer)
      Hmm, I never bought ItO so I can't say much about that. I've been toying with the idea of trying to write something that gives a bunch of tools for non character sheet based progression. I really like Last Gasp Grimoires idea of finding spells in a wizards skull for example. I also really like the idea of fighters learning special techniques from fighting schools or grandmasters or whatever. A consistent issue that's nagged at me for a while is trying to motivate my players to put down and ignore what's on their character sheet. OSR wisdom says "the answer isn't on the character sheet" yet every OSR system seems to focus on providing character sheet based tools for progression and character generation.

      Fair point about how Endon's setting is based on a more stable structure. Btw I should mention that I've been super stoked to get MIR ever since I backed it. I really, really appreciate how usable the pdf is as well. I think my initial comment sounded a tad negative.

      I like GLOG a lot, I also like how flavorful Troika is and how much focus their is on items, spells, and special abilities over just upping some stats. I get that their needs to be a system for progression, but I wish that system could be more built into the world instead of the character sheets.

      I have no idea how to accomplish that though.

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    3. btw when I say "character sheet" I'm differentiating between inventory/spells and statistical numbers like skills, hp, and ability scores.

      It's fun to say "I have a tea set, what can I do with that, can I make people like me by making them tea?" versus "I have charisma, so obviously I can persuade"

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    4. The one downside to learning skills diegetically (i.e. in the fiction) is that it's a one-player minigame. The rest of the group could participate but probably not as foreground characters. So in a group of 5 players, the GM either has to prep and run 5 simultaneous mini adventures, or prep 5 and one them one at a time while 4 players do, effectively, very little.

      Tricky.
      A really interesting way I've found to make players think less about class abilities is to put stats and common rolls on one side of the sheet and abilities on the back. Somehow, flipping over a sheet makes the abilities drop out of sight for a bit.

      No worries r.e. negative MIR comments; not how I interpreted it.

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  8. I like the notion of page weight. However, I also see potential workarounds. For example, since the EB failed careers are numbered, they currently double as npc-table, villain table, plot item, and "what's in their knapsack"-table. If some location/s were added to each spread, you'd have a very good generator for city-specific adventures with a lot of emergent possibilities since it would naturally populate the setting with coincidence and character somewhat like the PCs. So a lot of "it's Harlon, your old rival from the prize breeding days. She's also into crocodiles now!"

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    1. That's a pretty cool idea. A "Where Dwelleth Thee?" table (or even entry) per career, on the same page, could be fun. "What hovel cloaks your filthy body?" "Where's your lab?" "Where do you park your crocodile?"

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  9. I ran a Fighting Fantasy campaign back in the mid-90's. The original system has serious balance problems and the campaign got very silly very quickly, with characters one-shotting greater demons and that sort of thing. It was ridiculous but it was also great fun; I don't know if that means the system works for long-term play or not.

    I haven't run Troika! yet but my feeling is that it might be a bit more balanced... maybe? Characters are even more random than in FF but the backgrounds and unique gear and special skills lean into the randomness and make it part of fun, whereas in the original, if you had less SKILL than the other characters you didn't have anything else to play with and would always get left behind.

    There was also a mechanical problem with player-characters being superhuman in comparison to NPCs. Troika! has attempted to solve that with a more brutal and swingy damage system. I don't think it's the way I would have solved the issue but it looks like it could work. Again, I haven't seen it in action.

    Is it OSR? I suppose it depends on which side of the Atlantic you grew up. ;)

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  10. I believe the rule about taking the best attack to damage a target and discarding the rest is intended to ameliorate a problem lots of rpgs have where monsters get "action economied" to death - they get one action and then the players get four or five. It also encourages the players to do things other than just attack every round. If someone gets in a good hit, the rest of the characters can think of other, more interesting things do instead, since they aren't foregoing dealing vital damage by doing so.

    The obvious downside is that it can completely obviate someone's contributions. If everyone piles on but only the best roll counts, the others might as well not be there.

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    1. Fair points. I think it's a fine system as far as systems go, I just thought it should be pointed out as something that might require adaptation. Lots of monsters in other books have ways to deal with the action economy. Converting them over could be tricky.

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  11. I would like to read more reviews like these two!

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  12. I love both Troika! and Into the Odd (but LotFP is still my main game). I didn't read the original Troika!, and having seen the preview, I'm not interested in Electric Bastionland, too much money for too little content (I'll still get the PDF, perhaps). Yeah, I like the character generation, but we don't need tons of official characters, just a few, and guidelines to make our own. Two hunderd pages of it is truly excesive. I really dislike the new trend of making books that focus on looking good above being usable and offering tools.

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    1. Yeah, for me, 200 pages is a bit much. That's (for example) longer than the Trilemma Compendium, or Magical Industrial Revolution + Magical Murder Mansion, or exactly as long as Ultraviolet Grasslands, or slightly shorter than 2 AD&D Monster Manuals. Just on character backgrounds.

      I understand Chris' reasons (consistent format, full-page art, etc.), but it does seem like a lot of page for not a lot of content. Oh well, it's not my book. :D

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  13. There are two mechanistic aspect of Troika! I thought you would mention and you didn't. First the fact that combat is an opposed roll, meaning that no mater who attacked, someone is going to get hurt (the defender *or* the attacker). This makes combat very fast.

    The second is that how instead of in the GLOG, B/x etc where you want to avoid dice rolling (because it could fail, to serious consequences) in Troika! to advance your skills you *have* to use them. So that aspect has the "reverse philosophy", and I'm still thinking about what impact that would have on the game play - quite significant I imagine, but is it a good thing?

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    1. Aspect 1: Ah, I figured that'd be covered under "like Fighting Fantasy", but perhaps not. It's a neat system. I'm also not sure how much pure combat takes place in Troika! compared to other RPGs.

      Aspect 2: Excellent point, something I didn't consider at all, and well worth examining. The usual OSR-ish mindset is that rolling = risk, and good plans = low risk = no or few rolls. Does that mesh with a level-up system that requires rolls? Probably not, but people have pointed out that leveling up in Troika! is less of a motivation and more of an outcome.

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    2. I remember that in some -- but not all versions of the Chaosium d100 system you got a chance to improve a skill every time you used it, just as in Troika!. This did sometimes lead to "golf bag syndrome" in which players would try to use all of their skills in every situation -- "I'll fast talk the guard. Now I'll pickpocket him. Now I'll paint a picture of him." -- in order to get their advancement ticks.

      I imagine unscrupulous Troika! players would do the same thing, but I also imagine a sensible GM would put a stop to such silliness if it came up.

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    3. Oh lord, the flashbacks. "And after pickpocketing him I index the contents of his wallet. Does that count as Library Use?"

      Admittedly, if anyone tried that in Troika! I think the GM would be within their rights to turn them into a sentient golf bag... but it's still a concern.

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