Union: Troika! + Red Ink Adventures

Confession #1: I don’t like roll-under systems. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Into the Odd, but that’s mostly because of the simplified tri-stat characters and razor-sharp, wicked fast combat. The math is opposite and it feels wrong.

Confession #2: I love six-sided dice. A lot. Most gamers use d20, which is fine. But nothing compares to the simplicity and geometric beauty of a cube. You just can’t do it. Plus, 6 is a great number by being easily divisible by 2 and 3 and just being a low enough number for making some really swell tables. Most d6 tables have neither too many entries, nor too few.

Confession #3: 2d6 roll-under is an abomination. There’s just no way around it. Rolling snake-eyes will never feel good to me. Boxcars are where it’s at. I just get this terrible feeling that the bell-curve combined with a roll-under system was just never meant to be. 

Confession #4: I love Troika!! (I guess I’m supposed to add a second exclamation after “Troika!”) But not for the system. I’ve played Fighting Fantasy. It’s alright, I guess. But what makes Troika! so excellent is its gonzo, artistically demanding style. It has flair like few other RPGs I’ve witnessed. The backgrounds make the game for me, and I’m sure most Troika! fans will agree it does the same for them. 

But that system is yucky…

And I want to keep the backgrounds… They’re amazing. Full compatibility.

Thus, I’ve elected to take on the project of converting the best bits of Troika! to my own Red Ink Adventures, which actually fit quite nicely if I do say so myself.

Quick Look Changelog

  • All have become 1d6 (few exceptions)
  • No more “Skill” stat
  • All “Advanced Skills” are just “Skills”
  • No stats are random
  • Added Advantage and Disadvantage
  • No Mighty Blows
  • 1-in-6 chance of an Oops! when casting a spell (embrace the chaos of a statistically improbable table of genius!)
  • Removed all the yucky British “u”s. My spell-checker is a proud American! 😛

The biggest change is the first one. Skills range from 1 to 3, which is the perfect level if you’re aiming to a 6. A skill of 4 is rare, just still has a chance to fail. A skill of 5 of makes failure impossible, but there are only one or two examples of that in the base game, all of which are language skills.

Onward and inward and throughward and spew words!

I love this happy little guy 🙂

Character Creation

  1. Record 20 Stamina.
  2. Record 4 Luck.
  3. Record Baseline Possessions that every new character starts with: 2d6 Silver Pence, a Knife, a Lantern & Flask of Oil, a Rucksack, 6 Provisions.
  4. Roll d66 on the Background Table and record Possessions and Skills.

Backgrounds

Backgrounds are everything your character was before you got hold of them. They provide you with Skills, Possessions, and other Special benefits where noted. Slide into the role and make it your own. 

Roll randomly to determine your starting Background. Notice that they only touch the edge of specificity: it is up to you to tailor them to the worlds you play in. Rework them or remove them entirely and replace them with your own unique vision of the spheres. Boldly lay claim to the games you play, create content recklessly, and always write in pen.

Creating Your Own Backgrounds

When creating your own Backgrounds, as a general rule, stick to 10 or so total points distributed in a range of 1 to 3 with 3 being someone who has already mastered their trade. Do not dismiss the importance of a description — they are the players’ window into the world — but don’t feel intimidated by them. Keep them simple and pack as much information into them as you are able; when they are short and evocative the player will fill in the gaps. The Backgrounds need not be balanced or equal to one another but should instead be fun and flavorful. After making a new Background take a moment to consider the reaction of someone receiving it instead of some other entry in your particular and ever-changing list. Balance the enjoyment rather than the numbers.

This is the part where you either A) use the original table from Troika! B) Use David Schirduan’s Character Generator, C) find a list of Troika! backgrounds from somewhere on the internet, or D) make your own using the directions above. 

The Rules

1. Rolling the Dice

There is only one die type used in Troika!, that being the d6. This can be used as a d3, d6, d66, d666, and so on. To roll a d3 just roll a d6 and halve it, rounding up. To roll a d66, d666, or more just roll a d6 as many times, in order, as there are 6s. So, a d66 would be a d6 followed by another d6 (e.g. I roll a 1 then roll a 4 thus making a roll of 14). To do most actions you’ll be required to roll 1d6, as a Roll or an Opposed Roll.

1.1 Roll

A Roll is the throwing of 1d6 and adding a relevant Skill with the intention of scoring equal to or above a 6. This will mainly be used in unopposed situations like climbing a wall or casting a Spell.

1.2 Opposed Roll

An Opposed Roll, mostly used for combat or other contests, occurs when two opponents each roll 1d6 and add any applicable Skill, then compare results, the higher total winning. In a duel you might be rolling 1d6 and adding your Sword Fighting total, looking to beat your opponent who is doing the same. On a tie, neither side succeeds. In times when this would not make sense, reroll ties.

1.3 Advantage

If you have a favorable position on a given Roll or Opposed Roll, roll 2d6 instead of 1d6 and use the higher roll. Advantage cancels Disadvantage.

1.4 Disadvantage

If you have an unfavorable position on a given Roll or Opposed Roll, roll 2d6 instead of 1d6 and use the lower roll. Disadvantage cancels Advantage.

2. Skills and Spells

Characters will have a variety of Skills & Spells granted them by their Background. Write these on the character sheet. 

EXAMPLE: Bob is a freshly made Rhino-Man. This means he starts with 3 Spear Fighting, 2 Run, 2 Strength and 1 Gambling.

3. Luck

Of all the numbers on your character sheet Luck is likely to fluctuate the most. This number represents your character’s fortune and intuition, tested whenever fate swipes at them. When this happens, the GM will ask you to Test your Luck or suffer the consequences.

3.1 Testing your Luck

Roll 1d6 and add your current Luck score. If you roll a 6 or higher, you succeed and avoid the consequences. If you fail, you suffer greater consequences. Every time you Test your Luck you must reduce your current Luck score by 1 regardless of whether the Test was successful or not. Testing your Luck is optional; you may always refuse to roll and instead accept your fate.

3.2 Gaining and Losing Luck

For every 8 hours rest you may regain 1d3 Luck. Luck may not exceed the maximum value and may not go below 0. Running out of Luck inflicts no special penalty. You may Test your Luck even with 0 current Luck.

3.3 Use of Luck in Combat

In the case of a tie the character may Test their Luck to break it in their favor. When a character successfully hits an opponent, but before rolling for Damage, they may decide to Test their Luck and, if successful, may add 2 to their Damage Roll. If unsuccessful, subtract 1 from their Damage Roll.

3.4 Test your Luck Versus Death

Characters who about to die may Test their Luck. If successful, they are incapacitated, wounded, or saved by some bizarre twist of fate instead of dying. Otherwise, they die.

4. Stamina

4.1 Running Out of Stamina

When reduced to 0 Stamina you are in danger of dying and must be healed in order to survive. If this is during an Initiative Round the next time the End of the Round Token is drawn, you Test your Luck Versus Death. If this happens out of Initiative your friends have one opportunity to Heal you (restoring you to 1 Stamina).

4.2 Healing

You regain 2d6 Stamina if you sleep for 8 hours. You may also eat a Provision to regain 1d6 Stamina. A maximum of 3 Provisions per day will provide healing benefits. There may be other forms of healing available at your GM’s discretion such as visiting bath houses or drinking potions. You may never have more Stamina than your starting total. 

4.3 Negative Stamina

If you ever go below 0 Stamina, you Test your Luck Versus Death.

4.4 Death

You may immediately make a new character while others mourn your loss and fight over your possessions. This new character starts exactly according to the rules found at the beginning of this book. 

5. Initiative

5.1 Assemble the Stack

During combat or at other times where it is important to know who goes first you will need to assemble the Initiative Stack. To do this get a container and a selection of colored dice or other convenient markers (consider cards, poker chips, and so on). 

5.1.1 Assign each character 2 Tokens of a single color.

5.1.2 Add Tokens to the Stack for the enemies equal to their total combined Initiative (if you have 8 Lizard-Men (Initiative 2) you would add 16 tokens to the Stack).

5.1.3 Add 1 Token of a distinct color to the Stack. This Token signifies the End of the Round.

5.1.4 Enemy Initiative Limit. It is very likely that sometimes the characters’ enemies will grossly outnumber them and make it very hard for them to act. The GM may optionally limit the number of Enemy Initiative Tokens placed in the Stack to double that which the characters contribute. So, if a party of 5 (10 Initiative Tokens in total) is attacked by fifty goblins (50 Initiative Tokens) the goblins will only contribute 20 Tokens to the Stack. Bear in mind that the GM should feel free to balance Initiative Stacks as it seems appropriate.

5.2 Using the Stack

The GM will remove a Token from the Stack at random, the color or design of which will determine who holds the Initiative and takes a Turn. Consider giving a copy of their Token to each player so that everyone remembers which color or design is theirs. 

5.3 End of the Round

If the End of the Round Token is drawn all Tokens, including the End of the Round Token, are put back in the Stack. Remove Tokens contributed by dead characters and enemies, resolve any per Round or end of Round activities such as magic effects, Drowning (7.9), fire, poison, or bleeding, then draw another Token and carry on.

5.4 Henchmen

Hired help that are willing to engage in combat each provide 1 Initiative Token to the Stack. Henchmen share a single color Token and when a henchman Token is drawn the GM determines who acts and what they do. The GM should take the wishes of the players under advisement but act in the best interests of the henchman. 

5.5 Enemies

All enemies contribute a varying number of Initiative Tokens to the Initiative Stack according to their combined Initiative and share the same color or design. When drawing an enemy Initiative Token the GM can declare that any enemy is acting, including an enemy who has acted previously this Round. Obviously, this can be abused for mechanical gain on the GM’s part though that would be entirely to the detriment of the game and is discouraged. Apply Initiative Tokens as they make sense. 

5.6 Rationale

The random Turn length adds a degree of uncertainty where you never know how much time you have left. When actions are not taking place it represents hesitation, panic, or other incidental delays that can happen in a tense encounter where every second counts. The goblins have few Tokens because they are cowardly, not because they are slow; the dragon has many because it knows exactly what it wants, not because it is fast. 

6. Actions

When you hold the Initiative, you may take a Turn and can generally perform one action. The following list is not exhaustive, and the GM is encouraged to interpret player intentions as best they can. 

6.1 Hit Someone

To stab, bludgeon, or otherwise physically interfere with someone, make an Opposed Roll of 1d6+Skill Versus an opponent doing the same thing. The winner Rolls for Damage and the loser deducts the number generated by the Damage Roll from their Stamina. Note that either party in any exchange can potentially win. In a tie both parties have avoided hurting each other. Also note that this means you can potentially hit an unlimited number of people in a Round but may only Initiate once per Turn. 

6.2 Shoot Someone

Shooting an opponent is resolved by make an Opposed Roll.

6.2.1 Shooting Into Melee. When shooting into melee on a successful hit assign a number to every individual involved and roll a die. If their number comes up, they receive the Damage. 

6.2.2 Aim. On your Turn you may decide to take Aim with your ranged Weapon. To do so hold onto your Initiative Token. When your next Initiative Token is drawn you may roll twice and pick the best roll. If the End of the Round Token comes up and you haven’t used your Aim Token, you may decide to hold onto it for the next Round. 

6.3 Cast a Spell

Each Spell has its own instructions on how it should be used but in general you will need to spend a certain amount of Stamina and make a Roll or an Opposed Roll (for Spells that require you to touch an unwilling party, for instance) in order to create some kind of effect. Unless the Spell says otherwise it requires at least one hand free and the ability to speak. Roll on the Oops! Table if the result is a natural 1. 

6.4 Delay 

You may choose not to act when you hold Initiative. In that case put your Token back in the Stack. 

6.5 Move

Every action is assumed to have a bit of movement involved. Anything less than 12 feet is folded into whatever else you might be doing. If you wish to chase after someone or perform some other involved locomotion, then just spend a Turn doing it.

6.6 Retrieve an Item

If you need to get something out that you weren’t already holding in your hands roll 2d6 and score equal to or higher than its position on your Inventory list. If you succeed you can pull it out and do what you intended. Otherwise you spend your entire action finding it. Double 1s always indicate a failure. Retrieving an arrow counts as an item retrieval. Make sure they’re packed on top! See Sections 10.3 and 10.4.1 for more on Inventories.

6.7 Use an Item

If an item is in your hands you may use it however you like (6.6).

6.8 Grapple

Make an Opposed Roll versus your opponent’s Wrestling Skill. If you win you may either knock them to the ground or deal Damage as Unarmed and knock you both to the ground (from throwing or tackling them). On a Mighty Blow (7.4) you render them unconscious for 1d6 Rounds. If you fail to grapple them, they may deal Damage to you as though they had attacked you normally whereas if you Fumble (7.5) they deal you a Mighty Blow. 

7. Other Concerns

7.1 Cover

When attacking someone in cover they receive a bonus to their roll to not be hit. Consider a waist high bush to be +1 while a castle’s crenulations would be +6.

7.2 Enemies

Mechanically speaking, an opponent is typically reduced to three numbers: Skill, Stamina, and Initiative. Beyond this they may have a specific Skill or two or some peculiar special rules. 

7.3 Hitting Someone Unawares

If your opponent is not aware of your presence, roll Damage. You may add 2 to your Damage Roll. 

7.6 Shields

Shields reduce Damage Rolls by 1 to a minimum of 1. 

7.7 Use of Multiple Weapons

When rolling Damage, you may choose which Weapon to reference the Damage Roll against after rolling. You must be holding it in your hands or nearest approximations, obviously. 

7.8 Falling Over

When on the floor you suffer -1 to all physical rolls against those standing, including Damage Rolls, and must spend a Turn getting to your feet. 

7.8.1 Falling Too Far. When engaging in uncontrolled falls you lose 1d6 Stamina per 6 feet fallen when you land.

7.9 Drowning

When you fail a Swimming Test you begin to Drown and lose 1d6 Stamina. For each consecutive Swimming Test where you make no progress you roll an additional 1d6. So, for instance your third failed Swimming roll in a row would lose you 3d6 Stamina. Once you lose all Stamina you have Drowned. 

7.9.1 Fire, Poison, and Bleeding. Any ongoing debilitating effects should be treated similarly to Drowning. Unless you have a specific effect in mind have the victim lose 1d6 Stamina per Turn with it optionally becoming more severe unless they either pass a related Advanced Skill Test or successfully Test their Luck (or Skill for Enemies). Improvisation is strongly encouraged. 

7.9.2 Degenerative Effects in Combat. Test for Drowning, fire, etc. only when the End of the Round Token is drawn.

7.10 Henchmen

Henchmen are created as you would a monster, with truncated abilities only covering their essence. They are their own people with their own motivations and are not just pieces of equipment. It is up to the GM and players to flesh them out or not as the case may be. Also see Section 5.4.

7.11 Time

There are two main units of time in the game: Turns and Rounds. A Turn is what someone does when they hold Initiative and is a few seconds long. A Round is the period between drawing successive End of the Round Tokens and is roughly equal to one minute. 

8. Damage

When you win a Roll Versus an opponent in combat you inflict Damage. After successfully hitting someone roll 1d6 and consult the Damage Charts. Reference your Damage Roll across the top row and the Weapon down the side. The result is the Damage inflicted and is deducted from your opponent’s Stamina. 

8.2 Damage Modifiers

All modifiers that add bonuses to Damage will, unless otherwise specified, modify the roll of the die, not the actual Damage inflicted. So, for instance, I have +1 to my Damage Roll and roll a 5 on the Sword entry. Due to my bonus I am counted as having rolled a 6 and inflict 8 Damage instead of 6. 

8.3 Unusual Weapons

It is entirely acceptable to use existing Weapons to provide the Damage matrix of roughly equivalent Exotic Weapons, such as counting a Rapier as a Sword for Damage purposes. This does not preclude the possibility of making specific matrices for your inventions. 

9. Armor

Armor offers a certain degree of protection to your soft and supple body. There are four levels of protection, vaguely defined, allowing you to assign whatever assortment of pots and pans you might be wearing to an appropriate level without too much bother. A target is considered to be Unarmored, Lightly Armored, Modestly Armored, or Heavily Armored. Each modifies Damage Rolls by 0, -1, -2 and -3 respectively, to a minimum of 1. 

9.1 Armor Encumbrance

Armor takes up a number of item slots equal to twice its protective value. So Heavy Armor would use six slots, for example. See Section 10.2 

10. Encumbrance

You may carry twelve things without issue. On your character sheet you will have twelve spaces to write in the things you’re lugging around with you. 

10.1 Small Items

Some items are of inconsequential individual weight, like arrows, and will only ever take up one slot unless you have an awful lot of them. What constitutes a lot is up to your group to decide. 

10.2 Large Items

Large items are anything you need both hands to hold. They take up two slots in your inventory (we recommend writing them at a jaunty angle to fill up the space). Armor has its own rules. 

10.3 Retrieving Items in a Hurry

See Section 6.6. Note that having things near the top of your Inventory list is advantageous, so put things you’ll rarely need in a hurry, like Armor and money, near the bottom. Pack your bags well!

10.4 Overburdened

If you find yourself carrying more than 12 items, you suffer Disadvantage on all rolls due to the inconvenient weight. If you are carrying 18 items or more you suffer Disadvantage on all rolls, you can hardly move, and you count as Unawares (7.3) for anyone wanting to stab you.

10.4.1 Dropping Things in a Hurry. If you want to unburden yourself quickly roll 1d6. The result is how many slots of things you may carefully put down this Turn. You may roll 2d6 if you don’t mind them getting broken or lost.

11. Getting Better

Life is learning and you cannot experience it without growing in some way. Your characters will bend and change in response to their environment. 

11.1 How to Advance

At the end of each session, the group will answer the following questions:

  • Did we learn something new and important about the world?
  • Did we overcome a notable monster or enemy?
  • Did we loot a memorable treasure?

For each “yes” all PCs gain 1 XP. You can change the end of sessions questions in order to better fit your campaign style and objectives.

11.2 Training

PCs can spend XP at the beginning or end of a session. 

  • Add a new +1 Skill = 1 XP
  • Increase a +1 Skill to +2 = 2 XP
  • Increase a +2 Skill to +3 = 4 XP
  • Increase Stamina by 2 = 3 XP

15. Enemies

The enemies that characters will encounter are not like them—they are simpler machines that produce similar results. 

15.1 Enemy Skill is Not Like Character Skill (7.2)

Enemy Skill covers everything they lack, including Luck. They use the same number to climb a rope as to hit or cast a Spell. 

15.1.2 Enemy Spells do not cost Stamina. 

15.2 Why the Stamina Disparity?

The Stamina of enemies tends towards lower numbers than characters. This is to speed battles along and to make it somewhat fairer on the characters who must spend Stamina for their magic. Note that the combat rules and Damage have been balanced in such a way that a goblin is a threat no matter how much Stamina it has. 

15.3 Initiative is Different for Enemies

While all characters contribute two Initiative Tokens each, enemies have their own specific totals. These are all the same color and are added to the Initiative Stack and drawn similarly to the characters’ Initiative Tokens. When an Enemy Token is drawn the GM may use it to activate and take a Turn with any enemy present. There is no limit to the number of times a single enemy may act in a Round—indeed you could have one enemy perform all actions drawn. This does not represent speed so much as it represents commitment to action while others stall or perform minor tasks (5.5). EXAMPLE: A lizard-man and a goblin are fighting the characters, both of which are contributing to the Initiative Stack. When an enemy Initiative Token is drawn the GM may declare that either one of them is acting. 

15.4 Armor is the Same

Rather than have varying types of Armor enemies just have a number. This is treated exactly the same as the numbers associated with character Armor and represents physical protection, speed, incorporeality, etc. 

15.5 Mien

If you have a plan for the enemies’ attitude, then go with that. Otherwise Roll to see how they appear when meeting the group. Use this as inspiration when playing them and to help avoid falling into routine hostility. 

Monsters

Boggart

  • Skill 1
  • Stamina 9
  • Initiative 2
  • Armor 0
  • Damage as Weapon or Modest Beast

Mien

  • 1 Belligerent
  • 2 Obstinate
  • 3 Petulant
  • 4 Insolent
  • 5 Sullen
  • 6 Smug

You could be forgiven for thinking a boggart was a rangy man with an exceedingly bristly beard, but no, once upon a time it sprung fully formed from a Hole and has been ungrateful and ill prepared for everything since. They rarely travel far from their birth hole although there is no pixie compulsion to do so, it’s more a point of principle and lack of imagination on their part. They can, if provoked, be violent in the defense of the land which they consider to be theirs, but they are prideful, stupid, and easily tricked.

Cyclops

  • Skill 3
  • Stamina 14
  • Initiative 3
  • Armor 2
  • Damage as Large Beast

Mien

  • 1 Tearful
  • 2 Depressed
  • 3 Melancholic
  • 4 Somber
  • 5 Resigned
  • 6 Mercurial

Once upon a time a nation of man asked one of the Aeons to grant them the power of immortality and foresight. The Aeons, being an arbitrary bunch, took one eye from each as fair exchange. The men found that their foresight was indeed present but extended only to knowledge of their eventual deaths by accident or violence. Feeling positively monkey-pawed, they agreed to go their separate ways and to never speak of it again. 

Special

When a cyclops is given Initiative, it may draw the next three Initiatives in order, thus granting them knowledge of who is going next. They know when and how they die, and this might not be it.

Goblin

  • Skill 0
  • Stamina 6
  • Initiative 1
  • Armor 1
  • Damage as Weapon

Harpy

  • Skill 2
  • Stamina 12
  • Initiative 3
  • Armor 0
  • Damage as Modest Beast

Lizard-Man

  • Skill 2
  • Stamina 8
  • Initiative 2
  • Armor 2
  • Damage as Weapon or Modest Beast

Manticore

  • Skill 4
  • Stamina 18
  • Initiative 5
  • Armor 3
  • Damage as Large Beast

Tower Wizard

  • Skill 3
  • Stamina 12
  • Initiative 3
  • Armor 0
  • Damage as Weapon

Mien

  • 1 Offensive
  • 2 Confused
  • 3 Friendly
  • 4 Suspicious
  • 5 Inappropriate
  • 6 Transgressive

Terms

This little hack is an independent production by Dreaming Dragonslayer and is not affiliated with the Melsonian Arts Council.

Post-Script

Any brave soul willing and able to format such a beast? 😉

Maybe I’ll get around to it when I muster up more time and courage.

All my adoration…

2 thoughts on “Union: Troika! + Red Ink Adventures

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