Concessions (and Surrender) to Troika!

I love Troika! but not for the system.

Me, a month ago

And then I had realization while watching Samurai Champloo, a bizarre anime that swims in musical-historical dissonance. The story is about samurai in feudal Japan, but the music and cinematography style comes from hip-hop. And despite the two things not matching at all, the show works. It’s by the same guy who made Cowboy Bebop, which mashes space, the Wild West, and jazz, which explains that.

When I emerged from that pool of nihilism and media cross-pollination, I acknowledged my bias against Troika! that came in the form of hating weird dice mechanics and called it good.

I called 2d6 roll-under an abomination. And I was right. I stand by that.

On the other hand that I came to realize, the unorthodox, backwards nature of the mechanics had me in a tizzy, because it seemed so haphazard and silly. But just like the combination of hip-hop and Edo, space and jazz are intentional, I have to take it on faith that the mechanics of Troika are too.

It got me thinking about Dungeon Crawl Classics, which also uses weird dice. Not just “dice in a weird way.” Like d30, d7, and more. They serve the function of being strange. They make you *feel* like early players of the game in the ’70s who had never seen more than a Monopoly six-sider before. The first few sessions are supposed to make even the most seasoned gamer feel uneasy.

So while it may take getting used to, I have resolved to run Troika! in the near future, completely rules-as-written (even after that design exercise of changing the mechanics to my own game).

Embracing this new mechanical and aesthetic challenge, I’ve done a couple of things to fuel my Troika-brain:

-Watched more Samurai Champloo. The dissonance of that show (and Bebop) is something to emulate. My group, used to playing classic fantasy will be experiencing the uncanny of science fantasy. In order to pull it off, I need a better lesson on how to mix-and-match genres.

-Started a dream journal. For whatever reason, my dreams have been becoming more vivid and more fantastic. I keep it by my bed now and have been doodling whatever strangeness comes to mind before bed. It’s a relaxing endeavor.

-Made an idea generator. This one’s a bit idiosyncratic and very silly. I found a card game that lists a ton of nouns and cannibalized it for gaming. “In a Pickle” has a lot of space on each card and I’ve taken to writing ideas on each.

-Listened to more Lofi Hip Hop mixes. Here’s the one I’m listening as I write this.

-Appendix N’d it. I’ve listed a couple of influences and what aspects I find meaningful to a Troika experience:

  • Adventure Time (for its anachronistic approach to fantasy)
  • Samurai Jack (open your Numinous Edition to page 51 and tell me that man needs to get back to the past)
  • Kingdom Hearts (for its world-hopping adventure feel)
  • Rick and Morty (for its nihilistic, reality-bending nature)
  • Samurai Champloo and Cowboy Bebop (already mentioned)

Now, you may not get all (or any) of these references I have made. But I think a fun aspect of the all-encompassing science fantasy genre is how unique each game of Troika! can be in relations to other games. I can almost guarantee your Appendix N doesn’t look like mine. How cool!

With Adventure Time, I’ve wondered if there could be a way to run a stable of characters with more of a loose ownership structure. For example, the main characters of the show are obviously Finn and Jake, but some episodes follow completely different characters, many of them recurring. With all of the great backgrounds of Troika, it seems a shame to me that the “only way” you could experience a different character is if yours dies off. Instead, imagine a world like a giant umbrella that covers all of the handful of characters that each player generates. My follow-up questions would be: what rewards would be in place to encourage players to branch to entirely new characters? Fun thought experiment there…

I’ve been on the hunt for more backgrounds and content. Send any and all compilations of high-quality Troika-weirdness this way. This is an open call to share! 🙂

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