Sunday, March 29, 2020

Shuffling Along with Troika

My Troika! game passed session 3 this last week. We play only every other week, though I'm tempted to remedy this. Originally we alternated weeks because I was running an in-person game as well, but that game is toast due to the whole global pandemic thing.

Troika is a breeze to run. I'm still looking for a good tool to do the initiative system online. Originally, I used a random name picker "virtual wheel" that I've used in my oral comm classes to determine which kid or group of kids has to present next. While the wheel's clicky sounds and air horn sound effect are fun in class, they are not fun when I'm trying to keep a combat moving along at a decent pace. I want a tool that is quick and simple, but still allows me to easily add or remove combatants as people die, monsters get summoned, folks run, etc.

Troika is running a little bit more silly/comedic than I had originally intended. I wanted it to be just a quirkier Spelljammer, but instead the game has a good deal more absurdity than I intended. I'm not sure how I feel about that yet. (If you've read my blog, you know I'm a notorious, sour-faced fun-hater.)

My current campaign model is an open world (worlds, more accurately) liberally sprinkled with random table weirdness and dungeons from the 2019 One Page Dungeon Competition PDF. Converting monsters (or statting them up wholesale, given that a lot of the OPDC's dungeons provide no stats) is pretty simple, since foes in Troika (and it's progenitor, Advanced Fighting Fantasy) have but two stats.

I hope all my blog pals are staying well and sane.

Monday, March 16, 2020

In Which I Run Troika! a Second Time

We continued our Troika! game this last week.

I was tempted to chronicle the events of the game session, but:

1.) Nobody cares, and

2.) Having attempted to do so with several IRL friends, I have determined that there is no way to describe the game session to those who have not played without it sounding like an acid trip. (I made this same observation about Gamma World a few years ago.)

Instead, I shall offer insights based on the experience of running the game from a GM's perspective.

Observation 1: Making monsters on the fly is trivially easy, in that they need only ratings in Skill and Stamina. Anything else you want to hang on the monster is basically just window dressing.

Observation 2: The "token picking" initiative system creates a very random, chaotic feel to combat. This is a very refreshing change from games where a stat allows some characters or enemies to consistently dominate initiative, or the "I go, you go, I go" trap that even older editions of D&D can fall into.

Observation 3: The option of eating Provisions to restore Stamina keeps the party from over-camping/resting after every single encounter. While this is not (yet) a campaign centered around the crawling of dungeons, it seems like it would lend itself to keeping up the pace if the PCs decide to engage in such endeavors.

Observation 4: While at first I and the players balked at rolling Skill for... well, everything... I find that it keeps the game moving forward. Players don't try to use spurious logic to attach skill bonuses to everything. Nobody hems and haws over whether this is a roll of Diplomacy or Etiquette or Savoir-Fair or Fast-Talk. More seriously, it really helps me decide on what exactly needs to be a roll at all. (Turns out, not actually very much sometimes.)

Observation 5: More a personal observation than anything else, this game is turning me back on to the idea of classless games. (Troika's Backgrounds are sort of like classes, but not entirely.)

The game has been an enjoyable experience so far. I've been reading up more on Advanced Fighting Fantasy, Troika's illustrious ancestor, as well...but more on that at a later time.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The Dungeon Bank

I find that I am increasingly tilting toward being a "zero-prep" DM, or at least one who prepares very minimally for games. To this end, I picked up the 2019 One Page Dungeon Contest compilation from DriveThru for a paltry sum of three dollars. Reskin (or not), shuffle around, sprinkle liberally into my version of the millions spheres for Troika!, or use them as a pick up game of White Box Fantastic Medieval Adventure Game* at a moment's notice. 

I am presently plodding through the dungeons over my meager lunch break, for my own edification and certainly not because I have a Troika! game in six hours that I have done zero preparation for. 

Some of the dungeons are novel. Some are mini-games into themselves, with mechanics and everything. Some are pretty traditional. Some are fucking hipster bullshit. Some are actually unplayable. They aren't all fantasy, which works out really well with my Troika! game and how I envision the setting. Some of the sci-fi dungeons will do nicely without really needing that much alteration. 

What I'm doing is building a dungeon bank. I'm really terrible at mapping. My brain just isn't good at laying things out spatially like that. Having a dungeon bank allows me to have strange and deadly places ready to go. I used to do this with Wizardawn  back in the days of my dearly departed and fondly remembered Stars Without Number campaign. The players were always ending up in bunkers, space stations, alien ruins, etc. and I found that I needed a repository of maps, lest the players end up exploring the exact same building, reskinned into infinity. (Looking at you, Mass Effect 1.) 

At present, I plan to simply create a folder on my Guugle Drive and upload the PDFs I buy, perhaps with some typed up notes for reskinning purposes. I might also print a selection of them and stick them in an honest-to-gods physical folder. 

Well, I should get back to my dungeon evaluation. Time's a-wastin'. 

*Haha I wish. My home group won't touch anything that resembles old D&D because they are lame.