Sunday, October 27, 2019

Troika, Advanced Fighting Fantasy and Warhammer

So I've been running a few Troika! sessions now and I'm beginning to get a feel for the system.

Troika! is both a setting (very zany!) and a system.   Said system is based on the Advanced Fighting Fantasy system (AFF), which itself is based on the Fighting Fantasy "choose your own adventures" that my friend and I so enjoyed in our early teens.  This was our first RPG system, and we played it for a year before we abandoned it for AD&D 2nd edition.

In very brief, each character has a skill score (how good are you at doing stuff), a stamina score (hp essentially) and luck (saving throw etc).  Skill is pretty static, stamina is regained by eating and rest, and luck is spent (you can run out!) but also recharges daily.  There are also advanced skills you can have, which improve your chances at specific tasks.  You roll under your skill or luck on 2d6, except when you are doing an opposed skill check (battle being a prime example) where  you roll 2d6, add your skill (and advanced skill rank, if applies) and whoever has the highest wins (injures the other).  Spell are skill tests and cost stamina to cast.  

Troika! has retained this basic system, but has done some changes to the details.  Do these details fix the problems?  In many cases, I think it does.

1: Starting skills are lower. If you looked at the pregen heroes, they had like 8-10 skills, with weapon skills in the 10-12 range. They were super good (meaning it often felt like there was no challenge). Troika's heroes are much more modest and that's great. That being staid, your basic skill range is 4-6, and skill 4 is brutal. You can gain advanced skills but you can't increase your base skill score (you used to be able to in AFF) so being stuck with 4 is just awful. Anyone who gets 4 gets bumped up to 5 in my game (my first house rule). 

2: Weapon damage went up, waaaay up. The average sword blow used to be 2 points of damage. When you have 20 stamina, that's not too scary. Now it's 6. Large weapons can do well over 10 and can kill in one blow. So on one hand great, you can now kill a goblin easily in a single swing... but your PC might only be able to take 3-4 hits. I think it's arguable that Troika may have gone too far in this regard, but if you want high risk combat, it delivers.  It bears noting that stamina does not improve in Troika!, only luck.

3: There is no more healing magic. You used to be able to restore stamina with a spell... and casting cost stamina, so you could keep casting forever, at least until you had a serious OOOPS failure (double 6 on the casting roll indicates trouble). Now you can't. This is great for restraining magic, but it also makes combat deadlier because there are no healing spells. You can still heal by eating food (only 3 times a day) or by resting.

3b: You can't restore luck with spells anymore, but you can spend pocket gods (small offerings) to regain some luck.

4: You can't design your own character. You are rolling for the stats, same as the old system, but you aren't picking and chosing advanced skills. Instead, you roll for a random background (a bit like a "class") that has a number of advanced skills and possessions. This is an improvement over AFF as it can avoid some serious problems with min maxing and PCs that are all vaguely similar. However, not choosing your own "class' is a difficult bridge to cross for some people, but it *is* how Warhammer frpg does things too...

4b: It bears to note that the Troika! backgrounds are *exquisitely* flavorful, but that is more of a setting things, not a system thing. By designing the backgrounds available for a campaign, you essentially are designing an important part of the flavor, tone and lore of said campaign. And yes, you could re-write the Warhammer frpg careers into Troika! backgrounds. In fact, one of them is *specifically* a Warhammer homage (the gremlin catcher, inspired by the rat catcher).

5: Armor is much more important in Troika! because of the elevated damage. Despite this, in Troika! the majority of characters are unarmored (while they were lightly armored in AFF - some leather, bits of chain etc.) As armor could transform an incoming hit of 8 to a much more survivable 2, getting armor should be a priority.

6: Magic users are different. It used to be that magic decreased your skill rating, making you ineffective at sword fighting - making the "wizards are bad at fighting" trope work. But it was harsh because it negatively impacted your other skills too. In Troika wizards/priests etc. have the same skill scores as other characters. However, as spells are advanced skills, knowing a lot of spells means you won't know as many other advanced skills. I think this was a good decision overall, but after a bit of adventuring a wizard could become a good swordsman.

7: Troika introduces "special abilities" that some, but not all, backgrounds have.  Many of them involve a luck check, so characters with low luck will rarely be able to benefit from them.  It's not an ideal mechanism, but I like it - not all things should be skills.   Some characters also start with special equipment - magical items, high-tech ones, natural weapons/armor...

So in conclusion, Troika definitely fixed some of the problems with the old AFF system, and would work for generic fantasy if divorced from the wonderful Troika! setting.   However, due to its design, the end result would be much more similar to warhammer than D&D.   Like in Warhammer, magic may backfire spectacularly (or simply not work), combat is an *opposed* affair where the skill of the combatants determine who gets hit, PCs can die after a couple of hits even at higher "levels", and armor reduces damage instead of making you harder to hit.  

Should you run try Warhammer with Troika!?  I think so.  The system is easier, faster and more or less does the same thing.  Sure you'll need a few days to make all the backgrounds, and you may want to bolt on an insanity system and a few other things, but it shouldn't be too hard.  It also fixes a main flaw of Warhammer (very "whiffy" combat at low levels where very few hits are landed) so that's nice too.

(note - I'm using the warhammer frpg 2nd ed as my comparison, as it's the one I'm most familiar with)


  1. I should mention that Troika is inspired by the much newer AFF 2nd Ed that also fixes the problems you mention with the original game. Not in the same way of course, and AFF 2nd and Troika are different beasts, but fixes them nevertheless.

    1. Interesting! I never looked into the 2nd edition of AFF... how is it? How did they differ in the solutions?

  2. I should declare that I am effectively Arion Games who wrote the second edition...
    Send me an email and I will send you a pdf to read through!

    1. I see! Well disclosure is good, and thank you for that, I understand your comment better now...

      I think I will follow up on your generous offer. :)

    2. I haven't had my coffee yet, where should I contact you? I can't see your email address on your profile :/