25 January 2020

High Fructose Hyperspace Update: Number 4 Gumdrop System

 Due to a month of colds in my family, I've been crunched for time. Rather than wait around to get the 2+ illustrations I want to include for this installment, I'm uploading it. The text should be good.

Number 4 Gumdrop System

17 January 2020

Breaking Troika's Strong Bone, Redux

Or why the premise that because a game is simple, specifically Troika!, it is both tightly crafted and because of that, easier to screw up is incorrect and counter to the spirit of the game is wrong.

Any one, including the author, telling you there is a wrong way to write for their game, should be discounted, baring I guess legal concerns, if writing independently, and stylistic concerns, if writing for the originating author or publisher.

This is a rewrite of another post to cut vitriol which likely buries my points. And for both taking unnecessary offense and being vitriolic towards Mr Otus I apologize.

If you like, take a moment to read the specific post I am responding to, Troika's Strong Bones. I will only be quoting subsection summaries, except for the entirety of the section on dice. If that is taking his words out of context then they are poor summaries.

I am going to meandering and loosely written because this isn't fucking college. And because this isn't college I will state in the clearest terms possible that this is my opinion on his opinion and on the right or wrong ways to write RPG content. Because that's something that would be implicit on these kinds of matters.

He starts with  
TLDR: when writing new material for a system like Troika!, don't be fooled by system simplicity. Simpler systems are often more tightly crafted and therefore easier to screw up.
 Gonna pick this apart.

TLDR means this is the thrust of this post, therefore a summary.

The system is simple, it's one of rolling 2d6 over or under a number, usually one of Skill plus an applicable Advance Skill or Luck. There are only three stats, Skill, Luck, and Stamina. The most convoluted, and contentious, subsystem in it is the token based initiative, which is could do with being explicitly stated to be optional in book as has been said elsewhere. So we both agree on this point.

Whether or not the game is tightly crafted because it is a simple and light game is possibly correct, or not. But I do know that Dan Sell did take care in a lot of things he wrote in it, I can't remember if he used math or not on the damage tables, but he has said a few times that each one tells a different little story, so he himself did take care with those specifically, and presumably else where.

As to whether a simple game is easier to screw up (aka you can do this wrong), this is incorrect. I am taking this to mean mechanically. It has been my decades of experience playing RPGs on both side of the screen that in a vacuum the more complex a game the more tightly crafted it. That is to say, away from a specific play group, these games, like Pathfinder, can collapse like a house of cards if the wrong things are messed with. This is one of the reasons why a lot of houserules are "bad." Another reason why for complex games houserules are "bad" is they deeper games and these houserules fix problems that are only problems from not reading the entirety of the rules. But we're not talking about Pathfinder; we're talking about Troika!

Aside: Note how many words I've already devoted to just addressing the TLDR.

He contends, and I agree that the game is shallow enough that someone should feel comfortable at the least talking about its structure, if only because the individual chunks of the rules short and succinct, or tightly crafted.

He contends the game is "hackable," which is once again the you can write material wrong, or here "with almost no understanding of the system." Once again the tightly crafted in spite of its simplicity stance. He says theses are things that "run counter to the spirit of the system, [are] not intuitive within the context of the system, and ultimately may be destructive to the play environment of the game."

On to what he claims "are the core tenets as I see them, in no particular order, each concluding with a statement about how they should affect your design-brain."


This section is primarily probability math, if you care about that, go read that section and million other articles and essays on dice probabilities.Elsewhere he talks about the whys you should do such and such because of the spirit of the game. Here, after basic dice probabilities, he says that doesn't matter to his main point, and so I do not actually feel this needs to be addressed because he writes: "That's aside from the main point I want to make, however, which is...Don't create material for Troika! that uses dice other than d6s." That's it. Just don't. The math isn't the main point, but he doesn't say what the main point is.

The rules don't say why, just that the only dice used are d6s. And ignoring the probabilities as a reason, since Mr Otus himself said they are aside from his point. Which to be honest should be an equal point to any other points or just not brought up at all. I will list some reasons, ignoring math and what the book says, you should only write content that uses d6s. Availability and familiarity with non-gamers. Although availability of other polyhedral dice is shaky as where would someone be buying Troika! except someplace they could also purchase the funny dice. But almost every damn boardgame has 2d6 included, so there is that, not needing to buy dice. I will point out that unlike much older games, including Fighting Fantasy and the first Advanced Fighting Fantasy, Troika! uses the xdy notation instead of simply saying die/dice, with the ubiquitous text explaining what that means. The other reason is simply, that's what the games it is based on used. None of which Mr Otus brings up in his post.

The additional reason I have stuck with using d6s is as a design constraint much like choosing a specific poetic form to write in.

To be perfectly honest, this is the biggest thing to which I disagree, and this primarily for the reasons above: that probability is the main reason while not stating what his main reason is as if he were an authority on the subject.

I could quibble on whether Chekov's Gun is an ideal to strive for in any act of creation, but I will bring up his closing statement:
So be mindful when you create and hew closely to the established patterns unless/until you have a deep enough understanding of the game to break those patterns for a purpose.
Reflecting on, "It's not a deep system, or I wouldn't even attempt this kind of statement after only one outing at the table!" from his introduction, his entire post should be taken with a massive grain of salt. Even allowing for this being merely his opinion, you should be skeptical of anyone who claims that something is both so simple that after the first time playing it they can claim a deeper understanding of it than other folx also writing content for it.

I will close with there is one correct way to write content for Troika! That is to do it. Write for yourself first.

Or ignore what I have written because I am kind of an asshole with no big credits writing games. I am hardly an authority.

Once again. I do apologize for taking unnecessary offense and being unnecessarily vitriolic.

I do hope that this was sufficiently intelligent of a post on this subject.

13 January 2020

Stay Tuned for March

 I hit the public button for Troika Tarot Jam even though I've scheduled for March, so after zinequest2. Is that a good idea? I don't know.

HOT on the heels of #troikajam is yet another jam for Troika! and backgrounds.  Only instead of being a glorious mass of exploration with what a background can be, an exploration of information compactness. This is an idea that's been bouncing in my head as well as at least S Jared's, and others.
Preamble out of the way.
This for Troika! an analog roleplaying game. Any video game submissions will be deleted.
Play nice and share. So limit yourself to one (1) singular background.
Each background must (should) reasonably fit on the space of a single side of a tarot card with dimensions of 2.75" x 4.75" (69.8 mm x 120.7 mm), could include a 0.125" bleed. Or roughly 150 of words. For example, at Averia Serif Libre 9pt plus formatting, I can fit maybe 200 words, but with my text styles 150 is the average I've gotten to fit legibly. You can find a template I modified for this purpose here.  You can also check out Drivethru's specifications. Back image is totally optional, so don't let that be an intimidating factor.
An idea I had had, was to compile all the cards into a deck and allow folx to order it at cost from Drivethru RPG. But that can be a discussion or something.
Bigotry is a big fat no. "Be" as the Great Ones say, "excellent to another." I have zero chill and qualms about whole ass booting folx.
Please don't forget to include on the card's itch page since there is no way to fit this on a card:
"[Product name] is an independent production by [publisher name] and is not affiliated with the Melsonian Arts Council."  And you can use the Troika! Compatible aka Fortle graphic available for free on the Numinous Edition page, if you want.

Troika! and (Advanced) Fighting Fantasy related games and resources

I made a page where I'll be collecting links to resources for mostly Troika! but also other games descended from Fighting Fantasy, such as Advanced Fighting Fantasy and Quarrel & Fable.

11 January 2020

More bad ideas: D&D Vancian Magic for Troika!

 This can either be a replace or addition to Troika!/AFF magic. With no guarantee this is balanced or anything.

New Advanced/Special Skill(s): somethings like "Magic-User," "Cleric," "Arcane," or "Divine."

Skill + Advanced Skill = Caster Level.

Use a corresponding spells/day/level table from whatever flavor of D&D you think is a good idea, personally I'd go with one of the Basics + Expert tables and spells.

Use the vancian casting rules for those spells.

Sure there are some rough edges. A lot of wrong dice or dice being used wrongly. Maybe some gross damage disparities. I recommend doing something like all the dice are d6's and use half the specified dice. Crap like Magic Missile should be an attack roll instead of auto-hitting. Saving Throws should likely be Luck Tests or some relevant skill.

To me, in order to preserve as much of the "flavor" of using D&D vancian magic, any defensive tests should be unopposed/roll-under tests. Spells being cast should be declared before the first initiative is drawn, or when the End of Turn token is drawn.

To improve the Advanced Skill, I feel like that should require some kind of weird ass adventure or quest for some weird ass magical item or sage or something.

This is an idea I had and wanted to get out of my head.

06 January 2020

[DRAFT] Travel shit for Troika space shit

TLDR is do whatever YOU want, like hand wave it or whole ass use some other game.

I've been working on Ætherjack’s Almanac, which is primarily conversions of Spelljammer and BECMI stuff. I kept some of the things I felt were important to differentiating sailing in space with sailing on a planet, things like air supply. Which means it needs to be a meaningful thing to note with stat blocks, else why fucking bother. Therefore travel times are important.

So I decided to hybridize some stuff from Spelljammer and Stars Without Numbers: Engines of Babylon, and make SR meaningful for all three types of movements, tactical, interplanetary, and interstellar.

My current draft is travel within a system between planets is roughly 1 day per 10 million miles divided by the ships SR, or average SR if it changes during shifts or is only active part of the time. If you have the Spelljammer Concordance of Arcane Space you can multiply the listed days travel between two planets by 10 and then divide by SR. As an example, it would take a ship roughly one year divided by SR to travel from Earth to Pluto. And since I want to be lazy, the edge of a system, whether it's a crystal shell, or some weird membrane or just the minimum safe distance to engage hyperdrive, is twice the distance of the furthest planetary body. So it would take about two years divided by SR to exit the system. This is kind of punishing and dumb and not to terribly conducive to traveling between spheres if you're using a Spelljammer style cosmology. But the two of the three core D&D spheres aren't as extreme so our system is an outlier. Ignore it. Or change the rate per day. I want SR to matter to long distance travel in my game.

I'm also sitting here wanting to take a page out Strange Stars with its fastish intersystem FTL and slower in system travel.

Interstellar travel is taking more thought.

I just started a 24 hour sale for most of my Troika zines.

02 January 2020

Cheap Motel Black Pudding - a Troika! Background

Cheap Motel Black Pudding

An ominious air surrounds you. A dangerous one. An air full of violence. You've at many times been a remover of obstacles and provider of economical lubrication. That is to say, you were muscle for organized crime; using violence for various criminal reasons.

Ancestral salami (for bashing kneecaps)
Thick Accent

Advanced Skills
3 Crime Slang
2 Secret Signs - Mobstery
2 Kneecapping
2 Driving
2 Greasing

30 December 2019

Future Ætherjack's Almanac Preview

Mirrored from my Patreon.

One or more of the next issue(s) will cover small aethercraft, like the moon-rat planes.

Locksley Mk 9 Fighter-Bomber/Recon Plane
Days Air: 12 human months (6 fully crewed)
Crew (Min/Max): 1/2
Cargo: 1 ton (bombs/mines)
FUEL: 5 hours
Maneuver: 2
Ship Rating: 8
Armor: 2
Hull: 55
Weapons: Forward Pilot-operated Fusil, Rear gunner/navigator-operated Twin-Fusils (roll two attacks per attack), 12 small bombs interior magazine, 2 large bombs underwing

Designer notes: moon-rat aethercraft are based on ww1 era aircraft, so I figure their armor is people scale armor. I'm cool with the idea of PCs shooting down these with a bow, unlike them doing the same to an aetherjammer. I kinda hope they are comparable to dragons; lower armor, higher stam should work out ok. Ya know in case one needs to have dogfighting vs a dragon.I think the vast difference between flight time as dictated by fuel and the air supply is ok. It allows for hooks like rescue missions on airless rocks in the void.

29 December 2019

Spelljammer and other games with air/spaceships fighting to Troika! conversion notes.

A version of stuff for space ship fighting with Troika!

There are a wide variety of other games from which to filch ship statistics. What follows is an explanation of how to read the stat blocks I will use, anti-canonical usage and brief conversion notes.

Ship Name/Type

Days Air: Divide this by the number of humanish people onboard to determine how many days air there is.

Crew (Min/Max): The bare minimum to operate, and the recommended number for optimal operation.

Cargo: For simplicity tons are tons regardless of whether they are mass or volume.

Maneuver: The number of sides of a hex a ship can change facing without piloting checks.

Ship Rating: Not always listed as it generally a factor of the engine & pilot.

Armor: This number modifies rolls to hit the ship.

Hull: How much damage the ship can take before beginning to break up.

Weapons: Either the number of possible weapons or a list of existing weapons.

Anti-canonical Combat Algorithm

A successful hit on a ship is a result of 20 or greater on a roll of a d20 + relevant Advanced Skill + target’s Armor. Read all ship weapon damage as written from whichever source(s) you are pulling from assuming a d20 derived game.

This is why I call this “anti-canonical.” It uses dice other than d6’s, which according to exactly one person is bad and wrong.

Tactical Movement
Combat takes place on a 2d hexagonal grid. Ship rating (SR) is how many hexes a ship can move per turn as well as how much a ship can change its facing up to its Maneuver per hex. Attempting to exceed Maneuver requires Piloting Checks -1 per facing change.

Conversion Notes

There are several different quasi-compatible aerial/space combat systems you could pull from. They don’t all use the same names or rating for stats. What follows are some guidelines.


This may be speed, maneuver class/category, maneuver factor, or some other term.

22 December 2019

ÆTHERJACK’S ALMANAC Number Two Cabbits & Combat

The second issue of my accreation of space-fantasy rules and such for Troika! is out. It contains a slightly expanded version of the Cat-Rabbit background from Science-Fantasy Potpourri along with the base stats for the warship it turns into and NPC ship stats for both a naval warship and a pirate ship. It includes brief space-naval combat rules, conversion guidelines from other games with space craft, and ship weapon damage tables.

You can purchase it solo or in a bundle with no.1.

11 December 2019

High Fructose No3 is out

This is issue 3 of my periodical style update for High Fructose Hyperspace, in it there is the Mentholated Machina background and NPC stat blocks with the implied worldbuilding that I feel Troika background do pretty well.