3/7/19

[Session Report] Fever Swamp with Troika!

Tonight I had the pleasure of running Daniel Sell's Troika! (Numinous Edition) for a bunch of fine players, which made up the following party:

• Sotto as Khan, Journeyman of the Guild of Sharp Corners
• Lu as Amarylin, Student of the Academy of Doors
• Carlos as ???, Zooanthrop
• Pastaman as Antinous, Venturesome Academic

What Happened?
• The party found themselves teleported in some backwater village, between a mob of angry peasants and an old man with a beard, pointy hat and robes, having botched his summoning spell.
-One of the peasant shouted "BURN THE WITCH".
-Antinous agreed, and sided with the mob.
-The Zooanthrop grabbed the nearest armed peasant and lifted him off the floor with one hand.
-The assassin and sorceress ran away, soon followed by the wizard.
-The mob decided against fighting the Zooanthrop and went after the runaways instead.
-Antinous convinced the unnamed naked ├╝bermensch to let go of the peasant.
-The assassin stunningly failed at shoving an old man down, tripped and nearly got trampled to death.
-The sorceress hid behind a tree and let everyone go after the old man.

• The party found their way, naturally, to the nearest watering hole, here called the Blue Rabbit Inn. They decided that the best course of action was to stick together, being strangers in a strange land.
-They quickly learned that they were in Stinkfield, Middenland, in the Empire, and stole a necklace from the innkeeper featuring a silver wolf with red eyes.
-Apparently that Wizard from earlier has cursed the village and now the villagers want justice, although they won't say what the curse actually is about or how the Wizard is related to it.
-The Zooanthrop decided to go out and steal some cheese, but got stabbed by a terrified young boy protecting his nanny and went back to the party.
-Mack, the village's leader, offered 300 shillings for the capture of the Wizard and the head of his "wicked servitor", and offered a small river boat to allow the party to travel into the Fever Swamp.

• Everyone went to sleep after the offer was accepted by Antinous on behalf of the party.
-The next day was spent travelling to and into the swamp - Oswald the Fisherman told the party of a small village about 2 days worth of travel into the Swamp called Clink, and that the people from there might be able to help the party getting around, so that's where they decided to go to.
-Around noon, the boat was attacked by four bloated walking corpses, and the fight ended a real-life hour later with two grieviously injured characters and two badly hurt but not in the negative yet.
-After that, the group decided to find shelter under a large and ancient oak tree for the night, and it was nearing three hours of play so we called it a night.

What Went Well
• Troika's backgrounds (what you roll instead of a class or ability scores) are awesome. I think it's safe to say they're the strongest part of the game, and they provided exactly as advertised: inspiration without restraints, with everyone being able to make the character their own and do fun stuff with it.

• I also really like the Initiative system, and I'm using the Troika! Initiative Cards for it too, which works way better than with dice or chits: not only is it more enjoyable to draw a card but it's also easier to memorize who's what (the cards have wonderful and weird illustrations, too).

• Fever Swamp is an inspiring read. I'm impatient to reveal more of it to the players, and will most likely reveal a sort of players' map if they manage to get one from the people at Clink, which will allow for more player agency in exploring the place. It's too bad the first encounter we rolled was zombies.

What Didn't Work So Well
• The fight with the zombies had some exciting bits and was frankly tense, but it was also about an hour long. These had the following stats: SKILL 6, STAMINA 12, INITIATIVE 1 and no special abilities, so they're not particularly impressive, mechanically, but there was still four of them. Turns out, with the party being mostly made up of poor or unskilled fighters, it was very difficult for them to damage the enemy, and I believe the players were really unlucky with damage rolls too. I believe I will lower the Stamina value of monsters in the future to approximate 3 Stamina per "HD" and make any group of monsters into one single monster with variable SKILL and INITIATIVE (so Four Zombies will become one statblock of SKILL 6, STAMINA 12, INITIATIVE 4 and lose 1 Initiative card every 3 points of damage to represent one of the zombies being killed). I don't think this is too easy on the players as the way initiative and damage works means it'll still be very dangerous for them to fight - just less tedious for me to handle.

• Another thing, which is not really a problem per say but, very different from what I usually run: Troika has a lot of (fun) skills and they improve by being rolled, so I asked for a LOT of skill rolls to resolve stuff. It feels a bit weird, considering I've been advocating against skill systems for the last year or so, but I have to say this is one of the few exemples I've seen of fun skill system.

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