My First Troika Background

I finally read Troika, by Daniel Sell, the other day. It’s been very popular since its inception and has spawned game jams a-plenty, a thriving Twitter following, approximately one million backgrounds and counting, and even a bunch of full-scale third-party supplements. Everyone in the indie game world has been rather smitten with this, it sometimes seems.

As is my habit, I am fashionably late to the party. (If you are too, you can get it in PDF on DTRPG; in print in the USA at Exalted Funeral; or in print in the UK from the thieving rakes at Melsonian Arts Council themselves!)

It’s not that I didn’t want to get in on it, it’s just that I’ve been overwhelmed without a shred of time off all year, worsened by the impact of obvious global events on my day job. Literally the first opportunity I’ve had to read it was the day and a half I took off from work to move house. That’s the most free time I’ve had in ages – and it was during a move!

Anyway, it’s very interesting. The mechanical side of the game is simple and solid, if not entirely my exact favorite, but the unbelievable amount of inventiveness and imagination on display in Daniel Sell’s writing of the backgrounds is the standout selling point of the work. This exciting, wonderful writing is partnered up with some superb art for each background by the stupendously skilled Dirk Detwiller Leichty. Throughout the rest of the work, two of my favorite artists – JD Duncan and Sam Mameli – fill the pages with art that is best described as a crayola acid trip starring a Super Nintendo. Alongside them is ENnie-award-winner Andrew Walter, whose work is in everything from Fever Swamp, to Old School Essentials and Wormskin by Necrotic Gnome, to the recent Blood Floats In Space by Chance Phillips. Really great stuff. Impossible not to imagine a lurid 1930s sci-fantasy pulp Kingdom Hearts game the minute you dig into the book.

But, most valuable of all to Troika’s popularity is absolutely (take notes!) without a doubt the utter and complete lack of barriers to entry when it comes to making your own stuff for it.

It doesn’t ask you to navigate a complex intellectual property agreement or identify correctly which bits and bobs count as brand identity and which do not and it never asks you for a penny of your earnings to declare your work compatible. It doesn’t expect you to factor out the complex mathematical trees for each interactive element you add to achieve a stamp of approval from a grand popular quorum governing what is balanced and what is unbalanced.

It just lays it out: You can make Troika stuff. Feel free. You just have to note that Melsonian Arts Council created Troika, and you need to be aware that Melsonia isn’t responsible for your work or any problems that crop up from it.

That’s it.

You get that declaration, and you get a bunch of exciting stuff that begs to be juggled, changed, added and subtracted. You get rough guidance on how to kinda stay within the lines of the dice game that powers it all and encouragement to tweak whatever the heck makes it most fun for the table.

And then you’re let loose.

That’s the winning secret of Troika.

That, and Daniel Sell’s clever brand of wry UK fantasy and the art of some genuinely iconic talents. Y’know, easy stuff.


That’s my short review of Troika, which I liked a lot and which I would give a formal rating of eight Longardy Possums out of ten if this were a real review post (which it is not, somehow; take that, Daniel, you vondruke!) – but the reason we’re all gathered here is for the formal presentation of the PISCENE HERALD:

The Piscene Herald lets you serve as an Atlantean envoy – part spy, part courier, part explorer, part ambassador. All parts are fishy. Except the parts that are metal covered in verdigris, sealed with oyster glue and powered by thaumaturgic devices kept secret from the world by the sage engineers of Atlantis.

I hope you enjoy my first Troika background! If you do, please scream loudly at me in the comments below, over on Twitter where I still reside at the handle @dungeonspossums, or via some other method. Whatever works for you, I guess.

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2 comments on “My First Troika Background

  1. Alan

    Waiting for this book to come in the mail! Will perhaps be my first real dive into rpgs. Your comments about its many artistic merits is encouraging, and then ease of making material is exciting.

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