If you’ve never waded into the uniquely weird roleplay waters that is Troika!, now’s your best excuse to immediately remedy the situation, as publisher Melsonian Arts Council has released the full core rulebook online for free.
A digital version of the science-fantasy tabletop RPG with a British humour bent can be accessed free of charge on Melsonia’s website. There’s some basic webreader tools such as a table of contents, chapter navigation and text searching, making it a fairly reliable document to leave open in a tab on your laptop or tablet during play.
Those who prefer PDFs or downloadable files, the publisher will send you the digital book and accompanying intro adventure, Blancmange & Thistle, when you sign up to their newsletter. There’s a helpful link just below the web version.
While I maintain the shameful status of a physical media pervert who prefers physical books when possible, Troika is one of those RPG systems that every player and designer should read at least once in their life. The 119-page core rules, written by Daneil Sell and illustrated by Andrew Walter in 2019, might as well be a copy of the dominant tabletop system that somehow fell through the cracks of reality from a universe where Wizards of the Coast’s high fantasy pastiche didn’t dominate the collective imaginations of players.
Troika is equal parts Pratchett and Gygax, loving homage but also cheeky sendup to 1970s pen ‘n’ paper play where classes such as rogue, warrior and wizards are replaced with backgrounds such as Monkeymonger, Parchment Witch and Journeyman of the Guild of Sharp Corners.
There’s a mechanical basis under Troika that uses only six-sided dice and has roll-under rules regarding contests, feats and combat, but that’s not nearly as important as Sell’s approach to the act of collaborative storytelling. Troika understands that rules are only as important as the moments we choose to transgress them, creating something new and fun and unexpected. To use Sell’s own words from the introduction: “The adventure and wonder are in the gaps; your game is defined by the ways in which you fill them.”
Players: go read this book now and run a one-shot using any of the countless external or Melsonian-approved official supplements out there - go get weird. Creators: take this as a golden opportunity to create your own Troika-compatible works using Melsonian’s open third-party licence, adding to an already vibrant garden of lovingly kooky worlds.