Thursday, July 23, 2020

Troika Pamphlet Jam Reviews, Part 5

Thus concludes our journey through all 52 entries submitted to the Troika Pamphlet Adventure Jam. I've had a grand time reading these pamphlets and writing the reviews, and I hope you've enjoyed reading along with me. Maybe I helped you find your new favorite adventure or maybe I've made several new mortal enemies with my criticism. Either way, thanks for taking a look. But don't go rushing off just yet, we're not quite done here.

Next post, I'll be assembling some of my takeaways from the jam in a little post-mortem and distributing a series of arbitrary awards. I'll also post a list of my favorite adventures from the jam for folks who don't want to read all the reviews and just skip to the good stuff.

Here's a sneak preview of some of the arbitrary award categories I've been brewing up:
  • Honey I Shrunk the PCs Award: For most creative use of minute-scale adventuring
  • Who Do You Think You Are, Troika Is Award: For excellence in ridiculous nonsense
  • Prozac in a Book Award: For most therapeutically peaceful adventure
If you have any suggestions for award categories or topics you'd like to see covered in the jam post-mortem, please share them in the comments.

Below, find links to the rest of the reviews:

They Might Be Troika!



Fans of They Might Be Giants would likely get a kick out of these (presumably) song references loosely organized into RPG tables, but I feel lost. Some of the entries jive with Troika and make for decent session inspiration, but many stretch to get there.

By Adam Good & Rick Richards


Antiquities and Curiosities



This module has all the charm of a vacant mansion. Structurally it looks the part. Abstract white sheets obscure what might be aristocratic furniture, but the fine wood inlay exists only in your imagination. Lack of specificity in this golden-barge-hosted auction heist casts a dusty film over noble and robust architecture. 

By Josh Hittie


Lukomorie and The Tree



A 3-location adventuring spot with figures from Slavic folklore. The locations feel largely unrelated except by culture and mostly encourage binary interaction: you can either do the thing or not. I like the tree and its golden chain that collapses the sky if removed. I wish the rest of the pamphlet supported an adventure related to that.

By Max Verbludenko


The Pelican's Secret


A murder most foul aboard a ship soon to port. The module admirably crams a lot of misdirection, actionable clues, and fun diversions into a small package. A few of the clues fail to connect in a way that make sense to me, but those gaps are easily filled. A worthy entry into the notoriously difficult to execute RPG mystery canon.

By Andrew Murdoch & Rolland


Tracks



A design so ambitious and experimental I have no idea how fun it would be to play but certainly looks interesting enough to try. Essentially two entire board games using Troika as an extra layer of mechanics. In one, hunt beasts through a maze of tiles and harvest their bits to build your Creaturekart. In the other, race your vehicle against competing karts down a branching track. The mechanical abstractions seem to minimize space for roleplaying but there's plenty of room for a Troika board game among these adventures.

By Robin Gibson


Tower of Crab


This tower never plumbs the absurdist crabby depths I hoped it would. It takes a moderate approach to crab based humor, staying comfortably within the box of "but what if it was crabs?" The smooth jazz of giant enemy crabs, if you will. Some people like smooth jazz.

C.E.Millarde


Belly of the Vellum Wyrm



A fine dungeon crawl through the belly of a multidimensional wyrm that eats up the players to get the game a-rolling, but forget all that. Grab your scissors and 1st grade folding skills because this is an arts and crafts project. The dungeon is linear and therefore the map not particularly useful, but I made a little snake and I had fun doing it. Pictures enclosed.

By James Lennox-Gordon


I did the head a little goofy


House Party



Navigate a sea of bros and hipsters to find a non-Gnome infested pissing spot and escape the house party. Heavy on contemporary party tropes, a bit light on gameable content. Fun, visceral encounters border things too abstract to be of much use. Much like a real house party, you're gonna have some aimless conversations that leave you jaded, but maybe you'll have a life-changing heart to heart or two that you forget the next day. Are you gonna have brunch with the god of death tomorrow like you planned to? Probably not.

By Joel Forster & Hana Lee


Descent Into The Baleful Basilica



A map-less, vanilla dungeon crawl with encounters almost exclusively of the sword-whacking variety. Investigate a vault suspected to imprison a terrible monster long ago sealed away by the ancients. Should you foolishly unleash the monster (a classical gorgon), you must fight her and if you win you can take her treasure. The boss encounter is balanced for party size.

By Emir Aciyan


Sakto's Karaoke Night



Content warning: Abuse. 
Prepare yourself for tonal whiplash. I'm still recovering. A little girl remains trapped inside her family's karaoke bar after she made a deal with a demon to rid the world of evil men like her abusive father. The demon haunts the place, tricking those who enter into committing acts of evil to convince the girl of man's heinous nature and whittle down her will to resist him. The adventure revolves around the demon's "temptations", but only one of the twelve provide any incentive for the players to behave poorly. Further, several encounters feel disconnected from the theme. In one, you can only convince the girl of man's goodness if you stab a sentient sword into a bunch of food. In others, you must sing along with the demon or resist falling asleep in a comfy bed. There's a distinct rift between the heartwarming karaoke-themed whimsy promised by the cover and tagline (and occasionally represented in the text) and the very serious, dark themes that dominate the adventure. The resulting clash between these ideas confuses and disturbs more than it provokes laughter or reflection.

By Giuliano Roverato & Rodrigo Melchior


SPYJAMMER - MindMeadows



An aesthetic feast for fans of brutalist architecture and cold war espionage. A rival syndicate wiped your brain after a failed mission and locked up the encoded memory files in MindMeadow Corporation's archives. It's so close to paranoia-fueled psychedelic bliss, but many of the encounters in the corp offices miss on practical adventure-fuel. I'd kill for a meatier and more developed version of exactly this, because this aesthetic is one of favorite takes on Troika.

By Galazor


He Made the Trains Run on Time



A pleasant hex crawl through a bit of woods where a failed wizard's project now rusts. There's nothing dangerous or nasty here, only some mildly curious encounters and the potential for time travel shenanigans. Perhaps not dramatic enough for the spotlight of a night's gaming, but a perfectly lovely amuse-bouche or detour elsewhere.

By Eli Hardwig


Banini: Legend of Alec



A peculiar adventure loosely based on 3D platformer video games of yore. It comes with two pamphlets, one the adventure and the other some backgrounds plus a music-playlist-based initiative system, which seems fun. Players are Baninis, presumably the ball-shaped creatures featured in the art. Imagine Kirby but without the gluttonous powers. In the adventure you do a series of things that don't lean as far into the video game theme as I hoped. Some of the things you do leave wide room for creative solutions, others involve fighting something in an empty arena. It's idiosyncratic and personal, like a parent's campaign notes for a game with their kids. It doesn't feel like it was written for me, but maybe that's okay.

By Christopher W. Reynolds

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Troika Pamphlet Jam Reviews, Part 4

We're coming down the home stretch with these reviews. After this, I'll post one last review compilation of the remaining 13 pamphlets and then onto the review roundup.

What is this? Chronologically ordered reviews of every module from the Troika pamphlet adventure jam that ended a month or so ago. Here you'll find reviews of the 28th-39th pamphlets submitted to the jam. Below, find links to the rest of the reviews:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 5

SPACE ESCAPE HYPERSPACE GO!!!



A Star Fox-esque cadre of roguish space animals heist oregano from a slug crime boss in their junker starship. With each subsequent sci-fi reference, we crawl further from Troika's science fantasy into a wacky-space-opera hole from which there is no return. There's some encounters, a background, and rules for spaceships. It's not my thing, but if it is yours go forth and enjoy War Fox of the Space Dunes.

By Philip McElmurray


Dream Midden



A pleasant and modest little adventure into a world of caves and mushroom people. I like the snail taxi, the potential for immortality via Death Shroom inoculation, and the inexplicable scale. Did the quest-giving alchemist shrink the players to tiny size off-screen, is the author confused between inch and foot demarcations, or should I learn to stop worrying and love the Troika?

By Bear Commune


The Walking Gaol



Go and free a prisoner from the Waking Gaol, a jail within a giant golem. Apparently you'll know your target when you see 'em, but really it's anyone's guess. A rarity in this pamphlet jam, the dungeon uses puzzles. Some decent ones too. There's a lot to like here between the open ended encounters and ambiguous hook. There's a bit that misses, but it mostly hits. And where it fails, I'm inspired to get in there and fix it.

By Klum


The Department of Doors



Thousands of doors await in this secret doormaker's guild warehouse. They lead anywhere and everywhere, but mostly they lead to pure joy for you and your friends. Do you want to play Monster's Inc, but Troika and better? Yes, you do. This module delivers in every way you'd hope. Delightful door-destinations, portal-riffic encounters, tantalizing hooks, weirdos lurking around, everything. It does exactly what it needs to do as a pamphlet and I still want a full-length chapbook version.

By Max Kämmerer


The Last Stand of Septimus Nox



If you've read this far and noted the author below, you might know what to expect. This is no more practical than any other Lutra Ludos, but it's one of his better ideas. Shrink down to minute scale and confront a tyrannical wizard lording over a tiny people trapped by fictitious threats from outside. It's so open and ripe for player hijinks you could almost run it just from the pamphlet. Almost. If you're confused or curious about this mysterious Lutra Ludos character, I encourage you to read one of his 10 pamphlets submitted to this jam. This is a decent place to start a delve into Ludos's oeuvre, though I'd recommend A Wizard Did It as his best or The Birdcage as most exemplary of his style.

By Lutra Ludos


Panic on Pyramid Prime



This pamphlet looks cool. Triangular glyphs over psychedelic flows of harsh black and red prime you for a cool fucking adventure, which this almost is. The premise is great. A multidimensional apocalypse ravages a pyramidal plane and only the players can storm the pyramidion palace to save the day. The actual adventure takes players through a series of nondescript rooms fighting enemy after enemy with only a single opportunity for a non-combat solution. I love the setting and the aesthetic, the enemies are individually awesome, but there just isn't an adventure here that I'd want to play.

By Alexei Vella


Dwarf Stars



Speculative fiction-fiction on far future D&D. Tiefling and Genasi roles in spaceflight, Dwarven hegemony. A micro-system or perhaps extremely optimistic 5th edition D&D supplement, maybe a minable idea or two if your Troika tends towards the 40k.

By Lutra Ludos


Wanted: Belladonna Mortsafe



Where in the world is Belladonna Mortsafe? Probably in the Flea Market, or the House of Indolent Blooms, or the Department of Doors, or someplace equally likely to host a dashing rogue up to no good. The problem with this module: Your players will love Mortsafe too much to ever wish her harm. The next Troika pamphlet jam should be called "The Belladonna Mortsafe NPC jam" because I need more of this in my life.

By James Holloway


Clockstruck



A post-mortem adventure idea paired with a countdown of apocalyptic events. Nothing about this feels so uniquely afterlife-y that you could not slot the apocalypse into a mortal campaign world if you like. The countdown hooks well into things likely to impede or disturb a typical adventuring party and feels appropriately apocalyptic.

By Lutra Ludos


Slime Temple



Sail down the slime river to rejuvenate yourself in squelching pits and falls. Keep noble company among multifarious ooze species, perhaps seek an audience with Mother Ooze herself. I'd like more specific Treasure ideas but the ooze flavors and effects are quite nice. Thumbs up for the vertical map.

By Ember + Ash


Across☆The Humpbacked Sky, Baby!



Bounty hunting across the humpbacked sky, supported by narrative tools and minigames. A bit more storygame-abstract than what I typically go for, but it feels appropriate for an adventure of this scope. The sample spheres and orbital threats make for compelling golden barging.

By Aaron Burkett & Carolyn Pagan


The Shinnanig Inn



Cool your impulses on the beaches of the Sea of Thought, attended by silver butlers and a golden hotel awaiting your reprieve. Great blocks of text and tedious skill challenges obscure nuggets of good ideas. A contender for one of the greats if adapted to RPG-practical language and stuffed with more game, but stubbornly unwieldy as is.

Paul Sciberras

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Troika Pamphlet Jam Reviews, Part 3

To get through the remaining 40 or so pamphlets I've had to cut down on word count. Here you'll find 12 reviews, and while the shorter word count means less detail I've tried to maintain the crux of what makes each pamphlet interesting.

Expect another two batches of reviews of similar length, and then a big roundup post with my top 10 (or so, I might fudge the total to include all my favorites) choice adventures, a bunch of arbitrary reward categories, and some thoughts about the jam, Troika, and pamphlet adventures.

Links to the other batches of reviews:
Part 1 (check this out for context if you missed it)
Part 2
Part 4
Part 5

The Warp Spire



The uncontextualized obelisk-dungeon called The Warp Spire hosts 3 abstracted, unmapped regions teeming with vaguely motivated and unspecific creatures. This smorgasbord of ideas weave an incoherent whole, but with a bit of mapping, context, and elbow grease, this could polish up into a tidy little dungeon.

By James Millichamp


Lich, Laugh, Love



The third pamphlet by Lutra Ludos. Of ten. He certainly knows how to write an NPC (and intrigue, and anything) and this entirely social, city-hall-schmoozing adventure plays well to those strengths. So why do you wound me with your d10 tables, Ludos? You know as well as I that Troika is d6 only. 

By Lutra Ludos


Some Rough Beast



Oh dear. The first by Ludos I dislike. Unlike The Birdcage which makes no overtures towards being immediately usable, Beast is caught halfway between an indulgent evocation and an actual adventure. There's just enough stuff here to tease an assault on an unstoppable, city-demolishing monster that I wish it went all in on practical tools.

By Lutra Ludos


The Calamitous Creation of the Guild of Mechanical Artistry



A landship of sorcerous design rampages through the city, and boy am I glad it does. Tables of carnage left in its wake, terrors found inside, and means of halting its advance nourish a savvy GM with precisely the right mix of gumption and fancy.

by Chris Bissette


Why is There a Wizard's Tower in this Dump



I've never been cursed before. At least not that I know of. This pamphlet threatens me, the real human writing this review and potentially (definitely) running the game, with curses too terrible to imagine. I might have to bin my Troika! book, or worse, bring the adventure's terrible wizard into my other games. I love it. It's a negadungeon that never loses sight of the fun. Why is there a blank box on the back page? You'll find out.

by Gordinaak


Finder of the Way



Finder of the Way presents an open ended problem that feels more at home on a hex map than the sole focus of a one-shot. Enraged over a rules dispute while tabletop gaming, an outpost of Dwarves vent their frustrations via gruesome infighting. Without player intervention, the Dwarves will perish and the local town succumb to plague from lack of beer. An intriguing quandary notable for its long term consequences in campaign play.

By Lutra Ludos


Vampire: A Vexatious Tale of Love and Bureaucracy



This miniature definitely-not-Barovia setting overburdens itself with cute bells and whistles, packing light on its best feature: vampiric bureaucracy. Well-crafted pastoral encounters round out the adventure with a breadth of activity, but water down the core bureaucratic theme. If we instead substituted a similarly robust table of encounters inside the tantalizing but underdeveloped "baffling bureaucratic maze", we'd take a great leap towards pamphlet perfection.

By Sealed Library


Welcome to Candy Mountain



The map of Candy Mountain is so good you could almost run a game using nothing else. A supplemental buffet of candy creatures, items, and events pack into dense tables, ready to sprinkle over frosted peaks. While convenient as lists of candy themed things, the ideas written here never quite live up to the fantastical visions conjured by the map and delectably colorful layout.

By Cog 5 Games


7th Annual Conference of Alchemists, Apothecaries, and Accountants



The conference offers things you'd expect from a conference. There's exhibitor booths, scheduled presentations, coupons, a food court. Points awarded for feeling like an in-fiction program brochure, even if it doesn't fully commit to the idea. I want to like this adventure. I adore the idea and the layout made a great first impression, but it far too often goes for gags over practical ideas. It might get a few laughs, but there's just not much to engage with once it runs out of punchlines.

By Aled Lawlor


First Against the Wall



A revolution in progress so on the nose, inclusion of dwarves and elves and magic feels silly. And not in a good way. It vacillates between comic absurdism and harsh political reality in a way that makes me want to drop all pretense and just play a modern day insurgency style game. If you want it, there's plenty of adventure here between the encounters and complications and NPCs and jargon.

By Lutra Ludos


Armistice Unknown: Prelude to Conflict



This PvP scenario cleverly uses 3 pages to provide each team their own pamphlet with an introduction and secret, faction-specific information. The pamphlets predominantly cover set dressing, leaving specifics to player machinations. One team protects their high priest from assassins--the other team. I have a personal aversion to PvP in RPGs from a number of bad experiences, but this seems like a solid scenario should you find a competitive group up for the task.

By Maria Rivera


Let's Kill God



Like some others by Lutra Ludos, this is a prompt more than an adventure. Other than a spectacular table for generating god names, the contents circuitously restate the title. Do your players want to kill god? This pamphlet might convince them, but you'll be left holding the god-shaped bag.

By Lutra Ludos

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Troika Pamphlet Jam Reviews, Part 2

I posted my first batch of reviews for Melsonia's now-completed pamphlet adventure jam nearly a month ago, with the plan to release around 6 reviews a week until I finished the lot. When I got started, there were a manageable 20 or so pamphlets posted to the jam. It concluded with a much more daunting 52. I still plan to review every single pamphlet from the jam, but I'll likely be cutting the length of my reviews down to a couple sentences each and releasing reviews in larger batches. Here I'm posting the 9 paragraph-length reviews I finished before life got in the way a couple weeks ago.

In early June, I popped my head into a brand new discord server created to organize the creation of an adventure anthology to benefit BLM bail funds. I soon found myself neck deep in the project, juggling efforts to coordinate almost 100 volunteers and write a 2-page Mothership adventure of my own. 10 days after we started, we had a complete, 140 page book called Dissident Whispers containing almost 60 adventures for a wide variety of RPG systems. We raised over $25,000 for the National Bail Fund Network in 24 hours after its release. I've never been more proud of anything I've done in my life, and I heartily encourage you to check out the project if you haven't already. There's even a couple (very good) adventures for Troika! in there.

Learn more about Dissident Whispers and find links to pick up a copy at our website:
https://whispercollective.org/

Links to the rest of the reviews:
Part 1
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

And now, the Troika pamphlet reviews:

Flea Market



The Learned Troikish Dog, teller of truths, shrinks the party to sub-flea scale to quest for stolen, bloodborne knowledge in The Flea Market by Aaron King. Adventure awaits within the organs of a flea enslaved by vampire gnats. Compete with a gallery of tiny NPCs for answers to life's questions on auction as scabby artifacts--brilliantly creative treasure. The open and evocative setup fills the mind with countless schemes and alternative goals. Further reason to run Flea Market is the potential for more adventures in the shrinkoverse and with the Learned Troikish Dog. No campaign plot is likely to survive an encounter with this charming scenario. In the author's words: "This is your game now. The flea is like a golden barge."


Blockaded in Bahlgran



Blockaded in Bahlgran by Rollin Salsbery conjures a rich and palpable vision of a besieged fantasy-Venice. Mimes wield invisible swords, islands bristle with intrigue and flavor. However, like the gondolas that ply its canals, this "adventure" feels rudderless. More a setting than an adventure, Blockaded offers no context to orient the players or kick things off. Juicy hooks dangle from every shore, but in the tiny space allotted by a pamphlet they feel too undeveloped to explore without some heavy lifting. Make no mistake, I love what's here and will absolutely keep this waiting in the wings during my next Troika campaign, but I feel this brilliant setting demands more space than the pamphlet medium allows.


Scions of Sessar



Scions of Sessar by James Millichamp leads with a lore dump and marches through gloomy dungeon points of interest. The scenario maintains a death grip on the prescribed path forward until the very end, leaving little room for player creativity. Still, it isn't unsalvageable. It needs some breathing room. It needs goals. Some motivation for the random-encounter NPCs here, a little less encouraged player backstabbing there, we're starting to get something cooking. What if the players started the scenario dead, and this trek through the misty underworld ended with a rewriting of each character's death-book to bring them back to life? Now that's an adventure I could share a beer with.


Beneath Damp Sands



In his third submitted adventure, Sean F. Smith teases with an underdeveloped but lovely adventure concept. Comb the beach for the Razor-Clam Regent and undertake cute, peaceful little quests for his favor. A brilliant concept marred by dismissive, saccharine twitter-speak and painfully sparse design. I yearn for a version of this taken more seriously, but I still plan to keep this in my back pocket for a campaign that needs a shot of childlike joy.


The Birdcage



I dislike backstory. I particularly dislike backstory choking out space for gameable material from the narrow confines of a pamphlet. The Birdcage by Lutra Ludos fills its 2 pages almost entirely with long paragraphs of backstory and lore, and I find I like it despite myself. Holy relics from an ancient crusade await brave adventurers in the titan-bone sky prison, the Birdcage.  Only 1 of the pamphlet's 6 columns provides material to assist a GM in running an adventure within the prison: 3 evocative tables of prison residents and dubious jobs. As these tables conjure fantastical images of adventure, the giant blocks of text on the next page taunt and provoke me. The Birdcage dares the reader to fill in the massive gaps left by its backstory and run a campaign worthy of its grandeur. I'm unsure if it's worth the effort to develop this in the face of so many immediately runnable scenarios offered by this jam, but it's tempting.


A Wizard Did It



The second of five pamphlets submitted by Lutra Ludos (at the time of this writing) continues a tradition of quality that I suspect will hold for the rest of his entries. Three feuding wizards teleport the PCs to a demiplane to mediate their intense but obscure argument. With this brilliantly simple concept, the author leaves plenty of space to luxuriate in fun tables: a graphically fascinating relationship wheel, dark secrets between the wizards, and my favorite: dramatic twists befitting a stereotypical "DUN DUN DUNNNN" sound effect. Descriptions of the wizards equip theatrically-inclined GMs with all the material they'd need to perform, but as a poor actor I fear I'd fail to do justice to these complex character snapshots. This pamphlet would sing in the hands of a certain kind of GM, but I'm confident even the clumsiest roleplayers would have an uproariously good time probing the wizards' absurd facades.


In The Thicket



Jonathan Dersch pens another pamphlet replete with public domain art and practical ideas. Six dryads preside over a botanical katamari-sphere. Die drop mechanics establish each dryad's domain and encounters within while sylvan adventure hooks push players in all the right directions. A fury system tracks crimes committed by PCs against plants and dryad-vibes, raising the encounter table die rolls towards more dangerous events. However, the structure of said table and recommended die drop dice size mean players are unlikely to encounter hazards that would begin them down the path of plant slaughter, keeping their fury low and beginning a vicious cycle of peace. Encountering chaotic blight (alluded to by the introduction and represented only in the highest reaches of the encounter table) or dangerous creatures seem a far less likely result of incurring the thicket's wrath than meeting gentle wild animals (entry #5) instead of a tranquil clearing (#2). Despite my complaints, some minor retooling to the clunky fury system could easily spruce up this otherwise solid adventure.


Something About The Gnomes



Garden gnomes loose in the botanical gardens and free sandwiches await in Something About the Gnomes by PanicMolt. Endearingly DIY layout efforts jump off the page: MS Paint art, stats via spreadsheet screenshots, haphazard paragraph placement. Hit-or-miss encounters in the garden's 6 rooms lead to the hiding spots of 3 rogue gnomes. The good: A plant-overprotective, job-insecure rhino man, a den of cannibalistic tigers. The less good: A quiz with joke answers tied to skills, a large frog, passive voice. Should all gnomes be returned for relocation to new pastures, the players earn free sandwiches for life. Who doesn't want free sandwiches for life?


SENTIENT ARMS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!



Delectably absurdist revolutionary factionalism abounds in Sentient Arms of the World, Unite! by Ben Foster. Hopeful propaganda introduces the Revolutionary Commune of Sentient Arms and its righteous tenets of pro-sentient arms liberation and anti-adventurer abuses. The RCSA squats on a dilapidated and teetering 19-floor high tower, rooms sagging with hazardous co-tenants and ambitious sub-committees. Despite a wealth of tables and information for NPC and factional goals, the sheer scale of the tower leaves wide gaps in gameable material. Without encounters, there's little sense of the tower as a complete ecosystem rather than isolated and static rooms. Vaguely antagonistic interior politics and a resounding lack of actual counter-revolutionary scheming means players have little concrete intrigue to grab onto. Sentient Arms feels like a prelude to something greater: The hub of an anti-adventurer revolutionary campaign rather than an adventure in its own right. I'm left pining for the brilliant political intrigue scenario that could have been, but still relish the pamphlet's revolutionary aesthetics and sincere charm.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Troika Pamphlet Jam Reviews, Part 1



The Melsonian Arts Council is currently running a pamphlet adventure jam for Troika! over on Itch.io. Here's a link: https://itch.io/jam/troika-pamphlet-adventure-jam I absolutely adore Troika and pamphlet adventures so thought I'd take a stab at reviewing every submission to the jam. I'm going to be posting short reviews in batches of 6, in submission order (from oldest to newest). After the conclusion of the jam and I've finished all my reviews, I'll post some summary thoughts and assign arbitrary awards to my favorites. I'll try to have fun with this, and I hope you do too.

You may ask, who is this man and what authority does he have to judge these works? I have fair familiarity with Troika, having both played and run dozens of sessions. You can read some of my Troika writings on this very blog. I wrote three (and am in the process of writing more) pamphlet adventures for Mothership, one of which is so far published. I am a pamphlet fan.

Game jam entries are made under time constraints and many of these pamphlets were released for free. My intention with these reviews is to provide fair and honest criticism and feedback for the works on their own merit, not evaluate them as commercial products. I will try to be as constructive as possible.

Here's some links to the other batches of reviews, updated as I post them:
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Carnelian Riddle in the House of Indolent Blooms



What is there to be said about Micah Anderson's Carnelian Riddle in the House of Indolent Blooms? It's good. It's very good. It's beautiful to behold. It drips with dazzlingly imaginative ideas. It's more than worthy of the Troika compatibility Fortle. Players stumble through the fantastical and logic-twisting grounds and halls of the Carnelian Sphinx's Grand Observatory in desperate search of social faux-pas lest they be trapped there for 100 years. The author jam-packed this pamphlet to the point of bursting. It easily hosts enough material to run a short campaign, but the tiny text verges on the point of impracticality for the format. To praise all that's praiseworthy here demands far more space than these short reviews allow. There are riddles. Good ones. The NPCs delight. The rooms fill me with wonder. I almost wish I hadn't read it because I want to play it, badly. I'd buy a fancy printed version if one were made. You should too.


Suburban Cathedral



Suburban Cathedral by Sean F. Smith plunges adventurers into a subterranean mystery. Molemen imprison an earthquake generating creature in a monster infested cathedral beneath a fissure-ravaged town. For what purpose, the pamphlet doesn't say. Six intriguing creatures compose the meat of this scenario. I appreciated that the author provided a truncated (2 options) Mien selection for each rather than scrapping the mechanic entirely. Alas, there's little more here than the creatures and a d6 table of mostly setting-disconnected treasures. The pamphlet loses precious space to verbose, passive language, an unnecessarily large Troika compatibility logo, and a section of unhelpful notes on map-making. I'd have liked to see a public domain floor plan instead. The encounters procedure relies too heavily on monsters and misses opportunities to reinforce the earthquake-plagued subterranean setting: no cave-ins, no quakes. The mystery at the heart of Suburban Cathedral gets my imagination going, but the incomplete-feeling content of the scenario leaves me unsatisfied.


13 Story Bazaar



13 Story Bazaar by Jonathan Dersch tasks players with retrieving a magical flying vase from a rooftop antique store for their grandmother. 24 encounters laden with tomfoolery and danger complicate the climb through 13 floors of shops. A handful of encounters engage multiple floors or the tower as a whole: feuds between establishments, vehicles to traverse multiple floors. Most add threats or texture to a single floor. This scenario was originally written in 2019 for OSR systems and it shows. Bazaar lacks the color of a Troika adventure and too-often prefers the generic to the specific. Classifications of generic establishments, generic fantasy NPCs, and often-vanilla-feeling encounters cast a grey pall over the otherwise fun and dynamic premise. The scenario includes a separate pdf with Troika-compatible NPC stats and a single (charming) background that breathe some Troikian whimsey into the pamphlet, but not quite enough to sufficiently alter the tone.


Undeath of the Author



Undeath of the Author by Quinn B. Rodriguez is, as the author states, insufferably meta. I have little experience with and love for lyric games (of which I believe this is one), and therefore do not feel qualified to review this pamphlet on its own merits. As a Troika adventure, it is not.


The Milk Provider



The Milk Provider by Gustavo Tertoleone gleefully assaults the reader with neon colors and pop culture references. The rear blurb asks if I'm brave enough to enter the crazy unicorn's lair. I'm genuinely unsure. Said lair brims with madness: sentient LSD, a K-Pop band, candy people bursting from jelly pools.  The writing is verbose and often confusing but who cares, we're here to do acid and have fun. This is the perfect scenario to toss a bunch of your rowdy drunk friends into and together drown in its chaos.


Vast Marsh of the Snail-Holm



Vast Marsh of the Snail-Holm, another by Sean F. Smith, casts players into a plasma-storm-swept marsh in search of a magically imprisoned butcher's wife. This short hex crawl threatens players with natural beasts and pests. Giant frogs are as weird as things come out in the brackish pools and reed beds. The adventure relies on the path of the abovementioned plasma storm to sweep players from the most direct route and send them fleeing deep into the marsh, but the confusing language governing its movement and total lack of indication of its effects fails the GM. The adventure concludes with a solid 3-room dungeon inside a giant snail shell, though I wish I knew more about the being generating the storm than its stats. Should the players succeed in freeing the butcher's wife, she rewards the players with an opportunity to learn butchery skills--which I like. There's a nifty scenario here, but it's buried beneath a poorly explained central conceit and dull hex crawling encounters.