Can I Play an Arcane Trickster Rogue Tiefling?

At FB’s biggest RPG group in Mexico, someone said they really want to play that character in D&D, but no one wants to be their DM. I think it’s understandable, an arcane trickster rogue tiefling is a stupid concept.

One problem with D&D (from 2e on) is that it takes itself seriously, to a fault. Therefore, most players just won’t accept a ridiculous character concept like that of the arcane trickster rogue tiefling, because he makes the whole game look ridiculous. For, like all court jesters, he’s a reflection of the concomitant ridiculousness of the court, however invisible to itself.

Ridiculous courtiers hate those who remind them of their ridiculousness.

My solution to this poor soul? Easy: “Play Troika! Here’s your character sheet:”

Arcane Trickster Rogue Tiefling

You are a child of the devil, a free spirit, and no one will tell you what you can or cannot be, and whoever dares, abide by the consequences.

Possessions

Sword

Thief Tools

Advanced Skills

2 Punch Dagger (Damage as Knife)

2 Darkvision

2 Hellish Resistance

1 Thaumaturgy

1 Tail Fighting (Damage as Unarmed)

New Advanced Skills

Darkvision

You can see in the dark.

Hellish resistance

Fire doesn’t harm you.

Thaumaturgy

You can produce any of the following effects:

  • Your voice booms up to three times as loud as normal for 1 minute
  • You cause flames to flicker, brighten, dim, or change color for 1 minute
  • You cause harmless tremors in the ground for 1 minute
  • You create an instantaneous sound that originates from a point of your choice within range, such as a rumble of thunder, the cry of a raven, or ominous whispers
  • You instantaneously cause an unlocked door or window to fly open or slam shut
  • You alter the appearance of your eyes for 1 minute

Tail Fighting

You can attack with your tail.

Why Troika!?

In Troika! you can play whatever character you want. He won’t. In Mexico, most people won’t play games other than D&D and Vampire. They would rather not play at all than playing other games. This is a true story. I spent more than two years trying to find players for either a LotFP, Into the Odd, Troika!, Over the Edge, or Mutant Future game. It was only after two years that I found three people. One week after, ony one player came, the other two didn’t even bother to cancel. Three months later, I found two new players and she found two new players. We have been player for a little more than a year every sunday.

In conclusion. Yeah, fuck 5e. Fuck wizards of the coast. And fuck weak pathetic fools!

Death is the New Life: Embrace character death

Some games favor, and even encourage, that characters die easily. This approach is supported by simple character creation rules, high lethality, and a focus on emerging stories (or no story at all), as opposed to systems that include the character’s story during its creation. In the original Traveller, a character could die during the character creation process.

Character death is not a flaw, it’s a good thing. Actually, it has several benefits.

Death as engagement and learning

Experiencing death firsthand will teach players that the world is dangerous and will force them to seek alternative solutions and experience character’s abilities in unusual ways.

Is a Fighter strong? Usuallt that’s the case, yet he doesn’t necessarily have to fight the ten dog-faced kobolds that stand guard on the bridge, and instead he can use his strength to bring the bridge down and kill the pulgosos (or leave them very hurt) in an instant. Has the Thief made a career of backstabbing people? Fine, but she can’t stab in the back that eldritch thing with eyes around its head, if she tried, she might end up dead in a few rounds; instead she can use gab and charisma to convince it that it shouldn’t allow to be exploited by anyone, and maybe get an ally to overthrow the king (and steal the jewels of the crown).

Death teaches us that out there someone or something wants us dead, and that if we want to survive we must be smarter.

Death as advance

When our adventurer dies a victim of a poisoned needle, two things happen: a) the items and equipment of the fallen are shared among the survivors, and b) the player creates a new character, who carries new items, and soon joins the band of ne’er-do-wells.

In this case, death functions as a form of progress, an improvement for the group without entailing any additional expense of money or acquiring experience. If a group of three looters carries three swords and three rations, once they all die and are replaced, they will still be three looters but now they will have six swords and six rations.

Death as promotion

One way to replace a dead character is promoting a hireling. This is an easy, fast and logical way to keep the player in the game without wasting time.

If players have become fond of their linkboy, letting him grow professionally can be a cause for celebration, or at least they will know that this beloved character will be with them for a longer time, with the added benefit of immediacy.

Death to try new options

Some systems not only favor, but celebrate high mortality, and also expect the characters to have a story. But a story that emerges from the game itself, with only some vague lines and ideas given by the system itself.

If the system says that the character is a Lone Monarch (Troika!), or that it has an ugly mutation (Into the Odd), you don’t need to write ten pages of story to justify those characteristics, only mentioning them when something within the game occurs that makes it relevant.

In my Troika! campaign, the group met a Slug King, which reminded the Lone Monarch of his own lost reign, and full of anger, he attacked the poor loser. This gave the character an extra background element: when he remembers his lost kingdom, he has one of two reactions: to cry, or to get violent. In Into the Odd, the character with the ugly mutation was a human-kangaroo hybrid, which allowed him to jump higher and kick hard.

This simplicity also allows great flexibility to create whatever characters you can imagine, no matter how outrageous. Do you want a robot? Nothing prevents you. An intergalactic traveler? Nothing easier A reptilian who spits poison? There is no reason why you can’t have it. A phlebotomist? But of course!

A character’s demise allows you to try something new. What could be better?

A Troika! Background | Onna Bugeisha (female samurai)

Onna Bugeisha (female samurai)

You follow the doctrine of the Way of the Warrior, and are a fierce and lethal warrior, trained in combat, self-defense and the skillful use of weapons; your training allows you to face without fear not only the samurai, but also demons and even gods, either on horseback or on foot. When the battle is imminent, you will always go forward and inspire your troops. But the era of swordsmen, and swordswomen, has passed, and your society demands other tasks from you: being a mother and wife, and only holding arms when a stranger threatens the tranquility of your people. But you were never good at accepting a passive, supporting role. One day you took your naginata and your kaiken, you rode your horse and went to explore the multiverse.

[Get the PDF!]

Possessions

  • Naginata (as Polearm) or Katana (as Sword)
  • Kaiken (as Knife)
  • Bow
  • A White Horse
  • Samurai Armour (-3 Damage, 4 Encumbrance)
  • Gala Costume and Jingasa Hat

Advanced Skills

3 Naginata or Katana Fight
3 Kaiken Fight
2 Bow Fight
1 Ride
1 Inspire

Inspire

When you are the first to attack in a fight, your teammates gain one of the following: 1) one extra initiative Token, or 2) a +1 damage bonus. Both last until the encounter ends. Players choose their benefit; henchmen and NPCs roll 1d2 instead.

Special

When you are unarmoured in an encounter, you gain one extra initiative Token.

Credits

Yoshitoshi Musha Burui (Heroine Hangaku), artwork. Credit: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.
A background for Troika!, by Vagabundork.

A Troika! Background | Phlebotomist

Phlebotomist

The Interdimensional Lodge of the Liquid Fire teaches the secrets of the blood, the great Masters are capable of dramatically altering the course of history with only a few drops of the vital liquid, and you could have done so if your irresponsibility had not caused your unappealable expulsion from the College. Now, with just a handful of tricks, you wander through the multiverse, making a living as a doctor and a cheater.

[Get it as a PDF]

Possessions

  • A scalpel (damage like a Knife)
  • An autoimmune Syringe
  • A bottle of Devil Blood (damage like Fire Bolt) or Gnome Blood (produces an image like Illusion)
  • Two changes of Clothes (doctor and layperson)

Advanced Skills

2 Drain Blood
2 Scalpel Fight
1 Blood Alchemistry
1 Healing
1 Throw

Blood Alchemistry

Once a day, you can use a sample of Stolen Blood to create a potion with a random effect similar to a spell. Your referee will tell you how it works (example: you must ingest it or throw it at your target to receive the effect; but its use may vary at the convenience of the adventure).

Drain Blood

You can attack a subject with the syringe, if you succeed, you steal a blood sample but without causing harm. Stolen blood is necessary to use Blood Alchemistry.

Credits

Phlebotomist taking blood, artwork. Credit: Mary Rouncefield. CC BY-NC. Wellcome Collection.

Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) terms and conditions.

A new background for Troika!, by Vagabundork, the Chaos Magick-User.

Smoke Maker | A Troika! Background

Smoke Maker

You work in a smoke factory. You don’t know what is manufactured in it or who’s your boss. But you know your foreman (and half the time you would like to strangle him with your own hands). The pay is bad, but at least you can eat once a day, or two if you manage well. Oh well, that’s over. Early in the morning you strangled your foreman and, yes, you are now a fugitive. Not that they really want to catch you, but if they have the opportunity they will use you as an example for all the other workers and their fantasies of revolution.

Possessions

Charcoal
Cheap Pipe
Chimney-Pot Hat
Elegant Rags
Hammer
Ruby Lorgnettes (see Troika! Numinous Edition p. 57)

Advanced Skills

3 Smoke Craft
3 Fist Fighting
2 Strength
1 Hammer Fighting
1 Blacksmithing

Smoke Craft

You can manipulate the smoke as though it was clay, but without solidity. You can create shapes or move it like a puppet. You can also do tricks with the smoke of your pipe.


I’m working on a setting for Troika! Numinous Edition. Seriously, guys, you should try it! There’s no other game like it, there’s no fun like it out there. Anyway, I’m working on an End of Time setting ‘zine and although it will take some time to finish the first issue, I wanted to share some of the things I’m making. I had previously posted the Candle Witch, another character background, and I got a few positive comments on Facebook and Reddit. If you like it, I’d like to know. If you think it’s boring, I’d like to know too, so I can do better!

Keep the fire ablaze!

Candle Witch | A Troika! Background

Candle Witch

You know many tricks. You use these tricks to entertain the kids and distract grown ups, while your partners in crime steal their cows or some corn. And you just need a lit candle. If things get an ant color (that is, when they get ugly), you can use your reliable fusil (there are many like it but this one is yours) or the battered sword that your mother left you.

Possessions

Battered sword (-1 to damage roll)
Fusil
Candles
Waxed hat that protects from rain

Advanced Skills

3 Candlemaking
2 Spell – Candlemaking
1 Fusil Fighting
1 Second Sight
1 Sleight of Hand
1 Spell – One from this list: Amity, Babble, Beffudle, Breach, Ember, Fear, Flash, Natter, Quench, Read Stars
1 Spell – One from the complete list (from Troika! or the ones included here, or any other source)
1 Spell – Shadowplay
1 Sword Fighting

New Advanced Skill | Candlemaking

A craft skill that allows you to make candles and wax objects, braid wicks, and other actions related to the trade.

New Spell | Candlemaking (2 per volume)

By lighting a candle, you can use its flame to melt a surface as if it were made of wax. Every 2 points of Stamina sacrificed allow to melt a volume approximate to that of a human head.

New Spell | Shadowplay (1 per viewer)

The wizards who invented this spell came from a tradition of shadow theater. Even in bad light conditions (but not in total darkness) you can create shadows with your hands. Spectators must Test their Luck (or Skill for Enemies), or they will be captivated while the spell is active. The magician can interrupt the spell at will, or it ends automatically when he loses his concentration (such as suffering an attack or going to sleep).

I’m working on a ‘zine for Troika! Numinous Edition. Seriously, guys, you should get it! It’s a wonder!

Anyway, I’m working on an End of Time setting ‘zine and although it will take some time to finish the first issue, I wanted to share some of the things I’m making. I have also posted the Smoke Maker, another character background. If you think it’s boring, I’d like to know too, so I can do better! If you like it, please tell me!

A Descent Into the Odd

Into the Odd is one of the best rules-light* OSR systems in the market, and with good reason.

Warning: If you need the manual to give you the precise instructions to determine if the Player Characters can or can not do something, you most likely won’t like Into the Odd. Chris McDowall, its creator, designed the game for the referees to determine what’s possible in their campaign worlds, and how to resolve every unforeseen situation. It’s a game of imagination and problem solving.

A second warning? Well why not!? This is not a review but a commentary on what I like most about this game and its rules-light approach. If up to this day you don’t have idea what Into the Odd is, I can only refer you to these two reviews: [1] [2].

Few and simple rules are a feature, not a flaw. This approach to game design allows the referee to design their own adventures with the necessary freedom to include whatever content they want, either their own or taken from another source. Do you like that RuneQuest Classic Edition adventure where you have to protect a pawnshop from an attack by baboons in alliance with a group of non-human outlaws led by a centaur, but don’t have the time or energy (or interest) to learn the mechanics of the game? Very simple. Convert it! Converting it, even converting it on the fly into playable material for your Into the Odd campaign, is, if not trivial, very easy. Of course you need to familiarize with the original source before you try it.

While Gary Gygax throws a tantrum in his grave every time someone introduces non-AD&D material to his campaign (“[a]dding non-official material puts your game outside the D&D or AD&D game system … [E]xtraneous tinkered material onto the existing D&D or AD&D campaign will quickly bring it to the lower level at best, ruin it at worst.”**), Chris (like most Old-School Renaissance designers) believes that the referee is the only one who can say what is valid in his or her own campaign world. They are right.

This flexibility is what has allowed us to have works like Silent Titans (mini-setting for Into the Odd) and Troika! (a complete game based on Fighting Fantasy), both being works that don’t adhere to the precepts of the well-thinking heads—gamekeepers—who claim authority—albeit false—to say what is valid and what is not valid in the games of others.

This same flexibility is what I have sought to exploit in Goddess of the Crypt, a mini-dungeon that I wrote for Into the Odd which combines Egyptian and Mayan themes (subtle and not so subtle), weird fiction, non-Euclidean geometry and a touch of gonzo oddness.

Using the rules that are included in Into the Odd, it is possible to extrapolate your ideas to create the content you need, or want, and assign ad hoc mechanics to solve the (in-game) conflicts that occur due to the “extraneous material tinkered onto” the game you are playing.

One idea that Into the Odd allowed me to perform better than other systems, was this list of replacement adventurers, useful for those times when you need a new character for a player or want to try a concept different from those included in the book but there’s no time (or energy) to create a new concept.

So, what are you waiting for? If you didn’t abandon this article after the warning, then it would be unfair to not descend into the odd world of this little gem of a game.

*Traditional OSRs, like Labyrinth Lord or Lamentations of the Flame Princess, are not included in my definition of rules-light system even when they’re actually light and easy to learn. In this case, rules-light systems are those that contain their rules in a few pages, have few stats, and minimum bookkeeping.

**Gary could be such an asshole at times.