Character Backgrounds for Troika! [1/3]


So I recently grabbed myself a copy of Troika! (Sell, 2021). It has filled my mind with wondrous ideas despite being a cute waif of a thing. It could still give you bruise if you were boffed on the noggin with it due to it being lovely and hardback. It is a simple, weird science fantasy roleplaying game in a slightly zany, planescape, Time Bandits, spell jammer donut, mould. Reading through the book got my mind-cogs colliding in extra-dimensional space as I astral projected through the humpback sky. I am not going to go into a review of the book in this post, I will save that for after I have play tested it. Instead what you will find below is my first attempt at creating evocative backgrounds for Troika! characters. Hopefully, you will find these backgrounds fun and perhaps I will expand them beyond Troika! backgrounds at a later date. I can see making a couple of them fantasy NPCs for DnD or perhaps races or backgrounds for that game instead. For whatever reason, I managed to come up with twelve of these pretty quickly, generally on the way to work. Tweaking them still took a little time to get the themes right but who knows maybe there will be more in future. For now, let us commence, strangely.


Backgrounds #1-12


#1 Modal Mycologist

Player of the trumpet mushroom. Purveyor of wild, free blowing horns of plenty and soft, modal swing. Found swaying in harvest festival jazz concerts. A laid back style which sprouts where the cosmic spores alight. Liberated in an interconnected system. Modal nodes. Never caught without a collar or looking shabby in a woodcut or heliotype. You have played and grown in the dingiest dives in the planes. You biggest enemies are your friends: the Mycotonal Jazz Freaks, heathens the lot of them.

Possessions

  • Horn of Plenty or King Trumpet for playing sweet music (Damage as Crossbow)
  • Copy of Fiendish Chord Changes, purchased on a short tour of the hells.
  • Nice Suit
  • Battered Suitcase (empty)
  • Curved mushroom knife

Skills

4 Music
4 Performance (Jazz)
1 Crossbow Fighting
1 Knife Fighting

Special

An experienced ensemble player, you may test luck to add a d6 to another player’s roll.


#2 Sentimental Gastronomist

The finest restaurants of the multiverse mean nothing to the Sentimental Gastronomists. They tour the spheres searching for sweeter treats. The tears of a Psi-bear, the laughter of a Pzhkali Warlord, the love of a Brsskusk for its Queen, these are the meals of a cultured connoisseur. Refusing what most would consider normal sustenance, the Sentimental Gastronomist casts a thin silhouette. Their knowledge of emotion should make them empathic negotiators but often their disgusting slurping is too off putting for all but the most desperate intergalactic parley.

Possessions

  • Slurping Spoon (Damage as a Club, allows the delicate supping of strong emotions within two metres)
  • Ragged Robes
  • Bib or Napkin stained with emotional crumbs

Skills

3 Spell – Thought Vapor
4 Secret Signs – Emotional Menus
2 Emotional Intelligence
2 Manipulation
2 Etiquette


#3 Disciple of the Unchurch

The Unchurch has a million un-branches and un-denominations spread wide across the sparkling cosmos. You represent the newest offshoot and try your hardest not to proselytise about it wherever you go. The Unchurch is, counterintuitively, very well versed in the lore and teaching of all of the major faiths but can’t be bothered with the minor ones. Their mark is the empty hand, their cloth is the leather gag and their verse is the Blank Pages of Knolamz.

Possessions

  • Dull nondescript clothing (1 Hide in crowds)
  • Unique, homemade hat with a patch that says: ‘Free-Thinker™’ (-1 Hide in crowds)
  • Forged copy of The Blank Pages of Knolamz
  • Blunt Weapon of your choice, for knocking reason into people

Skills

3 Theology
2 Mathmology
1 Fighting with your chosen weapon

Special

You have one strong Unbelief (roll on the table below) and a few minor ones (make these up).

d6Unbeliefs
1You refuse to acknowledge the force of gravity. When you don’t think about it hard enough it actually stops working.
2The biggest, baddest god in the black night sky definitely doesn’t exist. It’s all like a conspiracy thing, spread by the mammal people to fuel the profits of big worship. When you encounter an angelic being you may Test Skill + 3 to try and banish it to the back of your mind. If you succeed, it will lurk there until bursting out an inopportune moment. It may not be happy.
3You are not the chosen one, foretold of in prophecy, whispered about on the astral wind, prayed for by the children of Aclune. Honestly, you’re really not! You should actually stop telling everyone that you’re not, it’s making them suspicious that you might be… You may Test Luck to perform a minor miracle but you must deny its occurrence if you succeed. You lose 1 Stamina for each person in the immediate vicinity who isn’t convinced by you (max 2).
4You carry with you a bag full of sacred fruit. To prove it is not sacred you eat it in front of people. Any positive or negative effects are purely coincidental.
5Shield of Unbelief. You have been struck by lightning, turned into a newt and been forced to push a boulder up a hill for like a really long time for some reason. As a result, you are now fairly immune to the actions of the gods and magic to boot. When you would otherwise be affected by magic or the actions of a divine being, you may test luck to avoid the effect.
6You are deeply suspicious of mathmology, astronomy and other evidence based disciplines. Are they religion in disguise? You tie yourself in knots trying to explain and unexplain their concepts. The process makes you vibrate at a frequency that fractures physical reality. You see only some, more and less, numbers cease to have meaning. You may test luck to gain or lose one of an object you possess.

#4 Professional Rabble-rouser

A wide variety of political tensions weave like fault lines through the societies of the starlit expanse. The non-committed drift on the waves of chaos and order produced by their rumblings. Others commit wholly to the energy produced by such tensions, feeding metaphorically and literally on the energies produced. The only fixed belief you have is to change. The side you are on is the agitator, the instigator, the upsetter. You travel the multiverse getting stuck into ‘the action’. Yesterday you were a Angry Peasant, today you are a Serene Facist of Tella and tomorrow you will be a Crystal Liberation soldier.

Possessions

  • Small pocket book of vague aphorisms
  • A Map of the Spheres with political hotspots marked on it
  • 2 Plasmolotov Cocktails

Skills

3 Pamphleteering
3 Oratory
2 Fist Fighting
1 Improvised Weapon Fighting

Special

An excellent agitator you can easily find political pressure points and leverage them. You may spend a day and Test Luck to gain knowledge of a local political conflict and the participants. If you spend another day sowing dissent, you may increase these tensions. They may spill over quickly, in a few weeks, years months or centuries.


#5 Condemned Non-person

Like a horse with a broken leg, you came to the end of the line. They loved you, like a pet or a working dog, they considered you partially sentient. Unfortunately, they just weren’t willing to pay the Fleshcrafter’s exorbitant fees to fix you. For the first time, you took your fate into your own hands and escaped. Despite the damage, despite the pain, somehow, you survived. Later, blackmarket parts or back alley surgery got you back on your feet. The grim results of this are visible to all. You are constantly having to patch yourself up. Word of your escape and survival has worried the powers that be.

Possessions

  • A horrific injury, malady or signs of old ageing (partially counteracted by your ‘treatment’)
  • A meagre collection of personal effects (a comb, a few lumps of coal etc.)
  • Collection of disguises
  • Forged papers

Skills

4 Disguise
2 Healing
2 Strength / 2 Mathmology

d6Reason you were condemned
1Afflicted by malady, injury or old age you couldn’t perform the physical or mental labor required of you.
2The cost of your upkeep paled in comparison to the value of your physical body to students, merchants and dissection fans.
3You lost or gained a soul, which is problematic when you work for the divine or the damned.
4A wizard’s familiar, you were set to be retired due to contraction of magical rot.
5A clockwork device, you were replete with broken appendages and beset by mechanical viruses.
6Your behaviour was unruly or out of control.

#6 Starjuice Squeezer

Collecting the ripe, zesty fluids of stars for the consumption of health freak gods and ravenous black hole monstrosities. The Starjuice trade is tightly controlled by the Starjuicers Guild. Last eon, you sold more than your quota and the Guild aren’t happy. They are looking for you. You really don’t want to be found by them. They are as dangerous as the space mafia but they smoke less and don’t suffer from interplanetary scurvy.

Possessions

  • Adamantine Thermos which contains 1 Litre of Starjuice
  • Elaborate Spacesuit with Guild patches hastily removed (counts as Heavy Armour)
  • Large Extraction Syringe (Damage as Spear)
  • Guild Membership Card
  • Betting Slips and Scratch Cards (all losers)

Skills

2 Astrology
2 Strength
2 Zero-Gravity Manoeuvres
1 Climb


#7 Master-at-Arms, Apprentice-at-Legs

A giant Astral sail barge appears in the sky. A group of local rebels point and stare, not realising that they have just lost the war. The barge is owned and operated by the Academy of the Dangerous Body, one of the most feared mercenary companies in the spheres. You lived on board, you trained soldiers, you sailed the spheres taking orders and lives. You collected a lot of arms, from who knows where, presumably there are creatures somewhere that now don’t have any. You are good with the arms. You are not so good with your ill-tempered mount and its numerous legs.

Possessions

  • Collection of arms and legs (weapons and limbs, 3 weapons of your choice, a Fusil and 2d6 limbs)
  • 1d6 Plasmic Cores
  • Heavy armour
  • Unruly 8 legged Arachnid Mount

Skills

3 Weapon of your choice Fighting
2 Fusil Fighting
2 Fist Fighting
1 Drilling
1 Military Strategy

Special

You have multiple arms, some are just trophies, others are grafted to your body. You may manipulate several objects simultaneously.


#8 Obsequious Underling

A lonely servant without a master. You were the greatest henchman, lackey, slave or fool ever to work for a powerful individual. You prostrated yourself, did menial tasks with a smile and then asked for more. You wanted power, respect, a higher position, maybe even love. You were fully institutionalised and treated like mildly entertaining dirt. Your previous master’s untimely death at the hands of the Great Perhakxian Maw has left you somewhat at a loss. You took what you could in the chaos that followed and fled. You didn’t get that much, the bigger thugs took the best stuff.

Possessions

  • Dagger
  • Several pocket edition Self Help Books
  • Map to where the skeletons are buried
  • Sack full of plundered knick-knacks

Skills

4 Bootlicking
2 Acrobatics
2 Sneak
1 Etiquette
1 Run


#9 Fake Insectoid Polestander

You were sentenced to stand atop a pole that barely had space to place one foot upon. After half an eternity of aching acrobatics you realised no one was checking up on you. You slid down the prison pole into the gooey ether clouds below. The society which sentenced you was gone. Hitching a ride on an insectoid circus barge, you covered your ugly skin with a costume of chitin. Performing for six legged royals, you wowed them with your one footed balancing prowess. You were lavished with wax, aphids, dung and honey until a civil war left no more room for jollity. Your insectoid disguise looks ungainly and doesn’t hold up to close inspection. You may truly believe you are an insectoid at this point.

Possessions

  • Insectoid Costume (counts as Modest Armour)
  • Pincered Helmet (Damage as Sword)
  • Faded garlands made of plant matter

Skills

4 Acrobatics
2 Strength
2 Disguise
2 Etiquette – Insectoid Cultures


#10 Seamstress of Nightmare Linen

Experienced factory worker, punctual, non-union, several years experience weaving bad dream blankets made of gossamer. The revolution left the traditional industries in disarray. As a member of the revolutionary committee demanding publishing him royalties for workers you weee one of the first to get the chop. You learned to weave with you feet instead. You applied for your old job under a pseudonym and wiled away till you were ancient and they closed the factory due to the rising price of psycotton.

Possessions

  • 4 Skiens of Nightmare Linen
  • Case of punch card patterns with The Nightmare Worker’s Manifesto hidden inside
  • Giant needles (Damage as Bow)
  • Weaver’s Knife
  • Brass Hands

Skills

4 Weaving
3 Spell – Fear
2 Spell – Sleep
2 Dream interpretation
1 Spell – Darkness
1 Spell – Dark See
1 Awareness


#11 Jibber Jabber

Blathering boxer extraordinaire. A prize pugilist with a gift for gabbing. You out-blabbered Cral the Carriage Driver, you out-boxed a six armed ape from the hells. You fought in and sailed around the six rings of Satala. The perfect package in the sport of kings, the undisputed champion of the association sanctioned spheres. That kid couldn’t out-blab a blob or out-punch your lunch. They wanted a fix, a fall, and you were having none of it. So you got sucker-punched and prattled and they took the title anyway. Now you are relegated to show tours of the spheres, middle card status, small purses for second rate bouts. I saw you fight on the plane of Fire! Your glory days aren’t behind you yet! Come on get out there champ! Show them what you’re made of!

Possessions

  • Boxing Gloves
  • Small leather pouch filled with your teeth
  • Book of nonsense verse and vocal warm ups
  • Several Championship Belts (counts as Modest Armour)

Skills

4 Fist fighting
4 Strength
2 Run
2 Spell – Babble
2 Spell – Befuddle


#12 Cosmic String Tuner

Behind the world, like faint strands of glistening, golden cat gut, lie the cosmic strings. St. Ferto’s Wizarding College of Musical Mathmology dedicates themselves to finding and tuning them correctly. Unfortunately, ancient ideological schisms mean they cannot agree on a ‘correct’ tuning system or reference pitch. As a result, they travel the spheres constantly undoing the work of their ‘deluded’ peers. If you find a wizard wildly swinging a hammer at thin air and muttering about cosmic vibrations you have probably found one of these poor, deaf agents of order and chaos. If you meet two, put your fingers in your ears quickly. They are likely to start singing at each other out of tune arguing about the correct pitch of the universe. Their conferences are wholly unbearable.

Possessions

  • Large Tuning Fork (Damage as Staff)
  • Tuning Hammer
  • Tap Shoes
  • String Vest

Skills

3 Mathmology
3 Second Sight
2 Spell – Thunder
2 Close Harmony Singing
1 Spell – Sleep
1 Spell – Breach
1 Spell – Random

Special

Once per day, you may Test your Luck to try and find a nearby Cosmic String. If you succeed, you may pluck the string to cast a spell you know at no stamina cost. However, if you roll an 11 or 12 on your skill test you must roll on the Oops! Table. If you spend a day tuning the string you gain an enormous sense of wellbeing.

d6The ‘Correct’ Tuning SystemThe ‘Correct’ reference pitch
1Equal Temperament, the great egalitarian brotherhood of keys.A = 390Hz
2Meantone Temperament, mean like a wolf with a ferocious howl.A = 415Hz
3Just Intonation, maybe a little pythagorean at a stretch.A = 423Hz
4Microtones baby! Your octaves contain more notes and thus are superior.A = 435Hz
5Its pentatonic but you can’t decide which five are the best.A = 440Hz
6Not even the wildest, most unruly students of St. Ferto’s would agree with your insane system. It is mathmological and musical madness.J = 440Hz

Well that’s the lot of them, at least for now. I hope you’ve enjoyed them. Let me know in the comments or if you have any suggestions. Keep tuned for a review of Troika! itself in the near future, assuming I can get the gang to play it. Mwah!


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