How to Run Trophy Gold: Combat and Risk

The third and final (for now) episode in the How to Run Trophy Gold podcast series is now available! In this one I discuss the Combat Roll and the Hunt Roll from a procedural perspective and a roleplaying perspective.

If you have any questions, please ask them here!

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Questions:

If you are converting a monster from 5e, how do you handle conditions that would have a saving throw in combat? If the PC gets hit do you assume they fail the saving throw and they get both a ruin and the condition or only the condition? Should conditions last the whole combat or do they default to one round? Or do you do a risk roll in combat in place of saving throw?

If a PC retreats from combat, but others stay, does the retreating PC need to make a risk roll to retreat successfully? Or do the still attacking players provide a distraction so the retreating PC auto succeeds on retreating safely while the monster is occupied?

I see that if one character retreats from combat they give their weak point to another PC. But how is it handled if everyone retreats? Does it immediately change to risk rolls and weak points are no longer relevant? One risk roll for the group or everyone makes their own? If you fail your risk roll, do you roll dice like you were in a combat round and weak points rolled take ruin (but you can’t kill the monster if you roll high b/c you were running)? Or would everyone automatically take 1 ruin for failing the risk roll?

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Great questions! Let me take them in order (also: Cc @jesseross, who may have some thoughts)

For the monster question, yes, you would likely get both the condition and a ruin increase, but it would definitely depend on the nature of the attack. If you got hit by a poisonous bite, that might just be the condition if the bite itself isn’t intrinsically dangerous (such as from a smaller creature). Conditions last until they are cleared, and it’s up to the GM to determine whether that has occurred, either through some action by the player character, going back to town, or simply the passage of time. Keep in mind that a condition should not lead to further Ruin increases. Rather, conditions are about fictional positioning and narrative. So, in the case of a poisoned character, the poison might affect their ability to take certain actions, or impede them in any number of ways. You could even go so far as to say “If you can’t get this poison taken care within the next few scenes, you’re dead.” But you would not have the poison cause further Ruin.

A retreating character does not need to make a Risk Roll to get out of Combat. This does not, however, mean they won’t run into further trouble, which might provoke a Risk Roll. But they don’t need to make a Risk Roll to actually retreat.

In the case where everyone retreats, that is almost certainly a Risk Roll. Depending on the circumstances, it might be a single roll done by the “leader” of the group, or it might be separate rolls. It’s your call as the GM. If such a Risk Roll is failed, the penalty is whatever you negotiated as a group in the Risk Roll procedure. Likely this will simply be “You can’t retreat and have to do a Combat Roll” but it could be something even worse, especially when Devil’s Bargains are in play.

I hope that is helpful!

Very helpful, thank you!

Another set of questions: Is it ever possible for the players to kill a monster without combat, using just a risk roll? Let’s say they try to collapse the ceiling onto a monster from a distance. If they use the environment to attack, is that still an attack roll?

How would you handle players using the environment to damage the monster? Would they just be lowering the monster’s endurance?

How do you handle a situation where they try and disadvantage the monster before battle? Let’s say they are able to blind the monster or restrain it in some way. Is that able to be reflected in a subsequent combat roll?

Yes, you definitely can (ranged attack, for example). It would be a risk roll. It’s only a combat roll if you’re doing melee and the creature can fight back.

As for your other questions, you would lower the monster’s endurance by 1. I can’t recall if such things can be stacked, though. @jesseross?

@Curiosity200 The rules are a little vague, but here’s what they say just for context:

To defeat a monster (or group of monsters), you must roll against the monter’s Endurance, which is a number between 2 and 12. The GM may reduce the Endurance if you have relevant Skills or are taking advantage of your equipment, environment, or the monster’s Weakness in some way. If the Endurance would go below the number of dark dice being rolled, then no Combat Roll is required.

If the players are angling to stack those advantages, then I would allow it – at some point what you’re doing just isn’t risky anymore and you can defeat the monster without a roll. Ultimately, though, it’s up to the GM to decide what and how many advantages apply – each point of Endurance reduction significantly increases the odds of success.

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I created a combat simulator for Trophy Gold that can be accessed via a jupyter notebook here: https://colab.research.google.com/drive/1rHSmOWa_p7YgAGfisr7ix550jWqmRrHF

This could be used to work out statistics based on monster endurance and number of players.
It’s not user friendly to use, but I could modify it if it is of interest to anyone.

You can set up a party and a monster

state = {
    'monster': { 'endurance': 12 },
    'pcs': [
      {'name': 'Alina','ruin': 1},
      {'name': 'Baso','ruin': 1},
      {'name': 'Kasien','ruin': 1},
      {'name': 'Desarim','ruin': 1},
    ]
}

and run a simulation, getting a report

{'average_survivor_damage': 3.0,
 'average_survivor_ruin': 4.0,
 'monster_dead': True,
 'num_pcs_dead': 3,
 'rounds': 5}

and being able to inspect rounds of combat

===== round 3 =====
{'attack_roll': 10,
 'dead': [{'name': 'Desarim', 'ruin': 6, 'weakness': 2}],
 'extra_dice': 2,
 'monster': {'defeated': False, 'endurance': 12},
 'pcs': [{'name': 'Alina', 'ruin': 3, 'weakness': 3},
         {'name': 'Baso', 'ruin': 5, 'weakness': 4},
         {'name': 'Kasien', 'ruin': 3, 'weakness': 1},
         {'name': 'Desarim', 'ruin': 6, 'weakness': 2}],
 'rolls': [6, 2, 2, 4, 4, 3],
 'survived': [{'name': 'Alina', 'ruin': 3, 'weakness': 3},
              {'name': 'Baso', 'ruin': 5, 'weakness': 4},
              {'name': 'Kasien', 'ruin': 3, 'weakness': 1}],
 'time': 4,
 'wounded': [{'name': 'Desarim', 'ruin': 6, 'weakness': 2},
             {'name': 'Desarim', 'ruin': 6, 'weakness': 2},
             {'name': 'Baso', 'ruin': 5, 'weakness': 4},
             {'name': 'Baso', 'ruin': 5, 'weakness': 4},
             {'name': 'Alina', 'ruin': 3, 'weakness': 3}]}
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From Twitter - Was just introduced to this game by a friend. Combat felt a bit off so I did a statistical analysis of the expected results. Is it intended for fighting as a group of 4 to provide consistently worse results (4 to 8 3 times more damage taken on avg) than fighting alone?

(TANGENT): The reason this came up is that part of the ‘table etiquette’ that I’ve tried to cultivate within myself is to examine the ways my character can justify engaging in actions that are “sub-optimal” from a meta perspective either to maintain group unity or engagement with the story.

At the time, I was playing a treasure seeker with the Trickster occupation, and was sufficiently far back from the party (wielding a crossbow) that it was agreed it was possible for my character to not participate in combat and leave. Given my past as a fugitive servant, I felt like immediately running away was a ‘valid’ choice, but thought instead of ways I could justify sticking around and helping.

In the end, I decided that it was also a valid conclusion to think “I’m far enough back, I’m not likely to get hurt while the monster is dealing with these other guys in melee”, and declared that my weak point was that “due to confidence in my safety, I was not paying attention to my surroundings or positioning myself in a way that I could avoid the monster if it tried to pass them”.

My decision to go with the second option was based on the belief that doing so would increase the group’s chances of success with sufficiently low risk that my self-interested character wouldn’t run away.

Running the math on this encounter (3 or 4 Treasure Seekers versus one Endurance 8 monster) gives the following results:
3 TS - ~99% chance of success after 3 rounds with an expected damage of ~2.25 (~0.75 per person
4 TS - ~98% chance of success after 2 rounds with an expected damage of ~3.15 (~0.78 per person)

While the per-person damage isn’t significantly higher, the higher total still means more gold needed for everyone to remove as much ruin as they can. While in this instance that is only a difference of 1, the disparity only becomes more pronounced the higher the monster endurance and the fewer treasure seekers participating. (A single TS has an expected total damage of ~0.94 after 5 rounds with an ~99.7% chance of success)
(END TANGENT)

TLDR: How intentional is this discrepancy, and How is it recommended players decide on their participation in a fight when they have the option to run from combat? Since you can construct situations in which running from a fight would be a purely meta decision. How do you encourage players to take a worse meta decision when that isn’t their only (or even most in-character) choice?

Are players intended to act as if their characters think they’re helping when they’re actually making things worse?

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I was asking myself some of the same questions when I wrote the simulator. I wanted to gauge the effect of party size in handling an incursion or an encounter.

There is one issue that I would like to understand better about combat: every pc contributes equally to the dice, whereas I would like to see the effect of fictional positioning during different combat rounds. As far as I understand when in combat you create fiction to justify the result of rolls and not viceversa. is this a feature or could it be better if fiction affected the rolls directly?

I also understand that monster endurance can be modified before the combat by setting up advantageous circumstances

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Players are expected to make dramatically interesting, “fiction first” (that is, following the precedent established by a character’s previous actions/beliefs/thoughts and the established context) decisions, to both their detriment and benefit. The Player Principles lays it out best:

Play to win. Play like your life depends on it, because in this game, it likely does. Use your wits, and when you have to fight, fight dirty.
Play to lose. At some point, your luck will run out. Embrace it and lean into it.

So if it makes sense for a situation to be dire, let it be dire. If it makes sense for all but one character to run, let them. Either option generates drama, interpersonal or otherwise, to explore later.

Taking your example and looking at ways to engage with a monster meaningfully, another option you could have chosen for your character, since they weren’t in danger, would have been not to join the Combat Roll and instead make a Risk Roll to lower the monster’s Endurance (firing from a safe distance, hurting it before the others engaged). An easy consequence would have been drawing you into the Combat Roll and then more readily placing you in danger.

Overall, though, I think you are correcting in seeing that fighting a monster is deadly, which is by design. In Trophy Dark, the preceding game that Gold is based on, fighting a monster isn’t even an option — you just die if you try.

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Running the simulations I noticed that combat, even with endurance 12 monsters, is far less deadly than I expected. What kills you is not the encounter as much as the grind of a sequence of encounters. I am quite happy about the finding because the system still feels deadly without being overly punishing

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@Karthas077 , The counter-intuitive math in the Combat rolls means that players that haven’t done the simulation or similar work on the odds of a situation really don’t know whether helping in a fight is a boon or a negative for the group. It is not obvious whether to help or not so players tend to go with their gut reaction…which seems to work pretty well much of the time in Trophy Gold.

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It was my first game and I hadn’t yet realized that it was an option for me to do anything to “help” (risk roll) outside of combat, or that combat was a “melee” thing. These are definitely things I’m keeping in mind for the future though.

As I mentioned in my long tangent, I was trying to make a character based decision in that instance. The tipping point for whether or not he would participate was that he thought he would be helping, which brings me to the final question of my post “Are characters supposed to be able to figure out they’re making things worse?”

The knowledge of what’s going on with the maths behind the scenes isn’t really a problem for me. Even before I did the maths, I was certain that helping would cause all the treasure seekers to take way more damage; I just wasn’t sure how the higher probability of success affected it over multiple rounds.

Honestly the part I’m having trouble wrapping my head around is still “Are the characters supposed to be able to figure out that their participation is making things worse?”

Even if they can’t tell immediately, it would not take a very large sample size to realize that people/armor are getting way more damaged and/or the monsters are not going down any easier. Even putting aside the very large standard deviation of the maths, for a human(oid) that is actually participating (as opposed to a meta observer), it feels to me like it should be even more immediately obvious, possibly only requiring a single combat before they all realize “I have no idea what I’m doing and I’m getting in the way more than I’m helping.”

Edit - The main reason this is an issue for me is that the rules allow you create a Treasure Seeker that cares deeply about “keeping people safe”. If they ARE able to tell if their participation would help or not (and there are plenty of skills, occupations, and backgrounds which I feel would justify this), the most in -character thing for them to do is sit and watch their unarmed untrained farmer friend fight a ghoul alone… which just feels weird… And the alternative is that your abandoned veteran turned knight can’t tell that it’s his fault his farmer friend is now missing an arm… which is also weird.

Edit2 - And now I can’t get this image out of my head of a knight wearing a ton of armor standing on a hill shouting encouraging words down at some peasant who’s trying desperately to not get eaten. “You can do it! Go for his legs!”

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