Trophy Discussion Thread

Hello! This is a place to discuss the game Trophy by @jesseross. Trophy is a game of dark fantasy and psychological horror. It was first made available in Codex - Dark 2 and has been expanded in every issue of Codex to come out since.

If you have played Trophy and would like to share your thoughts about the game, or if you simply have questions, Jesse and myself will be watching this space.

If you’d like to get the Trophy core rules, you can do so right here:

The first expansion for the game is in Codex - Emerald, which is currently PWYW on DriveThru:

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I ran Trophy for the first time Tuesday night; the Flocculent Cathedral incursion. We got through three rings and are going to finish up the last two tonight (Friday). I felt this incursion would be a little easier to GM the first time. The body horror and gross-out aspects are nice to lean on as opposed to the more psychological horror of Shifting Sands.
We have really enjoyed the game so far. I look forward to running another incursion or even better, playing.
I want to finish the incursion before giving my impressions, but I can say the system is tight. We really enjoyed the other players, not just the GM being able to come up with what bad could happen during a risk roll. It’s really a touchstone of what this game is about, Inter-player and inter-character fuckery. The moves where the players got to dictate a condition on the other player, were brutal. Players were way more viscous to each other than I would be. It took them a little time to get to that point, but once they did, damn it was good.
Zoomed back, the GM sets the theme, sets the tone and imagery, then shakes the jar of bees until the players tear each other apart.
Be extra deliberate and diligent with your safety tools on this game and check in often.

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I love this game - it is very inspiring. I wrote & ran an incursion (The Writer’s Retreat, twice), and the second time things were so tense that my hands were shaking and I was rather jittery afterwards, because my players were so awesome and things were coming together so well.

For my part, I believe that the drives are very important in this game - a really good drive already shows the cracks in the character’s psyche and invites the players to lean into that.
A really good drive should be something very personal and relatable, and I think it pays out if the GM asks questions about it to turn the screw just so on that later.

For my incursion I used drives rooted in the need to be affirmed, the need to deal with personal issues, jealousy, obsession & self-preservation. Even those drives that had somebody else in them were really about the way these others viewed the player character - it wasn’t about doing something nice for those secondary people. Because I feel Trophy works best if the characters are deeply flawed even before going on the incursion. Even better if the flaw drives them towards it - the seeds of the character’s deconstruction should already be there from the beginning.

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Looking forward to your impressions when you’re done! It’s neat to see it out in the world with other people running it!

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Second session went very well. The players got to the cusp between Ring 4 and ring 5 and died appropriately and satisfactorily.
We had a bit of a snag when PvP came up. We settled on a slightly modified risk role where the player being attacked or acted against was the one to decide, after negotiation, the “what could possibly go wrong” part of the risk roll.
The ruin reduction roll was also useful in less direct PvP actions. I was a bit liberal with the interpretation of acting in the interests of the forest. Sowing chaos and discontent feeds into the forest’s agenda. Of course, this doesn’t come into play until the player has reached 5th level of ruin. So before level five of ruin, it was a risk roll only, after level five, I gave the player the option. As long as it was narratively appropriate.
We really enjoyed the game. I’m looking forward to running it again, and hopefully getting a turn to play. Trophy is a good tool for sharpening a GM’s story telling skills. Tone and mood being of utmost importance. I found myself drifting in and out of the described moments and condition lists depending on what was happening in game, and my imagination. I highly suggest playing this way. Nothing wrong with using the moments and conditions as listed. I leaned on them heavily, extrapolated some, and came up with my own. One instance, I was describing a location, adding some flavor, and based on the high level of paranoia of the characters and players, they keyed in on this one throw away thing so I grabbed onto that, and a whole new sequence arose organically from it.
Trophy seems to be a good fit for my GM style or it’s just so unobtrusive it allows for all kinds of GM’s to work well with it.
If anyone has any specific questions about the game, I would be happy to address them as best I can,

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Just a note that I have a little segment on the upcoming episode of The Gauntlet Podcast called “9 things I learned from running 9 games of Trophy.” I think it will be really helpful for folks!

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I am very interested in giving this game a spin, and would like to know any tips and tricks for GMs new to the game.

Also: Are there any actual play podcasts of Trophy out there? I’d like to give a listen before I attempt to run this for my group.

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Jason Cordova does a segment on the podcast on running horror games effectively. That’s probably the best place to start for tips and tricks. The mechanics themselves are pretty strait forward.

I’d look at the GM Guide section on creating an incursion. Knowing how one is put together is a big help in knowing how to use it.

Be sure to have a CATS discussion before play, I emphasized it more than normal before Trophy.

Make sure everyone is on board with the tone. In Trophy, tone is more important than story. It helps for everyone to be on the same page from the start. Breaking the tension is detrimental to game play.

Reiterate your safety tools. Trophy is meant to evoke strong visceral reactions from players. Establish lines and veils, make sure everyone knows about and understands the X card can be utilized at any time for any reason, no questions asked.

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There are plenty of AP videos from Gauntlet games and there are browser plug-ins to convert YouTube videos into mp3s.

Here’s a video of my new incursion from Codex: Glamour 2

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I think a space hulk game I was writing is turning into a Trophy incursion

Space Hulk is a genre that borrows a lot from Alien and Metroid. You search and search and search and there’s dangers everywhere. It started life as a Lasers and Feelings hack, but who knows where it’ll wind up.

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I’m so glad to hear your game went well!

This is how I play too. I very rarely use the lists exactly as-is, and I’m always ready to jump on something that ties more directly to what’s happening in that particular session.

Also, thanks for the feedback about PvP. Deciding whether it was worth having a specific mechanic for it was something that I went back and forth on, and obviously ultimately dropped it, leaving just the Ruin 5 rules. I’ll keep it in mind though, and maybe earlier-round PvP will arise in a future iteration of the game…

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I really appreciated that episode, it’s so useful to have insight like that when learning to run a new game!

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I just read the rules for the first time and have a couple of mechanics questions: 1. If you fail a roll, does that mean the bad thing that the GM or other players articulated before the roll happens? I think that’s implied, but I wanted to check if that was the design intent. 2. If your highest result is a 4-5, and you accepted a devil’s bargain, does that mean you get a regular complication plus the trouble in the Devil’s Bargain? Is there a substantive difference between a 4-5 complication and a Devil’s Bargain? Thanks in advance for any insights people can share!

On the failed roll, it’s still GM’s call (that’s how I play it, anyway). The conversation before the roll is mostly to give the GM ideas. The Devil’s Bargain is something that happens no matter what, regardless of the roll outcome. So, on a mid result, you have the complication plus the Devil’s Bargain.

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I’d like to add that folks should really listen to/read the following resources, which have advanced “Trophy theory” quite a bit:

The Gauntlet Podcast, where I discuss my 9 tips for running Trophy: https://www.gauntlet-rpg.com/the-gauntlet-podcast/red-carnations-on-a-black-grave-veild-fantasy-alas-for-the-awful-sea-kingsport-9-lessons-for-trophy

The blog post companion to the above: https://www.gauntlet-rpg.com/blog/9-tips-for-running-trophy

@DavidMorrison discussing Trophy and “playing beyond the literal” on The Gauntlet Podcast: https://www.gauntlet-rpg.com/the-gauntlet-podcast/playing-beyond-the-literal-pasion-de-las-pasiones-comrades

My notes for running Ring 1: https://www.gauntlet-rpg.com/blog/trophy-notes-on-ring-1

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I ran Trophy (the Tomb of 10,000 Dreams) last night for my local group - including one person who was roleplaying for the first time! The group seemed to have a really great time, and the newbie is definitely coming back, so that’s mission accomplished.

I did find it a little difficult to run, though, for a couple of reasons:

  • The dice mechanics, including the devil’s bargain mechanic and the relatively low success rate unless you hammer your Ruin, mean that any and all conflicts tend to snowball pretty heavily, which works fine in some rings and less so in others. The early encounters in particular were meant to be “easy” but in practice were extraordinarily hard to shut down.
  • Although I didn’t actually make it to the end b/c of timing out, I was very worried about how it was going to reach a satisfying finish. I didn’t really get how the final ring was supposed to go, and what ending I’m driving towards. Having thought about it a bit, my guess is that I’m meant to hammer them with disturbing events that trigger Ruin Rolls until they either hit 6 or start voluntarily betraying each other to get their Ruin down. But at the point we were about to hit the final ring, they really hadn’t accrued all that much Ruin. I missed a couple of opportunities to demand Ruin Rolls, so it could no doubt have gone higher, but I feel concerned that it would have felt like button-mashing to achieve the desired result (if that is the desired result).

I want to emphasise that the game was fun and the players seemed to have a good time, but I would have welcomed a little more guidance on the above (and perhaps also how frequently I should be triggering non-risk roll-based Ruin Rolls, if the low Ruin levels are a concern).

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@Eike GMed an online session of “tomb of 10000 dreams” a few days ago and I was one of the players. We had much fun with the story and enjoyed the mechanics. The devils bargain worked well - players were accepting them willingly for the good drama. Interestingly, we made it only through 2(?) rings (group conflicts escalated and time was up; it was rather coincidental) but it was totally fine and satisfying from a story perspective. The narrative structure and the good job of our GM created a dense, morbid and insane atmosphere. He made good use of the material. And although I knew what was coming it had no impact on my gameplay.

We inadvertedly tweaked the rules a bit:
including a dark die counts in case it is the highest one as automatic risk roll. We decided to take an additional risk roll in that case, which felt better atm during the game. Of course we lowered inadvertedly mechanical pressure, but that was compensated by the dramatic storytelling of our GM and great character play of the group. We played out the mental decay even without having to roll for it.
The median ruin was only 4 but we started cutting each other’s throats because it felt storywise appropriate.

I like the game very much and I definitely want more sessions with it - and of course run it myself.
Thanks to @Eike for running and thanks to @jesseross for creating such a nice game.

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Just like Cthulhu Dark, you need to be pushing for Ruin rolls really anytime anything weird or messed up happens. I forgot that when I ran it until halfway through and it made the game a lot longer than it should have been.

I’d definitely recommend the resources @jasoncordova mentions above for suggestions for future play.

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Ruin rolls should be happening quite a bit. In Witchwood, for example, you have 2-3 Ruin rolls in the first ring alone because of the succession of disturbing events. I’ll grant that later incursions are a little easier to run than 10,000 Dreams because they are a bit more detailed, though.

In the first ring, consider whether you even need to do risk rolls. In my mind, the first ring is much more thematic, much more about asking questions and seeing how people react. In 10,000 Dreams, whether the group defeats the doppelgängers in Ring 1 is much less important than what we learn about the treasure-hunters through them. Does that make sense?

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