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Adventurer and Troll was designed by Shawn McCarthy as part of the 2013 RPG Geek 24 Hour RPG Contest. It can be downloaded on this site (and don't forget to thumb the file if you download it).

Setting
Unlike most RPGs, Adventurer and Troll has a very specific staging but a much looser setting. The game is for exactly two players one of them is a troll who lives under a bridge and the other is an adventurer who wants to cross the bridge. The rest of the setting can be created as part of the narrative of the game.

Character Creation
There are exactly two characters, the adventurer and the troll. All we know about them as the game starts is that the adventurer wants to cross the bridge and in order to do so he must convince the troll to trust him. The troll lives under a bridge and would like to hear exciting stories, that the villagers won't attack and that the adventurer won't spread nasty stories. The players may have an idea who their character is, but most of the details will emerge in the narrative.

Playing the Game
The goal of the game is for the adventurer to create enough trust with the troll to be allowed to cross the bridge safely. The troll's goal is to get safety and live vicariously through the answers given by the adventurer.

The troll asks a question and the adventurer answers it. Once the answer is given, the troll decides if it makes him trust the adventurer more or not. If it does he moves the marker up on the trust track; if it doesn't, he does nothing. Either way he asks another question.

Eventually the adventurer will decide it is time to cross the bridge and each of them will roll a d6 against the trust.
if they are both under trust, then they part as friends.
If they are both over trust, the troll eats the adventurer.
If the adventurer is over and the troll is under, then the troll is slain or tricked by the adventurer.
If the adventurer is under and the troll is over, then the troll chases the adventurer away before he can cross the bridge.

The System
There isn't a lot of system. The troll asks a question and the adventurer answers. If the troll likes the answer, he adds trust. if he doesn't then he does nothing. Then he asks another question.

The adventurer makes his own decision about when he thinks it's worth trying to cross. That's about it system wise.

Evaluation
As I've said before, it would be inappropriate to really lambast a game someone made in 24 hours or less. I’m not going to talk about grammar, spelling etc., unless it really gets in the way of understanding the rules. Likewise, I won’t make too much ruckus about the physical presentation of the game.

Okay, I'm going to make one change to the above. This game is delivered on one page and is meant to be cut into thirds with each player holding a sheet and the trust track in the middle. The graphic look is nice and the layout is excellent. Creating a whole game one one page without using 8 pt font is pretty cool and quite an accomplishment.

So the first complaint came up in one of our plays. The adventurer tied the trust die and there's no rule for that. This is a pretty simple fix and I'm sure one Shawn already has plans for.

The bigger issue is one of timing. There's no way to reduce trust and there's nothing to force the roll. Effectively, if the adventurer doesn't care, he can just choose not to cross and make the troll keep asking questions until he finally gets the trust up to a level he likes. This could make for a very frustrating session for the troll.

The last thing is whether or not this is an rpg. There are two players, they have two roles to choose from and they don't have the usual sandbox play. I'm sure some will describe it as more of an activity than a game. I thought that initially too, but after playing it I'm content to say that it is a role-playing experience. Each troll and each adventurer can be different and that makes it an RPG.

I think once Shawn polishes a few of the rough spots, this will be a pretty fun "filler" rpg. Maybe he's created a new genre with this game. I don't know any other rpg where you can reliably expect to finish a session in 30 minutes or so.


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Re: The Short Version? This might be the first "filler" rpg that works.
Thanks for th review. I hadn't tome to read games form the contest, and now I see that I have missed some interesting ones.

Regarding short < 30 min. RPGs:
There was a Kickstarted game called Doll that fits on a postcard and supposed to be played in 20 minutes. I saw an actual play video where if I remember right it was even quickier.
Another short and two-player RPG is ERA - Epic Storytelling Game. I really would like to try this one.
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I am Owlbear!
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Re: The Short Version? This might be the first "filler" rpg that works.
I backed Doll and I'm waiting for it, but Shawn's was published first
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Eric Jome
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Re: The Short Version? This might be the first "filler" rpg that works.
What an interesting premise!

I wonder if a little house rule might sharpen it up a bit. Suppose instead of a trust track alone, you had two tracks - trust and time. This could be managed with one track and two tokens, one for the troll (trust) and one for the adventurer (time).

When the adventurer asks a question, they move the time track up. After all, spinning yarns to entertain a troll takes time!

Thus, the end condition is somewhat modified;

1) If the troll is under trust and the adventurer is under time, the adventurer crosses the bridge and they part as friends. (Adventurer major victory.)
2) If the troll is over trust and the adventurer is over time, the troll eats the adventurer. (Troll major victory.)
3) If the troll is under trust and the adventurer is over time, the adventurer tricks the troll into letting him pass. (Adventure minor victory.)
4) If the troll is over trust and the adventurer is under time, the adventurer is chased away by the troll. (Troll minor victory.)

Give the adventurer 3 "But wait, there's more!" tokens (or check boxes on the adventurer sheet?). When the troll does not like the answer, instead of just moving up the time and getting another question, the adventurer can spend a token and try to embellish or extend the answer just given to improve it. If the troll still doesn't agree, moving time up is the only answer.

Much like S/Lay w/Me, I wonder if the game would be best played by reversing roles a few times in one sitting? Keep track of majors and minors, with token tie breakers perhaps.
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Eric Jome
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Re: The Short Version? This might be the first "filler" rpg that works.
In throwing this idea together, I realize I probably have it backwards. Time track for the adventurer should perhaps count down. Looks like I need to work out a truth table.
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Eric Dodd
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Re: The Short Version? This might be the first "filler" rpg that works.
I think you might have 3 and 4 reversed in your example Eric. It seems that rolling under Trust or Time is a success for that character, so in example 3 the troll has won and in example 4 the adventurer has won.

No, I see that Trust is the key word... if the Troll Trusts, then the adventurer gets some kind of success. That makes sense.

Definitely a good idea in this, though.
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Re: The Short Version? This might be the first "filler" rpg that works.
I think the fix can be pretty simple.

Either a total question limit or "Ask x questions without advancing trust and you have to roll now".

I realize that allows the troll to game the system, but it probably doesn't make much difference since the basic mechanic is really trust-based anyhow. What I mean is that each player has to trust that the other is being fair and honest already, so adding another element of trust wouldn't matter.
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Shawn McCarthy
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Re: The Short Version? This might be the first "filler" rpg that works.
Tie mechanic: Yeah, oops. Either adjusting wording "under or equal to" or "over or equal" or adding working "On a tie, choose over or under."

schizoid wrote:
Thanks for th review. I hadn't tome to read games form the contest, and now I see that I have missed some interesting ones.

Regarding short < 30 min. RPGs:
There was a Kickstarted game called Doll that fits on a postcard and supposed to be played in 20 minutes. I saw an actual play video where if I remember right it was even quickier.
Another short and two-player RPG is ERA - Epic Storytelling Game. I really would like to try this one.
I have to give a huge nod to Doll, it was the inspiration to try a game in this weird little corner of the ballpark. I see now that part of their Advanced stuff is a Trust mechanic - I can't claim dibs on that though!

cosine wrote:
What an interesting premise!

I wonder if a little house rule might sharpen it up a bit. Suppose instead of a trust track alone, you had two tracks - trust and time. This could be managed with one track and two tokens, one for the troll (trust) and one for the adventurer (time).

When the adventurer asks a question, they move the time track up. After all, spinning yarns to entertain a troll takes time!

Thus, the end condition is somewhat modified;

1) If the troll is under trust and the adventurer is under time, the adventurer crosses the bridge and they part as friends. (Adventurer major victory.)
2) If the troll is over trust and the adventurer is over time, the troll eats the adventurer. (Troll major victory.)
3) If the troll is under trust and the adventurer is over time, the adventurer tricks the troll into letting him pass. (Adventure minor victory.)
4) If the troll is over trust and the adventurer is under time, the adventurer is chased away by the troll. (Troll minor victory.)

Give the adventurer 3 "But wait, there's more!" tokens (or check boxes on the adventurer sheet?). When the troll does not like the answer, instead of just moving up the time and getting another question, the adventurer can spend a token and try to embellish or extend the answer just given to improve it. If the troll still doesn't agree, moving time up is the only answer.

Much like S/Lay w/Me, I wonder if the game would be best played by reversing roles a few times in one sitting? Keep track of majors and minors, with token tie breakers perhaps.
This is sort of the direction I was thinking - count Trust up and Time down and when either caps out, you're forced to resolve.

sdonohue wrote:
I think the fix can be pretty simple.

Either a total question limit or "Ask x questions without advancing trust and you have to roll now".

I realize that allows the troll to game the system, but it probably doesn't make much difference since the basic mechanic is really trust-based anyhow. What I mean is that each player has to trust that the other is being fair and honest already, so adding another element of trust wouldn't matter.
That could work too, some sort of Three Strikes - somehow handled with chips or the Time die. And like you pointed out, if anyone is deliberately countering the system they're being IRL jerks and probably should be fed to the nearest available troll

---
Thanks, both for the review itself and for the feedback. Since I know there's at least one person who didn't print it out solely so they could throw a physical copy in the rubbish bin, I probably owe an hour to make some of the small revisions suggested.
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