Because of its heritage, Trophy Gold is an entirely new take on OSR gaming. It keeps the spirit of old school D&D, but uses totally different mechanics to get there. With so many excellent old school systems to choose from, why use Trophy Gold?
1. Trophy Gold is light.
Character creation takes five minutes (or less, if you use Ramanan’s incredible treasure-hunter generator), the rules are simple, and you’re only ever rolling d6s (though you’ll need two different colors of dice for maximum effect).
Everything about your character is minimal but evocative. Your class (which is made up of a background and an occupation) tells you who you were, who you are, and what you’re skilled in. But it only takes 7 words. For example, you might be an "Escaped Cultist (deception) Oracle (gods, rituals, trances)" or a "Cured Beastbitten (transformation) Ranger (beasts, hunting, traps)".
Rituals—the spells of Trophy Gold—are also minimal. They’re all level-less and anyone can cast them, which simplifies their management even as it increases their danger. They’re also all described in just a single line of text. This isn’t me being a lazy designer. This is because I want GMs and players to negotiate the actual effects at the table. Trophy—and Trophy Gold by extension—is all about collaborative play.
Let’s take the Trophy Gold equivalent of the standard Fireball spell: Kindle. The entire description for Kindle is just "produce fire from oneself." That’s all it says.
How much fire?
Is it projectile?
Can I control it?
I don’t know! Work with the GM to see what makes sense! Trophy Gold trusts the creativity of players to do awesome things with a few simple words.
2. Trophy Gold is risky.
Every die roll asks you if you want to risk your mind or body to improve your odds of success. Push yourself, put your five or fewer hit points on the line, and try to achieve your goal. Make a bad roll? Push your luck and try again.
Most pure OSR games emphasize that combat should be quick and deadly. Trophy Gold makes combat quick by collapsing a fight down to the equivalent of one or two Morale rolls, adjusting the difficulty to account for taking advantage of terrain, special tools, and prior knowledge. It makes combat deadly by increasing the odds of injury the longer combat goes on, making death a very likely outcome if fights stretch beyond two rolls.
Trophy Gold also mechanizes the chaos of combat. Having more allies in a fight increases the chance of a quick victory, but also increases the likelihood of death by friendly fire. And if you get into a battle where you’re in over your head, as an individual, you can easily get out of it. However, to do so, you need to pick one of your allies to remain in the fight and expose them to even more danger.
3. Trophy Gold is tangible.
Trophy Gold is full of elements that bring changes in the in-game world alive at the table.
When you encounter some strange new monster and live to tell about it, you record it in a special document called a bestiary. The bestiary outlives all the characters, allows for in-town research to learn more about the monster, and makes future battles against the same kind of monster easier for any character who has access to the bestiary.
When you do kill a monster, you don’t just mark down XP. Instead, you get a handful of dice to roll when you get back to town to see how much gold you get for its meat and bones and scaly hide.
And when you work your way through a grimy dungeon or haunted forest, you get actual, physical tokens to track your progress or trade in to discover valuables. Of course, what is given can be taken away: every roll you make to explore further risks losing all your tokens, and any in-game progress you’ve made.
4. Trophy Gold is weird.
It might be swords-and-magic fantasy, but in Trophy Gold, you’re not Tolkienesque elves and dwarves. Play as a human, sure. Or play as a:
- Beastbitten, shapeshifting—and dangerously devolving—were-folk
- Manikin, Pinocchio-like constructs and masters of mimicry
- Faeborn, illusion-weaving changelings hidden behind charmed masks
The world of Trophy has lots of strangeness you can pull into Trophy Gold too: child-sized earth elementals that mine the deepest depths against their will, and dragon-dungeon hybrids that teach you space-warping magic. Anything available in any of the published Trophy expansions is right at home in Trophy Gold.
5. Trophy Gold is thematic.
The game comes with a framework and a set of tools for GMs to convert existing modules into adventures that emphasize theme and narrative. Start with your favorite old school module and a couple of hours of game prep time, and end up with a collection of thrilling movie-like set pieces that are easy to run at the table.
6. Trophy Gold is hackable.
Like all good OSR games, Trophy Gold is built on a series of independent but interconnected elements that can be adapted and swapped as needed, to make the game you want. Don’t like the way the Trophy Gold encounter tracking works? No problem. Swap it out for for Carapace, or Progress Clocks, or good old fashioned “strict time records.”
The whole game is also under a Creative Commons license (CC-BY), so you can make, distribute, and sell your own games based on Trophy Gold. Please do, and then come tell me what cool stuff you’re dreaming up!
This is a project that I’ve been itching to bring to life for a long time now, and I’m super excited to share it with you all. You can get Trophy Gold in Codex: Gold right now by backing the Gauntlet’s Patreon at the $6 level.