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Appendix A: Optional Rules

Prev: Chapter 5: Rules Judgments

This appendix covers a broad set of optional rules that players may wish to add to their games. Each section will provide the rules while also noting expected consequences of adding these rules to the game. If you're considering making your own changes to the game's rules, this is a good place to start in order to get a better handle on the ways such tweaks can affect how the game is experienced.

Level 0

These rules provide a mechanism to play the game at level 0 rather than the typical starting point of level 1.

The Rules

  • Level 0 PCs cannot incorporate any role cards into their decks. They may only build their decks using generic level 1 cards. The minimum number of cards per deck is decreased to 10 at level 0 (unchanged for all other levels).
  • Level 0 PCs cannot use the abilities listed on their role cards.
  • Decrease starting HP/EP/WP by an amount equal to the listed Level Up value on each role.
  • Level 0 PCs start with 10 Wealth.
  • Injuries reduce maximum HP/EP/WP values by 2.
  • Level 0 PCs cannot gain or lose Karma. Their Karma is always considered to be 0, and they cannot play any effects that require spending Karma.
  • The “standard” scenario should include 75% of the enemies present in a normal level 1 scenario. For example, against 4 level 0 PCs, typical scenarios might include 3 level 1 regulars, 6 level 1 mooks, or any combination of these. Level 2 enemies should be used sparingly.

When To Use

These rules should be used when the group wants to experience their characters earning their core capabilities rather than having that be a part of their backstory. Level 0 PCs are relatively average individuals that, at best, are still early in their training and low on experience.


A level 0 game has significantly reduced complexity, making it fairly easy to learn and play. However, the drastic reduction in player capabilities also reduces the tactical depth, which can make many scenarios come down to basic luck of the dice, moreso than in a normal game. To address this, you may wish to work in more tactical effects onto the scenario maps themselves so that they become more puzzle-like, solved independently of the players' mechanical capabilities.

PCs with low starting HP/EP/WP values may be considerably less effective at level 0 than they are at level 1 since their role cards and abilities are so key. Various tweaks can help address this; you could allow each PC to use their role ability one round per scenario, for instance, and include level 1 role cards in ther decks up to some maximum of the deck's total (such as 25%). Such tweaks increase the power of all level 0 characters.

Easy Difficulty

These rules lower the challenge of the game, making it easier for players to succeed and lightening punishment upon failure. They do not affect the game's complexity, however, so it does not become easier to learn.

The Rules

  • PCs win ties for all opposed rolls.
  • PC expected starting Wealth increases by 5 (applied to each level but not cumulative).
  • Injuries are healed for free and reduce HP/EP/WP by 1 less than normal.
  • Defeated PCs can spend Karma to recover even if the scenario is not life-or-death.
  • Each PC gains 1 Karma at the start of every life-or-death scenario.
  • Any Round Limit is increased by 2.
  • Mini-bosses start with 1 card instead of 3. Bosses start with 3 cards instead of 5.

When To Use

These rules are appropriate for younger players, novices, or when the players want to fulfill power fantasies more than being challenged by the mechanics. The DM can always adjust difficulty by simply reducing the scenario level; these rules go beyond this by directly impacting PC capabilities and easing the sting of defeat.

Alternatively, these rules could be useful for games where the average scenario level will be higher than that of the players. In this manner, the DM could throw difficult scenarios at the players while still expecting that they can handle it (and if not, reducing the chance of PC death and easing the punishment of failure).


The players should readily win most scenarios, even when the dice are disagreeable and when players make relatively poor decisions. This is especially true at lower levels where the odds are already stacked well in the players' favor.

The extra Wealth can actually increase the starting complexity of the game somewhat. When using these rules with novices and younger players, the DM should help the player with their starting equipment, choosing more powerful Gear rather than a larger quantity of it. In some cases it may make sense to lower the level requirements of any Gear having such by 1 so that players can spend this extra Wealth sooner without acquiring too many cards.

Hard Difficulty

These rules increase the challenge of the game, making it tougher for players to succeed and strengthening punishment upon failure.

The Rules

  • PC expected starting Wealth decreases by 5 (applied to each level but not cumulative).
  • PC base card hand limit is reduced by 1. PCs start scenarios by drawing 4 cards instead of 5.
  • Injuries reduce HP/EP/WP by 1 more than normal, and healing costs 1 Wealth per injury.
  • Add 1 to the result of all Damage rolls from Adversaries, Challenges, and Opponents. Increase this bonus to 2 at level 6 and 3 at level 10.
  • Any Round Limit is decreased by 1.

When To Use

These rules are appropriate for expert players who find the base game to be too light on challenge. While the DM can always increase difficulty by using higher-level scenarios, these rules restrict player budgets and add to the tension by increasing penalties for failure without making the game seem unfair or unduly stacked against the player. These rules do pair well with increasing the standard scenario level by a half to one level for a true nightmare difficulty mode.

Alternatively, these rules can be handy for campaigns where the players are not expected to win most scenarios. Sometimes stories can be more interesting when the protagonists have more frequent setbacks. With Triptycho's fail-forward philosophy, upping the difficulty doesn't necessarily have to result in a derailed story or less entertaining game even for less advanced players. In this case, it may be best to skip the above tweaks to injuries, and such games should heavily limit the number of life-or-death scenarios employed.


Expect players to win less often with these rules, primarily due to the reduced Round Limit timers and the increased enemy damage output. The economic restrictions can cascade a bit too much if you're not careful, however; PCs might accumulate more injuries, which are both more severe and more expensive to heal, while Wealth is already tighter up-front. The intent is for such economic setbacks to be temporary, requiring players to make difficult choices about when to heal and where to direct their funds. If players are suffering additional injuries, you'll want to add more rewards later so they catch back up (to the -5 baseline).

Life-or-death scenarios with Round Limits may become particularly lethal under these rules. For some of these, you may want to avoid reducing the limit if it's already tight in the default scenario. Of course, if you're running a more old-school hack-n-slash game where character death is expected and not a detriment to the narrative or play, then these rules should serve you well in that department.

If you combine these rules with Level 0 optional rules, don't decrease the starting Wealth at level 0. PCs should gain 5 Wealth instead of 10 by the time they reach level 1, reaching the adjusted starting total of 15 rather than the standard of 20. If you want to impose some kind of economic restriction on level 0 characters, consider mandating that all players start with Peasant Rags clothing, which grants 1 Wealth but costs 1 Wealth to remove. Declare that the granted +1 Wealth is a part of the starting 10 Wealth.

Reroll Ties

These rules adjust the default behavior for when opposed rolls result in ties.

The Rules

  • When an opposed roll results in a tie, the roll should be repeated until it no longer results in a tie.
  • For tied Initiative values, tying entities must roll-off to determine which order they go in. The results of such roll-offs do not replace the original Initiative results, but rather are strictly used to order each set of tying entities.

When To Use

If you don't like the existing rules for ties always being in the favor of a certain party, or if you have trouble keeping them straight, these simple rules provide an alternative. In general, these rules should only be used when the total number of players is relatively low.


All activities that normally win ties are now less likely to succeed. This includes all forms of attacks, Moving in interaction, Acrobatics, and Searching. Additionally, players are less likely to win Initiative in combat and interaction.

Because of added difficulties landing hits and moving about, scenarios are likely to take more rounds to resolve. Consider adding 1 to any Round Limit present.

Some cards and entries specify that they win ties. This is most commonly found on Reactions that break the normal rules of Actions winning ties. These benefits are slightly less powerful than normal. If you dislike these effects and want to remove them as well, give such entries bonuses to dice number or level when performing a reroll as a result of a tie.

These rules make miss-based defenses more powerful and somewhat de-emphasize Defense entries. For instance, you can expect shields to be more useful and armor to be a bit less useful by comparison. Likewise, Actions with low Hit/Inflict/Argue dice are less effective. Expect players to prefer high-accuracy, low-damage options. This can further increase the number of rounds needed to resolve scenarios.

The game will take longer to play with these rules since additional rolls are required to determine the outcome of the same number of activities. This is the reason it is only recommended to use with smaller groups.

Higher Damage

These rules increase the amount of damage dealt by nearly everything, making scenarios resolve faster.

The Rules

  • All entities other than mooks add their level to all Damage entries, as well as any Damage from other sources that are rolled as dice. Mooks instead add half their level, rounded up.
  • Any damage effects presented as values rather than dice are increased by 1.
  • Any Round Limit is reduced by 1.
  • The range of the Debate Axis is equivalent to the number of players rather than the number of players + 2.

When To Use

This optional rule is recommended for groups with more than 5 players (excluding the DM) to help scenarios resolve faster. It's also useful for any group that feels scenarios take too long to complete.


More damage means fewer turns. Poor Initiative rolls might result in an entity not even getting a chance to act before it is defeated. Deck design becomes a bit less important since players will probably draw fewer cards; effects that increase hand limit are marginalized while effects that allow searching decks for cards are substantially more useful.

Accuracy becomes much more important with these rules. Expect players to prefer high-accuracy, low-damage options. Defense could alternatively be critical for survival or completely eschewed in favor of trying desperately to make everything miss. Likewise, healing could alternatively become outright mandatory or simply unable to keep up with the increased damage output.

With fewer overall rolls needed to resolve scenarios, outcomes will be a bit more swingy, determined by the luck of the dice. Effects that grant rerolls on the opposed roll of an attack become superior options.

The increased damage effect grows as a percentage of overall points as levels rise. If this is unwanted, cut the bonus in half (rounded up). This would result in mooks adding a quarter of their level to damage (rounded up). Mooks will almost always go down in a single hit at higher levels without this change, even from weak attacks.

Some chase scenarios should not have their Round Limit reduced as directed if the PCs are still likely to fail on Inflict rolls against Obstacles. Similarly, if you combine with Hard Difficulty for a truly lethal game, keep the Round Limit reduction to 1.

Beware player attempts to abuse the shortened Debate Axis. A party full of Merchants or PCs wearing High Fashion can self-damage or discard their way to an easy win even with the increased damage suffered from the Haggle ability. Respond to this with scenario design, where the Debate Counter starts well into the negative, or some scenarios can only be won through damage. Make sure the players are aware of this when they are creating their characters; while the all-Merchant approach might trivialize many scenarios, it all but ensures defeat in others.

Additional Dice Levels

These rules support the use of d14, d16, and d18 size dice should you own and wish to use them.

The Rules

Dice level can now be altered to a minimum of d2 and maximum of d20 (a d20 cannot have its dice level increased). The following list provides the complete scale of dice levels:

  • d2
  • d4
  • d6
  • d8
  • d10
  • d12
  • d14
  • d16
  • d18
  • d20

When To Use

If you have the dice, this gives you a great opportunity to use them. It is not recommended to try to “fake” this with other dice, such as a d12 and a d4 for a d16, since the resulting ranges and distributions are not equivalent for most simple combinations.


Entries with d12 rolls should be more powerful under this system since they can more frequently benefit from various bonuses. For instance, a Damage: 1d12 weapon in the hand of a Brute is now more effective. Likewise, entries with d20 rolls are a bit less effective since they are now subject to penalties that they were immune to before. This could be most problematic with certain Karma cards; consider making such plays continue to enjoy immunity to dice level reductions.

Some effects that explicitly allowed increases from d12 to d20 or decreases from d20 to d12 may need to be adjusted in order to have reasonable effects under this new system.

In general, expect players to find ways to do a bit more damage with these rules. To compensate, consider combining with Hard Difficulty optional rules for expert groups.

Experience Points

These rules provide a new resource used to dictate PC level up events, replacing the standard of leveling up at a predetermined point based on the adventure path.

The Rules

  • PCs acquire Experience Points any time they complete a scenario. The DM may determine that failing a scenario is not worth any Experience Points, half Experience Points, or full Experience Points depending on the flavor of the game and the philosophy of learning employed.
  • PCs gain a level any time they acquire 1000 Experience Points.
  • Upon gaining a level, a PC's Experience Points are set to 0. Any Experience Points gained beyond the 1000 needed to level up are lost.
  • PCs gain 50 Experience Points whenever they win a scenario of equivalent level. Increase this amount to 100 for scenarios at one level higher difficulty (or more), and decrease it to 25 if the scenario is one level lower in difficulty. No Experience Points are awarded for scenarios easier than one level lower.
  • Double the Experience Points gained when completing any life-or-death scenarios.
  • Optionally, grant Experience Points whenever player choice results in bypassing a scenario. This could be the full amount, half the amount, or a standard value of 10 depending on how much you wish to reward such activity within your game.

When To Use

Some groups prefer receiving such awards upon scenario completion and being able to track how close they are to their next level up. These rules work best with a more ad-lib adventure setup that is fairly agnostic toward current player levels; if you're only designing the game one or two sessions ahead at a time, then you should be able to account for player level ups fairly easily. However, if you're running longer prewritten adventures, this system could be inappropriate, or at the least require great care in administering.

Use the optional rewards for scenario bypassing if you want to encourage players to be inventive in avoiding conflict and focus more on narrative roleplay. You can use the reduced amount alternatives in cases where you don't necessarily want to reward this kind of play, but you want to keep players from falling too far behind in Experience Points.


Level increases are very powerful in Triptycho, which is why the default is to have PC level under tight control. This system could result in PCs being lower or higher than their expected level depending on how much they've failed (and how you treat failures), how many optional scenarios were pursued, etc. That can result in near-guaranteed success or failure of scenarios, moreso than in many other RPG systems. Because of this, you may need to adjust scenario difficulty, skip scenarios if PCs start to get ahead, or add in some additional scenarios if they fall behind.

Players will be more likely to pursue optional scenarios even bereft of other rewards just to gain the experience, which could be a boon to your game in terms of encouraging players to check out everything, or it could be a negative as PC motives become rather warped by a consuming pursuit of conflict for its own sake.

This system presumes an average of 20 scenarios per level up. That gives you 6 of each type on average, assuming a couple are at higher difficulty or life-or-death. If you want to run more or fewer scenarios per level, simply increase or decrease the rewards or target Experience Point total to match your goals.

Some players prefer Experience Point numbers to scale with their level instead of being the same amount at every level. In this case, multiply both the rewards and targets by (level - 1) * 0.1. Or in other words, increase rewards and targets by 10% every level up. For instance, at level 2, players need ((2 - 1) * 0.1 * 1000 + 1000) = 1100 Experience Points to reach the next level, but a standard scenario rewards 55 Experience Points. You can use higher percentages in this formula to increase the amounts even further. If you do this, consider letting the players keep their previous Experience Point total, and tack the new total on to the end; so, a PC with 1000 Experience Points reaches level 2, keeps those points, and needs a total of 2100 Experience Points to reach level 3.

You can do even wilder things with the math if you want, such as increasing the percent every level to create a curve. Just make sure you apply the same math to both the base and target Experience Point total in order to maintain the 20 scenario per level standard (or some other total that you prefer).

dm_s_guide_appendix_a.txt · Last modified: 2018/06/28 09:14 by triptycho