As the DM, you'll control each of the enemies the PCs will face. In some cases you may also have to make rulings on how a given event plays out, but in most cases scenarios will play out using the standard set of game rules.
Each type of scenario has a different name for the types of enemies the PCs will face. In combat, enemies are known as Adversaries. In exploration scenarios, enemies are called Challenges. Finally, in interaction scenarios, enemies are known as Opponents.
Each of these classifications are further divided into types, which describe how the entity functions and behaves, and ranks, which describe how difficult a given entity will be. Ranks only apply to Adversaries and Opponents, as Challenge types have implied difficulty included in each.
Adversaries and Opponents have one of four ranks: mook, regular, mini-boss, and boss. You use these ranks to determine how many enemies you should put into a scenario, as well as handling special rules like extra Actions or hands of cards. Let's go through each of them to explain.
Mooks represent minions, sidekicks, and the like. They are typically defeated quickly and have a small set of options to use within scenarios. You can use these to have greater numbers of enemies for the players to face without the scenario becoming too difficult to win.
Mooks do not draw cards; unless otherwise noted, they can only use options printed on their card.
Regulars represent a typical enemy to overcome. Regulars are tougher than mooks and generally dish out more damage. Sometimes they have an expanded set of options as well, but many regulars are as simple as mooks so the DM's job doesn't become unwieldy.
Regulars do not draw cards; unless otherwise noted, they can only use options printed on their card.
Mini-bosses represent notable difficulties to be overcome. They could be ranking officers of the primary villain, particularly tough beasts, or sometimes could even be used as the primary villain itself. Mini-bosses are substantially more complex to run than mooks or regulars, but their presence means a fewer number of enemies for the PCs to face.
Mini-bosses draw and play cards just like PCs.
Sometimes mini-bosses can play two Actions in a single Action Phase. If a mini-boss has an Action entry on its card, it can play that Action as well as an Action card from its hand in a single Action phase. It must be able to play an Action from its hand to do this; if the mini-boss has two Action entries on its card, it must choose between them rather than playing them both. If it has no Action card in hand, it can only play a single Action entry on its card.
Bosses represent climactic challenges best used at the end of your adventure. Bosses often make use of unique abilities to create unusual or thematic challenges for players to overcome. Because of this, they require some additional preparation on the DM's part to understand the boss and put together a proper scenario.
A boss entity should roll its Initiative value three times, taking a full turn on each of these initiative results. Because of this, bosses do not have the ability to play two Actions in a single Action Phase in the same manner as mini-bosses (unless otherwise noted).
Bosses draw and play cards just like PCs.
Bosses can only Move during one of their three turns each round. Generally speaking, they're substantially tougher and/or more skilled, but not three times faster than everything else.
In combat and interaction scenarios, the type is mostly there to tell the DM how the entity is intended to function, helping you to create an interesting scenario and to use proper tactics. In exploration scenarios, however, Challenge types have a much more substantial effect on rules. difficulty, and game flow.
Each type of scenario contains its own set of types, so we'll go through each scenario one at a time.
Available combat types include Artillery, Blaster, Brawler, Defender, and Support.
The Artillery type focuses primarily on single-target damage at range. These Adversaries are generally in trouble if a PC is able to get close to them in battle. As such, Artillery must be protected by Defenders or given terrain advantages that makes it difficult for PCs to close in.
The Blaster type typically offers multi-target damage, most commonly by targeting an entire section instead of individual entities. Most Blasters must be protected like Artillery, but some are capable of closing in and taking on groups of PCs at close range.
The Brawler type concentrates on close-range damage. They have fairly good survivability on their own, but they're even more dangerous when paired with a Defender. Since Brawlers must close in to deal damage, they should generally begin battle fairly close to the PCs (perhaps as a result of an ambush) unless they have good movement abilities.
The Defender type serves to protect the other Adversaries from the PCs. They either force PCs to target them or punish PCs that choose not to target them. Defenders generally don't offer as much offensive power and thus should typically be grouped with other roles to form a balanced approach. If you're running a scenario without any Defenders, you'll probably have to rely on terrain advantages or particularly potent Support abilities to make up for it.
The Support type offers boosts to other Adversaries, penalties to PCs, and often healing and other expanded tactical options. Weaker mook and regular Support types generally need to be protected, but a mini-boss Support often functions as a leader and may not need any protection at all. Be sure to study each Support Adversary's entries to see how to use them in battle.
There are four available types for Opponents in interaction scenarios: Antagonists, Debaters, Leaders, and Tricksters.
Antagonists focus on dealing damage to player WP. Many don't interact with the Debate Axis at all, or if they do, it's in a fairly unreliable manner.
Debaters focus on manipulating the Debate Axis. They typically deal reduced damage.
Leaders take on a defensive role by limiting PC movement, forcing PCs to target them, or jumping in if the PCs target an ally.
Tricksters buff other Opponents and penalize the PCs. They often don't interact with the Debate Axis or deal as much damage as some other types.
Some interaction scenarios are set up in a balanced manner, offering a variety of types to oppose the PCs. Others are weighted heavily toward victory by damage or victory by counter movement. Pay close attention to the set of Opponents to get a sense of what tactics to use.
When roleplaying an Opponent, the type can be a guideline to give you a sense of how you might portray the Opponent's dialogue and communication style. However, remember that each is an individual, and adding some unique personality quirks can help make your interaction scenarios memorable and entertaining.
Available exploration types include Creatures, Environs, Obstacles, Traps, and Seekers. Most of these types have special rules for how they operate in a scenario. These rules are described in detail in the Player's Guide. Here, we will focus on how the DM should portray and play these types.
The Creature type can represent swarms of insects or vermin, stealthy villains operating from the shadows, or dangerous mobile threats that are particularly difficult to fight. They are generally self-sufficient Challenges that fit well in any scenario. Remember that exploration scenarios are distinct from combat scenarios; Creatures should be interpreted as nuisances that bother the PCs but are rarely life-threatening or easy to engage in battle. Creature EP reduction is not necessarily representative of killing the entity; more broadly, it models the PCs figuring out some way to neutralize the threat. This could be anything from locking a beast or swarm inside a room, scaring or luring it away, or finding a path that causes the Creature to lose the PCs and wander off.
The Environ type represents weather conditions, toxic surroundings, magical effects, and the like. These rarely involve much in the way of tactics, but some of them do provide multiple Actions to play. A good option here is to swap back and forth between them, or flip a coin if you don't think it's going to get a second attack. You might also choose to play just one of them if the other is niche and doesn't apply as well to your scenario's mechanical structure.
The Obstacle type represents an obstruction or series of obstructions that PCs must overcome to be able to cross a region exit. PCs cannot cross an exit blocked by an Obstacle until the Obstacle is defeated. This is most commonly done by reducing its EP to 0, though some Obstacles may be defeated through other means, such as picking a lock, finding a key, or activating some mechanism within the scenario. Interpreting what EP loss means for an Obstacle is very situational. Sometimes it might represent a PC making direct forward progress, particularly in the case of persisting Obstacles. However, remember that a PC is not actually required to move through an area containing an Obstacle they have defeated. It can be more generally useful to interpret the reduction as progress toward solving a problem, whether that's finding the right way to go or figuring out the best way to safely cross a hazard.
The Trap type generally makes surprise attacks against PCs in response to some activity, such as movement, playing Actions, or Searching. Most Traps can be sprung repeatedly, while some are removed from play after a single Action. Many Traps can be avoided through the use of certain Actions or by Searching to discover them beforehand and avoiding their Interrupt's Trigger. Because most Traps start out Hidden, PCs often take a penalty to the first Endure roll performed against a Trap as it is revealed.
Sometimes Traps may have specific additional countermeasures built into the scenario. Often they don't, however, and this is one area where it may be beneficial to your game to allow PCs to come up with clever solutions a bit outside of the normal mechanics. For instance, if a Trap can be sprung repeatedly, it might be reasonable to allow a PC to perform a fairly simple activity to prevent their allies from blundering in and springing the same Trap, like standing in front of a pressure plate and pointing out where another PC shouldn't step. If you find that this weakens one of your Traps too much, you can of course render this activity ineffective by interpreting the Trap as having multiple potential activation plates, so new arrivals are simply finding exciting additional ways to endanger everyone.
Finally, the Seeker type is used exclusively in stealth scenarios and represents any entity that's capable of discovering the sneaking PCs. While Seekers typically have a strictly-defined and regular patrol route at the start of the scenario, Alerted Seekers are entirely at your disposal to control. Alerted Seekers should smartly investigate areas where PCs have flubbed things and behave in a reasonable and intelligent manner. However, a Seeker doesn't know precisely where the PCs are just because they've been Alerted (this only occurs when the scenario ends in failure from loss of Stealth Tokens or some other situation such as lighting a torch in front of a Seeker in an otherwise dark room). As such, it may not be fair to have a Seeker follow the hidden PCs around perfectly unless the PCs continue to make noise or otherwise err.
Loss of Stealth Tokens should be interpreted as Seekers becoming suspicious rather than them seeing the PCs. Remember that as long as the PCs have a single Stealth Token remaining at the end of the scenario, they are victorious, concluding their activities with none the wiser. Seekers might realize that something is up, particularly if they come across the bodies of other defeated Seekers, but they won't be able to identify the PCs or engage them in battle until the PCs have completely given away their presence through loss of all Stealth Tokens.
You may choose to have Alerted Seekers be able to sound some kind of alarm, which either drastically changes the scenario or results in failure if they pull it off. This substantially increases the difficulty, so either reduce the number of Seekers, give the players counter-measures, or substantially soften your fail-forward outcomes.
Generally speaking, your available tactics are informed by the entity's type and entries. Simply using the provided abilities whenever possible is usually enough to run a scenario as intended. For new DMs, it's generally best to start with scenarios consisting entirely of regulars and mooks; this reduces the number of decisions to make and prevents you from having to deal with the added complication of a hand of cards.
By running numerous scenarios, you'll acquire a sense of how things tend to play out, how various enemy cards function, and so on. Then you can move on to running more complex scenarios using mini-bosses, special rules, and even bosses.
It's usually best to avoid piling all of your damage onto a single PC. This might be the most tactically sound decision to make in many cases; in fact, your players are likely to do this to their enemies whenever they can get away with it. However, focusing fire on a single player can create frustration and boredom. If the PC is knocked out early as a result of this, they may wind up sitting through the rest of the scenario without being able to meaningfully contribute! Plus, the other players don't get to play Reactions, which means they're rolling fewer dice and using fewer cool abilities.
The game provides some natural mitigation of this behavior; for instance, in combat, the Defender type (and equivalent PC abilities) and good use of terrain can encourage spreading out and targeting different foes. Interaction scenes are similar with the Leader type (and equivalent PC abilities). When running with a smaller number of players, however, don't assume that the players have these roles filled. If they don't, simply spread your attacks around even if this isn't the most tactically optimal choice. This way you avoid picking on any one player within a scene, which can damage that player's enjoyment of the game.
As player levels rise, however, so too do their array of options. It's more feasible to focus fire on individual players at high levels whenever a tactical error permits such plays. This can also serve as an additional method of increasing the game's difficulty at higher levels, which is generally advised. Further, it rewards players for investing in options that give them greater control over your targeting.
Improvisation is a hallmark of role-playing games. The DM sets the scene, and the players respond by describing what activities they wish to perform. The DM handles the rules for resolving the activity, and play continues, with the players as active storytellers.
Triptycho's card-based systems and scenario structures intentionally apply limitations to this in order to create structure needed for good gameplay. Capabilities are provided through the use of cards, and all activities are resolved in a known and standardized way. For the majority of cases where players are performing normal activities in the game, like trying to hit an enemy with a weapon or climb a rocky cliff, this works fine.
However, imagine that you describe a combat battlefield as an indoor room with a stack of wooden barrels over in one corner. A player battling an Adversary near that corner gets the great idea to try to push over the stack of barrels onto the enemy. This is a cool idea, narratively cinematic and potentially clever. But how do you resolve this in the game? You could simply have the player perform a normal attack Action against the enemy and narrate that it's pushing the barrels, but that could be pretty unsatisfying. The player was likely looking to change things up a bit (and may also have been tactically motivated to find a better option than another weapon attack).
Some scenarios have Actions and Reactions provided from special terrain present to cover situations like this. But such predetermined lists of options can't realistically cover everything, or even half of the things, that players might want to attempt in the game. As the DM, you don't want to be in a position where you have to tell a player that they can't even attempt a particular activity that should otherwise be available to their character. Of course you could tell the low-level weapon fighter that they can't suddenly improvise a new spell to cast at an enemy, but why can't they try to push over the barrels?
The answer is: they can! You can use the rules and tables in this section to handle any sort of improvised activity that players attempt and you allow. The tables provide baseline dice entries by level, assuming a standard improvisation situation. Then, apply whatever modifiers are needed according to the specifics of the improvised activity. When modifiers give choices regarding changes to make (such as which dice to change in level), the DM should make the choices, not the player making the play. Don't feel restricted by the list of modifiers provided; these are common effects, but feel free to add more, such as forced or granted Moves and the like. Inform the players of the mechanics of the improvised play before they are committed to making it; a player may decline the play if the dice wind up unfavorable.
Note that, generally speaking, improvised activities are less effective than playing level-appropriate cards from hand. That's because it's important not to de-emphasize actual character abilities, resulting in players looking for excuses to improvise in every scenario instead of using their character's hard-earned skills and talents. These should mostly be situational, where a character who is in trouble (such as being out of cards, ill-equipped, and/or penalized by certain Stat Tracks) is desperate for a tactically viable option, or when traits of enemies and terrain happen to combine in a great manner for the clever player.
Most of what your players improvise will resolve as Actions. Expect it most frequently in combat as players look to use various terrain features (or in some cases, monster features) to some sort of extra advantage. Additionally, the other scenarios tend to be a bit more open-ended in how plays are interpreted (and essentially assume constant PC improvisation). Because of this, the tables are labeled with combat terminology, such as Hit. However, if you do come across a situation where improvisation is appropriate in exploration or interaction, you can use the same table and rules. Just swap the terms, such as Hit for Inflict.
Finally, generally avoid using improvisation with NPCs. This is a good mechanism for enhancing player storytelling options, but as the DM, you have plenty of capability without relying on this. Alter the abilities of your enemies or add specific scenario Actions and Reactions for yourself if you want to do this. Feel free to use the tables and modifiers below as a baseline for such edits (but reference them against the plays on the enemy cards).
The modifiers listed below affect the table row you should pull the dice from rather than the more typical direct editing of the dice level or number. That's to keep the curve more gentle so things don't get erratic at certain levels. So, if you apply a modifier that's +1 Hit row to a level 2 Improvised Action, use the Hit entry for a level 3 Improvised Action instead.
* For modifiers or optional rules
The table values assume single-use Actions, such as knocking over a single stack of barrels. If the Action can be repeated endlessly, much like a Returning card, decrease either the Hit or Damage row by 1.
If a player comes up with a particularly clever idea, you may want to reward this by making the improvised Action even better. Increase either the Hit or Damage row by 1. Use this more often if you want to encourage more improvisation, but use it sparingly if you want to make sure the players stay focused on their deck composition and Gear choices.
Sometimes players might try to improvise a particular card they want to play, using it in some manner other than the standard or expected method. Take care in allowing this, but when it makes sense, go for it. If the PC improvises with a card played from their hand that lacks the Returning property, increase the Hit and Damage rows by 1 (but don't use the effects on the card). If the improvisation is done with equipped Gear or a card with the Returning property, increase either the Hit or Damage row by 1. Don't apply this modifier for something mundane like a PC trying to aim for a weak spot with their weapon; it's assumed that their highly-capable PC hero is generally doing such things every time they attack. Save this for specific unique ideas (and even then, avoid also applying the Clever modifier). This modifier is not available to deckless characters (though they may still spend Tactical Points to boost improvised Actions).
Some improvised Actions should be particularly hard to dodge. For these, increase the Hit row by 1, but decrease the Damage row by 1.
Some terrain-based Actions may be impossible to dodge, much like many spells. In these cases, eliminate the Hit entry and decrease the Damage row by 1. Since the Hit entry is eliminated, any other modifiers that affect either Hit or Damage must affect Damage.
Many improvised Actions are a bit of a long shot to work, but if they do it can be incredibly effective. For such Actions, decrease the Hit row by 1, but increase the Damage row by 1 (and consider adding Piercing 1).
Some improvised Actions can more effectively penetrate sturdy enemy defenses. For these, add Piercing. Every 2 points of Piercing (rounded down) is worth 1 row of Hit or Damage. Since this is rounded down, you can boost effectiveness a bit by giving away Piercing 1 or otherwise going with an odd number.
If the improvised Action gains a Range entry greater than 1, or any Reach or Thrown entry, decrease the Hit or Damage row by 1. Especially long-distance entries may give further penalties.
Clever use of terrain might result in an improvised attack against one or more entire sections. In these cases, the Action gains the Area Attack property. If the Action will affect the entity performing the Action (requiring them to play a Reaction against their own Action), no futher changes are needed. If they will not be affected, decrease the Damage row by 1.
You may find it reasonable to allow an improvised Action to boost self or ally Stat Tracks or reduce target Stat Tracks. Every +/- 2 Track levels, rounded down, should result in decreasing the Hit or Damage row by 1. Since it's rounded down, that means +/- 1 is free if you want to give it. That (or using another odd number) a pretty good way to slightly bump the effectiveness of improvisation without edging too much on reducing the usefulness of cards.
You may find it appropriate to apply a damage type to the Action. This does not change any table values; the benefit or drawback to the damage type is determined through other means, such as Resistances and Weaknesses. However, you'll likely combine this with other modifiers, such as Penetrating and Area Attack.
Some improvised Actions may not actually deal any damage to affected entities. In these cases, eliminate the Damage entry (and any changes from other modifiers must affect Hit). If this is used paired with something like the Stat Track modifier, increase the Hit row by 1. Otherwise, you may have some custom Special entry as appropriate, such as granting movement, opening or closing an exit, or advancing the Debate Counter toward victory. In these cases, the power of that effect determines if you need to adjust Hit.
Let's go back to our original example of knocking over a stack of barrels. Let's say a level 1 PC is performing this Action. According to the table, this gives a baseline Hit of 1d6 and Damage of 1d8. Which modifiers are appropriate?
Let's assume the barrels are empty. They're relatively easy to push over, but they won't have a huge impact. This Action isn't Repeatable unless your scenario is in a warehouse with many such stacks everywhere. If there's lots of barrels, you might decide that this is Accurate, but if the top stacks only have a few, it's probably not too hard to get out of the way. If the player wanted to knock them over with something like a two-handed hammer, or an Assault card played from hand (which is Returning), you could maybe increase the Hit row by 1 with the Card Play modifier. Finally, with a broad-enough stack, you might decide that this is an Area Attack against an adjacent section (Reach 1), resulting in a Damage row decrease of 1.
Now imagine that the barrels are filled with a sand-like substance that erupts into a dust cloud once knocked over. These will be heavier, making them harder to knock over but provide a greater wallop; the Risky modifier is appropriate. We keep Range 1 and Area Attack. You could rule that the dust messes with targets' eyes, giving -1 Power and -1 Resilience, so Stat Track is needed. Finally, you could call this a Clever act since the PC is knocking over barrels that can be particularly effective.
To sum up these modifiers, we get -1 Hit and +1 Damage from Risky, -1 Damage from Area Attack, -1 Hit from Condition, and +1 Hit from Clever. The result is a level 1 Action with Area Attack, Reach: 1, Hit: 1d4, Damage: 1d8, and Special: The target suffers -1 Power and -1 Resilience.
It's important to consider the relative value of Improvised Actions to Gear to give a better idea of when to allow them and how to best apply modifiers. Since these will probably be used most frequently in combat, we'll discuss considerations relative to Weapons; however, similar comparisons work for Expertise as well.
The baseline values for a one-handed Light Weapon are 1d8 for both Hit and Damage. Heavy Weapons get an additional dice level added, and two-handed Weapons also add a dice level.
Comparing this to the table above, you can see that Improvised Actions are generally weak choices at level 1, though potentially effective starting at level 2. On the other hand, powerful new cards at level 3 can make Weapons substantially more effective, and Enchantments enter the game at level 4.
Therefore, in order for a player to get much mileage out of improvisation, it is key to try things that would apply useful modifiers that result in an Action most beneficial for the current situation. For instance, a player faced with a high Defense opponent while wielding a Weapon inferior against such targets may choose to improvise. A Clever, Risky, Penetrating Improvised Action might wind up being better than their Weapon even at awkward levels, especially if they also manage to make it Typed against a foe having a relevant weakness.
For example, consider a level 1 PC facing off against a Blue Slime while wielding a Short Flail. The 1d6 Damage entry of the Short Flail fares poorly against the slime's 1d4 Defense, especially when considering the -1 Power the slime's Reaction imposes against melee attacks. The PC has an Oil Lantern equipped in their other hand. They realize the slime is weak to fire, so they come up with an idea to pour reserve lantern oil onto / around the slime and light it on fire.
The typical level 1 Improvised Action entry isn't particularly effective against the Blue Slime without modifiers. However, in this case, you could add modifiers Penetrating, Repeatable, Card Play (Gear), and Typed (Fire). This results in an Improvised Action having an extraneous Hit entry of 1d4 (because the Blue Slime's Reaction lacks a Miss entry) and a Damage entry of 1d8 (Piercing 2) Fire, which boosts further to 1d10 because of the slime's weakness to fire. You could also determine that it imposes -1 Resilience on the slime as a freebie. You might even judge that this doesn't count as a melee attack, avoiding the -1 Power effect on the slime's Reaction. Of course, the player is hoping the Blue Slime lacks a good alternate Reaction in hand to play to avoid the ploy.
In this case the optional negative modifier from Repeatable was applied to the Hit entry because the player didn't need accuracy against the lumbering slime. If the PC decides to try to use this trick regularly, you might apply it to the Damage entry instead. You might also require the player to spend their Strategy to set up the oil and make the Action available, further limiting its usefulness.
Why limit its use in this manner? Because the whole point of Improvised Actions is to give players the opportunity to do something cool and unexpected that fits the scene in an exciting and narratively-appropriate way. If an improvisation starts becoming a typical activity, it might be best to have the player start using a card for it instead. For instance, if a player has great luck improvising a Molotov cocktail in a situation like the one described above and starts wanting to use that as a main method of attacking in combat, you should switch from Improvised Actions to something more standard. Direct them to Alchemical Fire (or make a cheaper custom version based off the Volatile Vial). Or, have them include the Throw Stone card in their decks and reflavor it appropriately, giving it typed Fire damage instead when played.
Remember that Improvised Actions are always performed with your explicit permission, and you have the final say in what modifiers apply. Make rulings to ensure that Improvised Actions add to the excitement of the scene and encourage out-of-the-box thinking by applying modifiers appropriately, but don't allow players to use them uncreatively to gain an inappropriate power advantage. The balance can be delicate with certain groups of players, so don't be afraid to make changes in your rulings as you proceed through a campaign. Above all else, Improvised Actions are situational, so the same basic plan doesn't have to result in the same defined Action from scenario to scenario or even from turn to turn.
Improvised Reactions apply almost exclusively to combat scenarios. Essentially, they involve finding novel and situational ways to temporarily boost the base Reaction. Because these are straight bonuses, these should be used very rarely so your players aren't constantly fishing for bonuses by trying random stuff. In most cases, you'll want to predetermine these bonuses in your scenario layout, but if you missed a cool idea or find yourself ad-libbing, this list of modifiers can help.
Since there's no table here, these modifiers affect the dice levels of the base Reaction's entries.
If the player figures out a way to boost defenses that only works once, such as making use of destructable objects or terrain features, increase the Miss or Defense dice level by 1.
If a player comes up with a particularly clever idea, you may want to reward this by making their base Reaction even better. Increase the Miss or Defense dice level by 1. Use this more often if you want to encourage more improvisation, but use it sparingly if you want to make sure the players stay focused on their deck composition and Gear choices.
Sometimes players might try to improvise a particular card they want to play, using it in some manner other than the standard or expected method. Take care in allowing this, but when it makes sense, go for it. Only give a bonus if this improvisation involves discarding a card; the PC is already assumed to be making their best use of equipped Gear. Increase the Miss or Defense dice level by 1.
The use of especially sturdy terrain features as defenses may make it difficult even for penetrating attacks to work at full effectiveness. Decrease the Defense dice level by 1, but decrease any Piercing property on the target's Action by 2.
A player might come up with a situational way to punish an attacker, such as by using terrain features or nearby objects. In this case, you could add the Damage entry from the Improvised Action row of the appropriate level (applying any further modifiers as needed). If the counter needs to be more elaborate, craft an appropriate Improvised Action and add a Special entry to the Reaction that permits its use after the Action is resolved. This can be rather powerful, so you might require the PC to invest some resources on their turn preparing their counter, such as spending a Strategy.