Open World Trophy: An Informal Review

I think I’ve played more Trophy: Gold this year than any other rulebook (look out for the upcoming Bones review!). However, for the most part, it’s not your typical Trophy. Three out of five times, I’ve been participating in Nova’s playtest for her excellent Bridewell adventure (session 1, session 2, session 3; expect a gushing “review” for this as well!). Since Bridewell is written as a system-neutral text, playing through it using Trophy has served to almost “tour” the adventure without dealing with the typical rules and restrictions of old-school rulesets. Who doesn’t like a session without rolling dice?

At the same time, to accommodate the more open or sandbox nature of her adventure, Nova has been employing Trophy with slightly different rules. This is because, on paper, Trophy begins and ends with the “incursion”—or the dungeon crawl. Characters exist in a void before being summoned into an incursion, with the hope to pay back their new debt and return treasure into the proverbial void. During incursions, characters explore sets, each having a particular goal and being full of props to play with. That works well for a somewhat (though not necessarily) railroaded adventure, but is unnecessarily restrictive and overly gamey when you’re exploring a larger world that goes on with or without the player-characters.

So, we’ve not been exploring “sets” with known goals. We’ve not been starting each session with new burden. Instead, we’re exploring the world as a hex map on a large scale and with smaller maps for locations (not to mention flux space in the form of the “mists” which surround the map and allow characters to wander into random hexes). Players have not really even been paying attention to the burden (debt) that their characters should have according to Trophy’s rules, but are still picking up treasure in order to slowly work towards whatever their goals are. We’ve also been setting our own goals, not associated with specific sets or locations, but specifically oriented towards what we want to accomplish. The result has been basically a very lightweight exploration-centered game, focused on guiding players towards character-specific activities (the best thing about Trophy characters is that you’re encouraged to stretch your skills’ potential applications, since the point isn’t to restrict you but to encourage you to describe activities in ways specific to your character).

If it sounds like we cut a lot from Trophy, what did we even keep? The hunt roll has been central to our play activity, though Nova has been more judicious in her calling for them. During our last 2.5 hr session, we earned 6 hunt tokens and spent all of them (3 at a time) to trigger moments of realization or acquire information about the world. Alex this last time was upset that we spent tokens to learn about where we could find a relic, but not about what it looks like, haha; but to me, this indicates that hunt tokens are doing what they’re “supposed” to do, not by solving mysteries for us but by giving us pointers to further pursue them and delve deeper into what the world holds for us.

We’ve also retained the abstract combat system. Although we were all originally confused about how it was supposed to work in our first couple non-Bridewell sessions, Nova expertly restated and even redesigned some of the rules so that we could use and enjoy them them—it’s fully an improvement over the rulebook’s own explanation. I still don’t really like rolling for characters’ weak spots, and I wish it was replaced with something like an armor save, but it’s not the worst lmao! Something I would also like to see is to consolidate the disparate combat rules for weakening versus combatting the threat—Nova's rules are vastly improved, but I think we're still making an effort to stick to Trophy's conventions when maybe we don't necessarily have to.

Anyway, playing “Open Trophy” has been a pleasure. You should try it! And you should really check out Bridewell when Nova releases it to the public; I'm going to give a little overview of it and some other neat settings soon.


  1. The playtest session report links look broken -- they all take me to blogger 404 responses for your blog, not Nova's.

    1. thank you! :) my markdown exporter on my phone is glitchy


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