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Count On The Troubleshooters For Heists and Hijinx

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Comic books have never been just superheroes. Like any media they’ve explored all sorts of genres from romance to crime to fantasy. Comics like Yoko Tsuno and Tintin, for example, offer worlds full of globetrotting adventure, lost treasures and exotic locations. Comics like these are the inspiration for The Troubleshooters from Helmgast. While I’m not very familiar with these comics, I felt immediately at home with the review copy of this game that they sent. I saw elements of things I did recognize like the adventures of master thief Carmen Sandiego and the spy-fi world of the 60s as seen in The Avengers and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The rules are a fairly simple percentile system. Characters start out with the same spread of percentiles across skills with several archetypes to choose from. Most of the templates stretch from earnest heroes like the Caring Veterinarian to scoundrels with a heart of gold like the Cat Burglar. Creating your own template is covered shortly thereafter which highlights one of the things I really like about this core book. The rules are presented in a straightforward manner and most sections are followed by advice on how to create and modify your own elements of the game.

There are two elements that give the rules a little more heft. The first are Story Points that can be spent for various cinematic effects. The most common effect is being able to flip the numbers on the dice for a better outcome.on a roll. For example, if you need to hit a 60 or under and roll a 73, you can spend story points to turn that roll into a 37. Having a corresponding talent often gives a character a discount on flipping the roll in a specific circumstance. Players get Story Points for being clever and entertaining, for choosing to activate flaws that hinder them or for playing along with genre tropes. For example, if a player chooses to get knocked out and captured by the bad guys, they get a big handful of Story Points to use in their escape after listening to the bad guy explain his plan in a monologue. Unlike heist games like Blades in the Dark or Leverage, the game doesn’t have an explicit flashback mechanic, but I think you could sneak a flashback in when a player spends Story Points if it makes sense.

The other bit of rules connect to gear. Players have access to kits, which offer a bonus to rolls as well as a list of items within the kit to use for inspiration. Sure, you can use the first aid kit for medical rolls with a bonus, but I can see a player also using the included tweezers to pick a lock if needed. There’s a lot of ways to access these kits; they can be selected as part of the planning phase of a job, they can be purchased with Story Points at the time of need and they can even be created by skill rolls during town time.

When used with the proper skill, they provide pips of advantage which is where things get a little confusing. Pips are positive and negative modifiers to a roll that checks the ones digit instead of the tens digit first. Even if you fail, if your ones digit comes up equal to or less than the pip, you still succeed. It seems like an unnecessary complication to what’s otherwise a pretty straight forward system. The game explains it as a way to avoid weird math cases where a person can’t succeed or fail because of modifiers. It offers an alternate path shortly after explaining pips where multiplying them by 5 and modifying the roll works about as well. This felt like a design darling that Krister Sundelin didn’t want to get rid of, but was a small bump on an otherwise smooth percentile rules set.

The clean, gorgeous layout echoes the smoother system. The art in this book is amazing and really captures the lighthearted heist action the game wants to portray. Not only do the illustrations feel like they are from a comic book, but the game also uses the signature characters to discuss the rules. I love games that do this like Atomic Robo or Cartoon Action Hour and it works well here to show off the nuances of the rules. This attention to detail extends to the deluxe character sheets which are made up to look like passports. It makes me want to find some cool country stamps to decorate the PC’s sheets as they bounce around the world saving the day.

The setting comes together in an alternate 1960s where Japan and France were the first to land on the moon in 1964. Because of that, Europe is going through a resurgence after World War II with the focus of the game being the continent as a home base. The setting is broadly “the 60s” then without worrying about specific historical detail or specific countries or cities. It reminds me a little of shows like Mission: Impossible where they would work their clever magic in non-specific Eastern European regimes or tropical dictatorships.The book also includes discussions of some real world series to mix in, with interesting locations, adventure hooks and even why you should use the city in your adventure. This section reminds me of the Thrilling Locations parts of the classic James Bond 007 RPG.

Speaking of bad guys, there’s a broad organization that the players will come up against. The Octopus is built like evil spy organizations such as SPECTRE or THRUSH with agents everywhere and plots brewing beneath the surface. The Octopus is doing everything from hoarding lost Nazi gold to building orbital lasers to holdnations hostage. Their plans are big and slightly silly, making them the perfect target for heroes of the same size and seriousness.

Tables looking to run lighthearted adventure romps will find a lot to love in The Troubleshooters. It’s also a great example of how pictures are worth a thousand dice rolls.
 

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Rob Wieland

Rob Wieland


Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
I sure hope one of the PC archetypes is teen journalist who never actually has to worry about deadlines or writing a single word of copy. And if he's got a sidekick drunken sailor and small dog, all the better :) Or maybe the dog and sailor are PC archetypes of their own? (Hoping!)
 

Ulfgeir

Hero
I sure hope one of the PC archetypes is teen journalist who never actually has to worry about deadlines or writing a single word of copy. And if he's got a sidekick drunken sailor and small dog, all the better :) Or maybe the dog and sailor are PC archetypes of their own? (Hoping!)
Well, One archetypes is is Intrepid reporter if I remember correctly (one of the example characters is a journalist), and you can have a pet (that actually can do stuff)...
 
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dbm

Adventurer
Does this system have a nuanced set of rules for handling non-combat encounters / scenes? I can’t see any kind of pre-view for it?

Handling non-combat challenges in a mechanically interesting way is something lots of games struggle with in my experience. Given the vibe this game seems to be going for I would expect non-violent means to be pretty high on the list of things for PCs to try.
 

Ulfgeir

Hero
Does this system have a nuanced set of rules for handling non-combat encounters / scenes? I can’t see any kind of pre-view for it?

Handling non-combat challenges in a mechanically interesting way is something lots of games struggle with in my experience. Given the vibe this game seems to be going for I would expect non-violent means to be pretty high on the list of things for PCs to try.

Not entirely sure if I understand your questions..

There is a quickstart preview in the 2 adventures placed here: https://helmgast.se/troubleshooters/the-troubleshooters-archive
"Minoan Affair", and "Escape from Mont-Blanc", with the latter being newer.

Not sure whether or not the rules and example characters are exactly the same in both. I know that the exact wording of some stuff changed slightly from the first quickstart were released to the end-product. Unfortunately the maker of the game has not updated the quickstarts (Not sure if it is because he has been too buzy trying to get the game as such to market, or he has forgot. I can remind him next time I talk to him)

You have different abilities that can help you in certain situations. Often cost story points though to use. Otherwise it is suing your skills, and you can build inventions that do strange stuff. Though they often take time. Also remember that just as your character usually just gets knocked out in combat, so does the villains. If you really do try to kill them, then you might loose xp for that session (and if you are really cold blooded about it, the the other characters might also loose some for not stopping you)
 

dbm

Adventurer
Not entirely sure if I understand your questions..

There is a quickstart preview in the 2 adventures placed here: https://helmgast.se/troubleshooters/the-troubleshooters-archive
"Minoan Affair", and "Escape from Mont-Blanc", with the latter being newer.
Thanks for that, I think I have seen those before but refreshed my memory of them.

Based on that material, my summary would be that the game doesn’t seem to add anything specific to the art of non-combat systems. That doesn’t make it a poor game so much as stops it being something to buy for mechanical innovation.

I’m always looking for games that bring new mechanics to the table outside combat as this is generally an area where RPGs tend to be thin in my experience.
 

Ulfgeir

Hero
Thanks for that, I think I have seen those before but refreshed my memory of them.

Based on that material, my summary would be that the game doesn’t seem to add anything specific to the art of non-combat systems. That doesn’t make it a poor game so much as stops it being something to buy for mechanical innovation.

I’m always looking for games that bring new mechanics to the table outside combat as this is generally an area where RPGs tend to be thin in my experience.

Well, there as you say not that often you have new types of mechanics. I might not understand your question properly, but I am assuming you mean things like the flashbacks from Blades in the Dark. Like FATE it does have that the players can establish things in scenes..
 

Kannik

Adventurer
Backed the Kickstarter and very much like the final product! The layout is good, the art and feel of it evoke the adventures of Tintin and his ilk, and there's some good mechanical nods to help support telling/playing/creating those kind of stories. The system as a whole is straightforward and seems solid enough, plus it uses d100 rolls in some interesting ways I haven't seen before. For example, when you gain an advantage, you don't add a value to your roll or adjust the target number, instead you look at the 1s die and compare it to the bonus 'pips' to see if you succeed; so if your skill is 55% and your roll is at +2 pips, you don't get +20 to your roll but instead succeed on a 01-50 as well as 51, 52, 61, 62, 71, 72, and etc. It's an interesting little twist.

(Though I have no major issues with the base system I'm also doing a conversion to use my Aurora RPG Engine to run the game. Should have it ready in a day or two.)

Does this system have a nuanced set of rules for handling non-combat encounters / scenes? I can’t see any kind of pre-view for it?

Handling non-combat challenges in a mechanically interesting way is something lots of games struggle with in my experience. Given the vibe this game seems to be going for I would expect non-violent means to be pretty high on the list of things for PCs to try.

The way they handle duels, chases, or other similar tense competitions is a bit out of the ordinary, with back and forth exchanges narrated and resolved through opposing rolls until one side meets a number of (GM chosen) successes. They also have Challenges which works in a similar way, where players choose and attempt many tasks (either 3, 4, or 5 skill tests, chosen by the GM) and comparing how many of those were successful creates an outcome between Abysmal and Great.

Nothing earth shattering, perhaps, but both are smooth and slightly more involved and nuanced than simple group checks or tallying victory points.
 

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
They also have Challenges which works in a similar way, where players choose and attempt many tasks (either 3, 4, or 5 skill tests, chosen by the GM) and comparing how many of those were successful creates an outcome between Abysmal and Great.
Oh, Skill Challenges! I liked that in 4e, and it certainly doesn't hurt my desire to buy this book. Really the only thing that does impact my desire is that it is in EUR. My bank doesn't play nice with non-USD currencies (small US bank grrr...)
 


Kannik

Adventurer
Oh, Skill Challenges! I liked that in 4e, and it certainly doesn't hurt my desire to buy this book. Really the only thing that does impact my desire is that it is in EUR. My bank doesn't play nice with non-USD currencies (small US bank grrr...)
A bit different with more flexibility and narrative guidance, but similar enough, aye! :) Well worth picking up.

Also great that there's a local currency option to grab it!
 

Staffan

Legend
Oh, Skill Challenges! I liked that in 4e, and it certainly doesn't hurt my desire to buy this book. Really the only thing that does impact my desire is that it is in EUR. My bank doesn't play nice with non-USD currencies (small US bank grrr...)

A bit different with more flexibility and narrative guidance, but similar enough, aye! :) Well worth picking up.
Building on this, challenges in Troubleshooters are a bit different from 4e. In 4e, skill challenges were fairly binary: the party as a whole had to accumulate X successes before Y failures. Usually, they were aimed at an immediate goal, but somewhat open-ended in what skills you use to get there.

Most challenges in Troubleshooters take a step back and handle more sweeping sequences. One can think of them as a montage. When creating a challenge, the GM (with player input) determines three to five skills that make up the different steps of the challenge. The players are then supposed to split those between themselves as evenly as possible (though this can differ somewhat, some challenges are meant to be handled yourself). If all skill checks succeed, you have reached a Great result, beyond expectations. On one failure, you have a Good result – you did what you set out to do, no more and no less. If no checks succeeded at all, that's an Abysmal result, which is a complete failure. In between that, depending on the number of skill checks, you have a Limited outcome (success at a cost) and a Bad outcome (failure but with some consolation).

For example, one of the adventures has a challenge for sneaking into a warehouse where some bad guys have an NPC captive. To get in, the PCs need a challenge of four skills:
Alertness for awareness of the guards.
Sneak to not be noticed by the guards.
Security to figure out patrol routes and such.
Prestidigitation to pick the lock.

A great result puts you in a particularly advantageous situation. A good result gets you in, but you're noticed early on so the action starts right away. On a limited result the PCs almost get in but there's a guard there: do you fight him and make a lot of noise, or do you sneak away? A bad results means the PCs are discovered and the bad guys get away, and an abysmal result means the PCs are captured.
 


Ulfgeir

Hero
Is the game likely to hit DriveThru soon in PDF? There’s a category all ready for it on Helmgast’s page, but nothing to buy.
No idea. I can ask the creator, though I would think it will be some time before it does in that case, as it just hit the stores.
 



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