September 21, 2020 troika


Dossiers on Truth and Meaning for Troika!

Tales are told of rain-slick streets sliced apart by hard-white reflections. Men with hats and cigarettes and women with red red red lips - the only colour beside blood and skin-glow on dirty photographs. Folly or malice implicate the poor souls into webs of association, guilt, conspiracy. The dire truth is that it goes much deeper. Each mystery is another hydra-head of the ur-conspiracy - endless strings, connotations, fall-guys, patsies, betrayals - in service of what?

The characters of Troika! games may be uniquely placed to run down the clues, make the connections and tail the perps. Unless, of course, they’ve already been worked into the Mystery.


ULTRANOIR! characters are Detectives of some description. If they work for the Authorities, it is begrudgingly. Mostly they are on the outskirts of society and acceptability, peering in through grubby windows.

All of the following things are true about Detectives. Write them down in pencil.

  • They are observant.
  • They’re decent in a fight.
  • They know a lot about things.
  • They know people in Authority.
  • They know people Disliked by Authority.

Some of these might be lies. Rub up to two out. If you did, choose one thing from the list below. If you rubbed one out, choose two. If you rubbed none out, choose three. They are numbered for those who want to roll instead.

  1. They’re fuelled by a prohibited substance.
  2. They’re broke.
  3. They owe people Disliked by Authority.
  4. People in Authority are out to get them.
  5. They have an unbreakable sense of morality.
  6. They’re hiding a guilty secret.
  7. They always act on anger.
  8. They’ve been damaged by conflict.
  9. They’re as cold as ice.
  10. Everyone knows them.

Otherwise, generate Stamina, Skill and Luck as normal.

Rolls involving something true about a detective should be at a modifier of 4 - positive or negative depending on the situation.

Roll a background too if you want to make things weird.

Detectives start with a Weapon, enough money to eat for a week and some sort of shared office or base of operations. Maybe a car.


Normally one would know the breadth and scope of the mystery, and regurgitate it in gristly little nuggets of Truth. ULTRANOIR! offers no such comforts. The mystery is generated as you play. If only you hadn’t started reading, this could’ve stayed between me and these words. Now we’re both implicated.

Mysteries involve a deviation from the expected path of Normality (as defined by the Authority) - someone vanishes, a body turns up where it shouldn’t, items vanish or a surprising result occurs. Often this seems to represent an abnormality - a break in the way things should be. We investigate to ferret out the Strange and render it Known and thereby defang it, incorporate it into the Light and either remove it or make it Normal. At least, this is what the Authority would tell us.

In truth, it is the hidden nature of Normality appearing above the surface for an instant, leaving some ripples. People disappear for reasons all the time, we just don’t see it. Those in the way are snuffed out. Items are required. Truth is suppressed for the good of the normal. We investigate to confront the ugliness and the cost of Normality to make an informed choice about what we want and how we want to be. We tease apart the knots of lies and find a kernel of Truth. At least, that is what those Disliked by Authority would tell us.

Deeper still and meaning de-coheres. Now you’re within ULTRANOIR! - the harsh chiaroscuro lighting means grey swirls when you equal it out. Grey, of course, is much darker than black.

Use the below table (The Smoky Onion) to generate layers of mystery as needed.

1d6 Initial Item Twist A* Twist B* Twist C*
1 Theft/transport of expensive item. A member of authority is involved! A Truth about a detective is threatened! Someone in Authority is trying to take the investigation!
2 Death/disappearance of important individual/their partner. But it was fake! The perpetrator works for another, more mysterious person/group! The source of the mystery requires travel to reach!
3 Movement/Discovery of prohibited/embarrassing goods. Actually ties into (roll new mystery) The perpetrator is a double-agent! Actually ties into (roll new mystery)
4 Tensions escalate between parties - but why? Your employers are involved! Hints of the Supernatural haunt the investigation! Is a distraction for (roll new mystery)
5 Lucrative money for a simple job’ A heretofore unknown individual is trying to shut down the investigation! A time-limit is being introduced! The previous twist is False!
6 ‘Accidental’ implication of a Detective in something unknown. A key figure is in peril! The previous twist is False! Nothing matters! Everything is permitted!

After rolling for your Twist, roll an additional D6. On a 1-2, the next Twist is from column A. On a 3-4, the next Twist is from column B. On a 5-6, the next Twist is from column C.


Detectives don’t wear armour - nor do those who would keep mysteries.

Men with Guns

They needn’t be men. They needn’t have guns.

Skill 7

Stamina 10

Init 1

Damage as Weapon

1d6 Mien
1 Smoking
2 Leering
3 Menacing
4 Worrying about the Boss finding out
5 Telling people they’ve Got a Real Nice Place Here, Shame if Something Happened to It
6 Telling people to Not Ask Nosey Questions

Serious Sergeants

There’s always one who speaks for their Guys. A convenient voice of One for the Many. Either pitch-black Unpleasant or the one getting Second Thoughts.

Skill 8

Stamina 12

Init 2

Damage as Weapon

1d6 Mien
1 Cigar-smoking
2 Bawling out the Guys
3 Confused and worried about the Boss
4 Checking the Papers
5 Having a Quiet Word with one of the Guys
6 Appreciating a Luxury

Sneering Lieutenants

Nasty razor-blade-people, full of cruelty.

Skill 9

Stamina 11

Init 2

Damage as Weapon

1d6 Mien
1 Plotting against the Sergeants
2 Plotting against the Kingpin
3 Taking Sadistic Glee
4 Indulging in Heinous Vice
5 Considering a Tempting Offer
6 Cleaning up a Mess


The centre from which power emanates, whether of Authority of not. The figure behind it all…unless….

Skill 7

Stamina 15

Init 3

Damage as Weapon

1d6 Mien
1 Jolly Malice
2 Understanding yet Violent
3 Incandescent with Rage
4 Suffocating the Room with their Presence
5 Hobnobbing with Society People
6 Explaining how they’re Different and Special

Desperate Innocents

Wrong time, wrong place. Sorry.

Skill 5

Stamina 7

Init 4

Damage as Weapon

1d6 Mien
1 Trying to Hide
2 Trying to Flee
3 Like a Deer in Headlights
4 Fear-Stricken Clarity
5 Incoherent
6 Fighting like a Cornered Animal

Guilty Desperates

You’re in way over your head with no-one to blame but yourself.

Skill 6

Stamina 8

Init 2

Damage as Weapon

1d6 Mien
1 Blundering In
2 Grasping at Straws
3 Hailing Mary
4 Rolling the Dice
5 Hoping to God
6 Realising just how truly fucked they are

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