Troika! Initiative Rules

This initiative system can replace most I-go-you-go style initiative arrangements in role-playing games without much fuss. You need the following:

  • Two identical cards for each player character
  • One card that signifies the end of the turn
  • An abundance of one card to signify henchmen
  • An abundance of one more card to signify enemies 

When a fight breaks out you gather up the player cards, the end of round token, henchman tokens equal to the number of henchmen present, and a number of enemy tokens equal to the total initiative value of all enemies. Shuffle these.

Draw a card, the owner of the drawn card acts. If the end of round card is drawn you gather up all the tokens and start again.

Player tokens

Each player gets two. You could play with this for spells that speed up or slow down, but generally don’t fiddle with it too much. (delayed actions, aiming)

Enemy tokens

When you draw an enemy token any enemy may act. This means that a single enemy can perform multiple actions in a given round, even above the number of initiative tokens they contribute. Assume this represents the bolstering effect of having leader-sorts around, or lots of their friends. In practise the GM is encouraged to not use this to purely mechanical advantage, but in a way that makes sense and is enjoyable for everyone.


Each henchman contributes one token. When a henchman token is drawn the GM must take an action for any one henchman present. They can take instructions from the players but are not obliged to follow them, henchmen are people too.

End of round card

If the end of round card is drawn then all cards, including the end of round card, are put back in the stack. Resolve any per round or end of round activities such as magic effects, fire, poison or bleeding out, remove any cards belonging to dead or absent participants, then draw another card and carry on.


On your turn you may decide to take aim with your ranged weapon. To do so, declare you are aiming and hold onto your initiative card. When your next initiative card is drawn you shoot, rolling twice and picking the best roll. If the end of round token comes up and you haven’t used your aim action you may decide to hold on to your aim token or abandon your action and put it back in the stack.

Delay an action

You may choose not to act when you hold initiative, in which case you put the token back in the stack. This increases your chances of acting later, but does not guarantee it.

Converting initiative from other games

Enemies contribute to a communal pool of enemy initiative equal to their initiative value, representing the broad press of opposition. Initiative doesn't just represent physical speed, but also confidence of action, bravery and general quick wits. Place your monster on a spectrum, with 1 being a cowardly goblin or a brain dead zombie, 3 being a charismatic captain, 5 being an ancient manticore, and 8 being a dragon who can literally see the future. Place your bad guys in there, trying to stick to 1-3 for the most part, and don’t be afraid to tamper with them if you feel you’ve made a mistake. The system is spongy and forgiving, feel it out until you can confidently throw numbers about.

Converting initiative tampering effects from other games

In general you do not want to tamper with the number of cards anyone uses too much, however sometimes you need to show how fast or slow someone has become. In the caste of a sped up participant, let them use a third (or fourth etc.) card as an additional initiative card for the round (or as many rounds as are required). To slow them, do the opposite. Be strict with round counting, since this might cause them to not see much benefit/hindrance from their alterations before it resolves itself. Violence is capricious.

Alternatively, if you are insistent on being very very fast, allow them to “recycle” their initiative cards for a turn. By which I mean let them put any initiative they draw back in the stack after using it. This could be a finite number of times or only limited by the passing of rounds. For slowness in this case you could force a player to possess two whole initiative cards to act once. Have them hold onto the first one drawn and let them pray another shows.

Head over to the ongoing Kickstarter if you'd like to see these cards made. Just a slice of money left until we can afford them.

Troika Initiative Cards Kickstarter

We're having a little whip-around to get some cards made for use with Troika! and as an insertable stand-alone chit-pull-style initiative system. They're already drawn and ruled up, so they're definitely a thing that can exist. The Kickstarter is so I can put in a wholesale order and import them from the restrictively local manufacturing centre that DriveThru use for cards. I'd like these to be reasonably available to everyone, not just the US. If the KS fails to raise enough for that then we'll probably sit on them until we can fabricate them elsewhere.

The cards are super simple stuff. Where before we had to recommend people put tokens in a bag or other handy receptacle for initiative, now we can point them to these things which are guaranteed to do the job in handsome purple-ey style. For those already familiar with Troika! they work pretty much as you'd expect but with one small change to how henchmen work (a line of errata will happen).

Kickstarter here:

Free version of Troika here:

POD Troika here:

Print-run Troika here:

The best way you can support Troika! is by playing it.

Where's My Ring?

Mangled by a card,
A drawing of honest attitudes.
Where now?

Oh but for the grace of bookshelves,
They hid them from us,
For the better.

Take them down and don't go further,
The crevices hide multitudes of histories,
Sweetly minted notes of sensations.

Others, unacquainted, will say it happens,
For the best,
For the time being.