Spider Bankers of the Bureau of Universal Exchange

 I'll put in a picture when I have one. We're working on these a bit at a time. The Spider Bankers have been in Troika since the beginning and I've always meant to get around to using them more. They appeared in Wengle Instrumentality, and they're in the upcoming Streets Of Troika book, but they deserve a proper entry I think.

When picturing them I always imagine the presence of the triceratops foreman in that old puppet sitcom "Dinosaurs" or the baboon from Ren & Stimpy. Just with a little bowler hat and pin strip vest.

This is a cross post from the Troika Patreon, where you can see more or these

Spider Bankers of the Bureau of Universal Exchange

Skill 9
Stamina 18
Initiative 3
Armour 2 (thick chitin)
Damage as Large Beast
1. Polishing their eyes with a huge silk handkerchief
2. Adjusting their hat
3. Drumming their many tiny hands on the counter
4. Staring inscrutably
5. One par of hands absently calculating on an abacus
6. Twitching without obvious cause
Scattered throughout Troika are the silo-like Bureaus of Universal Exchange. Windowless and towering one enters the ground floor through your choice of many small doors into cramped corridors which twist and turn until eventually ending in a barred and shuttered window. There are no signs indicating what is expected or provided, and the spiders are behind the bars filling the space with its chitinous bulk, tapping the fingers of their tiny hands impatiently against the counter. They have an uncanny head for the value of things, they will never confer, and you will never get a bargain. After a bare moment in the scrutiny of one eye, then another and another, the spider banker will know and offer only exactly what it's worth and not a penny more, minus a small handling fee of course.

 ## Violence

If attacked inside their bank the spiders will first try to slam the security shutter down on their assailant and flee. One would need to test their luck to stop this happening. If caught or cornered they will fight viciously, attempting to incapacitate attackers with their venom and spinnerets so as to take them away later as compensation for the inconvenience.

 ## Ecology

The bureau is assumed to be connected to, or at least tacitly endorsed by, the Universal Council of Troika. Such a vast and wealthy institution as the spider bank could, if it wished, shift its weight and topple whole boroughs or counties, ruin the barge houses, bankrupt nations. Indeed, sometimes they do, yet they City does nothing and so the people assume it is all according to plan.

 ## Lair

The bureaus are the only place one is likely to find a spider banker, and then only from behind their steel bars. The buildings only allow entrance through tunnels to the cashier windows, and no one, not even the spiders, come or go in the course of the day. The banks are connected through a hidden network throughout the city, and if one were to somehow get past the spiders and into it, they would find vaults upon vaults strung under the city like crystals on a chandelier, the labyrinthine mirror city of the spiders. The only non-spiders to be found in their tunnels are decerebrized debtors shuffling carts of labelled goods from vault to vault.

 ## Special

When bringing them alien currency for exchange into Troikan pennies randomly determine how valuable it is at the exact moment of exchange. Roll 2d6, in order. The first is the penny, the second is foreign currency, thus determining the ratio. Always add one in the bureau's favour. They're running a business after all.
Spider Banker bites are dangerous. When injured by the bite of a banker the recipient may test their luck or else fall limp in their arms, to be passed back along it's belly through its many arms to be spun into a silk parcel for later. Unless an anti-venom (sold at great expense by mercenary hearted spider bankers) is applied the envenomed subject will start coughing up pennies, 1d6 every hour. Each penny coughed up reduces their stamina by 1, until they finally expire. Sleep and eating is impossible, triggering instead another coughing fit of 1d6 pennies.

Monsters Are Fine

 Hello party people.

It's been a while, I don't know how long, I don't read dates, ain't got time for that. 

I have spent a lot of time trying to do good, publish books and fight the struggle against the absolute treacle of life. It is hard. I'm starting, slowly, a little RPG Publishing Apprenticeship program (where people learn about my inability to answer emails in any reasonable timeframe) in an effort to convince me and the universe that everything is not fated for doom and dissolution. What I'm saying is, it's fine. I watched a talk by a designer I really like, Jeff Vogel and he said something like "if something pains you now it's gonna kill you in ten years". Post, and crowdfunding, kinda pain me. You have to switch off your creative brain and submit yourself. It's like having to do Marina Abramović's Rhythm 0 every four months.

What I'm saying is it's fine, right?

Anyway, I'm making a monster book. I'll talk about it here and post it on Itch as a work in progress. It's gonna be the stuff I think about that I don't have time to write a book for, in pieces, and it'll be good and eventually long. That's the plan. It'll be a gift to my younger self, the kind of book I would have lost my mind over seeing, and totally enflamed my head with thoughts of the unseen world these things live in. There's a well of power behind that which I need to get back to. There ain't no power in post.

EDIT: Oh, and go back Fever Swamp! If it does well I'll avoid having a heart attack for a few more months.

So You Wrote A Good Book And Don't Want To Starve To Death?

I am an independent publisher. I have no secondary income, I have no one supporting me, I have no investors, I had no "seed money", I have no savings. Indie right? The following disorganised advice assumes the same situation as me, with a physical book. If you have money or a white collar job then I have nothing for you, you're already loaded just spend that money you have to make more. I'm not an essayist, this stuff bores me to tears but it should be out there freely and not handed out like wisdom from the mountain top to our deserving disciples.

Practical Things I Wish I Knew Sooner:

  • Make a website. Weebly or Wix or whatever you fancy. Get a domain name. From that website you make a sales pitch which you can direct people to. The website then tells people how they can buy your book if they want to. 
  • If you want a distributor just put your book on amazon. RPG distributors are terrible unless you are WotC. We are not WotC. Amazon is fiddly but open to anyone.
  • Do Facebook/Instagram ads. They are cheap and ludicrously effective. Use your nice art and words to drive people to your website you just made. Get into google ads if you're confident but they're not great for us. Update: Ads now suck unless you're RICH. Don't over-commit.
  • Have a shop. It's optional, you could rely on amazon and Itch.io to get paid, but a shop is another step on your way to pure independence.
  • If you don't know something ask someone who does. It can save you a lot of time and money.
  • Kickstarter is just cheap advertising, don't let it get you too focused on it.
  • Have a presence on social media. Twitter is ok. You don't have to be into it, you just need to be there as another path to your work.
  • Have. A. Website.

Assorted Practical Concerns
  • You should mark your book up around 10x the physical cost if you wanna eat. If 10x the cost is too much then you need to pay less for making your books. Offset printers are great
  • Don't be afraid of offset printers. Once you start paying proper money for things things get cheaper and people are way nicer to you. Proper printers have infinite patience for our bullshit.
  • A print run of 1000, hardback, 150 page books at a proper printers should cost you around £2k. More or less.
  • Kickstarter is a great tool for advertising your book. It can get you the money you need to pay for the print run and it gives you a socially acceptable excuse to hype yourself for a month. Do not use it with the intent of making shitloads of cash. It's not gonna happen unless you have outside help and besides, they'll take a % and turn what was a very affordable advert into a very expensive one. 
  • A healthy tail end of a book is a couple of years. Make your money slow, safe and reliable
  • Make your book cover as nice as you can afford. That's the thing that gets shared on social media and is always gonna be money well spent. Even if the guts are empty and the build quality sucks, have a nice cover.
  • Hire an editor and trust them
  • Read fewer RPGs, they're a circle.
  • Go back in time and don't have children and a lifestyle to maintain

Some Vaguer Points
  • If you're half in you're half in.
  • Non-rpg books are the best inspiration for writing rpgs. The same goes for making and selling them.
  • You're not gonna disrupt the market unless you're gonna disrupt WotC. You are not gonna disrupt WotC.
  • You have no competition. We're all here to help each other and anyone who isn't is gonna sink like a rock.
  • Getting promotional help from outside RPGs is cheating. Build a bridge we can all cross.

I didn't invent any of this. I asked, copied and stole. I'll add more as I remember it.

Two Headed

A roleplaying game is a medium. Like oil colour, poetry, sculpture or prose. What is interesting is the results. Focusing on the method is at best an interesting side note and then only to a few.

Look at painting and wonder what brand the painter used, what size brush, which hand they held it in. What pen did the writer use? How many breaks did the sculptor take? Feel the tiredness wash over you, feel it fill up any space interesting thought could take

Theatre feels like a good comparison but it isnt. The rpg is the script, and no one cares how you make the script. The performance is the table and that's out of our hands

The performance is different

Confusion happens between them. A roleplaying game is not the table. I'm not interested in the table, you can have it.

Don't belabour the comparison, it's not perfect.

A game book is manipulative, it is psychology, it is magic. It can be a text book but then its a perfunctory item. A text book is the sum of its parts

the table is in conversation with the source text. the book should have the decency of being a generous partner.

The game book is one of two heads

The book is never neutral and can stand up to interrogation. It never just is. It is a statement. These are all obvious points and i forget them


I just want to read and write and maybe play video games if i'm feeling harassed one day. Just waking up has too much maintenance, sleeping interrupts me every time. In a perfect world I'd never sleep or want to.

I used to be ashamed of how easy I am to derail and tried to fix it. One day I gave up and let it be known that that's how it is and it's not my problem it's everyone else's don't invite me.

It's very easy to not do anything but the pressure of making something builds up until it is more uncomfortable than being comfortable and then work happens. Busy work and circular work doesn't generate pressure. It's a barking dog that gets louder and I just pull over more blankets. I can keep pulling all day.

I used to pay someone to let me moan but the pressure of having something interesting to say every week was too much. I could spend that money on work. Running games is the same but I don't save any money.

Some days i'm nauseous with things I want to make and then i'm told the world has been knocking all night and they're tired of dealing with it. Cold bath sober.

How unhappy are you willing to gamble on being happy one day?


These should be universally applied to all possible encounters regardless of attitude or anatomy


  1. Keeps a bit of dried alzabo brain in their cheek. Voice changes slightly as they talk
  2. Chews fragrent bark 
  3. Licka the back of their hands while thinking
  4. Keeps all their change in their mouth
  5. Visits their mother regularly
  6. Politically divergent and argumentative
  7. Collects religious tracts
  8. False beard made of colourful wool
  9. Prone to fits of ennui
  10. Owl wine connoisseur


More things should be considered. Anything to break the monotony of people only wanting to get in the way or fulfil their function. Every person has multitudes and we're all very busy. Roll a thing, live the thing through the NPC even if it never gets mentioned. Don't insist on bringing up owl wine just because they like it, just have that in the back of your head; the manticore that liked owl wine, the democratic orc and so on.

Permian Nations

Hey, check it:

This is the first post-troika troika kickstarter. First of many most likely. Like I've said before, the quieter it is the busier I am making stuff. Not that this is mine, it's Evey's. We all know Evey, fellow G+ diaspora person, writes good.

I've got two books for troika fully under way and about 4 more that are being tested for holding my patience. It's a slow process but as soon as something takes it'll snag and unwind a book in no time. Much like Troika did.

Wargame design external brain

one thing wargames do much better than rpgs is they share ideas without crying about it. Side effect of rpgs getting virtually monopolised by one big fat american corp. Wargames have no monolith, no single financial truncheon, no group of bestest friends advertising them. This is a good thing.

We will use the basic wargame. Chits, Attack/Defence/Movement, possibly with Steps and Supply, definitely with Ratio, maybe with Chit Pull. These are all basic concepts.

Wargamers are literally dying out. They are old. They like ww2 and other conflicts involving america.

Make a wargame with indie sensibilities. Cave Evil are doing it.

The problem with fantasy and sci fi wargames is lots of stuff. Things i can think of right now:

1- They dont have any emotional connection (see old men and ww2/america invades the world) so must make their own.
2- There is a temptation to make then a symmetrical conflict AKA chess

Every wargame i have enjoyed has been lopsided and told a story. I know more about 40k than ww2, plus space naizis arent real.

A fantasy (i'm gonna use fantasy to mean both 'cos that's fine) wargame has to tell me a story quickly. It has to have a warp and weft, ask questions the players have to answer, have lots of answers. it must be pretty, it must be replayable, it must be chunky, it must be fun. It must not be a generic frame to hang more things off, it must not be a minitures wargame clone.

Wargames can do so much and don't.

It should probably be 2 player. No one knows multiple people who will play with a carboard token on a map. dont lie.

It should have a shape that suggests the ability to make more things and build upon it. It should be open and welcoming, it should have fewer than 4 a4 pages.

it needs a hook. it needs and punchline. it needs to be something you can sell someone on in a sentence. Dark Emperor is about Sauron-like invading a post apocalyptic fantasy land. Obviously great idea. into it. it has a shape and you can picture it playing out.

It's such an easy thing to do. The rules are already made all you need to do it hang them in a suitably tasty way