Author: David Schirduan, Evey Lockheart, et al
Publisher: Technical Grimoire
Page Count: 124
Available Formats: PDF & Print
PDF (DTRPG) – $15
Print – $30
Deep below the roiling, cresting waves, the sea is alive with abundant plant and animal life. It is truly the world’s ultimate melting pot. Just under the surface and in its deepest depths, skeletons walk among the coral, the smokers, and the deepest trenches of the oceans. Having hatched from its once fleshy mortal coils, it now wanders, trying to figure itself out. You are a skeleton. You cannot swim. You do not belong. Welcome to Bones Deep!
Note: Technical Grimoire provided Rolling Boxcars with a review copy for this article. Please visit our Product Review Request page if you have an item you’d like Rolling Boxcars to review.
Bones Deep is designed as a Troika-compatible tabletop roleplaying setting for 3–6 players. It requires familiarity and the core rules of Troika to play. It can port to other systems with minimal effort, but to get the most out of it, use Troika. Although not quite system-agnostic, everything needed is contained in this one beautiful hardcover A5 digest size book.
In Bones Deep, you assume the role of a skeleton who has hatched, shedding its fleshy corpse, to explore the ocean’s depths to find yourself and perhaps refind your conscious. A lucky few survive below the waves long enough to find their Drive—their purpose in life. This alien world is filled with many dangers and treasures aplenty. As a skeleton, you are no longer weighed down by the vulnerabilities that once limited you when you were in the flesh. You are free to wander hither and yon—walk, not swim.
The book is a toolbox of resources for bringing the undersea to life. In its pages, you will find backgrounds, rules changes, spells, creatures, locations, stories, and many random tables.
There are six skeleton backgrounds or “classes” to choose from during the speedy creation process.
- The Newborn is recently hatched and still disoriented and confused. Fleshy bits still hang from its bones.
- The Carver pursues the deepest arcane secrets unimpeded, channeling magic through the spells carved directly onto its bones.
- The Keeper has turned its frame into a home for other creatures.
- The Junker desires mortal tools and trinkets; this skeleton is a collector of detritus that finds its way to the bottom of the ocean.
- The Shifter has realized it is just a pile of magic bones and that it can reconfigure itself into various non-human configurations.
- The Infested has been taken over, infected by a parasite that mutates its skeletal form over time.
For those intimately familiar with Troika’s rules, some rule changes and adaptations help to more accurately reflect the realities of playing underwater skeletons. Stamina represents your energy, motivation, and will to keep going. While skeletons are impervious to many things that would otherwise impact humans, bones can still be broken, crushed, burned, and susceptible to necromancy, to name a few. Skeletons do not need food, air, love, and the like, but they do have a Drive that must be assuaged; each background comes with a suggested Drive for this reason. Drives replace the standard Stamina healing and Luck recovery in Troika proper.
The menagerie of creatures in Bones Deep is extensive, taking up a good portion of the book. This creature collection presents some of the most basic sea creatures in the most amazing way. For example, in real life, crabs are simple shellfish, but they are far more than that in Bones Deep. They are now The Crab Cabal. Having obtained sentience millions of years ago, the Cabal’s influence quickly spread. They are now the middlemen of the sea: traders, merchants, diplomats, travelers, and more. They come in all shapes and sizes, but all share a common drive: to acquire power through favors and promises. So much so that the only true currency in Bones Deep is Crab Credit. I would be remiss if I did not mention that Humans (Homo Sapiens) also have the means to traverse the undersea through mechanical and arcane means.
Twenty locations are keyed on the undersea locations map on the front endpapers. Each is richly described in a two-page spread. Accompanying the detailed and evocative description might be random tables, exciting places within the location, and other nearby keyed locations, which makes navigating from one location to another seamless. For example, The Bottom of the Barrel, 500′ under the surface, is a meeting place for undersea creatures. The Barrel is uniquely constructed to accommodate crabs, fish, wizards, witches, skeletons, and any other creatures that may wish to meet in a safe place. The top half is kept dry in a bubble of air, perfect for tall humanoid surface folk.
Five adventures or “stories” are provided to jumpstart your Bones Deep game. Each is a surprisingly rich and thought-provoking idea despite the brief presentation treatment.
The book wraps up with several pages of random tables covering everything from skeleton generators to clothing to 1d100 Quirks to d66 random spells, to name just a few.
This beautiful 124-page hardcover A5 digest size book has parchment color pages; the front endpapers are lightly colored. Beyond that, all other art, of which there is quite a bit, is in varying shades of gray. The art is used to good effect and accentuates the themes running throughout the book.
The edit and layout are top-notch, making the reading experience quite enjoyable. The table of contents allows for quick navigation of the contents. I have one minor gripe about the layout, and it is more of a personal preference than anything, but I would have liked to have seen a transition page leading into each new section.
Bones Deep is a wonderfully creative and unique setting for Troika. As some who lives in the coastal area, it warms my heart to see the passion poured into this book. Even if you are not a Troika Gamemaster, do not let that dissuade you from checking it out. Bones Deep can be easily adapted to other systems as it is nearly system neutral. I believe you will find the minimal effort to do so well worth it.
The design team comprises tabletop roleplaying veterans, accessibility consultants, and nautical and marine subject matter experts. Their collective knowledge and creative spirit make Bones Deep shine bright!
Bones Deep is a must buy!
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