The Hunt Roll is the most frequently used mechanic in Trophy Gold. In my experience, 50-60% of all die rolls in the game are the Hunt Roll, with the rest being split roughly evenly between the Risk Roll and the Combat Roll. Because of that, it’s very important that you understand how the Hunt Roll works before attempting to run or play Trophy Gold. The good news is that it’s a fairly straightforward mechanic. However, it’s just novel enough to warrant a careful examination, and that’s what I’m going to do in this blog post (which otherwise assumes you understand the basics of Trophy Gold).
Here’s the text of the roll:
The text of the roll is fairly clear on this point: when you press ever deeper in pursuit of your goal and say how you are exploring the environment. If a player describes their character moving carefully down a corridor, keeping an eye out for traps, go to the Hunt Roll. If they describe their character using a spyglass to get a better view of what’s on the other side of the chasm, go to the Hunt Roll. If they’re looking for the name of a lost heir by scouring genealogical archives, go to the Hunt Roll.
The key here is the player needs to meet two conditions: 1) their character is pursuing some sort of goal and 2) they have to describe how their character is exploring the environment. For example, it’s not enough for the player to say, “I want to check out that sarcophagus.” They have to couple that statement with how they are examining the sarcophagus, and a GM can and should prompt them for that information before allowing the Hunt Roll. Likewise, if they say, “While we’re at camp, I’m going to be studying my tomes,” they have not done enough to trigger the Hunt Roll; there has to be a reason for studying the tomes, and the GM should follow up with, “What are you hoping to learn by doing so?”
I also look to the text of the first light die in the roll to determine if it has been triggered, particularly the part that says they get the die if they ask questions about the world. If a player asks questions about the world—in character or out of character—I will ask them if they wish to trigger the Hunt Roll, and, if so, how is their character exploring the environment or pursuing the answers to those questions.
This is the most straightforward aspect of the Hunt Roll. The first light die is a gimme: basically, if they trigger the roll at all, they’re getting the first light die. The second light die is also fairly simple: a skill is usually implied when the player describes how their treasure-hunter is exploring, and if it’s not, the player can get the second die by incorporating a piece of equipment (including combat equipment) in their description. Important to note: you can never get more than two light dice on the Hunt Roll.
GMs with players who are new to Trophy Gold will want to be mindful of two things:
1) New players frequently settle for one light die on the roll. That’s perfectly fine, but the GM may want to remind them that doing so is extremely risky, since they’re at the mercy of that single light die, and if a “1” is rolled, they’ll lose all their accumulated Hunt Roll tokens. The GM should instead encourage them to reframe how they’re describing their exploration so it implicates a skill or piece of equipment. Two light dice is far less risky than one light die.
2) New players frequently don’t understand how equipment works. They will look at the three fixed items in their pack and decide that none of them are applicable, and then just go for that single light die, which, as noted, is very risky. They misunderstand that the three open slots in their pack can be any of dozens of different things from the Additional Backpack Equipment list. They’ll have to be reminded of this the first session or two.
What does the Treasure-Hunter Learn from the Hunt Roll?
Interpreting the results of the Hunt Roll is the trickiest part of the Hunt Roll. At the start, new players and GMs alike may be wondering, “What does a character actually learn from doing the roll?”
This is the most important thing to remember: the Hunt Roll does not guarantee any information is actually learned. The only positive outcome guaranteed by the Hunt Roll is a Hunt Roll token. It’s largely up to the GM how much actual information is learned from the exploration, irrespective of whether the die roll “succeeds” or “fails.” The GM may decide there is nothing to be learned, either because the text of the incursion says (or implies) nothing is there, or because the manner of exploration wouldn’t turn up anything useful. If, for example, there is a chamber with a secret passageway hidden behind a wall, and the player describes their character tapping around on the floor of the chamber looking for traps, the GM might decide they simply can’t find the hidden chamber, no matter the result of the Hunt Roll, because they didn’t investigate the wall. Or perhaps there is an ancient fresco in the dungeon with words written in a forgotten language on it, and the player describes their character trying to interpret what the words mean. The GM might decide that, no, nothing can be learned by simply trying to read the words, because the language is not one the character knows.
But here is where I must warn you: this is an art more than a science. What if, in the case of the secret passage in my above example, the treasure-hunter has the Awareness skill or a skill associated with structures and architecture? The GM might decide that the presence of those skills would help such a character discover a secret in the wall even when they are directly focusing on the floor. Conversely, perhaps the treasure-hunter is examining the wall, but they have a Condition that makes them dazed or distracted. The GM may very well decide that the Condition makes it impossible for them to notice the secret passage. In my fresco example above, the treasure-hunter may have a skill in languages, in which case, even though the words are written in a forgotten tongue, the GM might decide the character is able to learn something from reading them. Alternatively, the GM might decide the language on the fresco is well and truly forgotten, and nothing short of magic will make them readable.
What about when the text of the incursion is unclear about what is actually available to be learned? Again, this is more of an art than a science, and requires a bit of improv: the GM uses their judgment about what might be there, usually based on what is implied by the rest of the incursion. There may be something or there may be nothing, but the GM should at least give it some thought before simply saying, “You don’t learn anything.”
In all cases, the most important thing is for the GM to be honest in the moment, and being honest means not only saying what is or is not there based on the incursion’s text and their notes, but also being flexible and open-minded about what might be there.
One last thing: the text of the Hunt Roll suggests the GM can ask for players’ input about what might be discovered as the result of the Hunt Roll. This is an easy part to forget, but it’s important, because Trophy Gold embraces a high degree of player-authored fiction. If the GM is unsure about what is learned, or if they simply want to take a break from worldbuilding, they should turn the matter over to the players. After all, the GM can deny any suggestion that would be too disruptive to the story.
Encountering Something Terrible
A treasure-hunter will “encounter something terrible” 5 out of 6 times they do the Hunt Roll, and so it’s important we address this part of the results. Here’s the key thing: “encounter something terrible” does not necessarily mean they encounter a monster (though they certainly can). The word “encounter” is traditionally associated with monster encounters in the TTRPG hobby, and so it’s easy to think that “encounter something terrible” means the character is about to face a monster. But that is simply not the case in Trophy Gold, and, in fact, the game will go sideways really quickly if you interpret it that way, because combat in Trophy Gold is extremely dangerous. If you had a combat every time a player rolled a 1-5 on the Hunt Roll, the treasure-hunters would all be dead within an hour.
Instead, think of these moments as an opportunity to establish a mood, warn of pending danger, and/or immerse the players in the dungeon environment. “Something terrible” can be as simple as a creepy or disturbing sight in the dungeon. Incursions written for Trophy Gold have lists of Moments that are perfect for satisfying the “encounter something terrible” part of the die roll. “A pit begins to froth and sizzle, as a brief, hysterical scream is loosed and then silenced,” “stalks of corn, tall and rotting,” and “stacks of brown and gold burlap sacks, stuck together by caked blood,” are all “terrible” things that help create a creepy, dreadful tone in the game, but do not automatically lead to combat. You can get the same effect in a dungeon not originally written for Trophy Gold by reading bits of the dungeon’s descriptive text (highlighting potential “terrible” encounters before you start playing is a smart move). You can also just make something up! A bit of improv constrained and informed by the incursion’s theme is a great way to land on some terrible encounters that are pure set dressing.
All that said, the Hunt Roll may very well lead to encountering something immediately dangerous, like a monster or trap, thereby triggering Combat or Risk Rolls. That’s a completely legitimate outcome of the Hunt Roll, but I would advise GMs to make sure there is some build up to that moment, especially in the case of monsters. Maybe the first Hunt Roll reveals the sounds of the monster’s approaching footsteps coming from deeper in the dungeon, and the second Hunt Roll is when the monster actually shows up. This is where incursions originally published for Trophy Gold are helpful, because the monsters all have a list of six habits which can be used to build up to the direct encounter, but even non-Trophy Gold dungeons usually give an indication of what a monster is doing when not fighting the treasure-hunters.
I’ll end this part of the blog post with a quote from Jesse Ross, creator of Trophy Gold: “GMs might want to consider the actual value of the highest die rolled when considering how terrible a terrible encounter is. A 1 might be a monster is right there ready to attack, while a 5 might just be an eerie sound off in the distance. I'm planning to incorporate that feedback into the roll itself in the hardcover edition.”
Hunt Roll Tokens
Hunt Roll tokens, and the power they give players to shape the narrative of your game, is an important topic, but probably a bit outside the scope of this blog post. I may do a future post diving deep into the topic, but until then, I strongly recommend a podcast episode I did called “How to Run Trophy Gold: Set Goals and Hunt Rolls.” It can be found in The Trophy Podcast feed, and here: https://www.gauntlet-rpg.com/trophy-podcast/how-to-run-trophy-gold-set-goals-and-hunt-rolls
The Hunt Roll versus The Risk Roll
I’m going to close with a few notes about when to use the Hunt Roll and when to use the Risk Roll. In most cases, it will be very obvious: if the character is exploring, that’s a Hunt Roll; if they’re trying to overcome an obstacle or avoid danger, that’s a Risk Roll. But there are definitely edge cases that are worth talking about. Consider, for example, the case where the treasure-hunter is trying to open and search a sarcophagus they know to be trapped. Is that a Hunt Roll or a Risk Roll? On the one hand, you could say it’s a Hunt Roll because the character is exploring the environment. On the other hand, you could say it’s a Risk Roll because they know that opening the sarcophagus may well trigger the trap, and so they’re actively trying to avoid that while they search. My view here is probably unsatisfying, but I think it’s the right one: the GM simply has to make a call based on their gut. Personally, I would have it be a Hunt Roll, and the “encounter something terrible” result would be the trap going off. That would then lead to a Risk Roll to avoid being harmed. But it would really depend on how the player describes what they’re doing. If they are “exploring” by first attempting to disarm the trap, that’s probably a Risk Roll to start.
Another note from Jesse: “When deciding between a Hunt Roll and a Risk Roll, ask: is this action likely inflict harm on its own? If it can, then choose a Risk Roll (since Hunt Rolls can't actually make a treasure-hunter's Ruin go up).”