A couple of years ago, before embarking on my Call Of Cthulhu scenario-writing journey and before designing The Aether Throne, I wrote about 80% of a Powered By The Apocalypse system and setting called The Trinity Code. Inspired by the likes of Supernatural and The X-Files (and therefore Monster of the Week), I am thinking of resurrecting it, polishing and playtesting it, and releasing it out into the wild alongside everything else I’m working on…
Here is the intro section from the dusty draft, which sets the tone and the scope of what comes next …
An alarm flashes in a room of the secret facility, the strobing light providing glimpses of the dead body slumped over a laptop. An inconspicuous convenience store in the suburbs is thronged with pilgrims wishing to see the holy vision that has appeared overnight on the wall. Tires leave molten rubber on the asphalt as two cars hurtle along a highway, one desperately trying to stay out of range of the laser cannon mounted on the roof of the other. And somewhere, deep underground, a deformed figure wraps the darkness around itself like a cloak and laughs.
Welcome to The Trinity Code.
What the game is
The Trinity Code is a role-playing game, designed to be played by three to five players.
In it, one of you takes the role of the Director, responsible for bringing the world of the game to life and for setting mysterious, compelling and dangerous challenges that the rest of the group will try to overcome.
The rest of you take the role of Agents, recent recruits in the secret and hitherto unknown Trinity Division. Although details are only just beginning to emerge, Trinity Division appears to have been created to stand against the greatest threat ever known to humanity. Each one of you has a specialism, something you excel at, and you have been hand-picked by one of the leaders of Trinity Division to aid in its goal of keeping the world safe from unimaginable harm.
You will embark on a series of missions, often finding yourself pitched against human and inhuman foes. Each mission gives you not only a chance to avert the apocalypse that Trinity Division assure you is coming, but also allow you as Agents to grow and develop your skills, able to face more dangerous and threatening situations.
All the while, forces operate in the darkness. The hands of the clock in the penthouse of Trinity Division are at a few minutes to midnight, and — for the first time in living memory — the clock has started ticking.
You are the good guys. Your Agents may not be perfect, and you are likely to come to the party with a number of flaws, issues and personal problems of your own. But, together with your team, you are invested in trying to help save the world.
You are heroes. No matter what walk of life you came from prior to joining Trinity Division, one thing sets you apart from most. You are brave without being reckless. Capable of things that others are not. You possess a degree of fortune that allows you to take risks, even in the face of insurmountable odds.
You are stars of your own show. When played regularly, the Trinity Code is designed to resemble episodes of your favourite TV show. Each mission has a beginning, middle and end, but there are also wider ‘season arcs’, recurring characters, and plenty opportunities for character growth, in-jokes and the sort of banter that makes these kinds of shows unique.
You don’t know everything. As new recruits, you have only been told the broadest details of what is going on. You haven’t met everyone, and you suspect there are many things that your superiors are not telling you. You’re sure there is a good reason for that, and maybe you’ll learn more as you grow in experience, but for now you’re only a little more exposed to the truth than any other ‘normal’ person.
Monsters are real. One of the first things you have discovered since joining Trinity Division is that all the myths, legends, ghost stories and other unexplained phenomena likely have a grounding in fact. The dead can be restless; demons do exist. There are things out there that are unknown to science. Trinity Division have given you a figurative flashlight to begin shining the light of truth, and some of the things that were previously hidden in the shadows are truly terrifying.
There is hope. There has to be. Trinity have had failures, but they have also had successes. Like layers of an onion, the lies and secrets are slowly being peeled away. There is truth inside, and it is down to you and others like you to find it, and make the best use of it you can.
What you’ll need
As a tabletop role-playing game, the main thing you need is a group of like-minded players invested in enjoying this type of game.
You’ll also need a playbook for the Agent you wish to play. Playbooks are described in the next section, followed by the playbooks themselves that are available for you to choose from.
You’ll need normal six-sided dice to play too. It works best when everyone has their own pair of dice, but two between everyone is enough. Note that the Director only very occasionally uses dice, so there is no need for them to have their own set.
You’ll probably benefit from being able to take notes, and to mark your Agent’s progress on your playbook. Pencils and erasers are great for that, especially as sometimes you are marking off checkboxes on progress tracks that reset once they are full.
Missions are designed to be played in one or two three or four hour sessions. This is only a guide, as often the narrative that you create together will take on a life of its own. But in general, you should all be open to spending a few hours together playing, and regularly if you decide to continue on as part of The Trinity Code campaign arc described in Book Two.
Other than that, the most important thing you need is imagination. Think big-budget, cinematic, larger-than-life, over-the-top. Imagine you and your Agent are the stars of the biggest, best and most bombastic action movie ever made.
And with that, you’re ready to go.
What you need to read
If you want to be an Agent, there’s very little for you to read. The next chapter contains the Playbooks, and after that is the chapter on the moves that you can make whenever your Agent comes up against something where the outcome isn’t certain.
Even that isn’t essential though. The campaign game starts with an induction session, where your Director will explain things, go over the playbooks and moves, then you’ll all make a special campaign move where you configure the settings. This will help shape the tone and style of the game that you’ll then go on to play.
If you’ve chosen to be the Director, then there aren’t as many shortcuts. The Trinity Code is a Powered by the Apocalypse game, using the mechanics from Apocalypse World with some unique additions. If you’re familiar with an Apocalypse-style game, then a lot of what follows will be familiar to you, and you can skip a lot of the example play sections. If you’re not, then it would be best if you read the entire book through at least once. Even if you are a veteran at such games though, there are differences unique to The Trinity Code that it would be best to familiarise yourself before running a mission. These include the Magick rules, as well as the rules for Karma, heat and structured combat.
Structure of the book
The book is laid out to cover off the basics and essentials first.
Chapter Two contains the playbooks that Agents can choose from, as well as an explanation of how playbooks work.
Chapter Three details the basic moves that are available to all Agents, including moves that are made whilst investigating, during combat, between missions and at other specific points of play. Each move comes with one or more examples of its use, to help explain how and when they are used.
Chapter Four introduces the concepts of experience, skills, luck, harm, stress and other things that it’s important to know when playing the game.
Chapter Five is all about Magick. You will choose how much magick is in your game when you configure the settings, but if you allow it in your game, this chapter explains how it works.
Chapter Six lists the gear available to your Agents. Weapons, tools, utility items and more are all in here, as are vehicles and other items that you’ll get access to when you’ve proven your worth in the field.
Chapter Seven is where the information for the Agents stops and where the rules that are important for the Director start. This chapter gives advice on interpreting the results of moves, as well as giving the Director a few moves of their own.
Chapter Eight introduces the default (but optional) structured combat rules. It describes combat beats, the ebb and flow of Advantage, how to move and create tactical openings, and the use of combat tags to swing things in your favour.
Chapter Nine has a number of other optional rules. Karma is described here, as is heat. This chapter also contains rules (and moves) for chases and vehicle combat.
Chapter Ten gives the Director advice on running a successful mission. The concept of layers of information is described, and special rules for exploring sites are introduced.
Chapter Eleven lists some sample opponents that Agents may encounter. These range from normal humans to dangerous animals, then veers off into much more horrific and dangerous territory.
Chapter Twelve describes the induction session, with a special section on running this as a collaborative narrative experience as part of the wider Trinity Code campaign. It also includes a sample mission — The Haunting of Annabel Cooper — that can either be used as a one-shot mission, or as the first mission of the Agents’ new career. Further missions, including the full four-season campaign arc, are detailed in The Trinity Code Campaign.