What is Caltrop Core?
This document was created by Titanomachy RPG along and developed with @aghostofeli and @n_quests on Twitter. I first found out about Caltrop Core when I reviewed Domesticat and I really enjoyed playing this d4 based system. I thought since I liked Domesticat, I should also check out the document that helped bring that game to life. I got this as a part of the "TTRPGs for Trans Rights in Texas!" bundle off of itch.io.
So what is Caltrop Core? It is a ttrpg system where you use d4's as your main dice. It is a very rules light game where you will be rolling a certain number of d4 dice to see if your actions are successful or not. I love that one of the documents that are provided with the downloads is a one page how to play or create your own Caltrop Core based game with the main rules of how to play. The main document itself is 13 pages. This booklet is not a game to play but rather a guide of how to build your own Caltrop game. This game has "Jams" where it encourages other creators to come up with their own personal game systems using Caltrop Core rules as it's base. Going through the document it is laid out nicely and makes it easy to understand the core ideas to this type of rpg. With the creation of this document, people are encouraged to create a table top of their own where any topic can be used as the inspiration. The booklet also has a demo build to model how to create a game.
How does Caltrop Core work?
The main concept is that you will be using four sided dice to work through your table top game. A one on the die means that you suffer an absolute fail where a four on the die means absolute success with the two numbers in between being partial failure or successes. Caltrop Core can be used to make both stat-driven and/or token based games. It is really simple where you can limit yourself to three or four stats where you use a certain amount of d4's to roll on each type of stat to see if you were successful or not. This document says that they recommend not going above 3 d4s. Instead of races that are in most ttrpg games you get an "upbringing" where you get to add one d4 to roll in a stat of your choice. As a Dm I would love to hear the players tell me a backstory to back this up to help add more flavor to the game. Health and combat are both added into the demo build with advice on how one could use them in their game systems.
Appendix B gives some ideas on how to "level up" using your D4s and gives the probability of each of the possible dice rolls. I agree with the author that combat is difficult and cumbersome when only using d4's. It is not impossible but I too agree that Caltrop is made mostly for role play and works well for those types of situations. Page 7 is completely dedicated to combat with different type of d4 results to help determine different combat outcomes with a varied degree of success. I personally feel that starting with a d4 of health combat can be quite lethal but it all depends on how you want your game to be set up. There are also demo builds for different types of classes that you could make using this system and tying them into the original stats created.
My recommendation would be to print out the one page document that gives the system rules and page 10 of the main document titled "Plug 'N' Play" to help create your own game. With these two documents you have enough information to fully create your own base concept for a Caltrop Core game. From figuring out the genre and tone to whether it is a stat or token based game there are so many things to help you create a ttrpg of your own from this system.
Thoughts From the Fox
Overall I am very happy that I came in contact with the Caltrop Core v1.0 booklet. I love that this is a game system that encourages people to create their own unique game. Whether you are looking for roleplay, something that is story-based or with experience point advancement, this game system is so flexible to fit the needs that you have and all you need are a handful of d4's (Caltrops). I also love that I was introduced to "Fail Forward" as a concept where you create a game that gives you xp/tokens for every time you fail a roll (roll a one). This is also a guide for inspiration, meaning that you can create a caltrop core game with the same, different or added on rules. The game can be as complex or as simple as you wish to make it. The time and effort that you put into Caltrop Core is your own, but the 13 page document created by Lex (Titanomachy RPG) was easy to read and understand.
I was pleasantly surprised when I was read this booklet as I was expecting a full game rather than a book encouraging other creators to make their own game. I also absolutely love that the last page explicitly states that this system is forbidden to be used in creating anything promoting racist, ableist, homophobic, transphobic, misogynist, fascist, or any otherwise bigoted ideas. Inclusivity is very important to me and to see this written in black and white at the end of the document along with encouraging that portions of the proceeds from any Caltrop Core game that you created be used for good, support PoC creators and use as mutual aid to promote good in the world.
When I went looking into Caltrop Games I was pleasantly surprised to find that there are over 110 different games made from this system. There is a link to the Caltrop Core Jam and the Caltrop Core Directory in the digital pdf of the document which lets you explore so much more into this game. Solo journaling games to unique ttrpgs to play with pals Caltrop Core has a wide variety of uses.
Would you like your own copy? Pick one up from itch.io here. It is currently a name your own price document. You get four different pdf documents with your purchase. This work is based on Caltrop Core, published by Titanomachy RPG. Copy right 2022. The Caltrop Core SRD is licensed for use under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.