Prepping for conflict as a GM


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Gerda, the Dwarf who might try as for take the gem, is a NPC, though a friend (ie an established relationship) of one of the PCs.

What the ranger - also a NPC and a friend of a different PC, the one with the gem - knows hasn’t been established yet. The cursed gem doing a “one ring” - whether that is tempting the ranger, or calling to the enemy - us something that might follow from a twist. Though I’m thinking of Gerda rather than the ranger as the target/victim of the gem, because I think it might be a bit unfair to further attack the position of the player of the cursed PC by also going after the ranger friend.
That makes sense. I didn't realize the same player had ties to both NPCs, and that Gerda was also an NPC.

I guess, in an attempt to be helpful, I would need to ask
  • Is the villain aware of a possible rescue attempt?
  • Do you specifically want to have or avoid the villain be present at home when the rescue is attempted?
  • Do you have a pattern of activity for the villain that the PCs might be able to exploit? Either to avoid or confront him?
In order to frame a scene, I would need to know an underlying pattern to know what scenes are available. I could certainly arbitrarily decide that the PCs are going to encounter their foe at Swinson's Dry Goods. That seems counter to how you prefer to run your games, however. The guidelines you mentioned are certainly interesting, and food for thought.
 

pemerton

Legend
It sounds like what you are doing is preparing without deciding. At least deciding as little as possible.
Torchbearer is an interesting experience for me, because it relies more heavily on GM prep than I am used to, but also incorporates Burning Wheel-ish scene framing techniques (in the application of twists on failures). There's a sense in which this should be no surprise, as the game is an adaptation of BW (via Mouse Guard) to deliver a Moldvay Basic-esque experience. But this is still a new thing for me; and I was never very good as a Moldvay Basic-type GM.

I think the mindset I'm moving into is similar to that of Apocalypse World fronts: the idea of the prep is to give me interesting things to say when the system requires me to say them, because it calls on me to establish a twist.
 

pemerton

Legend
I guess, in an attempt to be helpful, I would need to ask
  • Is the villain aware of a possible rescue attempt?
  • Do you specifically want to have or avoid the villain be present at home when the rescue is attempted?
  • Do you have a pattern of activity for the villain that the PCs might be able to exploit? Either to avoid or confront him?
For the first one, that is also something that would be part of a twist. There is a sufficient basis for that in the fiction, because the PCs befriended Gerda by persuading her away from the other bandits she was hanging out with, who were themselves the kidnappers of the ranger under the instruction/payment of the enemy. So it is possible that - in the time that the PCs have taken to return to town with Gerda following their encounter with the bandits, and then in the time that they will spend in town phase before they start their next adventure (which I am assuming will be the rescue attempt) - the other, still loyal, bandits will have let the enemy know about developments.

In relation to the second, I have drawn up my map and notes for the enemy's house, and have deliberately not put him there. I'm keeping his possible return reserved, as a twist for an appropriate failed action. (Eg if the PCs fail in trying to open a particular door that is boarded up, I might narrate this as them spending a long time heaving and grunting without success, and then lo-and-behold the front door opens and who should come in . . .)

The third thing you mention doesn't fully apply in Torchbearer, or at least not I think in the way you're thinking of. There aren't really patterns of activity at that level of abstraction (as opposed to, say, details of movements of a character on a dungeon-level map). The players could declare actions in town phase - research-type actions, or social-type actions - that might lock down some relevant fiction about where the enemy is. But what I think is actually more likely, given that (i) the PCs are broke and (ii) actions in town phase generally generate a lifestyle cost, is that the cursed PC - who is an Elven Dreamwalker - will fail some or other action where dreaming is salient, and I will be able to use the resulting failure narration to foreshadow the threat of the enemy (who is also a Dreamwalker) in some or other fashion.
 

pemerton

Legend
This thread kind-of turned into a how am I going to do my Torchbearer game thread, so I thought I'd report back.

The conflict with Megloss the enemy Dreamwalker happened: the PCs were in his house, a player failed a test, and so as a twist he turned up. The players initiated a Convince conflict and - despite the NPC's huge advantage due to being an enemy (a quasi-mechanical category that gives +3 to disposition in Convince conflicts against the PCs, meaning he had 10 points of disposition to their 6) - they won, due to a very lucky open-ended roll. So, using their knowledge of his hiring of bandits to kidnap the Ranger friend, and threatening to reveal him as a kidnapper to the town authorities, they persuaded Megloss to hand over the kidnapped Ranger.

The conflict around the Elfstone has been set-up but not crystallised. At one point, during town phase, the Dwarf PC wanted to buy a pry bar, to help with breaking into Megloss's house. The check to find one for sale had succeeded; and he, the other PC and his NPC friend Gerda went off to try and close the deal. Mechanically, this was a Resources check by the player of the Dwarf, with the other two characters helping. The check failed, and so I opted for a twist: the vendor (a common townsperson) decided in the end not to go through with the deal; but when she got home, Fea-bella found that her Elfstone had been stolen from its place in her belt pouch!

Fea-bella's player (and Fea-bella) are convinced that Megloss is behind this theft. Neither player seemed to work out what the most obvious twist is here: Gerda took the Elfstone, thus complicating things both for Fea-bella (whose Belief is all about protecting the stone at all costs) and the Dwarf PC (who has Gerda as a friend and is trying to get her accepted into the town's Alchemist Guild).

For anyone whose interested, this also shows how mystery can work in a "story now"-type RPG.
 

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