Torchbearer 2e - actual play of this AWESOME system! (+)


We played another session yesterday.

We started with Golin and Fea-bella lost in the Troll Fens. Fea-bella's player recounted a prologue, and removed Hungry and Thirsty. I then told them that in escaping from the tricksy Troll Haunt they had lost track of time and distance, but that now, as the sun rose (late in the morning due to the season and the mountains to the east), they could see the silhouette of a moathouse to the east. Golin took a drink to remove his own Hungry and Thirsty.

They decided to head to the Moathouse. This required a Pathfinder test to find their way through the mire, and Fea-bella failed this. So (as per my notes for approaching the Moathouse off the path) they found themselves attacked by giant killer frogs! In the ensuing kill conflict, the PCs did in the frogs with no loss of disposition on their part (they recovered their one lot hit point via Defend, and they cemented their kill when the last of the standing frogs opted to rout, and suffered an unopposed Attack action as a result). This conflict ticked over the Grind, making both character Hungry and Thirsty. They drank their remaining water.

They got a 2D chipped precious stone as their loot - at one point during the conflict I had narrated Fea-bella slashing a frog's tongue with her half-moon glaive, and I describe the stone as being embedded in the frog's tongue, as if it had tried to ensnare a well-dressed noble - but not food as such, and so I called for a Scavenging check to actually recover the bodies of the dead frogs. Which they did. And as they were collecting their frog meat, who should turn up but Telemere! (Whose player arrived late.) It turned out (as per the player's narration of his PC's absence and arrival) that in the dome of the Tower of Stars Telemere had seen a constellation and comet that he had not seen for decades, but he had sworn then to follow the signs if he ever saw it again (hence the character's Star-wise!). Thus he had left the Tower without explanation, and now arrived in this most unlikely of places! He eliminated Hungry and Thirsty (but remained Exhausted).

The PCs had amassed 4 camp checks at this stage, and so were going to use them. Fea-bella performed a Survivalist check to find fresh water in the swamp, helped by both the other PCs (Telemere's survivalist; Golin's Cook to help identify clean water). This failed, and so they found water but not before Fea-bella became Sick from testing some less-than-fresh water, with Telemere regaining Hungry and Thirsty as a consequence of his helping, and Golin becoming Afraid.

They then had to haul their recovered frogs to their camp site: Golin, helped by Fea-bella, failed, and so the hauling left them Hungry and Thirsty again. And so they made camp one turn short of more Grind. I decided that this was an Unsafe camp (being in the middle of the Troll Fens and not too far from the moathouse). They got a +1 for camping in the Wilderness (Telemere is a Ranger) but no one wanted to keep watch, as they all had conditions to recover: Fea-bella H+T, Exhausted and Sick; Golin H+T, Exhausted, Angry and Afraid; Telemere H+T and Exhausted. So the net modifier was -1 to the camp events roll. Which was a 7, -1 = 6: Wandering monsters - remain in adventure phase as camp ends with a stand off!

The wandering monster was a single Dire Wolf, which was trying to capture the PCs. The PCs succeeded in the conflict, and Golin captured the Wolf and bound it with his trusty rope; but a minor compromise was owed, and Telemere's bow was broken in the skirmish. (The fiction did establish that the Wolf had closed with him as he was trying to hold it off with his archery.) This made Telemere (and his player) very Angry, something consistent with the Grind ticking over. Fea-bella was Angry also, and Golin accrued the dreaded Sick.

They all took a sip from their camp's fresh water (thus eliminating H+T) while contemplating what to do with their bound Dire Wolf. They decided to bargain with it for service. Golin, who being a Shrewd Dwarven Outcast suffers no Precedence penalty when bargaining (and the Dire Wolf being Precedence 1 vs the PCs' zero), was conflict captain.

The PCs offered to free the Wolf, if it would join their party ("pack"); and were offering it plenty of frog to eat. As the Wolf explained in the common tongue, it wanted them to come with it to the Moathouse. The PCs succeeded, but owed a major compromise - the Wolf allied with them (and chowed down on frog), but they would go with it to the Moathouse.

They now camped. The Wolf took watch, but I decided that the danger level had stepped up from Unsafe to Dangerous (given that they were within Dire Wolf-tracking range of the Moathouse), so the modifier was still -1. The result was 9-1 = 8, Lost - "Lose your bearings while you rest. You must make a Pathfinder or Cartographer test to get back on track." As I narrated, their camp was in something of a hollow, and mists were rising off the swamp.

The PCs again drank water, to eliminate Hungry and Thirsty. Three checks were then spent for three successful recovery tests - all the PCs recovered from Angry. The fourth check was spent so that Golin could use frog meat to create preserved rations, but the test failed - and as Golin was getting ready to smoke the frog with his improvised cooking gear (all his real gear having been lost with his satchel while escaping from the Troll Haunt), the camp was approached by 3 bandits who demanded that the PCs surrender and come with them - a camp-ending twist!

Golin's player decided that Golin, being Afraid, could not lead resistance - but Fea-bella aided Telemere as conflict captain. I described my bandits - two crossbowmen and a halberdeer - and explained that crossbows get +1s on Attack, and an additional +1D on Attack vs Defend. Fea-bella's player advised that the upshot of this was that a mad charge was the only viable strategy, to get in close and stop the crossbows being brought to bear, and so we resolved the players' Attack/Attack/Attack vs my bandits' Attack/Attack/Manoeuvre. The PCs were victorious in this conflict, but took quite a bit of hurt in the process (reduced to 2 of 7 disposition), and so a major compromise was owed. Given their strategy, and the narration that had accompanied it, I declared that they had all been Injured, by crossbow bolts and halberd blows.

In this conflict, I also had to decide how to include the Wolf. I treated it as Golin's companion, giving +1D help when appropriate, but also able to help the other PCs even when Golin couldn't due to his being Afraid.

I asked the players what they did with their captured bandits - in a display of bloodthirstiness, they asked the Dire Wolf to dispatch them, which it did rather gleefully, if also a bit surprised by the nature of its new pack.

The PCs filled their waterskins, and Telemere also successfully Scavenged to recover a sword that had been carried by one of the crossbowmen, to replace his broken bow.

The players then discussed their options. In various conversations with the Wolf they had established that the moathouse housed Gnolls, and Bugbears, as well as human bandits - and about this time they also learned that the leader ("alpha", in Wolf terms) was a Half-Elf. The Wolf couldn't tell them the Half-Elf's name ("two-legs" have unmemorable names from the Wolf's perspective), but recognised Lareth when Fea-bella suggested it.

Not being sure of the way to Nulb, and in desperate need of provisions, the PCs decided to head for the Moathouse. This required a Pathfinder test (due to the camp event result), which failed despite an "Ah-hah!" moment from Stars-wise (as Telemere could make out the comet he was following reflected in a pool of water). So they found their way to the Moathouse, but were Hungry and Thirsty as a result. So full waterskins became empty again.

I described the Moathouse, and they decided they had three options: frontal assault, stealth infiltration, or trickery. They decided to go for trickery: they were emissaries from Roy (Megloss's bandit underling whom they had driven off at the Tower of Stars), seeking to establish an alliance of Lords of the North, banding together for greater security and profit. Fea-bella equipped her half-truths and evasions (improvised weapon); Golin equipped the fact that he was already allied with the Dire Wolf (+1D defence, I decided); and Telemere equipped a "prop", namely, his knowledge of the stars and omens that revealed that the tie is right!

The PCs approached the gates and announced themselves, and a bandit underling ran of and fetched their leader. But even thought the bandits were all without "weapons" (and so -1D) and had to use Beginner's Luck Lore Master for their Manoeuvres and Defence, it all went badly for the PCs (which will happen when you are all Injured (-1D) and two of you are Sick on top of that (-1 further D) and one of you can't help because Afraid). Their disposition of 4 was eliminated while the bandits had lost only 2 hit points of their starting 6, and so owed only a minor compromise.

The bandits' response to the PCs' lies had been incredulity, and an insistence that they surrender. Which, having lost the conflict, they did.

The compromise I suggested, which the players accepted, was that as they were marched off to the dungeons, the bandits would not realise that the Dire Wolf was the PCs' ally - so they have a Wolf on the inside!

This conflict tripped over the Grind again, and so all were Hungry and Thirsty.

I described the PCs being marched up the steps into the ruined great hall, then down the stairs into the dungeon. When the bandits instructed them to stick to the side of the stairs, Telemere (who instinct is to check to see if he is being watched when entering somewhere new) made a Scout check (on the Grind, given that he was Exhausted) and saw the Creeping Ooze clinging to the wall and ceiling on the other side of the stairs.

From the stairs, they were led through the old, ruined storeroom past the cells, through the Gnolls' chamber and into the captives' room, where they were given some water (recovery from Hungry and Thirsty) but stripped of most of their gear, and locked away.

At some stage Fea-bella had accrued a camp check, and so the PCs lit a candle (Golin's candles and Telemere's tinderbox had not been taken) and camped in the dungeon. The result of the camp event roll was only that some of their flask, vials, bottles and the like were broken - having no such luxury items, they laughed that off. And Golin succeeded at a Will test to recover from being Afraid. They also met their fellow captives - some merchants, who offered a reward if they were freed; and a Dwarf, who spoke to Golin in the Dwarven tongue, explaining that he had been caught by Gnolls while spying for the Herbalist cult (from the Forgotten Temple Complex). When Golin said that he would free the Dwarf, the Dwarf gave him a ring, saying that he was clearly a powerful Dwarf who should be the wearer of it.


We ended the session there, and allocated rewards.

Fea-bella got 1 Fate for gallows humour (during the capture conflict with the Wolf), and 3 Persona, for mouldbreaker (when she relied on Golin even though Dwarves are greedy and cannot be trusted), for Creed (because she had certainly aided Telemere in these dark times) and for achieving her Goal of escaping the swamp.

Golin got 2 Fate, for using his Instinct to forage when the opportunity arises (to recover the frog bodies) and for acting on his Belief that Elves are fickle and unstable, and 3 Persona, for achieving his Goal of exiting the swamp, for wrestling with is Creed (that Elves are lost in dreams and need grounding in reality; during the camp he had been encouraging Fea-bella to re-memorise her Wizard's Aegis, which she used when fighting the frogs), and for MVP (as he was the one who had secured the alliance with the Wolf).

Telemere got 4 Fate, for using his Instinct (to spot the Creeping Ooze), for acting on his Belief that one should see things through to their end, for pursing his Goal of finding the meaning of the comet omen, and for gallows humour in the bargaining with the Wolf. He got 1 Persona, for teamworker.

Next session will probably see an escape attempt.
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An additional post, to share two comments from Golin's player, as loosely paraphrased via my memory:

About having the Sick condition, which means that you don't clock tests for advancement: I'm just playing to see how much gear I lose.

And about the session overall: I really liked how everything flowed into the next thing: frogs to feed the Wolf, the Wolf helping fight the bandits, the bandits in the moathouse.


After a 9-week hiatus (punctuated by a couple of Burning Wheel sessions), we played Torchbearer 2e again today.

All four players were present. The three players from our last session - ie the players of Golin, Fea-bella and Telemere - were between them able to give a half-adequate prologue. I let them dice for the condition recovery this entitled one of them too, and Telemere won, recovering Exhausted.

Korvin's player then had to tell us what had happened to Korvin since he suddenly disappeared from the Tower of Stars (two sessions ago); he explained that some magic in the Tower has bedazzled him, and he had wandered in that daze, getting lost in the swamps, until he had been found in the Troll Fens, and taken prisoner, by bandits from the Moathouse. In my mind is some sort of involvement of his enemy, the bandit lord Nob H.

Korvin was able to recover Hungry and Thirsty.

Despite these two recoveries, the PCs were not in a particularly good way: Golin and Fea-bella were both Exhausted, Injured and Sick; and Telemere and Korvin were both Injured. There was thus a desire to generate camp checks; this required some activity in the Adventure Phase. Before starting the action, the players set goals for their PCs: Fea-bella to escape the dungeon and Moathouse; Golin to make a green slime (= Creeping Ooze) grenade; Korvin to learn more about the bandits' goals here; and Telemere to repay the bandits.

Telemere used Scout (helped by Korvin and Golin, and Fea-bella's Scholar) to try and find any markings on the walls of the dungeon room they were locked in. The test failed, and I decided that he did find something - as well as the usual marking of days, with the final scratchings getting more and more feeble (suggesting an unhappy death), there was a sound, probably a Bugbear word, inscribed in Elvish letters. But the time and effort left all the PCs Hungry and Thirsty again.

The idea of finding water in their dungeon room therefore became appealing. My recollection of the following sequence of tests is a bit hazy, but I think that this test was failed, and Fea-bella was therefore Angry at her situation even though she found water (the helping PCs did not become hungry and thirsty again). They then wanted to light a candle so that they could "camp "and make recovery tests; but as they had no tinderbox, I called for a Survivalist test against Ob 1, although not on the grind. My recollection is that this test was failed, and the ensuing twist was the Gnolls opening the door to fetch the PCs to meet with the New Master.

The players wanted their PCs to be able to drink before this next encounter, but I said this would require distracting the Gnolls. So Golin's player asked if there was a clay pot in the Gnoll's room. I answered that there was, a rather foul (and fouled) one, and he made a dash to grab it (so that he could use it for his planned grenade). This was the distraction - but required Manipulator vs half the Gnoll's Nature (they were neither Ambushing nor Devouring nor Worshipping), to slip past them and then intimidate them once the pot was grabbed. With some augmentation from the Acquisitive trait, and some help from friends, this was a success: Golin grabbed his pot, and the others were able to take a sip of water during the kerfuffle (and, generously, I let Golin take a drink as he left the room last, carrying his pot).

The PCs were then taken to room 11 on the dungeon map (room 28 on the T1-T4 version of the map, where Lareth was waiting to meet them, with four soldiers guarding him. I described the gold chain on the sergeant soldier, and the bejewelled gold chain worn by Lareth, and the PCs were suitably impressed/longing for loot.

Fea-bella introduced the PCs, and then elaborated on her own introduction, as being Lareth's half-sister. Lareth was hesitant to accept this proposition, and so we went into a Convince conflict. Normally this requires equal Precedence, and Lareth, being a priest, is Precedence 3 while the adventurer PCs are Precedence 0, but I decided that in these circumstances Lareth had already deigned to debate the matter with them.

The PCs' goal was to persuade Lareth that Fea-bella is, indeed, his sister, and hence that he should offer them hospitality; Lareth wanted to persuade them to assist him in his cult's mission.

At the start of this conflict Golin decided to sweat out his fever; he recovered from Sick and his Manipulator skill dropped a rank. The PCs won the conflict, with a strong roll (with multiple sixes opened up with Fate) on the second volley, which meant I didn't get to play Lareth's third volley Feint against Fea-bella's Defend! The players nevertheless owed a significant compromise: Lareth accepted the PCs' claim about his relationship to Fea-bella, but the PCs agreed that they would go to Nulb to persuade the pirates there - who raid the river vessels of the Theocracy of the Pale - to tithe to Lareth's cult. Lareth explained the nature of his "order" (as he called it), which involved me reading bits of the background info from T1 but dropping descriptors like "followers of the worst sort" and "depredations", with Lareth instead explaining how the order had attracted the bold and the oppressed, who wanted to free the world from the domination of the Aesir and Vanir, but had been opposed by the religious authorities of the Pale, who had eventually sacked the Temple. (When asked about timelines, he said this was all 40 to 50 years ago, perhaps by coincidence around the time that Golin was born before growing up an orphan in the Forgotten Temple Complex.)

This convince conflict was the fourth turn of the grind, so the PCs were again Hungry and Thirsty. But before Lareth would feed them and let them rest a bit (= camp), he had more to say to them. First he asked Telemere about his brother (and enemy) Kalamere. Telemere politely answered his questions, and established that Lareth and Kalamere are friends, but was refraining from voicing his own true feelings of hatred toward his brother. But Lareth goaded him until he couldn't hold back (failed Manipulator vs Manipulator), making Telemere Angry.

Lareth then turned his attention to Fea-bella. The conversation established that Lareth's father was the wizard Pallando, and his mother (Fella) was an exile from Elfhome. She was exiled because of her role in the theft of the Dreamhouse post by Celedhring, the evil Elf who is now a barrow-wight beneath what was Megloss's house. Lareth explained that Celedhring was Fea-bella's brother (and hence his and Fea-bella's uncle), and that Fella was exiled with him much as, in the ancient times, Galadriel was exiled with her cousin Feanor. "And who is your father?" asked Lareth of Fea-bella.

This caused much discussion among the players - was Lareth implying that Fea-bella was the child of an incestuous relationship between Fella and Celedhring? There was also discussion about where Fea-bella did her dreaming, before she woke, Dream-haunted, and ran off bearing a half-moon glaive. Was this not in the Elf-home Dreamhouse, but rather in Pallando's house?

I suggested that Fea-bella might try a Nature (Remembering ) test, but her player didn't want to - too much grind, and little chance of success. So I resorted to my NPC, and called for another Manipulator vs Manipulator due to Lareth's goading. This time Golin helped Lareth! The test was failed, and so (as a twist) Fea-bella could not help but cast her mind back . . . As her player put it, Fea-bella wanted to remember only happy times of her childhood, with the Elven forest and rainbows and unicorns, and I set this at (I think, from memory) Ob 2. Telemere helped with his own Remembering Nature, and Korvin used Oratory to remind Fea-bella of tales of her childhood she had told her companions. Golin also aided Fea-bella this time, with Dreams-wise.

This test was a success, and so Fea-bella was spared any horrible memories (and the truth about her father remains unknown at this point).

This was not three turns on the grind, and so the players wanted to enter their camp, and thus I had Lareth leave bring them some plain food but fine wine, return their gear taken by the Gnolls, and then leave them alone.

The camp event roll was a net 11 (12, -2 for danger - given the presence of frustrated Gnolls deprived of their loot, as well as Bugbears - but +1 from Golin). This was a safe camp, granting +1D to recover from Exhausted and Afraid.

In the course of their escapades the players had accumulated five camp checks, and there was quite a bit of discussion about the tactics of expending them. Fea-bella recovered from Angry. Then Telemere did the same. Then Fea-bella recovered from Exhausted. She then sweated out her fever, recovering from Sickness - perhaps a little cruelly, I dropped her Lore Master from 5 to 4, given that she had been repressing her memories in response to Lareth's goading. She then used her Instinct to try and make an Alchemical brew that would allow Golin to recover from Exhaustion, but this failed - it turned out that, in going through her stuff, the Gnolls had wrecked her Alchemy tools, so she will need new ones.

Golin then used a check to recovery from Exhausted, and Fea-bella used the last check to Heal Korvin's Injury. So the upshot was that Korvin had no conditions, and the others were only Injured. Golin then used his instinct to try and scrounge up some supplies, but his Scavenging test failed, and he encountered the Creeping Ooze. This ended the camp phase, as the Ooze tried to initiate a Trap/Kill conflict. But Golin succeeded at his check to avoid this, and so the Ooze crept off. Golin wanted to chop some of it off to put into his pot to make his Green Slime Grenade, and he succeeded on Fighter vs Creeping Nature (and I gave him +1D given that the Ooze is really not that fast).

His initial scream at the encounter with the Ooze had attracted his friends. They now decided to go up from the dungeon level to try and find food upstairs (ie another attempt at Scavenging, in the Adventure Phase, this time from Telemere). But this failed too, and as they were about to head upstairs the Gnolls got the drop on them, initiating a Capture conflict, not actually wanting to take them prisoner again, but wanting their loot back!

The Gnolls won this conflict in two volleys, but the PCs did earn a compromise, and we agreed that the Gnolls would be happy with their cash and jewel loot, plus Golin's (damaged) plate armour, which he was not wearing (on account of its being damaged). But the PCs could keep their mundane stuff. Also, Telemere gritted his teeth at the outset of the conflict, which cost him a point of Nature, but left only Golin and Fea-bella carrying Injuries.

The PCs then left the Moathouse, ready to head to Nulb. But first wanted water, and so on the fourth turn of the Grind made a Survivalist test to find potable water in the river that flows past the Moathouse and on to Nulb. This was a success, and so they were able to drink (relieving Hungry and Thirsty as it was accrued) and filling their four waterskins.

We ended the action there. All the PCs had acted on their Belief (and so got Fate) and had achieved their Goal (and so got Persona; the only unclear one here was Telemere, but his player explained that now that the PCs and Lareth were allies, he had repaid the bandits by agreeing to go and extract tithes from the pirates). Korvin got Fate for his Instinct (to never tell the truth), and both Golin and Fea-bella got Persona for upholding their Creeds (both about Elves, although expressing different perspectives - Golin thinks they need grounding in reality, while Fea-bella thinks they need help in these dark times). Fea-bella got the workhorse Persona, and Telemere the MVP as he made the big rolls in both conflicts (against Lareth and against the Gnolls).

The PCs are now heading to Nulb, but the players want some tests on the way there, to get some more camp checks so they can try and make recovery tests at the start of Town Phase, and so that they can spend enough Fate and Persona to make 3rd level (for Korvin and Telemere) and 5th level (for Golin and Fea-bella).
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