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

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
I think if you read my TB and BW actual plays, they might help.

I did read through them when you posted them, because I've been peripherally interested. But I just re-read the one in this thread (I'll go back to the other one) and they make a LOT more sense now that I've read Mouse Guard. Thanks! Super helpful.
 

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Ok, you mentioned "big, bold moves" twice, and "big moves" once, but I'm not sure what you mean. Can you give an example scenario, and how in that scenario a "big, bold move" in Mouse Guard would be different from what somebody might do in a more traditional RPG?

(Most of the rules and phases you mention I understand from reading the book. I'm just having trouble getting my head around how it feels in play.)

Lets say a Patrol Guard of Lockhaven has sent the Mouse Guard on a very important Mail Delivery mission to Appleloft because it is about to be in dire peril. In the course of one of the obstacles, a player makes a Circle test because their Mentor should be nearby and might be able to help them with their predicament. This test turns up a failure. The Twist is that a few mice abruptly spill out of the brush onto the road. He knows these mice. They are younglings, would-be tenderpaws taken under the tutelage of the PC's mentor. They relay a message through tears. They were ambushed by a creature that is above the PCs Natural Order by 3 (so very, very dangerous...they can't set "kill it" as the stakes in a Fight Conflict) and now the mentor is holed up in a rotted tree stump and is under siege. He'll starve or be killed without intervention. The best the PCs could do here is try to drive off the creature in a Chase conflict (still extremely dangerous) or perhaps turn enemy to friend by entering an Argument conflict and winning with little compromise (maybe the creature wants food or wants something else) after a successful Persuader vs Nature test to convince the powerful creature to hear them out. Regardless, if they don't intervene, the PC's mentor is almost surely to perish (which we can resolve after their mission using a vs test for the Mentor against the creature).

We might have several intersecting things here:

* The mentor being on the line.

* The abandonment of the mission for the sake of the mentor which surely means no Promotions for these PCs (disobeying an order from a Patrol Guard of Lockhaven?) and maybe this is very important for one or more of the other PCs...or for the very PC who has the mentor.

* What about the fate of Appleloft?

* But what if they somehow actually convince this creature to their cause? Maybe that will please the Patrol Guard and get them back in the good graces? Maybe they can use the might of this creature to help Appleloft and ensure a Promotion!

* What if one of the PCs is from Appleloft and has Family or Friends there?

* Conflicting Goals, Beliefs, Relations over this one failed Circles Test. Maybe we get some PvP action as a fight or an argument breaks out over what to do?


The way paradigmatic GMing and playing sets up decisions is such that PC-defining moves are lurking around the corner of every situation via a player action declared and it turning into a Twist that demands a hard choice and pits PC against PC (or PC against themselves). So, the game bakes in big, bold moves being made and the incentive structures for earning Fate and Persona and Advancement and the requirement of using Traits against you to get Checks for Player's Turn (downtime) sets up big, bold moves (oftentimes moves that yield test failures and Conditions or Twists as fallout) where players have to have courage to put their mice in peril in order to fuel play and advancement. "Failing well/adeptly" and "overcoming those (intentional) setbacks" is a huge part of Skilled Play in Mouse Guard.
 
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Where did I tell you what you are, or are not, allowed to do/write/say?

"Game the mental model" sounds to me like the language used over in the 5e forums by people who dismiss the play style as "pixel b****ing" and "mother may I?" So, yeah, it sounds disparaging. Is it possible you view it as a lesser form of roleplaying (perhaps mere "wargaming") and that's what I'm reading into it?

You know what...I'm not going to do this.

I gave you my time with a long post and a significant breakdown and you looked the gift horse in the mouth.

I gave you a correction on your poor assumptions and you offer me this.

After that you asked me for clarification which I've sense kindly provided despite you offering me nothing but this stuff (I mean I don't want anything...but I'm tired of this crap from ENWorlders).

So take what I wrote to you. Or take it not. I don't care. But that is the last kindness, patience, time, and effort to help that you'll be getting from me.
 

pemerton

Legend
So...I appreciate you taking the time, and I'm going to read the rest of your generously long post, but that cynical & disparaging characterization of a play style you obviously don't like is not an encouraging start.
Please, this is an actual play thread about Torchbearer, that got a very enthusiastic call-out from the designers on their home forums. Please don't turn it into an attack thread. @Manbearcat loves Torchbearer and also loves Moldvay Basic. But they're not the same game, and Mouse Guard even less so.

I think players should try to find creative solutions to problems that allow them to avoid the RNG of dice rolling completely, but it sounds like Mouse Guard explicitly frowns on that.
what you're talking about above that you like is a wargaming aesthetic of (1) suss out the GM’s conception of the situation in the imagined space > (2) figure out how best to game that mental model by putting together a gambit with an attenuated risk profile and/or one making a proposition that the GM will agree with sans rolling dice. That is certainly one aesthetic of play, but it is definitely not the sort of play that Mouse Guard (and kindred games) design for.
In the Burning Wheel family of games, there are various principles that govern "say 'yes'". Burning Wheel uses the DitV approach - say "yes" if nothing is at stake (where stakes are defined by reference to PCs' beliefs, instincts, traits, relationships, etc). Torchbearer uses the "Good Idea" approach - if the players come up with a good idea, the GM unfolds the situation from there to frame the next obstacle. I don't know how Mouse Guard does it, but I'm pretty sure it will have a discussion of it somewhere.

But in this family of games it's also the case that your PC needs to make tests - both successful and unsuccessful - in order to advance. The aesthetic, as Manbearcat has said, is of bold moves against the odds (which contrasts with "good ideas" that mitigate risk). The system significance is that only failed checks give the GM the opportunity to introduce new content that changes and complicates the situation: on successful checks, or if the GM says "yes", then the players get what they wanted. The random, but over time steady, alternation of success, failure => success with a condition, failure => twist, is what drives the game. And this relies on tests being made.

The need to make tests - including tests that are hard - also means that players have to make decisions all the time about spending fate and persona, about getting help to boost their dice pools, etc. This stuff is not just about "in case of disaster, smash glass" but becomes a core part of player decision-making. None of this rules out creative solutions, but creative solutions aren't confined to "good ideas" - they include things like Now's the time to test Circles to try and get a NPC on the scene to help us or Maybe if we frame our approach this way rather than that way we can test Nature, where we're strong, rather than Pathfinder, where we're weak.

This is all very different from Moldvay Basic, and the broadly similar approach you describe of avoiding dice rolls by finding creative solutions. If it's not what you're looking for, then of course these games won't be for you!
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
Please, this is an actual play thread about Torchbearer, that got a very enthusiastic call-out from the designers on their home forums. Please don't turn it into an attack thread. @Manbearcat loves Torchbearer and also loves Moldvay Basic. But they're not the same game, and Mouse Guard even less so.

For the record, I felt as if somebody else had turned it into an attack thread. Or at least a dismissive, not-real-roleplaying thread.

I’m wary of the differences I see in this alternative approach, but at least interested and curious, and I’m here. Perhaps I misread the tone/intent of the very first response I received, but it seemed dismissive.

For the record, I very much enjoy throwing a baseball around, and have spent countless hours doing it. If I ever describe an RPG as being similar to playing catch, it won’t be a compliment.

Anyway….

In the Burning Wheel family of games, there are various principles that govern "say 'yes'". Burning Wheel uses the DitV approach - say "yes" if nothing is at stake (where stakes are defined by reference to PCs' beliefs, instincts, traits, relationships, etc). Torchbearer uses the "Good Idea" approach - if the players come up with a good idea, the GM unfolds the situation from there to frame the next obstacle. I don't know how Mouse Guard does it, but I'm pretty sure it will have a discussion of it somewhere.

But in this family of games it's also the case that your PC needs to make tests - both successful and unsuccessful - in order to advance. The aesthetic, as Manbearcat has said, is of bold moves against the odds (which contrasts with "good ideas" that mitigate risk). The system significance is that only failed checks give the GM the opportunity to introduce new content that changes and complicates the situation: on successful checks, or if the GM says "yes", then the players get what they wanted. The random, but over time steady, alternation of success, failure => success with a condition, failure => twist, is what drives the game. And this relies on tests being made.

The need to make tests - including tests that are hard - also means that players have to make decisions all the time about spending fate and persona, about getting help to boost their dice pools, etc. This stuff is not just about "in case of disaster, smash glass" but becomes a core part of player decision-making. None of this rules out creative solutions, but creative solutions aren't confined to "good ideas" - they include things like Now's the time to test Circles to try and get a NPC on the scene to help us or Maybe if we frame our approach this way rather than that way we can test Nature, where we're strong, rather than Pathfinder, where we're weak.

This is all very different from Moldvay Basic, and the broadly similar approach you describe of avoiding dice rolls by finding creative solutions. If it's not what you're looking for, then of course these games won't be for you!

I think I’m beginning to understand “big, bold move.” Tell me if this right:

In a traditional RPG, given a complex situation with no obvious best solution, a player would be expected to make a risk:reward analysis and choose a course of action that has the most likely payoff optimizes both, even if that choice is uninteresting from a story perspective. Sometimes players will choose a more interesting course of action, but that is not what is expected.

In BW games, the player would be expected to do something dramatic, and maybe even reckless, based on their Belief, Goal, etc. And because of how the mechanics work, that’s both more likely to succeed than it is in other RPGs, and failure is more likely to lead to interesting story twists, rather than just failure.

Is that sort of it?
 
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TwoSix

"Diegetics", by L. Ron Gygax
For the record, I felt as if somebody else had turned it into an attack thread. Or at least a dismissive, not-real-roleplaying thread.
To be fair, that's because you made a very uncharitable reading of a long-time poster with a long history of informative posts around all sorts of gaming topics and a wide variety of play models. Especially one who's stated they have a long history of playing the exact type of games you claimed was being "disparaged".

"Sussing out the DM's mental model of play in an attempt to minimize risk" is an entirely reasonable description of classic and traditional models of play, and I see nothing there that's disparaging, unless you absolutely require some metaphor about the DM running "a real world" instead of a straightforward description of what's actually happening at the table.

Don't zing the cool posters, man. That's how we end up with less cool posters. We already lost Snarf to random BS, why make it worse?
 

Guys it was a completely accidental misunderstanding let us not dog-pile.
@Manbearcat thanks for your posts, even though they take me an extra 10 minutes to understand, sometimes. ;)

As an aside, we didn't just lose Snarf this month, we lost Ovinomancer/Ovi too. :(
 
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In a traditional RPG, given a complex situation with no obvious best solution, a player would be expected to make a risk:reward analysis and choose a course of action that has the most likely payoff optimizes both, even if that choice is uninteresting from a story perspective. Sometimes players will choose a more interesting course of action, but that is not what is expected.

In BW games, the player would be expected to do something dramatic, and maybe even reckless, based on their Belief, Goal, etc. And because of how the mechanics work, that’s both more likely to succeed than it is in other RPGs, and failure is more likely to lead to interesting story twists, rather than just failure.

Is that sort of it?

Sort of. Although I don't think there's any error on your part based on what has been posted.

In many traditional RPGs, the GM establishes a situation - like a threat to the status quo by a monster or cult or army or raiders - and then tasks the players with dealing with that threat. In the background they create a lot of secret details about those threats and where they are, what they are doing, right down to what rooms they will happen to be in when the players encounter them.

Much of the play involves trying to find out what threats the GM has detailed and how they will manifest so they can be thwarted with minimum risk. Yet more play - commonly discussed on these boards - requires the players to mistrust the GMs information and attempt to check whether it is trustworthy and accurate. This can turn into a recipe for procrastination, risk aversion, turtling and inaction. The expectation of play is mechanical effectiveness.

In BW, the group establishes the situation - of which no-one knows the details - and from that the players create characters with beliefs which say what they need to accomplish. Players are not expected to do dramatic things, they are expected to pursue their beliefs - because them doing that is all there is. The players pursue their beliefs, and in doing so they will need to take tests, which the GM administers and uses to create new situations to which the players apply their beliefs (or write new ones if old ones no longer apply).

Since beliefs drive play, there's no such thing as 'failure' from a player point of view, and mechanical effectiveness becomes immaterial. The character may fail, but for the player that creates an enjoyable new situation to engage through the pursuit of their beliefs. What that creates is a game where characters are played aggressively and dramatically - because things going wrong for them are as much a part of the ride as things going right. This is the basis of 'big, bold moves'.
 
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niklinna

satisfied?
What? That sucks!
Yeah seems he got banned for being cynical and disparaging.

Anyhow! I got a chance to play Torchbearer 2 with @Manbearcat. It was intense and challenging and fun, lots of difficult choices with tradeoffs all around, and learning and taking advantage of those levers he mentioned was its own embedded fun. Embracing consequential failure to advance was both a bit of a brain twister and a huge revelation once I finally got it...at least, I think I got it! I suspect there are more dimensions to that than I was able to explore.

That said, I suspect I might like Mouse Guard a little more, Torchbearer really does grind the PCs down (literally, with a mechanism it calls "The Grind"). That seems to be there in Mouse Guard too but to a much less oppressive degree.
 

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