Torchbearer 2nd ed actual play

pemerton

Legend
As I posted in this thread, I recently got my Torchbearer 2nd ed books and have been working through them. This afternoon I decided to run it a bit, to see how it plays.

The recommended group size is four to five (3-4 players plus a GM). I roped one of my daughters into my plan, but the other wasn't interested. I outlined the basic stock-and-class options, and she was a bit unsure, and I suggested that a warrior-type and a wizard-type is generally a good party default. So she built two PCs: the Dwarven Outcast Tharin and the human Magician Gondolf. (In the other thread @AbdulAlhzared noted the Outcast-Thorin Oakenshield affinity.)

PC building took about an hour, which was longer than I had anticipated. I think it would be quicker with players who are more familiar with basic FRPG conventions and more likely to have quick responses to questions about the sort of PC they want to play. At various points I made suggestions to help move things along - which is why Tharin's home is the Dwarven Halls and Gondolf's a Wizard's Tower. She chose her own weapons and armour - a staff for Gondolf because they're cool, and a spear and helmet for Tharin (I didn't both taking her through the weapon list or modifiers but just told her to choose a mediaeval weapon she though would suit Tharin, as they all balance out in a rock-paper-scissors sort of way).

Answering the Nature and background questions had Tharin with Nature 5 and an orphan wearing a silver chain memento about his neck. He has a friend, a mentor and an enemy but we postponed detailing these personae for another time.

Gondolf, on the other hand, had Nature 3 but with Wizard's Sight at level 2 and Dwarf-wise. Gondolf has parents, and many friends but no enemies - his specialty is Cook and he makes friends that way! - and as a mentor the famed wizard Maila who appears in the background of a couple of adventures in the Cartographer's Compendium, and who was my suggestion as a mentor to help ease the way into the adventure I wanted to run. The roll for spells revealed that Maila (and hence Gondolf) is an illusionist. He memorised Wyrd Lights (the system's version of Dancing Lights) - this was my suggestion as to the most generically useful of the three spells Wyrd Lights, Arcane Semblance (Disguise Self) and Celestial Music (sort-of like Hypnotic Pattern).

I suggested that she choose a Wise for each character that complements the other, so Gondolf chose Darkness-wise and Tharin Ancient Secrets-wise.

When it came to equipping the PCs, I explained the slot system, and then she chose a backpack for Gondolf and a satchel for Tharin. I then suggested gear which she dutifully wrote down. (I overlooked a grappling hook, which was a mistake that may end up being costly. Apologies to my daughter! Normally I would expect players to equip their own PCs, but this was a place where it could have really bogged down when someone doesn't know either the detailed rules or even the D&D-ish conventions.)

She then chose Beliefs and Instincts, again with a bit of help. Tharin's Belief is, If in doubt, poke it (by default with his spear) and his Instinct is to always repair ny helmet in camp. Gondolf's Belief is something like One should never act in haste and his instinct is to Read everything I see. I read the brief background to the Tower of Stars adventure (the first in the Compendium) selecting the option of having been sent by Maila to find out what has happened to Beholder of Fates. This dictated a goal for Gondolf, chosen from the list in the book - I will discover what befell the Beholder of Fates - and then I read the other three options and she chose the one for Tharin that made him seem the least like a bady guy - I will protect my friends from the insidious traps that lie within, as opposed to ones about looting and raiding.

We then started. Our play lasted a bit over another hour. In that time we got through 7 turns, or about one every 10 minutes. At the end of the session 9 advancement "ticks" had been made - one for each check that marked out the turns, plus one for an Instinct (Gondolf tried but failed to read an arcane sigil) and one each during a conflict. Those 7 turns involved an initial entry into the tower up the scree slope (successful Dungeoneer), then looking around the ground level including nearly falling down a crevice while trying to read the sigil (failed Lore Master, with a twist taken from the module list of suggested twists, then a successful Health check), then climbing up to the next level (successful Dungeoneer to use rope and spikes to climb up to the crack in the ceiling, then failed Dungeoneer to squeeze through - with the Exhausted condition as a consequence). This marked 4 turns (3 Dungeoneering, 1 Health) and so the PCs were hungry and thirsty. They drank their water in the next level of the tower.

This level - room 3 in the module - is confusingly described. When I first read it a week or two ago I struggled to work it all out, but had forgotten the issues until today when I encountered them again! But I did manage to describe the corpse, and so Tharin poked it. In the adventure it suggested Healing to examine the corpse, but poking it seemed more like Scouting to me. I set the obstacle at 3 or 4 (memory fails me), with a +1 Ob because (as per the room description) the PCs had stirred up the dust in the room. With Scout 2 Tharin couldn't succeed, so I suggested this was a good time to be disadvantaged by a Trait (being Born of Earth and Stone, Tharin is not very enthusiastic about human corpses). This was the only check earned in the session.

I looked up the list of suggested twists again and saw the ley line-mutated moles (statted up as Troll Rats) and thought that looked good, so described 3 of them coming out from where they were nesting under and/or in the dead body. I then outlined the conflict rules, and explained the difference between killing and driving off. My daughter decided that Tharin wanted to drive the moles off (assisted by Gondolf).

The disposition rolls went better for Tharin than my moles, so it was 8 (4 hp each) vs my 5 hp spread over 3 mutant moles. I looked at my moles' instinct - Always steal shiny objects for the next - and thought that Tharin's chain was probably glinting in the torchlight. So I scripted M/D/A, the logic being to manoeuvre for position (ie climb up the dwarf to his neck), then dodge him, then grab the chain and run off (and I would angle for this is any compromise).

Then my daughter scripted A/D/A.

Her first roll was 3 successes over mine, plus 2 for the Might difference, but then I remembered the +1 Ob penalty for the dust and so the net margin was only 4, which knocked away two of the moles but left a last one. D vs D is an Ob 3 test for both, which both Gondolf and the mole failed. Then in A vs A I got one success, which Tharin's leather armour absorbed, while Tharin did damage (at least one point, which was enough) and so drove off the moles with no need to compromise. Tharin noted a successful Fighter check, and Gondolf a failed Will. I made a roll on Loot Table 1, for "loot drop", and got a 12 - Magic. The further rolls on the appropriate tables turned up a magic woollen sweater - I described the body's sweater as being surprisingly clean, and that as the dust settled (the two turns of +1 Ob penalty being done) it didn't seem to land on the sweater. Gondolf took the magic sweater of not getting dusty - currently he's carrying it.

I was still struggling with the room description, but found the bit about the glyph circle and described that, and so Gondolf went to read it. Being exhaused, he couldn't use his Instinct for free but he went for it anyway. And failed a second Lore Master test. I went for a twist - as Tharin's third (of four) torches burned out, the moles came back out of their nest!

We had to break there, but had time to double-check all the tests had been logged for advancement, and awarded fate and persona. We agreed that each PC had acted on their Belief (Tharin poked the corpse; Gondolf took the time to inspect the glyph circle despite being tired), and each had pursued their Goal (Gondolf had entered the tower and tried to work out what was going on in it; Tharin had protected Gondolf from the mutant moles). Neither had benefitted the party from their Instinct. As far as persona is concerned, we agreed that Tharin was both MVP and Teamworker, and so he got one persona (one PC can't get both awards).

****************************************************************************
There were three main things I took away from this experience.

(1) PC building, which looked fairly straightforward on a read-through, took a lot longer than I expected. Some of that was inexperience and unfamiliarity with FRPG conventions, but not all of it. In retrospect, it reminds me a bit of building PCs for The Dying Earth. And contrasts with Prince Valiant, which also uses two stats (Brawn, Presence) plus skills but has many fewer decision points and lacks the intricacy of traits, wises, beliefs etc and has default starting packages of gear.

(2) Beware confusing rooms in dungeon adventures. When I eventually figured this one out the first time I read it, I should have written a note and stuck it into the book.

(3) Keeping track of the passage of turns - which is absolutely central to the game for the Grind of conditions and the running down of light - is something I have to try hard to do accurately. The last few times I've GMed AD&D and Moldvay Basic - where it matters for wandering monsters and light - I sucked at it, and I started to slip a bit this afternoon at more than one point. The plus side is that remembering tests that have been made is easier than tracking turns by movement rate and maps.

I deliberately chose the Tower of Stars over the Dread Crypt of Skogenby - which is the intro adventure in the core rulebooks - because it looked easier. I think I made the right call, even if Gondolf kept failing Ob 4 Lore Master tests. I think there may well be some fleeing in Gondolf and Tharin's future (should we play this again); but I think they are more likely to survive the mutant moles than they would the skeletal Tomb Guardians in the Dread Crypt. The main issue they will face is darkness - Wyrd Lights takes a turn to cast, and so can't be cast while mutant moles are swarming around.

Any thoughts from others with Torchbearer experience would be welcome!
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Awesome stuff!

On 3:

* Dice Counters for The Grind (d4) and Light Sources (Candle = d4, Lantern = d6 w/ 1/2 = 1, Torch = d4 w/ 1/2 = 1).

* Tokens or Dice Counters (I think 4 and 6 should cover everything) for Inventory items w/ multiple uses.
 

pemerton

Legend
First, @AbudlAlhazred (with apologies for the typo in the OP).

Second,
Tokens or Dice Counters (I think 4 and 6 should cover everything) for Inventory items w/ multiple uses.
We had no trouble with this. I think at the point I called for a second torch to be lit, the significance of inventory slots - and that the game has a heavy emphasis on optimisation of the use of them - really hit home.

* Dice Counters for The Grind (d4) and Light Sources (Candle = d4, Lantern = d6 w/ 1/2 = 1, Torch = d4 w/ 1/2 = 1).
This could be useful - thanks!

With a torch having a two-turn duration, and with the high rate of failed checks and hence twists, it seems that the onset of a twist is going to overlap pretty regularly with the expiration of the light source. How do you handle this?

The only real advice in the rules is on p 44 of the Scholar's Guide:

Under normal exploration conditions, lighting a candle, torch or lantern does not require a test. If adventurers are plunged into darkness due to an unexpected turn of events, the game master may call for a Survivalist test to quickly get their light source lit.

Failure could mean a condition like afraid - your heart is pounding as you frantically scrape your flint and steel. or failure could mean a wicked twist - you drop your tools and can’t find them in the pitch black, and so remain in the inky darkness.​

But if the twist is something sudden, like the reappearance of the driven-off mutant moles, then it seems to me that there's not yet scope to re-light the torch, with a test or otherwise.

This impression is reinforced by this on p 56 of the SG (and the example that follows it):

*Whenever a character has a few minutes to rest and collect their thoughts—regardless of whether they’re in the adventure, camp or town phase - they can consume a portion of food or water and alleviate the hungry and thirsty condition.

*The act of eating and drinking doesn’t cost a turn or check, or add to lifestyle cost - provided food or drink is available.

*Adventurers cannot eat or drink if they’re on the run, under pressure, in the middle of climbing a cliff, etc.​

In the rules for spellcasting in the Dungeoneer's Handbook, there's also this (p 94; and there is an almost-identically worded rule for invocations on p 99):

Spells must be cast uninterrupted. If the magician or their helpers are disturbed - given a condition or forced to test or swept up in a disruptive twist - the spell misfires and is lost.​

This is what makes me think that swarming moles must be dealt with before Wyrd Lights can be conjured.

Am I getting all this right, do you think?
 

With a torch having a two-turn duration, and with the high rate of failed checks and hence twists, it seems that the onset of a twist is going to overlap pretty regularly with the expiration of the light source. How do you handle this?

The only real advice in the rules is on p 44 of the Scholar's Guide:

Under normal exploration conditions, lighting a candle, torch or lantern does not require a test. If adventurers are plunged into darkness due to an unexpected turn of events, the game master may call for a Survivalist test to quickly get their light source lit.​
Failure could mean a condition like afraid - your heart is pounding as you frantically scrape your flint and steel. or failure could mean a wicked twist - you drop your tools and can’t find them in the pitch black, and so remain in the inky darkness.​

But if the twist is something sudden, like the reappearance of the driven-off mutant moles, then it seems to me that there's not yet scope to re-light the torch, with a test or otherwise.

This impression is reinforced by this on p 56 of the SG (and the example that follows it):

*Whenever a character has a few minutes to rest and collect their thoughts—regardless of whether they’re in the adventure, camp or town phase - they can consume a portion of food or water and alleviate the hungry and thirsty condition.​
*The act of eating and drinking doesn’t cost a turn or check, or add to lifestyle cost - provided food or drink is available.​
*Adventurers cannot eat or drink if they’re on the run, under pressure, in the middle of climbing a cliff, etc.​

In the rules for spellcasting in the Dungeoneer's Handbook, there's also this (p 94; and there is an almost-identically worded rule for invocations on p 99):

Spells must be cast uninterrupted. If the magician or their helpers are disturbed - given a condition or forced to test or swept up in a disruptive twist - the spell misfires and is lost.​

This is what makes me think that swarming moles must be dealt with before Wyrd Lights can be conjured.

Am I getting all this right, do you think?

So you won't find the entry on TB2 SG 44 in TB1. However, you will find the Action "starting a fire in bad circumstances" under Survivalist. Its been awhile, but I'm fairly certain that this change came about in TB2 because this was the orthodox way (Survivalist Test not against The Grind) that people were handling exactly what you're talking about; Twist at end of Turn coinciding with Light Source duration ending.

Further, Instincts related to keeping a Torch (et al) lit are there to prevent exactly this (having to make an Ob3 Survivalist Test...its just automatically lit like the circumstances of a situation without duress).

The only time I put them in Darkness is either (a) a Twist specifically and only related to their Light Source (then it’s a spent Turn, so against the Grind, to renew Light Source but only a test in very particular circumstances) or (b) when they willingly put it out (eg "Dark Camp").

So, if a Twist comes about at the end of a Light Source duration, I go with Survivalist Ob3 test (2 for starting fire under duress and 1 for Dim Light/Darkness as a factor...I'm assuming either the light has flagged to virtual or absolute nothingness). If you've got an Instinct for just this thing, you're good; its lit.
 
Last edited:

pemerton

Legend
So you won't find the entry on TB2 SG 44 in TB1. However, you will find the Action "starting a fire in bad circumstances" under Survivalist. Its been awhile, but I'm fairly certain that this change came about in TB2 because this was the orthodox way (Survivalist Test not against The Grind) that people were handling exactly what you're talking about; Twist at end of Turn coinciding with Light Source duration ending.

Further, Instincts related to keeping a Torch (et al) lit are there to prevent exactly this (having to make an Ob3 Survivalist Test...its just automatically lit like the circumstances of a situation without duress).

The only time I put them in Darkness is either (a) a Twist specifically and only related to their Light Source (then it’s a spent Turn, so against the Grind, to renew Light Source but only a test in very particular circumstances) or (b) when they willingly put it out (eg "Dark Camp").

So, if a Twist comes about at the end of a Light Source duration, I go with Survivalist Ob3 test (2 for starting fire under duress and 1 for Dim Light/Darkness as a factor...I'm assuming either the light has flagged to virtual or absolute nothingness). If you've got an Instinct for just this thing, you're good; its lit.
The use of an Instinct makes sense (but neither Tharin nor Gondolf has such an Instinct).

On the other hand, the idea of a test not counting against the Grind - in the absence of an Instinct - does not seem to be orthodox in 2e. This seems to be reinforced by SG p 40:

A turn contains a test or a conflict . . . Each test made and each conflict fought costs a turn . . .

There’s always an exception. If the game master springs a trap or an environmental-based test and multiple characters are required to test individually, it takes one turn.​

Pages 30-32 of the SG have this ongoing example, illustrating various concepts:

Above you looms a slick rock wall. There’s a small dark opening at the top—your only hope of escape. You can hear Gnolls’ barking in the caves, getting closer and closer. What do you do?

After hearing the description of her predicament, Merrill says, “I clamber up the rock wall as fast as I can!”

Thor consults the skills chapter and replies, “Climbing slick rock walls underground…that calls for the Dungeoneer skill. The factors list says one person ascending a vertical pitch is Ob 2.”

The game master, Thor, has indicated that Merrill’s magician Cisneros must pass an Ob 2 Dungeoneer test. Fortunately, Cisneros has a dungeoneer skill rating of 2. Merrill rolls two dice and gets a 4 and a 5: two successes. She passes.

As Cisneros clambers up the rock wall, Thor describes the barking of Gnolls growing closer. So McFerren describes their warrior, Gudrun, rushing to the door of the room and shouldering it closed before the Gnolls come.

Thor nods and calls for a versus test between Gudrun’s health 5 and the Gnoll’s Ambushing Nature 5.

Thor rolls three successes to McFerren’s two. He describes Gudrun reaching the door just as a massive black snout pushes through. After a brief struggle, Gudrun is thrown back, and the Gnoll bursts in.​

So putting this together with p 40, two turns pass here: one for Cisneros's climb, and one for Gudrun's attempt to hold the door.

I think what I need to do, in my situation, is adjust my twist a little bit. I think I'm coming too close towards framing into a conflict than is appropriate, especially given the success for the PCs in the Drive Off. So I think I should recharacterise the twist as You hear the chittering of the mutant moles - it sounds like they're about to swarm out again of the rubble and other hidey-places that they fled too. In the fiction, this creates a feasible space for a new torch to be lit, or for Gondolf to case Wyrd Lights (analogous to Gudrun trying to hold the door against the Gnolls). And it can count as a turn for the grind.

The Survivalist test to light the torch looks like it would be Ob 3, as you say - Ob 2 for starting a fire in bad conditions (ie as moles swarm in) +1 for dim light (there is some daylight coming through a crack in the wall). I think Gondolf is Survivalist 2 and has a tinderbox. Though I think more optimal call might be Tharin's Beginner's Luck: Health 5 +1D from tinderbox +1D from Gondolf's Darkness-wise is 7D, halved is 4D.

Though Gondolf could go 3D (including Tinderbox), +1D for help from Tharin (Delving Nature seems applicable), and then use Fate for rerolling a traitor via Darkness-wise. Which is better again.

For completeness, in terms of 2nd ed rules - here's the example, from the p 56 on eating to recover Hungry and Thirsty, that seems to confirm that being swarmed by mutant moles is bad conditions for lighting a torch:

Our thirsty adventurers flee from an ogre only to stumble into a round room containing two hovering glowing orbs.

“Can we drink here?” Asks Joss.
“There’s no time. The orbs react to you. You need to flee or act.” says Luke.
“F! Run! We run!” Joss knows the group is beat up and needs a moment to rest.

Merrill consults their map and manages to navigate the group to an empty hallway.​

The orbs reacting seems analogous to the moles coming out again and reforming their swarm. There's no time to drink - you need to act seems analogous to there's no opportunity to light your torch for free - you need to act, whether by casting Wyrd Lights or testing Survivalist to get it lit in a hurry.

Or flee, of course.
 

Alright, good stuff good stuff.

I'm going to break this post out into 2 parts (as below).

The use of an Instinct makes sense (but neither Tharin nor Gondolf has such an Instinct).

On the other hand, the idea of a test not counting against the Grind - in the absence of an Instinct - does not seem to be orthodox in 2e. This seems to be reinforced by SG p 40:

A turn contains a test or a conflict . . . Each test made and each conflict fought costs a turn . . .​
There’s always an exception. If the game master springs a trap or an environmental-based test and multiple characters are required to test individually, it takes one turn.​

Pages 30-32 of the SG have this ongoing example, illustrating various concepts:

Above you looms a slick rock wall. There’s a small dark opening at the top—your only hope of escape. You can hear Gnolls’ barking in the caves, getting closer and closer. What do you do?​
After hearing the description of her predicament, Merrill says, “I clamber up the rock wall as fast as I can!”​
Thor consults the skills chapter and replies, “Climbing slick rock walls underground…that calls for the Dungeoneer skill. The factors list says one person ascending a vertical pitch is Ob 2.”​
The game master, Thor, has indicated that Merrill’s magician Cisneros must pass an Ob 2 Dungeoneer test. Fortunately, Cisneros has a dungeoneer skill rating of 2. Merrill rolls two dice and gets a 4 and a 5: two successes. She passes.​
As Cisneros clambers up the rock wall, Thor describes the barking of Gnolls growing closer. So McFerren describes their warrior, Gudrun, rushing to the door of the room and shouldering it closed before the Gnolls come.​
Thor nods and calls for a versus test between Gudrun’s health 5 and the Gnoll’s Ambushing Nature 5.​
Thor rolls three successes to McFerren’s two. He describes Gudrun reaching the door just as a massive black snout pushes through. After a brief struggle, Gudrun is thrown back, and the Gnoll bursts in.​

So putting this together with p 40, two turns pass here: one for Cisneros's climb, and one for Gudrun's attempt to hold the door.

I think what I need to do, in my situation, is adjust my twist a little bit. I think I'm coming too close towards framing into a conflict than is appropriate, especially given the success for the PCs in the Drive Off. So I think I should recharacterise the twist as You hear the chittering of the mutant moles - it sounds like they're about to swarm out again of the rubble and other hidey-places that they fled too. In the fiction, this creates a feasible space for a new torch to be lit, or for Gondolf to case Wyrd Lights (analogous to Gudrun trying to hold the door against the Gnolls). And it can count as a turn for the grind.

The Survivalist test to light the torch looks like it would be Ob 3, as you say - Ob 2 for starting a fire in bad conditions (ie as moles swarm in) +1 for dim light (there is some daylight coming through a crack in the wall). I think Gondolf is Survivalist 2 and has a tinderbox. Though I think more optimal call might be Tharin's Beginner's Luck: Health 5 +1D from tinderbox +1D from Gondolf's Darkness-wise is 7D, halved is 4D.

Though Gondolf could go 3D (including Tinderbox), +1D for help from Tharin (Delving Nature seems applicable), and then use Fate for rerolling a traitor via Darkness-wise. Which is better again.

For completeness, in terms of 2nd ed rules - here's the example, from the p 56 on eating to recover Hungry and Thirsty, that seems to confirm that being swarmed by mutant moles is bad conditions for lighting a torch:

Our thirsty adventurers flee from an ogre only to stumble into a round room containing two hovering glowing orbs.​
“Can we drink here?” Asks Joss.​
“There’s no time. The orbs react to you. You need to flee or act.” says Luke.​
“F! Run! We run!” Joss knows the group is beat up and needs a moment to rest.​
Merrill consults their map and manages to navigate the group to an empty hallway.​

The orbs reacting seems analogous to the moles coming out again and reforming their swarm. There's no time to drink - you need to act seems analogous to there's no opportunity to light your torch for free - you need to act, whether by casting Wyrd Lights or testing Survivalist to get it lit in a hurry.

Or flee, of course.

1 - All the various parts of system that intersect with the question "when a duress-inducing Twist coincides with Light Source duration ending, should it be (a) a test + Turn to relight (therefore a tick on The Grind) or (b) a test but no Turn or (c) should the PCs be unable to relight (as in the example regarding eating and drinking and therefore almost exclusively have to Flee because of Darkness limiting response capability)?"

*
Under normal circumstances, when one kindles a Light Source or takes a draught from their skins/chomps rations, it is both (i) not a Turn and (ii) not a test (so effectively a "free action" in D&D parlance). This is a very rare use case in this system. There are others, but these two are absolutely integral to play, foundational even. Its very likely that, across the distribution of all moves made in a game of Torchbearer, kindling a Light Source and Eating or Drinking are the most common moves.

* The punishment for being unable to do these two things is extremely disparate:

- Failure to kindle a Light Source means Darkness. Darkness means your move space is profoundly contracted and, what moves are available to you suffer 1 Factor for Ob except for riddling. Darkness is extremely punishing and gamestate impacting.

- Failure to recover from Hungry and Thirsty (by Eating or Drinking) means the comparatively meager loss of 1 Disposition in any Conflicts that might arise. Now this sucks for sure, but by comparison it is relatively meek in how punitive it is.

* Given the duration of Light Sources, the frequency with which one will come up against a duress-inducing Twist which coincides with a Light Source duration ending is not insignificant. It isn't overwhelming, but its not insignificant. In a Short Adventure, you're probably talking 1-ish time. In a Medium Adventure, you're probably talking between 2-3 times. In a Long Adventure, you're likely looking at 4ish. This may seem like not a lot, but, given this game's spiral capability, you're talking about a fair number of "Flee Conflicts w/ extra 1 Factor to tests imposed upon the PCs" across even a small distribution of play. So let us assume that the PCs nearly always eschew that scenario for a Turn-engaging Test against Survivalist Ob3. That means that in pretty much every Long Adventure, you're looking at right around another Light Source-related Grind tick (so another Condition on the PCs). You're also probably about 50/50 on that Ob3, so that means at least the PC kindling the Light Source will earn another Condition in a Long Adventure (and if there is a Helper, they'll earn a lesser one) and they'll endure another Twist (which might be a Conflict, or a Gear complication, or cost - you have to spend 2 Torches because you ruined the first one getting it out of your pouch). If that is indeed intended, that would significantly amplify the fallout I've experienced in running (which will then yield further downstream fallout).

* The system has Skill and Ob associated with making that test to get that fire kindled under duress (and Survivalist is a common Skill). Meanwhile, it does not for eating and drinking under duress. You could make a case for a few different Skills, but nothing dovetails with actions/factors either clearly or neatly.

So when I put that all together, I arrive at the position that I outlined above and why I don't feel that the entry regarding eating/drinking to recover Hungry and Thirsty does quite the work that your reading of it does. I feel confident that, if I had handled past play in the way you're inferring, it would lead to such significant Light Source-related selection pressures upon play that every game would degenerate into featuring a specialist Torchbearer PC with an Instinct to deal with the brutal decision-point of Flee Conflict in Darkness w/ +1 Factor to tests or Grind +1 tick w/ 50/50 odds of another Condition/Twist. However, if you feel your reading/handling is more in-line with the aggregate of the intersecting parts above and the intentions of Luke/Thor, then that is the route you must take! I'll be curious if you feel the same way after a nice chunk of play (you very might!).


2 - On your Twist on the failed Lore Master test:

- I believe the broken and buried Basalt Guardian might activate on something like this? I might have done the following:

1) Right before Darkness consumes the room, a hulking arm grasps Gondolf by the Belt and it either (a) tears their waterskin or something precious from their Belt and ruins it or (b) the arm hooks the belt entirely and the PC can unclasp the belt and lose all of the stuff on it or engage in a Kill Conflict (including the Turn against The Grind that comes with this) with it (concession for the PCs being 1 or 2 items on the belt ruined/Angry/Exhausted/Injured or some combination depending).

2) Tharin, in order to even perform the Kill Conflict, could test Survival Ob3 no Turn. Failure there would probably be either 2 Torches (he ruins the first in the haste/effort to kindle it) or Angry (the stress of the situation gets to him).
 

pemerton

Legend
]Under normal circumstances, when one kindles a Light Source or takes a draught from their skins/chomps rations, it is both (i) not a Turn and (ii) not a test (so effectively a "free action" in D&D parlance). This is a very rare use case in this system. There are others, but these two are absolutely integral to play, foundational even. Its very likely that, across the distribution of all moves made in a game of Torchbearer, kindling a Light Source and Eating or Drinking are the most common moves.
Completely agreed. This comes through crystal clear to a new user. Also the use of a map to avoid tests on the Grind or in a journey.

* The punishment for being unable to do these two things is extremely disparate:

- Failure to kindle a Light Source means Darkness. Darkness means your move space is profoundly contracted and, what moves are available to you suffer 1 Factor for Ob except for riddling. Darkness is extremely punishing and gamestate impacting.

- Failure to recover from Hungry and Thirsty (by Eating or Drinking) means the comparatively meager loss of 1 Disposition in any Conflicts that might arise. Now this sucks for sure, but by comparison it is relatively meek in how punitive it is.
Agreed. Darkness is bad. Dim light less so, but it's not good.

Given the duration of Light Sources, the frequency with which one will come up against a duress-inducing Twist which coincides with a Light Source duration ending is not insignificant. It isn't overwhelming, but its not insignificant.
Completely agreed. I hadn't thought it through in advance of play, but as soon as it came up in play I realised that it must be ubiquitous. That's why I'm a bit surprised that the rulebook doesn't expressly address it.

I don't feel that the entry regarding eating/drinking to recover Hungry and Thirsty does quite the work that your reading of it does.

<snip>

However, if you feel your reading/handling is more in-line with the aggregate of the intersecting parts above and the intentions of Luke/Thor, then that is the route you must take! I'll be curious if you feel the same way after a nice chunk of play (you very might!).
I'm looking for as much coherence as possible, as that is something I value in a RPG and am very impressed by in this particular system so far.

The base requirement for coherence, it seems to me, is that each test costs a turn. This seems to feed into the advancement economy and its intersection with the Grind, and also the Instinct rules, and also the Good Idea rules (if it's a Good Idea than it doesn't earn a tick for advancement, but doesn't cost a turn either: SG pp 216-17).

Hence I am reluctant to (i) call for a test and yet (ii) not advance the Grind.

But this doesn't deny any of your sound points! What it does push me towards is thinking that the solution must lie in a slightly different direction. Eg in my play example, perhaps the solution is to allow Tharin to light the next torch from the dying embers of the last one (he is the PC with torches equipped) while Gondolf is the one failing to read the glyphs.

I do think this is something the rules could have said a little more about.
 

kenada

Legend
(3) Keeping track of the passage of turns - which is absolutely central to the game for the Grind of conditions and the running down of light - is something I have to try hard to do accurately. The last few times I've GMed AD&D and Moldvay Basic - where it matters for wandering monsters and light - I sucked at it, and I started to slip a bit this afternoon at more than one point. The plus side is that remembering tests that have been made is easier than tracking turns by movement rate and maps.
Not having played or run Torchbearer, this may not very useful, but I’ve attached the exploration tracker I use (to run a hybrid of Old-School Essentials and Worlds Without Number). It doesn’t sound like you need to track time, but if you need to keep track of how many times something has happened, it works pretty well for that too. The (large) bottom box is for notes.
 

Attachments

  • Exploration Tracker.pdf
    384.6 KB · Views: 47

Completely agreed. This comes through crystal clear to a new user. Also the use of a map to avoid tests on the Grind or in a journey.

Agreed. Darkness is bad. Dim light less so, but it's not good.

Completely agreed. I hadn't thought it through in advance of play, but as soon as it came up in play I realised that it must be ubiquitous. That's why I'm a bit surprised that the rulebook doesn't expressly address it.

I'm looking for as much coherence as possible, as that is something I value in a RPG and am very impressed by in this particular system so far.

The base requirement for coherence, it seems to me, is that each test costs a turn. This seems to feed into the advancement economy and its intersection with the Grind, and also the Instinct rules, and also the Good Idea rules (if it's a Good Idea than it doesn't earn a tick for advancement, but doesn't cost a turn either: SG pp 216-17).

Hence I am reluctant to (i) call for a test and yet (ii) not advance the Grind.

But this doesn't deny any of your sound points! What it does push me towards is thinking that the solution must lie in a slightly different direction. Eg in my play example, perhaps the solution is to allow Tharin to light the next torch from the dying embers of the last one (he is the PC with torches equipped) while Gondolf is the one failing to read the glyphs.

I do think this is something the rules could have said a little more about.

Absolutely agree that Luke and Thor could have spoken more aggressively on this (and more on some other things...and organized things better in certain circumstances) not-insignificant occurrence within the sphere of typical play!

I guess I would just say "take heart, my friend, and embrace the flexibility that you spoke of above!" We've got instances of tests in Town and Journeys that don't involve The Grind. You've cited an instance of a mini-Town phase breaking up Journey Legs (which is a right-thinking handling of the situation IMO). We know there are cases where "group moves" basically involve one Turn (traps and environmental based tests) and complex ploys that involve multiple Turns (eg the climb and the door-holding above). Here are your options as I see them (when Light Source duration ending coincides with a Turn that results in immediate duress):

(a) Bin the Ob3 Survivalist test in the "environmental based tests" category where the Light Source kindling is basically just a rider/group move component of the duress-based contest or conflict which coincides with it. You can treat it as "no-Turn, no-Advancement." Twists would be Darkness or Light but 2x Torches spent or some either Gear Twist. Condition would equal Angry or Afraid.

(b) Turn + Advancement for the Ob3 Survivalist test for Twists would be Darkness or Light but 2x Torches spent or some either Gear Twist. Condition would equal Angry or Afraid.

(c) The rare occasion where the duress is so acute that they are in Darkness and they have no choice but to enter into a Flee Conflict:

TB2 SG 62 - Twist into a Conflict

* There is one instance when the game master doesn’t have to listen to the players’ description: if a conflict arises as the result of a twist. In this case, the game master describes the situation in which the characters find themselves and sets up the conflict.

What you're depicting is the rare occasion in play where the GM decides what is at stake. If a Turn yields a Twist + the situation warrants such dramatic stakes + Darkness coincides with it...GM doesn't have to listen to the players' description; Flee Conflict ensues.

(The below is for any readers following along who aren't acquainted with the system....I know you know this stuff!)

If they win the Flee Conflict with their disposition intact, they arrest the Darkness by kindling a Light Source and they're in a position where they can dictate terms. They can have avoided the threat and retreated to somewhere relatively safe that makes sense given the fiction. If they wish to now engage in a Kill or Drive Off Conflict, they can initiate that (circle back to Conflict procedures). If they just wish to count their lucky stars and move on, they can do that as well.

If they lose the Flee Conflict, then the enemy realizes their intent.

If they win but their disposition isn't intact, then they've arrest the Darkness by kindling a Light Source but now you guys have to negotiate the concession that must be made, finding compromise depending on severity of disposition loss; Condition for the PCs, new Twist they must deal with, something particularly painful to them?
 

EpicureanDM

Explorer
I've played a lot of Torchbearer 1e and some 2e, both as a player and GM. When I GM TB, I always give the players the benefit of the doubt when their light's running out. If a Twist results in a change in the situation that requires immediate action, i.e. another Test, I'll let their light carry over to the next Test. After that subsequent Test, they usually either succeed or gain a Condition. In either of those cases, I use what everyone's calling the "no-Turn, no-Advancement" approach. Let players decide who's lighting what, figure out who's covered by bright or dim light, and move on. It's more of a bookkeeping moment.

Darkness is too punishing to inflict on the players as anything other than its own, specific Twist, which might then require the Grind-advancing Survivalist Test to overcome. That's more in keeping with Twists in general. The discussion in the other Torchbearer thread (containing the link that brought me here) about Conditions and Twists being like PbtA hard and soft moves is a good heuristic. A Twist that involved both reigniting a light source on top of another complication is like rolling two hard PbtA moves into one.
 

pemerton

Legend
Since posting this thread, I've had two more play experiences with Torchbearer 2nd ed.

Last weekend my other daughter built two PCs: Peony, a Halfling burglar; and Laegolas, and Elven ranger. We were planning to have them show up in the Tower of Stars to meet Tharin and Gondolf, but the player of those latter PCs was not amenable. So I had to make up a different adventure on the spot.

I had been thinking for a few weeks - thought not with any great depth or sophistication - about how one might do a Fighting Fantasy Gamebook-style adventure, along the lines of Forest of Doom or Scorpion Swamp, using Torchbearer. I decided to try and operationalise that, initially sketching out three locations in Darkwood Forest linked by paths, a stream, etc.

I established a context for the PCs being there - looking for the reputed tower of the wizard Nicodemeus - and then we made some minor tweaks to goals that had been chosen to suit the Tower of Stars. The first area was thickets, which had to be passed through to make it deeper into the forest. Peony went through using her Sneaking Nature; Laegolas used Pathfinder to identify the easiest way through, and then Labourer to hack a path with his hatchet. My recollection is that Laegolas failed and hence became hungry and thirsty as a result of all that brush-clearing.

They came to a clearing in the woods, with a waterfall dropping from a ridge at one end. One of the PCs searched behind the waterfall, and failed a Scout check. So (as a twist) they heard four people approaching along the ridge towards the clearing. The PCs decided to greet them, and try and trick them: We're just out for a walk in the woods - would you care to join us for a picnic? This was a trickery conflict - Peony used her Riddling and Merrymaking Nature, and I can't remember how Laegolas helped. I don't think he has Manipulator (though may be misremembering on that score) but may have used Beginner's Luck. The PCs won the conflict but with significant depletion to their own disposition. Before we could resolve a compromise, though, play had to finish up to make time for other family activities. I don't have my notes in front of me, but I would say we played through 5 or so turns.

I'll make a separate post about today's session.
 

pemerton

Legend
We played a session today with my regular group. I used the eastern GH map for our starting point, focusing on the area around Urnst/the Bandit Kingdoms/the Pale/Tenh.

The four PCs were:

Korvin, 21 year old human skald - from Fayan's Way, a prosperous wayhouse on the Urnst side of the river between that land and the Bandit Kingdoms. A skirmish-wise, pragmatic loner, he's a bit of an all-rounder: talking, fighting (with a sword), scholarship, criminal, riding and hunting. His raiment is a night-black cloak. His enemy is a bandit lord. He never tells the truth, and believes in following the clues to hunt down the wicked.

Telemere, 71 year old Elven ranger - from Elfhome in the Fellreev Forest. A stars-wise, calm loner, his enemy is his brother Kalamere who stole his place in a boat to the west. He believes that one should see things through to the end; and when he enters somewhere new, he checks to see if he is being watched. A pathfinder, cartographer, scout, survivalist, healer and archer, his raiment is the traditional Elven greycloak.

Fea-bella, 69 year old Elven dreamwalker - from the tower of the wizard Jobe on the edge of the Bluff Hills, not far from Elfhome. A hills-wise and herbs-wise scholar, healer and Elven enchanter, she believes that one should delve deeply, for knowledge holds the power to change the world. Her instinct is to read every word. Her mother Fella is a scholar, she was mentored by Vaccin (a 7th level Dreamwalker) before Vaccin was betrayed by her enemy Megloss, the elder apprentice of Jobe who set fire to the tower. Her friend is an adventuring Elven ranger whom she last saw riding his steed in the Fellreev. Her raiment is a forest-green cloak.

Golin, 43 year old Dwarven outcast - from a forgotten temple complex just inside The Pale. He is cynical and explosives-wise, and believes that explosive solutions are good solutions; he always looks for weak points in structures and mechanisms. As well as fighting, orating and Dwarf-y stuff, he is the group's cook. He carries a huge maul. His friend Vaxen (who may be the same personage as Vaccin?) is an alchemist from Jobe's tower; his mentor Grantham is a 7th level outcast; and his enemy is also called Golin, and cheated on the exams to get the best apprentice position. He is an orphan (or, at least, has repudiated his parents) and in memory of them wears an armoured glove worth 1D. He also wears galoshes as his raiment.

Although not everything about these PCs is stone-cold serious, I think they bear out what I said in my OP in the other Torchbearer thread: the colour in this game is first rate. These first-level characters have personalities, backstories, and relationships.

I had already decided on my way to the session to use the Tower of Stars as my scenario, but also - inspired by my Darkwood Forest experience - to open with a bandit encounter if any of the players built a talk-y PC. So when one built a skald, that settled that!

In the introductions phase we established that the PCs had met on the road, although Fea-bella and Telemere had once met in the Elfhome, while she and Golin had met at Jobe's tower. I read out the scenario backstory, and the players chose goals (Korvin: discover the truth about the Beholder of Fates; Telemere: discover if my brother came through here; Fea-bella: raid the tower for the secrets of the starts; Golin: raid the tower for its laboratory ingredients). Then I described the approach to the tower, where the PCs could see four rough-looking individuals sitting at the base of the basalt-scree slope up to the tower, one of them bandaging the feet of another.

The players decided to go for a social option, but for reasons I didn't follow decided to have Fea-bella (Persuader 2; cf Korvin's Orator 4 and Manipulator 4) do the talking, trying to persuade them to let her do the bandaging. Her goal was then to administer some sort of soporific. The Persuasion test failed; so she became angry in the course of the debate with Aunty - the one doing the bandaging. (The one with the injured foot, which the players had inferred had been cut on the basalt, was Rot Grub.) Telemere had been helping with this, and so became hungry and thirsty while the argument went on. He drained his waterskin and also his Fresh condition.

Once Aunty relented, it was then time to administer the soporific as part of the healing process - which was beginner's luck Alchemist, another fiasco, prompting the leader Scaramander (wearing a helmet and carrying a knife - the only arms and armour in this group of bandits) to try and drive the PCs off.

The players decided that Golin was their conflict captain; and Golin decided that their intent was to kill. Disposition was 8 for the PCs and 7 for the bandits. I scripted M/A/D; the players - mostly Golin and Fea-bella's players - initially canvassed opening with an Attack but then opted to Manoeuvre for advantage. And decided to try for a third-round Feint, anticipating a likely Defence at that point. Thus they scripted M/A/F.

Opposed manoeuvres are independent checks against Ob 0: the bandits got 3 successes and disarmed Telemere by closing with a dagger (there must have been other effects in there but I don't remember them); Korvin for the PCs got 6 successes and disarmed Scaramander, and both debuffed the NPCs and buffed their own next action. The Attack vs Attack was a massacre - the NPCs got in one point of damage, which damaged Golin's helmet, while Golin got 8 successes (5 rolled, plus 2 for Maul, plus 1 for superior Might) which eliminated the NPCs' 7 points of disposition. With no compromise required.

I had already rolled for the bandit's loot (Loot Table 1 for my area, and 2 times Loot Table 2 for four Might 4 NPCs): 2 candles, a helmet and an indecipherable note. So Scaramander's knife turned out to be broken by Korvin's disarming of it; but Golin was able to take the helmet to replace his damaged one, and Fea-bella successfully deciphered the note (written, it turned out, in a wizard's cypher by the adventuring enchanter Maila, and consisting of instructions on how to travel from Stoink to the Tower of Stars). They left the candles on the bodies for the moment, having nowhere to put them.

Not liking the look of the scree slope, Golin searched for another way into the tower - a weak spot - and the Crafting Nature check failed and so he was angry by the time he found it. His beginner's luck Labourer test to knock a hole in the wall also failed, and instead of opening up a hole in the wall the whole tower settled further on the basalt rubble, opening up crevasse which Korvin (who had been helping) avoided with a leap.

That sequence of events cost 3 turns and took the clock to 5 turns, and so everyone was hungry and thirsty. They ate and drank.

They then decided to go up the basalt scree, with Telemere making the test (beginner's luck Dungeoneering) helped by everyone else, and using a rope to assist. The test succeeded (5D, I think, vs Ob 3) and they entered the tower. At this point - 6 turns in - they lit a torch.

Looking around, they found a pool of water (which enabled them to refill their two empty waterskins) and a broken Basalt Guardian. They deliberately decided not to reassemble its broken head, and thought about making copies of the markings (runes?) on the head another time. Instead, Telemere (with Survivalist) helped Golin use rope and spikes to make a way through the gap in the ceiling. (With my daughter, I had assessed this as two tests; today I did it as one, having reread some of the advice in the Scholar's Guide.)

7 turns.

In the second level (which Golin correctly identified as a waiting room), they started with Telemere inspecting the corpse. His Healing test succeeded, and he was able to identify its cause of death (a severed wrist). He also spotted the signet ring and removed it. The mucking about with the body disturbed the dust (ie I had forgotten it for Telemere's Healing test) but despite the extra obstacle penalty Fea-bella was able to identify the ring, using Lore Master and assisted by Korvin and Telemere (both Lore Masters) and Golin (Dwarven Chronicles-wise) as a cult ring from Golin's forgotten temple complex, most likely crafted by Golin's nemesis Golin.

9 turns. During this time the torch burned out, and Fea-bella lit her lantern which had burned for one turn.

Looking in the alcoves on the inner wall of the semi-circular room - which the players (as their characters) identified as places to clean up before having one's fortune told - Telemere found inscriptions in a strange language. Fea-bella read them instinctually, but struggled to make them out (especially as strange inscriptions in the mouldy dust reminded her of her haunted dreams - about 3D vs Ob 6) and once she had identified them as writings about having one's fortune read in the stars had become sick from inhaling the dust.

Still 9 turns.

Once again the poor layout of this room description got the better of me - I had remembered this time to mention the door, but had not mentioned the glyphs - and so did now, when Telemere's player went to look at the rubble in front of the door; I suggested that the glyphs near the body must have been concealed by the dust before it got disturbed. When I also described the arm of the Basalt Guardian banging as Telemere crossed the glyphs they inferred that the glyphs must be some sort of activation mechanism without bothering to try and read them. Though their were differences of opinion as to whether the Guardian was trying to beat them up as intruders, or offer to help them change into their finery for having their fortunes told!

I asked Telemere's player if he was concerned about being watched, and he made his instinctual Scout test. It failed, and so he did not spot the head of the Guardian, with its sigil, in the rubble; but instead my favourite ley-line mutated moles swarmed out of the rubble towards the PCs. At which point - still at 9 turns - we has to finish the session.

In our end-of-session phase, rewards were distributed: Korvin got two Fate, for pursing his goal and his belief (as he had helped to interpret the signet ring); Telemere got two Fate, for pursuing his goal (he had been trying to find records, in the waiting room, of who had been there) and for trying to see things through to the end, and also one Persona, being judged the teamworker; Fea-bella got three Fate, as she had delved deep for knowledge, had sought the secrets of the stars, and had aided the group with her instinctual reading of the indecipherable note; and Golin got one Fate (for trying to find and take laboratory ingredients) and one Persona as MVP, for taking out the NPCs in a single round with his maul.

I'm now at three first sessions for this system, but its uncertain when a second session will happen for any of them.
 

pemerton

Legend
Today I played a second session with two players from my regular group: we had Golin the Dwarven Outcast and Fea-bella the Elven Dreamwalker.

We started with a prologue from Fea-bella's player, which lifted her Angry condition. Then we agreed that, when the ley-line mutated moles attacked, the other two PCs (Korvin the Skald and Telemere the Ranger) had fled (or perhaps been driven) back down the trapdoor to the lower level.

Golin was appointed conflict captain, and declared it a kill conflict - he wasn't interested in merely driving off mutant moles! He also used one of his traits against himself (Cynical, I think - he couldn't even take mutant moles at face value) on the Disposition roll, so the PCs ended up with 7 hit points (4 for Golin, 3 for Fea-bella) while the 4 moles had a disposition of 8 (ie 2 hp each).

I scripted M-A-A (swarm, burrow, suck blood) while the players scripted D (Golin) - M (Fea-bella) - A (Golin) - they blocked the moles' manoeuvring, but then took some hurt from the first attack and there was hurt all around from the final set of actions, the PCs being taken down to 1 hp each.

In the second round, there were only two moles still in the game. I scripted a cunning A-F-D against the PCs' D (Fea-bella) - D (Golin) - A (Fea-bella). Fea-bella's defence was effective (and my attack roll poor), so the PCs regrouped; my cunning feint achieved little (poor rolling), but Fea-bella's attack was rather weak (Beginner's Luck, and Sick) even with Golin's help and so the moles also regrouped (but not before one of them had carried off Golin's helmet after it absorbed a point of damage).

For the third round, I scripted A-D-A. The players discussed a fair bit between them, and sought (and got) advice from me on the scope of kill conflict compromises. And they decided to go for victory and risk a minor compromise, rather than muck around, by scripting A-D-M (with the D and M in there as backup in the event the big strike up front didn't work). Golin's player rolled well for the attack and, as planned, wiped out the moles (he had +4s, with +2 from his maul and +2 from superior Might). But I rolled successes on all 4 of my mole dice, forcing a half compromise! I reviewed the options and settled on both PCs being Angry, Exhausted and Injured (having had their blood sucked by crazed mutant moles).

The players decided it was time to camp. And the module says that the room the PCs were in is a suitable camp site. So we did a camp phase. We all agreed Ancient Ruins made the most sense - I rolled for a camp event and got a 10 (the chill stone of the room causes +1 Ob recovery). And that the danger level was typical. There was some discussion of whether or not the kill intent was a mistake, but Golin's player defended his choice on the grounds that only driving the moles off would have led to an increased danger level and hence a worse camp event.

The players had one check each and both waned to test to recover from Angry, so there was no watch set. Fea-bella recovered (but was still Exhausted, Injured and Sick); Golin did not (and so was still Angry, Exhausted and Injured).

So they decided to loot the silver mirrors in the room they were in - the looting roll (Dwarven Crafting Nature) was a success - and then head back to Stoink, following the directions on the notes they had taken from the bandits in the previous session. This gave us a chance to test the journey rules. I outlined the rules for measuring and paying off toll. They worked out what gear to leave behind to make room for the mirrors (3 x pack 3 each) but made sure to keep their food.

I explained that either a Cartographer test would be needed to turn the notes into a map (Ob 4, for modest region + working from notes) or a Pathfinder test would be needed to guide them (Ob 4 for a short journey along an infrequently used route, with +1D for having the notes). They opted for the latter, with Golin making the test - he failed of course (rolling 5D Health -1D for Injured, +2D for help from Fea-bella + the notes, all halved for Beginner's Luck ie 3D - he forgot to use a trait against himself until it was too late). I opted for success but with Hungry and Thirsty for both of them, which consumed one of their lots of food.

But the weather roll was kind to them (they decided the season was early spring, and the roll was Cool and Clear, -1 toll) and so was the trouble roll (a 5 - no trouble on the road). So they made it to Stoink. With two landmarks on the way - the Phostwood Forest and the Artonsamay River - the toll was 2, +1 for the terrain, -1 for the weather, +1 to Golin's for acting as guide. They paid of one toll each with their remaining food and water, and traded a 3D mirror to pay the rest (I think I may have been on the generous side there, but it seemed to me that finding a trader or unmarked village on the borders of the forest and the river was far from being out of the question).

So we then had a town phase, in the Bustling Metropolis of Stoink. I rolled for a town event and got a 15:

Actually. On the street, you hear a fool prattling on to their lady friend about the nature of the moon and the stars. Tip your hat and correct them using Scholar vs their Scholar 4. Suggested twist: you make a new enemy.​

Fea-bella had no interest in interjecting with a correction, but Golin did! With Will 3, -1D for Injured, +1D for help from Fea-bella whispering in his ear, all halved for Beginner's Luck, he rolled 2D against my 4D. And lost. The player anticipated he had to add a new enemy to his list before I even got a chance to tell him: Ebenezer the Erudite had plenty of rude things to say about this rude and ignorant dwarf. But the PCs went off to find the houses of healing - ie after I explained the accommodation options they both chose to stay in a hotel.

Fea-bella automatically recovered from Exhausted, and succeeded against Injured (four successes on 3D Health +1D from the Hotel) and then against Sick (more than three success on 5D Will +1D from the Hotel +1D from her First Born trait). Golin automatically recovered from Exhausted, and then failed against Angry and Injured. So Fea-bella had to treat his injury (Healing 4 against Ob 2 for bruises from blood-sucking moles) which I thought counted as +1 Lifestyle personal business. She clocked up another +1 Lifestyle by making a Circles check to meet her adventurer friend, the Elven Ranger Glothfindel, who would then be able to guide the PCs back to the Tower of the Stars. But her player failed to get 3 successes on six dice (Circles 5 +1D for Dream-haunted trait) - so whereas she had hoped that her dreams would reveal that Glothfindel was nearby, in fact they revealed that he had been riding near the Tower of the Stars having heard Fea-bella was there, and had been captured by her enemy Megloss!

To fund her lifestyle (she had only 4D of treasure plus Resources 0) she sold her spellbook (part of her starting gear) for 1D - because we had reviewed the Dreamwalker spell-use rules and she doesn't need a spellbook.

Golin, meanwhile, also added 2 to his lifestyle cost. First, he went to the Guild Halls and repaired his helmet. Which succeeded. (Yay!) Then he went to the markets to try and buy food, hammer and pitons. He decided to test for food first, Resources 1 against Ob 1. And failed. He learned that no one would sell to him - not food or hammer or pitons - because Ebenezer had persuaded them to blackball him! So, still angry, and having already been contemplating the possibility, he sought out Ebenezer with the plan of making a fool of him in front of his lady friend. I used the Professor NPC stats for Ebenezer, and calculated he had Beginner's Luck Orator 3, the same as Golin's skill level. The rules for Angry say that at the GM's option it causes an obstacle penalty to Orator, but I thought that in this case the angry was fuelled rather than hindered by his fury! The result of the versus test was a clear victory to Golin, and he shamed Ebenezer in front of his lady - the note on Golin's PC sheet describes Ebenezer as now shamed, hot, and single.

With all personal business concluded, they left town. Both players rolled 5 dice for Resources vs Ob 5, and both failed. But their treasure absorbed the tax.

We then handed out rewards: no Fate for Beliefs or Instincts, but one each for goals. And they agreed that Fea-bella was the teamworker (taking the lifestyle hit to heal Golin) was Golin was the MVP (in the judgment of Fea-bella's player, for killing the moles; in the judgment of his own player, for shaming Ebenezer in front of his girlfriend),

*********************************

I enjoyed this session. We got to see a lot of the game's subsystems in action: a reasonably extended conflict; camping; journeying; and a town phase. I was happy with how I handled the failure and consequence narration, including the weaving in of the friends and enemies (in both cases the players made this easy).

For me, it reinforced my view expressed in the other thread that this is not really a "story now" engine: it's all about super-skilled play plus testing your luck with the dice. But it also confirmed my view in that thread that the colour in the game is really strong: in this session we had the camp in the ruined tower, the journey with an inadequate guide, the stay in the houses of healing but the dwarf remaining angry, the dreams of the Dreamwalker, and the feud with Ebenezer. How many FRPGs can have a whole story cycle between vindictive Dwarf and arrogant scholar play out over the course of a reasonably brief period of downtime resolution? And not as any sort of accident - it shows the design of the system at work.

Afterwords, Golin's player - who is not a huge fan of Burning Wheel - reflected ruefully that he's beginning to enjoy Torchbearer. (Though he hates the advancement record keeping.) So there may be more play of this game in my future!
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
So this is my first Torchbearer campaign. We just finished the Dread Crypt of Skogenby, and while the party got crushed early, the finish was one of the finest role playing moments I've been a part of in a long while.

Our party got brutally abused our first time down into the crypt. Honestly, I never seen a group of four players roll worse for a whole session. To sum that up (as I told this story in more detail upstream somewhere) we had one successful role all session. Great role playing, but brutal rolls. My Outcast had to bite the bullet after that first session. So the finale of last session was about as bad, despite a better on showing on the dice by us. My Outcast found the secret door just fine, but then the whole party failed rolls for the sleepy dust. TZzzzzzzK. We wake up confronted by the Big Bad and her 4 skeleton bigwigs.

Tonight was the grand finale, essentially just this one conflict. We elect to go Capture Conflict because the odds a seriously stacked against us. So we'll try to rescue the village girl, and the evil spirit comes after. Two of the PCs are from Skogenby, so this is a pretty easy choice. We manage through the first two rounds, deal a little damage and manage to lose and then regain a PC, and my Outcast manages to lose and then regain his weapon. Our combat leader, the Halfling, makes a great maneuver to add another couple of dice to my nature-channeling big shot. I end up rolling 16 dice and rolling well enough (against even at-best odds) to score a victory with a ton of compromise. In order to shield the party from a ton of bad consequences, and to save the girl, one of the PCs volunteers to sacrifice their PC to be a new vessel. What a finale! Anyway, it was great.
 

So, @pemerton, what are your thoughts on the slightly non-canonical milieu (Greyhawk vs the assumed 'Post Apocalyptic Far North'). I think the assumed milieu pretty obviously plays into the "harsh world" thing, as canonically civilization (and possibly humanity) are 'on the outs'. You can't easily survive outside of civilized areas, and those are pretty restricted in scope (IE you're stuck dealing with town, or else you're out in the wilds, and pretty much doomed to eventual death). While some areas of Greyhawk might be deemed as rather harsh, it generally carries more of a tone of an ongoing vital civilization, albeit one in which PCs may find their lot is less than great. I wonder how the difference would affect the outcome of a longer campaign. Obviously a single short adventure is not so deeply related to the overall context to make a lot of difference, but I can imagine there would be a lot more scope for high level adventurers to operate in Greyhawk generally.
 

pemerton

Legend
@AbdulAlhazred, I chose the Bandit Kingdoms and environs as a starting point. The Elven PCs are from the Fellreev Forest, the Forgotten Temple Complex is on the borderlands of the Pale, etc. That's reasonably far north, and I don't think departs hugely from the feel of Thor's map in the front of the Scholar's Guide.

Where I suspect we did depart from the assumed default is in the density of landmarks etc for calculating journey toll. Two toll from the adventure site to the bustling metropolis is probably generous. But I doubt it will actually break the game!
 

@AbdulAlhazred, I chose the Bandit Kingdoms and environs as a starting point. The Elven PCs are from the Fellreev Forest, the Forgotten Temple Complex is on the borderlands of the Pale, etc. That's reasonably far north, and I don't think departs hugely from the feel of Thor's map in the front of the Scholar's Guide.

Where I suspect we did depart from the assumed default is in the density of landmarks etc for calculating journey toll. Two toll from the adventure site to the bustling metropolis is probably generous. But I doubt it will actually break the game!
Well, landmarks in Greyhawk, outside of the very most core areas around Greyhawk itself, are pretty sparse. I mean, presumably if you have access to a lot of the old 'Living Greyhawk' and whatnot there are a lot more 'official' details than the Darlene Map, but I was never that into it. I don't think 'density' really matters anyway, its all just relative mechanical whatever. A 'leg' could be 2 miles or 200, it is really not going to change anything much.

Greyhawk, OVERALL, just has the genre conception of 'big heroes', half the countries are clearly run by adventurers (maybe a lot more than that, lol). Its a land where you pick up a sword and head off with some companions into the boonies and come back rich, famous, and powerful (or maybe you die, but nobody remembers those guys). Rather different from the grim "you are almost surely doomed" TB2 vibe. Not to mention that in TB2 it is, canonically, pretty explicit that ALL OF SOCIETY is doomed. The monsters aren't just nasties out in boonies to be cleared out, they COMING, they intend to, and WILL end civilization, and its pretty well acknowledged this is how things will end (I mean unless something even more dire transpires first). That's why I wonder if Greyhawk can sustain the same sort of high level play that stock TB evokes. I'm sure you can make Greyhawk grimmer! Iuz is unstoppable, its just a matter of time, etc. (depends on the timeframe you take for your Greyhawk I guess).
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top