Torchbearer 2nd ed: first impressions

niklinna

Snickers satisfies!
Its really as simple as this. The Familiar will give you more breadth of competency in terms of the groups' capability of positively resolving a variety of conflicts (more Help overall for and more cross-conflict competency). Your extra spell slot will give you a greater chance of having a specific answer to a specific problem and open up your move space a little bit when it comes to obstacle approach. Which of those two do you value more?
Well again, the tricky part is that my past experience of familiars in that other game have kind of soured me on them. I think I need to review the 2nd-circle spells again to see what options one of those would open up. And of course, get one of them!
Any other thoughts on last night's session? On your PC Paying the Terrible Price and the consequences upon your play and play generally?
I had mixed feelings about reviving Jasper so quickly, but given the context, with the valkyrie just having been awakened, there was some juicy story stuff to motivate it. Mechanically, it's quite interesting. I had 1 advance in a couple of skills, so with Nature now reduced to 1, they bumped up to rank 2 right away. I'll be strongly motivated to use Beginner's Luck. I'll be motivated to use Nature, too, but only for the two descriptors I have left, and who knows how often those are likely to come up? In any case, it seems there's a strong argument to make for a near-death experience in this game.
 

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niklinna

Snickers satisfies!
Oh also, I'm not a fan of level 3 traits. I much prefer adding a die to my test, even at only 1–2 uses, which improves my odds of succeeding, than bumping tied or successful rolls by 1 success, which is only going to matter in a versus test.
 
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kenada

Legend
Supporter
@AbdulAlhazred and @kenada , any new thoughts come to mind about last night's session (system, your play, your collective play)?
We were able to accomplish a lot with a few Good Ideas, but it seemed like we ran into a wall where the only way for the weather to change was to advance The Grind. That felt a bit awkward — like the careful balance of mechanics was a bit off and not working right.
 

Oh also, I'm not a fan of level 3 traits. I much prefer adding a die to my test, even at only 1–2 uses, which improves my odds of succeeding, than bumping tied or successful rolls by 1 success, which is only going to do that in a versus test.

I get your position (truly). But consider Wizard-Sight in Spiritual Conflicts or any conflict where you use a spell to
sub Arcanist for x (eg Fight) where MoS is everything.

Also consider spells where you get +
Effect based on MoS.

And we’ve already discussed Tie-breaking (we’ve had 4 consequential tie-breaks in the last few sessions).

We were able to accomplish a lot with a few Good Ideas, but it seemed like we ran into a wall where the only way for the weather to change was to advance The Grind. That felt a bit awkward — like the careful balance of mechanics was a bit off and not working right.

Hmmmm…let me break out my thoughts on that sequence:

* Turns aren’t a static amount of time. They could be a moment, an hour, or even days of trekking. The consequential thing about Turns is that they are chunky moments of effort/resolution where a matrix/layered decision-points intersect to move play forward. In order for play to have perpetual teeth, this needs to be well GMed and well played.

* We have an opportunity (a cache) you guys want to explore in a wilderness environment prone to terrible weather. The effort to resolve this opportunity is, on its face, cumbersome in terms of effort and time (sawing through a thick sheet of ice in a frozen environment at great altitude and exposure).

Most courses of action include significant time so need to have a weather roll like Journey to determine if we have complicating factors/consequence space. However, there would be a few that aren’t time-intensive you might think of (eg deploying a bomb) that wouldn’t constitute a complicating weather roll but would constitute (a) a higher Ob by default and (b) a particular type of consequence-space on a “failure.”

* You guys decide to go with the safer, more likely to yield success move, but it brings in the volatility of the weather.

That volatility went “gong” in a big way (bringing increased factor and brutal consequence-space).

You can still make your test in the Thundersnow Storm, but you have to deal with the +1 Factor and worsened consequence-space. You would be assuming this risk in exchange for not having to spend a Turn to hunker down (and not make a test in a fictional positioning that warranted one; eg one where “cave in granite face” wasn’t established).




Ok, take the above.

Now imagine that the game didn’t require either/or/both (a) a Survivalist move + Turn to find a place to hunker down and wait out the storm to proceed with your plan or (b) hunkering down in the nearby already-established cave (no Survivalist test) but + Turn + dealing with whatever is in the cave.

If you don’t have the above, you entirely lose the teeth/consequential components of you guys’ collective OODA Loop and resolution (your weather roll). Skilled Play becomes irrelevant because the factors that are by default baked into your situation and the factors you brought in via your final decision-point (bringing in the volatility of the weather - with attendant prospects for factors and consequence-space - in exchange for a more efficacious move + less potent consequence-space) are rendered irrelevant (color).


Does that make sense?
 
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niklinna

Snickers satisfies!
I get your position (truly). But consider Wizard-Sight in Spiritual Conflicts or any conflict where you use a spell to
sub Arcanist for x (eg Fight) where MoS is everything.

Also consider spells where you get +
Effect based on MoS.

And we’ve already discussed Tie-breaking (we’ve had 4 consequential tie-breaks in the last few sessions).
Oh I do appreciate the benefits of level 3 traits. Level 3 is just so different from what I had before—it isn't a direct enhancement, after all—that I am also keenly aware of the loss. :)
 

Its really as simple as this. The Familiar will give you more breadth of competency in terms of the groups' capability of positively resolving a variety of conflicts (more Help overall for and more cross-conflict competency). Your extra spell slot will give you a greater chance of having a specific answer to a specific problem and open up your move space a little bit when it comes to obstacle approach. Which of those two do you value more?

Any other thoughts on last night's session? On your PC Paying the Terrible Price and the consequences upon your play and play generally?

@AbdulAlhazred and @kenada , any new thoughts come to mind about last night's session (system, your play, your collective play)?
It was a bit unfortunate that our camp situation didn't let me deploy my instinct. I could really use more points. I sort of feel like I am falling a bit short in play. Awanye has certainly contributed, OTOH it feels a bit like the really big moments have belonged to Js. Like, TB2 rewards playing in a very showy sort of way more than maybe just playing as a steady but less showy contributor? I mean, honestly its not really an ISSUE in that some of it is pure happenstance and we haven't played a ton yet (this was what, session 5?). However I could see where certain types of player might just not come out well in this game. You really need to want to push to be THE PROTAGONIST at least some of the time...
 

We were able to accomplish a lot with a few Good Ideas, but it seemed like we ran into a wall where the only way for the weather to change was to advance The Grind. That felt a bit awkward — like the careful balance of mechanics was a bit off and not working right.
Yeah, while I certainly have no issue in a basic pure gamist sense with the grind; it is one of those things that in practice is rather klunky. I mean, its no more of an abstraction, I suppose, than combat rounds, hit points, etc. in D&D (as an example) but it can yield some of the same sorts of issues when it comes to how you build your narrative off that. Like, you can journey for several days without any grind at all, and then spend an hour doing something substantive and all of a sudden you're burning up light source time. I have mixed feelings. It seems necessary in TB2's terms to have some objective way to deal with time progressing. OTOH I wish there was a way that was a bit less forced.
 

It was a bit unfortunate that our camp situation didn't let me deploy my instinct. I could really use more points. I sort of feel like I am falling a bit short in play. Awanye has certainly contributed, OTOH it feels a bit like the really big moments have belonged to Js. Like, TB2 rewards playing in a very showy sort of way more than maybe just playing as a steady but less showy contributor? I mean, honestly its not really an ISSUE in that some of it is pure happenstance and we haven't played a ton yet (this was what, session 5?). However I could see where certain types of player might just not come out well in this game. You really need to want to push to be THE PROTAGONIST at least some of the time...

Specifically last night, that was the case of having a safe camp site prior due to the constituent elements of the fiction leading to that part (which in turn makes the pre-Camp Survivalist Test in the Adventuring phase - which is what your Instinct is for - unnecessary). This is the first time that has happened (and it doesn't happen often at all).

Generally, the problem that you guys are having with that is one of build. (a) I don't think the other players were even aware that this was your Instinct until last week + (b) Jakob actually has a higher Survivalist Skill than Awanye (so he has made that test in the past as a result).

So the top was just circumstance (and rare one at that). The other part is clarity of build capacity and group synergy + specific build dynamics. Given the situation, it seems the following few Instinct changes might be apt:

* Always find or make shelter when we're making Camp. This will do the following: Split duties between you and Jakob when making Camp, thereby lower that Ob by 1 (thereby reducing the prospect of Condition/Twist) and always give you guys that +1 to Camp Events Table (on top of your +1 from Ranger that is always a +2).

* Always Scout out an unfamiliar area (just like it sounds).

* (at level 3) Always sing the Ancient Song of Soothing to heal a friend in Camp. This would let you automatically let you use your Nature 4 (5 when restored) and +2d for each allies help (they have Survivalist and Alchemist) to "treat" a friend of a Condition in camp (using the Healing Factors). This is mega powerful and thematic for Rangers.
 

niklinna

Snickers satisfies!
Yeah, while I certainly have no issue in a basic pure gamist sense with the grind; it is one of those things that in practice is rather klunky. I mean, its no more of an abstraction, I suppose, than combat rounds, hit points, etc. in D&D (as an example) but it can yield some of the same sorts of issues when it comes to how you build your narrative off that. Like, you can journey for several days without any grind at all, and then spend an hour doing something substantive and all of a sudden you're burning up light source time. I have mixed feelings. It seems necessary in TB2's terms to have some objective way to deal with time progressing. OTOH I wish there was a way that was a bit less forced.
Agreed. The tone/mood engendered by the Grind is really cool, but its artificial nature is always apparent. And we've also managed to de-fang it a little bit by just making camp any time we hit Grind 3. I'm sure that won't continue working, though...and it doesn't help us preserve our light & food.
 

Oh I do appreciate the benefits of level 3 traits. Level 3 is just so different from what I had before—it isn't a direct enhancement, after all—that I am also keenly aware of the loss. :)
One compensating factor is going to be the Respite, which comes with the promise of potentially gaining new traits, which will have the level 1or level 2 options. Given that traits are FAIRLY open ended, it makes sense, you might not have EXACTLY the same move space available, but whatever it is will be close to the same, or at least equally likely to factor into the game in your favor.
 

Specifically last night, that was the case of having a safe camp site prior due to the constituent elements of the fiction leading to that part (which in turn makes the pre-Camp Survivalist Test in the Adventuring phase - which is what your Instinct is for - unnecessary). This is the first time that has happened (and it doesn't happen often at all).

Generally, the problem that you guys are having with that is one of build. (a) I don't think the other players were even aware that this was your Instinct until last week + (b) Jakob actually has a higher Survivalist Skill than Awanye (so he has made that test in the past as a result).

So the top was just circumstance (and rare one at that). The other part is clarity of build capacity and group synergy + specific build dynamics. Given the situation, it seems the following few Instinct changes might be apt:

* Always find or make shelter when we're making Camp. This will do the following: Split duties between you and Jakob when making Camp, thereby lower that Ob by 1 (thereby reducing the prospect of Condition/Twist) and always give you guys that +1 to Camp Events Table (on top of your +1 from Ranger that is always a +2).

* Always Scout out an unfamiliar area (just like it sounds).

* (at level 3) Always sing the Ancient Song of Soothing to heal a friend in Camp. This would let you automatically let you use your Nature 4 (5 when restored) and +2d for each allies help (they have Survivalist and Alchemist) to "treat" a friend of a Condition in camp (using the Healing Factors). This is mega powerful and thematic for Rangers.
Yeah, that is a good point, and good ideas. We can discuss that in the discord as part of the whole question of getting up a 'posse' as well as our Respite, etc.
 

Agreed. The tone/mood engendered by the Grind is really cool, but its artificial nature is always apparent. And we've also managed to de-fang it a little bit by just making camp any time we hit Grind 3. I'm sure that won't continue working, though...and it doesn't help us preserve our light & food.
Well, we could lean into that tactic! I think what @Manbearcat is proposing as possible changes to Awanye's instinct would be one component of that. I mean, there are probably a few ways to build a super-effective party, but the "camp is a stupidly great option, do it as much as possible" is certainly one! I mean, if we can get a few bonuses into our camp events roll, especially if we can easily leverage NATURE there, then the threat of a 'dangerous camp' is a LOT less as well!

Although, I assume without actually researching it, that the GM is going to have some ways to push back on that, as more experienced adventurers certainly seem likely to optimize in this sort of way. Maybe camp DOES get overall safer, but when it goes wrong it goes HORRIBLY wrong. I guess the other option is the GM just cranks the story consequences of camping enough to balance things out (that seems a bit problematic in game design terms though).
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
Hmmmm…let me break out my thoughts on that sequence:

* Turns aren’t a static amount of time. They could be a moment, an hour, or even days of trekking. The consequential thing about Turns is that they are chunky moments of effort/resolution where a matrix/layered decision-points intersect to move play forward. In order for play to have perpetual teeth, this needs to be well GMed and well played.

* We have an opportunity (a cache) you guys want to explore in a wilderness environment prone to terrible weather. The effort to resolve this opportunity is, on its face, cumbersome in terms of effort and time (sawing through a thick sheet of ice in a frozen environment at great altitude and exposure).

Most courses of action include significant time so need to have a weather roll like Journey to determine if we have complicating factors/consequence space. However, there would be a few that aren’t time-intensive you might think of (eg deploying a bomb) that wouldn’t constitute a complicating weather roll but would constitute (a) a higher Ob by default and (b) a particular type of consequence-space on a “failure.”

* You guys decide to go with the safer, more likely to yield success move, but it brings in the volatility of the weather.

That volatility went “gong” in a big way (bringing increased factor and brutal consequence-space).

You can still make your test in the Thundersnow Storm, but you have to deal with the +1 Factor and worsened consequence-space. You would be assuming this risk in exchange for not having to spend a Turn to hunker down (and not make a test in a fictional positioning that warranted one; eg one where “cave in granite face” wasn’t established).




Ok, take the above.

Now imagine that the game didn’t require either/or/both (a) a Survivalist move + Turn to find a place to hunker down and wait out the storm to proceed with your plan or (b) hunkering down in the nearby already-established cave (no Survivalist test) but + Turn + dealing with whatever is in the cave.

If you don’t have the above, you entirely lose the teeth/consequential components of you guys’ collective OODA Loop and resolution (your weather roll). Skilled Play becomes irrelevant because the factors that are by default baked into your situation and the factors you brought in via your final decision-point (bringing in the volatility of the weather - with attendant prospects for factors and consequence-space - in exchange for a more efficacious move + less potent consequence-space) are rendered irrelevant (color).


Does that make sense?
It does and it doesn’t. Where I’m feeling a disconnect is whether our actions with the Orilsdottirs would count as consequential. We didn’t make any tests or have any conflicts! But we managed to deescalate and get them to allow us to stay in their caves. That struck me as the product of some Good Ideas, but maybe my impression was wrong? What stuck out to me was our reasoning for investigating the glyphs was purely mechanical: we needed to make a test to advance The Grind, which would end the weather. I understand that time is handled abstractly, but that’s my point: the abstraction appeared to leak.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
It was a bit unfortunate that our camp situation didn't let me deploy my instinct. I could really use more points. I sort of feel like I am falling a bit short in play. Awanye has certainly contributed, OTOH it feels a bit like the really big moments have belonged to Js. Like, TB2 rewards playing in a very showy sort of way more than maybe just playing as a steady but less showy contributor? I mean, honestly its not really an ISSUE in that some of it is pure happenstance and we haven't played a ton yet (this was what, session 5?). However I could see where certain types of player might just not come out well in this game. You really need to want to push to be THE PROTAGONIST at least some of the time...
I’ve noticed that too. I try to volunteer other players when I can think of something during end of session because it feels like Jakob is hoovering up all the points, but Jakob does manage to do a bunch of stuff because that tends to be how I play my characters. Honestly, I’m not a fan of MVP-style awards. 😕
 

It does and it doesn’t. Where I’m feeling a disconnect is whether our actions with the Orilsdottirs would count as consequential. We didn’t make any tests or have any conflicts! But we managed to deescalate and get them to allow us to stay in their caves. That struck me as the product of some Good Ideas, but maybe my impression was wrong? What stuck out to me was our reasoning for investigating the glyphs was purely mechanical: we needed to make a test to advance The Grind, which would end the weather. I understand that time is handled abstractly, but that’s my point: the abstraction appeared to leak.

Ah, I gotcha.

Yeah, the situation with Orilsdottirs was an outgrowth of (a) you spending 2 x resources (Rations) + (b) A Good Idea of invoking the Valkyrie AND showing them proof of Vidar's Edge + (c) your successful Persuader vs Persuader test (with the 2d from your resource expenditure). That culminated in the fictional positioning of "safe camp to wait out the storm."

As far as "the abstraction appeared to leak" because a weather table result + decision-point leads to accepting 1 Tick of the Grind in exchange for a "cleaned-up" (lets call it) move-space to extract the cache (as you guys wait out the storm). Well...that is just game engine stuff! We accept that to play at all!

And the decision to just let the Grind Tick as a function of time (while you wait out the weather) vs make a Test isn't consequence free. You accept the prospect of a Condition or a Twist when Jasper made that Loremaster Test. it just so happened that he succeeded!
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
Yeah, while I certainly have no issue in a basic pure gamist sense with the grind; it is one of those things that in practice is rather klunky. I mean, its no more of an abstraction, I suppose, than combat rounds, hit points, etc. in D&D (as an example) but it can yield some of the same sorts of issues when it comes to how you build your narrative off that. Like, you can journey for several days without any grind at all, and then spend an hour doing something substantive and all of a sudden you're burning up light source time. I have mixed feelings. It seems necessary in TB2's terms to have some objective way to deal with time progressing. OTOH I wish there was a way that was a bit less forced.
I also have mixed feelings. I prefer the way turns work in Molday Basic. Time progresses as you take actions, and it does not wait for you. It’s abstract, but it’s a pretty low-level abstraction. However, I don’t think that would work in Torchbearer. Having The Grind tick constantly would be very punishing. I also think it would be too procedural for the type of game TB is trying to be.
 

Agreed. The tone/mood engendered by the Grind is really cool, but its artificial nature is always apparent. And we've also managed to de-fang it a little bit by just making camp any time we hit Grind 3. I'm sure that won't continue working, though...and it doesn't help us preserve our light & food.

On this there are a few different factors:

1) You guys have played well. That counts (and should count...that is the point!). You have a group that is set up to typically get +2 or +4 to the Camp Table Roll and you've done well to pick your spots in the Grind to reset it post Camp. And don't forget that you have to earn Checks in order to initiate Camp phase at all. So its multiple factors converging here.

2) The Danger Level of your camp sites hasn't been on the high end and they've all been mostly wilderness (affording you the Rangers +1 bonus).

3) You guys haven't gotten unlucky on a Camp Events Table roll yet. Don't worry! Its coming! We'll see how you guys bounce back from Calamity then!
 


We had that really bad amenities check that ultimately ended in Jasper’s death, and our last camp completely flipped our impression of the Orilsdottirs. And it can get worse! 😂
Yeah, I think things can go bad quickly, though I would expect the bad situations are similar to the one that lead to Jasper's curse. That is, you are in bad shape and MUST camp; at least the alternatives are equally dangerous, and then there's a bad camp check, or one of the related checks brings down some bad consequence, etc. and at that point the party just death spirals. We have managed to avoid sinking into a really bad scenario so far, but I could see where every PC in the party has 4 conditions, there's no food left, the light is gone. Well, sure you can try to camp here... lol.
 

pemerton

Legend
A couple of thoughts/questions - I'll also summon @Manbearcat

The tone/mood engendered by the Grind is really cool, but its artificial nature is always apparent. And we've also managed to de-fang it a little bit by just making camp any time we hit Grind 3. I'm sure that won't continue working, though
I assume without actually researching it, that the GM is going to have some ways to push back on that
I assume that you're accruing checks to make those camps at Grind 3?

The techniques for GM push-back I can think of include the danger level of the camp, which penalises the camp events roll. If you're camping without having made the area safe, that seems like it might be a dangerous camp!

A question about weather: in one of the simulationism/gamism threads, Manbearcat has said that weather doesn't affect camps. But weather gives mods to recovery checks, which only happen in camp or in town. And it also gives mods to things like crossing rivers, etc, which might come up in the adventure phase but not as part of the toll-based journey procedure. So I have assumed that, once established by leaving town, weather is a thing that can bleed out of the journey and into the adventure and camp phases. When I posted a question about this on the BWHQ forums, I got a response (not from Luke or Thor) that suggested something similar.

But maybe that's a controversial approach?
 

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