Torchbearer 2nd ed: first impressions

About to GM Stonetop so just a few moments.

So they're folding in Camp Events (Wilderness or Squatting or anywhere outdoors) into the weather question we're having. So this isn't a discrete Weather Table move like in Journey or Adventure. Its folded into the Camp Events move that you can make and ameliorated via various means. Also, those are low, low, low, low, low on the Events Table so will be enormously rare to ever come up.

So, consequently, this strikes me as in pretty extreme tension with Process Simulation along multiple axes (its a an outgrowth of a Gamist Camp Events roll, enfolded with all kinds of other calamaties or purchase from them + where it lies on the table means it will very, very, very rarely come up).

If I was wanting an actual Process Simulation design here I would want (a) a discrete Weather Table roll (like in Journey/Adventure) and (b) the odds would be significantly higher of it hitting (if you're camping 4 hours in a place...the odds of the weather turning are pretty damn good!).

QUICK EDIT BEFORE I START PLAY - I hope its clear that I don't disapprove of the design choice of integrated Camp Events roll with a singular (or maybe dual...I can't remember) but very low hit for a weather event. I love the design. Its just not remotely Process Simulation for multiple reasons (hence why I didn't introduce it into the conversation because then I'd have to complicate things by unpacking that to folks who aren't playing the game).
 
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A couple of thoughts/questions - I'll also summon @Manbearcat


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?
Well, we mere players would not presume to judge how the GM did it! ;) (translation: I am WAY too lazy to dig that carefully around in the books, since I'm not running the game). I'd also say that weather would affect things like Survival checks made to establish a better camping location, etc. wouldn't it? I'm pretty sure we did run into that when we tried to camp on the mountain. That was the situation which evolved into Jasper getting cursed, which eventually lead to his briefly being dead (much later)! Also, since the twist for failing the check was a conflict, we ended up with a whole bunch of other rolls that were +1 Ob. In fact it was actually TWO conflicts. We were fairly lucky we came out of that in good enough shape to keep going.
 

About to GM Stonetop so just a few moments.

So they're folding in Camp Events (Wilderness or Squatting or anywhere outdoors) into the weather question we're having. So this isn't a discrete Weather Table move like in Journey or Adventure. Its folded into the Camp Events move that you can make and ameliorated via various means. Also, those are low, low, low, low, low on the Events Table so will be enormously rare to ever come up.

So, consequently, this strikes me as in pretty extreme tension with Process Simulation along multiple axes (its a an outgrowth of a Gamist Camp Events roll, enfolded with all kinds of other calamaties or purchase from them + where it lies on the table means it will very, very, very rarely come up).

If I was wanting an actual Process Simulation design here I would want (a) a discrete Weather Table roll (like in Journey/Adventure) and (b) the odds would be significantly higher of it hitting (if you're camping 4 hours in a place...the odds of the weather turning are pretty damn good!).

QUICK EDIT BEFORE I START PLAY - I hope its clear that I don't disapprove of the design choice of integrated Camp Events roll with a singular (or maybe dual...I can't remember) but very low hit for a weather event. I love the design. Its just not remotely Process Simulation for multiple reasons (hence why I didn't introduce it into the conversation because then I'd have to complicate things by unpacking that to folks who aren't playing the game).
Eh, it is enough to say that TB2, while it has things like a camp events check which COULD be misconstrued as being Process Simulation (or in this case 'World Sim') the game is making NO attempt to be realistic in any fashion. These events are simply a way of throwing curve balls at the PCs. You decide to camp, which has some positive effects for you, and in return you take a few risks, like Thunderhail or freezing rain, or more likely you'll get a nice friendly bear or something...
 

niklinna

Snickers satisfies!
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.
I assume that you're accruing checks to make those camps at Grind 3?

Not enough, but yes. We really need to get better at taking checks.
 

niklinna

Snickers satisfies!
Well tonight we had an interesting session. We had been on our way back to our previous adventure locale, to recover a bit of loot left behind and explore the region beyond, but on the way found a small group of cave-dwellers who had some prisoners who were in...bad shape. Lines & veils!

Anyhow, tonight we headed back to town to recruit a posse—but not into town as that would trigger town phase, which we were not prepared for. My character was Afraid and could not help or use Beginner's Luck. So we did a convince crowd conflict (and paid some cash) and were rewarded with the company of an officer who was along for glory but would not actually fight, and two guards. We did not accumulate any checks during the conflict. I thought about doing so at the beginning, but as I was also taking notes, that just got lost in the shuffle. We are really bad at taking checks!

Se we went back to the cave, had to tick the Grind a couple times just to get to the cave-dwellers. Our ranger took two checks to break a tie (finally!). There were 6 of them to fight against 4 capable fighters in our group (not including me, as my character still couldn't help!). Fortunately, our main fighter was able to do two incredible novas and take out all the foes, including the pregnant and near-term matriarch.

But then my character, whose Creed is "The innocent are worth protecting," rushed to do a C-section and deliver the baby. Of course the Obstacle was ridiculous and he failed the die roll (on which I took a check, knowing it was futile), resulting in a twist: Although I delivered the baby, all the feral children, seeing me go at the mother with a knife, grabbed knives of their own and rushed my character. Cut to title card—same time next week!

I gotta say, there are some aspects of conflicts I get, and a whole lot that just goes over my head. For some reason I can't follow the disposition of the NPCs at all. The idea of "weapons" in convince crowd conflicts also confused me at first. The "weapons" listed in the book (and there aren't many) each only have a benefit for a particular conflict action, but you have to have such a weapon to avoid a penalty with the others. It's starting to make sense, but at the time threw me for a loop.

I also wasn't expecting to have to do multiple checks to return to the cave when we'd already been there, and the system really was obtrusive there in that little clock time apparently passed but our torches were going. Still, the challenge was thick and when we did pull off that very skewed fight it was great! If only my character had been able to contribute....

But then he's back from the dead with a Nature of 1, so after one Beginner's Luck on Fighter, he'll have that rated at 2!

Too bad he's Afraid and unable to use Beginner's Luck....
 
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Cool, cool, cool. Alright, let me tease out mechanically what this all looks like:

* Maps - "Fast Travel" to Strond.

* 1 Turn/No Light spent - Strond (beyond the gates festival celebrating relighting brazier/Return of Valkyrie) - Convince Crowd Conflict. Concession for Precedence difference + Minor Concession. Non-fighting Captain + 2 Sentries w/ Ob2 Resource for first and 3 gold pin for other + Light Sources and standard Sentry loadout.

* Maps - "Fast Travel" up mountain to mountain redoubt; Orelsdottir Cave.

* 1 Turn/Light - Reindeer Obstacle at entry chamber (effectively an "alarm"). Nature - Success.

* 1 Turn/Light - Scout Test to sneak into Orelsdottir Living Quarters. Fail; Success w/ Condition (had multiple Twists in a row at this point and you guys were mostly Condition Free with a few having Fresh).

* 1 Turn/Light - Fighter vs Nature to take out sentinel w/ bow; Success.

* 1 Turn/Light - Kill Conflict declared by players. Order of Might same but 6 vs 4 disadvantage and terrain advantage for Team Monster (-1s Defend and Maneuver to close to melee w/ area rugs, refuse, potholes, privy in the middle of the room). Huge Feint vs Defend for Team PC (Defend Action Lost and Feint Independent Ob0) w/ massive Nova and overflow at 1st actions of round 3 (following big Defend move to Regroup end round 2). Minor Concession (barely; only 1 Disposition). Condition to Jakob.

* 1 Turn/No Light (C-section at Orelsdottir stanchion flame) - Healer; Failure. Twist to Kill Conflict w/ feral children.
 


How hardcore do you regard this as? (As opposed to, say, capture so the PCs can be sacrificed in an appropriate frenzied rite.)

Hardcore in terms of brutal imagined space/consequences or difficulty level?

In terms of imagined space/consequences, its pretty tough because (a) its a Creed problem for one of the PCs, (b) a Belief problem for another, and (c) the reality that the group "befriended" one of these feral children on their initial expedition into the cave (before they discovered the...let's just saw "awfulness" of this clan). If they do end up trying to and successfully sparing these feral children, they'll have to repatriate them back in Strond (problem).

In terms of difficulty, its more difficult than a Capture Conflict as these kids are Kill/Flee/Pursue as their primary Conflicts (so less Disposition and dice pool for Capture).

In terms of fiction, the Twist just made sense as abject bloodlust and loss of care for consequences given that the 7 adults of clan Orelsdottir were just slaughtered!

In terms of situation design, "feral kids w/ potent Capture conflict capacity and a PC being drug away to an appropriate frenzied rite on a concession" is awesome!
 

pemerton

Legend
@Manbearcat

I was meaning hardcore in terms of difficulty, and the risks that a kill conflict gives rise to (I've run kill conflicts in my limited time as a Torchbearer GM, but initiated by the players not me). I assume that the kids are Might 2, and so they have the possibility of getting a kill result against the PCs.
 

@Manbearcat

I was meaning hardcore in terms of difficulty, and the risks that a kill conflict gives rise to (I've run kill conflicts in my limited time as a Torchbearer GM, but initiated by the players not me). I assume that the kids are Might 2, and so they have the possibility of getting a kill result against the PCs.

Yup. Order of Might gives the PCs +1s but I'll be going for the throat here on concessions given the situation; Injury Minor Compromise and 1 PC Death on Half Compromise.

Neither of the PCs we've lost so far have been on Kill Conflicts, but we'll see how this sticky situation sorts out!
 

niklinna

Snickers satisfies!
In terms of imagined space/consequences, its pretty tough because (a) its a Creed problem for one of the PCs, (b) a Belief problem for another, and (c) the reality that the group "befriended" one of these feral children on their initial expedition into the cave (before they discovered the...let's just saw "awfulness" of this clan). If they do end up trying to and successfully sparing these feral children, they'll have to repatriate them back in Strond (problem).
I don't even know how that's an option in Torchbearer 2. We are in a kill conflict, we have to fight to the death, no? Or do we have the option on a victory of saying, well no, we don't kill them, even if they would have killed us.
 

pemerton

Legend
I don't even know how that's an option in Torchbearer 2. We are in a kill conflict, we have to fight to the death, no? Or do we have the option on a victory of saying, well no, we don't kill them, even if they would have killed us.
This is an interesting question - can the GM, having put killing on the table, allow the players to take it off (eg treat it, from their side, as a capture conflict, which is what @Manbearcat seems to be flagging).

My first-blush reading of the books is that the answer is "no", but maybe I'm wrong. A capture (rather than kill) result is one outcome the books flag for a major compromise in a kill conflict, but that seems to be on the premise that the other side is trying to kill. What if the other side is trying to capture?

I await Manbearcat's reply!
 

I don't even know how that's an option in Torchbearer 2. We are in a kill conflict, we have to fight to the death, no? Or do we have the option on a victory of saying, well no, we don't kill them, even if they would have killed us.

This is an interesting question - can the GM, having put killing on the table, allow the players to take it off (eg treat it, from their side, as a capture conflict, which is what @Manbearcat seems to be flagging).

My first-blush reading of the books is that the answer is "no", but maybe I'm wrong. A capture (rather than kill) result is one outcome the books flag for a major compromise in a kill conflict, but that seems to be on the premise that the other side is trying to kill. What if the other side is trying to capture?

I await Manbearcat's reply!

This has been a situation with Twists into a Conflict since TB1. The best practices I've always seen (and used) is that even though GM picks the Conflict type in a Twist, that basically just means "I have the initiative (not game jargon) so I get to dictate outright the intent of my team and bring in the mechanical consequences of that (eg play to the strong suits of my assets and bring in major consequences like in a Kill Conflict)." But the players don't lose their intent if it differs than mine. What they're losing is the ability to dictate the terms of the engagement (mechanical consequences and ramifications to concession-space inherent to the Conflict type).

So if their intent is to Drive-Off or Capture the kids and they reduce them to 0 disposition. Cool. But any concessions for their disposition loss will be on my terms (Kill conflict terms).

* And the intent situation still has to be evaluated against Order of Might/Precedence disparity.
 

pemerton

Legend
This has been a situation with Twists into a Conflict since TB1. The best practices I've always seen (and used) is that even though GM picks the Conflict type in a Twist, that basically just means "I have the initiative (not game jargon) so I get to dictate outright the intent of my team and bring in the mechanical consequences of that (eg play to the strong suits of my assets and bring in major consequences like in a Kill Conflict)." But the players don't lose their intent if it differs than mine. What they're losing is the ability to dictate the terms of the engagement (mechanical consequences and ramifications to concession-space inherent to the Conflict type).

So if their intent is to Drive-Off or Capture the kids and they reduce them to 0 disposition. Cool. But any concessions for their disposition loss will be on my terms (Kill conflict terms).

* And the intent situation still has to be evaluated against Order of Might/Precedence disparity.
That makes sense. So the GM still gets to use Kill parameters for their weapons too.

But the players would use the Capture parameters for their weapons? (Should these be different - I'm not thinking of swords but eg nets and pits.)
 

That makes sense. So the GM still gets to use Kill parameters for their weapons too.

But the players would use the Capture parameters for their weapons? (Should these be different - I'm not thinking of swords but eg nets and pits.)

I would sub "could" for "would" here. An interesting little artifact/side-effect of this kind of intent-disparity between the sides is the disposition abstraction gets opened up (HP = surviving aggression for your side and they = forestalling capture/drive-off on the other side) as well as the weapon-space for the players. I (the GM) get to dictate the terms of the engagement.my intent via the Conflict choice, but (assuming the fiction of the situation allows for it) the players' weapon-space is opened up a wee bit (spears still provide openings and shields still block while nets/traps ensnare and harangue).
 





Just as a comment on TB2; Because it attempts to make the fiction subject to the mechanics you run into these problems a lot where you follow a given mechanical process, but the fiction isn't really coherent with that. In some cases this is minor, torches last half a day sometimes, and 5 minutes other times can be pretty much just ignored, and you could certainly come up with some rationalization in any given case (IE some torches are just better than others). In other cases, like one side wants to capture, but the other declared a kill conflict, things kind of break down. I guess, again, you could simply go with the letter of the rules and simply answer it as "well, in the end it was kill or be killed."

As a point of interest, have you found this issue comes up in Burning Wheel generally? It seems like its a bit more flexible overall, but there might still be some corner cases at least!
 

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