Torchbearer 2nd ed: first impressions

Easy for you to say. I'm the one being rushed by hungry feral kids with knives while holding a bloody newborn I just ripped from the belly of their dead den mother!
Sounds like maybe our side of this should be a Convince, lol. Bloody Jasper holds up the wiggling newborn, "BEHOLD THE BLOOD PRINCE! All hail!" (or I guess you could go with a different spin on that, but...).
 

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pemerton

Legend
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!
Not really, because BW doesn't use a "generic", shared-stakes conflict resolution system. There is Duel of Wits for talking, Range and Cover for missiles and skirmishing (and it can also be adapted to mass combat, although Luke recently released a set of warfare rules closely resembling the Torchbearer ones in the LMM), and Fight! as the equivalent of the D&D combat rules.

The only way I've seen this sort of mismatch issue come up is expressly covered by a rule (and interestingly there is a similar rule in HeroQuest revised): if someone throws a punch or swings a sword, to turn it into a versus test you must declare something that can handle that (eg parry or dodge or whatever). There is no opposing a kill-intent-type check with a talk-y action.
 



So just to be clear, you can't change the GM's intent when you get a Twist into a Conflict.

The GM gets to choose the Conflict type. If I choose Kill Conflict, I've escalated to violence and that is that. If you want to diffuse the situation without killing your opposition, you're going to have to do it physically (via Fleeing or Capturing or Driving Off). After this conflict is over and you've changed the situation sufficiently (by winning the conflict), now you can dictate terms and parley (or whatever). Maybe you've retreated to a terrain position where I can't attack you. Maybe you have captured my guys. Whatever. Now you can dictate terms and parley or suss out if this is a cult and the leader is possessed and you want to perform an exorcism...again, whatever.

This is different than if you guys initiate the Conflict OR if I give you rights to establish the Conflict type on a Twist to Conflict. In that case, like when we did the Supernatural to Flee conflict in the first Adventure, if you guys decide you want to do something else halfway (like Fleeing instead of continuing a Bind/Abjure/Banish ritual), then > we resolve the round we're on > you suck up any concession you have to make due your disposition loss to this point relative to your total, and > we start a new conflict (like Flee).

But like anything else it has to be supported by prior play and the rules. If you've slaughtered my people and I want vengeance (eg I'm not a coward) or our Precedence differential yields insurmountable status, you can't just transition from (to use Dogs parlance) "guns" to "just talkin'."
 

Greg K

Hero
I don't know much about Torchbearer other than what I learned fromsome Youtube unboxing and review videos plus several posts that I have read in this thread. The impression I get is that it is focused on staying alive, getting treasure to increase one's status, and the choices character's make. To enforce this in play, you have the Adventure Phase, Camp Phase, and Going to Town/Leaving Town.
Is it focused on dungeon delving and survival or can the mechanics also support a session or two of courtly intrigue and investigations? For example, a party returning to the castle where a character grew up as a servant and find the character, in his absence, was framed for a crime and the party needs to uncover who framed him and prove his innocence.
 

I don't know much about Torchbearer other than what I learned fromsome Youtube unboxing and review videos plus several posts that I have read in this thread. The impression I get is that it is focused on staying alive, getting treasure to increase one's status, and the choices character's make. To enforce this in play, you have the Adventure Phase, Camp Phase, and Going to Town/Leaving Town.
Is it focused on dungeon delving and survival or can the mechanics also support a session or two of courtly intrigue and investigations? For example, a party returning to the castle where a character grew up as a servant and find the character, in his absence, was framed for a crime and the party needs to uncover who framed him and prove his innocence.
Well, there's a genre/tone kind of thing there. I mean, YES, you could certainly do various types of conflicts and the location isn't super important. The game focuses a lot on characters in this harsh sort of world where they are kind of dregs of society and are clearly expected to spend a lot of their time out in the boonies digging around in dark places. So, some things are missing that you might want to have as tools in, say an intrigue focused campaign. That is, you don't have any way of increasing your character's Precedence (aside from a modest increase you get from leveling up). I'd expect if intrigue and social combat was central that there would be more focus on how that impacts your status and such. I mean, you can gain enemies and friends, and your circles and resources ratings can change, so its not like there's NOTHING there, but I would say an adventure like you are describing would be more of a variation on the usual fare. You can do it, and I'd think something like that will come up now and then, but it isn't a focus.
 

kenada

Legend
For example, a party returning to the castle where a character grew up as a servant and find the character, in his absence, was framed for a crime and the party needs to uncover who framed him and prove his innocence.
This sounds suspiciously like trying to impose a plot on TB, which it’s not really designed to do.
 

Greg K

Hero
@AbdulAlhazred and @kenada

thank you for your replies. I understood the game to be about being dregs and spending their time exploring and trying to survive"dark places". I was wondering how focused it was on those things or if it could do more outside that as my players like to do more than spend their time "in dark places". They like to explore the land, occasionally deal with other matters related to character backstories. For example. lowly court servant PC, who escapes to adventurer leaving behind their love, and later returns to find they were framed for a crime by someone whom had eyes on their love and having to set things right.

So, essentially, I was tryinng to get a clearer idea if Torchbearer would be the right game for my group. One review mentioned that Social Conflict is handled like normal conflict and that while adventuring there is a clock (?) that opposes conditions. So, I was wondering if the game could handle the party returning to the castle and, as the party tries to clear their friends name, the clock could be used to impose some kind of relevant conditions as time gets closer to the PC's sentencing.

From your replies, I am guessing that I and my players would be better served by another game.

.
 
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@AbdulAlhazred and @kenada

thank you for your replies. I understood the game to be about being dregs and spending their time exploring and trying to survive"dark places". I was wondering how focused it was on those things or if it could do more outside that as my players like to do more than spend their time "in dark places". They like to explore the land, occasionally deal with other matters related to character backstories. For example. lowly court servant PC, who escapes to adventurer leaving behind their love, and later returns to find they were framed for a crime by someone whom had eyes on their love and having to set things right.

So, essentially, I was tryinng to get a clearer idea if Torchbearer would be the right game for my group. One review mentioned that Social Conflict is handled like normal conflict and that while adventuring there is a clock (?) that opposes conditions. So, I was wondering if the game could handle the party returning to the castle and, as the party tries to clear their friends name, the clock could be used to impose some kind of relevant conditions as time gets closer to the PC's sentencing.

From your replies, I am guessing that I and my players would be better served by another game.

.
To a degree it depends on what 'phase' action happens during. In adventure phase each action a party member takes advances the grind. Every 4 ticks of the grind imposes a condition on each PC (which is normally Hungry/Thirsty, which you then immediately cure by eating or drinking, which itself doesn't use any grind). Once you run out of water/rations then eventually you would start accumulating nastier conditions, though adventures IME have not lasted long enough for much of that to happen so far. Now, if you are in 'town phase' then there's not a grind, but instead there's lifestyle cost. So, if a castle is a civilized place, then it might count as 'town' (there are several subtypes of towns). Conflicts and such can certainly happen inside the town, so in TB you'd have to choose which phase is in force, which changes the overall turn/exploration type mechanics considerably (and town is mostly intended to be a place where you rest, though most anything COULD happen there).

TB2 is a pretty Narratively focused and player focused game which is not much about 'setting tourism' IMHO. The intent is for there to be pretty much constant pressure on the PCs. You don't normally 'wander around looking for stuff to do' all that much, trouble finds you! If nothing else, then something your character cares about is likely to be threatened soon. At the least you are required to have goals, instincts, a creed, friends/enemies (usually), family (optional but often present), etc. Best case you are low on torches and food pretty soon, or lifestyle cost is threatening to jack way beyond what you can pay and you need to go out looking for coins and such so you can feed yourself. Life is never easy, So, the story you outlined could well happen. The lover could be a 'friend', mechanically, and the castle a 'town', etc.

Conflicts are all handled using a similar system, though it has somewhat different parameters depending on the type of challenge. It could be a fight, kill/capture/drive off, or a convince (social), and there are a couple other types. Conflicts are a bit like melee in some other games, more abstract than 5e, but there's a rough analogy. Each side picks tactics, etc. and then stuff happens, wash, rinse, repeat. I'd note that TB is not super intent on any kind of 'simulationist' approach to things, its a game, and the fiction is important and feeds back into mechanics, but it isn't as cut and dried as D&D where each attack roll is definitely a specific type of individual action against a specific target.
 



I don't know much about Torchbearer other than what I learned fromsome Youtube unboxing and review videos plus several posts that I have read in this thread. The impression I get is that it is focused on staying alive, getting treasure to increase one's status, and the choices character's make. To enforce this in play, you have the Adventure Phase, Camp Phase, and Going to Town/Leaving Town.
Is it focused on dungeon delving and survival or can the mechanics also support a session or two of courtly intrigue and investigations? For example, a party returning to the castle where a character grew up as a servant and find the character, in his absence, was framed for a crime and the party needs to uncover who framed him and prove his innocence.

I apologize. I forgot to reply to this.

So a few thoughts/examples:

1) Play is certainly about “survival against a hostile, mythological world bent on laying you low” but it’s also about:

* Fighting for what you Believe.

* Struggling with your Creed.

* Aiding/being aided by/confronting your Friend, Family, Hometown, Mentor, Enemy and making new Friends and Enemies.

2) The way significant game content can manifest in Town is the following:

* Fallout from a Town Events Roll as you enter.

* Fallout from an Adventure you just took on and resolved or didn’t (and the implications that has on Town or the denizens therein).

* Personal Business in Town (which has an associated Lifestyle Cost; this is something you must manage and resolve when you leave Town). What you could do might directly lead to a Test with rather significant (to both the shared fiction and the gamestate) stakes or a Twist from a failed Test might lead to a spiraling Conflict or the players might directly invoke a Conflict themselves (Conflicts lead to getting what you want, or not, or getting what you want with a little or a lot of fallout…and that could lead to snowballing content).

3) So the orientation to Town phase for the GM is not at all Traditional. I’m following the procedures and I’m following the players around and we’re resolving their Town moves within very codified, principally-guided and constrained structure.

So physical, spiritual, or social conflict might break out (Convince, Convince Crowd, Kill, Banish/Disrupt Banishment, Flee/Pursue), but it’s always (a) Events Table related (procedures) or (b) player-invoked and resolved (and now it’s either get what you want or things get complicated).

4) As to what you’re invoking? Honestly, I could see it happening due to some chain like -

Town Events Roll in Hometown gone bad > a snowballing series of Personal Business Tests (involving Circles, Scholar and various and sundry other means/resources). This is pretty much quintessential Story Now and procedural snowballing. The GM doesn’t unilaterally conceive and deploy in (Home)Town the kind of “resolve the intrigue/mystery” metaplot that it seems like you might be invoking? Again, something kindred can emerge, but (a) the introduction of and resolution of the content and the orientation of the participants to it is quite different than in Trad D&D.

This could lead to a “Social Crawl” at an Adventure Site (eg The Castle) in Town (Loremaster’s Manual discusses this).

It’s just that “getting there” is not Traditional in the slightest and neither is resolving it (a Social Crawl at The Castle would still entail the Adventure Design for a Wilderness or Ruins Crawl and The Grind would be in play the same…Camp phase would be a respite that has to be reskinned a little bit; Survival wouldn’t be the move to resolve the surveiling for the respite and the amenities sought would be different as would Camp Events Table).
 



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