Torchbearer 2nd ed Kickstarter

pemerton

Legend
There was a bit of discussion of this in a recent generic crowdfuding thread, but I though maybe it deserves its own thread - there is a new edition of Torchbearer coming out via Kickstarter: Torchbearer 2nd Edition.

Torchbearer is designed by the Burning Wheel team (Luke Crane, Thor Olavsrud, et al). I'm a huge Burning Wheel fan. BW is a fantasy RPG which emphasises emotionally intense play focused on character's trying and often failing to realise their goals and ideals; and which uses pretty crunchy subsystems to deliver on this. I've never played Torchbearer, so my description of it is based on reading play reports, Luke Crane's posts about the design process etc: it's a cross between pure BW and Moldvay-esque dungeoneering. So less melodrama but more logistically- and suspense-driven challenge.

There are plenty of ENworlders who know this system much better than me and can correct and/or elaborate on my description of it. I just thought it worthwhile to start a thread about it.
 

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There was a bit of discussion of this in a recent generic crowdfuding thread, but I though maybe it deserves its own thread - there is a new edition of Torchbearer coming out via Kickstarter: Torchbearer 2nd Edition.

It’s a cross between pure BW and Moldvay-esque dungeoneering. So less melodrama but more logistically- and suspense-driven challenge.

I’m looking forward to it as a big fan of Burning Wheel. My initial impression is that it’s very similar to BW, but with a very clear focus on dungeons, monsters, loot and light. Whereas BW is a broad and flexible system, and so relies on the group to establish the focus of play.

Old hands with Torchbearer can hopefully chime in...
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
Yeah, I’m hoping some folks who are familiar will jump in to share their thoughts. I’m familiar with the first edition in name only, really. I’d consider getting this through the KS but I’d love to hear more.
 



Overall, as I review it, it feels more like an "Expansion (and some simultaneous contraction) and Clarification" than a "Revised." I mean I guess, taken as a whole, that does qualify as a "Revised!"

But I'm not privy to everything yet.

I'm curious about tons of things, but just a couple things that I'm curious about to focus conversation:

Creed

No analogue in Mouse Guard or Torchbearer. This is, presumably, the aggregate of your Beliefs. Your entire ethos. "Embody your Creed through a crisis and be rewarded."

You earn Fate and Persona by Acting on or Playing Against a Belief.

How does Creed interface with this?

Is it something wholly different from Beliefs then (rather than the aggregate of them)?

Seems so. Maybe at end of session there is a group collective of each player's Creed and, if the table feels that the PC embodied their creed for that session, they get a free mark of the Total Spent (Fate and Persona) column (which is basically your XP track for level advancement).

Seems likely.

Base Camp

This could be absolutely super cool and I've got faith in Thor and Luke to pull this off. My thoughts roughly:

1) My guess is that the play loop is going to be the same as Camp (not going to break all of that down here, but its basically Recovery + Downtime stuff).

2) However, its going to (a) involve a hefty decision-point regarding resource expenditure to attain and maintain and (b) a Twist will put you in a Conflict (there are interesting new Conflicts) that could cause calamity for your Base Camp.

Feels a bit Blades in the Dark inspired.

To be honest, my guess is that a fair amount of the subtle changes that we're going to see will be a little bit Blades in the Dark inspired.

I'll have more thoughts later, but if folks want to talk about those two things, I think that would be a nice place to start.
 

Archade

Azer Paladin
I played the original Torchbearer! Interesting inventory system to get away from bookkeeping and minutae (you can have up to 10 things) and the magic system was built on combining building blocks ... will be interesting to see what they come out with for 2nd ed!
 

Folks who haven't played Torchbearer or Mouse Guard should ask some questions about what to expect from Torchbearer 2.

I'd gladly answer those. I think that might be more helpful than me just writing things that interest me personally (because (a) that may not interest others and (b) they may not possess the context to understand why I find it interesting).

So ask questions!

What specifically are folks curious about? The more specific the question, the better (feel free to relate to to any version of D&D or Dungeon World or some other game that you're familiar with).
 

What specifically are folks curious about? The more specific the question, the better (feel free to relate to to any version of D&D or Dungeon World or some other game that you're familiar with).

So, does the game rely on a GM pre-building a dungeon which the PCs explore? If so, how does the game make the dungeon relevant for the characters?
If not, how do you end up dungeon crawling without a dungeon?
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
What specifically are folks curious about? The more specific the question, the better (feel free to relate to to any version of D&D or Dungeon World or some other game that you're familiar with).

Does Torchbearer have a core mechanic that’s easily described?

Are there traditional elements such as Hit Points and Armor Class? Any other D&D based rules or mechanics?

My group is very D&D focused so I’m curious how much of a learning curve there would be.
 

pemerton

Legend
Does Torchbearer have a core mechanic that’s easily described?

Are there traditional elements such as Hit Points and Armor Class? Any other D&D based rules or mechanics?

My group is very D&D focused so I’m curious how much of a learning curve there would be.
I think I can answer this by drawing on my BW-wise.

The core mechanic is rolling a dice pool (rarely fewer than 2 dice, rarely more than 6 dice) with 4+ on d6 as a success. A certain number of successes is required - the target number of successess is called an obstacle, and ranges from 1 (easy) to 3-ish (where challenging begins) to 10 (the normal max, and pretty hard to achieve).

Injury in BW is via debuff. There are no hp or equivalent. Torchbearer seems to have a more formalised system of conditions, but there won't be hp.

Defence in BW is a mixture of parry/dodge (as opposed check, a bit like Runequest) and armour is a separate die pool rolled against an obstacle (the better the attacking weapons "versus armour", the higher that obstacle) to negate the damage that would otherwise be incoming. BW also has less complex resolution for combat where armour can factor as a buff on defence or debuff to attack instead. I would expect Torchbearer to use something in one of these neighbourhoods.

In BW the only thing that is D&D-basedis that a wizard's spells are discrete abilities that must be separately learned. (But casting itself is fatigue-based, not slot or point based.) I wouldn't expect Torchbearer to be much closer to D&D mechanically. But the tropes are there: halfling burglars, human wizards etc. (There are previews on the KS site that give some info about them.)

EDIT: just read @Archade's post. In BW gear is often quite important, but there's no inventory/encumbrance system. Common sense prevails.

I don't know much about Torchbearer's system. but I think it might remind you a little bit of BitD - I would guess that it hasn't got the freewheeling "flashback" aspect, but that it does make inventory "slots" and their management quite important. Almost certainly far more playable than D&D-style weight/load encumbrance.
 


So, does the game rely on a GM pre-building a dungeon which the PCs explore? If so, how does the game make the dungeon relevant for the characters?
If not, how do you end up dungeon crawling without a dungeon?

Think of it as sort of a mash-up between Moldvay Basic and Blades in the Dark's Scores and Clocks.

Like Moldvay, the GM builds themed Adventuring Sites (that Torchbearer gives a very good procedure for, both in generating coherent theme, interesting hook, provocative obstacles, and balance for the game's delving machinery). The GM Adventuring Sites are meant to test the player's and PC's skill (Traits, Abilities, Skills, Wises and the players' guile and moxie) and the characters' mettle (in this case Belief, Goal, Instinct, Nature, and now Creed). Not every dungeon is going to be themed for all players, but there should be Obstacles and Twists that are "personal" in some way.

In the Town phase (Information Gathering/Free Play in Blades), the players investigate prospective Adventuring Sites and prepare for the coming adventure (assets, loadout, etc).

There is a high resolution map for an Adventuring Site. There is a set number of base problems/Obstacles based on whether its small and easy, moderate (size and difficulty), or huge and brutal. There is a set number of Obstacle difficulty (should always be a few low tier obstacles, one TPK-ish obstacle, with all the rest, the bulk of them, moderately difficult).

Every problem/Obstacle in the Adventuring Site should have multiple ways of approaching it (2 minimum but typically 3+ with the GM being open to new ideas).

Then...you have the emergent stuff that changes the course of play; the "Wandering Monsters" and Blades' Complication equivalent; Twists. These come as a product of the action resolution mechanics and the Conflict mechanics. The book provides you generic ones that you can basically pick from a list on a per theme basis or you can make your own or make them up on the spot (a la PBtA and FitD games and D&D 4e and Cortex+ etc). For instance, here is one under a few headers:

Personal Twists

* You find something in your pack that absolutely should not be there

Monster Twists

* You find the creature grieving for its lost young

Dungeon Twists

* Lava. That's right, lava.

Wilderness Twists

* You take a wrong turn into a familiar area, but something has changed.

Talking Twists

* He feels great sadness and remorse, even though he did nothing and is blameless

There's also Magic, Prayer, and Adventuring Prospecting Twists as well.


When these things emerge, they change the situation significantly, alter the stakes of the whole Op/Score/Delve (because they can snowball) and many times (like with normal Obstacles/problems) cause the Conflict mechanics to be engaged (which can result in a further Twist).

In the course of any given adventure, almost all of those important character aspects above will be tested, Conditions will accrue, and characters will change forevermore (if they survive the Op/Score/Delve).
 

@hawkeyefan

@pemerton addressed your core question there. I agree with him that it is very, very much like Blades in most ways. Like Blades (and unlike something like AW), I wouldn't say there is a "core mechanic". There are several very important core mechanics that all interact elegantly, with careful design to create a very brutal and testing play. Just like Blades you've got phases of play that look almost exactly the same; Town phase is Op-prospecting like Information Gathering/Free play > Adventure is Score > Camp and Town again are basically Downtime. If there is a "core" aspect of those two games, I would call that it. Then both games share Conflict mechanics (Blades would be Clocks while TB is Conflict), basic action resolution that yields Success, Major Complication, or Success With Complication (Blades is Action Roll and TB is Tests/Obstacles). Then they each have a whole suite of beautifully integrated attrition/wear-down mechanics and PC build/resource-leveraging/tapping mechanics that let you test/push yourself, etc.

@Manbearcat, I don't know anyting about Creed other than what you've posted. But to me it sounds like an analogue of alignment.

Yup. Exactly.

I've just checked out the character sheet. Under Creed for this particular character it says:

Endure a moral test driven by your creed and earn a Persona point.

So, yeah. Its basically Alignment/ethos for Persona.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
Thanks guys for the clarification. It sounds like it’ll be up my alley, so I’m gonna go ahead and back it. Just have to figure out at what level....
 

I've thought on this a bit more (the "core mechanic"). Beyond all of what I said above, if I were to describe Torchbearer to anyone (especially Mouse Guard players), I would first describe:

Light and Time - Candles, torches, lanterns each provide light for a number of turns. Your individual and collective loadout will have a very finite amount of lite. As exploration turns accrue, the light wanes to Dim then to Darkness, the succession of which makes increases Obstacles and/or makes some Tests impossible. Skillfully spending your finite resources to strategically refresh this is essential (and also making sure that the wealth is spread).

The Grind - Every fourth turn, PCs accrue a Condition. If a Condition isn't addressed in the intervening period by some means, you move down the track to the next Condition. This is a positive feedback loop that is also amplified by failed Tests (which either result in Twists, new problems, or Success with a Condition).

More than anything, this is what separates the game from Mouse Guard and creates the brutal, exhausting, high-stakes feel of every moment of the game.
 

Nytmare

David Jose
Does Torchbearer have a core mechanic that’s easily described?

Are there traditional elements such as Hit Points and Armor Class? Any other D&D based rules or mechanics?

My group is very D&D focused so I’m curious how much of a learning curve there would be.

I'm getting to this conversation a little bit late.

Torchbearer wasn't my go to game outside of the pandemic, but it is inside, and I've been running a Slack based Torchbearer game for the past couple of months.

For people not at all familiar with it or its parent games, I tend to describe Torchbearer as Fiction First Blue Box D&D. Aside from the setting and the kinds of things you're going to be doing, there aren't really any mechanical similarities. That being said though, even though it's a hard game to maybe understand, I don't think that it's a hard game to play. You describe what you want your character to do, the GM and the people at the table have a little conversation about it, the GM tells you to roll some dice and then tells you what happens.

As other people have pointed out it manages to take a lot of otherwise hand wavey boring parts of standard fare fantasy role playing (light, encumbrance, rations) and turns them into a really interesting resource management game. Even after months of play and lots of character levels, players still sweat about having enough food and light and whether they're going to be able to even get out of the dungeon lugging all this treasure around.

Players need a combination of failure and success to overcome obstacles and grow, and the game teases you with ways to gamble away your success to accumulate the resources that you'll need later on to recover and prepare for the next round of delving.

Skills need a certain number of passed and failed tests to level up. "Checks" are a currency you earn by giving yourself penalties to rolls or otherwise tied tests against an enemy or an obstacle. When the party breaks for camp, checks are used to take actions like repairing armor or writing scrolls or removing negative conditions from party members.

To me there are two main mechanical branches of the game. There are tests, where you describe an action and your teammates describe what they're doing to help you. Then the GM tells you what stat to roll and how many additional helping dice you get. You roll that many D6s and tell the GM how many dice were successes (4 or above). Then the GM either tells you how you succeed, how you fail, or what interesting thing happens along the way.

The other main mechanical tool is a "conflict" which is a more complicated tapestry of tests meant to describe a dramatic moment. A conflict can be used to model combat, or travelling across a lake in a storm, or chasing a pickpocket down narrow city streets, or convincing the town guard that you've learned your lesson and they should really let you go home with just a warning. All of them use the same exact framework.

Each round the GM and the players each set out three face down cards that describe the actions that individuals are going to lead the group in doing. Each pair of cards is flipped, and the actions on them are checked against a Rock/Paper/Scissors/Lizard/Spock kind of matrix to see how they interact. In a fight, an Attack played against a Defend might describe a viscous swing with a battle axe that buries itself in someone else's shield. Stats are checked, help is offered, dice are rolled, and the margin of success between the two opposing rolls tells you which side either loses or gains or prevents the loss of hit points or disposition. With the town guard, those cards might describe the thief trying to persuade the watchmen they accidentally dropped a bag full of gold coins while the watchmen wrestle with their conscience and what they know is right and wrong.

As for the new edition, I'm really freaking excited. For as good as a game I think this is, there are parts that have felt unpolished to me over the years and the dribble of information we've received so far has convinced me that they've done a LOT of polishing.

I think that maybe a Creed is going to be half of what Beliefs used to be.

For those not familiar, a character's Belief used to be a one sentence code or ethical statement that you would get one kind of experience point for following. "I believe in standing up for the little guy so I jump between the wight and the wizard." and a different kind of experience point for acting against "I run for my life out of the catacombs, the magician's screams for help echoing behind me!"

Looking at the character sheet, you no longer get a Persona for going against your Belief. I don't know if that's a typo, or a way to slow down experience gain, but I think that a Creed is going to be something LIKE a belief but that you want to be questioned and put on the spot about. "This is the moral test I want my character to be put through."
 
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Also coming late to this party. I have almost everything from 1st edition. I had signed up to be notified, but i never saw that email. Looking at the campaign today, i found the video... bizarre to say the least. And pretty uninformative on why i should invest on a 2nd edition. Then i came across their FAQ section and was really put off by how pretentious and patronising they are towards some of their potential customers. So yeah, i'll pass. Best of luck to them. And their...warding runes whatever the f*** that is.
 

Nytmare

David Jose
@polyhedral man wondering what it was that you felt was pretentious or patronising?

I don't think anyone would argue about that first video being uninformative, but I just wrote it off as a gag by people more interested in getting the information out with methods they were comfortable with instead of trying to produce a high quality informative video in the midst of a pandemic.
 

pemerton

Legend
I've been working flat out and so haven't read the update emails I've received about this. But when I backed the BW Codex a few years ago I enjoyed the updates! I like how Luke and Thor write.
 

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