Now that we’ve gotten through character creation and shook out most of the bugs with last week’s short play time, this week’s session was full-throttle no-pulled-punches time.
Of course “full throttle” in Torchbearer means we got through…one approach and two conflicts. I feel like my dungeon is maybe a little big for a first run. Not sure! But they’re taking lots of camp time and earning lots of checks, mostly due to being in a big party and generating big dice pools. They can afford to pull a check down nearly every time they touch the dice.
I still need to get my head fully wrapped around the different kinds of conflicts, particularly since you’re limited to only a monster’s listed conflict types when you start one from a twist. I’ll figure it out, I’m just a little confused.
My favorite bit last night was refactoring the human warrior’s Instinct. Last session he wrote something like “always hit first” as his Instinct. It was really hard for me to figure out how to make that useful. But we came up with a solution! Now, he gets to start a free Conflict…but only if it’s a Kill conflict. It’s terrifying, very high-stakes.
My favorite twist happened too! The party is helping one another get lowered down into a pit. The wizard is about to go down, helped by the elf. They’re the last ones up on the floor and there’s only dim light both in the room above and in the cave below. Great so the elf tosses a help die and the wizard, feeling good about a huge die pool, generates a check (wizard sight works fine for seeing in the dark!). He misses his roll, and the elf is attached to the twist: the wizard is about halfway down when a couple kobolds come up behind the elf and light a tiny bomb. The elf is holding the rope with both hands. He looks down the hole. Looks back at the tiny bomb. Looks down the hole. Sees the wizard hanging there like bait. Drops the wizard so he can grab his bow and deal with the kobolds. One injured wizard and one solitaire conflict!
I think the players are starting to get a handle on how the turns work. They felt a lot of friction when they tried to map turns to time: like, what the fuck, the elf’s down scouting that hole, why can’t we be reading these runes and sacking the kobold’s campsite? Why is that three turns? But they’ve got it now, I hope: turns are a stress meter. Splitting up and doing stuff alone is stressful. Sticking close and helping each other is not. Neither is whipping out your sword and diving into a fight, apparently, according to our warrior. 🙂
Another cool moment, a hiiiilarious camp roll: Down to the last check, the wizard finally start drawing his map. Gets help from literally everyone. It’s a slam-dunk roll, right? Ob 2 on like 6 dice. Aaaand he failed it. So everyone is starting the next bit of exploration angry at each other the wizard.
We’re getting used to the density of play, still. It’s the anti-PbtA: we’re not moving from bang to bang, we’re grinding through hard choice after hard choice but the actual situation isn’t evolving that fast (where situation = moving through the dungeon, which yes yes it really isn’t, please don’t ‘splain me). The interpersonal stuff is interesting! I think they’re gonna end up social-PvPing each other eventually, and that’ll be sad for them because it’s gonna cost turns. Whatever! Work it out.
Other note: I’m using the TB GM screen that Jesse Coombs so generously sent me. It’s weird! I kind of enjoy having my little hidden space out there but it also feels like I’m removed from the table. Maybe that’s a good thing.