Torchbearer: Session 1

I’m glad I didn’t let prep ennui take over because our first session of Torchbearer was pretty fun! We had five of our final count of six, which was a big table but everyone had a chance to do stuff. For pattern-completion reasons, I guess, we had every class/stock set other than a halfling burgler.

I went with a “just answer the questions and I’ll tell you what you get” approach to character creation. It kept our AP-prone players from getting bogged down and it produced some good outcomes, I think! Our human warrior went all cool loner-y and, sure enough, dude’s a very cool loner: no Circles but a big array of super-useful traits. The wizard is an urban scumbag, the broadly useful cleric harkens from the busy crossroads (and not the religious bastion), the dwarf is sorta-fightery sorta-crafty, and we have a blue-collar elf.

We jumped right to the approach to their first dungeon, a rough lead from the elf’s pathfinder friend to what has been described to him as a “way station into the Wastes.” Ooh. Since we’d done chargen we didn’t really get playing until after 8, but we wanted to do something so we jumped right in.

Interesting thing about five players: with good Instincts, you get a lot of free rolling — that is, rolls that don’t advance the turn counter. A couple of them have adventure-phase-type instincts (always check for traps. always jump feet-first into a fight) that, hilarious and predictably, fed directly into a nasty early conflict: the dwarf failed his free roll to find the tripwires that kobolds had set up on the approach, attracting the first wave of guards, which I decided to resolve with the free Fighter versus test from the warrior. That’s a lot of doings without invoking any turns! But the free fighter hit on the guards failed as well, evoking some super scaaaaary growling from the entrance’s darkness. Oh jeez, now everyone starts Afraid.

I’d forgotten what a nut-punch Afraid is.

Hey, it’s been like 5 years since I played any version of this!

I’d also forgotten the feel of the game’s pace. We played past our bedtimes because they wanted to get through an actual scripted Conflict with the source of the scary growls, yes, even while being Afraid and not being able to help one another. Luckily the wizard’s Belief is a “look out for #1” type thing, so he didn’t bother helping the warrior with his kobold dispatch — he’s not afraid! So he’s helping all he can buuut that starting disposition roll just wasn’t very big. A big party should be able to give out a lot of disposition, but they were nearly evenly matched with the three gnolls that came out.


Conflict went well and it was a very tense nail-biter: they’d gotten down to their very last disposition and then got lucky with scripting and rolling (I also stopped scripting so ruthlessly). They ended up completely rebuilding their disposition and dispatching the gnolls. Hopefully they’ve learned that entering a Kill conflict is a super terrible idea.

Too bad the warrior disagrees! “Why do we even have swords if you’re not gonna kill ’em?” I’ll be less forgiving next time the scripting comes up.

I do like how small and straightforward the TB/MG style scripting is. It’s just four choices and the outcomes are pretty clear. I mean I’m good, really good, at the bigger scripting games in Burning Wheel. But…I dunno. It’s a tension about that game I’ve never resolved in my own mind. It seems weird to be able to be good, as a player, at something that isn’t necessarily reflected in the character. The four-choice mini-script in TB, at least when it comes to fighting, provides plenty of tension and uncertainty.

I think I set up seven or eight things to deal with at the way station. They’ve gotten through two and didn’t die. Onward and downward!

19 thoughts on “Torchbearer: Session 1”

  1. I think the simplified scripting in TB and MG is one of my favourite things about it, because I am SO BAD at the big BW scripting game.

    And I’m not the worst in my group! I had one friend who would literally choose his BW scripts at random, because he had a few bad experiences with trying to select them only to find out they didn’t do what he thought they did, or not as well as he thought they would. He reached that point of “my decisions are no better than chance” so rapidly that it made the whole exercise pretty disheartening.

  2. Dammit. This is making me want to run Torchbearer again. But I don’t think most of my group enjoyed it as much as I did. And I burnt myself out a bit trying to stay prepped for it.

  3. Is it dark in the Dungeon Paul Beakley? Darkness or near darkness can be debilitating. I found tracking light a pain (even with the cards), but then I stumbled apon using battery tealights to track available turns of light and it made things easier.

  4. Yup. Like Michael Prescott says. The actual lantern/torch/candle card gives you the number of person’s covered by the light, the tealights simple denote turns of light.

  5. Yeah. I’m quick to point out that kill conflicts mean they go until one side is dead. “Are you sure you don’t just want to drive them off?”

  6. The warrior’s belief is driving that, which is great and terrifying. The player totally knows!

    There may be some persuade or manipulate rolls in camp.

  7. Look I have a sword. This is not a tool of diplomacy, “give me death or give me riches” plus the cleric is fool hearty so he goes right along with me.

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