I’m Gonna Run Torchbearer

Finally settled on our next short-run low-investment game last night, and thank you to Andi Carrison for floating the idea that the investment was the problem. I’m all-in on doing a short thing of Torchbearer.

So I started re-re-re-reading the rulebook again when I couldn’t sleep last night. I think my recent run of PbtA games is making my mind mushy, because god damn these are some fussy, detailed rules. And I’m listed in the book as a “developer” for heaven’s sake! But it’ll be fun and challenging to dig back in.

I also think we’ll have…6? I think that’s right. Big big table. TB is almost certainly the wrong game for that size, but I think it’ll also be the right game for these particular players. Fingers crossed.

Then I think my next higher-investment game will be The Veil, which has also been interesting to re-read with actual play in mind. That’s a subject for another post.

0 thoughts on “I’m Gonna Run Torchbearer”

  1. I found Torchbearer definitely too fussy for me, though I so love what it’s trying to do. I wish I had a computer program to run it for me, or at least a series of detailed flowcharts for when I should be narrating and when I should be turning to systems, and what stage the systems should resolve in.

    I still suspect that in some alternate universe, the Torchbearer game best fit “for me” is a procedurally-generated, card-based, GMless RPG. Like the players delve into the dungeon and everyone does some freeform narration, but resources are spent to dig into the Dungeon Deck, and you draw cards with the conflict procedure spelled out right on them. Good Ideas are resolved by table-consensus.

  2. Mark Delsing Coriolis was very high on my list, just wasn’t feeling space adventure right this second. Good idea on a future filler-between-“real”-games game though.

  3. Ralph Mazza right? But I feel like you could have a good taste of the experience by getting through one small dungeon (Skogenby maybe, although I found a folder with a half-dozen doodles I did when I first got the rulebook). You don’t get much Town taste or long-term advancement, but at least we finished a thing and then can decide if they want to keep going with it.

    I think, hope, that Town is a chance for the play group to reformulate, if/when some players can’t commit.

  4. I feel like Torchbearer is a lot easier to slide into if you have past Burning Wheel experience to draw from. A lot of the complaints about comprehending the game, that I see anyways, are mechanics from BW. Things like Resource dice or conflicts and compromises can be confusing if you haven’t encountered them before. But if those are familiar then the only thing you have to really understand is Checks, how to earn and spend them.

    I like “Inn of the Three Squires” better than Skorgenby. The new middlemark supplement also has a level 1 adventure in it which might be worth checking out.

  5. We’re working through trying to get a Torchbearer hangouts game going. We had one session that resulted in a tpk. Part of the issue I’m running into is wondering how well the game runs when half the players haven’t and likely won’t read the rules? The heavy procedure had me feeling like the most knowledgeable player in a co-op boardgame. I’m sure the vagaries of group video chat didn’t help.

  6. I have more Torchbearer experience than most. Happy to assist, clarify, or confuse as needed. 😉

    If you’re going to use a pre-made dungeon of some sort and are still on the fence, Skogenby’s a good option, but I’d go with Inn of the Three Squires first. It has more of the spelunking stuff that is classic Torchbearer.

    I mentioned in the other thread that you might consider adapting an old D&D module, too. The ideal fit for the type of game you’re considering is Keep on the Borderlands. If that old gem’s unfamiliar to your group, I think you could get a lot of mileage out of it. You might need to do a little custom monster creation, but you get the benefit of its tried-and-true structure and challenges.

  7. We’re up to our third online Torchbearer game. Definitley a learning curve! There’s a lot of moving parts and rules that are circumstantial – stuff I usually avoid. BUT, we’re having fun I think. Last game, the characters didn’t even make it into the dungeon, and instead scavenged for potatoes, generating a twist (hunted by a warg). Then they failed their cooking roll and the warg attacked so they engaged it in a drive off conflict. The whole party was taken out, but the warg and the last dwarf standing took each other out simultaneously. The characters awoke exhausted and afraid to the smell of bbq potatoes. Crazy.

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