Actual Play – Flight into Darkness (6/3/2013)

torchbearer-rpgGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Shaun Hayworth, Jon Edwards, and Soren Ludwig
System: Torchbearer
Module: Temple of Elemental Evil

Even with the mighty powers of we couldn’t find a day that all of us could make it, so Tim missed this game. All things considered that wasn’t too bad, since Thaspar Flamebringer left off last game catatonic from a snake bite.

Torchbearer on Air!

At the behest of Curt Jackson, we put this game on air. Now you can all see how we bumbled through the rules here:


Sixtoe, the only one conscious in his party bravely muttered to himself the events of last session, to steel himself from the dangers that lurked inside the Moathouse. After his inspired tale, he removed the afraid condition.

Missing a Session

Using the rules on page 78 of Mouse Guard about missing a session, I had Deleran tell us what had kept him behind last session (that Shaun couldn’t make). He too was afraid (it’s a scary place) and so he spent time alone in the courtyard of the Moathouse getting up the nerve go inside and there by also removing the afraid condition.

Split Party

As the party was split, I opted to have them take simultaneous turns. I think that was perhaps generous, as they effectively got two tests or actions per turn, but they were also burning twice the light sources.  My guess is that cleaving closer to the rules would have meant each of their actions counting for a turn, regardless of who was present. I’ll post that on the forums for future use.

Since they hadn’t made camp last game, I started them following from that on turn 9.

Sixtoe Surprise

Turn 9 – Sixtoe knew he was in a woefully bad spot. The torch had just gone out and from the few shafts of light coming through the arrow slits, he could just make out the catatonic faces of his two companions, fell by the snakes venom, which weakened him as well.

The halfling did what halflings do and burgled through his companions packs, groping in the dark through their packs for a torch. He liberated one from Thaspar and lighting it took stock of the situation. Deleran was gone, Thaspar and Orrin both unconscious. A jeweled dagger found in the snake lair was now in his hand. It would be a perfect time to bolt, and make for Hommlett to see what he could make from a large sack stuffed to the bring with his friends belongings.

Instead the brave hafling, his goal to “come back with everyone alive” risked his own life, staying inside the brigand-ridden keep to aid his friends. Believing that good spirits would cure any ailment, Sixtoe took some of his wine and poured it into a tin cup, the added some spices and heated it over the torch, making mulled (and potentially medicinal) wine. I liked this a lot. Based on my layman’s knowledge of snake venom, it didn’t seem like a sure thing (i.e. a clever idea, that would allow him to succeed without rolling and not take a turn) but it seemed like a worthy effort, so I granted an advantage die, hoping that something of this nature exists in Torchbearer.

Success! Sputtering and spitting up blood, Orrin was revived! [SUCCESS]

Deleran Ap Denemir
Deleran by damiller
Lone Ranger

Turn 9 – Meanwhile, Deleran was trying to find his companions, but once he entered the Moathouse found he was submerged in deep darkness. Only the thin shafts of light from the arrow slits illuminated bits of the room, revealing a broken cobblestone floor, and bits of detritus scattered about.

Knowing he was useless in this darkness, Deleran groped the walls for something, and soon found tattered tapestries, fabric worn brittle and thin by time.  He pull one down off the wall and ss he sparked flint and steel, and the tapestry ignited he saw depictions of the keep of old illuminated briefly before the images curled and blackened.

With the brief bit of light provided (I said it would burn for 1 turn), he tried to track his companions by scouting the area for signs of passage. The scout roll failed so he succeeded in the letter of his intent, but not the spirit. He followed their trail right into the bandit’s lair (where Orrin had broken down the door) and the found himself surrounded by bandits, holding their blades with casual menace. [TWIST]

Camp Sixtoe

Turn 10 – Weary and in need of respite, Orrin and Sixtoe decided this southern chamber, formerly inhabited by a giant snake that the bandits were terrified of, and with only one way in or out, was a great place to set up camp. Orrin collected the flammable debris to to make a fire, while Sixtoe secured the room by stinging a rope with utensils and metal cups across the passage, thus prepared for any incoming bandits. [SUCCESS, clever idea]

Neither of the adventurers had any checks, so they were left to a bit of discussion and supping on the thick slab of snake they have just vanquished for a meal. Perhaps this should have requires a cook test to make, but I was satisfied to give it to them, knowing they could have spent a check to dry it and turn it into many more rations than they got out of eating it charred over the camp fire. [No checks spent]

Look up there… a spider

Negotiations weren’t going well for Deleran. Where the bandits didn’t want to get into a fight with three armed adventures, one was easy picking. Hurley and Deleran traded some insults and the bandits offered for him to go his own way, so long has he consented to tithe to them. Mara sent two of her guys to pad him down looking for valuables.  As they started roughing him up, Deleran tried to trick them by looking terrified into one of the dark rafters above, but Delmar already had his grubby hands on Deleran’s signant ring and as he bolted, the brigand yanked it off his finger before giving persist. [TWIST]

Once Deleran was clear of the bandits room though, they didn’t give much chase. The Moathouse is a scary place, even for the residents. Now that he was facing south however, he did notice the faint flicking shadows coming from a small camp fire down a corridor to the south. Following the dim light he walked down the passage until he snagged a rope with his ankle, setting of a cacophony of clattering utensils, and alerting the wary halfling burgler to his presence.

Together again… and there was little rejoicing

As the GM, I expected some relief on everyone’s part. Along the lines of “oh, thank the gods of chaos and law that it’s you”. Clearly my head was in the wrong space, we got the banter of murder hobos “What are you doing out there?” “Why do you have a fire, don’t you know there are bandits out there?” Anon.

Deleran joined in the camp, as he was hungry and thirsty as well, and feasted on hunks of charred snake meat. Since I found Sixtoe’s plan to ward off foes a clever idea, and because the folks that might wander down here were in fact not so inclined to do so, I didn’t roll on the camp encounter table.

Fires burning low

Turn 1  – Once the campfire had burnt down, the were again in darkness. Realizing that they had no more torches and no source of light, the adventurers once again were groping in the dark. Though they couldn’t see a good light source, someone’s macabre brain smelled one. Jasper, the dead brigand was still rotting away in this chamber. In a particularly gruesome act, Deleran proposed that they fashion torches out of his femurs!

The adventurers got to work. Deleran collected flammable moss from the walls. Orrin used his knowledge of anatomy to remove the femurs and cleave the bulk of the flesh from them. Sixtoe bound moss around the mostly cleaned bones with a bit of rope, and ignited the necrotic torch. The entire process was terrible, disgusting and incredibly difficult to do in the dark. Sixtoe pullsed it off, but was quite infuriated by the time the work was done [CONDITION, agnry]

Afterwords I considered whether I should be letting the players gather resources during the adventuring phase, more thoughts on that below.

MoathouseTurn 2 – As there were yet unexplored rooms close by, the adventurers opted to enter and see what treasures they might discover.

Exploration. The first room, furthest south on the west wall.

Once the quarters of a castle troop leader or some other petty official, this place is now a total wreck. The bed is chopped to pieces, and the furniture is smashed or missing.

To the next room north they explored.

This room was once a conference chamber, but is now empty. Its dirt and wreckage show no signs of any recent occupant,
though a couple of small rats are seen scurrying away.

Turn 3 – Searching for treasure. Wisely the adventurers soon realized that in order to plumb the secrets from the Moathouse they would have to dig deep. Deleran began searching the room, looking for hidden treasures. This companions aided him, and behind a wall case (which was toppled over and destroyed in the search) they discovered a very find broadsword. A legion blade from the old kingdoms of Greyhawk. [SUCCESS]

Their first torch died down, and they lit the second.

Turn 4 – Exploration. They carefully entered the door in the east wall and found the remains of a once extravagant salon.

This room was once very opulent, obviously a place of many expensive furnishings. The remaining bits and tatters still appear rich (though none are of value).

Turn 5 – Scavenging. I noted several plush couches, now worn away, and the adventurers leapt at the chance of using the stuffing and fabric to fashion more fuel for their femur torches. An easier task both because they had light and because the furniture upholstery was far more pliable than human viscera, they quickly fashioned restocked their supply of necrotic torches. [SUCCESS] After their exploration however, they were starting to feel weary again. They were all now hungry and thirsty. 

Their presence disturbed a giant colony of bats that lived in the rafters, but thanks to Deleran’s watchful eye, they ducked just in time to avoid being swarmed by the cloud of bats that flew past them.

Turn 6 – There was some brief discussion about how to move further into the dungeon. Deleran wanted to get information from the bandits, as they would surely know the way to the temple to the west, but the leader Sixtoe was determined to continue exploring, and avoiding the bandits if at all possible. The adventurers doused their torches and tried to sneak through the great hall without notice. Through the broken doors of the bandits chambers, Sixtoe could hear them talking amongst themselves and his adventurousness got the better of him. He crept to close to the bandit’s chamber and when a lose cobblestone clattered beneath his feet, there was a moment of silence, and then the bandits came pouring out of their lair to chase them. “I’m sure whatever is left of them will be easy pickings. Lets get em!” [TWIST]

Turn 7 – Chase! We used the Chase conflict right out of Mouse Guard, using Scout and Pathfinder for skills (though I considered Dungeoneering instead of Pathfinder). We also found that several of their natures were applicable to parts of the chase, notably Orrin’s nature of “running” was great for an attack, and Sixtoe’s sneaking was perfect for plunging into the darkness.

Here were some things we did to make the chase (in my option) every bit as lively as any conflict.

  • The narrations of the characters actions, ducking into shadows to hide, tossing the femur of the fallen brigand amonst their midst to distract them, bolting one way then zipping another to feint were all great. We included lots of physical altercations in the middle. Deleran was knocked down by Delmar, but scrambled back up. Orrin turned a table over on some of his pursuers, etc. We also had some magic in the mix! Deleran cast Word of Binding to freeze one of the bandits in place. All great stuff.
  • Each exchange I moved the chase further in the dungeon. Further into unknown parts! Since I had all the dungeon room descriptions I was able to flavor the chase accordingly. I started in the great hall but then led into the kitchens, and finally down a flight of stairs. This ended up working my favor when coming up with a consequence at the end of the fight.
  • We added a couple weapons they could use in the chase. Delving deeper into the dungeon, where the bandits were afraid of, was great for an attack, but could only be used once (+1s, only usable once).  Dousing their light and running blind while the bandits had torches made it easier for them to move around unseen (+1d on maneuvers). In the middle of it Sixtoe came up with a good one as well, tossing the leg bone of Jaspar (and telling them it was such) was really good at distracting them and pissing them off (+1d Feint, only usable once).
  • The dungeon itself participated! Just as they had won the fight and lost the bandits, I wanted something significant to occur that would force the bandits to give up. As they bolted down the steps they heard cries from above “Ahhh, get it off me!” The giant tick that lived in the kitchen had descended onto Jesper’s brother Anselm and like a thirsty child sucking a delicious glass of chocolate milk through a straw, the tick quickly sapped the life blood from the bandit brother.

They only lost a single point of disposition in the chase (still using the Mouse Guard rule for conflicts here as I don’t know enough about how Torchbearer handles individual disposition) so I felt like injuring any of them would be far too steep a penalty (even though the flight was full of physical altercations). What struck me soon though, was that a simple twist made perfect sense. They had doused their torches and run blind from the bandits. They couldn’t map, they could barely see, and now they have no idea where they are. Lost… in the dungeon of the Moathouse!

Thoughts on this game

Okay to give advantage dice for good ideas, making clever use of tools, etc?

Scrounging for supplies (torches, rations, etc) during the adventuring phase okay? It seems to go against the grain of the phase system, but so long as I can still add twists and conditions for failures, it’s not like I was making it easy on them.

I’d love to know how the conflict system works with stones, and individual dispositions. After the game I listened to the Team Covenant interview Luke and Thor and it sounds like the idea for dividing disposition between the players and then having them get knocked out of the conflict is pretty awesome, but I’d like to know more before I implement it.

Inter-party conflicts during the adventuring phase? I ruled that the majority ruled and that the affronted party member would have to take it up as an action (or possibly just a discussion) during the camp phase.

Three sessions and I realized something was missing. Artha! Reading over the Kickstarter Preview again I see I should have been giving them out at the end of the session not in the Town Phase (as I had been assuming). Bad GM.


  1. We played using split disposition at Burning Con and it was awesome. One of the best features of the system, IMO. Especially when you Defend and get someone back on their feet with the recovered dispo.

    • seannittner

      Damn it John, so jealous here. Can’t wait to see the system!

  2. Tim Sanders

    Wait, did they just leave poor Thaspar (and his MAP!) in the snake room? Sad I couldn’t make the session, but at least this report means I know what happened!

    • seannittner

      It’s up to you what happened to Thaspar. He was certainly comatose during the first adventuring phase (before camp) but I imagined after recovering (eating nommy snake meat) he traveled with the party (albeit not contributing as you would if you were present). You’re call though. Maybe he’s negotiating with the bandits now that you killed the snake. Maybe he ran off in some other direction…. or maybe those lame ass sap just left him rotting in that room alone!

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