Actual Play – Out of the torture chamber and into the burial crypt! (6/19/2013)

torchbearer-rpgGM: Sean Nittner
GM Support: Luke Crane
Players: Tim Sanders, Shaun Hayworth, Jon Edwards, and Soren Ludwig
System: Torchbearer
Module: Temple of Elemental Evil

This has to have been the best game of Torchbearer yet, if for not other reason that Luke was watching us and tweeting advice along the way.

Also, given the precarious situation the players were in (lost in the dungeon with monsters on all sides of them, I really wanted everyone to be there, so I was stoked when Shaun was able to make it last minute and we had a full house!

The Twitter Convo

Some words of encouragement!

When we thought Wisdom of the Sages did something very different than it does…

Video of the Game


Soren, as Orrin, recounted the deeds of last session.

Also Thaspar Flamebringer told about what happened to him while the others were fleeing from bandits!

Artha awards

I had been remiss in awarding Artha in the past three sessions so I did it now. We reviewed beliefs, goals, and instincts and then did some work on creating new ones. Some of the instincts have some real punch to them now! “When entering a new area, always map it.” “Always cook while making camp.” “Always look for signs of recent passage when exploring a new place.”

Also, we worked on some goals that would be accomplish-able in a session or two.

And what do you know the game works better when Artha is getting passed around!

Instincts, Instincts, Instincts!

Because of the way some of the instincts had been written, a whole lot happened between turn 7 (where we last left off) and turn 8.

Specifically, everyone ate (not a check), Thaspar mapped the new room, and Deleran scouted for signs of passage, and infact found some bloody foot prints that lead to a secret door in the pillar of the room they were lost in.

Re: Your Brains

Things were looking up for the adventurers, until they decided to take their time in the torture chamber to make torches! #torchinthetorturechamber!

That is of course when the zombies from the nearby room were drawn the to noise, and them musty sweat smell of the living!

We had a “drive off” conflict (which I now think should have just been a flee) in which the adventurers tried to hold the Zombies at the door long enough for Sixtoe to finish making the torches and then all of the escape down the secret passage they made!

Luke was great, giving us rules on the fly for turning undead, and help with the conflict throughout. It ended with a narrow escape (down to 1 disposition). Deleran was injured and Orrin lost his holy symbol in the fight. Oh noes!


We ended the game with them descending the hidden ladder into a burial crypt filled with the musty stench of things long dead and rotting meat. Good times ahead I’m sure.

Thoughts on this game

I was really delighted when Shaun said “You know, I’m kind of worried about surviving at this point.”

Having Luke on shotgun for the game was awesome. Thanks again, that was a ton of help during play.

I should have made sure that during the conflict with the Zombies, I was flashing back to Sixtoe and seeing how he was doing with the torches. That would have added nicely to the tension.

I need to remember to always lead with the description. The bandit chase last session I think was specifically good because we really saw what people were doing. This conflict wasn’t bad, but I’d like to get some more meat on those bones…if only so there’s more for the monsters to eat.

Too tired to do Artha, but despite only getting in a couple turns, I think we got a lot done, and I had a great time.

Man, picking the right instinct can be hard! I think the best approach is to try something and then tweak it after you’ve seen it in play.

4 thoughts on “Actual Play – Out of the torture chamber and into the burial crypt! (6/19/2013)”

  1. Looks good! I have to agree with Shaun. The threat of death and injury seems more real in torchbearer than in other games. I like it. I feel like there will be a breaking point for us.

  2. Yeah this instinct thing is pretty tricky. There’s some bleed-through in my case where my character concept is getting … bent is too strong a term but the mechanics are flavoring the concept. I originally conceived Thaspar as this book-nerd convinced that magic is the solution for everything. I didn’t even *MENTION* maps during character creation. But I got Cartography as a a super-high skill and it’s super-important in the dungeon so suddenly he’s more about the maps than he is spells.

    So I was little resistant to making an instinct about Cartography because it’s just not key to Thaspar in my head. Wrapping my head around “Thaspar demonstrates his scholarly competence via mapping” took some shifting. It’s not anything I would *complain* about, it’s just a bit weird.

    One thing I’ve been considering is opening up my skill desciptions a tiny bit to flavor them all to “yeah but Thaspar does this with magic”. We were doing a bit of that in the zombie conflict where I was making a Will roll but the description was that I was using the Wizard’s Aegis as a tool. In that case Thaspar might well have a cantrip of his own design that makes the map for him. Mechanically it’s still a Cartography skill roll, but he’s doing it with with magic.

    1. I think a tenant of the game is that the characters are really wallowing in the muck. They may have illusions of grandeur, but their reality is tough, dirty, and often debasing.

      That said, I think we should work on showing Thaspar’s dream of magical dominion, but the reality of the game is that magic will be fickle, rare, and narrowly focused.

      That said, I think we should really focus for Thaspar on his belief, because we see people in real life who are just like this. They know there is a “better” way to do things, but the world just isn’t ready for it, so they’re constantly fighting an uphill battle to prove their point. Even a belief like “The pen is mightier than the sword” or “The spell is mightier than the sword” could push this forward.

      As for instincts, I agree, we kind of shoehorned the cartography instinct to get play started. Luke’s suggestion of “whenever encountering new lore, record it” would be an improvement.

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