Actual Play – Stone Dragon CelestiCon (8/29/2014)

torchbearer-rpgGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Greg Wirth, Sarah Hawklyn, Sean Phelan, Mike Garcia, and Bay Chang
System: Torchbearer
Module: Stone Dragon Mountain

Up Diamond Tooth’s pass they went. Karolina made the dive to leap the expand unto his bridge and she came very, very close to making it!

Introducing the game

Not sure why but I really felt the need to disclaim the nature of Torchbearer by way of apology at the start of the game. Mike Garcia has played in my Apocalypse World games, Greg and Sarah run a Teenagers From Outer Space LARP, and Bay and I have often talked about simple game mechanics. Torchbearer is none of those things. I started with these introductory snippets:

  • Torchbearer is a game of survival and exploration; neither is easy.
  • There are treasures to be found, but they will have to be pried from the frozen grip of the mountain.
  • Your characters are desperate people. Foolishly optimistic opportunists.

Here were my questions to get them thinking about their characters:

  • What led you to this life?
  • What was the last thing you ate? Did it make you sick?
  • Who have you let down?
  • Does anyone depend on you?
  • What gives you hope this band of adventures will succeed?
  • Who shows the most promise?
  • Who is the leader?

We got some interesting results. Taika had betrayed Ulat, the head of the rangers. Berren knew Karolina’s father. Ulrik killed a puppy.

Adventure Highlights

Ulrik trying to save the dying Dermot and being interrupted by the snowfall.

Adventurers trekking up the mountain in the snow! Pathfinding has never been so hard!

Taika saving Karolina by casting Lightness of Being on her when she was about to slip off the edge of the walkway.

During camp Varg casting Wisdom of the Sages to speak with the caged Mikra and someone for the first time learning who they are!

Some pics of the game

Thoughts on the game

There was a moment when Karolina almost fell off the walkway and Taika saved her by casting Lightness of Being. Sarah (who was playing Taika) asked if why Karolina was levitating if she could also cross over the expanse they were looking at. I declined because that was a separate test. It was a pixel bitch move of me to make Taika’s spell end once Karolina was safe and not let her traverse the bridge first. I was interpreting it very literally (last for one test) when within the fiction it should have covered both.

Once again I think the adventure would be stronger not starting in the base camp. That one is going in the hopper for edits.

2 thoughts on “Actual Play – Stone Dragon CelestiCon (8/29/2014)”

  1. Your disclaimer is interesting to me for two reasons.

    First, it’s interesting because I too have felt the need to provide a similar expectation setting blurb for players who are new to Torchbearer. Especially for player coming from indie style story games, where hand waving is common in areas like equipment, rations, and time. This is a game where resources must be managed and characters will be ground unto death. You must fight to survive and I think some kind of “In a world…” can be helpful to set expectations before brining the pain.

    The other thing that caught my eye were your questions. It’s the best framing of the survival situation the players are about to find themselves in I have yet seen. I’m stealing it!

    1. Thanks Jim, it’s nice to know others have the same concerns introducing Torchbearer. I’ve found the best thing to have in a game in a single super enthusiastic player that acts as your ringer, encouraging other players to describe to live, that getting conditions is okay, and that discovering how to triumph over seemingly impossible adversity is the fun part!

      Glad you like the questions as well. Asking them tends to both set the mood and develop backstory. Double win!

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