Actual Play – When ritual sacrifice goes wrong (2/21/2014)

torchbearer-rpgGM: Josh Curtis
Players: Justin Evans, Sean Nittner, and Greg Bailey
System: Torchbearer
Dungeon: Mines of Angocost

This has to be the best session of Torchbearer I’ve played in to date. We had everything. Dragons. Ritual Sacrifice. Necromancy. Possession. Saving the innocent. And just as we hoped to relax and enjoy our rewards, a undead invasion! Tops.


Varg recounted the tales of his greatness, with a few mentions of his accomplices. Entertaining us all, he removed a condition as normal.

Beliefs, Instincts, and Goals

Beren changed his goal to “I’m going to get us out of his dragon hole”.

Varg changed his instinct to “Always study new magical lore.”

Karolina changed her goal to “I will convince my companions to rescue the constable’s daughter.”

Our adventures, Turn by Turn


We left off from last session falling in the darkness. We fell impossibly far until a skyline of green stars blossomed around up, and father still we fell until finally crashing into a freezing lake below. After being submerged for an impossibly long time we finally broke to the surface, sputtering and confused.  Just as we were getting our bearings, Argarak came crashing down on us, sending us all back down under water.

The giant cavern we were in was dimly lit by green crystals glowing on it’s room, from within the lake we could see a small island that looked like a wave, or a fin made of stone that breached the water’s surface. There was also nearby shore that had a gazebo on top of it.

Fearing the dragon they spoke of might be on the island, or my be the island, we made our way to the shore. There we found the gazebo was actually an alter made of bone, equipped with a set of manacles and dragon’s head idol (also made of bones) set with two giant opals (halfling fist size, also known as dwarven testicle size).

Turn 15 – With the cave providing only dim light, Varg endeavored to light his candle using Karolina’s tinderbox. The candle wet, his hands shaking from the cold, and the dreaded alter ahead, he succeeded by was beginning to believe Karolina that we were probably going to be eaten by the dragon [Survivalist Ob 2. Fail. Result: Afraid]

Instinct – Candle lit, Varg inspected the alter itself to find out if it held any mystical secrets. He saw visions of sacrifice. Dwarves chained to the alter, the alter itself a red bloodcast light. He heard their screams as they were devoured. Magical power is hear and can be tapped into! [Lore Master Ob 2. Success]

Meanwhile, Beren pried the opal eyes from the idol, saving his matched set.

Turn 16 – At the edge of the shore were stairs that descended down to a river which poured into the lake. Holding his candle up Varg could make out a small amount of breathing room above the water up the cave that it came from. On top of Argarak he swam/rode up the current and discovered hand holds leading up to the fishing whole we had discovered before! A way out! [Dungeoneer Ob 5. Success]

Meanwhile Beren instructed Karolina to take a needle and thread and sew up his would as best as she could while he stood there grunting and scowling. [Sucking up the injury, taking -1 on Dungeoneering as he now walks with a limp]

We were all Hungry and Thirsty. Karolina and Beren had the benefit of waiting behind where they could drink their fill of cool river water.

Turn 17 – On his way back Varg lost his grip and went under water. His feeble candle extinguished and his friend Argarak panicking he got thrashed around and ended up drinking half the river on his way down.  From under the depths something grabbed him! [Dungeoneer Ob 4. Fail. Twist: Captured]

Turn 18 – Worried that Varg had been gone too long Beren and Karolina peered up the cave to see if they could spot his candle, but there was nothing but darkness. Ready to jump in and swim upstream to find him, Karolina only stopped because Beren pulled her back. He head something moving down the stream towards them. Several somethings. First came Argarak without Varg but they could hear more coming behind them. Karolina and Beren both found a few turned over logs and Karolina used her cloak to cover them so they could hide. The whole thing was against her nature though. She wanted to be fighting and trying to free the constable’s daughter, not hiding like a coward! [Scout versus test. Fail. Condition: Angry (for Karolina), Hungry and Thirsty (for Beren) and Angry (as he was already H&T for Varg).

Turn 19 – Hidden they witnessed the lizardmen drag Varg and the constable’s daughter out of the water with them and chain them to the altar. Their king began chanting, presumably to summon forth the dragon to devour them… but he never got a chance to finish! Trying to call on the power of the Alter, Varg summoned forth the spirit that was withing him, hoping to unleash it on his foes. It manifested indeed, however not as Varg would have wished. The spirit announced itself (in his brain) as Prince Jaha Agnocost fourth of his name, cursed Varg’s wretched weakness , possessed him, and then brought eldritch wrath upon his enemies (which thankfully at that time were the lizardmen). After they were vanquished or chased off, it told him that he most go to the Dwarven Freetown, or he would be destroyed. [Aranist vs. Nature. Fail. Twist: Possession]

In the chaos Varg’s friend Argarak ran off with the lizardman king.

Turn 20 – Meanwhile in the chaos of Varg’s transformation, Karolina urged Beren that the constable’s daughter had to be saved. He rammed his grappling hook between two links in the chain and started pounding them apart with his hammer. After a few furious swings, the chain broke and the girl was free. [Heath Ob 2. Success].

The lizardmen chased off, the spirit momentarily dormant, and everyone free, we collapsed, Hungry and Thirsty (Karolina),  Exhausted (Beren), and Sick (Varg).

Turn 21 – We sought to make camp somewhere safe on the beach. Karloina gathered some logs to provide cover so their fire wouldn’t be seen, but that precious time mean the water level above kept rising. We saw it dripping down is even greater force and knew that some passages we had made it through before would not be cut off! [Survivalist Ob 3. Fail. Twist: Water rising]. Despite this a safe camp was made!

Camp Phase

We all drank and filled up our skins and water bottles, quenching our thirst, if not our hunger.

Check – Beren sat on the beach, examining his spoils, and marveled at their beauty. Doing this and thinking of how he would spend it soothed his anger [Will Ob 2. Success. Angry condition removed].

Check – Varg being ill, angry and afraid was in no shape to map his progress so he recited it to Karolina was able to cobble the bits and pieces together! [Cartography Ob 2. Success]

Check – Varg calmed himself down, practiced his arcane meditation and forgot his anger. [Will Ob 2. Success. Angry condition removed].

Instinct – Still full of anger with Varg about his willingness to let the girl die, Carolina was extra diligent with his training. And what do you know, he finally learned how to defend himself! [Mentor Ob 3. Success!]

Check – Seeing that the girl was clearly very distraught, Beren tried to comfort her and let her know that if he’s gone through all kinds of hell and survived, she’ll make it back up the river to her father. [Persuasion Ob 2. Success]

And the waters kept rising!

Adventure Phase

With a map to get us back, and the young girl ready to travel we swam up the river, through the fishing whole and made it back to Free Town!

When they saw the constable’s daughter, the opened the gates and immediately announced “Beren, the hero of Free town!” The constable declared a feast would be had and the town quickly came alive with activity in preparation.

Varg, however, was transfixed by what first appeared a statue and then upon close inspection, he realized was the skeletal remains of a main in armor that was once fine but now worn away with age. The man was headless but otherwise his skeletal remains there there, pinned to the wall by spear, sword, and axe. Varg stood transfixed until he started feeling nauseous. He vomited but instead of his lunch, he spewed forth a black shadowy substance that swirled around him.

The shadowy mass writhed about on the floor, and then swirled to the skeleton, and transformed it into a shadowy wraith. The man came alive and announced himself as Jaha, Prince of Agnocost. He cursed the dwarves for their rebellion and for killing him, and told them all that they would die for their crimes. With that he called forth his men, the other skeletons (whose skulls had served as light sources for the dwarves), and ordered the to destroy everyone in the city. The constable called for his men to fight, but it was clear that these wraiths could not be hurt by mortal blades. One woman threw a plate at it which passed right through it, but then it reached it’s shadowy hand into her chest, clutched her heart, and stopped it cold.


Thoughts on this game

Wow, what is that three games in a row that ended on a cliffhanger? First the alligator nearly biting off Karolina’s head, then being dropped into unknown darkness and falling, and finally animating the spirit of Jaha and watching him as he brought vengeance upon us. Epic!

We had our first mold breaker here. Varg, who’s believe was “careful thought and planning will guide one farther than quick action” was totally tossed by the wayside as he embraced raw power! That was pretty cool to see, and as much as I thought Karolina might turn her back on Varg after he gave up the girl, the fact that he then also helped them save her (was instrumental in fact) brought her back around. She’s still the bulwark!

I was so delighted for this trap to go off. We knew it was going to happen (as players) and it was deliciously terrifying when it did. We’re probably all pretty proper-fucked now, but Karloina has the commander skill and I plan to use it next session to try and get all the dwarves in Free Town the hell out of dodge!

One thing I find continues to be hard to track online is conditions. Exhausted (forgetting the factor) and Afraid (forgetting that you can’t use beginner’s luck) happened a bunch this game. If felt pretty grim as is, I think we’d possibly have one of us dead, or at least more boned, if we had remembered them. As is, Karolina ended up learning two skills (Survivalist and Scout) by making her final beginners luck test on them, which she shouldn’t have be able to roll. I try to be way on top of those things and I missed it with  my own character. Blerg!

3 thoughts on “Actual Play – When ritual sacrifice goes wrong (2/21/2014)”

  1. I am glad you enjoyed the game. I think it was my favorite to run so far as well. I think this was partly due to the focus on Barg which I think hasn’t happened as much as the other characters yet. Also, I was happy to see all of the little tidbits come together. Especially the release of Jaha as I was really looking forward to that ever since Varg was possessed. I also think it was the first game without a conflict. Only straight up tests.

    I really like this system in so many ways but am not sure I really love the conflict system. It always feels too meta-gamey for me. I find myself dropping out of the fiction too far in order to deal with the Conflict rules.

    I have a couple ideas I think will help this and am going to try them out next game. First, I am going to work on some descriptions for actions ahead of time. Not pre-scripting but having some good ideas and descriptions for some likely scripted actions. I think this will help me stay in the fiction better. Second, I M going to try and use the round structure to frame scenes in the conflict. I haven tailored this one out yet but want to have each round of a conflict be a new scene in some way… i.e. Change the environment, the mood, the lighting, something to create a fictional distinction between rounds. Lastly, I am going to have the players describe their actions after the monsters. So I will describe the monsters action and ask the characters to react to it based on their scripting. I have done it the other way around in the past and think perhaps I have it wrong. Those are my ideas. We’ll see how they work. Let me know if you have any thoughts.

    Looking forward to the next game.

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