Actual Play – Yip, yip, yip! (8/1/2013)

torchbearer-rpgGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Dylan Nix, Josh Curtis, Lindsay Nix, and Jon Edwards
System: Torchbearer
Adventure: Under the House of Three Squires

Yay. More Torchbearer.

Warning: There will be spoilers in these write ups. If you intent to play Under the House of the Three Squires I recommend not reading the play synopsis.

Jon joined this time with his elf ranger Amarië. A young (relatively speaking) elf, who was enamored with the opportunity of adventure.


As no checks had been made, and no turns had passed in our last game (in fact, all that they had done was explore the inn itself and then charge down the steps), I recapped the introductory text and asked so… who followed Allen charging down the steps that were collapsing underneath him?

Actual Play on Air

Turn by Turn

Turn 1- Lantern lit, and the smell of Kobold musk inciting him to action Allen Losthome charged down the steps of the Three Squires Inn down to the cellar. Only a few steps down, one of the planks gave way. Astrafel who was right behind him reached out to help him scramble back up the steps before they collapsed. Though he was much heavier than he looked [Earning 1 check to use the trait Born of Earth and Stone against himself] Allen was able to scramble back up the steps before the collapsed [Ob 2 Health Check. Result: Success]

Turn 2 – Though safe at the top of the stairs it was a perilous drop down into the darkness below, so Allen got to making safe passage down. He took the swinging door from the inn, some broken stool legs for rungs and re-seated the hinges to the top, so he could hammer them into the floor. Not skilled at carpentry per se, Allen used his dwarven nature of crafting to fashion a ladder allowing safe travel down to the cellar [Ob 2 Carpentry, Rolled Nature in place. Result: Success].

Instinct – As they climbed down the new ladder Allen (also the leader of the group) listened for sounds of ambush before the descended but all he heard was the distant skittering of rats. [No check here as rats would have only been present in as a result of a twist, but I wanted to save them for later, and was happy that I did, so I did some announcing future badness here].

Turn 3 – The party found the cellar full of broken furniture and supplies, most of them piled in a corner. As they started digging through them, something nearby heard them and making a muffled whine. The continued clearing the path [Ob 1 Laborer text by Alexander with some help from Allen. Result: Success] and revealed a door behind it. The whining was coming from behind the door, and now they could hear scratching as well. Allen’s lantern was running low, so he refilled the oil from his flask and Astrafel lit a torch as well, to make sure the party had ample light.

Turn 4 – The door opened and a half-starved, injured, and very pathetic looking pug burst out. He was panting and upset, and barking and confused. Astrafel tried to calm the pug and befriend him. She offered some of her rations [+1D supplies] but was not trained in befriending pugs, and managed to scare it off, where it growled and barked more in the corner. [Ob 2 Hunter. Failed. Result: Twist]. All of his noise attracted rats! Three of them, giant ones, crawled through holes in the walls and descended on them! Worse than than that, all of this crafting and lifting and going on, had left the adventurers peckish before the fight [Condition: Hungry and Thirsty]

Turn 5 – Astrafel kicked and then and tried to chase the rats away [I ruled this as a drive off conflict. Astrafel was captain. Disposition rolled. 5 vs. 5 but the party lost a point due to Hungry and Thirsty]. The battle started in earnest when one of the rats leapt down from a rafter and landed on Amarië. She fell back and hit her head on the wall and tore her cloak on the broken wine racks. [-1 Disposition during Amare’s turn]. After several fruitless exchanges Astrafel got them all up on a table where the rats had a hard time reaching them and just as one climbed up, Alexander the Righteous brought down his mighty sword and cut off one of their tails. Injured the first one ran off and the others scurried after [3s on the die roll +1s for the Two-Handed Sword, +1s due to the Order of Might difference]. All things consider, besides working up a good sweat the adventurers were still quite well off, except of course Amarië, she was quite perturbed that her cloak was ruined [Minor consequence for losing only a point of disposition]. After the fight Astrafel’s torch had burned down low, so Alexander the Righteous offered another, though she would have to carry it (his hands were busy keeping his mighty blade at the ready).

Turn 6 – Seeing as they were in a wine cellar after all, they adventurers drank their own wine and then filled up their skins by draining a barrel of the famous Three Squires sour beer. They contemplated taking the remaining cask as loot, but didn’t want to be weighed down yet. They planned to come back to it later. Also, seeing them defend him (and taking part in scaring off the rats himself) the pug was now Astrafel’s fast friend and companion. He licked her shoes (nom, leather chew toys the moment they come off) and generally slobbered all over the place in an adorable pug wag. Worried that he would be in danger Astrafel set the pug back up on the ground level, where he barked, yipped, and whined as he did not want to be left alone. Exploring the cellar further, they noticed a the inn’s pump spigot and started to pump away at it. After priming it a few times fresh water came spilling out, but they also noticed that the brick and mortar behind it was loose. Amarië, always seeing adventure and excitement started to chip away at the bricks, poking and prodding until one came free, and revealed darkness beyond. With Allen’s aid she pulled enough bricks out of the wall to reveal a small natural cavern beyond. Doing so started as exciting but ended up being hard work, wrestling with bricks, scraping her hands and sweating and cracking a nail. Allen himself worked up a hearty thirst from the work [Ob 1 Laborer. Result: Fail. Conditions: Angry (Amarië) and Hungry and Thirsty (Allen)].

Thoughts on the game

I handled Beginners Luck wrong. It’s my Burning Wheel damage that says you can’t help with beginners luck unless you’ve got a skill. That is patently not true (page 66 of the book) in Torchbearer, and so more people should have been able to help Amarië pull on those bricks. That said, I didn’t halve the helping dice (which I should have) so I think it netted a similar die pool with fewer people getting conditions. Not a major mistake, but something I want to get right.

I found that even though I had read the adventure several times I kept needing to look back at it because I had forgotten something. Then when I brought it up (like the spigot) it was a clear sign that “ooh, ooh, you should go poke and prod this”. I’m okay with it in general (secrets suck) but I’d like to improve my mastery over both system (which is happening over time) and the adventure at hand. I hope I can run Three Squires again.

Although we never made it out of the cellar I had an amazingly good time. We had enough time for the characters to actually have dialog with each other and have one or two meaningful in character interactions, which is important to me, because I want to break away from the mold of description -> test -> result -> description, and make sure there is room in the game for the players exploring both the dungeon and their characters (and relationships) without hitting the dice.

10 thoughts on “Actual Play – Yip, yip, yip! (8/1/2013)”

  1. That’s awesome! I love the makeshift ladder. I might have even counted that as a Good Idea and let them not take a turn for it.

  2. Already watched your Hangout at youtube. I really learn much about playing BWHQ-games by watching APs by you and +Shaun Hayworth. Even if you make some mistakes I can learn many things about those systems.

    1. Awesome, I’m super glad if my bumbling through helps out. It’s also a really good realization that this is a game which is run best when some of the traditional GM responsibilities are distributed. For example, it’s really good if a player has a plan in mind to say for instance “I want to make a scroll, the scholar factors are on page 141-142 and the spell I want is Celestial Music which is on page 44”. As a GM I find I do better when I can hand of some of those tasks to players in game, and BWHQ games are very good for that.

  3. Only problem with this approach is the secret gm information that is present in TB. So normally players should not know helping skills, skill factors, monster disposition, etc. After some plays the players will know which skill usually help – especially if the discription is great done every skill could possibly help – or know that Goblins are hard to kill.

    I don’t have enough experience to decide if the secret information approach that Thor & Luke implemented into TB should be respected or ignored…

  4. I’m copying Sean’s approach a bit by simply handing the magic section of the book over to the character who is playing the Magician. He’s in charge of telling me the obs for the spells he wants to cast. I did warn him that Magician would be a bit more rules-heavy than the other classes.

    It helps to have the pdf printed out with the players and gm sections separate.

    My players fully ignored the room with the dog: “Screw that, we’re going the other way!” The Giant Rats almost decimated them.

  5. The giant rats were really touch and go. If came down to scripting. I did a feint when the scripted attack, but their next move was defend, so had I slightly different scripting, they could have easily been chased out of the cellar instead of the other way around. Now there is a tail-less rat with a blood thirst for Alexander the Righteous though… we’ll see how that goes.

  6. Man, this game really feels like it’s about the small moments and details. The pace is frenetic, then measured. I think most RPGs are paced like this, but TB seems to simply shrug and embrace the minutiae. 

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