Actual Play – “I make a great meal!” (7/25/2013)

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

We started a bit late this evening, and ended a bit late too. The game itself, or the content of it, were a disaster. As in the players characters faced a disaster. We had some mixed feelings about that, which we discussed at the very end. I think that last 30 minutes of the video is worth watching in particular, as we debriefed the game.


Orrin told the tale of their fight with the ghouls, their activities during camp, and finding the treasure trove. [Recovered a point of taxed nature]

Missed Game

Deleran described how after the flight with the Zombies, he was too terrified and hid in the crypt while the others fought the ghouls. Oh, cowardly Deleran.

Delving Deep

A continued discussion in this game is how far to go, and what is the point of no return? Honestly, the characters may have hit it, we’re not sure.  I think the game means for it to be a difficult choice. We’ve got one more torch, we’ve got a few more rations, we’ve got some sick and injured folk… can we make it or should we run? And if we run, will we be able to get past the threats we passed along the way?

Here is the video of our actual play. Listening to it now I notice there was some breathing noise coming through from someone having their mic to close. Sorry about that.

Turn By Turn

Turn 1 – Excited by the prospect of treasures magical and mundane, the party began piling loot into their sacks. Thaspar quickly grabbed the scrolls from the pile while Sixtoes began to stuff the silver into Orrin’s backpack. The silver was lost in the mud and had to be dug out to get every last coin. Sixtie rolled Laborer [Ob 1, Labor: Gathering wood and digging] to load them up, but scrounging around in the mud while sick is thirsty work [Failed roll, Condition: Hungry and Thirsty]. Kindly Deleran had some water to spare from his skin, quenching the halfling’s thirst.

Instinct – Thaspar inspected the lore they had found and determined one of the scrolls was that of changing your visage, Arcane Semblance! The other was religious propaganda, a cleric’s prayer that blasphemed the undead [Custom supplies for the Fury of the Lords of Life and Death for the Temple]. After determining the potion wasn’t poison with his alchemical tools,  Thaspar took a sip and recognized the aqua vitae as an Elixir of Respite.  Finally he looked at the coins stacked here to glean information from their minting based on his lore of such things [Scholar Ob 2, Knowledge: recent history]. He knew the mint! From the Viscounty of Verbobonc, a lords emblem one generation ago. [Success]

Turn 2 – The adventurers heeded the call of gold and began to follow the trail the found. As the trail lead them further and further in, the began to suspect a trap. Thaspar eventually noticed that the gold path wasn’t going in the same direction as the soft breeze and the party elected to follow that to it’s source! By watching how the fire of his torch was guttered every so slightly and with Deleran’s aid in identifying which way the mud was the freshest,[Dungeoneer Ob 3, Detecting Environmental Details: direction]. Just as Deleran was giving him some story about the mud in these parts, Thaspar set off on his own [Loner trait] and found it, a thin crevis in the rock wall, with a soft but marshy breeze coming through [Success!] [Torch extinguished and another lit]

Turn 3 – Seeing that the crack was very small, the sent their smallest member with naught but rope in one hand and a candle in the other to climb out [Dungeoneer Ob 4, Traversing: negotiating a narrow space, Breadth: one person]. Sick, frustrated, and all alone, Sixtoes had little chance of making it. As he ascended one wrong step landed his foot in a tight crack that he couldn’t get out [Failed, Twist: Stuck]. “Help!”

Spell – Thaspar, having just found a spell that could allow him to shape his the recipients skin like clay opted to spend this precious treasure (and endanger himself) to free his companion. By the dim light of Sixtoe’s candle he incated the spell form his scroll [Arcanist Ob 3, Appearance: Similar weight and appearance (thinner versions of themselves), Breadth: Two people, Light: Dim light] and the power of the sages ran through him. Molding Sixtoes foot like clay, he slipped him free of the rocky enclosure [Success!]. Now they had a choice, to use their new found freedom to escape through the crevice or return to their companions… the carefully scaled back down into the dungeon.

Turn 4– Having had enough with this fools gambit, the party decided to make their way back to the crypt but were now lost inside the twists and turns of the natural caves. Deleran scouted their way back [Scout Ob 2, Location:  Roughly known] but since Sixtoes had been picking up the gold coins as they went, getting back to the crypt meant losing the trail of the rest of the gold [Failed, Twist: Gold trail lost]. [Torch extinguished].

Camp Death

Rather than light another torch and foray into the dark, Sixtoes voted with his butt and sat down to make camp. The others dropped their packs and started to stretch their cramped muscles (those caves were small) when the stolen treasure, a coil that rolled out of Orrin’s backpack alerted the Tomb Gardians, and out of every crypt that was in use burst forth a skeleton bent on their destruction. Run for your lives! [Camp Events (Unsafe Underground Camp): Disaster!  – Dungeon Disaster – The inviting place you’ve picked to camp is actually a death trap. Flee for your lives. Mark as impassable]

Turn 5 – With no light, and no chance of fighting them off, the adventurers ran for their lives. Thaspar in the lead with everyone aiding him. The Tomb Guardians giving chance and trying to overwhelm the party with sheer numbers. Though it was a valiant effort, Sixtoes was caught by them, and his final shouts were “I make a good meal!” [Health vs. Tomb Guardians Nature. Results 6 vs 7, Failed. Condition: Dead]. The party fled around several twists and turns in the dark until finally they came to an intersection and had lost the guardians behind them!

Turn 6 – Lamenting the loss of their comrade, but knowing that a room full of skeletons was impossible to return to, the party continued. Thaspar lit his last torch and the appraised their situation. To their right were steps down, to the left was a long hallway leading into darkness. NO MORE GOING DOWN! They proceeded until they came to a closed (but unlocked oak door). Signs of passage were present so Deleran listed at the door to see if anyone was on the other side. [Scout vs. test against the Gnolls on the other side. Failed. Twist: The gnolls were on the other side waiting to ambush them]. Deleran gave everyone the all clear and they waled in, right into a Gnoll trap!

Spell – Deleran lept back out of the door and cast Word of Binding on it to hold it fast [Arcanist Ob 4, Portals: Door, Duration: Phase]. Just as the magical bonds were about to seal the door shot, one of the Gnolls burst it open, dispelling his magical energies. Seeing Thaspar holding a torch, he wrapped his flail around Thaspar’s torch arm and yanked the human closer to him [Failed, Twist: Thaspar entangled by the Gnoll’s flail]

Spell – Thaspar yelled out “I’ve had about enough of you people!” and cast Wizard’s Aegis to drive him back. [Arcanist versus Gnoll’s Nature: Success!] The gnoll went flying back through the door. The gnolls retorted that “but we haven’t had enough of you.”

Run away… [Next session]

Artha Awards

We generously awarded Sixtoes for his sacrifice (saving the part, being MVP, and all of that!), others found they hadn’t hit many beliefs or used instincts that aided the party (except Thaspar) so the Artha award to the living was pretty light.


So, a character died, and I had mixed feelings about that. The party is currently totally lost, way deep in the bowls of the dungeon with no way out, and they’re wondering, when did we made the mistake of going too far? After the game we talked quite a bit about the learning experience of playing and if everyone was still on board. I think that discussion was one of the better parts of the game, from a play analysis perspective. If you want to cut right to that, here’s the link.

Thoughts on this game

A lot of my thoughts in those last 30 minutes of the video. This game is taking some adjusting for me to get used to the idea that the characters really have to balance their risks against rewards and the system isn’t looking out for them.

I need to make up a table of “wandering monsters” so that I have some good twists for when characters fail rolls. Twists I gave this game were: Getting stuck in a crevice, loosing the gold trail, a sick character dying, and being ambushed by gnolls. The latter seemed like I could have come up with something more interesting.

8 thoughts on “Actual Play – “I make a great meal!” (7/25/2013)”

          1. Well, hopefully Thomer the Feral will join the party soon. He’s a Thief with who can cook and knows a thing or two about dungeons, unlike the current collection of hapless souls.

  1. Thanks for including the post-mortem conversation at the end of the session on the recording – it was really interesting stuff. I’ve been getting a lot out of these APs. Keep them coming!

  2. From watching your video and reading the rules, I’ve come to accept that Torchbearer is not a Grand Adventure, but instead a Black Comedy in which the characters are thrown.

    In most modern games, immersion and story are the important aspects, and being completely invested in your characters is key to enjoying the game. For BWHQ games, and Torchbearer most of all, it’s also important to enjoy the misadventures and suffering of the characters. When something awful happens to the character, don’t think of it as a setback but instead like some perverse form of slapstick. never assume the characters will get out, just enjoy watching the death spiral, and especially if they find some way out of it.

    Also, Torchbearer is a game where you’re meant to game the system. Narrative is what carries you through stuff, but the mechanics are a vital guide. More than any other system I’ve seen, this is one where mechanics are the guide and narrative is what follows the mechanics rather than the other way around.

    Just tossing thoughts out. Hope they make sense and are welcome. I enjoyed watching the story and am using it to define the game to those I plan to drag into it.

    1. I value your insight. I find I bring different sets expectations to different systems. Torchbearer is providing a learning experience. The Burning-system games have been the most challenging and among the most rewarding and enjoyable. They encourage and reward you to engage with the system. I still have a lot to learn, e.g., describing actions, daring to fail, playing well mechanically, etc.

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