Actual Play – In the Bandit’s Lair (3/19/2014)

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

Oh my, three months later, adventuresses still plunder on, for riches and glory!

Prologue: Orrin the Afraid recapped the events of last session, A Bandit’s Haul.

Beliefs / Instincts / Goals

Before play I wanted to review the BIGs that everyone had to make sure they were still relevant.

Beliefs: Unchanged


  • Thaspar – We will honor Sixtoes parent’s wishes.
  • Thomer – I want to find a new member for the pack, and make it stronger. [Editors note: Gnolls are strong]
  • Orrin – I will consecrate Sixtoes body.

Instincts: Unchanged

Adventuring on Air

Adventure Phase

Turn 3 – Thaspar lit a torch off the embers of his previous one. With the light improved, Orrin noticed something scuttling above and moving just out of his vision. Motes of dust poured down as something moved above him. All of them tried to creep out of the room quickly, but when only Orrin was left, the stone spider descended upon him. He tried to leap out and slam the door on the spider. [Heath versus test. Failure. Twist: Thaspar’s torch was lost in the fray].

Orrin propped the door closed with his shoulder, but in the darkness he couldn’t see anything that could prop it closed. Thaspar fumbled through his belt to pull out his tinderbox and light a torch. Once their was light Thommer (who smelled a wet dog musk and heard sniggering in the distance) set about trying to lock the door but the bolt was rattling and moving too much. Thaspar cast Wizard’s Aegis to hold the door steady. Orrin rammed the hilt of his warhammer in the latch to keep it from moving. The door momentarilly still, Thomer used his picks to turn the bolt over and lock the door.[1]

Turn 4 – Trying to track the location of the gnolls, Thommer followed their musk and the sounds of their sniggering. [Scout vs. Nature (Ambushing). Success] Thommer moved west following the smells and sounds. He realized there were several gnolls inside a room, but distracted enough by something else that they didn’t know exactly where the party was.

For all their efforts the entire party was Hungry and Thirsty (but I missed it, so told them not to mark it) [2]

Turn 5 – Thaspar tried to lead the party through the door to the north, passing by the gnolls (in the room to the west) undetected. [Scout vs. Nature. Failure. Twist.] The gnolls burst out of the room they were in, where Tuft the leader had apparently been teaching one of them how to pierce his ear with a flail, an gave chase. Orrin lead the way running straight down the stairs, only to hear a sucking sound and see some horrific ooze fall down on him. [3]

Turn 6 – Orrin tried to dive out of the way of the ooze. Thaspar grabbed him and pulled him back. [Heath ob 4. Fail. Twist]. Caught by the slime, Orrin was trapped! He felt his skin become numb as his skin began to melt off.

Turn 7 – Trapped conflict [Modified kill conflict]. With torch, hammer, grappling hook and alchemical weapons to harden it’s form, the adventurers not only saved Orrin from the ooze, but managed to destroy it and take the coin that had been floating in its gelatinous body! Orrin’s body, once exposed to fresh air, felt the sting of his melted flesh. Thommer’s leg was also dissolved down to the muscle. Both of them were injured.

What they found after, above the slime, in fact what it had been clutching too was a stone rod, the end carved into knots that were impossibly woven and intricate. Above gnolls could be heard sniggering at the high quality violence that had just ensued.

 Thoughts on this game

I made several choices during this game that had me thinking. From the footnotes above:

[1] Worth noting that I didn’t call for a roll here, what I really wanted to do was watch the players justify their successes by taking actions in the fiction. Once they had done so, I called the action a good idea and just ruled that it was successful. While this didn’t engage the mechanics as much as a test would, I preferred give the players impetus to do stuff.

[2] What to do when you realize a turn or two late that you forgot something like conditions applying, torches going out, or some event being triggered?

[3] Bad call on my part. I should have said that by Thommer sneaking up on the Gnolls, they could pass un-detected.

The trapped conflict was a good one to have (it was a big deal, and Orrin could have easily died during it) but it did take a long time. I’m going to be podcasting soon (I know, gasp) with a few other Torchbearer GMs to discuss when are the best times to call for conflicts and when you should just make something a single test.

Things I wonder:

1) How do you handle and NPC in the party (Thommer wants to “grow” the group)?
2) What do you do when you forget to apply a condition, snuff a torch, etc, and remember two turns later?
3) Does it make sense to not ask for a test, or to use a test in place of a conflict when it will expedite the game, focuses on the stuff your interested in, or generally feels like the right thing to do?

Actual Play – A Bandit’s Haul (12/19/2013)

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

Picking up after a nasty fight with bandits on the road, the adventurers regrouped, gained valuable information, and went about looting treasure holds!


Thommer gave a masterful prologue, all in character. He spoke of his pack, how they fought another pack, and how the weak puppy among them had to go.

Interrogations on Air


They needed it. (and we rolled a safe camp at the end of last game)

Instinct – Thommer, with some spices from Thaspar’s alchemy bag, cooked up some rations to feed the group. [Cook Ob 2 (3 with exhausted). Success] It was an extra meaty and thick stew filled with herbs from nearby the camp. Thistle stew! The runt (James) was fed as well. Hungry and Thirsty removed.

Check – Orrin went about trying to recover from the injury he suffered in battle, but the wound did not mend on it’s own. [Heath Ob 4. Fail]. His gut wound looks real bad.

Suck it up – Thaspar wrapped his wounds and sucked it up. [Health reduced by 1]

Check – Thaspar, having given up on his bum leg, set about making a map of the travel between Homlett and the Moathouse. [Cartography Ob 3. Success] The trip from Homlett to the Moathouse is now a safe (or at least mapped) one.

Check – Thomer went to find a stream to clean himself by and then rest next to. He got a nice resting spot in the sun. [Heath Ob3. Success. Exhausted removed] Resting in camp with a full belly. This is as good as it gets.

Check – Thaspar told James that he’s out of his league and needs to go home. He clearly had a concussion, but was trying pretend that he was okay.  Thommer got right up in his face and yelled at him. [Convince conflict. Total victory]. James deflated completely. He gave Orrin the bandages and surrendered. He staggered out of camp, seeing double.

Check – Seeing that his bloody gut wound was going to heal itself, Orrin set about stitching himself up. [Healer Ob 3. Fail] The wound was infected and had to burn that rot out before it spreads. [-1 Rider skill]. Orrin’s llama days are over.

Check (on loan from Orrin) – Thaspar, afraid for his’ brother’s life, helped him get home [Pathfinder Ob 2. Success] James was delivered to the gates of Homllett safely!

Check – Thommer set about interrogating Delmar (custom conflict type, see thoughts below) to find out what he knew about the Moathouse. Attack/Attack/Attack. Bad cop, bad cop, and bad cop. Delmar was beaten down into submission, but he wasn’t willing to do it without some assurances. [Interrogation conflict. Minor compromise, he was set free]. Delmar told them where their loot was left behind and told them how to get it! Then he bolted as they heard wolves howl in the distance.

Orrin prayed to his gods, but they taxed him in the process. With the boon of the spell also came a bane. Orrin received a glimpse into the lords that purvey over the Moathouse and saw his god Pelor far, far away… and gods that rules these lands were held nothing but menace for him. [Afraid condition]

Adventure Phase

The adventures set out and arrived at the Moathouse after dark. Avoiding the puddles they entered the keep. Thaspar lit one of his torches and saw the broken open doors of the Moathouse.

Inside they saw the remains of a brutal battle with the gnolls. Mara was there by the door to their quarters, her throat ripped out. Thommer, in the dim light, tripped over the leg of bandit, the leg only though, no body attached.

Instinct – Orrin, to prevent Mara’s body from being turned into undead by the inhabitants below, prayed over her body and gave her the sacraments of his faith. [Ritualist Ob 3. Success]. Orrin felt a lightness of being and a calm presence and her body was washed over by a pale purifying light. She breathed out one last breath and after that her skin dried out, dead, but preserved.

Rifling through the other corpse, copper was found, and after some inventory shuffling was stuffed in a small sack!

Turn 1 – Thommer worked at picking the lock into the Black Chamber and with effortless grace opened it up. [Criminal Ob 2. Success]

Turn 2 – Thommer looked through the rubble from the crumbled wall but didn’t see any traps there. He then set about pulling the rocks away. [Laborer Ob 2. Fail. Result: Both Thommer and Thaspar were Hungry and Thirsty]. After much work they uncovered a heavy chest under the rocks.

Opening the chest the found copper and treasures! Copper by the backpack load [8 slots, 4D]! The also found two bolts of fine blue linen [1D cash and 1 slot each], a crystal flagon and four matching goblets [2 slots], and four arrows.

Above him Orrin noticed shadows moving above them, some unknown menace.

Thoughts on this Game

I was really tired this game and forgot about some of the changes I had planned for the temple. Suffice to say I made it a bit too easy to loot the bandit’s horde. I’m sure I can make up for that next time!

We had a lot of deliberation in this game during camp. I’m never sure whether I should just tell people to tell me what they do and roll the dice, or if I should let them deliberate. Camp does seems like a good time for deliberation but at some point I think I need to say “what action are you talking?” and then tell them what skill or abilty to roll and move on.

+1 Ob to using healer on yourself seem fair? I can’t imagine healing yourself would be easy.

Taking “The dungeon I’m in-wise” is a brilliant move. Thaspar the scholar changed out his old wise for Moathouse-wise and it has been so useful to him.

Quote: “This is as good as it ever gets…eating and resting… after a successful battle with another pack. This is the high life. I’ve arrived!”

I thought supplied added +1d after halving for beginners luck, but I was wrong. They get halved as well. This seems a bit rough.

Errata: Page 138 says Laborer and Alchemist can help Healer but on page 31 it only lists Alchemist.

Custom conflict: Interrogation. Base Dispo: Roll Manipulator and add Will. Attack/Feint: Manipulator. Defend/Maneuver: Fighter.  Like riddle but Loremaster is swapped for Figther.

When Thommer failed the Laborer roll I should have made it make a lot of noise and attract attention from below.

Actual Play – Thommer saves the day! (11/20/2013)

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

Sometimes just getting to the dungeon is half the trouble. As a result of a failed pathfinder roll on their way back to the Moathouse, Thaspar and crew ran into Delmar and his new friends.


Orrin recounted the story from last session Leaving Hommlett with baggage in hand! Orrin had high hopes for Thaspar’s brother James. He might be a helpful bag carrier, or worst case, his wooden sword could be set on fire to act as a torch. He then got creative with his recounting, substituting bandit swords for ice cream!

I had just written the AP report, so as the ever helpful GM I filled in some details.

Stabbing On Air

Stabbing turn by turn

Turn 3 – “Get lost before you get what’s coming to you” was quickly followed with spears and shield in faces! Epic Conflict!

[Starting disposition. Bandits: 11. Adventurers: 7]

13 brutal exchanges later, injured and dead bodies were strewn all over the road. (Delmar; Left for dead…and then really dead, Joseph: Fled, Milton: Dead, Terrance: Dead, Swell: Fled, Jamie: Fled)

[Ending disposition. Bandits: 0. Adventurers: 1]

The bandits (those alive) scampered off to lick their wound. The party was all beaten and battered, except Thommer, who was merely exhausted from being the last man standing. [Condition: Injured  for everyone except Thommer, who was Exhausted]

Loot Found: Delmar’s sword, Thaspar’s stolen dagger (this was loot granted by me). Also: a shield (Milton’s), a rusty nail and dry leaves (the results I actually rolled)

Turn 4 – As they were all brutalized, Thommer set about to secure a space to make camp and tend their wounds. He searched through the trees for a dense brush and cleared a space beneath it. [Survivalist Ob 3 (increased due to exhaustion). Result: Success] With the help of his friends, Thommer made a safe came [Camp results table: Safe camp]

Waiting for him to regain consciousness… Thaspar tied up Delmar to question him later. It was good timing to make camp, as everyone was now Hungry & Thirsty. 

Thoughts on the game

Note to self: Six Bandits (Fighter: 4, Order of Might: 2) are really dangerous for a part of three adventurers (even if they have a “helper”)

We finally got to see daggers vs. Spears and Bows (both even!). It was pretty rad.

The battle was a good demonstration of seeing the defend action bring people back into the fight! (Long drawn out conflicts make it possible)

When you really want a fight to end, script Feint, Feint, Feint. By the fourth exchange I was really ready for the fight to end so I went for it. Results were mixed. I thought they were dead meat… and then my dice betrayed me! [0 successes on 5 dice]

Armor played a major role in this fight, as did it’s interaction with weapons (Leather don’t work against bows for instance).

Wisely the players earned a lot of checks during the fight, so they could camp afterwards.

Note for next game: Thommer wants to convince James to go home. Thaspar wants to get information out of Delmar. Everyone is Injured except Thommer who is Exhausted.

Quote: “I get her in the eyes!”

Actual Play – Leaving Hommlet with baggage in hand! (9/20/2013)

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

Our second session in Town Phase. I was surprised that this took two sessions but I shouldn’t have been. I’m a sucker for family drama and it was too much to pass up the tension between Thaspar and his father.

Also, we started the session with a discussion (which I unfortunately didn’t get on air) about the death spiral effect of loot. Namely that they ran out of the Moathouse without nearly enough loot and wouldn’t be able to walk out of town Fresh or paying their bills.

Hommlet on Air

Thaspar’s Tale of Woe

Thaspar recounted the prologue, the adventurers story of coming home. Trials and tribulations followed the party to town. The even brought some with him!

The situation at hand

I reminded folks of their current predicaments. Thaspar’s family trouble had escalated and his parents were now fighting with each other. Orrin was granted knowledge of the Moathouse inhabitants (their leader is named Lareth) but promised to recover Sixtoe’s body so that he was not raised as an undead minion. Thomer had ignited a feud between the Stonemasons and the Cutlers, and was hiding out so none of them realized he had caused the fight.

Artha Awards

Last session had run so long we didn’t get a chance to do Artha, so we did it at the start of this section.

Lifestyle in town

Thaspar’s fever would not pass so he finally opted to sweat it out. Sick was removed but the lingering sinus infection stuffed up his nose such that his nose is particularly sensitive to the smells of alchemical concoctions [Alchemy -1].

Thaspars books, all now stacked in the root cellar of his house, were at least dry. He dug them out and with some help from Orrin (who first had to bail hey for Thaspar’s father) scribed Wisdom of the Sages back into his spellbook [Scholar Ob: 2. Result: Success. +1 Lifestyle]. That night James came home with his wodden dummy to test his block and swing, which Orrin helped him with.

Thomer, after dinner called for Thaspar to come out and asked him what he should do with the mess he created between the Stonemasons and the Cutlers. Thaspar’s advice: Burn bridges behind you and run fast!

As if on cue, Stella from the cutlers guild walked up the road to his house to cash in on that round of drinks she was owed. Thomer hid in the bushes and everyone else, (including James, who was delighted that he could come along with his older brother and friends) headed to the Inn of the Welcome Wench for a round on Thaspar. [Lifestyle +1, result of the twist from entering the town].


Starting with a discussions about how resources rolls work (explaining tax and how cash dice act as insulation from said tax) as well as one goes about getting the Fresh condition when leaving town. Result of the discussion: screw the town, lets buy the gear we need!

Thaspar: Torches [Ob 1. Result: Success]. The woodcutter fought along side Thaspar’s father, and gave him a break on the torches (how town advantage).

Thomer: Fresh Rations [Ob 1. Result: Success] The butchers took well to Thomer and took his silver for food.

Thaspar (now with a Resources 1): Rope [Ob 2. Result, fail by 1. Resources would be taxed by one but it is mitigated by the spending of cash dice]. Rope acquired!

Orrin: Torches [Ob 1. Result: Success].

Family Troubles

As they packed up to leave, Thaspar’s mother approached him and asked he would talk to his father. Things were still not well at the Redclaw home. She had packed him a fresh lunch and pointed him in the directions of his father. Dad and son had it out. You come and bring trouble to my home vs. Take it out on me and not on your mother. [Persuader versus test. Success!] Ignis will leave Matilda out of the family squabbles.

Paying the Bills

Thomer – [Lifestyle: 2, Rolling 2 dice (Resources 1, +1D cash) so there are no bill collectors coming. [Ob 2. Result: Success. Point of taxed nature restored].

Orrin – [Lifestyle: 3. Rolling 3 dice (Resources 1, +1D cash, +1D Persona) so there are no bill collectors coming. [Ob 3. Result: Fail (1 success]. Twist] As he is leaving, Sixtoes mother approached and told him that in Halfling tradition, a fallen son is wrapped in a blanked sown by his family. She give him a blanket [Pack 2] to carry and wrap the body of Sixtoes in.

Thaspar [Lifestyle: 3. Rolling 3 dice (Resources 1, +1D cash, +1D Persona, +1D Home Town) so there are no bill collectors coming. [Ob 3. Result: Fail (1 success]. Twist] Bills paid on his way out of town who should show up but James! His bags were packed and his mind made up: He was going to be an adventurer too! Begrudgingly, Thaspar agreed.

James skills: Fighter 2, Laborer 2, Weaver 2. Will: 2, Health: 5 Order of Might: , Resources: 0, Circles: 1, Nature: 5. Trait: Brave. Equipment: Satchel, Wooden sword, training buckler, crappy leather armor.

Leaving Town

Orrin – Testing Theologian [Ob 4. Result: Fail. GM picks spell granted by the Immortal Lords]. Random result – Benedictions of the Lord of Creation.

Town Event – Nina the Healer, Orrin’s mentor sent a rider to find him, who caught him right on the edge of town. Refugees from the town of Nulb have arrived with horrible stories of how the town has been overrun and creatures from the Temple of Elemental Evil (long thought deserted) have been plaguing their city. There is a crude map to Nulb and the Temple.

Adventure Phase

Back to the Moathouse!

Spell – Before heading out Orrin used his blessing on Thaspar. [Ob 3: Test. Result: Fail. Condition: Hungry and Thirsty]. Parched, Orrin drank heartily from his flask of water to quench his thirst.

Turn 1 – The way back to the Moathouse was still foriegn and unknown. [Pathfinder Ob 3. Result: Fail. Twist] Bandits on the road! Bandits from the Moathouse, evicted by the Gnolls, now Delmar had made friends with a new band of bandits. At first they offered “Your money or your life” but then Delmar recognized them and quickly changed his tune “Forget that, these are the assholed we met in the Moathouse, just kill them, and he let a crossbow bolt fly at Orrin.”

Turn 2 – Orrin leapt out of the way, charging at his agresssor, Thomer tried to take the bolt from him. Thaspar mocked Delmar as he took the shot, trying to distract him. [Versus test. Result: Fail (but gained 2 checks for using Brave against himself). Twist] His aim just a bit off, the bolt went into Orrin’s backpack. Out of the bushes four more bandits stepped out, surrounding the party. (The blankets for sixtoes is torn!)

Thoughts on this game

Forgot to add exhausted ob penalty to Thaspar’s scholar roll.

These were some of my best twists yet! A blanket to wrap the fallen in and a young brother [Order of Might: 2] following them into hell.

“I guess a wooden sword is just another name for a torch.”

Damn it, Delmar, not Jaspar! Net NPCs names right!



Actual Play – Welcome to Hommlet, dirty adventurers (9/13/2013)

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

Battered and beaten down (like they should be), my intrepid adventures made their way to Hommlet, to sell some of their treasure and, more importantly, lick their wounds.


Orrin recapped the daring escape from the Moathouse with their new found companion Thomer.

Hommlet on Air

A breakdown of the action

The adventurers had some checks to spend and opted to make camp outside of town. To all of our amazement I rolled a minor boon for them in camp, a small pleasant brook, quite tranquil in contrast to the Moathouse horrors. The rested up some, Orrin recovering from conditions, Thaspar not so much, and headed in to town.  On their way in, Thaspar admitted to his friends that his family name (as Hommlet is is home town and they were sure to hear it) was not Flamebringer, but Redclaw, and that he didn’t get along too well with his family (we talked about this some and decided that his brother the warrior wasn’t his enemy, it was really his father Ignus Redclaw, who saw Thaspar as a constant disappointment).

Town Phase

This was a our first town phase, so I wanted to do it BY THE BOOK. Literally, I was reading each section out of the book.

At the gates

  • Spend remaining checks – They just had a camp phase, so these were all gone.
  • Determine the watch – I rolled the “Cutlers” guild.
  • Entering Town Table – I roll a Minor Inconvenience – Surly Watch. Since Thaspar had talked about nobody liking him (and he is a pretty hard guy to like) I had the Cutler’s spoiling for a fight with Thaspar. Stella, one of the guild members knew full well about the bad blood between Thaspar and his father Ignus, and she didn’t think much of Thaspar either. (Persuader versus test. Result: Fail. Twist: The party is allowed in but a round of drink were going to be put on Thaspar’s bill. Lifestyle cost: 1).
  • Fresh Rations spoiled
  • Orrin and Thaspar both went to level 2!
  • Strategize – They all just wanted to heal up and stock up. Not much to do here.
  • Haggle – No one opted to haggle (didn’t want the lifestyle cost)

In town

To bed! Everyone was beat up and the first thing they wanted to do was recover from conditions.

  • Thaspar went home – Yay, home.
  • Orrin headed to the Inn of the Welcome Wench (Inn)
  • Thomer snuck into the stables to sleep with the animals.

No point in detailing out the recovery, it was good for Orrin and bad for Thaspar. Here’s the interesting bits:

Getting Rough with Rufus

Thomer looked for some work and found some with the cutler’s guild! They were peeved that the adventurers Burne and Rufus were giving work to the carpenters and stonemasons guilds, but none to the cutlers. Everyone needs good sharp knives!  (Circles Ob 3. Result: Success).

Thomer agreed get the adventures negotiating with the Cutlers for a contract and went on his way to talk to Rufus. He found the warrior  (Circles Ob 3, Result: Fail. Condition: Angry), Rufus and let me know that the cutler’s guild wanted work and meant business. (Manipulator versus. Result. Tie. Tiebreaker roll. Result: Fail. Twist: Rufus was incensed at the threat and was going to round up the stonemasons to take the fight to the cutlers directly. Brawl!

Fighting with Family

Thapsar found his father on the road, pushing a wheelbarrow of freshly shaved (unspun) wool.  Ignus was disappointed but not overly surprised to see his son. Thaspar offered to spin the wool, which seemed like a good way to earn his fathers good graces, so I called for a test to spin it, and thereby impress him. (Weaver Ob 2. Result: Fail. Twist: Now Thapar’s presence was causing trouble for his entire family as his mother and father were fighting over him being there).

Man, that’s what family is for! (worht noting Thapsar doesn’t technically have a family, because he’s a loner tough and cool. Ignus (his father) is his enemy.

Thoughts on this game

What do you do when you’re Afraid and try something you’re not skilled in? (Since you can’t use beginners luck)

Some questions:

1. I presented a difficult situation for Thaspar. His room had been converted to a nursery (his mother is pregnant again) and his father doesn’t want him home. Thaspar tried to ear his good graces by doing some of the family work (weaving) but failed the roll to spin the wool, and ended up causing his mother and father to start fighting with each other..

He had this tough situation where I described the family meals as tense and quiet, but he was in such bad shape (tons of conditions) all he waned to do was rest and recover. He had the option of making a persuader roll to try and make peace, but he as just too be up to do it.

My question here is: should I have skipped over all that role-playing bits and just had him make recovery checks? If so, how should I be presenting his enemy/father in a way that creates hardships for the character?

1b. When the entered town I rolled a Minor Inconvenience of “Surly Watch” and had rolled the Cutler’s guild on watch. We also had some dialog of “You’re not wanted here” and they made opposed persuader rolls. The failed the roll and I said the bribe was buying the all drinks at the Inn of the Welcome Wench and told him to mark a Lifestyle Cost +1, that sound legit?

2. Thomen tried to dig up some guild work. It said it offered a bag full of silver, but we had some questions about what the work and reward entailed. 1D cash?

2a. Work. So the cutlers were upset that a new building was being made and the stonemasons and carpenters guilds were getting all the work. Since it was “adventurers” commissioning the new building, they wanted Thomen to convince them to give the cutlers some of that work as well. Surely the new building would need knives!

To do the work I asked Thomen to first circle up the patrons of the building Rufus and Burne, and then persuade them to give the cutlers some work. He failed his circles roll and decided that everyone in Hommlett were money grubbing jerks that couldn’t just point him in the right direction without a bribe (angry condition) and then met Rufus the Warrior. Thomen decided to use some mob tactics and say it would be a shame of some of the stonemasons doing the work got hurt, perhaps he should give the cutlers some work, to keep everyone safe and sound. They made opposed Manipulator checks, tied, and Rufus won the tiebreaker. He was incensed at the the threat and planned to go teach those cutlers a lesson!

Was this too many rolls to call for doing the work (Circles to get the work, circles to find his mark, manipulator to manipulate him)?

2b. Reward. I don’t think he finished the work, in fact he made things worse for the cutllers (the twist). He’s still in town though, so he might find a way to make things better. If he succeeds what is the reward in terms of cash dice? 1D seems like the obvious answer, but why would someone raise their lifestyle by +1 just to have a chance of getting 1D of cash. With the hope to spin wheels for a while building up their resources?

3. Can characters help each other with work in towns? If so do they both pay the lifestyle cost? What if one person wants to help the other haggle, find work, or dig up leads?

Actual Play – Burnsies (9/4/2013)

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

Another adventure in the Moathouse. The got out! Literally by the skin of their teeth.


Thaspar recounted the tale of their last adventure. They lost Sixtoes and found gnolls!

Goals Changed

Mostly to “get the hell out of this dungeon!” Hah!

Gaming on Air

The play is the thing

The adventurers find Thomer, a human, tied on a spit, being cooked alive by gnolls. Thaspar used his Aegis to knock back the gnolls and Orrin followed up knocking the spit over.

Some flavor – Gnolls are jovial sadists. One of them was playing with a one-armed, one-legged zombie chained to a wall.

Turn 7 – Thaspar tried to subtly drop his dagger to Thomer so he could cut himself free. [Criminal versus test against the Gnoll’s nature. Result: Fail. Condition: Afraid]  Tuft grabbed Thaspar just as he dropped the dagger and lifted him up off the ground to the magicians face up to his maw.

Turn 8 – Trick conflict with the Gnoll leader Tuft. They tricked the gnolls into believing that not only were the bandits above them better eating, but also that for Tuft to show he was strong, he’d have to put those bandits down. [Trick Conflict. Win. Minor compromise: One gnoll is left to supervise them]. The talk took something out of them [Conditions applied: Hungry and Thirsty for Thomer, Exhausted for Thaspar, Angry for Orrin]. Torch burnt out.

Thomer recovers his belongings, and a midst them, find a leather bound tome, which was used by the gnolls as toilet paper. Orrin scavenges up torches out of the campfire, but the one gnoll who is watching him thinks that’s an invite to play burnsies (the game of taking turns burning each other). Orrin hits him with the burning torch and the gnoll gleefully looks to hit him back.

Orrin numbly chewed the rat steak cooked up by Sixtoes!

Turn 9 – Thaspar tries to knock the gnolls torch into and take control of the situation. Thaspar don’t play that game! [Health vs Nature test. Result: Fail. Condition: Angry]. He bounces off the gnoll, who almost attacks him, but then realizes that Thaspar is Tuft’s play-toy so lets him go, which pisses Thaspar off fiercely because nobody fears him at all.

Good idea – Thaspar studied the fecal covered leather bound, which was written in praise of Lloth, and spoke of a Bright Child that would come to the Moathouse and take control, and of the secret passwords and identification he would use. Identified safe passage would come with a cloak with golden eyes and special hand signal.

Turn 10 – They followed in the direction the gnolls went until they came to a fork in the dungeon.  Thomer, adept as tracking, looked for signs of their passage [Scout Ob 2. Result: Success].

The followed the path…to glorious stairs! In the ascent Thomer told his new companions of his childhood, how his old master had raised him to steal for him, and when Thomer had gotten to old, he was kicked out. Now he seeks a new family. The stairs lead to a dead end! In the distance they felt a thud vibrating through for the ground.

Turn 11 – Sure the gnolls went this way, Orrin began searching for a secret door. [Scout Ob 2: Result: Success]. Orrin found, high up, a winch mechanism to lift the door. After the work their torch went out and they spotted a small crack of light that came through above the door, and through that crack they saw a giant deformed monster of a man.

Thomer lit his lantern so Thaspar could read the book, where he identified the guardian as Lubash the Ogre! The way the bright child would identify himself as well. With the cloak of golden eyes, and the hand signal of Lloth.

Turn 12 – To trick the ogre, Thaspar set off to make gold thread, which he could show into a cloak as eyes. [Alchemist Ob 2. Result: Fail. Twist: The gnolls returned. Tuft and Lubash were talking on the other side of the wall]. [Thomer and Orrin gained Hungry and Thirsty and Thaspar, out of food and filled with ever other condition was now Sick]

Spell – To find out what the were talking about, Thaspar cast Wisdom of the Sages out of his spell book. [Arcanist Ob 1. Result: Fail. Twist: Thaspar’s intoning of the spell is overheard by the gnolls and the ogre on the other side]. All went quiet on the other side.

Good Idea – As they heard Lubash come close they walked down the stairs and doused their lantern, hiding out of view.

Turn 13 – As the Ogre Lubash entered the stairwell, but his feet did not fit on the steps and the party took advantage of his awkward balance to trip him down the steps. [Versus test against Ogre’s nature (descriptor: lumbering). Result: Success! Lubash goes tumbling down!] The gnolls, as I described before, were jovial sadists so instead of trying to stop the party, they doubled over laughing.

Mapping Fast Travel – Once they run through the Ogre’s room, they were back into mapped territory. Making use of their map, they moved quickly through the dungeon and up the stairs into the moathouse. Hurray, they made it out of the moathouse!

Turn 14 – Breathing fresh air again, Thaspar led the way back to Homlett! [Pathfinder Ob 3. Result: Twist. Thaspar in his rush didn’t pack the bowl of golden dye carefully, the sack with book of Lloth and the gold dye got jossled and the dye got everywhere, covering the book and ruining the sack].

Artha Awards

I was very happy to give Thomer embodiment this session. Jon did a fantastic job of playing Thomer the Feral as a lost cub, looking for a pack.

Thoughts on this game

Going down the steps to hide, I asked them what they did with their light, and then called it a good idea when they said they hid it. Probably shouldn’t have fed them that one.

Getting past he ogre. I should have handled that as Flee conflict, but I was damn tired and wanted to get through it quickly, so I called it a versus test to trip him.

There was a lot of meta gaming this session. On my part it came from being tired. I just said “You need to make a Pathfinder check to get there” instead of asking what they do an following with a call for a test.  In Tim’s case it was a lot of “what will I have to roll to do this?” to which I should have responded “lead with the fiction.”

Lead with the fiction.


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.

Actual Play – We actually have the rules this time (7/11/2013)

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

Torchbearer is out, yo! If you were a backer, you’ve got the email.

Rules in hand we set off for our fifth session in the Moathouse!


Last session ended so late we didn’t do Artha awards. I figured the best way to remember what we did was to have one of the characters do a prologue and then award Artha after that.

Sixtoe, as he had not done the prologue last game, recalled their story of glory as they fended off the zombie horde long enough for him to fashion four torches out of torture devices and human remains! With the doors held fast, they scurried down the secret ladder they had found into a dark and musty crypt!

Watch the Actual Play

Below I’ll recall the game, and my thoughts on it, but if you have the inclination, here’s our recording of it!

Artha Awards

Sometimes Artha is awkward. When you’re on the fence about giving a reward, it can feel really uncomfortable as the player weaseling for the awards or as GM wavering over whether or not to give them.

Torchbearer has so far been really easy adjudicate. Beliefs and Goals are specifically awarded Fate if you take actions to further them.  In my mind these actions neither to either be a challenge you faced (resulting int a test) or something clever you did (and therefor not taking a test) that furthered them.  Instincts are even simpler. Did your party benefit from a role you were granted?

MVP, Teamworker, and Embodiment are a little more subjective, but in our case it felt clear. Some people shined for their efforts and were rewarded. I ended up not giving out a reward for Embodiment because all the sessions so far (including this one), we’ve focused so much around how the game works that I haven’t seen much in the way of “Embodiment”. I think Thaspar is going to be the first to get it though, that wizard has a chip on his shoulder!

Into the Crypt!

They had only the tiniest bit a light coming down the shaft form their abandoned torch. As the descended they immediately picked up the pungent odor of things modling, the putrid decay of rotting flesh and the sounds of animals gnawing away at a fresh kill.

Thaspar took this tinderbox from his pack and sparked it to light a torch. In the first flicker of light, they saw creatures huddled over a corpse. In the second they saw the creatures rise, looking menacingly towards them, and in the third spark, when the torch finally lit, they saw the creatures charge. Undead abominations with thin skin, fingernails grown and hardened into claws, teeth broken and sharpened into fangs, and eyes…eyes that were endless pools of darkness and death. The found ghouls!

Turn 9 – That had done enough running. First from the bandits, then from the zombies… and where had it got them, deep and deeper into this dank horrible place. Sixtoes, against his nature, decided it was time to take a stand, and so they did. To the death!

Kill Conflict Disposition Breakdown

As Sixtoes was their leader, they also elected him captain of the fight. He was rolling his Fighter (2) and adding it to his Health (3). Orrin held with Fighter (+1D), but Sixtoes was sick (-1D), and a few of the were hungry and thirsty (-1s). Knowing things were dire, Sixtoes spent a persona to tap his nature (+5D), knowing that fighting was against his nature and sure to tax it, but this halfling was a brave one. He rolled a fantastic six successes, minus one (hungry and thirsty) plus his heath, the party started with a disposition of 8 vs. the ghoul’s 9. It was going to be close. Orrin and Sixtoes were charging ahead so they each took 3 stones (hit points), Thaspar was given 2. The ghouls took an even 3 across the board.

The battle went well for the adventurers, all things considered. I was rolling pretty terribly (three times getting 1s on 6 dice) and the fortunes were with them. They also taxed many of their reserves (using traits and artha) and ended the battle with the Ghouls taken out, and down to a disposition of 2.

Throwing a softball?

Page 74 has a special section called Killing Is My Business, which covers compromises for Kill conflicts. It says in the decription these rules are written from the player perspective and since all they cover is losing a conflict I didn’t use them (as the players won). Looking back at the chart on page 75 thought, it says that if the GM looses, the Killing Is My Business section should be used, but from the monster’s perspective.

What I should have done:

  • Left one of the ghouls for dead, but have in actually survive, albeit horribly maimed and given all the conditions. Or,
  • Kill off all but one of the party members (Thaspar was taken out and Orrin took a terrible bite to the neck, they could both easily have died from these wounds). Or,
  • Badly injure the party members (reducing their nature by 1 and removing a trait). Or,
  • Introduce a major collateral damage (all of the backpacks dropped in fight sunk into the ghouls ichor and were destroyed, along with all of their contents).

What I did:

Applied two conditions. Injured for Orrin, and Afraid for Thaspar. The latter was because I really wanted to play up the Ghoul’s paralyzing touch and its effects of seeing yourself cold and dying. If I was going with conditions, I probably should have given Thaspar Afraid and Injured. Or you know, murdered the two of them.

Good to know for next time.

Make camp already…almost

Turn 10 – They wanted to make camp, but first they wanted to secure the space. Sixtoe, with the help of Orrin strung up his pots and pan an utensils with a rope across the open hallway to the easy (the only entrance they had found to the crypt besides the secret passage they came down). The apparatus was constructed as before but at some point the rope dropped in the ghouls ichor, a slime that could not be removed and would get over everything in his sack, should the rope be put back. Farewell sweet rope [TWIST].

And then they made camp… almost

Instinct – Thaspar just had to investigate the crypts. Who was buried there. What did the markings mean. Orrin was interested in as well and lent his aid as a scholar.  Thaspar learend

The builders of the dungeon planned for a long tenancy (though their expectations were not met). Most of the niches are empty, but a few contain splintered coffins, wrappings, and gnawed and split bones (a sure sign that all is not well).

Investigating one coffin further, they heard a rustling noise come from inside, and moments later rats (who had been nibbling on bones) burst out, dropping onto Thaspar and trying to nibble away at him too! [TWIST]

Turn 11 – Being wise in the way of rats (rat-wise), Sixtoe knew that it you just give a rat a good punch, it will stun it long enough to both extract it from your friend’s undergarments and make a meal of it. Orrin knew that kicking and shooing and waving a torch at most small vermin helped to scare them off as well. With a bit of Deeper Understanding (rat-wise), Sixtoe and Orrin scared them off (leaving one stunned one behind for cooking) and watched as they all fled to the south, into one of the alcoves where they disappeared [SUCCESS]

Okay, now it’s time Camp

Checks were spent. Things were done! We rolled on the Unsafe Underground Camp table and thanks to Sixtoes’ alarm (giving them the needed +1 on their roll, they had a safe camp!)

First they drank wine! Removing hungry and thirsty.

Sixtoes – Drinking that win helped him recover from being so angry! [SUCCESS]

Thaspar – Wine soothes many ails! Drinking some, coming back to earth, and commiserating with his allies all helped him overcome that brush with death!

Sixtoes – His instinct is to always cook when they make camp. With some help of alchemical ingredients of Thaspar, Sixtoes cooked up that rat into rat steaks! Preserved rations for one [SUCCESS]

Orrin – Orrin didn’t have checks but he did have an instinct to never leave the dead unattended. The woman who had been consumed by the ghouls was hardly recognizable. Just the same, he had empty coffins and sacraments necessary to lay the dead to rest.

Sixtoes – With his final check, and the aid of Thaspar alchemy for a finish, Sixtoes crafted the broken remains of a coffin, into a wooden holy symbol of Pelor for Orrin. [SUCCESS]

Adventure Phase!

The three smelled the tell-tale signs of a loot and followed the rats there!

The back of a crypt is broken out, leading to an earth tunnel, which is foul and damp and only about 5 feet high. The tunnel leads to a noisome den where a heap of bones and skulls indicates the ghouls’ nest!

In the nest was their scattered treasures. Sculls of the consumed. Gnawed bones. But also piles of silver, corked glass vials, and scroll cases. A trail of gold pieces lead off, further down into and even more cramped cavern, further into the wet darkness…

Artha Award

I was smart and made sure we ended soon enough to have time for Artha. Again, I really enjoyed how easy it was to determine who should get the rewards. Orrin for getting the kills on all  three Ghouls with his mighty warhammer. Sixtoes as Teamworker for being Johnny on the spot making holy symbols, feeding the group, securing camp, and scaring off the rats…rats which lead to treasure!

Thoughts on this game

This is such a technical game, with so many mechanics to engage, that it’s really easy to forget about leading with the fiction. It was something that all of us needed to be reminded of from time to time during the game.

I think I fucked up the end of that Ghoul fight. I’m not sure how much fun it would have been to have everyone loose all their gear, or for two of them to die, but ultimately having integrity in a BWHQ system is what makes it sing. They were in a grim situation and made a dire choice. How heartbreaking would it have been for Sixtoes if that choice cost him his friends lives?

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.

Actual Play – Flight into Darkness (6/3/2013)

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

Even with the mighty powers of we couldn’t find a day that all of us could make it, so Tim missed this game. All things considered that wasn’t too bad, since Thaspar Flamebringer left off last game catatonic from a snake bite.

Torchbearer on Air!

At the behest of Curt Jackson, we put this game on air. Now you can all see how we bumbled through the rules here:


Sixtoe, the only one conscious in his party bravely muttered to himself the events of last session, to steel himself from the dangers that lurked inside the Moathouse. After his inspired tale, he removed the afraid condition.

Missing a Session

Using the rules on page 78 of Mouse Guard about missing a session, I had Deleran tell us what had kept him behind last session (that Shaun couldn’t make). He too was afraid (it’s a scary place) and so he spent time alone in the courtyard of the Moathouse getting up the nerve go inside and there by also removing the afraid condition.

Split Party

As the party was split, I opted to have them take simultaneous turns. I think that was perhaps generous, as they effectively got two tests or actions per turn, but they were also burning twice the light sources.  My guess is that cleaving closer to the rules would have meant each of their actions counting for a turn, regardless of who was present. I’ll post that on the forums for future use.

Since they hadn’t made camp last game, I started them following from that on turn 9.

Sixtoe Surprise

Turn 9 – Sixtoe knew he was in a woefully bad spot. The torch had just gone out and from the few shafts of light coming through the arrow slits, he could just make out the catatonic faces of his two companions, fell by the snakes venom, which weakened him as well.

The halfling did what halflings do and burgled through his companions packs, groping in the dark through their packs for a torch. He liberated one from Thaspar and lighting it took stock of the situation. Deleran was gone, Thaspar and Orrin both unconscious. A jeweled dagger found in the snake lair was now in his hand. It would be a perfect time to bolt, and make for Hommlett to see what he could make from a large sack stuffed to the bring with his friends belongings.

Instead the brave hafling, his goal to “come back with everyone alive” risked his own life, staying inside the brigand-ridden keep to aid his friends. Believing that good spirits would cure any ailment, Sixtoe took some of his wine and poured it into a tin cup, the added some spices and heated it over the torch, making mulled (and potentially medicinal) wine. I liked this a lot. Based on my layman’s knowledge of snake venom, it didn’t seem like a sure thing (i.e. a clever idea, that would allow him to succeed without rolling and not take a turn) but it seemed like a worthy effort, so I granted an advantage die, hoping that something of this nature exists in Torchbearer.

Success! Sputtering and spitting up blood, Orrin was revived! [SUCCESS]

Deleran Ap Denemir
Deleran by damiller
Lone Ranger

Turn 9 – Meanwhile, Deleran was trying to find his companions, but once he entered the Moathouse found he was submerged in deep darkness. Only the thin shafts of light from the arrow slits illuminated bits of the room, revealing a broken cobblestone floor, and bits of detritus scattered about.

Knowing he was useless in this darkness, Deleran groped the walls for something, and soon found tattered tapestries, fabric worn brittle and thin by time.  He pull one down off the wall and ss he sparked flint and steel, and the tapestry ignited he saw depictions of the keep of old illuminated briefly before the images curled and blackened.

With the brief bit of light provided (I said it would burn for 1 turn), he tried to track his companions by scouting the area for signs of passage. The scout roll failed so he succeeded in the letter of his intent, but not the spirit. He followed their trail right into the bandit’s lair (where Orrin had broken down the door) and the found himself surrounded by bandits, holding their blades with casual menace. [TWIST]

Camp Sixtoe

Turn 10 – Weary and in need of respite, Orrin and Sixtoe decided this southern chamber, formerly inhabited by a giant snake that the bandits were terrified of, and with only one way in or out, was a great place to set up camp. Orrin collected the flammable debris to to make a fire, while Sixtoe secured the room by stinging a rope with utensils and metal cups across the passage, thus prepared for any incoming bandits. [SUCCESS, clever idea]

Neither of the adventurers had any checks, so they were left to a bit of discussion and supping on the thick slab of snake they have just vanquished for a meal. Perhaps this should have requires a cook test to make, but I was satisfied to give it to them, knowing they could have spent a check to dry it and turn it into many more rations than they got out of eating it charred over the camp fire. [No checks spent]

Look up there… a spider

Negotiations weren’t going well for Deleran. Where the bandits didn’t want to get into a fight with three armed adventures, one was easy picking. Hurley and Deleran traded some insults and the bandits offered for him to go his own way, so long has he consented to tithe to them. Mara sent two of her guys to pad him down looking for valuables.  As they started roughing him up, Deleran tried to trick them by looking terrified into one of the dark rafters above, but Delmar already had his grubby hands on Deleran’s signant ring and as he bolted, the brigand yanked it off his finger before giving persist. [TWIST]

Once Deleran was clear of the bandits room though, they didn’t give much chase. The Moathouse is a scary place, even for the residents. Now that he was facing south however, he did notice the faint flicking shadows coming from a small camp fire down a corridor to the south. Following the dim light he walked down the passage until he snagged a rope with his ankle, setting of a cacophony of clattering utensils, and alerting the wary halfling burgler to his presence.

Together again… and there was little rejoicing

As the GM, I expected some relief on everyone’s part. Along the lines of “oh, thank the gods of chaos and law that it’s you”. Clearly my head was in the wrong space, we got the banter of murder hobos “What are you doing out there?” “Why do you have a fire, don’t you know there are bandits out there?” Anon.

Deleran joined in the camp, as he was hungry and thirsty as well, and feasted on hunks of charred snake meat. Since I found Sixtoe’s plan to ward off foes a clever idea, and because the folks that might wander down here were in fact not so inclined to do so, I didn’t roll on the camp encounter table.

Fires burning low

Turn 1  – Once the campfire had burnt down, the were again in darkness. Realizing that they had no more torches and no source of light, the adventurers once again were groping in the dark. Though they couldn’t see a good light source, someone’s macabre brain smelled one. Jasper, the dead brigand was still rotting away in this chamber. In a particularly gruesome act, Deleran proposed that they fashion torches out of his femurs!

The adventurers got to work. Deleran collected flammable moss from the walls. Orrin used his knowledge of anatomy to remove the femurs and cleave the bulk of the flesh from them. Sixtoe bound moss around the mostly cleaned bones with a bit of rope, and ignited the necrotic torch. The entire process was terrible, disgusting and incredibly difficult to do in the dark. Sixtoe pullsed it off, but was quite infuriated by the time the work was done [CONDITION, agnry]

Afterwords I considered whether I should be letting the players gather resources during the adventuring phase, more thoughts on that below.

MoathouseTurn 2 – As there were yet unexplored rooms close by, the adventurers opted to enter and see what treasures they might discover.

Exploration. The first room, furthest south on the west wall.

Once the quarters of a castle troop leader or some other petty official, this place is now a total wreck. The bed is chopped to pieces, and the furniture is smashed or missing.

To the next room north they explored.

This room was once a conference chamber, but is now empty. Its dirt and wreckage show no signs of any recent occupant,
though a couple of small rats are seen scurrying away.

Turn 3 – Searching for treasure. Wisely the adventurers soon realized that in order to plumb the secrets from the Moathouse they would have to dig deep. Deleran began searching the room, looking for hidden treasures. This companions aided him, and behind a wall case (which was toppled over and destroyed in the search) they discovered a very find broadsword. A legion blade from the old kingdoms of Greyhawk. [SUCCESS]

Their first torch died down, and they lit the second.

Turn 4 – Exploration. They carefully entered the door in the east wall and found the remains of a once extravagant salon.

This room was once very opulent, obviously a place of many expensive furnishings. The remaining bits and tatters still appear rich (though none are of value).

Turn 5 – Scavenging. I noted several plush couches, now worn away, and the adventurers leapt at the chance of using the stuffing and fabric to fashion more fuel for their femur torches. An easier task both because they had light and because the furniture upholstery was far more pliable than human viscera, they quickly fashioned restocked their supply of necrotic torches. [SUCCESS] After their exploration however, they were starting to feel weary again. They were all now hungry and thirsty. 

Their presence disturbed a giant colony of bats that lived in the rafters, but thanks to Deleran’s watchful eye, they ducked just in time to avoid being swarmed by the cloud of bats that flew past them.

Turn 6 – There was some brief discussion about how to move further into the dungeon. Deleran wanted to get information from the bandits, as they would surely know the way to the temple to the west, but the leader Sixtoe was determined to continue exploring, and avoiding the bandits if at all possible. The adventurers doused their torches and tried to sneak through the great hall without notice. Through the broken doors of the bandits chambers, Sixtoe could hear them talking amongst themselves and his adventurousness got the better of him. He crept to close to the bandit’s chamber and when a lose cobblestone clattered beneath his feet, there was a moment of silence, and then the bandits came pouring out of their lair to chase them. “I’m sure whatever is left of them will be easy pickings. Lets get em!” [TWIST]

Turn 7 – Chase! We used the Chase conflict right out of Mouse Guard, using Scout and Pathfinder for skills (though I considered Dungeoneering instead of Pathfinder). We also found that several of their natures were applicable to parts of the chase, notably Orrin’s nature of “running” was great for an attack, and Sixtoe’s sneaking was perfect for plunging into the darkness.

Here were some things we did to make the chase (in my option) every bit as lively as any conflict.

  • The narrations of the characters actions, ducking into shadows to hide, tossing the femur of the fallen brigand amonst their midst to distract them, bolting one way then zipping another to feint were all great. We included lots of physical altercations in the middle. Deleran was knocked down by Delmar, but scrambled back up. Orrin turned a table over on some of his pursuers, etc. We also had some magic in the mix! Deleran cast Word of Binding to freeze one of the bandits in place. All great stuff.
  • Each exchange I moved the chase further in the dungeon. Further into unknown parts! Since I had all the dungeon room descriptions I was able to flavor the chase accordingly. I started in the great hall but then led into the kitchens, and finally down a flight of stairs. This ended up working my favor when coming up with a consequence at the end of the fight.
  • We added a couple weapons they could use in the chase. Delving deeper into the dungeon, where the bandits were afraid of, was great for an attack, but could only be used once (+1s, only usable once).  Dousing their light and running blind while the bandits had torches made it easier for them to move around unseen (+1d on maneuvers). In the middle of it Sixtoe came up with a good one as well, tossing the leg bone of Jaspar (and telling them it was such) was really good at distracting them and pissing them off (+1d Feint, only usable once).
  • The dungeon itself participated! Just as they had won the fight and lost the bandits, I wanted something significant to occur that would force the bandits to give up. As they bolted down the steps they heard cries from above “Ahhh, get it off me!” The giant tick that lived in the kitchen had descended onto Jesper’s brother Anselm and like a thirsty child sucking a delicious glass of chocolate milk through a straw, the tick quickly sapped the life blood from the bandit brother.

They only lost a single point of disposition in the chase (still using the Mouse Guard rule for conflicts here as I don’t know enough about how Torchbearer handles individual disposition) so I felt like injuring any of them would be far too steep a penalty (even though the flight was full of physical altercations). What struck me soon though, was that a simple twist made perfect sense. They had doused their torches and run blind from the bandits. They couldn’t map, they could barely see, and now they have no idea where they are. Lost… in the dungeon of the Moathouse!

Thoughts on this game

Okay to give advantage dice for good ideas, making clever use of tools, etc?

Scrounging for supplies (torches, rations, etc) during the adventuring phase okay? It seems to go against the grain of the phase system, but so long as I can still add twists and conditions for failures, it’s not like I was making it easy on them.

I’d love to know how the conflict system works with stones, and individual dispositions. After the game I listened to the Team Covenant interview Luke and Thor and it sounds like the idea for dividing disposition between the players and then having them get knocked out of the conflict is pretty awesome, but I’d like to know more before I implement it.

Inter-party conflicts during the adventuring phase? I ruled that the majority ruled and that the affronted party member would have to take it up as an action (or possibly just a discussion) during the camp phase.

Three sessions and I realized something was missing. Artha! Reading over the Kickstarter Preview again I see I should have been giving them out at the end of the session not in the Town Phase (as I had been assuming). Bad GM.