Abnormally sized groups

From what I understand, Torchbearer is designed with groups of 3-5 adventurers in mind, right? I was wondering anyone had any tips or warnings about specific mechanics that might break down with abnormally larger or smaller groups. I’m particularly concerned for larger groups, but I’m curious about running something for just two players for example. Some mechanics that come to my mind that might cause issues with scaling include:
[li]Conditions given every 4 turns
[/li][li]Helping Dice

Also, what do you guys think is the absolute upper limit on possible number of adventurers in a party?

Not sure if it’s player number or simply that we’ve got a lot to learn, but our two-player party is getting pretty badly whipped. Almost maxed out on conditions multiple times. Scrambling to make things meet. Mind you, it’s tense and awesome.

I don’t have any experience to back it up, but here are my thoughts:

I don’t think the size of the party affects the Grind much. Everybody still needs to eat and rest and recover on their own. You might want to throw an Evil GM Factor on top of the normal Cook factors, though, since the Halfling, er, I mean Cook is cooking for so many people.

Helping dice might be a little out of control, but you also have to consider how many people can actually help with things. Sometimes there’s just not enough room or time for everybody to pile on. Also, more helpers means more characters that can suffer a Condition on a failure. Finally, characters have to fail to advance. Sometimes, the lead character just won’t want to let anybody help him. Also, again, you might want to add an Evil GM Factor on top of the normal “Whole Party” factor.

Yes, Conflicts might be too easy, but that goes for any game where 10 PCs gang up on 4 kobolds. If it’s a problem, add more kobolds.

Single-player games have been done successfully. You miss out on Help, though. As above, you might want to consider giving them “easier” dungeons.

I don’t think there’s an “upper limit” beyond simply what’s reasonable for a cooperative group activity. I figure the social dynamic at the table will falter before the rules do.

A group of two is pretty serious hardcore mode. You’ll advance quickly, but you’ll take a serious beating.

I suspect Large Group means you are a lot like a Kobold tribe, you’ll Zerg Rush over all sorts of things but each individual won’t do much (ergo not Advance much).

This makes me feel significantly better about our hilariously browbeaten performance. :smiley:

I ran a three player game this weekend and they got pretty seriously whipped. The lack of skill coverage really hurt them. I think smaller groups require a bit more meta planning to make sure different things are covered. On the flip side, they left loaded with treasure ( until someone dropped their bag on the ground while running from some skellies)!

It can handle six players in a pinch, but spotlight time becomes scarce after a session or two. Also it becomes too easy to game the help and checks systems.

If you’re playing a group with six players, I can’t recommend Basic D&D enough. Six players is practically the minimum for survival.


I am thinking about running a session or two with one player. It definitely seems like the challenges need to be simplified and allow for more varied and creative approaches in order to handle the very low skill coverage. I imagine with one person it will feel more like survival horror than survival dungeon delving, or with a little twist of levity a survival fairy tale, but that might be fun…

I hope he has a high Scout skill :stuck_out_tongue: We played the first session with only two characters and it was tough (but I went easy on them). We only got to play one session, but I think that one of the main dangers of having only two adventurers in the dungeon is that they get a lot more conditions, since they are the only ones testing.

Stay cool :cool:

We tried this, and I totally agree… it’s pretty tough going. The main reasons I can think of is lack of specialized gear, and lack of redundancy. Key skills (if the party has them at all) will only be had by one character.

Yeah–and as has been pointed out before, because characters are going back and forth with skill-testing, you accumulate failure conditions a lot faster.

You also don’t get as much help in a two player game, which is brutal. And there’s way less carrying capacity, which is actually critical. Sure everyone needs to see, and everyone needs to eat, but those few extra spaces of specialized equipment are often exactly what you need. When we did this in Fuseboy’s game, we barely made it back, with practically no treasure and a few conditions. Then two more players joined, and we helped them fill their backpacks with all the gear we lost =)

Ok, I’m thinking of starting a one person adventure. It’s all I’ve got right now, and honestly, I like the system and would like to see if I can make it work. I can use small groups of relatively weak enemies, but regardless, the skill coverage is abysmal. I can take advantage of heavy use of Nature with the risk that it will be taxed heavily as well. I can also try to make sure there are multiple ways around obstacles so that there’s always a way she can use her skills if she’s creative about it. What’s the greatest deficit for a small group? Checks? Carry Capacity? Or is it really just skill coverage, which I think I can deal with…

I was also thinking of the character having a lackey along. Just someone that isn’t good for much but can help in most situations and maybe have one or two essential skills that they are missing (though possibly only at 2 or 3 so that the lackey doesn’t steal the show). Thoughts?

In terms of specifics the main character is a cleric with scout, survivalist, and rider as additional skills. So the most punishing holes in the skill list are cartographer, dungeoneer, and pathfinder.

eta: I fully expect there to be a lot of bumbling and fumbling and failure, and I think that’s ok. She can stay close to home to take advantage of free accommodations and bonus resources. Even if she’s alone, failing dungeoneer or pathfinder could just mean a condition. That’s what of the great things about this game, you’re never paralyzed, if you can’t do something it just makes the game harsher, not stuck.

John Harper mentioned using multiple characters in Basic D&D, sometimes 3 apiece.

Original D&D supports multiple characters really well. It’s very much a matter of taste, and it definitely affects the feel of the game, but it works fine. I run two different OD&D games, one where each player has one character and one with two players running two characters each, and they are both very enjoyable.

Why not go the opposite route from multiple characters and focus the game more on this one character? Make a small scenario that involves navigating a few spaces to confront his/her enemy. Challenge beliefs, goals and instincts to drive play forward. You might discover that the game is designed for this.

Ah, if only she had opted to have an enemy :slight_smile:
Still, one could always… arise, she is an orphan after all, there has to be a story to that. It’s like a Chekhov’s gun. No use leaving it unfired.
I really did get the sense that TB could be adapted to one player adventures, at least it didn’t seem like there was anything to stop that from being the case. Happy to get confirmation on that. It’s simple enough to pick up easily (particularly for the player), but the rules are well balanced to give an experience that flows, builds, and pushes the narrative while also staying out of it’s way. I’m really excited to try this out.

However OD&D characters tend to be a lot slimmer on moving pieces than TB characters.

EDIT: Not proof positive it wouldn’t work, just something to beware of. Besides the Skills, OD&D doesn’t really have anything like Beliefs & Goals that draw player time towards character personality. That might leave the amount Fate and Persona entering play per character lower, or maybe the bar for earning them would/could drop?

I do agree. It feels like TB could handle this pretty well… the embodiment award might get tossed around less, since I find that multiple characters limits the roleplaying opportunities a bit, but most other rewards really feel like they will still be handed out most sessions. Goals are very straightforward, in comparison to BW and the multiple Beliefs. I can’t say this for certain at all without trying it out, though.

Interestingly, some of the most intense roleplaying moments (and yes, basic D&D does have those) and the most developed characters in my campaigns are found in the one with only two players, so I’d say it still depends a lot on your players and who they are.