Yeah, there is a certain “stretch limit” to what we players are willing to concede. In my case checks fall into this limit, but is completely comprehensible that it might break yours. Comparatively (with other games) is not that much of an abstraction (there are a lot of games with Hit Points and Experience Points, after all). Though I still think there should be more ways to get checks, I love this mechanic because it births a lot of cool roleplaying situations for the group to have. Each time you are aiming for checks you are (or should be) roleplaying your Traits in an interesting way (the same goes for when you use them in favor). Without that kind of mechanics the game will pretty much be a tabletop game.
Aside all that I think that Torchbearer is a “niche” game. If the premise of the game caught your attention is probably because you: Like fantasy games, like BW powered games and have a taste for old school dungeoneering games which are a lot of “requirements” to have to really “getting” the game (which doesn’t mean that is not a game for newcomers, just that you will understand a lot more in the first reading if you have that kind of baggage). Torchbearer is full of references to BD&D, a premise that tries (successfully IMO) to capture the atmosphere of old school gaming and mechanics that are not seeing in more “mainstream” games, so it’s pretty understandable that players will be caught flat footed by such a focused game
(This is only my own reading of Torchbearer, I’m probably completely wrong about the scope of the game).
Based on what I hear you saying, I’d switch your group to Dungeon World or D&D. It sounds like those games would be a better fit for your style as a whole. If you’re ready to toss the checks and the light management limitations, and your players are bitching about every other mechanic in Torchbearer, those other games will likely bring a more stress free experience.
Yeah, very possibly. On the other hand, they also did like many parts of TB, and are now actually quite eager to try it again. So we’ll do that :). I suspect part of it is just the fact that TB is quite different to what they’re used to, since it has all sorts of “framing mechanics” for what you can and cannot do. One of the players is very much into rules-light stuff, so he’s probably love Dungeon World or such, but the others are more neutral on that aspect.
So thanks for the suggestions, I very possibly will also give Dungeon World (and/or 13th Age) a try at some point also. Right now, I’ll see what we can squeeze out of TB since I like it and the players are also warming up to the idea.
Another cautious suggestions; it sounds like you might be a bit too stingy on the Good Ideas and on just handing out information to the players, if the dice are rolled very often and you feel the torches last too short a time. Even though this game does have conditions, and thus there can always be a consequence to failure, it’s still important to only call for a roll when the stakes are high and failure can be fun. Can’t be sure exactly how things went off at your table, but how often the GM calls for the dice has a huge effect on time and thus both Light and the Grind.
Having said that, I share some of your thoughts and reservations and Dungeon World might work really well for your players.
Yup. In this case I was running Dread Crypt pretty much as written, so the tests that did come up weren’t (mostly) judgment calls from me. Of course, what I did decide is whether to give Condition (and succeed) or let it fail with a twist, and I largely went with the Conditions because succeeding seemed like more fun. On the other hand, I might have overdone it a bit, it’s a balancing act and I’m not familiar with the game yet. Well, second time will tell
Also note that just because there are listed obstacle/tests in the adventure, it doesn’t mean they’ll always be valid. The great thing about the Good Idea rule is that if players describe doing something in a really inventive/clever way, you can just give it to them and not require a test.
And I think that with new players, it’s nice to be a little more generous with Good Ideas in the beginning. That way they’re aware of that rule existing, which should hopefully compel them to be really descriptive in what they’re doing (which fits in with Describe to Live) and come up with creative solutions, which will occasionally let them bypass a test and put off The Grind a bit.
That’s one of the things I like about torchbearer, that it’s surprisingly realistic about things like how long a torch lasts. It doesn’t gloss over the fact that light is one of the biggest obstacles to plumbing the depths of desecrated ruins, it makes it part of the game. Now they just need to come up with stats and inventory slots for a pack mule, because every murder hobo needs one of those suckers to lug around the extra torches, and you know, in case the rations run out…
If your Torchbearer world has hickory trees, you’ve got 2-hour duration torch potential.
And I found it interesting that none of that guy’s torch methods involve a big, honkin’ stick: they’re all bundles of some type (with or without pitch or pine sap). Where did the ‘oil-soaked big stick’ concept of a torch come from, anyway? Anyone know?