Anyone used the Mythcreants house rules?

See https://m.mythcreants.com/blog/seven-house-rules-for-torchbearer-campaigns/

TLDR Summary:

  1. Each stock can be any class.
  2. During Nature questions, when prompted to replace a trait instead add a new trait.
  3. Use a point-buy system for skills, instead of using the skill packages.
  4. Balance tweaks:
    (i) Defend +2D vs Attack.
    (ii) Flip Abstemious ability so can alleviate angry in exchange for becoming hungry.
    (iii) No lifestyle cost to Haggle.
    (iv) Instead of increasing lifestyle when finding work, gain the exhausted condition.
  5. Helping counts toward advancement without spending a check.
  6. Reduce the number of Resource rolls by either:
    (i) Lump purchase of supplies into Lifestyle roll (+1: fresh rations, wine, torches, candles; +2 preserved rations and oil) and only require successful Resource rolls to advance.
    (ii) Remove Resources skill and rely on cash dice only.
    (iii) Roll Resources at the start of town to generate cash dice. Raise resources by investing number of cash dice equal to the number of advancement dots.
  7. Each PC gets one action per turn and acting on an instinct allows the test to ignore all conditions, except dead.
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Many of these seem unnecessary or strange to me. I’d be interested to see the rationale though.

EDIT: OK, I just read through the article. I’m going to talk about each point here constructively. My intention is not really to criticize the Mythcreants rules, but rather to highlight some things that you’ll want to take into account before adopting any changes.

√ = It checks out!

1. Relaxed Class Restrictions √

Not only am I OK with this, the Mordite Press blog has a rule for it. However, just opening up all of the classes and stocks for combination is something of a free-for-all. It’s fine if your GM doesn’t mind smoothing over the cracks, but I prefer to retain some of the cultural implications of class and stock.

2. Extra traits for reduced Nature

The rationale given in the article seems to think reduced Nature is a punishment of some kind, which it isn’t. High nature and low nature both have strategies for play. Allowing a character to take additional traits and then learn new skills faster isn’t something I want to introduce into the game.

3. Skill Customization

Skills are a major part of class balance, and the choice of skills can have a direct relationship to what is allowed by level abilities and proficiency. If you open this up, you create both potential for abuse and potential for ignorant choices undermining the level ability arcs.

In Torchbearer you learn skills by trying them. It’s a huge part of the game, and not one I’d be anxious to see moved into the pre-game.

4. Balance Tweaks

“there’s rarely a reason to do anything but choose Attack over and over again because Attack is the action that actually wins the conflict.”

This statement does not track with my experience. I think a lot of people tend to analyze the action system as though dice pools are irrelevant. The truth is, having a TON of dice behind maneuver makes for a very different conflict than having a ton of dice behind attack.

I don’t see how adding dice to defend solves the perceived problem either. Wouldn’t that just cause conflicts to drag on?

Abstemious

As far as the Abstemious level ability, I wouldn’t change it. Conditions are experience points in disguise. I would way rather be able to gain angry. I’d advise you to pick the Stone Thrower ability if you don’t agree.

Haggling

People say haggling is broken. I think it’s a form of gambling. This change wouldn’t break the game or anything, so go for it. There’s nothing especially troublesome about this.

Exhausted by work

Interesting. The GM has a lot of leeway in what to pay with a “bag of silver/gold”, so I would usually apply exhausted (or any other condition) as a conditional success. You just need to remember that work in town isn’t about money, it’s about earning advancement for tests (and exhausted is a Health advancement test in disguise). If you’re accounting for that and you want to go ahead with this, that’s fine.

5. Helping counts toward advancement without spending a check.

As it says, this will inflate advancement a LOT. It also allows people to become wallflowers instead of engaging in Description Forward behavior. I think the latter is the bigger problem for me.

6. Reduce the number of Resource rolls

I have also dabbled with this rule, albeit for different reasons. In urban adventuring I found we had a need for quick market runs on the Grind; using a whole series of resources tests on the grind was punitive, so I lumped them together with the following factors. Players needed to build a list without looking at the factors:

Highest List Price (Obs 1 and 2 are free): Ob 3, Ob 4, Ob 5, Ob 6, Ob 7, Ob 8
Quantity: one, a few, a bunch, a load, a ton
Variety: factor one for each category included (first category free):
Armor, Clothing, Containers, Equipment, Food, Light Source, Magical, Religious, Weapons, Other.
Rarity (common is free): scarce, unique or priceless
Quality (crude is free): sturdy, exceptional, magical

Batch Resources Example

For example, you want to buy two stacks of torches (Ob 1), a satchel (Ob 1), wine (Ob 1), preserved rations (Ob 2) and a suit of chain armor (Ob 3). With six items on the list, the GM decides this is a “bunch” of items. Items from four different categories will increase the Ob by 3. All of the items are common. You are happy to accept crude items, figuring they are mostly consumable anyway. The highest price is Ob 3, an additional factor. This market visit will be Ob 7.

Another party simply wishes to eat fresh rations (Ob 1) and fill a wineskin (Ob 1) for the party (a few). The resulting market trip is Ob 2.

What did I find? It’s a LOT easier not to muck about with the Resources rules. But I do think this is an area with a lot of potential for improvement.

7. Each PC gets one action per turn

If you’re finding that the Grind advances unrealistically fast in your games, you may not be spending enough time on Description Forward and the Good Idea. I personally see no need for multiple rolls like that and I imagine it would drag the pace of my game to a standstill.

and acting on an instinct allows the test to ignore all conditions, except dead. √

I do like the instinct part part though. That would be a good way to deploy instincts that are cool but don’t really fit into the turn structure. I may adopt that!

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Wow thanks! That’s a very comprehensive answer. Your points are very well put and help clarify my thinking immensely. I had a similar unease about most of these.

The two main sticking points for me are it seems to miss the importance of describing to live and the value of having low Nature. Aside from the ‘conflict is broken’ argument, but I’ve heard that so often I largely ignore it now.

I never thought of conditions as potential health tests, but that definitely an interesting angle. Thanks for the insights.

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Slightly off topic, but the “conflict is broken” complaint really mystifies me. I’m wondering if there’s some systemic error that people are making, like not applying versus tests correctly. I would welcome anyone who feels that way to start a thread and we can get to the bottom of it!

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I don’t know, but the Just Attack strategy seems to miss the context for the conflict. It seems to miss the value of winning without compromise.

Winning is critical, but so is not compromising, and you need the whole bag of actions to get both. It seems obvious to me that compromises hurt the players more than the GM; the GM can always throw a new gang of brigands at the PCs.

And if the players aren’t caring about compromising, maybe the GM should raise the stakes until they do. Increasing the Order of Might should do the trick.

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Another article on Mythcreants shows that, in their experience, players don’t ever value having low Nature to learn skills fast: https://m.mythcreants.com/blog/five-useless-skills-in-roleplaying-games/

Also, I conclude something else from their “Mentor is useless” argument: high Nature has a downside that is you can’t learn new skills fast. If you never consider that downside worth lowering Nature for, then of course Mentor is useless; Mentor is designed to emphasis that downside.

But the real downside is the skill sets of high Nature characters won’t change much through play. That maybe why the Mythcreants allow characters to be created with custom skill sets: that provides some of the variety that playing low Nature characters provides through play.

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Low nature is my favorite way of advancing skills. I will go out of my way to drop my nature score so that I can learn new skills faster and become more useful. This is how you make a badass wizard.

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Yeah it’s not the first time I’ve heard the “just Attack lol” criticism of Mouse Guard/Torchbearer’s conflict system, and it always confuses me when I see it. Like, are you not using compromises in your conflict results? If your players are just spamming attack, make them pay for it. Use up their gear, give them injuries, make it brutal. Then they’ll see the value in the other actions in a hurry.

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The RAW on kill conflicts is even nastier. A major compromise—which you’d expect on an all attack strategy—KILLS PCs.

One would imagine that’s enough to inspire people to look into Maneuver and Defend… Perhaps that’s what they are missing?

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I LOVE to mod games or make up house rules, but I find most of these unnecessary. It strikes me as not understanding the nuance of conflicts, classes, or nature.

The skill customization rule is especially baffling. TB is a game of trade-offs, because the drama/fun is in the choice. Do you drop your lantern to pick up a sack of gold? Do you take this level benefit or the other one? Getting to pick skills willy nilly is like getting to decide what amount and kind of inventory slots you have (I want 5 torso slots, 4 belt slots, an no head or neck slots). What skills the classes have were intentional design decisions. And it’s not like there aren’t skill choices to make. But each of those choices have a theme that say something about your character.

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I am going to pile on with the confusion about combat. I think that it is a case of people generalising from experience OR generalising from an understanding of decision-making theory that hasn’t been well calibrated.

There are a range of situational and tactical factors (many of which have been mentioned here) and the need to describe what you are doing that means that Always Attack is a weird conclusion to come to. Attack is useful! But it is not everything… and the GM has the advantage since attrition doesn’t matter for their actors anything like as a much as it does for the other players.

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Some names have been changed to protect the guilty.

So we have a friend who loves to play A-A-A for personality reasons rather than strategy. So much so that we actually named it after him… “The Coughlin Gambit”.

So we played a whole campaign where he was an orc secretly working to subvert the party. At the very end he betrays us while we’re trying to stop an evil ritual, and we get locked into a conflict. Mind you, at this point he has stopped insisting the party tries A-A-A and has been quiet on it for months.

Now the other player and I are in the position of having to guess what his play will be. Not only that, he has a huge advantage as we’re both saddled with a lot of conditions and he is not. The odds are against us. But we agreed — he was going to try and beat the campaign with a Coughlin Gambit.

And he did try! So we planned accordingly and defeated him (albeit narrowly, he had dice for days).

To this day we still call it that. But it is also definitive proof that an all-attack strategy is bunk, if you can piss away a huge advantage like that.

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  1. Balance tweaks:
    (i) Defend +2D vs Attack.

I actually like this change and may try. My group tends to attack and maneuver more than anything else and almost never feints. This makes attack a bit worse and defend and feint slightly better. My reservation is that it has the potential to lengthen conflicts as it allows for easier recovery of disposition.

The Abstemious Ability
Abstemious is a level-two ability for the burglar class that allows the character to alleviate their hungry condition in exchange for gaining the angry condition. This is supposed to represent the PC tightening their belt and pushing through the hunger even though it makes them irritable.
The problem is that hungry is a much less severe condition than angry, and it’s much easier to get rid of.

Hungry/thirsty is easier to get rid of but swapping it out for angry the turn before the grind kicks in can allow a character to dodge the exhausted condition. It also gives flexibility and the opportunity to earn checks. If the party has multiple checks and is low on food why not take the angry condition, earn a check, and save a ration.

  1. Each PC gets one action per turn and acting on an instinct allows the test to ignore all conditions, except dead.

Based on my experience I don’t think this is needed. When I first read through the rulebook my first impression of the grind is that it was a method of jacking up the difficulty but that really wasn’t the case. More than anything else I view the grind as a tool for handling time and resource tracking and I don’t think it adds to the difficulty nearly as much as new players seem to think it will.

Having said that I don’t think this house rule will change all that much about the game. Since characters can either take an action or help and not both they will be rolling less dice for each check and have a greater risk of twists and conditions. I have a feeling that most turns would comprise of a single action anyway.

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Yeah, the key problem with boosting Defend is it will make conflicts longer.

I haven’t heard that reasoning for Abstemious and I like it. Running out of food happens and exhausted is harder to remove than angry.

Also halflings start with Will 5, so that angry is relatively easy to kick.

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