AP: Barrow of the Dreaming King, and some Questions

Yesterday I got to run Torchbearer at Chicago Games day, and I ran my Barrow of the Dreaming King adventure. Our characters were Varg, Ulrik, Beren, and Gerald.

The players had a very nasty early condition grind- I called for an ob1 Scout test to search an area for traps when I knew there was no trap, which in hindsight was a mistake, but they were willing, nay, eager to make lots and lots of rolls early on, not realizing that you need to do so carefully and strategically. They climbed to the top of the Barrow, then tried to peer into the stone plinths at the top (“I lower a candle on a rope to see what the glimmer inside is!”) ("Cool, make an ob5 Scout test.) Then they decided to forage while still outside the dungeon- they suffered their first round of conditions before ever actually setting foot in the dungeon propper.

The maze on the first level resulted in another condition- they failed the ob3 Cartographer test. On the second level Ulrik tried to decipher some runes; my twist was that the Tomb Guardians showed up. I thought for some reason that Fury of the Lords of Life and Death couldn’t be cast in combat, but I can’t find any textual evidence for that at this point, so I probably cut the cleric a crap deal by not letting her use her character’s power. After a tough Kill conflict, the characters were Injured and Exhasted. I had fun with random loot rolls.

Does the Killing Is My Buisness text that just says “If you lose, choose one…” override the normal group consensus of determining a compromise. I picked the Injured/Exhausted, and it turned out to be extremely punishing for the remainder of the adventure.

Now at -1 die to everything and +1 ob to everything, and suffering many other conditions, I reminded the players of the usefulness of checks. The decided they were going to camp, and were on test #3- perfect test timing, but insisted on making a Survivalist roll to look for a better camp location, and failed, so they got a nice room, but I rolled for an inconvienence for my twist and it had lots of nasty dust in it. And since that was test#4, everyone got hungry, and then they only had like 2 checks between them.

The got to level 3, found the spikes, thought about removing them but didn’t, found the survivor from the last expedition, who after being fed a ration gave the players a sack of copper coins. The players went up to level 4, saw the hallway, and walked forward, right into the drop onto the spike trap.

At this point everyone was injured though, so they ob6 health test to avoid becoming injured didn’t matter. I told people if they were already injured, they did not- and could not- roll. Was this the correct thing to do? They came into a similar situation when the dart trap was triggered in area 5, and most of the characters were already sick.

They trekked back up. Beren used his rope and iron spikes- a Good Idea- to make handholds alongside the edge of the pit trap, and the group made it to the false tomb, looting it for all it was worth. After some discussion, they decided not to open the sarcophagaus, fearing that the Dreaming King would awaken and kill them all.

They retreated, fully encumbered. Beren made the Dungeoneering test to navigate the maze on the way out; he became Hungry as a result, and for a moment had every condition except Dead.

In town, players did nothing but rest at the Inn, typically made about one recovery roll out of three, and then everyone failed their resource roll (they were rolling between 3 and 6 dice each). As my final twist, they were all pressed into military service for their next adventure.

Some observations:
The players really had trouble getting the value of checks, even though I explained it repeatedly. Eventually there were rolls they knew they could not get, and they took my advice to take checks on those rolls.
The terminology of test/check was easy to mix up.
Beren’s player was frustrated at how hard it was to recover from conditions, and that he blew on his money on three recovery rolls and only made one of them.
I forgot armor (for both sides) during the Conflict; I regret nothing.
Before the game I wrote the weapon stats on index cards. This was very helpful!
Without any Fate/Persona points, the first session is very tough.
I let people use their Wises on their own rolls. Oops!

Some more questions:
In conflict, everyone can and should help whoever’s turn it is, right?
The Multiple Conditions note in the Conditions chapter says that multiple conditions are redundant. Should I keep note of or ask of what conditions players have on a failed roll? Or should I just assign the most likely narrative thing, and if it doubles up, they got lucky. (On one roll, I don’t remember the context, I said ‘yeah, you do it, but you’re now Angry,’ and the player was already angry, so I said, ‘okay, so you’re really Angry. And also Hungry now.’)
Generally speaking, how much treasure should you aim for the players looting in the first delve?

Looking forward to running a bigger game!

As GM, you could have had the characters die from the pit trap or the dart trap ( p77-78 ).

  • If you’re injured and fail a test involving physical harm, the GM can apply the dead condition.
  • If you’re sick and fail a test involving sickness, disease, poison, madness or grief, the GM can apply the dead condition.
    So, for the already injured, you could have said the Ob6 Health test from falling in the pit was to avoid dying.
  • Everyone can help someone on their turn in a conflict if they have the ability or skill for that action and you describe your individual struggle that’s helping the group’s effort. (p72)
  • I give conditions depending on what makes sense in the fiction.
  • Depends on the delve of course, but if the characters go to town with less than 4D loot each, they’ll probably be in trouble given how the probability of dice work and the expenses of town. Lack of Fate and Persona is punishing.

I believe you cast Fury of the Lords of Life and Death before combat.

And I don’t know what it is, but every time I’ve run this, the Dwarf gets a bunch of conditions and then has trouble getting rid of them.

And yes, conditions are nasty. The book says that if the players are having a hard time, you can give them some conditions instead of twists, but honestly, I think they’d rather have the twists than the conditions.

I was listening to some actual play and have heard most groups begging for a twist over a condition cause the game is tough from the sounds of it. I am having trouble with my players wanting to try Torchbearer cause they have heard of the difficulty of the grind.

Yeah, never make them test for something that isn’t there. Also, lowering a light down might be a good idea instead of a really hard scout test. In general a lot of the tests seem like they were pretty hard given it’s a first adventure with no rewards, maybe this was a better 2nd adventure (or maybe I’m a sissy).

I don’t think it says anywhere that compromises are determined by group consensus. I think TB is intended to be a much more old school GM driven game. At least that’s how I’ve read it.

Tell your players to save their money to buy prayers, it’s probably not worth staying at expensive accommodations until you have a high Health and Will, a prayer always works but recovery can be brutal.

Here’s how I try to play twits/conditions: First try to think of a twist. If no obvious or appropriate twist comes to mind that keeps the story moving then think of the most appropriate condition and keep the story moving by giving them what they want. If they already have that condition, they get a break because their life sucks… unless they were injured or sick, then they die… but only if it’s interesting for the narrative or your group has a high expectation of turnover. Just my two cents.

I’m constantly forgetting to properly apply armor rules. My entire first dungeon three-session dungeon was delved before I successfully ran a session where I remembered. Now my current challenge is applying the +1Ob for backpacks. Still not doing that consistently.

My players are still not super good at getting checks. After four sessions though they’re starting to understand that they should milk conflicts for all they’re worth.

Fortunately for me, all my players chose satchels and to forgo armor. We’ll see how that works out for them :slight_smile:

Compromise p73
Losers offer a compromise to the winner and the whole group decides if the compromise is appropriate. If everyone says it is not, the loser can change the terms. If there’s no consensus, then the GM steps in.

My understanding of Killing Is My Business is, unlike other conflict compromises, there’s no offers or custom compromises, you have to pick something from the appropriate list. However, my reading is the loser of the kill conflict picks from the Killing Is My Business lists.
p74 “These rules are written from the player’s perspective…If you lose a kill conflict, but earn… choose one the following compromises: * You… *You…”

I noticed that as well. I wonder if that is the intent.

Oops, I seem to have missed or forgotten that block of text, thanks watergoesred.

I think it is intentional:
[li]If the players lose a kill contest, their characters die. Picking their last hurrah is partial compensation.
[/li][li]Ditto for the monsters. It seems appropriate the GM should pick the monsters’ death move.

If the players lose a kill contest, their characters die. Picking their last hurrah is partial compensation. Ditto for the monsters; it seems appropriate the GM should pick how the monsters’ inflict lasting pain…

Yeah, I had missed it too. Willow’s OP made me check.

Yeah, I had missed it too. Willow’s OP made me check.

I think it is intentional:[ul]
[li]If the players lose a kill contest, their characters die. Picking their last hurrah is poor compensation but compensation nonetheless.
[/li][li]Ditto for the monsters. It seems appropriate the GM should pick the monsters’ death move.