Character creation for my second Torchbearer campaign

I should use “campaign” lightly as my previous party made it into the Autumn before attacking a group of 30 kobolds. I had thought, honestly I had, that I had clearly signaled that attacking 30 kobolds was certain death.

They would have made new characters, but life happened and we never got back to it.

Six years later and I have a new group of four. All of them are new to the system, but long-time RPG players. For some of them that’s mostly boardgame/RPG hybrids like D&D 3.0+, but they also have experience with other, more narrative-based, systems like Fate.

One of them is almost entirely new to RPGs other than a couple of games of D&D 4th, and a recent two-session game of a light-weight Lovecraftian RPG I forget the name of.

Last night we got together over Zoom and spent 2 and half hours putting together a party. I had written several prep emails explaining important concepts and my number one rule for running games.

“I’m on your side, but no one else is and I can’t protect you from yourselves.” I find that players deal with character death much better if they know it was their own fault.

My min-maxer went for the Elf Ranger, just as I’d hoped he would. I’m looking forward to watching him attempt to warp the system for personal gain. He’s been instructed to read everything up to the GM section.

My mage player picked Magician, as expected. He’s also reading everything up to the GM section.

And my two guys who didn’t really have time to get to the rules are playing a Dwarf and a Cleric.

Between the four of them, they have a pretty good spread of skills. They can hunt, gather, cook, pathfind, and survive in the wilds. One of them is an instinctual note-taker/map-maker.

The mage took Mystic Porter(he got to choose his third spell), immediately recognizing its power in this system.

I also overheard the following conversation during the gear selection process.
Ranger: … and I’ve also got 4 torches.
Dwarf: I have 4 torches too.
Ranger: Oh, in that case I’ll put these back and carry[not torches].

This is a fine example of not protecting them from themselves. My experience with my previous TB campaign is that, even though I constantly stress the dangers of time, light, and conditions, players need to run up against these things face first before they really get it.

The mage is carrying a lantern and two flasks of oil. He took Alchemist, which is going to help.

The Dwarf is carrying almost all of the food. He’s also the only one with Dungeoneer, and the only one with Cook. If he falls and dies, the adventure will suddenly become about retrieving his satchel. Oh right, he’s also only carrying a satchel.

The Cleric took the 10’ pole, which is one of my favorite items. He also bought two large sacks.
“Can I tie a full sack to either end of the pole and carry it over my shoulders?” I said, “Sure, but you can’t fill them now.”

(Should that be 1 additional factor for all tests where a backpack would be a factor, or 2? Seems like 3 would make most tests impossible, but that might make sense.)

Their first adventure is to go find out why my party from the previous campaign never returned with the macguffin.

It should be a fairly easy intro to the systems. There are opportunities to interact with most of the important skills, ten kobolds spread around the adventure site in groups of two or three, a gap in a bridge over murky water, an enormous, Might 5, mechanical swamp centipede left-over from a long dead civilization, and whatever loot the previous party had that the Kobolds haven’t already eaten/broken.

In the spirit of flooding my PCs with loot in order to force them to make interesting choices, the loot includes both items from town and from the abandoned wizard’s house in the previous party’s penultimate adventure.

Loot:
1 cloak(Kobolds have shredded the others for blankets and bedrolls).
1 bow with snapped bowstring.(no arrows).
1 longsword(The kobolds gave most of the good weapons to the kobolds who have left the site to do kobold things).
Some number of preserved rations and many crumbs.(the kobolds have eaten a bunch of them)
1 and half bottles of Melchior’s Mark. = 3 uses healing potion.(the Kobolds drank the rest)
1 spellbook, Remedial Magick for Struggling Students containing Arcane Semblance. (Kobolds can’t read and used the last two thirds of the book as kindling).
1 spellbook, So, You’re Bad At Magick containing Arcane Semblance and Dance of the Fireflies.(Kobolds can’t read and are planning to use this as kindling)
The back half of a dead PCs journal, with only the words “and I worry that the only thing we did was release a Beholder into the world.”
And the macguffin from the previous campaign, a softly glowing stone that acts as a permanent candle.

They really oughtn’t choose to keep the stone and skip town, but they might.

I’m hoping it goes well. The primary challenge will be surviving the grind. With the unspecified number of preserved rations in the loot, I’m giving myself some leeway to positively adjust their resources so they can survive the trip home, or at least to another town while they try to steal the macguffin.

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Your prep is far more thoughtful than mine!

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Those little snippets of table chatter always crack me up.

In one of my games, a skald dropped his sword so he could take some coins because he knew he needed cash. I thought to myself, in what other game does someone contemplate dropping their primary weapon??? Oh how I love it!

On that point, you might consider throwing in a gem or some copper coins into the placed loot list so that they have something they can use toward lifestyle costs. Those items are great in all, but they won’t pay their rent. :slight_smile:

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This is an excellent point. I’ll remember to spread it around amongst the kobolds since they would have looted it from the previous party. Some of them have turned the large sacks they found into stylish(by kobold standards) tunics.

I got distracted in the middle of the last post and forgot some of the loot items. :smiley:

There’s a damaged set of Dwarf-sized chainmail which one of the Kobolds will be wearing ineffectively.

As well as a wand of fireball with one charge remaining. Of course it isn’t labeled as such. It has 5 brass rings inset. The wand is warm to the touch and the ring closest to the hand glows softly when wielded. Exciting.

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Sounds awesome. Good luck!

All that treasure is your proverbial carrot on a stick. As you get more comfortable, you can pit treasure vs treasure throughout the adventure. For example, giving the players a choice between the dwarven chainmail or the wand. In addition to pitting belief vs treasure, goals vs treasure, survival vs treasure, knowledge vs treasure, relationships vs treasure, etc.

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What do you have against treasure, Koch?

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There’s naught for me but blood and treasure, spent and earned…

This reminds me of the scene from Dances with Wolves where the illiterate soldier uses John Dunbar’s thoughtful diary as toilet paper. Along with the way they skinned the bison (but left the meat) it’s a beautiful illustration of the movie’s themes.

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