Danger at Darkshelf Quarry

I played in my first game today, organised through the Torchbearer community on Google+. We played via a Google Hangout, using the Roll20 app as a diceroller, turn counter, and shared inventory sheets. It worked fairly smoothly, and I think in future games the Roll20 setup will be refined further.

We went through character creation together and came up with:

Gregory the Dwarf (me)
Beorian the Elf Ranger
Marian the Human Warrior

The GM gave us the choice of playing 3 Squires, Ravenmoor (a Pathfinder module) or a scenario from the recent reprint of the Against the Slave Lords series (which we chose).

The game opened in the remote village of Darkhaven, where the local overlord offered us the chance to earn some serious coin by investigating strange happenings at a nearby quarry. To sweeten the deal, he said there was a rumour that there was gold hidden in the quarry tunnels, and we could keep what we found. That was enough and we agreed to help.

We set out and arrived at the quarry later that day. As we approached, we came to a fork in the path; one way went down to the quarry entrance, the other up a hill to a guard tower. Beorian’s instinct was to always scout ahead, so he headed up to see what was happening at the guard tower. There was nobody there, so we approached the building for a closer look. We saw no sign of activity, and the only entrance was a large wooden door.

We knocked: no answer. We tried to open it: it was locked. Marian (whose specialty was Criminal) said she would be willing to try to open the door, but not if we were being watched. We succeeded with another Scout test and realised that there was a group of goblins hiding behind the door waiting to ambush us if we entered.

Instead, we retraced our steps and took the other path to the quarry entrance. Another successful Scout check allowed us to identify two guards patrolling near the entrance, walking in a figure-8 around two pillars in the area. Beorian’s belief was something to do with fighting being best avoided, and as he was our leader we decided to sneak past. Another successful Scout test and we took the right-hand tunnel.

We found ourselves in a bunk room, with four beds with sleeping occupants and a firepit full of glowing embers. Marian searched a table but found nothing of use, I looked under the bed and found some fighting gear and a set of knucklebones, but we decided to wait for something more precious. I took the Scout test. It was Ob 3, I had Scout 2 and a helping die from
Beorian - he suggested this might be a good place to use a trait to earn a check, so I used my Foolhardy trait against myself the occupants seemed to be sleeping soundly, so I was less cautious than I usually would have been.

This moved the chance of success from “remote possibility” to “statistical impossibility”, so we braced ourselves for failure. The GM ruled that as we moved through the room, Marian tripped over something, scattering embers and crashing into the table. She wasn’t hurt, but had made a lot of noise—so much that the four goblins sleeping in the room woke up, and the two guards we had snuck past came running to see what was happening.

This was a “monster twist”, so we had to choose a conflict type from the Goblin list, and we elected to flee. Since the human guards were coming in behind us, we decided to try to flee further into the quarry. (OOC, Marian noted this was the equivalent of running upstairs instead of out the front door in a slasher flick.)

We’re hoping to get the Roll20 cards set up for next time, but this time we just had the GM write down his scripted actions before we discussed ours. We rolled 6 disposition, against the GM’s 6. I was the conflict captain and tried to script actions based on the fiction. Since I was foolhardy and Marian tripped over, that meant only Beorian could react quickly. Hopefully he would take out a few of the guards so they would lose some of their help dice in subsequent turns. Then I would try to Defend Marian (who had fallen over), and Marian would Manoeuvre to get up and away.

Beorian, Attack - 2 successes
Guards, Attack - 5 successes
This was a crushing attack. Beorian managed to loose a couple of arrows and incapacitate two of the guards, but they still swarmed forwards and injured us quite badly. Beorian was out, and so was either me or Marian. We decided it would be better if Marian was taken out (partly because it made story sense—she was on the ground—and partly because I had the Defend action scripted so might be able to bring someone back in).

Gregory, Defend - 5 successes
Guards, Manoeuvre - 3 successes
Lucky! I was able to push some goblins back and bring Marian back into the conflict.

Marian: Manoeuvre - 4 successes
Guards, Feint - 4 successes
Unfortunately, the guards prevented us from fleeing. Fortunately, we had earned a minor compromise. The GM ruled that Beorian and I were knocked unconscious (Injured condition), but because Marian had a decent roll on her action, she came off better (Hungry). We had all been captured though, and brought to some other place, presumably deeper in the quarry tunnels. Oh, and we lost all of our belongings. (We had planned to push as deep as possible as soon as possible, so I guess that’s something…)

We negotiated a compromise: Marian avoiding capture was too big for a minor compromise, but because she was not unconscious she managed to prevent the guards from finding some of her belongings. The GM let her choose two slots to keep, and she chose to keep her thieves’ tools and a tinderbox.

And that’s where we ended the session. There were a couple of teething issues: a bit of page-flipping to work out rules, and the fact that nobody took the +1D for Fresh—which might have made us less likely to throw in the towel in sneaking through the room, but oh well! It was a lot of fun, I can’t wait for the next session.

It was fun, that lack of fresh really killed that combat though, doh, need to pay better attention.

I think against masses of enemies like those goblins/humans, we should have possibly tossed some more defends out there, but I don’t know.

My experience is slightly opposite, at least mechanically. In a fight with lots of lesser foes, you generally want to Attack early (to eliminate some of the helpers), and then Defend back up later when the opposition has weakened. Of course, this does pose some risks of a major compromise if GM scripts attacks even when low on disposition.

Also, don’t forget that an “attack” in a flee conflict may not be “I shoot them dead” but “I pour on a burst of speed toward the next corner, hoping to lose their line of sight and break away clean.” Similarly, defend might be “I keep my eyes open to the rear, and change direction whenever it looks like they might be gaining on me.”

PS – Fresh wouldn’t have helped much in the actual conflict. Even if you’d added +1 success to every roll you made, he still would have gotten you in 3 rounds. You got slightly out-scripted, and mostly beaten by your GMs hot dice luck (5s on 8D, later followed by 4s on 6D in the last round, right?). Also, losing the conflict meant you got captured, but why did your GM decide to impose injured on you?

Sounds fun!

Did Beorian’s instinct’s have a condition, like when travelling above ground or something similar? It sounds like there were lots of scout checks and I’m just wondering if they all used that instinct.

I can’t remember what the trigger was for Beorian’s instinct, but we didn’t use it for all of the scout rolls. Maybe two?

“I’ll scout ahead” was the instinct.

It was used 2 times, once when approaching the mine guardhouse, once when approaching the mine

Hmm, maybe that was a touch harsh.

That is not an allowed Instinct…

>That is not an allowed Instinct…

Please give some examples of an instinct that will result in lots of scout checks when infiltrating a fortress and that blithely walking around corners would get guards after you.

I was limited as I was alone (a situation otherwise always stupid to do and specifically called out in the rules about it)

Are you saying it should have been “Always scout ahead to preview trouble when entering a new area” instead of a quote from a video game that is almost that? Or do you think there is another reason? I think it shows tremendous chance for getting the character in trouble (if I’m captured, fall in a trap, whatever, my party doesn’t have a clue, and I’m separate, so burning turns like crazy), fits with my role well (my specialty was scout), and isn’t applicable all the time (ie, with the party banging about in tow).

One of the sample instincts is:

Dralic’s Instinct is “Always keep the light lit.” If Dralic is plunged into darkness, he gets a free test to try to make some light.

We all knew that “I’ll scout ahead” meant “Always scout ahead”. I don’t see that as being meaningfully different from the example.

Honestly, that’s apparently not a great example. The book says that an Instinct should have: a condition, a place and an action.

You can interpret “always keep the light lit” as (When the light goes out)(in the darkness)(maintain the light source). It’s iffy, though.

“Always scout ahead” is kind of vague. I guess it could be (Before entering an area)(where we haven’t been before)(search for enemies).

That’s a little better, I think, and it specifies what you’re looking for, which is probably important. All of this might be understood in your group, of course. It’s just a good idea to be specific when possible.

Well, probably half the examples in the book’s pre-gen characters don’t include a place.

“Always look out for Karolina.”
“Always take the magical treasure for myself.”
“Never leave a piece of gold behind.”
“Always identify the capabilities of new creatures I encounter.”

They’re all “kind of vague” if you want them to be. Your “guess” is how we played it, and I don’t really see any other way it could be interpreted. But sure, if you want to write everything out in a trigger/place/action format that isn’t followed by the examples in the book, fair enough. Whatever works for you, I suppose.

Instead of this turning into a discussion about who is at fault, perhaps it could be a useful discussion on Instincts? Because, to me as well, the concept isn’t easy to wrap my head around.

I’m not going to say “Always scout ahead” is illegal or anything, but it sounds extremely broad. As soon as anything happens surprisingly, a character with that instinct could interrupt the action and claim a roll to have spotted it beforehand. Also, considering the nature of lighting, obstacles and difficulties in dungeons it is so very rarely plausible. Did you scout ahead with a light? In that case, how come nothing saw that light? Did you scout ahead without a light? Brave…

I don’t have the answers here, but I’d be interested in hearing what other people have chosen as instincts and if any discussions on interpretation have come up in play?

I THINK you can’t activate an instinct retroactively… I might be wrong though

Certain types of instincts at least need to be activated in response to something (such as where you scout for traps or such). Since players need to be the ones who use instincts, they can hardly use these until the GM reveals there is a trap…

Not quite. You need to describe searching for a trap as normal. The Instinct allows you to make the Scout test to spot the trap without taking up a Turn.

As for “Always scout ahead,” my only question is what is the character scouting for? Enemies? Traps? Treasure? Scouting can be used in several contexts, so it’s important to understand which one.

One of the players in our game is very reluctant to have a highly “formalized” instinct… he thinks that this feels too game-y, and pull him out of the roleplay side of the BIGs. His instinct is “Always look for a way out”, which makes sense from a RP perspective, but becomes a little hard to translate into a skill test and a situation.

Yeah, I think that’s tripping some people up. Too much BW. Unlike BW, it seems that all an Instinct in TB is really good for is saving a Turn/Check/Lifestyle and generating Fate Points. (And, of course, characterization.)

Torchbearer is very game-y, apparently.

For what it’s worth, if you can’t see a way out, then it must be hidden, so this reads to me as “Always search for hidden exits”, which is a pretty common instinct, I think. And if they aren’t hidden, then it’s just not a test, of course.

It was intended for enemies, but I see what you’re going for.

“Always scout ahead for enemies when entering a new area”