If the players want to know everything they can about a dungeon, can they ask more than one question at a time? “How do I get there and what lives there?” Do you just add up the Obstacles?
Since an inquisitive party can easily rack up an incredible Obstacle, should I encourage them to break their queries up into single questions (at the cost of lifestyle), or at least make it clear to them that each question’s Obstacles are additive?
Also, the Digging for Leads Obstacles have been confused in the past, so I’ll break them down as I understand them for other GMs who might be having trouble.
The players choose the question(s). The GM assigns an Obstacle based on his notes. Do your notes contain a legend about the place? A bit of background history? Is it a popular legend, or one that was popular 20 years ago, or is it really old, or nearly forgotten? That sets your obstacle.
“What lives there?” can be a little weird, but if your notes describe the ancient civilization upon whose bones the site was built, and that information is meaningful, then that sets your Obstacle. If they can find that, then who built the place and who lives there now should be easy (i.e. included/free).
The same with treasures and traps.
This one is really tricky. For factors, it says “question(s) you’re asking and the sources of information available to your characters”. That’s misleading, though. “If I have blueprints and designs, why is it harder to find out about traps than if I just hear a legend?” Because! The “sources of information available to your characters” isn’t the blueprints (if you have those, then you have those), it’s the madman’s journal or ancient etchings in the lost temple. The GM looks at his notes and checks to see if the journal contains a legend or a blueprint, and applies the Obstacle from there. The “sources of information available to your characters” are sources of information available for your characters to find.
The obstacles for Asking Around and Research are based on factors, so if players are inquiring in several categories at once, you’d simply add up all the factors. Asking about a popular legend (1) as well as the way to said place of popular legend (2) and the obvious treasures there (1) = Ob 4 Circles test.
Regarding research – your resource might well be a whole library or the archive of a religious bastion, so actually finding or even making sense of the bluprints in questions wouldn’t necessarily be easy. Comparing the obstacles, Asking Around for traps looks like it could yield rather vague answers (“something that someone escaped once” as told to you by some drunkard you circled up), while the harder to find blueprints would tell you exactly where the trap is, what it does, how it is triggered, how to disarm it and so on.
So, yes, the players could hunt up a library in the fiction and then ask questions, and the GM would factor the obstacles allowing them to hunt through the library for blueprints or a diary. Or they could acquire something like the diary of Indiana Jone’s father in The Last Crusade, then that would be your source. Up to the GM what’s in there, and if the GM is not sure, the players could always try and roll. If they succeed, it’s in there now.
I’d like to see that too. Here’s my best guess and maybe luke or Thor can correct me if I’m wrong:
-The players choose what they want to ask or research. These are the categories like “What lives there”, “What treasure is there”, or “How do I get there”.
-The GM consults his notes or otherwise decides what information is available. This determines the factors.
-So if the players ask “What lives there” and “How do I get there” then the GM might decide that information is available about what lives there now, factor 1, and also decide that it’s a place of legend that few have visited, factor 2. The total would then be Ob 3.
-For an example with reasearch the players may ask “What are the legends about this place” and “What reports of treasures are there” and the GM might decide that there is an obscure but contemporary account of the place, factor 3, and that the location has a famous treasure, factor 1. The total would then be Ob 4.
-The players could also decide to ask these questions separately, taking extra time. So for the research example they would have to make two test, one Ob3, and one Ob1. However, they would face +2 lifestyle instead of +1, and would have two chances to suffer conditions or twists instead of just one. (I’m not certain the rules allow this, but I don’t see what not)
The only thing that strikes me as odd about this is that while a contemporary account might be harder to find than legends, the players don’t seem to have a say about whether they are looking for the easy to find ancient history versus the account of a hero who recently visited. Another way to handle it then would be to let the players not only pick the category, but also how deep they want to dig. The problem with this is that the GM has to be prepared or creative enough to come up with information of any factor depth, instead of coming up with one bit of information from each category and deciding how obscure it is. Also, I think the intention was my initial description, but I’m not certain.
A During the course of an adventure, the players score some loot! It’s a treasure map (from the Treasure and Valuables subtable) or maybe a bit of lore (say the hobgoblin commander had a letter from his employer on his person; lore from the Knowledge subtable).
B. The players buy some rounds at the Tavern and pick up some rumors.
A. The players decide to ask around to see if any of their contacts know anything about the place or treasure or thing they’ve gotten wind of. Maybe they ask the tavernkeeper, maybe they visit the Sage of Daggerdale. They ask their questions. For instance, they might ask: what have you heard about this place and how do I get there? The GM decides how famous the place is and how easy it is to reach. If you’re asking about the Temple of the Lady of Battles and it just happens to be the most popular cult in town and she’s a popular legend around these parts, it will be Ob 2 (popular legend and easy to find–anyone could point you to it). If, on the other hand, you’re trying to find the Canyon of the Crescent Moon where the holy grail is kept, you’re looking at an Ob 8 test. It’s a lost or forgotten place and it’s been deliberately hidden.
B. The players decide to visit the Black Library at Svarttarn to do some research. They want to learn how to get there and what they can expect in terms of traps. The Black Library is famed throughout the land, but the GM knows the location that they’re researching is far older. First-hand accounts, maps and blueprints aren’t in the cards. But the Black Library does contain an account by Ardhion the Farstrider who supposedly stumbled on the place long after it was lost. And his log tells of a few traps that he encountered. Ardhion sought to mount an expedition to plunder the place, but died during a hobgoblin raid. Finding the account in the Black Library is Ob 4 (1 for the travelogue and 3 for the first-hand account of traps).
So for research, the GM determines the quality of what additional records are available, and that determines the Ob to find those records (in the library or wherever)? So the better the quality the GM determines is available, the higher the Ob? I think I’m confused because I conflated the initial lead with the records that are available for research. So it didn’t make sense that having a better quality lead increased the Ob. But if the Ob is to track down additional records, that makes sense. The higher the Ob, the better the quality of the additional information they could find, therefore the more detailed the answers the characters could get. Sorry if I’m repeating what others already said above.
I think I’m struggling because the way I would fiat this if there were no rules is that I’d say the nature of the place being researched and the questions being sought would determine the initial Ob (the more obscure/forgotten/older/detailed the higher the Ob) while some sort of records would be necessary to make the roll at all; particularly detailed accounts or legendary libraries would count as supplies or some other form of advantage granting an extra die or two, while access to poor records would raise the Ob.
That being said, under the rules, is it acceptable to have the players determine what kind of record of treasure of traps they are trying to find before they roll, or is that purely the GM’s discretion?
The difficulty for research is based on how obscure and specific the documents are. The more obscure, the more difficult. Remember, players don’t get to choose factors. They simply get to describe what they’re looking for. You listen to the description and match the up with factors.
So, in that regard, if the players say they’re looking for ‘anything about traps there’, do you go with the highest obstacle, or the lowest? (Assuming that there is both a description of a legendary trap as well as a set of blueprints and designs, for example.)
The GM has to decide what’s available, and I guess only one thing is available from each category. I suppose if they fail to find the obscure thing the twist could be that they find the obscure thing but it’s full of inaccurate notes so that only the most basic information is actually useful and the rest is even misleading and potentially dangerous…
If you’re not sure how to translate character actions into a test, ask the players for more details until you have a clear picture of what they want and how they go about it.
“What do you mean, anything? The library has a big shelf filled with half-legends and hearsay right in front of you, if that’s good enough for you? Or perhaps you want something more substantial from deeper in the stacks? Might take some time to find a reliable source, perhaps in the travelogue section. There’s also a section with ancient historical accounts right at the back, the librarian tells you, but those texts are really dense and often incomprehensible. Not easy to find the hidden gems in there.”
That’s assuming you have prepped the relevant information or can come up with something on the spot for each category, i.e., there is an actual choice. If you can only think of one good thing, tell them the ob and have them roll.
Kai and jovialbard have got it. It operates just like other rolls in the game. When in doubt, go back to the Tricks of the Trade chapter, particularly Describe to Live.
The following isn’t really essential to answering the question at hand, but it’s one of my guiding principles for the game. Maybe it will be helpful:
As a Torchbearer GM, it’s really important for you to make a choice about what’s there–what’s possible–before you call for a roll (even if you’re making that decision a split-second before you call for a test).
In some Roleplaying games, it’s ok to shape the world around the players’ dice rolls. If the players succeed, the resource or connection springs into being. If they fail, it was never there. The players are given an extraordinary amount of power to create the world according to their intent(even if that’s not obvious to them at first). A number of Jared Sorensen’s games explore this idea in very cool ways.
Torchbearer doesn’t operate like that. It’s a game of exploration, so Torchbearer players dig in to explore and discover the GM’s world. But that’s only really satisfying as exploration if there’s something there to discover rather than something we’re jointly creating together as we go. The latter can be fun – I’m not knocking it – but it’s not what Torchbearer was intended to do.