I’m new-ish to running Torchbearer, and there’s a specific instance I’m having a hard time getting my head around in conflicts. There are many questions.
Let’s say I have 3 PCs and 3 level-appropriate sword-wielding humanoid enemies.
My PCs have cleverly led the enemies into a room where the cheaty elf is on a raised platform of some kind. The intent is that he can fire shots at the baddies without fear of being stabbed in return.
How would this work in a conflict? If he’s chosen for the first action, and both he and the enemy choose Attack, and then the enemy wins the versus test, how should I play that? Should I consider that the enemy is using the attack action to actively avoid getting shot? Or is the Elf making a versus test against an enemy that can’t hurt him back?
Or is it simply that the Elf on the ledge and the enemy on the ground make a versus test and if the enemy wins I narrate him attacking one of the other PCs on the ground?
What if the enemies on the ground remove all the HP from the PCs on the ground and the Elf is the only one left to take hits? Narratively he’s up on a ledge. Should I narrate his loss of hp as the enemies charging his position?
Let’s say I do and he’s got three enemies climbing up the ledge on all sides. Feels like I play M,M,M while they try to surround him and grab his bow out of his cheaty Elf hands. However, let’s say the Elf plays A,A,A, he could potentially kill all 3 enemies as they climbed because he will take all three actions, correct?
Maybe I just answered my own question, but I’d appreciate some guidance here. Please and thank you.
This seems like it needs to be a conflict and not just a versus test, but I’m not sure you have to do anything really special.
If the position is really punishing or really advantegous, then maybe the archer gets +1s A/M once. I would avoid tying it to a specific action because the conflict is an abstraction.
However, there are new warfare rules that have engagement, so you could borrow from that if you feel it needs to be more tactical.
My noob take on this:
The first thing I’d suggest is to figure out what you want to allow “being up on this platform” to be mechanically represented by. I personally might have allowed the elf to spend a turn and a Health test for an unopposed Maneuver action, but I would not allow them to completely set themselves outside of the danger zone of the conflict. I guess it depends on how the player described it and what their intended goal was. Maybe a bonus to Defend until the elf takes a point of damage? Maybe an extra couple dice to their Disposition?
I think that one of the hardest things I’ve noticed is trying to break established RPG players out of the 15 second D&D combat round mindset, and the idea that hitpoints are a measurement of life or consciousness. I completely agree with describing the HP loss as them forcing him out of position.
Another similar assumption that can rear up in RPGs is the idea that the OOC Enemy Won a Roll means IC the Enemy themselves cause damage. Every book on tactics and strategy agrees that terrain and situational awareness can often do more than the combatants’ personal ability.
In this instance, perhaps the Enemy winning means that the elf is too focused on what they are doing so stumbles while moving, both ruining their opportunity to shoot and twisting their ankle.
This is a hypothetical example, so it’s best not to get too wrapped up in the details. But I will offer this observation: I find that players want to describe their actions in a way that reduces risk to themselves and makes violence simple, clean and efficient.
“I get into my impregnable tower and bow murder everyone. Then I have tea.”
Torchbearer inherently challenges the notion that violence could be neat or clean, or that risk can be completely mitigated. In our world, violence is always dangerous and messy.
So in this case, follow Koch and Nytmare’s suggestions and give that elf a nice advantage in dice or disposition. And also give yourself permission to think of all of the ways defending a tower can go wrong. As Dave points out, it’s fairly easy to imagine circumstances in which our erstwhile heroes can stumble.
No plan survives contact with the enemy, not even an elf with a bow on a raised platform.
Thanks, Y’all, that’s the sort of info I needed.
The important bit I was missing is the disconnect between a combatant’s roll and the narrative effect of that roll.
If I’m reading this correctly, the following descriptions would be in the spirit of the rules:
When the Elf loses disposition up on the ledge,
“Your sleeve catches on your quiver and spills your arrows onto the ledge around you.”
“The ledge is less stable than you thought! It begins to crumble under your feet.”
“The orcs start throwing rocks at you from below”
“Your bow arm is cramping!”
If the Elf loses all disposition, spilling their arrows off of the ledge onto the ground sounds hilarious. Perfect justification for why they are “out of the fight” at least for now, and gives the PCs some fun narration possibilities if they ever successfully Defend the Elf back in.
I’ll just add to Luke’s comment here, one of things I like about Torchbearer combat.; violence really is messy and exhausting. Most of the street fights I have personally been involved in left me grazed up, bruised, my clothes torn, sick to my stomach and REALLY tired. And those are the ones I won. Stuff is always missing from your pockets afterwards, your jacket is ripped and your fingernails are gone. Keep this is mind and keep the combats messy.
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