Gentle dungeon, party of two

I have a small crew for a first run in Torchbearer. Two players plus me in the GM’s chair. One of the players introduced me to Mouseguard and alerted me to the TB Kickstarter (yay twitter!) and the other plays other tabletops but it’s his first foray into this franchise. Right now we’re just going to shoot for 3-4 sessions to try the system out and familiarize ourselves with it before seeking one or two more folks and planning a standing campaign. If either of them is on the forum I hope they have to good sense to stop reading now.

So there’s a Halfling Burglar and a Human Magician, each with their own enemy and friend. Porter (The Foul), the halfling, has his parents and Adalia (Of Whitethorn) the Magician’s mentor is her enemy’s father! Yeah, complicated relationships! Adalia’s nobility of a fortress or tower now haunted and ruined. To stick it to her, Whitethorn is across the bay and visible from the city they’re based in. I see a higher level adventure lurking out there. Porter’s enemy is actually the Town Captain and has a little Inspector Javert flavor to him.

I downloaded a map from Dyson’s Dodecahedron ( and numbered it. Original map can be found here. The ‘world map’ is actually a 300x250 mile stretch of lake and land loosely sketched off of Wisconsin, Lake Michigan and the UP. For a handful of jerks on foot it’s plenty large an area, I figure. (Austria, Hungary, and most of Slovakia will fit in that same area.)

What follows are my notes for the adventure. Roland is the petty baron of the isthmus inhabited by their Bustling Metropolis. I went through Character Creation for Adalia’s enemy, and need to get Porter’s written up. Then advance them to level 2. I want to put them into play fairly early. I feel like the shapeshifting direwolf bard is several adventure hooks trotting around on four legs. Also, who has the guts to steal payroll from a robber baron with a standing army?

Do I need to create more obstacles or should I just screw them every time they test Scavenger? Ostensibly each room has the potential for loot with the actual purse existing fairly close to the entrance to the dungeon.

First Adventure - Payroll gone missing.
Rewards: Cash, information.
Risks: The Ire of the Administration, other scavengers, a direwolf (Kang)
Porter and Adalia will start just outside of a wrecked hideout. (Test circles for how much info they received before taking this jorb.)
Minidungeon1 marked.png

Background Info
Minimum to give: There was a payroll heist and some of the loot got dropped in a hideout. You know where it is, in fact, you’re standing in front of it.
More info: Passed Circles test (OB2)
Porter learns: Helga Broadfoot and Raff the Twist lifted a luxe chest of payroll and hid out on it for the winter but got hauled in the bad way when Roland’s army found them.
Adalia learns: A pair of low criminals stole uniforms and forged paperwork to bloodlessly steal several months of payroll. They’re rotting in Roland’s dungeon now. Not all of the payroll was recovered.
Margin of Success 1
Porter (unaffiliated, criminal past) - Roland’s special investigators found Helga and Raff shivering, nearly dead from awful wounds and there’s whispers of a monster involved.
Adalia (Law affiliated, former nobility) - The thieves were brought in alive, to make an example of them, but the amount of payroll returned was much lower than it should have been.
MoS 2
Porter - A cook for the prison was fired recently and was loudly complaining about wolves being brought into the dungeon to help with interrogating some lowlifes.
Adalia - Practically none of the payroll was retrieved, an empty chest was carried into town to disguise this and the thieves are being tortured for more information.
MoS 3
Porter - Helga and Raff were stooges to another player, possibly a political rival to Roland.
Adalia - The bulk of the cash went to a political, and definitely underground, opposition to Roland.
Misinformation, Failed Circles test
The thieves snatched a payroll chest from under the nose of the administration and lived high on the hog all winter before slipping off ahead of the Baron’s men. There’s probably still all kinds of goodies or hidden cash in this place!
Margin of Failure 2 or more
Porter - Inspector Amon gets wind of it. When they get back to town there’ll be a conflict between Amon and Porter. Amon’s objective is to prove it’s payroll money and put Porter in jail. At this juncture, Amon will not enter into a Kill conflict with Porter.
Adalia - Don Brisby will have heard about the job and will ride out with some henchmen and try to recover the cash first. It’s unclear whether he’ll launder it or turn it - and Adalia - over to the law. Don will not Kill Adalia.

NOTE: I think pitting Adalia’s enemy against the Direwolf in a Kill conflict and seeing whether she comes to his aid (his father is her Mentor, remember) or lets him to his fate should be interesting. Unsure of the mechanics for that. Rolling out a full scale conflict between two NPCs is unforgivable.

Hey guys, you’re standing in front of some busted doors to a structure built directly into the side of a hill. You just ate second breakfast (adjust food - maybe a free Cook test, no turn) You aren’t far from one of the rivers that runs from the mountains to to bay, it’s splashing nearby.
Both of you roll your circles to determine just what you heard about this job. (See above)
Turn 1 - What do you do?
Turn 2 -
Turn 3 - Whatever P or A does - Shari (HW Criminal) and Bix (EW Criminal) arrive and start moving room to room, moving randomly 2 rooms per turn until they encounter P&A
Turn 4 - GRIND (Also grind Shari, Bix, and Don+Crew if appropriate)
Turn 5 -
Turn 6 - If they’re in the cavern, they encounter Kang. Kang is looking for an elven signet ring. If a player picked it up Kang finds it if she succeeds an ob3 Nature roll for Stalking.
Turn 7 - Whatever happens, more jerks show up. Flip Cicero (HM Thug) and Cheeseface Lan (HM Thug) are blundering around.
Turn 8 - GRIND (Grind everybody but the Wolf)

Location - abandoned safehouse/commune with some rough chambers dug a level deeper. It was originally a human dwelling, later occupied by some thieves hiding out. Nearly every room is Dark. Only half of the first room is dimly lit during daytime.
Reason to be here - Looking for some quick cash. There’s some cash to be found, regular loot in some rooms, good stuff in a hidden room, a direwolf that’s actually an elflady bard and evidence of a thorough search by some soldiers of Roland’s.
Why’d they know to come here? - Porter and Adalia caught wind of this pot through the grape-vine. Others will have also. Looks like they’re first on the scene though!

Following along the “b” route there aren’t locked doors. It’s been ransacked.
Following along the “c” route there’s the locked door and freakier stuff. No place to lodge your light.

In any room a roll on the Knowledge Loot Table reveals a piece of hauberk from one of Roland’s men and an inventory of the payroll chest bearing Roland’s Steward’s hand and seal. A second roll on the knowledge table yields a personal letter from a soldier to someone else, but mentions details about the missing money, where the Commander thinks it’s gone, how important it is to. These scraps are bloody and torn.

First twist for a failed roll is moving up the encounters timetable by 2 turns. Turns 3, 7 will always add more sentient creatures to the building. Turn 6 is the latest Kang will show up sniffing for the ring, whether it’s been found or not.

Twists related to light sources should involve trash catching fire. The fire will spread 1 room in any direction from any burning room to any other room with wood shoring and this happens every other turn unless a Laborer (ob3 per room) roll is succeeded. The third turn a room is burning the shoring will weaken and may collapse necessitating an ob4 health roll to avoid. The fire will not spread to the c or d rooms unless someone brings the fuel.

This structure is a ruined outpost or hideout that’s been expanded a time or two. Maybe an extended family built it, or it was dug out and shored up by soldiers. It’s a sturdy, underground building with rooms and hallways of wood shoring and mortared fieldstone. The floor is hardpacked earth with fieldstones. During the day, there’s dim light halfway across the entry hall. After that it’s dark. If sought, there are torch brackets on the pillars. The rooms with flat walls have torch brackets. A torch in a bracket gives the whole room dim light.

minidungeon1 numbered.png

0 - There’s an Elven signet ring wedged in between some stones above the door. Ob2 scavenger test.
1 - Dimly lit, 1/2 into room (daytime). On the Left (rm 2) and Right (rm 1b) are Doors. Just into the Dark portion of the room is a doorway to the right (rm 6). There are three pillars and a wall with a slight curve. In the middle of that wall is a door (rm 3).
1b - Door dimly lit (daytime). Stairs, wood planks forming boxes of earth and gravel, descend and turn to your left. It’s Dark.
b1 - A tunnel with wood and stone shoring. It’s Dark. On the left after some distance is a door (rm b2), and another to the right (rm b3).
b2 - A storeroom, piles of trash. Walls had shelves, those are scattered.
b3 - A curved hall. Dark. Leads to C3.
b4 - A storeroom, trash piled into a bed. Stinking wine bottles. A pisspot.
b5 - Locked door, smashed off it’s hinges. Ransacked.
2 - Door dimly lit. Room is Dark. There’s a fireplace built into the wall to the right of the door. It ventilates outside, but there’s no light. The fireplace doesn’t vent properly and the fire gives only dim light on account of the smoke. Seems like this room has been used most - it’s been ransacked, sure, but it’s not years of accumulated crap. It’s an orderly life interrupted by sudden violence. A successful Scavenger or Criminal roll (ob3) yields some missing cash stuffed up the vent. (roll 3 cash dice 1-4 silver, 5-6 gold for each die.) The coins are /obviously/ payroll coins. Not unusual to have, but spending more than 2d will attract attention.
3 - Rammed, destroyed door to enter (rm 1) - A short hallway, wood, fieldstone. At the opposite end, a door (rm 4). Also on the right, a door (rm 5)
4 - A splintered door, a room furnished like an office or study but barren of books. The walls are wood planks over the fieldstone.
5 - A splintered door and a room arranged as a bunk with berths dug into the walls, lined with wood slats and filled with rotten straw. There are rusted remains of iron poles arranged in a way to suggest more bunks were arranged in the room.
6 - A cramped room with a single bracket by the entrance. There’s a door on the left wall (ob 2 lock). Along the walls are hooks and pegs and a few rusted mining tools hang.
6c - Stairs down, these are wooden planks forming boxes packed with earth and gravel and they lead into a small area that forks right to c1 and left to c2. Starting here there’s a musty smell. It’s dry, but there’s something dancing out of reach.
c1 - A hollowed area with overturned barrels and crates in it. This area and all C and D areas are shored in places with wood beams but are otherwise just dug out cavities.
c2 - More earthen walls and floor that narrows considerably before connecting to (rm c3). A hunter, scout, laborer, or survivalist roll will, if successful (ob3), identify 1-2 scents (Dog/Wolf and Water)
c3 - Same rolls as c2 possible here. This room is too large to fully cover in dim light with a torch. There’s a narrowing passage to (rm b3). There’s a hardscrabble incline (steep climb, ob3) into (rm d2). There’s an ob2 health test for falling from (rm d2) to (rm c3). There are rough hewn earthen steps up into (rm d1).
d1 - Same rolls as c2 possible here, but easier (ob2). It was the makings of a larger room or hall before a large deposit of harder rocks diverted the digging around them and into (rm d2) and (rm d3)
d2 - A longish chamber, as before with wood beams shoring the walls. Same rolls as c2 possible here, but easier (ob2).
d3 - A wolf nests here. There’s hair and a patch where she sleeps. Oh, also bones. So many bones. Dungeoneer (ob4) identifies the secret door into (rm d4). Wall across from (rm d1) entrance is a little moist and under the smell of dog is the smell of damp.
d4 - A SECRET ROOM OH SNAP. Roll right off the “valuables” table if you search this room. There’s another (ob4) Dungeoneer task to find the secret door to the outside. It opens onto a reed-screened bank of a cold river running out of the hills.

I have a similar image to this for the handful of ne’er do wells who will show up. Just copied it out of the TB book and used MS Paint of all things to put notes onto it.


Wow. That’s very detailed. I think the timed events are interesting, but you might be putting too much pressure on two characters. Perhaps one timed event in the first eight turns would be good. Everything else should derive from planned encounters and twists.

So maybe instead of forcing new actors in at specific turns I could plant Shari and Bix in a particular room, Kang in her den (and/or Sweet Sandy outside, looking for something), and impose the arrival of a pair of thugs as a consequence of a failed roll (though in a Karmic, cosmic sense… screwing up a lockpicking or cooking test should hardly, logically, result in the completion of a two-day journey from the city by a couple of toughs) with Adalia’s enemy showing up as a timed event around turn 6 with the players well aware that there’s a grind looming just one turn after their (probable) conflict.

I’m probably doing a poor job conceptualizing the difference between a planned encounter, a twist, timed events, and static obstacles. I guess there is a subtle difference between deciding that there’s a character or two waiting in room b2 and a direwolf chilling amidst the bones of d3 and saying “on turn 3 your chances of running into those characters becomes a near certainty and saying at turn 6 ‘a direwolf is sniffing your crotch.’”

In eight turns each of them will have had two turns -self directed or GM imposed- and maybe even a chance to camp out in the room with a fireplace.

I feel loathe to stick bands of kobolds or giant rats into every other room because that feels so Fallout (Don’t get me wrong, I love them). If a kill/drive off conflict is going to take 20 or 30 minutes I don’t really want to deal with disposable rodents or dog men. Having other low-life treasure hunters show up gives more opportunity for the players to exercise their social graces and flesh out more of the supporting cast. Maybe that’s just betraying my Pro-Humanoid bias, a conflict with rats and kobolds that involves the cooking, manipulator, haggling, and hunter skills would be a legit way to play this.