Instincts and tests

Hi there, I ran Torchbearer for the first time last night and we had a blast! However I have some questions about Instincts.

One of my players has “Scout every room” which makes perfect sense mechanically, as you get a free Scout test every turn, easy to implement,

Some players have chosen instincts such as “Always watch my back” and “I am always ready for a fight”. These initially seemed like valid instincts to me, however I couldn’t see how to implement them mechanically.

For example, as a Twist, I introduced a Kobold ambush whilst they were distracted with their obstacle. And obviously both players said “I would have heard them coming!” and “I was always ready for this moment”, respectively. However I couldn’t think of a test to give them.

Could I just give them an advantage die to their disposition? But not give them a check (and therefore no fate points)? Do instincts not work with Conflicts in this way?

In relation to this - what if the players are ‘surprised’ by an ambush? How does that work with disposition? Thanks! :slight_smile:

An instinct needs a trigger, otherwise it will just happen every time. Go back to the rules on page 20 and have your players re-write their instincts with a closer eye on the rules. Pay attention to the CONDITIONAL aspect of instincts. They’re meant to come up once or twice a game, not on every roll. Ask your players to come up with a situation they imagine will only come up once or twice a session, and make that the trigger.

“Scout every room” is too general, I think. For starters, it lacks a specific trigger which makes it too general. Furthermore, you really only get to test Scout when there is, in fact, something hidden - be it a creature or a detail. No risk of failure means no roll. Plus, using the word “scout” in the instinct sort of violates the intention of the Description Forward rule on page 6. That might be the most important rule in the game!

“Always watch my back” is a little better, since it would only really apply to detection from the rear. It might be a little too general still, but I like it better than the first one. You could just add a trigger to this and it would be okay. “Always watch my back…” when?

In the case of “I’m always ready for a fight” go ahead an have the ensuing conflict not take a turn on the grind. Treat the conflict like the “free test” that the instinct grants. It’s not all that great a benefit, since fighting is often suboptimal in Torchbearer. This should only work on Kill and drive off conflicts.

“Surprise” is not a necessary mechanic in Torchbearer. If you manage to do something the players didn’t expect, they are surprised. There’s no need to simulate it — it will bear out in the resource management game if they take on something that wasn’t part of the plan.

Thank you for the quick response and full answer!

Right, so they need to make them more specific with certain triggers. Better examples could be:

“I always look for enemies when hearing potential trouble” - Free scout test if the character hears potential enemies.

“Always watch my back when picking a lock” - Free scout test before lock-picking?

“I’m always ready to fight” - Gives you an effectively ‘free’ conflict. I’m guessing that win or lose, it will benefit the party (and earn fate) as it didn’t use a turn (and therefore protecting them from the grind).

Makes sense with ‘surprise’ too. Really cool system, it’s fun learning it.

I feel like “I’m always ready for a fight” is more of a Belief than an Instinct. It has a sort of trigger but no real reaction. It’s more like the character is always looking for the worst in others, anticipating aggression, and so on. It’s an outlook on life, not an instinctual reaction.

I don’t like the idea of making the conflict not count against the grind. Then potentially everyone in the group is getting free tests. That’s a pretty big benefit. The other two Instincts work good. (I especially like the lock picking one.) But third needs something more.

An Instinct should be “When X happens, I do Y.” Conflict dependant Instincts have always been tough for us, too. You might try something like “When a fight is coming, make sure everyone is ready.” Then, when a Fight conflict is getting ready to happen, the character might get a free Fighter vs. Nature test, with a successful result effecting the first turn as a Maneuver, (Gain Position, Impede or Disarm). Just a thought.

Why not just Ask them for a fighter test to spot the ambush? Seems simple enough.

I agree on “I’m always ready for a fight” being more of a belief (and quite a good one I think). I think I’ll encourage them to stick to more straight-forward instincts whilst we are still learning to play. Thanks for your advice!

So if a conflict triggers “I’m always ready for a fight”, they can make a fighter test. Passing the test means they spot the ambush and can maybe plan a different course or strategy. Failure means the conflict continues as normal? I guess better wording for this could be “I am always ready for an ambush”?

Thanks for the advice.

Yeah, instincts always allow the PC to make a test. I don’t see anywhere in the book where they’re statements of irrefutable facts. Instincts are not always true.

The real power of instincts is that they eliminate the cost of a roll. This means different things depending on what phase you’re in: in town, they don’t raise lifestyle. In camp, they don’t require a check. While adventuring, they do not advance the grind (and therefore conserve light, food, and spell durations).

Oh, and also they pay fate, which you should always be aiming for.

You can use an instinct to initiate a conflict, but the rules of instincts is that only those with a related instinct or relevant nature descriptor may help… so you’d probably have to fight on your own.

Thanks everyone! You’ve been a great help.

Interesting. That hadn’t crossed my mind.

From my experience as a GM, I would probably not use a full conflict for that solo fight. It would break the flow of the game. I’d try to keep it to a single fighter test, where logical, that nonetheless provided some kind of meaningful outcome.

Single players departing on 15-minute excursions with no other participation can be very bad for a session.

This is very true. Especially sinc Instincts are supposed to happen once or twice a session.