Introducing Torchbearer to newbies (and kids)

Dear all,
I have been thinking about introducing Torchbearer to my wife and kid. Both are relative newbies to RPGs (they mostly played some Basic Red Box D&D). I was wondering if anyone had any ideas/suggestions to simplify/streamline the game, or at least gently and slowly “introduce” them to the game. I don’t have a lot of experience with TB (although I have been running games for 30+ years), so I am a bit at a loss.

Thanks in advance,
Antonio

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Hello and welcome,

I’ve run TB for all ages and found that a lack of RPG experience actually benefits Describe to Live. Start right at the door of the dungeon and give them their first decision or problem to solve. Let them naturally just roleplay. If you present an obstacle to someone, you shouldn’t have to ask “What do you do?” They should jump on that without worrying about the mechanics.

At the beginning of the session, I go over their character sheet and then explain the basics of making a test, but that is it for the rules to start. I tell each player which roles in the team they are good at (e.g. disarming traps, finding traps, cooking, digging tunnels, carrying heavy stuff, drawing the map). As rules come up during the course of play, I give them choices and explain the rules at the point. The first time the torch goes out, they will gasp, but they will remember it.

Finally, you have to do a little bit of work getting kids to think about “not being heroic.” Western culture ingrains in them all sorts of myths about epic heroism, but the game rejects the general conceit of the individual champion. I tell them the goal is to get out of the dungeon with as much gold as possible with as little trouble possible. Sometimes I tell them all the classes are really “thieves,” and that helps them get it.

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I played with some kids at an after-school program. I had no time to teach them the rules, no character sheets, didn’t have my books, etc. but they were adamant on playing. So they each made a character: Health, Will, Nature, Circles and Resources scores. I had them write down their descriptors, explained how to roll/read the dice and away we went. They loved it. I told them the real game was MUCH harder and they were so really excited to play the “REAL GAME.” Sadly, COVID hit, so we never got to play.

I concentrated on simple survival tasks: piloting a boat down a river, making tools, looking for rain, building fires…no conflicts, no violence.

HEY NOW. I think I just described playing Mouse Guard so start with that and it’ll be easy to segue to Torchbearer.

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This looks promising, thanks for the suggestion! So what did you do with Skills and Conflicts?

I just used Nature or the root abilities if they wanted to do something normally covered by a skill.

That being said, kids are smart. They can handle the full game. The biggest challenge is getting them to write down stuff in the space allowed on their character sheet and maintain its legibility.

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I haven’t had a ton of experience yet, but it seems like I lose a player and add a fresh face about every two weeks.

One thing I think that I have noticed is that it really helps (and the game is extremely forgiving) if you have the new player work on one or two pieces at a time.

Start off teaching them to “describe to live”, skim them through how the GM tries to translate that into an Obstacle, and show them how other people, or equipment can help.

Then turns and the Grind.

Once they have that down talk to them about Traits, how they can use them to add or subtract dice, and explain how subtracting dice helps them when they want to break for camp.

And through all of it if something is important enough, or if it falls under their Nature, offer to teach them about Nature if they want it.

Theeeeeen, during the next session, throw in a Conflict.

It’s probably because I don’t feel entirely confident in running the game in the first place, due to the very little experience I had with more experienced RPGers, that I find it daunting selecting and ranking the parts which are “core” to the game. I feel like I have to teach calculus to someone who has just learned how to count. Thanks for the suggestions so far, they have been extremely valuable as they give me a good starting point.

The core to any RPG is potentially that it isn’t fair. As one of my friends put it, the GM can always kill the players if they want to because the GM controls the world. Once one accepts that RPGs aren’t fair in the way that most of us are raised to expect games to be, it can be incredibly freeing: the freedom to make the game extremely lethal or challenging in some way is also the freedom to let the players barely escape or cunningly overcome.

So, if you suddenly discover you’ve run into a situation that needs a mechanic you haven’t taught yet, there’s nothing that stops you telling the players that there’s a full mechanic for it but you don’t want to break the flow by teaching it to them now, so for this time, you’re going to do it using something they already know. That way you don’t need to worry about what all the “core” mechanics are or trying to predict in advance all the ways players might decide to approach a scenario.

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