It's important to evoke traits before the GM tell you to test something?

From what I undersand:

Just having a trait is not enough to be able to use it, you have to incorporate it in your descriptions.

So to be able to use their traits, the players have to incorporate their traits into their descriptions before the GM ask for a test.

If they did not showcase their trait while describing what their character do, they can’t use their trait when testing their skill.

Is that right?

Exp: A character with the thoughtful trait examine a runestone.

The player have to say something like “Since we left town, I think a lot about what my mentor have said about runes. I am still thinking about this as I examine the runestone.”

But If the player simply said: “I examine the runestones”.
When the GM ask her to make a lore master test, the player can’t use her thoughtful trait to help or hinder her test because she did not incorporate her trait into her description when she declared what her character was doing.

I ask this because I often see:

  1. The player simply say what her character is doing.
  2. The GM ask for a test.
  3. Then the player look on her character sheet and say “my character is thoughtful as she read the runestones. Can I use my trait…?”

So to a point, if you want to use a trait against yourself you have to use your trait to undermine your actions when declaring them, before the GM ask you to test a skill.
Not when pooling your dice.

Traits can always be called on after the GM asks for a test with a little added description. Just keep an eye out for Reaching, which often occurs after the test is called for. I know this because I am the most reachiest reacher.

Players should be encouraged to play to their traits as much as possible even when no test is at stake so they don’t have to risk reaching when the time comes. Also because it adds a lot of character depth when traits are brought into descriptions in general and will help players earn embodiment.

OK but this seem to encourage a lot of reaching and “color painting”.

I don’t like much how traits are used in Mouse Guard and in Torchbearer. In BW character traits can often move the action forward just by roleplaying them (they are really fun to use). But in MG & TB traits are just “color painting” that you paint over your actions before rolling your dice. It can quickly become repetitive.

This is why I thought it was way better to demand that players evoke their traits before being ask for a test. I thought that the game was designed this way, this is what I was reading from the text, but it’s not super underlined.

There’s room to play it both ways. I personally prefer the former but I try to be flexible. I’m also not afraid to tell a player that they’re stretching with a trait. It has to be a meaningful and interesting contribution.

I agree it’s always preferable to have players work it in before Obs are factored, but I’m never going to say no if they work it in after the fact so long as it is interesting and adds color. One of the best ways to encourage this, IMO, is to tie the Embodiment reward to it. Basically, is your character acting like this because that’s who they are or because they need that extra die to have any chance of succeeding on the test?

Edit: Also - I think you should discourage the type of play where someone asks, “Can I use my trait?” Encourage them to describe their action in a way that makes it clear that they are trying incorporate that facet of their character into the roll. It will feel much more natural.

I have the impression that if you demand that the players evoke their traits before the test, this encourage them to do actions that actually represent their traits instead of just doing “routine” actions that you routinely do in a dungeon.

Like for example, someone with the traits “brave” will maybe do brave actions to use his trait instead of just doing routine dungeon actions and then saying that his character is so brave or too brave, etc.

This also avoid encouraging using traits against you only when you know that you can’t beat the Ob. (But this trick is even in the book).

But I understand that this make playing the game harder.

. . .do your players feel Torchbearer is too easy as is?

No but our first session was lukewarm. Nothing went wrong, it was ok, but it was not super exciting or interesting.
I was wondering if it was because the way that we used traits. It felt like using traits did not bring much to the game.
After re-reading the traits section, I thought that this was maybe because the players used their traits after I called the skill tests and told them the Ob (they used and evoked them while gathering their dice pool).

We use our traits after we know the Ob and haven’t found that this detracts from the excitement.

Yeah, I think you’re going to run into issues if you mandate that players absolutely must invoke their traits into their descriptions if they want to use them. The first is that it’s going to slow the game down. The second is that it’s still going to involve some negotiation after you announce the skill/Ob since players won’t be able to add or subtract dice from a pool that doesn’t exist (ie, you’ll be asking the player, “are you using that against yourself?” a lot). I wonder if it might be more useful to review the “Describe to Live” section on page 116 as a group.

While I can only speak for myself, I find the fun of GMing Torchbearer to really come from Twists. Throwing an unexpected problem at your players and watching them think grapple with possible solutions as I turn the pressure up is what really makes the game tick. Part of that is watching them make decisions even worse by bringing in their character flaws.

Thanks for the comments. I think that I will not absolutely demand that the traits are evoked before I declare something a skill test. But that we will simply talk before the game that it’s could be fun to evoke them in advance.

I agree that choosing twists and conditions seem like one of the most interesting features of TB. Probably that my lukewarm impression came from the fact that I used the Dread Crypt of Skogenby. Since the twists are all listed/suggested, the module don’t leave much place to GM creativity & imagination and I was maybe a little bit bored while I ran it.

Traits are reaching if they don’t really fit into the action as described, I’d say. It definitely works to add a trait in after the fact, but to have it retroactively mesh with your action. It just shouldn’t fundamentally change what you did.

It’s exactly what they said: suggestions. Go with what’s best for your group as far as twists are concerned. Actually, do what makes you giggle evilly while they groan and reach for dice to stop your crap. Whatever you do it should make the players afraid. Torchbearer allows you to be an evil little troll so run wild!

Yeah, even in my own homebrew adventures my suggested twists don’t always get used. They’re more there as a fallback or a guide for the kind of things that might happen, but I find that I’m often making them up on the fly in response the fiction as it develops through the party’s actions.