Kicking the tires with House of Three Squires 'til the party retires

I know I saw Luke say something to the effect of “Playing Torchbearer with more than 6 PCs basically isn’t even Torchbearer anymore”, but with the size of our group and a gap in our schedule as one of our GMs was on babywatch (born yesterday!), I volunteered to run our group through the House of Three Squires. We used every class from the book, plus the Paladin and the Thief. With the introduction of the game, it was an already-short session made shorter by a social event our group attended, but it seems to have gone well. I’m running another session tonight, and figured better to post this way too late to get any advice than not at all.

After a tour of the character sheet and requisite area map, our “heroes” arrived at the House of Three Squires on the road south of Skogenby to find its outermost gate banging in the wind and the House itself stripped of everything but furniture. A trail of blood and splinters led to a staircase headed down…

Turn 1: Lamarra the elf lights a torch at the top of the stairs, and the glint of a mysterious white substance around the staircase catches her eye. Grav the magician identifies them as kobold scales (Hunter, Ob 2, Beginner’s Luck, failed with condition). Took him a long time to remember Kobolds, though. In retrospect, it seems so obvious. Condition: Angry

(I didn’t want to twist here and throw the PCs into a Conflict with the Kobolds, but applying Angry to the magician was the wrong choice here; it really took the player out of the game to not be able to use all the stuff on the character sheet.)

Turn 2: Fromi the Halfling lights a candle and descends the stairs, checking for traps (Scout, Ob 3). He sees that they are rigged to fall, then begins exploring the cellar, finding an open door, a cave entrance, and a barricaded door.

Turn 3: Beren the dwarf takes the time to rig a rope to an iron spike in the hearth and descends the stairs first while Lamarra holds a torch out to light their way and Fromi points out the best places to step (Dungeoneer, Ob 5, failed). As Karolina the warrior steps on behind him, both fall as the stairs collapse. Twist: Health test for Beren and Karolina, the torch falls and is snuffed, and Lamarra lights another.

Turn 4 (Health test, Ob 2): Karolina tumbles down onto Beren, but neither is injured (I should have included Fromi in the Health test twist for the stairs collapsing, since he was Helping from beneath.)

The Grind: All earn the condition Hungry and Thirsty. Everyone takes a few minutes to eat or drink.

Turn 5: Fromi decides to start moving pieces of the barricade in the cellar’s northwest to form a makeshift staircase (Carpenter, Ob 2, Nature).

(Fromi didn’t say he was looking for anything in particular in the barricade, just that he started moving stuff. My assumption is that Fromi is some sort of stubborn dad who might have later found the ladder, but was already committed to his plan.)

Tera lights her lantern. Fromi lights another candle. The party descends.

Turn 6: Beren moves the rest of the barricade away from the northwest door (Laborer, Ob 1) but exhausts himself doing so. No one would help, and there was so little left! Condition: Exhausted

Turn 7: The party enters the northwest door, waking a half-starved and pathetic dog. Beren wastes no time in dispatching it, cutting its throat. Tera, the paladin leading the expedition, searches the room with Lamarra and Fromi (Scout, Ob 3, using Nature) and they discover not only the four unstaved casks but also a secret room and a net rigged to trap them. Lamarra disables the simple trap.

(I missed the cue of the dog whining, so I just decided it was asleep when they went in there. I need to remember that some of my players have had bad experiences with dogs in other game contexts. I didn’t expect them to just kill the thing, but since I missed the ladder and the whining, I gave it to them as a “good idea”. Torchbearer has a strange morality!)

Turn 8: The party discovers the contents of Ronwald the innkeeper’s secret room - a sword, shield, helmet, crossbow, and a small chest. Ulrik the cleric checks the chest for traps and unlocks it (Criminal, Ob 2) finding 2D of silver coins.

(I wasn’t sure how to handle Ulrik’s instinct of checking for traps on a thing that didn’t have a trap. I faked a test, which felt wrong. If I did it again, I’d just Say Yes. I suppose I could have tested for realsies and twisted for time.)

The Grind: All earn the condition Hungry and Thirsty. The party opens (and empties) a cask of Three Squires sour beer, and everyone takes the time to eat or drink.

Turn 9: As the party ventures into a cold storage room with vacant meathooks hanging from the ceiling, they find three giant rats waiting for them. Conflict! Tera commands the party into the fray to destroy the rats (and rolls a Disposition of 6 versus the rats’ 8), but finds that Grav is stewing in the cellar and Fromi is trying to raise his spirits. More than once, the party tries outwitting the rats (Feint) only to find that such tactics are of questionable value against vermin. Worse, the party’s bad habits keep getting in their own way. They pay a steep price as each member of the group is incapacitated except Karolina, who is able to hold the rats at bay long enough to allow them to recover and finish the rats off. Minor Compromise: The party hears a chittering sound approaching from the north.

(I know I forgot to factor Backpacks and Beren’s Exhausted condition in tests during the Conflict with the giant rats. Not next time!)

Turn 10: After fighting off the rats, the combatants all check themselves over for wounds (Health, Ob 2) and find that Laranna and Beren got the worst of it. Twist: The PCs will find out later!

Camp: The party retreats to the common room of the House of Three Squires, takes apart their makeshift staircase, and makes camp upstairs. Tera checks the windows and doors to make sure that they are safe (instinct, Survivalist, factored) and determines there’s no place better to stay, regardless of what’s beneath. Grav, still fuming, takes a drink of Laranna’s open cask of sour beer, and his Anger finally subsides (Will, Ob 2*). Beren, Exhausted rests for a bit (Health, Ob 3), then goes out with Karolina to bring back some food (instinct, Hunter, factored). While they’re away, Grav maps out the rooms they’ve been in (instinct, Cartographer, factored). Beren and Karolina return with a baby deersloth (three good meals!), most of which Fromi cooks and preserves (instinct, Cook, factored, creates 2 portions of preserved rations). Finally, Grav scribes a scroll of Thread of Friendship (Arcanist, Ob 2). As he finishes memorizing Wizard’s Aegis for the next delve, Tera gets everyone to their feet to head back into the cellar…

End of Session awards:

Karolina the Warrior earned 2 Fate and 2 Persona for being the only reason the giant rats didn’t earn a total party kill. She was our MVP, and she fulfilled a goal of not letting anyone die. (If it hadn’t been for the near-TPK, I would have only given her a Fate point for that.)

Fromi the Halfling was the sole and unanimous recipient of the Embodiment award.

Beren the Dwarf earned 2 Fate and 1 Persona for Teamwork, for handing out gear and pitching in help everywhere he could.

Additional things I’m reflecting on from the session:

The introduction to the House gave me a great chance to warm up and engage with the players on the details of the environment. I’m not sure how I’ll launch into our next session as we’ll have a slightly different group of players headed back into the same dungeon.

Tracking light for 8 PCs is non-trivial, especially when they’re using a combination of all three types of light and swapping around who’s using what light. I have two decks of players’ cards, so I think I’m just going to put it on them.

With a group of our size, I’ve asked them to have a leader to help me coordinate what’s going on, but when someone says they’re doing something, I’ve been calling for tests. They’ve done a good job of following Never Name Your Move.

When we were nearing time for the night, I pointed out that the party didn’t have any checks. I knew we had time for a Conflict and figured they’d get one or two, but they were all trying to rack them up at once, which was very close to going very wrong. They got enough to cure their conditions for now, and as no one has taxed Nature, it doesn’t particularly matter who delivers the prologue (and if they read the rules closely, they’ll know that I am a big softie). Since we won’t get a chance to come back to this for at least another two weeks, (and probably longer), I’ll feel better about applying conditions this session.

Thanks for posting!

The players really should be tracking their own light.

But it sounds like it went well.

A couple points:

When Fromi had started moving the pieces you could have dropped a clue with your description like: “You start carrying the chairs, tables, loose, boards, ladder, and bits of broken cupboard over to the stairs” if he’s quick enough to pick up on the ladder and suggest just using that, then give him the good idea, but if he doesn’t interrupt you or push the matter then you could call for the Carpenter test. The way you played it was perfectly fine but more description always makes the game more interesting and is fodder for good ideas (I always think of this stuff in hindsight when I’m GMing though!)

As for the “searching for traps” instinct when there are no traps: If there’s no trap you don’t test, you just tell them that there is no trap. It doesn’t take a turn either.

Sounds like fun was had by all and that the number of players didn’t hurt the feel too much.