Long Journeys

When the party is traveling for days, how do you represent that?

I was running a game for three players last night. The players dutifully accepted a hook and set out for a dungeon, choosing a route that was five days long, four of those days through uninhabited wilderness. To represent time passing and give a sense of distance and difficulty, I called for some kind of test in each day of travel.

On the first day, I asked the halfling to roll a Cook roll to see how well he was stretching their provisions. He succeeded and I had him deduct one fresh ration to feed the party.

On the second day I asked if anyone was hunting or scavenging for food. The dwarf tried some hunting without supplies, failed, and lost his wine wading in chest-deep water to recover a hammer he’d thrown.

On the third day I called for a Pathfinder check as the terrain forced them away from the river they were following. I forget who rolled it, but I think it was a success.

On the fourth day they arrived in the vicinity of the adventure, so I started the grind. But for the first three days there was no grind, they kept their Fresh condition despite camping and living rough, they never got hungry or thirsty, and they only consumed the one ration on day 1.

It seems like they should be consuming at least 3 rations a day for every day of travel, but that’s not how TB reckons time, right? Laughing Salmon felt that maybe I shouldn’t be calling for tests for things that aren’t important, and maybe I should just kick off the adventure at the adventure site, and I can certainly see where he’s coming from.

How do you guys handle uneventful days of travel? Do characters consume supplies? Lose that Fresh feeling?

I would hand-wave it if it’s not important. If there’s a decent chance of getting lost, call for a Pathfinder test. If they have to scale a mountain to reach the entrance, call for a Dungeoneering test or something. But other than that, go to where the action starts.

If you want the journey itself to feel important, you could make a custom Conflict out of it.

I’m with Hirram and Justin.

I think what’s important to understand and often difficult to wrap your mind around is that Torchbearer isn’t particularly concerned with accurately simulating the passage of time, or with resources consumed over a given period of time. Turns don’t exist to accurately model the passage of time; they exist to force you to make tactically-interesting choices. For example, if the GM presents you with a slippery slope leading deeper into the caves, he may call for a Dungeoneering test to navigate it. But even though you’re likely to reach the bottom faster than if it was a normal slope (pass or fail), it still costs you a Test. Why? Not to simulate time, but to force you to decide how to spend your resources. Do you make that test? Do you try to Scavenge up a ladder (eating up a test that way) or go back through that nest of spiders you saw? Or do you Camp here, and try it when you’re rested?

So if the overland journey is part of the adventure (and not just fluff between the Town and Adventure phases), by all means have them Test for the things you’ve put in there. Otherwise, give them a montage. Assume they’ve been foraging, or hunting, or that villagers starved for news have given them food in exchange. Don’t test, because it doesn’t matter.

Yeah, I get that, and had I been running Burning Wheel instead of Torchbearer that’s exactly what I would have done. But what’s “important to the story?”

I feel like Torchbearer puts more emphasis on foresight and proper equipping. You plan an expedition, think about what you’ll need and exigencies that might come up. If you’re successful, the operation will be pretty smooth. When things go wrong, you’ll have what you need to improve your situation. If you don’t plan well, you’ll be hungry, exhausted, sick, and limping for home without much loot.

It was in that spirit that I thought maybe long trips should deplete supplies and risk twists and conditions. How do you prepare for two weeks in the wilderness? That’s going to be different than how you prepare for a three-day dungeon delve.

I really like that idea… Attack and Maneuver with Pathfinder, Defend and Feint with Survivalist… but who is the enemy? The world? Hmm that’s probably a Might 11 enemy, but there aren’t any specific rules for Journey conflicts, so I guess you can have one against something with +8 Might… Okay, so I like the idea in spirit, not sure about the execution :slight_smile:

What’s “important to the story” is up to the GM. If you feel the travel is important and adds to the adventure, have them test. But I’d treat it like any other part of the adventure: prepare areas they’re traveling through, prep twists, etc. I’d be leery of having too much of the adventure above-ground, though, simply because it won’t make them use up light resources.

But give them Hungry and Thirsty every four turns as they travel. Give them the opportunity to gain Conditions or run into Wandering Monsters. These should be things where you place a challenge before them and say “what do you do?”, not just “you’ve been traveling a while; give me a Hunting test”.

Jovialbard, if you’re going to do a custom conflict, I’d say that the entire world isn’t against them–just the sort of obstacles they’re likely to run into. So their opponent consists of long, dusty roads; downed trees blocking the path; poorly-marked animal trails, etc. Most of the world could care less about this conflict.

I was a little tongue in cheek, but I guess the point is, does the road have a disposition? What skills does it use to attack, defend, maneuver, or feint? It’s an interesting notion, and I like the feel of it in an abstract sense, but I’m not sure how well it applies to the rules as written.

Edit: Let me clarify, I’m pro the idea and intrigued, but skeptical as to how it could work

Wouldn’t be all that different from a journey conflict in Mouse Guard where each season has a Nature rating. As the GM you’d just have to decide what Nature is appropriate.

I believe that as soon as you leave town, the Adventure Phase begins, so that travel would count against them. Figuring out how to best use the rules is difficult, but I think if you wanted a “hard” adventure that was “far” from civilization, it would be best to think about what sorts of obstacles lie in wait between town and the dungeon (beyond just distance).

So, Pathfinder test, obviously.
(It’s difficult to avoid thinking in terms of skill tests. I’ve got to remember it’s about obstacles. The players influence the actual skills used. Let me try that again.)

So, Trackless Wilderness, obviously. (Pathfinder? Condition Exhausted?)
Provisioning (Survivalist? Twist: Lose a Ration?)
Wolves or something (Scout? Twist: Wolf Conflict?)
Ford a River (Health? Condition Sick?)

That’s a rough adventure to get to. :slight_smile:

I’d boil the entire journey down to a Pathfinder check, thus taking a single Turn. I think it works simply because I will assume they have prepared for the journey and forage for water and food along the way, and as long as they manage to stay on track and do that successfully (helping this test with hunter and scavenger seems extremely appropriate) the journey only really represents a strain on the adventurers equal to a single Turn. Failing the pathfinder test could mean failing to bring along enough food or such, for example.

I can also see the journey being through orc-infested lands, involving a number of different checks and perhaps a custom conflict where you as the GM “scripts” for the orcs and the players attempt to sneak past, outrun and outwit the orcs. That sounds like fun, too… but it will make the adventure that much harder since it will drain lots of resources en route to the dungeon.

So you’d include the rations used on the trip in the invisible equipment we imagine to be in the packs, like the tools for the characters’ skills?

A failed pathfinder check would mean what? Deducting rations from your packs? Arriving hungry and thirsty but with full rations in your packs?

Ah! Never played Mouse Guard, but I do like that idea. Works well if it’s an epic journey that’s significant to develop the plot.

As long as they can find water they aren’t hungry/thirsty even if they go for years on a liquid diet :wink:

I’d assume that a combination of hunting and foraging along with cooking fresh rations would be provided through the successful use of skills, yes. As for a failed test… I’d be inclined to either give hungry/thirsty (thus taking away Fresh, which is the real mean thing here) to the entire party OR add some sort of twist if there was a given (travelling through orc lands would mean an encounter with orcs, travelling over treacherous mountains would mean some sort of natural hazard, travelling through swamp might mean a soaked pack or two).

Alternate suggestion:

Each trip has a distance to cover, broken up into mathmatical chunks. A short trip might be a 6, a long trip might be a 14.
The group rolls appropriate tests. Maybe Pathfinder and Cartography and travels their number of successes towards their journey and burns the equivalent amount of resources.

You force them to test, eat up resources, and make the trip perilous. And after each set of tests, they potentially face a hazard, after which they could camp. No hazard, and they make camp fiction-wise and move on.