My players have a name for Torchbearer

My players seem to think Torchbearer is in a genre of its own. They call it an Elendssimulation, a “misery simulator.”

In related news, I am growing really fond of the House of the Three Squires, which we started playing last sunday. That first drive-off conflict against the rats was, for some reason, much more satisfying than most conflicts I remember from playing Mouse Guard. I guess it’s the little tweaks to the conflict rules. Especially the distributed disposition points acting as “life points”; they make everything much more vivid.

Perhaps it’s just my players. Good players, even if one had never played anything even remotely like any BW game.

At the beginning of the game, when the characters approached the entrance to the house, I described a pool of rather fresh blood on the threshold (some latecomer to the party, I guess). So, one player suspects an ambush in the main room and decides to storm the building, using Wizard’s Aegis as an assault shield. Torchbearer SWAT.

I’d never have thought of that. And, you know, if there had been some bad guys in that room, perhaps with a crossbow, that would have been a really Good Idea.

Most satisfying GM moments of that session: describing the elf crashing down the trapped stairs into a pack of six giant rats, and playing the kobolds slamming the door shut on the party in the wine cellar (with lots of Gremlin laughs and screeching).

Ha! I’m glad you’re enjoying it at least. One of my favorite things about the game is that there’s a lot of player skill involved in navigating dungeons well and avoiding traps and dangerous situations. The first outing is always the worst! If their characters survive and they stick with it, they’ll get better at avoiding and getting around nasty tricks like the collapsing stair. Then it becomes an arms race: their ingenuity versus your wicked and devious ideas.

Basic D&D, LotP, and pretty much all games fitting into the OSR mindset are misery simulators. The main difference between Torchbearer and the rest of them is that Torchbearer has rules to formalize that grind which makes the game a lot more even in tone from session to session.

I love the distributed disposition as health, and I really like how the person taking the action is the one who gets hit. It adds another layer to the conflict and adds more reasons to either script or assign actions sub-optimally if you need to protect someone. Having formalized conflict types with distinct events in the case of failure also adds a nice layer because the players can decide what’s on the line by engaging in one type of conflict or another.

Now all I need to do is get the players in my home game to agree to some rules-prescribed soul-grinding.

Why in the world do German-speakers have a word for that? :stuck_out_tongue:

Oh, don’t worry, it was fun for everyone involved. I had made it very clear upfront what Torchbearer was all about. So clear, in fact, that the player of the tactical-assault-shield wizard coined the term misery simulation when we took our third player on board the evening before playing. No surprises on that side, then. However, plenty of surprises for player three regarding the amount of meta-gaming necessary, the lack of attempts at realism in conflicts, and the desirability of failed rolls. :wink: Still, he rolled with it, and he did it with grace. Considering he had been playing only trad games for two decades or so, it went all very well indeed.

We’re playing again coming thursday.

They have a word for everything.

And if they don’t, they do now.

Our second session saw the first character death. Right at the beginning of the session.

Opening the door to the cold room, Gamosh the dwarf discovered a giant rat, which he decided to slay. The fool. Well, maybe the fool was me: I decided to resolve this with a simple versus-test. A single rat didn’t seem all that important or dramatic. Even if the dwarf was injured. (Foool …) Warning the player about the possibility of death if he failed the test, we proceded to roll the dice. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

So, soon after that another dwarf showed up at the inn.

“Hello? Anybody down there in the cellar? There’s lots of old blood and destroyed furniture up here!”
“Yes, we’re down here. Come and join us! The stairs collapsed, use the rope.”
“Is my brother Gamosh down there?”
“Well, yes … kinda …”

Welcome to the House of the Three Squires, Gamosh II. (And if that’s not old-school, I don’t know.)

Oh, and then they split the party. The elf and magician made a stand against a horde of 12 kobolds rushing them, while the dwarf took to his heels. Bracing for the charge, the elf started singing an elvish war song, pouring all the grief and sorrowful memories of his people into it. That was a highly memorable scene, with the player draining every single resource on his character sheet. I threw in flickering torchlight, dancing shadows and a gust of air causing the elf’s cloak to billow in a dramatic manner.

Soon after that, the epic elven hero (in the eyes of the goblins) and the mage find themselves in the kobold’s court room and, failing a manipulator roll, “agree” to take a look at the kobold’s spider problem. Then they make camp in the kobold cave, waited on by kobolds serving up food stolen from the inn.

All in all, it was a memorable session, but a bit confused at times, with many small rule errors on my part. Especially at the beginning, Torchbearer really is quite a bit more complex than Mouse Guard.

I’m not quite sure how to handle things like the single rat. Is it ever appropriate to reduce a kill conflict (or other physically dangerous conflict involving risk of death) to a single vs-test? And how do I handle armor in a vs-test like that? Weapons grant +1D, but armor?

The dwarf player found it really hard to play the game at two levels at once (in the fiction as his character, and at the table as part of group of players). He’s all into immersion and used to considering meta-gaming as “bad roleplaying.” The words “that’s what my character would do” were heard at one point. I think he got it in the end, however.

I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Honestly, I’d make any kind of conflict with an intelligent creature during the adventure phase into a Conflict. It’s not like Conflicts slow things down much. But even if you don’t think that every conflict deserves to be a Conflict, I would think that death as stakes would qualify, in my opinion.

You’re probably right, Ludanto. I’m still trying to find the happy medium between full-blown conflicts for important and dramatic things, and versus-tests for things my gut tells me are not very dramatic at all. “It’s just one rat, no big deal …”

The rule for injured characters in vs-tests is clearly not supposed to be a substitute for Bloody Versus, and I shouldn’t have treated it that way.

I shall inform my gut we’re no longer playing either MG or BW. Also, apologize to the dwarf player.

Well, that sounds good to me, though really I’m just guessing. I’ve only really played once, and probably won’t have a chance to play again.

No, you made a good point, and I thought quite a bit about it since reading your answer the day before. I don’t think every conflict with an intelligent creature is necessarily worth a full Conflict, but when a character’s life is at stake, that’s more or less the definition of “important.”

:frowning: Good luck finding some more or new players, then. Because that makes me sad to hear.

I’m seeing some common responses in players: either you hate it or you love it. In my case only one of the guys loves the game as much as I do, the other guys are great friends that know that I really want to play Torchbearer and will play at least for a couple of sessions (also, they don’t want to GM anything right now).

The truth is that Torchbearer is a focused game, as a player you have to have a taste for some things to fully enjoy the game (like old school D&D, resource management, an indie take on game premise-mechanics), if you don’t the game (IMO) feels a little alien, too different from what one is used to play.

Anyway I personally love the game and as for now this is the one that I want to play as much as I can.

Stay cool :cool:

I don’t remember how tough a single rat is, but if dispositions are low conflicts can go quick, even resolving in a blow or two.

Ok… I looked it up and a rat has Kill 6, which seems high, but an aggressive character could take it out in three rolls. Still doesn’t seem wise from a character point of view, but I don’t think I would begrudge watching three turns of attacking if I was a fellow player. Of course, I’m very patient and tolerant. :wink: