My thoughts after playing my first game and it ending up a TPK.

Hey dudes. Played in a game here in Vancouver wanted to share my experiences with the TPK we had.

It was my first time playing TB, and I was the Elf, which was a lot of fun.

  • I wish I had taken the time to earn more checks. These are CRUCIAL to making the camp phase amazing. I had one check to resolve two conditions I had. It was bunk. But it was hard for me. I’m learning though.

  • Light is more important then food/water. I think anyway. Having a success taken away from you while in a conflict just cause you had dim light is harsh. (Of course if I has not failed my spell roll to make light it would not have been an issue) but we found that we had a ton of water/ration, but were running out of torches pretty quick.

  • Working together in character creation is critical. We had some skills at 3, but none at 4 except for cooking, but we had so much wine it wasn’t an issue. (I had a jug in my back) Plus, we only had one guy at dungeonering at 2, which we found was a terrible detriment when we had to do, you know, DUNGEON things. My scout of 3 was not as useful.

  • Spells are awesome. So good. I just had the light spell, it was amazing. I loved it. I can make and move balls of light. So good.

  • Bow is also awesome. Making an independent test into a vrs for fight??? Amazing. (Still lost the fight, but I rolled like ass)

  • Shields are so important. If you can’t restore your disposition, you’re done. Our cleric had his shield taken away as part of a twist. Rough stuff.

-Halflings, Elves, and Dwarfs are the best.

I am still looking forward to playing again. TB doesn’t feel like an RPG sometimes. I felt at times the light, check, systems etc, kept me distracted from actually roleplaying. I am thinking this would pass in time as I become familiar with the systems. It feels like you have to get over this large hump in difficulty curve in order to really get into the game, so to me that makes it less accessible then other rpg’s. I love the tip of the hat to old school d&d a lot. Don’t get me wrong, I love games like this, that’s just an observation. I can imagine it’s a tricky balance between fun and challenge in any game design.

Thanks for your thoughts! TPKs are rough at any time. I’m glad you took in good spirit.

The idea behind TB is that the adversity of the light/food/time cycle will help you build character. It’ll give you a framework on which to stretch and grow your character—and provide meaningful adversity that will give you a chance to show who you really are.


That’s a good point Luke. It does force a party to work together to survive, and through that you build a relationship with them and know yourself. Like brothers in arms etc. I’m not used to a survival mechanic helping to develop character. Usually you start as heroes and the epic dictates who you become, while in TB it’s the grind, the trails that chip away at you, and when you come out you are not the same. That makes me feel better about the game, thank-you.

I think, what…40+ years on? that people involved in this weird hobby need to jettison the idea that roleplaying is what you do when not using the game mechanics.

Your character (you) is in dire straits. All this shit that’s happening around you is threatening your safety and getting in the way of your goals and testing (or reinforcing) your beliefs. You don’t have to talk in a funny voice* at all…it’s still roleplaying.

  • It does help.

This. A thousand times this.

EDIT: And in an attempt to appear to conform to the thread, I was part of a TPK in my first (and so far only) Torchbearer game. It was honestly some of the most fun I’ve ever had gaming. We were underground trying to get around undead and… well… we weren’t clear of conditions when we first got in there (mistake one!), and we just kept screwing up our rolls and the GM kept piling on conditions, and all of a sudden we were in the bottom of a pit and I literally had one more turn before my elf died, so I threw myself into the oncoming zombies and told my dwarf buddy to get out of there. He then died in one of the most epic one on one confrontations with a wight I’ll ever see. I’ll get the play report up sometime after bootcamp, it was really was AMAZING.

One of the biggest roleplaying details come when introducing traits to the test (as benefits or for gathering checks). Each time you invoke a trait you are putting some of your character personality in the roll of the die. I always push the characters to make an effort when asking for a trait benefit/check (and is really funny to have two characters fighting over who confront the undeads first just to invoke their Defender trait).

Stay cool :cool:

Totally agree. The uses of, and changing of, Traits was one of the most powerful role-play mechanics I’ve ever run into.

Yeah traits. As I said in my post using traits against myself is a hard thing to learn. I even played Mouse guard before this and always forgot to do it there. When I did start doing it more frequently, I had a blast. It does make the experience more interesting.

It’s like what Jared said, it’s hard to un-condition yourself as an experienced (older) gamer. (I’m a big fan of funny voices.)

Or, as in the case of TPKs, build characters.

What if Torchbearer is just the longest character creation process ever…

I mean if the game is all about building character then the whole game can be considered a character creation process during which the character can die. Once you have your final character, what then? Maybe there is no final character.

There is definitely a learning curve, but for new players/groups, the biggest thing people need to remember is “Describe to Live.” Using a trait for/against yourself? Roleplay it. Using a skill? Do not say, “I use Scout to look for traps.” Describe how your character looks for pressure plates on the tiled floor by carefully pressing each one with a 10-foot pole. Not only does this increase immersion, it’s also more likely to lead to the GM evoking the “Good Idea” rule and letting you preserve your precious resources.

Checks will always feel kind of boardgame-y, but it’s in the interest of playing a flawed character, more than anything.

Exactly! The roleplaying aspect of Torchbearer seems like it often comes from the players trying their best to not roll the dice. This definitely harkens back to old school D&D, where “save or die” was often the case, and trying to be clever in how you played your character often meant more than the character’s stats or equipment.

You can not roll the dice in any RPG…

I would disagree. The reason you roleplay is so that your game doesn’t sound like this.

Player: I Scout for traps. rolls dice
GM: You find a trap.
Player: I use Dungeoneer to disarm the trap. rolls dice.
GM: You disarmed the trap.

and sounds like this:

Player 1: I push down on each tile with my 10-foot pole to see if any move.
GM: Great, roll your Scout skill.
Player 1: rolls dice. I got two successes.
GM: As you try each tile, one in the center moves. When you remove the pole it rises back to it’s original resting place.
Player 1: I lead the group out of the room and search my pack for something to pry some of the stones from the walls loose. I have a crowbar.
GM: What are you trying to do?
Player 1: If we pile enough stones on that plate, I think we can set off the trap. I was going to push each stone across the floor with the pole.
GM: Okay, first you need to pry the stones loose from the wall. Make a Laborer test.
Player 2: Can I Help with Stonemason? To see the quality and make.
GM: Sure.
Players 1 & 2 roll their dice for a total of four successes.
GM: The stones, while sturdy, have not not been cut or fitted and break loose from the floor with a little bit of leverage. As you lean on your crowbar they come away from the floor. How many did you want?
Player 1: Two or three? However many I can easily stack on the tile in the next room.
GM: Got it. You slide each stone across the floor with the pole. The plate clicks and a fusillade of darts spring from some holes the wall.
Player 1: No test to disarm?
GM: Nah. Your plan was good and no test/condition would have made sense in this situation.

I think we’re saying the same (or at least similar) thing in different ways. Perhaps I could have been clearer. I’ll try to, using your example.

Absolutely. That’s obviously “roll play” and not roleplay. And also very boring.

Which is what I was trying to express. The player is not necessarily going for a test; he’s describing how his character interacts with the environment, looking to see what happens. For all the player knows, the trap (if there even is one) has a hair trigger, and will safely spring at a distance if they do something “clever” like poke it from a distance with the tip of a 10’ pole. In a game like Torchbearer, where every test has a cost, the player is possibly hoping that what he just described is a “good idea”, and can bypass rolling the dice.

Thanks for all the good talk. As an update My spouse ran a session for me and two other friends on Saturday. It was really fun. Her and I debated on certain rule things (cause that’s what we do as a couple) Like, can I light a torch at any time? But it was a blast! We didn’t die, and for once in a game I was excited to rob the place of carpet and silverware. I also realized how you never, ever want to get the exhausted condition. The rules are starting to settle in now, and next week we start a full blown campaign with 6 players. I’ll let you know how it goes. I’m pretty excited.