New campaign S1 E1

For context, I like to think of my rpg campaigns as seasons of a tv show and each adventure as one episode. I usually set up to play three adventures then hit whatever the leveling cycle is. In this case, Winter.

After that we decide if we want to do Season 2. As the show gets more seasons, I eventually add more episodes with a mid-season break. The break is an opportunity to really shake things up. Maybe the big bad isn’t so big or bad. Maybe the thing they were trying to accomplish has unintended consequences(I mean, it usually does). Stuff like that.

Also, I started diceless GMing about 10 years ago and I’m never going back. For TB, I do a bunch of work to figure out a variety of enemy rolls beforehand. I mostly look at the average, but I also account for tougher opponents. Lets me up the tension as the enemies start using their bigger rolls near the end of the fight. Or I can spread them throughout, or front load them, or whatever makes for the best story.

Ok, all of that aside, we got through 75% of the adventure I wrote and we’re going to get them back home(difficult) and then do Town for the first time.

Their task was to break into the abandoned (probably) manor of a wizard who collected rare artifacts to procure a specific glowing rock. Their employer supplied them with enough food to cover their journey. They were expected to resupply at the outpost of Passthrewn before heading back.

The episode opened with them arriving at Passthrewn to find it in ruins. I like to do stuff like this sometimes. Just suddenly remove something the players expected to be there. Sets a mood.

Searching the town, they found corpses rotting as if they’d been in the sun for days, despite the fact that it had been a heavy Spring rain for the past three days. Structures, anything made of out wood, food, it was all rotted and decaying.

They found a lone survivor who told them what had happened. There had been a party of adventurers who were looking for the same glowing rock as my PCs were. They’d headed south towards the abandoned manor. That evening there had been a massive thunderclap from that direction. In the morning, a 12 foot scaled biped arrived, proclaimed itself the Prince of Decay, then killed everyone except for the lone survivor. The creature explained it was leaving him alive because it grew strong from his suffering. Making him watch as everyone in the outpost died generated a significant amount of suffering. Shortly afterwards, the creature left town to the west.

After the creature disappeared, the other party of adventurers had arrived back at the outpost with the glowing rock from the manor(based on the adventures of previous TB campaign) and had accidentally released the creature and a badly injured Beholder at the same time. They left the survivor with some food, then headed off to the east.

My PCs immediately launched into a discussion about who should check on his medical condition. It was clearly the Cleric, but they’re still working on Never Volunteering.

They eventually agreed on a mercy killing, then let the Cleric spend the day performing last rites for the dead. He said this was so they wouldn’t come back from the dead. I liked that idea so now that’s how it works.

The Elf told me he was going to look around the town for tracks to see what he could find out about the creature and the other adventuring party. The Dwarf helped him. Then the Elf used his Loner trait against himself. He figured that even though the Dwarf was helping, it irritated him enough that he didn’t benefit from the help.

While tracking the other party they did a great job of avoiding rolls. Eventually they tracked them to a swamp. They heard noises and prepared an ambush. Everyone agreed that the Elf would give the signal to attack.

But then they noticed the approaching sound was 20 kobolds talking and laughing. Half of them were wearing blue face paint, the other half yellow. One of them was carrying a sweet dwarven axe(carried in two hands). It is a cursed axe from my previous campaign. Dwarves have to make an ob 1 Will test that increases in difficulty each time they are in the presence of the axe. Any dwarf who fails becomes obsessed with the axe. Any dwarf who holds it believes themselves to be the king/queen of the dwarves. It has no other effect.

The Dwarf made his Will check and trouble was avoided. Side note, these 20 kobolds are two thirds of the force that killed my previous party.

Once the kobolds passed, the party continued deeper into the swamp. The Mage made a roll to forage for alchemical ingredients with help from the Cleric. Then the Mage used Skeptical against himself because he didn’t trust that the Cleric knew what he was talking about. He made it anyway and I gave him 1 unit of alchemical supplies.

Finally they came upon the ruins of a previous civilization, most of which is under swamp water. There is a bridge that leads to a large structure at the center of the campus. On that bridge is the most dangerous thing in the entire adventure. A broken section of bridge with only a narrow bit to cross on. They mostly did really well and the Dwarf(only one with Dungeoneer) got out of it with a banged shin(angry).

After that they explored the structure, finding the corpses of the previous party, stealth killing a few sleeping kobolds, sitting in an advanced piece of technology and communicating with an intelligence from a long dead civilization, and finally sneaking up on a group of kobolds in the next room.

The Mage cast Wisdom of the Sages(I think? Whichever one is Tongues) out of his spellbook.

They overhead two kobolds praising the leadership of the third. They were talking about the wine they got from the dead adventurers. This was actually 3 bottles of healing potions. The PCs decided to wait for the kobolds to get drunk. They soon realized their mistake when the Kobolds started to complain that it wasn’t getting them drunk, but then started to exclaim that it made them feel invincible.

The party rushed in for a kill conflict. I had buffed these kobolds a bit and assigned their leader some good rolls. We stumbled through the conflict, frequently referring to the reference sheet to make sure we got it all right. Unsurprisingly, four adventurers won with only 1 lost point of disposition. Since kobolds can’t normally kill adventurers, I made one of the PCs take exhausted.

They found some loot the leader had kept, including the glowing rock the party was looking for.

Next week they’ll finish exploring the structure then try to get home alive.

Everyone had fun. They’re approaching it very mechanically and I like that.

I am not sure I quite understand what you are doing here, but why not just go totally diceless?

I’ll clarify! :smiley:

It’s totally diceless. Before each session, for each possible encounter, I make some guidelines for Obs in conflict.

During conflicts, instead of rolling for an enemy, I follow those guidelines to set their Ob or “roll”.

In this past session, I essentially said “These buffed Kobolds are mostly going to roll 1’s. I’ll give them a couple of 2’s, and the leader will get a 3 at some important moment.”

I pepper in 0’s as seems appropriate. I predetermine disposition as well.

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Are you saying that you come up with a list of a possible numbers of successes, and then just pull things off the list when you’d need a “roll”, or do you just go with whatever number you think is most interesting at the moment?

Are the players doing the same thing?

I am still not entirely sure how you are running things, @Mournful, but in all honesty, I’d be a bit perturbed playing in a game where I felt this was going on behind the scenes. Obviously, whatever works for your group goes, but I hope your players know what you are doing and are cool with it, because it sounds to me like you are doing more than fudging the odd die roll.

From my perspective, as someone who has run entirely diceless campaigns (Amber), why bother with rolling at all if you have predetermined the narrative peaks and troughs, down to the point of choreographing the important moments in combat? You say you want to run your games like they are ‘seasons of a tv show’, but one of the things that makes gaming different to other forms of entertainment is that the story, such as it is, is often emergent.

That’s not to say GMs can’t break down their games into discrete story arcs, but typically they evolve as a game progresses. It seems to me like you are trying to avoid the dice getting in the way of a good time, but for many players, the uncertainty they introduce is a vital part of the fun.

I am hardly the exemplar for playing the game RAW, and the last thing I want to be is a gatekeeper for how Torchbearer games should be played, but have you tried running the game as per the rules, and seeing how it plays out?

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@Mournful will be able to explain his precise process, but I read his explanation as removing a degree of NPC randomness rather than removing any player agency.

There is a wide range of ways RPGs handle resolving contests. For example, for a fight:

Each participant rolls for Initiiative > Fastest Attacker rolls to hit > Defender rolls to avoid > if Attacker hits they roll for damage > if damaged the Defender rolls to soak damage > &c…

Each participant has a fixed initiative > Fastest Attacker rolls to harm the Defender against a target set by the Defender’s combination of ability to dodge and toughness.

Neither is the right way to do it, but one of them involves many more rolls than the other, adding both time and randomness to each fight.

I imagine few roleplayers want to spend more time on dice rolls, so the real deciding factor is how the randomness affects things: does the group want a game where an unskilled weakling can, through unfeasible series of rolls by both sides, horrifically wound a mighty warrior; or does the group want a game where unskilled weaklings aren’t a threat unless they gather together and use tactical advantages?

Sounds like what @Mournful is doing is saying that, kobolds, for example, aren’t great fighters so assign them a bunch of “rolls” that players are likely to beat if they are reasonable fighters, then throw in a couple of slightly better rolls to represent a burst of cunning/&c. Then the combat comes down to how the players roll rather than how the players and NPCs roll.

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You may well be right, and like I am said, I’m not 100% sure how @mournful is approaching things, so I may have jumped the gun. I am more than happy to be contradicted, and in any case, what happens at their table is their business.

Certainly, I have no issue with different approaches to die mechanics, or indeed to eschewing them altogether, as long as everyone is on the same page. The same goes for ‘railroad’ games, too, as long as the same caveat applies.

I’m not the arbiter of how to roleplay the right way, much less how to play TB the right way. I do like the way dice can steer a game into uncharted territory at the drop of a hat, but the direction of the game can definitely be driven by player decisions as well, so each to their own.

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Exactly this, thank you!

@Heathen, is that clearer now?

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Yep. Thanks @Mournful.

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