New GM Looking to understand high Level Play

Hi All,

So two question

  1. I am trying to understand how high level play works in Torchbearer.

Specifically I know that the game started with the design philosophy similar to old school D&D so is strongholds or henchmen and followers are a thing that I have missed.

  1. If you take a Scenario like “Against the Cult of the Reptile God” what phase is the exploration of the village itself. Would you just consider it as a area of the dungeon?

Cheers in advance for the help.


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Oh, we played ATCOTRG in playtest for TB2.
It’s a MEGA DUNGEON in regards to Torchbearer. Especially the Naga’s lair.

But the locations are:
Village= town phase
Ruined house in village=adventure and camp phase
Temple=adventure phase
Allied Ramne=camp or town phase
Rushmoors=adventure and camp phases
Naga’s lair=adventure and camp phases

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2nd edition has new Base Camp rules which allow you to establish a little camp and build it up to a larger camp, and then a steading, and then a village.

Also, 2nd edition has really honed the “zero to hero” aspect that was always implied in 1st edition—where a character can work up to being more heroic at 9th or 10th level (instead of starting as a hero at 1st level).

Starting at 2nd level a character can “hire help” (guides, guard, porters, sailors, guild), and around 5th level some of the classes gain a companion follower.

In my experience players often overlook both, but for higher-level play, you do well to bring along a companion, hire a guard to protect the camp, build the camp up, and hire porters to carry all your loot back to town.


Hi Luke and Koch,

Thanks so much for the outlook, makes sense to me a bit more now.

Taking on what you have said, a “good” sized adventure in traditional terms is perhaps an encounter outside a dungeon, maybe 2-3 room dungeon and maybe an encounter when you get back out.

Anything more than this you are entering into a multi session adventure (not that I am complaining just trying to understand how to pace it right).

Thank you again



The players are driving and really control the pacing the most. However, a GM can switch gears or hit the breaks by choosing a twist or a condition for failure. If the GM takes away a backpack or blows out torches, the party is going to want to get those back at some point, so you need to account for that happening.

Start at the Door
For the first adventure, start right at the dungeon door. Get rid of the stuff leading up to the dungeon for the first adventure. Get crawling!

Adventure Difficulty
Later, getting to and from town is an important consideration for the dungeon’s difficulty. At mid-levels, half the fun is even getting to the dungeon. At higher levels, make the players work for it. By the time they get to the dungeon, they’ll have to make some hard decisions. Also, getting back to town has to be an important part of the tension and the party’s calculations to make it back safely. At low levels, getting home could be a Pathfinder test, but at higher levels, there could be a few obstacles on the path back home or even at the gate of the town.

Areas & Sessions
In general, the average is about 3-4 areas per session (sometimes just 1 or 2).

A typical mid-level adventure might have between 7-10 areas. A high-level adventure can have up to 20 areas (and take 6 or 7 sessions).

Town phase could possible take an entire four-hour session if you have a party of 4 or 5 players with almost all of the conditions to alleviate (otherwise a town phase might average about an hour for an experienced group).


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