New Players v The Dread Crypt of Skogenby

Yesterday my regular Burning Wheel group played their first game of Torchbearer in five years (none of them remember playing but trust me, they’ve been to Skogenby before)! Response to the system was mixed to say the least but I attribute most of that up to playing in a new system and having a GM who may have been a little overconfident in his ability to communicate the rules. I’ll touch on that in a bit; but before I get too carried away our game consisted of:

Addi Shortbeard: A Dvergar Outcast with a jovial and gratingly positive personality
Haldor Lamplight: A Skyrnir Theurge determined to show all good people of Gottmark kindness
Kael: A Monk (Wanderers, Outcasts, and Exiles) from an archipelago in the Skyet Sea with a hatred for Trolls

The party arrived at the hamlet of Skogenby just days after the titular crypt had been disturbed and were approached by the elders of the village to find the missing Jora. Upon arriving at the crypt, the ever eager Addi crawled into the narrow passage without much hesitation while Haldor made note of the ancient writing on the dolmen, knowledge of which he knew was beyond him.

Torches lit and spirits high, Addi, Haldor, and Kael walked briskly through the Vault of Skulls until the shaking of ancient bones stopped them in their tracks. Four tomb guardians, alerted by the presence of the silver band in Haldor’s pocket, lurched to their feet and menaced the party. Addi ushered the party to run, though not back from whence they came but deeper into the tomb. One gulp of Gott wine and a flask of oil later, the party had lost the skeletons and found themselves in the Chamber of Absolutions.

Here, Addi filled his now empty wineskin with the fetid water (and I should’ve had him roll survivalist but since he didn’t care if the water was potable, revelation about the ooze would come only when he was attempting to find value of the horse-head spigot) while Haldor and Kael realized, fearfully, what the purpose of this room was. Carefully drawing water from the ooze infested font, Haldor attempted to perform a purification ritual. Unfortunately for the young theurge he only managed to defile the place and received the brand of the burning horse as a consequence.

While investigating the false sarcophagus, Kael used no caution in forcing the lid open and the whole party found themselves on the pointy end of the falling spears.

The game ended when, while in the Chamber of Vigils, Haldor and Kael again attempted to deduce the purpose of the space. Their shuffling and general mess-making, however, resulted in Haathor-Vash appearing and attempting to possess Haldor. While he resisted her assault, he was exhausted by the effort. It was here, all at the mercy of HV, that Kael attempted to roll Manipulator against her. I decided it was better as a Trick conflict. To make a long story short, Kael was unable to lie to the ancient spirit given the nature of the situation. Instead of making mincemeat of the three, HV simply demanded that the silver armband be returned and that Jora would remain hers forever. For a moment, Haldor and Kael were ready to risk it all…in a fist fight…with a ghost…but luckily Addi ushered his peers out of the crypt as HV laughed maniacally.

The game was a bit of a mess. For starters, I had apparently not done a thorough job at explaining Conflicts and how they worked in TB. As a gaming group, we’ve been playing BW since high-school and they definitely bristled at the perceived restriction of the Conflict system i.e. “What do you mean there are no FoRKs? What do you mean I can only roll Manipulator or Lore Master for a Trick Conflict” This was not helped by the fact that I had also failed to really explain Nature. I was hoping that we might encounter opportunities in play where I could explain it but I ended up getting really flustered. What ended up happening in their confrontation with Haathor-Vash was that Kael was the only character who a) had Manipulator and b) wasn’t Afraid. We only realized after that Haldor and Addi might’ve been able to help with Nature (Haldor specifically had Storytelling Nature he might’ve used).

There was also a great deal of confusion about what happens in a conflict when no one has the appropriate skill and cannot roll beginner’s luck.

Overall, I thought it was a typical first session of a game that no one at the table was familiar with. I’m just hoping they haven’s soured on the whole affair; we’ll see if the three stooges are willing to give it another go.

Did this come up or was it speculation?

Otherwise, you did fine. Hopefully you debriefed with your crew and talked through the points that you all missed—the responsibility for understanding Nature is not yours alone!

I hope you have a chance to give it another go!

You can always roll Nature if you don’t have a skill. See Acting Within Your Nature and Acting Outside Your Nature (Dungeoneer’s Handbook, age 66).

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It did come up. Part of the reason Haldor and Addi didn’t help in the Trick conflict with Haathor-Vash was because they didn’t think they could act. In our end of game chat we did all collectively realize that we had totally glossed over nature.

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