So, I’ve been playing Torchbearer on Roll20. Two sessions in, so far - and after yesterday’s session the GM asked us what we thought about the system. Decided to write mine down. And here they are:
Torchbearer’s laser focus on party-based dungeon adventure is a good framework that lends easy direction. “Hey you’re all in this death trap to get treasure, stick together, work together!”
A plus in my book – especially when contrasted against Burning Wheel, which because of its open-ended nature can result in long stretches of single characters dealing with individually-relevant minutiae, while other players twiddle their thumbs. (In the campaign I was in, at least.)
The one-test-one-turn structure, plus the help mechanic, makes cooperative play implicit. Everybody can potentially be doing stuff to mechanically affect a test. I really like this!
Am contrasting this with stuff like D&D’s skill checks, where players might be counting on a Ranger making their survival roll, but nobody’s quite as invested because they are not actually participating.
The BWHQ (and PbTA) games are explicitly about making rolls have dramatic weight. No surprise that Torchbearer is good at this -
Like, really good, I’m finding? Guess I’m a sucker for that downward spiral of twists and conditions.
The Trait / Check interplay is clever. It encourages playing colourful, potentially abrasive characters without punishing the group as a whole.
A kender-fingered burglar might be exasperating in fiction, but a boon at the table, since her antics will be earning us Checks for camp. Lessens that “play true to my stick-in-the-mud paladin, or play along with the rest of the party?” binary.
(Also there’s the “WORK TOGETHER OR DIE” difficulty level.)
Man, what a punishing game. With the rules so adversarial, seems like a GM would have to embody Dungeon World’s be-a-fan-of-the-characters principle just for players to have a chance.
Which is nice! “Fair, but sympathetic” is a nice space for a GM to be in – in a way, the GM is also playing co-op with his players.
Keeping Torchbearer ”fiction first” is tough when the rules gird everything, there are abstract concepts (Checks, Turns), and a zillion situational niggles to remember.
I like the crunch! Rewarding to learn, and watch work. But buy-in level is high, and the rules are tough to grok at a glance. Not sure whether I’ll be able to convince my meatspace group to try this out …