I finally ran my first session of Torchbearer last night. Yay! I messed everything up! I forgot about Fresh, I forgot about Might differences in conflicts, I forgot to ask her to make a goal first (because we made the character the night before and I hadn’t planned the session yet, ooops!), I probably forgot other stuff too. It was still fun, just extra harsh on the player. The single, poor, sad sap (I shouldn’t say that about my wife) who agreed to play with me. Still better than that one time I convinced her to play d&d :o .
Her character was a Cleric (I don’t have her sheet in front of me and forget the name, I’ll look it up later), specialized in Scout, with Survivalist as her human skill, and Rider as her hometown skill. Just a rough riding, leather vest wearing, priest with a holy symbol dangling in her cleavage. She’s trap-wise and her instinct is to scout for enemies when entering a new area. She was raised to the faith by her parents who died a few years ago, but she still has a friend and a mentor.
To ease her in slowly and learn the ropes I set the first adventure location just on the edge of the busy crossroads that she calls home. A farmer had pulled an old rotting tree up by the roots to make more room for crops and revealed the entrance to an old tomb. The farmer and other peasants refused to get close to it so the noble who owned the land went looking for a scout to check the place out and ease their fears.
She approached the hole in the ground while the peasants looked on from about a hundred feet away. Using her 10’ pole as a brace she started to lower herself into the pit, but the pole slipped and she went tumbling down the hole with a thud and a yelp (first turn, twist). As she gained her feet she peered into the darkness at the sound of shuffling feat and a fetid stench. She lit her candle in time to see a figure of desiccated flesh wielding spear and shield standing in a nearby archway. She sized the creature up, recognizing it as a Tomb Guardian (turn 2), and slowly without any sudden moves lowered her candle to the ground, drawing her flail and shield. With a quick recitation of the Fury of the Lords of Life and Death, to no avail, she advanced on the corpse, intending to end it’s unholy existence.
They fought hard, nearly matching each other move for move (seriously, we picked the same exact cards in the same exact order for more than half the conflict). The guardian tried to flank her more than once, catching her flail with his spear early in the fight and sending it flying across the room. She responded too quickly in a duel of feints (quick-witted tiebreaker) taking a minor cut on the arm. They attacked each other in turns, dealing damage and then pulling back to catch their breath in sync. Finally, after circling each other one more time, they closed for the kill, her shield slamming into it’s chest, as it’s spear came thrusting toward her chest. She was on the verge of being skewered by the spear, leaving both dead in that pit, but with the strength of her blow the guardian was flung backward into the steep dirt slope that she had just climb down. The impact of corpse and dirt was such that the earth around the edge came crashing down on the corpse and her 10-foot pole, closing up the hole and sealing the entrance (major compromise, I was lenient and went with the least deadly option, partly because I cheated and forgot about fresh and might, oops).
The room contained two exits, one a stone door without handle, the other an open archway. She picked up her candle and headed down the hallway, carefully tapping the ground with her foot in front of her and feeling along the walls for anything unusual. She was already looking up when she heard a click and felt her foot slide down slightly. The ceiling came falling down on top of her (turn 4, trap twist also hungry). She lept forward as the stones came crushing down. She made it to the other side but one of the stones landed on her chest, knocking the wind out of her (turn 5, condition). With the exertion of the fight and escaping the falling stones, and struggling to catch her breath, she was now exhausted. She looked around briefly with her handle, and then leaned in desperation against the wall.
She took several minutes to rest, drinking deep from her waterskin, and hoping to catch her breath. Looking through her inventory she realized that the sacks she had carried with her must have fallen out of her satchel. There wasn’t time to worry about that now, still exhausted she considered whether to head back and leave this forsaken place or carry on. She decided that her goal was to improve her skill as a scout, to prove herself, so she decided to gather herself and continue down the hall, lighting a second candle. (Dangerous camp, minor inconvenience: lost item from satchel, failed recovery from exhaustion, and yes, I finally realized she didn’t have a goal and helped her pick one, oops again)
As she moved carefully down the hall, feeling for more traps and listening for danger she did hear the sound of movement up ahead, but not before it heard her and saw her light (failed scout, instinct applies). Another guardian turned with spear bared just as she stepped into a new chamber, the walls lined with wrapped corpses in alcoves. Now exhausted and no longer fresh, she did not want to face the risk of death, she was about to flee but quickly raised her holy symbol, once again calling on the Fury of the Lords of Life and Death to protect her retreat. This time it worked, the being cringed from her holy symbol, turned, and fled (no turn since the conflict was avoided and only a prayer was used, is that right?).
She carefully moved around the room, examining the walls and floors to be sure there were no more traps, and dusting a bronze urn. It might be worth a little money, but she decided that dumping the remains would be an unworthy action, and continued on her way through the only other exit on the other side of the room.
She now found herself in a vaulted antichamber. To her left was a hooded statue with an altar in front of it. To her right was a sealed stone door. In front of her was the guardian from before, still cowering from her, and now retreating once again down a hallway across from her. She examined the statue, and the runes around it’s base, recognizing it as a Lord of Mystery and Secrets (turn 1, passed theologian). turning away she examined the alter finding a few dusty items: a bag of silver, a bracelet, and a knife. She put the bracelet on her wrist, stuffed the coins in her pack and carried the knife in her free hand. Once again she considered heading back or carrying on, in the direction the guardian had fled. She opted to carry on once more.
As she carefully advanced once more she heard talking ahead (no turn, applies to instinct). She put down her candle (almost without prompting, I’m so proud) and advanced into the dim light to listen closer. A gravelly voice seemed to be talking to the guardian, asking it what it was doing, cowering there, shouldn’t it be at it’s post? She listened for a moment considering what to do when the voice continued, suggesting that it would go and see what the problem was. She backed away quickly, but quietly, scooped up the candle, and headed back the way she came as she heard the sound of movement behind her.
She got back to the trap without incident but the way was now narrow and treacherous. She made her way through, but getting stuck and frustrated with the events of this little adventure so far she became angry (turn 2, condition). Facing the wall of dirt where the entrance had been she started digging with her shield (turn 3, success). Before long she recovered her 10 foot pole and was once again in the light of the sun. She pushed her pole out the opening and then, using the knife to help create handholds, began to climb her way out of the pit. The knife broke, but before long she was standing in the sun free of the stale air. (turn 4, but also end of session, I guess that was a twist instead of a condition, but it seemed appropriate).
It was late but I didn’t want to stop in the middle of the adventure earlier so we didn’t get around to Artha. We’ll probably start with artha, a recap, and a town phase if/when we play again. She’s dirt poor, having found only the most obvious treasure in the place, but she’s also in her hometown and can bunk with her mentor or friend.
Lessons and Questions:
The only real question that arose was whether a conflict averted through use of a spell or prayer counts as a turn.
Obviously I need to do a better job with the details next time and make sure she can take advantage of Fresh, Might, and that she has a goal from the start.
I think playing with one player works just fine. A lot of the group tests are easier since it’s only one person and you can always have fewer and easier monsters.