One Player Session

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.

No. Spells and prayers don’t take Turns.

Glad you had fun! Definitely interested to hear more about the one-player side of things.

Nice, a solo player session. Looking forward to more if it happens!

Second session yesterday!

Finally have the character sheet in front of me…

Aurelia the Scout and true believer in the Lords of Life
B: Your good deeds come back to you
I: Always scout ahead for enemies and danger (mostly environmental dangers, things that can be seen, heard, or smelt [without close inspection], does not apply to traps)

Started with a pretty decent prologue and erasing the Angry condition. It actually kind of sucked that you get rid of conditions in order because with a 5 Will she can easily overcome anger, but with a 3 Health that Exhaustion is going to be a bit harder. Of course one of the advantages of one person sessions is that you get to give the prologue every time. Sure, all the conditions are headed your way during play, but thank goodness for small mercies, eh?

Aurelia steps out of the hole and into the sun. The peasant who worked the field came halfway over and waited, not wanting to get closer to the hole. She approached and he seemed a little panicked when she mentioned the undead. She told him that there was no need to be afraid, she had defeated the creature and it was safe (Nature, Boasting, pass). The peasant thanked her, suggested that she collect her payment from the noble and began to fill in the hole, still a little put off by the stiff corpse lying at the bottom of it. Aurelia collected her payment (copper) and headed into town.

Lucky Break! Amulets are on sale for only Ob 5! Amulets? Who cares? Well the noble ladies do, and it’s the talk of the town, not to mention a few elven traders around from the lands to the far north. Aurelia decided to stay with her friend Micah the Cook (Flophouse) for free. She quickly went to the market to buy a new waterskin, more candles, and a new set of sacks. She failed on the last check, and wasn’t using treasure (I decided to tax away her hometown advantage for the remainder of this town phase). The tried to recover from exhaustion and failed so went to the priests and had them pray for her. She failed the Ob 3 Resources test, but had applied a +3D bracelet, so they just took that as payment. She then listened to rumors at the pub and heard that the butchers son had gone missing again. That sounded more interested than the ubiquitous caravan guard duty, plus it fit in well with her beliefs. So she decided to pursue that as her next adventure. She briefly considered trying to buy porters, but decided against it since she only had her copper left and had to meet her Lifestyle of 1 without hometown advantage. Fresh was more important than porters. Her friend let her stow her leftover 2 candles from the last adventure at his house, but said that he would probably use them himself if she didn’t come back for them by winter (I said no more than a large sack worth of stuff can be kept at her friends house, which doesn’t seem unreasonable) . She passed her lifestyle test and started fresh. Her goal was the find the boy.

The adventure began with quickly asking the butcher about where the entrance to the sewer was (just a good idea, and yes, technically still in town, so I bent the rules a little bit, it made sense to me). She headed in and as she approached the first intersection in the sewer she heard the sound of whining up ahead. She put down her candle and pole (I let her carry but not use it with 1 hand) and tried to sneak up on whatever it was with weapons drawn (Failed, twist, instinct). The whine turned into a growl and a dog came bounding around the corner and started barking viciously at her. She commanded the dog to sit (Nature, demand, pass, turn 1) and it promptly sat on it’s haunches and stopped barking. “Good boy” and it wagged it’s tail at her.

She put her weapons away and gathered up her candle and pole. The dog meanwhile seemed to be anxious about heading right. She followed the dog, who moved ahead at a faster pace. She skipped searching for traps but tried to at least be a little stealthy and stop to listen every now and then. They came to a shoddily constructed wooden door. She listened at the door (Scout, pass, instinct) hearing sounds of scrabbling feat and a squeak. She drew her weapons again and tried to bash down the door. The door was more stubborn than she expected (Health, fail, angry, turn 2) leaving her angry and no longer fresh by the time it gave way and she found herself in the next room.

Rats went scattering in all directions as the door came crashing down, except for one big rat hunched over a pile of refuse that seemed to have dropped from a chute leading up to the surface. She stepped toward the rat, yelling and trying to scare it off with her flail. The rat kept to it’s pile hissing at her and holding it’s ground (Defend), but she Feinted and chased it off with one heavy blow of her flail (Turn 3, no compromise). The dog entered the room now that the rat was gone and started smelling around while Aurelia searched the refuse pile for anything salvageable, but without success (just junk). The dog didn’t seem to know which way to go now, left or right, so Aurelia picked right.

The water in the passage started to get deeper and soon Aurelia found that it had started to flow a little, seeping down from the walls and through grates on the floor. The floor started to get slippery, but she pressed on. Before long she lost her footing (Health, failed, twist, turn 4) and slid down the passage, which was steeper than she realized, and went splashing down into a 3 foot deep pool of water, clinging to her satchel to try and keep it with her and relatively dry. She pulled herself to a bit of dry land and heard the dog barking up above. She said goodbye, but the dog, not understanding human language, decided to dive in after her. She heard a splash and the dog game up beside her shaking itself dry. She ate some rations, and lit a new candle with her tinderbox (no real rush or pressure, so no test).

She was in the bottom of some kind of old abandoned cistern (if that’s the right word, probably not). Water came in from tunnels at intervals about 10 feet up the wall. There was one exit from the room, a locked door of iron bars, and no apparent outflow for the water (though the levels didn’t seem to be rising). She flailed around in the water for a bit looking for the outflow, but quickly gave up. She decided to smash to lock open with her flail (Health, failed, hungry and thirsty, turn 5) but it took a while and she was sweating and thirsty by the time it gave way. She drank from her skin and headed down the tunnel and up the stairs at the end of the hall, moving more carefully with the dog at her heals.

As she advanced, moving very carefully again, she heard sounds up ahead (scout, pass, instinct). It sounded like a high voice yelling and the sound of squeaks. The dogs ears perked up and he dashed forward barking loudly. Aurelia hurried to keep up. She came into a large room with two entrances and a broken staircase leading up to some high ground. Two rats were trying to crawl up the crumbled stairs but a small group of children at the top were fending them off with sticks. Aurelia yelled at the rats, put down her pole and candle and drew her weapons ready to scare the rats off. The dog, emboldened by the presence of the boy and Aurelia’s earlier success, decided to help this time, bearing it’s teeth and growling at the rats.

This battle lasted longer and was not nearly as one sided. The rats got off a few good hits, knocking the dog out and earning a compromise, but Aurelia prevailed (turn 6), though the dog had clearly sustained injuries and was walking with a limp. Having been bitten both the dog and Aurelia need to make health tests and the dog failed (sickened, turn 7). Aurelia quickly climbed up the crumbled steps, but a little too quickly, and slipped a little (quick-witted against herself, Dungeoneer, fail, exhausted). She had found the boy, but now she had to get him out, and she had no idea which way led back.

Earned 2 Fate: Playing off belief and using an instinct to advance the story.
Earned 2 Persona: MVP (who else? another concession for facing all the challenges alone), achieving goal.
Her scout went up by 1! Now it’s 3, which means she isn’t quite as lousy at being a professional scout anymore, yay!

I was generous on a few points and bent the rules slightly here and there, but the only real question that came up was:
What happens if you fail a resources test with only hometown advantage? I ruled that your hometown advantage was taxed away, at least for the remainder of that town phase. That seems reasonable… but should I have called the debt collectors or hit her circles score as a deadbeat instead? Thoughts?

So, is she enjoying it? I take it your wife doesn’t have much roleplaying experience? (Though she sounds like a natural!)

Yeah, she’s enjoying it. She finds it a little frustrating sometimes, and a little paralyzing, but she’s coming back for more. She doesn’t have roleplaying experience, no. I played d&d with her once before but I wasn’t very responsive to her intents and it went downhill quickly. The way torchbearer (and bw before it) makes you clarify intentions really helps with new players that aren’t very good at expressing themselves in an imagined environment, and torchbearer is simple enough that it isn’t overwhelming to a newbie. (She was rather overwhelmed with the number of choices available in town, which is interesting, since that’s supposed to be relax time). Also she appreciates being called a natural :wink:

This is enlightening to see. When I played with a group of 2 PCs I unintentionally killed one off in the first few hours.

Yeah, I tried to be very careful to err on the weak side with enemies until I could get my bearing. Also, it helps that my player isn’t experienced in d&d. Her first instinct isn’t to be a murder hobo, it’s to be a true adventurer and aspiring hero.

eta: …because that’s how we as a community like to describe roleplaying to people even though 9:10 times it’s really just murder hobos :slight_smile:

There were three boys in the upper part of the chamber. When Aurelia came up her anger subsided (prologue) and she saw that the boys were frightened and hesitant. Then the dog came up behind her and one of the boys ran over to it, giving it a big hug and shouting “Jingles!”. She asked if he was the butchers son, and he said that he was and introduced the other boys as Willy and Tom. All three of them looked a little sad and hungry. Aurelia offered them her last ration, made sure they were alright, and set up camp.

She took a quick nap (she tapped her nature to recover from exhausted and improved her Health to 4 in the process) and woke to find the boys gathered around the campfire. “Look what we have.” She approached the fire and found two plump rats roasting on a spit (random treasure for he room, integrated into the story). The group then broke camp and headed down a hallway at the end of the upper section of the room, leading who knows where.

The stone hallway curved off to the left a bit and led to some stairs. Aurelia once again advanced cautiously tapping the ground ahead of her with her foot (still can’t use her 10 foot pole properly while holding a candle). It was a good thing she was because she almost stepped on a stone that would have slid out from under her and sent her crashing down the stairs (passed scout, used trap-wise with person, turn 1). She pointed out the stone to the others and continued carefully down the hallway until she saw a light up ahead.

Advancing carefully (passed scout, instinct) she poked her head into room and saw a scruffy looking figure digging through a pile of trash. She went back to the boys and whispered for them to keep their distance then approached the man. At the sound of her voice he whirled around and drew a knife on her “Nobody’s getting ol’ pete’s treasure ya’ hear!” She insisted that she wasn’t there for his treasure and seeing that he looked hungry reached into her pack to get some food to offer him. He misunderstood, thinking she was going for a weapon and lunged at her with his knife. (tied persuader, quick-witted to break the tie in his favor, twist, turn 2).

Aurelia refused to draw her flail, only using her shield to fend him off while trying to pin him to the ground. The fight was long (3 full turns, it wore on her patience), but she finally managed to pin him to the ground with his knife under her shield (minor compromise, angry quite appropriately, turn 3). Having the hermit at her mercy she was finally able to explain that she meant him no harm. As a gesture of good will she offered him some rat (good idea). He snatched it from her hands and ate it greedily. She asked which was led out. He gestured gruffly at one of the other exits from the room. She gathered the boys and skirted the edge of his chamber, being sure to stay between the vagrant and the boys. The dog growled as he went passed, but the scruffy man lunged at the dog threateningly and his whimpered and hid behind Aurelia.

To be continued…

As Aurelia left the makeshift camp of the hermit he warned her to watch the gap down the hall. After a few dozen yards she came to a crevice ripping across the tunnel about 5 feet across and descending into darkness. She laid her 10 foot pole down and considered scooting across straddling the pole with her hands in front of her, but decide it was close enough to just jump. She almost didn’t make it but her knowledge of pit traps kicked in and she barely got her foot on the other side (Fate point, trap-wise maybe a stretch but I’m generous sometimes, pass, turn 4). She lit her last candle and then helped the kids scoot across as she was thinking of doing, at some point realizing she had never learned the butcher’s son’s name (“It’s Butch!”). The dog sniffed at the edge of the pit and whined. Aurelia called to him “Come on, you can do it Jingles!” and the boys joined in. The dog finally got up the courage and leapt across the pit (Persuader, pass with help, turn 5). Taking out her last rat she decided to feed the boys instead of herself once again, then continued down the tunnel.

After a few hundred paces she reached a four way intersection. To the right were stairs going down. In front of her was a tunnel veering of to the right slightly with water trickling toward her and running back toward the chasm. To her left was an essentially dry tunnel. She intuited that the didn’t want to go down, and that water wouldn’t be coming from the outside unless it was raining, so she turned left. She continued down the tunnel for a few minutes before reaching yet another four way tunnel. She was frustrated, feeling lost but noticed the dog sniffing around. “Do you know which way to go?” She asked, and the dog promptly sat on his haunches and tilted his head at her. The image looked familiar. She hadn’t marked the first intersection she had encountered when first entering the sewers but the familiarity of the dog sitting like that made her think that she was right back at the entrance. She remembered going right when she first came in, so she guessed that maybe she should go straight. Before long she saw a silvery light in the distance and soon they were out in the moonlight. Willy and Tom disappeared into the night while Butch went running off for home with Jingle in toe.

Aurelia followed and the Butcher woke at the sound of his son entering the door of the shop that they lived behind. He tearfully greeted his son, thanked Aurelia and offered her rations as a modest reward for her help. Her also offered her a word of advice, get out of town quick. A plague had come through, the red sorrow, it’s victims crying tears of blood. Aurelia left camp in a hurry, worrying about her friend Mikah, and set up camp not far away to try to recover from her anger and find a source of water to refill her skin. Having no candles or torches left she was worried about traveling at night, but seemed to have little choice, she’d have to find another town to resupply…

Everything went pretty smoothly this session, except for frustrations with the capture conflict. Lessons for single player sessions:
-Conflicts are slower and less exciting without help, describing how actions are coordinated, or discussing strategy among players.
-Single players get a ton of tests for skill advancement, they do everything! I’m worried the character won’t last very long this way, she’ll be epic before you know it!
-Single players also get a ton of Rewards, they’re always the MVP! This also makes advancement faster. After 3 sessions she’s already rather close to 2nd level (she just has to spend the points)

3 sessions to level 2 (minus spending) isn’t all that unusual… that’s about 1FP and 1PP per session. In a group of 3, there are 2-3PP awarded per session, so that’s about on pace. I suspect her skills are going up fast, but that’s a self-limiting system (the higher you get, the more you need), and helps to round out her competence more quickly. All in all, sounds like features, not bugs.

Well, 'cept for that conflict-semi-staleness. I wonder how that could be helped.

Well… you only level up when you spend them. She has 4 unspent Fate, 3 unspent Persona, and 2 spent of each. So if she goes all out she could almost be 3rd level by the time she goes to town next. One problem is that with only 1 wise (trap-wise) she can’t take advantage of “Deeper Understanding” or “Of Course!” all that often. And with only 2 or 3 dice per test she doesn’t get 6’s often enough to reroll sixes. So actually spending the rewards is also a bit of a challenge, particularly because she doesn’t want to tap nature for something that isn’t in her nature. I think I need another use for Fate points that isn’t related to wise…