Passive Observation, Involuntary Tests, Adventure Design

A couple of questions on Torchbearer style to prep for finally running this!

Passive Observation. For example, the chute trap (p127). Let’s say the players move down the corridor. Under what conditions is there a Scout test and the concomitant loss of a turn?

(a) There is always a test when there is a trap.
(b) The GM prompts: “you have a funny feeling…” The party can ignore it (no test), or choose to make the test.
© There is only a test if they said they were actively scouting.

Involuntary Tests. Suppose they fall down the chute onto some spikes and take that Ob 6 Health test… do involuntary tests like this also cause the loss of a turn?

Adventure Design. In the rulebook scenario (p166), I’m curious why luring the dog has a test associated with it, other than as a means to apply more conditions or twists, since the dog otherwise has no impact on the scenario. Likewise, the initial Hunter test to examine the Kobold scales (p165) also imposes a cost (time/condition/twist) without any corresponding benefit.

My question is whether offering the party tests with costs but no benefits is part of the Torchbearer style? Maybe there is a beneficial game mechanic I am not understanding? Thanks!

a) yes, usually a Health test
b) sure
c) Scout lets you discover the trap before you have to make that required Health test

Yes, unless you have an Instinct or can cast a spell to negate the effect (Lightness of Being when you set off a pit trap, for example), it costs a turn.

The dog totally has benefits for the party. Not that we got to use them because someone (ahem) panicked and killed it. No matter the fictional benefit, being able to make a test means you’re advancing that skill with a pass or fail.

  1. Describe to live. There isn’t really any passive perception in TB. The player needs to be describing checking for traps in order to make a test to find it.

  2. No, involuntary tests like that don’t cost a turn.

  3. Befriending the dog is an opportunity. You never know what benefits earning its trust could grant, but it’s a tool that creative players could use to their advantage. Likewise, the test to identify the kobold scales gives characters some knowledge that could help them later on in the adventure, or even in adventures further down the road.

Edit: I’ll bow to Jared’s superior wisdom on point 2. I could definitely be wrong there.

GM Imposed tests do not cost multiple turns for multiple PCs, but they does cost one turn, Page 60.

The benefit of examining the scales is that it reveals they belong to a Kobold. Information is its own benefit.

Lots of good answers here already, but just to consolidate:

Passive Perception: Describe to Live as Shaun said. Try to interpret generously. Even if they don’t specifically say they’re searching for traps, if you think something in the description of their actions would give them a chance of noticing the trap, call for the test. Otherwise, cackle without mercy as they blunder into it.

Involuntary Tests: James is spot on with the page citation. Everybody makes the Health test, but it only advances the turn by 1 (not by the number of people rolling). Traps are excellent for screwing with parties that are very careful about turn management!

Adventure Design: The test is mentioned because I assume people will want to do a good deed and help an animal in need. It’s probably going to die if the adventurers don’t help it. For many people that would be enough of a reason if there is no advantage to be gained. But as Shaun notes, it is also a tool that creative players could use to their advantage. Note that the kobolds barricaded it in the room because they’re terrified of dogs, as described in the Wine Cellar entry.

If I were running the game and the players befriended the dog and took it with them, I would have all kobolds except for Crooked Tooth and her elite guards flee before it. I’m not saying that’s how everyone should run it, but it makes sense to me. Also, I imagine Ronwald and his family would be very grateful if you saved their dog.

As James notes, the scales allow you to figure out that you’re dealing with kobolds long before you encounter them. In my experience, players that spot the scales immediately inspect the stairs for traps because they know kobolds love traps. Players that don’t spot the scales almost always blunder into the stair trap.

and it’s not really the GMs job to figure out how things benefit the party before calling for a test. The GM doesn’t always know.

Yes. The GM’s job is to describe the environment to the best of their ability. What the players do with it is up to them. The GM has to make judgment calls about what’s a test vs. a good idea, so I take the question in that context.