Pushing Players

Hey everybody,

we are a group of five and played our fifth session session tonight. It is also the first roleplaying game, I am GMing over a longer period of time.

We had a great session tonight. Dangerous rolls and a lot of investment from both me and the players. In tonight’s session, the players experienced the climax of this adventure.

They were already quite beaten up when the reached an area where i placed some big chunks of loot. When they were one roll away from gaining access to some valuable stuff, they got scared that more adventuring would maybe lead to complications that would entail more roles and therefor more conditions. I joined their discussion and tried to give a little help estimating the danger of another roll, especially because they were so close to their goals of finding treasure.

In the discussion after the game we talked about the session and i brought up this particular situation. We agreed that it does not contribute to the experience of playing when the GM helps in deciding the players actions. Yet as we still learn the rhythm of Torchbearer, I felt it was appropriate to give some direction, especially since loot is such a major component of the town-phase mechanics.

What do you think? Is it ok to offer some narrative direction for the sake of learning the game or do you think the GM should not offer mechanical/narrative suggestions?

Best, Christoph

At most, you could hint at nearby treasure. “You see a glint over in the corner.”

But all in all: no pain, no gain. Players must push themselves and their characters. If they don’t have any loot when they go back to town, so be it.

I tend to be really cold-blooded when managing risks and rewards. If the players decide to get out of the dungeon before taking the cool sword +1, tough luck.

The only time I get to push the narrative is when I’m deciding between twists and conditions after a failed roll. Say the characters are picklocking the vault after an arduous session of sneaking around, I’d give away an Angry condition and have the vault open for them. If they are lost, I might use a twist to have one of the paths of the dungeon collapse, or a huge monster being heard coming that way. But the moment the players say “Angry? Too much, we make camp and search the vault later” or “F*ck it! We charge against the monster” that’s their call, and I have no business meddling with that decision.

Also I do add some information I know I haven’t given or might have transmitted poorly when the players start planning to complement the info they already have, mainly so the players don’t take decisions with faulty information and to give details that are obvious to their characters. You know, “Describe to Live”.

Stay cool :cool:

I think you did the right thing. I will often “break character” when the players are stuck and offer some advice.

Yes, i stepped in partly because it felt to me that i wasn’t clear enough in the description; but also because there wasn’t any real descision-making in terms of loot vs. backing off taking place. Ultimately it seemed to me that it wasn’t clear to everyone how important loot becomes mechanically in the town-phase.

I think it’s well in the spirit of Torchbearer for the GM to constantly be pushing the players to take one more turn, “there’s treasure right around the corner.”

Conversely, when the current adventure is clearly exhausted, I think it’s also in the spirit of the game to inform the players there really isn’t anything more to be done (though listen for possible hooks if they think they still need to deal with some inhabitant - maybe there IS more to the adventure than you prepared).


Interesting approach. I wonder if being quite open about the scope and rewards of an adventure location helps creating these moments Luke talks about here: http://youtu.be/rg9ug_dteWg?t=4m48s) (4:48 - 5:57)

I understand Torchbearer’s setting in that sense that a player character’s survival is fundamentally linked to hauling treasure out of dangerous dark caves; which is reflected by the mechanics. Loot then becomes an immensely powerful tool for the GM to help create moments of dramatic and entertaining descision-making like this one: http://movieclips.com/tzxr-indiana-jones-and-the-last-crusade-movie-i-can-almost-reach-it/.

Best, Christoph