Puzzle Monsters?

Hi all. I’ve got a question about how to run a particular style of monster in Torchbearer. I don’t know if the style has an actual name, but I usually call them Puzzle Monsters, since the challenge of surviving or destroying them is usually less a matter of martial skill, and more a matter of figuring out the monster’s secret weaknesses. (Side note: there’s a spectrum of Puzzle Monsters. A mundane human bandit is not a Puzzle Monster, but if you know the name and location of the townsperson they secretly love, then you have simultaneously turned them into a Puzzle Monster and figured out their weakness.)

As my ur-example, take vengeful spirits from Supernatural. There are three relevant facts which make them a Puzzle Monster:

  1. They are unaffected by mundane weapons. You can fire all the guns you want at them, it won’t stop them from killing you.

  2. They are temporarily affected by pure silver, pure iron, and pure salt. These can be used to defend yourself, but they won’t destroy the spirit.

  3. The only way to destroy a restless spirit is to salt and burn its bones.

With these three facts you have a great Puzzle Monster. Adventurers are in real danger if they come unprepared, and the knowledge of how to defend yourself against them (or fully destroy them) is given real, tangible value.

I think that Torchbearer could handle this monster very easily in normal Adventure Phase play, but I’m unsure of how to run an encounter with a Supernatural-style spirit as a conflict.

Would you just not let the game go into a conflict, choosing instead to keep things in the course of normal play? Would you just run one round, narrate how the player’s weapons are useless against this creature, and then let them choose a new course of action? Would you just apply the Too Much to Handle rules?

Any advice would be appreciated.

I think you’d use the Too Much to Handle rules. Basically, if they try to foght it, the most they could hope for is surviving. Though, spirits can gnerally be dealt with using the Spiritual Conflict rules from the Lore Master’s Manual, so as a player, if I knew I was dealing with a spirit, I would use those rules if I had to engage the spirit directly. (Ideally after some ritual purification and research into its True Name.)

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Yup, that can all work within the existing systems. That’s kinda how all monsters are in a way. Players can do their due diligence in town by researching it or in the adventure phase by using Hunter to glean information about beasts, Theologian for spirits, or Lore Master for constructs.

You could treat this as a Special Rule or as a unique armor type.

If this is a spirit type, characters could typically abjure or banish it like normal. However, there could be a Special Rule that it can’t ultimately be defeated until its bones are burned later outside of the conflict.

Not quite, but your idea could work with a little bit of a stretch. The GM can decide when it makes sense for the conflict to actually begin after going back and forth to clarify the situation. There is very little but some wiggle room there. For example, maybe a character takes a swing, and you describe the sword bouncing off of it without declaring that the conflict has begun. There is still a decision point for the players to proceed or not. In this case, the monster isn’t really being threatened or maybe wants something else more than to fight. Then, the players take the hint, decide to run for it, which starts a flee conflict.

Yes, having a higher Might is probably the cleanest way to accomplish this without all the Special Rules.

So, all TB monsters are like puzzles for the players to figure out. There is a lot they can do to learn about monsters and remember what they learned. Then, through Might/Precedence, Special Rules, weapons, and armor, you can create combinations to challenge your players.


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