Questions after 1st run of the game - Entering town and twist/condition mix

Hello everybody,

I had in a con my first try at Torchbearer on a home made scenario inspired by the Fabled Lands.

It was great, we really had an “old-school” dungeonning feel right from the start. The grind mechanics is machiavelic and it really pushes the characters to their limit.

A few questions after this first game :

  • Coming back to town : what are the pre-requisite to come back to town ? Can the players decide to go back to town as soon as they want ? Or do they need a map or a Pathfinder test ? Or do they need any checks ? I looked through this forum and the core rulebook but the answer is not completely clear to me.
  • Mix between twist and conditions : as I am quite experimented from the Mouse Guard system, some of my players found that this was a lot harder (and it actually is :cool:) however I had a question about GMing : what kind of mix should their be between twist and conditions ? I know that there is no real “one good way to do” but how do you do in your games ? Do you try to do 50/50 between twist and conditions ? or a different mix ? How do you choose during the game if you should go for a twist or a condition ? How do you balance so that it is not too cruel on the players ?

Thanks a lot for your insights,


There are really no prerequisites to go back to town. If you’re just starting out though, players shouldn’t need to go back to town until at least one session has passed. As to how difficult it should be, that’s your call. For easy/low-level adventures, the recommendation is no test necessary (meaning the adventure site is not far from town) while harder adventures may require a Pathfinder test or be an adventure unto themselves.

Personally, I prefer twists over conditions since they allow you to introduce more and more problems into the mix, which naturally leads to the conditions as the turn clock advances and it’s too dangerous to rest. I usually give a condition when failing the roll will drag the game down more than add excitement. Or, if I’m feeling generous, when I want to give the players a break. The book does warn you not to overburden the players with conditions too quick as well, probably because doing so drives them to camp or head back to town faster (and also making everything nearly impossible).

Yeah, it’s been mentioned before that a good GM strategy is to twist early and condition later. You build up excitement, complexity, and drama with the twists, and then after the climax comes and they’re desperately trying to get out of the mess they find themselves in you nip at their tails with conditions, resulting in a sense of growing anxiety as their attempts to escape race against their mounting conditions. Then the sense of relief when they barely make it out alive… or don’t. This also keep them at close to full strength for the climax, which keeps them from feeling a sense of inescapable fatalism, and then keeps the end moving so that they don’t feel like the game is just dragging after the high point of the adventure.

  1. No checks are necessary. You can decide to go to town when you want (but you’ll probably want some loot before you go; town is pretty rough without it). As for whether it requires a test to get there? Totally up the GM and what makes sense in the situation. If the adventure location is right outside town, no roll is necessary to go there. If you’re way out in the wilderness, you might need a Pathfinder test to blaze a trail to town, or maybe a Cartographer test to map your way back (assuming you traveled from that particular town in the first place), or maybe a Survivalist test to make a raft and a Sailor test to get it safely downriver. Whatever makes sense.

  2. You don’t have to go 50-50, but you want a pretty good mix. If you’re heavy on the conditions, the PCs will make progress, but they’ll feel beaten down. It will feel like a slog. If you’re too heavy on the twists, players will start to feel like they’re spinning their wheels, accomplishing nothing. It will feel like things are constantly spiraling out of control with no resolution. Conditions like Hungry/Thirsty and Angry are my bread and butter. I use them frequently, Hungry/Thirsty, particularly is a nice one because it’s not terribly punishing, but will start to strain resources after a while unless your players are really good. My players are very disciplined about camping to manage the grind and their conditions, so I try to use Twists surgically – if I know they’re going to try to camp after the third turn to prevent the grind from ticking over and making them all Hungry/Thirsty, and someone fails the test for that third turn, I will try to bring out a twist that they have to deal with and lure them into using a fourth turn. It’s a little like fishing: you set the hook and then pay out line, letting the fish run for a bit before you start the fight to reel them in in earnest.