Glad to help. Know that you’re exactly where you need to be after 2 sessions. You have burning questions. Yes! Keep asking! You still have about 10-20 more sessions to go before it all snaps together.
Torchbearer is a different than a lot of games where there is only one way or one test for doing something.
Instead, Torchbearer gives you systems or various component mechanics so that you, as the GM, can do what is needed. Torchbearer gives you the tools and just enough instructions to use it. Only you know what is right given the situation. The rest comes from experience, making mistakes, learning, and playing.
So, yes, you will see variation in how to handle searching a room because each of the situations is unique. Depending upon what is there, how the players describe, and the circumstances of the test, you could get different results. But, all of them follow the same principles of obstacle-to-obstacle, failing forward, describe to live, and making a test when there is a challenge.
In the published adventures, you will see different suggestions for tests.
These obstacles should not be considered hard, fixed, prescriptive numbers. Instead, the adventure designer is helping you out a little by giving you some of the common tests that might be made and an approximation of obstacle. There are too many variables for any given situation, and there is no way an adventure designer can (or should) account for them all. That’s why you, the GM, are there. You are empowered to set the obstacles.
Also, you will see a slight evolution or different attempts to present obstacles to the GM in the published adventures. For example, in the Middarmark adventure “In the Shadow of the Horns,” there are less listed obstacles than usual. Instead, it employs a less prescriptive method of listing different factors or approaches to how you as the GM might calculate your factors…
#1. There is always more to be found in a room beyond the initial description. The boundary should be clear. There is stuff you can see for free because it is immediate and obvious. If you want to know more, then that is a test. Roll some dice.
It seems like if you look around you see X without a roll. Sure, no test/no roll. That makes sense because what you can see is not obscured.
Also, you might give more information if a character has a wise or a nature that would make sense for them to know. Usually, that falls onto the character to weave into their description, such as the Remembering nature of an elf, but you can tease out a little bit more if the players are new or missed a detail that the character would certainly know.
If they spend time and really inspect it, however, the designer is suggesting an Scout Ob 3 test will give even more information. Remember, if they fail and you give a condition, they learn everything they were seeking (for the price of the condition).
#2. Here the adventure lists out all the various types of things that might happen in this area. These are just suggestions for the typical actions in the room. Players will always think of crazy things to do that neither you nor the adventure designer can plan.
Having two different scout rolls for two different purposes is fine because the cost is turns on the grind. However, you shouldn’t be rolling Scout ten times. This is not GURPS. If you read between the lines in the rule book, you will get a sense for when to sensibly call for a test and what really is the obstacle.
Now, if the description of the character somehow encompassed both tests, then it is conceivable (within the realm of possibility) to settle it with one test. That’s rare but fine as well. Again, only you the GM know what is the right balance. The adventure designer typically tries to equip you with all the information you will need to make that decision.
#3. No, there is no “I search this room” action defined in the rules. In fact, the rule book says that is not allowed.
You gotta get more description from the players. Ask them “how.” Take it from there. Once they hit a test, roll some dice. Then, update the situation, let the players react, and head toward the next obstacle. Keep it moving. Keep the pressure.
However, depending upon the situation, it could be conceivable that they do some test to search the entire room. For example, they cast a spell that gives them some clue (an aura of deception) that there is something here. Then, they describe how they stand shoulder to shoulder proceeding step-by-step through the chamber. At that point, you have to decide if it is still challenging to find, give them an Ob 6 Scout test, otherwise, give them a Good Idea and the loot.
#4. Yes, no test/no roll. You keep describing and updating the situation until you get to a test.
In this case, there are things for them to find in this room. So, they search, and you update the situation.
You might say something like, “You’re quite certain that there’s no secret doors along the wall (no roll yet), but as you finish your sweep, you notice some piles of rags in the corner and a mound of dirt. (still no roll)”
You are not assuming they care or will continue the search. You have not called for a test yet. You are, however, giving them “more rope” so to speak. If they check the rags, there’s nothing there. At that point, if they want to search the mound, it could be a scout test to find the buried treasure or it could be a laborer test to dig it all out without damage.
Sorry if this is too long. These are deep questions, and I tried to be as concise as possible.