Skogenby One-Shot Game (first time playing TB)

With our Star Wars EoTE cancelled due to missing players, I lured my unsuspecting group into playing Torchbearer! After an hour or so of rules explanation and character creation, we got right into the action without dilly dallying in town.

I have not noted the light and ration/water management in the below outline of the adventure.

After being told of the town’s woes and given a silver bracelet, Wyn the Elf, Chauncey Bronzebottom the Dwarf, and Sir Shendal the Cleric set out from Skogenby towards the crypt.

Turn 1: The elf inspected the stone carvings with the wise insight of the dwarf (engineering and architecture-wise). He discovered the nature of the crypt but doing so left him thirsty. I did not read the notes closely enough and had the elf roll lore master instead of nature. I sort of combined the tests for the stones and the carvings since it did not occur to the party to treat them separately.

Turn 2: The team enters the crypt and is confronted by tomb guardians emerging from alcoves. The cleric turns 2 of the enemy and the heroes launch into a kill conflict against the remaining two. They escape with full disposition! During the fight the dwarf is slammed into a wall head first, breaking his helmet.

Turn 3: Following the fleeing skeletons, the team enters a chamber with statues, an alter and a pit. The cleric determines it was used for meditation rituals on the path to lordship status.

Turn 4: The elf follows the skeleton tracks which disappear into a silk drapery. Pulling it aside he finds a passage on the western wall.

Turn 5: The cleric continues examining determining the nature of statues. (this test bothered me because it offered no mechanical and very little narrative reward).

Turn 6: As they enter the new area the cleric, who was carrying the silver bracelet, fights off a possession attempt from Haathor Vash.

Turn 7-8: In the Alter of Ascension, the cleric reads the symbols and makes a rubbing of them. The purpose of the crypt is fully realized by the players. I was not sure if this should take up inventory, so I said no since it was part of scholar skill tools.

Turn 9: The dwarf opens the sarcophagus with the help of the elf which triggers the trap. He fails his instinct to spot the trap while both fail their health checks to dodge the spears and are injured.

Turn 10: The elf props up the sarcophagus lid as a simple shelter for camp.

Camp Phase: The elf and dwarf both fail to recover from being injured. The elf realizes he has lost his mirror, how will he check his hair now? The cleric heals the elf, but the elf fails to heal the dwarf. The dwarf bangs out the dents in his helmet. I called an “end of session” reward cycle so the players could experience using fate and persona in this one-shot game.

Turn 11: The elf continues to follow the skeleton trail into the wall (I did not ask for another scout test, let it ride?). The dwarf finds the secret door, fails in his instinct to spot the trap yet again, and both he and the elf are knocked out by the sleeping dust. The cleric, who had been lurking in the darkness inspecting the symbols he transcribed, has the good idea to put them both in the sarcophagus for safety. He then has the not-so-good idea to continue exploring alone using one of the elf’s candles…

Turn 12: Passing through the secret door he sees the oaken doors and more alcoves. Suspecting what lies in the alcoves he doubles back to the chamber not yet explored and finds the font and tub. While failing to discern their meaning he accidentally blows out his candle, and another more ominous flame flickers into being behind him. Turning around he sees a corpse candle above the font but resists its lure.

Turn 13: The elf awakens and emerges from the tomb as the cleric flees back into the room. The (male) dwarf dreams he is a powerful warrior woman leading her troops in battle… As the elf and cleric discuss what to do, the dwarf’s eyes spring open and a ghostly voice emanates from his mouth demanding them to leave or die! (failed will test as he was carrying a silver torc).

Turn 14: Convince conflict to get Haathor Vesh to return the girl. Cleric cleverly uses the rubbing to declare that the secrets of immortality were no longer Haathor’s exclusive knowledge, and could be sold to anyone (+2D Attack weapon, one use). Haathor still managed to win but with a compromise: he will lead them to Jora so they may deliver one last message from her parents.

Turn 15: In the throne room, Haathor/dwarf inspects her honer guard’s equipment as the cleric pockets the silver arm band from Jora and gives his wine to her. (I did not know how to handle a criminal test against a monster, so I gave it a nominal Ob of 1 since I already described the spirit as not paying much attention. Should I have rolled half her nature?)

Camp Phase: The elf and cleric return to the meditation chamber and set up camp. The cleric meditates at the alter while the elf drinks his anger away (I don’t recall when he became angry). The dwarf, being possessed and not with the party, could not use his check so I promised to allow him to break free from Haathor’s control with it instead. We somehow forgot though by the end of the camp phase.

Turn 16: The two remaining heroes go to the other ritual chamber, and realizing how obviously this a purification font, the cleric becomes angry at his earlier failure.

Turns 17-18: The cleric and elf disrobe and perform the purification ritual, promising never to tell the dwarf about it. After drinking their fill from the fountain, and filling the ewer with holy water they return to find the dwarf sitting cross legged in meditation at the foot of the throne, a terrified Jora sitting on the lap of Haathor Vash’s original body.

Turn 19: The elf and cleric declare that they have changed their minds and would like to commit their souls to Haathor as they sit down beside her, then they spring the ambush and douse the dwarf with holy water. I started a banish conflict as Haathor’s wrath created a whirling tornado of souls surrounding the group (this was the only way I could fathom the honor guard not coming to their master’s aid). The dwarf managed to expel the possession and join the conflict only to be knocked out immediately (see below). I gave him the cleric’s third action and had him roll his will to add to the disposition. The team was crushed in the first round even with all the preparations made.

Here is where I seriously messed up the rules. First of all, I started the banish conflict when I should have called the bluff and ambush a good idea or used a trick conflict instead… also, earlier I had bent the rules in the dwarf’s favor: he had to sit out for almost an hour at this point. Since he had a check in the previous camp phase I promised to allow him to use it in a second attempt to resist the spirit and break free. Somehow we all forgot about this by the end of the camp phase and didn’t remember until the first round of the banish. I allowed the dwarf to roll and he succeeded joining the conflict mid-round. More rules fudging was done as I allowed him to roll his will and add disposition. Overall the heroes got their goal (expel the spirit from the dwarf) due to my handing of the dwarf’s will roll to break free, a good concession because I forgot to allow him to roll earlier.

Turn 20: as the cyclone of souls abated, the adventurers realize they are surrounded by the honor guard (two turned tomb guardians were still cowering in the corner). They grab the girl and try to escape (flee conflict). After much maneuvering and positioning the team looses the flee with a compromise. Haathor, now a disembodied specter, slams the doors shut, but not before the dwarf tosses Jora through them. So we ended our game with the entire party captured but Jora rescued. A heroic sacrifice indeed.

I fumbled through the rules for my first game, but the players were patient and really got into character thanks to the BITs. I think it was a good idea to call an “end of session” after the first camp so they could interact with reward mechanics. Next time we play I’ll give them the choice of starting with new characters or keeping the same and trying to escape. I conscientiously ignored the physical weapons and armor on the enemies, since there were only had three characters and I had to take it easy. At one point they managed to disarm the “Heavy Tread” characteristic of their pursuers, which I was at a loss of how to narrate. It was the only time during a conflict when I could not describe what was happening in the fiction in a way which matched the actions.

This is a great example of learning the system, don’t get discouraged cause one thing that has been mentioned a lot on these forums is that all of the Burning Wheel games require multiple sessions to master and to really let the systems shine. In your play through it looks like you started to see that.