The Sunken Keep of the Orcslayer

A friend was visiting yesterday, and I had a half-designed adventure and the Torchbearer PDF so we decided to have a go at it.

The hook was that someone had come, ragged and bloody and half-mad, out of the Orclands who had been abducted months prior. He claimed to have been taken to the keep of Orcslayer Soberuv, and knew the way back. You know it was lost hundreds of years ago, and that Soberuv’s grandsons had inherited a great deal of wealth from their father and grandfather, and had grown fat and lazy spending it before the orcs came and retook the land that Soberuv had driven them out of. Whatever’s left is yours for the taking, if you can make it through the Orclands, into the keep, and back out of it.

It’s a part of a work in progress! I’m planning on doing a bunch of Orclands related scenarios, along with some rules and tables specific to the Orclands. But I wasn’t able to complete it, so they just got the adventure and everything else was rolled on the tables in the book.

Valoric the Cleric (Austin) and Burke the Dwarf (Carly) journey into the Orclands for the Keep. It was their first times playing Torchbearer and my first time GMing it, so we took it slow and accepted that there would be rule mess-ups. It went well! Some highlights:

  • Spotted by an orc on their arrival to the keep, who warned the others giving them time to get weapons and armor by the time the PCs arrived (a twist - the result of a failed Pathfinder roll, they actually saw the orc scout but just let him get away)
  • Some really tense moments swimming through the flooded tunnels beneath the keep, which had sunken almost entirely into the earth leaving only its top exposed. Lighting torches in complete darkness while shivering and and wet and with pack and weapons left on the other side of the water.
  • Hiding from some prowling bone and skin wearing creatures who crept silently past them without spotting them (I wasn’t sure what to roll for hiding so we used Scout, and they made an incredibly good roll and I made an incredibly bad one so they remained unseen).
  • Waiting until some partying orcs who weren’t aware of them fell asleep, then creeping through the room to unlock a chest the orcs had. They looted the treasure, but had to make room in their inventory so they left some rations. Carly: “The orcs are going to think they have a magic chest! They can just put junk in and it transforms into food!”
  • The only Conflict of the game was an attempt to drive off some orcs, but three armed and armored orcs vs. a cleric and a dwarf was really rough. It didn’t help that I managed to script a successful feint against them which knocked Valoric out. They ended up being driven away themselves and injured. And man, injured is really hard to get rid of.

It was really good. This was my first time running a dungeon of my own design in a dungeoncrawling game. Having the players interact with it and seeing what interested them, and the flexibility of Torchbearer, let me make a lot of changes on the fly and see how it needs to be revised. The biggest one - more pathways! I didn’t realize how many dead ends or single approaches to certain rooms I had, and how badly my players wanted to creep around or past dangers. I want to give them hard choices, and not rooms that the only way through is fighting orcs. Luckily, a ruined sunken keep makes it easy to invent new tunnels or holes in walls and ceilings.

Good stuff! I’m hoping to run it again!

That is awesome. I have got to play this.

Also, apparently Scout is used for sneaking and hiding (and detecting sneaking and hiding).


Yeah, I wasn’t quite sure (not having had a ton of time to reread and digest the rules) so that was the call I made in the moment. It seems to have been the right one!

Another two I wasn’t sure about:

  • Can I determine who or what constructed these walls? (I said Stonemason, even though it was just earth that the orcs had tunneled through, and thought maybe Dungeoneer was a better call.)
  • Can I try to figure out what the orcs are saying? (I thought I had remembered someone saying Loremaster can be used for other creatures’ languages, but that didn’t seem to be right based on the skill description, and the section on Wises led me to think that if you didn’t have orc-wise you couldn’t talk to them at all, so I just said, “Nope,” instead of calling for a test.)

Stonemason would totally work if they were stone walls. There’s even a Factor for that. Otherwise, Dungeoneering seems like the next best thing, although alternately, “It’s just a hole, there’s no craft to it to recognize” might be legitimate.

I’d also go for “Nope” without Orc-wise.

Those are just my opinions, though.