The Sunless Citadel - Actual Play Report Pt. 2 (LONG)


Turn Nine:
The thought of Camp came over them, but looking between the group, they only had one check. I suggest to them again how to use their Traits against themselves to assist in gaining more checks. The Magician then decided he had to read the inscription. Even though we had behest him to be careful with the Grind. He rolled Scholar before I had time to console the book for Factors. Only one success. I asked him again to try and describe his actions before rolling to let me know what he was doing, and how he was doing it. I explained perhaps he could get bonus dice this way. It was possible. For the Twist I advised he was unable to determine the meaning of the inscriptions. He’s the newest player I didn’t want to punish him too much more.The Lantern went out again. I was beginning to feel perhaps that I was being too rough on the group. They were speeding through this. In retrospect I should have probably been more lenient on conditions in the beginning, though Angry was the only one I had given out. So I don’t know really.

Turn 10:
Lighting his Lantern again, the Magician grabbed a stone and marked an X and an O by both doors explaining this would let them know which ones they thad already been down. Great idea.Karnag chose to follow the southwest door first. The door opened into a long room, long ruined. Stony rubble filled the far side of the room, and from the doorway they could make out the faint shapes of a carved relief on the door. They stepped into the door. Once again I didn’t do the Burglar’s instinct currently to give him a chance to test on his own for locating the pit trap in the floor. But everyone did help on the Scout check…so I guess it evens out?
Unfortunately it was once again a failed check. And they all fell into the pit, one after the other, dragging each other down. I decided not the injure them but to twist that they found a purse of silver coins on the dead skeleton at the bottom of the pit.

Turn 11:
With all of his inventory full, the Burglar decided to hold the purse in his hand. So I had to ask him how he was using his grabbling hook and rope since he needed two hands. He explained he put the coins down and they all succeeded the test climbing out of the pit.

Turn 12:
‘But I brought my coins up too!’, he nearly shouted. I asked how, since he had to use the rope with both hands to climb. He looked seriously angry at me when I told him they were still sitting at the bottom of the pit, where he left them.The others inspected the door and noticed that it was carved in a relief of a roaring dragon, its mouth wide open as if it could shoot flame at any moment. In the furthest recesses of its throat was a large keyhole. ‘And we don’t even have the key yet.’ They nearly said in unison. I asked the Burglar to test to climb back up however to see how he would do. He rolled and failed, as they were all doing a lot of this session! He however did use a trait against himself to gain a check on the way up. They were beginning to get desperate for camp to try and alleviate some conditions. As a twist I told them that three more Giant Rats ran up on them on the opposite side of the pit, trapping them between the door and the pit.

And they were Hungry and Thirsty, Exhausted and Angry; or Hungry and Thirsty and Angry again. And the Lantern went out.

Turn 13:
The Magician used his last bit of oil to relight the Lantern once more. Karnag, feeling trapped, immediately wanted a way to clear away back across the pit. He wanted to kill at least one of the Giant Rats, and drive the rest away. I called for an Ob 2 Fighter test (equal to the Rats’ Nature), and let him use the Spear as supplies. He succeed describing that he killed the one with the Spear, another fell into the pit dying, and the other ran off into the dark.

Turn 14:
The Burglar wanted to try and pick the lock, but feeling the conditions the group decided to camp. A successful Survival check was made and camp was set up.

Camp Phase -

There was only one check to be used in Camp. The Magician was upset at himself. He had before the game changed his instinct from Always make potions during camp, and was unable to do so once camp came. The Halfling used his last fresh ration to whip up a tasty stir fry for the group (it was going to be a stew but being out of water the group decided against it - as a joke). Everyone ate and was filled and removed Hungry and Thirsty.

And camp was over…just…like…that. :frowning:
I previously had rolled on the camp events table. At the end of camp I randomly selected a player and asked him to assign a number to each belonging in his backpack. I rolled for it and it came up on Torches. I advised in the morning he noticed them missing. Perhaps this was being too hard on the group. Perhaps I should have only had one missing?

Adventure Phase Two -

Turn One:
‘You mean I cant relieve Exhausted by sleeping?’, the Magician’s player asked. I explained that he was perhaps too exhausted to even sleep. I described the environs again, the cold, murky, ancient place they were in. The rancid smells, the howling winds from above all explained why what little sleep was to be had, it wasn’t nice enough to wake well rested in the morning. They had had it! They were done with the citadel! No more Torches! No more Food! No more Water! They were one the third turn of the last drought of oil for the Lantern! They were Exhausted and Angry. All light sources were expended at the end of this turn. They decided to cut their losses, and head back to town. I explained without a map, they would have to adventure back up through the dungeon. They nearly revolted on me right there! I was kind and advised on his last turn with light, he could make a Cartographer test to make a map before they set out.

He succeeded. And the lights went out, leaving them alone in the dark.

Turn Two:
This is the one time that I saw the group jump to there feet and come together as a team. Cold, alone, angry, exhausted in the dark they came together to create fire. It was sad, and beautiful all the same time. The Magician wanted to make a Survivalist test to create a torch. He gathered old wood from camp fire that layer around. The Burglar helped with his tinderbox. Karnag ripped up one of his small sacks and I allowed it as supplies. And they failed the test….
The twist was that they got the torch, but it only would burn for one round.

Turn Three:
They ran.

Thoughts - So obviously I made several mistakes. I may have gone a little too hard on the group, and pushed conditions on them too early. Each of them leaned back with a sigh when I said we’d end there, on the return journey to Oakhurst.

The main consensus on the game afterward was that it was a bit too harsh, and more brutal than expected. We did Artha, and I told them they’d have more of an advantage next session being able to spend it, should they choose to return.

I told them also if they wanted they could dig up new leads in town and possible return to the Sunless Citadel at another time. ‘Its not going anywhere soon’, Karnag’s player advised the group. I believe a total of 4 Persona and 2 Fate were handed out after the game. The group immediately knew how they would rewrite their BIGs for next session. Im worried they only have 3D of valuables entering town. So how did I do?

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Fun game! Sounds a lot like my first experience of Torchbearer.

I think that deciding the conflicts weren’t in order may have worked against your PCs. There’s a chance to gain checks by failing without it really biting you in those, as a conflict represents a lot of rolls with slightly less dire consequences than a standard test would have, and without advancing the grind.

I don’t think you’re being lenient, Torchbearer is a hard game and works well with a sympathetic GM (with system advice when PCs are struggling) but a harsh dungeon to crawl slowly through, dragging on through grit despite it being gruelling and degrading to do so, just to escape with bodies broken and purses only slightly filled. And then to return and get through it all prepared, picking up the really valuable stuff you missed first time.


Agreed. Conflicts actually help the characters by giving them breathing room to fail tests because it’s not win/lose on a single roll.

Also: the Peasant skill is usually used to repair clothing, waterskins, etc.

Sounds like a Torchbearer game all right! Next game they have a super-important resource: knowledge about the dungeon. They know of at least two traps, one potential enemy (rats!) and where at least 1D of cash is located. And remember the halfling’s instinct next time.