The Sword

When I woke up this morning, a realization hit me out of nowhere: my group’s first adventure with Torchbearer must be The Sword. A crumbling, ancient citadel? Ruined chambers, muck-filled tubes? The wreckage of a collapsed temple? And finally, a priceless magic sword? Hell yes. My favorite part of introducing people to Burning Wheel via the Sword is glossing over all the traditional RPG (read: D&D) stuff, and saying “OK, after a long and difficult struggle through the caverns, chambers and so forth, you finally reach the sanctum…now who gets the sword?” I want to bring this thing full circle and use Torchbearer to focus on the traditional RPG stuff - the exhausting journey to reach the sword, the struggles against the perils, traps and monsters that stand between the party and the sword. And who knows? If it turns out that they can’t agree on who gets the sword - even just for old time’s sake - well, I wouldn’t complain. (Or maybe I should give the sword a curse that makes everybody want it!)

I don’t have a map yet. I just had this idea. I’m starting this thread because of course I’m going to flesh out this adventure, but The Sword is part of the greater Burner tradition. I’d love to hear thoughts from the community on what should go into a Torchbearer remix of The Sword, or stories from when you guys have run The Sword that I can mine for bits to add in to the adventure. For my part, the sanctum itself is definitely going to have the chamber-flooding trap I introduced/made up when I got to run The Sword for Thor, Dro, and the crew at BWHQ. :smiley:

Let’s plan an adventure together. Just be sure that someone is bringing plenty of torches.


Odie, that’s gold!

I’ve had hordes of roden bubble up from below, pressure plate traps that cause the throne room to collapse, thieves guild parties scouring the dungeon for the adventurers, an ancient dragon sleeping in the next chamber, mazes of dwarven tunnels that crumble away apon a huge aybss - somewhat like the Mithril river scene in LotR…

I also like to use this moria map, as an inspiration for conveying the VASTNESS of the dungeon to the players:

Though this one is probably more appropriate for a Torchbearer version of the Sword.

Thieves’ guild search parties cum hit squads! Now that’s an idea! Especially with the thief’s Belief and background sketch (Robard, was it?), needing the sword to pay off his debts.

OK, I went ahead and made my version of The Sword, but…I don’t have a scanner, so I don’t know how I could upload the (terrible, bad, awful, horrible) sketch I made. Not that I’d want my shameful lack of art skills immortalized on the Internet anyway. I’m checking the 'Net for a map I can just adapt mine to, but since I feel bad starting a thread and not following up on it, here’s what I’ve got so far:

This ruined citadel, situated atop a hill and ringed by a palisade, was originally a bastion protecting not just the town below but all of the villages and farms in the area. It came to ruin generations ago in the midst of a civil war, when the citadel’s lord made a desperate bargain with an Abyssal entity to grant him an army that could protect his fortress so that none but his men could gain entry. The demon’s promised army was the lord’s own men, corrupted and enslaved into twisted undeath: an army that would tirelessly defend what was left of his fortress for eternity. For reasons unknown, whether the lord worked some great magic in retribution or whether part of the demon’s work, the hill beneath the citadel collapsed in on itself, partially swallowing the fortress. The townsfolk fled or were driven off by the damned soldiers, who continue to defend the place to this day. Legend says that the lord was so desperate to defend his citadel not out of fear for his subjects nor even his own family, but for his treasures - a legendary relic blade among them - which were swallowed up with the fortress and likely remain there to this day.

[quote=“Wandering Monsters”]
[ul][li]A patrol of the Damned (see “Patrols”).
[/li][li]Sinkhole! The unstable ground shifts, and a hole opens up at the character’s feet. Treat like a pit trap, with an Ob 2 Health test to avoid falling in - suggested failure is either a Condition (injured) and the character climbs out, or they fall in and have to spend a turn climbing out (and see “Patrols”).
[/li][li]Damaged gear. Some crucial piece of gear is lost or damaged in the test.
[/li][li]A heavy, ominous rain starts. Count it as a factor in all tests outdoors, and then…
[/li][li]Flooding. If it’s pouring, some of the sunken or underground areas might flood!
[/li][li]A ‘breach.’ The characters’ actions cause another Abyssal breakthrough![/ul][/li][/quote]

The Approach
The road to the village hasn’t been used in decades. Everyone in the area knows where the place is in a general sense, but the village and the trails leading to it have been reclaimed by the land, swallowed up by oak and ash. It’s an Ob 3 Pathfinder test to spot and follow the remnants of the road. Suggested failure result: Condition (Hungry & Thirsty).

There isn’t much left of the village proper. Scattered stone walls lie amidst grass and trees like long-dead skeletons, and the air is still and quiet. There isn’t much to be found there that wasn’t taken with the villagers when they fled, or since destroyed by the march of time. Beyond the village, the hill lies bare and foreboding.

Nothing remains of the palisade that used to crown the hill, so the remains of the fortress are easily visible from the hilltop. The collapse dragged the great hall and manor proper down into a depression, and several other buildings were partially pulled in: the granaries, the barracks, and the workshop/armory. The barracks has completely fallen in on itself, as have the granaries. (There’s also a ruined stables that survived the collapse but not the ravages of time.) A castellan’s house is the only structure on the hilltop that was spared from the collapse, although the armory is still partially standing. The watchtower which used to stand next to the barracks has split from its foundation and toppled into the depression, its top (now bottom) story nestled against the manor. A shattered aqueduct which provided drainage for the hall and manor sticks out of the sunken ground like a broken bone.

Three patrols of the Damned walk the length of the perimeter day and night. Their flesh having long since decayed, these animate skeletons attempt to drive off or dispatch any invaders, armed only with rusted swords (their leather armor and wooden shields having long since mouldered away). Each one’s skull is branded by a glowing rune in the middle of the forehead. [Use the Tomb Guardian stats. They patrol in groups of three.]

Adventurers who don’t rush in headlong might note the patrols’ timing and routes, and thereby avoid the Damned; it’s certainly possible, but it’s only a matter of time before the next patrol comes by. Test Scout vs. the Damned’s Nature 3 (with help from his 2 patrolmates). Success means the characters have a turn to act before the next patrol arrives.

The Castellan’s House
The castellan’s quarters included a chamber, a small solar, and a storeroom, with a walled courtyard and garden that faced the Great Hall. The garden has completely taken over the courtyard, saturating it with the blue, white, and orange of blossoms. It smells wild but not unpleasant, although there’s a strange absence of insect activity.

The Damned castellan himself is here, along with three Damned guardsmen. He wears chainmail [as per the Tomb Guardian entry] and has a silver pendant wrought in the shape of an eagle in flight (jewelry, in Loot chapter terms).
Tucked away inside the solar on a stone shelf sits a leather-bound book, miraculously well-preserved (though certainly not undamaged). It’s written in Ye Olde Speeche, but an Ob 2 Scholar test can provide some knowledge: in my game, it’s the castellan’s journal and presents a lead for a follow-up adventure involving one of the lord’s knights who was supposed to show up to defend the castle but was off chasing treasure (and never heard from again, of course). GMs could have it provide a method to banish the demon (naturally, there’s a demon - see below), or whatever else best suits their purposes.
Besides the book, the GM should roll once on the Loot table for this area.

The Ruined Armory
There isn’t much here but dust, debris, and the weight of years, but an Ob 4 Scavenger test will yield something that survived, buried under some rubble or such. Roll on the Gear table, and reroll Food and Light entries. Suggested failure result: (twist) a patrol of the Damned interrupts the characters’ searching!

Getting Down
All the good stuff is no doubt in the ruins of the great hall and manor. Adventurers have three ways to get down to them: picking their way carefully down the shattered slope, climbing through the toppled watchtower, or ducking into the aqueduct.

Climbing Down
The broken soil and debris scattered about make for tricky and unstable footing. It’s an Ob 4 Health test for a party to climb down, assuming they’re helping each other, but there’s almost no way to avoid being spotted by a patrol, which could present a problem. Suggested failure result: Condition (injured) or twist (sinkhole!). Characters climbing down can climb to either the manor or the hall.

The Watchtower
It’s topsy-turvy and disorienting, walking along the wall of a watchtower, trying to find a way up a staircase on its side to reach a passage ten feet up the wall that used to be in the ceiling. To make matters worse, the fall didn’t do the tower’s structural integrity any favors; every few steps, there’s a disconcerting tinkle of pebbles cracking and falling from somewhere. An Ob 4 Dungeoneering test can get the party through the tower and into the manor. Suggested failure result: Condition (injured) or twist (a part of the tower collapses, dumping one character out into the depression, separated from the party).

The Aqueduct
The wells and privies used to drain out away from the castle through this main aqueduct, which is big enough for a person to move through, albeit uncomfortably. The aqueduct juts out of the side of the depression at a slight upward angle, making it easy enough to climb into. The aqueduct terminates in a cistern under the manor. It’s filled with mud and stagnant muck which reeks horribly (and things might get worse if it’s raining), and slogging through it calls for an Ob 2 Health test for each character. Suggested failure result: Condition (exhausted) or twist (an item or piece of gear is lost in the muck).

The Hall and Manor
The manor consists of several rooms and chambers all surrounding a central, roofed patio, adjacent to the great hall. Beneath the manor is a stagnant cistern the aqueduct connects to, and the great hall itself connects to the temple below.

The Great Hall
The great, arched ceiling has collapsed on one side of the hall as well as in the center, littering the floor with rubble. Underneath it, a staircase leading down is partially visible. An Ob 2 Laborer test will allow characters to clear the stone away and access the staircase. A deep voice echoes occasionally from the manor; the patio entrance is blocked by fallen stone, but a dull red light flickers through the debris occasionally, casting fleeting shadows in the hall.

The Stagnant Cistern
It’s dark in here, and there’s smelly, stagnant water at about knee height. With light, the characters will be able to see a broken well up above; a Dungeoneering test at Ob 5 will get the party up and out, or Ob 3 will get one person up. The well opens on the far end of the patio, opposite the great hall.

The Patio
The patio is the (remaining) central feature of the manor. On the cracked floor, vestiges of a painted mural are faintly visible in the dim light. There are side galleries leading to the manor chambers, two wells on one end (one of which leads down to the stagnant cistern, the other leads into a collapsed cistern with no exits), and an entrance into the great hall which is blocked by rubble. There’s also a demon.

The Bound Demon
A huge chunk of basalt springs up from the center of the patio. A giant, pale-skinned demon is bound to it, his lower two arms chained at the wrist with black iron manacles (leaving his upper two arms terrifyingly free). The rock is covered in runes which glow a dull red. If afforded with enough time to do so, a character can test Lore Master at Ob 4 to read and understand the runes; they are what binds the Damned to their hellish undeath, each rune on the Damned’s skull corresponding to one on the rock. Undoing the curse requires “disabling” the runes with controlled, purposeful defacing (like, for instance, an Ob 2 Stonemason test) - simply smashing the rock to smithereens invites disaster. That is, of course, assuming the demon doesn’t have something to say about it.

Bound Demon
Ten feet tall, four-armed and heavily muscled with a stag’s skull for a face, this demon is quite an imposing figure, even bound. Placed here to maintain the curse on the Damned and keep the Sword out of the hands of Men forever, he’s actually not interested in being unleashed, but rather plays upon that fear to fool adventurers. With ages of boredom ahead of him, he wants to torment those fools who dare to set foot in his presence and get some entertainment out of them - tricking them into the collapsed cistern might be a good start.
Might: 5
Nature (Demon) 6: Corrupting, Destroying, Scheming
Dispositions & Weapons:
Kill: 9
[ul][li]Attack: Infernal Furyblade, -1D, +1s[/ul]
[/li]Trick: 13
[ul][li]Attack: Sense Ambitions, +1s
[/li][li]Defend: Sociopathic Charm, +1D[/ul]
[/li]Banish: 3
[ul][li]Defend: Runes of Binding, +2D[/ul]
[/li]Instinct: Fool them, delight in their folly, then destroy them.
Special: Once per kill conflict, may blast Hellfire, as Eldritch Darts.
Special: May not engage in Flee, Drive Off, or Capture conflicts. He’s magically bound to a chunk of basalt - he’s not going anywhere.

The Manor
Not much is left in these chambers, so the map considers them one area. It’s hard to tell former servants’ quarters from storehouses. The lord’s chambers have a solid iron chest with a rusted lock on it that a Criminal test at Ob 3 can pick, revealing 1D of silver coins inside. The GM should also roll twice on the Loot table to see what else of note can be found in these chambers.

The Temple - and the Sword
The stairs beneath the great hall lead down into a darkened temple. It’s holy ground, so the Damned and the demon cannot set foot here. Despite being swallowed up by the collapse, the temple is undamaged, as if the will of the Immortal Lords preserved it against the demons’ evil. The stairs end in an antechamber, and through a doorway is the main temple chamber. The walls are carved in the likenesses of the Lords of Battles, and on a raised dais in the center of the room sits an altar, with a holy relic of the Lords displayed on it. Carefully scanning the altar might give keen-eyed characters a chance to notice a pressure plate trap (Scout Ob 4, Dungeoneer Ob 3 to disarm). If set off, a stone door descends in the doorway, sealing the temple chamber, then several of the carvings’ mouths open and water begins pouring into the chamber. It will fill with water in 3 turns. Forcing open or breaking down the door is an Ob 5 Health test.

The Sword
The Sword is a relic of the Lords of Battle, and has their blessing laid upon it. Once per kill, drive off or capture conflict, its wielder can double its weapon bonus. The GM should give it an appropriate name.

(Notes: I’m considering giving the Sword a mild drawback or curse, in order to evoke the feel of The Sword scenario. Characters who lay eyes on the Sword must make a Will test (Ob 3). Failure means either they must have it at any cost (twist) or they are jealously covetous of it (Angry condition). Not sure if that’s too mean or not.)

There, that’s my version of The Sword. Suggestions and critiques welcome.