Using Death as a Condition

Dirk was fleeing the dungeon but was met with a balance beam, the goblins would soon arrive in the room below. He was injured and sick and afraid and the end was in sight.

I’m GMing this situation. I think it’d be good to put death at stake here, we’re near the end of the session.

In my head I can see the goblins entering the room below, distracting him and throwing stuff until he’s falling off and dying. But there’s a problem with that. That’s a twist and those are strictly non-fatal.

I could have him succeed at what he was trying to do and then die afterwards. But if he’s traverses the beam what’s killing him?

I could extend the goblin twist idea into another test but we’re trying to wrap it up here with high stakes.

Player managed his two successes on two dice in this instance but how should I have done a failure?

Failure: a twist! You fall off the balance beam. Falling from this great a height necessitates an Ob 5 Health test; fail it and the twist is you’re stunned for a turn (and probably concussed) and the goblins get to have their way with you. Depending on the situation this might mean you’re basically as good as dead.


It’s applying a Condition, not a Twist. You’re just coloring the narrative on how he dies.

I totally see what you’re saying. If you fall, you die, but in order to get the Dead condition, you have to succeed despite yourself and not fall after all, but without a fictional danger at the other end of the test, what killed you?

You could just say, “after you get to the other side, you twist your ankle and backwards-somersault head-first into the hole and die”, I suppose, but maybe a Dead condition just isn’t appropriate in this circumstance.

I think that his might just be the way things work. If you can’t die “incidentally” while still succeeding at your task, then you can’t die. It’s a mechanical acknowledgement of PC-hood. Either you die, but succeed, or you die after a brutal Conflict, or you die after being ground away. “Oops, dead” might not be an option by design.

So, they’re throwing stuff and hitting him and he wants to get away.

Condition: You manage to get across the beam, the last few feet on your hands & knees. After putting some distance between yourself and the goblins you succumb to you many wounds and die.

If that’s directed at me, it’s not my intent to do so. Thinking about the situation, I ask myself “what’s a good twist from a roll to cross a balance beam?” Falling seems obvious! Falling is bad - then you’re down below, lost and off-course, or worse - in Guy’s situation, there are goblins in the room below! Fall and you fall in their midst - seems awful enough on its own. But I think to myself, “Surely there’s a chance to get seriously screwed up by a fall. How could Torchbearer handle falling damage?” So I looked at traps for an example. Both a poison needle and a gas-filled chamber prompt Health tests, and if you blow the roll, either you succeed with a condition (sick, for poison) or you fail with a twist: in both cases, the twist is you’re paralyzed/unconscious for a number of turns. Seemed like something I could crib from: on a serious fall, make a Health test. If you blow the roll, either you succeed with a condition (injured, I’d guess) but you can still act - like, say, to flee from the crowd of goblins you just fell into - or fail and miss a turn from being knocked senseless, as a twist. If you’re knocked senseless after a fall into a cavern or chamber, that’s bad enough - one more turn of The Grind - but if you’re knocked senseless among a crowd of goblins, I think that falls under “of course kobolds can kill you if you’re helpless at their mercy,” no?

Edit: Of course, that probably doesn’t answer Guy’s question about using death as a condition. Sorry to say, old bean, but I don’t think it’s appropriate for a task like “cross a balance beam.” Seems like a thing I’d use for a heroic sacrifice, or something that you could conceivably die trying at and still succeed. “I’m going to try to get the dragon’s attention and lead it away from the rest of the group!” Blow the roll, and I might say “OK, good news is, you do get its attention and lead it away from the rest of the group…now for the bad news…”


Could you run it as an “Other” conflict?

Attack/Defend - Health (or for the goblins Fighter)
Feint/Maneuver - Will

You could establish up front that the player’s goal is to make progress across the beam, and the goblins’ goal is to knock him off - with the Death condition the inevitable result.

The problem is, there are no goblins. It’s just the PC and the beam. The goblins will only show up on a Twist. You can only get a the Injured/Dead Condition if you are allowed to cross the beam on a failed Test, but if you’re allowed to cross the beam, there’s no fall to kill you.

I think I agree that falling to your death (when the goal is to not fall to your death) isn’t really a proper option in this game.

Yeah, I guess what I’m saying is why do the goblins have to be introduced as a twist? Why don’t they show up at the same time as the PC, so the obstacle is “crossing the beam while under fire from the goblins” in the first place?

Just for clarity, the goblins raised the alarm and would give chase as part of an earlier conflict compromise. The players knew there were goblins coming. When the player succeded I still described them arriving in the lower room, just not in time to do anything about Dirk’s escape.

That’s an interesting conclusion in your edit Odie. I think you may be right. I remember the rule seeming so simple, if injured I can use death as a condition as long as I warn that it is. I guess I still need to account for context.

This is spelled out on page 79. You can apply the Dead condition any time a player of an injured character fails a test involving physical danger. The And Then You Die section clarifies that the character succeeds at what he or she was attempting first.

If you instead apply a twist, the character doesn’t die. If you do apply the condition, it means that death has to be meaningful. You get usher your companions safely across the beam before falling to your death…