West Marches

Torchbearer seems like it would be the ideal system for a West Marches-type game. Anyone given any thought to this? I don’t know if this would necessarily be a hack, since I think it could work RAW. Might be a hack though.


I think it would have to be implicit that you had to get your party out of the dungeon and return to town by the end of the session (so that you could deal with the group swapping).

There are real, nasty costs with Town in torchbearer. I am a bit worried about that. I’d magically move things in and out of the dungeon to the party, narrative plot hole be damned

Just use the rules for missed sessions instead

I thought the idea was that each session was a short stand alone adventure, so that a different player group isn’t forced to continue where the last group left off, though I may be reading that into it. Of course they may not have to go all the way back to town. Maybe it would be enough if they just got out of the dungeon and made camp before the end of the session (which is recommended anyway).

Although, there’s an advantage to be had from always going to town at the end of a session (and consequently making adventures short, or breaking dungeons into one-session length chunks at least). If you tell the players to engage in all town activities on their own prior to each session, then you can always start the session with everyone rolling lifestyle (and possibly recovery and purchases if you don’t trust them, but it should all be completely pre-planned or they don’t get to do it before the adventure starts). This can replace the prologue, which doesn’t necessarily make sense with a group that is constantly in flux. The constantly changing players is the big reason to always do town between sessions. Otherwise it will be hard to come to a consensus that it’s time to go to town, some people may not have been to town for 10 sessions while others may have gone 3 sessions in a row, and you probably want to avoid arguing about that.

It might also help to say that each session takes place over 1 month of in-game time, so that you always have 9 sessions (no matter who plays them) between winters. After session 9 you keep track who has not played yet since the last winter, and you let those individuals resolve the special winter stuff while resolving town at the beginning of play before the adventure starts.

You probably actually want to do away with the missed session rules with this approach. Since everyone is pretty much expected to constantly be missing sessions.

Why has nobody shared this gold with me before, this is really fantastic stuff.


This is a tricky bit. Sometimes the treasure will be just around the corner, and the group is healthy enough to push for it. Sometimes the group will be trapped and/or lost in the dungeon, and not actually able to leave.

Some solutions: a) tough luck: 30 minutes before artha time, you head back to town. b) If for whatever reason, returning to town has to happen off screen, party members simply suffer appropriate conditions by GM fiat.

Another slight disconnect is that the town phase doesn’t generally leave adventurers in a sort of neutral, well-balanced state - sometimes you stagger out of town as outcasts, angry at haggling gone wrong, etc. Town isn’t a place you hang around for a few months waiting for a team to coalesce.

Indeed, I was thinking this:

[i]Every character always starts the session in the Town Phase. Your adventuring group has to make it back to town by the end of the session. If they don’t, bad stuff happens.

The Adventuring Phase has a timer set at 2hrs (real life time, if you want longer sessions, then more). Taking Camp Phases does not reset this timer. Once the clock is 0, if you haven’t made it back to Town (making the relevant tests) everyone in the adventuring party suffers a condition, their lifestyle cost is increased by 1 for the upcoming Town Phase and they lose a piece of gear of the GM’s choosing.

This timer doesn’t tick during the Town or Camp Phase. If you want to be able to hash stuff out freely in a dungeon or in the wilderness, start a Camp Phase. Take as much time as you want.

I’ll definitely be developing this whole idea more. Those kind of constraints help the gameability, but people being forced to go back to Town when they need more treasure could be a real bugbear.

I think that’s the point of lifestyle isn’t it? You spend an unspecified amount of time in town, which could very will be a few weeks or even a month or more. After all, the rule in TB raw is 3 adventures between winters. How many times do you visit town during an adventure? How much actual time passes during the adventure itself?

Right - I’m not talking about literal calendar time, so much as the safety and sustainability of being in town.

The trick is that town activity is of two types, recovering from the last adventure, and preparing for the next, but passing both opportunities at once is a bit weird if you’re on the bench for two adventures.

Seems to me that one way to go about this would be to do back-to-back [almost complete] town phases. Start and end with a town phase, just with the intention that the start-of-session town phase be mostly aimed at prep, and the end-of-session town phase be aimed at recovery.

If you’ve got nothing to do, you just make a lifestyle test at Ob 1.

So! If we come back from the deathmarl and I’m nearly dead, I can do whatever I can afford at the end of the session to recover. I then spend a couple of adventures on the bench (due to real-life scheduling woes), then when I return, I have a short town phase in which to prepare for the adventure that we planned over email - which might need a lot of rope.

Ah, ok, that seems sensible enough. Though I wouldn’t want the town phase to take up too much of play time, which is why I was suggesting that most of the town phase plans and decisions be made pre-game.