What I like to see in adventures...

I’ve been reading through a lot of great adventures here as well as Squires and Skogenby. For TB two things really stick out at me as being really important for my ease as a new TB GM as I gear up to hopefully run my first session.

  1. I want flavorful and descriptive art or text for each room. This is great as TB tells players to “describe to live” and to not call for skill use, but to describe what they’re doing, but I can’t help them do that if all I have to work with is a 30x30 room with a list of obstacles. Along with this descriptive text or even in lieu of it potentially, I would love the maps to be detailed, not just with filagree of design that enhances the overall presentation of the game material (although that’s fine), but by detailed rooms, so I that I can look at the map and describe it to the players, “On the table on the far wall is an ornate dagger sitting in a bowl, a single candle whose flame produces a whisp of smoke…” If the map is detailed enough, I don’t even need the flavor text! It seems that TB uses small dungeons in comparison to the megadungeons of d&d, so I think, if possible more effort can be spent enhancing individual rooms on the map. Skogenby and Squires have fabulous text, but spare map minutae. Obviously, most people just posting their adventurers here aren’t also professional artists, so it’s doubly important to really go to town describing the rooms. Not what monsters are doing, or pre-canned NPC dialogue that many 2E adventures used, but florid descriptions of the place of adventure, which is what I think TB is all about. The dungeon itself is the obstacle. So:

either insanely detailed drawings or make sure you really describe each room. The more descriptive the room, the easier it is for a new GM to “wing it” on deciding what is a test and what the Ob might be. Those are easy to improvise, creating a vivd imaginative environment? I need the help of a storyteller or artist.

  1. Thor is absolutely right about presenting “problems” not obstacles or tests. Unfortunately, some of the adventures here in this forum (are great! I downloaded them and they are all 1000x better than anything I could do!) spend a lot on textual explanations of, “this room is an Ob 4 climb to do X”. I would much rather…via #1 above, with the art on the map itself and/or with a florid description of the room present what are the obvious challenges and problems adventurers may face.

This is the spider lair. There are cobwebs everywhere. Scout Ob 2 as the players enter will alert them to the spiders lurking above. Dungeoneering test (Ob 3) (fail: injured) to climb the ledge. A magic gem can be found with (wizard sight, arcana Ob2)

DO (either with a kick-ass drawing, or with text or both)
This room, while large, feels closterphobicly small as thick white gooey strands of web cover almost every inch of the black obsidian walls, hints of potential items or desiccated carcases can be half seen deep within these strong, but flammable webbing. Alert to any movement, an attentive ear might catch the clicking mandibles of the lurking brown and purple colored spiders who make their home some 30 feet above the entryway on a ledge, the only access to which are the natural hand holds of the chipped and cracked rocky surface. Torchlight will illuminate the weathered and cracked skulls of previous victims of the intelligent spiders–in one such skull, up on the rocky ledge, in the very back there is a gem worth 2D that hums with a magical energy to anyone attuned to hear the magical pitch it produces.

I see your point, but actually I have the opposite experience when GMing Torchbearer:

  1. Flavor text for every room, for me, gets in the way. I prefer to have a flavorful description of the dungeon as a whole and then wing it each time they enter a new room. I actually never read out loud descriptions when GMing (but I guess is mainly because is difficult to translate to spanish as I’m reading in english). I totally agree with you in more detailed, more rich maps for dungeons, I think that it really fleshes out the theme of the adventure with more “show” and less “tell”.

  2. Not sure about this point. I get what you’re saying and I kinda agree with you, but in the heat of the session I find really useful to have an Ob at hand for the planned problems in that room. When I’m building my own dungeons (which is what I’m used to) following the steps on the book, I use to have this Obs as a remainder of the problems I had originally planned for this room (which doesn’t mean that I don’t have to throw it all out the window the moment we start playing).

I think that the best approach to GM Torchbearer is having everything pre-planned and then be prepared to improvise everything the moment the characters step on it :stuck_out_tongue:

Stay cool :cool:

Totally agree, DagaZ. As evocative as those descriptions are, I’m never going to read those aloud (even though English is my primary language). Also, there are no GM cues about what kinds of tests they should be making.

I much prefer a few simple images that set the scene and present the key problems in an area. All of the more detailed description I can handle on the fly (and do, but only after my players make it a point to investigate something more closely). I don’t even think you necessarily need the Obs written out, since you can just build them straight from the book or handle them on the fly.

I think the best thing is to forego prose and go for itemized lists, to make the description as condensed as possible. Having DM’ed for 20 years, I can always make up a description of something, but the overview of the room and how the different parts fit together is far more important and something I prefer to know beforehand.

When I write my own material, or go over and prepare other’s material for use, I prepare a “top-down” list, which starts with the obvious things in the room when entered (including dimensions, lit/dark etc and as a standard including smell and sound although I sometimes skip those entries) and then add descriptors to all those things (sort of like Wooden desk (worn, drawer): Drawer (locked, 1D coin pouch) etc, as a very basic example).

This helps me give a rough overview of the room, and then respond to the players as they ask about the contents. I then add an entry for what’s not obvious, if needed, BUT that is seldom the case. If there’s a spider hidden in the ceiling, I prefer having some kind of visual or audible clue that there’s something there which the players can follow. It can be subtle, but I feel there should be something. Last, I have a section with Game Info. Here, I put monster stats, maybe specs on items found in the room or traps, and also notes on mechanics that might come into play (such as OB’s).

This works for me, although my result would probably not be that useful to someone else… it’s more of a process.

I like the list idea Storapan. I read the box text for Three Squires when I ran it, but I didn’t really like doing that. If felt forced to me and sometimes I didn’t feel like the players would immediately notice something in the box text, either because of the way they entered the room or because of changes in the dungeon. Plus when reading about a dungeon to prepare I think I’d prefer as little flavor text as possible, because it all just crowds up the page. I want to understand what’s going on here quickly and easily, and I think bullet points would help with that more than long paragraphs I have to scan through in order to extract the information, and that I might miss if I scan too quickly.

Another benefit is the connection between the fiction and the room contents - the players, after all, base their impression of the room on your description as a GM and the clues you give. This method means it’s easy to see the connection between the initial description and everything in the room.

An example: there’s a pit trap in the floor. Sure, it could be a perfectly invisible pit, and simply open under anyone who enters who doesn’t specifically state they search the floor, that could work sometimes, but pull that one off too many times and your players will just become paranoid and I think it’s lazy GM’ing. No, if there a pit trap, put a rug, or straw on the floor, or maybe some footprints, or at least mention the floor and its flagstones. That’s a hook. If the players look at them, or ask the right questions about them, then they find the trap. If they don’t, fine - at least they had the chance.

With the room description above, these “paths” of how things might be discovered are clear. Sure, there are lots of other paths to take for smart players, but even the smartest players are forced to base their decisions on the information you give them as a GM.

Great idea. The “condensed as possible” for me ideally would be in a well detailed map. Like I said in my OP, if TB dungeons typically only have 10 or so rooms (?) then heck, the 1-page-pdf-adventure could be a staple of TB as long as the art is dense. For the amateur adventure writer who can’t draw a isomorphic/3D dungeon, even a top-down/2D dungeon can have extensive-if-crude maps. The take-away for me was that the cliche (in a good way) d&d megadungeon of 10x10 squares where all the detail is in the key isn’t necessary, because all of the relevant information can be on the map itself because the map is 10 rooms instead of 100. The map just posted on the google+ torchbearer page is a good example I think. My feeling is, people are still making d&d maps for TB, but TB can handle distilled maps of d&d the same way TB distilled the rules of d&d. Even Luke and Thor in the house of 3 squires and skogenby succumbed to this. What is the purpose of the detail less map? The players will not graph it and it has no information for the GM, all the information is in the key. Torchbearer is a real paradigm shift in dungeon crawling, but the maps have yet to catch up to the rules shift.

This is especially true since player-character mapping is no longer about graph-paper maps, the player-character is writing a descriptive text of the GM’s narrative of the space. I guess it boils down to do GM’s prefer visual aid or textual aid.

edit: Maybe even a shift away from top down/side view. What if an adventure had ten 1st person views of each dungeon room that the DM could describe.

This is no longer helpful. It’s relevance is connected to graph paper mapping, which TB brilliantly synthesized into narrative play.

This of course is better, but still has lots of unnecessary elements that are important only if players are actually mapping with graph paper. HoTS and Skogenby look like this, but who is it for? Again, this is a D&D map for D&D players in a Torchbearer game. This is a map the players aren’t asked to map. (no offense!)

This I think is what is needed. This is what the “map” for “Room 1” in a Torchbearer game should look like.

Someone break open that barrel there might be gold inside.

Or a giant tick.

100% behind you Opcero. Actually for the last couple of dungeons I did’t even draw a map (still have a strong need for notes and Obs, though).

Stay cool :cool:

A picture say more than 1000 words. :slight_smile: If there is artwork to be had that can be that detailed, then I can only say Hell Yes! The only thing really needed to add to that picture is some info on hidden things (what’s in the barrel, etc). I am also fully on board with your arguments against a standard grid map for Torchbearer - it’s not really an aide at all, except possibly as a rough guide to room size and how the rooms are interconnected.

The only limitation for me is that I don’t have the skill or time needed to create those kinds of visuals; for my own material, I’m probably stuck with a map and notes. In published material, however, it would be really, really cool to see an approach that puts the picture first.

The time investment to do up every room like that is a little too much for me. But, using the google machine, you could easily make a dungeon out of other people’s illustrations. The lat dungeon I sketched up for Torchbearer was this:

The advantage of a 2D map is that, to me, it fills an important role in developing the dungeon as it helps you see how all the parts of the dungeon connect. That said, there’s no reason in TB to do it on grid paper, or even worry about scale, and during play the list of sensory inputs and possible obstacles may even supplant the need to even reference the map. The only reason you couldn’t ignore the map for the 3 squires adventure is that the detailed entries contain no information about connections to other rooms. If they did, I probably would have ignored the map, but only during play, during prep I would enjoy looking at it for the value of that wider perspective.

Interesting point. Say a character successfully mapped room 1 and room 5. If the player doesn’t map room 2-3-4, then they cannot “teleport” from 5 to 1 correct? But what if room 5 and room 1 are connected by a door? In this scenario, the characters do not have to map the intervening # rooms for the players to safely move between 1 and 5. This makes an overhead map useful for the DM, but still provides no resource for the player. A good example of this in HoTS is area 6, 12, and 14. This begs the question, is it important for the player/character to note in their “narrative map” the connections to neighboring rooms?

@Vanguard. Cool picture. Certainly a detailed 1st person picture of a “challenge” within a given room/area is a cool idea. If a room has only a trap door under a rug, then maybe that room just needs a good picture of that area (not even the whole room).

My players usually draw arrows between the “rooms” on their “map”.

Careful though, don’t want them to realize that every time you show them a picture it means there’s a trap there :slight_smile: