What is the ideal party size for Torchbearer?

As a GM, I know the biggest group I can handle is about 6 players when I’m running most games.

But from a mechanical view, is there an ideal party size for Torchbearer? Help, instincts, conflict, obstacles, The Grind - they all seem pretty finely tuned.

Is there a point where they start to break?

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3 players is the sweet spot. 4 is workable, 5 gets unwieldy.


I’d say 4 is ideal. At that point, someone will be on the bench during a round in a conflict, which makes for interesting strategic choices.

I have seen tables of up to 10 but past 5 you have problems getting everyone a chance at the action. What can help is relying on the party leader to pull the group together, and letting them table chatter for who does what. When the party decides on their action, I go around the room and see who helps. If someone doesn’t help (or can’t) that’s a good opportunity to ask, ‘what are you doing in the mean time?’ If that person hasn’t had much spotlight, you can present them with the next obstacle and get them rolling the next turn (perhaps triggering the grind).

Large parties also can throw a lot of dice with help, so it’s good to be a little stingy with what helps. You might even say something like “only 4 people can help on this roll. The rest can help by creating a skill supply.” This can spread the rolls out and allow for some obstacle management. Throw in an evil gm factor if it still seems too easy for a large group.


Thank you. I’m setting up a bit of a West Marches style game with a pool of seven players - and I was thinking of setting up a first come/first served rule to limit the size of the party for any given session.

Sounds like 5 would be a good cap.

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What about minimum size?

I’m about to start running a game for 2 PCs.

It’s the first time any of us have touched TB, including myself, so this idea may be ridiculous but I was thinking of letting them have a second instinct, start with an extra skill at rating 3, and possibly an extra slot on their torso and/or in each backpack/satchel? Maybe even give a bonus check when the first check is earnt? (i.e. so the first check they earn in an adventure phase is actually two checks, normal after that)

Is all that reasonable, or is it going to be ineffective or completely over the top? Are some parts a good idea and others bad?

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Hi @Ristomo!

When I ran for 2 players, I left it as-is, and played it RAW (Rules as Written) .

The players were fine with that!

What you will note is that Obs tend to be a bit lower, as you’re only trying to Dungeoneer (say) 2 people, rather than 6.

There’s other bits and pieces, such as fewer light sources are needed to cover them, and loot goes further!

One thing my 3-player group does is set up caches of supplies (and loot), so that they’ve got concealed camps with supplies already stashed.

I, personally, don’t think you need to alter anything, and would play it straight.

The players just have to be smart about stuff!

Don’t forget the Good Idea rule, which is such a boon to clever adventurers / players!


After 2nd level, they can hire help. However, you might create some NPC from the adventure to act as a “guide” to help them make it back to town.

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I have played some great sessions with two players. I agree with @Mark_Watson; no rules tweaks required.

More players bring more help and a wider pool of skills, but the more you divide up the spotlight, the less consistently engaging the game is. I enjoy it with most with 3 - 5 players and 6 is still way more functional than most RPGs.

Like @stormsweeper, I think 3 is ideal.

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Minimum 2 unless you want to patch rules regarding checks and rewards.

The game performs better than many other RPGs with very large parties (6+), but it works best with 3–5 players, I think.

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I just ran my first game with 5 and have been playing online with 3-4 for a couple years. I feel like 4-5 is great. 6 would be manageable, but diminishing participation/engagement perhaps? 3 is great in that regard, but there’s something that seems like a stretch of just 3 adventurers going into some of these places :slight_smile:

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I love playing with 3. That’s the number I’ve played with for the majority of the game’s release.


That’s been my experience since I first started this thread. Enough to survive a dungeon but not enough to create a feeling of security. Feels more like a heist than a raid.

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I was watching a YouTube of a 3 person Torchbearer game being played and the GM commented that he was chatting with Luke or Thor and that person said Torchbearer was not really made to play with 3 people. That GM than commented to the players on not having any problems with the game and only 3 players.

Adam meant specifically that adventure. Under the House of the Three Squires is designed for five players.


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