When you have no leads

So, what do you do when you have no leads? What’s RAW?

Does the GM just set you on the road to an adventure, in medias res? Can you opt to wander the countryside looking for trouble? Do you have to suck it up and dig for leads in town?

I would lean toward the last option. Always have a lead before you leave town. Players shouldn’t get freebies. That said, if they have no other choice but to leave town before getting a chance at a lead, then you can rely on the Leaving Town random table to inspire a little side adventure. But as I GM I might make that adventure have a high harshness to reward ratio. The good, high reward, adventures should require some digging. You have to spend money to make money.

One thing that’s quite missing from Torchbearer is wilderness encounters. I think there’s some sweet stuff you can do with that. Take the Ob of the Pathfinder test (essentially, the longer the distance, the more chance of random encounter) and roll a d6. Set up the gradient how you like it: For example, with an Ob 3 Pathfinder test, they could encounter a something on a 1-3.

Make up tables of really interesting encounters, one for each type of Wilderness (roads, mountains, swamps, forests, plains, etc).

What’s cool is that you can seed these random encounter tables with leads or even adventuring locations themselves! So the players could randomly happen upon one. Not to mention chances of loot (but not too much since the adventuring locations should be the real deal).

This is hardly an original idea, but the mechanical heft of this sort of thing happening in Torchbearer makes it cool from a new perspective.

Pyske nailed this idea in this thread: http://www.burningwheel.org/forum/showthread.php?13713-Neverglades-Manor&p=136030#post136030

I missed that thread, good stuff. Still, you aren’t making a Pathfinder test unless you have a destination :slight_smile:

Fuseboy’s asking this question because in our game, we raided a ruin, found as much treasure as we could haul back immediately, and also ran into some other looters. We ran the other looters off, grabbed the treasure, and went home, then returned to complete the exploration and looting. We discovered the party that we chased away came back first, and looted the rest of the ruin, including the single lead that had been rolled. We found a few minor elvish swords and a spell, but no cash, and we didn’t particularly want to go back to town yet, so we followed up something else we discovered, but since it had been rolled up as an Omen and not as a Lead, the GM hadn’t prepared the location (not the GM’s fault, he hadn’t realized we might grab onto a piece of colour and follow it), and we ended up having to return home for a lack of leads, which we (the players) found deeply annoying.

Well… now that the GM has had time he might flesh out that omen a bit more and make an adventure out of it. And going to the Inn to listen for Rumors is only +1 lifestyle. If you’ve already adventured you should have at least Resources 1 by now, and if you head to someone’s hometown it will be easier to afford digging up those clues.

Yeah. The big problem is this happened over three sessions. The third session began with us realizing that the ruin we were investigating was empty. So we had nothing to do unless we went back to town.

Ooo, yeah, that sucks. Did you try following the trail of the other group?

From a GM perspective I might have either planned an new encounter to act as a lead at the site, or plan some other adventures and wait for the party to get clues in town. From a Player perspective I would head back to town discouraged knowing that now I’m broke and need to look for leads, might mean sleeping in the street to pay for the ale to hear a tale. But then that’s the life of a murder hobo for you.

Head back to town and hang out looking for work and/or rumors. Also: wandering around looking for trouble may get you loot but less and worse loot than from a planned encounter.

Months had passed, so there wasn’t a trail to follow, really.

Jared: But we had few conditions and no cash. We did not WANT to go back to town. It wasn’t an interesting choice for us - unfortunately, we had no choice. We did not want to engage with that chunk of time and resource consuming mechanics for the sole purpose of finding a place we could go to, but there weren’t any other real options, and we found that irritating.

It doesn’t have to be a huge chunk of time if you aren’t really refilling. Just “visit” town. Make it quick. You don’t need to haggle, so cross that off. So it’s basically:

Get to town with Pathfinder or a map
Roll Entering Town Event
Anyone Sleeping on the Streets? Resolve that if needed.
Get a Rumor or Job.
Optionally research it.
Everyone make a quick Ob 1 or 2 (or 0) lifestyle test.
Roll for Leaving Town event.

It could be 20 minutes or less if you aren’t worried about buying and selling, playing, guilds, and all that other town stuff.

I’m not trying to be a dick but I’m very confused as to why the lead went missing instead of being altered to suit the situation. The lead ought to have changed from the original idea into finding the looters and their little hideout/fortress/whatever. So let’s say it was a treasure map initially. Just change it to being something one of the looters dropped – a coin only minted in a certain place or for a certain reason (trade interactions with Dwarves, say), or last heard about as having been mined in X area (now you’ve got a mine to potentially explore, and the looters have been holed up there for a while); or a set of orders that contain information about looting where you were and ensuring it’s delivered to X at Y locale by Z date, signed by so-and-so (someone’s enemy works nicely here).

Anyhoo, that’s my take on it. That said, episodic gaming (if that’s more your group’s style?) doesn’t require links between adventures. In that case, you’d have to go digging.

I would have gone back to town and kicked it until we were all fresh.

Sometimes leads dry up. Sometimes you have to get a job. Such is our lot in life.

In life, yeah. But I’m less than thrilled that we needed to do that to get to the next screen in a game. I don’t mind going back to town and running through those mechanics to get more leads if that’s a choice that provides benefits. I’m not so keen on it as a requirement - we don’t game very often, so our time is limited, and I think we would have preferred to spend it on more adventures than going back to town prematurely.

But I think that’s enough said about it. In general, I’m really pleased with the way the town mechanics have been streamlined. This was just a weird fringe event. Next time, I’m sure we’ll suck it up and head home.

That is a nice thought, but not one I had while running the adventure. I was trying to play it as I wrote it, in order to learn about adventure design, and the only treasure lead was the journal of the chief of the wererat tomb raiders, which, with no pressure from the party (who knew they were there), got away with the remaining loot and all of his personally owned gear. Part of the reason is that, because of map teleportation, the party is going to the best town, a month-and-a-half round trip, instead of the nearest town, a fortnight’s round trip.

The player fixation on the omen surprised me, as it is meant to be something they can research to have a lead when the time is right (there is time-sensitive language in it); I had failed to anticipate that they would make a geographical search, and had no wilderness adventure worked up.

I must say that this was an issue that really surprised me, as I had thought the working of leads into the resources system was one of the cleverer parts of Torchbearer: players can always search for or get more information about leads as part of their town activities, which put them in control of preparation, while still limiting it to adventures that I have designed and prepared. My players were really not willing to risk their resources for a lead, though (even though, with free maintenance, they all would have likely passed). Since leads are a resource to be managed, I didn’t really feel like it was fair to give them one for free, though they interpreted that as not fun.

I think I might see the problem…

Tax in TB feels awful.

In BW you can Get a Job and hand-wave the tax away with a test, some narrative, and in-game time. It might launch you into another adventure or situation, but it doesn’t feel permanent. With D&D every gold piece you get you expect to keep forever unless you specifically purchase an expendable item or experience a TPK or perma-death. With almost every mmo or computer rpg neither death nor jail time can separate you from your filthy lucre. You always get it back. As role-players we are trained to feel like our rewards, both experience and cash/gear, are permanent.

The problem is expectations.

The motto of Torchbearer is this: Easy come easy go. Until you embrace what that means and how it informs character, circumstance, story, and theme… yeah, town will be scary. You need to learn to stop worrying and enjoy crawling in the mud as a miserable wretch of a murder hobo!

I think it was just a funny confluence of events and miscommunications.

As has been said, we were crawling back from a dungeon that had been (mostly) pillaged in our absence - that was our fault, and as larkvi pointed out, we’ve been using map teleportation to our advantage. This is one downside: leaving the dungeon alone while known plunderers are camped out at the entrance is going to have predictable results.

The other thing was the amusing push-pull thing that happened with the omen. Initially, larkvi had seemed dismayed when he’d rolled up “omen” as a leaving town event, back in session 2. He came up with something, however, but I remember feeling a bit meta-gamey about it, feeling that between its random origin and larkvi’s body language, it was mostly worth a mental note but that we should focus on the dungeon we had.

At the start of next session, larkvi had prepared this gorgeous handout of the omen-stone’s runes, both in a funky runic font and translated as a poem he’d written. Woah! With this in our pockets, we headed off to the soon-to-be-discovered-empty dungeon. When we emerged from there unchallenged and still with plenty of light and food, we had no interest in going back to town.

And yes, jovialbard, I think you’re right on the money. We’re dead broke, but we can a) survive pretty handily in the wilderness on skills, judging by our experiences so far, and b) we’re nursing our precious gains in our Resources. We didn’t want to risk slipping back!

I suspect at this point we got a bit bull-headed, determined to make something of the omen, since it was our only lead (in the informal sense), and fairly tantalizing at that. We weren’t going to be put off by the GM’s protestations that “it wasn’t a lead.” and railroaded into a spurious town phase. Bah!

Definitely an interesting case study. I guess the only option is to make stuff up on the fly at that point. The players do have some agency, and if they try to do something you can always have them test, if they succeed honor their intentions. If they fail, they get a twist, and that twist could potentially be a hook for another adventure, just probably one they get thrust into instead of approaching with intention and preparedness.

eta: I realize I might be getting off topic now and the OP has probably been addressed by this point, so feel free to disregard my musings.