Am I the only one loving Torchbearer?


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We've been playing a lot of it lately. There are still a number of Pathfinder campaigns running, but to be honest, sometimes you need a break from... I want to say the complexity, but it's more like the assumptions baked into the game.

If you're looking for the total opposite of the Pathfinder experience, Torchbearer is about as different as you can get. It's still complex, but the complexity derives more from the interactions of the various rules than from the sheer volume of abilities and exceptions.

Character creation is super light. The emphasis is on roleplaying and motivations to differentiate your character. You can't play "character sheet solitaire" with this game; once you've spent your 15 minutes making the character, there's nothing left to do but play (and play well) if you want to improve. Being a unique superhero is not the point -- your character will be defined by what they do in play, not what they can do after character creation.

It handles large groups incredibly well. All the players can remain engaged even when it isn't their turn, because they still need to describe their actions to provide helping dice. I have never run an 8 person party with such ease -- nor with such entertaining results.

Combat is not the default solution to all problems, in fact it is vastly suboptimal for character accomplishment -- and the rules exist to support non-combat encounters at the same level as combat! But the combat that IS there is dynamic, mapless, dramatic, and fast paced.

The pace of exploration is fast and role-playing focused. You CAN roll to accomplish things, but it consumes resources so it is wise to avoid rolling by describing your actions thoroughly and obviating rolls. This is much the opposite of Pathfinder, where you worked so hard to make your character good at things you are itching to roll dice to resolve obstacles.

GM prep is minimal and meaningful. I ran a session last Sunday where I only had: the leaving-town generated plot hook from the previous week, a lizardman statblock (and Torchbearer statblocks are lean), and a half-remembered encounter site from the Kingmaker adventure path. It was incredibly fun, and by all accounts the player experience felt very polished!

Don't mistake me: I love many things about Pathfinder, but it is not the RPG to end all RPGs for me. When I need a break from its peculiar mindset, Torchbearer's the game.

Now, I didn't start this thread to proselytize. I'm honestly curious if anyone else is playing this game, or interested in discussing the mechanics, or even just telling stories about your play experiences.

Is anyone else rocking this game?


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Can't say I've even ever heard of Torchbearer.

Scarab Sages

I've heard of it, but never checked it out. I've been eyeing Dungeon World with interest, but now you've got me curious about Torchbearer. Does it mainly do traditional dunegon-crawl, elves and wizards fantasy, or would it hold up well to stuff like Eberron or Planescape?


I would say it's a very different approach to the same classic dungeon-crawling material.

If you're comfortable hacking your own material into character creation, it could make a particularly great system for Planescape. As written it reads kind of like the Planescape perspective on "prime" adventurers being greedy, dangerous thugs. But it does support the idea of conflicts that are not combat being used to negotiate encounters with beings vastly more powerful than yourself -- another Planescape theme. In that respect, it might be a better system for Planescape than D&D ever was. If you want to capture the feeling of "little fish making due in a big pond" this could definitely work.

Eberron I'm less familiar with it, but Torchbearer isn't really set up for ubiquitous magic. You could make it work, but scarcity of basic resources is a major theme of the system, so you'd need to find a similar aspect of Eberron to latch onto. It's not something I imagine jiving well with the dungeonpunk feel.

But, as written, it is best for a jokey, almost parody take on the dungeon crawl tropes. At the same time, it's feels more gritty and "realistic" because of the way inventory has been handled. Inventory is an entertaining minigame that lends itself to roleplay.

I've often heard that Dungeon World and Torchbearer are two games approaching the same subject matter from completely different angles. The Torchbearer angle is: what would these dungeon-crawl adventurers actually be like? Greedy, hungry, ill-tempered, murderous... let's make that fodder for roleplaying, and make a lot of rules that feed into that. Dungeonworld, as I understand it (not much) is about capturing the feel of playing the game back in the day. Also cool.

Scarab Sages

Mythic Evil Lincoln wrote:

I would say it's a very different approach to the same classic dungeon-crawling material.

If you're comfortable hacking your own material into character creation, it could make a particularly great system for Planescape. As written it reads kind of like the Planescape perspective on "prime" adventurers being greedy, dangerous thugs. But it does support the idea of conflicts that are not combat being used to negotiate encounters with beings vastly more powerful than yourself -- another Planescape theme. In that respect, it might be a better system for Planescape than D&D ever was. If you want to capture the feeling of "little fish making due in a big pond" this could definitely work.

Eberron I'm less familiar with it, but Torchbearer isn't really set up for ubiquitous magic. You could make it work, but scarcity of basic resources is a major theme of the system, so you'd need to find a similar aspect of Eberron to latch onto. It's not something I imagine jiving well with the dungeonpunk feel.

But, as written, it is best for a jokey, almost parody take on the dungeon crawl tropes. At the same time, it's feels more gritty and "realistic" because of the way inventory has been handled. Inventory is an entertaining minigame that lends itself to roleplay.

I've often heard that Dungeon World and Torchbearer are two games approaching the same subject matter from completely different angles. The Torchbearer angle is: what would these dungeon-crawl adventurers actually be like? Greedy, hungry, ill-tempered, murderous... let's make that fodder for roleplaying, and make a lot of rules that feed into that. Dungeonworld, as I understand it (not much) is about capturing the feel of playing the game back in the day. Also cool.

Yeah, to my understanding, Dungeon World embraces the "designated hero/protagonist" element. "Be a fan of the PCs" is one of the primary rules of GMing DW. But the old-school is also there, in the form of race-locked classes (only humans can be Paladins, Elves can't be Clerics, etc), heavy emphasis on the "classic" classes, races, spells, monsters, etc

Liberty's Edge

We have been playing a campaign since it came out. Great game. Works well for 'some' of the classic D&D adventures, Ravenloft (I6) has a whole new level or terror under the Torchbearer rules. Scared and hungry and without light in the lair of a vampire, hmmmmm, you do the math :)

My Paladin is about to hit Level 3 - of course leveling means almost nothing in Torchbearer. More an indication that you have survived rather than you are achieving greatness.

Works really well across Skype (the way we play), combat is all theater of the mind.

After playing torchbearer you will never look at a full waterskin on you characters sheets without breathing a sigh of relief.

S.


Stefan Hill wrote:

We have been playing a campaign since it came out. Great game. Works well for 'some' of the classic D&D adventures, Ravenloft (I6) has a whole new level or terror under the Torchbearer rules. Scared and hungry and without light in the lair of a vampire, hmmmmm, you do the math :)

My Paladin is about to hit Level 3 - of course leveling means almost nothing in Torchbearer. More an indication that you have survived rather than you are achieving greatness.

Works really well across Skype (the way we play), combat is all theater of the mind.

After playing torchbearer you will never look at a full waterskin on you characters sheets without breathing a sigh of relief.

Huzzah!

How did you handle vampires? There was a forum thread on the BW site about having them drain Nature -- I thought that was a very cool idea.

Leveling is much less important in TB, except maybe to Magicians, Clerics, and Elf Rangers. Spells are GREAT, but few.

I've been doing a "fleshed out" version of Keep on the Borderlands -- trying to make sense of what I consider to be one of the most pointless, grindey adventures I've ever read. The result reads like The Venture Bros. in dungeoneering form. We have a lot of fun playing with the tropes; the keep's denizens are almost like miners in their regulated delves of the caves of chaos. The Shrine to Evil Chaos is now the home of the Reform Church of Evil Incarnate -- a very appealing alternative to the ultra-lawful Keep for the Chaotic characters.

The huge number of races living in close proximity makes for a far better adventure when you have non-combat options. The "Trick" conflict has been used to great effect in order to play one rampaging horde off of another.

I play via internet about half the time, and live groups the other half. We have a Roll20 campaign that I've scanned the conflict cards into, plus it has a map of the Keep done up like the map of town in the rulebook. It's hardly necessary for a "Theatre of the Mind" type game, but I do like my bells and whistles.

Perhaps we can do a session some time? I can't seem to get my fill of this game.


Stefan Hill wrote:
After playing torchbearer you will never look at a full waterskin on you characters sheets without breathing a sigh of relief.

This is very true. I think comments like this from Torchbearer players lead a lot of people to think that it is very simulationist with a heavy emphasis on bookkeeping, and that's not exactly true.

The way they've managed to make a game out of gear and resource management is so refreshing. My players have begun to revel in aspects of the game they've always previously resented. What they did right was to replace weight and math with slots and utility. The thing to remember is that this is definitely a Role-playing focused rule set, and they've turned things like encumbrance into fodder for role-playing. It's pretty fine tuned to strip out all the other work (adding up weights and such).

But the most shocking part for me was after running a 5-hour session with 8 players, they DEMANDED that I run a Town Phase so they could sell all their loot (they got lucky that time). They proceeded to spend another 90 minutes trying to cash in their loot, and it turned out to be as much fun as the big battle with the minotaur. I've never seen that happen in any system before!


Just picked up Torchbearer, being a huge fan of Mouse Guard and the Burning Wheel/Burning Empires.

I think if you come from the non-Burning X perspective, you might not feel as much about the Belief/Instinct/Goal backbone (along with the Nature stat). That's my favorite bit from the Mouse Guard & Burning Wheel.

It might be a bit easier to set those aside in Torchbearer as compared to Mouse Guard, but character advancement also rides on you being able to drive conflict through your stated Beliefs and Instincts.

And I must say, the look and feel of the actual book is wonderful. Such a great homage to the 1e AD&D tomes of yesteryear. I love the cheesy graphics, the way the pages are laid out, the inclusion of random tables (not a standard Burning X thing at all).

It's a truly retro-modern mashup. I've never thought of the Burning Wheel ruleset as "simulationist", though. (D20 was always one of the more simulationist kinds of games, in my mind, with Burning Wheel more based on intentions (and complications) rather than a strict interpretation of probability and reality.)

If someone were to set up a Play-by-Post on this board, I would be happy to join. I'm just not deep enough into the rules to be able to run it anywhere close to fluently at this point in time.


Face_P0lluti0n wrote:
I've heard of it, but never checked it out. I've been eyeing Dungeon World with interest, but now you've got me curious about Torchbearer. Does it mainly do traditional dunegon-crawl, elves and wizards fantasy, or would it hold up well to stuff like Eberron or Planescape?

It's cleanly focused on the dungeon-crawl. You can make an Eberron-themed dungeon, or a Planescape-themed dungeon, but it's still about the classic AD&D experience.

It depends on what you mean by "Eberron" or "Planescape", of course.

The general concept is: characters must go out into the wild, test themselves, and come back again. This was true of Mouse Guard, and is the basic underpinning of Torchbearer.

Torchbearer characters are "murder hobos" in one sense (i.e. the socially disconnected wandering adventurer who has nothing else to offer the world except for a certain kind of violence). In another sense, their individual Goal and Belief and Instinct are what drives them. Certainly, rules-wise, it's the Goals & Beliefs & Instincts that allow you to advance your character.

Let's take a character's Goal as an example. Goal is a neat holdover from the Mouse Guard rules. It's the "agenda" of the character. To quote Mouse Guard, "It's not what you fight, it's what you fight for" that matters. So, a Goal may be, "I will rescue the Princess from the Mad Overlord." Or, "I must retrieve the Dwarven Heartstone to save my Clan." Or, "I will not allow the Goblins to overrun the village."

If your Goal gets tested, or if you succeed, then you get points to advance your character. If the Goal never is tested, then you don't learn, and your character's growth (level) is stunted.

This kind of Goal is not a traditional part of a character from the old 1e AD&D days. It's not even an "Eberron" or "Planescape" thing. It's just different, and doesn't fit cleanly into D&D concepts.


I take it Torchbearer works off of the Burning Wheel rules?

The Exchange

Irnk, Dead-Eye's Prodigal wrote:
I take it Torchbearer works off of the Burning Wheel rules?

Yes, but with a lot stripped out.

For one, the skill-list has been cut down and focused specifically for old-school dungeon-crawling. Secondly, wises have been separated from other skills: wises now act more like skill-boosters than separate skills of their own (For an example, because my Elf Ranger is orc-wise, he can use that to get a bonus on skill checks to track orcs.).

Unlike Burning Wheel, which has separate subsystems for different types of conflict, Torchbearer has a single system for modeling conflict. It's sort of like a version of Duel of Wits adapted for group-play (instead of individual characters taking actions during the round, the group leader divides the group's actions in the volley to the members of the group), so the point is that each side has their own pool of "conflict hit points" and each side tries to reduce the other side's pool to 0 before theirs runs out. The same system is used for all conflicts, what changes depending on the type of conflict is which skills are used for which action.

As far as the genre goes, whereas Dungeon World is more of an anything goes D&D kitchen sink, Torchbearer is clearly more inspired by stuff like old-school D&D and Tolkien. Dungeon World is very much about adventure in a fantastical world (sometimes featuring dungeons) whereas Torchbearer is almost Roguelike-like in its focus on resource management, hunger, and desperation.

If you want a neat indie game for exploring a weird fantasy world while also allowing for some narrative input on the players' part, go with Dungeon World. If you want a more mechanical dungeon-crawler with a really tight focus on resource management, go with Torchbearer.


Huh. Sounds a lot like Luke took what he did for Mouse Guard and adapted it for a High Fantasy setting. Nice. I will definitely have to take a look then.

The Exchange

Irnk, Dead-Eye's Prodigal wrote:
Huh. Sounds a lot like Luke took what he did for Mouse Guard and adapted it for a High Fantasy setting. Nice. I will definitely have to take a look then.

Actually, you're right. Torchbearer is much closer kin to Mouse Guard than it is to Burning Wheel. Basically it's D&D fantasy by way of Mouse Guard, all the way down to the fact that it has a very clear order of play with different phases. Also, I love how he adapted Nature from Mouse Guard into a D&D-like setting.

One of my favorite touches in Torchbearer is the character creation system: to determine your Nature stat, you get a bunch of questions that either modify your Nature or alter your Traits. For some strange reason it evokes memories of the old Ultima games, where you would create your character by answering a questionnaire of sorts. One of my favorites was for Humans: when the elves and dwarves voice their concerns, do you demand to be heard as an equal or defer to their wisdom as your elders? If you demand to be heard you increase your Nature by one, but reduce Lore Master or Scholar by one.


Irnk, Dead-Eye's Prodigal wrote:
Huh. Sounds a lot like Luke took what he did for Mouse Guard and adapted it for a High Fantasy setting. Nice. I will definitely have to take a look then.

Actually, it's Thor's book. I thought it was Luke, myself, but the primary credits go to Thor for this one.

In any case, it's a mod of Mouse Guard. As stated, the Nature stuff is great. And Monsters also work off the Nature (Monster-type) stat, plus the "Might" stat being a mod of the Natural Order scale in Mouse Guard... another great rule in Mouse Guard that is ported over in a smart way for Torchguard.

Plus, you have Nature (Human) now, unlike Burning Wheel where you only have Grief & Greed (both of which get sorta copied over with Nature (Elf) and Nature (Dwarf) in Torchbearer). Nature (Human) is Boasting, Demanding, and Running... fun roleplaying stuff there, to be sure.

If you like Mouse Guard, and you like dungeon crawling, then it's a no-brainer purchase. You must buy it.


bref_weapon wrote:
Irnk, Dead-Eye's Prodigal wrote:
Huh. Sounds a lot like Luke took what he did for Mouse Guard and adapted it for a High Fantasy setting. Nice. I will definitely have to take a look then.

Actually, it's Thor's book. I thought it was Luke, myself, but the primary credits go to Thor for this one.

In any case, it's a mod of Mouse Guard. As stated, the Nature stuff is great. And Monsters also work off the Nature (Monster-type) stat, plus the "Might" stat being a mod of the Natural Order scale in Mouse Guard... another great rule in Mouse Guard that is ported over in a smart way for Torchguard.

Plus, you have Nature (Human) now, unlike Burning Wheel where you only have Grief & Greed (both of which get sorta copied over with Nature (Elf) and Nature (Dwarf) in Torchbearer). Nature (Human) is Boasting, Demanding, and Running... fun roleplaying stuff there, to be sure.

If you like Mouse Guard, and you like dungeon crawling, then it's a no-brainer purchase. You must buy it.

So Nature (Human) has nothing in it about Faith? That was the Human counterpart to Grief, Greed & Hatred, at least in my copy of Revised. Granted, you had to pick it up as a trait, unlike the other races.

Either way, it definitely sounds as though I will want to pick this up as soon as I am able...
I looked on the Burning Wheel Wiki and they don't seem to have any support for Torchbearer there, is Thor supporting it online elsewhere?


Irnk, Dead-Eye's Prodigal wrote:

So Nature (Human) has nothing in it about Faith? That was the Human counterpart to Grief, Greed & Hatred, at least in my copy of Revised. Granted, you had to pick it up as a trait, unlike the other races.

Either way, it definitely sounds as though I will want to pick this up as soon as I am able...
I looked on the Burning Wheel Wiki and they don't seem to have any support for Torchbearer there, is Thor supporting it online elsewhere?

Yeah, Faith is not part of Nature (Human).

There's no theme/story questions about Faith at character creation like there is about Nature, Circles, etc (unlike BW).

Instead of Faith, divine powers run through a skill - Ritualist, which is the Cleric's equivalent to the Magician's Arcanist skill.

Oh, there is also ALIGNMENT. As in Red Box - Law, Chaos, and Fence-Sitter (I think Thor might say, "Neutral", but Neutral is for wimps. Especially on the Burning Wheel!). For the Cleric, there are some benefits for going with Divine abilities that are in accordance with your Alignment.

As for resources, Thor or Luke set up a blog-style web site here...
http://www.torchbearerrpg.com/?m=201304

There are links to PDFs, some of which actually work.

The Burning Wheel store has free PDFs as well, including a couple new classes - the Human Paladin & the Human Thief (the base game's "thief" is the Halfling Burglar, of course).
http://www.burningwheel.com/store/index.php/torchbearer.html

And, because we're on Paizo's fine site, here is the link to the main Torchbearer book in the Paizo store:
http://paizo.com/products/btpy93dg?Burning-Wheel-Torchbearer


Thanks! I had already seen what I wanted on Paizo's site, but thanks for the additional links.


I personally find Burning Wheel to be completely unplayable. It's got a ton of good ideas, but also a lot of unnecessary paperwork. (And not a small amount of off-putting design hubris, IMO)

Mouse Guard took my favorite parts of that ruleset and turned them into something actually playable. Especially skill advancement and the conflict rules. Duel of Wits was the only conflict type we ever enjoyed in BW, so the fact that they effectively generalized it to work for all conflict types was very welcome. Skill advancement in Burning Wheel was needlessly complex, but I can see that the intention was to induce players to take risks and fail rolls. Mouse Guard achieves that aim with a lot less table referencing.

Torchbearer takes Mouse Guard and adds a level of grit and violence that I find particularly compelling. It's also crunchier than Mouse Guard in a lot of ways, especially the rules for battle, which are much more tactical and specific than Mouse Guard was.

I would recommend Torchbearer even to people who didn't dig Burning Wheel. It's a different game that salvages many of the best ideas from Burning Wheel, but it's a lot less confusing to learn and it actually works straight out of the box.


Ratpick wrote:
If you want a neat indie game for exploring a weird fantasy world while also allowing for some narrative input on the players' part, go with Dungeon World. If you want a more mechanical dungeon-crawler with a really tight focus on resource management, go with Torchbearer.

Agreed! But, I cannot emphasize this enough: when we say "resource management" we are talking about an innovative and cool way of handling resources. I've never seen a game do it this well.

My group is the kind of group that has always hated counting up weight for encumbrance, or managing any kind of equipment and rations in most games. But the way it's done in Torchbearer, we can't get enough of it!

The Exchange

Mythic Evil Lincoln wrote:
Ratpick wrote:
If you want a neat indie game for exploring a weird fantasy world while also allowing for some narrative input on the players' part, go with Dungeon World. If you want a more mechanical dungeon-crawler with a really tight focus on resource management, go with Torchbearer.

Agreed! But, I cannot emphasize this enough: when we say "resource management" we are talking about an innovative and cool way of handling resources. I've never seen a game do it this well.

My group is the kind of group that has always hated counting up weight for encumbrance, or managing any kind of equipment and rations in most games. But the way it's done in Torchbearer, we can't get enough of it!

This man speaks the truth. It's not just tracking how many arrows your character is carrying or how much your armor weighs, but the game adds an entire emotional element to its resource management. If you don't eat for long enough, you get hungry (and being hungry is actually a mechanical thing in this game), if you go too long without eating when you're hungry you get angry (which, funnily enough, also carries a minor benefit with it). It's this combination of managing physical resources and your character's mental/physical state that makes the game's resource management mini-game so compelling.


Mythic Evil Lincoln wrote:
I personally find Burning Wheel to be completely unplayable. It's got a ton of good ideas, but also a lot of unnecessary paperwork. (And not a small amount of off-putting design hubris, IMO)

Luke's writing is, well, different. (It's certainly dialed back in Mouse Guard, and Thor seems to be the prime mover in Torchbearer.) BW is not for everyone, at least in part because of Luke's author voice.

It has a lot of attitude, though, and it works in a way that other games do not. The Burning Wheel is about that kind of attitude, a kind of Hubris. Players in BW cannot sit back and wait for something to interest them. Everything has to challenge the Beliefs & Instincts, otherwise you've failed. It's all about finding a way to seize the spotlight, seize the moments when decisions need to be made.

I think the critical thing with BW is that you only use the Spokes that you feel like. If you think about the entire set of rules (which are considerable), then it's unworkable. Starting at the Hub (say yes or roll dice, TEST FOR INTENT, roll once, and let it go), and then moving into the Spokes that make sense for what you do... that's how it should work.

This is also why Mouse Guard & Torchbearer make so much more sense. It's not as smash-head-into-a-rock dense like BW's drive towards player-story conflict.

Yes, Torchbearer is laser focused on a kind of game, but it's not as Luke-y as BW is, and full-on Luke Crane is not for everyone.


Any stories of gameplay from the other Torchbearer lovers?


Word up: There's talk in my group about playing Planescape in Torchbearer now.

One of my earliest ideas is to replace "Hometown" in character creation with "Faction.

I'll circle back here with any further developments.


Interesting. I've asked my FNGS to order me a copy, My wallet does not aprove, and it should come in in a couple weeks. I will post my opinions after reading.


Mythic Evil Lincoln wrote:

Word up: There's talk in my group about playing Planescape in Torchbearer now.

One of my earliest ideas is to replace "Hometown" in character creation with "Faction.

I'll circle back here with any further developments.

Sounds like a superb idea for porting the setting over.

As long as you can conceptualize the "dungeon" in Torchbearer as simply the hostile place where you kill* them and take their stuff, then I think that any setting shouldn't be too alien. (* Replacing "kill" with any of the Torchbearer conflict types, although phat lewtz is still essential to the experience)

The other odd thing is the Red Box style of race-class in Torchbearer, and how that fits with the races in Planescape will be something of a challenge. How close to 2e AD&D you want to put it, that will be an interesting choice as well.


Actually, one of the challenges I've had with really capturing the Planescape feel is that the setting is really dependent on a lot of D&D baggage to serve as counterpoint.

Doing it in other systems like Fudge or Fate never felt entirely authentic, and even D&D 3.5/PF got a little too far from the mechanical assumptions inherent in the setting.

Planescape is a setting that, at times, breaks the fourth wall and looks at the RPG system and comments on what would logically result.

Torchbearer has a lot in common there. What's missing is the higher levels, the ones which in AD&D meant primes were venturing out into the planes. Having that backdrop would make Torchbearer an extremely natural fit.


I just had a TPK, more or less, in my usual Torchbearer game.

The players were on route to the Hobgoblin caves in order to follow through on the plot hook. On the way, they ran into a trio of goblins who taken position near a giant ogre footprint in the mud. They interrogated the players, making it clear that they had enlisted the ogre "Junior" to protect them. They had no problem with the PCs heading to the Hobgoblin caves and allowed them to pass without summoning Junior. Except...

One of the players decided to shoot the lead goblin in the face. (He has an instinct "Shoot Monsters". Very creative.)

The remaining goblins flee, and blow horns to summon Junior. (If he had succeeded a Fighter roll, I would have left no survivors. He failed.) At this point, I give the players no fewer than three chances to flee, as I intend to treat Junior (Might 5 Nature 10) as an environmental hazard.

Two of the party members (the rogue and the assassin) wisely decided to move on and stay focused on the mission.

The remaining five PCs thought they had the numbers to take on the ogre. The ogre started hurling boulders at the cliff face above them, and triggered a landslide (this was an overwhelming success on a Maneuver roll). Through decent action choices and much spending of fate/persona, the players managed to get the Ogre down to just short of half HP before his action pattern (Attack! Attack! Attack!) completely crushed them in two actions. (High Might is scary).

On the second round the players used a maneuver to scramble into an alcove where the ogre couldn't reach them. They intended to play a Defend and get some HP back, but fell victim to the Ogre's Feint, as he crushed them to death by caving in the alcove with another boulder.

The two players who got knocked out in the earlier round survived as part of the compromise, but they were both injured and afraid. They did managed to rejoin the wise PCs who split off earlier (after said PCs secretly robbed their unconscious bodies).

Another of the four survivors died in the same session to a trap which dropped a barrel of oil on him.

This all went over really well, because my players knew exactly what they were getting into with the Ogre. It was a fun massacre!


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Mythic Evil Lincoln wrote:
It was a fun massacre!

Well; that's something you don't hear everyday...

Grand Lodge

Mythic Evil Lincoln wrote:
I personally find Burning Wheel to be completely unplayable. It's got a ton of good ideas, but also a lot of unnecessary paperwork. (And not a small amount of off-putting design hubris, IMO)

Beautiful damn book tho.


TriOmegaZero wrote:
Beautiful damn book tho.

Their production values have always been great, and Torchbearer is no different. The main book is something you have to see to understand.

I do notice that the peripheral products for Torchbearer (the GM screen and Player Decks) are also very well-made, but have suspiciously bad design decisions. For example, the Player Decks have illustrations that actually cover over the important rules info on the cards. This was reportedly deliberate, as they expect you will already know the interactions after a few games... but frankly I just disagree with this approach. All my friends were a little disappointed with that.


Mythic Evil Lincoln wrote:
(High Might is scary).

Well yeah, if it corresponds to the Natural Order scale in Mouse Guard. Sounds like they tried something equivalent to a Patrol of Mice, maybe a double patrol, trying to take on a Bear! That's just stupid.

Mythic Evil Lincoln wrote:
For example, the Player Decks have illustrations that actually cover over the important rules info on the cards.

How similar are the Maneuvers mechanically to those in Mouse Guard? I picked up the Boxed set for my birthday & it comes with a couple sets of maneuver cards. It sounds as though I might want to use those instead.


Irnk, Dead-Eye's Prodigal wrote:
Mythic Evil Lincoln wrote:
(High Might is scary).
Well yeah, if it corresponds to the Natural Order scale in Mouse Guard. Sounds like they tried something equivalent to a Patrol of Mice, maybe a double patrol, trying to take on a Bear! That's just stupid.

You have it exactly, it is the same as the Natural Order scale, for the most part. I think there are a few tweaks to account for the new sadism of Torchbearer, but it's the same thing in principle. Might 5 would be equivalent to seven guardmice taking on an Owl (a tough one! Nature 10), actually. Without any preparation.

They knew they were being stupid, that's why several of them chose to split the party. They got lucky against a minotaur a few games ago and I think they were hoping to repeat that unlikely success.

Those who fled survived, and now all is as it should be.

Irnk, Dead-Eye's Prodigal wrote:
Mythic Evil Lincoln wrote:
For example, the Player Decks have illustrations that actually cover over the important rules info on the cards.
How similar are the Maneuvers mechanically to those in Mouse Guard? I picked up the Boxed set for my birthday & it comes with a couple sets of maneuver cards. It sounds as though I might want to use those instead.

Yes, conflicts work using the same four actions as Mouse Guard. The major difference is that in Torchbearer, you actually split up each team's disposition among the members, and they become "Hit Points". Armor and helmets are used to soak up extra damage, and there are rules governing boss monsters and the like (which can sacrifice underlings to take damage that should have gone to them.)

Torchbearer is Advanced Mouse Guard with a grittier setting. You can use your cards and dice from Mouse Guard without issue -- but you'll need a few numbered D6s on hand for tables and armor rolls. There are a few more conditions too, and some have been altered to work with the new mechanics, so your condition cards will be limited in usefulness.

Most of the TB Player's Deck cards are fine. I'm not a huge fan of the Condition cards, but they're usable at least. The weapon, armor, and lighting cards are great! It's only the conflict action cards that are a little annoying because of the way they formatted them, and Mouse Guard cards will function perfectly well as a replacement.


Well, I finally picked up my copy from my FNGS. I haven't had the opportunity to thoroughly peruse it yet, but one of my regular gaming friends also has a copy, so the odds of actually playing a session or three have increased significantly. Being the complete geek I am, I also downloaded all the free PDF's for it from the Burning Wheel site. I am reminded of many of the things I liked about Mouse Guard & Burning Wheel already.

Almost tempted to try starting up a PbP here... On the other hand, I was in a PbP here where we tried using Burning Wheel & some things just don't seem to translate nearly as well in that medium.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

When I want to get away from Pathfinder, it's not by switching to Pathfinder Ultralite, it's by getting to something that's completely different, such as Storyteller, Amber, or some other kind of RPG that's different, like Numenorea.


LazarX wrote:
When I want to get away from Pathfinder, it's not by switching to Pathfinder Ultralite, it's by getting to something that's completely different, such as Storyteller, Amber, or some other kind of RPG that's different, like Numenorea.

Well, Laz, I would say "Pathfinder Ultralite" is not an apt description of Torchbearer.

First of all, it's not really a "lite" ruleset. It has a lot of moving parts, it just places the emphasis on interaction, basic resource management, and different ways of solving/overcoming problems (where Pathfinder tends to offer one way: combat).

In fact, I'd say that the play experience of Numenorea is actually far closer to Pathfinder than is Torchbearer.

Liberty's Edge

Torchbearer is a game where you rapidly learn that trying to kill something has the horrible downside of the potential of you being killed. Now that may seem obvious, but after playing Torchbearer it has a whole new level of meaning. You better be darn sure you are going to win. Basically we work on the fact if it is bigger than a human and has pointy teeth a Flee or Drive-Off conflict is best :)

Liberty's Edge

Irnk, Dead-Eye's Prodigal wrote:

Well, I finally picked up my copy from my FNGS. I haven't had the opportunity to thoroughly peruse it yet, but one of my regular gaming friends also has a copy, so the odds of actually playing a session or three have increased significantly. Being the complete geek I am, I also downloaded all the free PDF's for it from the Burning Wheel site. I am reminded of many of the things I liked about Mouse Guard & Burning Wheel already.

Almost tempted to try starting up a PbP here... On the other hand, I was in a PbP here where we tried using Burning Wheel & some things just don't seem to translate nearly as well in that medium.

As I mentioned earlier, we play over Skype using a web based dice roller. Works perfectly and you loose none of the features of the game. Not saying PbP won't also work well of course.

S.

PS: As soon as we hit town I'm a 3rd Level Paladin!

The Exchange

I actually need to get a game of Torchbearer running. I recently burned out on Dungeon World (nothing wrong with the game, I've just been running it for ages and want something a bit more meaty) and I've had Torchbearer sitting on my desk for many months now. After running a game of Burning Wheel I realized that it was maybe a bit too involved given that I have precious elfgaming time as is, so Torchbearer looks like a nice halfway point.

Maybe I'll try to set up a game with my friends this weekend.


Let us know how it goes!


I picked up the PDF after reading this thread- this game seems awesome, I'm very curious to see how it works in play.


Oh hey, the Torchbearer RPG blog has levels 6-10 for the official classes!

We're definitely approaching the point where a Torchbearer-Planescape game makes sense. I can't wait!

I'll be very curious to see what's in the second book, considering how innovative the first one was.

Liberty's Edge

Mythic Evil Lincoln wrote:

Oh hey, the Torchbearer RPG blog has levels 6-10 for the official classes!

We're definitely approaching the point where a Torchbearer-Planescape game makes sense. I can't wait!

I'll be very curious to see what's in the second book, considering how innovative the first one was.

And under mods of the game they have release Aliens (TB). Very funny.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

When I'm in the mood to get away from Pathfinder/D20, I don't want to play another roleplaying game of the exact same dungeon crawl genre. I want to do things like Storyteller, Amber, or Dr. Who.


LazarX wrote:
When I'm in the mood to get away from Pathfinder/D20, I don't want to play another roleplaying game of the exact same dungeon crawl genre. I want to do things like Storyteller, Amber, or Dr. Who.

Fair enough. TB is a game for when you want a classic dungeon crawl feel, but you want the mechanics to support antics and drama. (All games can allow antics and drama, but few enough have mechanics that enhance it).

Anyway, the play experiences are so completely different that I consider them different genres of game, even though they're both "dungeon crawl" in a sense.

Torchbearer has a bigger focus on literally crawling through a dungeon.

If you're one of those people who looks at the first-level game in Pathfinder and wishes that there was more cause to use mundane gear, or make survival rolls -- and that low-level obstacles weren't obviated by low-level magic -- then Torchbearer's a good choice.


Mythic Evil Lincoln wrote:
LazarX wrote:
When I'm in the mood to get away from Pathfinder/D20, I don't want to play another roleplaying game of the exact same dungeon crawl genre. I want to do things like Storyteller, Amber, or Dr. Who.

Fair enough. TB is a game for when you want a classic dungeon crawl feel, but you want the mechanics to support antics and drama. (All games can allow antics and drama, but few enough have mechanics that enhance it).

Anyway, the play experiences are so completely different that I consider them different genres of game, even though they're both "dungeon crawl" in a sense.

Torchbearer has a bigger focus on literally crawling through a dungeon.

If you're one of those people who looks at the first-level game in Pathfinder and wishes that there was more cause to use mundane gear, or make survival rolls -- and that low-level obstacles weren't obviated by low-level magic -- then Torchbearer's a good choice.

I'm not familiar with the games mentioned as related to TB (Mouse Guard, Burning *). Are they taking a similar approach, but to less of a classic dungeon crawl setting?


thejeff wrote:
I'm not familiar with the games mentioned as related to TB (Mouse Guard, Burning *). Are they taking a similar approach, but to less of a classic dungeon crawl setting?

Yes and No.

Burning Wheel is the first game by the author (that I'm aware of) and it is basically a fantasy setting with a "literary" emphasis. He wanted it to feel like Middle-earth or Earthsea, and the rules all center around that.

A lot of the ideas in Burning Wheel are good, but it is very complex and not at all designed for readability. Most of the best ideas got boiled down and included in the subsequent games. Basically, the game does not hold your hand at all, and I think it suffers for its lack of approachability.

Burning Empires is the same thing, but with sci-fi and gorgeous art. Still nigh-unto unplayable, in my opinion.

Mouse Guard is a licensed RPG very loosely derived from Burning Wheel, based on a comic series by David Petersen that is really good. This is where the burning wheel games really come into their own. Because it was aimed at a broader audience, a lot of the rules are more streamlined, which results in a general improvement for the whole system.

The best example of the differences is advancement. All Burning Wheel games have skills advance by how many times you use them, and then place restrictions on how frequently you roll. Burning Wheel restricts rolling by outlining what's even worth rolling for -- then when you roll you consult a table to see which of three categories you earned against, and when you earn enough in all three categories you advance the skill. Sound complicated? It is. And I think I left out a whole step there.

In Mouse Guard, the same premise is there, but instead the amount of rolls is regulated by a simple currency called "checks" which are basically points awarded for role-playing. Whenever you roll a skill test, you log whether you passed or failed, and you need a certain amount of passes AND fails to advance. This is a much cleaner system that results in the same feel; you need to push yourself to advance, just passing isn't enough.

So, as far as I'm concerned, Burning Wheel is a brilliant mess. A game with good ideas that is not quite finished. Mouse Guard is a finished game that is both brilliant AND innovative, and I love it dearly.

Torchbearer descends from Mouse Guard, but adds a but more crunchiness to account for the dungeon crawl feel. But at core, it's the same game, just meaner. A whole lot meaner.


Mythic Evil Lincoln wrote:
thejeff wrote:
I'm not familiar with the games mentioned as related to TB (Mouse Guard, Burning *). Are they taking a similar approach, but to less of a classic dungeon crawl setting?

Yes and No.

Burning Wheel is the first game by the author (that I'm aware of) and it is basically a fantasy setting with a "literary" emphasis. He wanted it to feel like Middle-earth or Earthsea, and the rules all center around that.

A lot of the ideas in Burning Wheel are good, but it is very complex and not at all designed for readability. Most of the best ideas got boiled down and included in the subsequent games. Basically, the game does not hold your hand at all, and I think it suffers for its lack of approachability.

Burning Empires is the same thing, but with sci-fi and gorgeous art. Still nigh-unto unplayable, in my opinion.

Mouse Guard is a licensed RPG very loosely derived from Burning Wheel, based on a comic series by David Petersen that is really good. This is where the burning wheel games really come into their own. Because it was aimed at a broader audience, a lot of the rules are more streamlined, which results in a general improvement for the whole system.

The best example of the differences is advancement. All Burning Wheel games have skills advance by how many times you use them, and then place restrictions on how frequently you roll. Burning Wheel restricts rolling by outlining what's even worth rolling for -- then when you roll you consult a table to see which of three categories you earned against, and when you earn enough in all three categories you advance the skill. Sound complicated? It is. And I think I left out a whole step there.

In Mouse Guard, the same premise is there, but instead the amount of rolls is regulated by a simple currency called "checks" which are basically points awarded for role-playing. Whenever you roll a skill test, you log whether you passed or failed, and you need a certain amount of passes AND fails to advance. This is a much cleaner system that...

Hmmm. I suspect that what I'd like to try is a rewrite version of Burning Wheel. The rules boiled down and cleaner, but aimed back at the 'fantasy setting with a "literary" emphasis'.

I think the mechanics appeal to me, but neither the Torchbearer or Mouse Guard concepts do.


I do play in one homebrew that is basically that -- a mishmash of the three (TB, MG, and BW).

It's pretty good. Honestly, if the premise interests you, it's worth picking up the main BW book. It's not that expensive and it has a nice book-feel to it.

It's more like a toolkit for customizing fantasy campaigns. It has a lot of odds and ends lying around that you might not use, and you're going to have to be very decisive about what to keep and what to toss.

I found it overwhelming, but if I were super jazzed for running a "literary fantasy" type game, I would still consider it. But I would probably selectively adopt things from Torchbearer -- especially advancement.

Liberty's Edge

Thread necromancy!

I just got my copy of Torchbearer, and I've been reading into it heavily. Hoping to maybe run it sometime. It really is interesting, it's just kind of confusing because I'm not really used to a system like it. I'm more familiar with Pathfinder and Call of Cthulhu, which are very self-focused, but Torchbearer really does have a focus on the group as a whole. Almost like everyone is controlling a single entity, but everyone's controlling a different limb of that entity.

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