Deleran at the Moathouse

My good friend, Sean Nittner, offered to run a little test-run of Thor Olavsrud and Luke Crane’s new game, Torchbearer. I created Deleran Ap Denemir, an Elven Ranger from the remote village of Nulb, and he joined up with a couple of gents from Hommlet and Verbobonc and headed out to an old abandoned moathouse, hoping for maybe a little treasure, maybe a little fame.

I’m not going to bore you with a full account of what happened. Also, this isn’t really a review of Torchbearer as a game.

What I will tell you is this: Creating a character for Torchbearer is a fuckton of fun. Seriously.

Yeah, there’s a list of questions, kind of like in Mouse Guard, but it seems like, if you’re just jumping into the game, you can pretty much be left to your own devices for most of it, maybe have the GM ask you the required questions for Nature, and be ready to play in ten minutes or so. It felt a lot like playing old-skool D&D, where you roll 3d6 six times, pick a name and a class, and join everyone else in the filth and the muck to scrounge for gold and treasure.

There were a couple of things that came up in play that really highlighted how this game is supposed to be run, I think. Granted, this is pretty much speculation based on trying to estimate changes from the Mouse Guard rules to the hints of what’s to come that are on the Torchbearer character sheet, but I think my suspicions are at least on the right track. Also, from here on out, I’m going to assume a general knowledge of the Mouse Guard RPG. I’ll be happy to answer any questions in the comments though (hint hint).

First, since we were playing through the Temple of Elemental Evil module (that’s T1-T4, if folks are old like me), we tried to start by heading into Hommlet to start asking questions. What we realized, though, is that, since Torchbearer characters start with no checks, we didn’t actually have a way of interacting with the townsfolk. The only way we could actually start an adventure was by assuming that we’d already asked people where a group of dirty murder-hobos like us could find some loot, and then skip straight to being out in front of the moathouse. I dig that. The less time spent looking for the adventure, the more time there is for adventuring.

The second thing that struck me is the brutality of Conditions in Torchbearer. After a brief conflict in which we drove a huge spider out of the moathouse tower, poor Deleran got saddled with the Afraid condition, which prevents a character from offering helping dice or using Beginner’s Luck tests. That’s nuts! You sit and cower in fear while your friends yell at you to give them a hand. I love it.

Lastly, there was the inventory system. Some people might not want to play the “can I carry this loot?” game, but I seriously dug it. The first bit of treasure we found, after the tussle with the spider, was a carved ivory box, which took up one inventory slot. It took us all of three seconds to start asking eachother who had room in their pack for it (I did, fortunately). That gave me a bit of a “woah” moment, though. If nobody had any room, because they were carrying stuff, we would have had a hard choice – what do you leave behind? I imagine that, when the full rules are available, there will be something about the consequences of putting your loot down and trying to come back for it later.

Anyway, playing Torchbearer, even in the hacky way we did, was an absolute blast. MM Olavsrud and Crane had my money at the words, “New game,” but I’m super glad that this one is going to scratch the dungeon-crawl itch that I’ve been having trouble reaching for the last couple of years.

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4 thoughts on “Deleran at the Moathouse

    • Oh, we will definitely be playing this! Even basically trying to sort out how the game works from the Mouse Guard rules, it does pretty much everything I’ve been looking for in a dungeon-delving game without resorting to minis on a grid and protracted tactical battles. I’m super excited for the full rules to be available.

  1. Reblogged this on Something's Brewing and commented:
    Because of the very nice day outside, I completely spaced writing today’s blog entry. But that’s okay. I’m gonna steal a blog entry from a friend of mine.

    I’ve recently really gotten back into tabletop RPG games, thanks to the efforts of my buddy Sam. He introduced me to some of his gaming friends, and I’ve been playing along with them for the past few months now. And because of this, I’ve gained a new favorite roleplaying system, called Burning Wheel. It’s pretty much exactly how I’ve always wanted to play RPGs; with actual role-play. Your character has beliefs and thoughts that are all her own, and that is the main idea behind the game. Yes, there are awesome fighting and conflict rules, but those don’t seem as important as actually being your character.

    While all the other game systems that I’ve played before were focused more on becoming an amazing, untouchable demigod-like person (which can get pretty unbelievable a lot of the time), Burning Wheel has you making difficult choices. It encourages you to take risks. And failing at a task is just as interesting (and sometimes more interesting) than succeeding at a task. You don’t get ‘levels’. Your character just gets better at doing the things she does the most often. Only by using a skill will you get better at that skill. You make your character by playing your character.

    The people who created Burning Wheel are creating a new game, called Torchbearer. It has similar rules and mechanics to Burning Wheel, but it’s more focused on dungeon crawling, like the old-school D&D does. I’m very excited to give it a try. His post is about a test run of Torchbearer that he and some other folks did.

    Also, if you’re into gaming and stuff, subscribe to his blog, ‘I Burn Everything.’

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