Torchbearer RPG

Subscribe to Torchbearer RPG feed
A dungeon crawl RPG from the creators of the Mouse Guard RPG
Updated: 21 hours 27 min ago

Adventure Design: Robber’s Bridge (Part V)

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 14:00
Robber’s Bridge Concept Map (v3) by D. Koch

Hello friends!

If you’re new to this series, we’re collaboratively developing a short Torchbearer adventure.

If you need to catch up:

Last week we took a look at a concept map from Mordite Press developer D. Koch. Above Koch has provided an updated map adjusted for many of the things we discussed. You’ll note that the break in the bridge has been enlarged and the Middle Tower now has a portcullis on either side with murder holes that could be used against attackers trying to pass through. There’s also a stairway on the southern side of the Middle Tower that grants access to the upper levels of the tower.

There are still a few issues that I need your help to address, but first I want to circle back to some of the questions raised in Part III. The suggestions are below. What do you think about them? Which ones do you like or not like? Do they suggest any additional ideas to you?

How have the inhabitants altered the location to serve their needs?

A shrine to the Lords of Valor and Terror. The Bjorning cleric and wizard have affixed an idol of their Lords to the fireplace mantel of the top-most room in the tower. They have built up this elaborate ceremonial chamber. It would be where the buckle1See Part III for more on the buckle. is kept hidden (separate from the other loot). The irony would be this idol is very valuable and could serve to turn the tables or provide an additional bargaining chip for cut-throat hobo parties.

What traps or terrain features make navigating the adventure location difficult?

Here are the ideas you suggested:

  1. Boiling oil tripwire trap above the stairs and main entrance.
  2. A magical rune ward on the treasure vault.
  3. A covered-up Pit trap. Thin stone, like shale, cover up a pit that falls into the river or into the lower levels.
  4. Not a “trap” per se, but I had an idea for a possible twist for when the adventurers try and access the secret passage. The idea of the captive nykr immediately made me wonder what’s moved into the river since the nykr has gone missing: After years of the nykr’s absence, those souls that it lured to watery graves with its enchanting melodies have grown restless and long for the nykr’s song to soothe them back to slumber. They are cursed to not be able to leave their river tomb, but will grab at anyone they find within the water, moaning horrifying atonal dirges to try and get their victim to restart the song.
Additional Thoughts
  1. What if the nykr is not trapped? What if, through its shapeshifting powers, it is actually running the show with the Bjornings. The nykr enchanted and entranced the raiders with its music and they are doing its bidding.
  2. Or another idea, and perhaps better yet, maybe the raiders know about it but have not contacted it yet. They are digging it out and trying to get to it (this could explain why they are distracted when the party enters). The have heard its haunting music and want a favor for freeing it. The Bjorning raider cleric believes that if they can offer a sacrifice to it, they can learn its power and its songs — which might give them more motivation to stick around the tower.
Why is the tollgate in ruins?

Now on to some questions from last week’s post. Here’s what you suggested:

  1. Can we connect it to the Bjornings and the nykr somehow? There could be clues that the tower fell recently (the raiders are still clearing away the debris, townsfolk along the road talking about the tower falling). All of this could have happened within the last few months, but it had something to do with the Bjornings and the Nykr. Perhaps there was a group of Bjornings that came out here first, but they mysteriously disappeared. This second group of raiders is continuing the mission against the Gott and also trying to discover what happened to the other group (thinking them killed by the Gotts). This would play off the theme of “power.”
  2. On the other hand, I do like the idea of the Black Wyrm. I can imagine it swooping down and pushing on the tower with its hind legs. This would connect the theme of history repeating itself (the conquerors become the conquered).
What is the state of the tollgate now?

The Bjornings have cleared away enough of the debris to salvage the lower gatehouse of the southern hightower. They have a makeshift roof of tied-together blankets that keeps the snow off of the supplies inside the room. They use it for extra storage and non-essential items.

How do the Bjorning raiders cross to the north bank?

The Bjornings have created a crude rope bridge to cross the gap caused by the ruined bridge that serves as a secondary defense mechanism of sorts. A detail known to the Bjornings, the bridge can hold no more than two men at a time, or little more than one man with a full pack. To help with the burden of more successful raids, the bandits have installed a net on a secondary rope line above the bridge, which can be pulled to either side of the bridge with pulleys hooked to the wooden pillars the rope is bolted to. The line is able to hold significantly more weight than the bridge itself.

The bridge is firmly staked on the northern side of the gap, but on the opposite end is only knotted to a wooden beam at two points to allow for quick collapse in case of emergencies. Easily missed is a smaller, thinner cord attached to the last board on the southern side of the bridge that serves as a means to pull the bridge back up after it has been disconnected rather than having to rebuild the bridge from scratch. This has lead to many a Bjorning to return from a raid on the northern bank only to find themselves offering trinkets or an extra turn fetching firewood to a watchman who has disconnected the bridge on the other side.

The Secret Bit

One thing we haven’t figured out yet is the hidden entrance in the Middle Tower that leads to the lower part of the tower and the underwater passage to the nykr’s prison (area 9). Where is it? What does it look like? How is it hidden? How does it work?

Provide feedback

So what do you think? What works for you? What doesn’t? Give me your suggestions and critiques. New ideas are welcome too! In the next Robber’s Bridge installment we’re going to nail these details down and start thinking about what the various players want.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Adventure Design: Robber’s Bridge (Part IV)

Thu, 01/10/2019 - 14:00
Robber’s Bridge Concept Map by D. Koch

Check out this amazing concept map from Mordite Press developer D. Koch! This is really starting to come together!

If you’re new to this series, we’re collaboratively developing a short Torchbearer adventure.

If you need to catch up:

In our last installment, we nailed down some details about our adventure location, what treasures might draw the PCs to the location, why that treasure hasn’t been plundered yet and who currently inhabits the adventure location. Check Part III for the details.

I also asked you to supply your thoughts on how the current inhabitants have altered the location and what traps or terrain features could give the PCs trouble. There were only a few responses, but they were great. We’re going to go over them next week. If you have additional ideas, there’s still time, so don’t hesitate to share your thoughts below.

The Scale of the Map

Before we get to that, though, I want to consider the map for a bit. Looking at the image of the bridge itself, a few things leap out to me.

First, I think I want the break in the bridge between the Gate House and the Middle Tower to be a bit larger — enough to make it clear that the break makes the bridge useless. It may be that we just need to give the reader a sense of scale. If that’s the case, we don’t need to change the image at all, we just need to add a scale to the key. What do you think?

Second, I’m thinking about the ruined Toll Gate in the south. D. Koch elected to make that tower ruins so we could focus on just one tower and keep the adventure area smaller. I’m 100 percent on board with the intent, but there are some kinks, setting history-wise, that we need to work out.

A Little Middarmark History

Just to get you oriented: Vanskrdal (now known as the Gottmark following the Gott conquest) is to the north2See Vanskrdal, Middarmark, page 23. It owes allegiance to Otkell, warchief of the Gotts3See Otkell, Warchief of the Gott Host, Middarmark, page 30. The Bjorning jarldom of Vargstrond4See Vargstrond, Middarmark, page 23 is to the south of the bridge. It is ruled by Jarl Una the Cat5See Una the Cat, Jarl of Vargstrond, Middarmark, page 23, who owes allegiance to the Bjorning High Queen Astrid6See Astrid Yngesdottir, High Queen of the Middarmark, Middarmark, page 13.

Otkell and the Bjornings are technically at war, but for the past 20 years or so it has been a quiet affair — mostly skirmishes and raids, not the clash of armies. This, by the way, is why the Bjorning raiders have occupied the tower at our adventure location. They’re harassing the Gotts and causing trouble.

Also, we should figure out how the Bjorning raiders are crossing to the northern side to conduct their raids. Do they have a boat or raft nearby? Have they created some sort of structure that allows them to cross the gap, but which could be easily destroyed? What do you think? How do the raiders navigate this problem?

Why Is the Southern Tollgate in Ruins?

Back to the southern Tollgate. So here’s the thing: The bridge was broken by dwarven mercenaries 20 years ago during the initial Gott invasion. They did it to prevent the Gott cavalry from flooding across the bridge into Vargstrond and continuing the invasion. It was one of the major factors in halting immediate hostilities.

It makes sense to me that the Gatehouse at the northern end of the bridge was ruined in the assault. However! The fighting wouldn’t have reached the Tollgate at the southern end of the bridge. That means the Tollgate couldn’t have been destroyed in that war.

That doesn’t mean the Tollgate can’t be in ruins! We’ve already established that the Bjornings don’t have the engineering knowledge required to repair a structure like this. So, the question becomes: What happened in the past that led to the destruction of the Tollgate? Why didn’t it affect the Middle Tower?

We can use this to establish something new in the setting that the players can discover while adventuring here. Maybe it was destroyed by Ofnir the Black Wyrm7See Ofnir’s Lair, Middarmark, page 32; one of the depredations that led Bjornar the Grim to confront the dragon8See The Death of Bjornar the Grim, Middarmark, page 7? Maybe another monster entirely? Or maybe it was the result of some conflict between the Sakki and the Grælings? Or between the Sakki and the Skyrnir? A natural disaster? What do you think it was and what cool thing might the players discover or learn here? What evidence and effects of the event would someone see? It could lead to another adventure entirely.

Also, did the Bjornings erect some sort of wooden structure there in its place? Is it still there? Has it rotted away? What does that mean for reaching the Middle Tower from the southern end of the bridge?

The Secret Bit

Finally, somewhere in the Middle Tower we need some sort of secret or hidden entrance that grants access to the lower part of the tower and the underwater passage to the Nykr’s prison. What does that look like? How is it hidden? How does it work?

Do you have any other thoughts on the map? Any changes or additions you would make? For instance, I think at the bridge level the tower needs a passageway with a portcullis on either side and a ceiling covered in murder holes. I think that also means we need a stairway on the outside of the southern side of the Middle Tower that provides access from the bridge to the first floor of the tower. Comment below!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Adventure Design: Robber’s Bridge (Part III)

Thu, 01/03/2019 - 14:00

Pont Valentré

Thanks to everyone who chimed in with their thoughts on the submissions for the Robber’s Bridge adventure. Everyone contributed some great stuff! I would encourage everyone to recycle some of those ideas for your own adventures.

I’ve taken everyone’s feedback, incorporated some of my own editorial discretion, and brought it all together. There’s still time to change things, of course, so please share any feedback or ideas inspired by the content below. Let’s take the next steps in pulling this adventure together!

If you need to catch up:

Who Inhabited the adventure location originally? Who made it? Where was it? What happened to it?

The Jotnar Bridge is a marvel of a lost age, made by a forgotten people with knowledge of engineering far in excess of any humans in the north today. Some scholars who consider themselves experts in such things say it was created by the Ylfarings9See The First People, Middarmark, page 6. Others say it was the work of bergrisar10Mountain giants; see Of Trolls and Men, Middarmark, page 84 hailing from the Nidfjoll Mountains11See The Nidfjoll, Middarmark, page 19 to the west. The stony bones of a giant lay half in the icy waters of the Vimur River and half on the northern bank, the crown of its skull forming an island in the river beneath the bridge.

The graceful stone bridge once spanned the Vimur River, connecting the land of Vanskrdal with Vargstrond12See Vanskrdal and Vargstrond, Middarmark, page 23 and enabling trade between the two jarldoms. That ended 19 years ago, when Jarl Grima of Vargstrond, great uncle of the present jarl, Una the Cat13See Una the Cat, Jarl of Vargstrond, Middarmark, page 23, paid a band of mercenary dwarven sappers to slight the central span rather than allow the Gott Host to spill into Vargstrond. Survivors of the conquest of Vanskrdal still speak bitterly of the bridge’s destruction, which trapped many of the newly conquered people on the northern side of the river where they were forced into serfdom by the conquering Gotts.

What do the characters want to recover at the adventure location? Why would the PCs go there?

Bandits have occupied the northern tower of the slighted bridge and have been raiding the Gottmark (formerly Vanskrdal). They recently attacked the nearby Gott village of Saxatoft while its lord was away. They plundered and burned the manor and stole a precious gold buckle that is part of the Saxaling Clan’s regalia. The theft has damaged the Saxaling ættir, and the clan is desperate to get the artifact back.

A Viking Age buckle discovered in Ågård, Denmark


The bandits are using a chamber in the northern bridge tower as a vault to store their ill-gotten treasure.

Why has the adventure location not been plundered already?

Anything of value was taken when the bridge was slighted, or by looters who came along later. But the bandits have recently been filling the vault with their stolen treasure. The original builders created a hidden chamber below the waterline that serves as a prison for a murderous water spirit but holds a fortune in semi-precious stone.

Who or what inhabits the adventure location now?

Ostensibly the current occupants are Bjorning raiders. In fact, they are ‘gestir,’ agents sent by Jarl Una the Cat to harry her enemies north of the river and provide information about the Gotts’ preparation for war. The gestir consist of a handful of Bjorning warriors, a cleric from Jernkloster and possibly even a Bjorning magician.

Unknown to all, there is a secret passage beneath the waterline of the tower that leads to a hidden chamber within the giant’s skull. The bridge’s original builders trapped a nykr14A shape shifting water spirit within. The spirit once lured those who sought to cross the river to their deaths by drowning. The magic of the giant skull chamber has turned the spirit to stone in the form of an exquisite, life-sized lapis lazuli stallion. Anyone that enters the chamber will slowly begin to calcify into lapis lazuli themselves. Removing the stallion from its pedestal will break the enchantment upon the spirit.

It’s possible that the nykr can employ some of its enchanting music, even trapped in stone as it is.

Next Steps

Feel free to suggest changes or build upon what I’ve described above. But it’s also time to move forward. If anyone wants to take a stab at sketching a map of the northern tower, be my guest!

In the meantime, I have a couple of new questions for you.

How have the inhabitants altered the location to serve their needs?

Have the bandits made any changes? Have they dug new tunnels or installed hidden doors? Have they implemented any new defenses or a way of escaping to the southern side of the river if they are assaulted in force?

What traps or terrain features make navigating the adventure location difficult?

I’ve suggested a secret passage below the waterline that leads to a secret chamber in the giant skull. Is that passage flooded? Is there some other challenge to that passage? Have the bandits installed traps? Is there some trick to approaching the tower?

Please jump in with your thoughts. Start thinking about other problems and obstacles this adventure might present.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Of Family and Spirits

Thu, 12/27/2018 - 14:00
A part of The Viking’s Bride frieze by Walter Crane, 1883

Hello friends! Happy holidays!

It was probably ambitious on my part to try to do an interactive project over the holidays. Since I haven’t heard from anyone regarding the Robber’s Bridge submissions I posted last week, I’m going to hold off one more week before moving forward with work on the adventure.

If you’re interested in the project, click on the link above and tell me which options you like and which you don’t! Feel free to riff on the ones you like! If you want to see more interactive projects like this in the future, please contribute. Otherwise I’ll assume the interest isn’t there.

Spiritual Matters

In the meantime, let’s delve a little bit into the Ættir, a type of spirit described in the Of Trolls and Men chapter in Middarmark1Page 91. An ættir is a clan’s ancestral spirit. For all intents and purposes, it is the clan. As it fares, so does the clan, and as the clan fares, so does its ættir. Think of the ættir as a minor deity with her family serving as her worshippers. She serves as the conduit between the living members of the clan and the deceased ancestors.

Great! What does that mean and how can you use it in play? Let’s take a look at one clan’s ættir to get a better grasp of it.

Those of you familiar with the Middarmark know that the power of the Jarls of Sudstrond was smashed by Scefings in the disastrous Battle of Sølvfjord nine years ago2See Sudstrond, Middarmark, page 22.

The jarl’s 10-year-old son Stigand, left in his family’s hall with a handful of loyal retainers during the battle, was one of the clan’s only survivor’s that terrible day. At 19, Jarl Stigand has established himself at Valborg, a castle at the western mouth of the Gull Pass3See Stigand, Jarl of Sudstrond, Middarmark, page 22.

Stigand is the last scion of the once-powerful Ageiring clan, founded by Ageir the Raven, companion to Sigrun Shieldbreaker and first Jarl of Sudstrond.

Ageir may have won the jarldom for deeds of valor at Sigrun’s side, but it was his wife, Ran Deepmind, who shouldered the burden of administering the vast holding and its wealth. She, too, was responsible for maneuvering to keep the conquered Græling peoples of Sudstrond in check, forging alliances with some powerful clans while carefully setting the rest against each other.

In life, her leadership made the Ageirings one of the wealthiest and most powerful clans in the Middarmark. In death, she apotheosized as the ættir of the Ageirings. In the two-and-a-half centuries since, she has continued to protect and guide her descendants as the clan’s ancestral mother.

Ran is much diminished since the disastrous Battle of Sølvfjord 10 years ago: The entire clan, save only Stigand and his great aunt, Solveig, were lost. Most of the clan’s regalia sank or burned with the Ageiring fleet, and Ran’s shrine was despoiled when Ravnhallen, the Ageiring seat in Stortmarke, was overrun and given to the flames.

Half mad with grief and rage, she plots to guide her clan back to greatness.

Ran Deepmind, Ættir of the Ageirings The Ageiring Regalia

Once the Ageiring clan regalia was expansive: Ageir’s bow and cloak of raven feathers, the Raven Banner, a corselet of bright mail gifted by Sigrun herself, and more. Most of it was seized by the Scefings or was lost to the deeps of the Sølvfjord. Only a few pieces remain, a pewter-sheathed drinking horn, a fine bone comb and Ran’s samite shawl. They adorn Ran’s shrine in Valborg and are the clan’s last surviving connection to its ancestral spirit.

Any member of the Ageiring clan—whether by birth, marriage or adoption—may use a piece of regalia in a ritual (Ritualist, Ob 3) to connect with Ran. When so connected, Ran can speak through that character’s mouth in furtherance of her belief or instinct. Likewise, she can provide help to characters that have performed the ritual, so long as they remain in contact with the regalia. She can only help within the context of her nature descriptors and if her belief or instinct apply.

This, by the way, is one of the reasons family is so important in the Middarmark. Having a family means having an ættir, and having an ættir means having Otherworldly protection and guidance. Without family, you are at the mercy of any malicious spirit that chances upon you.

With her nature reduced to 3, Ran isn’t that powerful currently, but she’s canny and driven. You can bring her into play with Stigand’s aunt Solveig acting as her priestess. If the players want to take up Stigand’s cause, their characters must prove themselves to her. Their characters might swear to serve Stigand and join the clan that way. A character might marry Stigand or convince him to adopt them. If the characters join the clan, Ran becomes their ættir. One of them might even be entrusted with a piece of clan regalia.

Of course, Ran has an agenda. She plans to make the Ageirings the most powerful clan in the Middarmark. But first the clan needs to grow in numbers, wealth and influence, and she will see the characters as useful tools to that end. Ran’s first order of business is to move against the Tualing clan and its ættir, Tua the Unruly. We might explore the Tualings and their ættir in a future post.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Adventure Design: Robber’s Bridge (Part II)

Thu, 12/20/2018 - 14:00

Pont Valentré

OK gang, the results from last week’s poll are in. Thank you to everyone who contributed! The entries are below. Check them out and let me know in the comments which ones inspire you. Feel free to riff on them. Next week I’ll use your input to finalize these answers and then we’ll move on to the next steps.

There are just a couple of boundaries that I want to place.

First, I want to keep the Ylfarings1See The First People, Middarmark, page 6 mysterious. They could have built the bridge and left it to be discovered by later humans. It could have been destroyed (by giants or otherwise) in a later age. I just don’t want to set anything down about their history. I’ll leave that for you in their games.

Second, when considering who currently inhabits this location, keep in mind that I want this to be a small dungeon. Think Skogenby or even smaller. Maybe it could even be expandable by treating each of the towers independently to create three linked adventures. For now, let’s keep this focused.

Who inhabited the adventure location originally? Who made it? Where was it? What happened to it?
  1. Originally created by the Ylfarings during a period of tension between them and a nearby Dwarven settlement. The Ylfarings antagonized a pair of giant brothers who took vengeance by wrecking the bridge. They smashed one span entirely and left several architectural weak points in what still stands. One brother’s skeleton is still visible in the water and on the shore nearby. The other brother might still be in the area.

  2. The Halflings built the bridge using the solid rock from their tunnels after a defensive “inundation” from a water lagoon. During the ancient times, the principal and route to the Halfling’s settlement was along a narrow corridor of land called “the causeway”.
    Being surrounded by water on both sides and fortified, the bridge was easily defensive in times of attack…Until the gnolls came over them.

  3. If it has fallen into disrepair and no one has needed such a helpful structure then it connected to groups trade that no longer exists maybe, So a generation from a bygone age

  4. During the time of the Lost Ages, the Ylfaring people created the bridge. They built a monument to a Young Lord, who’s name has been forgotten by the skalds. The Saaki found this bridge when they first arrived to the Middarmark and came south from the Endless Ice.
    The Saaki used it as a strategic position for countless generations until the Græling arrived and drove them from the land. Over time, this area and the ruins of the bridge have been forgotten. This particular crossing doesn’t get much use because there are better and safer routes along the Sølvveien proper.

  5. A charismatic veteran lord and their retinue of dwarven laborers, court wizard and vassals. It was custom made by a dwarven clan under the orders of the local lord. Growing rich and powerful after years of taxation the local count maneuvered the court to have the lord trialed and executed. Without a powerful leader the castle was overrun by the hordes of the wild.

  6. Human priests built a bridge for trade, they decided to charge a crossing tax, the greed it generated birthed a troll who burrowed in the structure eating travelers and inhabitants alike. They payed it gold even fed it orphans but finally destroyed the troll by tearing down part of the bridge entombing it and its treasure. Now locals believe it has returned…

  7. Its megalithic foundation was built by giants who used bones of a god they tricked. The tower bridge was built by a noble twins who ruled opposite sides of the bridge. Each side of the bridge is built with different stone, the south is said to be built with broken stone tablets of the giants tombs and the north was built with the remnants of the dead gods ruined temple. On one side the folk worshiped giants on the other side folk worshiped the dead god. The bridge was the only neutral place where they traded. Trade was good and the gold and silver was kept in the tower. but it only lasted a month before the two sides had a war that destroyed parts of the bridge plunging the tower and its treasure into the river and cutting off both sides from each other.
  8. Long ago, a greed-mad dwarf lord had the Six Sovereign Bridge built. It was called that because the lord decreed the crippling tax of one gold sovereign for each span of the bridge on each cart passing over them. The dwarf lord also had his engineers dredge the fords of the High river regularly.
  9. Lancer’s Lake, fed by the High river, became a hive of competing corsairs and escorting mercenaries as merchants sought ways around the toll. Eventually, the price of goods became so inflated that the Graeling lords (who still ruled Gottmark at the time), were forced to come together to denounce the Lord of the Bridge. They demanded the toll be lowered, or the fords left to silt up in the coming spring’s floods. Their emissary was sent back headless. This lead to a short but bloody war, and the destruction of the bridge. The greed-mad dwarf lord was flung, along with his ox-drawn golden “war chariot,” into the river. The High River has been colloquially known as the “Can’t-Breath-Gold” ever since.
What do the characters want to recover at the adventure location? Why would the PCs go there?
  1. The surviving Ylfarings tried to repair the bridge using the dead giant’s teeth as magical anchors in the weakest spots. It worked, but the Ylfarings abandoned the bridge a short time later. PCs have learned that the magic in the giant’s teeth can impart strength in buildings or walls that use them. They’re going to pry the teeth out of the surviving structure to sell them (hopefully without getting trapped in a collapse or two as they do).
  2. The thieves tax or plunder from those “crossing” the bridge and maybe the builders put the wealthy’s tomb into a place of power such as the foundation of the bridge but i think that should be minor
  3. Scefing bandits have raided a nearby village and stolen a precious necklace from a Græling Godi. Perhaps this necklace is connected to his clan’s ættir, and they need it back desperately.
    But, then, the party discovers there are deep secrets and curses to this location. From behind a stacks of barrels, the party finds a stairwell to the depths…
  4. There have always been stories of the hidden horde of the Greed-mad King. A recent drought has dropped the “Can’t-Breath-Gold” river to a trickle, and there is a report of a band of dwarves camped on remains of the bridge at night. They are digging in shifts at the base of one of the footings of the bridge.
  5. The hidden treasury, buried somewhere under the dungeon.
  6. Save lost children, find the trolls hidden treasure- restore the bridge
  7. Reclaim cursed treasure from the fallen tower/ drive out the river goblins/ find the broken stone tablets of the giants to read their secrets/ reclaim the bricks of the dead gods ruined temple to resurrect him
Why has the adventure location not be plundered already?
  1. Ignorance. The PCs have lost/secret knowledge that most don’t.
  2. New group to the area and as for the tomb need of knowledge of stone work and some labourers
  3. The Græling plundered it long ago. The bandits have been filling it back up with loot, unaware of the monsters below.
  4. The vaults of the towers have long ago been looted, the fortifications broken, the walls caved in, disassembled, or bored through by treasure-seekers. But the High River has always been just that – high.
  5. The lower levels are locked, an old armory and the wizard’s laboratory were overlooked by the horde. The clashing between civilization and wilderness made the old castle the failed project of a myriad of lords, always overtaken by beasts.
  6. Fear and superstition
  7. So many died on each side, many thinking the giants and the god cursed the bridge and river. Folk on both sides independently sometimes bring sacrifices to make sure they remain at peace and leave the place as it is.
Who or what inhabits the adventure location now?
  1. Bandits, or some other humanoid menace, who are slowly turning to stone due to the magic in the giant’s teeth. There’s a middle period in the transformation when their skin turns thick, but still flexible enough for movement. They also get stronger. Maybe their Might goes up or they get other stone-related powers. The PCs might also begin to suffer these effects if they hold onto the teeth for too long, requiring someone to lift the curse later.
  2. I like the idea that the bridge isn’t in use so much so now people traffic the river to move goods now that a new powers are in place, a faction of coastal people noticed their profits are diminished by those coming from inland to trade on the coast so a group is now using the bridge as a toll for people passing below it rather than crossing over.
  3. Scefing raiders on Level 1 above ground. In the depths: Brunnmigi, goblins, skeletons and undead.
  4. The treasure-seeking dwarves inhabit the remains of one of the towers, a draughty place, but with a good view of the surrounds. The leader of the expedition is a descendent of the Greed-mad King. Is the secret knowledge handed down from generation to generation accurate? Is the key he bears real? Will his companions turn on him?
    The far tower has collapsed into the river bed and is filled with a dwindling well of foetid water; home to a nixie and her clutch of eggs – could she know something about the vault? Are the dwarves digging under the wrong footing? The nixie is desperate for help, but dangerous and protective of her eggs.
    The middle tower stands free in the centre of the river bed, the arches broken away. It lists crazily, canted towards the nixie’s nest. A malevolent spirit lives inside, hiding during the day, but flying out at night hunting for blood or dreams or love. It would be a hell of a climb, but maybe the thing has something of value? It plagues the dwarves as they sleep.
  5. An orcish bandit clan has set as their headquarters for raiding. They charge a toll and are planning on rebuilding the bridge.
    Two griffons have nested atop one of the towers. The orcs ward them off by feeding then their victims.
    A chimera, the old guardian of the castle created by the court wizard’s still roams the dungeons below
  6. A Troll is entombed within but a goblin hoard who believe its just an old tale are posing as the troll using the ruined bridge as a base to raid nearby villagers.
  7. Both sides of the river is occupied by ancestors of the humans. But a band of river goblins who worship mud spirits have camped out in the bridge to take the gold but haven’t mapped out out how to get at it. They have been doing small raids on both sides to survive.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Adventure Design: Robber’s Bridge

Thu, 12/13/2018 - 14:00
Pont Valentré

Let’s make an adventure together. We’re going to take this bit by bit and I hope it will be an interactive process.

We’ll start with the process from the Adventure Design chapter in Torchbearer. I’ll provide my answers, but I’m looking to you to jump in with your own ideas. Nothing is set in stone yet. I’m giving this adventure the working title Robber’s Bridge. We’ll consider final titles later in the process.

Feel free to add your suggestions in this handy form. I’ll choose the best ones (or maybe even do a poll) to build out our adventure.

Imagine an adventure location

The first step is to imagine an adventure location. The image above is the Pont Valentré1There’s an amusing legend about the construction of the bridge in the Wikipedia entry. Check it out! It may inspire some of your suggestions for the adventure., a six-span fortified stone arch bridge across the Lot River to the west of Cahors, France. The bridge has three square towers (one at each end and one in the middle).

Let’s use this as inspiration. Our adventure location will be a ruined bridge castle. It’s fallen into disrepair and is no longer used for its intended purpose. Perhaps one or more spans have collapsed and no one today has the knowledge and/or the will to repair it? Our location doesn’t have to look exactly like this, though it could. We’re just using the image as a jumping-off point. Let your imagination lead the way.

What was the original purpose of the location?

The bridge was built to fortify the river crossing and enable the collection of tolls. While built with an eye to military purposes, toll collection was the primary purpose. The bridge is just wide enough for two wagons to pass abreast with a little room to spare. The fortified towers ensured that only those who paid the toll could enter the bridge, while the central tower allowed the defenders to close off each side of the bridge independently and rain missile fire down on attackers.

Who inhabited the adventure location originally?

I want to set this adventure in the Middarmark, in which stone fortifications of this sort are very rare. Dwarves could make something like this, of course. The Grælings were once quite close to the dwarves and may have been taught the secrets behind such engineering, though they would have been lost long ago. And we know the legendary Jarl Mærg the Mighty of Lost Mærgdal was enamored of stone fortifications. Or maybe it was a place of ancient, advanced humans like the Ylfarings? Perhaps the elves? Or giants?

My initial inclination is that it was a place of humans from a time when their knowledge was greater, but what do you think? Who made this place? Where was it? What happened to it?

What do the characters want to recover at the adventure location?

What would make the players interested in exploring this forlorn place? My first thought is that a bandit-lord has made the bridge his or her base and is using it to collect and protect treasure and other ill-gotten goods. Perhaps they’ve taken prisoners? Or some other precious object? Maybe a spell book or important relic?

But you tell me what you think is there. Why would the PCs go there?

Why has the adventure location not been plundered already?

If the bandits are using the broken bridge as a base, then whatever ancient treasures that were there have been plundered. But there’s lots of new treasure there due to the bandits’ activities. No one has plundered the plunderers. Yet. Or maybe there’s a secret treasury or vault in the structure that no one has discovered yet? If so, what has kept it hidden?

Who or what inhabits the adventure location now?

My first thought is that human and goblin bandits are using it as their lair these days. Perhaps pirates from the Brotherhood of Plunder, though they tend to confine their activities to Jeilirdal. Maybe a similar group? Something else entirely? I’m imagining this as a low-level adventure, but maybe you want more potent adversaries?

Let’s stop there. Once I’ve gathered your input on the above questions we can start to think about how the new inhabitants have altered the ruin and the types of traps and terrain the PCs might encounter.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Evolving the Dread Crypt: Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 14:00
Skogenby Barrow by Rebekah Bennington

Last week, I wrote about NPCs I’ve added to the village of Skogenby to help bring it to life. This week we’ll use those NPCs and some material already in The Dread Crypt of Skogenby to update the adventure as Haathor-Vash’s plans take shape.

Note: The rest of this post will contain spoilers for the adventure.

The idea here is to create the feeling of a dynamic world that changes around the PCs. Some of those changes will be in reaction to the players’ actions, but the rest will be the result of antagonists and other NPCs advancing their agendas.

As a GM, this should be a relatively straightforward process: Between adventures, take stock of what your various important characters are up to (including PCs’ family, friends, mentors and enemies) and determine whether they’ve advanced their agendas or not. If they have advanced their agendas, note the consequences. That’s it. Simple, right? Let’s take a look at Skogenby.

What We Know

To start, let’s review what we know:

  1. The villagers of Skogenby unwittingly disturbed an ancient tomb, awakening an angry spirit named Haathor-Vash. The spirit possessed Jora, granddaughter of the village gydja.
  2. The  need to recover her stolen grave goods drives Haathor-Vash. She also wants vengeance on anyone connected with the theft, though recovery takes precedence over vengeance, at least at first. Initially, the spirit wore Jora’s body and searched  the village for its stolen arm ring at night. It killed anyone it encountered along the way.
  3. The village has appealed to their lord, Lady Gry, to protect them, but she’s away. They’ve turned to the adventurers in desperation.
  4. Vigdis, gydja of the village, was prepared to perform a blood sacrifice to appease the disturbed spirit but hoped to find another way before that became necessary.
  5. Hakemunn Grim, the wealthiest landowner in the village, wanted the tomb sealed, abandoning Jora to her fate. He was working to convince other villagers to follow his lead.
  6. Johanna, Vigdis’s daughter and apprentice, was determined to get her daughter Jora back. She was working herself up to poison Hakemunn Grim before he could gather enough support for his plan to seal the tomb with Jora inside.
  7. The dwarf bandit Beronin and his band of outlaws are preying on people in the vicinity of Skogenby. They heard rumors of the newly found crypt and intended to investigate.
  8. Sigismund and his brother Baugi secretly moved some property markers several months ago, allowing the village to lay claim to land that actually belongs to Greve Jermod. They were counting on Lady Gry’s inattention to steal from Greve Jermod in her name and secure more land for themselves.
  9. Halvor, captain of Greve Jermod’s wardens, and his people were hunting Beronin and his bandits. While in the area he also planned to check the new fields cleared by the village, as they were quite close to the greve’s forest preserve.

Those were the various threads that were in play at the start of the adventure.

Before we dig in too deep, I should note that it’s only worth doing all this evolution prep if your players already had some information about the adventure already. Unless your players previously had some information about Skogenby’s tribulations, it’s not worth going through the work to change up the situation. Just start at the beginning.

In my case, the players had heard the following rumor, but decided to ignore it in favor of another adventure:

Some folk in Skogenby, the next village over, uncovered a strange barrow while clearing a field recently. They think some evil spirit has come out of it, and they’ve asked for Lady Gry’s help, but she’s away. Supposedly there’s a lot of treasure in the tomb.

Let’s go through the nine things we know and think about how they might have changed while the PCs were focused on other things. These are my answers; yours might go in a completely different direction. That’s good!

The Dead Have Risen

We can take items 1 and 2 together and assume the situation did not resolve itself without outside intervention. Haathor-Vash has not recovered her treasure and has continued to kill people. It’s fair to say that as the situation has continued, she has gotten more disturbed and vengeful. I think she’s also growing more powerful as she comes into her own, empowering the recently deceased to rise as undead themselves.

Haathor-Vash’s iinitial minions were the undead remnants of her servitors (the Tomb Guardians, Skeletal Honor Guards and Corpse Candles). The ones that have bodies are dressed in strange, ancient clothing and armor, nothing like what the people of today wear. But now more dead have begun to rise in Skogenby. Those slain personally by Haathor-Vash have become ghouls. Anyone slain by the ghouls has risen as a zombie. The ghouls and the zombies now roam the countryside in and around Skogenby. Their corpses are fresh (and still fleshed for the most part) and their clothing is contemporary.

Essentially, it’s as if you rolled a ‘disaster’ result on the Town Events table for Skogenby. The village is still there and some people have barricaded themselves inside their homes, but the village no longer functions as a town with respect to the Torchbearer rules. Some brave souls will have to drive out the undead scourge before Skogenby can be used as a town again.

Sadly, Jora was already in rough shape at the original beginning of the adventure because Haathor-Vash had not been letting her eat, drink or sleep. She will have died of neglect by this point and risen as a ghoul.

Getting to the crypt itself is now harder. Ghouls and zombies infest the countryside and are a great option for twists. Camps on this side of the Hrada River should now be considered dangerous.

Maybe There’s an Upside?

With regard to item 3, Lady Gry is still not available. But we’ll put some pressure on her: Many of the surviving people of Skogenby have fled to Asktoft1More about Asktoft here, the nearby location of Lady Gry’s manor, for refuge.

That’s going to put a huge strain on the people of Asktoft, but we can save those consequences for another evolution down the road. For now, the effects will mostly be cosmetic — lots of terrified and hungry people on the streets of Asktoft. Eventually, the undead scourge could have a cascading effect on the entire region, but we want to take that slowly. Let the players get accustomed to the new circumstances before tightening the screws.

All of this is terrible for the people of Skogenby and the people of Asktoft. At the same time, it might actually present an opportunity for the PCs. The more Lady Gry’s personal wealth and comfort are affected by the undead horde, the more she will appreciate any ne’er-do-wells and scoundrels that help her. If the PCs play their cards right, there’s now an opportunity to win Lady Gry’s patronage when she returns, or at least her friendship.

There Will Be Blood?

Item 4 is Vigdis. It’s safe to assume that she has accepted that she’s out of options. She’s ready to try a blood sacrifice to appease Haathor-Vash’s anger. Of course, any of the surviving people that were there when Jora entered the crypt are long since scattered.

For better or worse, Vigdis is now convinced that the only way to stop the undead scourge is to gather up those who were present when Jora first violated the crypt and sacrifice them to Haathor-Vash. To up the creepiness factor, I think there’s a tree in the center of the village where Vigdis regularly performed animal sacrifices on the village’s behalf. The sacrifices were hung from the tree’s branches and left to rot. The necrotic energies that now suffuse the village have animated the carcasses. This would mostly just be for color.

I don’t think Vigdis would have fled the village. Instead, she’s surrounded her hut with wards and can provide a safe haven for the PCs to camp in Skogenby if they manage to make common cause with her. If the PCs camp in Vigdis’s hut, don’t roll for camp events. It’s a safe camp. In addition, Vigdis can feed the party and can help with Alchemist and Healer tests. However, if a test is failed in camp, the following twist is now on the table: Undead break through the wards and assault the hut.

A Matter of Justice

We can take items 5 and 6 together. Johanna would have attempted to poison Hakemunn Grim but failed to kill him, at least immediately. He is terribly sick as a result of the poison. He and his family have fled to Asktoft and are now staying in the inn there. Johanna was reluctantly caught by the other villagers (Hakemunn Grim is an abrasive man at the best of times) and locked in a root cellar, where she was to be held until Lady Gry could try her. When most people fled Skogenby they forgot about her and left her there. She’s still alive, but in a bad way.

Rescuing Johanna would certainly win Vigdis’s favor, but Hakemunn Grim is also desperate to get a hold of her in the hopes he can force her to reveal the antidote to the poison that is slowly and painfully killing him. He could attempt to recruit adventurers who visit the tavern or inn in Asktoft.

A Thief in the Night

As for item 7, Beronin had initially planned to loot the crypt after he heard about it. He and his crew attempted to do so but he was possessed by Haathor-Vash as a replacement for Jora. His bandits were either killed or cowed.

As Beronin, Haathor-Vash is using the surviving bandits as living agents, sending them out to gather information about the world that she has awoken in. This mostly serves as fodder for a later evolution, but there’s potential to still use living bandits as antagonists for the PCs. The PCs might even encounter some in or near the crypt itself as they return to Haathor-Vash’s throne room occasionally to receive their orders. Some bandits may also be having pangs of conscience about working with undead things. They could be possible allies for the PCs if approached carefully.

Did I Do That?

Sigismund also fled to Asktoft, where he was hoping to get Lady Gry’s aid. He’s most concerned about his own skin, but he knows that Jermod’s wardens are in the area. He can’t let knowledge of his crime get out, especially now that an ancient undead menace has arisen as a result.

Sigismund would very much appreciate it if some enterprising souls could ensure that the wardens were all slain (by undead, right?) before they could leave Skogenby’s environs. He’d certainly reward anyone who could help him in that way. He’ll cagily approach the PCs if they visit the tavern in Asktoft.

In the Line of Duty

Finally, Halvor is determined to catch Beronin and his band. He doesn’t care about Skogenby’s fate—that’s Lady Gry’s problem—but he does care about any impact to the greve’s lands and holdings. He’ll make common cause with the PCs to put Beronin down and end the threat to the greve’s holdings. He’ll promise to put in a good word with the greve if the PCs can help him.

He’ll also reward them directly with treasure if they can provide evidence that the property markers were moved. He’ll use any such evidence against Lady Gry, even though Sigismund was responsible.

Thoughts?

So that’s how I would evolve Skogenby. What about you? What would you do differently? Do you have other techniques you use to make your campaign feel like a living, breathing world?


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Evolving the Dread Crypt: Bringing Skogenby to (un)life

Thu, 11/29/2018 - 14:00

Over the past several weeks I’ve alluded several times to my ‘evolution’ of The Dread Crypt of Skogenby. For the next several posts I plan to take a deeper dive into the details of that evolution to give you an example of how you might evolve your own adventures.

To set the stage, I need to first tell you about how I updated the adventure. I wanted my players to invest in Skogenby as a place, maybe even choose to come from the village, so I fleshed it out a little bit.

The crypt remains the focus of the adventure, and I didn’t change anything there. But I wanted to give myself the ability to play up how the crypt, Jora’s disappearance and the appearance of a terrifying spirit affect the village and begin applying stress to the relationships within it. To do that, I needed to decide who has power in the village and how the horror of the crypt might affect them.

Ultimately, the players will choose to engage with this material as much or as little as they want. Really, I created it to give me, as the GM, a better sense of the village and grist for creating interesting twists in town (and outside it as well, as you’ll see below).

Not only does this material help me roleplay my part in the current adventure, it will also set me up to evolve the adventure, which we’ll explore in a subsequent post.

Skogenby

The lonely village of Skogenby sits just a few miles east of Asktoft across the Hrada River. A ford connects the two villages, though it becomes impassable when the river runs high, especially in late spring to early summer. Skogenby butts up against the verge of a vast spruce forest in the foothills of the Silfjalls, and its stoic, hardworking people eke a meager living from the stony earth.

Stivardur Sigismund, Gydja Vigdis and Hakemunn Grim are the village elders.

Town Rules

Skills: Carpenter, Peasant, Weaver
Traits: Stoic, Rough Hands
Alignment: Unaffiliated
Haggling: Ob 3

Available Locations

Flophouse, Home (equivalent to Flophouse), Market (This market is held once a month. Roll 2d6 when entering town; market is available on a roll of 9-12), Shrine, Stables, Street, Tavern

Skogenby Laws
  • All inhabitants of Skogenby must work Lady Gry’s lands 2 days out of every 7 (Ob 2 Peasant test)
  • Brawling is a criminal act. Punishable by public humiliation.
Personalities of Skogenby Lady Gry

A Gott ridder (knight) in service to Greve Jermod the Lame, Lady Gry holds Skogenby as one of her fiefs but is largely an absentee landlord, preferring her manor, Asktoft. She’s content to let the village fend for itself, so long as nothing interferes with her rents. She can be affable with her peers, but is generally brusque with inferiors.
Belief: Wealth in cattle and horses is the measure of a lord and I’ll not be found wanting.

Stivardur Sigismund

Sigismund is a Gott carl (landed farmer). As Lady Gry’s stivardur, Sigismund handles the day-to-day management of the village. He organizes the planting and harvest, ensures that all the villagers work Lady Gry’s lands as required and collects rents. He takes no guff from his fellow villagers, but is positively obsequious when it comes to Lady Gry. He’s desperate to get this business with the crypt resolved as soon as possible, especially since his son Jurgen was among Jora’s companions when she entered the crypt. He will become quite nervous if Greve Jermod’s rangers show up, as part of the fields the villagers cleared were technically within the bounds of the Greve’s forest. Sigismund and his brother Baugi secretly moved the property markers one night several months ago.
Belief: The Lords grant wealth and prestige to those bold and cunning enough to take it.

Gydja Vigdis

A Græling, Vigdis is the eldest woman in the village and is the grandmother or great grandmother of many of the villagers. While Gry and her proxy Sigismund technically rule the village, it is to Vigdis that many of the villagers look for leadership, particularly the Græling cottars (impoverished peasants that work a carl’s farm). As the village gydja, Vigdis is a priestess responsible for performing the rites and rituals to the village’s patron spirit (ættir), ancestors and Immortal Lords. She is patient, observant and expects deference. Vigdis suspects and fears that the only way to appease the horror the villagers have disturbed is with blood sacrifice—likely the children responsible. If the adventurers can’t resolve the problem, she will feel she has no choice but recommend such a sacrifice.
Belief: The Immortal Lords will have their due, one way or the other.

Hakemunn Grim

Grim is a Gott carl and the wealthiest, most prominent farmer in Skogenby. When he talks, the other freemen listen, despite his mean, churlish sense of humor. Grim believes the village should forget about the girl, seal up the crypt and wash its hands of the matter. He makes no bones about sharing that view. As more and more people die in the night, other villagers increasingly agree with him.
Belief: I know what’s best and anyone who won’t listen deserves what they get.

Johanna

Gydja Vigdis’ granddaughter and apprentice, Johanna is also Jora’s mother and the wife of Vagn, the village blacksmith (a Græling whom even the Gott’s in the village respect). Johanna is terrified for her daughter and desperately wants her home safely. She’s working up the nerve to poison Hakemunn Grim before he sways the rest of the village to his view.
Belief: My family is my strength.

Marius

Jora’s cousin, Marius, is 12-years-old and carried one of the arm rings back to Skogenby after she disappeared. He’s ashamed of himself for abandoning Jora—he was the first to run. He is also grief-stricken: His father, Per, was the first of the villagers slain in the night by the spirit of the crypt. He blames himself.
Belief: The Immortals see our deeds and know the evil that we do!

Outsiders Halvor, Captain of Greve Jermod’s Wardens

Halvor represents Greve Jermod’s interests in these parts, particularly the Post Road. Halvor and his wardens have come to investigate reports of bandits hiding in the forest near the Post Road and to determine whether Lady Gry and the villagers of Skogenby illegally cleared lands that are part of the Greve’s forest preserve. Halvor and the wardens have little sympathy for the peasants’ plight, but will seek to enforce the Greve’s rights to any treasure discovered if the crypt proves to have been in the Greve’s preserve. They will look favorably upon those who help them root out the bandits or reveal the village’s perfidy.

Beronin the Bandit Chief

An outcast dwarf from the Silfjalls, Beronin leads a group of bandits that eke out a living preying on travelers on the Post Road. They have a hideout in the forest near Skogenby. Many of them were once farmers in Skogenby or other nearby villages who turned to banditry after being outlawed for poaching, murder, failure to pay taxes after a poor harvest and the like. A handful are dwarven outcasts like Beronin himself. Beronin has heard rumors of treasures in the crypt and has taken some of his bandits to investigate. They’re just as happy to rob the dead as the living.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Thanksgiving Thank You!

Thu, 11/22/2018 - 14:00
Religious Procession by Kurt Komoda

Happy Thursday!

It’s a holiday today here  in the US, so I’ll keep today’s post short.

I and the rest of Burning Wheel Headquarters wish you and yours a happy Thanksgiving. We are thankful to all of you who support us in continuing to make games. We are thankful to all of the friends we have made through the years while doing this, and for the friends we hope to make in the years to come. We are thankful for all people out there that have taken and continue to take a stand against racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and all other forms of intolerance. We are thankful for all those who stand with our LGBTQ+ family.

I’m writing this from my brother’s home, surrounded by loving family and beautiful things. I’m thankful for how lucky we are, while recognizing that so many other people, here and around the world, are suffering. They lack adequate food to eat and water drink. They’ve lost homes and loved ones. They suffer the injustices of poverty, illness and war. I am thankful for each and every one of you that takes some small step to help mitigate this suffering.

The world of Torchbearer can be a dark and unforgiving one, but it is also one in which we can triumph by working together and supporting each other for a common cause. I remain hopeful the same is true of our own world.

As a special ‘thank you’, here are a handful of magic items for which Torchbearer characters would be very thankful.

Amulet of Stars

An exquisite blue and white gem that seems to glow with an internal light, set in a cunningly wrought cage of silver filigree.
Effect: When things seem darkest, the light of this elf jewel inspires hope in all who gaze upon it.  Once per session, the bearer may hold the jewel aloft and anyone who can see it may take +1D to one test to recover from angry, afraid, exhausted, injured or sick.
Inventory: Neck/worn 1 or pack 1
Type: Magical jewelry

Delver’s Amulet

A pewter amulet on a fine silver chain. The amulet bears a sunburst symbol on its face. To those capable of reading auras, the amulet radiates faint magic.
Effect: When worn, the amulet grants +1D to tests to detect traps and +1D to Health tests to avoid the effect of a trap.
Inventory: Neck/worn 1 or pack 1
Type: Magical jewelry

Dowsing Rod

A forked wooden stick scrawled with arcane sigils.
Effect: Unerringly leads the user to the nearest potable water.
Charges: 2d6
Inventory: Hands/carried 1 or pack 1
Type: Magical equipment

Horn of Drenge

A large drinking vessel made from the curving horn of an aurochs, banded with beaten gold.
Effect: Any liquid poured into the horn becomes delicious, refreshing mead (effect as wine). The mead must be drunk from the horn; if poured into another container, it turns foul and undrinkable.
Inventory: Hands/carried 2 or pack 2
Type: Magical container

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Prepackaged and Individually Portioned

Thu, 11/15/2018 - 14:00
The Light of Civilization Flickers by Russ Nicholson

One of the biggest challenges Torchbearer GMs face is creating dungeons or choosing published dungeons (especially if they weren’t specifically written with Torchbearer in mind).

I highly recommend crafting your own dungeons if you have the time. It’s fun! The Adventure Design chapter can help make it a snap, too! But you don’t need to shy away from published adventures, even from other games. They’ll make your life easier.

Whether you choose to make your own or use a prepackaged adventure, you’ll get the best results if you play to Torchbearer’s strengths.

Small Adventures Are Better

Under the House of the Three Squires1The adventure included in the Torchbearer core book is sprawling as Torchbearer adventures go. It will take a group 4-6 sessions or more to complete. The Dread Crypt of Skogenby, on the other hand, can play in a single session if your group is really focused, but will probably take them 2-4 sessions.

In my experience, groups typically get through three to four areas per session of play. Especially for the early sessions of a campaign, you want short, snappy adventures that allow the players to face some trouble, (hopefully) find some treasure, and return to town to spend their ill-gotten gains. Save the slogs for later adventures when the players are dug in and committed.

Something on par with Skogenby, or even smaller, is recommended. If you’re writing your own adventure, three or four areas is sufficient for a session’s worth of adventure.

Incorporate the Environment

A fair number of fantasy adventures just come down to fighting monsters. Desperate fights with monsters are fun, but Torchbearer really shines when there are environmental challenges to face as well. Getting from one floor to another when the stairs have collapsed, or swimming through a water-filled passage while figuring out how to manage your light and keep your spellbook dry, is incredibly fun in Torchbearer. Look for adventures that allow you to incorporate such challenges, or make sure to build them in if you’re writing your own.

In Skogenby, the tight squeeze (area 2), secret door (area 6) and rockfall (area 9) are all examples of environmental challenges. I like the tight squeeze in particular because it’s not a challenge when entering the dungeon—at that point you have all the time in the world. It’s only when you need to exit the dungeon in a hurry that the tight squeeze becomes a serious problem for the PCs. I like it because the problem presents itself innocuously to the PCs, but perceptive and savvy players can recognize the danger and take steps to mitigate it.

Use Monsters with Care

The Torchbearer versions of some monsters commonly found in other fantasy roleplaying games can be considerably more dangerous than they are in their native systems. When you’re running an adventure written for another game, consider the numbers. Even relatively weak monsters can devastate a group of Torchbearer characters if they outnumber them significantly.

Add a monster’s Nature to any helping dice at its disposal to get a feel for how many dice you’ll throw against the players in a conflict. And keep in mind that Might can also tip the scales. Monsters with Might 5+ are especially dangerous because PCs can’t kill them without access to level benefits or magic that boosts their own Might.

Consider that Skogenby has lots of monsters, but it doesn’t have them in every room. That leaves space for careful PCs to choose the best plan and approach before taking the monsters on. Even more important, the big bad is walled off from the PCs to start (though it has ways to make itself known), which allows them time to explore and build up resources before tackling the most difficult part of the dungeon.

Keep an Eye on the Future

Consider whether the adventure presents an immediate, delayed or dormant threat to surrounding communities. Think about how the situation might evolve if the players ignore the adventure or attempt it but can’t resolve things.

As I mentioned in previous post, Skogenby presents an immediate threat. If the players don’t successfully deal with Haathor-Vash right away, the threat will grow. The undead will overrun the village, causing the survivors to flee to surrounding villages for refuge. Soon the dead will present a threat to those villages as well.

Use Enemies, Friends, Mentors and Parents

In character creation, your players took the time to detail their relationships. You might not use them in your first adventure, but think about how they might be involved with or affected by the dungeons and hazardous locations you place. Not every adventure should involve a relationship but incorporating them judiciously will make your games pop.

Turning again to Skogenby, the village presents an opportunity to incorporate such relationships. Perhaps the PCs have family connections in Skogenby, or a mentor has disappeared into the dungeon itself. Maybe an enemy has gone in seeking treasure, or made common cause with Haathor-Vash!

Consider with the Eye of a Torchbearer Adventurer

One of my favorite non-Torchbearer adventures to run in Torchbearer is an old White Dwarf magazine D&D adventure called The Beacon at Enon Tor2This link leads to a version of the adventure converted for Castles & Crusades. Consistently, one of my favorite moments when running this adventure is when the players stumble upon the tower’s storeroom, which is filled with barrels of oil, dozens of torches, bins of nails, axes, saws, timber, sacks, sailcloth and more. The adventure notes that none of it is especially valuable, but to Torchbearer adventurers, this room is a treasure trove!

Every time players find this room, I know that they’re going to find something creative and surprising to do with all that stuff. Don’t be afraid to give the PCs lots of gear and supplies. They’ll have to figure out how to carry it, and in the meantime their creativity will kick into high gear.

In Skogenby, the chamber of ablutions (area 4), chamber of vigils (area 5) and the altar of ascension (area 6) all contain materials that can be used by creative players. What would you do with the spears from the sarcophagus trap, or the sand in the urns? What about the sleeping dust from the trap in the secret door?

Place Treasure and Other Loot

Treasure is an essential element of Torchbearer adventures. Torchbearer characters need the opportunity to gain treasure so they can go to town, heal up and resupply before heading out to adventure some more. If they aren’t getting treasure, Torchbearer goes from being a difficult game to a punishing one.

Just as you shouldn’t worry about giving players access to too much gear, don’t be too worried about giving the players access to too much treasure. The characters will have to figure out how to carry it and town will drain treasure fast! You don’t need to make it easy to get the treasure, but you don’t need to be shy with it either.

Published adventures are usually pretty good about placing treasure, but it’s tempting to just rely on Torchbearer’s treasure tables when you’re writing your own. Fight that urge! Don’t get me wrong: The treasure tables are fun and you should use them. But you should make sure to specifically place some treasure—gold, gems, magic items, etc.—and then use the tables to round the planned treasure out.

Skogenby uses treasure to tell its story. The silver arm rings kicked everything off. The silver ewer in the chamber of ablutions is part of Haathor-Vash’s mystery, as are the runes in the altar ascension. And, of course, there’s some loot in Haathor-Vash’s vault. In all, there’s 28D to be found in the Dread Crypt.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Way Down in the Hole

Thu, 11/08/2018 - 14:00
Castle Erobring by Kurt Komoda

As a Torchbearer GM, your job is to create opportunities for players to make choices.

The communities you’ve placed on your map have problems! Not only do they face the possibility of real-world horrors like natural disasters, war and plague, the lands surrounding them are filled with goblins, dragons and evil enchanters. The dungeons and hazardous locations on your map won’t just exist in isolation (for the most part), they’ll create direct and indirect threats to the settlements on your map, and the people in those places will notice!

Always consider how the dungeons and hazardous locations you put on your map might threaten one or more settlements on the map. Maybe some of them aren’t immediate threats: They’ll evolve over time from isolated incidents to threat, unless the players intervene. Others might lay dormant, and will only become threats if the PCs disturb something they shouldn’t. Some, of course, will present an immediate problem.

In Starting Fresh, I placed three dungeons on my map to start: Under the House of the Three Squires in the south, The Dread Crypt of Skogenby just a hop, skip and a jump to the west, and Thelon’s Rift in the north.

The Dread Crypt represents the immediate threat. It was dormant until some villagers disturbed the ancient barrow, and now an evil spirit is haunting the village and killing people. It doesn’t get more immediate than that. But there’s also room for evolution. The players may decide to pursue another adventure first. In that case, the threat presented by the Dread Crypt will grow: More undead will boil out of the crypt and invade Skogenby, destroying the village and flooding nearby communities like Asktoft with refugees from the slavering undead horde. The PCs could still turn the tide, but the danger will be greater.

Under the House of the Three Squires is the delayed threat. While the initial victims will have lost their lives if the players don’t tackle this adventure immediately, the monsters don’t immediately threaten the surrounding countryside. However, if left undisturbed, they will soon begin raiding merchants and travelers using the Post Road. Asktoft and even Holtburg will begin to feel the sting of the cut trade route over time.

Thelon’s Rift is my dormant site. Reputedly filled with fabulous treasure, it will stay in stasis until the PCs tackle it (or I get inspired to do something evil). I don’t want to spoil this adventure too much just yet, but the PCs can definitely unleash something horrible if they step wrong within the Rift.

In placing your own dungeons, try to include a mix of threats. If every dungeon and villain presents an immediate threat, you’ll make your players feel helpless. They’ll feel like their choices don’t matter because no matter what they do, everything else will get even more terrible. On the other hand, if every dungeon and villain is dormant, they’ll feel like their choices don’t have consequences: It won’t matter what they choose to prioritize because everything else will stay the same.

And make sure to spend some time considering how your threats might evolve over time. Not only will such evolution help your players feel that their characters exist in a living, breathing world in which their choices matter, it will also help ensure that time you spend prepping a dungeon isn’t wasted. You won’t have to worry about the PCs leveling past the adventures you’ve worked on. Instead, you’ll spend a little bit of time updating a given adventure to keep it compelling.

Have You Heard the One About…

As I mentioned at the outset, your job as a Torchbearer GM is to create opportunities for players to make choices. Once you’ve created your dungeons and thought about how they’ll threaten your setting, you need to put some information in the players’ hands so they can weigh their options and decide what to prioritize.

Rumors are one of the best tools at your disposal to do this. When the PCs arrive in a settlement, let them know what people are buzzing about. Maybe you roleplay a bit when they visit the tavern, and the barkeep or some drunken wag fills them in on the latest gossip. Maybe they hear tales from fellow travelers as they wait to pass through the town’s gate. Or you could just tell the players outright what people in town are talking about.

The first time my players went to town in my new game, they heard the following rumors:

  • Some folk in Skogenby, the next village over, uncovered a strange barrow while clearing a field recently. They think some evil spirit has come out of it, and they’ve asked for Lady Gry’s help, but she’s away. Supposedly there’s a lot of treasure in the tomb.
  • The Widow Auda owns the tavern you’re currently drinking in. Her sons, Odger and Samo, made a trip down to the House of the Three Squires last week to pick up some casks of sour beer, a trip they make about once a season. They should have been back days ago. It’s planting season, so no one wants to leave their fields, but some of the townsfolk have taken up a collection as a modest reward for anyone willing to make the trip to find out what’s happened to them.
  • A master enchanter named Thelon used to have a secret workshop in the mountains, somewhere near Holtburg. He used to come into Holtburg every once in a while to buy alchemical supplies for his work. No one has seen him in years. He’s probably dead. They say his workshop was packed to the rafters with all sorts of wonders.

I don’t make the players take any particular actions in town or pay a price to get these rumors. These are the things everyone is talking about. Note that this doesn’t invalidate town actions like gathering rumors or digging for leads. Instead, they give players a starting point. If they players decide they’re really interested in Thelon the Enchanter, they might ask around about him and his work.

Rumor Grows as It Goes

There’s an art to creating compelling rumors. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Don’t give everything away. A good rumor is a tease. You want to whet the players’ appetites, get them interested, but leave room for discovery and surprise. Remember that the players have tools like Digging for Leads at their disposal if they really want to get more information. You may want to have a few additional choice bits of information prepared in case they do try to hunt them down.
  • Use your NPCs. Unless their characters are all loners, tough and cool, your players spent a bit of time in character creation detailing their parents, friends, mentors and enemies. If you want to really get the players’ attention, weave those NPCs into your dungeons and rumors. Do this sparingly! If an enemy is behind every plot, or a friend gets lost in every dungeon, it will feel contrived. Include them at just the right level and your players will be hooked. You’ll have to experiment to find the right amount.
  • Reincorporate.  Leverage past events from your game and include them in the rumors. The more you tie new things into past events, the more your players will feel that the world and campaign have a life of their own. Did the PCs drive the Red Crest clan of kobolds out into the countryside while dealing with the House of the Three Squires? Maybe after an adventure or two pass, they hear a rumor about a steading that’s been overrun by kobolds that bear the mark of the Red Crest…
  • Seed expectations of treasure. Not all (or even most) Torchbearer PCs adventure for altruistic reasons. Your players might be the exception, of course, but I try not to rely on the desire for heroism to hook players with my rumors. The implication of cold hard cash or magic items usually does the trick. You know your players best. Think about what might get them going and make sure to hint at those things in your rumors.
  • Don’t feel bound by the truth. Your rumors don’t have to be true! They’re rumors and gossip after all. They may get some things wrong. The rumors may say a house is hauntedby spectres and ghosts, but the truth might be that a band of slavers is using the house as a base for their smuggling operation. In my view, every good adventure includes some sort of unexpected surprise. You can use a rumor to set up the eventual twist. As with using NPCs, don’t do this all the time! If rumors are always wrong, the players won’t buy them anymore. Mislead the players sparingly and everyone will enjoy the payoff.

Do you have any tips for creating rumors or stories about how you’ve used them in your games? If so, please share!


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Starting Fresh Pt. 2

Thu, 11/01/2018 - 13:01

Last week I wrote about creating the map for my new campaign. Finishing the map (for now) wasn’t the end of my prep for this campaign, of course. Before I could even think about prepping the dungeons, I had to get down some details important to character creation.

The first thing I did was give each of the settlements on the map their own skills and traits so the players could choose for their characters to come from those places. In a pinch, I could have just used the templates from the core book. Asktoft could just be a Busy Crossroads. But this is an opportunity to give the place its own character and feel.

For instance, here’s Asktoft:

Asktoft

Skills: Cook, Steward, Stonemason
Traits: Proud, Thrifty
Alignment: Unaffiliated
Haggling: Ob 2

Even just this should give me, as the GM, a handle on how to play NPCs from Asktoft. It’s some nice shorthand for the players, too, if they care about such things.

We’re starting in Asktoft, so I also detailed the available locations and laws. I’ll only do the available locations for the other settlements if it looks like the players are going to spend a town phase there. In a pinch, I can just wing it by using the basic templates from the core book. If I’m feeling it, I’ll do the laws too, but I might wait until it looks like the players will come back to the settlement a few times. Again, here’s Asktoft:

Available Locations

Flophouse, Guild Hall, Home (equivalent to Flophouse or Inn based on station of owner), Market (This market is held once a month. Roll 2d6 when entering town; market is available on a roll of 9-12), Manor House (equivalent to inn), Shrine, Stables, Street, Tavern

Asktoft Laws
  • Theft is a criminal act. Punishable by public humiliation.
  • Defamation of the Gott overlords is a criminal act. Punishable by incarceration or whipping. (the Gotts are the ruling human tribe in this part of the Middarmark)
  • Only ridders (Gott knights) and above may wear ermine and fox. Punishable by three days in stocks or a fine (Ob 2 Resources test).

Lady Gry, a Gott ridder, is the lord of Asktoft. In fact, you’ll note in the Available Locations above, she has her manor house in Asktoft. Staying at the manor requires requesting hospitality (via the Rites of Hospitality rules in Middarmark). She’s not going to take just any no-name murder-hobos into her home though! The PCs will have to do something to earn her respect. Gry is also the lord of Skogenby and possibly some other steadings or remote villages around here.

She’s a middle-aged fighting woman who’s spent her life in the saddle. She cares about anything that threatens her wealth, but otherwise she’s not terribly concerned about her subjects’ problems. When we start the game, she’s going to be off attending her lord in the field. I have no idea at this point when she’ll return.

The human population in this part of the world is mostly Gott and Græling, with some Bjornings as well (the Grælings and Bjornings are other human tribes of the Middarmark). The nobility here is entirely Gott. The karls (relatively prosperous freemen and freewomen) are also primarily Gotts, though there are some wealthier Græling and Bjornings here and there (probably seen as upstarts by their Gott neighbors). The majority of the Grælings and Bjornings, though, are cottars (impoverished freemen and freewomen) or thralls (slaves). There are some Gott cottars as well and even a few Gott thralls, though that’s rarer. Skyrnir (nomadic reindeer herding humans) do wander through these lands from time to time, though the Gotts tend to detest them and drive them off when the Skyrnir reindeer get too close to pastures meant for Gott horses and cattle. Individuals are tolerated but barely.

There’s no halfling homeland in these parts, but it’s not uncommon for individuals or even families to wander these lands. Dwarven caravans are a regular sight on the Tradeway. The elves are shy and retiring, mostly to be found in the Eldmork.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Starting Fresh

Thu, 10/25/2018 - 13:54

Hello friends!

As I noted in my last post, I started a new Torchbearer game a few weeks ago. I’ve subjected this particular group to a number of playtests of new adventures recently, all of which have ended in TPKs. They’ve been good sports, but they were ready to commit to something longer term (with the hopes of actually surviving a dungeon or two).

For my part, I wanted to get back to Torchbearer’s roots. One of the key ideas in my head when I first started working on the game was the idea of a map that would start with just a few locations and then grow over time as the group explored it and new details were added. That’s the core idea behind the Prepare Thyself chapter in the book.

I decided that we would start the game in the Middarmark, specifically in the Gottmark of the far north because it’s been unexplored territory in our games so far. I went to my Middarmark map and selected the boxed part of the map below. Specifically, I think it’s the little saddle between the mountain in the southwest portion of the map and the hills above it.

For me, the hardest part of making any map is where to start. I often find that picking an anchor geography point or points helps get me going. Part of what drew me to the section of the Middarmark map I chose is that big mountain at the top of the box. I chose that as my anchor point. I also know that I want to include Highwater (the port city from The Secret Vault of the Queen of Thieves). We’ll put it somewhere on the coast, though probably not on the initial map. That’s my second anchor point.

Water Is the Driving Force of All Nature

The other thing that really helps me figure out a map is water. Bodies of water make excellent boundaries, but they also connect people. Settlements tend to spring up along coasts and river systems, especially river systems that are navigable. The section of the map I chose is south of the Vanskr River, which runs east out of the Nidfjolls into the Skyet Sea. That river is a little too far north for my initial setting, so I’m going to add a new river and tributaries that flow south and east out of our little valley to the coast.

So that’s where I started: I penciled in some mountains in the northeast of my map and a river with tributaries.

With that done, I named the rivers. The primary river, flowing out of the mountains to the north, is the Hrada, a play on the Old Norse for ‘swift.’ The tributary that originates to the west is the Kaldrelva (Cold River). The southern tributary is the Sylfelva (Silver River). I’m not terribly concerned about linguistic fidelity, I just want the sound of it to feel right when spoken. By the same token, I decided to call the mountains the Silfjalls (Silver Mountains).

Names have a kind of magic. When you name something in a role-playing game, whether a character, a house or inn, a city, or a sword, you make it just a little more real, more substantial, to everyone else. A sword found in a tomb? Big deal. The Sword of Seven Shadows found in the tomb of Aras-Ekbar? That’s something special. Give things names!

At BWHQ, we like to keep foreign language dictionaries handy when we play for just this purpose. And I should note that when I run games in the Middarmark, I probably reference the names lists on pages 52-53 more than anything else in the book.

The Journey Itself Is Home

With the backbone of my map done, it was time to place some settlements. I needed a starting base for the PCs — not necessarily a hometown, but a place that doesn’t have any adventures attached to it (at least at the beginning) that the characters will be able to return to and spend their spoils.

For that purpose, I created Asktoft, a somewhat prosperous town that serves as the seat of a Gott ridder (a knight of the Gott tribe) named Gry. If you’ve run or played The Dread Crypt of Skogenby, you might recognize Lady Gry as the absentee lord of that benighted village. And, in fact, I decided that Skogenby is just to the east of Asktoft. There’s a natural ford of the Hrada right there.

I decided to put a wealthy crossroads town in the north. That’s Holtburg. And I knew that none of my players had actually played the Under the House of the Three Squires adventure from the core book, so I decided to put that in the south. It’s on the way to the port city of Highwater.

There are almost certainly more remote villages and steadings located on this map, but we’ll discover them later. And that’s an important point, actually. You don’t need a ton of detail to start. You just need enough to give your players a sense of place and maybe inspire some curiosity. My friends Adam and Sage nailed this concept in DungeonWorld with the game’s GM Principles: The very first one on the list is, “Draw maps, leave blanks.”

“Dungeon World exists mostly in the imaginations of the people playing it; maps help everyone stay on the same page. You won’t always be drawing them yourself, but any time there’s a new location described make sure it gets added to the map.“When you draw a map don’t try to make it complete. Leave room for the unknown. As you play you’ll get more ideas and the players will give you inspiration to work with. Let the maps expand and change.”

DungeonWorld, page 162

Your map doesn’t have to be perfect and it doesn’t have to be complete. Leave plenty of room for your map to grow and evolve. Discovering and defining what’s in those blank spaces through play is a ton of fun.

On that Path Lies Danger

Like rivers, roads and paths are important to defining a map. The Under the House of the Three Squires adventure says the titular House is situated on the Post Road. I decided that would be the backbone connecting the House to Asktoft, Holtburg and even Highwater.

I imagine Holtburg has become as wealthy as it has because it sits between two dwarven cities: Frostfast Hall in the west and another outpost in the Silfjalls in the east. I settled on Frarborgen as the name of that city. The Tradeway is the road that connects the two dwarven citadels. Holtburg sits on the crossroads of the Post Road and the Tradeway.

I think the Tradeway between Holtburg and Frarborgen runs mostly through foothills, so I added some just west of Frarborgen. They probably run most of the length of that route, but for the moment I just put in a hint of them.

The original section of the Middarmark map that I chose shows a thick section of the Ironwold forest blanketing the course of the Vanskr River. I wanted to include that, so I added a hint of forest south of Frarborgen. Skogenby is named for the spruce forest that borders it, so I added some trees north of it as well. I think the forest actually spans the distance between Frarborgen and Skogenby, but no need to fill it all in at this point.

I like the idea of a mist-cloaked marsh that could be home to witches and other spooky things, so I added the Illmyr in the south. It’s the wetlands that gives birth to the Sylfelva and the Post Road runs right through it.

There Are Dark Shadows on the Earth

According to Prepare Thyself, I still needed an elven settlement. I decided there’s a hidden elven settlement called Eldheim in the trackless forest south of Frarborgen. It’s hidden, so I’m not going to put it on the map just yet, but I decided that this part of the Ironwold is called the Eldmork.

South and east, at the terminus of the Post Road, is the bustling metropolis of Highwater. Somewhere on the map, I haven’t quite decided where yet, is the Gott temple-complex of Helglund. I also haven’t decided on a wizard’s tower yet. To begin, players could come from Svartårn if they wanted to hail from a wizard’s tower, even though it’s a long, long way to the southwest.

Perhaps most importantly, I needed to place some dungeons and ruins on the map. I want to give my players some rumors about what’s going on in the area and let them choose where to go, what to explore and which dungeons to tackle. I’ve already got the House of the Three Squires on the map. And since I have Skogenby, I needed to add the Dread Crypt. I put another dungeon called Thelon’s Rift outside Holtburg.

There are a few other unlabeled locations on the map between Asktoft and Holtburg — probably abandoned wayhouses (similar to the House of the Three Squires) that have become havens for bandits or worse, but I’ll decide for certain when they come into play.

The map is roughly 10 miles to a hex.

At that point I had all the starting elements of the map. I was satisfied, so I went over the pencil in ink.

And then I added just a little bit of color, which I like to do to help the map ‘pop.’

In all, this process took me an afternoon. I can’t wait to fill in the blanks on this map with my friends.

I want to hear your prep stories! What’s gotten you excited to play? What have you struggled with?

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Into the Gloaming…

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 13:06

Hello friends!

A few weeks ago, I started a new Torchbearer campaign. I made a map, placed some settlements, wild places and dungeons, and off we went.

The players had rumors of several adventures to choose from at the start. One of the rumors concerned The Dread Crypt of Skogenby (get it free here!):

Some folk in Skogenby recently uncovered a strange barrow while clearing a field. They think some evil spirit has come out of it, and they’ve asked their lord help, but she’s away. Supposedly there’s a lot of treasure in the tomb.

But the players chose to pursue another rumor instead. Now they’ve come back to town after their latest adventure and heard some shocking news: The walking dead have overrun Skogenby!

Just in time for Halloween!

So here I am prepping a survival horror addition to Skogenby, and it occurs to me that Torchbearer is lacking some classic horror monsters. This is intended to remedy that dreadful oversight. Without further ado, here’s my take on the zombie and the werewolf. And Jared Sorensen, of Memento Mori Theatricks, has been kind enough to allow me to include his Vampire Lord, excerpted from his Halloween-inspired Torchbearer Sagas supplement, Denizens of the Dark (you’ll find lots of other holiday-appropriate goodies in Denizens, including the vampire lord’s vampire minions!).

Enjoy!

Zombie

These mindless undead are animated corpses driven by an insatiable hunger for flesh. They are frequently created by evil necromancers as servitors for their wicked schemes.

Might: 2 Nature (Undead): 3

Descriptors: Consuming, Lurching, Sensing Brains Drive Off: 8 Drive Off Weapons
Attack: +1D, Ragged Nails
Defend: +2D, Unreasoning Hunger Kill: 6 Kill Weapons
Attack: +1D, Ragged Nails
Defend: +2D, Unreasoning Hunger Flee: 3 Flee Weapons
Attack: -1D, Mindless Persistence
Defend: +1s, Mindless Persistence Instinct: Brains! Special:
Unliving flesh. All piercing and slashing weapons are -1s to Attack and Feint when used against zombies. A holy symbol used against zombies in drive off or kill conflicts confers +1s to attack actions.

Mindless. Zombies are non-intelligent undead. They cannot be tricked or riddled with, nor engaged in a convince conflict.

Slow. Zombies reveal their first action to players after both sides have selected their actions but before actions are compared. Players then have the option to switch their action 1 and action 2. The players still act in the original order, they simply exchange actions.

The Hunger. Wounds caused by zombies spread their curse. Any character who receives an injury as a result of a kill, capture or drive off conflict in which the zombie used its Ragged Nails also gains a special sick condition. This condition is a curse and may only be removed via magic that breaks curses, like the Absolution of the Lord of Endings invocation. If the condition is not removed by the end of the next town phase, the character becomes a zombie and thus a GM-controlled character. Anyone slain by a zombie also rises to become one of the walking dead. Werewolf

These evil creatures, once human, were bitten by a werewolf and so cursed to become werewolves themselves. By the light of the full moon they are driven to hunt human prey!

Might: 5 Nature (Lycanthrope): 5

Descriptors: Preying, Raging, Howling Kill: 11 Kill Weapons
Attack: +1D, +1s, Slavering Jaws and Razor Claws
Defend: +1D, Uncontrollable Rage
Feint: +1s, Slavering Jaws and Razor Claws
Maneuver: +1s, Lightning Reflexes Flee: 9 Flee Weapons
Attack: +2D, Loping Gait
Defend: +1D, Preternatural Senses
Feint: +1D, Preternatural Senses
Maneuver: +2D, Loping Gait Drive Off: 6 Drive Off Weapons
Attack: +1D, +1s, Slavering Jaws and Razor Claws
Defend: +1D, Uncontrollable Rage
Feint: +1s, Slavering Jaws and Razor Claws
Maneuver: +1s, Lightning Reflexes Trick: 4 Trick Weapons
Defend: +1D, Lupine Cunning
Maneuver: +1D, Lupine Cunning Instinct: Always hunt human (or dwarf, elf or halfling) meat by the light of the full moon. Special:
Shapeshifter: Werewolves assume their humanoid form by day and their wolf form at night. They assume their hybrid-wolf form when the moon is full. They may attempt to assume the hybrid-wolf form at any time with an Ob 2 Nature test. Clothing and equipment does not transform with the werewolf.

Lycanthrope: A werewolf’s bite spreads lycanthropy. Any character who receives an injury as a result of a kill, capture or drive off conflict in which the werewolf used its Slavering Jaws also gains a special sick condition. This condition is a curse and may only be removed via magic that breaks curses, like the Absolution of the Lord of Endings invocation. If the condition is not removed by the end of the next town phase, the character becomes a werewolf and thus a GM-controlled character. Once the character has become a werewolf, it may still be possible to break the curse. The werewolf must be captured, bound and trapped within a circle of wolfsbane. Then the Absolution of the Lord of Endings invocation (or similar curse-breaking magic) must be used upon them. This only works as long as the werewolf has not passed the lycanthropic curse to another. Once it has spread the disease, only its death can end the curse.Cursed. Werewolves are particularly vulnerable to silver. Silver weapons give their wielders +1 effective might against werewolves. Werewolves are also extremely averse to wolfsbane. The herb can be used as a weapon against werewolves in drive off conflicts, providing +1s to attack and feint. Note: The stat block above is for a werewolf in its hybrid-wolf form. Werewolves in wolf form are Might 3, Nature 5 and have the descriptors: Hunting, Stalking, Howling. Werewolves in humanoid form are Might 3, Nature 5 and have the descriptors: Boasting, Demanding, Running (or the descriptors of their Middarmark tribe).

 

Vampire Lord

Vampire Lords are hideous, immortal fiends that feed on the blood of the living. Whether they were cursed by the Old Gods, infected by an alien plague or were transformed by dark rituals, who can say? All that is known is that Vampire Lords are creatures of Chaos who drain the living of their vital essence and seek to subjugate the mortal masses. Though monsters, they adopt an air of nobility and prefer to reside in ruined castles or mouldering manors where they surround themselves with mortal thralls and undead minions. Vampire Lords retain the abilities and benefits of their former selves.

Might: 5 Nature (Undead): 7

Descriptors: Infecting, Scheming, Subjugating Kill: 15 Kill Weapons
Attack: +1s, Wicked Fangs (ignores armor)
Feint: +1s, Wicked Fangs (ignores armor) Flee: 12 Flee Weapons
Attack: +2D, Inhuman Alacrity
Defend: +1s, Predatory Senses
Feint: +2D, Predatory Senses
Maneuver: +1D, Inhuman Alacrity Drive Off: 9 Drive Off Weapons
Defend: +2D, Monstrous Fortitude Convince: 4 Convince Weapons
Attack: +1D, Terrifying Visage
Defend: +1D, Air of Nobility
Feint: +1s, Terrifying Visage
Maneuver: +2D, Air of Nobility Armor: Most Vampire Lords are able to wear armor and helmets. Instinct: Always drink the blood of my prey. Special:

Dominating Mind. Vampire lords are immune to mind-affecting spells.

Shapeshifter. In dim light or darkness, Vampire Lords can transform into mist, dire wolves or giant vampire bats. It may assume each form no more than once per session. It may revert to its human form at any time. While in mist form, vampire lords are insubstantial and cannot be struck save with spells, invocations or magical weapons, but they cannot use the Attack action. In wolf form, the vampire lord replaces its descriptors with: Hunting, Stalking, Howling. In giant bat form, the vampire lord replaces its descriptors with: Spying, Biting, Flying.

Creature of the Night. Vampire lords can see in darkness and ignore factors from dim light and darkness.

Sorcerer. Some vampire lords are able to use magic.

Vampirism. Any character who receives an injury as a result of a kill or drive off conflict compromise in which a vampire lord used its fangs as a weapon also gains a special sick condition. This condition is a curse and may only be removed via magic that breaks curses, like the Absolution of the Lord of Endings invocation. If the condition is not removed by the end of the next town phase, the character becomes a vampire and thus a GM-controlled character.

Cursed. Vampire lords must sleep during the day. Sunlight reduces their Might to 2. Fire used against vampire lords inflicts +1s damage. A stake through the heart will destroy a sleeping vampire lord.

 

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Mordite Mondays!

Mon, 10/15/2018 - 20:29

The fine folks at Mordite Press have launched a new Torchbearer blog that will update on Mondays! The first post is a primer on everything that’s currently available for the game. It’s super useful!

Check it out!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs