I want to start writing small summaries of the RPG sessions I’m involved with, even if just to keep a record and remind myself of them. For this session, that’ll be a little odd, since it’s the last of three sessions but there’s no better time to start than the present. A friend of mine was running a Torchbearer adventure for us, namely the demo adventure The Dread Crypt of Skogenby (that’s the full adventure, so beware of spoilers). It was mostly for us to experiment with the system. The DM and I had played the game before, around five years ago, in an adventure run by Eric Vulgaris. However, with the new edition coming out, the current DM felt motivated to run something again.
As I mentioned, this was actually the third of a series of short sessions, and actually also the last one we had planned as a regular session. At the point of starting this adventure, our group of adventurers found ourselves in an ossuary, after having delved a little ways into a crypt while looking for treasure. We had just fought off four animated skeletons in the previous session, so our characters were all somewhat put off and ready to head back to town. However, before then, some shenaniganry had to happen. Not only did Merrick, my Halfling character, rummage through a set of skeletons in search for loot but Fingala, the Elf, had decided to sort through all the bones available to reach an accurate count of how many bodies were actually interred here. All this to the consternation of Dillah, the Dwarf, who wanted to get out as swiftly as she could.
On our way back to Skogenby, having only mildly lost our way, the party ran into Jim, the peasant, who was stuck on the side of the road. Fortunately, helping him out with his cart netted us a kind invite to a stay over at his house, despite the condescending demeanor of the elf. Torchbearer has an interesting separation of the Adventure Phase and the Town Phase, each with their own (though parallel) systems to deal with game progression. Where in the Adventure Phase, your worry is the ever-ticking clock called The Grind, that burdens down your character with Conditions, the Town Phase turns this around by putting a monetary cost on all your actions: the more you do in town, the higher your eventual debts will be come time to leave town. So, having an invitation to stay somewhere for free for a night is an amazing offer.
While deciding how to move on from this town, now that our heroes had stolen some treasure off those animated skeletons, we happened to show one of the gilded torcs we’d taken and, surprisingly, our host recoiled in horror at the sight. Clearly, there was more to investigate here. After looking around for a while, the party found an elder of the village, the Priest Jesaiah, who informed us all that the fear evinced by Jim was caused by a spate of odd deaths that had occured recently. All this started after a young girl disappeared in the crypt, having been dragged in by an arm emerging from it when she and a young kid named Marius went exploring there. Given that family members everybody who went to the crypt to look were the ones suffering those mysterious deaths, the priest suspected there to be some manner of plage in the crypt. Hence, the villages were quite fearful of anything to do with it.
Merrick immediately decided that the girl needed help, as nothing is ever too broken to repair, and offered help. Fingala and Dillah, however, were more interested in hearing whether there was any money to be had in doing that, considering they already had treasure burning a hole in their pockets. Fortunately for the girl, the priest did offer some compensation, so the elf and the dwarf also decided that some services could be offered. With the priest offering the party an armring from the crypt that was recovered in some of the first visits, the party got ready to head back into the crypt.
Though all our sessions had been set up to be brief, because it’s hard to make our schedules match and we also wanted a low-barrier experience, this one felt a little shorter than usual to me. In part, though, It think it might also be that I was only now getting back into the swing of things again. I didn’t feel too good in the second session, and in the first session I was still finding my roleplaying groove again, so this was the first session I felt more comfortable playing again. Another reason would be that with the Town Phase, we were engaging with a new mechanic again, so we had to reference the rules a bit. All the Burning Wheel style games do ask for some system mastery, so when you start out it does take a bit of experience to get comfortable with the rules. As a result, exploring the Town Phase had a lot of breaks in it.
Overall, though, I liked it. My character, Merrick, is starting to develop some, well, character. As always, it takes me a few sessions to get a grip on what I want to do with a character, both to see what interests me in the game but also to see how the character meshes with the characters of the other players. I do feel like we’ll need a few more sessions before we really engage with the game fully as a party, though. We’ve explored the rules a little bit, we’ve explored the crypt in-game a little but, but it all feels like build-up to the actual game so far. Particularly given that we only now hear the story of the missing girl in-game, it seems like we’ve had the first hook to the story but only now to we get the hero’s call to move forward.
I’m not sure whether we’ll be continuining the game, though. As I mentioned, this is the last of the original scheduling that we had done, so there’s no particular moments scheduled after this. The other two players, as far as I am aware, were new to Torchbearer, so for them it was also a question to see if they liked the system. While, as I mentioned, I do believe we need more sessions to have a fair look at how it works, this is also a quite natural moment to step out if they just don’t like the system at all. So, we’ll see what comes of this.