The Torchbearer Second Edition Kickstarter Is Live!

Cave Serpent by Arik Roper

Hello friends!

Just posting to let you know that the Torchbearer 2nd Edition Kickstarter is now live!

We’re splashing out on this like never before. The new edition is based on 7 years of playtesting and feedback on the first edition. We started off with the intention of making a few tweaks like fixing the bow and wound up revising the entire game.

Don’t worry! It hasn’t changed so much that your existing supplements will be useless, but we’ve clarified, revised, refined and expanded the rules. If you back at a tier that includes the Lore Master’s Manual, you’ll get tons of new material, some of which I know many of you have been clamoring for. It includes:

  • New class: the thief, go from a knife-wielding cutthroat to the shadowy power that rules this town
  • New class:  the shaman, fueled by the Immortals of Beasts, channeling their wild power
  • New stock: the Troll Changeling; they’re part troll, part human and all trouble
  • New conflicts: Banish, Abjure, Bind and Battle
  • New settlements like Borderland Fortress, Shire and Walled Town
  • Lots and lots of gear in a comprehensive list
  • Rules for making base camps—good for tackling those megadungeons. 
  • Economic rules so you can crash the economy of your town
  • Travel rules
  • Simple guidance on town adventures
  • More spells and invocations
  • More monsters!
  • Wild new rules for spiritual quests 
  • And more!   

Join us in this adventure and you’ll score some fabulous loot!

You’re a Gestir

Hello friends!  (crossposted from latest Sagas of Rimholm update)

The Middarmark Gazetteer has all sorts of information about the organization of society. In my view, one of the more fascinating things happening in the Middarmark involves the monarchs and other individuals with political power attempting to displace the existing order with a feudal one. That’s all well and good, you might be thinking, but what does that matter to my Torchbearer games?

The answer is that adventurers who choose to cozy up to power actually play a pivotal role in helping to enforce the new order. Conflict and strife create opportunities after all.

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D&D, Torchbearer and Colonialism

Hello friends!

For the past few years, and especially recently, there’s been a lot of discussion in online circles about colonialism, racism and D&D. Last year there was a 100+ page thread on RPGnet about decolonizing D&D. Lately, I’ve also been stumbling across apologia that attempts to disavow the existence of these things in D&D. Given Torchbearer’s debt to D&D, this is a topic Luke and I take very seriously.

I want to be very clear that I agree that D&D is embedded with colonialist and racist assumptions. I want to be equally clear that I’m not claiming Dave and Gary were racist or that D&D is some crypto-white-supremacist work. What I am saying is that unconscious support for colonialism and racism is systemic to American culture and so it is part of D&D whether Dave and Gary intended it to be or not.

It’s a part of Torchbearer too.

When I say ‘colonialism,’ here’s what I mean: Controlling a land, occupying it with settlers and exploiting it economically.

This is the heart of the American story–going west and taming the savage frontier. Except that “savage frontier” was not empty. It was full of indigenous civilizations. The original American colonies grew on settlements and farms that had been tended by indigenous people for generations.

In D&D (and Torchbearer) players assemble their adventurers and send them out into the unknown (to them at least). There, they fight monsters and seize treasure to bring back to civilization.

You don’t really need to even squint to see that these stories are cut from the same cloth.

But orcs and gnolls and drow are evil, right? That’s the difference, right? They have to be killed or driven off to protect civilization from their evil and rapaciousness. That’s a good thing! I understand that argument, especially in a game that explicitly tags peoples with a good or evil alignment. I’d give that point more credence if the same justifications hadn’t been used for genocide, enslavement and forced migration of indigenous peoples all around the globe.

Fellow game designer James Mendez Hodes has written on these topics at length. I highly recommend you check out this and this to start if you want to delve deeper. James also cites this piece, by Paul Sturtevant, which closely examines the concept of ‘race’ in D&D.

Look, the point is that D&D is problematic. Torchbearer is too, for many of the same reasons. There is a hateful narrative embedded in these games. Does that mean I think you shouldn’t play D&D (or Torchbearer)? No! Do I think it’s bad if you enjoy them? No! I do, however, hope that you’ll think about the narratives that you’re creating with your games and characters and try to minimize or rehabilitate the harmful aspects.

In Mendez’s second article linked to above, he provides some excellent ideas for reclaiming and rehabilitating the stories of orcs, which I think provides a good starting point. How would you decolonize your Torchbearer games?

Talking Heads

Hello friends!

The Sagas of Rimholm Kickstarter is well underway! In fact, as this post goes live there’s a little bit less than two days left in the campaign. I hope you’ll consider backing it if you haven’t already. It’s a zine, but also more than a zine! We zoom into a whole region of the Middarmark, from the Sakki Downs to the Temple of Black Skulls, and give you all the details and background for dozens of adventure sites. The hub of this region is Rimholm, and from any direction your adventuring party travels, there are rewards and dangers everywhere they go.

As an example of what we’ve been working on, I want to share a little bit about ghost fences.

When Koch first came to me to propose this project, he noted that he was particularly taken by a passing reference to “ghost fences” in the Middarmark Gazetteer. Could I write more about them?

I’m not sure, but I think I first stumbled across the concept in an issue of Mark Smylie’s Artesia comic, where the titular warrior-priestess character and her war band are caught out-of-doors on the night of the Wild Hunt after a battle. She makes a ghost fence from the heads of her defeated enemies to hide her warriors from the Wild Hunt.

I’ve read some suggestions that the Celts made such things, but there doesn’t seem to be much real evidence.

Anyway, the image was striking to me and I’ve borrowed it for the Sakki people.I should note that while the Bjornings would have you believe the Sakki are evil incarnate, and the practice of chaining ghosts to their severed heads is horrific, I don’t think the Sakki are any more or less evil than any of the other folk of the Middarmark. The cycle of violence and reprisal in the Middarmark is terrible and never-ending.Here are some rules for ghost fences and using them in your games. Enjoy!

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Into the Gloaming (Part II)

The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane, by John Quidor (1858)

Hello friends and Happy Halloween!

Last year at this time I shared a trio of new Torchbearer monsters to fill your horror gaming needs: the vampire, werewolf and zombie.

I wanted to do something similar this year, but we’ve already got most of the classic horror monsters covered. As I mentioned, last year’s blog post covers vampires, werewolves and zombies. The Torchbearer core book has ghouls and skeleteons. The Petersen Bestiary (vol. 1) covers the ghost (you can also find her in The Dread Crypt of Skogenby). And the draugr from Middarmark has the revenant/mummy covered. What to do?

I discussed the issue with Jared Sorensen (check out Jared’s Torchbearer Sagas content here), and Jared suggested we do some monsters from folklore and popular culture. So without further ado, as a Halloween thank you to all of you, here’s Jared’s take on the Dullahan and the Creature and my take on the Gremlin. Enjoy!

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The Saxalings

Atilla and his Hordes Overrun Italy and the Arts (detail), between 1843 and 1847, Ferdinand-Victor-Eugène Delacroix

(xposted with Bridge of the Damned update)

Hello friends!

In a past series of posts, we looked at two Middarmark clans, the Ageirings and the Tualings, along with their ættir.

I’ve been working on The Bridge of the Damned adventure and figured I would give the clans involved in that adventure a similar treatment. This week we’re taking a look at the Saxalings, whom we previously learned a little about in Adventure Design: Robber’s Bridge (Part VIII) and Life in a Ruined Village.

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