Adventurer is a dirty word. You’re a scoundrel, a villain, a wastrel, a vagabond, a criminal, a sword-for-hire, cutthroat. Respectable people belong to guilds, the church or are born into nobility. Or barring all that, they’re salt of the earth and till the land for the rest of us. Your problem is that you’re none of that. You’re a third child or worse. You can’t get into a guild—too many apprentices already. You’re sure as hell not nobility—even if you were, your older brothers and sisters have soaked up the inheritance. The churches—they’ll take you, but they have so many acolytes, they hand you kit and a holy sign and send you right out the door again: Get out there and preach the word and find something nice for mother church. And if you ever entertained romantic notions of farming, think again. You’d end up little more than a slave to a wealthy noble.
So there’s naught for us but to make our own way. There’s a certain freedom to it, but it’s a hard life. Cash flows out of our hands as easily as the blood from our wounds. But at least it’s our life. And if we’re lucky, smart and stubborn, we might come out on top. There’s a lot of lost loot out there for the finding. And salvage law is mercifully generous. We find it, it’s ours to spend, sell or keep.
Torchbearer is a riff on the early model of fantasy roleplaying games. In it, you take on the role of an adventurer seeking his or her fortune. To earn that fortune, you must explore fornlorn ruins, brave terrible monsters and retreive forgotten treasures. However, this game is not about being a hero. It is not about fighting for what you believe. This game is about exploration and survival. You may become a hero. You might have to fight for your ideals. But to do either of those things, you must prove yourself in the wilds. Because there are no jobs, no inheritance, no other opportunities for our deadbeat adventurers. This life is their only hope to prosper in this world.
Torchbearer is part of the brand of games Burning Wheel HQ has been producing for over ten years. So like all of our other games, this is a game about making difficult choices while exploring the world and your character through the game rules and systems. And like all of our games, the heart of the experience is about how your character changes when faced with adversity.
This is a hard game, not a simple one. There are many moving parts and it’s not possible to experience the whole game in one or even two sessions. But if you’re ready to sink your teeth into a good game that will reward you for mastering the system over 10 or 20 sessions, this is the game for you.
Torchbearer was designed by Thor Olavsrud, our long-suffering editor. It’s based on our 2008 game Mouse Guard. It shares the same core system and concepts, but it adds a layer of complexity in the form of resource management, turn structure and conflict.
In the spectrum of BWHQ games, Torchbearer is advanced Mouse Guard. It’s not as complex as Burning Wheel or Burning Empires, but it’s certainly more involved than Mouse Guard or even FreeMarket. From a broader perspective, it’s Basic D&D on Hard mode.
The book itself is a 200-page letter-sized hard cover with a four color cover and black and white interiors. We’re breaking away from our traditional digest-sized book as a bit of an experiment. We want to see what it feels like to publish a big ol’ RPG book. And of course it’s an homage to all those great AD&D hardcovers.
We’re using Kickstarter this time because we are out of money for this project. We’ve spent it all on art and editing. To go forward, we need you to tell us if you want to see this game in print.
When you back this project, we’ll send you a PDF of the introduction to the game and the character creation rules so you can prep your dungeon delvers and be ready to go as soon as you have the full rules!