Start Your Digging

Caving by Michael Prescott

Hello friends!

Recently, Luke and I have been discussing the Dungeoneer skill. The skill is great, but our feeling is that we’ve overburdened it. Right now it governs both climbing and trap disarming—two things adventurers are likely to get up to a lot in dungeons.

At the same time, there’s one thing that gets short-shrift in Torchbearer’s skills: digging. It’s covered by the Laborer skill, but there’s not much in the way of diversity of obstacles. Our players are probably unusual in that they absolutely adore digging—a hold-over from our Burning THAC0 days when we had a Burning Wheel dungeon delving campaign. In those days, there was nothing that could earn you MVP faster than coming up with a clever way to use the Ditch Digging skill (in our early, impoverished days we once scraped together enough cash to cover a lifestyle maintenance test by retrenching latrines…). The dwarf, with his magical Excavation skill, was like unto a god.

This is all a roundabout way of saying that we’re toying with adding a new skill to Torchbearer: Sapper.


Life underground has its own rules. Sapper are experts in the unpredictable dynamics of digging and defending in the darkness below.

Sappers dig tunnels, collapse them and set traps for the unwary.
Beginner’s Luck: Will
Help: Alchemist, Laborer
Supplies: Sulphur, lumber, grease

Tunneling Factors

Tunnel Type+Length+Material
Crawlway (1)Short (1)Earth (0)
Shaft (2)Long (2)Clay (1)
Tunnel (3)
Stone (2)

Sand (3)

Tunnel Traps Factors

Setting Trap TypeDisarming Traps
Pit (1) + Material factorsTripwire and open pit (1)
Tripwire alarm (2)False floor (2)
Deadfall (3)Pressure plate (3)
Spear or crossbow mechanism (4)Complex and multipart mechanisms (4)
Gas and smoke mechanisms (5)Explosives (5)
Explosives (6)Sigils or runes (6)

What do you think? I know there’s been a fair bit of conversation about disarming traps on the forums and the Mordite Press blog, but do your players ever set traps? Do they tunnel? Let’s talk about it!

Start your digging.

Notable Replies

  1. luke says:

    I can’t see us ever including a Trapsmith skill. It just doesn’t make any in-world sense. It’s not a profession one would attest to, form a guild around or proudly advertise. It’s a fantasy trope, and while it may seem odd, we work hard to avoid or re-examine such tropes.

  2. Thor says:

    If it helps, here’s how we would update Dungeoneer:

    Dungeoneers are experts at climbing and exploring caves, dungeons and the ruins of lost civilizations–and getting themselves and their companions out alive. They are adept at traversing difficult and dangerous environments.
    Beginner’s Luck: Health
    Help: Laborer, Survivalist
    Supplies: Rope, spikes, candles

    Dungeon Delving Factors
    Descending/crossing a vertical pitch (1)
    Ascending a vertical pitch (2)
    Negotiating a narrow squeeze (3)
    Negotiating water-filled chambers (4)
    Negotiating water-filled chambers with a swift current (5)

    One person (0)
    Two people (1)
    Whole party of adventurers (2)

    Detection Factors
    Environmental Detail
    Bad/good air (1)
    Slope (2)
    Direction (3)

  3. Thor says:

    I’m OK with it, but it really does have to be a Good Idea. Otherwise I try to keep asking questions until it becomes clear that what they’re describing is how they get the whole party through the obstacle. Then I set the ob using the ‘whole party’ factor.

  4. There’s wording in Pathfinder that has confused a lot of people about Dungeoneer.

    Based on Thor’s recent comments, I realize I was misinterpreting “finding your way” in Pathfinder.

    I think the official line is:

    • Always dungeoneer for belaying ropes, hammering pitons, and scaling cliffs. Above or below ground.
    • Always pathfinder for blazing trails and managing a march overland.
    • When you are lost or finding your way: Pathfinder above ground, Dungeoneer below.

    We did this wrong for a very long time.

  5. Thor says:

    Yes to all of this except that last bullet. Sorta kinda. The intent, at least, is there is no navigation skill that governs things when you’re underground. Dungeoneer can help you determine cardinal directions, or whether a tunnel is sloping up or down. But the only way to really navigate anywhere underground is to explore and create a map that connects where you are to where you want to go.

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