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!
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.
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.
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!).
The fine folks at Mordite Press are at it again. Roost of the Condor Queen will take your Torchbearer characters to the Otherworldly tree-city of Puku to plumb the mysteries of the cloudspeakers and win the precious treasures and magical artifacts of the Condor Queen!
I know many of you that missed the Kickstarter have been eagerly awaiting the release of Middarmark. Well the time has come. The Middarmark book+PDF ($20) and PDF ($10) are now available on the Burning Store, as is the new and improved Torchbearer GM Screen ($15).
For those of you who may have missed it, Middarmark is a setting supplement for Torchbearer inspired by Scandinavian myth and folktales. It’s chock full of adventure ideas to give you a jumping off point for your campaigns, along with new settlements, legends of infamous lairs and harrowing places, details on the more popular Hero Cults of the Young Lords, and, of course, new spells, magic items, monsters and more!
Contend with the slave-taking pirates of the Skera Strait and the Kraken that preys upon those waters. Explore the Trollfjells for signs of the chaos cultists of the Jotunn Hrym and the terrifying Temple of Black Skulls dedicated to him. Follow the legends of Sigrun, Lady of Battles, to the fog-shrouded barrow downs in hope of winning her war-magic. Aid the elves who quest ceaselessly for the Tower of Seven Dreams where the Erlking holds the key to ending their long exile. Seek the fate of the fabled dwarven kingdom Nidavellir, near the gates of Hel. Adventure awaits!
Middarmark opens new vistas of possibility for Torchbearer. Within you’ll find nature descriptors and questions for six human tribes, a new class in the form of the human skald, rules for steadings (a new form of town), rules for how various weather conditions affect your adventurers and much more.
High in the steppes of Barbaria, the epics tell of Khaab’r, a brave and fearsome wanderer who rose to become King of his tribe. His dagger, Tiger’s Tooth, was his constant companion throughout his legendary exploits. During his daring moonlight raid of High Hollow, it was Tiger’s Tooth that silenced the lookouts. When he was captured by the army of Sanction, it was Tiger’s Tooth that cut the rope binding his wrists. Throughout the rest of his life, Tiger’s Tooth was there, hanging at his hip or gripped in his fist—a symbol of his strength and cunning. When Khaab’r died, Tiger’s Tooth was placed in his crypt to serve him in the afterlife.
Centuries have passed. Khaab’r’s tribe has settled down, building a town on the shores of the great Khor’aat lake. Now foreigners arrive daily in Shaa Khor’aat—merchants and mercenaries alike—seeking their fortunes in this once remote trading post.
Ka’mara, the elderly King of the Khor’aat tribe and descendant of Khaab’r himself, has sent out a call to all willing adventurers in the town: retrieve Tiger’s Tooth and bring it to him, so that it may aid him as it did his storied ancestor. The locals believe Khaab’r’s tomb is cursed, and they fear the goblins that reside in the Canyon of Spirits. But outsiders, handy with wit and steel, may be right for the job.