Note: The rest of this post will contain spoilers for the adventure.
The idea here is to create the feeling of a dynamic world that changes around the PCs. Some of those changes will be in reaction to the players’ actions, but the rest will be the result of antagonists and other NPCs advancing their agendas.
As a GM, this should be a relatively straightforward process: Between adventures, take stock of what your various important characters are up to (including PCs’ family, friends, mentors and enemies) and determine whether they’ve advanced their agendas or not. If they have advanced their agendas, note the consequences. That’s it. Simple, right? Let’s take a look at Skogenby.
Over the past several weeks I’ve alluded several times to my ‘evolution’ of The Dread Crypt of Skogenby. For the next several posts I plan to take a deeper dive into the details of that evolution to give you an example of how you might evolve your own adventures.
To set the stage, I need to first tell you about how I updated the adventure. I wanted my players to invest in Skogenby as a place, maybe even choose to come from the village, so I fleshed it out a little bit.
It’s a holiday today here in the US, so I’ll keep today’s post short.
I and the rest of Burning Wheel Headquarters wish you and yours a happy Thanksgiving. We are thankful to all of you who support us in continuing to make games. We are thankful to all of the friends we have made through the years while doing this, and for the friends we hope to make in the years to come. We are thankful for all people out there that have taken and continue to take a stand against racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and all other forms of intolerance. We are thankful for all those who stand with our LGBTQ+ family.
I’m writing this from my brother’s home, surrounded by loving family and beautiful things. I’m thankful for how lucky we are, while recognizing that so many other people, here and around the world, are suffering. They lack adequate food to eat and water drink. They’ve lost homes and loved ones. They suffer the injustices of poverty, illness and war. I am thankful for each and every one of you that takes some small step to help mitigate this suffering.
The world of Torchbearer can be a dark and unforgiving one, but it is also one in which we can triumph by working together and supporting each other for a common cause. I remain hopeful the same is true of our own world.
As a special ‘thank you’, here are a handful of magic items for which Torchbearer characters would be very thankful.
One of the biggest challenges Torchbearer GMs face is creating dungeons or choosing published dungeons (especially if they weren’t specifically written with Torchbearer in mind).
I highly recommend crafting your own dungeons if you have the time. It’s fun! The Adventure Design chapter can help make it a snap, too! But you don’t need to shy away from published adventures, even from other games. They’ll make your life easier.
Whether you choose to make your own or use a prepackaged adventure, you’ll get the best results if you play to Torchbearer’s strengths.
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!