Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Torchbearer + D&D

Hoo boy! Have I been busy the last couple weeks! Let me tell ya all about it:

After reading about Torchbearer for some time, my interest was greatly piqued and I had a buddy of mine pick up an available copy when he was visiting ECCC. (Originally we both were going to order it online and split the shipping costs, which we ended up doing for a pair of the Player's Decks.) After thoroughly absorbing the gorgeous book in about a week, I immediately set on the task of compiling a local group interested in tackling this dungeon-crawl-esque system. Finding a group that'd be down for TB was easy, but finding a group that was available for consistent play was tough. Unfortunately TB is kinda ill-suited for one-shot play just because it has so many moving parts you can't expect the players/GM to grasp it in one session, even using pre-gen characters. I managed to get together a gaming group consisting mostly of co-workers to delve into this neo-OSR game. 

Torchbearer is based off of the Mouse Guard system, another Burning Wheel HQ game, with a heavy first edition D&D feel to it. While not a complex as say Burning Wheel Gold, it's a bit more advanced than Mouse Guard. Having played and enjoyed MG, I want to try TB. Again this is another RPG that I'd wished I'd backed the kickstarter.

Aside from finding a interested party, I've also been spending all my free time pouring over old D&D material and likewise increasing my collection: 

  • About three weeks ago when I first acquired my copy of TB I came across a Basic D&D module at one of my favourite curio stores: Quest for the Silver Sword. After purchasing and reading it over, I decided with a few story tweaks and a fun and simple conversion QftSS would be my entry adventure into Torchbearer.

    I know the Under the House of the Three Squires adventure provided in the book is the default adventure for many beginning groups, but IMHO QftSS just has the hallmarks of a classic dungeon crawl well suited for our first foray into TB: a small but interesting locale filled with traps and various monsters and a decent meta-plot. After we run it's course, I might post online my conversion notes.
  • Another buddy of mine did me a huge favour and swung by the Burning Wheel booth at PAX East and picked up another Player's Deck for me along with a nifty TB character sheet printed on nice thick cardstock, an excellent play resource for me: a good reference for not only players but GMs learning the intricacies of a new system is the character sheet.

  • After considering other modules in my collection for conversion, I began to read deeper into what edition of D&D Torchbearer was specifically paying homage to: the 1981 revision by Tom Moldvay (not the most well known 'Red Box' version by Frank Mentzer as one may think.) Aside from the copy of QftSS I just got, the only other Basic D&D module I owned was the Keep on the Borderlands module that was inside my first Basic Set (~1977) Boxed Set; the majority of my other old modules were set for AD&D and beyond, right now I find Basic the simplest to convert to TB. After researching more about classic D&D products I went back to the shop because I remember seeing this:

    Initially I thought it was just a D&D-themed boardgame, but in fact it's a boxed set that contains three dragon-themed RPG adventures! Now, dragons are way too mighty for TB characters to interact with physically at least, but reading through the modules they can still be used in a non hack-and-slash sense. Great ideas for higher level characters methinks.
  • Finally, last weekend was the semi-annual local toy and hobby fair, and I attended with the purpose for finding rare RPG material. The last time I attended I found AD&D module I4, so I was hopeful that I'd have similar luck. After a couple hours combing tables with little luck I was checking out an unlikely booth before I left when I came across a proverbial treasure hoard: underneath a table were two boxes just filled with 2nd edition AD&D and older material! There had to be several dozens of modules, but I only had the cash and immediate interest for a dozen of them:

I can't believe my fortune! I got a bunch of D&D and AD&D classic modules in superb condiiton for a great deal! Now I have plenty of options to convert/inspire a Torchbearer adventure, or any other OSR game.

Anyway, enough about my lucky finds, back to the game.

An additional thing I've learned about, was a mini-setting TSR developed in the 90's for D&D called Thunder Rift. It seems the majority of products for Basic D&D that TSR took place in a area of land named Thunder Rift (the QftSS and Assault on Raven's Ruin are based here, along with several other adventures).

Thunder Rift map with hexes. Credit goes to the creator.
I've decided to set our Torchbearer games in the Thunder Rift locale, since it is an easy location to drop in pre-written and/or homebrew adventures with plenty of interesting locales and varied terrains.

All this work and we've only played one session of Torchbearer, as of two weeks ago. We made characters, they had a brief adventure phase in the village of Torlynn. During this time I introduced most of the many mechanics of Torchbearer along with the some the backstory and the plot why Torlynn has been suffering from endless winter for several years. Next session (hopefully this Friday) the PC's will begin their delve into the ruins of Barrik's Keep in search of treasure and the Grind of Torchbearer proper!

Have you converted any classic D&D material to Torchbearer? Let us know!  ;{١

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