Torchbearer: An Inaugural Run

Torchbearer: An Inaugural Run is a game session report for Torchbearer. We played around the table on .

GM: Jeremy
Players: Mark, Aidan, Ellie

For those following along at home, Torchbearer is available in Portable Document Format (PDF) form at DriveThruRPG or Torchbearer in hardback form via the Burning Wheel Store.

Character Creation

Since this was our first run of things, I told the players that they could choose from Dwarf adventurer, Halfling burglar, and Human warrior. We ended up with one of each.

I handed each of the players a character sheet and worked through character creation with them. It was a rather quick affair to get their skills, nature, and traits.

Then came the point where they started choosing gear. It was fantastic to hear them fret about what to bring.

I helped guide them through it, though I may have encouraged them to bring more food and water than was perhaps necessary.

The Characters

  • Jimmy Cooks - A halfling burglar, played by Aidan
  • Daukree - A dwarf adventurer, played by Mark
  • Autumn Kinder - A human warrior, played by Ellie

The Adventure

They were on their way to Gymnasium of Kaus to find the Font of Life - a relic with healing powers. The party had learned of the lost gymnasium through the help of Jimmy Cooks’ parents.

They had traveled from the remote village of Waldheim through the foothills and into a small vale that had been overrun with vegetation.

Adventure Phase 1

Check 1: Sneaking (vs. 5D) up to the vegetation choked entrance. Failure Twist - Two figures hidden behind the rock pile have seen them. One of them is heard leaving.

Check 2: Hunting (vs. 6D) Autumn quickly burst over the barricade, with a heart of battle giving blind chase after the creatures creatures; It is a versus test against Nature 4+1D+1D for slipper scales. Failure Twist - one guard gets away and the other guard draws them into a Kill conflict; in hindsight this should’ve been either a Drive Off or Capture conflict.

Check 3: Kill Conflict Things go remarkably well as the party dispatches the Ichtha-Gog without losing a point of disposition.

Check 4: Scouting (Ob 2) for a good campsite; Ellie’s attentiveness was waning so we agreed that we would move to a Camp phase. I assigned an Ob 2 for finding a suitable campsight. Success

Camp Phase 1

Camp Event: Lucky break; They found a trail (+2D to next Pathfinder or Scout)

Check 1: Armorer (Ob 1) to repair a helmet. Success

Check 2: Hunter (Ob 1) to track down a rabbit for the meal; Jimmy helped the effort by explaining how to use salt to lure a rabbit (“Needs a little Salt-wise” for the win!). Success Check 3: Survivalist (Ob 1) to fashion up some torches. Success

Instinct: "Always cook a meal at camp" was triggered and everyone enjoyed a fine bowl of rabbit stew. Hungry and Thirsty was alleviated.

Ellie opts to stay at camp. Jimmy and Daukree adventure onward!

Adventure Phase 2

Check 1: Scouting (Ob 2) out the newly discovered trail. Jimmy tests, Daukree helps via Mountain-wise; Failure Condition - Jimmy, being the hungry hungry halfling, gains the Hungry & Thirsty condition.

Check 2: Sneaking (vs. 5D) into the Dormitory. Failure Twist unbeknownest to them, they’ve been spotted.

Check 3: Heading up the stairs they enter into a Drive Off Conflict with the giant spider; The party wants to chase the spider out of the room and the spider wants to ensnare them. Success Compromise - they manage to drive the spider out of the tower and into the room immedately below.

Check 4: Scavenging (Ob 2) for any loot in the tower; Success They find a Jug of Wine.

At this point, I needed to wrap things up. So I suggested that they camp; The Camp phase leaves a cleaner starting point. Since I was pressuring them to camp I didn’t ask how they were securing the room (and possibly call for a test).

Camp Phase 2

Check 1: Armorer (Ob 1) to repair Jimmy’s helmet. Success The helmet is repaired.

Check 2: Cartographer (Ob 2) to map the explored locations. Success They have a useful map.

Observations and Oversights

During the second camp phase that Mark’s character should only have been able to spend one of the two checks. Not a big deal and frankly two player parties need a few lucky breaks.

I believe I’m reading this correctly, that the Hungry & Condition can be alleviated either by eating or drinking. Which means I likely encouraged the Player Characters (PCs 📖) to take more rations than needed.

Instead of holding the twist in my pocket, I should’ve narrated their advance and draw them into a Capture conflict with the spider.

I love how armor is implemented in Torchbearer. I especially like how very useful a helmet is. Please wear a helmet.

The implementation of Traits in Torchbearer is fantastic, a more actionable and engaging implementation than Burning Wheel’s counterparts.

The abstract conflict system is fantastic for drawing everyone in. Our table’s challenge, as with the other scripted actions of Burning Wheel, was remembering to narrate what was happening.


  • In the camp phase, if someone succeeds on a Hunting check to get one portion of food, does that provide a +1D to Cooking. Or is that the rations?
  • If a creature doesn’t have an instinct related to “being alert”, should I use their Nature raw? Or should I use Beginner’s Luck.
  • In hindsight the first Kill conflict should’ve either been Capture or Drive Off.
  • I’m not entirely certain what skill should be used for creating torches.
  • There was a bit of player dissonance on how to use the Loner trait to your detriment while still receiving help.