Monday, December 26, 2016

[CRIT] Deeds in Torchbearer

The Torchbearer RPG is based on the Mouse Guard RPG, which in turn is based on Luke Crane’s Burning Wheel. A lot of mechanics from Burning Wheel made it into Torchbearer, whether verbatim (with some modification) or in spirit. One mechanic that didn’t make the cut was “deeds” artha.
In Burning Wheel you receive deeds for “accomplishing goals that are bigger than you” and for “helping no matter the cost.” Considering that in Torchbearer helping is an integral mechanic and that goals are created and typically accomplished in the same session, it makes sense why deeds was left on the cutting room floor and Torchbearer heartlessly looted its corpse.
There’s a brief mention in the Torchbearer rulebook – can’t find the passage for the life of me but I swear it’s in there – that notifying the players that they have “cleared” a dungeon – whether of monsters, loot, or challenges it isn’t clear – is only fair. This gem is buried in the text, so it seems to me like an overlooked platform for implementing deeds.
Even though notifying the players of dungeon completion is important – merciful to the party and to the players by saving them fruitless hardship – the players needn’t know how a dungeon is completed. Meeting the completion conditions for a dungeon should be something special and above all optional: each time the adventurers return to a dungeon – restocked and perhaps altered between delves – they piece together its history and ecology until they puzzle out exactly how to conquer it. Once they do, they leave the dungeon for the last time, with – in addition to their loot – a notion of mastery that comes rarely in Torchbearer, a reward in its own right. The fact that the adventurers went above and beyond the call of their occupation to exhibit such master is a deeds point well earned.
The first step to implementing such a reward is codifying completion conditions into the adventure design questions: “9: How Would One of the Answers From 1-8 Be Resolved?” As in:
  • Question 2: Fulfill the original purpose of the location
  • Question 4: Recover whatever it is that you seek
  • Question 5: Remove the obstacle that prevents its plundering
  • Question 6: Rout the dungeon’s inhabitants
  • Question 7: Reverse the modifications made to the area
  • Question 8: Make the location accessible
In keeping with the theme of adventurers-as-pioneers, answer question 9 by asking how these locales can be reclaimed, bastions in the creeping tide, stakes beyond the crowded, walled cities, new beacons – though dim – in the vast, weird darkness.
Now, mechanics: in Burning Wheel, deeds are used to purchase one of two benefits: double a test pool, or reroll all failed dice in a test. Since tapping nature covers the “test pool of inordinate size” angle, deeds in Torchbearer should be sent for the latter benefit (though tapping nature without tax is attractive, since it’s one step up from the benefits provided by spending persona).
Deeds: Each location has completion conditions, which fold the location into civilized territories when fulfilled. Characters get a deeds point when they “clear” a location in this way.
When a character sends a deeds point, they reroll all scoundrels on a test, or tap their nature without tax.