Torchbearer is a tabletop RPG created by Thor Olavsrud and Luke Crane of Burning Wheel fame. A love letter to Basic Dungeons & Dragons, this dungeon-crawling game fuses old school feel with a modern take on rules design.
The characters take the role of down-on-their-luck adventurers who must resort to grave-robbing, spelunking and treasure hunting to make a living in this harsh world. There are no place for epic battles and heroic deeds when you are delving in a cold cave, you ran out of light and you are sure that something is crawling in the darkness at the corner of your eye.
Game Masters are expected to build challenging dungeons and reward the players clever problem solving. The game focuses on exploration, teamwork, resources management and has a heavy emphasis on detailed description and roleplay.
The system is an adaptation of Mouse Guard Roleplaying Game, a previous Burning Wheel HQ game based on David Peterson's comicbook series.
This tabletop RPG provides examples of:
- Adventure-Friendly World: Expected from the GM when creating the game setting.
- An Adventurer Is You: With an emphasis on teamwork and synergy between characters. You can play with a Dwarf Adventurer, Elf Ranger, Halfling Burglar, Human Cleric, Human Magician and Human Warrior in the basic game. Human Paladin and Human Thief are only available to kickstarter backers. Classes can be easily created, and there are several fan-made ones published on the forums (some built by game designer Jared Sorensen).
- Adventure Town: Played with, the rules leave pretty clear that players shouldn't linger in Town, but this is the best phase to look out for quests and dungeons to loot.
- Character Alignment: Characters can be Lawful, Chaotic or Unaligned in accordance to the original D&D alignments.
- Character Level: Subverted in a way, characters do level up but the only way to advance skills and abilities is logging tests, traits advance every Winter with the help of the other players and new Wises also are acquired during Winter, all independently of the character's level.
- Class and Level System: Following the classic old-school D&D games which it pays tribute to, with a twist: you gain levels by spending Rewards, which are gained through roleplaying and teamwork.
- Crapsack World: The suggested setting goes hand in hand with the harsh lifestyle of an adventurer.This is a grim land. Summers are short. Winters are long. The towns are overcrowded. Food is expensive. Guilds control trade. Nobility control the taxes. Priests pray for our damned souls.Out there, beyond those walls, are beasts, bogies, monsters. They inhabit the forests, live under the fields, dwell in the ruins of our burned-out fortresses. They kidnap the lone wanderer, harry our caravans, and when they are bold, they attack our towns.
- Dungeon Crawling: The main appeal of the game, with a heavy focus on survival, exploration and resources management.
- Five Races: Dwarves, Elves, Halflings and Humans are all playable races.
- Killer Game Master: Surprisingly averted. Game Masters have a pretty strict set of rules that makes really difficult for characters to die quickly into a game, unless the GM ignores them.
- Luck Manipulation Mechanic: Fate points, Persona points, Wises and traits.
- Medieval European Fantasy: With a strong nordic feel. Averted in some of the characters illustrations, specially for the Paladin who has a more eastern, hinduist style.
- Never Split The Party: Definitely not a good idea.
- Nintendo Hard: The game can be punishing, rolling successes is difficult, conditions are harsh and twists can be terrifying.
- Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Nature Descriptor rules make sure that all dwarves are at least decent crafters, underground delvers and grudge takers. Their racial Wises also help closing the idea.
- Our Elves Are Better: Admittedly the Elf Ranger is the most complex and most versatile of the character classes.
- Our Hobbits Are All The Same: Played straight, with their own Nature Descriptors and racial Wises being more "hobbit-like" than current fantasy interpretations with an obvious nod to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The standard adventurers party. There's a reason characters are called "Murder hobos" by the game designers.You’re a third child or worse. You can’t get into a guild—too many apprentices already. You're sure as hell not nobility—even if you were, your older brothers and sisters have soaked up the inheritance. The temples will take you, but they have so many acolytes, they hand you kit and a holy sign and send you right out the door again: Get out there and preach the word and find something nice for the Immortals.
- Vancian Magic
- You All Meet in an Inn: The name of the character creation chapter.