About this project
Adventurer is a dirty word. You’re a scoundrel, a villain, a wastrel, a vagabond, a criminal, a sword-for-hire, a cutthroat. Respectable people belong to guilds, the church or are born into nobility. Or barring all that, they’re salt of the earth and till the land for the rest of us. Your problem is that you’re none of that. 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—they’ll 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 Immortal Lords. And if you ever entertained romantic notions of farming, think again. You’d end up little more than a slave to a wealthy noble.
So there’s naught for us but to make our own way. There’s a certain freedom to it, but it’s a hard life. Cash flows out of our hands as easily as the blood from our wounds. But at least it’s our life. And if we're lucky, smart and stubborn, we might come out on top. There’s a lot of lost loot out there for the finding. And salvage law is mercifully generous. We find it, it’s ours to spend, sell or keep.
Torchbearer is a riff on the early model of fantasy roleplaying games. In it, you take on the role of an adventurer seeking his or her fortune. To earn that fortune, you must explore fornlorn ruins, brave terrible monsters and retreive forgotten treasures. However, this game is not about being a hero. It is not about fighting for what you believe. This game is about exploration and survival. You may become a hero. You might have to fight for your ideals. But to do either of those things, you must prove yourself in the wilds. Because there are no jobs, no inheritance, no other opportunities for our deadbeat adventurers. This life is their only hope to prosper in this world.
Torchbearer is part of the brand of games Burning Wheel HQ has been producing for over ten years. So like all of our other games, this is a game about making difficult choices while exploring the world and your character through the game rules and systems. And like all of our games, the heart of the experience is about how your character changes when faced with adversity.
This is a hard game, not a simple one. There are many moving parts and it’s not possible to experience the whole game in one or even two sessions. But if you’re ready to sink your teeth into a good game that will reward you for mastering the system over 10 or 20 sessions, this is the game for you.
Torchbearer was designed by Thor Olavsrud, our long-suffering editor. It's based on our 2008 game Mouse Guard. It shares the same core system and concepts, but it adds a layer of complexity in the form of resource management, turn structure and conflict.
In the spectrum of BWHQ games, Torchbearer is advanced Mouse Guard. It’s not as complex as Burning Wheel or Burning Empires, but it’s certainly more involved than Mouse Guard or even FreeMarket. From a broader perspective, it's Basic D&D on Hard mode.
The book itself is a 200-page letter-sized hard cover with a four color cover and black and white interiors. We're breaking away from our traditional digest-sized book as a bit of an experiment. We want to see what it feels like to publish a big ol' RPG book. And of course it's an homage to all those great AD&D hardcovers.
Update: Since we have had such a wonderful outpouring of support for the game, we've upgraded the book for all backers! Read about it here.
All backers who pledged to a tier will receive PDFs of the following: the rulebook, the character sheet, the player reference sheet, the GM reference sheet, the Thief bonus class, the Paladin bonus class, the Middarmark Gazeteer and the bonus scenario The Dread Crypt of Skogenby.
We're using Kickstarter this time because we really and truly are out of money for this project. We've spent it all on art and editing. To go forward, we need you to tell us if you want to see this game in print.
Custom Leather Bound Books
Our custom-bound books will be created by friend and fan Dan "thebookguy32" C. He's created custom covers for our other books, as well as Dungeon World and other games.
Sketches by Dro
This is a sample of what you can expect if you'd like a sketch in your book from Dro. Dro is not an illustrator. Yet he insists on drawing strange creatures on his character sheets. Honestly, he might draw your character or he might draw anything that catches his attention at the time. No one knows what transpires in the land of Dromagination!
Risks and challenges
I have been publishing roleplaying game books since 2002. In all, I've published 12 titles, about one per year. While there have been hiccups and a disaster or two, I always make sure my fans get their books and get them in good order.
We've decided to keep this project as simple as possible. We're only seeking to fund the book—and thus we're avoiding swag and other stuff that might put the main project at risk. The book is being printed in Ann Arbor Michigan at Cushing-Malloy, with whom we've worked for the past 11 years. We chose to stick with CM for this project to avoid the headaches of shipping from overseas.
If any books are damaged in shipping, we will of course replace them—except for the Dro-sketched copies. Those will not be replaced if damaged. They are an artifact and will arrive "as is."
This is Burning Wheel HQ's first Kickstarter campaign and honestly, I'm terrified. Please be gentle.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
In Torchbearer we strive to give GMs a great deal of support and guidance that is very useful to beginning Torchbearer GMs and novice GMs. We’ve included several pages of advice and a fairly detailed procedure for creating your own adventures. We also break out procedures with step-by-step instructions for prep, for running a session, running each of the game’s phases and running conflicts.
We’ve also included two pages of example twists with which to torment players when they fail rolls. It should take quite a few adventures before you exhaust the possibilities of that list. When you do, you’ll be an expert at creating good twists.
Tests in Torchbearer are either versus tests (in which the results of rolls are compared with the results of a roll by another player) or independent tests. Determining the difficulty of independent tests is a snap, as the skill list has you covered. Simply look up the relevant skill and count the factors.
Finally, we include a sample adventure, Under the House of Three Squires, which does a great job of helping you run a game. Whether you’ve been running games for years or you’ve never game mastered a roleplaying game in your life, I think Torchbearer does a great job of supporting you. And if you still need more help, there’s always our forums!
We plan on releasing 200 signed and stamped books total, but we’ve limited the initial lot to 50 books to ensure that our friends across the globe get a shot at scoring one. We’ll release another lot of 50 signed and stamped books on Thursday, May 2nd at 9 AM for our European friends. We’ll release another lot of 50 on Friday, May 3rd at 7 PM for our Australian friends. We’ll release the final lot at a time to be determined by us based on demand.
Yes! We'll try to get you the PDF as soon as we can—hopefully soon after the project ends.
We are not nice.
This game is an advanced version of Mouse Guard.
It's a cousin of Burning Wheel, but it doesn't work the same in play.
Torchbearer is best with a GM and two to four players. You can play with one or five players, but it's suboptimal.
GMs must spend an hour or so prepping a map and a scenario. There's a system in the book that guides you through the process. Once the scenario is designed, session to session prep is minimal—about 10 to 15 minutes of thinking of awful things to put your players through.
That's a great question! We've been publishing RPGs since 2002 and we've always tried to sign, number or stamp our books to make them special for fans. And whenever one of you has asked us for a signature, we've gladly obliged.
We would never charge you for our signatures. We believe doing so would be a gross abuse of our relationship with you. The game is the valuable part of what we do. Our signatures are merely something we do at your request as a way to thank you for your support.
You do not need miniatures, hex maps, tiles or terrain to play Torchbearer? Can you use them? Not really. They sort of get in the way. We designed the game so it can be played using nothing more than the character sheets, dice and pencils. Action cards and some GM sheets make it go more smoothly, but they're not required.
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