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

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Music To Roleplay To: Audio App Impressions

Today on Music To Roleplay To, we look at a few audio application options for your games and my impressions on them:

Tabletop Audio 

I stumbled across Tabletop Audio the other day, an excellent resource for use in your tabletop games. The site features numerous free 10-minute loop-able audio tracks that are playable directly from a browser, no downloading needed. As of writing this, users can select from about 35 tracks from a wide range of genres (generic fantasy, cyberpunk, sci-fi, world war, pulp, mystery, horror, etc.), though the author agrees the majority of them might be on the weird side since he's been playing a lot of Numenera and Star Wars EtoE. Which I'm totally down with. :)

I like compiling playlists for my games, but the thing I really like about Tabletop Audio is the portability of it: sometimes you don't have the time and/or space to compile a playlist for your RPG. I've ended up playing/running a couple games that I'd have like to have some audio adding to the mood, but I lacked an appropriate playlist. Tabletop Audio appears to work in any web browser regardless of device, and I even tested it both from my (iOS) phone and tablet.

Another nice thing is usually when you play audio off of a device using a browser or app, you used to have to dedicate that device to playing, because when you go to the main screen and/or open another app the music ceases (unless using the dedicated music player, which are what playlists are for). A pleasant surprise I found with Tabletop Audio (and also other sites like Bandcamp) was when played through a web browser (in iOS least, tested both Chrome and Safari) it continues a site's audio when you switch to another screen, which is nice because I don't think it did that before. New iOS update? Anyway, one doesn't necessarily need to dedicate a device strictly to providing tunes.

Sadly, this method doesn't work with YouTube. The other downside to this being it requires connectivity to work, and if you don't have wi-fi access it'll either cost you in wireless or you'll be SOL so to speak. If connectivity is limited, you'd probably be better off with a playlist or an app.

Anyway Tabletop Audio is my current go to website for audio ambience for RPGs and boardgames. If you enjoy it as much as I do, consider donating some money to the designer to pay for bandwidth and as incentive to keep up the good work. :)


About more than a year or so ago, when I was first exploring my gaming audio options with my new tablet, I downloaded an iOS-only app to my tablet called DMDJ. A decent app for cost with a bunch of nifty features like SFX sets, music, ambient playlists, and dice rollers; though after trying it out in more than half a dozen sessions to provide audio to my games, I decided the interface wasn't intuitive enough and was more of a hassle. You can load DMDJ with your own audio playlists, but doing so takes a bit more work than loading a normal playlist.

One major problem I had was when swapping to another screen to check notes or reference something, I'd not only lose the audio, but the internal playlist would get messed up. Also I like orientating my tablet landscape-wise when at the table, and the app only displays in portrait. :\

The last update for DMDJ was in November of 2013, long after I opted not to use it, so some of the issues I was having with this app may have been rectified since then. Is it worth the $3.99 price tag? Debatable. I seem to recall paying more when I initially purchased it, they may have dropped the price since...


Syrinscape is a cross-platform app that allows the user to have complete control over the audio packs provided by Syrinscape. Downloadable for free to PC, iOS, or Android with a few soundsets featuring an array of music, SFXs, and ambient audio. Additional soundsets or packs can be purchased from their store, saved to your account, downloaded, mixed and personalized across multiple platforms.

Though Syrinscape gives its users a dazzling degree of control over sound in their games, I prefer the fire-and-forget mentality of audio in my games: it should be in the background doing its job and not having to be constantly fiddled with, distracting the GM and disrupting the game. That said, you can personalize your soundsets ahead of time and run them that way, perhaps adding in a SFX or two to add a splash of sound into your games to spice it up if one desires. And aside from syncing, this app doesn't require an active internet connection to run.

The iOS app is currently only available in the US App Store, which means Canadian users like me have to switch stores to download it for our devices; and swapping stores always seems to mess up my account, so I've yet to check the app side of things.

Update: The designer of Syrinscape has contacted me to inform us that "Syrinscape IS normally available in ALL AppStores... we are just currently 'between' versions after a incompatibility between Unity and the current iOS literately silenced our iPad version! An updated fixed version is up for approval right now." Hopefully this means I'll be able to give a more thorough impression of the tablet app of Syrinscape soon. :)

Additionally, at the moment Syrinscape won't run it's audio in the background on tablets, which is an additional downside if you use your tablet has other uses at your gaming table than making noise.

Syrinscape's price is proportional to the amount soundsets purchased and the sheer audio control provided.

Keep On Listening! ;{١

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Scythe Squadron - X-Wing Custom Pilots

Though Mr. Jason Fuller's X-Wing card generator has not been updated for some time with all the new ships and their upgrades that have come out recently, I still was able to scratch my creative itch and come up with a few custom pilots for the X-Wing Miniatures Game. 

I created two named TIE Fighter pilots based off of the Scythe Squadron, lead by Major Mianda and filled with several handpicked pilots including Lieutenant Hebsly

Since the squadron was stationed in the asteroid-filled Anoat system until later reassigned to the second Death Star and upgraded for performance in confined areas, I based their pilot abilities around asteroid combat and maneuvrability.

P.S. I'm not one to plug bands often, but if you're a fan of Star Wars and black/death metal, I highly recommend you check out Hoth. They've got a new album called Oathbreaker releasing next month and both the cover art and the preview track are amazing. Their other album Infinite Darkness is also stellar!

Stay On Target! ;{١