Sunday 28 December 2014

A Litany in Scratches

Several astute readers have wondered where adventure #3 is.. here it is!  A Litany in Scratches.

This was the scenario I concocted for a Torchbearer playtest some years ago - though of course at the time it was a few scribbles and bullet points, rather than clean maps and a PDF.

I was fascinated by a style of pacing I'd seen in a one-page dungeon, 'Zombie Elves': the players go quite a ways in, through creepier and creepier stuff, before finally the ceiling falls in and they're suddenly fighting for their lives.

Torchbearer is largely about dungeoneering logistics; players are constantly aware of the load of their packs, the limited space they have for anything extra, and the short distance that their food and light will take them into (or out of) dark, dangerous places.

This scenario unfolded slowly; the two adventurers inching their way through the darkened gatehouse, searching and finding little, and wondering where all the doors had gone. They got a bit scraped up in the ravine after tangling with a vampire bush, which was good as it made them pretty wary of the tree branches in the cloister. When they figured out what the tree was up to, they were properly creeped out!

This didn't deter them from climbing down into the shrine, however, for a scene whose memory I treasure: the duo desperately trying to decide what to toss out so they could carry more treasure, all while listening to the Master's cackling, and the sloshing of the undead advancing on them. This cemented in my mind that defeating the dungeon is not the end of the adventure, it's just the start of what might be a long and dangerous journey home - especially if you've left your tinderbox behind.

For reasons I forget now, the players decided to flee through the catacombs, running directly into the barricade.

That was awesome - it was like the sickening punchline to a long joke. I had mentioned the missing furniture at every opportunity, and now, standing in knee-deep water lit by their last torch, listening to an army of crypt servants coming to tear them limb from limb, the mystery was solved. Alas!

As always, the adventure and all the art is released under Creative Commons cc-by-nc.


  1. Why am I just now finding out about this??? Michael Prescott is a genius.

    1. A PDF compilation of all 48 of my free adventures (all revised, re-edited, reformatted), plus 70 pages of additional bonus material - bestiary, magic items, 6 two-page wilderness spreads... is currently in DriveThru's approval queue. If all goes well, it will be launching in a few days.