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Sanity check: Help me get my head around Through the Breach so I can run a game


MaxWilson
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Hi there,

A friend asked me to run a Through the Breach game for him and his wife, so I got a copy of the book and am reading through it, hoping you guys can give me a sanity check on what I'm learning. So far, my impression of Through the Breach is that it's a mechanically heavy ("crunchy") system, based on a wargame, that uses cards instead of dice in order to add deck manipulation (card counting, reshuffling, etc.) as a tactical dimension. This fits the thematics of characters being "Fated" to partially know their own fate. Does this sound right so far?

My impression is that I need to really learn to use the combat rules, and then set up adventures where the players have plenty of things to fight with. In terms of moving from one scene to another, I haven't yet seen any formalized rules for how scenes are supposed to operate (a la Dramasystem/Hillfolk) so I assume it's just kind of freeform RPG until something happens that makes you need to resolve a problem/draw cards. Is that also correct?

Also, any advice on designing a good first TTB adventure for new Fatemaster + players?

-Max

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Hi there!

I'd say it's less rules heavy than say D&D/Pathfinder but yes, understanding the combat rules is pretty important as a lot of abilities are geared towards that aspect of the game. Most of the rules are indeed very close to the combat of the wargame but as in any RPG that uses distances you can handwave some of these depending on the nature of the combat (if it's a close quarters fist fight you don't need to be tracking every single persons position and precise distance for example).

In addition to the aspect of card manipulation as opposed to dice rolling, another aspect that makes the player characters "fated" is that they flip cards but enemies do not. An enemy is assumed to always be flipping the same card value based on how strong it is. As a result as the GM you will have to do very little card flipping yourself (if any), instead it's all on the players (which means all the mechanics such as cheating and other card manipulations can be used both offensively and defensively).

Freeform roleplaying, conversation and general traversal is pretty much how it goes unless the GM decides something needs to be resolved with a challenge. Are the players lying to someone who has reason to doubt them? Flip for deception. Are the players trying to ride a horse in a high stress situation or without the proper skills? Flip for animal husbandry. Do they need to leap a perilous chasm? Flip athletics or acrobatics based on what seems appropriate.

Potentially the trickier part beyond learning the rules might be familiarising yourself with the setting. I take it that if the system has been requested the players have some prior knowledge of it?

As for prewritten adventures I haven't ran them myself but I think a number of short one shots are available for free somewhere on wyrds website, or if looking for a longer campaign there are the paperback "penny dreadfuls".

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Tim covers things well. All the Penny Dreadfuls (multi session adventures) and one shots are available on Drivethrurpg if you don't mind pdf's. One-shots are only available via pdf. 

 

The character fates and progression is the only section I feel need more explanation. The game is meant to be a fixed-length campaign with a number of sessions equal to the number of players times 5. There are 5 steps to each character's fate and each session is in tented to resolve one fate step for one character. This puts each character front and center of the storyline for that session. Not sure if your players are looking for that kind of game or not. If not, there are ways to work out progressions and lengthen the campaign. Let us know if that is the case. 

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I get the feeling you may be used to a whole different set of systems than me.  I've had groups stretch "one shots" out for three sessions without ever entering combat.  You absolutely do not need to turn it into a dungeon crawl.  There's plenty of room for sneaking, politicking, lying, thieving and potting in this game.  You are right in that a lot of the pursuits lean combat heavy, but there's also Propagandist and Overseer and Academic.  And there's no penalty for multiclassing, so you wind up with a lot of one-step/two-step combinations.  

This thread is a list of printed material.  If you go down to "Chronicles," anything there labeled "one shot" is online for free.  https://themostexcellentandawesomeforumever-wyrd.com/topic/109162-ttb-publication-index/  An Easy Mark is very, very introductory.  Maybe too simple for experienced RPers, but maybe a quick skim would be worthwhile while learning the system?  I like Owner of a Lonely Heart, but I've been told I have a morbid streak.   Anything listed under "DriveThruRPG.com Penny Dreadful One-Shots" is designed to be done in one-two sessions.  They're usually $5 on DriveThruRPG.  The Penny Dreadfuls are longer, 4-6 sessions depending on how distracted your players get.  

 

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5 minutes ago, CateranLlama said:

I get the feeling you may be used to a whole different set of systems than me.  I've had groups stretch "one shots" out for three sessions without ever entering combat.  You absolutely do not need to turn it into a dungeon crawl.  There's plenty of room for sneaking, politicking, lying, thieving and potting in this game.  You are right in that a lot of the pursuits lean combat heavy, but there's also Propagandist and Overseer and Academic.  And there's no penalty for multiclassing, so you wind up with a lot of one-step/two-step combinations.  

This thread is a list of printed material.  If you go down to "Chronicles," anything there labeled "one shot" is online for free.  https://themostexcellentandawesomeforumever-wyrd.com/topic/109162-ttb-publication-index/  An Easy Mark is very, very introductory.  Maybe too simple for experienced RPers, but maybe a quick skim would be worthwhile while learning the system?  I like Owner of a Lonely Heart, but I've been told I have a morbid streak.   Anything listed under "DriveThruRPG.com Penny Dreadful One-Shots" is designed to be done in one-two sessions.  They're usually $5 on DriveThruRPG.  The Penny Dreadfuls are longer, 4-6 sessions depending on how distracted your players get.  

 

Yeah. My players like the combat-light campaign style as well. Intrigue and politics over combat always wins. That's a lot of the reason I had to find ways to spread progression over more sessions. 

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5 minutes ago, CateranLlama said:

You absolutely do not need to turn it into a dungeon crawl.  There's plenty of room for sneaking, politicking, lying, thieving and potting in this game.  You are right in that a lot of the pursuits lean combat heavy, but there's also Propagandist and Overseer and Academic.  And there's no penalty for multiclassing, so you wind up with a lot of one-step/two-step combinations. 

 

Oh definitely. Where possible I try to keep it to one combat per session to avoid getting bogged down in lengthy periods of fighting. Sometimes I'll ignore that rule though and just throw in a very short fight that the party are guaranteed to overwhelm just to give them a chance to flex their muscles and feel especially powerful.

We found a couple of ways to draw out te length of the campaign and its progression. Sometimes that was as simple as "not every session resolves a fate step, only advance in pursuit when someone advances a fate step". If you are planning for the characters to exist longer than a single campaign you probably should be careful about how fast characters advance, at least once I've had the problem of characters quickly being able to reliably do a bit of everything and everyone's niches becoming very blurred. Not necessarily a problem but in that case made certain players feel they were alwats being overshadowed.

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Thanks for the answers everybody! I feel more confident now that I'm not missing any major rule systems.

I agree about the need to familiarize myself with the gameworld. It's clearly not a setting-agnostic game system the way GURPS or in some ways D&D is. (It feels like Shadowrun in a way: every campaign has a Dunkelzahn and a Harlequin and a shared history of magic's re-awakening, and branches off from there.) As Fatemaster I clearly have a duty to learn the gameworld history and politics; and I can reasonably expect my players to have done so as well, and build adventures around that shared knowledge.
 

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