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Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Humbug Scoolbus posted:

WEG produced TORG which was an amazing game, with an incredible setting. For that I forgive them a lot.

The setting is great (and one of my all-time faves) but the system is crunchy as gently caress and the metaplot was actually worse than Deadland's.

TORG is the epitome of 90's RPG design and I'm really tempted to review the line. I feel like I could do a loving dissertation on everything that was wrong with the way the metaplot was handled and why War's End was one of the worst supplements ever written.

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Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Bieeardo posted:

I only ever found the boxed set and a couple of supplements, so I thought TORG's metaplot, tie-in novels and stuff were supposed to be setup for out of the box campaigns, and thought it was really refreshing. It's really disappointing to hear otherwise. :(
There were a lot of problems once the line got underway. To wit:

unseenlibrarian posted:

The dumbest/saddest part about the TORG metaplot was that they tried to do it 'right', with semi-regular polls and questionnaires with adventures and what stuff people played and how it was resolved. From what I remember, though, they kept the numbers that could 'affect' whether an event was true or not fairly small and the window for responding was fairly short, so if enough groups liked a dumb plot twist, it became canon.

You can probably see how this went badly.
There was more to it than that, really.

See, the idea was that TORG was going to be a "living" setting. They'd release adventures with questionaires at the end, which people would fill out with the events of the adventure for their group and the overall outcome. Then, whatever result happened the most became "canon". In addition, they had a magazine called "Infiniverse" that they'd send out once a month with metaplot updates and mini-adventures and such.

There were a few problems with that.

First off, this was in the early 90's so there was no internet. Infiniverse was a paper mag that wasn't archived anywhere, so if you missed issues or came in late, you were S.O.L. until they put out the compilation books.

Second, every adventure they put out was also canon. As in, it was assumed in the metaplot that every group went through every adventure. So if you didn't play adventure X, then you'd miss out on some major metaplot thing.

Third, they were really bad at helping people keep track. They'd reference something like Baruk Kah finding some major artifact or something, but they wouldn't tell you what book this happened in or give you any backstory or summary of what happened. Baruk Kah would just have this artifact out of the blue.

Forth, the game line assumed that everyone was following the metaplot. Pretty much all the later supplements were designed under the assumption that everyone was in line with the metaplot (which they probably weren't, see the above points).

So as the game line wore on, more and of these major world-changing events happened. But if you didn't have all the books and novels and Infiniverse updates you'd have no loving clue what was going on. There are a bunch of major plot revelations in the last act of War's End that I had to look up through about 30 books to figure out where they originated. One of them happened more or less in passing in the Infiniverse magazine in general updates (not even an adventure, just a "here's what so-and-so is up to" paragraph or two), and the other originated in one of the novels, so if you didn't read it you'd have no idea where the gently caress it came from.

Something like this might work nowadays since you could make an official wiki or something, but back then it was a hot, hot mess.

quote:

Though for a War's end dissertation there's always this: http://www.sdc.org/~ksjim/wars-end.html
Wow, I can't even read that without my eyeballs throbbing.


e: And I haven't even touched on Jeff Mills, the worst NPC ever.

e2: EVER

Evil Mastermind fucked around with this message at 03:26 on Apr 13, 2013

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Asimo posted:

Yeah, this sounds like the saddest part of it. A game-wide metaplot that ran off player input these days would- ... well, okay still probably be horrible since most gamers don't really know what they want or would make for a good adventure, but it would at least be easy to track (you could have e-mail feedback or web polls or whatever) and have ample documentation, possibly even on an official wiki. It's kind of ironic that the big justified push against metaplot stuff really happened before some of the technology to mitigate the worst of it really came about.

Well, in TORG's case it wasn't just "what do you guys want to see?", it was "okay, out of everyone mailed in the results of module XYZ, most of you managed to stop the bad guy from getting the McGuffin, so that's canon now."

But again, that wasn't so useful for people who didn't like the modules or whose campaigns didn't mesh up with the metaplot.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Alien Rope Burn posted:

My big issue with TORG was an issue with how crossing over the worlds worked, where certain PC abilities just stopped working from world to world depending on the metaphysics there. It seemed like the most unfun mechanic, and it's the main reason I never got into it. I don't want to be told I can't be a werewolf during some adventures! Yeesh.

I'm in a TORG game right now, and yeah it can get tedious. Another big thing about TORG is that it pretty much is completely rules-as-physics, because it's obvious that after they put together the game's metaphysics, they sat down, figured every possible exception and situation, the built the game mechanics around all the metaphysics and all the exceptions.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Spoilers Below posted:

We always played that PCs were the exception to that rule. If you're a werewolf or a steampunk engineer, your powers work because that's who you're playing right now. RAW sounds really unfun... :(

Well, technically that's correct.

Without getting too into the mechanics and rules, each PC automatically creates a "reality bubble" around themselves that allows them to use their home reality's rules and abilities regardless of where they are. So if you're from the Cyberpapacy and have a cyberlimb, you can go to the Living Land (where technology just flat-out doesn't work or even exist) and keep using it.

But that causes what's called a "contradiction". You're using something that isn't supported by the local reality. So if you're doing something that requires you to roll while in a different reality, and you roll a 1, then you disconnect from your home reality. Your reality bubble pops, and you can't use items or abilities until you succeed at a Reality skill roll to reconnect. Fail bad enough, and you will convert to the new reality; your gear will transform to the closest equivalent in the new reality if it's stuff that shouldn't exist there, you lose your ability to use natural abilities not supported by your new reality, and your memories and worldview will shift to the new reality.

Unsurprisingly, this is all a huge headache. In the game I'm in know, the knight from Aysle (the generic fantasy reality) actually disconnected temporarily because he rolled a 1 on a Find skill check.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Young Freud posted:

I can also see why they had those reality rules, because if you didn't, everything would have defaulted to the highest Axiom (genre aspect, like Tech, Magic, Social or Spiritual) value and the whole game would become Rifts. But then again, the game almost became that, with the Living Land and Asyle being slowly brushed away for Cyberpapacy, Tharkold, Orrosh, Space Gods, and Terra/Nile Empire stuff adventures while the Core Earth setting became more and more like Nippon Tech. In the end, they so had no idea what to do with the Living Land that it evolved into the Land Above and the Land Below and further disintegrated.

I'd say they didn't have a lot of ideas with what to do with most of the content. If you read the cosm books, there's very little there about the tone of the realms. Instead, it was all locations and NPCs and equipment and mechanics.

I mean, the Living Land should be scary as hell. It's an alien landscape, where technology just does not work. Even simple things like matches can't work there, because it's not a case of the reality not having developed that technology yet, is that the Living Land's reality doesn't support that level of "technology". In fact, non-natural items will decay rapidly to the point where a car will reduce to a pile of rust in a matter of days.

Not only that, but there's reality law that covers the land in a thick mist that not only makes it hard to see more than about twenty feet, it also makes it a lot easier to get lost. On top of that, there are dinosaurs and alien creatures out there who see you as nothing but food.

Well, except for the lizard people (edeinos). They see you as a sacrifice to their goddess. Their whole religion is based around the idea that their goddess Lanala is cut off completely from the world, and can't experience anything except through her followers. So the edeinos worship her and pray to her by experiencing sensations for her.

Watching the play of sunlight on a river is a prayer to Lanala. Singing a song and dancing a revel is a prayer to Lanala.

The feeling of your enemy's speartip entering your side is a prayer to Lanala. The rush of blood to your head as you rip your enemy to shreds is a prayer to Lanala.

And the edeinos are all very, very dedicated to their goddess.

That's the reality that has landed on the east and west coasts of the United States.

How is it presented? "Here are the monsters, here's the gazetteer, here's the world laws, and oh by the way their leader Baruk Kaah is kind of an idiot."


Yeah, I'm doing the TORG write up, aren't I?

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Humbug Scoolbus posted:

I'm starting to think I should do TORG...

Mind if I call dibs? If you've got your heart set on it that's cool.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



dwarf74 posted:

:colbert: Earthdawn would like a word with you, sir.

Earthdawn's metaplot was nowhere near as bad as TORG's.

Actually, did Earthdawn even have a metaplot?

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Life, the Mutliverse, and Everything - Let's Read TORG


Part 1: tl;dr

TORG. Man...TORG.

Where to start on this?

TORG was a huge game line in the early to mid 90's, back in the day where boxes sets were still a Thing and
having a ton of supplements was pretty much expected. I've said how it's the epitipe of 90's design both mechanically
and in terms of the metaplot. It's the poster child for setting bloat. It had great ideas handled in a really bad
way. Hell, a large part of the metaplot didn't happen in-game, it happened in a novel trilogy that came out before the game did. It has Jeff Mills, the worst NPC ever.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The hardest thing about talking about TORG is that it's a huge, sprawling, heavily entangled mess. It's a mess I love, it's one of my favorite settings ever, but everything in both the crunch and fluff is so heavily intertwined it's ridiculous. TORG is the embodiment of "rules as physics", because the setting has a lot of metaphysics that are modeled in the actual game mechanics.

Dammit, I'm getting ahead of myself again. Hell, I haven't even talked about what the game's about yet. Let's start with the basics.

TORG was first released by West End Games in 1990, and is a multi-genre game about Earth being invaded by alternate realities in an attempt to drain it of "possibility energy", allowing the man who organized the invasion to ascend to godhood.

The core of TORG was a boxed set that came with three books: the core rules, the Worldbook that described all the different realities, a starter adventure, and a deck of cards that were needed to play the game. The TORG line ran for about 5 years, and ended up with 50 books on top of the core set. Over half of them were adventures, which were all tied into the overall metaplot and caused a lot of the problems that arose in the later years of the line.

And that raises another problem: I can't talk too much about the mechanical side of things without giving you folks a base understanding of the setting. So let's start there...

FAIR WARNING: There is a lot of backstory here, and most of it won't make sense until we get to other parts of the system later. Just bear with me.

quote:

Legends. They speak of The Place, in the Time of Nothing. The Void was alone in The Place, possessed by an unending hunger but unable to sate it. Then Eternity entered The Place, full of dreams and possibilities locked within its infinite instant with no method of release. Void and Eternity met, and The Maelstrom was formed.

The Void tasted the essence of Eternity, and it became aware of what it craved. Eternity boiled away into the Void and billions of possibilities were destroyed. Whole galaxies came and went as the Void fed. The Maelstrom endlessly tossed out possibilities that were destroyed in the whirling currents of creation. But, eventually, two possibilities survived.

The Nameless One, a being that took after the Void, was destruction personified. Apeiros, created from realized possibilities, was of Eternity's image. The two waged a war of creation and destruction - Apeiros setting possibilities free, the Nameless One feeding on their power. But as fast as the Nameless One could feed, Apeiros could create. There could be no victor. Then the Nameless One invoked the Void.

With no other course available, Apeiros left The Place. It appealed to Eternity and saw an infinite number of possibilities opened before it. Apeiros took them all, diffusing the possibilities throughout the new place — throughout the cosmverse.

The Nameless One, now alone in The Place with the Void, vowed to hunt down Apeiros and Eternity, no matter how long it took. It used what limited creative powers it had learned during its war against Apeiros to create the Darkness Devices. Then it sent these items of evil into the cosmverse to perpetuate acts of destruction and capture the dispersed shards of Eternity.

Legends. They tell of the discovery of the first Darkness Device, and how it elevated its possessor to High Lord and then led him to other cosms to destroy and drain possibilities. Thus was born the first of the Possibility Raiders; thus was spoken The Prophecy — there would arise a High Lord with the knowledge and power to absorb so much energy as to become immortal, all powerful, a god. And this High Lord would be called the Torg!

And thus the multiverse was created.

A central idea of TORG is that the core building block of a reality (or "cosm"), the fundamental unit of energy, is the Possibility. Possibilities are what allow worlds to grow and change, what allow people to find their own destinies and shape the world around them. But every world could also potentially have a Darkness Device: an ancient artifact that could steal possibilities from the world and give them directly to its owner, who would become the High Lord of that world.

One of these High Lords was a figure known only as "The Gaunt Man". He was the High Lord of the world of Orrorsh; an alternate Earth where the Victorian empire controlled a world beset by monsters and horrors out of nightmares. The Gaunt Man's overall goal was to become the Torg, and in pursuing this goal he set out through the multiverse finding other worlds and stripping them of possibilities. Once he had enough possibility energy, we would only need a large amount of physical energy to complete his transformation into the Torg and attain control of the multiverse.

The physical energy would be easy; a large enough act of destruction would take care of that. The hard part was finding enough possibility energy. He could drain worlds as he found them, but that was time consuming even for an immortal like himself.

Then, in his travels, he discovered Earth.

Earth was unique in The Gaunt Man's travels because it was the richest in possibility energy. In fact, it had vastly more possibilities than any other world he'd come across. This one world alone could provide him with the needed energy to become the Torg, but this power was also an incredible disadvantage to him.

Through the use of a Darkness Device it was possible to create "maelstrom bridges" between two realities, allowing High Lords to send invading armies from one reality to another. However, it's a multiversal law that two realities cannot exist in the same place at the same time. When one reality invades another, there is a contest of realities, in which possibility energy surges from the invading cosm, then from the defending cosm, then back to the invading cosm, until one reality is triumphant. High Lords use their Darkness Devices to sustain and absorb the surge from the defending cosm. But because Earth had so much possibility energy, the defensive surge from Earth was too large to be handled by Orrorsh alone. The invasion would be repelled and the bridge destroyed almost as soon as the invasion started.

Unwilling to let such a little thing as certain defeat stop him when he was so close to his goal, The Gaunt Man researched and experiemented for years to come up with a plan: invade Earth with multiple realities at once. In is travels, he had come across other "Possibility Raiders", other High Lords who used their own Darkness Devices to travel to and conquer other worlds.

The problem was determining how many allies he wanted to bring to the invasion. He needed help, true, but he also wanted to ensure he was sharing his power with as few "allies" as possible, as well as making sure they were people he could easily manipulate. At the same time, he needed to have enough realities invade that Earth's reality couldn't effectively push back against all of them at once. He determined that an invasion force of seven realities would be optimum, and set out to gather his invasion force:

  • There was the Gaunt Man himself, High Lord of Orrorsh, the world of Victorian horror.
  • His former chief officer Uthorion. Uthorion was the High Lord of Asyle, the fantasy cosm. Uthorion was possessing the body of the world's queen, Lady Pella Ardinay, and slowly corrupting Aysle itself.
  • Another of the Gaunt Man's former lieutenants, Kranod, was also brought in. Kranod was a "techno-demon" from Tharkold, a harsh world of perpetual war between techno-demons and humans and where magic and high technology were merged.
  • Baruk Kaah, High Lord of the primitive cosm The Living Land, was tapped because his reality was the strongest in spiritual strength out of all the Gaunt Man's options.
  • The Gaunt Man also recruited Pope Jean Malraux I, High Lord of Magna Verita. Pope Marlaux had conquered many realities in the name of God, changing them to dark, medieval worlds like his own where only the Church held sway and science was forbidden. His world was referred to as The False Papacy by the other High Lords, but never to Malraux's face.
  • Next was the costumed madman known only as Dr. Mobius, the insane High Lord of the pulp cosm of Terra and self-proclaimed Pharaoh of the Nile Empire.
  • Lastly, negotiations came to a close with 3327, the CEO of the Kawana Corporation and High Lord of the world known as Marketplace. In this reality, known as Nippon Tech, the laws of profit were are powerful as the laws of physics.

The invasion took years to plan, but the High Lords did much to prepare. They sent advance agents ahead through smaller bridges called "dimthreads" that only needed to exist for moments, and would not cause major disturbances in Earth's reality. These agents were able to keep their home realities around themselves, and subtly prepared Earth for their masters' invasion.

The Gaunt Man led the attack, dropping a maelstrom bridge into Indonesia and bringing with him an army of monsters and horrors. As Orrorsh slowly overwrote Earth's reality in Indonesia, technology started to break down as the rules of a "Victorian" reality too hold and dangerous storms surrounded the islands as Earth's reality fought back against the invading cosm.

To the outside world, all that anyone knew was that Indonesia and the surrounding islands were cut off. Before the world governments could investigate, Baruk Kaah attacked.

Kaah had chosen North America for his invasion; where the Gaunt Man employed subtlety he used brute force. Three bridges dropped from the Living Land: one in New York, one in Sacramento, and one in Fort Providence in Canada. Kaah sent thousands of edeinos down the bridges, lizard-people like himself, as well as other more alien races he'd conquered. As the Living Land's primitive reality overwrote Earth's, thousands upon thousands of Earth's inhabitants were "transformed" to the new cosm, forgetting their old lives and becoming followers of Baruk's Kaah's fanatic religion and worshiping the Goddess Lanala. The Living Land now covered the east and west coasts of the United States.

Canadian and US forces were caught completely unprepared, and the American president and vice-president were in New York when the invasion happened and were presumed dead.

Aysle was the next to invade, dropping several bridges onto England and Scotland, covering both almost entirely with the new reality. The United Kingdom was overrun by vikings, giants, dragons, and wizards and the deterioration of technology in the realm made fighting back almost impossible.

The False Papacy invaded France next, changing the country into a despotic theocracy and dragging the technology and social levels of central Europe down to their level. Pope Malraux did not come to Earth personally to oversee the invasion, a decision that would ultimately change his reality at its most fundamental levels.

Tharkold was to invade Russia next, but it was here that the Possibility Raiders met their first setback.

In order to safely invade another reality, devices called stelae needed to be set up in the reality that was to be invaded. Stelae are set up in threes, forming a triangle. When a bridge was dropped inside this triangle, the stelae would become empowered and created a barrier that served two purposes. First, it created a wall that prevented the invading reality from pushing back directly against the invading realm, allowing the High Lord to establish footholds. Second, the area inside the triangle described by the stelae would transform to the invading reality, taking on that reality's rules. Inhabitants would have their possibility energy striped, and would transform to the new reality. They would forget their old lives, their old world, and would become effective inhabitants of the new reality.

This is why the more "primitive" realities invaded first. As these realities overwrote Earth's, the lower technological levels would cause Earth's technology to stop working. A military assault rifle would not work at all in Asyle, not because it hadn't been invented in that reality yet, but because that reality didn't support that level of technology at all. In extreme cases, the assault rifle might actually physically transform into something appropriate, like a crossbow.

Moments before the Tharkold bridge dropped, a Russian force attached to their psychic research project had discovered the location of one of Tharkold's stelae thanks to the precognitives in the project. The stelae was destroyed, breaking the circuit and allowing Earth's reality to fight back. Not only was the bridge destroyed and the invading force repelled, the resulting surge of Earth's energy ravaged Tharkold itself for years afterward.

The sudden surge of energy from Earth pushed hard against the cosms that had already invaded, and it seemed as if Earth could destroy the invaders as the High Lords hurried to readjust and bolder their holdings to the sudden reversal of fortunes. Four realities were not enough to stand againt Earth's posibilities.

Then the Nile Empire invaded.

Dr. Mobius invaded Egypt, and the Nile Empire quickly spread over norther Africa, turning it into a realm of two-fisted heroes, shadowy villains, ancient magic, and lost treasures. Dr. Mobius expanded recklessly into the deserts, as well as conquering Israel and the Sudan.

Seeing that the High Lords were now capable of winning, 3327 finally dropped hid maelstrom bridge in Japan. Unlike the other High Lords, however, 3327 didn't go in for flashy effects. He dropped his bridge inside a skyscraper his corporation had purchased as part of the attack preparations. All the people of Earth knew was that the Kawana Corporation and its CEO Ryuchi Kanawa (3327 himself) were a new major financial power. The invasion of Japan was so subtle, the Nippon Tech reality so similar to Earth's, that it would be years before anyone even knew Japan had been invaded.

Now six realities invaded Earth, leaving everything in a sort of equilibrium. The Gaunt Man was ready to become Torg when the second major setback occurred.

Every living being in a cosm contains possibility energy. Most only have one possibility, one major change in their lives. These "ords" are the people who become transformed when they enter new realities, and are unable to fight back.

Some, however, are capable of more.

When faced with a true moment of crisis, some people are able to draw more possibilities from their world. They can keep their reality around them in a sort of "bubble", allowing them to accomplish things not possible by the local reality. They can fight the invaders on their own terms.

The High Lords call them "Stormers", based on the storms that are created when two realities clash. The heroes prefer to call themselves "Storm Knights".

The large amount of possibility energy on Earth created an inordinate amount of Storm Knights. In addition, Storm Knights from the invading realities joined the fight, trying to stop the High Lords from destroying Earth as they had so many worlds before.

One group of Knights managed to face two of the High Lords directly. As Pope Malraux descended his maelstrom bridge into France, he was confronted by a survivor of a cyberpunk reality. As she fought him, she managed to use a device called a "data plate" to show Malraux her destroyed high-tech reality. Malraux saw this as a vision from God Himself, and the vision actually altered his personal reality. When he arrived in France, he used his Darkness Device to alter his home cosm's technology levels, bringing it from the printing press to cybernetics in a matter of weeks. He declared that cybernetics were the body of Christ, and that the internet was the realm of God. He was physically transformed as well, half of his body replaced with cybernetics. He declared himself the Cyberpope, and his realm was transformed into the Cyberpapacy.

The Knights then fought Uthorion, driving him from Lady Ardinay's body and leaving Aysle without a High Lord. Although Lady Ardinay is on the side of good and has allied with Earth, the Darkness Device still whispers to her, tempting her with the power to "fix" everything.

It wasn't long before the Storm Knights confronted the Gaunt Man himself. The Gaunt Man is an ancient foe, unable to be killed by normal means. Instead, the Knights used an artifact called The Heart of Coyote to trap him in a pocket dimension, caught in an endless cycle of creation and destruction.

Which brings us to the Near Now. With the Gaunt Man gone, the remaining High Lords scramble for territory and power in an attempt to become the Torg. The American government is in disarray, with a temporary government being set up in Dallas. America has lost its ability to be a major financial and technological world power, leaving Japan to pick up the slack, nobody knowing that the now-largest finacial power is run by a Possibility Raider. Dr. Mobius continues to expand, threatening Iran and Saudi Arabia with bizzare creations of weird science. Berlin finds itself a major world player as Germany is the only thing standing between Russia and the Cyberpapacy.

This is the world of Core Earth. And it is in need of heroes.

---

Okay. You see that huge chunk of text I just wrote?

That's 2,200 words. And that's the setup for the setting, and the minimum you need to know about what's going on so the rest of what I'm going to tell you makes sense. And that's all stuff that happened in the novel trilogy before the "game" actually starts. Technically speaking the box set takes place about three months after the end of the third novel.

I haven't even touched on how possibility energy works. Or world laws. Or axioms. Or disconnecting and reconnecting. Or the everlaws. Or eternity shards. Or Towlyn of House Tankred. Or the Signal Fire. Or the logarithmic scale. Or glass ninjas.

Yeah. 90's design.


NEXT TIME: We actually crack open the rulebook!

Evil Mastermind fucked around with this message at 17:17 on Apr 15, 2013

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Young Freud posted:

I'm a little disappointed you didn't go for the more evocative tag line: "The storm has a name..."

Yeah, I realized after I was finished that I should have used more of the game's catchphrases. That will be fixed in future posts.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Tasoth posted:

I have this feeling that if you welded Torg's setting to Fate, you'd get a pretty sweet game to run.

I've actually been noodling around with a Fate Core conversion, but I haven't gotten too far into it yet.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Cooked Auto posted:

And once again Scandinavia is left out.
I'm just gonna believe that their Viking spirit makes them resistant and helping them fight back.

Actually, Aysle did indeed expand over Finland, Sweden, and Norway before Uthorion was ousted. They even dropped a bridge in Finland.

And yes, many people did get transformed into vikings. :black101:

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Humbug Scoolbus posted:

Hey mll! Want me to start running TORG on Saturdays? :getin:

I love TORG and was getting ready to do an F&F before I was beaten like a craven dog...I have all the books and was at the GENCON where it was released. West End Games had a huge booth that year and there were lines or game nerds stretching around the main hall in Milwaukee wanting to get their hands on a copy of this wild rear end game. TSR's booth looked empty in comparison.

Sorry, man. I needed to get back into reviewing after a long pause, plus I had to justify buying all the setting books in the past two weeks. :shobon:

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Oh, I'm gonna cover spell creation, don't you worry about that. If I'm feeling brave I might even try to make a spell!

I'm pretty much planning on doing all the cosm books, then finish up with War's End. I wasn't planning on covering the adventures because for the most part they're pretty bad.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



The storm has a name... - Let's Read TORG


Part 2: The Other Basics

With the pile of backstory shoved aside for now, let's look at the core mechanics.

At first glance, TORG uses a standard stat+skill+d20 system. But the fact of the matter is a little more complex...

quote:

Because Torg uses a unique system to translate back and forth between the game and the real world, we've created terms to distinguish game numbers from "real" numbers. A value refers to a quantity measured in a way which can be used in the game, such as a Strength of 11. A measure is a measurement from the real world, such as "150 pounds." Measures can sometimes be translated into values, and vice versa, but that is a task for the gamemaster. For instance, the gamemaster has a way to find out whether a Strength value of 11 is enough to lift a measure of 150 pounds.

So yeah, this is a game that's going to try and model everything mechanically.

Every character has seven attributes: Dexterity, Strength, Toughness, Perception, Mind, Charisma, and Spirit. Torg uses preconstructed templates for character generation, and attributes run the range from 8 to 13, with 10-11 being average.

In addition, there are just over 50 skills in the core book (later books would add more), ranging from the basics like Lock Picking and Fire Combat to more esoteric things like Space Vehicles and Alteration Magic. Skill ranks are called adds and are added to one specific attribute when rolling. Every skill is assigned a specific attribute.

Every character has a tag skill, which starts at 3 adds. This is the character's "signature skill". For example, the Core Earth Intrepid Reporter's tag skill is persuasion, but the Contract Ninja from Nippon Tech has martial arts as his tag skill.

When a character is created, they get the three adds in their tag skill and an additional 13 adds to put in whatever skills they want. The only limitations are that you can't start with more than three adds in a skill (so you can't bump your tag skill up any further), some skills are unavailable to start with depending on your home cosm, and you have to put at least one add in the reality skill.

Reality is probably the most important skill on your sheet, because it's the skill that allows you to maintain connection to your home reality. Really, it's the fact that you have the reality skill in the first place that makes you a storm knight.

When you want to do something in Torg, you roll a d20. This roll is open-ended; if you roll a natural 20, then you roll again and add. In addition, if you've got ranks in the skill you're using, you also reroll and add on a 10. So if you're using a skill you have adds in, and you roll a 20 then a 10 then a 10 then a 4, that's a 24.

Now you'd think you'd just add that number to your attribute and skill, then compare that to a difficulty number. And you'd be almost correct. In Torg, you don't add the roll to your skill; you look it up on the Bonus Chart.


That chart is on the bottom of the character sheet, because you're going to use it every time you roll the die. The top row is the result of the die roll, the bottom is the bonus number.

See, TORG works on a logarithmic scale. You'll notice that in the 15-20 die roll range, numbers line up one-for-one. But as you get higher die rolls, the bonus increases at a slower rate.

Once you roll the die, you look that number up on the Bonus Chart, and the bonus number is what gets added to your skill. If you meet or beat the difficulty value of the task, you succeed. The difficulty is set by the GM for unopposed tasks and is usually an NPC's skill rank for opposed tests. If you're attacking someone, you also add the bonus number to your weapon's damage rating, but we'll get to that later.

Let's say I'm trying to climb something. I have a Strength of 8, two adds in climb for a total skill rating of 10. I roll the die and get a 17. Looking that up on the bonus chart gives me a bonus number of 4. Adding that to my skill gets me a final action total of 14. Simple! :eng101:

And believe me, that's the easiest the mechanical bits will be around here. Fair warning.

Now let's say you roll a 6 and are in a situation where you can't afford to fail. That's where possibilities come in.

I mentioned last time that in TORG, "Possibilities" are a form of energy. Every living being has at least one "Possibility Ppoint", which is what ties them to their reality. A person who's only capable of holding one Possibility Point at a time is called an "Ord" by the High Lords. Ords can unconciously spend that one point to generate a change in their life, and that point will eventually be replenished by their cosm, but ultimately they can only hold one Possibility at a time.

Storm Knights, on the other hand, can hold more than one Possibility at a time. Not only that, but they can use these Possibilities to bend reality in their favor. This is referred to as being "possibility rated". Every character starts with 10 Possibilities, and get more as the game goes on.

The main mechanical use of Possibilities is to get rerolls. After rolling the die, you can spend one (and only one) possibility to get a reroll. This reroll is added to the original roll, can still explode, and as a bonus if the first bonus roll is always considered to be at least a 10. Which is nice, that way you don't really waste the roll.

Example: Jake Silver is driving a jeep and attempting to lose a Nile Empire patrol. The GM says Jake needs to beat the trooper's driving skill of 12 to get away. He makes a land vehicles roll with his skill of 12, and rolls a 6, which is a -5 on the Bonus Chart for a total of 7. Jake spends a possibility and rolls again, this time getting a 3. This is treated as a 10, which is added to his first roll of 6 for a total of 16/+3. His final result is 12+3=15.

NPCs can be possibility rated too, and the GM can spend Possibilities for them as well. Players can spend their own possibility points to cancel an NPC's point. Possibilities can also be used to counter damage.

There's one last use for Possibility Points, and I'm just going to c&p this one because this is the point where things start getting complicated.

quote:

Reality works differently between one cosm and another (see "The Axioms" later in this chapter), and possibility energy constantly flows to maintain the reality — meaning that equipment, magic, and even skills from your home cosm might not work so well in an alien cosm.

A character in a foreign cosm may spend a Possibility and cocoon himself in a "reality bubble" for 15 minutes. During that time, everything — technology, magic, etc. — works for that character as it would work in his home cosm. There are restrictions, but leave those to the gamemaster.

Example: Quin is in a "pure zone" of the New Empire of the Nile. In the pure zone of a lower tech level, his Uzi simply does not work. If he wished, Quin could spend a Possibility to make the automatic weapon work for 15 minutes. During this time, Quin's other equipment (his night scope, his antiseptic spray, his tear gas grenades)would also work.

So for 15 minutes, you get to use your character's abilities and equipment! What a bargain! Especially since, given the nature of the game, at any given point at least one PC will not be in his home cosm. This restriction also includes what we'd think of as "normal" gear, so if you're the soldier whose tag skill is fire combat and is built around using an assault rifle and you wind up in Aysle where it doesn't work, then you're going to have to either spend Possibilities or just not be able to use your rifle.

I should point out here, too, that you only get Possibilities at the end of an adventure, so they don't refresh quickly. They're also your XP so you need to be careful how you spend them during play.

So yes, this is a game where your metagame currency has multiple mutually exclusive uses. If you ever played a mage in Shadowrun, you know how much this can suck.

Next up are how to use the social skills. Charm, persuasion, and intimidate each have several paragraphs of rules on how they work. Charm is used to move people up and down a reaction table, persuasion just gets NPCs to do what you want, and intimidate can actually be used to prevent NPCs from taking actions. You can also do a Test of Wills using the taunt or trick skills to mess with other peoples' actions.

From here we go to the basics of combat. Yes, I know it feels like we're jumping around a lot, but this is the order things are presented in the book.

(And as an aside, this is a symptom of the game's need to mechanically model everything. Every game concept has a corresponding mechanical bit, and all these game concepts are interconnected. Therefore, all the mechanics are likewise interconnected and depend on each other. That means that there's no real simple mechanical "in" to the system because if I explain the skill system, I need to explain POssibilities. And to explain Possibilities, I need to explain Axioms. It doesn't help that the system explantations tend to jump around from concept to concept a lot. The whole system is one big tangle and sometimes I'm amazed I ever figured it out.)

Anyway, combat.

Combat in TORG uses group initiative. You start by determining who goes first (the heroes or villains), then the characters on that side go in reverse-Dexterity order. So if the heroes have initiative, then the character with the highest Dex goes first, then the next highest and so on until everyone on that side has acted, then you do the same for the villains.

On your turn, you get one action: attack, defend, maneuver, movement, intimidation, taunt, test of will, or trick. These are mostly pretty self-explanatory; "defend" means doing nothing this round but hunkering down, "maneuver" means getting to a more advantageous position versus "movement" which is getting from point A to point B.

It should also be pointed out that you are always assumed to be trying to defend yourself in combat if possible; the difficulty for hitting someone is the skill level of the appropriate defensive skill. So if you're shooting someone, you roll your fire combat against the target's dodge. If you want to actively defend, then you declare it before your opponents go (you can break the initiative order to do this), then you roll your defensive skill as normal, but any action result less than 1 is treated as 1. Again, this is set up so you don't completely waste a vital roll, and I like the fact that you can fully defend yourself even if you're going dead last in initiative.

And how do you determine initiative? With the Drama Deck, of course!

The Drama Deck came with the boxed set, and conisted of 156 cards that looked like this:


I'll explain what all that stuff means later, but for now we're just going to look at the top half.

The end of the card with the orange border is the initiative side, and determines who goes first, what advantages/disadvantages they get, and what the approved actions for the round are. The "S" row is for "Standard" scenes, which are normal conflicts. The "D" row is for "Dramatic" scenes, and is used for major end-of-act boss fights. The main difference is that the heroes ultimately have the upper hand on 2/3 of the S lines, but the villains have it on the D lines.

At the start of a round, the top card of the deck is flipped over and you look at the appropriate line to determine which side goes first, and what advantages or disadvantages they have. On this card, the heroes go first if it's a standard scene, but the villains are "Up", which means that everyone on that side gets one free reroll as if they had spent a Possibility. If this was a dramatic scene the heroes would still go first, but they'd suffer from "Fatigue" and automatically take two shock damage at the end of their turn.

Each card has a different set-up, with different effects like "Flurry" (everyone on that side gets two actions) or "Stymied" (everyone loses one chance at a reroll). And honestly, I really like this initiative set-up, because the added effects keep everyone on their toes and keeps people guessing about twists in the fight. It's pretty awesome to be losing then see that Heroes-first-and-get-Flurry card come up.

The side of the card with the grey border is the player's side. In addition to the 10 starting Probability Points, every character also starts with four cards in their hand. The player's side of the card has effects like giving bonuses to rolls under certain circumstances, free rerolls, or the ability to introduce a subplot. When you're out of combat, you can just play cards as you need them. So if I had that Willpower card there and was making an evidence analysis roll, then I could play the card to get +3 to my skill.

That's out of combat. In combat it works a little differently. Big shock, right?

When you're in combat, you can't just play cards from your hand. To play a card in combat, you need to add it to your pool. Every time you succeed at an action, no matter what it is, you can put a card from your hand into your pool, and from there it can be used next turn. In addition, if you succeed at one of the approved actions listed on the initiative card, you draw a card from the deck and put it in your hand. Regardless of whether or not you succeeded at the approved action, you play a card into your pool. At the end of the fight, all the cards in your pool go back to your hand.

EXAMPLE: At the start of the fight, I have four cards in my hand and none in my pool and the card up there is in play for the first round (approved actions DEFEND and TRICK). When my turn comes around, I decide I want to attack someone. If I succeed, then I can play a card from my hand into my pool, and I can use that card in my pool whenever it's appropriate. If I had decided to trick someone instead and I succeeded, I'd also draw one for my hand, leaving me with four in my hand and one in my pool.

Believe it or not, this part of the system isn't that complex in motion. As long as you remember to put a card in your pool when you succeed at a roll, and draw one when you do an approved action, you're pretty much set.

There's a few more things you can do with your cards; you can play for the critical moment once per act, where you put as many cards as you want into your pool to be used immediately, you can lose cards by having bad guys perform trick/taunt/tests against you, and you can trade cards between people's pools.

So we tangented a bit there, so let's get back to combat and talk about taking damage.

There are three kinds of damage you can take in TORG: shock damage, knockout condition, and wounds.

Shock damage is recorded as a number, and if you have more shock damage than your Toughness, you're knocked unconscious.

Knockout condition is recorded as a "K" or an "O". If you have taken a "K" blow and take another "K" blow, you get two shock damage. If you have the "K" and get an "O" blow, then you're knocked unconscious.

Wounds are serious damage, and has four ranks: wounded->heavily wounded->mortally wounded->dead. Every time you take a wound you move up one level on that ladder. Mortally wounded character will die without immediate attention, but dead characters are dead on the spot.

When you beat someone's defense (armor is a flat add to defense), you take the action value of your attack and compare it to this table:


Let's say I'm attacking someone Possibility-rated with a defense of 9, and I get a final total of a 12. That's a hit, so I look up a 12 on the chart there. I deal a wound, a K, and 5 shock.

(This is where the "glass ninja" thing comes from: when someone has a really high defense, you have to roll a really high number to hit them. However, damage isn't determined by how much you hit them, it's determined by your final action total. So if I'm fighting someone with a dodge skill if 15, I'd need at least a 15 to hit them, which means at minimum I'm going to be doing 3 wounds, a KO, and 5 shock. In other words, if I manage to kit Mr. Dodgy Pants, I'm going to kill him.)

You can spend possibilities to reduce incoming damage as follows:

quote:

A player may spend a Possibility to reduce the damage his character takes from the current blow. Each Possibility may do three of the following:
1. Remove three points of shock damage from the blow.
2. Remove a knockout condition from the blow.
3. Remove a knockdown result.
4. Remove one level of wound.
A player may spend one Possibility to reduce damage from a single blow. The Possibility is spent after the blow is taken. Cards that act as Possibilities may be spent in excess of one.
Yes, that's complicated.

At the end of a scene, all the cards in your pool go back into your hand, and you discard back down to four cards. You can then discard one card if you want, then you fill your hand back up to four cards. Cards carry over between sessions (which is why they're numbered), and there are three special cards that don't count against your hand size:
  • Subplot cards like "Romance" or "Mistaken Identity", which cause said subplots to be created and reward you with extra Possibilities at the end of the act.
  • Alertness, which lets you notice a clue everyone else missed.
  • Connection, which means you have a contact or ally nearby.
When you get one of these cards, you let the GM know and he's supposed to bring these up on his own. They don't count against your hand size, and are always considered to be in your pool.

There are other cards too, of course. Some let you perform actions like escaping from combat for free, others act as free Possibilities. But I'm not going to get into them here because this is getting ridiculous enough as it is.

Oh, leveling up. You increase your stats and skills by permanently spending Possibilities. Buying adds in a skill costs the rank you're buying up to (so going from +2 to +3 costs 3 Possibilities), buying a new skill costs 2 Possibilities if you can find a teacher, 5 if you're teaching yourself. Increasing a stat works like increasing a skill, but at triple cost (so going from a 10 Dexterity to an 11 would cost 33 Possibilities.


That, in a nutshell, is the first three chapters (26 pages) of the book. Character creation and advancement, doing things, combat, and the Drama Deck. And again, you can see how heavily intertwined all the rules are. Individually, things like the cards and Possibility Points are simple, but when they start interacting then I have to bounce back and forth and I feel like I'm coming off like a crazy person as I describe this stuff. I don't know how you guys are going to follow all this. Hell, I'm not sure I can follow it, and I wrote it.

Like I said, I like the card mechanics. I like the way initiative is handles with regards to sudden boosts or drawbacks you don't see coming, and for players they act like Aspect-less Fate points, giving the players a little narrative control or a little "oomph" when they need it. But goddamn if they're not presented terribly.

For those of you who are still paying attention, you'll notice how there's kind of the seeds of the Fate system in there; Possibilities are very similar to Fate Points, and the damage mechanics are similar to Fate's if you ignore the K-O bullshit. Yet another reason why I'd love to see a Fate Core version of TORG.

But again: we still haven't gotten to the GM's section yet.


NEXT TIME: GMing this motherfucker.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Young Freud posted:

I might be getting ahead of Evil Mastermind, but you should look into the Revised and Expanded rule book WEG released a few years ago. I believe they were interested in doing a TORG 2.0 and came up with R&E instead to blow out their backcatalogue of adventure books and splats. They try and present solutions to stuff like the Glass Ninja problem. But, the best idea is to just use OpenD6 and convert the values to dice and pips.

The R&E version didn't simplify things as much as just put everything in one book and add two more Everlaws.

Also, I goofed when I was talking about how damage works. When you hit, you add the bonus value to your weapon's damage, and that's the total you look up on the chart. But that doesn't alleviate the glass ninja problem, because again if you hit someone with a high defense then you probably got a pretty decent bonus, and weapon damage tends to be high anyway (an Uzi is damage value 17).

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



dwarf74 posted:

Yep, so very 90's. Earthdawn does the same goddamn thing. There basically isn't such a thing as a "metagame" unless you count the raw die rolls. Even hit points have an in-setting justification. Hit points, of all goddamn things. I'm shocked simulation-friendly folks don't lock into more poo poo like this instead of Pathfinder/3.x.

I dunno; I'm really liking Evil Mastermind's idea of a FATE hack. I mean, the setting is (IMO) goddamn amazing; I love the whole thing. I don't know enough about Rifts to make this claim, but talking out my rear end, it seems to me like it's a much cooler, more reasonable version of it.

I haven't done much with it, just a basic skill list and noodling with Axioms on the +4/-4 scale.

Bonus: I just found this.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Sorry for the double post, I don't like editing multiple responses into one post.

dwarf74 posted:

I don't know enough about Rifts to make this claim, but talking out my rear end, it seems to me like it's a much cooler, more reasonable version of it.

It is, at least at the start. That's because, unlike Rifts, they actually stopped and thought about how all this stuff would interact with each other and tried to keep things balanced. You can't have a group of starting characters with both a Glitter Boy and a hobo, for instance.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Halloween Jack posted:

Are you going to do the TORG supplements? I remember I love the concept of Pulp Cairo, but I was a little disappointed that the superpowers are just a menu of defined, set bonuses to this or that, kinda like the way Advantages in the Masterbook system were divided into Column I-IV levels.

I'm planning on covering all the cosm books, yes.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Selachian posted:

Both games use a Subplot system. And unfortunately, both have a system of bennies that can be used for either in-game bonuses or character advancement (Hero Points vs. Possibilities).

My experience with TORG, by the way, was that PCs were chronically short of Possibilities; when Dramatic scenes came up, I had to fudge quite a bit to avoid steamrollering them. That may just have been my group, though.
The problem with Possibility Points is that there's no easy way to get them. You only get more at the end of an "Act" in an adventure, and even then it's maybe 3 or 4 points. An Act in an official module was four or so scenes, each of which generally had at least one fight.

So you have to spend Possibilities to reduce damage, boost bad skill rolls, and probably be able to use your abilities and gear if you're not in your home cosm. Generally speaking you're lucky if you break even sometimes. There's no "refresh" or way to get them during play unless you're lucky enough to draw a Subplot card.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



unseenlibrarian posted:

Reality Bubbles are only required -if- you go into a pure zone, where one reality totally dominates and you literally can't create a contradiction. Only a few of the published adventures have things going on in pure zones. (And often got confused and treated them like dominant zones when they did.) In dominant zones, where one reality is in charge but contradictions are possible, you're fine without a bubble until you roll a one, assuming your assault rifle works under your personal reality. Then you disconnect and have to obey the local rules until you reconnect. There are two exceptions to this: If you're using a tool that's a contradiction for both your personal reality -and- for the local reality, like you're borrowing a plasma rifle from your cyberpapal templar buddy and you're from Core Earth, while fighting lizard men in Lizard-land, you disconnect and suddenly have a fancy club on a roll of 1-4 instead.

There's also Long Range Disconnection, which is what you risk when you're firing a sticky bomb launcher or throwing a grenade. Hell if I understand how that one actually works, though, it's not something that ever came up precisely -because- it was such a hassle.
This is all true, but I do want to point out that, at this point in the game, things like pure/dominant zones haven't been introduced yet. Going solely by the player's section in the order things are described, it's just a case of "spend 1 Possibility to use your stuff for 15 minutes".

Like I said, things aren't presented very well.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Fossilized Rappy posted:

Freedom City is the de facto setting Mutants and Masterminds plays in. I don't have the Freedom City Sourcebook, however, so I'm afraid it's a bit of a SOL situation as far as that field goes. I'll try to deal with the Golden Age Freedom City chapter nonetheless.

In Freedom City's Golden Age, the proliferation of supers goes from occult figures in Germany and Japan to the first costumed fighters in America and then to costumed fighters across the board. The first superhero team, the Liberty League, gets founded in 1941 by Roosevelt himself. The actual events of World War II are pretty much the same as in real life, as are those of the Korean War. The end of the Freedom City Golden Age is marked by the disbanding of the Liberty League and growing fear of a secret invasion by the shapeshifting extraterrestrial Skrulls Grue. After a brief timeline of these events, we immediately get into game statistics for the dramatis personae of Golden Age Freedom City.

The "current" Freedom League does have the next-generation versions of Johnny Rocket and Siren. According to the Freedom City sourcebook (the first edition of which is probably the best superhero citybook I've ever read), Dr. Tomorrow vanished three days after VJ Day in 1945, and Centurion died fighting Omega, the setting's Darkseid-equivalent.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Comrade Koba posted:

The posts about the WLD made me think of something - wasn't there at some point a D&D-compatible OGL campaign setting whose premise was that the entire world was one huge dungeon? I seem to recall it being some sort of demiplane or something. Anyone remember this?

Yeah, it was actually called *Dungeon Word Universe* by Fast Forward Entertainment, and by an amazing coincidence I picked up a copy from the game store yesterday. It's...okay, so far. The basic idea is that the dungeon is a self-contained demiplane that's a sort of afterlife for adventurers. Really, I just picked it up because it's also called "Dungeon World" and I thought it'd be funny to see if it could be converted into Dungeon World. :shobon:

It's a d20 product, but from what I've read, the problem with FFE's books was that they didn't really "get" the 3e rules, and anything they didn't know or understand about 3e they'd just use AD&D rules. Apparently they went under because they were'rt using the OGL correctly.

The biggest problem I've seen via skimming is that it's the type of dungeon where every level is "themed" and none of them affect or interact with each other.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



The storm has a name... - Let's Read TORG


...for a given value of "change".

Part 3: Gamemastery

On being a gamemaster posted:

If you're just planning on being a player, you don't need to read any more of this book. As long as you've read the Player Section, you know how to figure skill values, how to roll the die and generate a bonus number, how to generate action and effect totals, how to play drama cards into a pool, and what drama cards can do for you.
And that's all you need to know.
But, who sets the difficulty numbers for the players to beat? Who decides what the villains' abilities are, and how much damage is done when a blow lands or a bullet strikes home? The gamemaster does, and to do those things you will need to read the rest of the Rule Book. If you're planning on being a gamemaster, you might want to read a little of the World Book next, then come back here and start getting familiar with the rules.

There is a ton of poo poo you need to keep track of as a TORG gamemaster.

See, unlike other RPGs, a Torg GM is pretty much exclusivly does all the heavy lifting. The players just roll their skill, it's the GM who determines the difficulty numbers. The players don't figure out on their if they hit and how much damage they do, the GM does. The players don't have to worry about the worst of the crunch, that's what the GM is there for.

And drat, there is a lot of crunch. There's a lot of tables, too, and if you're GMing then you need pretty much all of them.

Starting out the Gamemastering section is some generic GMing advice I'm not going to bother reproducing here because it's stuff we've all heard before.

The first real chapter of the GMing section is about how to calculate totals and results. The *total* is the final value generated by a player, which is trying to beat a difficulty. If the total meets or beats the target number, then you succeed and the amount you succeed by is the result. So if I try to do something that has a difficulty of 14 and I get a total of 19, then I have a result of 4 points.

Now, that's all well and good, but what do you do with these result points?

That's where the results tables come into play.

There are three result tables, and which one you look at is determined by the type of action you're trying to do. There's a combat result chart, a social interaction result chart, and a general result chart.



We've already talked a bit about the combat results table, and the interaction table is used to determine what effect you had on the target of your intimidate/charm/whatever attempt. Let's look at the general results table. Ignore the last three columns for now, let's just look at the "success" column. For normal skill use, you look the result value up to see the degree of success. What do those values mean?

quote:

Minimal implies that the character just barely succeeded; you might want to describe how narrowly he avoided failure. Average is average; no extra description is warranted. Good success sometimes merits a more detailed description, particularly if the character faced long odds. A superior success deserves special emphasis. For a spectacular success, pull out all the stops in your description. Your players will love you for it.
They're just a guideline for how you should describe the success. There's no partial successes here.

The next section is about the attribute scale, and I have to let the first two paragraphs speak for themselves.

quote:

The attribute scale in Torg is an innovative use of attribute numbering, made necessary by the multiple genres in the game. Most game systems either use a consistent scale for their attributes—in other words, each point of an attribute represents a specific amount of real-world measure — or they have no scale at all. The problem with such systems is that while they work fine in a limited setting (fantasy, horror, etc.) they either fall apart when bigger things (like technological weapons) are introduced, or they require huge numbers to represent the top end of the scale. For example, if a dagger does "one die of damage," how many dice do you roll for the main cannon of the Death Star?

Torg solves this problem by the use of a logarithmic scale. A logarithmic scale is one like the Richter scale, or the Decibel scale, where each point represents a greater proportional amount than the point before. For example, a level four earthquake is far more than twice as powerful than a level two earthquake, because each point on the Richter scale is 10 times as large as the point before. This is because earthquakes can range so greatly in size.
You can tell that this was written before era where people would ask "why would you bother rolling to see how much damage the Death Star does?"

Anyway, the idea is that any real-wrorld measurement of weight, distance, or time can be converted into a difficulty number. Said difficulty number can then be used for skill checks. So if a player needs to jump between buildings that are 64 feet apart, the GM would check the Torg Value Chart to see what value was closest, and that would be the difficulty of the jump.



Except that the chart in in metric, and was designed and mainly distributed in a country that used imperial. So do we just convert 64 feet into meters? Of course not, because we didn't have Google back then. Instead, we have another chart!

To find the actual value of 64 feet, we look up 64 on the Value Chart. 64 doesn't appear on the table, so we go with the next row up (100), which has a Value of 10. Then we look at the Measure Conversion Chart to see what the modifier is for feet. The modifier is -3, which is applied to the value for a final difficulty of 7.

(And just for the record, that's not that hard. Most starting characters will have at least a 9 in their stats, which means they're going to have to roll above a 5 on a d20 to succeed if they don't have a relevant skill. If they are skilled, they'll probably have to critically fail to actually fail. Also for the record, the current world record for the long jump is just shy of 30 feet. Also, since we have to move up to the next highest value when the exact value we want isn't there, that means it's just as difficult to jump 61 feet as it is to jump 100 feet.)

Now, I appreciate good guidelines for the GM to set difficulty numbers, but come on...the GM is expected to do this every time he needs a difficulty number.

Anyway, there's also the Difficulty Scale for when you want a situational modifier. If the GM decides that a task should be a little harder than normal, you can look up how hard you want to make it on the Difficulty Scale table, and add the appropriate value to the difficulty. For an Easy task, for instance, you reduce the difficulty by 3, but for "2:1 Against" you increase it by 2.

Next up is...another chart! The Limit Chart is what's used to determine human (or non-human) limits. The way it works is that it lists the maximum value a character can generate on the Value Chart for a given task/stat. For instance, the Core Earth human limit for running is 10. To find out how fast someone can run in a round, you look up their Dex on the Value Chart. Someone with a 9 Dex can run 60 meters a round. But if someone has a Dex of 11, the highest Value they can generate is a 10, which is 100 meters a round.

A round is 10 seconds, by the way.

It's possible to push past these limits by making a difficulty 8 roll and applying the result to the Push Chart. You take the result of that chart and add it to your stat.

quote:

Example: The Yellow Crab is trying to sprint for his life from a horde of angry, heavily-armed gangsters. Chris declares that the Crab is pushing his speed this round. The Crab generates a Dexterity total of 12. This earns four result points on the push table (total of 12 minus difficulty of 8 = 4), for a value modifier of +1. The Crab's running value for that turn is 11 (Dexterity of 10, +1 value modifier). He sprints 150 meters that round, successfully outdistancing his pursuers.
Just so you know, you can use some skills to help you push, and pushing can generate fatigue points.

And now, it's time for the "optional" rules about multiple actions: many-on-one, and one-on-many.

These are not just combat actions; they're used when a bunch of people are trying to work together on a task (many-on-one), or when someone's trying to affect multiple targets at once (one-on-many).

How do they work? Well, they involve charts.

When a group is performing many-on-one, you only roll for one of the characters in the group, and the number of other people performing the action add a modifier to the roll. The result will determine how many of the people in the group succeeded.

quote:

Four shocktroopers are trying to leap a pit which has a difficulty number of 10. They have jumping at 9. The gamemaster rolls a 14 for a bonus of one, increased to four because of the multi-action bonus modifier. They generate a total of 13 (9 plus 1 plus 3). They have beaten the difficulty number by three, which is enough for two of them, but not quite enough for all four. Two shocktroopers make it across, while two fall screaming into the pit.

If you're performing one-on-many, you're trying to use one or more skills for multiple tasks at once, like shooting two foes in one round, or swinging across a chasm while firing a gun. You only roll once, and the result is applied to each skill/task in whatever order the player wants. However, each task you're trying to do gets an increasing difficulty modifier.

quote:

The gamemaster tells Paul to use Quin's Dexterity for the swing, and fire combat for shooting. Swinging across the ravine has a difficulty of 8. The shocktroopers' dodge scores are 9. Paul rolls a bonus of 0; he decides to check the swing first, as he'd prefer not to be hanging over the chasm (or falling in). The modified difficulty of the swing is DN+2, or 10; his Dexterity of 11 is enough to cross the ravine. The first shot difficulty is DN+4, or 13. Quin's fire combat total is 14 and he hits the first shocktrooper. The third action (shooting the second shocktrooper) is DN+6 or 15. Quin misses the third shot.
It should also be pointed out that attacking multiple targets increases said target's effective Toughness, meaning they're harder to hit and take less damage if you do.

There can be further complications if not everyone involved in a many-on-one doesn't have the same skill, or if getting everyone coordinated is an issue. This is because Torg is intended to be used for big-scale combats; there's an example in the book of 100 bad guys attacking, and some of the modules have combats with 200 or more people.

There are no mook rules. At all. Everyone gets full stats.

Oh, there's a shortcut...

quote:

What if 200 gamemaster characters are coordinating their efforts in a mystic ritual? Do you have to roll 200 Perception checks to come up with the correct answer? Well, yes; but if you are willing to live with an approximation, use the following
...if you can live with it.

And that finishes out the basic GMing chapter. We've been told how to use about a dozen or so tables, and we haven't gotten to skills or in-depth combat yet.

As I've said: crunchy as gently caress. There's no assumption of eyeballing values here! We are modeling a ficitonal reality here, people.

Serious. loving. Business.

Again, I love Torg, but goddamn this system...

I will leave you with the actual last paragraphs of the chapter, though.

quote:

The rules are a framework upon which you and your friends build stories set in the dynamic world of Torg. As with most frameworks, the rules work best when they show the least, and when they can bend under stress. If you need to bend the rules to keep a story flowing with a nice dramatic beat, do so. Keeping to the letter of the rules is almost certainly counterproductive.

We wrote the rules so you could play a game in a unique setting, not so we could dictate exactly how you should use that setting. So go have fun.

That's a rule.


NEXT TIME: Skills, cards and human interaction!

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Well, I think I know what my next review will be (assuming it funds).

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



hectorgrey posted:

Hold on, the orcs aren't just rampaging, always chaotic evil barbarians? That's actually rather cool.

Hell, they're technically the Goodest Guys. They patrol the borders of the Demon Wastes, I think they founded one of the druid orders, and half-orcs are considered "favored sons" because they're the best of both their human and orcish parents.

It's amazing how interesting you can make a setting when you're not locked into alignment expectations.

e:

Green Intern posted:

Yep. This extends from Eberron's "Let's flip your expectations around" approach.

Just wait until Religion is covered. I'm pretty sure they did away with Alignment restrictions for a lot of things, since the gods are so distant from the mortal plane.

There are no alignment restrictions on anything. The only reason it has "alignments" in the first place is because it's D&D and it's required, but it's never actually used for anything.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



404GoonNotFound posted:

I feel it would be more fitting (and not that spoiler-y since you already mentioned the Mark of Death) to say that there are "thirteen minus one" marks. Having 13 (minus one) is a major recurring theme in the cosmology of Eberron.

Thirteen Moons (one destroyed, now little more than a ring of dust)
Thirteen Planes (one severed from the Khorvaire)
Thirteen Months (one excised from the modern calendar)
Thirteen Dragonmarks (one wiped out)
Thirteen major regions of Khorvaire (goodbye Cyre!)

Just a nice little recurring element that DMs can have fun with. The fact that 13 is also a Baker's Dozen is a complete coincidence, of course.

Holy poo poo, I never noticed that. :psyduck:

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



The storm has a name... - Let's Read TORG


Part 4: Interactions, violent and otherwise

This post is going to cover a couple of chapters, but I'm going to try and keep it short since they're pretty dull chapters.

We get a full chapter on Skills. There's nothing really too spectacular here, but there are two things I'd like to point out:
  • There are just shy of 50 skills, not counting skills that will be introduced in the world books.
  • 12 of them have their own tables. Admitedly, those tables are all "here's the difficulty to do X", but still. More tables.

Needless to say, Torg has a fairly granular skill list. There's a Space Vehicles skill. There are four separate skills for magic, and two for miracles. Acrobatics, Running, Long Jump, and Maneuver are all separate skills. And again, that's not including the skills that are cosm-specific or added in later books. It's not as bad as, say, BESM (where you had to buy every type of attack and defense separately), but given how few skill adds you start out with, you have to be pretty focused.

There are optional rules for narrowing skills down if you don't think the list is granular enough, or broadening the scope if you don't like having so many skills.

You can also get a "trademark item" for a skill by spending three possibilities; when you use your trademark item your effective skill increases by 2. This is not the current-RPG-style "you will always have this item" deal where the trademark item has a level of plot immunity, however.

quote:

The item cannot be replaced. If it is permanently lost or destroyed, the specialization is lost, and must be bought again for another such item. Only one "trademark" item may be specialized per skill, and if the character has a type specialization as well, the trademark must be of that type.
Just because you built your character spent his hard-earned XP/Fate Point/metacurrency things doesn't mean you get to keep them. This is a theme that will come up again later, just so you know.

From the Skills chapter we move onto a chapter about using Cards. This is more GM advice on how to expand on the things the card will tell you (like what it means when the villians get an Up result) and work it into the overall story, both mechanically and narratively.

One new thing here is Dramatic Skill Resolution, which is for those moments where you want to stretch out the resolution of an action to more than just the result of one skill roll. This is for things like trying to beat a timer or reach someone before they accompish their own task, and it uses the middle row of the Drama Deck cards.

as seen here

When you're doing a dramatic skill resolution, you break the single use of a skill (like science to shut down a missile launch console) down into a maximum of four separate steps labeled A, B, C, and D, and assign a difficulty for overall challenge. You can assign one task to more than one letter.

Let's take the "disarm the launch console" example. I could say that step A is figuring out the password, step B is finding the launch control part of the software, step C is disarming the missle warhead, and step D is cancelling the launch. I could also say that getting into the system is both steps A and B if I wanted, but let's stay with the four-step setup and say that the difficulty is 10.

A character can only attempt to do one step per round, and can only perform steps that are showing on the top card of the Action Stack (i.e., the card that is currently being used for initiative). Not only that, but steps have to be performed in order. You can't disarm the warhead until after you get into the system. On the plus side, if the card shows more than one sequential step, you can try to multi-action your way through them in one round.

As cards get flipped, you can run into setbacks. Drawing a "possible setback" moves you back one step ("oops, looks like the computer locked you out of the system"), while a "complication" card increases the difficulty of the remaining steps by 1.

If you fail a skill roll during a challenge, then there's no problem beyond wasted time...unless a "critical problem" card is in play. If you fail at that point, you have two options: either start over from step A ("dammit, this must be the wrong login. Now I gotta start again"), or start using a different skill ("The computer's locked up hard, but I think I can get under the controls and rewire things").

If the player can't complete all the steps before whatever timer he's trying to beat runs out, he can attempt a Last Ditch Effort succeed; he attempts to perform all the remaining steps with a One-On-Many skill use with +4 to the difficulty.

Now, that's all well and good, but the problem is that you're at the mercy of the card flips for determining what steps you can try to accomplish. Which means it can be a little tricky for the GM to work out how much time to give the players.

quote:

To have a good chance of having the sequence A,B,C, and D appear in order requires 14 cards to be flipped if the character is going do the steps one at a time, or about 10 cards if the character is skilled enough to attempt two when the opportunity presents itself. If your characters have high skill levels (larger than the difficulty number), good cards, and no other pressing business, five flips is fine; otherwise we recommend giving them seven to 10 flips before disaster strikes.

There is one card I forgot to mention before, and that's the Glory card. Playing a Glory card actually requires you to roll a 60 or more on an action that has a direct important impact on the scene. If you manage to pull that off, then every character gets an additional 3 possibilities at the end of the adventure. There's also another effect, but I'll get to that later.

The next chapter is about Character Interaction, which is an expansion of the charm, persuasion, and intimidation skills.

Charm has the most mechanics, because it has the most conditions (charming someone "requires five minutes at the minimum."). Ultimately, charm is used to move people's attitudes up the Interaction Results Table. You roll against the target's willpower, and if you succeed their attitude towards you improves a bit. If you do well, you can even get a permanent effect out of it. If you fail, then you can't charm them anymore that scene unless you attempt to press the issue.

If you press things and succeed, it's a normal success. If you fail, though, then the target's attitude drops one step.

Persuasion is also a roll against willpower, and is more about getting people to do what you want rather than making them like you. Again, there's a chart you move up and down to determine the target's overall reaction. You can also use it for haggling.

quote:

Haggling takes place in alternating rounds, usually using the drama deck to determine initiative and advantages.
Yeah, in case you were wondering why I'm rushing through these sections? That's why. These chapters are crunchy as hell, and it's not even entertaining crunch. Seriously, there's almost 2 pages just on how to use the charm skill with all the conditions and cross-referencing. On the plus side, there's a lot of examples, but you have to ask why the hell you need this level of complication to use a simple social skill.

The only social skill that doesn't need a lot of space is intimidation, and that's because it really only has two uses: to awe someone to get them to freeze and miss an action, or to interrogate someone, which is like persuasion but meaner.

But enough about talking to people! It's time for the Combat and Chases chapter!

And again, this is mostly a rehashing of the player's chapter on combat, only with more detail and a few more rules that the GM is supposed to be the custodian of, like range modifiers. Remember, the player just rolls a result on his skill and the GM is expected to add all the modifiers and determine the result.

There are a few things here that I don't think we covered before, like aiming (+3 attack value for each round you aim) or called shots (-8 to the final value of the attack, but +4 damage value).

Oh yeah, and this is in the armor section (bolding mine):

quote:

Armor absorbs much of the punishment meant for characters. Armor increases the character's Toughness for purposes of resisting damage, up to a maximum value as listed in the equipment section (Gamemaster Chapter Twelve). The amount of increase is called the armor add. The maximum value is necessary for realism, to prevent wrapping a battleship in leather to make it tougher, when the leather would be completely ineffective against the attack forms against which a battleship is armored.
Ah, the good old days before a GM would say "no, leather armor won't make the battleship tougher, stop being a jackass." :allears:

Moving on, we learn of the two types of surprise: complete (where the attacked party wasn't expecting it at all) and normal (where the attacked party was expecting something, but didn't know what or from where). Complete surprise lets the attackers play two cards into their hands before combat, normal only gets you one.

There's more rehashing here, things like active defenses and taunt/tricks. There is a bit on the Maneuver skill, which lets you get into a better position by placing a negative condition on your enemy, like setback, which means he loses any secondary roll he'd normally have access to through 10's, 20's, or spending possibilites.

The chapter closes out with the Chase rules. When you're chasing someone, you need two totals.

First, each side rolls their appropriate skills (like driveland vehicles). Whoever rolls higher choses to either try to close with or avoid the other side.

The second total is used to determine how far everyone's going in the round. You take bonus of the first roll and add it to your movement value, and then use that total on the Push Results Table to determine how far you moved this round.


Okay, I know that was rushed. I did that for two reasons. First, I don't think anyone's paying attention to the preliminary rules chapters because you only care about the setting stuff. Second, it's because the rules, while complicated, aren't that interesting.

Really, everything in the skill and combat chapters more or less boils down to "roll this skill, add a number, and look it up on one of the dozen GM tables". It's just dull, in the way that only something needlessly complex can be dull.


But look at the bright side! Next post will be about possibilities, axioms, world laws, realms, cosms, and High Lords! You know, the part you've all been waiting for!

NEXT TIME: The metaphysics of the multiverse! The actually interesting part of the game!

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



The storm has a name... - Let's Read TORG


Part 5: High-level metaphysics; Everlaws, Axioms, World Laws, and how to circumvent them

Okay, now it's time to get to the interesting stuff: how the Torg mulitverse works and how realities interact. (spoiler: violently)

Every distinct reality is refered to as a cosm. Under normal circumstances sosms are all physically unconnected from each other with no way for people to move from one to another. Some cosms may be nearly identical, while others are completely unique. It's actually possible for two separate cosms to have completely different physical laws.

That was the multiverse for eons; each cosm evolving and changing by the actions of its inhabitants, and in turn shaping the people within it. But inevitably, someone had to throw the whole system out of whack.

Nobody knows who the first being was to discover other cosms beyond his or her own, but what is known is that this person created the first maelstrom bridge to travel between realities.

A maelstrom bridge is, well, a bridge created between two realities through a rip in space. People can walk back and forth over this bridge from one cosm to another.

The discovery of the maelstrom bridge led to the discovery of the bridge's side-effect: reality storms. It's a multiversal rule that two realities can't occupy the same space at the same time. When the first bridge was created and activated, the two realities began clashing the instant the connection was made. Violent storms destroyed the bridge and the surrounding area as the two cosms battled, and the expenditure of energy from both cosms was enormous.

Of course, it wasn't long before someone learned how to harness that power for their own gain. Which brings us to the topic of Darkness Devices.

Nobody's really sure where the Darkness Devices came from; all that's known for certain is that they're not native to the cosms they've been discovered in. The popular theory is that they were created by an ancient entity known as The Nameless One as a means to destroy creation itself.

Every Darkness Device is unique, and all are seemingly intelligent, if not self-aware, and have one universal purpose: to destroy. To this end, they seek out those who can not only aid them in destruction, but would allow their bonded master to create maelstrom bridges to other realities so they could suck those cosms dry of possibility energy. These possibility raiders destroyed countless worlds as they travelled across the multiverse.

The possibility raiders, eventually known as High Lords, had complete control over their cosms. Through their Darkness Devices, the High Lords were capable of altering cosms on a fundamental scale, stripping and altering the very possibilities that shaped that reality.

So how does one actually conquer another cosm?

As stated previously, you can't just drop a bridge into a new cosm and march troops into it. When the two realities meet, there's a huge storm that will destroy the bridge and everything in the immediate area on both ends. The trick to reality invasion is to create a realm, a sort of beachhead, in the cosm you're invading.

Prior to the full-scale invasion, a High Lord will drop a dimthread into the other cosm. Dimthreads are smaller maelstrom bridges that aren't intended to last for very long. It opens, drops off a few of the High Lord's possibility-rated agents, and is destroyed in a small reality storm. The agents are able to carry their own reality with them, and their mission is to plant artifacts called stelae.

Stelae have three very important functions. First off, when three stelae are set up in a triagle, they will form a boundary when a maelstrom bridge is dropped inside said triangle. This prevents the invaded reality from fighting back against the invading one, which "pours" down the bridge into the area defined by the stelae. Reality storms will still rage around the boundary, but the realm demarked by the stelae boundary will remain unaffected.


Handy diagram #1

Second, stelae will absorb the possibility energy of those people inside the realm. Normally, possibility energy flows from a person to their cosm and back again. But when that person is in an alien reality, the possibility energy that would normally flow to his cosm will instead be siphoned from him by the stelae and stored in the High Lord's Darkness Device for his own use later.


Handy diagram #2

Third, stelae can empower the nearby agents of a High Lord, shunting stolen possibility energy to them.

Once the realm is established, expanding it is simply a matter of planing more stelae outside the realm's boundary and pumping some energy into them. Stelae will always link up in triangles, and cannot connect to more than six other stelae at a time.

Ultimately, the High Lord's goal is to completely conquer the new cosm by spreading his own reality and supplanting the invaded reality with his own.

quote:

In order to capture an area, two conditions must be met: the unliving reality of the High Lord's cosm must be successfully introduced within the stelae boundaries, and living beings who live in that reality, or living beings who are prepared to accept that reality, must be present. For a standard stelae area, it is estimated that 25,000 beings must be from the invading reality, or must be natives ready to accept the new reality.

If the High Lord chooses a direct approach, armies or vast migrations of people from the invading cosm cross into the bounded realm as soon as the stelae are placed. Other High Lords are more devious, sending a greater number of agents to recruit natives prior to or just after the Bridge appears. These agents are often trained in rituals or processes for transforming converts, so they can help support the new reality.
Case in point: when Pope Marleaux was preparing France for invasion, he sent priests through months ahead of time to start converting people into the faithful of his particular brand of Catholicism. He managed to convert enough Core Earthers that, when he dropped his bridge over Avignon (which appeared as a road of light), everyone in the realm was prepped to accept Manga Verita's new reality. Baruk Kaah, on the other hand, just dropped a gigantic tree-bridge directly on Shae Stadium, sent troops swarming over, and called it a day.

As a High Lord expands the realm, new stelae-defined areas might not carry all of the invading reality through to the new part of the realm. Each zone (stelae-defined triangle) can be one of three types: pure, dominant, or mixed.

A pure zone contains one reality, period. Non-possibility rated people inside this type of zone will transform into inhabitants of the reality almost instantenously as their possibilities are ripped away. Possibility-rated characters need to create reality bubbles around themselves to be able to use abilities not allowed by this reality.

In a dominant zone, there are two realities in conflict but one has the upper hand. People in mixed zones will still be changed to the dominant reality, but the process is much slower. People from other realities can use their abilites without needing a bubble, but there can be consequences if you're not careful. Ords in this type of zone will transform eventually, but it could take weeks or months as the steale slowly drain them of possibilities.

Mixed zones are generally newly created zones. The two realities exist in a sort of equilibrium, but it's not a peaceful one. Mixed zones tend to be filled with reality storms as the two realities struggle for dominance. This struggle will also transform people into Storm Knights.

Speaking of normal people and transformation, this is an important bit of information to remember for when we get to the "How Do I Storm Knight" part of the review:

quote:

Eventually, an Ord in an alien pure or dominant area will be transformed into a close approximation of a "proper" denizen of that area. This transformation completely drains the character of possibility energy, as every iota of energy he possesses is used to survive the transformation. If a transformed character is later forced to transform again, he is destroyed.

Before we dive into the mechanics of how a reality operates, let's talk about Darkness Devices a bit more.

As stated, the ultimate goal of a Darkness Device is to destroy cosms, and to this end it will drain possibilities from a cosm and provide them to its High Lord.

Each Darkness Device is unique, and has its own "personality" and appearance. For example: Heketon, the Gaunt Man's Darkness Device, looks like a stone heart, whereas 3327's Darkness Device looks like a slim black laptop computer. Despite its appearance, a Darkness Device is immobile unless it choses to move. They're also drat near indestructable, with a Toughness of 200 (so -200 to your damage result if you try to attack it), and an effectively infinite amount of possibilities to spend. You could drop one in the sun and it wouldn't even scratch the paint.

On top of that, every Darkness Device has a few powers up its sleeve. These powers are common to all the Darkness Devices, and in addition each Device will have its own unique powers:
• They can transfer possibilities to their High Lord or any willing subject, up to about four points an hour.
• They can spend possibilities for their High Lord, getting around the "one point per action" rule.
• They can communicate with their High Lord or any being it has given possibility energy to.
• Scan a stelae-bounded area for possibility-rated people, and "mark" them with a power called soulstain that marks these people for the High Lord and his minions.
• Create stelae from scratch.
• Reverse the High Lord's aging (or the aging of someone of his choosing) for three years.
• Transfer itself to somewhere else in the realm or cosm.
• Adjust the axioms of the realm or cosm, moving them up or down as desired (although this takes a while). We'll talk about the implications of this in a bit.
• Increase the High Lord's stats based on how many realities he has conqured (1 reality = up to 7 stat points or 13 skill adds).
• The creation of gospog.

Gospog are a High Lord's renewable mook resource. They are mindless slaves specifically designed to kill people, and are barely alive in any traditional sense.

Gospog are created by planting special Darkness Device-created seeds in specially prepared "gospog fields". And by "specially prepared" I mean "a field of corpses". This field can be used five times, and each successive planting will generate fewer, but stronger, gospog. The first planting will generate 10,000 gospog, that look like traditional zombies and aren't much of an individual threat (although with that many, they don't need to be). Each successive planting will produce fewer but more powerful gospog, and their appearance and abilites wil vary from realm to realm. The fifth and final planting will only ever produce a single gospog, but it will be ridiculously powerful.

A Darkness Device can only be bound to one person at a time, and the only way to break that connection is to kill the High Lord (good luck) or for the High Lord to be transformed in a reality storm (again, good luck because High Lords generally stay put in their pure zones).

Of course, the point of doing all this is to get enough energy to become the Torg, the godlike ruler of the multiverse. This was the Gaunt Man's ultimate goal, and the reason he assembled his team of possibility raiders. But now that the Gaunt Man is trapped in a dimensional pocket getting destroyed and reborn every five seconds, the title is up for grabs and each High Lord is scrambling to get there before the others.




So now we understand how High Lords operate and what the Darkness Devices are capable of, and the types of rules and laws they can break. But what are those rules and laws, exactly?

The most important laws are called Everlaws, and they are universal to every cosm. In fact, they determine how cosms interact.

quote:

The Everlaw of One states that only one possibility from a set of two or more contradictory possibilities can become a reality at one time. In other words, a world in which you are going to die and stay alive at the same time is not allowed. Either you live or you don't.

The Everlaw of Two states that the living and the unliving are linked by the rules of their cosm, and this link causes possibility energy to flow between the living and the unliving. The living may use the possibility energy to create and change their world. Possibility energy is only generated when the living and unliving interact through the "axioms" of that world.

Basically, the Everlaw of One means that you can't exist in two states (or realities) at the same time, and the Everlaw of Two means that people are linked to their cosms through the flow of possibility energy. The Everlaw of Two is the weaker of the two laws, and as such it can be circumvented by Darkness Devices; this is how they drain possibility energy.

In addition to the Everlaws, each cosm is defined by its own individual axioms and world laws.

Axioms are the hard limits of what is currently possible in a cosm or realm. There are four axioms:
• The Magic axiom determines the level and types of magic possible in the cosm.
• The Social axiom determines the level if interaction possible between the cosm's inhabitants.
• The Spiritual axiom determines not only the types of metaphysical concepts available, but if miracles are possible.
• The Technologyaxiom determines the highest level of scientific development possible.

Each axiom is rated from 0 (completely impossible) to 33 (perfection). The axiom values vary from cosm to cosm, and are always in effect. If someone tries to perform an action that is not supported by the local axioms, that creates a contradiction and the Everlaw of One kicks in. This can lead to devices and abilities not working at all, or complete transformation in the worst cases.

As an example, Core Earth has a social axiom of 21.

quote:

Pluralism, the balancing of many factions within a government and society, is possible. More inhabitants of a nation are enfranchised. Vast bureaucracies may be spawned to handle the increased social complexity.

The Living Land, however, has a social axiom of 7.

quote:

Village/agricultural organization possible. "Kings" are possible. The concept of land ownership is possible. Unfortunately, so is the concept of owning other intelligent beings. Semi-professional military and militia formed for common defense can exist. A combination sound/pictographic alphabet may be developed. Trade, epic poetry and sports are invented.

When the Living Land invaded, not only did Core Earth weaponry (tech axiom 23) just flat-out stop working in the Living Land (tech axiom 7), the military units sent in were unable to function because, when the troops entered the Living Land zones, the concepts of modern military stucture stopped existing for them. It wasn't a case of them not being able to communicate with their immediate commander, they actually lost the ability to think "this guy is my military commander, representing a higher chain of command, and I'm supposed to listen to him."

A cosm's axioms can be changed by its inhabitants, although this is a slow process. For example, let's say we have a group of Core Earth scientists all working on some new technology. While they research and push the boundaries of knowledge, they're subconcously spending possibilities and channeling them into the cosm itself. When they do enough research (and spend enough possibilities), the tech axiom will increase by one, and what is possible in the cosm will expand accordingly.

Unless you're a High Lord, in which case you can use the Darkness Device to alter a cosm's axioms at a much faster rate. This is what happened when Pope Marleaux created the Cyberpapacy; the tech axiom there was originally around 7 or so (smelting metals and oil lamps were the highest "tech" possible"), but Marleaux used his Darkness Device to crank it up to 26 (cybernetics) in a matter of weeks.

Where the axioms describe how a reality works, world laws are about how the reality operates within the structre of those limits.

Think of world laws as the "narrative physics" of a reality; they map out the overall tone and feel of the reality.

Some world laws are passive, meaning they're always in effect. One example is Nippon Tech's Law of Profit, which states that the wealthier someone is, the less goods and services will cost them. "The rich get richer" isn't just an economic theory, it's built into the fabric of that reality.

Other world laws are active, which means they have to be invoked by that reality's inhabitants. The prime example of an active law is the Nile Empire's Law of Action, which lets the invoker spend two possibilities on a roll instead of one.

I'll get more into axioms and world laws once I start talking about the individual cosms, but this is getting pretty long already so let's leave some stuff (like where Storm Knights come from) for:

NEXT TIME: Storm Knighting 101!

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Parkreiner posted:

The reality mash-up bits of Torg are kind of a pain in the rear end in play, but they lend the game a lot of its character. It was both aggravating and amazing when my Nippon Tech martial artist disconnected in the Living Land and was horrified to discover his nunchucks were too high-tech to function. Not that I had any idea how to visualize that.

Well, that's really what I've been saying all along; the setting and metaphysics of Torg are insanely awesome, but the system is the clunkiest thing you could every hope to try and run.

Just as a case in point, the Living Land has a tech axiom of 7, but nunchucks are a tech 9 item, so they stop working. Whatever that means.

Never mind that the Living Land's tech axoim is actually higher than the realm is described as having.

This is the tech axiom summary from the Living Land sourcebook:

quote:

The low Technological axiom of the Living Land makes only simple tools and weapons possible. Remember, the Tech axiom limits what a character can think of to solve a problem. A character from the Living Land with a high intelligence will be able to heal someone with primitive medicine, but could not perform brain surgery no matter what his skills, because thinking to that degree is simply not possible.

This is what's possible for a tech axiom 7 reality:

quote:

0—No technology is possible.
2—Fire making is invented. Small stone tools are possible.
3—Advanced stone tool making possible. Animals may be domesticated and bred. Spears and clubs are state-of-the-art weapons. Armor made from animal products possible. Rafts and small river craft appear.
5—Agriculture invented, but still practiced largely as a dietary supplement to hunting and gathering. Calendars based on easily visible phenomena maybe invented. The wheel or axled rollers first used for transportation. Fishing vessels (four or more beings, muscle powered)appear. Arithmetic may be invented.
7—Metal is first smelted, alloys of softer metals appears. Potter's wheel appears, plow speeds agriculture. Glass, cloth, wine invented. Sea worthy ships are possible. Swords and daggers state of the art weapons. Bows are possible, but only with enough punch for small game. Oil lamps invented.

If anything, the Living Land should be tech axiom 3 to jive with all the fluff for the realm.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



The storm has a name... - Let's Read TORG


Part 6: Storm Knighting 101

Last time we talked about axioms and world laws, which are the two main defining characteristics of cosms. This time, we're going to talk about what happens when the axioms of an invading reality clash with the axioms of the invaded one.

The most obvious effect is the reality storm that is created by the friction between the two realities. When two realities clash, the area is buffeted by terrible storm full winds raging at hundreds of miles an hour, and lightning strong enough to shatter a mountain. The storms are short-lived, only lasting until the invading reality is gone.

This is why stelae barriers are so important. They mitigate the storms and prevent them from touching the invading reality. Unfortunately, the stelae can't negate the storms, so the storm ends up thrashing around the boundary between the two realities. What's more, because the storms aren't driving the other reality away, they don't stop.

Meanwhile, inside the stelae boundary, people have to worry about transformation.

According to the Everlaw of One, a person can only be subject to the axioms of one reality at a time. When in an area of conflicting realities, Ords will lose their natural possibility energy and (eventually) transform into inhabitants of the realm they're in.

Possibility-rated characters can resist being transformed, though. They subconsciously create a connection to their home reality by spending a small amount of their own possibility energy. This isn't spent out of their pool; they can do this as long as they have at least one possibility point. These characters can continue operating under their own axioms and world laws, no matter where they are.

Sort of.

See, as long as you're operating under the axiom levels of the reality you're in, you're fine. But when you use a skill or tool that's above the axioms of the reality you're in, that creates what's called a contradiction. At least, one kind of contradiction.

There are, in fact, four types of contradictions.

First, there's a zero case contradiction. This is what happens when you use a tool from another reality that is still under the axioms of the reality you're in. This is such a small contradiction that the Everlaw of One isn't triggered. So if you took a car that originated in the Nile Empire (tech axiom 21) and brought it to the Cyberpapacy (tech axiom 26), it would still work and would not create a contradiction even though the car's not native to the Cyberpapacy.

Then there's a one-case contradiction, which is what you get when the axiom of the tool or skill is higher than either the land or the character using it, but not both. In this case, you're fine unless you roll a 1, in which case you disconnect from your home reality. So if an edinos from the Living Land (tech axiom 7) is in Core Earth (tech axiom 23) and uses a rifle, that's a one-case contradiction because only the character's axioms are too low.

A four-case contradiction is what you get when the axiom of the tool is higher than both the the character and the land you're in. This is what happens when someone from Aysle is in the Nile Empire and tries to use a cyberdeck. In this case, you'll disconnect on a roll of 1-4.

Finally, there's a long range contradiction, which is what happens when you try to use something that would create a contradiction when it leaves your hand; throwing a grenade in the Living Land type of things. After all, you carry your axioms with you, but when you're not touching the object anymore it's not subject to your axioms anymore. To keep that grenade working, you need to roll your reality skill. If you roll under the item's effect value, then that difference is treated as a stun-only attack. Oh, and on top of that this stacks with one- or four-case contradictions so you can still disconnect on a 1 or 1-4.

So what does disconnecting from your home reality mean?

Well, first off, you can't earn possibilities while you're disconnected. Not only that, but you can't roll to use any item or ability that isn't supported by the local axioms. You're effectively blocked from using things from your native reality as the Everlaw of One tries to keep the two realities from mixing.

To reconnect and get your possibilities and abilities back, you need to roll your reality skill. The target number is based on, you guessed it, another table! You have to cross-reference your home reality with the reality you're in, and that determines the target number you need to hit. Basically, the further the difference between the two realities the higher the difficulty. If you're from Core Earth and are in Nippon Tech, you only need an 8 to reconnect, but someone from the Cyberpapacy who disconnects in the Living Land would need a 21.

(Interestingly, the table isn't symmetrical. Someone from the Living Land who disconnects in the Cyberpapacy only needs a 12.)

quote:

Example: The Edeinos is trying to reestablish the link that was broken while he was experimenting with the telephone. The difficulty number is 16. If his reality total is 16 or more, then the Edeinos has regained his ability to create contradiction. If it is less, he now lives within the axioms of Core Earth. He can now use telephones without contradiction, but he no longer has access to many of the miracles which are the heritage of the Living Land.

Note that you can keep trying to reconnect. It's not a save-or-die thing, but it is cutting you off from replenishing possibilities, which is a problem that can lead to transformation.

When an Ord is in a reality not his own, or when a possibility-rated person runs out of possibilities, then the Everlaw of One takes hold and transforms that person mentally and (if need be) physically into an inhabitant of the new reality. When you transform, you lose all your possibility energy, and will now conform to his new reality. While he won't lose access to old memories, they'll seem dreamlike, and other memories will start to take their place.

quote:

Example: Eric Wold wakes up in Stapleford to discover he is no longer human. He remembers being human, he remembers the concepts "television" and "automobile," and can even correctly identify them. He no longer has any idea how to work them, and is no longer capable of working them. If he should somehow become recharged with possibility energy he may be able to once again work devices which were a common part of his life.

If Eric crossed back into Core Earth England, he would be unable to operate a car even there. In addition, any potent magic he learned in Aysle would be useless in Core Earth, for he no longer has the possibility energy necessary to bend the reality of Core Earth any more than that of Aysle.

Objects can transform as well. In this case, they'll generally transform into the nearest local equivalent, whatever that might be. A rifle in Asyle would become a crossbow, a car would become a cart, and a tank might turn into a small one-man fortress.

It should be pointed out that not everyone or everything in an invaded area will transform. Locations or items that have a strong tie to their home reality will become hardpoints, keeping their original axioms and rules. There are Core Earth cities that have so many hardpoints the cities still operate under Core Earth axioms. London and New York are the two biggest examples.

As for people, sometimes when a person is faces with a threat from another reality and is forced to make a strong moral choice, that person will unknowingly invoke the Everlaw of Two, and gain a surge of possibility energy from their home cosm. They gain the reality skill and are able to carry their original reality with them. These people tend to either become agents for the various High Lords, or become Storm Knights and try to fight the High Lord's forces.

Now, after all that, you're probably asking, "So what do Storm Knights actually do? I get they're trying to get the invaders off Core Earth, but how do they do that? Why not just destroy all these stelae that are keeping Core Earth from destroying the realms and bridges, and just let everyone return to normal?"

Well...it's not that simple.

Remember, when someone transforms, they lose all their possibility energy. That's how they survive the transformation process. What's more, they're not getting possibilities from their new reality because the Darkness Device is interfering with the cycle.

So now these people no longer have possibilities. If the stelae barrier around them were removed, the home reality would sweep in and the Everlaw of One would try to change everyone back.

Except these people don't have the possibility energy to spend to survive the second transformation. The transformation would be fueled by their life energy, and every single Ord in the zone would instantly combust. And remember, you need at least 25,000 people in a zone to power the stelae. Destroy the barrier, and all those people are dead.

Which begs the question: how do you fight back against the invasion without killing thousands upon thousands of innocent people?

You do it by giving possibilities back to the people.

Technically, this could be done with a Darkness Device, but the High Lords would never do that. After all, the transformed people in the realm are the ultimate hostages and providing them with energy.

Heroes don't have Darkness Devices. Instead, they have hope.

quote:

Stories, myths and legends are ways of framing events from a particular point of view, a point of view with its own beliefs and visions of reality. Certain stories can even serve as a spark for the Everlaw of Two, a slender thread of idea which the Law strengthens to reconnect a person with her former reality. Once reconnected by this tenuous thread, and given a tiny bit of energy by the Storm Knights to initiate the living/unliving link, the person is slowly refilled with possibility energy. The process may take a few days, or a few weeks.

Once a transformed being has been refilled, she may retell the same story to others, eventually reconnecting them and refilling them with possibility energy as well. This process grows and grows as more and more people hear the tale and reconnect. Soon, all will be ready for the new transformation.
Not just any tale will do the job, though. There's a single card in the Fortune Deck called "Glory", which can only be played if you generate a total of 60 or more during an important event. When you play this card, you "mark the magnitude of a deed, and fixes it in time and space". This deed can become a focus for the Everlaw of Two when the players (not the characters, the players) recount the story.

One of the players is appointed the storyteller, and his character must spend a possibility point to "seed" the story. The storyteller then makes a persuasion roll. If you played the card, spend the possibility, and make the skill roll, then the story will begin to spread through the stelae zone. At this point, you can uproot a stelae and some people won't die! The longer you wait for the tale to spread, the more people will regain possibilities and the fewer people will be destroyed when the reality storm happens.

Oh, and if you fail the persuasion roll, then you wasted the Glory card. If you want to spread another story, then you need to draw another Glory card, and play it when you generate a total of 60 on an important roll.

But let's say you succeeded and spread your tale. You still need to uproot and destroy the stelae. Which, again, is not easy.

First off, you need to find the stelae. Each cosm's stelae looks different, and High Lords like to use mundane means to hide them. Stelae of the Nile Empire look like Anubis-headed obelisks, but Dr. Mobius puts mundane Anubis-headed obelisks everywhere. In Nippon Tech, stelae take the form of operational ATM machines in the cities and phone transfer boxes in the rural areas.

Even when you find the actual stelae and begin to destroy it, there's still a lot of problems you'll have to deal with. The stelae boundaries tied to this stelae will begin to weaken, causing strong reality storms to start raging in the area. Not only that, but the Darkness Device itself will know what's happening, and will communicate with its servants to go and defend the stelae. That's not counting the forces that are probably already there defending it.

So, just for reference, here's what you have to do to reclaim a zone from a realm:
• Generate a total of 60 on an important roll against the forces of the reality you're trying to drive out.
• Play a Glory card.
• Have one of the players tell the story of what happened.
• Spend a Possibility Point.
• Succeed at a persuasion roll against the highest Mind score of the NPCs listening.
• Wait for the story to spread to minimize the destruction.
• Find the stelae.
• Fight through the people guarding the stelae.
• Start to uproot and destroy the stelae (which, by the way, requires more rolls to see if the story took).
• Survive the high-intensity reality storm.
• Fight off incoming forces of the High Lord.

Easy!

On the plus side, Storm Knights have useful weapons in their fight: eternity shards.

quote:

The legends speak of Apeiros, a being of immense and unknowable power, creator of cosms, who exists outside each and every cosm. Theologians in some cosms believe Apeiros to be the source of all Possibilities, while others believe Apeiros to merely be the source of the first Possibilities.

In either case, the Everlaw of Three states that a third part is added to each cosm, aside from the unliving and the living: a part created directly by Apeiros. This part is rich with the energy of Possibilities, and works to protect and empower the living and unliving on each world. The legends speak most reverently of these manifestations of Apeiros, some of which are physical and durable, named in legend: Excalibur, Atlantis, the Holy Grail, the Lost Ark of the Covenant, the Heart of Coyote. The legends speak of "an incarnation of Possibilities" when describing these manifestations of Apeiros.

(This is the first and only time they refer to the Everlaw of Three, by the way.)

Eternity shards are powerful artifacts that exist in every reality, and have two main uses.

First, they act as possibility energy storage. Storm Knights can tap into the reserves of an eternity shard and draw some of these points to spend in lieu of his own.

The other use is granting Storm Knights access to special group powers related to the shard. Group powers need two or more possibility-rated characters to pull off, and require everyone involved to be attuned to the shard. Attunement requires a total of 10 possibilities to be spent between everyone who wants to access the shard. And remember, possibilities aren't that easy to come by. 10 is about half a module's work. On the plus side, you don't have to pay it all at once. Then everyone has to pay more possibilities to unlock the individual powers. Those tend to cost 15-20 points each, so get saving!

Anyway, to use a group power one person has to spend possibilities to invoke it and everyone else supports his skill roll. That part, at least, is easy.

Eternity shard powers are basically all useful against invading realities. Some of the powers include Create Hardpoint, Life Thread (keep a dying person alive for a long time), Send (which can propell someone's mind through time and space into a new body), and Stelae Sense (which allows you to definately identify a stelae).

These powers are useful, but tend to be much more expensive than they need to be. Life Thread, for instance, costs 15 possibilities to unlock and another 4 to use. Not counting the 10 points needed to bond to the shard in the first place, that's 19 possibilities to use this power. And what does it do? It prevents a mortally wounded character from dying for a number of days equal to the outcome of the roll. Only beat the target number by 1? Then you've spent 19 XP/Fate points to keep him alive for a day.

Maybe it's just me, but the game tends to feel a little stacked against the players.


Before we close out here, I want to take a minute to talk about the way this stuff is presented. This post and the last one covered two chapters, and once again I skipped a ton of stuff. Mostly about the mechanics of hardpoints and reality storms. There's a ton of small minutae about storms and the stuff I am talking about is complex enough as-is.

Not only that, but things are presented in a terrible order. The last chapters starts with Everlaws, then World Laws, then Axioms, bending and changing axioms, then world laws again, reality storms, hardpoints, talismans (portable hardpoints), contradicitions, relinking, transformation and trancendence, reality bubbles, then finally axioms again.

No part of this game is well presented or set up in any kind of logical order. There will be many, many more examples of this later on when we get to the Cosm books, but for now just remember that as confusing the stuff I'm describing is, it's ten times worse in the book.

And I haven't even touched on how bad the in-game fiction is. That's probably going to be a post unto itself.

We are almost done with the main book, by the way. There's three more chapters to cover, and we'll take care of two of them...

NEXT TIME: Magic, miracles, and :psyboom:

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



unseenlibrarian posted:

You can kind of tell Shane Hensley worked for West End at one point; the whole "Spread the story of your success to give hope back to the people" thing showed up in Deadlands too, (though with somewhat less cumbersome mechanics, all told, and not as dire a consequence for blowing it.)

(You can also tell he worked for them because he basically ripped ideas from the book he wrote for Bloodshadows, filed off the serial numbers, and ported them into Deadlands, but.)

Actually, Shane doesn't appear in the Torg credits. I was going to mention the similarities but I forgot. What's more interesting is that Deadlands came out two years after Torg ended.

Also, I'm not going to cover spell creation until I get to the Asyle book. Trust me, the core magic rules are :psyboom: enough.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Diskhotep posted:

I don't think Shane actually worked on the main boxed set - if memory serves he contributed to the module "When Axioms Collide". I think he also wrote "The Temple of Rec Stalek", but I don't have my books handy.
I just checked, and you're right.

quote:

Shane always credited TORG as one of his favorite games. He was repeatedly asked if he would make a Savage Worlds version if he could, and always responded that he wouldn't want to change it. He apparently did try to purchase it when WEG was shopping it around, but couldn't afford what they were asking for the property.
Yeah, I remember when Torg was up for sale, Shane was one of the main people bidding. Eric Gibson was selling off all the properties, but mishandled the whole thing. He wouldn't say who was bidding or for how much, which didn't inspire confidence in the people who were legitimately interested in the properties and could back them up with real cash and talent. So, of course, people stopped making serious offers. It got so bad that Shane said at one point something along the lines of "my original offer was $10,000; now it's a sandwich lunch".

The rights are currently owned by some German RPG company who've been sitting on it for the last five years or so.

quote:

I should point out that the Revised Edition of TORG, written by "Kansas Jim" Ogle, is better laid out and has a few "optional" fixes to things like the glass-jawed ninja problem. Unfortunately he wasn't allowed to actually rewrite any major rules (to keep all the sourcebooks usable). The Revised Edition is therefore less of a 2nd edition and more of a 1.5 edition, compiling all the skills from the various sourcebooks into one resource and listing some optional rules. It's a pity he wasn't allowed to modify the system more, though, as he was a day one adopter of the game and widely known as the TORG guru on WEG's forums.
Yeah, that's a problem with big game lines like this, especially ones from the 90's. The combination of "supplement treadmill" and "we have a GRAND STORYLINE" meant that changes or rules updates had a pretty good chance of making half your old books obsolete.

Just for comparison, the original core rulebook is 142 pages, and the R&E edition is just shy of double that. What's more, R&E doesn't have the rules for martial arts, cybernetics, netrunning, pulp powers, or biotech. So it really wasn't "complete" because you still needed all the cosm books to fill in the blanks.

It did have all 100 skills, though.

quote:

I've been seriously trying to come up with the best system to use to update and run TORG for my players. Games like FATE and Savage Worlds easily capture the cinematic tone of the game, but for all of their complicating influences it is the reality mechanics that really make TORG the game that it is. It's trickier to adapt those to a different system in a way that doesn't feel tacked on. Anyone who has successfully done so or who has an idea of a good system should feel free to PM me with suggestions.
Honestly, I've always felt that Savage Worlds would be a drat near perfect fit, since it's a system that accomplished what Torg tried to do: be a universal system that covered everything. The problem with Torg's system is that they tried too hard to model everything, and as a result everything gets bogged down in tables, multi-stage rolls, and weird cases like someone's nunchucks not working or someone losing touch with their reality because they failed a FInd check..

Personally, I think Fate would be a good match (and I've done a little work on a Torg -> Fate hack), and once the Toolkit comes out I'll be working on that and a Feng Shui hack.

What's interesting is how much of both Savage Worlds and Fate you can see in Torg's mechanics. Especially the similarities between Possibilities, Bennies, and Fate Points.

I feel that trying to convert all the reality-hopping rules like reality bubbles and invoked storms and multi-step contradictions would be unnecessary. When it comes to converting, I take the approach that you want to convert the fluff and tone first, and not jam the round peg of the old mechanics into the square hole of the new system. You're better off modeling the ideas behind the old mechanics into the new system. But, again, that's just me.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Diskhotep posted:

To me the parts of the reality mechanics worth keeping are the World Laws (as they really set each cosm apart from those with similar axioms) and the axioms (I love contradictions and disconnections, but it is harder to hack those into other systems). I agree that Fate would probably work best (I love Savage Worlds, but TORG is really a setting where the specific is more important than the generic). I'll be interesting in seeing your Fate hack once it is ready for viewing.
Oh, I wouldn't get rid of things like axioms or world laws either. I'd just simplify the implementation of them.

Young Freud posted:

That maybe Ray Winninger's influence then, since he does appear in the TORG credits and wrote some of the mythos and system. Like values and measures, Underground has a "players give back to the people/change the world" mechanism in it as well.
I'd forgotten all about Underground. Makes me wonder now how many 90's games had "giving hope back to people" as a major theme.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



The storm has a name... - Let's Read TORG


Part 6: Magic (Miracles cut for length)
FUN FACT: At the end of this I will actually show you how to cast a spell in Torg.

Okay. This is going to suck.

Magic. Oh lord, magic.

Throughout the whole game line, there are seven main categories of player powers: magic, miracles, martial arts, pulp powers, cybernetics, psionics, and biotech. Martial arts are pretty much unique to Nippon Tech, and only Nile Empire characters can get access to pulp powers. Cybernetics can come from either the Cyberpapacy or Tharkold. Biotech and psionics will come from a cosm that was introduced later in the line, which I'm keeping secret for now.

Magic and miracles, however, are pretty much universal to every realm.

They're so universal, in fact, they each have their own axioms. And like anything tied to an axiom, there can be hard limits on what's available in a given realm. For the most part, magic and miracles are possible in every realm with a few exceptions. Nippon Tech has very low Magic and Spiritual axioms, and the Living Land has a Magic axiom of 0, meaning that no magic is possible there at all. And yes, magic and miracles are possible on Core Earth all of a sudden.

(Just for the record, magic and miracles are two separate things. They have separate mechanics, so are refered to as magic and miracles in the text.)

Let's start with magic.

Oh good christ Torg magic.

Casting spells in Torg is a loving mess.

To start with, spells come in four different categories:
  • Alteration magic is about changing existing things.
  • Apporation magic is for moving things around.
  • Conjuration magic creates things.
  • Divination magic covers perception and interpritation.

Every magic spell in the game falls into at least one of these four categories, and some spells can fall under more than one type. So you could have a spell that conjures something (conjuration), then flings it at a target (apporation). The game describes these as the "verbs" of spells, and that's as good a description as any.

Each of these magic styles is a skill in the game. There's an alteration magic skill, an apportation magic skill, and so on. If you start the game as a caster, one of these is probably your tag skill, and you can buy a few more with the skill adds you get during character creation. I should also point out that the magic skills can't be used without

The game then explains that a caster doesn't make his spells up (that will come later in the Aysle book), but that spells were created by other people and stored in grimoires. Yup, you need a spellbook.

quote:

To cast a spell from a grimoire requires only the skill necessary for the most important component of the effect. Secondary effects may be subsumed under the spell at the time of its design, but are not necessary to cast the spell. For example, altering a small sphere into a fireball is the most important element of a fireball spell; moving the fireball is secondary. The magician who designed the spell would have to take into account the problems of moving it (apportation) and accuracy (divination) as well as the initial alteration, but once designed and placed in a grimoire these effects are "built in"; the only skill the caster need furnish is alteration.

Now, that's a little more complex than it needs to be, but still manageable, right? I mean, even if a spell falls under more than one skill it looks like you only need the one to cast it, right?

Wrong.

There's a second factor to spells beyond the skill needed to cast it: arcane knowledges.

Remember how the skills were refered to as the "verbs" of the spell? Arcane knowledges are the nouns and modifiers. They determine what the spell can affect. When you make your character, you get 12 extra skill points that can only be used to by knowledges and spells. That's right, arcane knowledges are technically skills, can't be used untrained, and cost just as much as normal skills to improve. However, unlike all the other skills in the game, arcane knowledges aren't based off a stat. You just use the flat skill ranks.

So what are the arcane knowledges? Glad you asked!

quote:

The Essences
Death
Life
Time
True Knowledge

The Principles
Darkness
Light
Magic

The Mixed Forces
Inanimate Forces
Living Forces

The Elements
Air
Earth
Fire
Metal
Plant
Water

The Seven Kindred
Aquatic
Avian
Earthly
Elemental
Enchanted
Entity
Folk

Theory Knowledges
Cast Time
Control
Duration
Range
Speed
State
I'm not going to go into what all those mean, since they're mostly self-explanitory, but here's some highlights:
  • Magic skills and knowledges work the same way regardles of what reality you're in. The "metaphysics" of magic are constant throughout the multiverse. Funny, that.
  • Folk are intelligent beings whose defining relationship is with others of their kind, rather than with any of the elements or with magic.
  • Living forces include Dexterity, Perception and the other attributes.
  • The theory knowledges do nothing in the core game. They don't see any use until we get to spell creation, which is in the Aysle book.

All told, there are 24 arcane knowledges, and 4 magic skills. That's 28 skills you have to keep track of if you're a spellcaster.

Why? Because every spell has a skill and arcane knowledge, and if you don't have both at the right total level you can't cast the spell. So if a metal-moving spell is "apporation/metal 17", your apporation magic and metal skills need to total up to at least 17, or you can't cast the spell.

Oh, but we have a few things we still need to talk about before we actually hit learning how to cast spells.

Like the Principle of Definition, which states that a subject cannot be under the influence of more than one "active" spell with the same knowledge at a time, with "active" defined as any spell that's still got some duration left. When someone is under the influence of an ongoing spell, then is the target of a second spell, then the spells have to duke it out. Each spell has a strength equal to its casters' magic skill, and the spells roll off against each other. Whichever spell gets the highest total sticks around. So if you're under the influence of a Strength spell (folk knowledge), you couldn't also be under the effect of an Understand Language spell because that's also based off the folk knowledge.

You can get around this with the idea of Synonymous Knowledges, which involves having multiple definitions of a single knowledge. If a fire mage had three definitions of "fire", he could keep three active fire spells running on himself at once. This is useful, and would have been more useful if they'd explain how you actually went about doing this.

A character starts with zero spells. You have to use those bonus 12 points to buy new spells one-for-one, and later on you have to spend a Possibility to learn a new spell and put it in your grimoire.

Finally! Spellcasting! To cast a spell, you generate a total using the appropriate magic skill, and try to beat the difficulty of the spell. If you make it, the spell goes off.

Before you start going "wait, that's it? We had to go through all that for 'beat the spell's difficulty'?", hold on. This is Torg. Nothing is that simple.

Just because you successfully cast the spell doesn't automatically mean it goes off. Between the skill roll and the effect of the spell is the speedbump of backlash. Backlash is the "resistance" of the spell, and you have to check it regardless of whether or not you made the skill roll. Once you determine the success or failure of the you then take your skill total (or your Mind stat if you're casting a spell in your grimoire, whichever's higher) and compare it to the spell's backlash value. If your total is less than the backlash, then you take the difference and apply it to the Damage Table to see how much you get hurt; unlike normal damage, the damage isn't reduced by Touchness. If you get knocked out or killed, then the spell doesn't go off even if you made the initial spellcasting roll.

Yes, it's possible to successfully cast a spell but not have it go off.

Damage taken from backlash is actually mental damage, which is exactly the same as normal damage with two fun kickers:
1. When you're KO'd by mental damage, you lose the arcange knowledge used to cast the spell for 24 hours.
2. If suffer wounds from mental damage and go above "heavily wounded", you lose the arcane knowledge and the magic skill for 24 hours. On top of that, you can't be healed below "wounded" status until you get the skills back.

So if you manage to cast the spell and not blow your head off, the spell happens. The bonus generated in the initial casting roll is applied to part of the spell's effect. This varies from spell to spell.

Those of you whose eyes haven't glazed over yet will have noticed the "casting from the grimoire" bit up there. It's possible to actually cast spells on the fly, making up a whole new spell on the spot. The way you do this is by buying the Aysle sourcebook, because that's where the rules are.

Also mentioned but actually put off to that book are the focus item rules (casting a spell into an object) so I guess we'll worry about those later.

Some spells have to be cast impressed, which is sort of Vancian pre-casting. Spells that have to be cast impressed are "cast" in advance, generating a total and figuring backlash as normal. However, the spell's effect doesn't happen until the caster releases it. When you release the spell, you generate a new bonus number to determine the spell's effect, but you don't have to check again for backlash. Not that it really matters, because only two spells in the core book have to be cast impressed: "conjured fireball" and "cleanse".

You can impress a number of spells equal to the sum of your conjuration magic adds and your state knowledge. On the plus side, impressed spells never fade unless you "clear" one out to make room for a different spell.

From there, we get almost a whole page about illusion magic.

quote:

Illusions are magical "cheats," ways of conjuring reality without expending the energy necessary to create the full reality. Illusions can run the gamut from fully illusory (merely a sensory impression of the object "conjured") to almost real (there is some reality conjured, but not the whole amount). Illusions "borrow" possibility energy from those around them who believe in the illusion, and thus become more real over time (the amount of possibility energy taken from a believer is minute — no energy is lost by those who believe). This effect is temporary, though — as soon as the belief ceases (either because the believers leave the area or because someone becomes convinced that the object is an illusion), the illusion vanishes as well.
Disbelieving an illusion (remember that? Ah, memories...) requires a difficulty 8 Mind roll, although different spells might tweak that number a bit. Also, the more people who believe in the spell, the harder it is to disbelieve. So if someone conjures an illusory bridge, and a squad of troops think it's real, then it's harder for someone to disbelieve it. This includes the caster; if the caster follows the troops across the bridge, he has to make a disbelief check for himself because he knows the bridge isn't real.

Which is the trade-off; illusions are easier to cast, but have the slight disadvantage of winking out of existence if someone goes "wait, hold on..." But since there's only one illusion spell in the core book, again we can pretty much ignore this for now.

There's one last thing before we finally get to the actual spells, and that's The Primary Rule of Magic. It's a long-rear end thing about how magic isn't technology and therefore doesn't follow the same rules and blah blah blah. I can post it later if people want, but this is getting long as hell as-is, so let's hit the spells!

There are 36 spells in the core book, and they're pretty much the standard issue list of mage tricks; fireballs, feather fall (called "floater"), mage light, open locks, stat boosts, and so on. The Worldbook that came with the boxed set and acted as the "lite" sourcebook for all the cosms had another 10, so your options were pretty limited until you bought the Aysle or Orrosh sourcebooks, or bought "Pixaud's Practial Grimoire".

Anyway, all the spells have the same statblock format, so let's take a look at the basic attack spell in the game:

quote:

Bullet

Axiom Level: 7
Skill: apportation/metal 13

Backlash: 16
Difficulty: 10
Effect Value: 15
Bonus Number to: effect


Range: 5 (10 meters)
Duration: 5 (10 seconds)
Cast Time: 3 (four seconds)
Manipulation: control

The spell is set for metal the mass of a small sling bullet, or a coin about the size of a quarter. The magician pantomimes the whirling of a sling with the hand holding the metal, then releases it aiming at his opponent. The apportation total must exceed the Dexterity or dodge of the target character in order to hit him.

First, yes every spell has an axiom level. Casting spells above your axiom can cause contradictions.

The backlash and difficulty we've already covered. The effect value is the mechanical part of the spell. For an attack spell, that's damage. "Bullet" is about as powerful as a 9mm. "Bonus to" tells you where to put the bonus generated by the initial casting roll; in this case it's added to the effect value.

Range and duration are self-explanatory, and include the values from the Value Table in case you need to convert them for some reason. Combat pells have to have a cast time of 3 to be used in combat, and a cast time of 4 to be used on a friendly target. Anything with a cast time higher than 23 can't be cast in one go. Lastly, there's Manipulation, which is used for the spell manipulation rules which are, again, in the Aysle sourcebook.

So let's put this all together.

I'm playing a mage from Aysle with an apporation magic of 15 and a metal knowledge of 2, which is possible for a freshly-made character. I want to cast Bullet on a possibility-rated guy with a dodge skill of 12 and a Toughness of 9.

First I have to make sure I'm within my axioms. For the sake of this example let's say I'm in Nippon Tech, which has a magic axiom of 2. My magic axiom is 18. That's a one-case contradiction, so I better not roll a 1 or I'll disconnect.

The difficulty of Bullet is 10. I roll a d20 and get a 9. I look that up on the bonus chart for a result of -1. Adding that to my apportatiom magic gives me a total of 14. That beats the difficulty, but is 2 less than the backlash value. Looking that up on the Combat Results Table gives me a result of "O1", so I take 1 shock and an "O" result. That's fine, I'm still up so the spell goes off.

I add the bonus generate by my roll to the spell's Effect of 15 for a total of 14. That beats the target's dodge 12 (barely), so I take the final effect total (14) subtract the target's Toughness (9) for a final result of 5. Looking that up on the Combat Results Table gives me "O2", so that's 2 shock and an O.

Just for the record, if I had rolled a 1, then I not only would have disconnected, I would have taken a backlash result of 15, which is "3Wnd KO 5"; or 3 wounds, a KO, and 5 shock. Assuming I would have survived that (and about the only way I could would be to be uninjured to begin with or spend some Possibilities), I'd lose access to apporation magic and metal for 24 hours, couldn't be healed below wounded in that timeframe, and would still need to get a 17 with my reality skill to reconnect while I was in Nippon Tech.


Bear in mind, this isn't the complete magic system. The rest of it is in the Aysle sourcebook, and we haven't even touched on miracles yet.

Just wait until we get to spell creation. Ooooh, you just loving wait.

NEXT TIME: Miracles! They're almost as bad as magic!

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



The storm has a name... - Let's Read TORG


Part 7: Miracles

Last time we cut through the hostile jungle that is spellcasting in Torg. This time, we're going to take a look at miracles.

Unsuprisingly, there's a completely different system for them.

quote:

Religion and spirituality differ from magic in a fundamental way: magic bends the forces of the universe according to alternate laws of nature; religion creates a spiritual community linked by a divine will separate from each individual's will.

Magic is much like an alternate technology limited only by the practitioner's mentality. A wizard can study in his tower for years, never see a living soul, and be unhindered in his quest for magic. Religion, on the other hand, connects people to their cosm through the community. When people of a belief gather and interact in a service or ritual, the community is reaffirmed. Even hermits begin their lives of faith in the community. When they leave to seek solitude, they are still bound to the community by their faith, linked to others through the divine principles they seek to explore.

The game refers to a religion and its accociated stories, symbolism, and such as a mythos. Why they can't just call a religion a "religion" is beyond me, but anyway.

To be able to perform miracles, you need to accept all the core beliefs of your mythos. If, for whatever reason, you stop believing in part of your religion, then you can't perform miracles anymore.

There are, surprisingly, only two skills needed for performing miracles: focus is the skill that's used to actually cast the miracle, and faith is the skill used to determine the actual effect value of the miracle.

Here's the thing, though. When you cast a miracle on someone, it's the faith skill of the beneficiary that determines the total effect. This is where terminology gets confusing: if the miracle is helpful to the target, the target is the "beneficiary" and you use his faith score to determine the outcome. If it's a harmful miracle, though, then the caster is the beneficiary and uses his own faith score.

On the plus side, if you're performing a miracle and there are other believers around, they can help you perform a miracle. Every character who wants to help with the miracle has to make a faith roll against the community rating of the miracle. The total number of people who succeed is then added to the caster's focus total. Or you can just use this formula if you don't feel like rolling for 50 NPCs.

quote:

Value of number of characters + average faith - community rating of miracle - 2 - bonus modifier for focus character
That'll give you the bonus to the caster's focus roll.

There is a limitation on this, though: people who don't have faith in the main caster's mythos can't contribute. It is possible to cast a beneficial miracle on a willing subject of a different faith as normal, but if you do so then a spiritual struggle will erupt as the two belief systems clash. Each character must generate a new faith total using the other character's faith skill total. Then you look up the result on the Combat Results Chart and apply the damage to the characters.

quote:

Example: In a pinch, Father Bryce performs a healing miracle on an Edeinos companion. The miracle succeeds, the Edeinos is healed. Even though the Edeinos wanted to be healed, there are still consequences to performing a miracle on a "disbeliever," or accepting a miracle from another faith.

Bryce's faith value is 13. The Edeinos' faith value is 14. Bryce gets a total of 13; no effect on the Edeinos. The Edeinos rolls a total of 19. Bryce takes 6 result points of stun damage (O 2). There are also "spiritual consequences."
I bet you think the next section is about these "spiritual consequences", you'd be wrong. Have I mentioned that the book isn't organized too well?

For some reason, the next section is about "evil enemies"; if you're around someone who shares your mythos but is an opposed side (like a Satanist around Christians), then the evil character's faith adds are treated as a penalty to the "good" character's rolls.

For some other reason, the next section after that is about conversion. It's possible to convert from one religion to another; doign so will reduce your faith adds by 1 (but if you go to 0 adds, you're still considered to have the skill), and converting clears all spiritual damage effects you're suffering from. Also, if you don't have the faith skill and someone performs a miracle on you with a spectacular success (beating the difficulty by 12 or more), then the target will automatically convert to the caster's religion, and must immediately buy an add in the faith skill for 2 Possibilities.

Oh, hey, spiritual damage effects! Like backlash, this is normal damage with special fun riders:
1) If you're KO'd by spiritual damage, you lose your focus skill. You can't get it back until you either convert or are the subject of the ritual of purification miracle.
2) If you suffer any wounds from spiritual damage and become heavenly wounded, you lose both your faith and focus skills, and can't get them back or be healed below wounded until you are the target of the ritual of hope miracle.

Next up is a list of various belief systems (monotheism, animism, polytheism, etc.). Surprisingly, the nature of your belief system doesn't have a mechanical effect on your character.

Unless you are an atheist! If you're an atheist, you can actually cancel out a miracle of any religion by making a faith roll and beating the caster's focus total. Yes, this means you can have faith in being an athiest.

Moving on from that interesting theological paradox, there's some information on the spiritual axiom. Interestingly, the higher a cosm's spiritual axiom, the more likely the belief systems there will become literal truths.

quote:

In cosms with lower spiritual axioms such as Core Earth, the documents of a religion tend to be slightly altered or vary more from the literal history of the religion — but they are still valid beliefs because they are true for the originating cosm of the religion, and faith in that religion will yield spiritual power in any cosm (at least those with an axiom greater than zero). A worshipper's faith tenuously connects her with the originating cosm, as well as other members of the community who hold the same faith.

Also, the higher a cosm's spiritual axiom, the more likely there can be religous artifacts. Artifacts have their own faith and focus skills, and someone of that faith can use the artifact's skills in place of his own.

Then out of nowhere we get some stuff about spending Possibilities on miracles. You'd think this would be back with the information about, you know, making the skill check but whatever.

quote:

Only one Possibility may be spent to enhance this roll, as usual; however, since there are two participants in the miracle, there are limitations on who may spend the Possibility. The focus character may spend the Possibility if and only if the focus total did not exceed the difficulty of the miracle before the additional roll. If it did, the faith character must spend the Possibility.

Oh, by the way, this rather important bit is just tossed out there:

quote:

If a miracle fails, the character may not attempt the miracle for 24 hours, or until he undergoes the ritual of purification. In addition, the character providing the faith must wait 24 hours or be cleansed in a ritual of hope before he can use his faith in any miracle.

If a character is providing both faith and focus, both restrictions apply.
Interestingly, there's no equivalent mechanic for spells. You can fail to cast spells with no penalty beyond backlash, but even then you don't lose access to the spell.

Oh, and because there's not enough stuff to keep track of, there are global modifiers to the difficulty depending on the situation the miracle's being cast in.


There are a few more small rules bits before we get to the actual miracles. First off, a character can only recieve healing once every 24 hours. Also, if you want to cast a miracle on multiple targets, it's not one-on-many, it's considered a multi-action. No, I don't know why. Oh, and the targets aren't all affected at the same exact time; if the miracle is beneficial then it affects everyone in descending faith order, and if it's harmful it's in ascending order.

There are also "freeform" miracles called invocations, which is an appeal for direct divine intervention. The community rating and focus difficulty for an invocation is 20 + (33 - local spiritual axiom). For instance the Nile Empire has a spiritual axiom of 17, so the difficulty for invocation is 20+(33-17)=36. When you invoke, there's no faith roll because the diety is powering the invocation. If you succeed, the degree of success determines the overall effect. A minimal success means that the effect goes off, but in a way that doesn't really disturb the world and can be written off as a coincidence, but a spectacular success will be undeniably a divine act and will also have an extra divine effect.

The miracles listed in the core book are the "Miracles of Core Earth", but some of them have a Spiritual Rating (the axiom level of the spell) higher than Core Earth's spiritual axion of 9. Which means that, even though "a Core Earth character who has a focus value has access to all of the miracles below", you couldn't try to cast them without risking creating a contradiction.

So let's take a look at a typical miracle.

quote:

Healing

Spiritual Rating: 10
Community Rating: 11
Difficulty: 15
Range: touch
Duration: na

Effect: reduces damage and wounds by number of success levels

If the miracle succeeds at all, the target removes all KO-conditions and shock. In addition, each success level of the miracle reduces the target character's wound level by one. For example, a character with a heavy wound who received average healing would be completely healed. A character suffering a loss of faith due to spiritual damage may not have his wounds fully healed, even via this miracle, until he undergoes the ritual of hope.

We've already covered what this all means, so let's do an example again.

I'm playing a Cyberpapal priest with a faith of 15 and a focus of 13. I need to cast Healing on Sir Franklin, a friend from Aysle who has a faith of 10 (he's a follower of Dunaad, god of honor), a focus of 13, and has been hurt pretty badly: 4 shock, a K, and two wounds. We're in the Cyberpapacy, so the local axiom matches my character's axiom.

The Cyberpapacy's spiritual axiom is 14, so that's not a problem. I make a focus roll and get a final result of 20. This isn't an immediate need situation, so that increases the difficulty by 5, but I still made it. The miracle is cast successfully, but now we have to see if it takes. Sir Franklin is the benifcator of the miracle, so he makes a faith roll and gets a 14.

So the miracle has taken effect on both sides because I made the initial casting roll and Sir Franklin got a positive result. All his shock and KO effects are healed. We look up his focus total on the General Results Table. Unfortunately, at no point does the book tell me what the target number is for the faith roll so I'm going to assume it's 0. 12 is a "spectacular" success (4 levels), so he also heals all his wounds.

But! The two characters believe in different mythoses, so there's a spiritual struggle. Each character rolls their faith against the other character's focus.

I bomb and get a total of 10 against Sir Franklin's focus of 13. I missed the roll by 3, so I take a K and 1 shock.
Sir Franklin gets a 12 against my focus of 13. He takes 1 shock.

Now, if I had beaten the difficulty of the initial faith roll by 12 or more we would have bypassed the whole spiritual struggle thing because Sir Franklin would have converted; he'd have to reduce his faith adds by one, and would become a devout follower of Cybercatholicism. Which will be interesting when he tries to follow the tenets of the religion and get some cyberware that wouldn't be supported by his personal axioms.


Maybe the miracle rules aren't better than the magic rules, after all.

Seriously, would it have been so bad to just say "roll your Cast Spell/Miracle skill"?


NEXT TIME: Equipment, and the end of the core book.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



The storm has a name... - Let's Read TORG


Part 8: Gearing up for the cosm sourcebooks
tl;drSkip to the end for the poll of what you want to see next!

The last real chapter of the core book is the Equipment chapter, and there's really not much to talk about here.

One thing that should be pointed out is that all prices are given in Core Earth dollars. Each cost also has a value to look up on the conversion tables for different realms' monetary systems.

It should also be pointed out that each piece of equipment has a tech axiom level. Remember, using an item not supported by the local axioms can cause contradictions.

First off is armor. Armor is pretty straightforward; it has a value that adds to the wearer's Toughness when determining damage, and bulky armors reduce your dodge value. Leather armor is Tech 5, gives +2 Toughness, and costs $400. A bullet proof vest is tech 21, and gives +6 Toughness. One interesting thing is that there's a significant tech jump from plate mail (tech 13) straight to a bulletproof vest.

Next is general gear, and this is mostly statless items you'd just buy. Again, the tech levels look weird here; a normal wristwatch is tech 20, but an electric watch is tech 21, and a pocket watch is tech 18. A glass mirror is tech 10, and an iron spike is tech 10, which again doesn't jive up with the tech axiom example I gave before.

Air vehicles are next, and are split into piston aircraft, rotary, and jet-powered aircraft. Not that it matters because they all have the same stat types.

In fact, all vehicles are pretty much stated up the same way; tech axiom, speed, number of passengers, and Toughness.

In the interest of brevity, let me just hit a few high points on vehicles:
  • Gliders are tech axiom 19. Sadly, you can't pull an Ator.
  • A DC-3 ($150k) is cheaper than a Spitfire ($200k).
  • You can buy an SR-71 Blackbird, assuming you have $32,000,000.
  • They list the prices for several era's worth of trains. To buy.
  • Also submarines and tanks. Because those are all things you can just, you know, buy.
  • They actually have US Space Shuttles as a vehicle you can buy. Space shuttles/

But let's get to the important part of the equipment lists: weapons!

Melee and man-powered ranged weapons do damage based on the wielder's Strength, but also cap out at a certain damage level. A broadsword or longbow does STR+6, but tops out at 20, so no matter how much your strength is above 14.

There's more tech axiom wonkery here, too. A short sword is tech 8, but a longsword is tech 9. A "Baseball Bat/Club" is tech 6, but a spear is tech 5!? None of the values feel like they make sense, even when you go back and check what the axioms actually represent. Why is a club higher technology than a spear? What is the technological leap that allowed people to look at a shortsword and say, "maybe we can make the blade a bit longer"?

It's another casualty of the need to model everything mechanically and keep the various realities seprate. I can understand not wanting people hopping from realm to realm and wind up with magic and superpowers and cyberlimbs. That's fine. And I get wanting to keep realities from mixing as a Thing in the game. But again things get taken too far and you end up with these weird situations where your short bow can stop working (the bow's tech 8, Living Land is tech 7. It can happen.)

The main difference between firearms and melee weapons is that the damage for firearms and related weapons is a flat value, usally in the 20s. There's not much to see here, but just for reference the available weapons range from muskets to automatic pistols to mounted rifles to anti-aircraft cannons to loving hellfire missiles. Where are they expecting people to buy these things?

The last part of the book is freeform character creation for people who don't want to just use the provided templates. Basically, it boils down to spending 66 points on stats, 16 points on skills (and three on the tag skill), and 10 possibilities. Oh, and if you're a magician you get the 12 points for magic skills and spells.

You also have to pick starting equipment, but instead of saying how much cash everyone starts with, you just get stuff appropriate for the type of character you're making.

quote:

If the player wants possessions which do not appear on the equipment list, she is responsible for providing you with enough information about the item so you can make up your mind. For example, if the item in question is a weapon, the player would have to describe, in game terms, how effective the weapon is, and what sort of ammunition or maintenance is required, how she came across the weapon, etc. A picture would be useful.

If the player wanted a mansion, she would have to draw the floor plans of the mansion, a map of the grounds, delineate the caretakers, and give you enough written description so that the mansion can fit into the campaign.

In short, if a player wants lots of equipment or material possessions, she must pay for it. The payment is not only in game money, but in imagination; she must work the equipment in so that it contributes to the story, and is fun for you and the other players, as well as herself.
And...that's the end of the core book.

The core box set came with two other small books. One was the "Adventure Book", which contained a starting adventure and some GMing advice. The advice is all general stuff, but oddly enough there's no advice on how to get a group of five characters from vastly different and distant parts of the world together at the start of the campaign.

The adventure itself is "Before the Dawn", and is intended to both be a simple campaign starter and part of the overall metaplot.

See, at the end of the first novel, the Gaunt Man put a device, the "vortex machine", at the bottom of the ocean near Indonesia that was designed to slow the Earth's rotation. He had planned to channel the stolen rotational energy into his Darkness Device to power the physical push needed to become Torg. Unfortunately, he got trapped in the dimensional prison before he could use that energy, and since then the Earth's rotation has been getting slower and slower. Since nobody knows about the device, all anyone knows is that the Eath's climate is getting knocked out of whack and it's ascribed to the invading realities. Dr. Mobius learns the location of the vortex machine, and is sending agents to sieze it. The PCs get swept up in this and have to stop Mobius and destroy the vortex machine.

The adventure itself is pretty straightforward; it's a basic adventure of the "roleplay scene -> fight -> lead to next fight -> fight scene" mold. Unfortunately, it's also pretty typical of Torg module design. It's very railroad-y, with the assumption that the PCs are going to follow the plot as the designer wants it to go.

Which is a larger problem with the game; when you read it you always get the feeling that the writers wanted to be fiction writers instead of RPG writers. Unfortunately, the small pieces of background fluff that appear in the books are so wooden they're embarassing. I'll include samples through the rest of the review, but as an example here's the boxed text that kicks off the sample adventure:

quote:

The world has surely gone to hell recently. The USA has been invaded by dinosaurs and lizard-men; the United Kingdom and Scandinavia have been overrun by knights in armor, Vikings and sorcerers; France has been transformed into a dark-ages
theocracy; the Middle East has been taken over by a raygun-weilding lunatic who wishes to recreate the glories of Ancient Egypt. It's been a bad couple of months.

And now the Earth has stopped moving. The sun has been in the same place for over 20 hours — somewhere over the ocean near South America — and the temperature over North America has risen almost six degrees above the record high for this day. You shudder to think what it must be like in South America now — and what it will be like here in a week.

But there's nothing you can do about that, so you are doing the best you can, running supplies into the boundaries of the so-called "Living Land" - a place that used to be called Ohio. Despite the invasion of the dinosaurs and the Edeinos, despite the destruction of the cities, despite the collapse of technology, people still live there, refusing to leave their beloved homes.

They may be foolish — even crazy - but you cannot simply let them starve or die for lack of food or proper medicine. So, every day for the last couple of weeks, you have been running a truckload of supplies into Ohio from still-normal Kentucky, at the same time, attempting to convince the people to leave.

After a few terrifying experiences in the first trips, you've gotten the hang of it by now — more or less — and this trip has so far been uneventful. You are heading down a dirt road back toward Kentucky. The road has degraded significantly, and, hitting a sharp rock, your front left tire blows out.

After the driver makes a save vs. car crash, a woman named Hildy comes crashing through the underbrush looking for help.

quote:

Under no circumstances should the Knights be allowed to kill Hildy. If anyone foolishly wishes to fire off a burst before seeing what they are firing at, Hildy gives off a frightened scream (she saw a large snake in the trees) just as they are about to fire. If the Knights insist upon firing anyway, they miss. Period.
She, and I quote, "throws herself in the arms of the nearest handsome male" and starts begging for help in German. When she calms down enough to ask for help in english, the party gets attacked by seven edinos.

This is pretty much a shakedown combat, nothing too hard. Except that one of the edinos will use the Animate Plant miracle to tie people up with nearby vines and impose some significant penalties.

Anyway, once that's dealt with Hildy will drop some exposition to reveal that her father has been kidnapped and been transformed to the Nile Empire, where he was forced to design a digging machine. Hildy's father has come to the Living Land to allow his captor to make a deal with the local edinos about "the key to unlock the power of the Still World!"

I should point out that, at this point, nobody has referred to the Still World. The "Still World" is Core Earth with the rotation stopped, so the players probably won't know this is related to the days getting longer.

Oh, and at one point during her six-paragraph exposition, Hildy will "give a pretty shudder". Just FYI.

Assuming the players want to continue with the adventure, Hildy will lead the characters to the digging device, which is your standard-issue pulp giant vehicle with a big drill on the end. It's guarded by 10 Nile shocktroops and the villainous Professor Shariff. Shariff, being a Nile weird scientist, is armed with a Sound-Gun and Force Field Generator.

Oh, and at the risk of quoting too much, this is the GMing advice for this fight and keeping things on track:

quote:

The main risk here is that the Storm Knights will be defeated. If so, Professor Shariff will attempt to capture them and imprison them in the digging machine, so that he can gloat over them at his leisure, and bring them back to Dr. Mobius as prizes. If this occurs, you will have to give them an opportunity to break free of their bonds and overwhelm their opponents, either during the trip, or when they reach the base (see the next act).

Another risk is that the heroes somehow manage to completely destroy the digging device — possibly by the injudicious use of magic or high explosives. Don't let them! This causes you no end of headaches — it destroys an important clue, kills Dr. Marlen, and removes the vehicle which is supposed to take them into the next act. Assume that, since most of it is still underground, the device gains a lot of protection from the rock and dirt. Any potentially lethal attacks do at most heavy damage to the digger, requiring several hours' time to repair.

Finally, you may be in trouble if the Knights decide not to attack at all, instead preferring to return to Kentucky to get help or do something else altogether. You have a number of choices: you can use Edeinos to herd them back to the encounter; once they are in Kentucky, you can feed them clues and hints suggesting that they go to the Nile Empire and find the hidden base; or you can somehow get them directly to Act Three in Indonesia, skipping Act Two altogether.

If the Knights simply refuse to have anything to do with Dr. Mobius or attempting to start up the Earth, you will have to run your campaign in the Still World setting, as described in the World Book.
When the PCs win, Hildy reunites with her father, who was held prisoner inside the digger, and are given Shariff's notes (either when they search the driller, or when Hildy's father just tells them) that's supposed to be about a secret base in the Nile Empire, but are really vague about it. It's entirely possible the PCs won't know where they're supposed to go next.

The notes also say that Shariff is here to trade with the edinos for the "key to the Still World". Shariff was here to trade a few crates of guns with them for an artifact the edinos have: a Faberge Egg. This is the "key" everyone is referring to. If they want, the PCs can stick around to try and get their hands on it. Either way, the characters are expected to head to the Nile base next.

That's Act One.

In Act Two, they're expected to go to the Nile Empire base, get past 40 shocktroopers, assorted workers, and two P-rated bosses, figure out the location of the vortex machine (the location of which is recorded in some flight plans), then take a convienient seaplane to that location. This whole act is basically two action scenes; the fight at the base that can go however the PCs want to take it, and then a dogfight on the way to the Indian Ocean.

Remember, there are no mook rules in Torg. All 40 of those shocktroopers are fullty stated and have the full shock/KO/wounds tracks. Despite what the book claims, this is not easy to keep track of. The book claims that this is a standard scene, so the Drama Deck is weighted in the PC's favor, but that doesn't change the fact that you need to keep track of the damage of about 50 NPCs, each of whom is treated like a full PC mechanically.

Anyway, while the PCs are in flight to the vortex machine, they get into a dogfight as two Nile fighter planes wanting to know why the plane took off a few hours early. The PCs can bluff their way out of this, but if they fail it's a fight scene. Even if they pass there's a fight scene, because the plane's mechanic was taking a nap in a secret compartment of the plane and will come out to gently caress things up.

That takes us to Act Three. When the PCs reach the right spot in the ocean, they'll see a giant vortex of energy spiking out of the sky into the ocean. The PCs need to dive into the ocean to stop the device (fortunately, there's deep-sea diving equipment in the plane), and to do that they need to get past Gibberfat, the demon the Gaunt Man bound to guard the machine.

Gibberfat is, and I'm not making this up, a three-form boss fight. First he appears as a great white shark when the PCs land the seaplane. When that form is "killed", he sinks out of view and comes back in the form of a giant electric eel once everyone's in the water.

Once the eel is defeated, Gibberfat will show up in his TRUE FORM: a red-skinned slightly overweight guy with webbed hands and feet.

Gibberfat will give the PCs a chance to surrender. If they got the egg back in Act One, they can give it to him as a bribe. He'll take it and let the PCs past (he wants it so he can bribe his own way out of this assignment). Otherwise it's a fight, and Gibberfat is no pushover.

quote:

Gibberfat in True Form:
DEX 14, STR 14, TOU 14, PER 14, MIN 12, CHA 12, SPI 12.
Skills: reality 14, dodge 16, maneuver 16, swimming 16, unarmed combat 16, alteration magic 16, divination magic 16, trick 16, apportation magic 16, conjuration magic 16, test 14, willpower 14, taunt 14, intimidation 14.
Possibilities: 10 minus those used in rounds one and two.
Natural Tools: magical toughness +2, rending claws 17.
Arcane Knowledge: death 3, life 3, inanimate forces 3, living forces 3, water 5, elemental 3, control 3.
Spells:
Charm Person: As spell in Rule Book.
Cold: This spell works exactly as the Lightning spell, except that the caster sends out waves of numbing cold for four rounds, effect value of 15. The skill is alteration inanimate force 19.
Ink: Similar to Mage Dark, but works underwater.
Strength: As spell in Rule Book.
Weakness: As spell in Rule Book.

Now, you'd think that from here it's just a matter of destroying the vortex machine, right?

Wrong. Now it's time for the real final battle.

At the bottom of the ocean the PCs will see that the vortex machine is in the wreckage of an old pirate ship.

quote:

When the heroes touch the ship, the vortex begins spinning faster and faster. Several skeletal figures emerge from below decks, walking drunkenly, carrying cutlasses. The dramatic conflict begins.
The PCs now have to fight a dozen undead pirates who can't be KO'd and don't take shock damage. Also, this is a dramatic scene, so the Drama Deck is stacked against the characters, too.

But I guess the designers didn't think that was hard enough, so...

quote:

The Gaunt Man has somehow imbued the machine with Possibility energy. Any physical, mental or spiritual attacks against it are absorbed as though "bought off" with Possibility points. Short of effects not in any way available to the heroes, the machine cannot be destroyed. It might also be noted that it would do no good to destroy the machine; it would not restore movement to the Earth. To do that, the machine has to be reversed.

There is a certain urgency to the task, as well. The machine continues to grow hotter from the moment the heroes touch the pirate ship, a security measure placed there by the Gaunt Man: if any Possibility-rated being touches the ship, the device releases some of its stored energy as heat, melting the ground around the machine, causing it to sink deep into the planet's core.

From the second the PCs touch the shipwreck, they have 20 rounds to reverse the machine's workings or you just fail. The Earth will not regain its rotation, the PCs will be broiled, and everything sucks forever.

Reversing the device uses Dramatic Skill Resolution, so the PCs need to make skill rolls while being outnumbered two-to-one. Which is hard, but not impossible. Except for one thing.

At no point are the PCs made aware of the fact that they have to reverse the machine or the timeframe they have to do it in. This information is never communicated in-game. They only way they'll know this is if the GM flat-out tells them, "okay, now you have 20 rounds to reverse the flow of the machine or the Earth is doomed."

And the GM better tell them that, because otherwise the players are going to waste a few rounds bouncing attacks off the device, especially if they have explosives. Then they need to realize it's not a matter of stopping the device, it's a matter of reversing it.

Anyway, if the PCs manage to reverse the machine, it destroys itself (a built-in failsafe) and the Earth's rotation will return to normal.

quote:

You are ready to begin a Torg "Infiniverse" campaign.


The last book in the box set is the World Book, which gives about ten pages tops to each of the invading cosms. Some of the cosms have special rules such as pulp powers or cybernetics, but I'm not going to get into them just yet.


So here we are. The end of the core set.

And goddamn there are a lot of rules there.

But I had to tell you all that so I could talk about the real reason you're all follwing this: the invading realities.

At the start of the Torg line, there were six realities invading Core Earth. Now, it's time for me to start talking about them. This is the real meat of the review, folks. This is where the best parts of the game are, and this is what made Torg's setting one of my all-time favorites.

SO! What cosm should we talk about first? Your initial options are:
  • The Living Land: dinosaurs, fanatical lizardpeople, and Dead Things
  • Orrosh: monsters, Victorians, and The Ecology of Fear
  • Aysle: Oddly named dragons, the driest fantasy setting ever, and Spell Creation
  • The Nile Empire: Jetpacks, pyramids, and Pulp Powers
  • Nippon Tech: Corporate shenanigans, treachery, and ninjas
  • The Cyberpapacy: Religion, cybernetics, and the Matrix

Tell me what you want to see...

NEXT TIME: The first stop on the multiversal tour!

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Yeah, I skipped a lot of the adventure because a) it's not that interesting, b) I wanted to get to the cosm books since that's the main attraction of this whole thing, c) I wasn't planning on doing it but the equipment chapter is dull, and d) I was tired and cranky when I wrote it.

I am not as cranky as I was before, so let's talk about the adventure in a little more detail and the Still World setting.

I'm planning on covering Core Earth once I get through the first six cosms, but the Core Earth assumes that the PCs stop the vortex engine from siphoning off Earth's rotational energy.

But what if they don't?

Well, that's a problem.

See, the whole adventure is based around the fact that the Gaunt Man has vanished and now the remaining High Lords see a chance to become the Torg themselves. Dr. Mobius, High Lord of the Nile Empire, learned about the vortex machine and figured out what it was for. Remember, becoming Torg doesn't just require a ton of Possibility energy, it also requires a great deal of physical energy. The Gaunt Man planned to use the vortex machine to provide that energy, and with him out of the picture Mobius wanted to seize that energy for himself. He knew about Gibberfat and how to get past him (Mobius has both magical and technological means of divination at his disposal), so he formulated a plan to seize all that energy.

Mobius's plan was as follows:
  • Capture a scientist. This scientist would have beautiful daughter because that's how things work in the Nile Empire.
  • Force the scientist to build a digging machine.
  • Send his operative Professor Sariff to the Living Land with a few crates of rifles.
  • Trade the guns to the edinos for a Faberge Egg the edinos found in New York.
  • Fly to the Indian Sea.
  • Give Gibberfat the Egg.
  • Seize control of the vortex machine.
  • Become Torg.

Of course, Nile Empire world laws being what they are, the captured scientist's daughter escapes and finds a group of heroes. From there, the expected plotline of the adventure flows out: the Storm Knights trounce the Nile stormtroopers, save the scientists, head to the Nile base, find out that Mobius wants something out in the middle of the ocean, fly out there, fight Gibberfat, and reverse the polarity of the vortex to return Earth to normal and prevent Mobius from becoming Torg.

However, if the PCs gently caress up, then things are pretty bad. The vortex machine sinks into the Earth out of Mobius' reach, but it's still slowing Earth's rotation, which leads us to the Still World.

The adventure starts two days into the "Still World", i.e. the point where the slowing of Earth is noticeable. Two days later (four days into the Still World), Earth's rotation stops. At first, the effects are that the American side of the planet is stuck in perpetual sunlight, while the Eurasian side is stuck in the shadow. Temperatures begin to rise in central North and South America hitting 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and the center of Russia hitting -80. Russia is barely livable, but North America can't handle the extreme temperatures. The "twilight nations" on the western edge of Europe and Africa are a little better off, but not by much.

After a month, things start to get much worse. The centers of the Americas are pretty much dead as the temperatures start to reach the 160 degree mark. America's heartlands are practically deserts, adding lack of food to the world's problems. The Amazon Rainforest is also destroyed, knocking the ecosystem even more out of whack. The icecaps start to melt, which has all sorts of bad implications not the least of which is that at this point, only coastal areas are livable.

And after three months...well...

quote:

Alaska basks in the 80s, only the southern tip of South America is livable. The Greenland icecap melts more rapidly. Britain, France, Spain, and West Africa are the only other livable areas on Core Earth.

Unless the High Lords provide magical, spiritual, or technological means to support life on Earth, the planet and its lifeforms will die. This does not make for fun roleplaying. We suggest that you stop the dramatic temperature changes at something livable(via a High Lord's intervention) or allow your Storm Knights to restart Earth's spin at some point during your campaign.

Now here's why this is dumb. I mean, apart from the obvious.

At no point after the core set is any reference made to the Still World. The assumption is that the PCs will succeed at the adventure, fight their way through close to 100 bad guys, realize they're expected to reverse the vortex on their own (unless the GM tells them), and stop the machine within 20 rounds while being pounded on by underwater zombie pirates.

That's the default assumption of the game line.

If the PCs didn't stop the vortex, then none of the other books will apply to your campaign. Realistically, most of the High Lords would probably sat "gently caress this", pull their forces back up the bridges (or just ditch them to die) and call it a wash.

And like Young Freud said, playing a campaign in a world that's going to end in three months isn't exactly fun. Hell, the book even says it wouldn't be fun and gives you ways to reverse the bad outcome.

But I have to ask...if they didn't want this outcome for the adventure, why did they write that outcome for the adventure? I guess you could argue it sets the global stakes early, but do they need to be set higher than "a six-way struggle for control of reality"? If you don't want the end of the adventure to be "the world ends", don't write that into the adventure! Especially if you stack the deck against the players like they do here.

But again, we see a problem that's going to crop up in a lot of Torg adventures: the assumption that the PCs will follow the plot in a certain way, will make certain decisions, and will win at the appropriate times.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



I think "awesome and tedious" may be the best description of Torg I've ever heard.

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Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



I'm not surprised the Nile Empire is leading the vote; it's always been the most popular cosm. That's not to say it's not going to have some rules wonkery in there, though.

mllaneza posted:

EM, for your next trick you should write up the Torg setting as a set of interlocked Fronts from AW/DW.
Interestingly, some of the cosm sourcebooks do give that High Lord's five-point plan. One of those points is always "become Torg".

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