1 tl;dr
2 The Other Basics
3 Gamemastery
4 Interactions, violent and otherwise
5 Metaversal metaphysics
6 Storm Knighting 101
7 It's magic, I ain't gotta explain shit.
8 Having faith. And focus.
9 Gearing up, template creation, and finishing the main rulebook.
10 Keep on rocking in the Still World.
11a The Cyberpapacy
11b CyberCatholicism For Dummies
11c A Cybertour of CyberFrance
11d Paris Liberté with Cheese
11e World Laws and/or Reality Storms
11f The GodNet 1.0 (functionality in next release)
11g Sk1llz and m1r4cl3z
11h Cyber_____
11h Cold chrome, hot lead, premade templates
11i The GodNet, v2.0: now with functionality!
11j The GodNet, v2.0: killer apps
11k The Cyberpapcy: End of File
12a Nippon Tech - Mission Statement
12b Economic realities
12c Exciting new business opportunities!
12d Welcome to the Kanawa Corporate family!
12e High-level Operational Procedures
12f Training retreats
12g Coffee is for closers.
12h Work Sites, Assets, Human Resources, and the Exit Interview
13a Welcome to the Nile Empire...now DIE!
13b Bullet Lists of the Nile Empire
13c You don't buy pulp powers, you just rent them
13d Gizmos and gadgets: Keep rollin' rollin' rollin' (what?).
13e Nile magic agic agic agic
13f Miracles, monsters, machines, and men of mystery
14a Orrorsh
14b Your new-caught, sullen peoples, Half-devil and half-child
14c The architects of fear
14c Victims
14d The Architecture of Fear
14e Seeking the Truth
14f A series of unfortunate events
14g Ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties
14h Tools of the trades, and the tradesmen who use them
15a Aysle - Darkness and Light
15b A world of the purplest prose
15c The Olde And the New
15d Laws of the Land
15e The science of magic
15f Grimoires and Prayers
15g Fantastic Beasts, and also monsters
15h Arms & Equipment Guide; Player's Options
16a The Living Land
16b Prehistories
16c Nature reclaims its own
16d State of the Union
16e Obfuscating mechanics
16f The myriad gifts of Lanala
16g Off the beaten path
17 A brief stopover in Core Earth and metaplot points in-between
18a Tharkold
18b A history of violence
18c To Live And Die In L.A.
18d Basic Training
18e Soldiers and civilians
18f Lock and load
18g Mass production...in the FUTURE!
18h The Grid, Templates, and the Future
19 Core Earth Pit Stop
20a The Land Below
20b As Above, So Below
20c Are we there yet?
20d Merretika
20e Savage Natives
20f Mechanics of the Lost Temple
21 The final metaplot update
22a Space Gods
22b The Lights In The Sky Are Friends
22c Sarila Is
22d We invaded you, please help us
22e The mind is the limit
22f Biology and related sciences
23a War’s End
23b The Final Countdown
23c Two Minutes To Midnight
23d The End Of The World As We Know It
23e The End

tl;dr

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

Back on April 15, 2013, I started something big. Very big. Possibly too big. But now, it's time to revisit and revise, to remember and reword, and to finish what I started over a year and a friggin' half ago. But to do that, we need to go back to where it all began...


The Storm Has A Name - Let's Read TORG



Part 1: tl;dr

TORG. Man...TORG.

Where the hell do I start with 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 not just expected but was the standard way of doing things. I've said many times in the past how it's the epitope 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. It’s the culmination of rules-as-physics (and metaphysics) Hell, a large part of the metaplot didn't even happen in-game, it happened in a novel trilogy that came out before the game itself did because, as you'll see, the game designers really wanted to be writers. It has Jeff Mills, the worst NPC ever.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The hardest thing about talking about TORG is that there's no easy "in". It's a huge, sprawling, heavily entangled mess. It's a mess I admittedly 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 modelled in the actual game mechanics, and in a few cases the metaphysics informed the game mechanics themselves.

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 an invasion of Earth by multiple alternate realities in an attempt to drain the world of "possibility energy", allowing the man who organized the invasion in the first place to ascend to multiversal godhood.

(Oh, and in case you're wondering, the game is called TORG because in early development it was called "That Other Roleplaying Game" and the acronym stuck.)

The core of TORG was a boxed set that came with three books (the core rules, the Worldbook that barely described all the different realities, and a starter adventure), a cool looking d20, and a custom deck of 160 cards that were needed to play the game.


The Torg die. I still have mine.

The TORG line ran for about 5 years, and ended up with just over 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. In addition, there was a monthly newsletter you could subscribe to that had updates of what was going on in the metaplot, adventure seeds, and so on.

And that raises another problem: I can't talk too much about the mechanical side of things without giving you folks at least a base understanding of the setting and metaplot. 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.


The cover of the boxed set and core rulebook. Pictured: Dr. Hachi Mara-Two and Father Christopher Bryce, two of the characters from the novels


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. The High Lord could then take that energy and use it to travel to other realities, raiding other worlds for their possibility energy.

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 never ended, and 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 spent centuries travelling 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 (of the "major geological catastrophe" variety) 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 had more possibility energy than any world he'd ever encountered. This one world alone could finally 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, the invader "pours in" like oil poured into water. Then 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; either the defending reality pushes the invader back to its own dimension, or the attacking reality overwrites the defending one. High Lords can use their Darkness Devices to sustain and absorb the surge from the defending cosm, preventing their reality from being pushed back. But because Earth had so much possibility energy, the defensive surge from Earth would be 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 experimented for years to come up with a plan: invade Earth with multiple realities at once. In his 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:



Clockwise from the left: 3327 (a.k.a Ryuchi Kanawa), Uthorion, Baruk Kaah, Cyberpope Jean Malraux I, The Gaunt Man, and Dr. Mobius

The invasion took years to plan, but one of the advantages of being bonded to a Darkness Device is effective immortality. The High Lords sent advance agents ahead through smaller bridges called "dimthreads" (that only exist for moments and would not cause major disturbances in Earth's reality). These agents were able to keep their home realities wrapped 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, horrors, and unwitting British armed forces. As Orrorshian reality slowly overwrote Earth's reality in Indonesia, technology started to break down as the rules of a "Victorian" reality took hold. 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 was being buffeted by what looked like a giant hurricane and communication with the were cut off. Before the world governments could investigate, however, 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 edinos down the bridges, 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: the worship of the Goddess Lanala. The Living Land now covered the east and west coasts of the United States and a large part of Canada.

Canadian and US forces were caught completely unprepared, and adding to the chaos the American president and vice-president were in New York when the invasion happened, and were at ground zero for the bridge's landing. There was no choice but to declare them dead.

The few survivors found it almost impossible to fight back, because of another important fact: each reality has different "rules" as to what is and isn't possible. In the reality of the Living Land, what we think of as "modern technology" simply does not work . Gunpowder will not fire, engines will not run, matches won't even light when struck. Not only that, but some concepts are not possible either. The Living Land is a primitive world where there is no farming, no industry, and very little social structure beyond the tribe. The Earth military in the Living Land found themselves unable to remember concepts like "the chain of command", or even "minutes". They were defeated the instant they tried to fight back.

Aysle was the next to invade, dropping several bridges onto England and Scotland, covering northern Europe almost entirely with the new reality. The United Kingdom was suddenly overrun by vikings, giants, dragons, and wizards as technology died and was replaced with magic.

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: one where the power of the Church was absolute and technology was forbidden. 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 northern 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 is dropped inside this triangle, the stelae would become empowered and create 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 cosm.

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 task force attached to the government’s psychic research project had discovered the location of one of Tharkold's stelae, thanks to the precognitive Katrina Tovarish. She led Captain Nicolai Ondarev to the location of the stelae just as the bridge began to drop. Destroying the stelae broke the circuit and allowed Earth's reality to fight back. Not only was the bridge destroyed and the invading force repelled, the resulting surge of Earth's energy travelled back up the connection to Tharkhold itself, wreaking havoc on that reality 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 after all. The High Lords hurried to readjust and bolster their holdings against the sudden reversal of fortunes. Four realities were not enough to stand against Earth's possibilities.

Then the Nile Empire invaded.

Dr. Mobius landed in Egypt, and the Nile Empire quickly spread over northern Africa, transforming it into a realm of two-fisted heroes, shadowy villains, ancient magic, and lost treasures. Dr. Mobius expanded recklessly into the deserts and quickly turned his attentions to conquering Israel and the Sudan.

Seeing that the High Lords were now capable of winning, 3327 finally dropped his 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 about three years before anyone even realized that Japan had been invaded.

Now six realities invaded Earth, leaving everything in a rough 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 are only capable of having 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, ready to present himself as their savior, he was confronted between realities by a survivor of the cyberpunk reality Kandara . As she fought him, she managed to use her technology to show Malraux her high-tech reality; one of common cybernetics and where computer networks were integrated into everyday life. Malraux, ever the fanatic, saw this as a vision from God Himself, and the vision was so powerful it 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 went on to declare 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 was replaced with “divine” cybernetics. He was now the Cyberpope, and his realm mixed futuristic technology with medieval mindsets. And thus was formed the Cyberpapacy .

These 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 herself with Earth, she is still bound to the Darkness Device, and it still whispers to her, tempting her with the power to "fix" everything.

It wasn't long before this group of 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, where he is caught in an endless cycle of creation and destruction. His body is eternally and painfully being ripped to shreds, only to be reformed so he can be destroyed again.

The invasion force has lost its head, and now the High Lords see opportunities for themselves to take the Gaunt Man's place.

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 and Europe have lost their abilities to be major financial and technological world powers, leaving Japan and Russia to pick up the slack, nobody knowing that the now-largest financial power is run by a Possibility Raider. Dr. Mobius continues to expand, threatening Iran and Saudi Arabia with bizarre creations of weird science. Berlin finds itself a major world player as the just-reunited Germany is the only thing standing between Russia and the Cyberpapacy. And the Kawana Corporation sells to all sides, motivated solely by profit, nobody on Earth realizing that they're actually just another invading force.

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 just a hair over 3,000 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 trilogy, where everything I just told you about happens.

And 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 Tolwyn of House Tankred. Or the Signal Fire. Or the logarithmic scale. Or the newsletter. Or Malcolm Kain. Or spell design. Or glass ninjas.

Yeah. 90's design.

Strap in, kids.

NEXT TIME: We actually crack open the rulebook!

The Other Basics

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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, eventually topping out at over 100 skills), 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 one skill designated as their 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.

(Oh, one thing I like about the game's presentation: stats and skills are always italicised so you know when they're being referred to, and stats are always capitalized.)

When a character is created, they automatically get the three adds in their tag skill, and then get 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 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 in a different way than most games; if you roll a natural 10 or 20, you get to roll again and add. If the reroll comes up 10 or 20, you can roll again and add until you don’t roll a 10 or 20. If you don’t have any adds in the skill you’re using, though, you only reroll and add on 10s.

So if I’m skilled in fire combat with a 13, and roll a 20, I get to roll again and add. If my second roll is a 10, then I roll and add again. My final roll is a 3, so my total die roll is 20+10+3 = 33. If I wasn’t skilled, I wouldn’t have gotten the reroll on the 20 and that would have been my final roll.

Now you'd think you'd just add that number to your attribute or 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 . And this is where the headaches begin.


The Bonus Chart

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

See, TORG math works on a logarithmic scale because that was a thing designers did in the 90's. 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 to get the bonus number, and that 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 and two adds in climb for a total skill rating of 10. I roll the die and get a 17, for a final roll of 27. Looking that up on the bonus chart gives me a bonus number of 9. Adding that to my skill gets me a final action total of 19. Simple!

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

Now let's say you roll a 6 (for a -5 to your skill) 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 Point , 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 . Ords can unconsciously 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 , or P-Rated for short. Every character starts with 10 Possibilities, and get more as the game goes on with no upper limit on how many you can have.

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 an action total of 7. Jake spends a possibility and rolls again, this time getting a 3. This is treated as a roll of 10, which is added to his first roll of 6 for a total of 16/+3. His final action total is 12 (his skill) + 3 (bonus from the roll) = 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. On top of that, Possibilities can also be used to counter damage, which I'll discuss in a bit.

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, despite the fact that we still haven’t gotten a skill list yet. 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 to get opponents to flee or surrender, taunt them to force them to act in a certain way, or trick them to not act at all.

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. Things just jump all over the place with no rhyme or reason.

(And as an aside, this is also 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 explanations 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 to begin with.)

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) and 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 consisted of 156 cards that looked like this:


A typical card from the Drama Deck

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 things like major end-of-act boss fights. The main difference is that the heroes ultimately have the upper hand on two thirds of the S lines, but the villains have it two thirds of the time 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 this round 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 turns.

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 Possibility 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 a free +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 that action is, you can put a card from your hand into your pool. During combat, cards can only be played from your card pool. 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 try and 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.

(Yes, this means there's two damage types that effectively do the same thing. 90's design.)

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 need to figure out the damage value. For melee attacks, you add the weapon's damage value to your Strength , whereas guns have fixed damage values. You then add the bonus number from your attack to your damage value and look it up on this table:



You'll notice that there are separate columns for ords and p-rated characters. Torg tries to be pretty "action movie"-y in overall tone, so faceless NPCs aren't anywhere near as hardy as p-rated folks. Think of it as an early version of Feng Shui's named/unnamed split.

It should also be pointed out that guns tend to have Damage Values in the high teens-low 20's. Hell, the lowest-damage gun has a base damage of 13, and an AK-47 is a 21.

Let's say I'm using a baseball bat (damage rating +3) with a Strength of 10 and no skill, and attacking someone who's Possibility-rated with a defense of 9. My roll is 15, which is +2. 10+2 beats the guy’s defense, so I hit. I now take the damage value of the bat 10+3=13), add the +2, which gives me a damage total of 15. I deal three Wounds, a K and an O, and 5 Shock. The KO means that on top of everything else, the guy's out cold on top of being almost dead.

(This is where the whole "glass ninja" thing comes from: when someone has a really high defense, you have to roll a really high number to hit them. However, melee damage isn't determined by how much you hit them by, it's determined by your final action total . So if I'm fighting someone with a dodge skill if 15, odds are I’m going to need a really high bonus number to hit, which means a large bonus to my damage. In other words, if I manage to hit Mr. Dodgy Pants, odds are I'm going to kill him.)

As stated previously, you can spend possibilities to reduce incoming damage. It works 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.

Unsurprisingly, combat in Torg is pretty deadly. You end up having to spend Possibilities most times you get hit otherwise you’re going to get wreck in a few hits. The idea is that it’s supposed to be like an action movie where people can take tons of damage before dropping, but instead of just making it so you need to take a lot of damage before it matters, they made everything high-damage and put the onus on the player to mitigate it.

Anyway, 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:
When you get one of these cards, you let the GM know and he's supposed to bring these up on his own; the published adventures actually tell you when these cards should take effect. 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, now we talk about 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 of the book. Chapter 1 is character creation, chapter 2 is everything I described above except the Drama Deck stuff, which is chapter 3.

That's only 26 pages. This shit is dense .

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 with the rest of the system 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 not only wrote it, I [i]re[i]wrote it. I did fix some stuff I messed up the first time, but I’m pretty sure I missed some other stuff.

Like I said, I like the card mechanics. I like the way initiative is handled 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 most. 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. That's when the rails will be coming off this train.


NEXT TIME : GMing this motherfucker.

Gamemastery

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


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 shit you need to keep track of as a TORG gamemaster.

See, unlike other RPGs, a Torg GM 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 own if they hit and how much damage they do, the GM does. The players technically don't have to worry about the worst of the crunch, that's what the GM is there for. Hell, even the skill list and individual rules for skills are in the GM's section, which the players "don't need to read".

And damn, 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, and a lot of the time you need more than one at once.

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, a.k.a. the target number. 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 5 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 main 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.


Charts, part 1

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. So let's look at the general results table. Ignore the last three columns for now, 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. These were the days before the idea of a "partial success" came about, so it's really just a fluff thing.

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?" It's not like you can save for half or anything. I mean, I'm sure the answer is "vermisilitude" or something, because this is the era of rules-as-physics. And again, modern generic games like Fate or GURPS or Savage Worlds manage to handle multi-genre stuff just fine without worrying about weird-ass scaling issues.

Anyway, the idea is that any real-world 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 Value Chart . 64 isn't a value on the chart for distance, so he moves up to the next highest value (100), and that would be the difficulty of the jump; in this case it'd have a difficulty of 10.


Charts, part 2

Except that the chart in in metric, and was designed and mainly distributed in a country that uses imperial measurement! 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!


Charts, part 3

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 target number from the Value Chart for a final difficulty of 7.

(And just for the record, that's not all that hard in terms of difficulty. 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, but again they're trying for an action movie feel. 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 for some realms) limits so you don't get results like someone rolling well enough to bench-press a tank. 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 (about 10 car-lengths) a round. But if someone has a Dex of 11, the highest Value they can generate is a 10, which is 100 meters (just shy of a football field) a round. That's a pretty significant speed boost there.

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. I'm sure you're surprised by this.


Charts, part 4

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 increased 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 targets' effective Toughness, meaning that not only is it harder to hit multiple targets at once, they'll take less damage if you do hit.

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 . I feel like the implication of having grudgingly accept the fact that you abstracted something is like the core of everything wrong with Torg's rule design, alongside the idea that the GM is supposed to roll to see if the NPC's evil plan or whatever actually succeeds, because it's always more satisfying when the plot fails due to a bad GM roll than when it happens through the players, you know, playing the game.

Now, I'm sure you're wondering how the GM is supposed to deal with cross-referencing all these numbers every five minutes across all these tables. Don't worry, the game thought of that.

quote:

The whole purpose of the chart is to give you something to guess with; pick a number you think is reasonable and go on with the game. Getting the numbers perfect is not the point. If you are off by a point or so, don't worry; being close counts in gamemastering.
Which of course begs the question: if we don't need to be "perfect" with the numbers, and being off a point or two doesn't matter, then why make the math so granular? Why worry about scaling or modifiers? Are we supposed to be taking things loose or working everything around the math?

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 fuck. There's no assumption of eyeballing values here! We are modeling a ficitonal reality here, people.

Serious. Fucking. Business.

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

I will leave you with the actual last paragraphs of the chapter, though, because they're pretty good for a laugh.

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!

Interactions, violent and otherwise

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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 of the GM's section, since they're all related.

We start with a full chapter on "Attributes and Skills", which is something you'd expect to be in the player's section but whatever. Really there's very little about attributes, though, apart from the fact that every skill is tied to a specific attribute, and if you try to use a skill without any adds you just use the base stat value (assuming it's something you can do unskilled).

Before we go any further, there are two things I'd like to point out:

Needless to say, Torg has a fairly granular skill list. There's a space vehicles skill, for instance, because that's a thing you'll be doing a lot. There are four separate skills for magic, and two for miracles (which is divine magic as opposed to wizard-style magic, and of course has completely different rules). Acrobatics , running , and long jump 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 possible type of attack and defense separately), but given how few skill adds you start out with, you have to be pretty focused to be effective.

The skill list also has that old design mindset of making everything a character might want to do as its own skill, regardless of how rarely the skill would have to be rolled, or how unlikely it'd be to have to know a degree of success with said skill. For example, there's an artist skill that lets you paint/sculpt/compose/etc, but the only thing the skill determines is the quality of the created work, which has no mechanical use. Nothing about how much it'd cost to make, how much you could sell it for, or why you'd want to spend your hard-to-come-by skill adds in it. It's a point sink. It's just a skill for the sake of having a skill, because back in the 90's (and sadly, up to the 3.X era) you couldn't just let people do hobby/background stuff because of balance or some shit.

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. Again, Torg gives no shits about your character concept, or how important to your whole character his custom car or ancestor's sword is. This is a theme that will come up again later, just so you know.

Anyway this chapter is a detailed run-down of how to use the skills that don't get chapters to themselves (like the combat or magic skills), but there are some... interesting quirks here.

There's a flight skill, which determines your ability to fly under your own power (flying a plane uses air vehicles ). Note that the only way you can fly is to 1) have a spell that lets you fly, 2) have a special power that allows you to fly, or 3) be of a non-human race with flight (which isn't possible in the core set). In other words, only two archetypes in the core set will get any use out of this skill, and even once things expand it's not going to get used that much.

There's rules to determine how long it took you to get somewhere with your running or climbing skill.

There's no pickpocket skill; instead we have prestidigitation , which is the ability to pick pockets.

And then there's the language skill.

Torg is, unsurprisingly, intended to be a globetrotting game. Which can cause a problem when you have people from different parts of the world on the same team, who probably wouldn't all be able to speak the same languages. There are a few ways that RPGs deal with this:

The language skill doesn't determine how many languages you know, or how well you know the ones you do. It determines your ability to understand a language or dialect you, and I quote, do not speak and have never heard before . It's only difficulty 12 to recognize a completely foreign language, and the quality of the success determines how much of the language you just happen to know. A "minimal" success (the best you can get unskilled) lets you communicate using pigdin "slowly and loudly" methods, whereas a "good" or better success gives you complete understanding of the language.

So let's say I'm Joe American, skilled in languages at 11 (slightly-above-average Intelligence and one add) and I find myself talking to a Chinese speaker for the first time in my life. I make a skill roll, and if I generate a bonus value of +1 or better (a roll of 13+) then that's a minimal success and I can roughly understand what he's saying and can get basic ideas across. If I get a good success (which means beating the difficulty by 3, which means a final total of 15, which will require a roll of 16+) then I magically know Chinese. That's a 25% chance to just happen to speak a completely foreign language the first time I encounter it. If it's a similar language base to mine (such as Spanish to French) then it's easier.

No, I have no idea why they did it that way.

The next chapter is "Using the Drama Deck". This is more GM advice on how to expand on the things the card will tell you (like what it means when the villains 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 expand the resolution of an important action to more than just the result of one single skill roll. This is for things like trying to beat a timer or reach someone before they accomplish 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 single difficulty for the 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 missile 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 with that card in play, 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 that already had a bunch of text back in the player's chapter.

Charm has the most mechanics, because it has the most conditions (charming someone "requires five minutes at the minimum", by the way). Ultimately, charm is used to move people's attitudes up the Interaction Results Table . You roll against the target's willpower (which is a skill, based off Mind ), 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.
Why in God's name you'd want to do a whole fucking social combat to get a discount on an item is beyond me. Oh, and of course you have to use the Value Chart to convert dollars to skill difficulty.

quote:

Example: The usual market price for a stereo is 250 dollars. This measure has a value of 12. If the offer was 101-250 dollars (value of 11-12), the merchant's attitude would be neutral. If the offer was 61-100 dollars, the merchant would be hostile, at 41-60 he would be enemy; the offer could not be less than 41. If the offer was 251+ dollars, the merchant would be friendly.
Basically you're trying to get the seller to a specific point on the reaction table before he gets you there. There's literally a page of rules about haggling. A page . Why?

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. 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 in combat, 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.

Just as a refresher, there's nine possible actions you can take during your turn, and you get one action per turn:

You'll notice that some of these actions look a little repetitious. That's because they're all basically the same skill; the only differences is what attribute they use, what skill you roll against, and which column of the Interaction Results table you use. Really, that's it. The only difference between taunt and trick in combat is that the first is based off Charisma and is resisted with the taunt skill, whereas the second is based off Mind and is resisted with test .

I feel like this is an attempt to solve the old "the guy with Str 18 and Cha 9 is less intimidating than the Str 9/Cha 18 guy" problem, but it's probably the dumbest way to go about it.

We also get a rundown of the various "effects" that can come up in combat, either through the Drama Deck or through skill use:

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), but ultimately they boil down to "take -X to attack to get +Y to something else".

There's also a little more about armor; specifically how armor increases Toughness , but only up to a certain point (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." That's some grogs.txt shit right there.

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 also some rules for movement (base movement is 10 meters/round) and explosives (they always hit if you're in the blast radius) before we close out with the Chase rules. Basically, when you're chasing someone, you need two totals.

First, each side rolls their appropriate skills (like drive land vehicles ). Whoever rolls higher chooses 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 number 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. Interestingly for a high-action game, there's more rules for haggling than there are for car chases.


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! Narrative physics! More useless numbers!

Metaversal metaphysics

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 5: Metaversal metaphysics

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

This post is going to cover the next two chapters ("The Possibility Wars and the High Lords" and "Everlaws and Axioms") because they're full of interconnected ideas. Get your psyduck emotes ready.

--

Every distinct reality is referred to as a cosm , and the Torg multiverse is referred to as the cosmverse . Under normal circumstances, cosms are all physically unconnected from each other with no way for people to move between them. 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. Picture a huge tower that drops out of a hole in space onto your world.

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 everything in the surrounding area as the two cosms battled, and the expenditure of possibility 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 are morally capable of spreading that destruction across realities. Darkness Devices allow their bonded master to create maelstrom bridges to other cosms, so they could suck those cosms dry of possibility energy. There are thousands of these possibility raiders , and they've destroyed countless worlds as they traveled across the multiverse.

Possibility raiders, also known as High Lords , have 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 primary mission is to plant artifacts called stelae .

Stelae have three very important functions. First off, when three stelae are set up in a triangle, 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.


How reality invasions work

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, each supporting the other. But when that person is in an alien reality, the possibility energy that would normally flow to his home cosm will instead be siphoned from him by the stelae and stored in the High Lord's Darkness Device for his own use later.


The circle of life, interrupted

(As an aside, one side-effect of this disruption of flow is that worlds conquered by High Lords invariably stagnate because the inhabitants can't feed possibilities to the cosm. Orrorsh, for example, has been run by the British Empire for about 300 years, and almost no social or technological advancement has taken place during this time. Terra (Dr. Mobius's homeworld), on the other hand, was never conquered by Mobius, so it's still advancing socially and technologically.)

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.
(It should also be pointed out that a year or two later, a rule was added that stated that High Lords could expand their realms into areas without the believers, but it cost them a ton of possibility energy. Presumably this was to validate the fact that the Nile Empire was expanding into uninhabited desert and the CyberPapacy was expanding into the ocean.)

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 Malraux was preparing France for invasion, he sent his 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 (which appeared as a road of divine light) over Avignon, enough people in central France were 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 thousands of 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 instantaneously 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, taking weeks or even months as the steale drain their possibilities. People from other realities can use their abilities without needing a bubble, but there can be consequences if you're not careful.

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 glossy-black laptop. Despite its appearance, a Darkness Device is immobile unless it choses to move. They're also damn near indestructible, 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. And yes, Darkness Devices have full stat blocks despite being effectively indestructible/literal plot devices.

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:

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), for the High Lord to be transformed in a reality storm (again, good luck because High Lords generally stay put in their pure zones), or for the Darkness Device itself to sever the connection if it looks like its current owner isn't cutting the mustard.

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.

The Gaunt Man has also gifted his fellow raiders with ravagons . Ravagons are the survivors of a burned-out reality conquered by the Gaunt Man ages ago. Ravagons are winged lizard-people with the unique ability to track beings through their possibility energy. They're very dangerous, but fortunately for the most part the designers seemed to forget they existed for most of the adventures in the game line.

(And yes, this is the order things are presented in the book. We go from Darkness Devices to gospog and ravagons with no real transition.)

For those High Lords who want more than to just destroy worlds or rule with an iron fist, 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 work and 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.

There were two more Everlaws added by the time Revised & Expanded Edition came out:

The Everlaw of Three states that in addition to the living and unliving parts of every cosm, there is a third part created from (or by) the cosmic force Aperios (who was mentioned at the start of my first Torg post). This part seeks to protect each cosm by manifesting as artifacts called eternity shards .

The Everlaw of Four is...uh...

quote:

The existence of the Everlaw of Four is a matter of some dispute; some see its effects as being a part of the Everlaw of Two while others consider it a companion to the Everlaw of Three. In effect the Everlaw of Four does fit somewhere between the second and third Everlaws. It’s placed fourth as a matter of convenience; the Everlaw of One stipulates that there is one outcome for every event, the Everlaw of Two states there are two sides of reality (living and unliving) and the Everlaw of Three adds a third part to reality, eternity shards.

The Everlaw of Four states that there is a second effect of the Everlaw of Two, and two twice is four. Also, its effect is seen as being complimentary but weaker than the Everlaw of Three so it has to come after it in the numbering scheme, which it couldn’t do if its effects are part of the Everlaw of Two.

Where the Everlaw of Three creates objects imbued with possibility energy that can be used to inspire and empower a reality, the Everlaw of Four creates living beings imbued with possibility energy that serve this same purpose. It does this by strengthening the connection that the living being has to the Everlaw of Two, which allows the being to amass and store larger amounts of possibility energy than normal. With this excess of possibility energy the being can change and affect the world much more dramatically than a normal living being. The Everlaw of Four is what’s responsible for the existence of possibility-rated beings.
So basically the Everlaws are there to fill in the metaphysical background that nobody cared about. For more fun, the Everlaw of Three is mentioned exactly once in the original core book, but was never defined until R&E came out.

Everlaws have no mechanical use, and are only there to validate the reality interaction mechanics and stuff. But...who cares? Why do they feel the need to set up all these complex rules to validate their fiction? There's nothing wrong with just saying "okay, here's how the various cosms interact" and leave it at that. It's like they're afraid people won't buy into their world unless they can back everything up with "facts" and weird-ass laws.

Anyway. 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:

Each axiom is rated from 0 (completely impossible) to 33 (transhuman 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 structure 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."

Unfortunately, even though every reality has defined limits of how they fit into the axiom structure, the way the realms are presented doesn't always jive up with the numbers.

As the prime example of this problem, let's look at the Living Land. The cosm is basically "Jurrasic Park with lizard people" and has a tech axiom of 7. Not only that, but in the Living Land anything that is even remotely technological (such as, say, a lever or a rock for hittin' people) is forbidden by their race's main religion. Nunchucks are a tech 9 item, so they stop working in the Living Land. Whatever that means. Because while the game explains clearly that items above a reality's Tech axiom can't work, they don't clearly explain what that actually means in the game world itself. Do the chain links rot? Do people forget how the nunchucks work? As presented, the answer is "both".

Never mind that the Living Land's tech axiom 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 2, maybe 3 tops to line up with all the fluff for the realm. Especially since metals in the Living Land decompse at an accelerated rate thanks to how reality works there.

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 subconsciously 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 Malraux created the Cyberpapacy; the tech axiom there was originally around 7 or so (smelting metals and oil lamps were the highest "tech" possible"), but Malraux 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 structure 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, whereas the poorer you are, the more things will cost. "The rich get richer" isn't just an economic theory, it's built into the fabric of that reality and has shaped the culture accordingly.

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 just one like everybody else.

Every reality has three or four world laws, although Core Earth didn't get any until about halfway through the game line because I guess the designers forgot or something. Kind of like how they forgot that technically all of Core Earth should be a pure zone and thus make life incredibly difficult for characters from other realities.

I'll get more into axioms and world laws once I start talking about the individual cosms, but for now you've got the basics.

Now, the whole game is based around the idea of what happens when two realities with different axioms clash, right? What happens is you get a reality storm . These occur mostly around the borders of realms, but it's possible for them to happen inside realms if someone tries something outside the axiom levels. They appear as powerful reality-warping thunderstorms with winds of up to 100 miles an hour, and represent the changing of axiom values; in fact they're the physical manifestation of transformation.

Oh, and if you're p-rated, then you can actually invoke a reality storm on someone in an attempt to forcibly alter their reality. That will come up more in the next chapter, but a very common way for PCs to defeat bad guys was for them to invoke storms, change the bad guy to a reality where none of his powers or gear work, then proceed to beat him down. Exciting!

It's important to point out that some parts of a reality are so infused with the concepts of that reality, they actually can't be transformed. These are called hardpoints , and are like oases in the sea of a realm. Core Earth has a number of hardpoints, such as the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower. These objects project a bubble of Core Earth's reality out a number of miles, allowing Core Earth's axioms and world laws to function without interference. As a result, some major Core Earth cities such as Nee York or Paris have not changed despite being in enemy territory. Hardpoints can be moved if they're small enough, but it's not a good idea to do so because this causes their power to drain.

And now the book crashes headlong into another new concept (have I mentioned the book isn't organized very well?). I mentioned contradictions before; they're what happen when you try to use an item or ability not supported by local axioms.

When you use something you're not supposed to, you have to make a contradiction check . If whatever you're doing requires a roll, then that's effectively the check; otherwise you have to make a separate roll just to see if a contradiction happens. Depending on the type of contradiction and result of the roll, you can disconnect from your home reality.

The difficulty of the roll depends on the type of contradiction. There are three types:

A zero-case contradiction is what happens when the axiom level of your tool is below that of the reality you're in and the character using it. In this case, there's no check because the contradiction is so minor. So if someone from Core Earth (tech 23) brings a shortsword (tech 8) from Asyle to the Nile Empire (tech 24), that won't cause a contradiction because the technology level of the sword is possible in the Empire and Core Earth, despite the fact that this particular sword came from another reality altogether.

A one-case contradiction happens when the axioms of the tool are above than either the user or the realm, but not both. So a knight from Aysle (tech 15) is in Core Earth and tries to fire an assault rifle (tech 21). The rifle is allowed in Core Earth's axioms but not Asyle's so that's a one-case. If this happens, a roll of 1 means he disconnects.

A four-case contradiction is when the item's axioms are above both the user and the local axioms. This is someone from the Living Land trying to use an assault rifle in Asyle. In this case, you disconnect on a roll of 1-4.

Note that it doesn't matter how irrelevant the roll or item is; you still run a chance of disconnecting. If you're from Asyle, are currently in Core Earth, and are wearing blue jeans, then you might actually disconnect on a find roll because technically you're creating a one-case contradiction. With your pants.

Now, one question I know not a single one of you is thinking is, "but what happens if I throw something like a grenade somewhere grenades shouldn't be?" But don't worry; instead of not caring or saying "it holds on to it's axioms for a few seconds", it creates a long-range contradiction . Doing so can actually cause you shock damage if you roll low enough, but at least it won't make you disconnect.

So what does "disconnecting" mean? Well, it means that you're temporarily between two realities but not part of either. The multiple sets of axioms aren't allowed under the Everlaw of One, so it tries to settle you into one reality or the other. When you're disconnected, you can't create contradictions, collect Possibilities, or do anything that violates local axioms.

In case you're wondering what this looks like in-game, keep on wondering. They never describe disconnection in a non-mechanical sense, so I don't know if you just look out of it, or if there's any kinds of special effects where you kind of flicker between appearances or what.

What you can do is try to reconnect by rolling your reality skill. Doing so requires you to still have the item that cause the disconnection in the first place if you're not in your home reality. Attempting to reconnect just needs you to make the skill roll, with the difficulty number depending on both your original cosm and the cosm that caused the contradiction; the further apart the realities are, the harder it is to reconnect. If you're from the Cyberpapacy and disconnect in Core Earth, the reconnection difficulty is only 9, but if he was in the Living Land then it's 21.

It's important to note that you don't have to try to reconnect right away, but until you do reconnect you're cut off from a lot of things (such as gaining Possibilities/XP) so it's not something you want to put off.

Disconnecting sucks, but if it happens around or near a reality storm, then you run the risk of transformation . When this happens, you physically and mentally transform to a new reality; you lose all your Possibilities, your personal axioms change, you get a new set of world laws, and all your abilities and gear change to match your new axioms. The rule for transformation is living to living, unliving to unliving , which means that living things can't turn into inorganic things and vice versa. Transforming to Cyberpapal reality won't cause you to spontaneously grow cyberware (despite this happening in the game fluff), and a guy with a cyberleg transforming to Asyle doesn't grow his leg back (it'll probably change into a pegleg). We'll talk more about this next chapter.

Obviously, contradictions can be a huge pain in the ass. Having all kinds of bad shit happen to you because you rolled a 1 crossing the street can slow a game down. To avoid this happening, you can spend a Possibility to create a reality bubble around yourself. For 15 minutes, the only axioms that matter are your own personal ones, and you only create contradictions if you're using something above your own axioms.

And smash cut the end of the chapter.

--

So. Confused yet?

I hate to keep repeating myself, but god damn this book is organized terribly. Part of the reason it's hard to wrap your head around the game concepts is because they're not laid out in a logical order. The game talks about High Lords and Darkness Devices and reality invasion before it talks about the basic shit like axioms, then tangents into monster stat blocks. They keep describing the exceptions before they get to the rules.

They also spend way too much time trying to validate setting concepts. They didn't need Everlaws at all,
all they needed to say was "the axioms of two realities can't mix, and you can only be under one set at a
time". That's it. Everything else flows from that. You don't need this big metaphysic backing for it
because it doesn't matter . If I'm going to play your game, odds are I've bought into your setting already. But they have this strange need to explain why this is the case despite it not mattering.

And throughout the discussion of contradictions and transformation they keep bringing up the Everlaws. Contradiction doesn't happen because you did something not supported by local reality, it's because the Everlaw of One is trying to do a thing but you can use the Everlaw of Two to stop it by blah blah blah.

I mean, the Everlaw of Three only exists to give an in-setting reason why eternity shards exist, despite nobody apparently caring in the howevermany years it was before they added it to the rules.

It's like if you wanted to play Pokemon, and the first hour of the game was Professor Oak explains how evolution and/or genetic engineering made all these strange creatures that replaced "normal" animals and how they've affected society throughout history. That's not what I'm here for. I'm not here for a lecture, I'm here to play a cyberpunk who goes to the Forgotten Realms to punch ancient-Egyptian-themed bad guys in the face.

I feel like one of the big problems with the game is that the designers were worried their concepts wouldn't stand up on their own, so they had to shore them up to the point where the supports overshadow the thing they're supporting. (The other is one-way design, but I'll talk about that more later.)

NEXT TIME: Storm Knighting 101!

Storm Knighting 101

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 6: Storm Knighting 101

Now we finally get to what the PCs are supposed to be doing in the game. You'd think that would have come first (or that it'd be in the players' section), but why be surprised at this point?

On the plus side, this is a short chapter so it's a nice little break in the ness.

When a invading cosm touches down and starts spreading its axioms through the new world, most people are transformed into the new reality. These are Ords; people who have only one Possibility point.

Some folks, however, experience what's called a "moment of crisis" where they unconciously try to hold on to their original axioms. This moment happens when the person in question has to make a strong moral choice for good or evil, and causes the Everlaw of Two to strengthen the link between the person and their reality. When this happens, the person in question gains more Possibility energy and immediate adds in the reality skill.

This is where PCs come from.

High Lords refer to possibility-rated people as stormers , due to how they're created in the wake of reality storms. However, major setting Mary Sue NPC Tolwyn of House Tankred didn't like the condescending tone of that name, and coined the phrase Storm Knight to refer to those p-rated people who fight against the High Lords.

Before the invasion, the High Lords knew that Earth was going to create more stormers than other worlds; the early estimate was that 1 in 100,000 would "transcend", and while a number of them could be convinced or manipulated into serving the invaders, more would probably fight back. But when the invasion happened, more stormers than even the invaders expected started appearing. What's more, due to Core Earth's high amount of Possibilities, more Knights are appearing the longer the war goes on.

To add insult to injuries, it turns out that Core Earth has a high affinity for other realities. As a result, Knights from the invading realities have managed to find their way to Core Earth to aid in the fight; even cosms where Knights have been effectively stamped out more and more heroes are appearing to fight back against the invaders.

But how do you do that, exactly?

Technically speaking, to take back territory from the Possibility Raiders you need to uproot stelae to destroy the barriers keeping Core Earth's reality out of the realm. But, of course, it's not that simple.

As stated previously, all Ords have only one point of Possibility energy, which is spent to survive the transformation to the new reality, and the Darkness Devices prevent these people from refreshing that energy. If you uproot a stelae, and allow Core Earth's reality to retake the bounded area, these people will be transformed back to Core Earth's reality. But without any possibility energy to power the transformation back, the Everlaw of One fuels the transformation with their life energy instead.

In other words, destroying a stelae boundary will kill every single Ord in that region. Not exactly what you'd call a "victory".

Now, if you could somehow give the Ords a possibility point back, then they could survive the second transformation. Which begs the question: how do you do that?

Technically a Darkness Device could do this quite easily, but as you can imagine the High Lords aren't in a real hurry to empower their six-or-seven-digits worth of believers/hostages.

Storm Knights can re-empower the people by giving them hope.

quote:

To reclaim the people the characters need to re-imbue them with a small amount of possibility energy before
destroying the stelae. High Lords can do this through a Darkness Device, which the Storm Knights do not have.

But they do have legends.

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.

And how do you do this? By being fucking awesome .

Remember a while back when I talked about the Glory drama card? That's the one you can only play if you roll a 60 or higher on a dramatically appropriate action. When you play this card, what you're doing is fixing that action in the minds of the people and focusing the magnitude of how awesome you are. Once you do this, you can spread the legend among the people. Yes, you actually have to tell people what you did, even if everone saw it.

Torg actually mechanically supports "let me tell you about my character".

Spreading the legend requires a character to be designated the "storyteller" for the legend. This person must then spend a Possibility (because god forbid you don't pay a Possibility for something) and make a persuasion roll against the person in the audience with the highest Mind score. Succeeding at this roll means that you've convinced that key person of how cool and important you are (and can retell this story elsewhere in the region); failure means you wasted the Glory card (and associated Awesome Thing You Did) and have to start over again from scratch.

Once you've done all that, a story seed will start to spread for every time you successfully told the story. This takes a while as the legend works its way from person to person. How long does it take? Well, that's kind of random. When you're finally pulling the stelae, one person rolls for every story seed in play in the region. This roll doesn't get rerolls with Possibilities or cards, but still rerolls on 10s and 20s. You then look at the Transformation Table and find the next highest row to the amount of time that passed from when you first told the story.


This table was in the last chapter, in case you need to know how long it takes for everyone in a zone to transform.

If any of the rolled dice beat the "Roll #" in the dominant area column of the table, then the story took and you can finish uprooting the stelae without committing mass murder. So if I told the story 4 times in a region, and it's been 9 months since the first time was told, I need a total of 14 on at least one of my four dice to be able to keep everyone from exploding.

Now, if you successfully plant three different story seeds in the same region, then you get to use the Roll # for the Pure column instead, because you've managed to neutralize all three boundary stelae.

So there you go. Tell people you're awesome enough times and you can save the world, right?

Wrong. It's a bit more complicated than that, for a couple of reasons.

First off, stelae are extensions of the Darkness Devices, and as a result the Device (and its High Lord) know when someone's fucking with them. Darkness Devices are capable of informing all bad guys in the immediate area what's going on, so once you start to uproot the thing you can damn well bet that you're going to get a lot of company real quick.

Second, you can't tell that something's a stelae just by looking at it. Every realm's stelae are different, and the High Lords like to keep them well guarded or hide them in plain sight. Dr. Mobius' stelae look like jackal-headed idols, so he puts jackal-headed idols on every street corner, building, and outpost. In Nippon Tech, stelae in the cities are functioning ATMs, and in the country they're telephone exchange boxes.

Third, the weaking the barriers between worlds creates reality storms as the axioms duke it out. This can cause even possibility-rated characters to transform. The storm attacks everyone in the area, and has an effective skill of 20. Being attacked by a reality storm can drain your possibilities, and once those are gone it starts draining your reality skill adds. Once you're out of adds, you immediately transform.

It's also possible to invoke a reality storm against another p-rated character; in this case both sides roll their reality skills against each other (with a +3 bonus if you're in your home cosm). Invoked storms actually seal the two characters off from the rest of the world, which means that nobody can interfere, aid, or otherwise help out the people in the invoked storm.

So you're in a reality storm. You've got two characters, or the storm and one character, rolling off. Each side rolls, and whoever has the higher number wins that round. You then look up how much they won by on the Storm Results Table to see what happens.


The table is, of course, part of another table

The number is how many Possibilities are drained by the loser. The winner doesn't get these points, they're just lost. The other results have other effects:

Now, I'm sure at least one of you is thinking, "wait: if I can just invoke a reality storm on any p-rated character, what's to stop me from trying to do that to a High Lord?" And the answer, surpisingly, is not much. It's entirely possible to invoke a storm against a High Lord (assuming you can get to him in the first place), except that High Lords have an insane amount of Possibility points stored in their Darkness Devices to mitigate losses. Now, that makes it sound like you couldn't win...BUT! If you get a "maelstrom" result, the High Lord will actually be cut off from their Darkness Device. If the High Lord loses, he'd have to re-bond himself with his Darkness Device...and that's assuming the Device will take him back after losing. Most of the Devices have a few "back up" candidates they keep an eye on in case their owners start to lose or just piss off the Device enough. No honor among thieves, after all.

The only piece of the puzzle we're still missing is how you're supposed to actually find a stelae in the first place. To do that, you need an eternity shard .

Eternity shards are items powered by the Everlaw of Three with a bit of power of Apeiros, the creator of the cosmverse. Eternity shards are legendary items of a cosm (such as Excalibur, or the Ark of the Covenant), and always had a red-and-blue marbled appearance. Each shard is unique, and p-rated characters can bond to them and tap them for power.

The first use of a shard is that it's a Possibility battery that can contain dozens, if not hundreds, of Possibilities. You can make a reality roll against the shard's "tapping difficulty", and succeeding will get you one to five Possibilities depending on how well you succeeded. The only thing is, they have to be used right away. On the plus side, these points get around the "one Possibility per roll" limitation.

The second use of a shard is accessing its group powers . Every shard has a few of these, and they're pretty damn powerful. Buying a group power simply requires everyone in the group to spend a certain number Possibilities between them. Once that's done (it doesn't need to be all at once), then anyone in the group can access the power by having everyone chip in to pay the Possibility cost.

For example, one common group power is stelae sense , which lets you detect and identify stelae. It has a group cost of 10, so everyone in the group has to pay 10 points total between everyone to unlock the power. Once they do that, then they can use the power by spending the Use Cost of 5 Possibilities between them.

Of course, despite paying a ton of XP for these powers, you still have to make rolls. One person has to be the "lead character", and everyone else are the "supporters". First, each supporter rolls reality against the power's Coordination Difficulty . The number of people who succeed is used as a bonus number of the lead character's roll. If nobody succeed, then the power can't be used.

Then the lead character rolls reality , adds the bonus from the supporting characters, and tries to beat the power's difficulty. You do all that, the power goes off.

And what kinds of powers are there?

Well, there's self-explanatory ones like Create Hardpoint or Stelae Sense . There's Gate , which lets you create a teleporter. Herald lets you send a message to someone in another cosm...or, at least, to a point within 10km of someone. It's not that accurate. The most powerful is probably Send , which allows you to send the soul of a dying Storm Knight through time and space into a new body that's being...uh, "vacated".

So here's what you have to do to take back territory from the High Lords:

Easy!


Don't worry, next chapter we're back to the really complex shit.

NEXT TIME: Getting your mojo working!

It's magic, I ain't gotta explain shit.

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 7: It's magic, I ain't gotta explain shit.

Okay. This is going to suck.

Magic. Oh lord, Torg 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 universal to pretty much 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; the axioms support them, it's just that people didn't know that. Or something.

And just for the record, magic and miracles are two separate things. They have separate mechanics, so are referred to as magic and miracles in the text.

Let's start with magic.

Oh good christ Torg magic.

Casting spells in Torg is a fucking mess.

To start with, spells come in four different categories:


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 separate 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 more than likely your tag skill, and you can buy the others with the skill adds you get during character creation.

The game then explains that a caster doesn't just make his spells up (spell creation rules will come later in the Aysle book), but that spells were created by other people ages ago 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 referred to as the "verbs" of the spell? Arcane knowledges are the nouns and modifiers. They determine what the spell will look like and what it can affect. When you make your character, you get 12 extra skill adds 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-explanatory, but here's some highlights:


I don't what to know which knowledge this is.

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 "apportation/metal 17", your apportation 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. Because this is Torg, and god fucking forbid we have character abilities that don't have ridiculous mechanics to validate them.

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 on it. When someone is under the influence of an ongoing spell, then is the target of a second spell, then the spells actually have to duke it out to see which one remains in effect. 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. Apart from saying they have to be learned, there's no example of, say, what three different definitions of fire means in-character.

Anyway, a character starts with zero spells. You have to use those bonus 12 points you got for arcane knowledges and spells 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 actually 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 out of 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 Toughness. 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. Because balance or something.

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 arcane knowledge used to cast the spell for 24 hours.
2. If suffer wounds from mental damage and go above "heavily wounded", you lose the spell's arcane knowledge and 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 and is listed in the spell's stat block.

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 a sort of Vancian pre-casting available at magic axiom 17 (Asyle's magic axiom is 18, and is the only cosm where this is possible). 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(so you kind of have to cast it twice), but you don't have to check again for backlash and the spell goes off even if you fail the second roll. 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-ass thing about how magic isn't technology and therefore doesn't follow the same rules and blah blah blah.

quote:

Magic is not physics, or chemistry, or biology. It is a distinct discipline with its own rules. Magic works by extending the will of the spellcaster, interweaving it with nature and coming up with a result. The primary rule of magic is a spell will have no positive effect without being willed by the caster; negative or non-effects are generally a result of insufficient control and will.

Thus magic and technology are at odds at a fundamental level. Technology works with natural laws, while magic intervenes in those laws. Each has its advantages and drawbacks.

Magic can accomplish spectacular feats beyond the possibility of even sophisticated technology, but is limited by the primary rule of magic. To those raised in a technological society, the very workings of magic make no sense. A magically propelled bullet could be deadly within the range of the spell, but once it reached the end of the range, it would fall straight to the ground; out of the range of the will that powered it, the bullet has no velocity, no momentum, no physically measurable force whatsoever. Within the range of the spell, such concepts as friction, angular momentum, and other crucial underpinnings of science have greatly reduced meanings. In a sense all magic is illusory, in that magical effects can create a reality at odds with the local laws of physics. When the magic wears off, physical laws resume.

However, magic is real in that when magic takes effect, the natural can be affected by eldritch forces. A rock split by magic will not miraculously reseal itself when the magic wears off. "Nature concedes the destruction of anything, the construction of nothing" is a magician's maxim.

Magic and natural law can work together. For example, magicians quickly made the messy discovery that wounds could be healed easily through gross use of alteration magic, but would reappear when the spell wore off. When more effort and finer control were put into the spell, a solution was found: if you repair human tissue at so fine a level as to facilitate natural healing processes, then when the spell wears off, the healing will have proceeded in accordance with natural laws.

This doesn't mean a goddamn thing. It's completely irrelevant to the game, because it's not something anyone cares about. There's no real conflict between magic and technology; if you wanted to enchant an assault rifle you can do it without any real problems apart from trying to wrap your head around the enchanting rules (which are, again, in the Asyle book).

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", tee hee), 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", which had over 150 new spells.


This is long as hell, so let's break up the wall of text.

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: 15
Difficulty: 11
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, every spell has an axiom level. Casting spells above your axiom can cause a contradiction.

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 spells have to have a cast time of 3 or less to be used in combat, and a cast time of 4 to be used on a friendly target if you want the effect to take place on the same round you cast it. 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 apportation 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 and the spell's is 7. That's a one-case contradiction, so I better not roll a 1 or I'll disconnect.

The difficulty of Bullet is 11. 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 apportation 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, let's assume I'm still up so the spell goes off.

I add the bonus generated 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 apportation 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.

--
So there we are. Spellcasting, Torg style. And once again, it's way more complex than it needs to be because the designers feel that they have to back all the game concepts up with more math or long-ass theories because they think we care. They leave no room for anything even resembling suspension

Bear in mind, this isn't the complete magic system . The rest of it is in the Aysle sourcebook, which has stuff like inherent magic, eight pages of fluff about a lecture on the theory of magic because you care, casting on the fly, and tweaking spells.

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

NEXT TIME: Miracles! They're as bad as magic, just in a different way!

Having faith. And focus.

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 8: Having faith. And focus.

Last time we hammered our way through the Torg magic system, which had a bunch of unnecessary mechanics because they can't let you do anything more complex than using a simple skill without a bunch of drawbacks in place. But this is the miracles section, right? I mean, can't we just take it on faith that divine magic just works?

Ha ha of course not. Because Torg, that's why.

Unsurprisingly, there's a completely different system for miracles that has very little relation to the magic system.

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 associated 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 even a part of your religion, then you can't perform miracles anymore. That seems...unfair, especially since a) we're looking at this from a 2015 standpoint, and b) most practitioners can't agree on 100% of their own religions 100% of the time.

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. Both skills are based off Spirit .

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 the miracle. Every character who wants to help with the miracle has to make a faith roll against the miracle's community rating . 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. Due to the book's poor organization, this important tidbit isn't mentioned until the next section. Instead of, you know, just saying that the people who help have to be of the same belief system as the caster.

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 as the difficulty. 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; doing 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 whether they want to or not, and must immediately buy an add in the faith skill for 2 Possibilities whether they want to or not.

Again: Torg gives no shits about your character concept.

Oh, hey, we finally get to the spiritual damage rules! 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.

Hope you know an NPC of your mythos who knows those rituals!

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 religious 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. Also, it would have been really nice to know that back when the book was telling us how to cast miracles in the first place .

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.


Because god forbid we have a chapter without charts

There are a few more small rules bits before we get to the actual miracles. First off, a character can only receive healing once every 24 hours because. 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. Again: why? Was that a concern?

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 deity 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 axiom 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. It also begs the question of how Core Earth PCs can learn them in the first place, because as far as anyone knew divine magic wasn't a Thing until the invasion happened three months ago; before that it seems like miracles were impossible. Maybe nobody just thought to try?

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 since a lot of it is from the magic chapter, 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 axioms match my character's axioms.

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.

So what kinds of things can you do with miracles? Uh...not a lot. There's the standard-issue bag of cleric tricks; healing, bless, create/purify food. There are 17 miracles in the core book, three of which are meant to communicate with different kinds of spirits. There are the two rituals mentioned under spiritual damage, but their whole purpose is to deal with the effects of spiritual damage.

--
Overall, miracles are just like all the other Torg power structures: overly complicated and full of unneeded drawbacks. And like the other player abilities, you can see what they were going for before it gets buried in theorycrafting and extra rolls.

Like, why do we need to worry about conversion? If anything, it can make people leery of performing helpful miracles on friends because it's pretty much brainwashing. It doesn't matter if I don't want my gun-toting merc to suddenly become a follower of Lanala and not want to use his guns any more, or if I convert to Cybercatholicism and suddenly feel the need to get a bunch of cybernetics installed even though they'll make me a perpetual contradicition.

In fact, it's a setup that actually punishes someone else when you roll too well on your miracle.

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

The answer is the same one it always is: verisimilitude.

NEXT TIME: Equipment you can use about half the time!

Gearing up, template creation, and finishing the main rulebook.

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 9: Gearing up, template creation, and finishing the main rulebook.

The last real chapter of the core book is the Equipment chapter, and there's really not much to talk about here so this is gonna be a short one.

One thing that should be pointed before we get going 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 can 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.

And as a reminder, armor has a "max value" that it can increase your effective Toughness to, generally in the low 20's. A few armors have special rules to add to the realism:

Next is general gear, and this is mostly statless items you'd just buy or have. 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 way back when: at tech 8 "medicine and astronomy are possible", iron is smeltable and metal armor is invented. If astronomy is possible as an organized science, wouldn't that imply that lenses have been invented?

And this is the biggest problem Torg runs into with the axioms: they spend all this time and effort laying down hard numbers about what's possible where, then run into problems when what they intend for realms/gear/powers doesn't line up with the axiom numbers. Really, after a certain point axioms really stopped being a part of the setting and just became numbers you had to worry about to avoid disconnecting.

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:
All aircraft are at least tech axiom 20:

quote:

20 — Radio voice transmission possible. Crude airplanes. Radioactivity understood. Discovery of relativity possible. Automobiles reliable enough to replace animal-drawn transport. Sonar invented. Brain surgery successful. Automatic pistol. Submachine gun. Movies, including "talking pictures."

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"?

I admit I do like the idea that someone could pick up a large piece of wood, try to swing it at someone else's head, and suddenly disconnect because clubs aren't supported by local axioms. Not that that could happen, because the lowest tech axiom in the game is the Living Land at 7.

It's all just another casualty of the need to model everything mechanically and keep the various realities separate. I can understand not wanting people hopping from realm to realm and wind up with magic and superpowers and cyberlimbs all at once. That's fine if that's the theme you're going for. 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 fucking hellfire missiles. Where are they expecting people to buy these things?

I mean, I understand that you need to include heavy artillery for when NPCs bust them out. But adding prices is just silly. Why would PCs want to buy a train? It's not like they can take it with them everywhere.

The last chapter of the book is a page on 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. Sort of.

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.
The game can't even let a super-rich character just have a mansion, or the soldier type just have an extra weapon. Because god fucking forbid the PCs just get stuff.

And...that's the end of the core book.

The core box set came with two other small books. One was the World Book, which gave a run-down on each of the cosms and some of the cosm's unique skills/powers/spells/etc. Unfortunately, each cosm gets maybe a half-dozen pages so there's barely enough information to sink your teeth into. And there's absolutely nothing about each realm's tone apart from the high-level stuff that comes with the realm's general genre.

I'm not going to cover the Worldbook on its own, since it's better to fold that info into the cosm book reviews where they belong.

The other 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.

What it does have, however, is a warning of what Torg's adventure and fluff writing would be like for the rest of the game line.

Get ready for some railroading and the purplest of proses!

NEXT TIME: Sample adventure time!

Keep on rocking in the Still World.

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 10: Keep on rocking in the Still World.

So the original Torg boxed set came with a sample adventure/campaign starter called "Before the Dawn".

Sample adventures can be useful. They're easy, convenient ways to communicate what the game should look like "in motion" and can provide a few sample encounters for GMs and players to cut their teeth on as they learn the system.

Not this one, though.

See, at the end of the first Torg novel, the Gaunt Man put a supernatural device called the "vortex machine" at the bottom of the ocean near Indonesia. The device was designed to slow the rotation of Earth; the stolen rotational energy (which is a thing, I guess?) in his Darkness Device as the physical energy needed to become Torg.

Unfortunately for him, he got stuck in the dimensional prison by the Heart of Coyote before he could use the stored energy. Unfortunately for everyone else, nobody else knew about the vortex machine in the first place. So the thing is still running, slowing Core Earth's rotation and causing all sorts of fun problems. At the start of the adventure (and the default start of a Torg campaign), it's been three months since the invasion, and people are starting to notice the slowing of Earth. It's generally accounted to the invading realities fucking everything up, but no one knows what to do about it.

Except that Dr. Mobius has learned about the vortex machine, and knows where it is. He's sending agents to sieze the vortex machine for himself.

The gist of the adventure is the PCs stumble into Mobius' scheme while delivering supplies to survivor colonies in the Living Land. They get involved because that's what the adventure says happens.

And that's the first of the three central problems with Torg adventures: they're very heavily railroded, with the whole thing assuming that the PCs will follow the plot as imagined by the author. It's assumed that the characters will get involved because they're the Good Guys and thus want to stop Mobius doing whatever he's doing. Which is a fair assumption, yes, but as things progress the adventure is written with the assumption that the PCs will notice clues, interpret them correctly, and follow the lead to the next act. But this is decades before the GUMSHOE system, so there's a lot of "roll to see if you find the clue. You didn't? Oh well." in there.

The second problem stems from the first: there's no assumption that the PCs might fail at some point. A lot of the published adventures gave zero thought to "so what happens if the PCs fail to complete this task?" There are some adventures that have major impact on the setting, but even at the big climax where the characters need to use the thing on the thing to stop the Bad Guys from doing it there's no sidebar of "here's what happens if the PCs don't win".

The third problem is that you can tell that the fiction writers really wanted to be novel writers, but weren't very good at it. All in-game fiction and boxed text is stilted, wordy, and has a lot of "you think/you feel"-isms.

As an example, here's the boxed text the GM is supposed to read to the players at the start of Act I of the 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-wielding 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.

(This is also an example of what winds up being the only real "adventure" the developers could come up with for the Living Land: p-rated people driving supplies to survivor colonies in the Living Land. A lot of humans can't leave due to not wanting to transform, not wanting to be eaten by dinosaurs, or not having anywhere else to go.)

Torg adventures are universally broken up into Acts, which are then broken up into Scenes. GMs are supposed to do this too, because they hand out Possibility rewards at the end of acts.

So anyway the driver has to make a save vs. car crash or people might take a little damage. Presumably the PCs will want to fix the jeep. Good luck with that.

quote:

The deuce-and-a-half is so-named because it weighs around 2.5 tons; it's not so easy to change a tire. The difficulty of changing a tire is 8 ( land vehicles skill); the base time value is 17, or around 40 minutes.Subtract one from the time value for each level of success above minimal the character receives (that is, on an average success it takes 25 minutes; good success, 15 minutes; etc.). The coordination difficulty of this task is 5.

Not that it matters, because before they can finish something starts running through the jungle towards the party. This is Hildy Marlen, daughter of a Nile Empire scientist and Damsel In Distress. Of course, people might be a little trigger-happy due to being in a jungle full of dinosaurs.

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.

Hildy runs out of the brush, latches onto the "nearest handsome male", and starts frantically asking for help in German.

See, as per the way reality in the Nile Empire works, any kidnapped scientist has a beautiful daughter, and should said scientist be kidnapped for nefarious purposes, his daughter will escape and find a hero to help her and probably fall in love with. This is actually accurate to the reality of the Empire, so I can forgive it somewhat. I really do have to ask if they needed to make her as helpless as they did, though.

Once people get Hildy to calm down, she manages to remember her English and exclaims she's being chased by lizards just as an Edeinos hunting party shows up.

And here we are at the shakedown fight! The hunting party is six warriors and an optant (Edeinos priest). They've been chasing Hildy longer than they needed to because they love the feeling of the hunt, and thanks to a handy miracle they can see through the Living Land's Deep Mist up to 40m, as opposed to 10m which is the normal draw distance in the Mist. That means that this is pretty much going to be an ambush since the PCs probably won't see the Edeinos first. They spread out around the jeep, the optant casts an Animate Plant miracle, then they attack.

What this means is that all the plants in the miracle's area of effect (20 meters) start attacking the PCs in an attempt to wrap around them. The plants are only animated for one round, but if they hit a PC then that character is at -5 to all Dexterity -based rolls for the rest of the fight or until they break free.

This is a pretty rough fight for the first of a campaign; seven NPCs attacking at once when some of the characters are at a severe defensive penalty means that people are going to have to start paying out Possibilities to not get wrecked.

Anyway assuming the PCs win, the adventure continues. Now people can question Hildy, who gives the following exposition dump:

quote:

"I am the daughter of Herr Doctor Heinrich Marlen, a famous engineer. We were in Cairo when the Pharoah came. My father was captured, and forced to work for the Pharoah, under the direction of Professor Shariff." (Here she gives a pretty shudder.) "Professor Shariff said he would do things — terrible things! — to me if my father did not work for him.

"In the next two months, my father built a fantastic digging device. He could never do this before; I think he changed somehow when the world did." (In fact he transformed into a weird scientist.)

"Three days ago, Professor Shariff took my father and myself onto the digging device and forced my father to drive it to this place. During the two-day trip, we overheard the Professor talking to the soldiers. He told them that they were to meet some Edeinos, to trade weapons — there are several hundred rifles on the device — for a key. He said that Pharoah would be able to use the key to unlock the power of the Still World!"

"When we arrived here this morning, the Professor met with some of the lizards — I do not know what they said. Then the lizards left; we have been waiting ever since. Two hours ago, my father and I were let out of the device to get some fresh air. My father hit our guard on the back of the head and told me to run and get help. As I left he was struggling with the guard.

"An hour later, I was discovered by the Edeinos. They chased me until I met you.

"My father is an old man; they are sure to kill him! Won't you please rescue him?"
This is the first time the PCs have even heard of the concept of the Still World, which is Earth with the brakes applied. The adventure states that "The Storm Knights may be more interested in the 'key' to the Earth-stopping device than in rescuing the doctor", but Hildy doesn't mention anything about an Earth-stopping device so I don't know why they'd think that. Still, it's not hard to assume that the PCs will be operating on the assumption that "High Lords = bad" so the party follows Hildy to the next scene.

This scene takes place around a good old-fashioned drilling vehicle, with giant drills at both ends and everything. Hildy leads the group to the machine, which is being guarded by ten Nile Empire stormtroopers armed with machine guns. Hildy knows that there are ten troopers plus Professor Shariff, and that the digger takes a long time to start when the engine's cold, but that's it.

There are four guards outside the digger; the rest are inside. If the PCs are spotted (or just run in guns blazing), the visible guards will sound the alarm by firing their rifles into the air. Next round, the rest of the troopers come pouring out of the digger, then Shariff the round after that.

So that's 11 NPCs versus the group, with no mook rules, and all the bad guys will fight to the death. Shariff is also armed with two weird science gizmos: a sonic pistol and a personal force field generator. On top of that, this is a "Dramatic" scene, which means the Drama Deck is stacked against the PCs.

Amazingly, there is something here to say what happens if the PCs lose.

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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 scene).
If the price of failure is going to the next scene anyway , then why's it a dramatic scene? Just to pound on the PCs?

The adventure also says that the PCs shouldn't be allowed to blow up the digging machine since they need it to get to the next act, so assume it's mostly underground and thus has tons of armor.

But wait, you ask; what if the PCs decide that something pretty big's going on here and try to head back to Kentucky for help? Don't worry, the writers got you covered.

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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.

Anyway, either the PCs win and save the Doctor (who's tied up in the back of the digger) or they lose and get taken prisoner. If they win, they can reunite Hildy with her father and search the digger. Searching the digger will turn up a few crates of assault rifles and Shariff's diary. The diary states that Shariff is here to trade the rifles to the Edeinos for an egg, then he has to bring the egg to a Nile base. But don't worry; if the PCs don't think to search the digger then it turns out that Dr. Marlen knows all this because he managed to sneak a look at Shariff's diary during the trip despite being held prisoner

And this leads to an actual character decision point ! Holy shit! The group can either stick around and get the egg from the Edeinos, or go straight to the Nile base.

(Oh, in case you're wondering about lizardmen using modern weapons despite the fact that their religion expressly forbids the use of dead things...Baruk Kaah has been subverting the worship of Lanala by creating a special "priesthood" who are allowed to use dead things, like rifles. He also likes to give the rifles to his gospog since the mindless constructs don't give a shit about religion. The Edeinos all believe that Kaah is speaking the will of Lanala and thus belive this is all kosher with her, but even so very few Edeinos know about his use of dead things because Kaah knows that this would be pushing it with his followers. This is one of many plans that eventually bite Kaah in the ass.)

If the PCs decide to stick around for the trade, then they have a few hours to prepare. They can set traps, sabotage the rifles, disguise themselves as stormtroopers, and so on. The Edeinos aren't expecting trouble, but even so there's a dozen of them and they brought a Bor Aka, "a dinosaur roughly the size of a bad-tempered football field." On the plus side, the Edeinos won't test the rifles (since they're dead things, and they don't know how to use rifles anyway) or realize that these aren't the people they're supposed to meet (all humans look alike to them). The PCs can get the egg without a hassle if they play it cool.

Oh, and it turns out it's not an animal egg, it's a Faberge Egg. This fact is not revealed until a sidebar near the end of the adventure, so thanks game writers!

Regardless of whether or not the PCs get the egg, the next scene assumes that the PCs take the digging machine to the Nile Empire base. Presumably they take Dr. Marlen and Hildy with them, since only Dr. Marlen knows how to drive this thing.

And that closes out Act One! For completing the act, the PCs each gets "around two" Possibility Points. Better play gets them three each, playing "below average" only gets them one each. Regardless, they're probably going to have spent more points than that so they're gonna be in the hole.

The first scene of Act Two takes place at a Nile Empire airbase that's in a Nile pure zone. Oh, the digger apparently has an autopilot that takes it back to its dock under the airbase, so the party doesn't need to bring Dr. Marlen along after all.

Anyway, the airbase is ten miles out in the desert and is pretty bog-standard; prefab metal buildings, some hangars, guard towers, kennels, and so on. There are also 40 fully-stated stormtroopers, a pilot, a bunch of faceless workers, and a p-rated colonel.

Presumably, the PCs are here to learn the location of the Earth-stopping device, but again: nobody tells them about any Earth-stopping device. Neither Dr. Marlen or Hildy know about it, Shariff's diary doesn't mention it, and the Edeinos don't know about it. All the PCs know is that Mobius wants the egg because it's the key to the Still World, which is another thing they don't know about.

The PCs can deal with the base however they want; given that they're probably outnumbered at least two-to-one, they'll probably want to be sneaky. This is a standard scene, not dramatic, so at least the PCs have the advantage there.

quote:

Try to run this encounter as though it were a scene from your favorite Macho American Bodybuilder vs. the Dimwitted Foreigners who Can't Shoot Worth a Damn film. The hero wades out into a storm of automatic fire, taking not a scratch, and, with a single burst of his M-16, knocks the enemy soldiers down like tenpins. Encourage the players to be flamboyant — let even outrageous plans succeed, if they are cinematically appropriate to the genre.
...except that Torg doesn't support enemies getting knocked down like tenpins. Everyone has full stats and wound tracks!

And that still doesn't solve the problem that the PCs don't know what (if anything) they're supposed to be looking for. It turns out they're supposed to be looking for flight plans to a location off the coast of Indonesia. The flight plan also includes a manifest of the cargo of one of the planes here; underwater gear and weapons. This is the hint that they need to take the provided plane to their destination, so I hope someone knows how to fly a plane!

Scene two assumes the PCs took the seaplane from the airbase and are en route to the vortex machine when they encounter some boxed text.

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You've got the flight plans; you've got a plane capable of getting there; and it's loaded with the equipment you need to complete your mission. Considering that you have had to go through 50-odd guards to get this, everything has gone quite smoothly, indeed. Why does that make you nervous?

In a moment you find out why, as two Nile Spitfires come screaming out of the clouds. Taking up positions to your rear, they call over the radio and demand to know who you are and what you are doing.

This is a dramatic scene, so again things are stacked against the PCs. They can try to talk their way out of the situation, but don't worry! It turns out that one of the base's mechanics has been taking a nap in the plane's secret compartment (since his boss can't find him there) and wakes up around this time. So now you get to have a dogfight while someone's trying to brain the pilot! Fun!

Again, assuming the group isn't shot out of the sky,

quote:

It is dark and very, very cold - outside of the range of Dr. Mobius's artificial sun, it is about 15 degrees colder than it should be. Below you, you see the lights of a few cities and towns bravely attempting to carry on in the face of the unending night, but you know that, if the Earth does not soon begin moving, they will all die in the cold darkness.

Hours pass. You cross the Indian ocean, flying south to avoid Indian airspace — a good thing to do, flying a Nile airplane. Up ahead you see lightning and dark black clouds. It is the border to Orrorsh, the dark realm. Beyond, in what used to be the Indonesian Sea, is your destination. You tighten your seatbelts and prepare to brave the storm.

That's the end of the act, so everyone gets a flat three Possibilities and we move on to Act Three. And this is where the bullshit kicks into high gear.

The first scene picks up with the plan approaching a giant vortex of energy spiraling out of the sky into the ocean, glowing in the darkness and begging the question of why nobody else has noticed this yet.

When the plane lands in the surprisingly calm water around the vortex, they're attacked by the demon Gibberfat. Gibberfat was bound to protect the vortex machine by the Gaunt Man, and is an old-fashioned three-form boss fight.

When the plane lands, Gibberfat attacks them in the form of a giant white shark before the PCs can even get into the water. Gibberfat is p-rated, his attack skills are all 14, and his bite is damage 21. Killing the shark doesn't actually kill Gibberfat; he just sinks into the ocean.

Now the group will probably start gearing up to get into the water. If they stole the plane from the airbase, then not only are there ten sets of 30's style deep-water suits, there are also ten "Sun blades" (basically neon swords), "octi-grenades" (grenades for uderwater use) and "torpedo pistols" (guess). If they didn't take the Nile Empire plane, then I guess they're out of luck because Gibberfat makes his second appearance once everyone's in the water.

This time, he appears as a giant electric eel with better stats and a stronger attack. This is still a rough fight, but winnable. The body of the eel will once again sink into the depths, where Gibberfat will take on his terrifying true form! That of...a cubby naked red guy with gills and webbed feet and hands.

quote:

The demon will swim up to the Knights and tell them in a sonorous voice: "Flee puny humans! Or I will send you to the coldest pit of hell, where you will writhe in agony for all eternity!" He will ruin the effect somewhat by sneezing violently at the end of his recital.
Now the PCs need to fight Gibberfat at his most powerful. He suddenly gets the ability to cast spells, and has Charm Person , Weakness , and a few other spells to make people's lives difficult.

Or the PCs can offer him the Faberge Egg. Gibberfat wants the egg because he can use it to buy off his demonic supervisor and get a better assignment, and is so grateful that he'll warn the PCs that the device is guarded by "some dead humans, I believe." He then teleports away, leaving the way free to the last scene.

And again, there's nothing to hint that the egg is for Gibberfat. It's not in any of the notes the PCs come across, the NPCs apparently don't know, so how the PCs are supposed to figure this out is beyond me. In fact, if the players do have the egg, odds are they're going to think they need it to unlock something, since it's referred to as a key.

Regardless, here we are at the last scene of the adventure. It's a dramatic scene, of course.

The base of the vortex is coming out of the wreck of an old pirate ship 100 meters below the surface. The instant the PCs touch the ship, the vortex starts spinning faster and skeletal figures start crawling out of the wreckage.

There are 12 pirate zombies guarding the vortex machine, and their only goal is to stop the PCs from reaching the vortex machine. As an added bonus, they do not take shock damage, can't be KO'd, and heal completely when a Villain Up result is drawn on the Drama Deck. Oh, and they can only be killed -killed if you dismember the body after "killing" them (which takes three full rounds) otherwise...I don't know, it doesn't say. I guess they just keep fighting. Oh, and because the PCs are in underwater gear they have a bunch of penalties to deal with that the pirates don't.

Believe it or not, the writers felt that wasn't hard enough so they added a timer! See, the vortex machine is belowdecks, which means you have to get past the pirate zombies to get to it. The machine is huge, and is actually sunk mostly into the ocean floor, but there's still a control panel available. The PCs can't break the device because the Gaunt Man has imbued the thing with Possibility energy so it can fully buy off any damage it takes.

He also put in a security measure that causes the machine to start heating up the instant the PCs touch the ship (and wake up the zombies). As soon as the PCs touch the ship, they have 20 rounds to deactivate the vortex machine via dramatic skill resolution or the whole kit and kaboodle will burn so hot it burrows itself deep into the earth where nobody can reach it to turn it off, it keeps stopping the world from turning, the PCs are par-broiled, and everything sucks forever (which is three months, tops).

As near as I can tell, there's no indication that there's a time limit apart from the GM telling them flat-out.

So here's how the last scene probably shakes out if the PCs aren't told what they have to do:
That's...really unlikely. And I have to admit, I'm surprised they didn't add in something about the vortex machine boiling people around itself while it heats up.

Even if the GM does just tell people what to do, they still have to try to complete the dramatic skill resolution while being attacked by zombies that probably outnumber them. Good luck with that!

But assuming everyone manages to get things together long enough to deactivate the device, it destroys itself in a burst of energy (which is another security measure to prevent other High Lords from using it against the Gaunt Man) but surprisingly no boxed text.

quote:

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

Saving the world gets you 12 Possibilities.

So there you go. You've saved the world against some pretty high odds! Way to go!

But what if you didn't? What if the PCs couldn't overcome the arrays of bad guys or cause the vortex machine to sink into the earth?

Well, that's a problem.

Two days after the adventure, the earth's rotation stops completely. The American half of the planet is now stuck facing the sun, and Eurasia is now trapped in shadow. Temperatures in the Americas start to rise, eventually hitting 140 degrees Fahrenheit while Russia drops to -80 degrees. Technically Europe is still livable, but the Americas are pretty much screwed as the heartlands are rendered useless.

After a month, things still get worse. The centers of the Americas are uninhabitable as temperatures top 160 degrees, and now the lack of food production is having its effect on the still-inhabited areas. The Amazon rainforest is also destroyed, but at this point it's not like it's going to break the environment any worse that it's already been ravaged.

And three months after the vortex machine sinks into the earth...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.


The end of the world as we know it

So there you go. You get to play The Road: The RPG for a few weeks before the world ends and you restart the whole thing without the whole earth-isn't-turning factor.

But here's the really dumb thing: at no point in the game line after the core set is any mention ever made of the Still World. The default assumption of the game like is that the PCs succeed at the adventure, fight their way past about 100 fully-stated bad guys and stop the vortex machine in 20 round while being pounded on by underwater zombie pirates.

And let's be honest here; the High Lords aren't going to help Earth. At best they're going to cut their losses and pull their forces back up the bridges once it's clear that Earth is doomed, and at worst they're going to leave their forces behind. The only one who'd want to help is Lady Ardinay of Asyle, but what could she do? She can't use her Darkness Device without dooming her own cosm, and you can't exactly move the entire population of Core Earth to Asyle.

If the PCs fail the adventure, then none of the rest of the game books will apply. But it's clear that the writers didn't want this outcome for the adventure. Which begs the question: why include that in the first place?

I mean, I get wanting to show that this is a game about high-stakes events and global-level threats. But you can't just do that out of the gate! The sample adventure should be a way to ease people into the game, to show off the core concepts. But the adventure barely spends any time in the Living Land before heading to the Nile Empire and then back to Core Earth. And do you really need higher stakes than a six-way battle for control of reality?

And you know what the funniest part is? This isn't the worst published adventure by a long shot.

NEXT TIME: Touring the cosmverse!

The Cyberpapacy

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 11a: The Cyberpapacy


An ordained priest plugs a cable into a coaxial port installed in his temple in order to gaze upon the face of God. His mind interfaces directly with the GodNet, giving him access to every computer system in France. Digital angels watch over him as he works to seek out the forces of the Antichrist.

Gang members with cybernetic arms drag the bodies of their victims to a street doctor, who plans to extract the organs from the corpses to sell on the black market. They use the money to buy new guns and cybernetic upgrades so they can fight alongside the French Underground...for the right price, of course.

A "heretic" is trapped in cyberspace by the Church, his soul downloaded into an eternal prison of a computer chip. He will "live" there forever, unaware of anything until his chip is plugged into a body's cybernetic hardware. At which point, he will be nothing but a tool to strip skills and experiences from...unless he's strong enough to take over his host and seek revenge.

A woman suspected of witchcraft is tortured by the Church Police, who bind her hands and feet and plunge her deep into frigid water. If she drowns, she is innocent. If she does not, she will be burned at the stake. If she manages to keep her mind together through the pain well enough to summon her bound demon, things will go quite differently.

This is life in modern France, under the watchful eyes of the CyberChurch and its pope, Jean Malraux I.

The Cyberpapacy

Out of all the realities invading Core Earth, the Cyberpapacy is unique because it's an example of how powerful the High Lords actually are, and the kind of stakes everyone's fighting for.

France has been almost entirely taken over by a fanatical, warped version of the Catholic Church. The Church bears many similarities to the Roman Catholic church of the 16th Century, with the strong doctrines and the slaying of heathens (defined as "anyone who does not accept the Church as the rightful rulers in the name of God"). The biggest difference, of course, is the high technology. Cybernetics and virtual reality are not only commonplace, but are in fact part of church doctrine: cybernetics are the body of Christ, and to jack into the virtual computer network is to gaze upon the face of God.

In fact, the CyberChurch is so dangerous because they have such tight control over France's new technology. The church controls most places that can legally install cybernetics, so if you're not part of the church (or "accepted" by the church) and you want to get something installed, you're probably going to have to go to an illegal street doc and hope that he knows what he's doing, scrubbed the operating table in the past month, or isn't just going to strip you for parts as soon as he puts you under. On top of that, the CyberChurch controls all computer-based media in the CyberPapacy. Not just the normal computer networks, but also phones, radios, and TV broadcasts. France is off the global grid now, and the Church controls everything its followers watch, hear, and believe.

At the head of the church itself is Pope Jean Malraux I , the High Lord. Utterly fanatical, deeply insane, and ridiculously paranoid, he is convinced that God Himself has given him the mandate to conquer, and his church has spread out from his home reality of Magna Verita , moving across cosm after cosm. What is interesting, however, is that until the invasion of Core Earth, Magna Verita barely had a medieval level of technology. In fact, any "technology" more advanced than a horse-drawn plow was banned by the church.

So how did Malraux go from banning the printing press to cybernetic implants practically overnight?

To answer that, we need to talk about his home cosm of Magna Verita, and the cosm of Kadandra.

The world of of Magna Verita closely resembles Core Earth, and for a long time had the same developmental history. There are differences, of course; for example, Manga Verita is actually the center of the universe with the sun, moon, and planets revolving around it . But what makes Magna Verita different is the history of the Roman Catholic Church.

As on Core Earth, when Pope Urban VI was elected head of the Catholic Church in 1378, many of the cardinals rebelled and elected Clement VII as Pope. As a result, there were two popes at the same time: Pope Urban VI ruled from Rome, and Pope Clement VII was based out of Avignon. This eventually lead to the Great Schism within the church, and both popes actually excommunicated each other.

Just over 20 years later, a Church Council was convened and declared both Urban and Clement heretics. They elected a third pope, Alexander V , as head of the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, neither Urban or Clement wanted to step down or even accept the power of the Council. Now there were three popes , each declaring themselves the true pope while decrying the other two.

For the most part, the history of the church up to this point roughly matched the church's development on Core Earth. Some of the names and dates were a little different, but it wasn't until 1415 that the main divergence point happened.

On Core Earth, the Council of Constance was convened and basically kicked all three popes out, placing Martin V as the true leader of the Catholic Church. On Magna Verita, however, Avignon pope Benedict XIV (who took power by poisoning his predecessor) refused to attend the Council. Instead, he funneled his not-inconsiderable wealth towards the king of France. The king used that money to buy mercenaries to bolster his military in their battles with England and King Henry V. The French forces won, and Henry V was killed in the conflict, driving England into civil war over the succession.

Benedict now had France's backing to be the one true pope, and through force of arms Benedict drove out the Council, declared himself leader of the church, sacked Rome, and gave control of England to France.

Over the next few centuries, the church expanded out of Europe bringing every country in the world under its aegis whether they wanted it or not. Northern Africa and western Russia fell quickly to Crusades, and it wasn't long before the Crusades reached the Americas.

quote:

Following much heated debate, Pope Countenance II decreed that the native peoples of the Americas did not possess souls and were therefore the same as animals. Millions of Indians were enslaved and worked to death by their masters. Belief in religious and racial superiority, and the blessing of the Pope, meant that little compassion was shown to the human “animals”.

History rolled on. Japan and China fell to the Popes. Africa was explored and the natives converted. India was quickly eaten up, and the Australias became outposts of the Papacy. By 1841, the Papacy ruled supreme.
In 1842, Pope Julian II rewrote the Bible to reflect "modern" thought. What it really did was espouse the superiority of the Church and confirm the earthly power of the clergy. It also brought technological advancement to a halt, because it was declared that anything that contradicted the Bible in any way was heretical and punishable by the forces of the Inquisition. Great thinkers and scientists such as Copernicus and Galileo were proven wrong, tortured, and killed as heretics.

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Magna Verita is very similar to Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries. Gunpowder is used in cannons and in primitive hand guns, but the main missile weapons are still the crossbow and bow. The Papal armies are composed of halberdiers and swordsmen, with large numbers of heavy cavalry in plate armor. Hand to hand fighting is the standard way of winning battles.

Only the telescope and the printing press have had an impact on Magna Verita. After an initial period of liberalism, during which thousands of heretical books were published, the Church began to destroy printing presses and published an Index of Banned Books in 1489. Anyone caught in possession of these forbidden books was accused of being in league with the Devil, and duly executed. Now, all presses are under the direct control of the Church. The evil of free thought has been expunged and God’s word holds sway.

This was the way of the world for about 400 years.

Just over 100 years ago, Jean Malraux was an Inquisitor working in the New World, hunting down, torturing, and killing those who thought they could escape the reach of the church. It was during his "divine work" that he witnessed a beam of divine light. It shone down upon him, revealing a glowing crucifix that spoke to him with the voice of God. It spoke about power and destiny, and about taking this world and others for his own.

And thus did the Darkness Device Ebenuscrux choose its High Lord.

Armed with the power of the Darkness Device, it wasn't hard for Malraux to rise up in the church's ranks and seize control of the whole organization, declaring himself pope and killing anyone who said otherwise. He renewed the wanning Crusades, destroying his enemies without mercy. Ebenuscrux fed Malraux's ego more and more, egging him towards the Device's own agenda: conquering and destroying other realities.

Malraux began creating Maelstrom Bridges in preparation of spreading the word of God to heathens in other realities.

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Over half a dozen cosms have been destroyed to feed the Darkness Device and the Pope’s craving for religious purity. The Inquisition has tortured millions. Smoking, barren worlds are all that remain. Fire and blood have cleansed them of sin.

The Vicar of Christ has eradicated heresy and heaped millions of souls before the gates of heaven and hell. Fueled with vast quantities of possibility energy, the Pope and his Cardinals have extended their lives manifold.
It wasn't long before Malraux came to the attention of the Gaunt Man. Malraux crossed paths with Uthorion, one of the Gaunt Man's lieutenants and (at the time) High Lord of Aysle. Malraux was tapped by the Gaunt Man to aid in the invasion of Core Earth, and Malraux was more than happy to bring the heathens under his heel. Choosing France as the central point of his invasion, Malraux sent operatives there via dimthreads to prepare the French people for the word of God. Thousands were converted to the "true faith" as stelae were planted and prepared.

When the Maelstrom Bridge finally dropped in Avignon in the form of a giant bridge of light, the axiom wash began to destroy or transform all technology in France. Phones, cars, televisions, and computers stopped working. The faithful gathered around the bridge, waiting for their pope to save them from this decadent world and the failure of their technology at the supposed hands of the Antichrist. Malraux's plan was to wait until the initial axiom wash finished, let people panic for a while, then descend upon a literal bridge of light from Magna Verita to Core Earth to "save" them. This act that would cement the people's belief that his was their savior.

What Malraux did not expect was that he would be attacked by Storm Knights between realities.

One of these Storm Knights was Dr. Hachi Mara-Two, from the cosm of Kadandra . Kadandra was a reality without a High Lord, a high-tech world that had first learned the truth of alternate realities when they managed to fight off an invasion by Tharkold. Learning that Tharkold's next target was Earth, Hachi volunteered to take a one-time, one-way artificial dimthread to Earth to warn them.

When she arrived, however, the invasion had already begun. Tharkold had been repelled from Russia, but she landed in North America shorty after the Living Land's arrival. Far too late to warn anyone, she allied with a group of Storm Knights and ended up confronting Malraux on his maelstrom bridge.

Hachi Mara-Two knew that she would never see her homeworld again. To help her deal with this, she brought a dataplate with her that contained a virtual simulation of Kadandra to help ease her loneliness. She also had an item called a Jaz pack ; jaz is a chemical that creates a temporary connection between a person's nervous system and some cybernetic systems, allowing people to access cybernetic technology without getting implants.

In an attempt to distract Malraux, Hachi attached her dataplate to the jaz pack and jammed the whole contraption into the pope's body. The jaz pack caused Marlaux to experience the contents of a dataplate: a full simulation of a world with cybernetics, high technology, and a world-spanning computer network people could plug their minds into directly.

And with the visions of another world thrust upon him in the space between worlds, he was transformed.

quote:

“Lo, I was bathed in the light. It flooded me and illuminated my soul. Though I was struck blind, I could see with eyes that looked upon a new earthly paradise. There the sins of the flesh were controlled by machines. No longer did mortals fear the betrayal of their own flesh. I looked and saw that it was good.

“I wandered with only my faith to comfort me. Then I knew what I must do. I knew that the Lord had chosen me a second time to do his work. The Cross floated before me. I merged with it and prepared myself for the task ahead.

“I walked upon the celestial bridge. The strength of the Lord poured through me. With each step I took the Lord imbued the bridge with new power. Its blinding white light was replaced by sparkling lines of circuity that erupted from my feet. I watched the cyber power streak toward the Earth and transform His chosen land of France.

“It was then I knew change was indeed upon us. My coming heralded a new age: The age of the Cyberpapacy. As His envoy upon Earth, I took up the burden of redemption and became the Cyberpope.”
Once he reached Earth, Malraux used the power of his Darkness Device to change his realm's tech axiom. Originally, the tech axiom was 15, albeit one where most of what was possible was forbidden by the church.

quote:

Metal plates used for printing; printing press possible. Crude firearms possible; ballistics invented. Steam power possible. Magnetism and electricity connected. Cut-glass process invented. Telescope, microscope possible. Basic mechanics of physics understood. Atomic nature of matter proposed and possibly accepted. Barometers invented; crude weather prediction begins. Probability theory invented.
Malraux adjusted it up to 26, making cybertechnology possible.

quote:

"Living computers," personal energy weapons, "slow" interstellar travel, self-aware robots, memory chips and cyberware possible, nanotech appendages for enhanced functions, teleportation possible, mind-boosting processes allow psi functions which mimic magic.
When the new axioms washed across the realm, devices that had been rendered useless in the initial axiom wash (referred to as The Collapse ) started working again. Not only that, new discoveries were made in rapid succession. Cybernetics were developed, and became commonplace. Though originally reserved solely for members of the Cyberchurch, illegal street doctors quickly set up in the corners of France to implant devices in anyone who could afford it, no question asked.

The internet and other communication systems came back up, but were transformed as well; with the new advances in cybernetics, people were able to connect their minds to directly to the net. What the first netrunners found was that the local network now existed as a group of connected "realms", and was populated by angels and demons fighting an eternal war. In the middle of it sat Ebenuscrux, having moved itself to this virtual reality. The power of the Darkness Device had transformed the internet into both a virtual reality simulation and a sort of "pocket reality" that exists alongside the Cyberpapacy.

This is the GodNet , and it is the second battlefield the war for France is fought on.

Cyberpope Jean Malraux, High Lord of the Cyberpapacy


Cyberpope Malraux is power-hungry, corrupt, fanatical, and thoroughly paranoid. He sees heretics and enemies everywhere, and truly believes that God Himself has given him the mandate to conquer. He likes to think that he is a "father figure" to the people of France (he's called "Père Jean" in the media), despite the fact that he is clearly and unapologetically oppressing them. After all, violence in the service of God is not a sin.

Malraux has also rewritten the Bible, "updating" it to take his new beliefs and the new technologies into account. One of the central tenets of the Cyberpapacy is that cybernetics are the "body of Christ". As a result, every actual member of the chuch has some form of cybernetics. The only real exceptions are those operatives who must operate outside the Cyberpapacy (because they risk disconnection), but if anything it makes them more fanatical because they feel the need to prove their devotion without the hardware there to do it for them.

Malraux's overall agenda actually hasn't changed much since his "ascension", and pretty much boils down to one single bullet point:

1. Bring the world under his control and convert everyone to CyberCatholosism. Every single thing he does, long-term or short-term, is to bring this world (and every other) under his "benevolent" control and save their souls. If that means becoming Torg, so be it. But for Malraux, this is a secondary consideration; he really doesn't care if he becomes the Torg or not. What matters is that the righteous shall be saved, and that the heretics will be "saved" via flame and sword and high-powered rifle. The tech surge has added many news tool to his arsenal, such as the "faith chip" that makes people loyal to the church whether they want to be or not. Until he can easily install these chips into the entire population, he makes do with propaganda broadcasts over the national TV networks, showing how he and he alone is capable of protecting the followers of the CyberChurch against the forces of the Antichrist.

It's also worth pointing out that Malraux is pretty much the only High Lord who's delusional about his place in the world. When you get right down to it, all the other High Lords are quite aware that they're the bad guys in this equation. After all, they're the ones who are invading other worlds, subjugating the population, draining the world of Possibility energy, and leaving it a dry husk. Malraux, on the other hand, thinks he's saving people in that old-school Inquisition way. This causes a certain amount of eye-rolling behind his back from the other High Lords, especially when Malraux calls them heathens to their faces.

Axioms
Technology: 26 (formerly 15) - As stated, the Cyberpapacy's new tech axiom makes things like cybernetic limbs, chipware implants, and netrunning possible. Originally, the tech axiom was 15 but most sciences that were possible at that level were forbidden by the church. Now, the church embraces the new technologies. Fortunately, the gap of the change between the old and new axioms was pretty short, so most of France's technological infrastructure was still in place when the tech surge happened and hadn't transformed yet.

It should be pointed out that the new tech axiom has also flowed back up the bridge to Manga Verita. But while the tech level has increased, almost nobody knows it. Malraux has sent agents back home to allow technology to progress at a pace of his choosing, but the actual inhabitants don't realize anything has changed (yet) and are still operating at a feudal level. Malraux's smart enough to realize that an increase in tech back home will destabilize his power base, so he's keeping a tight reign on what the folks back home will learn.

Social: 18 (formerly 13) - The social axiom is a little lower than Core Earth's, due to the fact that the only accepted form of government is the theocracy. Between the Darkness Device staunching development and the fact that they've been unopposed for centuries, the church does not adapt to change well. This is causing a few problems with the tech surge and related effects. In fact, until the recent raising of the social axiom ideas like "personal liberty" weren't possible, but between the Tech Surge and mixing with Core Earth's reality things have actually changed without Malraux's permission. This has allowed something new to occur: rebellion against the church itself. Ideally, the church would want to get the social axiom back to its old levels, but Malraux doesn't seem to want to tamper with the axioms again. Still, the lower social axiom has helped keep people under the thumb of the church and beholden to the theocracy.

The social level is also responsible for the plodding, bureaucratic nature of the church. Those in power are corrupt and complacent, and (again) don't respond well to change. As a result, the CyberChurch isn't really in a position to deal with rebellion because large-scale rebellion has never been possible before.

Spiritual: 14 - The spiritual axiom is higher than that of Core Earth, allowing miracles to be performed. It's not as high as you might expect, however, because in reality faith in God has been replaced by fear of the Church. Even with visible proof of divine power in the form of miracles, people see the Church as a thing to cling to in fear rather than as a way to be better people.

Interestingly, the Cyberpapacy's spiritual axiom is only the fifth highest out of all the realities in the core set; the only two that are lower are Core Earth's and Nippon Tech's.

Magic: 10 - Magic is possible in the Cyberpapacy, but it's not very advanced, especially when compared to realms like the Nile Empire or Aysle. Minor conjurations and the alteration of living things is just barely possible. Unsurprisingly, "witchcraft" is forbidden in the Cyberpapacy, but magic is actually becoming widespread thanks to the sudden availability of mass communication and the ability to transfer knowledge over the GodNet.

World Laws
The Cyberpapacy as four World Laws, none of which have really affected or been affected by the Tech Surge. Only three of them really matter in actual play, though.

The most important one is the The Law of the One True God . It's pretty straightforward: the catholic God is the only true god, He is the only source of divine power, and any other form of worship is heretical. In game terms, this means that people of any faith other than Cybercatholisism have a hard time performing miracles in the Cyberpapacy. The further away the caster is from "core" Cyberpapal doctrine, the harder it is for him to cast a miracle. For instance, a "normal" Catholic priest would have a +1 to his difficulty, a Jewish rabbi would have a +3, and a Buddhist monk would have a +6.

The Law of Heretical Magic is a bit of a double-edged sword. It makes magic more difficult to cast (since it's forbidden), but at the same time makes it more powerful (because it's "powered by evil"). The difficulty of casting any spell in the Cyberpapacy is +3, but a successful spell has its final outcome increased by 5. If you suffer backlash, however, then it's possible an actual demon will show up to try and possess you. Price of sin, I suppose.

The Law of Suspicion means that strangers are not trusted, and everyone is, if not guilty until proven innocent, is at least under close scrutiny. Heretics and agents of the Antichrist are everywhere, after all. Attempts to use the charm or persuasion skills are easier to resist, but at the same time trying to intimidate or taunt someone increases your effective skill by 3.

The Law of Ordeal is part of why the Church is in change, and works thus: "In the Cyberpapal view of the world, the choice of a priest to accuse a character morally obligates the character to prove her innocence through a trial by ordeal. Failure to take the trial is an admission of guilt, and not incidentally, heresy." There are four types of ordeals: having your arms thrust into boiling water, being submerged in frigid water, burning, and trial by combat. If you're actually guilty, then surviving these trials is more difficult, but if you succeed you're considered innocent. If you fail, you're either dead or will be killed as punishment. This is the one that really doesn't work, and feels like it was added solely because they needed a fourth World Law. When Storm Knights get caught during missions, they're not arrested, they're shot at.

Ultimately this all results in a world where suspicion of heresy is enough to get you burned at the stake, where street gangs get cyberarms and implanted guns and pretty much rule the city streets, where angels and demons clash in cyberspace, and where the Church is in every computer, every television, every phone. The Cyberchurch sees all, knows all, and forgives nothing.

But don't worry. As your body is punished, your soul will be saved. And doesn't that make all the pain worth it?

Think carefully before you answer. You are being watched. For your own good, of course.

NEXT TIME: The cyberstructure of the CyberChurch!

CyberCatholicism For Dummies

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 11b: CyberCatholicism For Dummies

I've said it before, and I'll probably say it again, but the worldbooks are very poorly organized. The Cyberpapacy book gets into the major power groups before it actually gets into the locations of the realm itself.

Although I suppose in this case, it makes sense. Unlike most of the other realms, the Cyberpapacy has a lot of different organizations operating in its name and inside its borders.

Of course, sitting at the top of the whole shebang is The Avignon Papacy . They've been in charge of Magna Verita for the last 600 years, and Malraux has been in charge of the Papacy for just over 100 years now. Below the Cyberpope is a more traditional papal power structure, but there's little doubt about who's calling the shots.

The papacy itself consists of a number of sub-organizations. First and foremost is the College of the Way , which is (technically) composed of 60 cardinals. In actuality, there's only 40 cardinals at the moment. Of the original 60 cardinals, half were outside of France when the Tech Surge hit. For the 30 cardinals that were at "Ground Zero" if the Surge, things were a little rough. Only 16 of them are left: two fled from the Cyberchurch and are currently in hiding, six were found to be heretics and were installed into spirit chips, two went back to Magna Verita to oversee the cosm, and four cardinals are permanently trapped in the GodNet.

The College's purpose is to manage the rest of the organization for Malraux so he can concentrate on higher concerns, or to act as remote "managers" for the outlying areas of the realm. All the remaining cardinals are completely loyal to Malraux thanks to a combination of belief in the power of God and some rather invasive surgeries.

Church finances are handled by the Apostolic Chamber . It's main purpose is to collect taxes and tithes from around the Papacy and manage these funds in the fight against the Antichrist and his followers. The Chamber has benefited greatly from the Tech Surge, having moved from rooms full of scribes with abacuses and hand calculations to rooms full of hackers manipulating national finances. One of their most important tasks is to keep an eye out for any Kanawa Corporation operations and deal with them before they get rolling.

The Chancery is responsible for the management and dissemination of Papal decrees. In the light of the tech surge, they're also responsible for keeping a record of citizens with legal cyberware. Of course, if you don't have legal cyberware but still want to join the church, you can bribe officials buy indulgences and get forgiveness. Joining up with the church's fight against heresy simply involves going to a Chancery-approved location and getting your information recorded by the Cyberchurch.

Of course, if you want to grease the karmic wheels a bit, you can also pay to have your sins absolved. The going rate for a minor crime is a thousand francs, but large-scale public heresy can cost you up to 25 million. Still, how can you put a price on not getting arrested and tortured by the Inquisition?

The Cyberchurch's legal and bureaucratic needs are handled by The Penitentiary . This branch handles punishments of "smaller" heresies, such as not paying your taxes or failing in your job for the church. They're also responsible for converting heathens, due to their ability to know how far you can go when dealing with said heathens before you commit heresy.

quote:

Père Jean is not one to deny the chance of salvation to his people. Everyone, including Jews, Muslims, the godless and heretics are given a chance to convert. This is a sign of the Cyberpope’s magnanimity. Admittedly they are treated as second-class citizens, who will be ultimately contained within ghettoes and watched carefully to ensure that they embrace the Cyberpope’s teachings completely. Even heretics who willingly confess their heresy and repent are accepted back into the fold.
The newest branch of the church is the Council of Monitors , who are responsible for monitoring activity in the GodNet. They monitor the system for suspicious or illegal activity, and send Church Police forces to arrest hackers.

At least, that's the idea. Unfortunately, Papal tradition gets in the way.

See, when suspicious activity is detected, what is supposed to happen is that a virtual messenger is sent to Babel Central (the church's "core" in the GodNet), giving word to the Council. But there's two problems with this.

First off, and we'll talk more about this later, the GodNet operates at normal human speeds. It's not like Shadowrun or Cyberpunk where a decker can spend two virtual hours hacking a system and in meatspace it took five minutes. If you spend two hours hacking a system in the GodNet, then that takes two hours in meatspace too. Yes, there are virtual vehicles and shortcuts, but it still takes time.

The second problem is that, according to six centuries of Papal tradition, the messenger has to stop at each data exchange along the way to Babel Central to inform the Abbot Monitor there of six things: where he's going, who he's delivering the message to, who the message is from, how long the message is, which exchange he just came from, and which exchange he's going to.

Then, once a week, the Monitor Abbot sends other messengers to each exchange he's connected to with a list of who arrived, where they were going, and so on. The Abbots compare this information with each other to make sure that all the original messenger's information was legit.

It's a very primitive method of error-checking, and wasn't too bad back home where everything was done on paper and on foot, you got maybe two or three messengers a month, and you didn't need an answer right away. Now, though, they're monitoring information across an entire self-contained internet.

As you can imagine, the hackers had a fucking field day with this. Any illegal activity wouldn't even be noticed by the main authorities for at least a week, making it pretty easy to run rings around the early Cyberpapal security systems.

Cardinal-Priest Roger-Bernard, head of the Council of Monitors, realized that this set-up didn't work any more, and got special permission from Malraux to create virtual "seals" that allow messengers to just move through exchanges without having to stop and announce themselves. This has made it possible for the Council of Monitors to actually deal with hackers in "real time", making the battle against these heretics a little more even.

Moving on, we come to the Cyber Council . Headed by Malraux himself, the Council is a collection of scientists and industrialists gathered to advise the CyberPope on the best way to exploit cybernetic technologies. The members of the Cyber Council are the richest people in the realm outside the actual church hierarchy, and are also under the closest scrutiny.

So remember how I talked a few paragraphs ago about how there are four Cardinals trapped in the GodNet? Well, three of these GodNet Cardinals were actually sucked in during the creation of the GodNet and have transformed into virtual archangels. The fourth Cardinal, Cardinal-Bishop August-Challier, entered voluntarily and acts as Marlaux's Legate in cyberspace. August-Challier is ambitious, and sees his existence in the GodNet as a way to expand his own personal power. He's smart enough to not make any overt moves against the CyberPope, especially since the other Cardinals are still fiercely loyal to Malraux.

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for: The Inquisition.

quote:

The Cyberpapacy is geared towards ensuring the subjugation of the flesh to the spiritual will of the Pope. In practice, the Pope is an absolute monarch with the power of life and death over all his subjects. Ultimately, the Inquisition is the body which ensures that society conforms to the Pope’s wishes. Anything else is classified as heresy.
The Inquisition has been running into problems since the invasion. Back in Magna Verita, the church was in complete control so there was no opposition to the Inquisition. This let them get away with literal murder in the name of God. Suspicion of heresy by the Inquisition was enough to condemn someone, and nobody would resist. Now, in this new world (where the axioms are different), people are capable of fighting back, and even other members of the church have begun questioning the Inquisition's methods.

Needless to say, the Inquisition is having none of this backtalk. As far as they're concerned, the church should be the ultimate basis of society and the people within are just there to serve the church. Breaking a law is a direct act against the church, and forfeits your rights as a member. Questioning the church or its methods is "intellectual arrogance" (because you're daring to question the CyberPope), something that is to be burned out at every opportunity. The church is the extension of God's will, and the Inquisition seeks those who would dare to go against God's will or lead others astray, and does so without rest or mercy. Nobody but the CyberPope himself is beyond the reach of the Inquisition.

Guidance for Inquisitors posted:

“Either the heretic confesses and is proved guilty, or he refuses and is equally guilty on the evidence of witnesses. If a heretic confesses the whole of what he has been accused, he is unquestionably guilty of the whole; but if he confesses only a part, he ought to still to be regarded as guilty of the whole, since what he has confessed proves him to be capable of guilt as to the other points of the accusation.

“Bodily torture has ever been found the most salutary and efficient means of leading to spiritual repentance. Therefore, the choice of the most befitting mode of torture is left to the Judge of the Inquisition, who determines according to the age, sex, and the constitution of the party....

“If, notwithstanding, all the means employed, the unfortunate wretch still denies his guilt, he is to be considered as a victim of the Devil: and, as such, deserves no compassion from the servants of God, nor the pity and indulgence of Holy Mother Church: he is a son of perdition. Let him perish among the damned.”
From the Inquisitor’s Black Book
The Inquisition has adjusted to the post-Tech Surge world with disturbing eagerness. Access to widespread monitoring devices and the GodNet has made weeding out heretics much easier, and this constant threat of punishment has made CyberFrance a very dark place. It's common knowledge that the Inquisition is watching and waiting for you to make a misstep, and this has created a culture of paranoia and fear throughout the realm.

So what exactly is considered "heresy"? Glad you asked!

quote:

“Every human being must do as the Cyberpope tells him. To act otherwise, is to fall into heresy.”
- Cyberpope Jean Malraux I

Heretical Acts:
† Showing disrespect to the Cyberpope and his decrees.
† Eating meat on Fridays.
† Omitting Easter duties.
† Not attending church.
† Reading false Bibles — only the Malraux Bible is true and holy.
† Speaking ill of a cleric.
† Saying it is a sin to persecute for sake of conscience.
† Committing sacrilege, blasphemy, sorcery, or witchcraft.
† Licentious behavior.
† Refusing to pay taxes.
† Sloth in the service of the church.
† Possession of a forbidden book.
† Possession of unsanctified cyberware.
† Accessing the GodNet without the clergy’s permission.
† Living in or visiting Paris, the modern day Sodom and Gomorrah.
† Harboring heretical thoughts.


The lower ranks of the church have been affected by the tech surge as well. Cyberpriests and cybernuns exist both inside and outside the GodNet; some were pulled in involuntarily (and permanently) by Ebenuscrux during the GodNet's creation, while others took up the vows later and operate mainly in the real world. No matter how they operate, cyberpriests and cybernuns are the "workforce" of the church, and have jobs in most of the branches of the Papacy. They tend to have large amounts of high-end cyberware and are more resistant to cyberpsychosis than most.

The Church Police are the church's military arm. Monty Python references aside, they're dangerous because for all intents and purposes they're crusaders with high-power firearms. Front-line combatants and hit squads who don't feel the need to even pretend to be secretive, the Church Police are the CyberChurch's strong, sweeping arm and its pitiless, stomping boot. When the CyberChurch wants to make a show of force, these are the people they send in. Related to (but separate from) the Church Police are the Hospitallers , the elite warriors who are used for more advanced or important operations, or to deal with any threat that needs something a little more effective than disposable troops.

So that covers the CyberChurch itself. There are still a few more important factions operating outside of (or against) the church.

For starters, there's a large number of priests who came over from Magna Verita who were horrified at the Tech Surge and the sudden changes in the church overall. Some of the old guard who came over with the initial invasion force refused to "upgrade", and (thanks to the new axioms) have actually managed to rebel and escape the Inquisition's grasp. These preachers travel around CyberFrance proclaiming that Malraux is, in fact, the Antipope and has been corrupted by the forces of darkness. Technically that is indeed what happened, but they're still pretty much bad guys because they're still loyal to the "old" fire-and-brimstone church.

Witchcraft (a.k.a. normal Torg magic) was practiced back on Manga Verita despite the Inquisition's best efforts, and some sorcerers have managed to get to Core Earth to escape the Inquisition and help stop Malraux. They're finding their work difficult, partially due to the way magic works thanks to the Law of Heretical Magic, and partially because the Inquisition now has all these friggin' video cameras everywhere. Still, it can be worth the risk, especially since you can get access to the magics of other realities to grow your own power. Witchcraft has it's own built-in risks, because thanks to the Law of Heretical Magic all spells cast in this realm or back in the cosm are tainted by demonic energies.

The French Armed Forces have pretty much collapsed. When the original axiom wash happened and all their technology stopped working in the face of the invaders, commanders scrambled to seize any supplies they could before they were transformed. Then the Surge happened, causing their equipment to start working again, but by that point the armed forces had splintered into lots of small individual forces. Some of these forces actually gained higher technology thanks to the Surge, and used their advanced weaponry to seize supplies from former allies. Some military units have joined forces with the CyberChurch since they're the current governing force, while others have set themselves up as warlords or brigands, taking advantage of the confusion in the outlying areas of the realm. Other units have set themselves up as the "Militia of Paris Liberté", defending the Paris hardpoint from the Cyberpapacy.

One group that's sort-of allied themselves with the Church is the Hands of God . The HOGs aren't so much an organization as a loose confederacy of neo-facists, survivalists, and right-wing nutjobs. Their main unifying traits are a hatred of foreigners, a return to "traditional values", and a desire to wipe out Jews, blacks, Muslims, liberals, intellectuals, hippies, and other such undesirables. Shortly after the Tech Surge, Malraux sent agents to these various groups to supply them with funding and advanced weaponry. He managed to get the various groups organized (so to speak), pointed them at Paris, and let them loose. HOG members tend to be pretty collateral with their damage, espousing their values and saying they're "trying to save France" as they mow down innocent bystanders and blow up civilian buildings with rocket launchers. They're mainly used by Malraux as a distraction from his own operatives that has the added benefit of wearing down his enemies' defenses. The only reason the HOGs aren't as much of a threat as they might be is because they engage in as much in-fighting as they do attacks against everyone else. In the grand scheme of things, they're cannon fodder. Dangerous cannon fodder, but cannon fodder nonetheless.

It should come as no surprise that the Roman Catholic Church is in a bad place right now. The elements of the Roman Catholic Church that were in France were, unsurprisingly, crushed by the invasion. At first, they declared that the invasion was a hoax, but the Collapse, Tech Surge, and appearance of the CyberPope forced that view to change. The Roman Catholic Church in France actually supported Malraux's inauguration as CyberPope due to the axiom wash, and many more people joined later as they saw actual miracles being performed by the CyberChurch.

Outside of France, things are a little different. The RCC is in direct opposition of the Cyberpapacy; they see the Cyberpapacy as a complete abomination, a society where the word of God is twisted, corrupted, and enforced at gunpoint. Those RCC priests who have braved heading into France to speak against Malraux have either transformed or vanished in one way or another, and the RCC is reluctantly coming around to the idea that they need to approach this in a more militant manner.

It should go without saying that Malraux wants Rome. He wants it so bad he can taste it. He knows that if he can gain control of the seat of Core Earth's Roman Catholic Church it would be a game-changing victory on a lot of levels. As it is, he's declared that Pope John Paul II is in fact Antichrist, setting his followers against him.

The RCC's position is further weakened by the fact that Italy (and therefore Rome) is nearly cut off from the rest of Europe by the Cyberpapal realm, leaving them badly isolated. Not only that, but Malraux is in constant battle with Dr. Mobius for control of the Mediterranean Sea, so Italy is constantly having to deal with the fallout of battles between futuristic naval ships and giant robo-squid-submarines.

Let's take a second to talk about the whole Antichrist thing for a bit. The concept of the Antichrist is a large part of Cyberpapal doctrine and propaganda, and is basically a focal point for Malraux to rail against, an enemy he can point to. Everything Malraux does, he does to stop the forces of the Antichrist from destroying France and the loyal followers of the church. Everything bad that happens, every freedom fighter terrorist attack, every agent of an opposing High Lord, every natural disaster, is the work of the Antichrist and it is only the love and faith of the Cyberpope that keeps it at bay from the loyal adherents of the church. For those occasions where just his word isn't enough to keep people in line, Malraux has a few demons on hand that he can let loose on the population for the sole purpose of stopping them himself.

And last, but not least, is The Resistance .

quote:

With the overthrow of the legitimate government of France, the Cyberpope looked set to impose his will without opposition. But many refused to meekly accept the fate that lay in store. Liberals, socialists, communists, trade unionists, nationalists, dissident Roman Catholics and members of heretical religions, have banded together to oppose the Cyberpope. They have established a Resistance Movement that seeks to halt and turn back the spread of the Cyberpapacy.
The Resistance is not organized in a traditional sense, instead being composed of hundreds of independent cells. Each cell works in secret from the others in order to minimize threats if a cell is compromised or captured. Communication is handled through physical dead drops, messengers, or the "wilder" sections of the GodNet. The actual headquarters of the Resistance is located in Paris, since it's the biggest Core Earth hardpoint in France. Outside of Paris, though, each cell is pretty much on its own. Malraux's smart enough to set up false Resistance cells throughout France, and has managed to infiltrate a few more through skilled agents, by capturing the loved ones of Resistance members, and flat-out bribery.

Still, the Resistance has managed to hold its own against Cyberpapal forces because, as stated previously, the church still isn't used to the idea of people rebelling against it yet. It wasn't until the Tech Surge and the mixing of Core Earth's, Kandara's, and Magna Verita's axioms that it was possible for anyone to openly rebel against the Avignon Papacy in the first place.

The church may have high technology, heavy weapons, thousands of loyal troops, and control over the nation's communication networks, but for the most part they still think in their old, established ways. Look at the example above about the messengers, for instance. The habits of 600 years of doctrine aren't easy to break (especially when a Darkness Device is in play preventing societal evolution), and it took a lot of time for someone to realize "hey, maybe we don't need to have a messenger stop at every single exchange , do an infodump, then not check his credentials until the end of the week", whereas someone native to Core Earth would realize what a bad idea that was and come up with a workaround in a matter of minutes.

The Cyberpapacy has numbers and high technology at its disposal, but at its core it's still a large organization that literally hasn't had to deal with change or serious rebellion for centuries. Not only are they being opposed by people for what is (from their point of view) the first time ever, the rebels and heretics are people who can embrace change, have a better understanding of technology (having grown up with most of it), and did this once before against a world-threatening fascist regime. They were pretty damn good at it, too.

Viva La Résistance, bitches.


NEXT TIME: A tour of CyberFrance

A Cybertour of CyberFrance

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 11c: A Cybertour of CyberFrance

France has had a rough time of it lately. The invasion of the Cyberpapacy brought not one but two distinct axiom washes, both of which had very heavy effects on the country. First there was the Collapse, where all the technology stopped working, then not long after was the Tech Surge, where Core Earth's technology not only started working again, but advanced by leaps and bounds.

Before we get too deep into that, though, let's take a look at the realm map.


The Cyberpapacy, about three weeks after the initial invasion.

The Cyberpapacy is the smallest of all the realms, barely extending outside the borders of France (although between the core set and the release of the sourcebook they actually manage to extend a zone into Spain). It's also in a very bad position: the map doesn't show it, but the Cyberpapacy is boxed in both to the north (by Aysle) and south (by the Nile Empire).

Aysle's borders go right up to the English Channel, meaning that at some points there's literally only a few miles between the Ayslish and Cyberpapal borders. The proximity of the two realities (three, if you count Core Earth) means that the English Channel is one big perpetual reality storm with the added bonus of sea monsters. The proximity between the two realms was actually done on purpose, because Malraux had allied himself with Uthirion, Aysle's former High Lord. The two became allies due to "a common interest in pain" (Malraux because it purifies the soul, Uthirion because he was a sadistic fuck), but the recent ousting of Uthirion has put a bit of a crimp in the alliance.

The Nile Empire is a little further away, being on the far side of the Mediterranean Sea, but that doesn't mean Mobius isn't a problem. There is constant warfare between Malraux and Mobius over control of the Mediterranean, and while the Cyberpapacy has the better technology, Malraux can't keep up with the insane creations of Dr. Mobius. Especially since Mobius actually has a better grip on technology than the Cyberpapacy does.

So that leaves the east and west for expansion. Expanding to the west is possible, but ultimately a dead end once you reach Portugal. And standing in the way to the east is Germany, and that's become a problem.

Remember, Torg originally takes place in 1990. At this point, Germany had literally just reunified , and now all of a sudden they've found themselves as the only thing stopping the Cyberpapacy from expanding into eastern Europe and Russia. But we'll get more into that when I'm done with the "core" realms and talk about Core Earth in general.

So let's get back to France, and talk abou the Collapse and the Tech Surge.

Malraux's maelstrom bridge did not drop down upon Core Earth's Avignon, but instead dug up into the dungeons and basements of the city. When the bridge "dropped", all Core Earth technology just...stopped working. Electricity ceased to flow, engines failed, and essential services collapsed. Millions were killed as planes died in mid-flight, hospitals went dark, and the population began to riot.

This was, of course, all according to Malraux's plan.

As part of the initial prep work for the invasion, Malraux sent his own agents to Earth via dimthread to start converting people to Magna Verita's version of Christianity so he'd have enough believers to power the stelae. In the outlaying areas where Malraux had converted the population, things weren't as bad. In the major metropolitan areas, it was a different story. Lack of technology meant lack of communications, so hysteria spread through France rapidly as theories ranging from "World War Three" to "The Antichrist" were bandied about.

And into this chaos came the Church, ready to help the needy and to ease the suffering.

Malraux's Church was ready to start seizing control right away, and had organized many right-wing groups to act as muscle (c.f. the Hands of God). Roman Catholic priests who were stuck in the realm were a high-priority target for the Church, in order to cement Malraux's "God" as the One True God.

Just over a month after the initial invasion, the Church's forces converged on Paris. Paris is a Core Earth hardpoint, and as a result it was vital for Malraux to take it down. His forces burst through the city's defensive forces, and attacked the National Assembly without mercy.

quote:

Seizing the outer chambers, they set fire to the building and mercilessly turned their guns on those fleeing from the inferno. A Papal Legate proclaimed that the Church was now in control. The savior was coming in the form of the Pope. France would be safe from the Antichrist now that the godless socialists had been destroyed.
At this point, Malraux still hadn't come across the bridge to his new realm. He had one last "step" in his invasion plan. In order to cement his position as savior to the people of France, he released two demons from Magna Verita into the country. He would allow them to ravage the countryside, establishing themselves as a major threat, and then appear to publicly defeat them (thanks to the power of his Darkness Device) to show how only he could defend his people from the forces of the Antichrist.

As he waited in what the Core Earthers called the "Dreamtime" for the correct moment to arrive on his bridge of light, he was waylaid by Storm Knights.

This is the attack by Dr. Hachi Mara-Two I talked about back here ; the sudden vision of the high-tech reality taking place in a spiritual realm had a severe effect on Malraux. Seeing this as a "vision from God", Malraux's personal axioms were altered to a mix of Magna Verita's and Kandara's.

When Malraux entered the new realm, he carried these new axioms with him. Powered by the Darkness Device, a second axiom wash occurred across the realm. Technology that had ceased functioning came back to life, devices that had been transformed completely by the initial invasion changed back, and Possibility-rated people found themselves fluctuating between the two axiom sets.

It took surprisingly little time for the changes to settle, but once they did a new reality was formed; a mix of medieval mindsets and high technology ruled now; the Church was no more, and the Cyberpapacy took its place.

The Church has adapted surprisingly well to the new situation. Not perfectly, as established previously, but the axiom wash and Malraux's tight grip on the church power structures have kept it in control of France throughout the changes. The main linchpin of Malraux's control is, of course, the GodNet.

quote:

Information contained within the GodNet was at first fragmentary and confused. Thanks to the work of the cyberpriests, data has been collated and systemized within the vast data bases of the GodNet. The Cyberpope now has instant access to information detailing the extent and structure of his new realm. Confident in its workings, the Cyberpope has decreed that all loyal Catholics will be connected to the GodNet and their activities monitored by it. Information is currently being compiled on the activities and locations of all heretics and opposition groups. The Cyberpope is tightening his grip to create the perfect totalitarian state.
Currently, the Inquisition is focused on rounding up heretics and subversives, while Malraux is focusing on the public at large. He has published a new version of the Bible (the "Malraux Bible", which expouses cybernetics as the work of God and the body of Christ), a list of banned books, and appears on regular television broadcasts to help cement his position as savior to his people. Not that he really needs to (thanks to the Darkness Device), but every little bit counts.

quote:

The Malraux Bible was the first order of business for Père Jean, and it encapsulates the Cyberpope’s message of salvation through Cybernetics. It is based upon the Julian Bible of Magna Verita, but adds a final book: the Cybernetic Vision.

Within its pages, the vision experienced by Jean Malraux when the dataplate, Dream Time and his mind interacted is described in lurid terms. The Cyberpope’s role as saviour of the world and the threat posed by the Antichrist is elaborated in great detail. Its message is clear: Salvation is only possible through complete acceptance of the Cyberpope’s teachings and the power of the GodNet. To reject the new technology is to reject hope itself.

God has provided the GodNet for His people. It is the Cyberpope’s task to bring everyone into the fold.

So we've talked about the GodNet, but haven't really said what it is yet.

When Mara-Two slapped the dataplate onto Malraux, he wasn't the only one overcome with visions. Ebenuscrux, his Darkness Device, also saw the visions of Kadandra. While the visions were strange to it as well, it was better equipped to analyze and understand them than its master was. Where Malraux saw "the face of God", Ebenuscrux saw a tool that could be used to spread misery and destruction. As the second axiom wash happened, Ebenuscrux began to create a sort of sub-reality in the restored telecommunication systems and technology. It was like weaving a web, with the Darkness Device at the center and symbology drawn from its master's mind.

quote:

When it had finished, it had created a matrix of data and communication comprised of biblical images. Databases and computers took on the shapes of religious buildings. Huge Gothic cathedrals came into being in its cyber landscape. Churches and shrines appeared which held less important data. In the center, where the arms of the cross met, it raised a cybernetic Tower of Babel. Signals are routed through and monitored through here. In Avignon, monitor screens and cyberdecks were established to allow the cyberpriests to watch over this new tool of Papal power.
As the GodNet came into being, the strange mix of realities and pocket dimensions caused the strong spiritual energy of Magna Verita and the magical energy of Core Earth's Dreamtime to flow into the systems being created. As a result, the GodNet can be manipulated as much by the power of faith as by technology, and strange creatures have appeared in this new sub-realm; monsters, demons, and angels roam the digital land, as do numerous cyberpriests whose minds and souls were sucked permanently into the GodNet by the Darkness Device itself.

So what does this all mean for the inhabitants of the CyberPapacy? What's life like in modern day CyberFrance for the millions of ords?

It should go without saying that life in France has changed pretty drastically since the invasion. For the people who live in the cities, or who can afford all the new things the increased Tech axiom allows, the standard of living has actually improved, and these people are more capable of dealing with the dangers the new world puts in front of them. Those who cannot, however, find themselves in a pretty bad position.

CyberFrance is isolated from the rest of the world in several senses of the phrase. The entire country is surrounded by reality storms, and is (again) boxed in by Asyle and the Nile Empire. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to get basic supplies shipped in from other countries.

The biggest issue this has caused is the lack of oil and gasoline. Cars are basically luxury items now, because oil shipments can't get into the country. It doesn't help that most of the oil in the world is currently controlled by either the Middle East (who are heathens) or by Mobius (who Malraux hates with a fiery passion), of course. Electric-powered cars are starting to become available to the populace at large, but as it stands now most Core Earth vehicles are out of the picture.

The Collapse did a number on the existing industries, of course, but the Tech Surge just compounded the problem with the advent of cyberdecks. Factories and large-scale services came back online, but now are either fully automated or can be done by a few people with cyberdecks instead of a full-fledged workforce. Millions are out of work, and the economy is suffering for it.

One good thing that happened in the wake of the Tech Surge is the transformation of existing electric and nuclear power plants into more powerful and safer power production. Basic services (like electricity) are provided free to every home now.

Rural France has remained pretty much the same for the most part. There's a larger pressure on the farms to produce since they're the sole food producers for the realm, and as a result farms and rural areas tend to be targets for gangs, rebels, and thugs working under the umbrella of the CyberChurch. The Cyberpapacy has a strong hold on these regions thanks to the protection they offer the "farm belt".

Unfortunately, the lack of food production is taking its toll on the urban centers. Food riots are not uncommon, and the Cyberpapacy doesn't tend to intervene unless church property is directly threatened. The Church has even been known to instigate a riot or two on its own, blaming Jews, Muslims, and other assorted "heretics". The Cyberchurch sees the riots as a sort of pressure release for the population, and if a few innocents heretics get torn to shreds that's just a bonus.

The GodNet (and, by extension, the CyberPapacy) is also isolated from the rest of the world. The GodNet doesn't connect to any outside data resource or communication network; it is completely and intentionally off Core Earth's global grid. This means that the Internet, television, phones, even radio transmissions from outside France can't get into the country. The Church has a hard lock on what information is available to the public, with the news networks filtering any major news events through their needs. Most major news events from the "outside world" are spun to seem worse than they are, are attributed to the forces of the Antichrist, and reinforce how only the Cyberpope can protect his people from the evils of the rest of the world.

Of course, the Cyberpapacy has a few other ways of keeping the populace in line. The big three are Faith Chips, Homers, and HolyVids.

Homers are small implanted devices that transmit basic homing signals to a range of 25 km, which can be (and are) recorded in the GodNet. If you have a homer installed, then the Church will always know where you are, where you've been, and will probably have some suggestions on where you're going to end up.

HolyVids are mass-produced "entertainment systems" that are distributed to the faithful once they prove themselves "worthy". HolyVids are simple virtual reality systems that plug directly into the GodNet. You don't need cyberjacks to use them, so they're safe for the whole family! A HolyVid allows the users to project themselves into fully immersive recreations of Biblical events, allowing the faithful to experience them first-hand as if they were really there. It should come as no surprise that HolyVids are psychologically addictive, and contain subliminal messages that let the Church control the flock. These devices are the most widespread of the three main control points, because they don't require the user be cybered to use it. On top of that, they're becoming popular means of escapism in a rapidly deteriorating society.

But the worst of the three are Faith Chips ; these datachips are installed directly onto a person's cyber-control system (i.e., the spine/brainstem region), and cannot be removed without major surgery. A Faith chip broadcasts the Cyberpapacy's beliefs and doctrines directly into the victim's brain, making him a fanatical follower of Malraux who will kill or die for the Church without question or hesitation. When you're fitted with a Faith Chip, you fully believe in the threat posed by the Antichrist, and that only the Cyberpope is capable of saving the world from it. Trying to perform any action that goes against Cyberpapal doctrine requires a very difficult Spirit check to perform. Failing the check means you have to follow doctrine. But don't worry. Sooner or later, you'll love it.

Ultimately, Malraux wants to install Faith Chips and homers in the entire Cyberpapal population, and eventually in everyone in the world. As stated previously, he doesn't care so much about becoming Torg; his goal is controlling the world (for its own good, of course).

Now, at this point in the chapter, there's a bunch of stuff about all the individual provinces in CyberFrance. It's another case of things not being presented in a logical manner; we go from background to "life in CyberFrance" for about two minutes now we're in a province-by-province breakdown of what's going on across the country. This whole part of the chapter can be summed up as follows:

1. The city of Avignon, the capital of the Cyberpapacy, is expanding rapidly.
2. The farming areas are pretty much under Cyberpapal control, and the Church is trying to meet demand by applying new technologies to farming, with mixed results.
3. In the industrial areas, unemployment is at an all-time high thanks to the new technologies. One guy with a cyberdeck can control a whole factory now, so who needs workers? It doesn't help that unions are considered "heretical".
4. The Resistance has been gaining strength on the outskirts of France.

The situation in Belgium deserves special mention, though.

quote:

The stelae planted in western Belgium isolate the Belgian coal fields from the industries of Brussels. Fierce reality storms have set fire to the underlying coal seams turning the west of Belgium into a raging inferno. Thousands of Belgians have been killed in the resulting disaster and now lead a precarious existence amongst the smoking ruins.

The Cyberpapacy’s policy is to maintain this area as living representation of Hell in order to further its claims that the Antichrist continues to assail France.
From here we learn about Cathedrals and Monasteries . So of course we start by talking about the GodNet. Have I mentioned that these books aren't very well organized?

The GodNet does get its own sourcebook (which I'll talk about in more detail later), but for now let's cover the basics. The GodNet is France's Internet, and is completely cut off from the rest of the world. Due to the Tech Surge, people are able to interface with it through cyberdecks, and view it as a 3-dimensional "virtual experience" (VX for short). Churches, Cathedrals, and Monasteries act as system relay points, data centers, and network control points.

Because of this, and the importance placed on the GodNet, data cathedrals and churches are rapidly becoming the central focus of most communities.

quote:

The concept of a neighborhood is undergoing rapid change. Now the center of the neighborhood is the cathedral, even more than it was in medieval times. Everyone connected to the GodNet is two short exchanges away from a meeting place for thousands of people, and similarly connected to hundreds of businesses. Mass at a cathedral has become a focal social point for hundreds of thousands of French citizens. They go to Mass, enjoy the sense of awe and belonging which is magnified many times by the nature of the GodNet, and then meet friends who might live hours away by car. Their own image is more attractive in the VX environment, and they feel themselves more capable. This facet of the GodNet gives Jean Malraux I a seductive and powerful tool for getting the French citizenry to voluntarily and loyally join his cause.
Cyberpapal stelae that the appearance altars, and are ritually prepared by Malraux himself. Malraux keeps a few back-up stelae "prepped" near important live ones, so if Storm Knights do manage to take one out he can have Ebenuscrux quickly energize a new one and keep the zone from collapsing.

And that's the "Cathedrals and Monasteries" section of the chapter! From there we logically move to Getting Around .

France is a big country, and since it's pretty much cut off from the rest of the world now transport is...tricky.

Normal air service everywhere in France is pretty much done. Between the lack of fuel and the constant weird weather, it's just not practical anymore. The Cyberpapacy is trying to introduce new planes with alternate fuel sources, but for the most part that effort is going into combat jets. People who own chartered planes are still going about their business, but again the lack of fuel is driving prices up.

Ground services haven't fared much better. The Collapse didn't do wonders for the road system, and even after the Tech Surge fixing the roads wasn't really a high priority. Cars are rapidly becoming luxury items, and (again) alternate fuel sources are being rolled out slowly.

The only mass transit system that's still working is the rail system. If anything, it's improved thanks to the Tech Surge allowing bullet trains that are faster and safer than Core Earth's.

I do want to point out that there's a map in the book that shows all of France's major roads, and another that shows all the rail lines. Previously, there was a map of all of France's provinces. I just find that quaint, a relic of a time before you could just type "France maps" in Google and get all the maps you want. But it's also an unnecessary addition; does anyone really care what the "real" roads are, and what connects to what? I can't imagine some player going "wait, you can't just drive from East Generic Village to Otherville! MY IMMERSION!" It's just another example of Torg's ridiculous need for detail nobody wanted, made even funnier by the fact that this is the only realm book that has maps like this.

I am ten pages into this chapter.

The next section is about Avignon, and it's not much we don't already know. The city is expanding rapidly due to new cyberware factories being built and the assorted needs of the thousands of pilgrims streaming into the city. Avignon is a historical city; the papacy was located there from the early 1300's to the early 1400's, so there's a lot of old buildings reflecting the ancient glory of the church.

As you can imagine, Malraux has "improved" on that.

Ancient frescoes have been replaced with holographic projections. The Palace of Popes has had a monitor tower attached to it, broadcasting the word of Malraux across the skyline. The bell tower of the Avignon cathedral has been replaced with a giant glowing cross visible from anywhere in the city.

Subtle, it is not.

The next part of the chapter is a "typical locations" deal again, and you'll forgive me for not getting into too much detail here. Provided are maps and NPCs for a Cyberlegger Hideout (basically a street doc/chopshop), a GodWare hospital (complete with techpriests, innocent patients, and cyberboosted guard dogs), and Church Police Checkpoints. Interestingly, we don't get sample cathedrals or other places where you'd go to actually deal with Cyberpapal personnel or get your cyberhack on; those are in the GodNet book.

The last part of the chapter is about how CyberFrance gets along with its European neighbors. As you can imagine, it's "not well".

Germany is probably in the best and worst position. Unification had just happened when the invasion hit, and they were not ready to deal with a major national threat at all . They had a few NATO forces available, but sending modern troops into Collapsed France didn't work out so well. Falling back from the French border, the German and NATO forces got a front-row seat for the Tech Surge. It wasn't long after the Surge that the CyberPapal forces attacked in earnest: demons and cybered-up troopers poured over the border.

But by this point, people had started to get a handle on how reality mechanics worked. German forces basically played a defensive game; they'd "retreat" while fighting, drawing Cyberpapal forces deeper into Core Earth and wait for them to disconnect. Germany couldn't really attack in the traditional sense, but they could at least hold the line.

As it stands now, Germany has found itself awkwardly trust into the role of "major world power". It's no secret that Germany is pretty much the only thing between Malraux and Russia, and thus has found itself as a launching point for Storm Knights who want to get in on the action in the Cyberpapacy, Aysle, or the Nile Empire. The main focus now is on defense; missile silos are rapidly being set up along the western border, and there's a greater push on industrial production. In fact, due to North America and most of Europe being off the grid, Germany has also found itself becoming a major player in the world economy. Fortunately, the Japanese government has been helping out with that, giving them money and helping improve their technological frameworks. It's a good thing the Kanawa Corporation is there to help, huh?

Luxembourg didn't make out quite as well as Germany. Between the reality storms sweeping through the tiny country and the almost constant influx of refugees from France, the government has pretty much collapsed. NATO troops tried to get things under control, but they're not having much luck since they need to focus more on keeping Germany strong. At this point, Luxembourg is pretty much a done deal as a nation.

Italy isn't having a much better time. Italy isn't completely off from the rest of Europe, but the Cyberpapacy controls about half of the national border, plus Italy has to deal with being stuck in the middle of the wars over control of the Mediterranean Sea. The other problem is that the Roman Catholic Church is Malraux's primary target. Malraux has declared that Pope John Paul II is the Antichrist, and taking out the Roman Catholic Church (or better, converting it) is at the top of Malraux's to-do list. Rome, for its part, has declared that Malraux is "an abomination under God" and is currently engaged in propaganda wars throughout Italy. Unfortunately, the Cyberpapacy backs it propaganda up with assassinations and mass violence, and the Roman Catholic Church is having a hard time adjusting to needing to hire mercenaries and Storm Knights. The recent awakening of Core Earth's spiritual power has helped, though.

quote:

Miracle at Saint Peter’s Square
At the Vatican, the Pope holds masses more frequently, and miracles are commonly reported. His public appearances and speeches have helped greatly to bolster the hopes of the faithful. Since the Possibility Wars began, the Roman Pope’s verve and charisma seemed to have increased dramatically. During one mass, the Pope was attacked by four hospitallers masquerading as pilgrims. The assailants made quick work of the Swiss Guards who tried to intervene, but as each hospitaller attacked the Pope, his cyberware failed. Fatally. Roman Catholics everywhere have taken this incident as the surest sign that God is on their side.
As stated earlier, Belgium is kinda...broken. The western part of the country is in bad shape due to the underground coal fires sparked by the reality storms along the border. Most of the country's resources are tied up dealing with the refugees from the western part of the country and trying to support Germany.

The Netherlands got hit hard by reality storm-powered tidal waves that were created by the insanely close proximity of the Ayslish and Cyberpapal borders. The waves actually reached as far inland as Amsterdam, destroying most of the city. The Netherlands, like Luxembourg, are devistated. People are abandoning the country en masse as anrachy reigns.

Switzerland is slowly falling to Cyberpapal influence. The government hasn't been very effecting in dealing with the destruction the invasion caused, and lynching of "heretics" is becoming more widespread thanks to Cyberpapal agents.

Spain is pretty much fucked. Completely cut off from Europe, and with the Cyberpapacy already getting a foothold, the country tries to hold onto their faith and resist the invaders as best they can. In fact, Spain is one of the few countries that seem to be able to resist Cyberpapal doctrine. Spain has enacted a sealed-border policy, letting nobody into the country. Unfortunately, agents of the College of the Way managed to get into Spain before the border was closed, and are slowly worming their way into the lives of the people.

As for the rest of the world...well, Malraux knows he needs to keep his physical forces focused on Europe. He also knows that Core Earth religious artifacts have probably transformed into hardpoints or eternity shards, so any forces he has that aren't trying to take the rest of Europe or stomp Mobius are dedicated to artifact hunting. Outside Europe, the Cyberpapacy is focusing on winning hearts and minds. Healing miracles are used in front of as many people (particularly Catholics) as possible in an attempt to undermine the Roman Catholic Church's spiritual base, and high-tech medical procedures and alternate power solutions are winning over the atheists.

---

And...done.

This is a long-ass chapter. Well, technically it's not, it's only 20 pages. But it feels a lot longer than it is. It once again suffers from the two main problems that plague the Torg sourcebooks: there's too much goddamn detail you'll probably never use, and it's not presented in any kind of logical order. I don't need to know what's going on in every single province in France; just give me a quick list of common problems and little things like "in northeastern France the farms are having a lot of trouble with bandits and Cyberpapal forces clashing" and we're good. Don't bounce from background to maps to the GodNet to talking about trains. None of it follows!

Still, this is probably the roughest part of the book to get through, so hopefully things will get more interesting from here.

NEXT TIME: The Free City of Paris

Paris Liberté with Cheese

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 11d: Paris Liberté with Cheese

This is a surprisingly short chapter, especially given the density of info the last one. And again, it's a bit of an artifact of an earlier time where you didn't have the ability to just go onto Google or Wikipedia and get basic information about a country, like population breakdown or the layout of the metro system.

Of course, I'm not going to cover that stuff because nobody gives a shit. Instead, I'm going to talk about the changes the invasion has had on the city.

As stated previously, Paris (to be specific, the Eiffel Tower) is a Core Earth hardpoint. Core Earth's axioms still hold sway in the city, and have since the initial invasion.

That's not to say that Paris weathered the Collapse without a problem, of course. When Malraux dropped his bridge, all of France except Paris started dropping off the grid. There was no way to contact people outside the city to see what the hell was going on, world communication was cut off, and it wasn't long before people started to panic. Many people fled the city out of fear or to find out what happened to loved ones in the outlying areas, only to find castles, manor houses, and carts where suburban areas once stood.

It didn't take long for people to find out that Paris wasn't changing like the rest of the country, and thousands headed there to seek shelter from the changing reality. Papal forces managed to infiltrate the city by coming in with the waves of refugees, and took out the city leaders as discussed in the previous chapter.

Not that they needed to do much to destabilize the city, really. Core services collapsed due to the lack of technological or financial support. Supplies dwindled rapidly, and it was impossible to get basic needs like food from outside the city. Gang warfare became common over such important locations as gas stations and food warehouses. The Hands of God did their part, too, egging on conflict and just flat-out wrecking shit.

Things went from bad to worse when the food supplies started running out. Rationing was instituted, for all the good it did. It wasn't long before people started fighting to the death over food, then pet food, then pets, then any animal you could catch and cook.

By the time the Tech Surge came around, the damage was done. Still cut off from the rest of the world, the citizens of Paris eek out a tenuous existence surrounded by the enemy.

That's the Paris of the Near Now: once one of the most spectacular cities in the world, now reduced to a post-apocalyptic wreck.

With the fall of the French government, Paris has had to set up its own government. In response to the insanely right-wing forces taking over the rest of the country, a body of liberals, communists, and socialists was rapidly elected into office. The leadership of Paris is called "The Commune", and they wasted no time organizing people to fight back against the HOGs and Church forces. It took a lot of fighting, but eventually the Church's forces were driven out of the city. Despite the victory over Malraux, things are still pretty shaky for the Commune. Basic supplies are still hard to come by, refugees still pour into the city, Cyberpapal forces still attack the outlaying areas.

The peacekeeping force in Paris is the "Paris Liberté Militia" (PLM), and is a militia in the traditional sense: citizens who are willing to take up arms in defense of what's theirs. If these folks have their own guns, so much the better. PLM "troops" patrol the streets in small groups searching for Cyberchurch agents and keeping the numerous gangs at bay.

The PLM has no standard uniform or gear. They identify themselves by wearing red armbands on their left arm and using whatever weapons or defensive gear they can scrounge. They're headquartered just outside the Eiffel Tower.

It should be pointed out that while not well-equipped for the most part, the PLM do have access to twelve tanks (two of which are mobile), four functioning Apache helicopters, and sixteen missile sites. Obviously, none of these see any regular use; they're pretty much all for emergency use only. Despite all that, Paris's best defense is still the reality storm raging around the city.

The population of post-invasion Paris is just over 13 million people. Which doesn't seem so bad until you realize that the population just before the invasion was 10.5 million. Needless to say, that much of a jump in a few months means there's not a lot of free space in Paris right now. Refugee camps are set up anywhere you can stick three tents together, and the strain is being felt on basic human services.

Life in Paris is nasty, brutish, and short. Street gangs and leftover HOG forces roam the streets battling for territory and supplies, not caring who gets caught in the crossfire. The Metro no longer runs due to being too expensive to operate, and the tunnels have been taken over by punks and nutbags who've been driven off the streets. Any building large enough to hold people is used as shelter, even if that wasn't the original purpose. Landmarks like the Louvre and Le Pantheon have become overcrowded shelters. Outside the borders of the City, Church Police forces keep anyone from leaving the city, while at the same time ushering refugees into Paris, putting further strain on a city that's one bad day away from collapse already. The overcrowding has also put a strain on everyone's general health; lack of medical supplies combined with forced close quarters means that disease runs rampant, with cholera and typhoid making big comebacks.

Despite all this, Paris remains free. Yes, it's overcrowded and starving, but the people of Paris have a unique viewpoint on it: they may be trapped, staving, and surrounded by the enemy, but their souls are still theirs. The people of Paris refuse to give in to hopelessness or despair. They're not going to let some monster who thinks he's the mouthpiece of God control their souls. The Marseille is played on public address systems throughout the city, and the French flag still flies from the top of the Eiffel Tower. They may be trapped and beset on all sides by an insane tyrant representing the worst of both the past and the future, but the people of Paris aren't going down without a fight.

Viva Liberté indeed.

The Eiffel Tower is the hardpoint that keeps Paris working as a Core Earth zone. Everything within about 100 meters is a pure zone, and beyond that it's Core Earth dominant to about 4 kilometers. Sometimes the reality storms shift, and the effect can go out as far as 6 km. Reality storms rage around Paris 24/7, and on occasion they ground themselves out as electrical storms on the Eiffel Tower. When this happens, the storms have been known to blow the tops off the larger buildings in the city.

The reality storms in and around Paris are a little different than most. While most reality storms strike with impunity and without direction, the ones around Paris seem to target the invading forces rather than Core Earthers. Nobody knows why this is (the top theories are that the storms are reacting to the population's desire for freedom, or that it's a sign from God), but every little bit helps, right? This actually has a mechanical effect in that anyone from Core Earth who gets involved in one of these storms has a +3 bonus to their reality total, and folks from the Cyberpapacy have any damage value caused by the storm increased by 3.

Because most of Paris is a dominant zone, cybernetics and related technologies still work there. Cyberleggers have begun setting up shop on the outskirts of the city, getting "supplies" from dead Cyberpapal agents and dealing mainly with the street gangs. Most cyberware in Paris is subdermal; nobody wants to look like they work for Malraux if they can help it unless they actually want to get lynched. Still, in the rougher areas of Paris it's nice to have a set of cyberclaws or a skinweave to give yourself a bit of an edge. And, of course, the gangs like to go full chrome anyway because otherwise what's the point?

Now, the next few pages are just general info about Paris, but it's nothing you couldn't look up on Wikipedia or Google Maps. So I'm going to skip them and get to the part you really want to know about : Cybergangs of Paris !


Cyberpunks in their native habitat, fighting against the machine.

Oh come on, like you didn't know that was coming at some point.

Any major city has gangs. But when the city is hit by a sudden spike in technology and a downturn in overall quality, the street gangs upgrade to cyberpunks. And these are totally 90's RPG cyberpunks, with the weird outfits and gimmicks and everything. This is street trash mixed with Generic 90's Cyberpunk then dumped into The Warriors. Seriously, the Baseball Furies would not be that out of place here. Just give them, like cyberbats or something.

One thing I haven't mentioned yet about the Cyberpapacy is West End's attempt at coming up with cyberslang. You know how bad they were with humor? They're not any better with this stuff.

I did not change a word of this posted posted:

Crimes against the citizens of Paris began with the normal theft and muggings. Then came drugs. Then came zipyanks, murders in which the victim’s organs or cyberware were removed for sale; fry-bys, where punks drive by citizens and attack them with energy weapons modified so as to ignite the victim; grabaways, where the victims, usually entire families, are kidnapped and assaulted.

The PLM cannot stop the all gang activity, so they're forced to prioritize its responses. Muggings and thefts are ignored, and zipyanks are tolerated as long as an unofficial “quota” is not exceeded. However they, and Paris at large, draw the line at grabaways and fry-bys. These crimes provoke a considerable response. Most PLM members consider such crimes reprehensible enough to dispose of any legal niceties they are supposed to observe as law enforcement officers. Mob justice has been invoked, and at least one gang, the NazBoys, was hunted to extinction after a rash of grabaways.

God, I feel so stupid just using those slang terms.

Anyway. We get the down-low (as it were) on six of Paris's biggest cyberstreetgangs. Street cybergangs? Whatever, let's just enjoy this glimpse back to an earlier age.

First up are The Sun Kings and Queens , who, and I quote, "are streetwise posers who dress in the style of Ancièn France with pomaded wigs, chalked faces (complete with beauty spots) and elegant clothing."


Pictured: A Cyberpunk

Regardless of how they dress, Sun Kings and Queens are usually pretty cyber-ed up and are good fighters. They control the docks of Paris, and anyone dumb enough to enter their territory while possessing cyberware will quickly find themselves swarmed by gangers and dragged to the local cyberlegger to be stripped for parts. Their normal activities boil down to protection rackets and "sin-palaces". They also have a small presence in the GodNet, and their data base (yes, that's what it's called) is a virtual recreation of the Palace of Versailles.

The current leader of the Sun Kings and Queens is Louis XIV; the leader of the gang is always called Louis or Marie. They're nothing if not unoriginal. For some reason, the "number" of the leader always counts down, not up. Also for some reason a map for the Sun King and Queens' HQ is provided.

Next up are the Carrion Dogs . As I'm sure you can all guess, these guys are all street-wolf-ish, dressing in dirty rags and living it up on the streets. Every member has fangs, and most have either slicers (finger- or toe-blades) or slashers (forearm blades). They'd be considered a pretty bad joke if it weren't for two factors: one, they're pretty much all cannibals and like pack-hunting innocent people, and two, they all have modified their fangs to inject victims with rabies. Yes, rabies. Unfortunately for the Dogs, most of their cyberware is so low-quality that the disease holders leak and the majority of the gang members have rabies themselves. If it wasn't for the secret backing of the Cyberpapacy, these guys probably would have died out on their own a long time ago.

Like all true cyberpunks, the Crucifaces have large brightly-colored hairdos and tattered leathers. They also paint crosses on their faces with the crosspiece going across their eyes. They also favor slicers/slashers, or just normal knives if they can't get the tech, and perform what can be best described as "basic level" street crimes. You know, muggings and shakedowns. And that's pretty much it for these guys. No idea why they're here because they get no info beyond "they exist" and "they dress like this".

And we move into Obvious Pun territory with the Warewolves . The Warewolves are obsessed with cyberware, installing as much as their bodies (and souls, but we'll get to that later) can handle, and then tagging on a few extra parts just to be on the safe side. They get most of their cyberware through theft or (ugh) zipyanking. Their "emblem" is a side view of a howling wolf's head stitched out in metallic thread, and they hang out around the edge of the dominant zone because I guess they like the thrill of knowing that if they disconnect they'll probably die?

Next, there's The Tri's . And yes, the apostrophe is there; it's because they wear the French tricolor on their jackets as their "gang symbol" as a representation of their defiance of Malraux. Not that they're allied with Paris; a full 95% of their crimes are committed against the Parisian public. It's more the idea of their leader Anne Druillard; she figures that with everything going on, Paris is going to focus on the more serious threats. So she sets her gang up as "Robin Hood" style bandits, working with the PLM to fight other gangs, organizing very public attacks against the Cyberpapacy, and so on. So far it seems to be working in her favor, even though her tactics tend to get a lot of her own people killed. But hey, plenty more where they came from.

We close out the chapter with the last "gang": Spacers and Crazies . Well, they're not really a gang, just a convenient category for the various nutjobs and burnouts that litter the streets. Spacers are people who've fried their brains out on drugs or who've succumbed to cyberpsychosis. These are the ones who live on diets of drugs to ease the pain of life, and will kill whoever they need to to get the money to buy said drugs. Crazies are people whose minds snapped after the two reality shifts, or who can't handle the joy that is life in modern-day Paris. A lot of crazies have dangerous cyberware (somehow), and more and more appear on the streets thanks to the Cyberpope funneling them into the city.

So yeah, there's cybershit all over the streets now. And I just have to say I love the fact that Paris itself gets less book time than the rest of France, even though it's a pretty important place in the scheme of things.

At this point, though, we're pretty much done with the setting stuff so it's time to start getting into the mechanical side! I can't wait!


NEXT TIME: Axiomatical!

World Laws and/or Reality Storms

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post



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


Part 11e: World Laws and/or Reality Storms

Time to start digging into the mechanical side of the Cyberpapacy, and that means we start by talking about the realm's axioms and world laws. I covered this stuff briefly in the first Cyberpapacy post, but now we're going to get into a little more detail.

The axioms of the Cyberpapacy have been bouncing up and down thanks to the Collapse and the Tech Surge. The Cyberpapacy is currently a rough mix of the axioms of Magna Verita, Core Earth, and Kadandra. All of the Cyberpapal axioms were affected in one way or another, and in a lot of ways the culture is still catching up. The Church hasn't had to deal with real change for literally centuries, so while they are adapting to the new technology available, the other changes are making their lives difficult.

The Magic axiom is 10, allowing for full-on spellcasting, enchanted items, and witches turning people into toads. It's also just high enough to allow for the existence of supernatural creatures such as gargoyles, and magic is even capable of affecting the GodNet. For the most part, magic hasn't changed that much from Magna Verita's original level, although the increase from Core Earth's magic axiom has caused more mages to appear in France.

It should be pointed out that the general public at large is aware of the existence of magic, but according to Cyberpapal doctrine magic is the work of the Devil. Witch hunts are common, and even being suspected of being a practitioner of magic is enough to get you burned at the stake. Literally. That's a thing that happens with disturbing regularity

The Social axiom is 18, which is actually a little lower than Core Earth's (21), but is a significant increase from Magna Verita's original axiom of 13. From a Core Earth point of view, it's a step backwards from France being capable of a democratic government to being under the bureaucratic control of a single totalitarian government. The only real chance France has at finding freedom on its own is the fact that the Church doesn't know how to deal with widespread change. While technically speaking the social axiom is a drop from Core Earth's, it's a large step up from Manga Verita's.

Before all the axiom mixing, the citizens of Manga Verita had no civil liberties, no personal rights, nothing like that. The influx of new social ideas is creating a new problem for the Church because the society is starting to evolve out of the idea of "whatever the Church says goes". Papal doctrine has to start allowing and accepting various forms of societal advancement instead of suppressing them, and some parts of the Church are having a harder time adapting than others.

(There's also the fact that the increase of the social axiom allows for a level of rebellion so you can have cyberpunk gangs and whatnot.)

The Cyberpapacy has a Spiritual axiom of 14, which isn't actually too high compared to the other realms. Aysle and the Living Land have higher spiritual axioms, but the Cyberpapacy belief system is more about following the will of the Church rather than the will of God. It's like Small Gods ; people believe in the structure of the religion instead of the religion itself.

That being said, spiritual power is provably manifest in the world. Believers can perform miracles, and angels and demons exist in the GodNet. While the focus of faith is more the Cyberpapal structure (and therefore the CyberPope), the power of Malraux's God is undeniable.

Lastly, the Technology axiom jumped from Magna Verita's original 15 (medieval technology) to 26. We all know what this has meant for the realm, so there's not much to say here. The technology jump has been a bit uneven; even though cybernetics and man/machine interfaces are commonplace, things like robotics and weaponry are lagging behind despite being possible at this tech axiom. Demand for high technology is also outstripping demand, since France's industrial infrastructure was hit hard by the Collapse and hasn't been able to get caught up to the level needed by the Tech Surge.

Meanwhile, back in Magna Verita, nobody knows that the technology level has improved by leaps and bounds; it's just that nobody knows it yet. Malraux has sent augmented operatives back up the bridge to keep a tight control on how technology will advance back home. He's also created a GodNet correction across the bridge and set up a few data centers on Magna Verity, but again only the loyal hierarchy of the Church know about. As much as Malraux has embraced the new technology available, he wants to control how it spreads across his home cosm as opposed to the pretty out-of-control way it's evolving in the realm.

There are four world laws that are remnants of Magna Verita's reality, and weren't really altered by the mixing of realities. In the interest of repeating information, I'll just quote myself.

quote:

The most important one is the The Law of the One True God . It's pretty straightforward: the catholic God is the only true god, He is the only source of divine power, and any other form of worship is heretical. In game terms, this means that people of any faith other than Cybercatholisism have a hard time performing miracles in the Cyberpapacy. The further away the caster is from "core" Cyberpapal doctrine, the harder it is for him to cast a miracle. For instance, a "normal" Catholic priest would have a +1 to his difficulty, a Jewish rabbi would have a +3, and a Buddhist monk would have a +6.

The Law of Heretical Magic is a bit of a double-edged sword. It makes magic more difficult to cast (since it's forbidden), but at the same time makes it more powerful (because it's "powered by evil"). The difficulty of casting any spell in the Cyberpapacy is +3, but a successful spell has its final outcome increased by 5. If you suffer backlash, however, then it's possible an actual demon will show up to try and possess you. Price of sin, I suppose.

The Law of Suspicion means that strangers are not trusted, and everyone is, if not guilty until proven innocent, is at least under close scrutiny. Heretics and agents of the Antichrist are everywhere, after all. Attempts to use the charm or persuasion skills are easier to resist, but at the same time trying to intimidate or taunt someone increases your effective skill by 3.

The Law of Ordeal is part of why the Church is in change, and works thus: "In the Cyberpapal view of the world, the choice of a priest to accuse a character morally obligates the character to prove her innocence through a trial by ordeal. Failure to take the trial is an admission of guilt, and not incidentally, heresy." There are four types of ordeals: having your arms thrust into boiling water, being submerged in frigid water, burning, and trial by combat. If you're actually guilty, then surviving these trials is more difficult, but if you succeed you're considered innocent. If you fail, you're either dead or will be killed as punishment. This is the one that really doesn't work, and feels like it was added solely because they needed a fourth World Law. When Storm Knights get caught during missions, they're not arrested, they're shot at.

The chapter closes out with a discussion on the maelstrom bridge and the reality storms that surround the country.

The Cyberpapal maelstrom bridge connects the Avignon in Magna Verita to Avignon in Core Earth. The Darkness Device keeps one eye on the bridge, and if any Possibility-rated person tries to cross the bridge without permission the Device will invoke a reality storm against that person in an attempt to transform them to Cyberpapal reality. If it succeeds and the target transforms, they automatically gain a neural jack in the neck or temple, and one to three more cyberdoodads of the GM's choosing. Presumably this is also the case for anyone who transforms to Cyberpapal reality, since the fiction of the book has been heavily implying that people had automagically getting cyberware and whatnot when the Cyberpapacy formed. Technically that shouldn't be possible because of the whole "living to living/unliving to unliving" transformation rule, but reality storms can apparently completely ignore that.

The reality storms that surround CyberFrance are pretty much standard to the rest of the game. The biggest issue are the storms on the border that touch the English Channel. The Channel separates the Cyberpapacy and Aysle, and in some parts the reality borders are about a mile apart. The close proximity of three separate realities makes the storms even stronger than normal, and the fallout of the storms affects pretty much everything touching the Channel.

Even though the English Channel is being hit by reality storms 24/7, the storms around the Cyberpapacy's border do fade from time to time. When this happens, refugees and realm runners stream over the borders in both directions.

It should be pointed out that if a Cyberpapal character transforms to a different reality, he actually loses one to three pieces of cyberware. Exactly how that works or interacts with the whole "living to living/unliving to unliving" rule is never explained. While a cyberhand would turn into a hook-hand, and a cybereye might turn into a glass eye, what would subdermal armor turn into? What about something like a skillchip port, which is wired pretty heavily into your nervous system? I'd hate to think what a retractable forearm blade or cranial jack would change into.

--

Again, another short chapter without much to really say. I mean, it's only five pages long. But don't worry, we're going to get into bad mechanics soon enough!


NEXT TIME: [url="http://cdn.thehairpin.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/keyboard_surfing_the_internet.jpeg"Hanging with the console cowboys in cyberspace![/url]

The GodNet 1.0 (functionality in next release)

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 11f: The GodNet 1.0 (functionality in next release)

I'm jumping out of the chapter order of the cosm book for a moment, so I can discuss something important to the whole cyberpunk milieu that surprisingly doesn't get a lot of space in the Cyberpapacy book.

That's right...it's time to talk about The GodNet! Let's see what we thought the future Interwebs were going to be like back in 1990!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7tazcxWUwk

This is going to be tricky, because the netrunning rules actually exist in two different books, neither of which are the actual Cyberpapacy book. The first third of the rules are in the Worldbook that came with the core book, and the last two thirds of the rules are in the GodNet book that came out months later. The GodNet sourcebook is pretty big, so for now I'm going to stick to the just-under-four pages of rules in the Worldbook.

And in keeping with Torgish tradition (Torgdition?) it's not presented in a logical order. Which means that before we even know what the GodNet is in a general sense (apart from being "a super computer network"), we learn how to jack into it.

There are two ways to access the GodNet. The first is the method used by most of the population: using trodes or a neural jack will allow you to directly enter the global network and perform simple actions through an interface called a Virtual Experience .

quote:

Virtual experiences (VXs) are computer generated situations, characters and sensations which can pass for the real thing. Touch, taste, sight, sound, smell—all sensation can be duplicated through VX. A VX can damage a person, for the images/experiences are relayed to the user through a neural interface.
Using this method is the equivalent of using a modern OS and browser. You can access shared file systems, system records, and so on. And, um, well...that's about it.

(Remember, in 1990/91, email wasn't in very common public usage yet and the web as we think of it wouldn't exist for a few more years yet. At the time, the main use for computer systems was for file storage.)

Anyway, when you access a VX system, you create a "virtual self" that is based on your mental self-image. This isn't really discussed until later books, but this is because the GodNet is both a computer network and a sort of pocket dimension you project your mind into. This means that when you jack into the GodNet, you not only retain all your skills, you can also use any mental or "spiritual" abilities and tools you have available to you (as well as pulp powers, as revealed in errata). Still, you can't really do much that the system won't allow. Doing anything beyond checking email and opening files you have access to anyway requires the use of a cyberdeck .

This is the first paragraph of the cyberdeck section:

quote:

While jacking into a net is enough to VX, it gives users little control over the experiences they have. Comp-Plexes have the capacity to modify VXs sent to users. CompPlexes are axion boosters, dipolar recorders, cyber-signal (cygnal) filters, and media chips integrated into a horrifyingly complex system coordinated by vast computing power. Cyberdecks are portable CompPlexes, with small VX work areas (compared to a full net) within them. Within these work areas the net's VX are modified by programs carried with the cyberdeck and controlled by the user. A cyberdeck can give a sophisticated user significant ability to control his experience in the net.
Is it just me, or could they have just gotten away with that last paragraph?

Using a cyberdeck requires the use of the Cyberpapacy-specific skill cyberdeck operation (which is based off Perception ), or the scholar (cyberdeck operation) skill, but going that route is considered being unskilled.

The first real benefit of using a cyberdeck is that you can alter what your VX image looks like. Normally you look like yourself in the GodNet, but being able to alter your appearance can actually help you avoid detection by cyberpriests and hostile programs. How? Dunno. Doesn't say.

Regardless, every cyberdeck has four stats:
Response , which measures how fast your deck can react to events. This is rated from +1 to +5, and this value is added to your Perception to determine your movement speed and how fast you can read data in "blocks" per round.
Stealth , which prevents detection by hostile software and systems. This is also rated from +1 to +5 and adds to your stealth skill.
Processor Power determines how many programs you can run at once. This goes from 1 to 5, and that value is the max number of skill adds the deck can provide at once.
Storage is how much data your deck can store. It can range from 3 to 10 blocks.

This is a basic cyberdeck:

quote:

Delicious : Response +1, Stealth +1, Processor Power 3, Storage 4.
Cost : 17,000 francs (value 13).

Doing things in the net is handled through normal skill rolls, except that you add your cyberdeck operation adds to the skill. You can also use programs to boost or fake skills. Programs are rated from +1 to +3, and take up an amount of storage equal to their plus. You also can't have more pluses worth of programs running than your deck's Processor Power. When using a skill that you have a program running for, you use the larger adds as your skill. So if I have the find skill at +1 and a find program running at +3, then my effective skill is +3.

Programs are generalized, so there's an attack program, a find program, a combat program, and so on. And no, I don't know what the difference is between the attack and combat programs because no actual list of available programs is provided in the base set or in the Cyberpapacy book. The base set gives the costs for programs based solely on their rating, but apart from the in-text examples of attack/find/combat there's nothing about what programs are actually available .

Oh, now we're going to actually talk about the GodNet itself.

quote:

The GodNet is the spiritual and technological core of the Cyberpapacy, a computer network with the power to process tens of thousands of neural interfaces simultaneously, and its capacity is growing rapidly. The GodNet is now the true heart of France. Unwary users are awed by the sophisticated virtual experiences provided by the GodNet. As the VX is bolstered by strong, visceral religious symbolism, thousands of citizens within the realm are converted to the Cyberpope's religion each week.

Once he has jacked in, the first impression a user has of the GodNet is of a huge glowing cross with pulsating lines of circuitry etched into it and flowing out of it; the user is connected by a gossamer strand thrown off from one of these lines. As the user follows the strand down toward the cross, the other lines disappear and the cross expands to fill the field of vision, stretching to the vanishing points along the horizon. At the junction of the crosspieces is an angular, stepped tower which stretches into the sky. This is Babel Central. All information (including jacked-in users) entering the GodNet is routed through Babel Central for clearance and surveillance.
And now we're done talking about the GodNet itself. No, really, that's the full "GodNet" section.

Now it's time to talk about net combat. It works like normal combat, and because your brainmeats are hooked directly into the GodNet, any damage your virtual self takes is real damage. If you die in the GodNet... you die for real . Of course, some combat effects are a little different; getting knocked down means you can't swap programs (swapping programs is not explained anywhere), getting a KO scrambles your deck for three rounds which prevents the use of programs. On the plus side, you can't get knocked unconscious when you take enough shock damage because technically when you're netrunning you're already unconscious. Also, when you're in net combat you add your deck's response value to your skills.

And that's all we're told about net combat. Does it use normal initiative? How long does it take to do things in the GodNet compared to meatspace? How do you heal? No fucking idea, because those rules, again, didn't exist until the actual GodNet book came out months later.

From here we get some information on the types of defenses you can come across in the GodNet. Or, defense singular, I guess, because the only thing listed in this section is a typical jackpriest.

quote:

Jackpriests and cache monitors are hooked up to the GodNet from terminal stations throughout the Cyberpapacy. The largest terminal station is in Avignon, and has become known as Babel Central, although the real Babel Central is actually a VX construct. The priests and the monitors have 24-hour surveillance on the GodNet. They do not always pounce upon intruders. Often they "tag" them, trying to trace signals emanating from the intruder's VX persona to discover from where the intruder is jacking in. They then notify Church Police and the Inquisition of the location, and leave it at that.
The GodNet is also occupied by entities , self-aware programs created by Ebenuscrux during the Tech Surge and creation of the GodNet. And while most of them are technically tools of the Church, there are others that have their own agendas. Like this thing:

quote:

Beast of the Apocalypse: DEX 10, STR 22, TOU 25, PER 14, MIN 26, CHA 10, SPI 12.
Skills: stealth 22 (until beast manifests), find 17, missle combat 15, unarmed combat 17, trick 17, test 27, taunt (23), intimidate 17 (23), reality 14.
Net Values: net attack (melee) 20, net attack (missile) 18, net defense 14, net find 20, net stealth 25, net manipulation 17, net track 17.
Possibilities: 12.
Response/Processor/Storage: 3/16/32.
Programs: Onslaught 6 (5), Scramble 3 (3), MindWipe 3 (4), BrainBurn 1 (2), Surge 1 (2), DeckWipe 2 (3), Armor 4 (3), Scan 3 (3), Trace 4 (4), Grapple 2 (3).
Natural Tools: claws, damage value 28; bite, damage value 29; gaze, damage value 26, hide, armor +4.
Note: gaze is a missile combat attack. The pupils of the beast's eyes seem to whir and detach, propelled at unbelievable velocity toward the victim. The pupils reform in a round; its vision is unaffected by the attack.
Description: This entity is rumored to be able to appear in any region of the GodNet. Looking like the huge Apocalyptic beast, with seven heads, horns and a diadem, this horrible creature can cause such a surge of power that net raiders literally explode on the ends of their neura-jacks. The beast can travel nearly undetected, until it manifests itself by generating a VX form to use its attack and defense programs.
This is the only net entity listed in the base game, and it's pretty much guaranteed to kill anyone dumb enough to try and fight it. Oh, and I know this will be a shock but there's no descriptions anywhere about what its programs do.


It wouldn't be a 90's RPG without some Bradstreet art.

The initial GodNet info rounds out with a list of some of the regions of the GodNet .

The main hub of the GodNet is Babel Central , a glass-and-chrome tower with rather Esher-ian internal design. It's mostly manned by VX entities who sort through and organize all the incoming data. Oh, and we get a second entity! Gatekeepers are guides and security forces that appear as friendly monks.

The major server points of the GodNet are housed in Cathedrals throughout France. Every data cathedral feeds into Babel Central, and in meatspace they are where the faithful jack in for the weekly sermons. It should be pointed out that a "data cathedral" doesn't have to be an actual cathedral; most are really just small churches. Regardless, they're always built into places of worship.

It should come as no surprise that the GodNet contains a Heaven and a Hell . No net raider has managed to infiltrate either of these regions (or at least done it and returned), although the Church has allowed a few faithful to return from Heaven.

Heaven is surrounded by a low wall that cannot be crossed, and beyond the wall runners can only see endless plains. The only way in is a single gate guarded by a VX simulation of Saint Peter. Those few who've come out of Heaven report that they were actually able to communicate with God Himself through His angels, and have seen changes they've requested in the GodNet actually happen.

Hell, on the other hand, remains a mystery. Nobody who's gone in have ever come out. The sole gate is guarded not by Cerberus, but by a bull-headed demon dressed as a judge.

Even a religion as rigid and unforgiving as the Cyberpapacy needs to offer the hope of redemption. That is the (theoretical) purpose of Purgatory ; to store souls and determine who is saved and who is damned. A cyberpriest can sentence someone to Purgatory by the use of the net damnation miracle, which automatically sends the target to Purgatory then next time they jack in. Purgatory itself is a misty, lonely limbo where the trapped souls are unable to communicate with each other. They shuffle through the miasma, their only human contact being the few cyberpriests whose job it is to determine who's worth saving. Those deemed worth of saving have their souls uploaded into the eternal prison of a spirit chip , where their skills and experiences will by used by Church operatives. Those deemed beyond saving are sent straight to Hell.

It's only the hope of redemption, after all.

---

And that's it. That's the basic GodNet rules available in the core set, all five pages of it. Oh, what's that? You want the rules you can actually use ? You want to know what those programs do, or how you move around the virtual landscape? You want some other things to throw at the netrunner, like security AIs? Oh, well, you'll have to buy the GodNet book for that.

For what it's worth, the GodNet book will cover what you actually need to know to use the GodNet in your game. But the basic information is so scattershot it's unusable. And while the GodNet book does build on the stuff we have here rather than contradicting or overriding it, it does highlight the biggest problem with Torg's mechanical presentation: it's not written for the GM.

I've said a million times that the books are poorly organized, and I think the reason is because the designer knew all the rules already. So when he started putting them in the book, he knew how everything worked, so he naturally left out a bunch of chunks because he didn't think about those mechanics anymore; they were internalized. The books never feel like they were handed off to someone outside the design crew to see if someone who hadn't been up to his ears in Torg for however long this was being developed could follow it.

Or maybe they just weren't very good at writing.


NEXT TIME: Sk1llz and m1r4cl3z!

Sk1llz and m1r4cl3z

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 11g: Sk1llz and m1r4cl3z

And now we return to the Cyberpapacy book to cover two chapters: Skills and Miracles of Faith .

There aren't that many new skills available to Cyberpapal characters, but in keeping with 90's design some of them aren't really nessecary.

We've already talked about cyberdeck operation , but there's also a cybertech skill that allows you build, improve, and repair cybernetics. And with cybernetics there of course come rules for cyberpsychosis, so the game provides us with a psychology skill to help deal with that; it's basically a healing skill for mental wounds.

The other two completely new skills are forgery , which is self-explanitory, and streetwise . In this game, streetwise doesn't just help you know which gang is which or who's territory you're in; it also helps you scrounge for food and shelter in an urban environment. Which is actually useful, given the current situations in the major cities.

The last skill to be mentioned is a rather unusual case. The disguise skill does what it says on the label, but the skill is actually from the Nippon Tech realm. That means that, as far as the core set was concerned, only characters from Nippon Tech could get the skill. Which makes no sense, but why look for sense at this point?

And it's time to talk about Miracles , which are a pretty important part of Cyberpapal life. The ability to perform miracles is proof of the existence and power of God, and a large part of how the Church controls the populace. Of course, people of other faiths are capable of performing miracles as well, but obviously that's just the work of the Antichrist trying to lead the faithful astray. The Church said so, and they would know, right?

In fact, Avignon doctrine is so powerful there's a few modifications to the miracle rules.

First off, because the Chruch is at war with the forces of darkness, harmful miracles aren't considered "adverse" to the Cyberpapal faith, and therefore don't suffer the +15 difficulty for performing a miracle that doesn't match your belief system.

This is further expanded by this bit of mechanical wonkery:

quote:

Similarly, adverse miracles defend the faithful against another faith by striving to destroy that faith, so the -5 modifier is gained. But the need for adverse miracles is often not immediate, so they suffer from the +5 modifier. In most circumstances these modifiers cancel each other out. So members of the Cyberpapacy when using adverse miracles ignore modifiers for circumstances. They never gain the -3 modifier for being needed urgently, or in a life threatening situation.
Ah the joys of tons of situational modifiers.

What's interesting is that a side effect of this spritiual conflict is that members of other religions can also use harmful miracles against Cyberpapal forces without suffering penalties or a crisis of faith. It's a battle for the souls of humanity, after all.

And people of other faiths need all the help they can get. Every member of the Church capable of performing miracles is gifted a specially prepared crucifix that gives them a bonus to their faith rolls. For the rank-and-file it's only a +1, but the higher-ranking folks can get as high as +4. There are only two crucifixes that grant a +5 bonus: one is Malraux's, the other is on loan to the Inquisition. Agents of the Church also recieve the blessing vow miracle, which increases one of their stats by up to 4 points.

Let's take a look at some of what the cyberfaithful can do.

Alter disease lets someone increase or decrease the effects of a mundane disease in one person. The better the roll, the more control you have; minimal successes make the disease incommunicable, higher successes can change the speed the disease operates or change its transmission method. There's also a cure disease miracle that does just what it says. This combo is one of the bigger weapons in the Church's battle for the souls of the people; Cyberpapal agents go to areas ravaged by diseases and help people in ways that traditional medicine cannot. Of course, the Church likes to turn the diseases into epidemics beforehand, but how else can you show how helpful you are?

The afforementioned Blessing Vow can increase one of the target's stats by 1 to 4 points, and the flip-side miracle curse reduces one of the target's stats.

The damn miracle is a modified version of curse : in addition to reducing a stat, it brands an inverted cross on the target's forehead. This is a common punishment for "minor" crimes among the populace, and can only be removed via a blessing vow miracle.

Oh, there's an Eradicate Radiation mircale. Just in case, I suppose.

Excommunication is a ritual that only affects people of the Cyberpapal, Catholic, or Greek Orthodox religions. It brands the target as an enemy of the Church and reduces their faith and focus skills. It can only be reversed through the use of a blessing vow . It can be cast on any member of the Cybercatholic church, but the higher-ranked the target the higher the difficulty. So yes, you could cast this on Malraux and have it work if you hit a difficulty of 32; hard, but not impossible.

The Mana miracle maintains your body in meatspace while your brain is jaunting around the GodNet. It basically removes your need to eat or sleep while jacked in. Unfortuntely, it only works while you're actually jacked in, so it doesn't help you at all the rest of the time.

The punnily named Rood Awakening freezes the target into a crucifiction pose (hense "rood"); until the victim can break free, they take shock damage and can't do anything except trying to throw off the effect (which requires a pretty hard faith roll.

Unbeliever's Doom is a damaging miracle that hits harder the further away the target's belief system is from Cybercatholisism. It can't target people who have adds in the faith skill for the Cyberapacy, and oddly doesn't do any bonus damage to people without any faith skill.

There are more miracles, but they're either dull or duplicates of the miracles provided in the core book.

And that's about it. On the plus side, all the Cyberpapacy stuff from here on out will be new material!


NEXT TIME: Every time a monster has "cyber" in the name, drink!

Cyber_____

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 11h: Cyber_____

Fun game: Every time I say "cyber" in this post, drink!

It's no fun running around CyberFrance without things to shoot at besides HoGs and Church operatives. Plus Malraux wants people to fear the forces of the Antichrist, so he makes sure that there are plenty of demonic things around to save the populace from. Which brings us nicely to the Creatures and Characters chapter, and as you can imagine most things in this chapter have "cyber" in their name.

Some monsters are GodNet entities , formed by the Tech Surge and multiple axiom washes. They exist mostly in the GodNet, but can manifest in the real world by casting a materialization spell (which is apportation magic, since we have to have everything tie to the stupid magic metaphysics) with a difficulty of 8. Success means that the entity exits the GodNet though an access port or jack.

One thing common to most creatures is a chance to be possibility rated, regardless of the nature of the creature. Even animals have a small chance to have some P-points, because we wouldn't want things to be too easy for the PCs. It does raise the question, however, how a cybered-up horse was capable of making a moral decision during their Crisis Moment to become a stormer. It does, however, raise the possibility of playing an animal.

The section does contain the expected array of generic human threats; cyberpriests, Chruch Police, Inquisitors, and so on. I'm not going to get into much detail on them because they're about what you'd expect.

Starting off the monster section are Booster Dogs , which are guard dogs that have been cybered up to guard important Church installations. There are a few different "builds", with different equipment for attack dogs versus trackers. Generally speaking, they all have dermal mesh armor, cyberfangs, and some form of eye implants so their handlers can track them.


They also look pretty rabid.

The next creature is the Bright Bones , and this one needs a bit of set-up. In the province of Albi, one of the cyberpriests committed the heresy of taking his diocese off the GodNet. Once the Church got the connections back up, new entities had appeared and blocked access to everyone outside this area of the GodNet. Bright Bones look like glowing skeletons with lines of code crawling around their surfaces. They're generally hostile to everyone, but will attack Cyberpapal agents on sight. Because of this, Albi has become a pretty crime-ridden place, since the Church can't get in to enforce their laws.

Cartagras are the husks of people whose minds have been permanently trapped in the GodNet. The Church hooks the bodies up to life support systems when not in use, and are used as disposable cannon fodder. They can be programmed to perform simple tasks using chipware, and can also be controlled remotely by cyberpriests. They can also be cybered to the gills because, being mindless, they don't need to worry about things like cyberpsychosis.

If you have a Cyberchurch, you're gonna have Cyberknights . Don't let the fancy name fool you, though. CyberKnights are recruited from the streets, usually gangers who're sick of getting beating on by The CyberMan or normal folks who have no other survival options. They're lured into the order with promises of glory, heaven, big-ass guns, and their own cyberhorses. Once in, they're indoctrinated, run through an assembly line to get chromed up, and sent out to be meatshields for the Church Police.

One fun aftereffect of France's axioms swinging all over the damn place are cygoyles , a.k.a. cybernetic gargoyles. Some are originally from Manga Verita, others were statues brought to life by reality storms, still more were normal Core Earthers who got on the wrong end of a reality storm. Despite the name, generally speaking only those cygoyles in service of the CyberPope have any cyberware.


Remember this guy?

Believe it or no, demons barely get any page time. This is the full description of demons, sans stat block.

quote:

Demons come in many shapes and forms, from small looking gremlins to large dog-headed monsters. The majority have large amounts of cyberware implants.
Demons are considered enemies by most faiths, and they make frequent use of the adverse miracles of the Cyberpapacy.
That's it. Moving on.

Now it's time to talk about the CyberPapacy's gospogs . Gospogs, in case you forgot, are special troops High Lords can grow by planting corpses in specially-prepared fields. The field can be used up to five times, with each "planting" of gospog yeilding fewer creatures but generating stronger ones until the last planting creates one single uber-monster. First-planting gospog all look like run-of-the-mill zombies, but after that their appearance and abilities change depending on the High Lord in quesion.


A second-planting gospog

quote:

The fifth planting gospog is an angel of death, complete with the ragged wings, tattered black robe, and grinning skull. But blackened bones are twined with NeuraCal, and CSI LED’s and other cybereyes are rooted in dry sockets. A chipholder is attached directly to its vertebrae. Slashers do impossible amounts of damage, and a crystalline mass projects holographic images into and in front of the angel.

The images are drawn from LifeChips, DatChips of unknown origin. The angel plugs a chip in, and scenes are projected from the crystal. Most often these are scenes of a character’s life, images which the angel could not have possibly seen, including images from childhood or adolescence which are important to the character.
These gospog are able to rip people's souls out and trap them in the GodNet, and their weapon is a scythe whose damage is equal to the faith score of the user (in this case, 25).

Hospitallers deserve special mention. As stated above (and because it's a 90's RPG), cyberpsychosis is a thing. Hospitallers are crusaders who believe that cyberpsychosis is the modern equivalent of speaking in tongues, and that the insanity is a sign from God. They are (unsurprisingly) loaded up with as much cyberware as the Church can cram into their bodies.

Incubi and succubi are around, and have almost identical descriptions and stat blocks. The main difference is that incubi have higher charm skill, and succubi have a higher taunt skill. Interpret that how you will.

Since it's been a few pages without a bad pun, we have the Jazuits (Jaz is a substance that eases cybernetic acclimation). They're the social warriors of the Church; they are the missionaries sent abroad to spread the word of Malraux and smite heretics as needed.

Lastly, we have slinkers .

quote:

Cyberware has been added to cats in Paris by cyberleggers who want to maintain surveillance of the approaches to their hideouts. Known on the street as slinkers, these cats augment fixed camera positions and are wired with radio transmitters and receivers, which the cyberlegger uses to send pleasure/pain impulses to direct the cat’s actions.
Yeah.

---

Surprisingly, there's not a lot of really thematic monsters here. You'd think that demons would get more attention than two paragraphs, given how important they are. Hell, the bright bones get more page space, and they only exist in the GodNet of one city! I think the idea is that the main threats of the Cyberpapacy are all human; cyberpriests/nuns, Inquisitors, Church Police, and so on. But if you've got this whole setup where faith and demons are known to be real, why not play to that more? The chapter detailing France down to the square foot is longer than the chapter of villain stats!

It's like they don't understand "tone", or something.

NEXT TIME: Where the chrome meets the meat!

Cold chrome, hot lead, premade templates

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 11h: Cold chrome, hot lead, premade templates

And now we finally get to the most important part of any cyberpunk RPG: the equipment section!

quote:

“The GodNet brings the benefits of cybernetics to all loyal Catholics. Imbued with the Holy Spirit and the blessing of the Church, cyberware fortifies weak and yielding flesh with the power of God. Blessed are the faithful, for they shall share in the bounty of the Lord.”
—Extract from the Cyberpope’s Inauguration Speech
Cyberware is readily available throughout the Cyberpapacy. The Church and assorted independent manufacturers are the legal ways to procure stuff, but of course there's illegal back-alley cyberleggers who'll install stuff with no questions asked beyond "you got the money, right?"

That being said, technically cyberware is only available for the faithful. Any legal installation surgery must be approved and supervised by a techpriest, and to ensure that you're actually faithful instead of paying lip service for some chrome, there are a few...hidden systems.

quote:

All of the cyberware systems described here are available at no cost from the Cyberpapacy, but there is a price to be paid: to ensure orthodoxy, or to prevent the use of these systems against the Cyberpapacy, the systems are frequently fitted with homing bugs (homers), and self-destruct devices which can be activated by Malraux’s agents. These devices are activated by radio, and either burn out a cyberware system making it inoperative, or else cause severe damage to the user’s Central Nervous System. In the case of lifesupporting cyberware, death follows quickly as cybernetic hearts and lungs cease their vital functions. Other systems simply burn out and fuse together. At the same time, energy stored in their powercells is blasted through the user’s body causing an attack with a damage value of 18.
Presumably, this doesn't apply to illegal installations, but the book doesn't state this one way or the other.

Of course, getting implants requires surgery, and since this is Torg you have to roll to see how well the surgery went and how long you're going to need to recover.

Installing cyberware in someone requires a medicine roll, with the difficulty depending on the system being installed. If the roll succeeds, then the surgery was successful. The patient is out for half an hour after the surgery (yes, they specify how long) and will probably have a wound or two that need to heal normally. Better-than-normal successes can improve your healing rate, whereas bare successes or flat-out failures can damage not just the patient, but the cyberware as well, and can actually cause the patient to flatline on the table.

So yes, it's possible for your character to die just by getting a cyberhand.

And even if you get your chrome installed without any problems, there are other systems in play to make your life difficult. The first is the possibility of system failure ; whenever you're doing something involving your cyberware, a roll of 1 means the GM gets to roll abonus and look it up on the system failures table . Because we haven't had a chart in a while, I guess. Oh, and he gets roll-agains on 10s and 20s like it's a skilled roll.



The other problem is because this is a 90's cyberpunk RPG: the danger of cyberpsychosis .

Cyberpsychosis is the dehumanizing side-effect of replacing too much of your body with hardware. Every piece of cyberware in the book has a cyber rating that represents how much of a strain it puts on your headmeats, and your character's cyber rating is the total of all these values.

Whenever you suffer a setback result, from cards of social skill use, the GM takes your cyber rating and generates a total with it. This is compared to your Spirit stat, and the result is looked up on the cyberspychosis table .



Interestingly, you can declare you're resisting the cyberpsychotic attack, which is treated as an active defense; roll your Spirit to generate a total, with a minimum bonus of +1. Unfortunately, it doesn't say if this is treated as your action for the turn (like a normal active defence), but if it's not, then there's no reason to not resist the attack.

You also have a maximum cyber rating equal to your Spirit +10; if you hit the max, then "cyberpsychosis will doom the character within the span of a few adventures". Unfortunately they don't say what that actually means . There's no "when you hit this number you finally snap and are removed and your character is taken over by the GM" thing, and technically you're only checking for a break when a setback happens, which isn't a guaranteed thing. So I guess the GM is supposed to take the character away after a few sessions?

It is possible to reduce your character's cyber value. You can either have systems removed (which requires more surgery, with all the risks that entails), or can be treated with a psychology roll.

And now that we're past the general mechanics, we would logically talk about the main manufacturers of cyberware because that shouldn't be in the setting info. Each piece of gear in the book has the manufacturer in the name, which is a nice touch, really. This is the closest thing we have to a real list of "megacorps", though, so let's get through this.

BelleVision originally made cosmetic replacement eyes before the Tech Surge, and is now one of the main manufacturers of cybereyes. They're currently dealing with the twin problems of a rival company sort-of stealing their brand name with lower-quality "Belle-View" products, and the fact that a large chunk of their R&D department just defected to Paris Liberté and has set up their own company.

Clear Sight Industries is the number one provider of cybereyes and weapon enhancement systems to the Church; in fact they don't sell to anyone else because the company is run by cyberpriests. Recently, however, one of their main product train shipments was seized by the Resistance, and then stolen again by the Sun Kings.


High tech!

Compte Industries develops physical enhancement systems. It's a relatively small company, but their systems tend to find their way into Churh Police or Hospitaller operatives. The German government believes that Compte Idustries is actually a Dr. Mobius operation, or secretly a front company for Japanese interests.

CyberHam Manufacture is a sort of "guerrilla company" created by ham radio operators who wanted to get into this whole "GodNet" thing on the ground floor. They make cyberdecks and other systems designed to infiltrate Cyberpapal systems. They work out of back rooms and warehouses.

Data Audio Systems (DATAS) used to be a manufacturer of audio systems. Now, they lead the way in audio and sensory cybersystems. The company is controlled by the Cyberpapacy, but rumor has it they have a manufacturing facility somewhere outside the main cities.

FreeFrance Optics is the company made by the people who defected from BelleVision. They've had to deal with attacks from Cyberpapal forces trying to either kill them as heretics or bring them "back into the fold", i.e. killing them. They've had to relocate recently to get away from these attacks.

God's Word Industries are the number one manufacturer of weapons and combat gear for the Church. When you're stripping a dead Church Police agent for his gear, odds are that it'll have "GWI" on the label. Many illegal companies try to duplicate GWI gear, but they can't match the overall quality.

Marlenes produces drug-injection systems (including the associated drug), and may or may not be a front of the Sun Kings. The company denies this, of course, but it's probably not a coincidence that their drugs are highly addictive and are sold on the streets with disturbing regularity.

MediCo is a straight-up drug manufactuing company, making normal over-the-counter and prescription drugs. They are very concious of their public image, and give to a lot of charities across CryberFrance. Unfortuntely, a lot of those charities are owned by Malraux.

MindBody Technologies are the main manufacturers of boosters and chargers, cyber-components that inject drugs into a person's system. And they've even managed to work out the kinks, like drug resouvour leakage and brain damage!

NeuroInc develops artificial nerves and skin tissue. Their artificial skin is pretty much impossible to tell from the real thing, but that being said most people don't use it because you want to show off the chrome to show how pieos you are.

Pleasure Products Ltd used to make "massage machines", but now makes sensory enhancement systems. And that's pretty much all there is to them.

Trigon Products make cyberlimbs. Specifically, they make cyberlimbs for the Resistance and assorted street gangs. They've taken advantage of the increased tech available to create "mobile manufacturing plants", which travel the country staying one step ahead of the Inquisition.

True Spirit Enterprises is another maker of sensory systems, but they're also the once who developed Spirit Chip technology. They also copy designs of other companies and sell those designs to the Church.

And with that out of the way, let's talk about cyberware implants!

To start with, every system needs a power source . Small systems (like cybereyes) use inegrated batteries that can run for about two years before needing to be changed, whereas a cyberlimb runs on a larger battery that only lasts a month or so. Cyberlimb batteries can actually be recharged by plugging them into a wall socket. Chipware sockets require very little power, and actually run off the user's central nervous system.

Next up is a brief discussion on costs. Did I mention the books aren't organized very well? Anyway, the prices listed for gear are actually how much it'd cost to get the part from a cyberlegger; the Cyberpapacy does not charge for cyberware, but will only give it to selected members of the church.

On to the basic cybersystems! If you have implants, you need NeuraCal to activate them mentally. NeuraCal is a system of artificial nerve cells that are woven into the brainstem, then connected to your various systems. It has a base cyber rating of 5, which is about a quarter of most characters' max rating. If you don't want to get NeuraCal installed, you can use Jaz Packs instead. Jaz is a chemical that temporarily alters your nervous system to allow implant use. It's injected through an apotheduct , which is a patch put on the surface of your skin that you can plug drug packs into for easy dosing. The apotheduct only has a cyber rating of 2, and a jaz pack has a rating of 1 and gives you -3 to your cyberpsychosis results. The down side is that a dose of Jaz only lasts an hour, whereas NeuraCal never runs out.

It's worth pointing out that you don't need NeuraCal or Jaz to use an unmodified cyberlimb, but you would need one of them to use an implanted weapon or system. If you don't want to go either route, you can get a control pad built onto your arm. It's worth pointing out that 1) they don't tell you this for another five pages or so, and b) the book doesn't say how this all works with stuff like a cybereye. Do I need Jaz to use the zoom function of my eye? Got me.

The other basic cyberimplant is a neural jack , which you need to directly access the GodNet. For the most part, only techpriests or GodNet raiders have these. Everybody else makes do with simple stick-on temple electrodes ("temptrodes") to beam the signals into their brains. Using the GodNet through trodes is very limited (especially compared to what you can do with a jack), but it's good enough for normal users with the added benefit of not having to worry about your frontal lobe melting.

Now we start getting into the good stuff with sensory systems . Each "sensory location" can hold up to three systems, with all their various bonuses stacking. But here's the thing: each eye is considered a different "location", so you could have three implants in your left eye and three completely different systems in your right eye without any sort of problems or headaches. And yes, they specificially say you can do that in the book. Not that you'd want to get too nuts, because while sensory systems only have cyber ratings of +1 or +2, they can add up.

Regardless, we first get a listing of vision enhancements . Obviously, I'm not going to go through every single one, because they're pretty much what you'd expect: low-light/IR vision, heads-up displays, cameras, and an assortment of pluses to your find skill. There's also one system that lets you see electrical impulses.

Next are auditory enhancements , and again there aren't too many surprises here. Sound enhancement and dampening are the main draws, but you can also get enhancements for low- and high-frequency hearing.

There are only two taste systems and they're both pretty useless. One lets you identify tastes you've tasted before (+1 to your Perception for "tasting purposes only"), and the other stores 20 tastes so you can identify them if you've never tasted them before. Whatever.

The olfactory systems aren't much more interesting. Yeah, there's the standard track-by-scent implant, and a general sense enhancer, but the interesting thing here is The Clamp. It's a system that automatically seals your nasal passages shut for three minutes when it detects an unwanted scent or gas.


Holding your nose...IN THE FUTURE!

The last of the five senses only has two tactile systems available: one that gives you +2 Dexterity when doing fine work, and one that lets you sense electrical currents within 10 cm by touching something.

There are other assorted sensory systems as well; motion sensors, bioscanners, throat mikes, things like that. Again, it's all pretty much your standard cyberfare.

Next on the list are the physical enhancements . This is where your bioware and overall body ehancements are found. Some of the options available include vocal modifications, chemical enhancers or injectors, tendon replacements, and stat boosts, but ultimately there's nothing super-amazing here with the exception of the MB Blocker. MB Blockers are standard-issue implants for Church Police that release pain suppressants and endorphins when the host is hurt. With a Blocker installed, you ignore all K results on damage rolls, all shock damage you take is reduced by 3, and you don't lose your next turn when heavily wounded. Which makes fighting the Church Police a real pain in the ass.

From here we go to Prosthetics and Armor . Interestingly, cyberlimbs aren't common with followers of the Church. The Church prefers to give the common folk simple implants and internal systems, saving the big stuff for the actual Cyberpapal hierarchy. Outside the Church, of course, they're pretty common, but you have to get them installed by a cyberlegger. Limb cyber ratings vary, from +1 for a low-end cyberhand to +6 for the high-end limbs. That being said, there's no real difference between the low-end and high-end versions of the cyberlimb, but I do like that the highest-quality cyberleg is the Trigon Steve Austin .

quote:

Cybernetic limbs are made from HardPlas: a light, but tough plastic which is also pliable and resistant to damage. Artificial muscle tissues are used to manipulate the limbs, and the limb is covered in NeuraSkin. As with other items of cyberware, street fashions dictate that it is more cool to leave the limb uncovered, coated with chromium plate or painted in other bright colors.

Pain and touch sensors are built into all cyber limbs and, unless switched off, either manually or by a NeuraCal command, the user feels all sensations as he would from a real limb. Cybernetic limbs can have compartments built into them which can be used to hold tools and weapons.
Cyberlimbs actually have +6 armor adds, but just to that particular limb. Even though Torg doesn't have hit locations. You can also enhance the Strength of the limbs if you want so you can punch harder and jump higher.

If you want to go as full borg as possible, you can also get a full skeleton replacemet. The Trigon CyberSkel basically allows you to up the Strength scores of your cyberlimbs.

The "armor" part of this section is just subdermal armor. Get metal plates installed under your skin, get up to +5 armor.

The next section is a list of subdermal weapons . Once again, not too many surprises here; you can install a small-caliber pistol, a gas jet, or monofilament blades in your arms. There are two types of arm blades: you can get slicers (which come out of your fingertips or toes), or slashers (which are Wolverine claws). If you saw Johnny Mnemonic, you can also get a monowhip installed in your finger because that's a good idea.

We now come to Chipware , which has a few new things that differ from your standard cybersetting.

As is the case with this kind of thing, you need special jacks installed to use chipware. As is also the case because it's the 90s, the "chips" look like small plugs rather than actual computer chips or SD cards.


Warning: Choking hazard for children under 3.

You can get chips that give you a +1 or +2 to one of your skills or just give you a ton of file storage in your head, but the two main additions here are faith chips and skill chips . We've talked about faith chips before (they make you a devout follower of Cybercatholisism), but spirit chips need some detail.

Spirit chips contain the personality and memory of a person who was trapped in Purgatory. The victim's "soul" (for lack of a better term) is permanently uploaded into the chip, and when you slot the chip you gain access to that person's skills and memories. The thing is: the rest of the person is in there too.

When not slotted, the inhabitant of the spirit chip is basically in a dormant state, and is awoken when the chip is plugged in. The inhabitant knows how long they've been out, but will need to be told what the current situation is when they wake up. The person who slotted the chip will have access to the inhabitant's skill adds (as long as he has fewer adds than the inhabitant), but uses his own stats to determine the overall score.

The big downside to spirit chips (apart from how they're made) is that the chip inhabitant can try to take over the host's body. The inhabitant still has his mental stats as well as his skills, and can make an opposed Spirit roll on the Interaction Results Table. If the inhabitant wins with an unskilled or stymied result, then the chip takes over for the rest of the scene, using its mental stats and the host's physical stats. If the host loses by more than that, then the inhabitant takes over and shoves the host's mind aside, making him a passive observer of his own actions. What's more, the longer the chip is used, the better the chip will be at seizing control.

The host can try to retake control under a few different circumstances:

quote:

• a chip does something contrary to the character’s beliefs (gamemaster’s decision).
• if the chip needs to ask the character for information or advice. Unless on-line, chips are unaware of their surroundings; this tends to make them ignorant of recent events.
• if the character’s body takes damage, thereby triggering the character’s self-preservation instincts.
When one of these happens, the character makes another opposed roll to get back in the driver's seat. If he succeeds, the chip can't try to take over again until the next scene.



The rest of the chapter is just a few pages of generic gear, guns, armor, and vehicles you can get, but I'm not going to get into this stuff because it's just varations on basic gear. There are still a few things that stand out:

First, laser and plasma weapons are available.

Second, most of the vehicles available vehicles hover. The cars, the APCs, the battle tanks...they all hover.

Third, there's a CyberTrain.

quote:

The CyberTrain is a huge train that runs on a magnetic rail. It is capable of high speeds and is armored and armed with plasma cannons and Hellfire missiles.
It is the most :metal: train ever.

And now, finally, we have the templates available to Cyberpapal characters. The core Worldbook has three templates:


The GodNet Raider is a computer musician who got transformed during the Tech Surge. His default gimmick is that he sees everything in terms of music, like calling the GodNet "a great piece of music being butchered by a backup band". His tag skill is, of course, cyberdeck operation .


The Jaz Fighter is a straight-up tough-talking street-smart cyber-punk, yo. She's gotten a bit of the old "wire-and-polish" done at a chopshop, and is now ready to take on the "hood-and-frocks". Ridiculous slang aside, the Jaz Fighter starts with a bunch of cyberware and her tag skill is fire combat .


The Obsessed Prodigy is basically Dr. Hachi Mara-Two (she's on the core book cover), only from the Cyberpapacy, but still with the ridiculous hairstyle and outfit. She's your typical "teenage girl who doesn't 'get' life or have social skills yet at college where everyone's ten years older" type, only with cyberware. Her tag skill is science

The Cyberpapacy book adds another twelve:


The Amateur Occultist was that kid who was really into tarot cards and runes and such, and didn't let go of that stuff as he grew older. Now that the invasion and axiom wash have happened, he's finding out he was actually more viable than he knew. On the plus side, he can cast spells now! His tag skill is divination magic , and his starting gear includes dark glasses and an overcoat because of course it does.

The Consulting Detective ran a sort of unofficial investigative service for people who needed more discretion than your typical private eye would show. When the Cyberpapacy showed up, you were one of the few who doubted, who saw the manipulation behind the light show. Now he uses his tag skill of evidence analysis to help his fellow freedom fighters.

The Cyberdecker is basically the GodNet raider, but with different gear and not as pretentious. She was a hacker before everything end now, and now she's like a kid in a candy store with all this new tech around. Her tag skill is cyberdeck operation .

The Cyberlegger can get you what you need. Parts, weapons, cyberware that fell off the back of an ambulance truck; you name it, he knows a guy. In fact, that's what got him kicked out of medical school. Now he's a one-man black market.

quote:

You woke up one morning to find hi-tech goodies littering your workroom. Stuff you’d only previously read about in cyberpunk novels was piled up high. Passing a mirror you noticed that your glasses had changed. Boy, did you look cool in those flush-fitted mirrorshades. Fitted real well, too. A seamless mesh of flesh and tech.
Sadly, his default background involves the fridging of his wife and kids. His tag skill is medicine .

The Dissenting Priest has seen the arrival of Malraux and the Cyberpapacy run roughshod over his own long-held moral beliefs. Even before the Tech Surge and the declaration of Pope John Paul as the Antichrist, you knew what had to be done. And thanks to the sudden increase in divine intervention thanks to your faith (roman catholic) tag skill, you have the means to fight back.

The Disillusioned Hero is a poor bastard who went off to fight in the Foreign Legion, then came back home just in time for the invasion to turn everything to shit. It wasn't bad enough he saw all his friends killed in combat, now he's a front-line defender of Paris, and all these confused civilians are going to him for help like he knows what the fuck to do. His tag skill is fire combat .

The Hunted Witch is actually the first template who comes from Magna Verita. She managed to escape the Inquisition for years, watching friends and allies who weren't as lucky fall to the forces of the Church. When the initial bridge dropped, she managed to sneak into the new world. The Tech Surge gave her cybernetics, and now she's ready to fight back for real. Oddly, she's the only template with two tag skills: alteration magic and scholar (herbs) .

The Psychologist was a normal Core Earther who's found herself on the wrong end of the Church. With the mindset of the masses dialed back to a medieval point of view, psychology becomes "brain magic" and people are having none of that. Still, her impressive social abilities and psychology tag skill can come in handy.


Hey Moe!
The Renegade Hospitaller is originally from Magna Verita, and didn't adjust well to the Tech Surge. He saw Malraux's new dedication to this strange technology as trouble (especially since Malraux was damning technology up 'til then), and the last straw was when he was ordered to torch a village of innocents. He managed to escape the Church and the so-called Cyberpope, and now fights on the side of the just with his faith (Cyberpapist) skill and heavy weaponry.

The Secret Agent was a "military advisor" in Chad when she caught a mortar round. It cost her an eye and an arm, and earned her a desk job in Paris. When the invasion arrived, she was the only one who cared about the Church's covert operations because everyone else was panicking. Then the government collapsed, the Tech Surge happened, and she found herself with some upgrades and able to get back in the game. Her tag skill is stealth .


The Senior Citizen is my honest-to-God favorite template in the entire game line. I'm just gonna quote his background in full.

quote:

You thought you’d entered your twilight years. Your body had started to give out. First your hearing went, then your hip joint, followed by your legs. You’d always been myopic, so to came as no surprise when you started going blind.

Your memory began to decline rapidly making it hard to remember when you had to take your long list of prescription drugs. To be honest, you were looking forward to a long deserved rest in the hereafter.

Then the new Pope arrived and brought a new lease of life for you. Your legs changed, the calipers were gone and they were far stronger than they had ever been. Your sight and hearing improved dramatically, and you could even see and hear things that were just impossible before. Your memory improved in leaps and bounds.

You gave praise to God and to Cyberpope Jean Malraux, his servant on Earth, for the miracles he had worked upon you. But you soon realized that it was not the dawn of a new golden age. The Cyberpapacy was as ruthless and as oppressive as the Nazis you’d fought during the war. You still remember rejoicing when France was liberated by the Allies in 1945, but this time you know there are no Allies to come to your aid.
That's right; this guy was a member of the original French Resistance in World War II, and thanks to Malraux he not only has his faculties back, but also a bunch of top-of-the-line cyberware, a good old-fashioned Thompson machine gun, and a fresh new hatred of fascists stompin' all over his lawn. He's a 70-plus-year-old crotchety Original Resistance fighter who's here to show these young whippersnappers how you really fight an evil invading force. I don't care what anybody says that is as fuck . Oh, and his tag skill is fire combat .

The Street Punk was living on the street long before the invasion happened. She had to scrape for everything, and when the invasion hit things got even worse. Insane Church officers, thousands of displaced citizens, and insane new street gangs make survival harder than ever, and now she has to start learning how to get help from others. Her tag skill is streetwise .

More templates would come out in later books, but it's interesting to note that there wasn't a "cyberpriest" template until the Cleric's Sourcebook.

--

And that brings us to the end of the Cyberpapacy book! And as silly as it tends to get, it's actually a really interesting take on the cyberpunk genre. It hits a lot of the main points of the genre (corporations controlling everything, constant surveilance, crazy gangs), but by changing every major controlling power to a version of the 16th Century Catholic Church. Tieing all the tropes to the belief structure of the Church leads to some interesting (and scary) concepts, like faith chips and having your soul "damned" to a spirit chip for all eternity.

The problem is that the book is really hurt by the line's poor organization, needless detail, inconsistent tone, and the whole problem with having to maintain your personal axioms because no matter where you go outside of France you're going to be operating above the local tech axiom. I mean, it's nice that you can play a cyberwitch or cyberpriest without worrying about Shadowrun style drawbacks, but the constant threat of disconnection is a pretty big issue.

Despite everything, I still love the place. As long as I don't have to do any netrunning, and you'll find out why...

NEXT TIME: GodNet DLC!

The GodNet, v2.0: now with functionality!

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 11i: The GodNet, v2.0: now with functionality!

A few months after the Cyberpapacy book was released (and even more months since the release of the core set), West End Games finally released the GodNet sourcebook. This doesn't seem like that much of a problem until you realize that, until the release of said book, the game didn't have the complete rules for running the GodNet, meaning that you didn't have the rules needed to take advantage of one of the Cyberpapacy's main selling points.

The GodNet book is a full supplement, and at about 90 pages is about the same size as the Cyberpapacy book itself. Unforunately, a lot of the book is padding. There's useful stuff like generic bad guys and net entities, but there's also a lot of stuff that is just reiterating fluff or stat blocks we've already seen in the main Cyberpapacy book. As a result, I'm going to skip talking about a good amount of this stuff because we've already seen it before.

Regardless, let's get into it.

The first chapter is just a rehashing of how Malraux invaded France, ran into Hachi Mara-Two in the dreamtime, got his axioms changed, and initiated the Tech Surge. This is like the fourth time this tale's been told so I don't know why they felt the need to tell it again except maybe to pad the page count.

Oh, and to show off more of that classic Torgian purple prose.

quote:

The Antipope of Avignon met the young woman upon the maelstrom bridge. She was small, wiry, full of coiled power.She was scantily dressed, with a wild mane of silver hair, and dark makeup masked her eyes. The true horror, as far as Malraux was concerned, was that parts of her body were made of metal. She was an abomination, an unholy combination of flesh and technology. What's more, she had the audacity to attack his person, as though the Pontiff of Avignon was a common brawler!

Claws snapped from her fingers and the young woman sliced at Malraux, cutting through his priestly raiments to expose the bare flesh of his back. She struck again, and the antipope felt the prickle of tiny needles upon his exposed skin. He swung wildly, a vicious back-hand slap that dropped the young woman to her knees. He saw others then, more stormers. He did not want to engage these heathens in physical confrontation. Not when he had other things to attend to. He called to his Darkness Device, and a spiral of light appeared beside him. He stepped into the glowing dimthread, then it retreated back toward his own bridge of light.

But the young woman was not done with Jean Malraux.

She was Dr. Hachi Mara·Two, a scientist from the cyber-world called Kadandra. It was Mara who first postulated the existence ofother cosms of reality to the World Council of Kadandra. She also warned of the first cosm contact, which saved. her world from the invading High Lord of Tharkold. When the war with Tharkold ended, Mara volunteered to travel to another cosm to aid it against similar invaders. This cosm was Earth. Mara brought with her a sensover chip of her world, virtual reality memories that she could plug into whenever homesickness got too bad. It was this chip, connected. to a modified jaz pack, that Mara attached to Jean Malraux's exposed back. With the use of the drug contained in the jaz pack, the virtual reality images could be viewed by anyone without the usually-necessary cyber enhancements. Mara triggered the remote switch, activating the jaz pack/sensover chip assembly.

And Jean Malraux dreamed.
It's worth pointing out that this is probably the most information we get on Kadandra throughout the whole game line, which is odd considering how important it is to the overall early metaplot and the Cyberpapacy in particular.

Chapter two is The Net from the Outside , and talks about how the GodNet interacts with the general public and how ubiquitous it is in everyone's life. (spoiler: it's part of everything)

Ever since the Tech Surge, the GodNet has become an integral part of life in CyberFrance. Every home, shop, school, and business has a GodNet connection as required by papal law. Even radio and television broadcasts are part of the GodNet.

Everyone uses the GodNet in one form or another, and doing so is treated as a religous experience. Cyberpapal iconography pervades every user experience from browsing internet sites to the fact that phone dial tones are psalms and hymns.

For 99% of the French population, using the GodNet consists of plugging a computer into an access jack and accessing the GodNet the same way we use the internet. You can browse sites, shop online, watch movies, and so on. Of course, everything is monitored by the Church and you can't access any telecommunications networks outside of France. In fact, you can't even create your own internal network by just hooking five terminals to a mainframe and calling it a day; networking any computers together, even in areas that hold Core Earth's axioms, has to be done by connecting to the GodNet thanks to the Darkness Device. All is One in the GodNet.

While the GodNet does cover all of the CyberPapal realm, the Church has begun spreading its influence throughout the rest of the world (primarily in Central and South America). To keep his agnets abroad in the loop, Malraux has begun setting up a satellite network called The Firmament that allows GodNet signals to connect to areas outside of France.

But again, most GodNet activity happens in the realm itself. Most of the general public accesses the GodNet through dumb terminals that are basically just a PC that's only capable of running the equivalent of a web browser. You don't have to plug your head into it to use it, and you can only do things like check your email, watch HolyVids, chat, or go shopping. People who're a bit further up on the economic totem pole (or who own businesses) can afford smart terminals, which are closer to what we think of as computers; these are machines capable of running actual software and doing office work or data management.

Very few honest citizens own cyberdecks, mainly because they don't need them. Outside of Cyberpapal personel and hackers, very few people need the level of interface that involves a full virtual interface. Not to mention that legally owning a cyberdeck still puts you under suspicion and scrutiny by the Church.

Before we leave this chapter, it's worth pointing out again that the Cyberpapal axioms have worked their way back to Magna Verita. The Avignon bridge serves as a metaphysical network cable between the two realities, but Malraux has been very careful when it comes to revealing the new technologies to his home reality, but is still primarily focusing on Core Earth.

Chapter Three is The Net from the Inside , and this is where we start getting into the mechanical chunks of the GodNet.

Well, after two pages of fluff and unnessecary detail, anyway. There's a page describing someone's experience jacking into the GodNet and getting nailed by a security program five seconds later, and another page of detail nobody needed about jacking in and the cybernetic systems needed and blah blah blah.

It does give us this line, which may be the best thing in the whole book:

quote:

In the words of an anonymous decker posted in the electronic mail: "Leave your body at the interface port, and let your mind out for a run..."
Oh, the 90's. You were a different time.

Anyway, once you're jacked in you get a virtual body created from your personal self-image. Your virtual self looks like you (unless you have software to alter it), and you have access to all your normal skills.



And again, because God fucking forbid anything in Torg is explained in a logical order, between saying that you have all your skills and what that means in the GodNet we get this description of what jacking in looks like.

quote:

He first finds himself upon a glowing datapath that leads to the local Holy Exchange church. He quickly realizes that the path is but one of thousands upon thousands of pulsating lines running haphazardly across a huge glowing cross. The decker is connected to the path by a gossamer strand that tugs him toward the Holy Exchange for clearance and routing. Beyond the local exchange, rising like a tower toward heaven, is Babel Central, located at the junction of the arms of the cross.
And now we talk more about virual selves. When you jack in, your virtual self will have tools based on your skills and self-image. If you're a soldier, for example, your fire combat skill will manifest as a rifle, or your land vehicles skill will mean you have a virtual jeep. This means that you can use your item-based skills normally in the GodNet so at least you're not boned when it comes to doing, well, anything. Inherent abilities like spells, miracles, and pulp powers also function in the GodNet.

However, they might not work as well because all your skills in the GodNet are based off your Perception or Mind instead of their normal stats. Unsuprisingly, the details on this aren't given until later on in the book.

Now that we know how to get in, now we learn about getting out of the GodNet. Even though logging in always takes you to the nearest Data Cathedral, logging out can be done anywhere as long as you're not inside a data construct (which, again, we don't learn about until later).

And now we get to the "percieved geography" of the GodNet. If you ever played one of the early cyberpunk games in the late 80's/early 90's, then this is gonna look a bit familiar.

As stated previously, the GodNet is both the actual telecommunications network of France as well as a pocket dimension created by Ebenuscrux. It appears to jacked-in users as an infinite swirling blackness with the various datapaths and virtual structures just hanging in space. Every virtual construct that exists in the GodNet, regardless of its origin or purpose, appears as a cross between medieval religous structures and 90's neon cyberpunk design.

The most common type of contruct is a datapath , which represents the "telephone lines and microwave transmissions" that carry data from one place to the next. The only way to get anywhere in the GodNet is by taking a datapath, and in fact the only thing you can do on a datapath is travel. No combat, no interaction, just going from point A to point B.

And now it's time to talk about constructs . Constructs are representations of computer networks, and are pretty much what you go into the GodNet to hack into.

quote:

Within theGodNet, constructs take on an appearance that reflects their size. The larger the computer system housed by the construct, the more impressive it appears. They can appear as glowing Gothic churches, cathedrals, fortresses, manor houses, castles, or other buildings. The size of a system usually reflects its importance within the Cyberpapaey. Small, rural churches have small computer systems. Avignon, with its huge computers and countless work stations, has two constructs within theGooNet: the Avignon data fortress and Babel Central.
The various systems in a construct are represented by cells, and this is where the crunch begins.

Cells are the building blocks of constructs. There are different types of cells, each with its own function. And in gaming terms, each one is basically a room in a "dungeon" that the hacker has to deal with to get to where he's going.

That's right, it's time to start building the Netrunner's Magical Side Adventure!

There are seven types of cells:
All cells in a construct are connected by datapaths, and can be secured by gates or seals; gates just need passwords, but seals are keyed to specific virtual images. Sort of a virtual fingerprint lock. Of course, you can hack your way through them. Oh, and some gates can be hidden from users so you get to search for secret doors too.

In addition, every cell can have a security rating, which is the difficulty of any rolls made to access that cell's functions. Each cell has a list of things you can do in it mechanically if you can beat that rating. The Core is the most involved; from there you can get system maps, shut other cells on and off, fiddle with security gates, and so on. Everything else has fewer options since the other cells are so focused; for instance, all you can do in a data vault is upload or download files.

And how do we set up these constructs? By drawing intricate maps, of course!


The building blocks of the internet

The idea is that every data construct is mapped out like this. You need a connection from Babel Central to a Cathedral Exchange or Church Exchange to the log-on cell, and from there you move through the system like an old-fashioned dungeon crawl.


A small data construct


A large data construct

And yes, the GM is exected to map these systems out in full. Pre-written adventures have them made for you, and the GodNet book gives you some standard designs for common construct types, but you still need whole maps for whenever someone wants to go digitally dumpster-diving.

Those of you who played the early cyberpunk games in the first half of the 90's recognize this problem. In order to emulate the source fiction, hacking wasn't handled with a single roll, but was instead done with systems like this. The GM would have a big data structure the hacker had to slowly work his way through one piece at a time, fighting security programs, hacking through firewalls, and so on.

Meanwhile, as the hacker is having his Magical Computerland Side Adventure that could end up taking two hours of real time, the rest of the players are sitting there twiddling their thumbs. This is because of another genre-emulation idea where time in netspace happens at the "speed of thought", so even if the hackventure takes two hours of the session, in game-time it's supposed to take like two minutes. And since there's not much the meatspace characters can do in two minutes, you ended up with everyone getting pissed at the decker because it took him half a session to defeat a password lock on a door.

Amazingly, Torg came up with a very simple solution for this problem: actions in the GodNet take place on the same time-scale as actions outside of it. If the hacker needs ten minutes to get to the cell that controls the security door, the rest of the characters have ten minutes to prep for what's on the other side (or hold off the meatspace security forces they're trying to escape from). There's no thing of most of the group sitting around and waiting for the hacker to do his thing.

In-universe, the reason the GodNet works at this speed is so that the time dilation between normal human perception and the standard-issue "internet speed" don't screw with people's heads. Regardless of how little people like Malraux care about the people under them, it's hard to keep your workforce effective when they spend eight virtual hours working in the GodNet, disconnecting, realizing that only took half an hour in realspace, and then slowly going insane because the constant perception shifts are fucking with their heads.

The next section is about how the game rules work in the GodNet, but this again feels like padding because a lot of it could be summed up in a table. It's mostly "the net <skill> is based off <this stat> instead of <normal stat>" stuff, so I don't know why it needed three pages of that. The short form is that everything works off the Mind and Perception stats.

One important thing to note is that damage in the GodNet is mental damage, not physical, and as such can only be healed with the psychology skill.

Magic and miracles still work in the GodNet, so if you want to be a spell-slinging decker you can do that no problem.



Well, okay, a little problem or two. The biggest problem is that any spell or miracle that targets something physical will just flat-out not work in the GodNet because there's no physicality there. You can't use a spell to blast a firewall off its hinges or fry a security program to a crisp because they don't have physical forms for the spell to latch on to. The other problem is that magic (not miracles) effect values are limited by your stats, so you can't get super-high spell result rolls.

And from there we go to Running the GodNet . Which starts with a page of "why do people run the GodNet" because I guess people couldn't understand why you want to hack into the evil controlling government's computer systems without help.

In keeping with the scattershot presentation, the next section is about being detected in the GodNet, and talks about Guardians , a concept introduced about 10 pages ago and aren't explained in detail for another 20 or so. Dammit why can't they keep this stuff all in one place!

Guardians are basically security software or net entities. A cell can have a Guardian attached to it, and it'll stay there until an alarm is raised or until it detects someone who's not supposed to be in the cell. Some Guardians will stay put, others are able to move through the system after hackers. I'll talk more about them in the next post.

Anyway, when you try to move past a Guardian, you have to make a net stealth roll against its net find . If it sees you it'll attack, and if you screw around in the system enough (and fail rolls) it can get bonuses to its rolls to detect you.

See, every time you try to manipulate a cell and fail, you create a net blip equal to the amount you failed by. The net blip is added to a Guardian's detection roll, but the GM also gets to roll to see if you're detected by any jackpriests when you create the blip. A jackpriest or whoever will only scan for three rounds ever (it says so in the rules), and if he doesn't see you his AI resets and he presumably goes back to his set-path searching pattern.

If you are detected, then the jackpriest will start a trace on you, at which point the alarms are sounded and and the Guardians in the system start actively looking for you. How long this takes depends on how good you are at avoiding and stealthing past people, but remember that you can't log out of the GodNet while in a construct and while you're running for the exit the Church Police are homing in on your meatspace body.

The remainder of the chapter is about running with multiple deckers linking their decks together. Turns out can actually bring non-deckers along with you on a run via TempTrodes, but they can't take any actions in the GodNet. They can use their skills to aid the decker's rolls, though.

Deckers can also "run duo", which means they network their decks together and run as one "entity". Doing this allows them to access programs on each others' decks, but they appear in the GodNet as one single entity, and can't do things like split up.

I am only halfway through this book. And this why I thank God that Shadowrun ended up paring this shit down to a single hacking roll because good lord this shit is complex.

NEXT TIME: Hardware and the app store!

The GodNet, v2.0: killer apps

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 11j: The GodNet, v2.0: killer apps

Now that we know how to run the GodNet, we need to learn about the tools required to do that in the first place.

The next chapter is about cyberdecks , and just reiterates information we've gotten elsewhere. Cyberdecks have four stats: response , stealth , processor power , and storage . The first two stats add to various GodNet rolls, processor power determines how many programs you can run at once, and storage is just that. We get some sample cyberdecks you can buy off the shelf, and that's pretty much the chapter. At least it was only three pages!

Now we come to Programs , and things get a little more complicated. There are a lot of different programs, and of course the rules for them are convoluted.

Programs have three stats: Power, Price, and Write. Power generally determines the adds the program gives you, and Write is the difficulty of writing the program from scratch with the science (computer) skill or trying to crack the software to make an illegal copy.

Yes, Torg actually has rules for illegally copying software because why the fuck not.

Before we actually get to the software, we learn about damage to programs. When taking net damage, any shock damage is done to your active programs first, and reduces the Power of the software. If software hits zero power it crashes, and can only be restored by using a "rebuild program" or making a cyberdeck operation roll.


She is really into that readout

So software!

The basic type of software is skill enhancement software , and this is pretty straightforward: the software adds its Power to your skill rolls. Easy enough.

Things get more complex with Special Programs . These are the more complex pieces of software that have better bonuses or give specific abilities.

So of course now we learn about "running cold", which is netrunning without any special programs. This is just an unnecessarily way of saying that you can't perform some actions without the associated software. You can attack without an "attack" program, but you can't destroy someone's installed software without the Scramble program.

And back into the software list we go! And right off the bat we run into some head-scratchers with the base attack software. Attack adds its power to your attack rolls, but there's also "Onslaught" programs that do the same thing, cost more, and cannot be run cold. So I don't know why you'd need two separate programs for these, when the only real difference is that Attack maxes at power 5 and Onslaught tops out at power 6. (Attack 3 is size 3 and costs 10,000 francs, but Onslaught 3 is size 2 and costs three times as much.)

There are six special attack programs:

On the defensive side, we again have a case of the basic software (Defense) and the more-expensive-but-not-more-effective version (Armor). There's also Scan, which allows you to both analyze cells and see what programs your opponents have running. Last is Shroud, that adds to your net stealth and makes your avatar look like a cyberpriest.

The next category is Evasion software, but there's only one in this category. It's called Evasion and it's used to throw off Trace programs.

Fortunately, Trace programs are up next! There's only one kind of Trace program, and it's used to locate the target's body so you can use your meaner software on them.

Related to the above are Grab programs, which make it harder for the target to jack out. At least the better Grab program, called Grapple, is actually more useful than the basic version because where Grab will prevent the target from logging out, Grapple will actually hold the target in place so they can't leave the cell they're in.

Another single-type program is Breach, which is used to knock gates or seals down. Moving on.

Next up are data manipulation programs , and almost all of these are just boosts to things you can do without special software. Manipulate lets you do stuff with cells, Search helps you find things in data vaults, Copy lets you copy data from a vault to your deck faster, and Alter lets you edit data. One thing you can't do without special software is download files from your deck onto external storage; apparently you can't put a text file on a thumb drive without the Store program. There's also a Disassembler program that adds its value to the other data manipulation software.

And now we come to the special special software. You can overclock your deck with White Light, allowing you to swap programs or upload data faster. Rebuild "heals" damage your software has taken, and the Heal program clears out the user's shock data.

Finally, we get to AngelBusters , and this is some fun 90's tech here.

quote:

AngelBusters are the street name for programs which hold more than one program within them. These programs are specially compacted so that they take up less space in a cyberdeck.

AngelBusters are only rarely available on the shadow market. The Cyberpapacy also writes its own AngelBusters, except it calls them Compact Programs (ComProgs). AngelBusters are written to overcome the inherent problems offitting a lot of programs into the restricted space of a cyberdeck.
Just as a reminder, you can't have all your programs running all the time because that wouldn't be complex enough. You can only have so many programs running at a time, and you have to load programs into system memory before they can be used.

AngelBusters are supposed to be a way around this limitation, but they're totally not worth it.

AngelBusters are basically zip files that contain programs so they use up less storage. ABs hold (actual size)x(compression factor) blocks of software: a 3x2 AngelBuster will take up three storage blocks on deck but actually contains six storage blocks worth of software. A 3x4 AngelBuster also takes up three blocks but can hold 12 block's worth of software.

To use the software in an AngelBuster, you just uncompress the software into the processor at which point it goes back to its original size. But here's the problem: you can't re -compress the software back into the AngelBuster. If you need that processor space you have to wipe it from the processor.

But that's not all! Every AngelBuster also has a crash rating , which is equal to the actual size+compression factor+10 (so the 2x3 would have a crash rating of 15). Every time you use the AngelBuster, you have to roll your net manipulation against the crash rating, and if you fail the AngelBuster crashes completely ; you can't use the programs in it, you can't reboot it, nothing. It is rendered completely useless now and forever. Hope you didn't pay a lot for it!

As an added bonus, you can't always tell what's in an AngelBuster. You need to make a science (computer) roll to see what software is in there, or you can just use it blind. Using it blind means you can only pull the programs in the order they're listed.

So let's say I've got a 3x3 AngelBuster that has Attack 3, Scan 1, Copy 2, and Breach 3. If I want to use this thing blind, I first have to avoid the crash difficulty of 16, then I can pull the Attack program out and use it. But if it's not the one I need, then I have to wipe that out and pull the next one in line.

And because we're not fucking over hackers enough here, some AngelBusters contain malware that will activate and attack the user when they try to pull something from the zip file.

The last page of this chapter is about writing programs, and it's pretty dull. Although if you want you can actually create copy protection on the software you write in case you don't want people to illegally get your illegal software. Not that it matters, because there's also rules for cracking protection.

The next chapter is Net Regions and Entities . This is where we

quote:

And I stood upon the datapaths of the GodNet, and saw a beast rise up out of the Deep, having seven heads and 10 horns,and upon his horns were 10 crowns. Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him? Revelations 13:1, The Malraux Bible
...okay.

As I was saying, this chapter starts by covering the major regions of the GodNet. And again, a large chunk of this information is reiterations of stuff from the main Cyberpapay book. We already know about Babel Central, Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory so I don't know why this book spends to much more time on them apart from padding the page count.

There are a few new locations, though, and they get less page space than the areas we already knew about.


The rough map of the GodNet

The Catacombs is a region that lies "under" the main structure of the GodNet. It was created by hackers and people of faiths other the Cyberpapacy, and as a result is not able to be monitored by the CyberChurch. A large number of Roman Papal agents operate out of this section of the GodNet.

The recycle bin of the GodNet is Trash , except that nobody ever right-clicks and empties it. This is where every deleted file winds up, and Trash connects to every data construct in the GodNet, but the gates leading out are a lot tougher than the ones going in.

The least-known area of the GodNet is Kadandra . This is the simulation of that reality brought to Core Earth by Hachi Mara-Two to help aleviate her homesickness and was on the dataplate jammed into Malraux's back. Malraux spends a lot of time here so he can try to get some context on the new technologies that are cropping up in his realm daily. Malraux has also discovered that there are GodNet connections from this region to...somewhere else.

(It's never revealed where those connections go. It's a plot point that is completely forgotten after being introduced. I suppose the sim could connect to the Kandandra reality, but since Kadandra never gets brought up again it's doubtful that's the case.)

The last "region" is The Deep , but it's not a region in the sense that the other areas are. The Deep is the term for the black void the GodNet exists in. It's theoretically infinite, but the few people who've gone to explore it have never returned.

And now that we've covered that, we talk about actual Net Entities.

Again, this is a topic that's been touched on before. There are self-aware beings that exist independantly in the GodNet, born from Malraux's worldview and understanding of the involved technology.

The entities deckers are most likely to run into are angels . Boringly, they don't have the historically accurate weird-ass version of angels that are things like masses of heads or the lion-wheel thing. GodNet angels of any rank just look like humans with wings, although the more powerful ones have flaming wings or skin that looks like the depths of space.

One thing that worries the Cyberpapacy is that there are angels appearing that do not claim fealty to Malraux or the CyberChurch. These beings claim they are archangels, and often side with enemies of the Cyberpapacy.

And where there are angels, there are also demons. Demons come in fewer mechanical variety than angels (there are about a dozen types of angels stated up, but only three demons: generic, arch-, and hellhounds). Demons...exist? I guess? There's no real information on what they do or what their goals are.

It should be pointed out that angels and demons can be P-rated.

Non-self aware entities are called sentinels , and generally are just placed in cells to protect them. They can't move out of their cells, and not being intelligent they just exist to fight hackers. Given that that's the case, I really do wonder why they get more detail and description than demons.


They probably shouldn't have installed CyberNobby 1.0

Lastly, we have viruses , which are the remnants of early Cyberpapal attempts to create net entities. These beings are like sentinels in that they're not intelligent, but are capable of moving around the GodNet and will indiscriminately attack pretty much anything it comes across.

The next chapter is some sample adventures, but you'll forgive me for skipping this one. They're all pretty much the same: you've been hired or asked to attack the data fortress of <group>, here it is. Some of the adventures even have things for people to do in meatspace! Isn't that thoughtful?


Get to it, hacker-boy.

The final chapter is Characters in the Net , and surprisingly isn't new templates or anything. Instead, it's a collection of NPCs of varying interest. I'll just talk about the not-boring ones.

Francois DuBango, The Lion is a character who appears regularly thoughout the Cyberpapcy books. He's a Jamacian hacker who says things like "Babel gonna fall, mon" and "I'n'l go into the Net, man. Just like I'n'I go into the street. Makes no sense to I'n'l that everything's changed out there."

He's very stereotypical.

Sanjuro Shintaro, a.k.a. The Hunchback sells cyberdecks and information to hackers. What nobody knows is that he's also an operative for the Kanawa Corporation. He's set up an extensive network of contacts throughout The Catacombs, so he's a go-to guy for intel.

Guiles Mondue was one of the first people to convert to the Cyberpapacy when Malraux arrived in Avignon. Despite the fact that he would make an interesting recurring threat to the PCs, his section of this chapter is actually a description of generic Babel Monitors. Why this is here instead of the early "generic NPC" section is beyond me.

Simone Darc is the "Opener of the Way". He's also one of the few people to return from Heaven. His time there transformed him into an angel, and he is fanatically dedicated to the Church. He takes it upon himself to hunt down the enemies of the Church in the GodNet and either kill them or (if they want redemption) drag them to Purgatory.

Lastly, we have Olivier Beauvoir , or at least his body. His mind is destroyed, and his body is under the control of a demon uncreatively named "Bloodletter". Bloodletter was sucked into the GodNet via the maelstrom bridge, managed to escape from Hell somehow, and attacked and killed the first decker it ran into. He's now having the time of his life in two worlds; he likes to harry deckers in the GodNet until he can learn where their bodies are, at which point he hunts down and kills the body.

And with that...we finally come to the end of The GodNet book.

Good fucking lord , for a 90-page book this thing is a fucking slog. The whole netrunning system is so overly-complex it's pretty unfun and convoluted. And again we run into the Torg chestnut of "why are they doing things this way?" Why does netrunning require you to manage your available system memory and processing power? Why are AngelBusters so inefficient? Why are constructs so complex (beyond the "that's how games did it back then" excuse)?

Well, it doesn't matter anymore, because we have reached the end of the Cyberpapacy. All that's left is the summary post...

NEXT TIME: The wrap-up and the vote!

The Cyberpapcy: End of File

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 11k: The Cyberpapcy: End of File

Well, here we are. It took a long time but finally we've reached the end of the Cyberpapacy books.

So what happens from there?

Eventually, Malraux tries to jump-start a space program to keep launching satellites to spread the GodNet signal. This eventually gets shut down by Storm Knights, but Malraux doesn't sit on his laurels very long.

Malraux eventually looks up "subtlety" in the dictionary and manages to drop a bridge in Quebec without anyone noticing right away. He manages to spread the realm down over New England until he takes Boston.

The Church also starts moving into South America, taking advantage of the faith of the inhabitants and using miracles to cure diseases that have been running through the populace. Of course, most of these diseases were introduced by the Church in the first place.

Then there was Operation: Central Fire .

The game goes into detail about how you have to take territory back from High Lords, and why you have to be really careful when you do it, because if you fuck it up then every Ord in the stelae zone will die.

The German government, knowing this, looked at the Cyberpapal map and asked "so what would happen if we pulled that central spoke of the 'wheel' there?"



The answer: nothing good. The German government coordinated with NATO forces to attack the Cyberpapacy while organizing bombing runs, all timed with the uprooting of the central stelae.

What they didn't take into account was that Malraux is paranoid enough to keep back-up stelae at every site that he could empower on a moment's notice. They also didn't take into account that stelae zones have to be triangles, so the reality was in heavy flux until the new stelae was activated.

Reality storms ravaged all of France, and when the dust settled and the Cyberpapal reality reasserted itself, the Core Earth forces lost over 10,000 troops. Civilian losses were surpisingly low, only about 4,500 people. But still, it was a severe loss for both sides.

All these attacks only manage to make Malraux even more paranoid; by year 3 he's almost completely lost his shit and is utterly bi-polar. He goes from murderous rage to deep depression to a Messiah complex pretty much on a cycle. Despite the Church's efforts, word of Malraux's madness starts to leak to the people, leading to more rebellion as the divide between the faithful and the heretics becomes wider and wider.

It doesn't help as the effects of the axiom shifts start taking hold back in Magna Verita, leading to a completely new and alien idea: Malraux might not actually be working in accordance to God's will . It's still a new enough idea that nobody knows how to act on this yet, but once they do Malraux's going to have to deal with rebellion on two fronts.

----

So. The Cyberpapacy.

Despite the slog of it, I do really enjoy this realm. It's an interesting take on the whole idea of cyberpunk, where they replace the megacorps with a fanatical church, and it's odd that nobody else has ever seemed to explore the idea.

But because this is a 90's RPG, there's no real sense of exploring the idea beyond a shoot-guys-and-hack-computers stance. Which is a shame, because there are ideas here (like Faith Chips) that would be really interesting to build on. That's some Anti-Life Equation shit right there.

Instead, we get pages and pages of details nobody really needs. It's like they couldn't trust people to make up stuff on their own.

And like other realms, the player options get undermined by the mechanics. Yeah, you can go cyberdelving, but you have to track program space and swap things around and the GM needs to make out these whole side-dungeons and who could possibly care?

The Cyberpapacy ended up being the second most popular realm after the Nile Empire, which is unsurprising. It is a shame that the setting is presented so dryly and nothing super-interesting happens to it in the long run, though.

But that's in the past! Now it's time to look to THE FUTURE! And that means a vote!

Which realm would y'all like to hear about next?

I'll take votes for like a day or so.

NEXT TIME: You tell me!

Nippon Tech - Mission Statement

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 12a: Nippon Tech - Mission Statement



An executive works desperately in his office at 3 AM, seeking to recoup the ¥50,000,000 loss he is responsible for due to a deal gone wrong. He knows that if he fails to do so by the end of the day, he will be required to kill himself. He also knows that if he runs, he will be hunted down and killed by order of the board of directors.

A gun dealer sells stolen high-tech rifles to a group of Yakuza enforcers. Little does anyone know that one of the enforcers is actually a plant from corporate security, and his allies are closing in on the meet. Little does the plant know that he's also on the kill list.

A homeless man, unable to afford even the basic air mask now needed in Tokyo's terrible environment, volunteers for a drug testing program. Within a month, his body and mind will be so mutated by the chemicals in his system that he's nothing but a monster. The researchers will simply dump him back on the street when done with him.

A ninja slides into a 30th story window to assassinate an executive who framed his own brother for embezzlement to claim the brother's position. The brother eagerly awaits word of the executive's death, already preparing to reclaim his former wealth and position.

A office worker dies at his desk after his twenty-second 12-hour shift in a row. Before his body has finished cooling in the morgue, his assets are packed up and sold off by the corporation, and his replacement is already beginning work at the same desk.

Just business as usual in Nippon Tech, as ordained by its High Lord and CEO, Ryuchi Kanawa.

Nippon Tech
(Now, before we go any further, spend some time looking at this web site , particularly "overworked to suicide" and "internet cafe refugees", and watch this video . That's depressingly similar to what Nippon Tech is like.)

With the massive destruction in North America and multiple invading realities in Europe, the world economy is in chaos as the largest economic forces are tied up in the battle for reality. Thankfully, Japan has managed to improve its financial standing on the world stage, taking up the financial slack and keeping the global economy moving. Japanese corporations have begun directly aiding other countries, expanding and building locations that provide much-needed money and employment for the ravaged countries of Core Earth. Foremost of these is the Kanawa Corporation, which has recently become a major player on the world stage under the guidance of its CEO, Ryuchi Kanawa.

What nobody knows is that Japan has also been invaded by an alien reality known as "Marketplace", and by relying on Japan, the world is playing right into the hands of its High Lord, the head of the Kanawa Corporation, the ruthless 3327.

(And yes, his name is actually 3327. In his home cosm of Marketplace, names were long ago replaced with identification numbers. The numbers are four-digit numbers followed by seven decimal places, but people are referred to by their first four digits. This was decided long ago so that these "names" could be used as universal access codes for everything from online shopping to to banking, and put the people further under the control of the corporations.)

3327 managed to keep the invasion of Japan secret by having advance agents found the Kanawa Corporation with the wealth of other worlds, building a massive empty skyscaper to serve as "corporate headquarters", and dropping the bridge inside the husk of the building. He specifically chose Japan as the initial invasion point because it most closely resembled his home cosm, making subtle expansion easier.

In fact, it would be almost three years before the world would learn that Japan had been invaded in the first place. And as much of a surprise as it was to the world, it was more of a surprise to the transformed inhabitants of the realm.

By then, of course, it was far too late to do anything about it.

3327, a.k.a. Ryuchi Kanawa


3327, High Lord of Marketplace

3327 has always been obsessed with profit, to the exclusion of everything else in his life. He has only ever performed one "good" act in his life: saving his mentor 2174 from a knife-wielding attacker. Even then, it wasn't at all selfless.

3327 posted:

"I could manipulate 2174, as I might not be able to his successor. It was in my interests at the time to keep him whole."

In thanks, 2174 put 3327 on the promotion fast-track. 3327 rose in the ranks of the Ursan Corporation, and repaid his mentor's generosity by passing along false financial reports that caused the older man to make unwise investments. In Marketplace, the price for financial failure is board-mandated suicide, and 3327 maneuvered his mentor so well the old man never knew he was stabbed in the back.

quote:

The man called 3327 did not start at the soft tone which summoned him to the Ursan Industries boardroom. Indeed, he had been expecting it, and welcomed the message it brought.

The meeting had already begun when he arrived. 2174 was pacing about the room, looking pale and unhealthy. He had failed to recoup the loss - it was all over but the begging, 3327 knew.

The meeting progressed as if he himself had scripted it, as he had, in a way: 2174 sweating and sputtering, trying in vain to explain why he had invested the firm's credits in an enterprise that collapsed; board members angrily pointing to plunging profits this quarter, and looking none too well themselves; and 3327, he who had engineered 2174's fatal error, doing his best not to let a smile disturb his carefully-rehearsed look of concern.

At last, the board had heard enough. Marketplace Security was summoned, and 2174 went with dignity to pay the cosm's penalty for unwise investment. When he was gone, all eyes in the room turned to 3327-without a word, the young executive walked to the head of the table and assumed the seat of power.

He had achieved his first conquest...

3327 rapidly turned the Ursan Corporation into the most powerful economic force in Marketplace, and also managed to seize control of the Triad, the governing force of Marketplace himself.

And just as he started becoming restless after taking control of his world, 3327 came across his world's Darkness Device. This artifact, which he later named Daikoku , promised the CEO more worlds to conquer, new wealth to accumulate in return for the possibility energy of these worlds.

Unlike other High Lords, 3327 did not work his way across the multiverse with rampaging armies. Instead, he approached every invasion as he would a corporate takeover: domination through financial control rather than strength of arms. There were times his forces were so subtle the invaded world didn't even know they had been taken over until it was far too late.

As 3327's empire expanded, he found it harder and harder to control the myriad worlds under his control. This was further complicated by the fact that 3327 refused to give anyone under him any real power in case it would be used against him. Then he hit upon the solution: through a combination of Marketplace's technology and the power of the Darkness Device, 3327 grew five clones of himself and copied his mind into each one. The clones were mentally linked to each other and to the original 3327; any thought or emotion felt by one would be felt by all. Now that he had these surrogates, he could truly run his multiversal empire from multiple places at once. Daikoku, for its part, fully supports this idea because it sees it as a sixfold return on its investment.

When approached by the Gaunt Man to help invade Earth, 3327 decided to manage this invasion personally instead of leaving it to his clone or to underlings as he normally did. He sent his agents to Earth on dimthreads to begin taking control of companies in Japan, laying the financial groundwork for the eventual takeover. He created the persona of "Ryuchi Kanawa" and created the Kanawa Corporation to undermine the country of Japan from within.

3327's whole worldview is based around the ideas of profit and loss. He is nearly emotionless, feeling only greed. Despite being a textbook sociopath, 3327 has spent a long time learning how to read and predict people to make up for it.

The only thing 3327 fears is bankruptcy; he barely fears death thanks to his clone back-ups, but despite that he knows he can still be executed by his board of directors for failing to turn a profit. Core Earth is his riskiest venture to date, and despite his personal wealth it's still possible for him to cut a loss if things go against him.

3327's to-do list is pretty much what you'd expect for the High Lord of a reality based around profit and gain.

1. Acquire Wealth. Profit rules all in Marketplace, and even as High Lord he has to maintain profits to stay in charge. But because he's a Possibility Raider, he has access to the wealth and treasure of countless realities. As it stands right now, 3327's net worth is in the trillions, but it is still not enough.

2. Become Torg. 3327 seeks material wealth, not ephemeral power, but becoming Torg would make him truly immortal without needed to rely on his Darkness Device, and immorality means an eternity of gaining wealth.

3. Keep the realm a secret. Kanawa's operations on Core Earth are dependent on nobody knowing that Japan has been invaded. The other High Lords know he's there, of course, but don't seem to be interested in leaking the information to the world.

4. Expand the realm. More territory = more stolen possibility energy. 3327 knows that his Darkness Device is as dedicated to profit as he himself is, so he makes sure to keep it happy.

5. Find eternity shards. Daikoku can drain possibility energy from these artifacts, so 3327 seeks them out to feed to the Darkness Device.

6. Recruit new forces. 3327 is always on the lookout for new sources of profit, so he has begun an effort to recruit operatives from other realms. Partially so he can get inside information on the other High Lords, but also because he wants access to the technological assets of the Nile Empire and the Cyberpapacy.

7. Contain the other realms. 3327 has no direct allies. He sees every other High Lord as a threat to be dealt with (even as he sells them weapons). 3327 knows that he controls the least amount of territory out of all the Raiders, and he needs territory to expand into for possibility energy and raw resources. This also means he needs to drive the other realms off existing resources.

At the core of everything 3327 does is the drive for profit. It informs every decision he makes, and he sees nothing wrong with selling to every side as long as he makes out on the deal. 3327 has no allies, only customers and tools.


3327 and the other High Lords
3327 sees every other High Lord as a pawn to be used in his own long-term plans, or against each other. He has made no serious alliances with anyone, and in fact actively works against almost every single one of them.

3327 sees Dr. Mobius as one of the biggest threats due to his scientific knowledge and unpredictability. 3327 has been attempting to turn one of Mobius' overgoverners against him, but it's slow going. 3327 has also been funding Israeli forces fighting against Mobius so the Kanawa Corportation can seize control of the oil fields.

Baruk Kaah hates 3327 with a fiery passion. Kaah has learned that American freedom fighters are getting their arms from the Kanawa Corporation, and 3327 was instrumental in the destruction of Kaah's western bridge and loss of most of that territory. In fact, 3327 would drop a bridge in California shortly thereafter, further cutting off that land from Kaah.

While the techno-demon Thratchen is technically not a High Lord, he is managing Orrorsh in the Gaunt Man's absence. Thratchen has recently learned that the reason the Tharkhold invasion failed because the Russian psychic research project that predicted it was funded by the Kanawa Corporation. The only reason he hasn't acted on this knowledge is because he doesn't have his own Darkness Device to back him up.

3327 was as shocked as anyone when Pope Jean Malraux initiated the Tech Surge, and this had a strong effect on 3327's plans. Before the Surge, 3327 pretty much wrote off the False Papacy as a backwater realm that wasn't a threat. Now, he wants access to the cybertechnology of that realm. He has begun sending in operatives and opening factories in the realm to reverse-engineer the technolgy so he can sell it to the rest of the world.

Like the other High Lords, 3327 isn't sure what to make of the situation of Aysle. With the former High Lord Uthorion ousted from the body of Lady Ardinay, he's decided to take a wait-and-see approach until he knows if a new High Lord will arise.


Axioms and World Laws
The world laws of Marketplace have evolved to compliment and reinforce the way the overall culture has been driven.

First up is The Law of Intrigue , which may be a side-effect of 3327's control of the cosm. This law states that deception is easier in Nippon Tech, and betrayal is common. The mechanical effect is that skills like stealth or disguise get significant bonuses, as do attempts to use skills like persuasion when you're lying. A side effect of this Law is that any organization that has at least 100 members will have at least one traitor in its ranks , and larger organizations will have whole cells working to undermine them. Betrayal has become so common it's now baked into the reality itself.

Next is The Law of Profit , and it's the reason why the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor. This law states that people of means will be able to spend less money on goods and services, while poorer people will have to spend more.

I'd be remiss to not let Sir Terry Pratchett sum it up better than I ever could:

Men At Arms posted:

“The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a
pair of boots that'd still be keeping his feet dry in ten years' time, while the poor man who could only
afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet
feet
.

This was the Captain Samuel Vimes 'Boots' theory of socioeconomic unfairness.”

This law doesn't mean that prices will change at the register; it means that the available options to buy things varies depends on who's buying, and the rich will have access to places that will charge them relatively less.

Because of this, if you start sliding down the socioeconomic ladder it's damn near impossible to claw your way back up. It's not just that the upper class is keeping the lower classes down, it's reality that's keeping them down.

The final law is The Law of Vengeance . This law is tied to the Law of Intrigue, and rewards an "eye for an eye" system of justice. The short form is that any character who takes revenge against someone who wronged him will gain six extra possibilities at the end of the act. It does need to be revenge for a significant loss; you can't get revenge for someone shooting you in the leg, but someone shooting you in the leg and leaving you for CorpSec so they can get away is worthy. The only other limitation is that you have to wait at least 48 hours after being wronged. Best served cold, and all that.

The axioms of Marketplace and Nippon Tech reflect the decline of "human" culture and the rise of corporate culture, yet are close enough to Core Earth's that the inhabitants of the realm have barely noticed any major change apart from "wow, things are getting pretty bad in this neighborhood".

Technology: 24 The technology of Marketplace is just ahead of Core Earth's by maybe a
decade. Unfortunately, this is from the point of view of the early 90's so you get a weird mix of stuff
that's still not even close to being possible (laser rifles, flying cars) and things that are low-tech by
modern standards (supercomputers with 256Mb of RAM).

The two technological fields that are having the largest effect on the rest of the world are medical technology and weapon development. Because Nippon Tech corporations aren't bound by those pesky medical ethics or worldwide regulatory programs, human testing is pretty much "anything goes". This has led to some more advanced technologies like better replacement organs and functional prosthetic (not cybernetic) limbs, it also means that human testing often involves hiring homeless or lower-class people, pumping them full of drugs, and seeing what happens.

Weapons technology has become a booming industry, what with the battle for Core Earth and all. Because everything in Nippon Tech is dedicated to profit, Nippon Tech companies are more than happy to sell to anyone . They'll sell guns to NATO forces in preparation for an attack on a Nile Empire outpost, then turn right around and sell guns to the Nile Empire. As a result, the other High Lords aren't too happy with 3327 because he's arming the "good guys" as much as he's arming the other High Lords.

(It's important to point out that because 3327 understand reality mechanics, he maintains companies and manufacturers who build weapons for lower-tech realities using the methods of those realities. Yes, if you buy a Nippon Tech rifle it's going to be Tech 24, but you can also buy a Tech 15 matchlock musket to use in Aysle, or a Tech 22 .30 M1 Carbine that works fine in the Nile Empire without causing a contradiction.)

One side effect of Kanawa Corporation's operations is that the technology of Core Earth is getting a bit of a boost as Core Earth manufacturers reverse-engineer the higher tech.

Social: 22 This is a weird one. While technically a bit higher than Core Earth's social axiom, the fact that the culture is a mix of corporate culture and feudal culture means that things have gotten worse in Japan. The crime and unemployment rates have more than tripled, suicide and drug use rates have skyrocketed, and the class divide is wider now than it's ever been. Being an employee of a megacorporation means that they pretty much own you, and even if you're on the the board of directors you're still considered a completely disposable asset .

Magic: 2, Spiritual: 8 Nippon Tech has the second-lowest magic axiom out of all the realities (Living Land it the lowest at 0). The drive for material profit has resulted in a cultural mindset of cold rationality, driving out the concepts of spiritual fulfillment, and magic was never a large part of the culture to begin with.

A side-effect of the low magic and spiritual axioms is that, to Core Earthers or people from other realities, everything in the realms feels... off . Part of what most people think of as "normality" is due to the natural levels of magic and community we live with daily. In Nippon Tech, visitors are deprived of those levels. It's like the sudden absence of a sound you've heard so much you don't notice it until it's gone.

As a result, everything feels empty . People on the street don't even come close to making eye contact no matter the situation. Every strange event seems larger and more oppressive. Death or suicide due to overwork is incredibly common because there's no sense of fulfillment outside of your job.


The combination of all these factors results in a world of almost total oppression. The inhabitants are barely even treated as people by the corporations, the crime lords are running rampant because the cops now only serve corporate interests, and it's impossible for most people to rise above their current financial situations.

Now, this is where I'd normally say something about the heroes fighting back and how there's still hope for the common folk and yadda yadda yadda.

But that's not the case here.

Here, you're barely a person. You're a cog in the machine, a tool to be used by your corporate masters. Once you're used up, you're thrown away and replaced. If you complain, you're out on the street. If you're on the bottom rung of the ladder you're staying there, and even if you're on the top rung one mistake will get you kicked off the ladder. The only possible help can come from outside the realm, but why would anyone help when they don't even know you're in danger?

And if you've got a problem with that, there are hundreds of people out there who'll be more than happy to fill your position. I can go down to HR and pull five names at random that can do your job. So keep your head down, shut up, and do your job unless you want to wind up on the street.

Now get back to work.

NEXT TIME: Economic realities!

Economic realities

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 12b: Economic realities



Chapter Two is about The Cosm , which means we're going to learn about how Marketplace wound up in its current situation.

The creation myth of the world of Marketplace has, in fact, been made illegal by the worlds' government as part of the banning of the former global religion. The world was originally called Gokuraku , and was a "verdant, abundant world" where there was no real concept of need. Everyone was able to have what they wanted, and there was no real concept of "greed" or self-ambition as we think of it.

quote:

All of this changed, according to the legend, when a villager named Weng-Ju scaled a mountain peak and discovered a great valley, cut in two by a sparkling river. All about him he could see trees heavy with golden chestnuts, thickets filled with wild figs and almonds. Never before had he seen such beauty, and of a sudden a dark thought crept into his mind: no one else but he could truly appreciate the wonder of this place, so no othereyes must be allowed to look upon it.

Weng-Ju told no one of his discovery, but many of the villagers began to wonder where he found the delicacies he enjoyed. Soon, the people grew jealous and began to whisper that Weng-Ju was a sorcerer, and should be cast out of the village. But one young maiden, who loved Weng-Ju, insisted it was not so, and said that she would follow him when next he left the village, and return with proof that he was a good and honest man.

For many days, the maiden, Lin-San, followed her beloved without his knowledge. When she reached the peak of the mountain and saw the valley below, she gasped, a small sound that Weng-Ju heard. Infuriated that someone else had discovered his wealth, Weng-Ju hurled a stone in the direction of the sound.

Struck, Lin-San fell dead. Weng-Ju brought her body back to the village, only to find himself branded a murderer by his people. Fearing their wrath, he offered to share the secret of his great wealth with any who would defend him. One man, and then another, came to his side, and Gokuraku wept.
This led to a war that lasted for hundreds of years, ravaging the people and the land. Nations formed and splintered, fighting over resources and greedily protecting their own borders. The leaders claimed that it was their right as leaders to claim the majority of the nation's wealth for themselves as "payment" for their leadership. It wasn't long before the Gokuraku was utterly unrecognizable from the paradise it once was.

That's the legend, anyway.

But before we get to that, we run headlong into Standard Torg Disorganization and now we're learning about the Geography and Environment .

Modern-day Marketplace, like most of the invading cosms, is fairly similar to Core Earth. It has smaller landmasses spread out over its surface, a similar climate, and so on. But the expansion of the corporations has even had an effect on this.


This is a different world, all right.

Due to a rapidly expanding population, the landmasses are not only completely covered by megaplexes, the giant cities have actually had to start building out over the oceans on raised platforms. All available land has been covered by the megacities; there is no "natural" land left. No forests, no mountains, no beaches. Everything has been paved flat and built on. There's barely any wildlife left as well; at most you'll see wild "domesticated" animals like dogs in the back alleys.

This, of course, has had a terrible effect on the environment. The heavy reliance on industrialization has caused extreme global warming. Summers are long, and winters have large temperature swings. In fact, there's so little difference between the seasons now the only way to tell them apart is by the changes in temperature and rainfall.

The megaplexes themselves are the ultimate urban nightmare sprawl. Giant skyscrapers and run-down buildings crowd together along narrow streets, and even though "hover cars" exist, few can afford them so the streets are constantly clogged with traffic.

The environment outside of the megaplexes is a wreck. The extreme climate changes combined with the heavy polution from non-stop industrialization mean that the air and water are pretty much destroyed. A thick smog hangs over most of the planet's surface, and the oceans are toxic slurries

The near-total destruction of the environment has been "dealt with" by creating sealed-off environments in most of the world. Large chunks of megaplexes (that are owned and lived in by the wealthy) are enclosed, UV-shielded, have water filtration, and are climate controlled.

The poorer sections of the megaplexes, however, aren't as lucky.

quote:

Water pollution is no less severe, with industrial waste pumped daily into the rivers and seas. Apartment
complexes and office buildings have their water pumped in through complicated filtration systems, a frequent target for sabotage by opposition groups. The exact chemical content of the water changes daily, and those burakumin who do not take the precaution of boiling the water first can expect a lingering and painful death.

U1traviolet radiation has also become a problem in Marketplace, due to the destruction of the ozone layer by fluorocarbons. Very little attention has been paid to this situation, beyond UV-coating all windows, since it is felt that anyone who spends a prolonged amount of time outdoors is asking for trouble anyway.

Finally, the poorer classes are often made the victims of covert product testing by various chemical companies, which may account for the high percentage of deformities and mutations among the homeless, particularly in Donglin.

These abysmal living conditions are only seen as business opportunities by the corporations. There's a huge market for anti-polution devices, air filtration masks, and UV-resistant clothing. And if people don't want to buy? Well, then the "lower classes" problem pretty much takes care of itself.

quote:

Hanwa, in the arctic zone, is the most challenging continent upon which to live, but also the safest, for few of the burakumin can survive for long outdoors and thus the level of street crime is low.
Probably the best summary of the Marketplace corporate mindset is that one company that manufactures anti-pollution devices has recently opened a new major factory that produces nothing but pollution.

The nest section is The History of Marketplace , and covers the actual history of the cosm.

For the most part, Marketplace's historical development was roughly the same most places on Core Earth. There was the give-and-take between the main cities and the rural areas, each supporting the other. There were wars of various sizes that led to an extended period of peace. And that's where things started to go bad.

The extended peace made the various corporations that had been profiting off the various wars nervous; war stimulates the economy, and without major conflicts it was beginning to stagnate. A coalition of arms dealers hired numerous ronin flare up minor border conflicts and bribed government officials to fan the flames of hostility. It wasn't long before small conflicts sprang up and and the money started rolling in again.

Thus were private corporate intelligence services born.

Things escalated into another world-wide war, with the mutitions companies raking it in and pulling the strings behind the scenes. Then something happened that was beyond even the companies' wildest dreams.

quote:

But the war had a happy side effect the companies had not anticipated - weakened by public outcries against the war, governments began to topple, and the people turned to successful businessmen to rule in the place of politicians and kings.

Industry accepted the challenge, and in the name of "rebuilding the shattered economy," began dismantling environmental legislation and various labor laws. Full-fledged "factory towns" began to appear, where employees were clothed, fed and housed by their firms - but employers were quick to point out that if a worker should be fired, he would quickly find himself naked, hungry, and out in the cold. Unions came into being, not to defend the rights of workers, but to point out any malcontents to the company for the good of all.
Given almost unfettered power, the corporations began to expand rapidly, which lead to their next problem.

Any corporate executive who was hired to run the coallition of governing companies would invariably favor his old company in "govenment" matters. This would lead to people from rival corporations hiring freelance ninjas (and eventually bringing them onto the payroll) to eliminate the leader so they could place their own stooge in his place.

This cycle repeated so much it led to bloody corporate warfare across the land, and resulted in a summit between the major CEOs. Realizing that there was no way to have one person in charge be completely neutral, and that each corporation had a stranglehold on its own territory, they reached a descision: the corporations took direct control of the government, disolved all national borders, and started a one-world government run by the three largest corporations at the time.

The first thing the new Triad did was institute a worldwide change that tied the larger culture to their control.

quote:

The three firms instituted a system in which names were replaced by numbers which, along with a retina scan, served as an access code for computer banking and shopping, as well as entrance to buildings throughout the cosm. Without a number and a known retina pattern, it is virtually impossible to accomplish anything in Marketplace (the numbers consist of four digits followed by seven decimal places, i.e. 3327.7257901, but most people are commonly referred to by the £rst four digits only). Ignored in all of this, for the most part, were the world's social ills, which had resulted in more and more people turning to the religion of Palan.
This move creates a global version of company scrip ; you had to accept the corporations' changes and control, or you couldn't take advantage of vital services like supermarkets or banks.

When 3327 got his seat on the Triad, he instituted the First Article of Incorporation:

quote:

"Whereas, citizens of Marketplace have the inalienable right to own property;
"And whereas, the right to own implies the right exclusively to occupy;
"Therefore, be it resolved that those citizens over the age of 21 who do not own or lease property have thereby forfeited all rights granted by any charter, declaration or other document currently extant in Marketplace."

This basically removed the rights of the poor to actually legally occupy space. This led to the formation of Marketplace Security, the Triad's heavily-armed thug force, and a large sweep-and-clear of a lot of Marketplace's lowest-class population.

And now we learn about the Government . Since I've talked way too much about the background of the cosm that you can't easily go to in-game, I'll just sum up here.

The Triad consists of the CEOs of the three most powerful corporations in Marketplace. There's no elections or anything; Triad membership is determined by company profits and holdings. The current members of the Triad are:
It should be pointed out that 6365 is described as "a tall, beautiful woman", which was a common thing with female NPCs in Torg.


The Triad in a rare face-to-face meeting

The will of the Triad is enforced by Marketplace Security , who act as "law enforcement", but whose real job is to maintain the interests of the corprorations. MarSec has actually gotten so powerful they're almost autonomous now, but thanks again to the Law of Intrigue the larger it gets the more traitors from rebel groups start showing up. Regardless, MarSec tends to treat the lower classes with a "shoot first, ask questions never" policy.

One of MarSec's main jobs is enforcing one of Marketplaces most important laws: corporations must produce profits. If a corporate executive does something that causes his company to dip into the red, it's quite common for that executive to bankrupt himself to counter the corporate loss.

If he fails, then MarSec steps in. The executive is informed by a MarSec agent that he has dishonored both himself and the firm, and is given 24 hours to redeem himself by generating enough profits to make up the loss, at which point he must commit suicide as the price of his failure.


And don't even think about asking for a gold watch.

At which point MarSec stacks the deck against the poor bastard. He's immediately escorted from the building to his apartment (away from his files), all his personal possessions are confiscated to be given to his successor at the company, and he is then padlocked into his apartment and a guard is placed on the door. It's at this point that the executive will be informed that his number and retnal pattern have been erased from the system. He's ultimately cut off from any legal access to methods of generating profit.

If the executive doesn't kill himself in the 24-hour stewing period, MarSec will do it for him...unless the guy can escape pursuit. MarSec denys all rumors that this has happened, of course.

(It's worth pointing out that even 3327 is subject to this rule; if he ever failed to make a profit, MarSec would be fully empowered to hunt him down and kill him. They'd probably succeed, too, since Daikoku will drop 3327 like a hot potato should he fail to earn.)

And from here we bounce to Money and Economy .

The base monetary unit in Marketplace is the credit , and only exists in digital form. One credit is worth about $2 or ¥240. All banking is done via computer, and means that every transaction made is closely monitored by the corporations.

quote:

Under this system, a banking transaction would work like this: 2730 wishes to remove cr~dits from his account to purchase a jeweled dagger. He enters his number into a terminal and submits to a retina scan of his right eye. When the computer determines that the retina pattern matches that logged in 2730' s file, it will inquire about the nature of the transaction.

2730 then types in the item he wishes to buy, and from whom he wishes to purchase it. The computer will then
automatically transfer the credits from 2730's account to that of the seller, and the item will be delivered within one day of purchase.
Of course, if you're not part of the corporate culture (i.e., the lowest classes), you can't access the banking system and therefore can't buy anything. To counteract this, a new hard currency has been created among street people: the otau . But since it's not backed by anything, the value of one otau is basically "what the guy you're trying to buy stuff off of says it is". Needless to say, using this non-currency is illegal.

The next section is just the names of the largest corporations, but forgive me for skipping it because it's pretty must just a list of names. Instead, I'll talk about Maelstrom Markets . Maelstrom Markets are a way that 3327 has managed to draw profits not only from other cosms, but from other Marketplace corporations.

As stated previously, there is literally no place left to build on Marketplace. This means that it's impossible to create new markets anywhere in the world since everyone's under the thumbs of the corporations. When 3327 discovered Daikoku and learned of other realities, he assembled other CEOs and announced that his research teams had "accidentally" broken the transdimensional barrier. Now they could access new worlds, create new markets, and all they had to do was send operatives to these new world, set up the stelae power supplies, and once the bridge was in place they could set up new markets (with 3327 getting a 40% cut). In other words, 3327 got people to pay him to perform his invasion plans.

The next section is about 7710, 3327's protege, but since this is another plot point that's immediately forgotten you'll forgive me for skipping it.

We also get a bit on ninjas, but it boils down to "see next chapter", but for now all you need to know is that every corporation pretty much has its own ninja clan working for it, but there are also freelancers.

Now it's time to learn about Life in Marketplace . Marketplace operates under a pretty rigid social class sysem defined by the enconomic system.

At the top of the heap are the "upper classes", the people making 50k credits or more a year, and have the best living conditions. The middle class is defined as people making between 15k to 40k ($30k to $80k) and make up the bulk of Marketplace's population. Below them are the lower middle class (10k credits or less a year), and take the economic position of "doing the jobs nobody else wants to do". Interestingly, the lower middle class generates the most MarSec agents, ninja, and ronin.

Below the lower middle class are the burakumin; the homeless and hopeless who have no way to rise above their station. Due to being forced to live outside the climate controlled areas, a large percentage of the burakumin are phsyically deformed or suffering from mental illnesses.

Recently, the burakumin have begun to form an organization called the Shiki in order to forcefully defend themselves against MarSec forces. Foudned by an executive who actually resigned of his own free will and renounced his number for a name, and began organizing the more capable burakumin into a fighting force in an attempt to overthrow the corporations.


This is not where they parked their car.

The other group actively fighting against the corporations is Kashi . Kashi is a worldwide organization of militant ecoterrorists who want to destroy the corporations and try to fix the damage done to the world by unchecked industrialization. Unlike Shiki, Kashi actually operates heavily inside corporate culture, manipulating executives against each other and sabotaging climate control systems. Unfortuntely, they've also done a large amount of damage to the general population due to destroying the systems required to get clean air and water, or allowing defective products and medicines to be sold because a Kashi operative made important chemicals unavailable.

Oh hey now we're talking about Ronin ! Have I mentioned that these books aren't organized very well?

There's not much here; ronin are just mercenaries, but going by the templates in the back of the book they still dress like samurai even though everything else is "modern day".

Next up are mutants . These aren't the fun superhero mutants, though. Given the omnipresent pollution, lack of oversight on drug testing, and corporate sabotage, genetic mutations among the burakumin are disturbingly common. Yeah you might get super-strength, but you're more likely to get lesions in your brain. Mutants have pretty much been driven into the megaplex sewer systems, but it's not uncommon for one to completely snap and go on a killing spree.

Which leads us logically to Law and Justice , of course. Laws are created by the Triad, approved by the corporations, and enforced by MarSec, end of sentence. It's a very Judge Dredd-ish situation, where technically there's trials to determine guilt, but 99% of the time MarSec is going to chase you down and put a bullet in your head for breaking the law. Especially since there's no prison system; housing, clothing, and feeding prisoners is deemed a drain on the economy. Minor crimes are punished by "exile" to the ranks of burakumin, while major crimes get the aforementioned bullet. 3327 has also begun using this "justice system" as a source of corpses for his gospog fields.

We also get some info on The Sexes in Marketplace . Gender equality is the norm (and grew out of women working in munition factories during the big unnamed wars), but it's actually in a "both sexes are equally repressed" way due to how people are seen as just cogs in the machine. The megacorps actually mandate marriage and childbirth, and it's not uncommon for a marriage to be arranged as part of a corporate merger. Children are raised and taught inside the culture of their parents' corporation, often having more emotional loyalty to the company than to their parents.


Nope, nothing like Core Earth Japan at all.

Fashion in Marketplace is pretty much the same as Core Earth's Japan. I don't know why there had to be a subheading on this.

The last part of this chapter is about Religion , or the lack thereof. Before 3327 rose to power, organized religion was seen as just another tool used to manipulate the masses. In fact, it wasn't unknown for some corporations to work a worship of the company into its culture and preach that profits were the path to Heaven.

quote:

If the people were growing dissatisfied with this passive brand of religion, they didn't show it until the priests of Palan appeared. Where the order came from remains a mystery, but rumors of its origins have ranged from disaffected mega-corporate executives seeking spirituality to a vast plot by the Shiki to rally the lower classes.

Whatever the truth may be, the fact is that the Palanic priest's anti-materialistic creed rocked Marketplace to its foundations. Suddenly, the workers were questioning whether toil and credits was all there was to life. The radical idea that perhaps the possession of wealth did not necessarily mean the presence of wisdom or honesty undercut Marketplace's peculiar social contract (which reads something like, "You work to survive and to make us richer, and we allow you to do so.") People began to talk about the lack of any semblance of upward mobility in the mega-corporate structure, and found appealing the Palanic idea that it was possible to attain higher levels of spirituality through faith.
It wasn't until 3327 came to power that the Palanic "threat" was dealt with in a serious fashion. He convinced the high priests that he was sympathetic to their cause, and gave his express permission for a Palan rally. He even publically ordered MarSec to take no actions that would harm the protesters.

Unfortunately, the Palan leadership fell for it.

The resulting massacre led to the death of 80% of the membership of the Palan religion, and drove the survivors underground. From there it mutated from full-blown religion to a secretive cult. They're not sitting on their haunches, either; they've learned of the Maelstrom Markets and have managed to destroy three bridges on their own. This has had the nice side-effect of causing Daikoku to think that maybe 3327 isn't as capable as it first thought. Palan priests have managed to sneak onto Core Earth, and are starting to make their presence known in the realm.

Lastly, there's some stuff about adventuring in the cosm and two sample adventures but honestly who could care at this point.

--
This chapter is just over 20 pages long. It talks all about the details of the cosm, which you can't easily get to, and it's the longest chapter in the book .

I mean, I get that understanding how the homeworld got to the state it's in and the state it's in now will affect your understanding of the realm itself (where you're actually going to be playing), but come the fuck on. This did not need to be this goddamn long.

What's worse, there are some interesting things scattered here and there that could make things more interesting (like the Judge Dredd-style lawmen), but they stay focused on the boring details and let the actually cool stuff fly by. Hell, if I wasn't doing this read-through you you guys I never would have noticed that idea.

Hopefully things'll go faster from here. At least it's only one book this time!

NEXT TIME: Exciting new opportunities!

Exciting new business opportunities!

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post



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


Part 12c: Exciting new business opportunities!



Oops, turns out I was wrong last time; this is the longest chapter in the book. At least it's about the realm itself, where the PCs actually go . So that's something, anyway!

The most important thing you need to remember about the Nippon Tech realm is this: none of the good guys know it's there yet. Where the other High Lords came down with bridges made of trees or light or corpses dropping out of holes in the sky, 3327 drops his bridges inside specially hulled-out skyscrapers. The reality of Marketplace is so similar to that of Core Earth Japan that the only real outward sign of the change is that the economy is booming, businesses are doing better, technology is advancing a little faster, and 15-hour workdays are becoming the norm.

That's not to say it's been an easy ride to hide the realm's existence. The other High Lords know, of course, but so far it's not in their best interests to reveal his existence just yet, and besides it's not like they could hold a press conference or something. There's also the problem of the reality storms that exist around the borders of every realm; 3327 has reduced the possibility drain of his stelae to minimize the power of the storms as much as possible and blames what's left on the proximity of Orrorsh.

So far, it's working. The other governments of the world are too busy trying to deal with the obvious invaders to pay much attention to Japan, and on top of that Japan has had to step up as a world financial and technological power now that North America and most of Europe are out of commission. That's not to say people haven't noticed all these corporate mergers all over the place, or the rise of the Kanawa Corporation, but there's no hard evidence that Ryuchi Kanawa (3327's Core Earth identity) is doing anything really illegal. There's some suspicion that he's a High Lord sympathizer, but as of yet nobody suspects the truth.

(Just to skip ahead in the timeline, it'd be about three years before anyone realized that Nippon Tech was there and that Ryuchi Kanawa was a Possiblity Raider.)

The other sign of Marketplace's invasion is the thick fog that now hangs over the land, the side-effect of the low Magic and Spiritual axioms I talked about back in the first Nippon Tech post. The Kanawa Corporation has stated that this is a harmless side-effect of a process that derives power from sea water, and since the Kanawa Corporation controls all the major media and news outlets in Japan this is being heavily downplayed in the news.

The aftereffects of the invasion as a little harder to hush up. The higher technology brought over from Marketplace has given the Japanese manufactuing industry a shot in the arm, and has caused a sharp spike in most industries. When corporate expansion began to encroach onto Japan's already dwindling agricultural spaces, there were protests as land became scarce and food prices began to skyrocket.

quote:

The tremendous development of the countryside sparked some protests, all of which were ignored by Japanese officials, thanks to 3327's successful efforts at bribery and intimidation of various government officials. Pointing out the loss in employment and tax revenues Japan would suffer should his firms decide to relocate to another country, 3327 was able to win concessions from the government that virtually erased all the environmental regulations put in place over the last 20 years. Ministers who supported his positions were given either a monetary expression of gratitude or a stock tip they could benefit from. Those who resisted his entreaties often fell victim to what the Kanawa-controlled Tokyo Shimbum called "the rampant climate of lawlessness in our cities."

Of course, between the industrial expansion, higher technology, and overlaying reality, pollution has begun to rise sharply. Even outside the major cities, the air and water quality has gotten to the point where people don't go outside unless they have to. Of course, Kanawa subsidiares are taking advantage of this by selling air filter masks and new shop-from-home systems.

The arrival of the Laws of Profit and Intrigue has caused the crime and poverty rates in Japan to reach an all-time high. The widening gap between the haves and have-nots has caused an increase in the homeless population due to people losing their jobs or being unable to afford to live anywhere else. Not helping matters is 3327's attempts to stamp out Storm Knights in his territory, which leads to huge shootouts between the Knights and corporate security forces that result in a lot of property damage and innocent bloodshed. What's worse; the population is just getting used to this as "the way things are now".

Basically Japan is currently in a slow decline that's leading it to becoming just another "subsidiary" of Marketplace, but the decline is being maintained at such a slow, subtle pace, nobody's going to notice anything until it's too late.


The Nippon Tech realms, about three months after the initial invasion.

3327 has two bridges in play: one in Osaka as part of the initial invasion and one in Sacramento, California that he set up a few months later after Baruk Kaah was driven out of that part of America. He did try to drop a bridge in Hong Kong, but was stopped by a force of Storm Knights.

The next section is about the Japanese Government , and is mostly factual information about how the government is set up because, again, this is the pre-Wikipedia era and it wasn't as easy to look up a simple summary.

The main reason we get a page of info on how the Japanese government is set up is because we need to know how 3327 is controlling it. He's doing it primarily through the Diet , first through bribing officials and eventually by putting his own operatives in office. Three months after the invasion, 3327 effectively controls about half of the House of Representatives and a little under half of the House of Councilors. It's not enough control to pass legislation whenever he wants, but it's enough to block any laws he doesn't like the sound of or push laws through to advance his agendas. The main examples of this are the removal of most environmental regulations, and the "Boom Law", which gave corporations sweeping tax cuts to spur growth and put the financial burden on social and civil programs.

Again, nothing like real life.

It should be pointed out that 3327 has (as of yet) not attempted to replace the current Prime Minister. He knows that would be to noticable a move, so this highest-placed Kanawa operative in the government is the Foreign Minister.

3327 has had little restraint when it comes to the judicial branch of government, though. He's been spreading money around, and the corruption rate among the regional magistrates has tripled in a little under a year. 3327 also has two supreme court justices under his thumb, and has MarSec agents infiltrating police forces throughout Hong Kong.

Technially speaking, the top level of government is Emperor Akihito , but the fact of the matter is that he's seen as more of a symbol than anything else. Still, he's realized that, even with the multiversal invasion going on, some strange things are happening in Japan. He's working with a group called the Rauru Block to try and sieze control of the Diet back from whoever's controlling it.

The next few sections are about the various locations controlled or directly threatened by 3327, and starts with Tokyo .

Tokyo is the largest city in Japan, and has been hit the hardest by 3327's arrival. The sudden industrial boom caused an influx of over 2 million people seeking work, which has caused a severe housing shortage (especially since 3327 has had most of the city's public housing torn down and has defunded social programs). Not only has this caused a marked increase in the homeless and crime rates, it also helps keep the blue-collar workers under the control of the corporations. After all, if you don't like your job there's literally thousands of people ready to replace you, and then it's you living on the street.



The current population of Tokyo is 11 million, but the unemployment rate currently stands at 44% and shows no sign of improving. Not that things are any better for the middle class; due to the surfeit of workers most employees are treated like replaceable cogs now more than ever. To quote from the Tokyo Citybook:

quote:

UPPER CLASS LIFESTYLE CASE STUDY: MR. KANEDA
Mr. Kaneda is the current CEO of Murano Trust Investment (located in Nihombashi). He is a relatively young chief executive, at 53. He nets a yearly salary of "350 million and supports a mansion in Meguro and a penthouse in Nihombashi. He also owns country houses in Karuizawa and Okutama.

His primary hobby is collecting rare art from foreign countries. Beneath his Meguro mansion is a large gallery of items purchased from France, England and the United States. He has also recently acquired (quite illegally) some Buddhist statues from India.

MIDDLE CLASS UFESTYLE CASE STUDY: MR. TAIRA
Hitoshi Taira is a 33 year old sarariman. He is the chief clerk in Sakai Bussan, one of the larger trading companies in Japan. His annual income is less than ¥l0 million and mostof it goes to support a small apartment in Chofu. He lives in the two bedroom apartment with his wife and two children. His wife was also a minor clerk at Sakai Bussan, but quit when she became a mother.

Every morning he goes to work by train, travelling with several other executives to Tokyo, almost two hours away. He must catch the train at 6:00 a.m. and he works from 8:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. After work, he usually remains in Tokyo, going to client receptions held in Ginza. He usually does not arrive back in Chofu until midnight or 1:00 a.m. Mr. Taira works between 300 and 350 hours a month.

LOWER CLASS LIFESTYLE CASE STUDY: TAIICHI UEMATSU
Every morning at dawn, Taiichi Uematsu goes to Vena Station. There, along with many others, he waits for executives to pass by. Taiichi has been out of work for over 18 months now and must beg to feed his wife and child.

Afterwards, he returns to the deserted Iki Warehouse where they live. In a typical day, he will receive just enough money to get two meals of rice.
Tokyo, more than any other city, has become a microcosm of Marketplace.

Osaka is the second-largest city in Japan, and is where 3327 dropped his initial bridge. 3327 now effectively owns most of the city, and his financial takeover was predicated through the use of corporate ninjas sent to Core Earth on dimthreads. The one thing standing in the way of his total control is a group of monks operating out of Shitennō-ji , the first Buddhist temple in Japan and Core Earth hardpoint.

The city of Sapporo is probably the most overtly affected city in the realm. Before the invasion, it was one of the least industrialized cities in Japan. Of course 3327 couldn't be having none of that, and opened a major munitions company in the city and set up tons of factories. The residents aren't too happy about their rural areas turning into bomb factories, and as a result priests of Palan have gotten a pretty good foothold among the people. Interestingly, there's also a lot of ninja training grounds here.

Outside of Japan, 3327 has started running into some problems. The biggest one so far has been South Korea , due to corporate espionage. 3327 attempted to buy out South Korean land through a front company named "Pusan Land Development", but thanks to some Core Earth corporate interests, the fact that PLD was a front from the Kanawa Corporation was leaked to the public. Given that South Korea is still a little mad at Japan from WWII, this sparked major protests. For the first time in the invasion, 3327 had to use military force to enforce his agenda. He sent in MarSec agents Kanawa security police to support the South Korean riot police. Unlike the real cops, the Kanawa forces used lethal ammo on the protestors.


Leave the Bronx!

Of course, not even 3327 can act against an opponent without being a little sneaky. He sent ninjas to plant evidence that one of the main protest leaders was linked to North Korea, at which point Kanawa's propaganda machine kicked into action. Between the discrediting of the movement leaders and the fact that the riot cops are capping people in the head, active South Korean resistance to the corporate influx has dropped off sharply. 3327 has still managed to spin this all in his favor, by selling arms to the South Korean military.

3327 is taking a slower advance into mainland China . He's focused more on pushing consumer goods in the country than his higher-profile options. It's still rough going because of the racism the Chinese people have towards Japan, plus the fact that many Chinese officials are trying to stonewall his land aquisition. For his part, 3327 sees China as a large exploitable resource, and since Orrorsh (to the south) doesn't seem interested in expanding he's trying to get in there before the Gaunt Man makes a play. Interestingly, the Chinese government has suspisions that there's a High Lord operating out of Japan, but are too busy dealing with the overt threat of Orrorsh to worry about it.

Taiwan took a huge hit from everything happening in Japan and China. Without the financial backing of the two countries, the Taiwanese stock market dropped by a whopping 80% before 3327 came in to sweep up the pieces. The financial situation is improving, but the crime and unemployment rates are still through the roof. As it stands, the Taiwanese government is convinced that the Kanawa Corporation will save the country.

Outside of Asia, 3327 has made a huge step and dropped a single bridge in California . What makes this particularly ballsy is that he did this by uprooting Baruk Kaah's stelae around the city of Sacramento, which also just happened to contain Kaah's western maelstrom bridge. The loss of the stelae caused the area to revert back to Core Earth axioms, which ended up destroying the bridge. 3327 then immediately pulled another drop-a-bridge-inside-a-skyscraper, and now Sacremento is a Nippon Tech pure zone surrounded by mixed Nippon Tech/Living Land areas. Although most people think it's odd that all these Japanese corporations are moving into California, the "win" over Kaah has gotten more attention.

The western bridge was Kaah's main supply line back to his home cosm, so now Baruk Kaah has taken one of his first big hits, and this is the beginning of Kaah being the metaplot's bitch. Kaah wants 3327 dead now, because while the rest of his territory in the western U.S. is still there, he has no way of keeping it supported. Why he doesn't just drop another bridge is beyond me, apart from "Kaah is pretty stupid".

3327 is now planning on expanding throughout California, supported by the remants of the U.S. government. The edenios have been driven away from the major port cities, he's moved into Los Angeles and is eyeing San Fransisco, but it's his taking of Hollywood that has the best long-term dividents. Since he controls one of the largest entertainment-producing cities in America, he's tied it to his propaganda machine to start seizing hearts and minds.


And that covers the broad strokes of Kanawa-controlled territory. Since this is a huge chapter, we'll continue talking about the Kanawa Corporation itself...


NEXT TIME: Corporate megastructures!

Welcome to the Kanawa Corporate family!

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post



Good lord I haven't touched this since May.

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


Part 12d: Welcome to the Kanawa Corporate family!

So last time way the fuck back here , I covered half of the chapter on the current situation in Japan. To wit, the high-level, social view.

The next part of the chapter is about the Kanawa Corporation itself.

Like all the other invaders, 3327 had to send operatives ahead of time to scout locations, set up stelae, all that fun stuff. But unlike the other High Lords, 3327's agents had a larger purpose: to find companies that he could buy out to serve as shell corporations.

The "lucky" company was a small electronics firm called Hechiro Electronics of Osaka, a manufacturer of high-tech mutinions. The company was taken over thanks to the standard economic practice of "use ninjas to kill the current owners", and 3327 assumed the position of CEO through his persona of "Ryuchi Kanawa".

Renaming the place to "The Kanawa Corporation", 3327 began expanding his empire. By moving in the higher-tech Marketplace manufacturing technologies (which were faster and cheaper than what Core Earth could do), Kanawa was able to undercut his competition and rocket the company to the largest arms manufacturer in the world. From there, Kanawa started buying out other corportations in other fields. Then he'd set those companies up with the new manufacturing technolgies, undercut that field's competion, and so on.

Within a month, the Kanawa Corporation had positioned itself as a major economic power.

It wasn't long before the secrets of Kanawa's "new" technologies leaked out to Core Earth companies (good ol' Law of Treachery!), and Kanawa managed to stay ahead at first by manufacturing the cheapest consumer goods possible at as much of a profit as he can. But now that the cat is out of the bag (so to speak), he's relying on a good old-fashioned junk bond Ponzi scheme.

There's a few paragraphs about that a junk bond is, given that this was written in the early 90's and most people didn't know what they were since the high-profile stateside schemes hadn't happened yet. That said, the explanation here isn't that great and you're better off reading the entry on Wikipedia .

quote:

The reasoning goes something like this: suppose you were to invest ¥1 million in bonds with a 10 percent yield issued by Toyota, which for all practical purposes has no chance of going bankrupt in the six-month term covered by the bond. At the end of six months, your return would be ¥1,050,000 (¥1 million + ¥1 million x 5 percent - the 10 percent is an annual rate and you have only invested for 6 months) for a profit of ¥50,000. Now suppose you invested the same ¥1 million in 20-percent yield junk bonds issued by 100 separate companies. Right now, the failure without return rate (the percentage of junk bond issuers that go belly up without being able to honor their bonds issued to the public) of such companies in Nippon is roughly three percent, meaning that three of the companies in which you invested will go bankrupt and that you will lose three percent of the money you invested (or ¥30,000). But your return on the remaining ¥970,000 is 20 percent giving you a total return of ¥1,067,000 for a profit of ¥67,000, or approximately ¥17,000 more than you would have made dealing in "blue chip" issues.

3327 has sold literally trillions of yen in junk bonds in the 15% to 20% interest rate category, creating new dummy corporations as needed to get the bonds out there in the first place and lining his pockets the whole time.

On top of that, the Kanawa corporate structure is one large pyramid scheme.

3327 creates new corporations so he can sell junk bonds. But because most of the companies' initial profits are owed to the investors at insane interest, these companies have to come out of the gate earning somewhere in the vicinity of 130% profit. Obviously that's pretty unlikely, so 3327 sets up these corporations in a sort of pyramid scheme. When a corporation's bonds become due, 3327 has a different corporate entity issue its own set of junk bonds, then uses that money to pay off the bonds from the company that's about to default.

And where does the money come from in the first place? From the Japanese citizenry, of course. 3327 has used both the rapid growth of the Kanawa Corporation and the current world situation to send people into an investment frenzy: you're not just earning a profit, you're helping Japan stay an economic power in the post-invasion world! By investing in these corporations, you're helping the fight against the High Lords!

Through all this, 3327 now effectively owns about half of Japan. Like, literally owns . His biggest coup was managing to take over the Bank of Japan and its subidiary lending houses, giving him an even tighter control over Japan's (and, by extention, Core Earth's) economy. There are a few groups that are starting to notice that something's up, and there's a hacker group that is trying to get Kanawa's pyramid to collapse now before it's too late, but unfortunately these groups aren't powerful enough to be anything but a nuisance.

What's even better about this (for 3327 anyway) is that because everyone's so focused on the obvious invaders and scrambling to try and get things back to a stable global position, the rest of the world isn't paying close attention to what's going on in Japan. After all, with most of North America and Europe under new reality management, of course the remaining major economic power would have to step up and fill in the gap! In fact, foreign investors see the current situation in Japan as a huge "get rich quick" scene and are pumping more cash into Kanawa's money engine.

The practical upshot of all this is that Japan's economy is in a very slow, very carefully managed downward spiral that leads right into 3327's bank account. And once the whole system reaches the point where it all has to fall apart, all he has to do is jump ship back to his home reality and start looking for a new world to plunder. To 3327, becoming Torg is secondary to earning profit, so as far as he's concerned Core Earth and the other High Lords can go fuck themselves once he's bled them for everything he can make a dime off of.

That's not to say that he's not thinking long-term. 3327 has a lot of plans in place to take advantage of what would happen if the other Possibility Raiders were defeated before Japan's economy collapses under its own weight.

The main plan involves, believe it or not, land ownership. Through his numerous dummy corporations, 3327 has been buying territory that has been taken over by the other High Lords. There's a lot of very valuable territory out there that the owners can't use because it currently has dinosaurs, Egyptian cultists, vampires, or God-knows-what on it. 3327 has been buying that land up for a pitance from their owners, and when/if the other High Lords get kicked off-planet, everyone is going to be rather shocked to find out that the Kanawa Corporation owns a sizable chunk of the oil fields in Africa and almost all the mining industry in the States.


"I don't know, I can't read English."

The next part of this chapter is about the The Structure of Kanawa , and is a general overview of Kanawa and its subsidiaries.

3327 is the CEO of Kanawa, of course, but he has three board members that are on board with the overall plan and help him keep control of the whole set-up.

The first is "Murasaki Yamato", a.k.a. 7710 and 3327's right-hand man.

The second is a Core Earther, Saito Horyu. Saito was a board member of Hechiro, and was tapped by 3327 because he wanted a "familiar face" on the board through all the changes. For his part, Saito is more than happy to sell out his company and planet; he's greedy and incredibly bitter due to years of being passed over for promotion in the original company. Saito suspects that 3327 may be a High Lord, but even if he figured it out he'd still be willing to serve. Partially because he's a greedy amoral fuck, but also because of the third important board member, Isei Sagato.

Isei is a highly-placed board member, and is rumored to be the head of the Yakuza. And in this case, the rumors are true. Isei is quite comfortable with the rest of the board being terrified of him, and while he also suspects there's more to Ryuchi Kanawa than meets the eye, he's not going to rock the boat as long as the money keeps rolling in.

The rest of the board are basically chair-warmers that the above people don't give a single shit about.

Next up is a list of the various Kanawa subsidiaries, but for the sake of not boring you all to death I'll just post the structure PowerPoint.



That's not every company under 3327's control, of course. He's taken over other megacorporations, kept them separate from Kanawa on paper, and used them to start new corporate structures in order to keep his eggs in multiple baskets.

So far the only real resistance 3327 has come across (apart from the usual array of Storm Knights) comes in the form of the Rauru Block . The Block was formed by the heads of two corporations who found the Kanawa Corporation's meteoric rise and constant new technological advances rather suspicious. Originally, the Block's purpose was to investigate Kanawa and see what the hell was going on, because clearly something illegal had to be happening. Unfortunately for them, by the time they really started digging in 3327 already had control of the government and a large chunk of the Yakuza. Unable to bring evidence to any sort of authorative body, the Block has had to shift their operations from investigation to stopping the Kanawa Corporation by any means.

Well, not any means just yet. Right now they're focused on corporate espionage and hacking. Once 3327 caught wind of the Block and their activities, he sicced the ninjas on them. The Block wasn't wiped out completely, but now they realize that they need to start working on a more physical level and has begun hiring mercs and related operatives for protection and sabotage.

quote:

Currently, the officials of the Rauru Block know that there is a conspiracy involving big business, the Yakuza, and the government in Japan. They know that the Kanawa Corporation is involved in the conspiracy, and they know that other mega-corporations are cooperating with Kanawa (Block members are aware of the identities of the other firms discussed above that make up 3327's empire).

The members of the Rauru Block do not know:
1) that "Ryuchi Kanawa" is an alien High Lord from another cosm and that he plans to absorb the possibility energy of Japanese citizens;
2) exactly which government officials are part of the conspiracy;
3) exactly who controls the Yakuza, although they are reasonably certain that Sagato is connected with the organization somehow and may be its leader.
There are two high-level players on the Japanese field that are allied with neither the Kanawa Corporation or the Rauru Block. The first is a megacorp called Hanyu Limited , that seemed to spring up overnight in Yokohama. Nobody knows who owns Hanyu (not even 3327), and the company seems to be dedicated to serving the other High Lords. The other wild card is a freelance spy known only as " Haiku " because we had to get that in here somehow. Nothing is known about Haiku, including his/her gender or age. Haiku has done work for both 3327 and the Block, and is only loyal to his/her paycheck.

Just FYI, both the above two plot devices are never seen again in the rest of the line. Or this book.


Subtle, guys.

The book now begins spending a large amount of time and pagecount talking about the Yakuza , but forgive me for not including the stuff you can look up on Wikipedia or in John Woo movies.

One of the first things 3327 did when he came to Core Earth was send his agents to inflitrate the Yakuza and bring the whole shebang under his control. Normally this would be rather difficult, but one of the advantages of being a High Lord is access to non-standard methods of persuasion. Such as, for instance, armies of gospogs you can sic on the Yakuza leader when he says he's not interested in cutting a deal.

Once the former head of the Yakuza was cut to pieces by unhuman monsters, the new head of the Yakuza (the aforementioned Isei Sagato) was more than willing to join up. Of course, not all the families under him were as willing, and this kicked off the most violent gang war in Japan's history. 3327 and Sagato came out on top, of course, and the surviving Yakuza families were restructured from 20+ separate families down to five large conglomerates.

For the most part, the new "families" are kept in line through a combination of the threat of another gospog massacre and the largest profits they've ever made in their lives.

There's always a downside, though, and the public perception of the Yakuza has gone down post-Invasion. You see, back
before everything went to hell the Yakuza took it upon themselves to stamp down on non-Yakuza crime through the good
old-fashioned protection setups. On top of that, it wasn't uncommon for people to go to the Yakuza for a little
off-the-record "justice for hire" for things you didn't want to trouble the cops with. Now, the Yakuza are becoming
more...well, thuggish. They're not policing their territories, they're not helping people who come hat in hand, and they're dealing more in things like hard drugs and human trafficking.


Lllladies...

What's more, the changes are causing a lot of tension within the families themselves. A lot of operatives, enforcers, and lower-tier members don't like how the new restructuing has affected their lives.

quote:

murai.
At the center of the Yakuza code is the idea of loyalty to the family head. A Yakuza soldier is supposed to accept the orders of his family head without question and carry them out successfully. Failing to carry out an order issued by the family head means the soldier must pay a penalty. Many Westerners are familiar with the Yakuza practice of having a soldier chop off his own finger to atone for a failure. Almost all veteran Yakuza soldiers have one or more fingers missing due to this traditional method of punishment.

But self-mutilation is not the only way asoldiercan makeup fora wrong. The family head may call for anything from a fine to death from a failed soldier. The Yakuza code requires the underling to accept the family head's penalty immediately and without question.

Since 3327's reorganization, however, this particular aspect of the code of honor has become rather confused. The honor code binds soldiers only to their family heads, which under 3327's scheme are not necessarily the men who are issuing the soldiers their orders. Some soldiers refuse to accept the penalties demanded by daimyos or underdaimyos with whom the soldier was not affiliated in the past. Sagato has decreed that all soldiers are to accept their daimyos as family heads with respect to the code of honor, but many are still rather reluctant to accept this mandate.
Basically the Yakuza have been turned into an army of thugs for 3327 with the side-benefit of generating more profit for him through illegal activities. Of course, thanks to the Law of Intrigue, eventually they're going to turn on him, but until that happens they're just tightening his grip on the country for him.

And now, finally, we get to talk about ninjas !

For a page.

quote:

Ninja are highly trained warriors who use their knowledge of the martial arts for assassination. In contrast to many other masters of these disciplines, the ninja have involved themselves in the affairs of the outside world for centuries. Japanese history is filled with colorful incidents of assassinations and spying missions carried out by distinctly garbed ninja warriors, though few realize that the legends of the seemingly "magical" powers of the ninja are all true. For centuries, a combination of greed and pure enjoyment of the sport of assassination led the various heads of the ninja temple to accept these missions and conceal them from the membership of the Sons of the Wind.
They may be confusing "history" with "anime".

Anyway, one important thing about ninjas is that they know martial arts powers that'll come up later, but (of course!) with one important downside: because ninjitsu is a "perversion" of martial arts, their Spirit stat suffers (not that they say how), and ninjas cannot spend Possibilities on uses of the reality skill, even when attempting to reconnect. Why? Because fuck you, that's why.

And yes, "ninja" is one of the available character templates, and suffers from this penalty.

Anyway, 3327 controls the ninja (all the ninja) through an alliance their leader Gazokai. Yes, there's one leader of the ninja.

quote:

The temple of the ninja is the only domain oftheart which has its own fully functional FAX machine.
And that's everything you need to know about ninjas in Torg! Moving on!

The next part is about the Sons of the Wind . In keeping with the terrible organization and misunderstanding of the interesting parts of the setting that are endemic to Torg, more space is given to the history of the Sons than to the entiretly of the sections on ninja. Because I care about the schism between two guys 500 years ago to the point where I need a page of history.

The Sons of the Wind are basically an organization of good-guy freelance martial arts heroes. They have a very loose organization, being more like a kung-fu version of the National Guard than an army. They've come out of centuries of hiding due to, and I quote, "various martial artists inJapan began to feel a disturbance in the very reality of things." There are only three main rules:

1. Any member of the Sons may call a meeting of the whole organization in order to vote on important matters, or to determine if they should get involved in global affairs.
2. The Sons cannot reveal the existence of the group to the world.
3. Conflicts between members would be settled through one-on-one martial arts duels.

Good lord we're still not done with this chapter! Now it's time to talk about Nippon Tech stelae . As stated before, stelae in Nippon Tech take two different forms: as either telephone exchange boxes in the country, or as functioning ATMs in the cities. Because 3327 takes new territory via buyouts rather than comquest, it's ridiculously easy to set up stelae boundaries in preparation for dropping a bridge inside some empty skyscraper under the pretense of normal corporate expansion.


Pictured: reality expansion

3327 is also always on the lookout for eternity shards, and tends to have more success than the other High Lords because, again, nobody knows he's looking. Instead of sitting on them, he sells them to other High Lords at a substatial profit.

3327 employs gospog just like the other High Lords, but initially had a problem where he couldn't figure out the best way to use the giant rampaging plant zombies while keeping a low profile. He solved the problem by converting a Japanese hydroponic plant into a gospog field, and "growing" the monsters into specially-prepared suits of high-tech samurai armor. The armor is completely sealed and very strong, leaving no evidence that there's not a human in there. As an added bonus, gospog are pretty mindless and as a result aren't subject to the Law of Intrigue. 3327 keeps a few near him at all times to serve as bodyguards.


Ew.

And except for some small adventures, that's it for the chapter.

Finally .

Good fucking lord this was rough to get through. it's only 30 pages, but as always it bounces from topic to topic, giving too much detail on shit I don't care about or don't need. I don't need a province-by-province breakdown of what's going on in Japan. I don't need the history of the Yakuza over the past 100 years. I don't need the 500 year history of a group whose sole purpose is...to be where PC martial artists come from I guess?

At the risk of being a broken record, Torg has no idea what the end-user needs to know or cares about. It's just a pile of ideas you're expected to sift through to find the bits that are actually usable.

Can you imagine what this game could have been if the writers were more focused?


NEXT TIME: Axioms and World Rules revisited!

High-level Operational Procedures

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 12e: High-level Operational Procedures

This chapter is the detailed information on Nippon Tech's axioms and World Laws. This is stuff I always put in the first post for each realm, but I always like to revisit. Plus, you know, it's been a while.

Marketplace's Technological Axiom is 24, which is just above Core Earth's. Marketplace's extreme corporate culture has pushed technology at a rapid rate, and 3327 is bringing some of these technologies down the bridge to his realm. The trick is that he has to be careful what technology he lets out to the world at large; things that are above Core Earth's tech axiom would cause contradictions, but not spreading the tech around would result in a poor market.

This isn't so much a problem in the realm since everything just seems like a natural extension of current technologies, but as the new stuff gets revealed, it's not hard for other companies to reverse-engineer things and make their own versions. This might lead to an increase of Core Earth's tech axiom if the technologies become too widespread.

The book actually breaks down various fields of technology to show where they stand, which is nice because it's the only axiom you can really do that with.

That said, remember that is all going to be "high tech" compared to 1990.

Marketplace's Medical technologies are incredibly advanced compared to Core Earth, even today. Artificial organs have been pretty much perfected, and are affordable by the types of people who should be able to afford them (i.e., the upper classes). Artificial limbs are almost there, being about 85% functional compared to a normal human limb. As profitable as this field is, it's just a stepping stone on one of 3327's main targets: cybernetic technology.

3327 has a big problem with the fact that Malraux basically stumbled into the highest tech either one of them have ever seen. Cybernetics in Marketplace/Nippon Tech are still in their infancy, and are prohibitively expensive. In an attempt to co-opt Malraux's dumb luck, the Kanawa Corporation has begun purchasing factories and labs in France to take advantage of the higher Tech axiom, and the CyberPapacy corporate world is teeming with Kanawa operatives.

It's also worth pointing out that cloning technology exists in Marketplace, but is not in widespread use. Almost nobody knows about 3327's five clone copies wandering around, but nonetheless corporate heads push for better cloning technology because it might prove to be a good solution to Japan's labor force problem.

The tech field that's growing the fastest is, surprise surprise, the Military sector. Combat drones and self-controlling robots are starting to appear in modern combat forces. Laser weapons exist, but they're not compact or cheap enough to see real use outside of being mounted on robots defending vital locations. Plasma weapons are still in the prototype stage.

It should be pointed out that the Kanawa Corporation sells weapons world-wide for use in the various realities. In order to prevent contradictions, weapons intended for a specific realm are made using materials and manufacturing practices appropriate to that realm. So a crossbow made by Kanawa for use in Asyle can be used without causing a contradiction.

Transportation technology has been a boon to the automotive industry. Kanawa-manufactured cars are faster (top speed 280 kph/174 mph), have more features such as GPS and improved safety features, and are more affordable.

Air travel in Japan has been improved by the development of "jump jets", which don't need as much space to take off and land, on top of being a lot quieter. This has caused modern airports to be capable of handling more traffic.

Interestingly, the only transportation field that hasn't seen much improvement is in actual goods transport. It's just not profitable to try and improve what boils down to large portable boxes above what's available now.

It's interesting to note that in terms of predictions, they actually got Communications about right. The "Sony Talkman" is a personal phone the size of an index card. It's not a smartphone, but you can't deny we're pretty close to getting phones to that size.

But where they did okay with phones, the game's predictions for Computers are hilariously wrong.

quote:

Approximately 94 percent of Japanese homes are equipped with a personal computer. The typical home computer system features 32 megabytes of user memory as well as hard copy, communications, and storage peripherals. Almost all home systems have access to one or more computer information networks. Computers are used for shopping, banking and a host of other activities, as citizens try to spend as little time as possible out in the polluted atmosphere.

Businesses now rely on supercomputers with 64-bit video coprocessors, floating point co-processors, and voice recognition processors. These machines also have up to 256Mb of user memory, and multiple output option module.
Technology predictions will never not be funny, no matter who does them. Unless you're Star Trek, of course.

That said, the summary of Daily Life in Japan is actually a bit predictive, if only by accident. The new industrial revolution has been a huge boom to the entertainment industry, with people able to access "thousands of recorded films and video programs via home computer". The video game industry has also advanced, with a lot of manufacturers making laser-disc based games based on the current world situation (like "Lizard-Hunt", a wargame based on the battles between the Living Land and America).

quote:

And the more traditional video games have maintained their own popularity, also, with complex home units and portable systems available from a wide variety of manufacturers. Zelda V, a video game for Nintendo's 32-bit home system, has sold more than 9 million copies in Japan alone.


There are also apparently flying cars, but they're not mentioned for some reason.


The Social Axiom of Nippon Tech is 22, which is also just above Core Earth's. But despite the higher Social axiom, life in modern Japan is worse than it's been in a long, long time. Between the new corporate culture, increased Yakuza activity, and MarSec replacing the cops, the country is in the midst of a serious social crisis. In the months since the invasion, the unemployment, crime, infant mortality, and homelessness rates have more than tripled . The current workforce can't keep up with the accellerated corporate culture, and most workers' skills are becoming outdated practically overnight. And because 3327 has a very subtle control over the government, things aren't going to get any better anytime soon because spending money on social services isn't profitable.

The upshot of all this is that the major cities like Tokyo and Osaka have become urban nightmares. Suicide rates, drug use, and crime have all skyrocketed with no relief in sight. The gap between the haves and have-nots widens daily, and the only people who could fix it are in 3327's pocket.



[sub]from Prez #3 , a series y'all need to read. Also completely not relevant to Nippon Tech.

Marketplace has the second-lowest Magic axiom at 2, just above the Living Land's 0. It also has a very low Spiritual axiom of 8. The world is focused on material gain, and as a result the spirit has suffered in oh so many ways. Magic is pretty much impossible, and miracles aren't much better off.

A strange side-effect of the low Magic and Spirit axioms is the strange sense of... wrongness that permeates the realm. Core Earthers are attuned to slightly higher axioms, and don't notice the effect until it's gone. Deprived of the "ambient" magic and spiritual energy, everything feels off . Empty. There's always a feeling of being watched, of disconnection from everyone even in a crowd. People don't make eye contact, and often seem to just melt away into the shadows. You never feel in contol of anything. It's like the feeling of being in an abandoned house, the feel of nobody living there, just writ large.

Another strange effect is that the contry is permeated with a thin, cloying fog. It's harmless (although attributed to the pollution now spreading across Japan), but just amplifies the disquieting feeling of the realm.


There are three World Laws that drive and reinforce how Marketplace and Nippon Tech operate. As always, everyone in the realm is subject to these laws unless they form reality bubbles around themselves.

The first is the Law of Intrigue , which states that deception, lies, and traitorous behavior is easier. The mechanical effects of this are:

Next up is the Law of Profit , which is a more passive law. It states that all goods and/or services bought by "those of means" will cost less and be of higher quality than the goods purchased by anyone else.

Once again, I can't sum this up any better than Sir Terry Pratchett:

quote:

The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that'd still be keeping his feet dry in ten years' time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet .

This was the Captain Samuel Vimes "Boots" theory of socioeconomic unfairness.
For the purposes of this world law, anyone with a yearly income of ¥3.5 million (about $25k/year) gets an effective 10% discount on everything, and the more you earn the better the deals. Note that this doesn't mean the prices magically change at the register, it just means that people above the poverty line can buy at places that offer better deals.

Lastly, there's the Law of Vengeance . This law states that revenge is a dish best served cold and fatally. If you take revenge on someone who has wronged you in a serious way, after waiting 48 hours to plan, you gain six possibilites at the end of the act.


Ultimately, this all should lead to a world that's a mix of John Woo movies, Sleeping Dogs, Judge Dredd, and Demolition Man. Instead, we got what we got.

Talk about wasted potential...


NEXT TIME: The moment you've all been waiting for: everybody was kung-fu fighting!

Training retreats

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 12f: Training retreats

And now we get to the skills section. There are four Nippon Tech-specific skills.

Disguise does what it says on the label, and was actually given in other realmbooks first because why on earth would you make that a skill in the core book, right?

Business is your ability to navigate the corporate beuracracy. It's supposed to allow you to make shittons of money, but really its only use is in the corporate warfare mini-game that's coming up in the next chapter.

Meditation is your ability to be zen. It's a Mind -based skill, and can't be used unskilled. You can try to meditate at pretty much any time, although the difficulty is higher if you're in a fight or something. That said, it takes 15 minutes to entere a meditative state so it's not something you're going to be doing on the fly.

Once you've tranced, you get three benefits. First, you can substitute your meditation value for your Perception or Mind when attempting to solve a riddle or puzzle, unless it's science-based. Second, you heal faster; shock and KO heals twice as fast, and if you meditate for three hours you heal an extra wound level. Lastly, you can go without food and with minimal air for a number of days equal to the meditate total.

But that's not why you're here. You're here because you want to learn about kung-fu, TORG style!

And oh man is it Torged.


"Modern" Japan.

Let's start with the basics. By which I mean unneeded backstory about the Power of Ki .

Using "martial arts" (the skill) isn't the same as using "martial arts". Using hapkido or karate technically is considered using the unarmed combat skill. Martial arts is as much about the philosophy of fighting as fighting itself.

quote:

The martial arts are combat strategies and maneuvers which cannot be separated from the philosophy of the warrior who practices them. In Core Earth, the schools of thought which gave birth to these arts were founded by a group of Chinese monks known as the "Shao-Lin," just over 1000 years ago. It was the Shao-Lin who first theorized about the existence of an amazing store of energy within each human being (which Japanese masters later dubbed ki ) and discovered rudimentary methods for tapping these energies and redirecting them into the material world.

The Shao-Lin believed that everyone possessed some of this energy, although some people had far more than others. In fact, the energy stores of most people are far too small to master the disciplines that make up even the earliest, most primitive martial arts, which is why the number of martial arts practitioners has traditionally been small.

What the Shao-Lin did not know is that the "energy store" they had discovered was tied to the very fibers of reality itself. In fact, this power is actually the possibility energy sought by the High Lords.
So yeah "ki" is just another name for Possibility energy.

Which, of course, means we need to worry about axiom limits because God fucking forbid we have something that you can just use without worrying about disconnection. Using martial arts requires a world with a Spiritual axiom of at least 7, because that's the minimum level where a spiritual ritual could generate an actual tangible effect. But since the lowest Spirit axiom out of all the available realities throughout the whole game line is Nippon Tech's at 8, it's a completely moot point.

You also need a Social axiom of 21 ("Pluralism on a transnational scale is possible, balancing the needs and wants of nations against each other. The beginnings of a “global society” may take shape.") for some reason, and that's a problem because only three realities have a Social axiom of 21 or higher: Nippon Tech, Core Earth, and one more we haven't seen yet because spoilers. So unless you're in Core Earth or Nippon Tech, using your awesome kung-fu stunts can cause you disconnect if you're not careful.

Martial Arts is keys off Dexterity , is only available to P-rated characters, and effectively replaces the unarmed combat skill. Base martial arts damage is STR+2, and can be used to defend against unarmed, martial arts, melee, and missile attacks. On top of that, if you're fighting someone who doesn't have martial arts training, you get a DEX+1 bonus to your attacks. You can also use the skill in place of melee weapons or missile weapons , but in those cases you use the weapon's base damage. Martial arts can't be used unskilled (duh), but costs more; the first add you buy, be it during character creation or during play, costs three times the normal cost.

Now that's all fine. But that's not the real reason you want martial arts. I mean, we've got ninjas and a whole good-guy kung-fu secret order. What's the fun of those without awesome kung-fu powers? That's where styles, maneuvers, and training come into play.

Every martial arts practitioner has a style , which is his or her specific fighting style. Tiger Fist is a style, ninjutsu is a style, jujutsu is a style despite the book stating that "mundane" fighting styles aren't really "martial arts" but whatever. Each style has eight maneuvers , which are basically like 3.Path feats or Fate stunts.

If you have martial arts , you have to have at least one style. Once you start learning a style, you can't learn another until you master your current one by learning all the maneuvers it contains.

Maneuvers come in three types: minor disciplines, which are your bread-and-butter moves; major disciplines, which are the things that require CG; and master disciplines, which is when you go full anime. Every style has five minor, two major, and one master discipline. On the plus side, the player can create their own style by just picking the moves off the provided lists. There are a handful of pre-made styles, but at least you can make your own.

Minor and major disciplines can be used at any time, but master disciplines require spendng Possibilities to use.

So let's look at some of the minor disciplines. There are more than these, of course, but let's cherry-pick.

Block/Strike lets you, well, block an attack and hit back in the same round as one action. You roll both your defense and attack separately, but at least one isn't dependent on the other.

Dagger Dance requires a dagger or sword, and lets you "leap, spin, and lands in a combat stance, all the while manipulating your blade so that light reflects off its surface." All this does is let you use your martial arts instead of your maneuver skill to make someone fatigued/stymied/unskilled for a round.

Drop Kick actually isn't a drop kick where you leap up and plant both feet in someone's chest, it's a when you drop to the ground, kick up against a charging opponent, and flip him over you. You can fling someone up to 5 meters away with this.

Heart Punch is a vital blow (-8 to hit, damage STR+6) that also forces the target to take a setback .

Instant Up is just a kippup. Without this, it takes an action to stand.

Ki Punch is useless. It's a punch that does STR+5 instead of STR+2 damage, but when you use it you can't make another attack for three fucking rounds afterward because you have to restore your strength.

Lightning Fist lets you attack twice as one action, rolling once for one target or separately for two targets. The downside is that you can't Lightning Fist two rounds in a row, and can't use it if you have a flurry bonus (which gives you two actions anyway).

Sacrifice Kick isn't much better. This is an actual running dropkick, and is treated as an all-out attack . Since it's been a while since we covered the basics, that means that the attacker gets +3 to his attack total and +1 damage (making it STR+3), but everyone else gets +3 to hit him until his next action. In fact, it's worse than a normal all-out attack because on top of the normal penalty, attackers get +3 to their damage values and the user ends the round on his ass, meaning he needs to use his next action to stand up unless he also knows Instant Up. I guess the advantage is that you can move and attack?

Stone Fist is just a STR+4 damage strike with no downside. Which makes it better than a lot of the other damaging maneuvers, including Ki Punch.

Strike does nothing. Like, literally nothing.

quote:

this is a basic maneuver, relatively easy to master. While it does not have the awe-inspiring appearance that a whirling attack or a leaping kick might have, it is a swift and efficient way of downing an opponent.
That's the whole description. Every maneuver has an inherent base damage of STR+2 and uses the martial arts skill, but so does a generic maneuver-less martial arts attack. So as near as I can tell this is just a waste of a maneuver slot.

Sweeping Kick just imposes the knocked down effect if it lands.

So nothing really earth-shattering there, apart from how useless some of those moves are. Maybe the major maneuvers will be better?

Detect Lie gives you +4 to rolls to detect lies with the willpower skill.

Hail of Blows gives you two actions for two consecutive rounds, but after the second round you're considered unskilled (no roll-agains on a natural 10) and fatigued for a round as you get your energy back.

Flashback is...

quote:

when combined with the meditation skill, this discipline allows a martial artist to reflect back upon her training, looking for the solution to a current problem or dilemma. This doubles the contemplation bonus received from meditation, and at the gamemaster' s discretion, may or may not result in a cryptic hint regarding how to resolve the situation.
Basically it's the same as playing an Idea card; the GM has to give you a hint on what you're expected to do. Given how linear and pixelbitchy Torg's published adventures were, this is actually pretty useful.

Iron Fist is a no-frills no-downside STR+6 basic attack. Sadly, it doesn't stack with Stone Fist.

Weapon Master gives you a whopping +2 to your martial arts skill with a specific melee or missile weapon.

Whirling Attack lets you make a "whirling, flailing" attack against multiple targets with one action. You can strike all opponents within 4 meters (13 feet) for STR+2 damage, but only roll once without any penalties for multiple actions and apply the roll to each target. Sadly, you can't do this two rounds in a row, but still.

Lastly, there are the master disciplines. Each style only gets one, so make sure you pick carefully. There are only seven, though, so we might as well touch on them all.

Cyclone Attack is a stronger version of Whirling Attack with a +2 to hit and STR+4 damage that also imposes a -2 penalty on defense rolls. You can use this every round if you want, but each time costs you two possibilities.

Death Touch costs four possibilities, and if it hits the target must make a Toughness check with the attack's final total as the difficulty. If he succeeds he's fine, but if he fails he takes a shitton of damage (Ords take 4Wnd KO 15, P-rated characters take 3Wnd KO 5) and even if they survive that. P-rated targets can reduce the damage, but regardless if they don't get medical treatment in 20 round they just flat-out die. Just as a reminder, characters have 4 Wounds total before they die, KO means they're knocked out, and the number is how much shock damage they take, so assuming the attack hits and the target fails the check they're fucked. Oh, and when you use this attack, the GM makes an attack roll against you to see how much shock damage you take from the "lethal vibrations".

Long Life extends your natural lifespan to 20 times your martial arts skill value. It also gives you +10 to attempts to resist natural diseases, but doesn't negate the stat penalties for aging. In other words, it's the trap choice.

Power Shout lets you focus you ki into a yell that hits everyone within 15 meters in front of you. It gets +5 to hit and does Spirit+5 damage. This costs two possibilities.

Thunder Kick costs one possibility and just gives you a +5 bonus to your damage value when making a basic attack.

True Invisibility gives you +5 to stealth checks for two possibilities, but you have to re-roll every five minutes to maintain your focus.

Wind Running makes you super-fast (about 200 meters per hour, and gives you +2 to your dodge and maneuver skills. This costs one possibiltiy per 15 minutes of use.


The rarely seen "samurai spaz attack" maneuver

It's worth pointing out that some of the higher-ranked disciplines are stronger versions of lower-ranked ones, but the benefits don't stack and there are no prerequisites. If you want your style to have Iron Fist, there's no reason to have Stone Fist too because once you learn Iron Fist there's no reason to use Stone Fist anymore. It's the 3.Path problem of abilities that don't scale with character growth; yeah that STR+4 damage ability looks cool when you start out, but after you get more powerful attacks that just becomes a dead pick.

When defining your style, you pick five minors, two majors, and one master. Maneuvers have to be learned in a sequence, so you set up the sequence for the minors, then the majors, then the master one is the last one.

So if I wanted to make "Roaring Tiger" style, I could set my maneuver list up like this:
pre:
1. Minor - Block/Strike
2. Minor - Crushing Block (does damage to attackers I defend against)
3. Minor - Instant Up
4. Minor - Feint
5. Minor - Stun Attack
6. Major - Iron Fist
7. Major - Whirling Attack
8. Master - Thunder Kick
Oh, and each style presented in the book has skill prerequisites (ninjutsu requires stealth , lock picking , and prestidigitation ), but I can't find anything in the book about how you handle that for player-made styles, or even if you need to do that in the first place.

Anyway, now that you have the list of maneuvers, you can start learning them. You have to learn the maneuvers in order down the line, and you can't skip over any. And how do you learn your maneuvers? By training, of course!

See, for every maneuver you put in your style, you have to give it a training exercise you have to complete (via skill roll) in order to learn said maneuver. If you fail the roll, you can't make another attempt until you put another point into martial arts and find a master of your style who's willing to teach you.

When you make your character, you take six "years" of training. For each year, you can attempt to learn a new maneuver. If you make all six rolls, then you start the game knowing all your minor disciplines and the first major one. However, if you tank your rolls, it's possible to not know any of them.

And what are these training exercises? Well...you ever see the old Kung Fu TV series?

Yeah.

Training exercises are also split into minor/major/master, and after you select the maneuvers for your style, the GM assigns them each a training requirement of the same rank. Ulitmately, they all boil down to skill rolls.

Minor trainings include:

quote:

Board Break: to signal that he has learned the corresponding maneuver, the martial artist must break a wooden board in half with his fist or foot. To break the board, the student must generate a martial arts total of 9.

Count the Grasses: passing this test requires the martial artist to count the blades of grass in a field. This requires a Perception total of 12 to accomplish successfully.

Pebble Snatch: in this test, the pupil attempts to snatch a pebble from the hand of his master, and it is much more difficult than it sounds. The pebble snatch requires a Dexterity total of 10.

Water Test: in this test, the student holds his or her breath and dives underwater in a pond with a large turtle. To pass, the student must stay underwater as long as the turtle remains submerged. This requires a Toughness total of 10.

A few major trainings:

quote:

Arrow in the Air: the martial artist must pluck from the air an arrow which has been fired at him. This requires a successful martial arts total of 13. Failure means the arrow strikes the martial artist (the arrow has a damage value of 12).

Immobility Test: in this test, the student tenses all the muscles in his body and stand perfectly still. The master then strikes the student, first with his fist, then with his foot, and then with a board. To pass the test, the student must remain completely immobile through all three blows. Flinching even a fraction of an inch constitutes failure. This requires a Toughness total of 12.

Rice Paper Test: in this traditional exercise, the student must attempt to walk across three meters of rice paper without leaving a trace of her movement. Leaving the slightest impression in the paper is considered failure. This requires a Dexterity total of 13.

And finally the zen-ness of master training:

quote:

Appreciate Sunrise: to complete this test, the master sits out and watches the sunrise every morning until she feels one with nature. This requires an ability to be at peace with one's self and the world around one, and a successful Spirit total of 13 to accomplish.

Conquer Fear: the student must allow himself to be exposed to that which he fears most, no matter what it may be. He must then face that fear and defeat it to signal his mastery of the corresponding discipline. This requires a successful Mind total of 12.

Write a History: to pass this test, the master must write a complete and detailed history of his style. A Perception total of 13 is required to complete this test.
And here's the other thing...those aren't exactly taxing skill rolls. The martial artist template starts with a martial arts of 15, Dexterity and Toughness of 12, and a Mind of 10. That means that he'll succeed on "Arrow in the Air" on a base roll of 8 or less, can do the Immobility Test on a 12+, and will be able to Conquer his Fear on a 15+. Not exactly long odds, and that's with a base starting character.

Still, flubbed rolls can wind up costing you more possibilities as you try to not miss your once-per-skill-increase chance at learning a new move.


A sample martial arts style

It's just amazing how they can take something so simple and make it so unappealing. Martial arts sound cool on paper, but like so many other things in Torg there's unnessesary subsystems and these ridiculous requirements that can result in you either not getting the power you want or rendering you useless. The idea that you can disconnect because you went to Asyle and punched a dude twice because magic exists but that level of physical ability apparently doesn't.

On top of that, a lot of the maneuvers are useless or can be made useless by stuff you can get later. You can spend one of your eight maneuver picks on attacks that are worse than your generic skill-based attack. You can fail to learn anything about your style if you roll badly enough.

But again, we don't want characters getting too powerful in our game about globetrotting cinematic heroes, do we? That'd just be silly.


NEXT TIME: How to run your own megacorporation!

Coffee is for closers.

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 12g: Coffee is for closers.

So there's one question I'm sure many of you have asked: "so what the hell are you supposed to do in Nippon Tech?"

It turns out that one of the answers is "run a megacorp".

quote:

Along with the battles in the streets and alleys of Nippon Tech - ronin versus ninja, ronin versus gospog - there is another kind of war being fought in the realm. It is a quiet struggle, one fought not with guns and knives, but an even more devastating weapon - money.

To the victors in such conflicts go wealth and power; to the losers, financial destruction and complete absorption by the conquering entity. The corporate duelling which takes place between the Business arm of the Rauru Block and 3327's mega-corporations is quite different from any other type of combat in Torg, and thus requires some special rules. Refer to these rules if one of your players chooses the role of a Mega-Corporation CEO, or a Storm Knight obtains control of a megacorporation at some point in your campaign.
Yes, "Mega-Corporation CEO" is one of the available character templates. And if you pick it (or the GM feels like giving you one), you can start the game in control of your very own mega-corp and fight 3327 at his own game!

So yeah, Nippon Tech has its own "domain" rules.

To start, the CEO needs to set up a corporate structure diagram for his company, while the GM does the same for the competition (or just uses the one provided for Kanawa Corporation).

quote:

In the diagram, represent each corporation with a rectangle and write the name of the corporation inside that rectangle. Then write the name of the holding company at the top of the page, and beneath it, list all the company's direct subsidiaries and draw a line between the subsidiaries and the holding company. Then put down all of the under-subsidiaries and lines connecting them to the subsidiaries that own them.

The recommended size for a starting mega-corp is a holding company and two subsidiaries, and the book also recommends that the first target in 3327's setup should be Windigo Inc. (a marketing/PR firm) since it's the smallest of 3327's holdings with only three subidiary holdings.

Once you have your corporate structure in place (and have named it), now you have to figure out the starting "stats" for each company. There are four: stock price, assets, income, and debt. In keeping with 90's game design, this is handled via random rolls. There are two tables to start with, one of which is a flat d20 roll because the CEO's skill doesn't matter yet.

For each company in your structure, you have to determine the base stock value because everything else derives from this. You roll an unmodified d20 to see how much each stock is worth in yen, which can range from ¥7,000 to ¥20,000 per share. Every company starts with one million available shares, 20% of which are owned by the CEO. The rest of the shares are assumed to by held by generic stockholders and/or other PCs.

Now that you know how much each stock is worth, you determine the overall value of the corporation's assets . This is done by taking the rolled stock value and multiplying it by the number of shares available. But since you always start with one million shares, you're just multiplying the stock value by a million so I don't know why they didn't just say "multiply by 1,000,000". Fortunately, Torg realizes that we might not be good enough at math to add six zeros to the end of a number, and provides us with a handy table to do the math for us.


Thanks, guys.

Assets don't represent flat cash, of course. Assets include factories, land, resources, that kind of thing. Not that it matters what your assets actually are , because the mechanics only care about the value.

Next we determine the company's starting income . To do this, we roll another flat d20 and cross-reference the result with your assets on the Income Table to see how much they earn each month.

Your starting debt is figured out the same way; cross-referencing your assets with a different d20 roll. This gives you two values: the starting amount of debt you owe, and what your minimum payment per month is. Things like payroll and such are considered part of your debt.


EVE Online: the RPG

I like to think that Torg was the first RPG to make serious use of scientific notation.

Oh, wait, there's one more thing we need to calculate for each company. Each firm has an amount of liquid cash , which is your monthly income after your monthly debt has been paid and you dealt with all the corporate warfare stuff.

Once you've done that for all the companies you control, you can finally participate in Corporate Duels .

Like most stronghold/domain management stuff, you deal with it on a month-by-month basis. You can still run around and shoot dudes and fight bad guys all you want, but at the start of each game month you have to go through a whole sequence of steps.

The first thing you have to do is determine stock fluxuation . As we all know, stocks go up and stocks go down, and in the most realistic economic model ever made this is determined by a roll of a die.

The GM rolls a d20; on a 1-5 it's a "bear market" (bad), and on a 16-20 it's a "bull market" (good). Then the CEO on each side rolls their business skill, and looks up their total on a table to determine what percentage your stock value changes. And there's a pretty wide swing here, from -30%/share to +30%/share depending on how well (or badly) you roll and the current state of the market.

The next step is asset/income adjustment , where you just multiply stock value by total shares, then apply the percentage change to the company's income.

Now you can transfer funds between corporations, which just means shifting cash around.

Next each company has to make its minimum debt payment . The minimum payment is 1% of its total debt, and interestingly in this stage you can only pay the minimum amount. If a subsidiary company can't make the payment, its stock value drops by 5% regardless of how well you rolled back in the stock fluxuation step. If a holding company can't make the payment, then it has to put up a subsidiary for sale in the next step. If the core holding coproration can't make the payment, then the whole shebang folds and everybody is out of a job.

After that, the GM has to set up potential corporate sales . He rolls a flat d20 to see how many outside companies are available for sale (zero, one, or two), and if there some available he rolls up their starting values and company type. Note that you can't buy these until later. Each side can also put their own subsidiaries up for sale at this point if they need the cash or were forced to in the last part.

Now you get to engage in corporate espionage . This just a d20 table the GM rolls on to set up an adventure hook for the players to go on and disrupt the other company's standings. Unfortunately, as near as I can tell it doesn't tell you exactly how your actions can affect the competition. I mean, I guess that blowing up a warehouse would cost the owner X amount of yen, but is that just subtracted from their assets? And how do you determine how much an office building is worth? Or a valuable piece of data? What if you learn about and stop a bribe; how does that affect the numbers?

Anyway, the next step is to allocate funds . You take your liquid funds available, and then allocate some or all of that money to various "corporate maneuvers", which happen next.


Exciting board room action!

Corporate maneuvers are the "actions" of corporate warfare. This is where your CEO finally gets to use his business skill because everything before this point was all flat rolls. Each month, you can perform as many as you want and can afford. Obviously, both sides of the conflict get to do this stuff.

quote:

This means that the gamemaster should decide on the allocations for the Kanawa-controlled firm involved, while the players decide upon what actions the Storm Knight-controlled corporation will take.
Boy, they're really busting out the quality advice here, aren't they?

So what are our options?

Well, for starters we can invest in capital ; for every ¥100 million you invest your assets go up by 10%. This will also cause your stock price and income to go up at the end of the "business turn".

You can purchase stock in any company on the board, even ones controlled by your enemy. You can only buy available stocks this way; trying to buy more is a hostile takeover, and is done differently. A company's available stocks is a percentage of the total number of shares not held by the CEO, and the percentage is based on the current state of the market. Buying the stock requires a business roll, with the difficulty being based on the number of shares you're trying to buy. Exceeding the target number doesn't get you more shares than you wanted, but fortunately if you don't roll high enough to get the number of shares you wanted you can still buy shares based on your final total. The purchaser's assets increase by the total value of the purchased shares. It's also worth noting that when someone buys stock in a company, the company's owner does not get that cash; it's assumed to go to the shareholders.

You can also sell stock . The CEO can only sell the stock he owns (the starting 20% of the shares) at cost, and that money goes right into liquid funds. This works like purchasing, where you have to make a business roll to see how many shares you actually manage to sell. This means that it's harder to sell off large amounts of shares at once, which makes sense because nobody wants to buy into a company when the CEO is selling off all his shares.

You have the option of purchasing bonds , either in the "blue chip" or "junk" varieties. Money used for blue chip bonds is put aside for six months, at which point (assuming you're still in business) it returns with 10% interest with no roll required. Junk bonds, however, require a business roll against a difficulty of 14. Success means you get a 20% return on your investment, if you fail then you default and lose all that money.

Any company can issue bonds , again as blue chip or junk. You can issue bonds for up to your minimum monthly debt payment as blue chip, but more than that and they're junk bonds. The cost of the bond plus the 10%/20% is added to the corporation's debt total, but from what I can see there's no reason to do this because all it does is put you further into debt with no benefits whatsoever.

This is the point where you can pay off debts by just paying out of your liquid assets.

Now we start getting to the stuff where you're actively fucking with the other company's stock.

A stock assault is when you attempt to forcably reduce the value of another company's stock. To do this, you spend money in ¥100 million increments, each payout letting you make a difficulty 8 business roll. The better you roll the bigger a hit the target's stock value takes, from ¥100/per share up to ¥1000/share for a "spectacular" success.

You can perform a stock defense to prevent this from happening by spending ¥100 million to cancel an attacker's payout one-for-one. So if one person spends ¥500 million on a stock assault, and the defender spends ¥300 million, then the attacker only gets to roll twice.

You can attempt a hostile takeover , which is when you attempt to buy more stock in a company than is actually available for sale. Once you allocate funds for this, you make a business roll with a target number of the opposing CEO's base business skill. If you succeed, you buy the stock as normal. If you own more than half the stock in a company, you sieze it and add it to your corporate structure.

And again, you can perform a takeover defense by just allocating money, which cancels out the attack's allocated money one-for-one.

Lastly, you can perform corporate restructuring for ¥100 million, which just lets you rearrange your corporation's structure.

Technically after you take all your corporate maneuvers, you move to the final phase. But since Torg is one of the worst organized RPGs ever written, afer all the maneuver descriptions we're informed about something you're supposed to do before you do your maneuvers. At least, I think you are...it says you're supposed to do this before the "corporate operations phase", but there's no phase with that name. I'm assuming they mean maneuvers here.

Regardless, you can try to purchase new companies that were offered by the GM by bidding on them. Each CEO rolls their business , with the higher roll being able to bid on a company first. This is just a basic back-and-forth auction that goes until one person backs out. The winner places the corpotation in their structure and pays the cost. Any companies not purchased in this phase are discared, as it's assumed they're bought out by other megacorps.

The end of the corporate management sequence is stock and asset adjustment , which just means you calculate all your new values based on all the goings on. Oh, and now they talk about how the GM should take the PCs blowing up competitor's assets into account, and it's just "give it a value in yen, deduct it from the owner's assets". I mean, I figured that was the case, but again there's no info or guidelines for things that are a little beyond "we blew up X yen worth of stuff".

At this point you're done with the monthly management. One thing to bear in mind too (and again, they don't mention this until the end, and in what seems like an unrelated section) is that every quarter you have to pay out to your shareholders. This means that every company in your structure has to pay out 1% of its income. Failure to pay this means that the company gets +10 to its stock fluxuation roll until it can pay out.


So now I'm sure you're all wondering what the hell the point of all this is.

The answer, believe it or not, is that it's a way to kick 3327 out of the High Lord's seat.

It's important to remember that despite the power of the Darkness Device, 3327 is still subject to the Laws of his world. Not only does he have his responisibilities as the CEO of Kanawa and everything back in Marketplace, Daikoku (his Darkness Device) is also attuned to the nature of Marketplace and has become as addicted to "profit" as 3327. Yeah, it only cares about profit in terms of how much possibility energy its fed, but still.

If the war on Core Earth ever became unprofitable, if the Kanawa Corproration ever dipped into the red, 3327 would be fucked . According to the laws he himself set up in his culture, he would immediately be stripped of his position, have all his possessions siezed, locked in a room, given 24 hours to recoup the losses, and either commit suicide or get shot in the back of the head, his choice.

And Daikoku wouldn't help him at all. In fact, it'd sever the bond with him and vanish, possibly saying "I guess you've lost it, kid" on the way out, and seek out a new person to empower as High Lord of Marketplace. It's doubtful Kanawa's new CEO would want to hold onto an unprofitable venture, so it's pretty likely Kanawa would be out of business for good.

Corprorate warfare is intended to allow the PCs to do that. Obviously it'd take a while, and the book suggests that you start with the PCs taking out a few smaller megacorps before tackling Kanawa itself, but still it's a potential win condition.

---
You know, I'm kind of torn on this. On the one hand it's a lot of math and it's pretty dry for the most part. On the other, it's modern-day domain management and that's pretty cool. The whole corporate warfare thing is an interesting way to allow players to fight against 3327 more-or-less directly.

Still, I can't imagine this was something that saw a ton of use.


NEXT TIME: Remote offices, miracles, gear, and character templates

Work Sites, Assets, Human Resources, and the Exit Interview

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 12h: Work Sites, Assets, Human Resources, and the Exit Interview

The next few chapters are pretty short, so I'm just going to cover them all in one big wrap-up post so we can finish up with the realm.

Chapter 7 is called Flash Points , and is the obligatory collection of "typical" adventure sites, with maps and a hook or two each. Nothing to spend a lot of time with, but let's run down what they have anyway.

First up is the John Woo staple, the Yakuza Armory/Safehouse . This is pretty much what you'd expect: a place for the Yakuza enforcers to hide out and gear up. Now that 3327 is effectively running the whole show, security's been beefed up from the old days of "a few scowly guys in sunglasses". Getting in quietly requires keycards and "invoices" from one of the Yakuza's cover companies. Getting in loudly involves the sorts of weapons you'd expect it to.

Taking a Yakuza warehouse can net you a lot of hardware, and maybe a drug shipment or two if you're lucky.


This place is very...rectangular.

The Rauru Block Headquarters isn't a generic location. In fact, the HQ is actually the summer home of one of the member CEOs. It's a nice, large two-story house up near the mountains in Osaka, and sadly doesn't have much by way of security. The only reason 3327 hasn't just killed everyone who lives there is because he's still in the early, subtle stages of the takeover.

quote:

An unknown percentage of Samayura's servants are actually corporate ninja, who serve as bodyguards to the industrialist and the other CEOs who visit the palace.
I guess people are acclimating to "corporate ninja" pretty well if Core Earth companies are starting to get them on the payroll.

Ueno Park is the Core Earth headquarters of the Shiki, who you may remember are the Marketplace-based eco-warrior rebellion. A bunch of operatives managed to come down the bridge and have set up shop in the area around the park.


Not that I blame them, the place is beautiful.

And that's a good thing, because the shifting of Japan's axioms has turned the park from one of the country's main tourist attractions into an area rife with criminal and gang presense. Currently control of the area is a tug-of-war between the Shiki and the gangs, with 3327 waiting for one side to wipe the other out so he can come in and mop up whoever's left.

Next up is the good old-fashioned Gospog Factory . As stated previously, 3327 doesn't rely on gospog like the other High Lords do; having giant monstrosities wandering around killing people doesn't really help the whole "secret takeover" thing, so he relies more on human operatives.

That said, 3327 isn't stupid. He knows how useful gospog are, so he's still making them. He's just doing it in a converted hydroponics lab instead of a giant field full of dead bodies.

Then there's the Sons of the Wind Temple , a.k.a. "the dojo you have the big martial arts smackdown at". It's in a suitably out-of-the-way place that requires a difficulty 15 climbing roll to get to, and even when you reach it you might think it was an old Shinto temple. There's really no reason to come here except to meet the Sons of the Wind and then get attacked by ninjas.

Lastly, the Izumo-Taisha Shrine is one of the oldest temples in Japan, as well as being one of the most important. Legend says that all the Shinto gods gather here every October, and given everything that's going on now that might actually be happening.

A number of Palanic priests have set up shop here, some from Marketplace and other converts from Core Earth. The Shinto priests who maintain the shrine allow the Palanic priests sanctuary, unaware that a lot of them have turned their back on their pacifist ways and are actually sneaking out to sabotage 3327's assets. 3327 hasn't made a move against the temple yet, because he knows better than to sent task forces to attack one of the most important sites in the country.


Now we go to Chapter 8, Miracles of Faith . The Spiritual axiom of Nippon Tech is just below that of Core Earth, so miracles are possible , but very hard to pull off. Back in the cosm, only priests of Palan were capable of performing miracles and even then it took years of training. In the realm, Shinto priests are finding themselves capable of performing miracles under the new rules.

That said, there's really not a lot here, though. I might as well just run down the full list:

Oh, and there's a miracle that creates a whirlwind that flings stuff around hard enough to hurt people called Kamikaze . I mean, yes, "kamikaze" means "spirit wind" but come on you had to use that word? It's not like the associated baggage that comes with it isn't widely known.

Leaving that awkwardness behind we come to the Equipment chapter. Here we learn the current exchange rates ($1 = ¥140), and this is important because all the prices here are given in yen. They also give a table of how much the value of the yen will deflate over the course of the invasion because that matters. I mean, it's not like they did that for any of the other realities or realms. I'd imagine having Generic Fantasy World land on England and northern Europe did a number on the economy there, but I'm pretty sure there's nothing in the Asyle book about that.

Anyway, we get the usual list o' weapons here. The normal firearms don't have too much that's really worth talking about because it's all "modern guns, just a point or two better" stuff, although it's interesting to note that a bunch of guns publicly sold by the Kanawa Corporation's subsidiaries are made from plastics, which means they don't set off metal detectors. I'm sure that isn't causing worldwide problems.

The melee weapons section is actually a lot leaner than you'd expect. Yeah, there's the katana and the manriki-gusari are included, as they were in any 90's RPG that even mentioned martial arts, but apart from that you've got the shimsi sword (the smaller ninja katana), nunchaka, and throwing stars and that's it.

That's not to say there's not more weapons, it's just that they've been teched up a bit. So you have shock swords (always deal a K result on top of everything else), heat-seeking throwing stars, spring-loaded stiletto, and the EMP Sai that can knock out all electronics in a 10 meter radius for two minutes.

On the plus side, we do have power armor. Sort of.

quote:

Rijato Battlesuit: One of the most sophisticated suits of armor in the realm, the Rijato is solar-powered and equipped with wrist-blasters, magnesium flares, and magnetic repellors which allow it to fly. It is not intended to be worn, but can be controlled from afar via a cybernetic helmet. This armor is beyond even the Tech axioms of Nippon, and at present only the prototype is known to exist (it was stolen by its inventor before 3327 could appropriate it). It is not available on the open market, and there is no way of knowing if it could ever be duplicated.

Due to the strain of maintaining cybernetic control of the armor, for every hour in which the armor is in use, there is a -1 penalty to all of the controller's Mind-based skills. These skills can be returned to normal by resting for a number of hours equal to the time spent operating the armor.

The wrist-blasters do damage value 18(range 3-40/200/5OO), the magnesium flares are damage value 9 (range1-6/15/40-unprotected eyes only),and the armor can fly at a speed of 70 kmh.
I know it sounds more like a plot device than gear, but believe it or not there's a reason for this entry which we'll get to in a bit.

The improvement in technology has made the dream of "domestic robots" come true. At least, it came true for people who could afford the ¥2.1 million price tag. The Mitsubishi Home-Domo will cook, clean, perform household maintenance, and even provide early warning against gas attack! Sadly, they don't tell you what it looks like so I don't know if it's a humaniod robot or if it looks like something from Runaway .

The "Adventuring Gear" section has all the espionage gadgets you'd expect; electronic lockpics, grapple guns, tracers, signal scramblers, that sort of stuff. But the main attraction here are the "domestic" electronics.

Why? Because trying to predict technologies will never not be funny.

quote:

Zamftech Monolith: The RISC17-based Monolith computer features a single chip containing the 64 bit video coprocessor, floating point co-processor, and voice recognition processor. Comes bundled with touchpad, 32Mb memory, multiple output option module, including both color and tactile compatibilities and a 1 Gb optical drive. Memory can be increased to 256 Mb and up to seven additional optical drives can be daisy-chained to the primary drive.
I think that's supposed to be a desktop computer.

quote:

Misaki XE Laptop Computer: The hottest selling portable in Marketplace and Nippon, tlus unit features a fast RISC15 processor-a single chip containing the 16 bit video coprocessor, floating point co-processor, and voice recognition processor. Comes with 16 Mb memory, 100 Mb storage, and weighs less than four pounds.
Less than four pounds and 100 Mb storage? For only ¥120,000/$859? Sorcery!


I imagine it looks like something like this.

quote:

Sony Talkman: The latest revolution in cellular technology, the Talkman is a personal telephone no larger than a wallet. It can be worn on a belt or inside a suitcoat to receive calls at any time, and can also be used in conjunction with the Zamftech Personal FAX.
You can also buy scramblers and descramblers for your phone. Just remember to set it to "vibrate" before you infiltrate a Kanawa location.

quote:

Nintendo 32-Bit NES III: Nippon's most popular home entertainment unit, available cartridges include Zelda V, Ninjn Castle, Mega-Corporate Wars, Ronin Rampage, and Evander Holyfield Ten Count. Unit comes standard with stereo headphones and 6" 64-bit color display.
Remember when we cared how many bits a console had? Although I'm impressed that the NES III has a larger screen than a New 3DS. Just for the record, in 1991 the SNES had just come out in the states, and the original brick Game Boy had been out for about a year and a half.

Finally, at long last, we come to the character templates. There aren't that many templates for Nippon Tech or Marketplace, with the core set having a whopping two, both from Marketplace:

The Contract Ninja does bad things for money, but doesn't take pleasure in it. That said, he's not liking how a lot of his bretheren are starting to enjoy their work a little too much. Going against the clan made him a target, so now he's on the run and looking for...other options when it comes to employment. His tag skill is martial arts .


The Disgruntled Corporate used to work for Mitsuyana Industries, one of the companies on the wrong end of 3327's rise to power. She didn't like that; she also didn't like that working for the wrong company could get you killed by ninjas, assault teams, or street gangs for hire. Sick of seeing the downward spiral that is Marketplace "corporate politics", she put in her notice and headed to Core Earth to be a consultant. She starts with a Panasonic Currency Emulator ("manufactures copies of up to 1, 000 units of any paper currency per cartridge", not mentioned anywhere else, probably illegal as fuck), some gadgets, a fake ID, and ¥5,000,000.

Those are pretty...dull, and point to the problem Nippon Tech's always had; the writers had no idea what characters would do there. Fortunately, the realm book added a bunch more options.

The Corproate Ninja used to work for the weakest companies. Not because of honor or a love of the underdog, but because the opponents put up more of a challenge. As the corporate war spread into Core Earth, he was approached by agents of the Rauru Block and hired to fight for them. This is just the Contract Ninja, updated with the stuff from this book.

The Kashi Hacker is a Marketplace freedom fighter from a long line of people who've been fighting the corproate overlords. Unlike most of Kashi, she doesn't rely on sabotage and propaganda. Instead, she got a corporate position to gain access to the computer networks of the megacorps. When she learned of the Core Earth invasion, she got herself added to the project. Now, she uses her skills to aid the Rauru Block and diseminate information to Storm Knight groups. She starts with a hilariously clunky laptop, and her tag skill is science .


The Mega-Corporation CEO is from Core Earth, and knew something was off about Kanawa from the start. This caused him to become a bit of a business pariah as the companies he used to have good relations with started dancing to Ryuchi Kanawa's tune. Refusing to play ball resulted in one of his factories being bombed and the murders of a good number of his higher-ups. Now allied with the Rauru Block, his main contribution is in the financial sector. He starts with a Brooks Borthers suit, ¥1 billion, and (of course) his own megacorporation. His tag skill is business .

The Priest of Palan started out as a low-level office drone. Then he heard the words of Palan, the idea that all men were equal regardless of wealth or position, the idea that the world was beautiful once and could be again. In a moment of clarity, he left his company (costing them 300k credits on the way out because fuck those guys) and joined the priesthood. And everything was fine until the Termination and thousands of Palan's faithful were wiped out. He managed to insinutae himself back into corporate life as a low-level beurocrat to get to Core Earth, and is now helping mobilize resistance. His tag skill is focus .

The Rauru Block Agent is, well, some guy with a gun. There's no real background for this guy, and his description boils down to "you see Japan going down the toilet and are fighting back". His tag skill is evidence analysis .


The Rijato Armored Warrior is the guy who developed and stole that power armor we read about back in the Equipment chapter. His tag skill is science .

quote:

For years, you were an integral part of the crack research and design team in a South Korean electronics firm. Shortly before the Possibility Wars broke out in various nations, you and your crew were working on plans for an armored battlesuit, something beyond the limits of current technology. So absorbed were you in your work that you took no notice of the purchase of your firm by the Kanawa Corporation.

Finally, it was ready, a prototype suit of armor that might never be duplicated. Devastating wrist blasters, magnetic repellors for flight, and various other devices made it virtually priceless on the open market.

Then the word came down from the 75th floor of the Kanawa Building in Tokyo: the Rijato belonged to the mega-corporation. You didn't want to see your work turned into a weapon of destruction. You slipped past the guards at the research center, altered the helmet so it would respond only to your mind, and stole the battlesuit.
Yes, he didn't want his suit of power armor with the wrist mounted blasters used as "a weapon of destruction". Because it'd have so many domestic uses I guess.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CISRRn3wolk


The Ronin is actually a samurai from Marketplace. He inherited the title from his father, but while traditionally a samurai would serve a master, he descided that being a free agent would work out better for him in the long run. This turned out to be a bad descision, because a contract from 3327 himself led you to kill the elderly mother of a Shiki leader. He then made the worst mistake of his life: telling 3327 he wouldn't complete the contract. This branded him a criminal with a sizeable price on his head, sending him into hiding until he learned of 3327's movement into Core Earth. His tag skill is melee weapons .

The Shiki is a street punk who's joined with other punks for mutual survival. Nobody cares about the lower classes in Marketplace apart from the Shiki group, and this kid was part of the front-line fighters who had to deal with MarSec and would raid warehouses for things like food. He was hand-picked to go to Core Earth, where he hooked up with other like-minded individuals. His tag skill is fire combat /

The Son of the Wind was living in a remote temple when the invasion happened, but could sense the change in the land. Calling together the Sons, he petitioned that the group should take up arms and fight the invaders. Unfortunately, most of the Sons felt that the best course of action would be to remain in seclusion rather than risk getting wiped out. Unwilling to stand by and do nothing, he left the temple and entered the world at large for the first time. Adjusting to things has taken a while, but he doesn't regret his choice for a second. His tag skill is martial arts .

The Yakuza Enforcer is one of the old guard. He was respected, feared, and wealthy. But then there was the takeover. The restructuring. All of a sudden he found himself working under a different daimyo and being sent to raid corporations and threaten businessmen. Which made no sense; what the hell did the yakuza care about electronics firms? A little digging revealed that Isei Sagato wasn't the one actually in charge anymore, and that the yakuza was being used as a blunt instrument in a much larger battle. He's still in the yakuza, but now he's doing a little...moonlighting on the side. His tag skill is fire combat .

And that, at long last, brings us to the end of the Nippon Tech book. So what does the future hold for 3327?

Within a year 3327 does manage to drop a second bridge in Sacramento, California, driving back the Living Land and making an enemy of Baruk Kaah. 3327 did this by uprooting Living Land stelae and quickly replacing them with Nippon Tech ones. To the outside world, this looked like the Living Land territory was just receding from around Sacramento for no reason. Dubbed "The Miracle of Sacramento", this spurred the stateside development of the Kanawa Corporation with the grateful backing of the American government.


For Torg, this is pretty mundane.

He also expands westward from Japan, dropping two more bridges in Japan and siezing Taiwan and South Korea. From there he begins moving into mainland China.

That's not to say it's all gravy for 3327. Tharkoldu agents, still pissed that he was responsible for their failure in Russia, begin sabotaging Nippon Tech stelae in America. As a result, Kanawa expansion hasn't been as fast as 3327 would like.

Unsurprisingly, 3327 doesn't have too many allies among the other High Lords due to the fact that he sells weapons to the good guys and has been doing the land grab trick. The only ones who'll have anything to do with him are Uthorion (who's so weakened he'll take any help he can get) and Mobius (who's crazy).

The early failures spur 3327 to begin striking harder, which is the first step on him being revealed as a High Lord. That revelation wouldn't come for about three years, but before then he starts expanding faster and further.

Then Tharkold will drop a bridge on L.A., and 3327 will suddenly find himself in a much shakier position.

---
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is Nippon Tech.

I feel like Nippon Tech is right up there with the Living Land in terms of being a really interesting setting idea that falls flat due to bad presentation and lack of thought about what you'd do there. I realize that the 90's were a ways before we as a hobby started asking things like "so what do we actually do with this?". But even so, there doesn't seem to be any effort put into things apart from there being martial arts and megacorps.

I said this before, but Nippon Tech should be "Robocop and Judge Dredd by way of John Woo". All the elements are there: the out-of-control corporate culture, the huge gap between the haves and have-nots, the inbuilt crime drama and revenge story motifs.

But none of it hangs together. Each concept lives in near total isolation from the others, leaving everything feeling disjointed.

I remember someone saying that in the original Feng Shui that the Buro was included so that people had a place to get high-tech guns from, but the developers didn't expect that people would want to go to that juncture and hang out.

I get the impression that Nippon Tech suffered from the same problem. They needed a place for PCs to get weapons and high-tech gear, so they created this realm. But oddly, they didn't realize that if you make a region in your setting and earmark it as being important, then people are going to want to go there and learn more about it.

Ultimately Nippon Tech ends up being another example of Torg's biggest problem: good ideas, poorly implemented. And it's a shame, because who wouldn't want to play in the RPG equivalent of Sleeping Dogs?


NEXT TIME: A different reality! What will it be!?

Welcome to the Nile Empire...now DIE!

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 13a: Welcome to the Nile Empire...now DIE!


Those are supposed to be mummies, not monkeys.

Robed priests offer sacrifices to the ancient Egyptian gods to honor their High Lord.

Mathematicians, astronomers, and engineers build great works designed to channel the mystical energies of the world to smite their enemies.

Brave explorers find an an artifact in a forgotten tomb, awakening the mummy bound to guard it. Can they escape the mummy and the cultists who also seek the artifact?

A pair of murderous thugs face justice in the form of a mystery man shrouded in smoke and bearing twin pistols.

Just another day in the Nile Empire.


The New Empire of the Nile

A reality away from Core Earth is the world of Terra. Of all the invading realities, Terra is probably the "closest" to Core Earth, sharing a nearly identical history. Of course, there are a few differences.

First of all, in Terra the current year is 1936. The Great War is still a recent memory, with nations recouping losses and trying to figure out what will happen next.

Second, magic exists and technology is a little...different. Early discovery of what is termed "weird science" has affected the larger landscape of the world. Rocket Rangers in jet-powered flying suits fought in the Great War, governments develop superweapons, and countless scientists create impossible devices. Generally speaking, though, weird science hasn't really affected day-to-day life that much.

Third, there are the heroes and villains. "Mystery men" are abound, armed with strange powers, wierd science devices, and their own two fists. They are all that stands between normal folk and the churlish villains that seek to control the world.

Fourth, and most importantly: millenea ago, the man who would become Terra's High Lord was born.

Three thousand years ago in ancient Egypt, pharoh Amat-Ra had an illegitimate son named Sutenhotep. Sutenhotep was a natural leader, and managed to conquer most of northern Africa in his father's name. Despite his victories, the circumstances of his birth would prevent him from becoming pharaoh when Amat-Ra died. Instead, Sutenhotep's half-brother (and Amat-Ra's legitimate son) Toth was chosen to inherit the throne. Sutenhotep was so furious that Toth was chosen, despite the fact that he was clearly the better leader, he swore that he would not only conquer Egypt but "conquer time and eternity itself".

Exiled after an atempted coup, Sutenhotep returned home after 15 of stewing in the desert and raising a new army. This time, he managed to defeat Amat-Ra and sieze control of the nation. Sutenhotep's first order of business was to kill all his father's advisors, and his second was to order the mummification of the still-living Amat-Ra in "tribute to his station".

Amat-Ra's death was slow and torturous, but before he died he was able to curse Sutenhotep and his reign.

quote:

Amat-Ra's curse took effect almost immediately upon his death and quickly caused Egypt's fertile crops to be overcome with blight. The lands shifted into arid, barren deserts and once-complacent peasants turned into unruly rioters. A mere six months after Sutenhotep took power, he was murdered during a public speech. The large audience in attendance bore witness to his assassination, and nearly all cheered uncontrollably for days as Sutenhotep's self-proclaimed desire to rule forever was brutally crushed.

Nearly all.

Fast-forward to August 12th, 1897. Exactly three thousand years after Sutenhotep's death.

A small group of cultists, descendants of Sutenhotep's original followers, assembled on a small island in the Pacific called "Khem" and performed long, profane rituals intended to bring Sutenhotep back from the dead.

And they succeeded. Their lord and would-be pharoh once again walked the earth.

But Sutenhotep wasn't stupid. Yes, he had conqured death, but he knew that this world wasn't the one he left. He didn't immediately send out armies or start scheming takeovers. He went into the world, and studied it.

Sutenhotep spent the next few years acclimating himself with the new world he found himself in. He spent some of this time in hiding, studying books brought to him by his followers. When he felt ready, he traveled to America to see the new world first-hand. It was his stop in San Francisco that would change the world forever:

quote:

Having been thrust entirely into the world of modern science without the intermediate development years, his studies were not clouded by those restrictions that Newton and Edison had floundered in. Combined with his own knowledge of magic and their unnatural effects, his concepts of science were not limited to the realm of Newtonian physics. His genius allowed him to see beyond the scientific community's nearsightedness and discover the world of "weird" science.
Armed with this new discovery, Sutenhotep returned to Khem and began to prepare for his conquest of the world. But that would require money, and so he created a new identity for himself, one worthy of his rank and goals: Sutenhotep was dead, and Dr. Mobius was born.

Mobius spent the early part of the 1900's committing crimes to fund his wierd science research. As his crime spree continued, he became more and more confident and began operating at a higher profile. It wasn't long before scientific prodigy Dr. Alexis Frest was able to predict Mobius's next move and aid the police in capturing him.

(In case you're wondering, Mobius's MO was to commit a robbery, then use an invisibility belt to hide in the room he committed his crime in. He'd wait patiently for the police to arrive and perform their investigation, and then just follow them out the door when they were done, probably trying not to laugh.)

Mobius managed to escape custody thanks to a teleportation device, and laid low for a few years. He tried his hand at crime again in New York, but once again met defeat, this time at the hands of private eye Rex McMasters. Frest was brought in once again and, using a thought-scanning device of his own invention, learned of Mobius' teleporter and confiscated it before sending Mobius to jail once more.

It took three years of scrounging small devices in prison for Mobius to make a replacement.

Mobius's first act upon freeing himself was to kidnap Frest and his family. Mobius continued his crime wave, only to be thwarted by the rising number of "mystery men" around the world. Foremost among them was the hero known only as "The Guardian", and it was in 1925 that Mobius and the Guardian would have a fateful meeting.

Mobius had learned of an ancient artifact that would give him the power he needed to finally conquer Terra. Breaking into a museum, he found it on display: a small statue of his patron god Sebek. The Guardian was there to stop him, and as they fought Mobius let slip the location of Frest and his family before managing to escape.

The Guardian single-handedly freed Frest and his family, and together The Guardian and Dr. Frest assembled a society of pulp heroes to put an end to the threat of Dr. Mobius once and for all: The Mystery Men .

Dr. Mobius, however, would vanish soon thereafter thanks to the artifact: the Darkness Device known as the Kefertiri Idol . Armed with the power of the Darkness Device, Mobius was able to travel to other worlds that were more ripe for the picking, conquer them, drain them dry, and move on without having to worry about those accursed heroes interfering.

Which brings us to the Near Now. Mobius has already conquered nine other cosms, with Core Earth being his "Tenth Empire", or (as he calls it) the "Nile Empire". The new reality he has brought down on Northern Africa has not only effectively turned back the clock to the mid-1930's, it's also brought the power of magic and weird science to the world, reshaping it to his whims. Now the ancient guardians under the pyramids awaken, forgotten artifacts surge with mystic power, and madmen design impossible weapons in hidden laboratories in Cairo.

Forutately, this new reality has brought new heroes with it to stand against them.



Dr. Mobius, High Lord of the Nile Empire

There are two important things to bear in mind about Mobius before we get to specifics.

First off, he is completely, utterly insane. Mobius is fond of dangerous schemes, bizarre deathtraps, and maniacal laughter. He takes a personal hand in his plans, and loves pitting himself against heroes of every stripe. In many ways he's a spoiled child, convinced that he's owed everything and taking things by force when denied. Despite this, he's still a genius and is capable of both high magics and incredible scientific discoveries. He is a meticulous planner, preparing back-up plans and plotting things to the point where he could give you an exact percentage of his progression in any scheme while he strapped you under the death ray. In fact, he's probably the only High Lord the characters would interact with directly since Mobius loves getting his hands dirty and facing off against do-gooders.

The second is that, despite conquering nine other realities and being a High Lord, Dr. Mobius never conquered his home cosm of Terra. This has a few implications, the main one being that the Nile Empire on Core Earth is not exactly the same as the reality of Terra. Because Terra's possibilities are not being siphoned by a Darkness Device, the normal flow of advancement isn't interrupted. The axioms of Terra are a little different from the Nile Empire's, and while the Nile Empire has a distict Egyptian bent to everything, back in Terra it's still more or less 1936 Earth and Dr. Mobius is Public Enemy Number One instead of the High Lord. Nobody is sure why he never took over Terra, but those in the know suspect it's the lingering effect of his father's curse.

(This also makes Terra unique among the home cosms of the Raiders; it's the only one that hasn't stagnated developmentally due to the normal flow of possibility energy being interrupted.)

In fact, Mobius's maelstrom bridge doesn't even lead back to Terra; it leads to the last cosm Mobius conquered. The Nile Empire is at the end of a "chain" of realities, meaning that to get from Core Earth to Terra would require travel across nine other cosms (that, unsurprisingly, were never actually detailed. Or even named.). This also means that it's a bit tricky for characters from Terra to get to Core Earth, but the game handled this by having Frest make a one-way, one-use bridge from Terra to Core Earth to send a bunch of hero types across.

Given all that, here's Mobius's overall agenda:

1. Achieve immortality. Yes, the Darkness Device makes him effectively immortal, but Mobius wants the real deal, without having to rely on an outside force. After all, the Kefertiri Idol could get bored with Mobius and ditch him at any moment. Right now, his best shot at immortality would involve becoming Torg.

2. Increase Personal Power. Nothing surprising here; for Mobius it's always been about power.

3. Expand the Boundaries of the Empire. The Nile Empire is the largest realm on Core Earth (taking up about a third of Africa), and Mobius just keeps on expanding southwards. Waves of shocktroops and death ray-equipped tanks make most resistance a joke. Also, when he extends his reality into the desert it retroactively becomes dotted with mystic sites and tombs full of ancient artifacts, which he can then plunder. So it's pretty much win-win.

4. Discover and Acquire Eternity Shards and Artifacts. Mobius sees these as tools to be used, weapons to be denied enemies, or bait to lure heroes into deathtraps.

5. Remove the Curse of Amat-Ra. The curse his father laid on him millenia ago still persists, and Mobius suspects that the curse is the cause for every large-scale failure he's ever come across. He's right, too; the curse slowly drains his possibility energy and causes him to automatically suffer setbacks in dramatic conflicts.

6. Solve the Mystery of the Tiles. In his investigations of places of power on Core Earth, Mobius has discovered mosaic tiles. The tiles are much older than the Earth, and are clearly alien in origin. Mobius doesn't know what they mean, but he's determined to find out. This bullet point is related to the first published adventure series, at which point it stopped mattering.

7. Explore the Ancient Mysteries of Earth's Egypt. When the Nile Empire's axioms washed over Core Earth, many of the old Egyptian legends were brought to life. Because this Egypt is different from the one Mobius remembers, he seeks out these new legends to determine their usefulness.

8. Weaken the Other High Lords. This is the lowest priority because Mobius is well aware that the High Lords fight like cats in a sack at the best of times. If there was a way to give himself a significant leg up, he'd take it of course. But until then, he's content to let the other High Lords tire themselves out fighting each other.


Really, this happens in the Nile Empire about every five minutes.

Axioms and World Laws
Let talk about how things operate in the Empire.

As stated before, the Nile Empire operates as per 1930's Earth for the most part, but the higher magic and spiritual axioms make things a little more interesting.

Technology: 21 - The Nile Empire is a little behind Core Earth tech-wise. Widespread electrical power was "recently" introduced, and most things we take for granted (like electric razors, color film, and toasters) are considered "cutting edge technology". Most methods of mass travel are pretty slow, with steam trains and slow carrier aircraft being the norm. Likewise, medical technology took a significant step backwards, and immunization isn't quite the standard procedure it used to be; disease is a very real danger.

Social: 20 - Socially speaking, things in the Empire are similar to Core Earth. The Empire does run on a large bureaucracy managed by Mobius's "overgoverners", though, and Mobius's troops enforce their rule. There's also this:

quote:

One important difference in the social arena between the Empire and Core Earth is the fact that the Terran cosm (and thus the Empire) never underwent the sexual revolution that rocked western civilization in the 1960s and '70s. An indiscreet unmarried couple from the Terran cosm that spends too much time together is the target of scandal and ridicule. Also of note is the fact that women in both the Terran cosm and the Nile Empire enjoy near-complete equality with their male counterparts, unlike the women of the Core Earth cosm of the 1920s.
In terms of entertainment, black-and-white films are still around, although the concept of "movies as art" hasn't hit yet. The main source of public entertainment are pulp novels, which, in the Empire, tend to be a bit more factual than you'd expect.

Spiritual: 17 - Unsurprisingly, people worship the Egyptian gods, and the truly devout are capable of performing powerful miracles. In addition, powerful religious artifacts exist. Most of these artifacts are buried in the African deserts, and races to them between Mobius's forces and Storm Knights are pretty common.

Magic: 12 - In addition to mythology being made real, the arrival of the Empire has brought two new schools of magic with it: mathematics and engineering . Most practitioners were brought over the bridge with Mobius's troops, but a few transformed folks have been able to learn them. Still, it means that most magic power is controlled by Mobius to some degree.

In addtion to the axioms, the Nile Empire has three world laws that it inherited from Terra that help shape the realm.

First is the Law of Morality , which states that everyone in the Empire is either Good or Evil. Period.

The Nile Empire exists in a state of black-and-white morality. Every single person, regardless of circumstances, falls into one of these two categories. It's an approximate 90%/10% split between Good and Evil in Terra, but in the Empire it's more a 60/40 split.

Basically, "evil" people put their own self interests first, although they're not adverse to working with others if they can get something out of it for themselves. "Good" characters, on the other hand, look to common interests first.

quote:

Thus, stealing is usually an evil act since the thief is acting upon his or her own self-interest instead of the interests of the victim and community. By this same token, murder, extortion. and fraud are usually evil acts as well. Note, however, that one need not be a socially defined criminal in order to be evil. According to the Terran axioms, the old man who chases small children off his lawn for no other reason than the satisfaction of screaming is evil, as is the miser who refuses to give his employees time off when they are ill or injured. At the same time, not all "good" characters are crusading crime fighters. A shopkeeper who minds his own business, pays his taxes, and shows concern for his neighbor's sick aunt is "good," as is the bystander who gives directions to a lost motorist.
In play, this effects how characters can act. Ords are unable to act against their "Inclination", although they can be tempted from one side to the other. Possibility-rated characters can act outside their Inclination, but doing so costs them a Possibility, and the GM can force the character to change Inclination if they're breaking it too often. However, if you're not in the Empire, you can break your Inclination when you want even if you're in a reality bubble.

It should be pointed out that trying to perform a morally "grey" action is a one-case contradiction, meaning you disconnect on a 1 on a d20.

The world law does give characters two mechanical abilities: you can sense someone's Inclination when you play an alertness card, and it's possible to seduce someone of the opposite Inclination to your side through Charisma checks. Success can cost the target possibilities or even get them to either pay 2 possibilities or change Inclination. However, if you try to change someone's Inclination and fail, it costs you a possibility.

There's one final effect of the Law of Morality: "The Price of Evil". This is the effect of both Amat-Ra's curse and the axioms of the Empire; any time an Evil character enters the Empire he has to immediately forfeit a possibility. Evil doesn't pay, kids.

The second world law is The Law Of Drama , and it's what makes life in the Empire what it is. Basically, it means that anything that happens involving possibility-rated characters will be as melodramatic and exciting as possible. If a scientist is kidnapped, he will have a lovely daughter who will seek out heroes for help and one oh whom she will fall in love with. If you're chasing someone through the city streets, there will be cars pulling into the street in front of you or handcarts to swerve around. If you get into a fight, the furniture will be destroyed and if there's a window someone will go through it. When the bomb is found, there will be enough time to defuse it with two seconds left on the detonator.

Going hand-in-hand with that is the last world law, The Law of Action . The Law of Action states that possibility-rated characters are capable of amazing stunts and feats of ability. In game terms, that means that p-rated characters can spend two possibilities on an action, roll twice, and choose which die he wants to add to his original roll. It's expensive, but it can give you the added "oomph" to make that roll when you really need it.


Car chases never go out of style

The combination of these world laws create a reality where advenutre is as important as gravity, where the stakes are always high, and where heroes and villains constantly clash. Magic is woven into mathematical formulas to ward against a swarm of invading mummies. A private eye jumps out a third-story window clutching a valuable lost idol while firing back at the thugs in the room he just escaped. Two cars barrel through crowded streets, a masked woman perched on the hood of the trailing car ready to leap to the pursued vehicle and save the kidnapped child inside before he is sacrificed to a forgotten god. And above it all is the specter of Dr. Mobius, weaving his insane schemes in his bid to become the Torg.

Just another day in the Nile Empire.

NEXT TIME: The red line travels across the map!

Bullet Lists of the Nile Empire

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 13b: Bullet Lists of the Nile Empire

The first real chapter of the book is a high-level description of the Empire, so let's dig into it.

As was pointed out last time, Mobius has been expanding his realm very rapidly. In fact, he controls a pretty sizeable chunk of Africa right out of the gate.


The Nile Empire, about three months after the initial invasion.

This is the map of the Empire at the default setting "start", about a month or so after the initial invasion. As you can see, Mobius has been pretty busy. He controls a pretty sizable chunk of Africa, and has gotten deep enough into Saudi Arabia to start being a threat to Iraq. We'll talk about how well that works out for all involved later.

Like all the High Lords, Dr. Mobius has come to Core Earth to oversee his forces personally. Of course, Mobius is a busy man and can't do everything by himself; that's why he has his five "Personal Advisors". These five people are second in power only to Mobius himself.

Below the Advisers are the Overgovernors. There are ten Overgovernors, some of whom have been with Mobius throughout his reality-hopping career. Mobius shares the slowed aging with his Advisers and Overgovernors, so some of these folks have experience running things in other realities. Others are recruited from the invaded cosm.

Each Overgovernor has control of a different area of the Empire, and are allowed more-or-less total autonomy to run things as they see fit. They are picked by and report directly to Mobius himself, and every ten weeks they meet to discuss the state of the Empire as a whole.
Oh, and in case you're wondering, every single one of those named NPCs listed above is fully statted out. Even the ones who are non-combatants.

Below the Overgovernors is a structure of governors, advisors, governor's advisors, and bureaucrats. But there's a problem here, which I'll get to in a second.


Everyone in Torg talks like this. Everyone .

Outside the structure of Mobius's followers is the military, which is mostly filled by shocktroopers, backed up by traditional armor units and weird science destructive devices.

And this is the problem I mentioned a moment ago: this is another point where we get into Torg's "I don't care about this level of detail" problems. This is what it says about Infantry Organization :

quote:

The smallest unit in the Imperial Army is a squad consisting of 10 men.

In addition to the normal equipment issued to each soldier, every squad is equipped with a Kocha machine gun. Squads are under the command of enlisted veterans.

Four squads make up a platoon . Platoons are commanded by lieutenants, the lowest ranking Imperial officers.

Three platoons make up a company . In addition to the equipment belonging to its platoons, each company has an attached mortar group consisting of five 81mm mortars . Companies are commanded by officers known as veteran lieutenants.

Four companies make up a battalion . Each battalion has an attached artillery group consisting of five 81mm mortars and five 105mm howitzers. Battalions are commanded by field majors.

Three battalions comprise a wing . The wing is the largest pure infantry formation in the Imperial Army. Wings are commanded by officers known as overmajors.
Why do I need that level of detail? Torg isn't a military simulation, and the Nile Empire is pulpy goodness, not military drama. At the end of the day, does it really matter how many platoons are in a company? What's more, you get this info for Infantry, Armor, Artillery, and Airborn divisions. It also tells you how these groups are organized into Battlegroups, which are just three-letter designations for a chunk of the army. I mean, it's only a page and a half or so, but it does the same thing for the structure of over-governors and governors and so on. It has nothing to do with the focus of the setting or game. It's just cruft.

For instance, they talk about Mobius' personal Battlegroup: Super Battlegroup Mobius . That sounds pretty important, right? Like the kind of thing we should know details about, right? Nope! All we learn is how many platoons and infantry and tank units it has. Do they have the best gear? Do they get to play with Mobius' high-tech toys? Who's in charge? Who knows?

And then we run into Torg's other recurring problem: bouncing wildly from topic to topic. Because now we get a brief forray into how Mobius uses his gospog . Or how he doesn't use them, I guess...there are only 50 gospog throughout the Empire, and they're only second-planting ones. He mainly uses them for "special missions". Oh, and unsurprisingly they look like mummies.

At which point we hammer back into talking about military organization with garrisons . Which is just two paragraphs and a small stat block that boil down to "a garrison is manned by generic infantry, here's their stat block".

Now that we're through all that, we get to something important: how Mobius expands his territory. The heading for this section is called Moving the Stelae because fuck decent headers.

Mobius has managed to expand so quickly because he takes a very straightforward approach to it. One thing Mobius has in spades is strength of numbers. When he wants to sieze a new area, he sends in wave upon wave of shocktroops, artillery, and weird science weapons at the problem. Once he wipes out any resistance, his agents rush in and plant the stelae. The troops already there act as the "believers" needed to empower it, and boom. Another chunk of land for the High Lord.

Nile Empire stelae, by the way, take the shape of jackal-headed idols. They can't be buried underground, so Mobius hides them in plain sight by putting non-stelae jackal-headed idols everywhere throughout the Empire.

Now, I know some of you are thinking "superior numbers are one thing, but 1930's military technology probably wouldn't stand up to modern military hardware". And you're pretty much right. For that exact reason, Mobius has pushed the boundaries of weird science and reality-based technology to develop the reality bomb . These bombs don't do any physical damage; what they do is temporarily alter the reality for two miles around the explosion point to a Nile Empire pure zone. And since it's a pure zone, contradictions are impossible. Anything not allowed by Nile Empire axioms simply won't work, which will generally include most Core Earth military hardware. And while everyone's trying to figure out why everything is busted, Mobius' troops can mop up easily.

Rality bombs are incredibly difficult to make because they require a substance called "eternium", which is generated by drawing power from Eternity Shards. Even at peak efficiency, Mobius can only make about five reality bombs a week.

quote:

Etemium is an element of pure possibility energy distilled down from eternity shards (atomic number 772, atomic weight 1611.022). Its synthesis is one of Mobius' proudest accomplishments.In its pure form, etemium resembles a glowing blue rock with swirls of red.

Eternium has two main functions. First, it is the crucial ingredient of the "reality bombs" which Mobius uses to temporarily alter the reality axioms of an area in preparation for an invasion. And second. a chip of eternium is capable of functioning as an infinite power source when properly connected to a gadget or gizmo. All charge-using power components connected to an appropriate chip of eternium can draw energy from that chip forever, with no recharging necessary. The greater the power requirements of the gizmo, the larger the chunk of eternium needed to power it (a component with an adventure cost of 1 or 2 might require a piece of eternium the size of a bottlecap, while one with an adventure cost of 6 or 8 might need a piece the size of a golf ball). Eternium has thousands of other potential uses which Mobius is only beginning to discover.

Since the amount of eternium that Mobius can synthesize directly corresponds to the number of eternity shards he can recover, and since such objects are quire rare, there is presently not very much eternium to go around. Most of the element that is synthesized is used to create the vital reality bombs.
And in keeping with the poor book organization, this definition is a sidebar in the section about the overgoverners.

Really, this whole chapter is just...unnecessary. You get all these named NPC who are supposed to be important, and are running whole regions of the Empire, but there's nothing about what makes each leader unique. They don't put their own personal stamp on their territory, they don't favor a certain type of henchman or scheme or whatever, and except for Wu Han I don't think any of them get mentioned again in the game line.

Same with the military stuff. Yes, it's useful to get a general outline of how Mobius' war machine works, since a large part of his plans involve his army pushing further south through Africa and expanding his realm, but do I really need to know how many infantry in a platoon in a battalion or whatever it is?

I hate sounding like a broken record, but these guys had zero idea on how to write tone.


This exact scene is happening somewhere in the Nile Empire at any given moment.

Anyway. The next chapter is Cities of Adventure , and deals with the major cities of the Empire.

Approximately 60% of the Empire's population live in the cities, with the remainder living and working in the farming communities that feed the cities. The reality shift has changed the major urban centers of northern Africa to a technological and social level that best equates to "1939".

quote:

The vast majority of the urban citizens ultimately work for the Imperial government, but, again, Mobius has sold a few scattered businesses back to wealthy, favored Earth people. Approximately 10 percent of the Empire's manufacturing industry, 15 percent of its packing industry, and 30 percent of its merchants are independent. Nearly 100 percent of the Empire's entertainment industry is in the hands of independent businessmen. Saloons (which sell only overpriced "legal" liquor), movie theaters,and dance halls are all fairly common in large cities.
Cities are policed by the military, especially when the Nile floods and all the farmers have to move into the city. During these periods, inflation and crime rates go through the roof.

The largest city in the Empire is Cairo , which has been hit particularly hard by the axiom wash. For some unknown reason, Cairo has changed into a wretched hive of scum and villainy. The place is a magnet for every gangster, crooked official, and petty criminal in northern Europe. Vice is the main business, ranging from drugs to bootleg alcohol to prostitution. Really, take the Chicago from any period gangster movie, redress the sets to be more Arabic, and that's what Cairo is like now.

In fact, Cairo has gotten so bad that Mobius has pretty much washed his hands of it. He's got more important things to worry about, and it's a convenient dumping ground for military leaders or bureaucrats that have been annoying him. The military still has a presence in the city, they just don't do anything except run what amounts to a citywide protection racket.

Cairo also has a very large black market. It's said you can buy anything in Cairo, and if you know who to ask that can extend to mystic artifacts or weird science doodads.

The only real "bastions" of Good in Cairo are the underground newspaper The Cairo Connection , and The Living Truth Agency .

The Cairo Connection is basically an anti-Mobius newspaper, but it can serve as a source of information for Storm Knights. Amazingly, we get maps, descriptions, and stats for all four of the paper's staff, which is more information than we got about Cairo.

The Living Truth Agency is a private investigation firm owned and run by hard-boiled private dick Rex McMasters. The only other employee is his partner/secretary Sadi Bel-Adda.

quote:

The agency is located on the second floor of the Nabib Building, which also houses a cut-rate apothecary shop and a health clinic. Making a left at the top of the stairs, the Living Truth Agency is the first door on the right (the words "Living Truth Agency, Rex McMasters, Prop." are written in gold on the door). Entering, you find yourself in an outer office, with a desk and chair, a telephone, and a typewriter. Behind the desk sits Sadi Bel-Adda, McMaster's partner and an adept magician.

Behind her desk is the door to McMaster's office. The office features a set of filing cabinets, with McMaster's desk and chair up against the windows that look out onto the street. A ratty old couch rests against the left wall, and on the right is a closet.

The closet actually has a secret panel that hides McMasters' secret: the costume he wears in his nighttime identity as The Silver Scarab, the electro-gun wielding mystery man.


Either someone is being taken off the case, or someone is demanding pictures of Spider-Man.

Moving out of Cairo, we travel to the imperial capital of Thebes and Luxor . Technically they're two separate cities, but thanks to the axiom wash they've sort of joined up into one large city.

The main "attraction" in Thebes is Mobius' royal palace, from which he rules the realm when he's not out fucking with Storm Knights. Thebes also has the Grand Temple of Osiris, the College of Mathematics, the Society of Engineers, and the main headquarters for Super Battlegroup Mobius. Unlike the newspaper office, none of this gets any detail.

Luxor's main point of importance is the 72,000 square foot Grand Temple of Ra. The Temple is topped with a giant artificial sun of Mobius' design, and is capable of illuminating all of Luxor, Thebes, and the nearby city of Karnak. In fact, on "auspicious days", the sun it lit an hour before sunrise and darkened an hour after sunset.

But that's just a side benefit. The real power of the artificial sun is that it's a good, old-fashioned death ray. It has a maximum range of 150 miles, and hits with an explosive radius of 4000 meters. It's damage rating 55, which is a base 24Wound KO 28 shock , aka "you're just fucking dead". Fortunately the power drain is so immense it can only be fired once a month. That said, there are six back-up batteries in case of emergency. The death ray can only be fired by Mobius himself, as it's keyed to his thought engrams.


"Modern" city life

The city of Karnak wasn't a city until the reality shift, which is when it changed from a small village to a respectably sized city overnight. The main (and only) point of interest here is the Temple of Ptah, which has a strange curse: it actively attempts to drive out the living. Entering the Temple causes it to make intimidation checks against you every time you enter a room or corridor. The first time it succeeds you take shock damage, the second time you have to flee.

Khartoum is the second-largest city in the Empire (after Cairo). It was taken over shortly after the initial invasion, and Mobius has made it the center of the Empire's railway system. The main temple here is dedicated to Horus.

quote:

The other tidbit that makes Khartoum interesting is the ancient Earth legend of a magical fire opal hidden somewhere beneath its streets. The opal is said to give its bearer fantastic mind control powers. Mobius uncovered the legend shortly after his invasion and has had a team of mathematicians stationed in Khartoum looking for the opal for months.

Memphis is the home of Wu Han, and he's built a sort of mini-Chinatown here to serve as a power base. Mephis houses the Temple of Wadjet, which is the center of a cult known as "The Sisters of the Serpent". The cult seeks to make Wadjet a more powerful god than Sebek, and given that Sebek is Mobius' patron god, this causes a bit of tension around the city. Right now the cult has a very tenuous alliance with Mobius, but one side would betray the other in a heartbeat if it suited them.

Alexandria is the third largest city in the Empire, and home of the famous lighthouse that's one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. There's also a large Colosseum here, which Wu Han has been employing for gladiatorial matches where heroes are forced to fight each other to the death because why the hell else would you have it?

The rest of the chapter are "generic" city locations with incredibly basic maps: a gin joint, a mummifcation parlor, a tomb, things like that.


It never pays to be the last goon in line.

The next chapter is Lands of Danger , which covers locations and areas in the larger Empire.

The biggest change in Africa is the Nile Basin . When the axiom wash happened, all the modern machinery used to control and take advantage of the Nile were destroyed, leaving the Nile in its more "ancient" state. This means that the annual flooding that happens around July is no longer managed and mitigated by technology, and people have to deal with the flooding by moving into the cities. That said, the Nile Basin is still the main source of farmland in northern Africa, except that now it's pretty much completely controlled by Mobius's forces. A side-effect of the reality shift is that the Nile now has a larger-than-normal amount of crocodiles and asps now.

The change in realities also affected the Sahara Desert in general, populating it with nomad tribes and peppering it with lost tombs, ancient forgotten cities, and hidden oases. This is all part of Mobius' larger plans: with all these sites appearing, he can raid them for magic artifacts or eternity shards before anyone else stumbles onto them.

For example, the Oasis of Firrah lies deep in the Sahara desert, hidden behind burning sands and howling winds. According to ancient legends that are really only a few months old, Bela Firrah was an Arab trader who stumbled upon the oasis when seeking a source of water for his shady trade caravans. He sent out troop after troop of his men to claim it, but none of them returned.
[quote]
The stories of what happened next are unclear in many respects. But it is said that along the way Firrah found the bodies of the earlier parties, all with their water flasks full, their trails a great circle, as if the sun had driven them mad. After many days of traveling, Firrah's party came in sight of the oasis. They whipped their camels into a gallop, but as they drew near, a fierce sandstorm arose. Blinded, their mounts in a panic, Firrah's men fled into the desert, never to be seen again. Firrah himself struggled to the water's edge, reached out and touched the sparkling blue liquid...

Firrah's body was found the next day by a nomadic tribe. His skeleton gleamed in the sun, the bones blasted clean by the force of the sandstorm. One finger was stretched toward the pool, a pool the nomads would not drink from out of fear.[quote]
This legend may or may not be true, but it sticks around because of the possible fortune in gold at the bottom of the oasis. Or it may just be a fable made up to scare people away from one of Mobius's projects.

The isle of Hespera in Lybia is another example of the types of changes an invading reality can bring, because neither the island or the lake it's in existed before Mobius's arrival and were created whole cloth by the axiom wash. The reality shift caused the legends about the "home of the Amazon warriors" to become fact, and transformed archaeologist Hippolyta Kosmos ( oy ) into Queen Hippolyta. The transformation was Hippolyta's "moment of crisis" and made her possibility-rated as well as transforming her to Nile Empire axioms. Hippolyta has assembled women from the Empire and Core Earth to her side, and so far Mobius and the world at large are unaware of what's happening on the island. Despite her Good Inclination, she's not 100% convinced yet that she should bring the fight to Mobius, prefering instead to live peacefully on Hespera. That's not to say that some of her Amazon warriors haven't left the island to fight for the side of good, of course, but so far she's not angling to become a major player.

Scattered throughout the Empire are Weird Science Research Centers . These are where Mobius's forces develop their unique weapons and devices. Protected by minefields and artillery, these sites can be a treasure trove of new experimental gear for heroes brave enough to penetrate the defenses and defeat the squads of shocktroopers there. There's not much else to say about these facilities, even though the Nile Empire book spends five pages on WSECs, describing them in the usual ammount of unnecessary detail. I mean, I get that these are the types of places PCs will be hitting up a lot, but still. The cities don't get that much detail!


Do we really need a map for this?

The mixing of Core Earth and Nile Empire axioms has had more subtle effects on the landscape, such as the transformation of Egypt's network of gold mines into The Land of the Dead , a sprawling network of catacombs and caves that wind under most of eastern Egypt. These are the mines where Empire officials sentence criminals and opponents to, to spend the rest of their lives digging for gold for their pharaoh. Rumor has it that some of the caverns actually stretch halfway around the world to North America, and the extended cave network is a favorite hiding place for the Empire's many pulp villains.

Lastly, we learn how Mobius gets along with his Middle Eastern neighbors. Spoiler: not very well .

Things have gotten very strange in Ethiopia . The spread of the Empire transformed the Ethiopian forests into a full-blown rain forest, complete with lost temples and hostile "native tribes". Between this new source of artifacts and the country's established gold and diamond mines, Ethipoia has become a high priority target for the military. Although Ethiopia's army has pretty much fallen apart under the assault, the only reason Mobius hasn't just taken over yet is because the terrain makes it difficult to move troops in. Ethiopia is surrounded by mountains and is at a very high elevation, which Mobius' war machine isn't built to deal with. As it stands right now, both forces are in a rough stalemate, although Mobius keeps a few battalions on the Ethiopian border to keep them boxed in and to keep control of the mines on the country's border.

Dr. Mobuis was smart enough to realize early on that Israel was going to be a major threat, so he made it a point to move into their territory as soon as he could before they had time to assemble an effective defense. The western half of Israel is now under the Empire's control, but he's been unable to get in any further due to the Israeli forces not only putting up a better defense than Mobius expected, but also raiding into Empire territory. Isreli and American forces have set up a resistance outpost in Massada and are beginning to harry enemy forces.

Things are a little tenser with Libya . It's important to remember that this game was written in the early 90’s, so Muammar Qaddafi was still in charge at the time. The oil fields of Libya were an early target for Mobius, so Qaddafi made a bargain: if Mobius stopped trying to invade, accepted 45% of Libya's crude oil production, and give Qaddafi access to weird science weaponry to use against the West, Qaddafi would not detonate the nuke he buried in the oil fields and irradiate the world's main source of oil. Mobius agreed to these terms, partially so he can concentrate on other battefronts, but also because he doesn’t know what a nuclear bomb is because they don’t exist in Terra or the Empire. Yet.

Lastly, there’s the Sudan . Sudanese forces have fallen back into a defensive position. Fortunately, they’re being supported by the Soviet Union’s “Soviet Psychic Group”, whose psychics have been able to predict attacks by Nile forces. It's not known if Mobius knows that 3327 is behind the SPG, but for now Mobius isn't pushing too hard in that direction due to having bigger fish to fry.

--
Man, that's a lot of fluff of varying degrees of usefulness. And while some of these are clearly more useful than others, there's just a bizarre mix of what the writers thought would be useful. Yes, I'm more likely to need info on an adventuring site than a whole city, but even so there should be more info on the city rather than one building. Cairo, largest city in the Empire, gets less detail than the Temple of Wadjet! Did they not realize that people would spend more time in a city than one building?

I mean, there's full walkthroughs of the Cairo Clarion newspaper office and the Living Truth Agency that are longer than the information on Karnak. Why do I need the detailed layout of a private eye's office? All you need to say is "it's a 30's private eye's office" and bam, everyone knows what you're talking about.

But don't worry, things only get dumber from here.


NEXT TIME: Skills and powers! No, not the AD&D book.

You don't buy pulp powers, you just rent them

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 13c: You don't buy pulp powers, you just rent them

Before we get into "cool" pulpish abilities, let's take a quick look at the more mundane new skills we get in this book.

The Terra sourcebook that came out later and covered Mobius' home cosm added a bunch more.


Okay, so...two things.

First off, those are some damn granular skills that would barely ever see use. Why do I need to know how good my photo is? Why does studying Egyptian history need as many as three different skills? It's like fucking Rope Use or Profession: Blacksmith; they didn't realize that you don't need skills for every potential thing PCs might want to do. I know it was years before anyone thought of "if failure doesn't mean anything, don't roll", but come on, who used these?

Second: there are skills there that are clearly meant for NPC use only. Petty crime and Scholar (Master Criminal) in particular aren't the kinds of things cinematicly heroic pulp hero PCs will be doing on a regular basis. Even if they're doing a "reformed criminal" thing, what's wrong with just expanding use of the base streetwise skill?

And what makes this all worse is that characters don't get a ton of skill points. You get your 16 adds at character creation, and after that you need to pay out possibility points. And as we'll see in a moment, Nile Empire pulp heroes can get fucked on metagame currency harder than Shadowrun mages get shafted on Karma.

So. Pulp powers.


I hate it when the book tries to be clever.

Pulp powers are a "by-product" of Terra's and the Nile Empire's weird science doings. In fact, unlike every other realm-specific ability in the game (cybernetics, magic, martial arts, etc.), pulp powers are only available to characters from either the Nile Empire or Terra. Also, only p-rated characters can have pulp powers, so no Ord NPCs can do this stuff.

Each power is basically a self-contained rules chunk that you generally don't have to roll to use. They cost one possibility each at character creation, and there is technically no limit to how many you can have.

Note my use of "technically". Let's explain why.

Let's look at a typical power's stat block.


I'll get back to "Adventure Cost" in a second.

The "action value" is the fixed effectiveness value of a power. For some powers, this value is fixed and replaces other rolls; for example you can use your flat Mega-Sight value instead of rolling your Perception skill. Other times, it's used as the base of a roll like a normal skill.

"Range" is self-explanatory.

"Tech Rating" only comes into play if you're trying to build the power into a weird science device.

Now remember when I said before that you technically only pay one possibility at character creation to buy them?

The "Adventure Cost" is how many possibilities you have to pay at the end of an adventure to keep the power. If you don't pay this cost, you lose the power forever.

I'm going to say that again so we're all clear.

If you don't pay out a power's adventure costs in possibilities at the end of an adventure, you lose the power forever.

Oh, and in the Terra sourcebook they added another requirement: if you don't use your powers often enough, you can lose them.

quote:

Powers that are not used during an adventure start to "fade." A character who does not make a meaningful use of any of his powers (gamemaster's discretion as to what a meaningful use is) should start to lose the power. After two or three adventures, the character should start losing the power, and when it is gone, it is gone permanently.

The intent behind this rule is to keep players from selecting a bunch of powers at the beginning of the game and then just using them when they want. In reality, no character should have more than two or three powers (super attributes and super skills don't always fit into this limit), and the character certainly shouldn't be able to go through a menu of powers during an adventure.
Pulp powers are one of only two special abilities in the entire game line that has this cost, the other being playing as a non-human from Aysle. Magic, miracles, cybernetics, martial arts, all that shit? You buy it once and you're set forever. Even with playing an Ayslish non-human, you don't lose your elvishness or whatever, but you have to deal with some harsh penalties for an adventure or two until you're taken back to Aysle territory. But pulp dudes? You have to pay out or you're immediately fucked.

And here's the thing: there's no Fate-style Refresh in this game. You're expected to get maybe eight or nine Possibilities per adventure. Even two minor powers can cost you half of your payout, and that's assuming you're getting all the awards. There are ways to reduce the adventure cost of powers that we'll get to at the end of the chapter, but there's no way to reduce the cost to 0.

So if you have the mind reading power, you're going to have to pay out 5 Possibilities each adventure to keep being able to do that, but a mage who buys a spell that does the same thing just has to buy the spell once and that's it.

Between the core set, the Nile Empire book, and the Terra sourcebook, there are 35 pulp powers all told. The game wants to make it clear that these are not meant to be used to make a costume-wearing superhero character because that is not what this is about.



This is total BS, however, because almost every NPC with pulp powers in the rest of the game line is pretty much a costume-wearing superhero. If they don't want characters to have the more out-there powers, then why didn't they just say "this power must be built into a weird science device unless you can give your GM a good reason why you have it"?


I don't know what power this is, but it's shiny.

There are 38 pulp powers split between the core set (6), the Nile Empire sourcebook (23), and the Terra sourcebook (6). A small handful appear dotted throughout later supplements (one of the SPOILER cosmbooks in particular), but for the most part that's all Nile Empire characters got to choose from. Of course, I'm not going to descible all of them, but let's take a look at a few.

Animal Friend allows you to talk to animals for 3 Possibilities per adventure. Animals are only capable of communicating simple ideas (so "are there Empire shock troops around the corner waiting for us?" is not valid, but "is there danger here?" is). Communication also requires a roll: your CHA+2 versus the animal's Spirit to successfully communicate. You can try to convince animals to do your bidding with a second roll, but you can't use this power to get an animal sidekick.

Darkness creates a field of darkness in a 5-meter globe around themselves. I'm not sure if that means a 5 meter radius or diameter, but regardless it blocks vision for everyone but the user, inflicting the standard penalty for fighting in the dark (-5). This also has an adventure cost of 3.

Electro-Blast is "the ability to project a powerful bolt of energy from the hands", but again this isn't about playing superheroes ! The blast has an attack value of the user's STR+10 (so probably around 20 or so total; about as powerful as an AK-47) and keys off the user's Dexterity , but generating a successful attack total deals the user 2 shock, even if you miss. This has an adventure cost of 4.

Flight is pretty straightforward; your airspeed is based of your Dexterity , but you need the flight skill to perform fancy maneuvers. The adventure cost is 3, and the tech rating is 24, which is one higher than Core Earth's, which means that in the 90's we were close to creating jetpacks.

Growth is the ability to increase your overall size by a factor of 3, with appropriate increases to your Strength and Toughness , which both go up by 7. The downside is that being huge makes it easier for you to get hit. Oh, and the adventure cost of 5.

Jump lets you long jump up to your DEX-3 meters on the ol' number-to-value chart, and standing jump a third of that distance. With an an average Dexterity of 10, that's a value of 7, which equates to 25 meters/82 feet. So it's a pretty substantial distance, but I don't think it's worth 2 Possibilities per adventure.

Mega-Scent can be used to detect or track people by scent. Your smell power is such that you can detect people from up to 50 meters away, which is pretty damn impressive. This costs 3 possibilities/adventure.

Shrinking , usually the purview of a mad scientist's ray, costs 12 possibilities per adventure; again, you get like 8 per normal adventure. With this, you can shrink down to 2 inches tall, increasing your Dexterity by 5, decreasing your Strength and Toughness by 5, and increasing your stealth by 10.

Super Attribute and Super Skill each have an adventure cost of 3, have tech ratings of 27 and 26 respectively (even though it explicitly states that you can't build these powers into a device), and let you go over the normal stat/skill maximums. Buying Super Attribute gives you three more stat points, and you can go above the normal human max of 14. Super Skill gives you three skill adds and lets you go over the usual +3 limit on skills. You can buy these multiple times for more stat/skill points.

Telekinesis (or "TK", as the book helpfully informs us) is the ability to move things with your mind. The effective strength of the power is your Mind +5, cross-referenced on the big conversion table. An average Mind of 10 would let you move something up to 1,000 pounds. You don't have to roll to just move stuff, but if you want to throw things, that needs you to roll against the target's defense plus the mass value of the object. You can't use this power to move people who don't want to be moved (no idea why), and TK isn't capable of precise movements or fine work. Believe it or not, the ability to toss around half a fucking ton without trying only has an adventure cost of 4.

Water Breathing is a very situational power that nonetheless costs 2 possibilities per adventure. All it lets you do is breathe underwater.

(Just for the record, here's the full list of available powers from the three books: Animal Friend, Chameleon, Dark Vision, Darkness, Dazzle, Dispersal, Electro-Ray, Emotion Control, Fear, Flight, Fog Screen, Force Field, Gravity Control, Grow, Illusion, Invisibility, Jump, Mega-Hearing, Mega-Scent, Mega-Sight, Mind Control, Mind Reading, Power Neutrality/Resistance, Running, Shrinking, Super Attribute, Super Skill, Swimming, Telecommunication, Telekinesis, Teleportation, Ultra-Sight, Wall Walking, Water Breathing, X-Ray Eyes .)

Now, that's all expensive as hell, right? I mean, even having one "level" of Super Skill is going to cut into your XP curve, let alone having to pay out for something like Mind Control at 5/adventure.

Fortunately, the game designers realized that forcing people to keep buying their abilities is pretty rough, but instead of reducing costs or working out a different mechanic they instead added a system for Power Flaws .

quote:

Powers are not always perfect. In the Nile Empire they often come with a flaw which can make life difficult for heroes. Of course, the flip side is heroes in distress generally make a story more interesting, and whenever a story becomes more interesting, there are Possibilities to be gained.
In the same way that Possibilities are sort of the early evolutionary version of Fate Points, Power Flaws are a sort of proto-compel. Only, you know. Clunkier.

The way it works is that you can attach a flaw of some sort to a power, such as "stops working when I am around handwavium" or "doesn't work on the color yellow". If the flaw comes into play and actually makes things more difficult you get X possibilities. There are three levels of flaws:

The thing about flaws, though, is that the value of the flaw is only determined by the effect, not the cause. Any narrative weakness of any type is allowed. The example of the six-point roll again flaw is a character that's helpless if he's lassoed by metal wire. Because that's a situation that'll come up a lot.

It is possible to attach multiple flaws to a power, but you can't have more than one flaw of each value.

quote:

Example: Cobalt has a power setback which affects his two super attributes and his grow power. In any scene in which he is bathed with a mix of mystic and weird science forces, he would earn 18 Possibilities. As the adventure cost of his three powers is 11, Cobalt's player must assume that his character will run across this combination fairly frequently in order to pay for his expensive powers.
Yeah, I'm sure that's a situation that can be worked into a lot of adventures easily.


Pictured: Totally not a superhero

Just to complicate matters more, the Terra sourcebook has a second flaws system: advanced flaws .

quote:

In The Nile Empire sourcebook, a basic system is presented for invoking "power flaws." These flaws were designed to help player characters pay their adventure costs for their different powers - and to make their characters more interesting.

In the first case, it succeeded. Stymie , setback , and other flaws certainly come across with the possibilities, giving the character a chance to pay his costs.

However, in the second case, they are a little flimsy. Fortunately, since Terra is so removed from the Possibility Wars, it has developed a different style of power flaws. These advanced flaws give more "character" to the powers a character has, making them and the character more interesting, and they provide a fun dlallenge for roleplaying.

Advanced flaws reduce the adventure cost of powers they're attached to. They don't have fixed "costs", but vary depending on how the flaw manifests.

For example, the Activation flaw means you have to perform a specific action of some sort to use the power. The example in the book is that "Meteor Lad might have to touch a piece of the meteor he gained his flight power from before he can fly", but again they said on the previous page we're not supposed to be playing superheroes .

Anyway, an Activation flaw that requires you to simply touch a badge would be worth one point, while having to make a roll to activate the power in the first place is worth two.

Activation Time is pretty much the same thing; the long it takes for your power to actually go off, the more the flaw is worth.

Burnout means that the power has a chance to become unusable for a period of time on a bad roll, even powers that you normally wouldn't roll to use. The longer it goes away for, and the easier it is to happen, the more it's worth.


The way the table works is you determine the d20 roll in which the power stops working, then the duration, and add the reduction bonuses together; having a 20% chance that your power goes away forever with each use reduces the power's cost by 8, but having it go away forever on a 1 reduces it by 5.

Also, in another wonderful case of Torgian design, the third level is "you lose the power until the end of the next adventure", but if you don't use a power in an adventure you lose it forever. Does that mean that the rank 3 version is effectively the same as the rank 4 version? And if it's not, does the character still have to pay to keep the power he couldn't use?

Power Reserve means that a power is only usable a certain number of times per adventure. The power draws from its own "energy pool" of 1 to 5 points, each use costing one point. This reduces the power's cost by 6-uses. And this flaw is so poorly described it doesn't explain how it actually works until the example of how the flaw works.

The final flaws are power reduction and situational modifiers , which is where you reduce a power's mechanical values to reduce the cost. You know, reducing the duration or strength or whatever. Unfortunately, these are "play it by ear" flaws, because there's no guidance on what constitutes a point of cost reduction. Maybe reducing water breathing's duration from "unlimited" to an hour is worth dropping the cost by a point...unless the GM thinks that even an hour is too much (since it's not a situation that comes up much), so he might say that dropping the power cost by one knocks the power's duration down to 10 minutes. You know, the usual fun having no real guidelines gives you.

Normal and advanced flaws can be combined on a power, but you can never reduce a power's cost to below 1. You can also "link" multiple powers to one flaw for an all-or-nothing effect, reducing the overall cost of the powers but applying the flaw's effect to all the powers.


--
So there we are. Torg's not-superpowers system. Really, it's not that , just a bit limited, but the whole adventure cost thing is ridiculous for what you're getting out of it.

Still, it pales in comparison to what we're going to see...

NEXT TIME: Building pulp gadgets! Get your slide rules ready!

Gizmos and gadgets: Keep rollin' rollin' rollin' (what?).

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 13d: Gizmos and gadgets: Keep rollin' rollin' rollin' (what?).

A big part of 30's pulp is the weird technology. Jet packs, shrink rays, mind-projection helmets...all the toys that shouldn't be remotely possible and yet feel right at home in the setting.

Torg has two types of pulp devices: gizmos and gadgets . Yes, there is a mechanical difference.

Gizmos are...well...

quote:

A gizmo is a technological tool with abilities expressed in terms of attributes, skill, powers or Special values (such as armor values). Thus, cars, guns, microwave ovens, and invisibility belts are all gizmos, as are shrink pills and knockout gases (these too are technological tools). A construction crane, for example, would have Strength since it is capable of lifting heavy objects, while an invisibility belt would have the invisibility power, and a wonder drug would have the medicine skill because it is capable of curing illness.
...okay, sure. The book does point out that "designing a microwave oven using these rules is time which could be better spent doing something else", which begs the question of why they included it in the example to begin with.


Ah, such a level of trust in the players...

Even after all this time, I'm still amazed that the game feels the need to point out that this system isn't a full-blown technological process and is, in fact, an absrtracion.

It's important to point out that, in order to be a gizmo and thus built using these rules, the object must be technological in origin. A helmet designed to project your thoughts is fine, but a mystic amulet that does the same thing can't be built with this system, even though you can build a gizmo that contains magic skills. How would you get that amulet, then? I don't know, make something up or buy the Aysle sourcebook, I guess.

At the highest level, there are four steps to creating a gizmo:
1. Decide on the purpose of the gizmo.
2. Draw the blueprint
3. Gather the components
4. Build the gizmo

Building or repairing a gizmo requires either the science or weird science skills, but using them does not.


I don't know why they felt the need to point out that Mobus is TEH BEST.

The first step (decide what it does) is the only easy step. A gizmo can contain any attribute, most of the skills in the game, and all the available pump powers except super attribute and super skill .

For this example, I'm going to build Starman's Cosmic Rod . The cosmic rod let Jack fly, it could lift objects in a gravity field, and fire bolts of energy. In game terms, that'd be the electro-blast , flight , and telekinesis powers.


I think that's sufficiently pulp-y, don't you?

So that's done. The next step is to draw the blueprint. See, when I said this was a system to build a gizmo, what that means is that the player actually has to draw out a blueprint and assemble components to do this.

Before we can really get into the blueprint phase, we need to discuss components . There are a bunch of them, and you need to know how they all work before you can really get going.

First off, every component needs a housing , which is basically the object you're building the gizmo into. It can be pretty much anything; a belt, a car, a giant-ass laser, and so on. The housing will determine the gizmo's base Toughness .

Each attribute, skill, or power you build into a gizmo requires its own system , which are the real mechanical chunks of the device. Each system can have boosters that increase the values of the abilities built into the system but make it harder to use, and compensators that offset the booster penalties.

Every system, without exception, requires a power source. If a system uses actual powers, it needs a Possibility capacitor to function, because powers only work by having Possibilities dumped into them. Anything else requires a power plant .

Lastly, there are adapters and caps . I'll get back to those later, but for now just keep them in the back of your mind.

Now that we know what all the components are, now we have to assemble them. Gizmo creation involves assembling all the systems one at a time, then adjusting the inherent values with boosters and capacitors.

The first step of building a system is to generate a science or weird science total against the tech rating of whatever you're building into the system. The result of the roll is the value of the ability...

...except that every ability you can jam in a gizmo has a limit rating that caps it. To go higher, you need to use boosters.

So let's start with the Electro-Raysystem. Electro-Rayhas a tech value of 27 and a limit value of 7. That means that, barring boosters, I can't get the ray's damage value above 7, which is actually pretty crap (that's the same damage rating as a throwing knife).

For the sake of example, let's say I have a weird science skill of 15 and I don't roll below a 4, which would put me into the "0 or less" range for the power's final level. So now I have an Electro-Ray system at 7.

Since I want my Electro-Ray to actually fucking do something, I need to install boosters. This is another skill roll, this time on the General and Push Results Table (remember that?). The result on the table is the modifier on the system's strength. If you're using the normal science skill, you can only add one booster to a system and use the speed column of the table, but if you're using weird science then you use the power column and can add as many boosters as you want or until you fail a weird science roll, at which point you have to stop.

So let's boost the Electro-Ray. My first booster roll total is 10, which is +4. I'll add another booster, and rolling again gets me a total of 15, which is +6. That's a strength of 17 so far, which is the same as a flintlock. Guess I better keep rolling! One more roll gets me another +6, for a total final strength of 23. Four rolls to make a weapon barely stronger than a .357 Magnum.


Yeah, I know how you feel.

By the way, if I had failed any of those rolls, then I would have had to stop trying to improve the system, and couldn't try to add more boosters at all until I take another add in my weird science skill or find a GM-fiat component. So it's entirely possible to try to build a gizmo, tank the roll to determine the system's strength, tank the first booster roll, and wind up with a useless gizmo I'm stuck with for at least a few adventures.

Anyway, every booster on a system increases the difficulty of using that skill/power/whatever by 1. On top of that, the difficulty to repair a gizmo is equal to the total number of boosters installed throughout all its systems. On top of that , if a gizmo is using two systems at once (like using the cosmic rod to fly and blast people), the difficulty of using those systems goes up by +2 in addition to any other penalties. The only exceptions are adding boosters to the housing's Toughness , which won't count in terms of penalties, and powers that don't need a roll to use, in which case the penalty becomes a side effect that limits its usefulness.

To counter these penalties you can build compensators into a system. You can't start adding compensators until you're done adding all the boosters, because the difficulty of the roll to to add them is the final boosted value of the system. Also, you can't add more compensators than boosters.

Adding compensators works the same way as boosters, so in our example gizmo I can roll my weird science up to three times to counter the penalty for the three boosters. For the sake of example let's say I only managed to install two compensators at +3 each. Now the Electro-Ray system has a final strength of 23, +1 difficulty to the attack roll, and a compensated value of (base power+value of boosters-value of compensators)=17. Compensated value will come into play later.

But we're not done yet! Now I have to add a Possibility Capacitor to actually fuel the power. See, powers in a gizmo still have an adventure cost, it's just that the cost is reduced by 2, then increased by one for every booster attached to the system. This cost needs to be payed out from a capacitor the first time it's use each adventure. More than one system can draw from the same capacitor, but a capacitor can only hold a maximum of 10 Possibilities so if(when) shit starts getting expensive you're probably going to need multiple capacitors. The only upside to this is that we don't have to roll to add it.

So what happens when the capacitor runs out? It'll need to be recharged, of course. This requires a laboratory of some sort, a day, and someone to donate the Possibilties to put into the capacitor. Because even with a gizmo, a PC has to pay out the fucking points to allow someone to keep their goddamn powers.

Jesus fucking Christ.

Oh, and although we're not going to have one in this gizmo, systems that grant an effective attribute or skill use power plants instead. Power plants require a roll to build, and the plant's value is the result of the roll. Power plants just work until a hero setback or hero stymied result comes up in combat. When that happens...

quote:

[T]he gizmo operator must generate power plant totals for every gizmo currently in operation. The difficulty number is the largest system value which draws power from the plant. If the plant powers more than one system, use the One-On-Many Table. The number of successes is the number of systems still working. On a stymie, the player decides which systems are still powered. On a setback, the gamemaster gets to choose. Any systems which lose power may not be used until the power plant is repaired or recharged. Recharging requires a laboratory and a full day.

One last thing we need to take into account before we can actually assemble this damn thing is housing integrity . Remember back where I said that every housing has to have a Toughness stat? That's because a housing can only safely use systems that have a compensated value equal to the housing's Toughness +5. If a system's compensated value is higher than that, the housing takes a damage result equal to the difference between the housing integrity and the system's compensated value, ignoring KO results. If the gizmo takes too much damage, it'll stop working and need to be repaired.

The cosmic rod probably isn't that strong, let's say it has a Toughness of 7. The housing integrity is therefore 12, which is 5 less than than the Electro-Ray's compensated value. In this case, that's an O3, but using Electro-Ray does two shock damage to the user each shot, so it's really O5. Every time I fire the Electro-Ray, the cosmic rod takes 5 shock. Because a character can take up to its Toughness in shock before getting knocked out, I can fire the Electro-Ray three times before the whole device breaks down. And that's assuming it's not taking damage from other sources.

Oh hey, I haven't designed the flight and TK systems yet! Let's just assume I didn't roll super-high on those, which is fine because I don't need to break the sound barrier or fling tanks around (or get into making more boosters and compensators). I generate a [/b]flight[/b] value of 10 (100m/round; about 35 mph) and a telekinesis value of 12, which lets me lift 250 pounds. Both of those are under the housing integrity so we're good there, and I'm not going to bother adding boosters.

Oh, and I need to figure out the adventure costs for everything. Electro-Ray actually costs one more than normal at 5, flight costs 1, and TK costs 2. Given that a capacitor only holds 10 Possibilities, I'm going to have to recharge this damn thing at least every two adventures if I give Electro-Ray its own capacitor.


The reason mad scientists go mad is because of this system.

So now we have all our systems. Now we actually get to assemble them by drawing the blueprint!

Here's the blueprint symbols for all the available components:

They're like Legos, only they make you want to kill yourself.

Every component in your gizmo needs to be drawn out. Each system is pretty much a loop that links the power/skill, the power source, and any boosters and capacitors together. Also, you see how every component has so many lines for connections? Those are fixed connectors; a housing will always have four connectors, and if you only need two of them, then the other two need to have caps attached to them. Likewise, adapters have to be used to attach multi-component systems to a housing.

So now we get to draw everything out. Here's the Electro-Ray system:


Thank God for free flowchart programs, is all I'm saying.

And here's everything attached and capped:



Now, you're probably wondering what the hell the point of drawing out the blueprint is. I mean, we've already gone through the hassle of defining what everything does, right?

And the answer is "yes, but..." Because now we come to the point where we actually have to build the fucking thing in-character. That means actually buying all the components, and making more fucking rolls to actually create all the connections between components in-game .

See, I've been doing this out of order. What you're supposed to do is draw the blueprint while designing, adding all the components and rolling to connect them as you go along. In addition to the normal rolls for adding boosters and compensators, you have to roll to attach the power source to each system, adapter, and cap. Each roll you make while building the gizmo, pass or fail, requires a day of work. The only consequence of failing to connect the generators, adapters, or caps is just wasted game time.

In addition to all the rolling, you also need to buy every single component off the equipment list. The cosmic rod has a housing, three boosters, two compensators, three adapters, three Possibility capacators, and a cap. A small housing costs $30, systems up to value 15 cost $500, systems range from $400 to $40000 depending on the system's value, the capacators cost $5000 a pop, caps are $5, adapters cost 10% of the value of the system they're attached to. Oh, and each booster and capacitor costs as much as the system it's attached to.

So assuming I lowball the system prices based on the given ranges:
pre:
Housing: $30
	Cap: $5
	
Electro-Blast: $41,600
	Value 23 system: $6,000
	PCP: $5,000
	3 Boosters: $18,000
	2 Compensators: $12,000
	Adapter: $600
	
Flight: $5,560
	Value 10 system: $500
	PCP: $5,000
	Adapter: $60
	
Telekinesis: $5,560
	Value 12 system: $500
	PCP: $5,000
	Adapter: $60
Grand total: $52,750. And again, that's the lowball. How in the hell is a character supposed to get that much money?

Gizmos, despite their nature, are still subject to the rules for Tech axioms: the tech value of the gizmo is the highest tech value of all its component systems, and using it outside that axiom level will risk disconnection. That said, they never cause contradictions inside Nile Empire axioms.

So what happens if you want to play someone who just uses the gizmo, but isn't the one who actually made it? I guess you better hope the GM gives you an NPC scientist with a decent skill, or hope that you roll really well because the whole shebang assumes that the character is the one making the device, not that it was given to him or he found it or whatever.

And you're also going to need someone who can fix the damn thing, because (as stated previously) gizmos can take damage. A gizmo that is "knocked out" has to be restarted with a simple science roll, but repairing damage can be done with either of the construction skills. The difficulty to repair a gizmo is the gizmo's highest value, plus one per booster. In the cosmic rod's case, that's a 26, which is pretty damn hard.

So there we are. About 20 skill rolls, $50k in-game cash, and I have a gizmo that I can use to do things assuming it doesn't shake itself apart with shock damage, and an attack that's as strong as a fucking pistol and yet costs $40,000.

Why any of this? Why is this so complicated? Why are there so many goddamn steps and limits and drawbacks? When you get right down to it, building more than one power into a gizmo is barely cost-effective in any sense of the phrase, especially since you still have to pay out Possibilities to fuel powers.


This whole thing is giving me a headache, so here's some kitties.

But don't worry! The Terra sourcebook realized that this whole process is too complicated, so it had a "simplified" gizmo creation system. And by "simplified", I mean that you don't draw blueprints anymore. That's really the only significant change in the process.

Oh, and under the newer system boosters and compensators work differently; now boosters do a point of shock to the gizmo every time the power is used, and compensators can reduce that damage. The reason for this? Because the old way let players "chuck the limit values out the window".

GOOD! Those made no goddamn sense! Letting people be powerful should be the point of a self-styled cinematic system, especially when it takes place in a pulp reality! Not forcing a bunch rolls and mechanics to make your device worth a damn.

Also, this being Torg, there's literally two pages of explanation as to why the Terran gizmo rules are different from the Nile Empire gizmo rules, because people needed an in-game explanation apparently. Like when there was the Time of Troubles to explain the changes between 1e and 2e D&D. The short form is that Mobius' understand of pulp technology (which is what informs the Empire's weird tech) has become outdated from recent developments back home on Terra.

Just to over-complicate matters even more, what the Nile Empire book calls a "gizmo" is called a "gadget" in the Terra book, and the Terra book uses "gizmo" to refer to a one-shot pulp device, like a strength-boosting pill or a one-shot teleporter made from spare parts. They're built like bigger devices, except they don't use Possibility capacitors, and instead have to be fueled by someone spending Possibilities when the device is used. Whatever.

--
Christ.

Why?

Just why ?


NEXT TIME: Why should gizmos have all the overcomplication?

Nile magic agic agic agic

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 13e: Nile magic agic agic agic

The Nile Empire (and, to a lesser extent, Terra) is a world where both magic and technology more-or-less coexist. It's common knowledge in the Empire that priests and engineers can produce miraculous effects, but unfortunately this is Torg which means we have to have a ton of new rules to cover them, because in case you haven't noticed Torg does not know how to model tone.

As a result, the Nile Empire has two new types of magic: mathematics and engineering . Both of these types of magic also share a subsystem based on astrology , and all three of these new magic bits is a separate skill you need to take on top of the normal magic skills. In fact, to be a magician from the Empire you have to take either the mathematics or engineering skill in order to cast spells, and you need astronomy to cast spells or perform miracles.

On top of that, the Terra sourcebook has pulp sorcery, which works completely differently from normal Torg magic and Nile Empire magic.

While you bear all that in mind, you might want to go re-read how magic works and how miracles work , because Nile characters actually require more skills and mechanics.

First off, we learn about Astronomy and how it applies to magic.

quote:

Magic and miracles in Mobius' reality rely upon the positions of various heavenly bodies for spell casting. Accomplished astronomers, the ancient Egyptians of Terra were so proficient in the art of astronomy that they had mathematically proven the existence of all nine planets in the solar system thousands of years before many of the planets were officially "discovered." They also charted the profound influence the planets had on magic and miracles.
Unsurprisingly, this type of astrology is all Egyptian-themed.

Every spell and miracle in the Empire has two astronomical parts: which planets directly influence the spell, and the minimum number of planets from that list that must be taken into account when casting the spell.

The planets are all named for the Egyptian gods, and in an amazing coincidence the Core Earth solar system and gods correspond to Terra's. What were the odds?

quote:

Mercury = Ra (god of the sun)
Venus = Isis (patron of magic and children)
Earth = Osiris (god of earth)
Mars = Horus (god of life)
Jupiter = Nut (god of the sky)
Saturn = Nepthys (patron of women)
Uranus = Ptah (god of craftsmen)
Neptune = Anubis (god ofthe underworld)
Pluto = Set (god of evil)
Yes, the sun is not represented by Ra. I know.

Anyway, the way it works is that you start by determining how many planets you want to bring into the spell, and which planets you're going to use. You then use the Planet Chart to get the highest difficulty of the selected planets.


Because if there's one thing Torg doesn't have enough of, it's tables.

This number becomes the difficulty of the astronomy roll. You then take the result of the roll and look it up on the One-On-Many chart to see how many planets you "hit", starting from the innermost and working out. For each planet you've successfully configured into the spell this way past the minimum, you get the planet's listed bonus to your actual spellcasting roll. On the plus side, Egyptian magic doesn't have to worry about backlash.

For example, the Rot spell (which causes inanimate objects to decay) requires one planet and is influenced by Ra, Nut, Anubis, and Set. I want to cast it and I have an astronomy skill of 15. I bring in two planets: Ra and Anubis. The highest difficulty of these planets is 18, so I need a +3, which means I need to roll a 16+ to get both planets. Assuming I did, then I'd get a +7 to my actual spellcasting roll.

What happens if/when you fail the astronomy roll? No idea. The book doesn't say. I guess the spell doesn't go off if it required a planet?

In case that's not enough unnecessary mechanics for you, there's an optional rule for Planetary Cycles , where you have to (and I am not making this up) track the overall positions of the planets.

You see that "Cycle" column on the planet chart? That's the number of days that planet becomes "naturally" aligned, and will automatically self-configure into spells, and thus you don't have to roll for it.

quote:

As gamemaster, you have to keep a record of the days which have passed in your campaign in order to use the cycles. Each time Mobius invades a cosm, the calendar starts again with Day One. The events written about in this sourcebook go up to Day 65 of the Pharaoh's invasion. Begin your campaign calendar with Day 65, and mark off one day for each day of game time which you and your players spend in the game world.

Divide the campaign day by the cycle of a planet; the remainder is called the position of the planet. If the position of a planet is zero, the planet naturally configures on this day.

We recommend you calculate the zero positions of planets out of game time, and for a substantial period of time (say, one year). Writing it down in calendar form and check off the campaign days as you run through them. That way, you will know what planets are influencing spells for the current day of play.


I honestly want to know how many people bothered doing this, mainly because I'd guessing it's a number pretty close to zero.

So let's pretend that last part didn't happen and move on to Mathematics . And before we can actually learn how to do this, we apparently need close to a page about the organization of mystic mathematicians in the Nile Empire.

quote:

Most practicing mathematicians on Terra and in the Nile belong to an organization known as the College of Mathematicians. The college serves as both a forum where mathematicians can gather and share any new secrets they may have discovered, and a support organization for the training and guidance of young apprentice mathematicians. In the Nile, the College also serves as an official arn of the Imperial Government. In this capacity, it is one of the resources that Mobius frequently exercises. In fact, practicing mathematics in the Empire without being a recognized member of the College is a crime.

There is a very rigid and formal hierarchy within the College. At its head is Rama-Tet, the Royal Vizier and personal adviser to Mobius. Beneath Rama are 10 Grand Deans (mathematics and one magic skill at values 18 to 25, the other magics at values from 17 to 22), one for each of the Overgovemorships. Beneath each Grand Dean are three Lesser Deans (mathematics at values of 16 to 20, magic skills at values of 13 to 19). Beneath the Lesser Deans are a varying number of Initiates and Apprentices. Initiates are low-level mathematicians waiting for an opening in the ranks so they can ascend to the rank of Dean. Apprentices are young mathematicians in training.


Pictured: not an apprentice

When Mobius has a service he would like the mathematicians to perform, he takes it to Rama-Tet, who then assigns it to a Greater Dean, who will in tum either assign the project to a Lesser Dean (if it is relatively simple or unimportant) or perform it himself. The Overgovemors follow a similar procedure, beginning with the local Greater Dean and possilly ending with an Initiate.
Why the hell do I need to know all this? Can't they just say "The College of Mathematicians maintains a very rigid structure, with requests for services tending to trickle down the management pyramid until they land on someone who can't hand the job off to someone else" or something? Who could possibly care?

Oh, and you can't just have the mathematics skill, either. You can't increase your skill without a teacher (until you get 3 adds), and learning your first rank costs double the normal cost.

So when you cast a spell, in addition to the astrology bullshit above, you also have to roll your mathematics skill. If you succeed, you finally get to try and cast the spell. Failure means the spell doesn't happen and you have to roll on the Mathematics Backfire Chart).

So this is how you cast a spell as a Nile Empire character.

As near as I can tell, the mathematics skill adds nothing to the process apart from making you roll an extra time and take an extra round. Well, you don't have to worry about the arcane knowledges, but that's not a huge benefit compared to adding another two potential failure points to the process.

So given how much more difficult it is to cast mathemagic spells, they must be pretty awesome, right?

Ha.

There are 17 mathemagic spells in the Nile Empire book, and they're a mixed bag. Some highlights:

Animate Mummy does what it says on the label, only requires one planet, and has a difficulty of 15 so it'd be pretty easy to pull off.

Calculate Weakness is difficulty 10, requires one planet, and gives one person a +3 to their next attempt at a task. So that's three skill rolls and a round to give someone a +3.

Commune with Crckets is a very specific version of "speak with animals" that's one point easier than animating a mummy.

Death Shout is an attack spell that does magic total+5 damage. Given that the difficulty is 20, that's about as powerful as a heavy pistol.

Gemwork doubles the value of a single gem. This is one point easier than talking to crickets, and therefore two points easier than animating a mummy.

Prepare Mummy is a fairly easy spell that mummifies a body. Given that Animate Mummy doesn't require the use of this spell, it begs the question of why it's a spell in the first place.

Sundew only requires one planet from Ra, Osiris, Horus, and Nut, and will "heal the wounds" of everyone within 50 feet of the caster who shares his Inclination. The thing is, it doesn't say what "heals the wounds" means in a mechanical context; does that mean that the spell heals all a person's wounds? If so then this spell is ridiculously powerful, even at difficulty 20 and a one-round spinup time.

Wing of the Hawk lets you fly at speed value 11, or about 40 mph, for three hours. Note that even with all the rolls this is objectively cheaper than the Flight pulp power.

So that's one type of magic down. Now we get to the most useless magic type: engineering .

quote:

Exactly how the ancient Egyptians of Earth built their huge pyramids and sculptures remains a mystery. The Egyptians of Terra built their monuments using a magical discipline known as engineering. Engineers have the ability to design fantastic structures and monuments, as wellas abilities that facilitate the construction of these monuments.

In Torg, such engineering is governed by the use of the engineering , and the four Torg magic skills.
Like the College of Mathematics, there's an official government body dealing with magical engineering: The Society of Engineers. Headed by Maub the Royal Builder, it has a similar structure of X guys at Y skill above Z dudes and who cares.


He may be an insane megalomaniac dictator, but Mobius still makes sure everyone gets a lunch break.

Engineering uses some metaphysics wonkery to get around the normal Torg magic restriction of the Principle of Definition, the short form of which is that it's possible to cast more than one spell on a building. Because that's the point of Engineering Magic: enchanting an entire building with temporary or permanent effects.

Engineers have access to exactly five spells:
Now, I know you're all thinking that that's a pretty lame list. And you're right. But don't worry; they get some other side benefits as well. For example, they can...search for traps without casting the spell, using their engineering skill. Except that it's just basic searching and not just knowing where all the traps are in 125 feet.

The main strength of engineers is that they can construct buildings with inbuilt devices, spells, miracles, or pulp powers. That's why they have that Imbude with Mystic Energy spell.

Installing something into a building requires the creation of a maat matrix . A matrix is a magical construct that takes a week to make, and can have pretty much any spell, miracle, skill, gizmo, power, or mundane device bound to it. If successful, then the maat matrix will power the ability from the building's Possibility pool. It only costs one Possibility per year to power the matrix, and bound devices will never decay over time, but will still use any materials needed to operate. So if you have an automatic machine gun mounted on a wall, it won't rust but someone will still have to reload it.

That said, most things will require some sort of activation device: a tripwire, a pressure plate, IR sensor, and so on. Each of these is considered a separate device and therefore needs its own matrix.

The building can use any ability bound to its matrices at the cost of one Possibility per use This means that a tripwire/fireball spell combo will require two Possibilities to work; one for the sensor and one for the spell. Once activated, though, inbuilt devices will remain active for about 24 hours.

Oh, and it's worth pointing out that if the structure is a pyramid, then you don't need the Imbude with Mystic Energy spell. It'll generate Possibilities on its own.

...I don't understand what the point of the engineering stuff is.

I mean, is this supposed to be something PCs are expected to do? I mean, I suppose characters could make a base of operations, but unless they put it in the Nile Empire they're going to have to deal with disconnection issues, and Torg is supposed to be a game of globetrotting adventure. And if it's not something PCs are going to do, why is it there? Is the GM expected to roll all the NPC skills and track this stuff? (spoiler: of course he is.)

The final new type of "magic" I'm going to cover is Pulp Sorcery . This was added in the Terra sourcebook, so it's pretty much a GM call if it's allowed for Nile Empire characters. On the plus side, pulp sorcery doesn't cause a contradiction if used in the Empire.

Sorcery is considered a pulp power, and costs one Possibility during character creation. Its function is to allow you to mimic other pulp powers through the use of mystic rituals. Sorcery has a base adventure cost of 6, so it's expensive out of the gate, but you also have to pay Possibilities for any rituals you use. Ritual cost is the duplicated power's normal adventure cost, minus two, minimum of one Possibility. You only need to pay the cost for rituals you actually use during the adventure.

So if I have a pulp sorcerer and I used rituals for mind reading , fire blast , and telekinesis , that would cost me 6 for sorcery, 5-2=3 for mind reading, 5-2=3 for fire blasting, and 4-2=2 for TKing. That's a grand total of 6+3+3+2= 14 Possibilities I'd have to pay at the end of the adventure. If I only used mind reading and fire blast, then the final cost would be 12; I wouldn't have to pay for the ability I didn't use.

You need a separate ritual for every power you want to duplicate. Rituals cost one Possibility each at character creation and you can only start with three tops, but you can learn more later by finding a teacher/mystic item/what have you and paying the adventure cost of the new ritual between adventures.

Unfortunately, the powers you build rituals around can't have flaws attached to them, meaning that you can't reduce the cost beyond the two-point reduction for being a ritual.


Do you have a minute to talk about our lord Skeletor?

Using a sorcery ritual involves looking up the copied power's "ritual difficulty" on yet another chart. You then have to roll your pulp power: sorcery skill against that difficulty. That said, most of the difficulties are in the 20's or 30's.

quote:

The difficulty numbers deliberately run high so as to encourage the use of the modifiers to flavor spellcasting (multiple modifiers can be placed on the same ritual). Try to imagine Hadji (from the cartoon show Johnny Quest) without his trademark "Sim sim Salabim!" command and you get the idea of what spells without modifiers are like.
Will I?

Modifiers are things you can require on your rituals to reduce the difficulty number. They all have associated charts but they boil down to a few categories, three of which are the old vocal/somatic/material bits from AD&D that nobody ever used. You can also increase the casting time (requiring more rounds to use the ritual), take fatigue, or perform a sacrifice. No matter what you add, the modifiers are permanent; if you can't meet one of the ritual's requirements then you can't use the power.

--
It's amazing how hard they try to be "thematic" with pulp magic, and then drop the ball so completely. Pulp wasn't about fiddly details, it was about action and lots of it.

What's more, mathematics and engineering add nothing to the game beyond more rolling. Mathematics is bad, but there's absolutely no reason to learn engineering because all it does is let you make a location you probably won't be spending a lot of time at.

And again, the pulp powers aren't so overpowered that you need even more checks and balances in place. A pulp sorcerer needs to pay like 8 Possibilities just to use one power, but unless you have a lot of powers it's not cost-effective at all. And again, you're really not gaining any benefit in terms of usability or cost because you still need to buy all the powers in advance.

For as popular as the realm was, the Nile Empire really does make itself hard to use.

NEXT TIME: Realm-wide roll call!

Miracles, monsters, machines, and men of mystery

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 13f: Miracles, monsters, machines, and men of mystery

The last few chapters are pretty short, so I'll just cover them all in one post.

The chapter on Miracles of Faith starts with a list of the tenets of the Terran Egyptian faith (as filtered through Mobius, of course).
  1. Terra, the heavens, and all the other Egyptian gods were created by Ra.
  2. The Pharaoh is a divine being, whose will is law.
  3. The purpose of life is to achieve a state known as maat , which means "truth".
  4. Death is not final; when you die you are judged by Osiris, and if you have achieved matt then you ascend to eternal bliss. If not, your soul is devoured.
  5. Most gods use specific species of animals as their eyes in the mortal world.
Yeah, that's a good list of rules to live by.

I really don't think the people behind Torg really understood the point of religion.

Anyway, now we get a section on worship in the Empire. The Egyptian religion doesn't have weekly masses or anything, instead having large services on specific holy days. That said, there are weekly ceremonies held on Tuesdays because that's the day that Horus' planet naturally aligns, so it's a good time to get those ritual spells in.

And apart from a bunch of stuff about the church hierarchy (which is mainly focused on NPC skill levels), that's all there is about the



...as I was saying, that's all there is about the Egyptian faith.

To absolutely nobody's surprise, there are modifications to the miracles rules for the Empire.

quote:

Unlike the miracles of Core Earth described in The Torg Rulebook , Egyptian priests cannot perform many of their miracles without concurrently enacting a special ritual consisting of sacred chants, movements, and sacrifices. The more powerful the miracle, the more complex the associated ritual. This ritual is always timed with the movement of the planets, and is affected by astronomy in the same way as mathematics. In game terms, whether or not a priest knows how to configure a ritual with the movement of the planets is reflected by his or her Egyptian religion score.
That's right, miracles also use the stupid planetary alignment rules from the magic chapter. On top of that, miracles have is a Ritual Time , which is how much time it takes to perform the miracle. If you're interupted during the ritual, then the miracle automatically fails and you have to start from scratch.

So once again let's take a look at some miracles.

Battle Bless increases the Toughness of a unit of 1,000 men, with a difficulty of 38 and ritual time of 2 hours. It lasts until the "position of Set is next 0", which means I guess you have to track the damn planets.

Great Curse gives the target a -1 penalty on all actions, makes them always stymied (loses their first reroll), grant enemies +1 to all actions against them, and if they draw stymied from the Drama Deck they take a setback (lose next action). The effect lasts for a week, but the caster can maintain the effect by making sacrifices to either Set or Horus depending on the Inclination of the target.

Invest Pharaoh is a day-long ritual that includes a feast for at least 100 people, and will formally recognize the target of the miracle as the Pharaoh of the people. The Pharaoh gets one free Possibility a week, and the difficulty of all miracles cast against him increased by 7. Technically you could cast this miracle on a person to make them the new Pharaoh, but you'd have to beat the rolled total of the current incumbent. Given that Mobius' ritual hit with a final total of 74 (technically 81 with the penalty), good luck with that.

Pronouncement of Doom does the same thing as Great Curse, but lasts for a year and a day, and every time the target performs an infraction of some sort against the caster's god, the penalty increases by 1.

Snake Staff does what you'd expect. It only needs two rounds and lasts for an hour, and the snake created can poison victims. This is another spell where you need to track when certain planets are in the "0" position.


This guy looks awfully bored.

The next chapter is Creatures of the Empire , and it's pretty dull. Mobius relies manly on human agents, so there's not a lot of real "creatures" to be had.

I mean, there's your giant Egyptian animals (crocodiles, asps, spiders, and so on), but there's not much else. That said, they things we do get are odd.

For instance, there's the Terran Martians .

quote:

ln the pulp reality of the Terran cosm, an advanced scouting party from that cosm's equivalent of the planet Mars (Horus) has secretly infiltrated human society. Their motives are, at this point, unknown, but invasion is suspected by those few who know of them.

How they managed to get to the cosm of Core Earth is also unknown, but several Martians have been spotted m and around the city of Luxor since the invasion. Terran Martians appear as average humans, their only distinguishing feature being a large diamond-shaped birth mark where the belly button would normally be. The true appearance of a Terran Martian is that of a spider-like insect with bulbous eyes. Special Martian-designed
"Chameleon Belts" actually change the shape of the Martian to conform to humanoid standards. The attributes are the same between shapes, except that the insectoids have pincers (damage value 15) on one set of limbs, as well as a set of hands and two pairs of insect legs.

Although the reasons are unknown, it has been noted thatTerran Martians always travel in groups whose size is some power of two (2, 4, 8, 16, etc.). They refuse to travel in groups whose size is not a power of two. Note that 2° is one, so Martians can travel alone. The number four seems to be of particular importance to them. Many things that they do have a "four" theme to them. If you were to meet one, he might say "hello" four times, or shake your hand four times, or both.
Uh huh.

It should be pointed out that 1) in the Terra sourcebook, Mars is just called "Mars" because Terra isn't completely Egyptian-themed, and 2) Terran Martians never come up again outside of being re-mentioned in the Terra sourcebook.

There are stats for gospog, even though it was stated that Mobius only has a handful of them. Unsurprisingly, they all look like mummies, and basically each generation is stronger than the last. Nothing really interesting here.

The shift in axioms has created one rather severe threat: walking gods . Technically they're not gods; they're more major tomb guardians that take the form of Anubis, Bast, Sebek, or Set. Each version has its own special abilities (Anubis has a giant sword an eye-lasers, Bast can cast spells, Sebek can clamp down with his giant claws, and Set has a giant spear and a sonic blast), and are generally intended to be "end bosses" in tombs.


Optic Blast! Optic Blast! Gene Splice!

Equipment is up next, and it's really just a list of weapons and gear available at the 1930's tech levels. You can't just buy pulp gizmos and doodads, so really it's just mundane gear.

It is worth pointing out that Mobius has instituted a new economy in the Empire: the base unit of currency is the royal , which equates to $10 American. Crowns are dime-sized coins minted from 14k gold alloy, and are stamped with the Eye of Horus.

Government taxation is pretty heavy: 20% of all legal earnings per month. Needless to say, this creates a pretty heavy divide between the upper and lower economic classes, and really does a number on people of Good Inclination since they're not going to try to make a little money on the side.


"Wow, this calculator makes all my magic a lot easier."

And lastly, we come to the character templates, and things get a little wonky with these. As you may or may not recall, there's no direct line between Terra and the Empire, so there was really no way for "good guys" to sneak in with Mobius' forces from home. Likewise, there was a one-time bridge created where Dr. Frest sent a bunch of pulp heroes on a one-way trip to Core Earth to help out.

That means that technically there are two types of Nile Empire characters: ones from the "Nile Empire" (people who've transformed) and "Terran Expatriates" (people actually from Terra). Unfortunately, you wind up with weird situations where characters were apparently from Terra despite working for "the Pharoah", even though he didn't become Pharoah until he left Terra.

Three templates were included in the base boxed set:

The Fast Hero answered an ad in the back of a Terran magazine looking for volunteers for "enhancement research", which actually gave her superpowers. But when she was expected to use her powers in the service of the Pharoah, she jumped ship and started working for the good guys. She doesn't have a tag skill, but starts with the flight power.

The Gadget Hero was the kid who spent all his time reading science journals and messing around with HeathKits. He was one of the forerunners of weird science, working for Mobius before learning about the Pharoah's expansion into other realities. He had his moment of clarity as he was moved down a maelstrom bridge with Mobius' forces. The Gadget Hero was made before the pulp gizmo rules existed, so he has a "gadget belt" that lets him fake one the pulp powers provided in the core set at a value of 17.


You got hit by...a smooth criminal.
The Tough Hero is...well, look. You know the drill; there's scum out there in the streets, preying on the innocent. Sometimes you need someone who's not afraid to get her hands dirty cleaning it up. Starting gear includes half a ham sandwich, a pack of gum, and a checking account with a minimum balance. World-weary receptionist is optional. Her tag skill is unarmed combat .

The Nile Empire book adds another ten:

The Amazon was a Core Earth college student who was on Hespera when the axiom wash happened. Now transformed to Nile's reality, she's now a skilled warrior-philosopher with some nice blessed gear. She also has two super attributes for an overal +4 to STR and +2 to DEX, with an adventure cost of 6 Possibilities, and the flaw that if a man taunts or tricks her and she suffers a setback from it, she loses the stat boots. Her tag skill is melee weapons .

The Dark Hero 's loved one was killed in a bank robbery, so he grabbed two pistols, dressed all in black, and made them pay. Now he doles out .45mm justice on a nightly basis. He has the option of starting with either darkness , fear , or fog screen , which he learned from monks in Tibet. His tag skill is either stealth or intimidation .


The Engineer was a former member of the cult of Khem (the guys who resurrected Mobius), and followed him through the various realities building facilities for the Pharoah's forces for promises of wealth and power (not to mention not getting killed by the rest of the cult). After a while, he realized the promises were empty and that he couldn't just keep his head down any more. His tag skill is engineering , and he has access to the magic skills.

Oddly, the picture for the Engineer is of an older woman; either there was a mix-up between the artist and the writer, or that's pretty damn progressive for the tim.


No, she doesn't start with any armor. Why do you ask?
The Egyptian Princess 's father and grandfather were both members of the cult of Khem, her grandfather being one of the people who resurrected Mobius. Unfortunately, she were dragged along for the ride when Mobius began conquering other realities because her father received a favorable sign from the gods. Turns out that the sign was faked, and her family was tricked into Mobius' service. Time to make up for the mistake. Her tag skill is egyptian religion and can take the faith and focus skills.

The Jungle Lord 's parents were anthropologists in Ethiopa when the axiom wash hit, and they were both killed by Mobius' forces. He managed to escape into the jungle, where he was found by Ooorook the gorilla and her tribe. They took care of him, trained him, and taught him to communicate with the creatures of the jungle. Armed with his newfound strength, it's time for a little revenge. He starts with the animal friend power, and his tag skill is maneuver .

The Mathematician is another former Khem cultist, although he were really just an apprentice to one of the full-fledged cult members. Dragged along when Mobius began creating his new Empire, it wasn't long before he realized that Mobius' promises of glory were just that: promises. He managed to escape the pharoh's clutches and is now trying to make amends for his past. His tag skill is mathematics and he can also buy magic skills.


Who needs a costume when you have dense body hair?
The Mystery Man is from Terra, where he grew up incredibly rich and incredibly bored. Then all these costumed heroes and villains started popping up all over the place, and he thought, "I say, that sounds fun!" He had the money to afford the best training and to travel the world learning amazing techniques, and it wasn't long before he was thwarting the bad guys. It also wasn't long before it stopped being a game and became something he genuinely cared about, so when he learned that Dr. Mobius hadn't actually vanished but travelled to a new world, he leapt at the chance to follow. He can start with a pulp power if he wants, and his tag skill is disguise .

The Old Professor was never the heroic type until the maelstrom bridge dropped while she was on a ship in the middle of the Mediterranean with some colleagues. She were caught in a reality storm, which caused her ship to crash on shore just as Mobius' troops were establishing their territory. She were captured, but managed to escape when the same storm destroyed her captors. It wasn't long before she realized that reality was different, and that the old laws of physics aren't what they used to be. Now she's got a whole new field to discover. She start with a few gadget parts: four system components, five boosters, four adaptors, two caps, and two possibility capacitors, which is all actually worth a small fortune. Her tag skill is weird science .

The Private Detective spent ten years of his life as a cop walking a beat. But he butted heads with his corrupt superiors one to many times, and found himself kicked off the force. Now he works for himself. One day, a dame came in asking him to investigate the mysterious death of her father. Turned out is was one of those masked weirdos by the name of Mobius. He didn't realize there was more to him than a headdress and evil laugh until he learned he'd skipped town, and by "town" you mean "reality". He met up with a bunch of masked types who were going to follow him, and you agreed to come along. His tag skill is evidence analysis .


Thumbs up...for FREEDOM!
The Rocket Rangers were created during The Great War on Terra (WWII hasn't happened there yet). They're a international police force with a strong moral code, and this particular Ranger is the exemplar of that force. To quote the book, "You're almost too good to be true. Everyone likes you, and it's no wonder; everything about you is nearly perfect. You always know the right thing to say to make people happy, and you don't suffer from a single negative personality trait." Your only piece of starting gear is a Rocket Ranger Battlesuit, and your tag skill is flight .

The Rocket Red battlesuit is pretty damn powerful; it grants the wearer STR 14 and TOU 19, +7 armor (max 23), flight 11, and mega-sight . The downside is that it imposes a -1 to DEX, and the suit tends to overheat meaning that you take extra stress when a fatigue result comes up.

The Terra sourcebook added another handful of templates that are supposed to be exclusive to Terra, but they fit into the Empire pretty easily.

The Adventuring Archaeologist spent the majority of his life in one hole or another in some corner of the world or other, digging up relics of the past. Of course, this is on Terra, so that means that sometimes you have to deal with ancient curses, magical artifacts, and pre-Nazis. But we all know that just makes it more fun, right. And yes, he does start with a fedora. His tag skill is science(archaeology) .


What's all this, then?
In a world of super-villains, jetpacks, rogue sorcerers, gangsters, spies, and lord knows what else, there's gotta be someone looking out for the common man and protecting him from the threats beneath the notice of the superheroes. That's the job of the Beat Cop . His tag skill is scholar (local neighbourhood) , which may be the most useless tag skill ever.

The Ex-Gangster used to own these streets. People paid him tribute and gave him respect. Now these wingnuts are coming in with their capes and their ray guns and they don't know nothing about respect. They sure as hell didn't respect him when they vaporized half his gang. That was a pretty loud wake-up call. Maybe it's time for him to take a look at what he's doing, y'know? If people are paying him for protection, then shouldn't he be protecting them? He did buy a super-strength serum from some scientist, just so he could play on the same level as the capes ( super attribute TOU+3), and his tag skill is petty crime .

The Government Spy is a loyal operative armed with a few hidden gadgets, a tux, and a rock-solid ego, and always gets the job done. Stopping terrorists, thwarting Martians, getting the lovely scientist's daughter, no matter what he does he looks damn good doing it. He starts with a device that boosts his stealth by 3 and a pair of dark vision goggles. His tag skill is espionage , of course.


Smoke me a kipper, I'll be home for breakfast!
If it's got wings, the Pro Pilot can fly it. His father was a pilot in the Great War, and he grew up at his father's knee. The Great War was over by the time he were old enough to fly, but nowadays there's plenty of would-be conquerors out there, and if you're lucky, they've got some forces you can dogfight with. He do start with a plane; either a two-seater fighter or a junky old passenger plane. His tag skill is air vehicles .

The Pulp Sorceress was a normal student, bored with her mundane classes. Then she met the Old Man. He sensed power in her, and took her under his wing and taught her the ancient secrets of sorcery. She learned how to bend the world to her will, but before she could learn why she were chosen to learn these abilities, the Old Man vanished. Guess it's time for her to forge her own destiny. She get a few pre-designed spells and her tag skill is pulp power (sorcery) .

----
And with that, we finish up our visit to the Nile Empire.

It should be no surprise that I love the Empire. I mean, why wouldn't you? It's your standard-issue Nazi-punching pulp action, but instead of Nazis (which were starting to get overused even back then), you get Egyptian cultists. It takes the whole idea and spins in it a really fun new direction that lets you deal with an old concept in new ways.

But the Nile Empire brings Torg's biggest flaw into stark relief: the mechanical overcomplication. Pulp gizmos are way too involved to create, with a ton of unnessesary extra rolls. Magic has a ton of new subsystems that are supposed to add tone but just make you roll like three extra times to do one thing. Adventure Costs on powers make them very non-cost-effective in the long run.

I mean, I get what they're trying to do, but the way to make things thematic isn't to jam more and more mechanics onto your already overdesigned mechanics. Tone requires a gentler touch.

And speaking of tone, I want to bring up the idea about how pulp heroes aren't supposed to be "costumed tights-and-logo superheroes", then in every book after this one people with powers were always presented as costumed tights-and-logo superheroes. They couldn't even keep their non-mechanical tone consistent through the books.

Despite all that, the Nile Empire was the most popular of all the realms that appeared throughout the game line. Pretty much every published adventure had at least one scene in the Empire, and it received so much focus that other realms suffered a bit from lack of attention.

The Empire was popular with the game's writers, too. Not only did they write up on Terra (the only "home cosm" to get that honor), one of the writers' pet characters was the pulp hero Destructo Don, who appeared in the novels and a few of the adventures later in the line.

But for now, we leave Mobius' artificial sun in our rear view mirrors as we fly to the distant horizon, smiling at the memories of thrilling adventures and shaking our heads at the stupid mechanics.

...everyone has enough Possibility points to keep their abilities, right?

NEXT TIME: New adventures! New realms! New dumb mechanics!

Orrorsh

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 14a: Orrorsh



A mutilated body is found in a misty side alley, ripped to shreds, the blood still warm. The passerby discovering it is frozen in horror at the sight, completely unaware of the still-hungry vampire stalking up behind him.

A man runs through the city, pursued by a shadowy fiend soaring above the gaslit streets. The creature is invisible to everyone but its target, and the people on the street just see a raving, running madman. The man will spend the rest of his life in an asylum tormented by a beast only he can see.

A woman creates an effigy of her cheating husband out of old rags and a lock of his hair. In the light of candles and surrounded by a magic circle, she slowly lowers a pin towards the doll's eye.

This is life in Orrorsh, a carefully tended garden of horrors cultivated by the being known only as the Gaunt Man.


I say, that's not cricket!

For Queen And Empire

Orrorsh was the first invading cosm to touch down on Core Earth, and did so in secret. By picking relatively isolated countries, all the outside world was aware of were strange storms around the Indonesian island chain that seemed to cut off communications. Before the world at large had a real chance to address this, Baruk Kaah dropped his main bridge on Shea Stadium just before game 1 of the World Series and suddenly people had bigger things to worry about.

Which, of course, is what the Gaunt Man wanted. By keeping the realm isolated from the rest of the world, he kept people out of his business and the inhabitants trapped in a world of terrors.

You see, Orrorsh isn't the reality that is invading; "Orrorsh" is the original home of the Gaunt Man, an invasive reality that has spread from cosm to cosm over countless millennia. Until recently, the Gaunt Man was content to allow Orrorsh to decimate the worlds it came across and leave nothing but ashes in its wake.

Then he came across the world of Gaea.

Gaea, like other cosms such as Terra and Magna Verita, is very similar to Core Earth, except that it "exists" at an earlier point in Core Earth's history. In this case, the Gaunt Man found a world at the height of the Victorian Empire. A world where England had conquered most of the world "for its own good". A world ruled by a people who know that only they are truly capable of being in charge because they are the only truly civilized people in the world. A world where colonialism has run rampant for centuries fueled by xenophobia and evangelical religious fervor.

A world, to be frank, where The Gaunt Man could truly cultivate fear.

He did so by sending horrors across bridges in what the Victorians considered "heathen lands", further fueling their xenophobic tendencies while spreading his influence through the government. Once he had arrived and brought his Darkness Device Heketon over, the Gaunt Man was able to completely halt the societal advancement of the world while adjusting it to his particular desires.

For three hundred years he slowly eroded the world of Gaea away and replaced it with the reality of Orrorsh. He possessed members of the government to help steer things along, driving Victoria's development down whist overrunning the rest of the world with the Ecology of Fear. The Empire itself never understood what was happening, believing the events to be caused by the forces of Satan as punishment for "moral laxity" and turning more to their increasingly rigid state religion for support.

Now the island of Victoria is the last bastion of "civilization" on Gaea. The Gaunt Man keeps his forces from overrunning the nation, because he enjoys the hopeless fear of the population. In fact, the Gaunt Man has altered the cosm's rules so that he gains more possibility energy from ords when they're afraid. So he keeps the Victorian population afraid all the time .

When the time came for the invasion of Core Earth, the Gaunt Man let a Victorian scientist named Dr. Wells "discover" an ancient treatise that described the existence of the multiverse, as well as a way to break the dimensional barriers and travel from one world to another. Wells saw this as a potential way to aid the Empire; if he could reach other worlds, he could call in allies to help fight back the darkness. He managed to use the knowledge in the treatise to create a reality bridge to another world, but when he activated it he never expected what would happen next: the creatures that had destroyed his world began streaming down the bridge to this new world! Unable to stop the machine, all he could do was watch as his actions doomed this "Earth" to the same nightmares that destroyed Gaea.

Unable to deal with the guilt, Wells informed allies in the government and took his own life. The Victorian government knew that clearly they were the only ones who could stop these invaders (after all, what could the natives do? They're not us ). Military forces were assembled and sent down the bridge to establish a colony and fight the horrors they had unleashed upon this new world.

Which is exactly what the Gaunt Man wanted.

The Gaunt Man's invasion force wasn't the monsters that went down Wells' bridge. Actually, they didn't even exist in the first place; it was just an illusion to fool the doctor. When the Victorians came down the bridge into Indonesia, they were the Gaunt Man's unknowing invasion force. They were the believers needed to power the stelae planted well in advance. They were the ones that brought their reality into Core Earth, allowing the true horrors to exist here.

The Victorians don't see it that way, of course. It's their job to drive out these "backwards natives" and protect them from the horrors they can't comprehend due to how ignorant they clearly are. As it is, all these "darkies" clearly drove the original white settlers out and took over, because how could they create any of this technology? It's the Empire's job to establish the colony of Majestic (formerly known as Indonesia) and save the world. It's their burden, their God-granted purpose. And really, once Core Earth is under the aegis of the Empire it'll be much better off. After all, who knows better than the Victorians?

Pax Victoriana . So to speak.


The Realm of Orrorsh, about three months after the initial invasion.

The Gaunt Man

So let's talk briefly about the Gaunt Man.

The Gaunt Man is the mastermind behind the whole invasion of Core Earth. He's come closest to becoming Torg than anyone else in known history, and he knows more about the nature of the cosmic entity known as "The Nameless One" than pretty much anybody else.

The Gaunt Man's backstory isn't given in the RPG, but was the subject of the novel Interview with Evil . I'm not going to get into it here (mainly because I haven't read the book because it's terrible), but what matters right now is what the current situation of the Gaunt Man.

The Gaunt Man rules Gaea, even though nobody there is aware of it. Unlike the other High Lords, the Gaunt Man keeps a relatively low profile on his world. That's not to say he's not involved; at the time of the invasion he was posing as (read: "had taken over the body of") Lord Byron Salisbury, a highly-placed cavalry officer. He uses magic to hide his decayed appearance from the Victorians, who consider him a war hero. Interestingly, a few of the other High Lords do refer to him as "Salisbury" from time to time, but in general he is mainly known as The Gaunt Man.

He's also been out of the picture for almost the entire invasion.

As part of the events of the prequel novel trilogy, the Gaunt Man is currently trapped in a pocket dimension by an eternity shard known as "The Heart of Coyote", trapped in an unending cycle of destruction and recreation. The only person who knows that the Gaunt Man is out of the picture is his lieutenant, the techno-demon Thratchen. Thratchen has told the other High Lords that the Gaunt Man has sequestered himself away to "prepare for the next phase of the invasion", but everyone knows that's bullshit and has started the scramble for territory and power among themselves. There's also the various operatives and horrors that are trying to take advantage of their lord's absence, but for the most part Thratchen doesn't give a shit about them. What he is trying to do is attune himself to the Gaunt Man's Darkness Device so he can become High Lord of Orrorsh, but so far he hasn't had any luck.

What this means is that the Gaunt Man's personal forces aren't so much in disarray as realizing that the boss is out of the office and now it's time to work on more personal projects. Some of the High Lord's agents are still steering the expansion of the realm and the planing of stelae, but for the most part everyone is just engaging in whatever terrible acts they feel like.

Axioms and World Laws

quote:

The reality of Orrorsh bases itself upon the central tenant of horror. This horror manifests itself as ghouls and oozing terrors, but this is only the realm's clothing - what it shows to the world, how it interacts with people. The core of Orrorsh is that it encourages people to do evil and discourages people who would oppose evil. Heroes who travel to Orrorsh from other realities might be surprised to discover that they are not as powerful as they are in other realms. In Orrorsh the villains have a distinct upper hand - and the monster hunters need to find the secret weakness of creature's before they can expect to be successful in defeating the beasts.

Of course, the Gaunt Man loves evil, and offers mystical reward for anyone, even Storm Knights, who commit acts of evil. Within the Gaunt Man's reality, Storm Knights must move carefully, treading a narrow path between effectively destroying monsters and becoming monsters themselves.
As always, let's begin by taking a look at how the local reality works. While the axioms are still pretty much what they were before the Gaunt Man took over, whatever World Laws used to exist in Gaea have been altered and corrupted by the takeover.

The Gaunt Man has taken a very personal interest in Gaean and Orrorshian advancement, guiding it like a gardener tending a flowerbed. He's spent centuries guiding and shaping Orrorsh into the realm it is today, allowing a certain amount of progress to happen just to keep things from becoming too stagnant.

Magic Axiom: 15
Orrorsh has the second-highest magic axiom out of the initial raiders (Aysle is still first), which is what allows the innumerable horrors to exist. Magic is possible in Orrorsh, but "traditional" spell-based magic is very rare. Instead, there is occultism , which is a ritual-based form of magic capable of performing pretty much whatever the caster wants...as long as they're willing to pay the price, which is usually "too much". What really makes occult magic dangerous is that it can be performed by anyone without any special training.

Spiritual Axiom: 17
Surprisingly, the Gaunt Man has allowed the religious side of Victorian culture to keep existing. Of course, it's because allowing people to believe they have souls allows the trade in same, but also because despair is better when it comes from broken hope.

The Sacellum is the state religion of the Empire, and has its roots in evangelical Christianity. The unending onslaught of horrors from the rest of the world has caused the Sacellum to become a source of desperate hope from the people, despite the fact that the Sacellum is focused on the idea that salvation can only come from unwavering dedication to the principles of the church. As a result, Victorians believe that any form of change will bring the world down around their ears as punishment for their "sins".

Social: 20
As stated, Victoria is pretty much England in the mid-to-late 1800's, only stagnated over the last three centuries due to the presence of a Darkness Device. Victorian society is very... delineated . There's a place for everyone, and everyone has their place. Of course, if you're not actually a Victorian that place is very far down the ladder. Not that Victorians are equal amongst themselves; women are still considered the "lesser sex" and don't have equal rights, and classism is very prevalent. The government itself is very bureaucratic, and is heavily influenced by the Sacellum.

In fact, the Sacellum is involved in day-to-day life it even controls entertainment. Public "entertainment" mainly consists of long Sunday sermons about sinners repenting their evil ways, and live out their lives listening to long Sunday sermons about sinners repenting their evil ways. Novels and plays run along the same lines and with the same themes. There is a sort of underground writing movement forming, currently focused on tales of 'orrible murders and adultery, but for the most part Victorian entertainment is focused on the concept of redemption and resisting the evils of the world.

Technology:19
It goes without saying that Victorian technology isn't very advanced. In Core Earth terms, it's about as advanced as 1891 England. The Victorians have not done much technological advancement on their own, even though the Gaunt Man hasn't interfered much with their achievements in this area. In fact, on a few occasions the Victorians have willingly ignored what would be considered major technological advancements because they were "unnecessary" or "beneath us".

This also means that, disconnection aside, the Victorians pretty much refuse to use modern Core Earth technologies because it wasn't made by them. This makes life even more difficult for the Indonesians as they try to survive the occupation because the Victorians deny anyone access to Core Earth tech.

Back on Gaea, steam power and gaslight are the norm, although electrical systems exist. They just don't see widespread use. Telephones are used for communication in the cities, and telegraphs are used for long-distance communication. There is a "Transdimensional Cable" running up the bridge from the Gaean city of New London down to the Majestic colony so the military leaders can maintain contact with the government.

The main focus of innovation is in the weaponry field; unsurprising given the nature of their world. Bolt action rifles and hand-cranked machine guns are still relatively new developments, and the go-to military strategy is still lines of riflemen firing in sequence. This is because the monsters they have to deal with back on Gaea do not (for the most part) attack en masse . A Gatling gun is great for taking down a zombie horde, not so much for stopping a pair of vampires before they decimate the regiment.

Now, the World laws...whatever World Laws Gaea used to have are long since erased and forgotten. In their place, the Gaunt Man has instituted three of his own: The Power of Fear, The Power of Corruption, and The Law Of Eternal Corruption. These laws are so pervasive they will actually affect anyone in the realm, even of they're in a reality bubble.

The Power of Corruption rewards acts of unnecessary evils. Whenever a person commits what is generally considered an "evil" act for no reason apart from their own desires (which the game refers to as a "Wicked" act for convenience), they receive an automatic up result (free roll again and add) on the action. They also get a new "skill": corruption , which always starts at 8. Every time a character commits a Wicked act, they get the free roll-and-add, then their corruption increases by one to five points depending on the nature of the act. The character must then make a corruption check against a difficulty of 12. If the roll succeeds, then the character gains some physical manifestation of their evil nature. The more they "succeed" by, the worse the deformity. Narrow success may result in body-wide sores or your eyes becoming cat's eyes, but at the extreme end you can actually transform fully into a horror of some sort and become an NPC.


"Pacifying" the natives.

The Power of Fear is, um...well, let's let the book tell you.

quote:

There are two reasons that the Power of Fear exists in the reality of Orrorsh. The first reason is part of the logic of the world within the game world, the second is a logic of game mechanics, exterior to the "fictional reality" of Torg.

First, the Power of Fear exists because the Gaunt Man is very powerful and created a powerful force that weakens his enemies. Some High Lords use their power to increase their technology so they can build tougher tanks, others increase the sophistication of their reality's miracles. The Gaunt Man and Heketon, who love fear, decided to make it harder for heroes slay his monsters rather than make the monsters tougher.

The second reason is that every realm of Torg: Roleplaying the Possibility Wars should have its own distinct feel to it. The realm of Orrorsh is a place of atmosphere, of slow searches through mist-shrouded graveyards. We created the Power ofFear so that Storm Knights cannot go blasting their way through every conflict the same way they might do in the Living Land or the Empire of the Nile.
Basically the Power of Fear strengthens the horrors of the realm and makes them incredibly difficult to kill...until you've done a little homework and worked your way up to it. We'll cover this more in-depth later, but what you need to know right now is that until PCs have worked to overcome the fear a horror has infused in its territory, they can't invoke reality storms or play for the critical moment. Of course, there's a whole new subsytem for dealing with that we'll get to later.

The last World Law is the Law of Eternal Corruption , and is actually not a player-facing law. This law allows the soul of any killed monster or corrupt human to bypass being brought to the afterlife for judgement and the inevitable eternal damnation. Instead, the soul can allow itself to be reborn into a new, monsterous form and return to torment the world of the living.

These three Laws form the foundation of what the Gaunt Man refers to his Ecology of Fear . He's created a cycle where monsters can roam unchecked and people can be tempted to commit heinous acts for power. Anyone fighting against the forces of darkness just reinforce the system, because they weed out the weaker horrors and allow the stronger ones to thrive by defeating would-be heroes. And even if you defeat the monsters, they can just choose to come back a month, a year, a decade later and start the whole cycle all over again.

As a result, the realm of Orrorsh is like a stagnant pool of fetid water. The willing unchanging rigidity of the Victorians prevents them from really being able to effectively fight against the darkness, and the Gaunt Man's laws ensure there will always be another beast ready to feed on the fear of the populice. To say nothing of the terrible things done to the natives of the Indonesian island chain by the Victorians themselves in the name of the Empire. It's a vicious cycle of terror, a snake so busy devouring its own tail it fails to notice it's being devoured by a wolf.

Even without the Gaunt Man guiding things, the cycle continues unabashed. You can't defeat the darkness, all you can hope to do is delay it for a while.

Really, hope isn't worth it. You're barely even delaying the inevitable.

Give up. It's just easier that way.

NEXT TIME: Southeast Asia, then and now

Your new-caught, sullen peoples, Half-devil and half-child

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 14b: Your new-caught, sullen peoples, Half-devil and half-child

This is going to be a rough book to review, because it's one of those ones where the information is interwoven throughout the book instead of being laid out one concept at a time. So occasionally an important bit of background info is revealed in passing two chapters after it should.

The first chapter of the Orrorsh sourcebook is about Southeast Asia and is presumably about the region before the Gaunt Man showed up.

Instead, well...

quote:

We do not intend this book to cover every detail of so many different countries. Adequately describing even one of these nations would require a book containing hundreds of pages.
What we actually get is a whopping four pages of incredibly high-level detail about the Indonesian island chain, meaning that there's barely any detail on anything.

Well, anyway, lets take a look at that part of the world.

The territory now overrun by Orrorsh consists of over 13,000 islands of varying size, the largest being Borneo (which is also the third-largest island in the world). The overall population is around 150 million spread throughout the region.

quote:

Many of the people live in isolated tribes and by the laws of their ancestors. Others live in huge cities such as Singapore and Jakarta, the business people and factory workers and miners. Any discussion of Southeast Asia must keep in mind that the area has a tremendous mix of ancient traditions and modem technologies.
The cultures of the region consists of a rather eclectic mix of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, the actual mix levels depending on where you are at the time. The Cyberpapacy is starting to gain a foothold in the region, but is taking things slowly in order to try and keep the illusion that Malraux actually cares about people that aren't him. Religion plays a very important part in this part of the world, which is good because now the true believers are capable of using miracles to fight back against the spread of Orrorsh and its terrors.

The regions are described in what appears to be a pretty random order, so we might as well just run down the line.

Malaysia is split between the southernmost archipelago of southeat Asia and the northern edge of the island of Borneo. It's a constitutional monarchy (meaning the king or queen is the Head of State, and actual legislation is performed by an elected Parliament), with a population of about 60% Malays and 30% Chinese. The country has been hit pretty hard by the invading reality, with the seat of government retreating to Japan (in their defense, nobody knows about Kanawa yet) and leaving the cities to pretty much fend for themselves.

Singapore is a small republic that is actually the only city-state in the world. It's incredibly densely populated, and most of the major world religions have a presence here. Because it's really just one big industrialized city, Singapore is completely reliant on import for its agricultural needs. Singapore appears to be a Core Earth hardpoint, given that the horrors of Orrorsh seem to stop just outside the city, but in fact it's just in a mixed zone. A powerful dark entity named Skutharka has claimed the city for her own, and is slowly twisting the available technology into new and disturbing sources of fear.

For the most part, Burma hasn't been nailed too hard by the invasion. It's lost territory, yes, but it's still mostly outside the stelae zones. Unfortunately, this means that they have to deal with the influx of refugees from Malaysia and the nearby islands. The country's infrastructure is completely overwhelmed by the influx (not to mention trying to keep Orrorsh from pushing further north), and the Red Cross and the Cyberpapacy's Soldiers of Mercy are rushing in personnel, food, and medical supplies as fast as they can.

Thailand is in a similar situation as Burma, but has recently undergone a strong religious revival as the faithful flock to Bangkok. The strength of the Buddhist and Islam faiths does seem to have slowed Orrorsh's advancement into the country, but unfortunately that just means that the forces of darkness are putting more attention on Burma.

The Philippines have suffered very heavily from the invasion. Because the country is actually a collection of islands out on the edge of the overall region, they were cut off from pretty much everyone when the Gaunt Man dropped his personal bridge on Borneo shortly after the Victorians invaded. They haven't lost much territory (yet), but the invasion has fractured the Phillipine people pretty heavily. The government is currently focused on trying to reunite the islands before Orrorsh can make a significant push.

Indonesia is the largest country in this mess, and the one hit hardest by it. Indonesia consists of 13,667 islands (half of which aren't even named), but about a third of them are under Orrorshian axioms. Orrorsh has taken over Sumatra, Java, Borneo, and Timor, with the Victorian having conquered a sizable chunk of Sumatra as the colony of Majestic. The Gaunt Man also has a bridge of his own in Borneo, which is (well, was ) the center of his operations. Indonesia has been invaded many times in its history by the Dutch, the British, the Portuguese, and the Chinese, and in fact did not achieve independence until its first general election in 1971 after 500 years of being under other people's thumbs.

Until the invasion happened, the capital of Indonesia was Jakarta, its largest city. The city is still there (and is an actual hardpoint), but the government has bugged out to Irian Jaya (now known as West Papua after 2002) because it's outside the stelae zone. The government is trying everything it can to get aid from Japan and the Soviet Union, but so far only the Soviet Union has seemed to be willing to send any form of aid.

Technically speaking, Australia is not part of Orrorsh, but given that they're within spitting distance of its southern border they're pretty much forced to be involved. They've allied themselves with the displaced Indonesian government, and have begun very cool relations with the Victorian forces. This is because the Australian government is treating the Victorian occupation as a revolutionary movement that has illegally ousted the old government, and the Victorians treat the Australian government like bunch of ignorant children who should mind their betters.

Monsters and horrors are starting to appear in northeastern Australia, but so far it seems that Core Earth weaponry is more than capable of taking out monsters. But as we will learn later on, this is not actually the case.


Pictured: the view in Borneo

And that's pretty much all we get for Southeast Asia! There's a little more, yes, but for the most part everyplace but Indonesia gets maybe two paragraphs, and most of Indonesia's entry is concerned with the history of the nation.

The next chapter is The World of Gaea , and is about the most recent world the invaders are coming from.

quote:

There is no longer a home cosm for Orrorsh. Like the other invading realities, the reality moves on from world to world. The reality of Orrorsh was so brutal that it eventually consumed each world the Gaunt Man invaded. He left no trail.
Orrorsh is a reality that has spread across the multiverse like a cancer, but it wasn't until he came across Gaea that he allowed an invaded world to live. Why? Because it's the world that introduced him to the wonders of colonialism.

The main divergence point between Core Earth and Gaea happened in 43 AD, when the British chieftain Caratacus led his people against the invading forces of the Roman Empire. In our world, he failed and the Roman forces took over the island.

quote:

In the history of Gaea, the Brits had in their number a warrior-woman named Viictoria. Just when the Romans seemed about to win, she turned the battle and brought her people to victory. They rallied around her and she unified the people of her island. She was a politically astute woman who realized that she would have to focus her peoples' attention upon an external force. Focus against Rome eased dissension in Britain. She turned her people toward the Roman Empire. Her subjects coined the phrase "Victoria For The World," and it never lost its value.
Victoria I died in 72 AD (with Britain fighting the Romans the whole time), and after her death rulership by royalty became the norm. The British isle was renamed "Victoria" in her honor.

Over the next century, the Victorians cut their way through Gaul on their way to Italy. But unlike Rome, Victoria didn't leave conquered territory to its own devices under the empire's aegis. Instead, they set up colonies everywhere, replacing the native cultures with their own and taking any available land or resources along the way.

Once Europe was conquered, Victoria turned its sights on the rest of the world. The Victorian naval force was very primitive compared to their neighbors such as the Vikings or Huns, because the arrogance of the Victorians made any form of technological advancement very difficult. When confronted by a new societal advance (especially if it was from another culture), the Victorians tended to dismiss it out of hand.


Really, it's for their own good.

Interestingly, the one major discovery they adopted for themselves was Christianity. Where the early "Martyr cults" were dismissed by the Romans, the Victorians saw a religious system that worked very well with their belief that dying for a cause (be it God, or the expansion of the empire) was the highest goal one could aim for.

Victoria was the Roman Empire of Gaea, except that the Victorian empire was much, much longer lived. The empire spread across the face of Europe and the Middle East, leaving colony after colony in its wake. The discovery of Islam led to three solid centuries of warfare as the Victorians finally found an enemy that could match it in religious and tribal furor. The only nation able to hold them back was Japan, although Victoria did enter (begrudging) trade with China.

Despite everything, some outside ideas did permeate into Victorian culture, shaping it into what we would consider "Victorian English culture". Overall societal advancement was still very slow, but by the 17th century Victoria controlled most of the Eurasian continent and was starting to move into what we think of as North America.

American colonization more or less followed the same path as they did on Core Earth, albeit for different reasons. Instead of seeking religious freedom, the colonists were interested in the potential for profit that could be wrung from this new land.

At the end of the 17th century, the second major world-changing event happened: the Battle of Medway . A series of strange murders occurred in the American colonies involving dismemberment and cannibalism. Believing the attacks were the work of the "heathen" natives, open warfare began between the colonists and the Native Americans.

To the colonist's shock, they learned that the "East Indians" were capable of powerful mystic feats (or, as one colonist put it, "alive with the fire of the Devil"). This was the Victorian's first encounter with anything supernatural, and they had no idea how to deal with it.

quote:

In 1692 ten girls in Salem, Massachusetts were convicted of murdering their own parents. The girls claimed to have been corrupted by the satanic powers of an East Indian named Tituba , a servant of the Reverend Samual Parris , and two other women of Salem. The girls all decreed that hell was unleashing its demons upon the world; only a return to the old way of blood and conquest could save the world. The morning after the girls made their statements, their bodies were found completely charred in their beds. Fire had touched nothing else in any of their rooms, including their bedding.

The Salem Witch Trials began.
Seemingly overnight, magic and spiritual power seemed to infuse the whole world. But while magic in the hands of non-Victorians was seen as universally "evil", minister Cotton Mather showed that the Victorians could draw on the power of their own strong (and rigid) faith to fight back.

(I should point out, by the way, that while Gaean history does involve real people from our history, the book doesn't actually point this out. If I hadn't thought to Google one of these names, I never would have realized that this was all a twist on human history. I guess they just assumed that the readers were familiar with the major players of the Salem Witch Trials and would just recognize the names.)

The supposed demonic work of Tituba resulted in a backlash against all the East Indians as being servants of Satan, and the push to kill the so-called "forces of darkness" led to a full-on holy war in America. And while the more monstrous beasts were an obvious target for the military, it wasn't long before creatures started appearing that could blend in with normal humans; werewolves, vampyres, and sorcerers began spreading through the Empire.

What the Victorians couldn't know, of course, was that the sudden appearance of the supernatural was the work of the Gaunt Man, who had dropped a bridge in the Grand Canyon. He sent his minions out under the guise of working for the Native Americans in order to ferment the natural Victorian racism into something larger. He also began possessing members of the aristocracy in order to begin steering Victorian culture to his desires. He cemented their instituional racism, he pushed for the growth of sweat shops for the "benefit of the lower classes", and generally encouraged the worst aspects of Victorian culture. Some of his followers learned what he actually was and worked with him voluntarily, but for the most part nobody realized how they were being manipulated both from within and without.

Eventually, Orrorsh managed to overwrite most of the reality of Gaea and reach the borders of the island of Victoria itself. Victoria was forced to write off its colonies as being destroyed, but every now and then a missive would work its way back home from the besieged colonies. The ruling class managed to put enough information together to learn the name of the force behind the invasion: The Gaunt Man. But to the evangelical Victorians, this is just another guise of Satan.

For the past century, the Victorians have been fighting to keep the horrors off their shores and maybe start pushing back. The Gaunt Man is smart enough to allow the Victorians the occasional victory so they have just enough hope to keep going. The Gaunt Man has learned how to gain more possibilities from people who were under the grip of fear, and has molded both Orrorsh and Gaea into a self-sustaining source of both possibility energy and unrelenting terror. He gains so much energy from the remnants of the Victorian people that it's worth not just wiping them out and moving to the next world. In fact, he's been known to provide aid to those who can fight back against the darkness in order to weed out his weaker creations.

But eventually the time came when the Gaunt Man discovered Core Earth, and with it his best chance at becoming Torg. So he allowed the plans for a makeshift maelstrom bridge to fall into the hands of one Dr. Wells, and...well, we all know what happened there.

Currently, the Victorians have taken over about a third of the island of Sumatra, driving out the native Indonesians and renaming the colony "Majestic". Technically the Victorians are here to fight the horrors they think they've unleashed on Core Earth, but what's actually happening is that they're feeding into the Gaunt Man's short-term plans. The Victorians are convinced that the "primitive" native Indonesians have "driven out the white settlers" of this region, and they honestly believe that it's their job to take the colony back and elevate the natives to a proper level of civilization (i.e., the Victorian's level). White Man's Burden , and all that. Of course, the Gaunt Man has a few loyal followers in the governments on both sides of the Victorian bridge, so that official stance isn't going to change anytime soon.


That'll teach her to not be White.

What this all boils down to is that the situation in southeast Asia is one of the worst out of all the conquered territory. Indonesia, having just regained its independence, finds itself dealing with a threat that might have stepped out of its own past. Monsters are spreading throughout the region, working their way out with no seeming way to stop them. The Victorians are driving people out of their homes in the name of an Empire that refuses to accept even the possibility that it might be doing the wrong thing.

It's a downward spiral of hopelessness, crafted with care by a madman who seeks to destroy both worlds, both in a physical and a spiritual sense.

And to make matters worse, he's not even controlling it anymore. The hand is off the leash, and now the beasts are running wild.

Yeah...this is gonna get uncomfortable.


NEXT TIME: As you sow, so shall ye reap.

The architects of fear

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 14c: The architects of fear

And now, it's finally time to really talk about The Gaunt Man.

Very little is known about the Gaunt Man's history. Where the other High Lords will spend hours monologueing about their greatness and conquests, the Gaunt Man rarely (if ever) talks about his past. The commonly held beliefs are that he either doesn't want to accidentally let some obscure weakness slip, or that he actually doesn't remember it himself.


The Gaunt Man, High Lord of Orrorsh and mastermind behind the Core Earth invasion

What is known is that the Gaunt Man is not really "human" in any traditional sense anymore. He is an entity capable of possessing body after body in order to further his goals. This possession is very rough on the host bodies and gives him his defining characteristic, but he is capable of casting illusions over himself to blend in with mundanes. Currently he's posing as Lord Bryon Salisbury, a Victorian cavalry hero, and this is the name the other High Lords also know him under.

As stated previously, the Gaunt Man is the mastermind behind the whole Core Earth invasion. He was the one who managed to get the other High Lords to work together to help him become a god, promising that he would give favorable treatment to those who aided him in this endeavor. His overall plan was to strip Core Earth of its incredibly high amount of Possibility energy, then kick off a major natural disaster to give him the physical energy needed to complete his apotheosis.

Unfortunately for him, during the events of the original trilogy of novels, the Gaunt Man was trapped in a pocket dimension by a Core Earth eternity shard called The Heart of Coyote. The Gaunt Man and the Heart are currently "outside" our reality, trapped in an eternal cycle of creation and destruction. The Gaunt Man is painfully disintegrated and reformed hundreds of times a minute, leaving the Possibility Raiders without their mastermind and Orrorsh without its High Lord. He is slowly draining Possibilities from the Heart of Coyote, so really his freedom is only a matter of time.

That said, despite being trapped and cut off from his power, the Gaunt Man is still High Lord of Orrorsh. His Darkness Device is still bound to him (and vice versa), and until it decides to release him and find a new High Lord nobody will be capable of taking the realm over.

The other High Lords don't know what's happened to the Gaunt Man yet. They do know he seems to be out of the picture for a while, though. The Gaunt Man's lieutenant Thratchen has been telling the other High Lords that the Gaunt Man is in seclusion to prepare for the next stage of the invasion, but nobody's really buying that. Until the Gaunt Man can break free, the other High Lords are free to pursue their own agendas and possibly become Torg.

All that being said, what's the Gaunt Man's overall priority list outside of "escape the eternal reality storm"?

His top priority is gaining knowledge of the Nameless One. The Gaunt Man is obsessed with this entity, and believes that the only way to gain true understanding of a cosmic entity is to become Torg.

(Remember the Nameless One? Of course you don't; it's because the Nameless One is one of the two cosmic entities mentioned in the brief description of the creation of the multiverse way the fuck back in the Basic Set, where he's only mentioned in the creation myth and that it's the force that created the Darkness Devices in the first place. The Nameless one (and Apeiros) are actually really important to the overall three-and-a-half-year metaplot, despite being brought up in official material once in a blue moon. It really does bring into sharp relief how the overall metaphysics and such weren't for the players, they were for the writers.)

Anyway, his second bullet point is to gain as much power as possible. This feeds into his overall top priority; after all becoming Torg requires an insane amount of both Possibility and physical energy.

Third, he wants to spread the reality of Orrorsh across Core Earth. Inspired by the Victorians, he wants to set up "colonies of fear" across not just Earth but the realities of the other invaders. Ideally, Orrorsh would spread across Core Earth, over the various realms, then up the now-conveniently-placed bridges to the other High Lords' cosms.

Fourth is maintaining the culture of fear throughout his realm. He does this by creating horrors and letting them lose on the general populace. That said, he's always careful to keep things to the shadows; he's smart enough to realize that if the horrific becomes common, the fear will vanish and people will be able to really fight back. So he keeps things subtle (for the most part) in order to reap the benefits of fear.

Lastly, he wants eternity shards. There are two reasons for this; first off, he wants them as sources of Possibility energy. Second, and more important, eternity shards are the only weapon effective against him. Unless killed with an eternity shard, he'll just come back like nothing happened.

Despite being a total megalomaniacal tyrant, the Gaunt Man is a surprisingly calm person. He comes across as very cool and calculating, and that's the case for the most part. The only times he shows any real emotion are when he flies into a rage when his plans are thwarted, or the disturbing joy he feels when his machinations instill more fear on his subjects. In a lot of ways, he's a kid burning ants with a magnifying glass, laughing when they flee and throwing fits when his toys are taken away.

The Gaunt Man's Darkness Device is Heketon, which appears as an obsidian heart about the size of a fist. Heketon is one of (of not the) oldest and most powerful Darkness Devices. Heketon and the Gaunt Man have worked together for millennia, and together they are the only known force ever able to defeat another Darkness Device. Long before discovering Gaea, the Gaunt Man and Heketon invaded the feral werewolf cosm of Kantovia and defeated its High Lord, Dairoga. While the Gaunt Man was able to brainwash Dairoga into being one of his personal agents, Dairoga's weakened Darkness Device managed to dimthread out of there and escape to a new cosm: Earth. This is how the Gaunt Man learned of Core Earth, and was the spark that set off his whole plan.

This being Torg, both the Gaunt Man and Heketon are given full stat blocks. This is despite the fact that the Gaunt Man is (as of the release of the book) out of the picture and unreachable, and that Heketon (being a Darkness Device) is impossible to destroy. And to make sure that they can't be beaten before the metaplot says so, their stats are through the roof because somehow that makes more sense than saying "these are entities that can squash you like a bug". The Gaunt Man's lowest skill is an 18, and the skills he can use to inflict effects like stymied or setback are in the mid-30's. On top of that, Heketon itself has completed an occult ritual that allows it to use any of its powers through any active Orrorshian stelae.

quote:

Heketon carefully observed the opening days of the Possibility Wars. It was disturbed by what it saw, and what the ravagons reported. While not likely, the chance of defeat existed. One or more realms might fall, and then the possibility energy of Earth would surge in a storm across the remaining realms, shattering the stelae which bounded them. All the work of Heketon and its High Lord undone in one furious cataclysm. The Gaunt Man believed the plan still worked well enough. Heketon did not.

Heketon researched the problem with the blinding speed and power available to it as the master of Orrorsh's reality. The answer was an occult ritual, one of daring complexity and scope requiring great sacrifice. The first sacrifice was betraying the Gaunt Man to his enemies. Many others were necessary. The final sacrifice involved itself, giving up part of itself to use the power of the occult.
One upshot of this ritual (apart from the "can use powers anywhere in the realm" factor) is that Heketon can now create dimthreads anywhere it wants from the Orrorsh realm to any of the cosms it's previously destroyed. This is a sort of release valve in case Core Earth's Possibility energy surges too strongly; Heketon can take the influx of Core Earth's energy and shunt it back along some dimthreads back to ravage Gaea or any of the other worlds it's destroyed. This actually means that Orrorsh is the only realm capable of surviving on its own without any other realms around to draw Core Earth's energy.

Currently, Heketon is waiting to see if the Gaunt Man can escape from the Heart of Coyote's reality storm. It's maintaining its bond with the Gaunt Man for the time being, but if it becomes clear the Gaunt Man is gone for good, or if he escapes and is too weak to stop anyone trying to usurp him, then Heketon will abandon him to his fate.

Which brings us nicely to the Gaunt Man's inner circle. Only one of his lieutenants is detailed in this book, but I'll mention the others as well.

The most powerful of the Gaunt Man's inner circle is the techno-demon Thratchen. Thratchen is from the cosm of Tharkhold, which you may remember suffered a one-two punch of losses when its High Lord first attempted and failed to invade the transhuman cyberpunk reality of Kandara (which would lead to the creation of the Cyberpapacy), then got his bridge in Russia destroyed thanks to the Soviet psychic Katarina Tovarish (groan) and the Soviet psychic research program that was secretly bankrolled by the Kanawa Corporation. Thratchen was the Gaunt Man's second-in-command, and is currently stuck on Core Earth thanks to recent events.


Thratchen, techno-demon and pretender to the throne

Not one to rest on his cyber-laurels, Thratchen has declared himself Regent of Orrorsh. He knows what happened to the Gaunt Man, and is trying to find Heketon while maintaining the illusion that the Gaunt Man is just "in seclusion to prepare for the next phase of the invasion". So far it's working, but the other High Lords are beginning to suspect that something's up. Currently, Thratchen's main priority is seizing the Darkness Device for himself before anyone else can get their hands on it. Slightly below that priority is killing the shit out of 3327 for causing the Tharkhold bridge in Russia to fail.

As a techno-demon, Thratchen is cybered to the gills. He has all sorts of fun toys like retractable hand blades, internal computer systems, and wing enhancements. He also has the ability to cast miracles, but these being miracles of his rather... unique culture they're rather messed up. Only two are given in this book: Mechanization turns a person into a literal robot slave for five minutes, and Animate Cables causes any cables touching a person to either tie them up or choke them.

For the sake of completeness, let's see the rest of the Gaunt Man's special followers from other books.

Kurst is a werewolf, and was the Gaunt Man's primary hunter. He's also actually Dairoga, former High Lord of Kantovia. The Gaunt Man wiped his memory after Kurst's Darkness Device abandoned him, and used him as an assassin for a few centuries. Kurst's defeat happened around 1250 BC our time, and his Darkness Device Tagharra fell into the Olmec empire and influenced the peoples of that region over the next few centuries. Over the course of the novel trilogy, Kurst regained his memories and allied himself with the Core Earth forces, and is in fact the one who threw his former master into the reality storm. He doesn't seem to know that Tagharra is on Earth, and really it's hard to say what he'd do if he did. Really, Kurst pretty much vanishes from the line after the novels, getting like a dozen mentions here and there until popping back up during the War's End adventure, a.k.a. the "shit this is the last book we have to tie up all these loose ends NOW" adventure.

Malcolm Kane is your standard-issue 90's RPG badass serial killer. He's from Core Earth, and was recruited by the Gaunt Man to hunt down the main characters of the novel trilogy. He's supposed to be hunting down Storm Knights for the Gaunt Man (like Stone was for Deadlands), but again he doesn't even get a mention in the core game line. In fact, he's barely mentioned until the adventure High Lord of Earth , where Kane learns about Tagharra and attempts to seize it for himself. Technically he dies in that adventure, so again kind of a waste.

Lastly, there's Utherion. He was (technically) the most successful of the Gaunt Man's lieutenants, in that he was allowed to become a High Lord. Specifically, he became High Lord of Aysle, but in a rather roundabout way. The Gaunt Man convinced him to let his soul be removed from his body, at which point he possessed the queen of Aysle, Lady Pella Ardinay, and attuned her body to Aysle's Darkness Device. This didn't work out too well for him; during the novel trilogy he was ousted from her body. It turned out that the bond between a person and the Darkness Device is tied to the body, not the soul, so now Utherion is stuck trying to find a new body to take over so he can re-attune to the Darkness Device, which is still bound to Ardinay. We'll see more of this once we get to the Aysle cosm book.

With that little detour taken care of, it's time to discuss The Structure of Orrorsh. This section starts out with close to a page of Kurst monologing in a very unnatural manner about the overall tone of Orrorsh's power structure, and if you think you're strong enough try and get through this:

Kurst posted:

"Know that fear rules Orrorsh. The Gaunt Man made it no secret that he drew his power from Heketon, the Darkness Device of Orrorsh. He let all under his command know that it is fear that appeases the device, and that he received the device's favor for creating fear on Gaea and Earth. In turn, whichever subjects created fear on Gaea and Earth would receive rewards from the Gaunt Man. Orrorsh became a pyramid of fear, with zombies vying to create fear beneath the powerful vampyres, each creature supporting the fear of the greater monster above it. Atop the pyramid rested the Gaunt Man. Above him, floating just over the pyramid's peak, was Heketon. The entire structure served the Darkness Device; it was the system's sole purpose.

"You ask me what the organization of the Gaunt Man is. This is hard for me to put into words you know, for your minds, your world, are used to organizing the world. The point of organizing the world is to remove fear. You catalogue the stars, name all the animals, study the motions of the planets so that they are no longer mysterious. You, Bryce, your people, from what you have told me, created a government based upon logic and social law. Men gathered and debated. The government arose out of rational arguments.

"This is not the case of Orrorsh. Orrorsh is a place of fear. It is a place where fear rules, not rational thought. The notion of having a regulated bureaucracy has no place in the Realm. But still, there are positions of power in Orrorsh. Not always of authority, mind you, but of power.

"Ruling Orrorsh is the Gaunt Man, the High Lord of the Realm. He draws his power from the Darkness Device, and all of his minions were taught this. The Gaunt Man made this clear to his minions so they would not try to overthrow him - every one of the Gaunt Man's servants knew that without the power of the mysterious Darkness Device to support him, he had little chance of challenging the Gaunt Man.

"The Gaunt Man is the mastermind of Orrorsh and its invasions. It is he who decides what core areas of an invaded world the horrors attack next. He decides who sits on the Hellion Court, which of his minions rules different parts of the realm, and which corrupted souls are assigned to what creatures.

"As to his methods of invasion: It is his policy to 'soften' an area with random attacks of terror in an area he wants to conquer. He destabilizes the government with mysterious murders of political leaders, and supernatural slaughter of the general populace. From what I understand Thratchen has followed this policy and shown its effectiveness within the borders of Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. He has used zombie death squads to spread fear and panic throughout the general populace and the governments of the nations. The supernatural elements tended to confuse the people who confronted the zombies.

"In one of the nations, Vietnam I think, nationalist forces captured and studied a zombie. Did this calm the people who studied the creature? Certainly not. For in your world such a monstrosity brings every underlying precept of the nature of reality into question. You have all spent so much time on Earth figuring out how reality really works. When confronted by a creature that defies all you know a sense of dread passes over you. One of the scientists who studied the zombie, Dr. Nu Pham, took his own life after studying the creature. In his note he wrote - 'How can we survive the invasion? They have the power to create the horrors that mankind dreams. As mirrors of our subconscious such monsters were ours to control. But as physical realities ... ? - No. We are doomed.'

"You may think that since Vietnam has heard about the invasion in the East Indies the impact of monsters running through their countryside would be lessened. This is not the case. Until a person sees a monstrosity with his own eyes or holds in his own arms the body of a loved one killed by a creature of Orrorsh, there is a denial of the reality of such beings. I saw the same thing occur on Gaea, for the citizens of Victoria believed that the colonists of India and the New World were reading to intense loneliness when the first reports of monsters started filtering back to the Mother Country. It was not until the creatures overran the continent that the full impact took place.

"Of course, if the High Lord sends too many monsters into the areas to be "softened" then the impact is lost. People become used to the beasts and terrors. For this reason the Gaunt Man, and now Thratchen, keeps tight control on which horrors are sent where. No Nightmare is allowed to send any creatures outside of his province without the express permission of the High Lord, and this is rarely done. It is usually members of the Court or their assistants that are sent on missions outside the realm.

"The Gaunt Man has no concern for taxes or any other monetary wealth. He does not want tribute or glory or the respect of his allies or enemies. He only craves power. And he generates this power through the fear his minions create."
- from a transcript of an interview with Kurst, a former servant of the Gaunt Man
Dammit nobody talks like that!

While the realm is ultimately controlled by the Gaunt Man and Heketon, the actual "control" of Orrorsh is done by a group known as The Hellion Court. They're the power level below the Gaunt Man himself, and report directly to him. The Court consists of powerful supernatural creatures and power-hungry morals whose job it is to maintain the atmosphere of constant fear throughout the realm. The membership has shifted throughout the centuries, but it always consists of the most powerful nightmares of the realm.

Since the Gaunt Man's disappearance, Thratchen has instituted some personnel changes to the Court, eliminating those he didn't trust and paring it down to five members:


Basjas has a guest over for dinner.

The majority of the Gaunt Man's empire is controlled by beings collectively known as Nightmares. Each Nightmare controls its own territory as assigned by the Gaunt Man himself. There are hundreds of Nightmares throughout Gaea, and the Gaunt Man brought down about 200 Nightmares to control the Orrorsh realm, and has spread them across the islands to start building up the atmosphere of terror.

A few of the more active Nightmares are listed:


It creeps, and seeps, and glides and slides across the floor...

Now, given how many creatures there are running around, the question arises about how this whole system actually works without collapsing in on itself. The answer to that is what is referred to as the Ecology of Fear.

quote:

Unlike the other realities that have invaded Earth there is no room for a true society in Orrorsh. Societies are designed to provide comfort and structure. Comfort and structure discourage fear, and since it is fear that Heketon wants, society has no place. However, a High Lord and his Darkness Device draw power from the possibility energy drained from people living in the realm. If the monsters and terrors of Orrorsh are too fierce and chaotic and destroy too much of the planet's population then the invasion is for nothing, for there is no more energy to be drained. On the other hand, if the monsters are too organized, like the Cyberpapacy or Dr. Mobius' Empire, then although they are strange invaders they produce less fear. Much fear rests in the unknown. An army of werewolves might be terrifying at first, but soon they are no more frightening than any other army. The horrors of Orrorsh are the terrors of the dark comers and footsteps walking behind you late at night.
The Gaunt Man has spent centuries finding the perfect balance that would allow his minions to inflict as much fear as possible on the populace without tipping over the line to the point where the monstrous became the mundane. In addition, he needed his forces to have enough leeway to inflict fear in the ways that were natural to them, while at the same time needing them to be organized enough to aid in an invasion.

It's taken him centuries, but he finally managed to hit a state of equilibrium where the entire system is self-sustaining. The monsters of the realm do not actively fight each other for territory anymore, and can focus on the humans. The humans, meanwhile, have just enough hope to keep fighting back, but not enough power to win.

The whole system runs off three points, which the Gaunt Man has transformed into Orrorsh's world laws: The Power of Fear, the Power of Corruption, and the law of Eternal Corruption. I touched on these in brief back at the beginning of this book's posts, and will get into more detail on them next chapter.

So where do all these beasts and monsters come from? It turns out, from a bunch of places.

Monsters of the "Nightmare tier" or higher are capable of creating monsters on their own, and they tend to do so quite often. Generally these monsters follow the thematic mold of their creators; Ahjebax creates ooze-like monsters, Dr. Sconce creates patchwork creatures, and so on. This is where a good chunk of your "fodder" monsters come from.

Humans can become horrors if they tap into the Power of Corruption enough times. Once someone has taken advantage of the Power of Corruption for any reason, when they die they will have the option to enter the Gaunt Man's cycle of reincarnation and keep coming back to the world instead of going to the afterlife and receiving his just deserts.

Third, some horrors can turn humans into other horrors against the person's will. This is the purview of vampyres, werewolves, and things of that kidney. It's interesting to note that then a person is transformed this way, they're not subject to the reincarnation cycle. Instead, their soul is released to whatever afterlife awaits it, and a waiting corrupted soul is taken from Heketon's "storage" and used to animate the body. Interestingly, this means that every horror has a soul of some sort, even lowly creatures like zombies.

Lastly, there's "wild horror". Wild horrors are very rare, but no less dangerous. These are horrors that are created on their own, with no guiding hand other than the general belief of the humans of the area and the local magic and fear levels. Wild horrors tend to not slot into the Ecology very well, but the Gaunt Man and Heketon find them useful to give the humans a target they can fight without knocking the rest of the system out of whack.

quote:

A prime example of "wild horror" is the fortress of Muslim zombies that sprang upon Majestic's northern shore when the reality of Orrorsh washed over the land. The zombies are the corpses of Muslims of Earth desecrated by Portuguese sailors hundreds of years ago. The souls of the zombies are the same souls of the Muslims who died hundreds of years ago. Orrorsh is not part of controlling this terror. The zombies are acting on their own will. The arrival of Orrorsh only acted as a catalyst for the creation of the zombies.


I say!

One thing that does need to be pointed out before we close this section out is the concept of Strong Life and True Death.

As pointed out, the horrors of Orrorsh are technically immortal. When they are "killed", their souls are fielded by Heketon and sent to special storage zones known as Waiting Villages. There, the soul waits for a new body to become available through one means or another, and once that happens it just re-enters the world and picks up where it left off. Corrupted souls can "degrade" if they reincarnate enough, but that's just survival of the fittest. As souls become weaker, they get put in less and less powerful bodies until they are so worn down that they just remain in the Village, used for nothing and feeling nothing.

In order to keep his monsters in line, the Gaunt Man instituted the rule of the True Death. Every corrupted soul has one specific weakness that, if used on a horror, will kill its soul off for good and send it straight to the afterlife. Sometimes it's well-known (stake through the heart for vamps, silver for werewolves, destroy the head for zombies), but for the more individual horrors it's going to take some research to figure out what the monster's weakness is. And even then, it's probably not going to be easy to do. For example, Basjas needs to be wrapped in her own webs for three days (at which point she will die), Skuthharka must be decapitated and have a mixture of bee's honey and rose petals poured down his throat, and General Wellington must be killed at sunrise in a one-on-one duel.

The more powerful Nightmares go to great lengths to keep the methods of their True Deaths hidden (for obvious reasons). The longer a horror can stay in the world, the more powerful it gets, and the hard it is to kill. Even a non-True Death death is a major setback, the first step in a downward spiral towards becoming a forgotten voice in a Waiting Village. Every horror knows this; the Ecology of Fear is a world of survival of the fittest, and a moment's weakness towards stormers or other horrors can result in a loss of rank and territory. Every Nightmare knows, deep down, that all it takes is one misstep to fall out of favor and wind up in Hell...or worse.

It's very rare that a Nightmare realizes that it's trapped in the same web of fear as the humans. And when one does...the Gaunt Man just laughs.


NEXT TIME: People, places, and... things.

Victims

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 14c: Victims

This is the second half of the "Realm of Fear" chapter, and is a discussion of the various people that now inhabit the region and the organizations that drive Victorian society.

And, well...we gotta get something out of the way first.

quote:

Besides the creatures of the night that the Gaunt Man has brought down the maelstrom bridge, there are several groups of people who have travelled down the bridges of their own volition. They have come to Earth either to war with the Gaunt Man so as to prevent his gaining more power, or to escape the terrors of Victoria and forge new lives for themselves on the relatively safer world of Earth. These groups are the Victorians, the Gypsies, and the Swamis. Although each group means well to the people of Earth, the fact that they are from a different world with a different history and reality often leads them to make mistakes when dealing with people from Earth. Sometimes these mistakes only lead to bad feelings between groups. Other times they lead to blood.
Yeah. We're in "magical gypsies" territory. Sorry, folks.

But before we get there, we start by discussing the Victorians themselves.

We've already gotten a pretty good broad view of the Victorians and their culture. Their society is pretty much based around the idea of "inherent superiority", and this mindset has driven them for centuries even before the Gaunt Man showed up. This tends to manifest in what can best be described as proper behavior. All Victorian citizens take everything in their lives very seriously. From speech to clothing to day-to-day action, everything must be done with dignity and decorum and utmost seriousness. To do less is to let down the Empire.

One of the main reasons for this is the Sacellum , the religion of the Victorian empire. The Sacellum shares some similarities with Evangelical Christianity, but...more so.

quote:

As Mr. G. M. Young writes: "Nor can it escape the notice of men that the virtues of a Sacellum model are easily exchangeable with the virtues of a successful merchant or a rising manufacturer. To be serious, to redeem the time, to abstain from gambling, to remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy, to limit the gratification of the senses to the pleasures of a table lawfully earned and the embraces of a wife lawfully wedded, are virtues for which the reward is not laid up in Heaven only."
We'll get back to the Sacellum in a bit, but basically the Sacellum's righteousness is what allowed the Victorians to create their world-spanning empire in the first place. It's also the only thing protecting them from utterly falling to despair in the face of the Gaunt Man's forces.

Unfortunately, that same righteousness also colors their dealings with other races. The Victorians see, well... non-whites as "primitive peoples", and as such it is their moral duty to "introduce civilization into their lives", generally at gunpoint. Even members of other races that have acclimated into Victorian society at large are treated terribly.

Not that life for the domestic lower classes is a lot better. The working classes live in squalor and poverty, working 12+ hour days, six days a week to barely feed themselves. The slowly encroaching industrial revolution has begun putting small tradesmen out of business, and working conditions are worsening. And thanks to the Gaunt Man's control, the Social axiom of Gaea is just shy of the point where people would be able to come up with the idea of unionization.

Next, we learn about The Victorian Majestic Charter . The Charter was hastily created shortly after the Victorians went over their bridge, both as a means of controlling this new colony and as a desperate attempt to get the Victorian economy moving again (since there's no way for them to get any kind of external resources back home).

The Charter was created and is managed by a consortium of 112 investors, very few of whom actually live in Majestic. The real control is by a board of 12 investors, and they're the ones who are plotting out the expansion and exploitation of the colony.

One board member of note is Samuel Benford . Benford is one of the few members of the consortium who actually lives in the colony. He's also pretty much the only one who who's figured out that the Indonesians are more advanced than the Victorians. As stated previously, the Victorians think that all the advanced tech and buildings and roads and whatnot were left behind by white settlers and subsequently stolen by the "natives". As a result, he's become something of an obstacle not only for the rest of the investors (who just want to profit by any means they can), but also for the military (since he's keeping a record of every infraction and war crime they commit). The only reason he hasn't met an unfortunate "accident" is that he's one of the primary money people in the consortium.

The military arm of Majestic is run by Governor Robert Ashton , a violent man who's gotten very close with General Avery Willington. Ashton has been experimenting with the occult, and has been completely corrupted. He's not a horror yet, but when killed his soul will be heading straight for a Waiting Village so he can step up to the big leagues.

Below Ashton is the expected military structure. The book (once again) goes into unnecessary detail about this, so I'll just summarize.

There are only a few hundred regiments assigned throughout the Majestic colony, and they're having an uphill battle. Victorian military units tend to be smaller than their Core Earth equivalents due to the one-on-one nature of battling Horrors. Regiments tend to be split between taking new territory and defending existing cities from attacks by Horrors. For the most part, the regimental commanders haven't been corrupted yet...but given that they all answer to Ashton it's probably only a matter of time before the rot spreads through the whole army.


You have to watch the working classes like a hawk.

One interesting thing about Victorian society is that there's little to no leisure activities, or really any sort of "release valve" on people's emotional needs. The culture is morally and socially strict to the point where tablecloths are required to be long enough to completely hide the table's legs, lest the sight of something even resembling a woman's leg send a man into a spiral of depravity that damns his very soul. And according to the Sacellum, the moral failing of one soul would spell doom for the whole culture.

quote:

To obtain a pure spiritual community the Sacellum discourages certain ideas: free thought, free expression, art that encourages free thought, art that encourages free expression, anything to do with the notion of sex, anything to do with religion that does not reflect the accepted dogma of the Sacellum (that is, anything that does not present a male, white god ruling the people of earth through his chosen male white representatives), anything to do with magic or any element of the imagination (for it is believed that the slightest thought of anything but the true Sacellum will lead everyone to worship the evil Gaunt Man), and so on.
The thing is, the Sacellum hasn't learned one thing that even Friend Computer figured out: the more you forbid something from happening, the more people will want to check it out to see what the fuss is.

In Victorian society, this has resulted in the birth of many secret societies dedicated to exploring such dangerous ideas such as philosophy, studying other cultures, or creative writing. Oh, and the secrets of the occult, of course.

Oh sure, the majority of the secret societies are ultimately harmless. They revolve around things like reciting poetry, or discussing scientific ideas, or learning to draw nudes because that's how you actually get better at drawing people. But there are some that are focused on studying the monstrosities of the world, either to fight them or to tap into their power. But as far as the Sacellum (and, therefore, society at large) is concerned, there's no moral difference between a society dedicated to learning how to bargain with demons and a society dedicated reciting poetry about flowers. So every society has to meet in utter secrecy, with the associated call signs and handshakes.

Three sample societies are given in the book:


Occult conspiracy, or creative writing circle?

Finally, we get to The Sacellum itself.

The Sacellum was originally a variant of Catholicism, discovered by the Victorians when they took over the Roman Empire and discovered the apostles therein. The Victorians quickly adopted the religion for their own use, adjusting things here and there to match their own mandate-from-heaven mindset.

Even in the beginning, the Sacellum was a very rigid theology. The church was not to be questioned at all, and nobody was allowed to question the faith or its methods. It should come as no surprise that non-supernatural corruption was rampant throughout the power structure of the Sacellum for centuries.

That said, in the 16th century, there was almost change in the church...and then the Gaunt Man showed up.

quote:

This religious institution began crumbling in Gaea's sixteenth century when a German monk, Thomas Moss,
demanded reforms within the church that gave greater power to the people. Moss' reform movement began slowly, but soon had a steady, firm momentum.

What might have been an even more successful version of Earth's Protestant movement was derailed by the
arrival of the Gaunt Man. He saw the reformation movement as chance to make a corrupt institution more corrupt than it was before. When the people of the Victorian Empire began to panic as strange creatures were spotted around the globe and horrible murders were committed without any explanation, a cry went up from the people for a religion that could save them from the influence of the devil.

Bishop Gyre Todd, a member of the religious reformation, was working in the colonies of North America when the invasion was just beginning. A sincere but harsh man, he began adopting cruel tactics to keep his followers on a spiritually pure path. Slowly the Power of Corruption seduced him. Eventually the Gaunt Man himself appeared before Todd in the guise of an angel and declared him the new chosen prophet of god. The Gaunt Man then gave Bishop Todd a manuscript written in Greek that appeared to be written on ancient vellum. The angel told Todd that is was a more accurate translation of the New Testament than that which the Victorians had used for the last sixteen centuries.
This translation became known as the "Book of Power", and was a slight mangling of Christ's message. Instead of preaching forgiveness and understanding, this version of Jesus demanded that people should always fear God as an angry father who is waiting to punish them for the slightest mistep, yet favored a "chosen few" (i.e., white people) over the rest of the world. This Jesus performed very few miracles, and those he did perform were acts of harsh, violent revenge.

Bishop Todd preached this gospel across the empire, stating that the influx of demons and horrors was a punishment from God for misunderstanding His message. Desprate for anything that might stop the flow of monsters, the people flocked behind the new gospel, and it was worked into the reform movement. Soon the new Bible was officially accepted by the church, and was preached to the people.

Which, of course, is what the Gaunt Man wanted. While the Sacellum does offer a glimmer of hope to the Victorians, it's a false, stifling hope. It's a sort of spiritual bureaucracy, forcing people into rigid lines of thinking and reinforcing the idea that its members should just follow rigidly-defined behavioral procedures to be saved, as opposed to performing good works or considering the nature of their souls.

Not helping matters is the fact that despite the moral inflexibility, the Sacellum doesn't have a consitent overall structure. There's no central papal figure; instead the the church is run at the top level by numerous bishops, each with varying levels of power. On top of that, the church itself is split into hundreds of diocese, each of varying size and none really reporting to any of the others. Without any sort of central authority, the "official" solution to the problems that arise is "just do what we did yesterday", even though yesterday didn't fix anything either. Each diocese ends up having to deal with problems on their own without guidance from a central figure, so every diocese ends up being just different enough to make working together difficult.

What this all means that the Sacellum is a strange mix of moral inflexibility and organizational splintering. The Sacellum is pretty much incapable of real change for a lot of reasons, not least of which is because they're terrified of God's wrath should they try to change.

False hope may be better than no hope, but not by much.


Repent, O Ye Sinners!

And now...this part.

quote:

The Gypsies of Gaea come from Rumostria, a nation of undead located in Europe. To sate their need for blood and flesh, the undead inhabitants raise humans like cattle. The Gypsies are those humans who have managed to escape the pens. They are scattered throughout the world of Gaea, hunted by monsters but shunned by the Victorians. When the bridges opened up from Gaea to Earth the Gypsies took flight, hoping to find safer lands. While Earth's Southeast Asia is safer than Gaea, the Gypsies are still locked in conflict with the terrors of the Gaunt Man.
I think we all know the drill here. Tribes of wanderers, wooden caravans, "fond of bright clothes, gold and silver", powerful spirit mediums, fortune-tellers and brewers of magic potions.

quote:

They have a great many songs celebrating the life of motion that they lead. They are also a people given to telling stories and fantastic tales.
It's like they had a checklist to get through or something. In fact, there's barely a page of information about Gaean Gypsies and I've hit pretty much all the major points apart from their spirit medium ability, which we'll get to once we cover the rules.


As a palette cleanser, here's a ninja fighting a werewolf.

The last part of this chapter is about swamis , and here they mean Gaean swamis. Gaean swamis are the holy men of the Findaru religion, which is based around the concept of escaping a repeating cycle of reincarnation through meditation ( gessa ), adherence to the Tov scriptures, and devotion to a swami.

quote:

The Tov scriptures are the holy writings of the Findaru faith. They describe the universe as being made up of one god, Harat, though this god has divided itself into many parts. Because of this it is possible to worship certain specific parts of god at a given time. A faithful Findaru, for example, might ask aid from the creative portion of Harat, or the destructive portion, or the portion that is in charge of prosperity and good fortune.

The holy writings state that all living beings are reborn again and again through reincarnation. What a living being is reborn as depends upon what sort of life the creature led. The better the life lived, the farther advanced the reincarnation. The ultimate goal is to leave the cycle of life and become one one with Harat. Since Harat is the god of "all knowledge" the path to joining him is to master the truths of the universe. Primary among these truths is the fact that all beings are already part of Harat - it is only a self-deception, an illusion, that any living beings are separate from Harat. To understand this one must practice gessa, adhere to the Tov, and study with a teacher who is well on his way to pulling aside the illusion of separateness.
Because of the nature of their faith, swami were able to see through the illusions of the invading horrors and cut through the lies of the Gaunt Man. This has forced the swami to break their usual stance of non-interference to aid the many victims of the invasion.

Because they know the nature of the beasts, as it were, they claim that horrors are not part of Harat. In fact, only living beings born of Gaea or those who convert are considered part of Harat; anyone else is an outsider. That said, they are very welcoming to anyone who is willing to convert. They're even accepting of the Victorians, who consider them backwards heathens.

quote:

But the Findarus do not hold a grudge against the Victorians. To the Swami's eyes the typical Victorian still has an infinite number of reincarnations to go, and is someone to be pitied.
Just because you turn the other cheek doesn't mean you have to be nice about it.

---

Man, that was all way too much goddamn setting . I had to split this chapter into two posts just because it was getting so huge.

This chapter is just all over the place. It talks about the Gaunt Man himself, his council, assorted bad guys, the Ecology of Horror and the world laws, and everything you could possibly know about everyone.

There just comes this point where the information becomes white noise, and Torg's never had a problem crossing that line over and over again. Like, do I really need to know the exact breakdown of the military structure to the point where I know how many people of what rank are in a company versus a regiment? Does the church's history really need a page and a half of backstory? Knowing where stuff comes from is useful, but what's more useful is what it's like now .


NEXT TIME: Feeding the vicious cycle.

The Architecture of Fear

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 14d: The Architecture of Fear

Time to start sinking out teeth into the mechanics of the realm, which means we need to more closely examine the axioms and world laws.

Magic Axiom: 15
Orrorsh is the second-most magically infused realm out of all the invaders. The high magic axiom is needed to fuel horrors, but in practice "normal" Torgian magic is pretty rare. It's certainly possible to learn and prepare a normal spell under Orrorshian axioms, but finding an actual spell in the first place is very rare. Instead, magic in the realm takes the form of occultism , a freeform ritual magic system. Occult rituals can actually be performed by pretty much anyone, even without access to magic skills, and will be covered in more detail in a few chapters.

Social Axiom: 20
This is only a single point behind Core Earth (axiom 21), but despite the narrow difference Victoria is remarkable backwards by Core Earth standards.

Victorian society is highly bureaucratic and heavily structured. "A place for everyone and everyone in their place". Unfortunately, unless you're a straight white Victorian male said place is at the bottom of the social ladder. Women and members of other races do not have the right to vote, cannot own property, and for the most part cannot hold jobs of any import. Even in a reality constantly onset by monsters of every conceivable stripe, non-white-males are pretty much treated like shit. An African man could kill a vampyre in front of Parliament and would be lucky to be given a pat on the head.

There is the beginnings of social equality movements in Victoria and Majestic (mainly due to the culture being forcibly exposed to new ideas), but the Sacellum ain't having none of that, and is working hard to prevent the movement from gaining even an inch of ground.

Likewise, the poor are treated horribly. Child labor has not been outlawed, and while there is industrialization the concept of "workplace safety" hasn't caught on yet. Children of the lower classes tend to start having to work around the age of eight, leaving no time for education. Not that the upper classes want the lower classes to become educated; it'd just give them ideas above their station.

Spiritual Axion: 17
Interestingly, Orrorsh is tied with the Nile Empire for the second-highest Spiritual Axiom (first is Living Land at 24). This is because this is the level needed to support the whole soul-recycling thing the Gaunt Man has going on; you need to have everyone accept the concepts of the soul, redemption, and damnation for it to all work. Priests of the Sacellum and swamis are capable of performing miracles.

Technology Axiom: 19
The Gaunt Man has capped Victorian technology at its current level, but really that was more of a formality than anything else; the Victorian mindset did most of the work for him. Because anything made by not-Victorians would be inherently inferior to Victorian knowledge, it was fairly common for the Empire to invade cultures that were more advanced in a particular field and then throw out any new ideas because they were made by backwards barbarians.

The main thrust of Victorian technological advancement has (unsurprisingly) been in the field of weaponry and military technologies. Bolt action rifling techniques are fairly new, as are hand-cranked machine guns. Very little development has been made in the field of heavy weaponry or artillery, but this is mainly because most major horrors are singluar monsters, and a slow tank isn't that useful against a vampyre or werewolf that can run rings around it.

The automobile has not been invented yet in Orrorsh; instead people still rely on horse-drawn carriages for short-distance travel and steam engine locomotives for long-distance. The Victorians have been building a railway line along the western edge of the Majestic colony with the "assistance" of the native Indonesians.

Electric power exists, but doesn't see heavy use. Houses use gas lights instead of electric, and all home appliances are hand-powered (preferably by a servant).


Sometimes Orrorsh isn't very subtle.

And now the World Laws. We've covered these a few times already, because all the backstory information kind of keys off them. Still, in this chapter we dig a little deeper into how they work and intermingle into the Ecology of Fear. One thing that's important to note is that anyone in Orrorsh is subject to these laws, even if otherwise protected by a reality bubble.

The Power of Corruption is the means by which the Gaunt Man tempts people into the downward spiral of evil behavior.

quote:

An act of true evil in the environment of a role-playing adventure is often difficult to adjudicate. This is because adventurers and heroes are often in dangerous situations where lying, killing, and stealing is either necessary or an accepted pa.rt of life. Whereas most of us live in a society that considers murder reprehensible, the state of war that exists on Earth sets up a separate set of ethics for people directly involved in the conflict. These ethics state that killing the enemy is at worst a necessary evil, and at best a just and heroic action. The human soul, even in war, often views killing as evil, no matter what the conditions.
The game uses the term Wicked to describe any action that is an "unnecessary" evil. Violent actions taken against helpless targets, torture, knowingly allowing evil acts to happen, ruining someone's life solely because you can, murder for revenge...these are the kinds of things the Gaunt Man rewards with this power.

The book tries to define what would be a "necessary evil" (while escaping, only killing guards when you have no choice; setting one of the group as bait to draw out a flesh-eating monster) versus "unnecessary evil" (killing everyone you come across during your escape; using some innocent person as bait), but it seems like a strange time to start bringing in a morality system of this nature. At least it's one that probably wouldn't require a lot of arguing about the nature of evil or whatever.

Anyway, when a person commits a Wicked act they get an automatic up boost (an additional free roll-and-add on top of whatever they would get otherwise). In addition, they get a brand-new "skill": corruption .

Corruption isn't really a skill per se , but more of an overall counter of how evil you've been. The first time you commit a Wicked act, you get the skill at a rank of 8, and every Wicked act after that will get you from one to five Corruption points. Stealing food from a starving family is worth one, torture is worth two, and "the destruction of an entire city" is five, so it's a bit of a sliding scale.

After committing the act, the character has to make a Corruption roll against a difficulty of 12. If the player "succeeds" at the roll, then the character gains a physical sign of his evil nature. The higher the success level, the worse the change. There are four "tiers" of changes, and you can only have one per tier.

quote:

Minimal/average: red or yellow eyes; eyes glow in dark like a cat's; sharply pointed eyebrows and ears; forked tongue; open sores on arms.

Good: grows tail; eyes melt away, but the character can see normally; sores become large enough that bone is seen through the holes; a foul odor, perhaps that of a corpse rotting, surrounds the character.

Superior: horns sprout from the character's forehead; hair covers the character's body; the character's body is covered the scales of a reptile; the character's mouth becomes a snout; the character's left hand becomes a metal hook.

Spectacular: The character becomes a horror of Orrorsh. The character might become a monster (a zombie, a vampyre) or he might retain his form and work within human society as an agent of evil. The character is no longer under the control of the player and has become a gamemaster character. He is a monster, like any other monster, that must be hunted down and destroyed.
Now here's the thing: normal people can't see these mutations. The only way to see them is through the use of magic or by special abilities like the Orrorshian skill of true sight . Otherwise, the person just seems...off.

Heketon also protects those who are along the path of Corruption. Any attempt to detect Corrupt individuals or to investigate their actions can be resisted by the creature's Corruption skill. If the creature makes the roll, then the character is unable to find out anything regardless of how they were actually investigating.

The second world law is the Power of Fear , and starts with a few paragraphs with a very oddly placed defense of the fact that the Power of Fear exists.

quote:

There are two reasons that the Power of Fear exists in the reality of Orrorsh. The first reason is part of the logic of the world within the game world, the second is a logic of game mechanics, exterior to the "fictional reality" of Torg.

First, the Power of Fear exists because the Gaunt Man is very powerful and created a powerful force that weakens his enemies. Some High Lords use their power to increase their technology so they can build tougher tanks, others increase the sophistication of their reality's miracles. The Gaunt Man and Heketon, who love fear, decided to make it harder for heroes slay his monsters rather than make the monsters tougher.

The second reason is that every realm of Torg: Roleplaying the Possibility Wars should have its own distinct feel to it. The realm of Orrorsh is a place of atmosphere, of slow searches through mist-shrouded graveyards. We created the Power of Fear so that Storm Knights cannot go blasting their way through every conflict the same way they might do in the Living Land or the Empire of the Nile.

These rules make it vital that the characters spend some time investigating their opponents and introduces the risk that whenever they are facing off against a horror of Orrorsh their characters might flip out from the sheer terror of the situation. The Power of Fear also creates a situation where (hang on to your possibility energy) the Storm Knights might lose, or, at the very least, a character or two might find True Death before they stake the vampyre's heart. Again, this isa choice on our part to make Orrorsh a nasty, frightening place. Storm Knights entering this reality should be prepared to face the most challenging realm on the planet - for although he was defeated by the heroes of Earth, his reality is the most powerful and evil reality to invade our world. We're warning you ahead of time. Tarry in Orrorsh and you can assume that you have a good chance of meeting an untimely end. This is not to say Storm Knights should not adventure in Orrorsh. On the contrary, Orrorsh must be destroyed - precisely because it is so evil. But the cost for victory will be high.
This whole thing is baffling to me. Not just the idea that they felt the need to defend the fact that they have a thematic mechanic in their game, but also the idea that "characters might die" is some sort of monocle-popping, bow-tie spinning revelation.

Well, on reflection, that second point shouldn't be that surprising. Torg isn't just trying to be multi-genre, it's trying to be multi-tone. And that's not an easy trick to pull off. Orrorshian adventures are supposed to be really deadly and difficult, as befits a heavy horror game...but then next session you can be in the Nile Empire and mowing down mooks with narry a care in the world or consequence in sight, then you can roll over to Nippon Tech and get involved in some insane shades-of-grey espionage. On top of that, Torg claims to be "cinematic" in the sense that characters can take a lot of punishment before keeling over, even though the mechanics don't really support that idea very well.

Oh, right, mechanics. Every Orrorshian monster has a stat called their Fear Rating , which goes from 1/2 to 5, but tend to average around 3. When dealing with a creature that has a Fear Rating, two mechanics come into play:
The first one isn't that big a deal (although Torg groups have a history of using storms as "get out of boss fights free" cards), but the second one is actually a drawback. It also has a very Wick-ian piece of GM advice.

quote:

If the Storm Knights unwittingly try to play for the critical moment when the Power of Fear has not been overcome, the gamemaster should let all the players put all their cards out on the table, then smile cruelly as he sweeps the cards up off the table and tells them it doesn't work. The players lose the cards. That's it. It just doesn't work.
That's some prime passive-aggressive bullshit right there. Yeah you refresh to four cards at the end of a fight, but come on! Punishing someone for taking an action you know won't work and then being a smarmy ass about it is some of the worst GMing advice you can ever give someone. Especially if the players don't know about what is and isn't "allowed" when fighting monsters in Orrorsh. And believe it or not, this'll be even more dickish when we get to the end of the chapter.

Anyway, we now get into another long chunk of text about The Nature of Horror Stories . And I'm sorry, but get ready for another terrible text dump because I'm going to give you the full text of the section.

quote:

Take a moment to think about horror stories you have read or horror movies you have seen. In every horror story the heroes usually destroy the monster - but only after lots and lots of people have been killed in the process. It isn't just innocent victims who get taken out by the monster. In both Stephen King's Salem's Lot and the movie Alien (which is really a haunted house in space) there is a group of characters that band together to take out the unnatural menace. In Salem's Lot , only two people out of an entire town leave alive. In Alien only Ripley and Jones the cat get off the ship and back to Earth. This is what Orrorsh is like. The heroes go forth to battle the terrors of the night...but not all of them come back.

An aspect of "feel" that the Power of Fear builds into adventures set in Orrorsh is that the creatures of Orrorsh are frightening. In many roleplaying games the characters set themselves against one monster after another, but seldom do thecharacters react to them as monsters. lnstead, a zombie is usually just another entity to destroy. Now, there is nothing wrong with this. In a reality of high fantasy like Aysle, where magic is plentiful and heroes encounter the fantastic every day, it makes sense that animated skeletons or
vampyres do not faze Storm Knights. In Orrorsh, a reality built on fear, it is vital that the Storm Knights react with a difference. The rules of the Power of Fear help build this sensation.

Of course, a set of rules can't create the atmosphere alone. The gamemaster must help build the mood so that the rules fit into the reality properly.
Okay. So. For the moment I'm going to ignore the fact that the game gives very little advice on how to build mood that isn't mechanical subsystems.

I fully admit that I'm not a fan of the horror genre. Part of it is because I'm a big ol' coward, but it's also because horror has become a lazy genre over the years. Most of what I know about horror comes from my Halloween tradition of watching Bravo's "100 Scariest Movie Moments".

I admit that I only know it as an outsider, but it seems like most horror movies nowadays tend to be about jump scares and gore than building up a mood of any sort. The horror is more viceral than emotional.

(Side note: I love how in Bravo's 100 Scariest moments, most of it is about the amazing mood and the tension built in "classic" horror movies from the 60's, 70's, and 80's. Then they did "30 Even Scarier Movie Moments" and it was almost all gore and stuff from modern movies like Saw or Cabin Fever.)

Now, I understand that horror needs a heavy sense of threat hanging over the characters in order to work; if you know that nobody's going to die then the horror loses a lot of its impact. But at the same time, the horror of Orrorsh is either supposed to be things lurking in the shadows waiting to pick off straglers, or straight-up monster stomping. And which one it is seems to depend on which chapter you're in, or which adventure you're reading at the time.

But boiling it down to a mechanical value that doesn't have that big an impact on play doesn't really reinforce any sort of genre. So they can't use reality storms or play extra cards? That doesn't mean they can't just find out the monster's True Death and kill it by other means.

...sorry. Back to the book.


Bluh!

So every monster has this Fear value. It's (technically) a drawback because it robs the PCs of two of the tools in their arsenal. That said, I'm sure you're wondering what the meaning of the value actually is.

In order to overcome the Power of Fear, Storm Knights have to be dedicated to taking down the horror itself. This is done by generating Perseverance . Perseverance is sort of "party stat" that represents how much work the PCs have done to take the horror down.

Perseverance is used in every Orrorshian adventure, and always starts at 8. As things progress, the value will increase. At various point in the

quote:

The Gaunt Man and Perseverance

The Gaunt Man wants to limit resistance to the Power of Fear. The nature of Storm Knights is to exceed whatever limits are place upon them. The High Lord experimented with Perseverance on each new cosm he invaded. He and Heketon built a machine to sort possibilities, to gather the slimmest of chances and concentrate them, to make them real. Hundreds of stormers were carefully used, their possibilities dissected by the machine. Finally he succeeded at making real one critical aspect of Perseverance : he separated the basic ability to resist fear from the abilities and attributes of individuals. Individual actions could still affect Perseverance , strengthening it. The Gaunt Man seeks to eliminate this imperfection, but has so far failed. The High Lord is beginning to believe that such an act might be beyond even his own abilities.

Perseverance is still one of the Gaunt Man's great achievements. His horrors face the small chance of defeat, and each defeat helps convince the populace to continue the fight. Orrorsh lives in fear, not despair. That is as the Gaunt Man wishes. The small chance of a monster being slain was not as inconvenient as he first thought.

The Gaunt Man had not counted on the number of Storm Knights created by the Possibility Wars. For the first time, enough heroes exist to make the necessary sacrifices to defeat the horrors of Orrorsh. The Ecology of Horror might become unbalanced, and the final victory might slip from the Gaunt Man's grasp.
oh for fuck's sake, game. If I didn't know this was written in the 90's I'd swear this was bad Undertale fanfiction.

Anyway. At various points in the adventure, the party has to make a Perseverance check against a Perseverance difficulty number . Said difficulty number is usually the Fear Rating of the "endboss", but really it's the Fear Rating of the biggest threat. The Perseverance difficulty is always a secret, so that way the PCs don't know how big a threat they're actually up against. Sample difficulties range from around 10 for a single werewolf hunt to the low 20's for a cult to 27 for members of the Hellion Court.

Perseverance checks are made "when the gamemaster decides it is appropriate", but really it's meant to deprive the characters of assets and such. It's a sort of version of a SAN check; you're supposed to make people roll when the encounter monsters, witness an occult event, or come across something truly horrible.

The check is made by a flat roll, with nothing added to it. Players can't use cards or skill adds or anything, because it's a "group check". If the group passes, they're fine.

If they fail , then the monster gets fear points equal to the amount the roll missed by, multiplied by the number of PCs. So if a roll fails by 3 and there's five people in the group, then the monster gets 15 fear points. That's a lot , as we'll see in a moment.


Pictured: what GMing Orrorsh should look like.

Fear points must be spent immediately, and spend to do the following:

For one fear point, a creature can take a card from any player's pool, stymie a PC, or spend an extra Possibility for a roll-again.

For two fear points, a creature can give its side an up result, cause someone to suffer a setback from fear, or mark a character for death (they can't spend Possibilities to remove damage).

So let's go back to that failed roll. 15 points to spend means that a horror can prevent all five characters from negating damage for the remainder of the scene and take one card from everybody. Because they missed a roll by 3 points.

I'm sorry, that's fucking ridiculous . There's making things hard on the group because of genre, but this is pretty stupid. Especially since the GM is supposed to be making checks all the time.

The way to raise the group's Perseverance is basically by doing monster hunter-y things. Researching the monster in quesiton, winning fights against minions, helping people, things like that. They also gain Perseverance when the monster kills NPCs that the heroes couldn't defend. The group can also lose Perseverance by losing fights, PCs getting killed or seeing horrific things they couldn't prevent. Of course, there's no guidelines for how much Perseverance to reward or take away apart from "between one and five points", and the GM is expected to put together setpieces to make sure the players can gain enough Perseverance to overcome the monster's Fear Rating.

Once the group's Perseverance score hits the adventure's Perseverance Difficulty + 12, they have overcome the Power of Fear and are no longer subject to fear points or the Power of Fear. (the +12 is because the lowest possible rolled modifier is -12; when they reach the Difficulty+12, they can't mechanically fail). Note that you're not supposed to tell the group they've overcome the Fear, I guess they're just supposed to guess when they can invoke storms and such.

The rest of this chapter is more GMing advice on this whole convoluted system. One is that you shouldn't let players game the Perseverance system by doing things like setting NPCs up to die so they can feel bad about it and become more determined. The other piece of advice is about splitting up the group, and is about how to encourage this.

See, in a good horror story, everyone always splits up, right? Yeah, I know it never works out well for them but just go along with this. To encourage people to split the party, each sub-group everyone splits up into gains Perseverance on its own, and when everyone regroups, the whole party gets the accumulated Perseverance . The idea being that one group can, say, go research while the rest of the group investigates a murder scene. Which is fine, I suppose.

The other given reason is so that, if a PC goes off on his own and is killed, the group doesn't suffer the Perseverance loss. In fact, they'll actually gain Perseverance due to one of the PCs getting killed.

Uh huh.

--

You know...out of all the ways they could have come up with to represent adventures of slow, psychological horror, this may be the most ridiculously convoluted way of doing it. The parts that really get me are how the monsters get all kinds of fuck-with-the-PCs abilities when the party fails a roll they can't modify (oops, rolled a 2 first check? Guess you're just screwed! ) and how the GM is supposed to be so coy about when the PCs will finally be able to face the Big Bad without having to worry about getting smacked because they tried something that will auto-fail.

Then again, given what other stuff we've seen so far, I guess I shouldn't be that surprised.

NEXT TIME: Research modes

Seeking the Truth

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 14e: Seeking the Truth

Like every other Torg sourcebook, Orrorsh gets some new realm-specific new skills. And again, thanks to the Gaunt Man's reality-controlling wonkery, using Orrorshian skills outside the realm can cause a contradiction.

Research is based off Perception, and is a "magical" (their word) version of the core evidence analysis skill. Unlike evidence analysis, the idea is that research works off secondary sources rather than direct evidence, as well as a healthy dose of dots-connection by "reading between the lines" (their phrase) the "magical principles of contagion and similarity" (again, their phrase).

I belive this makes Torg the first RPG to ever consider "looking something up at the library and drawing a logical conclusion" as a form of magic. In fact, this skill can't be used in realms that have a Magic axiom less than 10 without causing a one-case contradiction.

Anyway, research always takes a few hours, and the difficulty of the roll is the Spirit or faith score of the person or thing you're researching, whichever is higher. Success means you get some info on the thing you're learning about, as well as a point of Perseverance for finding information on the Big Bad. If you get a superior success, then you also get an "intuitive feeling" about the location of the next clue. If you get a spectacular success, you also get an intuitive feeling about what obstacles are in the way.

If you fail the roll, however, you get the option to become obsessed. This gets you a Perseverance point, but you take two shock damage in fatigue that can't be healed until you complete the research. Then you keep on researching.

quote:

Each day the researcher may generate a research total; if the player believes the total to be high enough he tells the gamemaster his total. If the total exceeds the difficulty, all fatigue is removed and the information gained. If the research fails again, the researcher suffers another fatigue result; the disappointment of his most recent failure has taken a psychic toll. This fatigue also stays until the research is successful. A researcher who takes research fatigue in excess of his Toughness falls into a coma. Unless the answer to his research is found within a month, he expires, lacking the will to live. If a character can speak the answer to him, the comatose character regains the will to live, and consciousness follows in a day or two.
I get what they're going for with this, but this is probably the Torg-iest way they could have done it.

Occult is a Mind based skill, and is used in Orrorsh's unique ritual-based magic. However, that's all covered in the next chapter so let's move on.

The remaining skills are all based off Spirit, and are all complex to the point to needing at least a page each of mechanics because god fucking forbid you just be able to do something with a simple roll. Also, two of them are kinda racist.

Shapechanging is only possessed by werewolves and other people who can change into animal forms. Normally, when someone shifts, it's involuntary and they lose control of their faculties, but if you're P-rated you can keep some self-control. Oh, and unsurprisingly using this outside of Orrorsh causes a contradiction. If you are a were-whatever, then Shapechanging has to be your tag skill.

When you shapeshift, you can turn into any animal you want (although the game seems to default to "wolf"). Your animal form can be a different size than your human form based on the initial adds in shapechanging. You have the same total value of stats in each form, but can shuffle your stat points around between your two forms. The only limitation is that you can't change your Spirit. That said, you have different skills in each form: your animal form gets 16 skill adds that can only be used for skills that animals could logically use, three of which have to be put in shapechanging. And for more fun, skills have to be increased seprately for each form; if you have unarmed combat at the same level in both forms, you have to pay to increase each skill separately.

When in animal form, your basic animal attack does Strength+ shapechanging adds damage, plus you have the later-described monster abilities resistance to normal weapons and severe weakness to silver .

If you get knocked out in animal form, you revert back to human without having to roll or anything. And, uh...

quote:

If the damage is from friendly sources (i.e. players trying to avoid having the shapeshifter lose control) the gamemaster may insist on a shapeshifting total, as described below, too see if the gamemaster takes control of the character.
...okay.

A character can willingly shapeshift to animal form by making a skill roll with a difficulty of 10. There's also involintary triggers: taking a wound in combat, or getting a setback result when in danger or when the moon is full. Trying to resist the change is a skill roll with a difficulty of 10 + however much shock damage you took from the triggering attack.

Changing back to human also requires a roll, with the difficulty being based on how long you've been in animal form. The difficulty is number of minutes + shock taken while in animal form. Failing the roll means the shapeshifter has fallen to their animal nature, and the GM gets to drive for the same amount of time the character was in animal form. On top of that, failure also nets the character at least one Corruption point.


Pretend I said something funny about mediums and size here.

Spirit medium can only be used by, and I quote, "characters born and raise as Orrorsh Gypsies". It lets the character communicate with the various spirits and Lost Souls that litter the realm. The trick is that spirits just want to talk, and as a result it's not uncommon for spirits to just tell the medium what they think he wants to hear so they can stick around.

quote:

Even very experienced Gypsies contact a Lost Soul who doesn't know what's what. Thus, anyone depending on a Gypsy for information must take care - it is an imprecise art.
Unfortunately, it's also a complicated one.

Using spirit medium has a base difficulty of 12, and success means you've summoned a bunch of Lost Souls. The Lost Soul with the highest Spirit is the one the medium apparently wants to talk to. This Lost Soul always has a Spirit of 15 plus the result points of the spirit medium roll.

The trick is trying to talk to the strongest spirit while the other, lesser ones are swarming around.

quote:

When the spirits arrive they all clamor for the chance to talk with the medium. Anyone watching the medium at work only hears soft giggles and whispers coming from around the head of the medium. But the medium hears the voices dearly. "I know all about the future!" a soul will cry. "Oh, don't listen to him," another will counter. "He doesn't know what he's talking about!" "Do you know what I did yesterday," a third will say. "I watched people eat a pig. I forgot people did that!"
The GM is expected to roleplay all the spirits hanging out. Because of all the distractions, the medium and the strongest Lost Soul both have to generate bonuses to represent the link. Sadly, we're not told what to actually roll, and we get this sentence:

quote:

The bond between the Lost Soul and the medium allows the Lost Soul to use both bonuses generated for two separate Spirit totals.
I have no fucking idea what this means.

When the medium asks a question, the difficulty is equal to the highest Spirit or faith value out of everyone involved in the question. (For example, if you're asking "who will the werewolf kill next?", the people involved would be the werewolf and the intended victim.) The the Lost Soul then makes a Spirit roll of that difficulty to see if it knows anything. Failure means the medium gets incorrect info, success means that some information is given, with better success meaning more info.

Oh, but if the question's target is Corrupt, they can make a Corruption roll to completely block spirits from learning anything about it ever, although the group does get a point of Perseverance as a consolation prize. And yes, if the monster makes the roll, mediums and spirits can never attempt to learn anything about it through spirit mediuming. If the seance works but the Corrupt target fails, then the medium will only get a partial answer.

quote:

Note that this means that the Gypsy can rarely be sure if her information is 100% correct, no matter what bonus she generates.
:eyeroll:

The swami skill works differently from other skills because of course it does. Each add gives you access to a new distinct ability as follows:
+1: You can enter a self-induced trance for a number of days equal to his swami total, during which time he does not need to eat or drink. He also needs very little air to survive.
+2: You can make a swami roll to make disbelief rolls against Illusion spells.
+3: You heal faster when in a trance: shock and KO damage heal twice as fast, and if you meditate for three hours you can eliminate an additional wound level if you make a healing check.
+4: You can purchase adds of the true sight skill at one less Possibility.
+5: You can use the swami skill to resist charm or persuasion attempts.
+6: You can hypnotize snakes to attack people, move somewhere, or spy on people. Yeah.
+7: You can purchase adds of the faith and focus skills for Hinduism or Findaru at one less Possibility.
+8: You can disengage yourself from the illusion of the world: make a swami roll, and if you succeed you cannot be interacted with in any way until you choose to drop the effect or someone makes a faith roll higher than your total.

The swami skill can be used in any realm with a Spiritual axiom of 8 or higher without causing any contradictions.


You got a little something on your face there.

Lastly, the true sight skill is taught by some Victorian secret societies and the Findaru legion to sense the presence of Corrupt individuals. Using true sight involves focusing your attention on the target rolling against the target's Spirit. If you succeed (and the target is corrupt), then you'll see any hidden physical signs of the person's corruption. Higher rolls can also reveal the monster's abilities or weaknesses.

But heaven forbid we give Orrorshian characters something useful without a ridiculous drawback or two. Using the true sight skill successfully lowers the group's Perseverance. This is because, and again I'm quoting, "The Power of Fear knows such knowledge is dangerous, and compensates for the use of true sight." On top of that, corrupt characters can avoid the effects of true sight by generating a Corruption total. If they beat the true sight total, not only does the skill fail, but that character can never again use true sight on that person. This does give the group two points of Perseverance, but since the group loses a point for the successful use of true sight in the first place you're really just up one point.

Interestingly, using true sight does not cause contradictions anywhere. But since it's only useful against people with Corruption, it's pretty useless outside of Orrorsh.

The remainder of the chapter is advice for the GM on how to set up an investigation-focused adventure. Or, at least, three paragraphs of it is advice. The rest of the chapter is an extended investigation example, my favorite part of which is the group having to make an evidence analysis roll to tell that a victim was torn to shreds.

The Torgian method of mystery design involves creating a sequence of scenes with the following in each:

There's also some advice on how to keep the investigation moving:

quote:

One notorious problem with clue-based roleplaying adventures is the the group of players who wander off of the trail of clues. They may be on a hot lead of their own devising, or they may be confused, but they certainly aren't where you expected them to be. A good gamemaster rule of thumb is if the players' hunches do not contradict given or future information and do not warp the story, help turn the players' choice into the right choice. This is why it is a good idea to include where the scene's information might be found and where it absolutely will not be found.
In other words, if people look in the wrong place or the clue, or misread it and go down the wrong path, put the clues in their path so they can't be missed. Which is okay advice for a common mechanical issue that cropped up a lot in a pre-GUMSHOE world, but then runs into a different problem: in a game with a very heavily structured method of going through a mystery, with the deliberate trail-of-breadcrumbs plot development, the whole Perseverance thing, and the ridiculous skill use, saying "move stuff to keep things moving" just feels weird. Especially when you have access to skills that will just flat-out give you the info you need.

Such a goddamn mess.


NEXT TIME: As below, so above

A series of unfortunate events

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 14f: A series of unfortunate events

As stated a few times previously, Orrorsh doesn't have "magic" in the same way that other realms have magic. I mean, yes you can have ranks in the various casting skills and learn spells from the core book and so on. But that form of magic is very rare; it's incredibly hard to find someone to teach you, and even harder to find spells to learn.

Instead, Orrorsh has the power of the occult.

What is the occult?

quote:

- A mad scientist works in his lab. He bends over a corpse, feverishly scratching out notes on his small pad. Glass beakers filled with strange chemicals glow with unholy light. It is his goal to animate the corpse. His notes are nearly indecipherable. His mind takes mad leaps of logic and is driven by an insane intuition. Yet it might work. The scientist believes it will. The scientist's obsession is sincere. He will do anything to succeed.

- A Victorian woman sits on the floor of her attic. The door is locked. Her children and husband are asleep. Strewn about her are strange flowers and leaves she collected from the jungle. A pile of bones rests by her right knee. In her hand is a piece of chalk. She draws out the picture of a man's body on the floor and marks the illustration with strange symbols. She cannot stand her boorish husband. Her goal is to make him to respond to her will. The objects and the runes are guesses at a formula for summoning power to herself-they are half memories of tales she heard of magic's dark power since she was a little girl. She possesses a gift - the gift of hatred.

- Professor Sjahrir, professor of anthropology at ·the University of Jakarta, is a good woman. When the invasion began she knew that she could not stand idly by and watch her country taken over by the colonial invaders. Then she discovered the mystical nature of the invasion. A creature, red, pulsing, formed of countless limbs, killed her husband. She hunted it down, but found that she could not kill it with a gun. The creature nearly killed her, but she escaped. She sought help from others who knew of the magic of the invading reality. She discovered its true nature - and she discovered its weakness. She stands now in a tool shop in the city of Jakarta. No one else is about. She has a sword with her. It was her grandfather's. He captured it from a Japanese soldier when the Japanese occupied Indonesia. The forge is now hot enough. She takes the vial from her pocket, unstops the cork, and pours her husband's blood along the blade.
Occult magic is ritual magic; a way of devising a formula that twists the local reality just enough to bend it to the desires of the person performing the ritual. Occult magic is also a way for people to open themselves up to the Power of Corruption, thus feeding the vicious cycle that is Orrorsh.

It's also another attempt to work the desired tone of Victorian horror into the rules. Shocking, I know.

quote:

This magic system has a different feel than magic in most high-fantasy worlds. Orrorsh is a different place. If you examine horror movies and horror stories you can quickly see that a common element is that the protagonists are dealing with forces they do not precisely understand. They might make guesses as to how the supernatural works. They might even be right, but beyond that guess there's another mystery,and then another and then another. The key is the idea of the unknown. Places of horror are places with lots of unknowns. If the Storm Knights know everything about how magic works, then they are wizards. If they don't know how to make the mystical energies of Orrorsh bend to their every whim, then they are guests in a land they do not understand. They're not powerless. They are certainly not as powerful as Storm Knights in other realms, and that can be frightening.

We wanted to mimic the feel of arcane research in horror stories. The reader never knows exactly how Victor Frankenstein creates his monster in the novel Frankenstein, and there's reason to believe that only Frankenstein himself could repeat the act. In the movie Alien, when Ash gives his jerry-rigged gizmos to the crew so they can track and herd the monster, the attitude is definitely "We don't know if this stuff is going to work, but we have to try." The weirdness of Orrorsh should never be fully understood by the Storm Knights or their players. If it is, it isn't weird anymore.
Okay then.

Performing an occult ritual is pretty ridiculous, even by Torg standards.

Occult rituals are composed of one or more event sentences, which are the descriptions of the things the people performing the ritual want to have happen. Each event sentence consists of a Noun, a Verb, and a specific Object, and sentences can feed into other sentences.

quote:

The grammatical terms of the event sentence are capitalized to distinguish them from actual grammatical terms. We do this because there are some important differences between a grammatical sentence and an event sentence.
Yes, thank you Torg. I think I could have figured that out for myself.

Anyway, event sentences tend to fall into the pattern of "This NOUN will VERB the OBJECT"; for example, "this sword will kill my husband's murderer", or "this formula will animate this corpse".

Of course, you can't just have a sword become magic or pull a corpse-animating formula out of your ass. So once you have your overall goal sentence, you put in a few setup "steps" before it to explain how you're going to actually make your end-goal happen.

quote:

It is also possible to have more than one sentence string as part of an event. This happens when the occultist needs to pursue several objects to make the occult event work, and then brings them together at various points. In these cases, a period is used to denote the end of a sentence string.
Look at that last sentence. Look at it.

quote:

When several smaller event sentences come together they form a Compound Noun. The first sentence of the last string ("This blood and fire shall enchant this sword") uses a Compound Noun, as the blood and the fire are the nouns of the sentence.
What the hell was wrong with these people that they felt the need to tell us this? And what's worse, the examples don't follow this format! How did they keep managing to introduce rules then not use them two paragraphs later!?


Me IRL trying to figure these fucking rules out.

Anyway, the reason you'd want to add more sentences to your ritual is because the more Objects (sometimes refered to as "props") you have in your process, the more effective the ritual will be. Basically the players are rewarded for coming up with a bunch of ridiculous tasks, not to mention setting up their own adventure hooks to get some of the more out-there requirements.

So let's say I want to create a ritual that will lead me to the tomb of a vampyre by doing the old hold-a-dowsing-stone-over-the-map trick. I'll set my overall event sentence as "This map and dowsing stone will reveal the vampyre's lair." Simple enough. But now I want to put together the steps that will get me to that point. So let's put together a few steps to set this all up:

quote:

1. I will aquire the fang of one of the vampyre's progeny; this fang will become the dowsing stone.
2. I will aquire the blood of one of the vampyre's victims.
3. I will dip the fang in the blood to empower it.
4. I will hold the blood-coated fang over a map of the region; the fang will hover over and drip blood on the location of the vampyre's lair.

The GM is encouraged to set up situations where players have to resort to using the occult to solve their problems, such as a situation where the PCs need to make a special weapon in order to kill a Horror. This way, you keep the flavor of the realm while giving the PCs something to do to solve their problems other than making a bunch of research rolls.

It also leads to this 90's-as-hell GMing sidebar.



I just love the whole monocle-popping idea that the players might have some say in what's happening in-game. It's just a reminder of how far we've come. (Although if you've ever read any of the published Torg adventures, you wouldn't be that surprised.

So once you've done all the things to the thing to make your thing happen, you have to generate an occult total, and bear with me because this is one of those sections where things aren't presented in a logical order.

Generally speaking, you're going to roll to see if the ritual succeeds when you get to the last of your events. In the above example, that'd be the step where I'm holding the bloodied fang over the map.

UNLESS you have "occult sub-events", which are described at the end of this section after a bunch of other concepts. If the GM decides that a step is complicated enough to require rolling, then the character has to make a roll at that point against a difficulty of 12.

So regardless, making the occult roll. Oh wait, nope, there's a step before you make the roll that's described after the part that tells you when to make the roll.

Have I mentioned that these books aren't organized very well?

See, because the players are the ones defining the effect they want, they have to stat up the end effect as a "spell", enchanted item, or monster as needed. You (the player) want to create a superzombie? Then you (the player) need to stat that superzombie up.

Unsurprisingly, there's no guidelines on stating said stuff up. I guess you can just assign values however you want, bearing in mind that the values you assign will affect the final difficulty of the ritual. So for my ritual, I'm going to have to stat it up as a spell.

quote:

Dowsing Spell
Effect Value: 15
Bonus Number to: effect
Range: 26 (~100 miles)
Duration: 0 (Instant)
Cast Time: 9 (1 minute)
Note that when creating a spell effect, you don't need to worry about axiom levels, skills (it uses the occult skill), backlash (doesn't happen), or difficulty.

Now that we have all that, we can finally determine the difficulty number. The base difficulty of a ritual depends on its type; spells use the effect value, weapons use their max damage value, and if it's a creature or other effect you use the [SCENE MISSING]. Luckily I made a spell effect so the base difficulty is 15, adjusted for the range to the target. The GM can tweak the difficulty up or down a bit depending on how horror-genre-y the overall effect is going to be.

Then the player rolls their occult skill, getting +1 to the skill for every prop involved in the ritual (not counting the ritual's final target). But that's too easy, so of fucking course we have to get a half a page of restrictions.

quote:

Once an occult event string is designed in an adventure, no more than one occult prop becomes effective per scene during which the characters deal with the occult event. Dealing with the occult event includes obtaining the props, doing the necessary research, and experimenting in the laboratory. If an event string contains six props, but the characters only spend four scenes gathering props, arcane bits of this and that, or puttering around the lab before generating the occult total, then the occult value is increased by +4 rather than +6. lf players are not willing to spend game time on the occult event, do not give them the bonus for occult props and objects.

All of the props are still necessary. If the occult event requires six props or objects, all six are needed before the event can be completed. If players design a lengthy event string in the hopes of large bonuses, they are stuck with working their way through the entire string to get the occult event to work at all.
More than most stuff I've posted, this really makes me with there was a good Fate hack for Torg so you could just fractalize the ritual instead of all these ridiculous rules.

So you make the roll, and if you succeed then the final effect happens. Failure doesn't seem to have any kind of special downside. In fact, you're not even required to get any corruption from the Power of Corruption unless the GM determines you commited an evil act as part of the ritual. And since you're not required to perform at least one evil act as part of a ritual, you could be occulting left and right and never suffer a karmic ping.

We close out occult rituals with the limits on rituals, which would have been handy at the beginning of this section instead of almost at the end. There are only four:
1. Occult rituals have to have a singular final effect. Rituals are intended to be a one-problem solution. I couldn't use the above ritual to track down any vampyre, just one specific one and that's it.
2. You can't affect anything that you don't know about. So you can't make a "kill every monster in Orrorsh" sword unless you've encountered every single monster in Orrorsh.
3. You need some sort of lab or workshop.
4. When performing a ritual, there's no cap on how many points of Corruption you gain from the Power of Corruption. Usually you can't get more than 5 for a single act, but depending on how heinous you are ("I turn the oceans around Indonesia to blood") you could get upwards of 20.


"Hey, watch where you're pointing that thing!"

From here we smash-cut into actual spells. As stated previously, standard magic-skill based casting is rare in Orrorsh, so the big trick to using the new spells is actually finding them in the first place.

Let's go to the highlight reel!

The next chapter is the list of Orrorshian miracles, many of which are appropriately Old Testament.


I guess he saved for half?

And there we are. Orrorshian magic of various stripes.

And once again, we get back to Torg's "good idea, poorly implemented" problem with the occultism rules. The whole point of occult rituals being easy to perform is that the Gaunt Man wants to tempt people into evil deeds in exchange for power, so they get started on the Power of Corruption slippery slope. But it's entirely possible to create occult rituals that don't involve anything that would be considered an "evil act". Thus defeating a large chunk of the point of occult rituals.

It's almost like they didn't understand how to enforce their own ideas, or something.

NEXT TIME: Things that go bump in the night

Ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 14g: Ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties

At long last, we come to the chapter on Horrors. I mean, it's a realm of horror, there must be some pretty scary beasties to deal with, right?

Well, there are a bunch of decent monsters, yeah. But Torg doesn't want them being treated as "generic" monsters, because once you know a Horror's general stat block and weakness then they become less scary. So to counteract this, the stat blocks for the Horrors are treated as templates, with each listed monster getting a Power Point rating. These points are used by the GM to buy extra powers for the horror off a couple of lists.

As an aside, the book warns that the idea of a monster having an ability it normally doesn't have may not be for the faint of heart.

quote:

This shorthand might suggest that any monster can have any power, which might offend the sensibilities of some readers (after all, a zombie with a shape changing ability does go against the spirit of what zombies are all about). We suggest that those of you who want your monsters "real" shouldn't focus too much on these apparent rifts of logic. It's simply a system to distribute many powers that many creatures have in common. For those of you gamemasters who are a bit more daring, remember that the reality of Orrorsh is similar to the monster stories of Earth, but is not the same. Like any Nightmare worth his blood, you should feel free to experiment with strange combinations and even come up with new powers. Remember that even Earth's stories of vampyres and werewolves contain contradictions and variations on the powers such creatures wield.
I don't know about you, but I find this book's constant reassurance that all these various rules and World Laws and such are really important pretty annoying. Okay, yes, horror movie tone, I get it.

Anyway, minor monsters may only get one point, whereas more end-boss-y creatures can have up to 8 or 9.

The one-point powers can give the monster a darkness field 25m in diameter, +10 Toughness against a specific damage type (with damage types including "melee weapons" and "firearms"), night vision, or an attack that instead of killing people turns them into monsters.

The two-point powers include the ability to negate up to 10 points of a target's armor, changing into an elemental form, resistance to normal weapons that turns the first five wounds taken into shock damage, and the ability to transform into an animal.

The three-point powers include hypnosis (effective skill roll: Charisma+15), life draining, possession, and regenerating as if the monster was spending a possibility per round to eliminate existing damage.

Note that there's no limitations on what power I can put on what monster beyond the point costs. I could be a total dick and give baseline zombies +10 effective armor against guns; good luck getting those headshots.

The more powerful monsters also have suggested weaknesses and True Deaths, but again the GM is encouraged to alter these to fuck with the player's OOC knowledge and expectations.

So let's get to the monsters!

Amphids are slimy humanoids whose skin is covered with images of the faces of its victims. They exist maunly around the western tip of Java, and have rubbery skin (+4 armor), sharp claws and teeth (about as damaging as a heavy pistol), and can travel underwater. Despite that, they're considered minor creatures with a Fear Rating of 1/2, but 4 Power. So you can make them hypnotic and immune to bullets! Oh, and they have a True Death: "strangulation and then decapitation".

Bone Golems are created through occult rituals and require the bones of at least seven different kinds of animals. They're really just heavy bruiser monsters, with no real abilities beyond being able to rip you to shreds.

The Children are the creation of Punch, the Nightmare clown who isn't mentioned anywhere until this point. They look like children of race appropriate to the area they're in, and will approach adults who have recently lost children themselves. Then, when they're adopted and accepted by their new family...well...at least they have the decency to wait until everyone's asleep. Their True Death requires being baptized in a church to release the corrupted soul.

Chthons are best described as insect golems. You take a few thousand dead bugs, ritually prepare them and assuming you don't blow the ritual roll you've now got a disgusting, winged beast with giant pincers. I mean, you still get that if you screw up the ritual, but in that case you don't get to control it.

Corrupted Souls are one of the most common Horrors, yet at the same time the ones heroes are least likely to meet. Corrupted souls are what horrors are when they are "between bodies", and as such are generally only found in the Waiting Villages. Entering one of these Villages is a bad idea, because the dozens (if not hundreds) of souls will attempt to kill you and take your body for themselves. Individually they're not very strong, only have four skills, and can only attack by floating through a person (attack value 15)...but you never encounter only one.


I'm not touching you...

Disembodied Hands are, well, disembodied hands. They possess individual "intelligence", and are actually more dangerous than you'd expect due to their size and the fact that they make no noise.

quote:

The hand moves by extending its fingers forward and dragging its wrist behind it. The creature cannot communicate, but it possesses a mystical sight and hearing. It can sense where objects are and can hear the breathing of someone hidden in closet.

A disembodied hand attacks by sneaking up on its victim and strangling the person. The creatures climb electrical cords to get the drop on their victims, or bury themselves under pillow and wait until their prey go to sleep.
The only real attack they can do is attempting to strange someone (they have Strength 14, which is quite a bit above average). If one grabs your throat, it does its Strength as damage each round until you can pull it off with a contested Strength roll. Disembodied hands have high dodge and stealth skills, so fighting them is a real pain in the ass. Oddly, they also have True Deaths, which is to be places on the bones of the body they used to belong to.

Faceless Ones are humanoid creatures with leathery wings and smooth featureless faces. But because we always want what we haven't got, Faceless Ones are capable of stealing the faces of their victims. They do this by simply pinning someone (by getting a knockdown result) and grabbing them. The victim's face is transfered to the Faceless One, as are all the victim's memories, knowledge, and skills. The victim's face becomes smooth and featureless, meaning they can't see, hear, or breathe, which means that in six rounds they'll suffocate. The only way to save them is to kill the Faceless One, which returns the victim's face. Their True Deaths require being presented with a mirror while in their faceless state.

Orrorshian gospog come in a few varieties based on the planting, as always. First and second planting gospog are used as caretakers for the more powerful ones, or are gifted to powerful Horrors. Third planting gospog are were-tigers that can change forms at will, although they prefer their human form for hunting in cities. A fourth planting gospog is called a "Scarabus", and looks like a more traditional demon; goat head, horns, barbed tail, and so on. Scarabuses (scarabi?) can be summoned via occult rituals, and can grant people power in exchange for their souls. Fifth planting gospog are wraiths, and are pretty much mindless killing machines. Their primary use is when the Gaunt Man or Thratchen want to not just make an example of someone, but also everyone within two blocks of that someone. Their only weapon are claws (damage value 19), but they also have insanely high unarmed combat skill and Toughness.


Metaaaal!

Ghouls are your Night-of-the-Living-Dead style monsters. They're bodies that have risen from the grave to feast on the flesh of the dead (the solitary ones that stay close to graveyards) or the living (the shamble-into-town ones). Note that zombies are a different monster we'll get to later; the main difference is that ghouls can act autonimously and are a lot tougher.

Lost Souls were mentioned before when we talked about spells. Nobody (not even the Gaunt Man, not even the lost souls themselves) know where they come from. The souls never remember a point where they were even alive to begin with. They can only be contacted through the spirit medium skill.

The Others are your required Chtuhloidian octopus-like creatures. They spend all their time in the jungles of Orrorsh, maintaining and feeding off the gospog fields or any luckless humans they can find. They're slow movers, but once they get close then they can make up to four attacks without penalties with their damage value 20 tentacles. They're also usually accompanied by a few second planting gospogs armed with blunderbusses.

Shaden are the remnants of one of the Gaunt Man's previous conquests. They appear as clouds of inky darkness, and can alter their shape to hide in shadows (darkness gives them +5 to their base stealth of 18) or whip out acidic tentacles. They usually have the "ignore armor" ability, and their True Death is being killed via unarmed or melee combat.


You wanna know how I got these scars?

Shadows are actually the first creature in the game to be based off Indonesian culture! How about that! Shadows are born from the Muslim belief that creating images of Man was an affront to God. To get around this, entertainers used shadow puppets for shows since they were technically not "images of man". The shifting reality of Orrorsh (and the mind of Punch) have twisted this idea around to create living shadows. These shadows are two-dimensional beings, but are capable of interacting with three-dimensional objects. Like many Orrorshian monsters, they have ridiculously high stealth scores, and as an added bonus they can teleport between shadows that are within 25m (Torg really loves that measurement, doesn't it?) of each other. Shadows tend to hunt in groups of five or so, harrying and taunting the victim the whole time. Their True Death involves being trapped in bright light for a full minute.


Someone seriously needs to clean out this alley.

Skarths are amorphous red slimes. Skarths feed on human blood, and acquire it by find a person, snaking around his body to strangle him, then oozing inside his mouth and chewing its way through the corpse. Skarths can do the wrap-around thing if they get a high enough result on a hit, and when they are crushing someone they get +3 to their damage until the victim makes a contested Strength check.

Succubi and Incubi are more standard-issue monsters. They're actually not that dangerous, especially compared to the other monsters available, although they do have high enough social skills that they can make life difficult when working in tandem with other monsters.

The Video Cassette Recorder of Death is a creation of our old buddy Skutharka. Technically speaking, the horror isn't the VCR itself, but the small machine spirit inside it. At any point, regardless of if there's a tape in it or not, the VCR can play back an image of a ghostly face made up of static and video artifacting. The face can communicate with the viewer, and will ask the person what they want most out of life. When the person answers, they see a TV show of that fantasy in vivid detail. While this is happening, the VCRoD is making charm and persuasion rolls until it gets a vow result on the social skill table (from waaaay back in the core book). Since its skills are in the low 20s, it's not going to be long before the rube is stuck following the VCR's instructions: "Go out, kill someone, bring me back the body and feed the remains into the cassette slot of the VCR."


I have to return some videotapes.

The machine spirit consumes the parts, and will continue to convince the victim to go out and kill again until either the poor shmuck is killed or someone destroys the VCR.

Vampyres are indeed spelled with a "y". Apart from that, they're about what you expect, although because the Life Drain and Infection powers are separate things they need to buy it's entirely possible to have vampyres that neither turn other people into vampires or drink blood. Vampyres have a pathological need to live in civilized areas as opposed to somewhere more isolated where they'd be safer. They also organize into covens for mutual protection, especially the ones not strong enough to create progeny. Only one vampyre is in charge of a given coven, but internal politics being what they are infighting isn't exactly uncommon. In fact, sometimes a vampyre will leak information about a rival to hunters or Storm Knights so they'll do his dirty work. Vampyres are not inherently strong, but they are fast ( acrobatics 20, dodge 19, stealth 20) and have a charm skill of 26. Their weaknesses and True Death are, again, what you'd expect. Given how vampyres are mainstays of gothick horror, they get surprisingly little space.

Werewolves are another horror mainstay, and again get much less space than you'd expect. Werewolves are not native to Gaea, and were actually created by one of the incumbent Nightmares; the fact that they're just like Core Earth's understanding of werewolves is just a coincidence. Regardless, the souls in Waiting Villages see being put in a werewolf body as a punishment, because a werewolf cannot control its actions when in wolf or wolf-man forms. For the most part, werewolf transformation is completely involuntary and based on the phases of the moon. Some werewolves can control the change, but they'r rare. And of course, the only way to kill one for good is with a silver bullet.

Zombies are mindless bodies raised from the dead. They contain the weakest of all possible corrupted souls, the ones who have been defeated so much they're barely the whisper of an idea. Zombies are incapable of showing any form of initiative or self-motivation. Without instructions they'll just stand there. In other words, they're fodder.

Zuvembies are zombies, but tougher. These are closer to early zombie-movie zombies: tougher, much stronger ( Strength 20), and completely mindless. Interestingly, the book explicitly states that you can't charm, taunt, or persuade a zuvembie due to it being completely mindless, but normal zombies don't have that text. SO I guess that means you can trick, persuade, or charm zombies? That's pretty weird.

---

So there we are. Twenty monsters, and only one of them has anything to do with Indonesian culture. But while that bothers me, there's something else that bugs me more.

I included a lot of pictures from the book in this update, but the thing is that's all the art in the chapter except for one of a werewolf that I think I put in a different update. You don't realize how useful a visual reference for a monster is until you don't have one. Especially when dealing with the horror genre; the descriptions in the book are incredibly vague, and a few more pieces of art would help break up the normal Torgian wall of text and stat blocks.

But really, the biggest problem is that, once again, there's no consistent tone here. Are we doing Victorian horror, 50's B-movie monsters, or what? Why is there only one "modern technology warped by evil" monster? Is that a thing we're trying to do here, or what? What is your point, Orrorsh?

Well, anyway, we're in the home stretch now. But don't worry, soon we'll be learning how to run horror adventures... Torg style!


NEXT TIME: Fighting the good fight.

Tools of the trades, and the tradesmen who use them

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 14h: Tools of the trades, and the tradesmen who use them

Time for the home stretch! We've come to the Equipment chapter, and as such I'm not going to spend too much time on it because there's really nothing interesting here and it's only three pages long anyway.

First off, we get conversion rates: the base of the Victorian economy is the sterling, which is about $5 US. Sterlings are silver coins embossed with the image of the original Queen Victoria. A medway is 1/20th of a sterling, and the smallest denomination is the tradescoin, which is about ten cents American.

As is often the case with games of this era, "equipment" means "guns". There's only nine new weapons listed, and they don't even get specific descriptions. The main limiting factor of Victorian weaponry is that they're technologically stagnated (due to both the Darkness Device and the Victorian's endemic dismissal of anything they didn't come up with themselves), so Victorian weapons are just normal guns, but they do a little less damage.


"Yes, it's more effective, but it's so...crass.

There's a bunch of "Traveling Gear" listed, which is stuff like cots, lanterns, tarps, and rope (100'). Apparently camping is a big thing in Victorian-run Indonesia. I suppose it's because a lot of Indonesia is a jungle? I guess? I'd imagine that there's more to camping out in the jungle than just buying some tents.

The most (read: only) interesting things you can buy are occult gear. You can buy an occult kit (400 sterling), which is your standard-issue black leather bag of weird ritual stuff (such as "an organ or two taken from a dead animal"), and is required for any ritual of difficulty 20 or less. For rituals higher than that, you need an occult lab (1000 sterling). You can also get an occult library for 2000 sterling; you can use an occult library as part of the research skill, or to get bonuses on a ritual you're going to perform later.

There's also a few specific occult tomes listed, each of which grants bonuses when performing certain ritual types. Obviously, Victorian culture comes down hard on people who own these books (or have occult labs or libraries, for that matter), so buying this stuff in the first place is probably an adventure in itself.

quote:

The Noctuma: Covered in a smooth, blood-red, unknown material, this volume is thousands of years old. It contains spells, curses, and arcane knowledge from a sorcerer whose name was blasted from the text by a later occult event. The book grants a bonus for any event producing madness (+3) or death (+2); any event concerning demons(+2); any event using brass or silver (+2). It has a bonus unique to this volume: any occult ritual dealing with the High Lord of Orrorsh, or his Darkness Device receive a +3 bonus.

The Kellatastin: Bound in silver covers the Kellatastin contains 80 pages dealing with rituals involving blood (+3 bonus on blood rituals).

And that's all for equipment! Like I said: three pages.

The next chapter is sort-of for the GM, and it's about Adventuring in Orrorsh. Again, we're getting into "how do I tone?" territory here, and is about how to present adventures and such so that you really get that horrific, fighting-a-losing-battle feel.

quote:

Orrorsh is the reality of horror. It is very different from the other realities that have invaded Earth. In every other of the invading realities there isa place for heroes and astounding triumphs. Sometimes, like in the Nile, these triumphs are really astounding. In other places, like the Cyberpapacy, the triumphs come with serious lumps...but the Storm Knights are still pretty certain that they'll win in the end. But Orrorsh is a reality of horror. What should that be like?
Hey, did you guys know that Orrorsh is the reality of horror? I'm glad they said it twice here in the last chapter because I hadn't picked up on that yet.

So now we're going to get advice on how to deal with how to run a horror game...except that they don't really explain how to do that.

See, Orrorsh isn't about the type of horror that involves an escalation of tension or a slowly building threat. I mean, it thinks it is, but it's not. This horror is about the idea that your character can get killed at any time because that's what horror is, right? Just a constant threat hanging over your head?

quote:

Roleplaying in Orrorsh is a different than playing in other Torg environments. When you read a horror story you know that bad things are going to happen You know it will scare you. You know that characters you like are going to die. Why do we read them if we're setting ourselves for such disappointments?

We don't know. We just know that people do.

The trick then, is to bring that same sense of loving fear into roleplaying games. Most roleplaying games, especially Torg, are not geared toward adventures where characters die regularly. But that's exactly what Orrorsh is all about. If the vampyre doesn't take out some of the heroes then he's a vampyre out of a sword and sorcery heroic fantasy-and that's another reality.
That's not Victorian-era horror, it's slasher movie horror.

I mean, yeah, I get the idea that if there's no serious threat to the PCs, then there's no real sense of horror. And yes, horror is a really, really tricky genre to do as a tabletop RPG.

But as we've learned in the years since Torg, you can't go into a game with an adversarial GM-versus-players mindset, because the GM is capable of stacking the deck ridiculously in his favor. There's more to good horror than just "oh man anyone can die at any moment!", there's atmosphere, there's tension, there's...well, a lot of stuff.

But when your immediate next subheading after that text I quoted above is:



...then I think you may not really "get" the kind of horror you're doing.

This is a bullet list of stupidity, but I'm just going to summarize each item.
Pausing the list for a second to ask: if the whole point of Orrorshian horror is to be a threat to the player's characters, who they've been invested in for the long haul, wouldn't giving them disposable characters, oh, I don't know... undercut that whole idea? Why should I care if a character I know up front is a disposable, replacable character dies? That's literally what he was made for! It's like in Star Trek when they introduce a new named crew member in the pre-credits sequence just so they can kill him off later for cheap pathos, and we're supposed to go "oh no, that character we never heard of before 20 minutes ago that everyone apparently knew is dead! How tragic!"

Anyway. Back to the list.
That last point brings us to the next section, unsurprisingly called Playing for Story. Which, let's be honest, was still a new concept back in the early 90's. But since Torg doesn't even get what it's trying to do, what "playing for story" means is "what matters is that the monster is slain." In other words, what matters is victory, not the cost.

This leads us to what may be the worst bit of RPG player advice I've ever read.

quote:

This requires a certain amount of player detachment. Instead of focusing all of your energy on keeping your characters alive, as if you are your character, you should be like actors in a horror movie. Because the actors read the script, they know ahead of time that their characters are going to die. But the fun is still in playing the part and getting to the death. It's the same with Orrorsh. The story is creepy and death-fraught, but getting to its end is enjoyable because it is an enjoyable story.
That's not...you don't...

Okay. Look.

I know that around here we like to make fun of "verisimilitude" and "MY IMMERSION" and stuff like that. And yeah, like anything when people get too focused on these ideas it'll turn out bad. That pretty much applies to any concept you care to name.

But.

For a horror game to work, the players need to be invested in what's going on; their characters, the NPCs, the relationships, fighting an ongoing threat. You don't do that by constantly telling people to do things that make them more detached from the story. Playing disposable characters, with other disposable characters as back-ups? Don't play your character as if they were an actual person, just as a horror movie deadmeat? What the hell kind of advice is that to players? You don't enforce tone in a game by putting more layers between the players and the game. Especially with the Perseverance mechanic, which boils everything down to "you can't win the adventure until you get this number high enough."

Christ.

Anyway. The rest of the chapter is about setting up Orrorshian adventures. Or adventure singular, I guess, since the only type of adventure they talk about is a monster hunt. The idea is that when choosing a monster to be the focal point of an adventure, you need to look at things like its Fear Rating and how much Perseverance the PCs need to get to overcome the Power of Fear. The GM also needs to set up the clues and research bits so that the characters can generate the needed Perseverance.

The book likens this whole process to a game of cat-and-mouse; the PCs are looking for the clues needed to figure out what's going on, what they're hunting, stuff like that, while the monster is engaging in hit-and-run attacks on the group or their allies, or sending out mook monsters to do the same. Except...

quote:

The Storm Knights have to constantly balance the need to kill the monster as is quickly as is possible against the need for more information and more Perseverance points.
It's just...you're forcing the players to do metagame thinking in order to "win" the adventure! Again, the game isn't focusing on what the characters do, it's focused on this arbitrary value that the players have to raise to a specific point in order to stand a chance against the boss.

I mean, I get why the whole Perseverance thing is there. It's to create a situation where the PCs have to work their way up to defeating a monster instead of just loading up with guns and raiding its lair. That's fine. But by mechanizing things to this degree, you completely obliterate any sense of real horror you might have created. Yes, you need to have a significant threat and an uphill battle against the forces of darkness to have a good horror story. But you also need some character attachment in there too.


Right there with you, buddy

The book tries to redeem itself by talking about using Creepiness to enforce the feel of the realm; instead of the buckets-of-blood style of set dressing, use small moments of "wrongness" to get people off-balance and remind them that stuff in Orrorsh isn't right. The example they give is actually an early scene of The Exorcist.

quote:

In the beginning of the movie The Exorcist two men are having a meeting in an office. There is a grandfather clock in the room, and the sound of the clock's pendulum ticking back and forth becomes part of the background noise of the conversation. Suddenly the pendulum comes to a complete stop. The noise stops and the two men fall silent and look at the clock. One of the men, a priest, is acutely aware that something is wrong. And so is the audience. The two men continue talking, for there is nothing to be said - a clock just stopped, that's all - but in that simple moment we all wondered what the portent of the clock stopping was. We in the audience all caught our breaths.
Unfortunately, the examples they give for in-game creepy events are missing what makes the above example work: context. A weird event needs to have something to do with the overall story, otherwise it's not creepy, it's just weird and easy to dismiss as "okay, that was weird."

quote:

The characters are at the theater one night in New London. The gamemaster describes the event - well-lit, everyone in tuxedoes and beautiful evening gowns. The seats are made of fine oak and crushed velvet. It is a fine evening and everything is in place. Then one of the Storm Knights notices that a woman sitting in the row in front of them is bleeding. Just a single drop of blood, over and over again from just behind the left ear. If the character points this out to the woman she turns - nothing strange about her - smiles, and says it must be a cut that re-opened. She excuses herself and heads to the bathroom.

Is she the strange creature they are seeking? It seems strange to think so in such a normal environment - and yet...
Without context, that weird moment is meaningless. Were the PCs hunting something that cut off ears? What does that have to do with anything? In the Exorcist scene, the reason it comes off as unsettling is because it's composed of things that are tied to the overall movie. In the Torg scene, it's just a Weird Thing That Happens.

Moving on, the next section is about Using the jungle, and since it's short I'll just quote it fully.

quote:

One of the stranger elements of Orrorsh for many people is that it's in Southeast Asia. What has horror got to do with vampyres and werewolves?

Well, think of it this way. A jungle is a place filled with trees and plants and animals. There are so many leaves and trunks that there are plenty of places for creatures to hide. Or places where Storm Knights think creatures are hiding. It's like a big haunted house right outdoors in the bright sunlight of day.

Also, when Storm Knights are in the jungle it means that they are cut off from civilization and help. They are on their own. The gamemaster should use that to his advantage. Isolate them and make them know that things could get much worse very fast.
That's it. That's all there is about using the jungle. Although while I'm pretty sure "What has horror got to do with vampyres and werewolves?" was a mistyped sentence that got past the editor, I love it for so many reasons.

The last thing in the book (apart from the character templates) is some time spent on the idea that The Monsters are the Adventure. The main gist of this section is that the GM can't treat monsters in Orrorsh like in other RPGs; they're not supposed to be speedbumps or disposable fodder like in D&D. Horrors are rare, and killing one is a not-insignificant blow to the Gaunt Man's forces. Monsters don't just happen, they're fueled by lost souls, and every monster knows that defeat means going to the back of the line to wait for a new body...and that the more they go back to that line, the easier it'll be for other lost souls to cut in front of them, eventually leaving them mindless whispers in the wind. On top of that, the Gaunt Man created his monsters to sow fear; if a horror can't do that without calling hunters down on his head every five minutes, then the Gaunt Man has no need to keep said monster around.

And since they know all that, monsters shouldn't just wait in their lairs for the PCs to show up for the final boss fight. They should have goals they're pursuing, obstacles to throw at the PCs, allies to call upon. The monster should be hunting the PCs just as much as the PCs are hunting it, because it knows what the real price of its defeat will be. Winning means more power, maybe a seat on the Nightmare Court. Losing means...well...let's just say that the horrors are really motivated to win.

It's amazing that there's no real interesting GM advice in this book until the very end.

Finally, we come to the character templates.

The core set had three templates available for players, all of whom were Orrorsh natives:


The Gypsy Soothsayer is an Orroshian native is a "showman, con artist [and] magician" who came over with the Victorians because he was being paid to help out. Victorians may not like him, and he may not like them, but that's not going to stop him from taking their money as payment for his fortune telling. His starting equipment includes a forgery of the "Grolisch Tome of Ancient Lore", and his tag skill is divination magic.

The Vampyre Hunter lost a sibling when she was young, and that event shaped the rest of her life. An obsession with understanding the supernatural led to an academic career at Holgromb's College at Oxford, but since Victoriana didn't encourage majoring in Monsterology she studied science in hopes of using the knowledge in monster hunts. Her tag skill is evidence analysis.

The Werewolf used to be just another Victorian soldier defending the colonies from monsters. But when his unit was ambushed one night, the rest of his unit was wiped out to a man. The company chaplain said that he alone avoided the "fate of the beast", and thus was allowed to live. Unfortunately, the chaplain was wrong. After changing for the first time, the former soldier has come to Majestic, where he hopes for a fresh start. His tag skill is shape shift, which worked a little differently in the core set.

The Orrorsh book adds another ten templates from both Orrorsh and Core Earth.


The Gaean Gypsy grew up in a tribe that spent most of its time avoiding the beasts of Orrosh and the Victorian armed forces. The Victorians would sometimes begrudgingly ask the tribe for information, and sometimes the tribe didn't lie to them. Just before the invasion, her tribe was wiped out by zombies. She managed to escape down the bridge, and now helps people fight the Gaunt Man's forces...for a price. Her starting equipment does not include an undershirt or bra, and her tag skill is spirit medium.

The Gaean Swami spent most of his life surviving in the jungles of Orrorsh solely on his spiritual strength. He sees more than most that the world of Gaea is ready to collapse in on itself, its death throes only held at bay by the power of Darkness. Learning of the new world discovered by the Victorians, he chose to abandon the dead world in the hopes of aiding the living one. His tag skill is swami.


The Indonesian Dock Worker never asked for much out of life. She grew up in a blue-collar suburban area, got married, had kids, and had a stable job working on the docks. Then the invasion happened. Then the vampyre stalked her neighborhood. Then her husband and children were killed. Then her son came back for her, he just wanted some blood and they could be together again... Then she ran. Fear and shame became anger, and she started hiring herself out as a "native guide" to the Victorians in order to learn more about killing monsters. Now, she hunts down horrors because that's all she has left. Her starting gear includes a shotgun and a sledgehammer, and her tag skill is true sight.

The Indonesian Professor grew up during Indonesia's fight for independence in the 60's. He lost many friends in the protests and riots, but the end result was worth it: freedom and democracy for his country. Once life settled down, he went to school to study (and later, teach) anthropology. After all, those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. But now, history has repeated in the worst way possible. Victorian forces have invaded the country "for its own good", and seem to have brought nightmares with them. Hopefully, if the monsters can be defeated, then the Victorians will leave for good. On the plus side, a lifetime studying myths and legends of the region has a much more practical application nowadays. His tag skill is scholar.

The Indonesian Reporter is in a bit of a bind. He's smack-dab in the middle of the story of the century...and the TV and newspapers have stopped. It's also hard to be an objective reporter when your friends have been killed by monsters and you're treated as a backwards savage by white invaders who haven't even figured out the internal combustion engine yet. Still, you have contacts all over the country from your reporting days, and people who are good at investigation are in high demand. His tag skill is research, but because that's an Orrorshian skill and he's a Core Earther, using it is always at least a one-case contradiction.


The Muslim Warrior is...well, a rather reactionary soldier. She was raised in the traditions of the Muslim faith, and joined the army to serve her country and give herself to Allah. But there's no way she could have predicted the current situation: demons walk the streets, the Victorians forcing everyone to worship in the Sacellum, and the common people of Indonesia caught in the middle. In her mind, there's two sides: the Indonesians, and Everyone Else. She's willing to work with non-Muslims if she has to, but she knows that when she dies, her struggles against the forces of darkness will assure her of a place in heaven. Her tag skill is faith (Islam).


The Regimental Soldier was a loyal member of Her Majesty's army, fighting for Queen and Country. One night, his lieutenant was attacked in his tent by a demon, and it took the combined forces of the infantry's blessed weapons to put it down. The official report claimed that the lieutenant was killed on duty, but the soldier knew the truth: he was next to the lieutenant's tent just before the attack, and overheard the lieutenant summoning the demon. Unable to trust the chain of command anymore, he deserted. After all, how can you fight evil when the higher-ups are on the side of darkness? His tag skill is fire combat.

The Sacellum Priest has always had doubts. He thought that by rooting out corruption in the church, he was serving God's will. But obstacle after obstacle appeared in his path, preventing him from finding the proof he needed. When the maelstrom bridge was built, he chose to go with the military in order to investigate the church from the "outside". Now, he knows that while the faith is pure, the church has rotted from the inside out. Now, the church wants him dead. His tag skill is focus.


The Victorian Lunatic is...well...look, it's not her fault, okay? It's not her fault monsters exist. It's not her fault the state religion is a corrupt force used to bludgeon people into obedience. It's not her fault her world is a dying ember of hope. It's not her fault she looked into the abyss. It's not her fault she can't keep a "stiff upper lip" like everyone else. At least she can keep things together for a while. Long enough to help. Long enough to fight. Long enough to let the cracks show. Her tag skill is occult.

The Victorian Occultist is good at fitting in. She knows the rules of Victorian society, what a lady is and isn't allowed to do. For example, a lady isn't supposed to talk back when the other members of society say that the evil is only in monsters, not in the Victorians themselves. A lady also isn't supposed to join a secret society dedicated to learning more about the truth of the world. A lady is not supposed to learn the power of the occult. And lady must never, ever take it upon herself to fight the darkness that nobody else will face. Good thing she doesn't do any of that. After all, she's a proper lady. Her tag skill is occult.

And with that...we're done. Ah, but I hear you ask: what does the future hold for the Realm of Horror?

Orrorsh doesn't expand very much at first, mainly because the Gaunt Man isn't around to drive people. Thratchen can't get Heketon to empower stelae (since it's bonded to the Gaunt Man), so things continue more or less as described for about a year.

Then, unsurprisingly, the Gaunt Man finally manages to escape and return to Orrorsh.

The Gaunt Man's return is "chronicled" in the appropriately-titled adventure The Gaunt Man Returns. In keeping with the standard Torgian inability to know what the interesting parts of its setting are, the return itself is done entirely in the four-page opening fiction of the adventure, which only the GM would ever read. So really, the adventure isn't about the Gaunt Man's return. It's actually about the Gaunt Man summoning the PCs to Illmound Keep about halfway through the adventure (page 47 of 98) so they can kill Lord Avery Wellington for him, because he wants to "test the Storm Knights" and Wellington is trying to usurp the Gaunt Man via an occult ritual that would kill everyone in a major city. Refusing to help the most evil man in the world gets you 13 corruption points because not helping save a city is a Wicked act. Agreeing to help the most evil man in the world gets you 8 corruption points. It's all as dumb as it sounds.

While all that's going on, Thratchen remains focused on getting revenge on 3327 for fucking up Tharkhold's maelstrom bridge. He sets a few members of the Hellion Court loose in LA to destabalize the Kanawa Corporation's holdings.

Once the Gaunt Man gets caught up on current events (and gets the other High Lords to get more or less in line), he begins expanding his territory. He pushes eastward into New Guinea, and in four months since his return begins working south from there into Australia. He also reorganizes (read: purges) the Hellion Court, removing Thratchen's ringers and bringing in a few new Nightmares.

The Gaunt Man also manages to destroy two of his own bridges trying to kill some Storm Knights, so good job there. He does manage to drop a bridge into New Orleans at one point, because every reality but one eventually lands on the United States.

But the Gaunt Man's main act upon his return is to start kidnapping women around the world who have the gift of prophesy. This won't come into play until late-game metaplot happens, so I'm afraid you'll all have to wait and see how deep that rabbit hole goes.

---
Man, that was rougher than I expected.

Orrorsh is probably the worst realm when it comes to the writers not getting how tone works. They wanted the realm to be dark, broody horror, but then they can't stop the jokes from leaking in, and then you wind up with stuff that's splatterpunk or gross-out or B-movies. And while it's possible to use mechanics to reinforce tone, you can't use mechanics as tone. I hit most of the points about halfway up this post, but really they're trying so hard to make the mechanics enforce the feel of the realm they forgot to just include the feel through the fiction.

Like I said, I get what they were going for. But it's clear the writers had no idea how to enforce a tone of slow-burn horror in any way beyond mechanical subsystems. I get that here in 2016 we can roll our eyes at these old ideas and point to things like Apocalypse World's countdown clocks, or the Fate Fractal method of stating up threats. But even in 1991, I can't imagine these rules were effective because all they do is make you work to get a number to a certain point, and the players won't even know what point they're aiming for since the target number is only known by the GM.

It's not frightening at all. It's not even spooky. It's not even spoopy. It's just dull.

I admit that I'm not a horror fan by any stretch of the imagination. But even so, I'm pretty sure this is not the way to do horror of any stripe.

But now, it's time to turn on the lights, realize that there's no monsters under the bed, and leave the bleak racist shitshow that is Orrorsh behind us. But worry not, for on the horizon lies our next realm, which we will dive into...

NEXT TIME: A new realm! Swords and/or sorcery! Latin! Secular Dwarfism! And the most insane flowchart you've ever seen in your life!

Aysle - Darkness and Light

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

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


Part 15a: Aysle - Darkness and Light



Knights in shining armor charge a line of half-man, half-beast monstrosities as the forces of light and dark clash for control of the region. The charge is cut short when the monsters brandish AK-47s and mow down their foes.

A ship attempting to cross the English Channel is attacked by a sea serpent. Spells and artillery fire combine to drive back the beast in the heart of a reality storm.

Viking raiders attack a coastal town in northern Norway. The police are unable to fight back against the invaders' sorcery...but the dragon that lives nearby doesn't like having its sleep disturbed by these loud savages.

A London gangster enters a local store that hasn't been paying its protection money. The shopkeeper is defiant...until the the gangster's legbreaker, an ogre, comes in. As the gangster watches the ogre work, his face becomes noticeably darker and more corrupt.

This is the state of northern Europe in the Near Now. This is the world of darkness and light, honor and corruption. This is Aysle.

Aysle - The Patchwork Realm
The situation in England and Scandinavia is pretty chaotic, even by the standards of what's going on in the rest of the world. Like many other parts of Core Earth, another reality has invaded and overlaid a great deal of the region, altering the local reality and its inhabitants. In this case, the reality is known as Aylse: a world where magic holds sway, where great armies clash in an eternal battle between the forces of darkness and light.

And while this battle rages on in the background of the Possibility Wars, it's been part of Aysle's history for centuries. Because unlike the other invading cosms, the true battle is between the two High Lords of Aysle itself.

Five hundred years ago, the world of Aysle was under the control of the council of Houses and its queen, Lady Pella Ardinay. She was a fair and just ruler, dedicated to the high principles of honor. She protected the many races of the land from the monstrosities that lurked in the shadowy corners of the world, and in turn she was protected by the leader of her knights, the warrior-woman Tolwyn of House Tancred.

But peace never lasts. Especially when your world catches the attention of the Gaunt Man.

Aysle was a world rich in possibilities, and the Gaunt Man had plans for it. But rather than get his own hands dirty, he sent one of his lieutenants: the necromancer Uthorion. Gifted with a Darkness Device and explicit instructions on how to defeat the queen, Uthorion's army swept across the land. The dark army wasn't just taking territory and killing innocents, however; every piece of land taken by the Gaunt Man's forces became corrupted. Trees became twisted and black, lakes and rivers fouled, even the inhabitants changed to more monstrous forms.

Uthorion knew that Ardinay was too powerful to defeat by normal means. She drew her strength from the land, and even with a Darkness Device at his side he couldn't just overrun her army and kill her. But he also knew there was one point in time, one small window where he could sieze control. So his army marched to Ardinay's castle to face off against Tolywn's forces, and strike down Ardinay in the gap between sunset and moonrise.

The battle was bloody, and all hope seemed lost when Tolwyn was struck down by a corrupted dragon known as the Carredon. Ardinay and Uthorion faced off, a battle of sorcerers as the war raged around them.

But not even Ardinay's magic could withstand the power of the Darkness Device. But even as defeat loomed, not even Ardinay could have predicted what happened next.

Rather than kill his foe, Uthorion sundered Ardinay's soul from her body and transfered his mind into the now empty shell. In the body of the queen, Uthorion truly bound himself to the Darkness Device, the black crown Draxacanus. He sent word for his forces to retreat, and stepped forward as the queen to declare victory over the forces of darkness.

And the armies of light cheered, unaware that their queen was no more.

For five centuries Uthorion ruled Aysle, adjusting the reality of the cosm to allow the power of corruption to spread more easily. He ruled as Ardinay, giving lip service to the former ruling council and eroding the world from within for his master.

But what Uthorion didn't know was that Ardinay had one last card to play.

Tolwyn's defeat in the great battle was not unexpected. In fact, Ardinay had planned for it. When Tolwyn fell, her soul was caught by a powerful spell and trapped in a timeless limbo. She "slept" for centuries until her soul awoke in the body of a Core Earth woman who was killed shortly after the initial invasion. Finding herself far from home in both time and space, she quickly allied herself with others who were fighting back against the High Lords. People like Father Christopher Bryce, Doctor Hachi Mara-Two, and the edinos warrior Tal Tu.

They were the Storm Knights, and they are the ones who trapped the Gaunt Man in the pocket dimension and stopped him from becoming Torg.

But that wasn't their only triumph. Returning to Aylse, Tolwyn faced Uthorion in battle, and managed to not only drive him from Ardinay's body, but to restore Ardinay's soul back to where it belonged. The queen was restored, and the High Lord of Aysle was defeated.

In a manner of speaking.

It turned out that the Gaunt Man was more forward-thinking than either Ardinay or Uthorion had expected: the bond between High Lord and Darkness Device was not a spiritual one; it was a physical one. That meant that once his spirit was removed from Ardinay's body, Uthorion couldn't access the Darkness Device's power anymore...a detail that the Gaunt Man didn't happen to mention to him. Now cast adrift and powerless, Uthorion had to find a new body to inhabit in order to try and retake Ardinay's body and regain control of the cosm.

Lady Ardinay, meanwhile, found herself in control of a reality that had been twisted to darkness and bound to an artifact of pure evil. She is back in control of Aysle, yes, but the land is nothing like she remembers. She wants to fix the damage that had been done in her absence, but doesn't know how. She can't uproot the stelae planted by Uthorion without causing millions of deaths, she can't pull Uthorion's forces back up the maelstrom bridge because they won't listen to her, and she can't undo the changes done to Aysle's world laws and axioms without giving in to the Darkness Device.

So now Aylse exists in a point of uneasy equilibrium. The restoration of Ardinay has undone some of the corruption of the land, but some of the damage has dug in too deep to fix. The other High Lords know that she's back in control, but at the same time none of the Core Earth governments are really sure they're buying this "I was evil because I was possessed but I'm not now" thing to really form a strong alliance.

And all the while, Draxacanus ceaselessly whispers in her ear, telling her that she can fix everything, end the War, help everyone, save everyone...all she has to do is wear the crown and its power will be hers.

She's been resisting the crown's siren songs. So far. But still, it's tempting...


Lady Pella Ardinay and Uthorion



Technically, Aysle has two High Lords, although only one of them is really a High Lord as per the normal definition.

Lady Ardinay is indeed bound to Aysle's Darkness Device, with all the benefits and powers that entails. However, she didn't get this power volintarily, and she knows exactly what would happen if she did tap into that power even for the "right" reasons. So she's doing what she can under her own power to make things right. She's abdicated some of her power back to her people, and is dedicated to hunting down the more dangerous creatures of darkness that Uthorion set loose. As for the realm...well, that's a trickier problem. She knows what would happen to all the Ords if she began pulling back her borders, so that's out of the question. Right now, she's focusing on trying to help the native Core Earthers adapt as well as they can to the acceptance of Ayslish reality because what else can she do? Besides, they'll have to learn that magic is better and more natural than that strange technology stuff they used to have. So she's not using the Darkness Device at all, trying to rely on her own innate magical power and experience to see things through.

The biggest problem with that is that Draxacanus won't leave her alone. It knows she's still weak after returning to her body, so it's constantly whispering in her ear to try and break down her defenses and not give her a minute's peace to just think.

Uthorion, meanwhile, is (understandably) not happy with his current situation. See, there's two things you need to know about him. First off, he's a Class I Toadie with a side of "Now I am in control muhahaha!". Second, he's a moron. He only invaded Aysle in the first place because the Gaunt Man said to, he only knew how to defeat Ardinay because the Gaunt Man told him, and he only took over Ardinay's body because the Gaunt Man told him to. He was pretty much given free reign after that, but everything he did was still part of the Gaunt Man's long-term plans.

Now...now's a different story. Uthorion has taken over the body of a Viking warlord named Thorfinn Bjanni and has at least managed to unite the various Viking tribes under his banner. But while he's now got enough forces to stay in the game (as it were), he's run into another problem: he has no idea what to do next. He knows he wants to take Ardinay's body over again so he can be High Lord, but he doesn't know how to do that. He doesn't have anything close to his old army. He doesn't even have access to his dark magic since that belonged to his old body. The Gaunt Man isn't around to give him orders anymore, and Thratchen is pretty much ignoring him. As for the other High Lords...well, they're not exactly leaping to help him. The only one willing to help him is Malraux, but now that Malraux is the Cyberpope, Uthorion finds himself unable to trust the only person giving him a hand due to living in technology-hating Aysle for 500 years.

So right now Uthorion is limited to raiding coastal towns and skirmishes against Ardiany's weaker forces. He's still a threat, but nowhere near what he used to be.

Axioms and World Laws
As always, let's take a quick look at the setup of Ayslish reality.

Magical Axiom: 18. Unsurprisingly, Aysle has the highest Magical axiom in the whole game line. Magic is ridiculously common in Aylse, to the point where everyone in the cosm is capable of casting a spell. In fact, everyone in Aylse starts the game with a randomly determined spell they can cast without any training. At this axiom level, permanent magic enchantments are also possible. We'll get to that in more detail later, of course. (Oy lord, will we ever.)

Social Axiom: 18. This is tied with the Cyberpapacy, and is a few points below Core Earth. As befits a Generic Fantasy World, life operated under feudal laws, although that it's worth pointing out that the infusion of magic throughout the culture makes life a bit better for an Ayslish commoner than it did for the ones from our world. The overall standard of living is about where it would be post-Industrial Revolution. Technically the world is ruled by a royal figure, but Ardinay set up a counil of Lords to advise her. This also kept things pretty equal among the various races of the land since everyone had a voice (sort of). While Uthorion was driving, however, the council was disbanded and interracial tensions rose. With Ardinay back, things are slowly returning to the old stability, but centuries of distrust are hard to overcome.

Spiritual Axiom: 16. It's pretty interesting to note that Asyle's Spiritual axiom is higher than the Cyberpapacy's. Aysle has your standard fantasy pantheon; i.e. a bunch of different gods, and people with faith and focus can cast miracles. On the plus side, unlike places like the Forgotten Realms, the gods don't manifest in the world. One thing that's interesting to point out is that because of Reasons that we'll get to later, dwarves are the only race that won't call on the power of the gods. Not can't; won't.

Technological Axiom: 15. This is the "movable type, calculus, crude firearms possible, steam power possible but risky" level. Technology in Aysle is (at best) not something most people care about due to the preponderance of magic. After all, if magic is common enough that literally everyone can use it, why bother working to develop other solutions? You don't need to develop the steamboat when you can just hire someone to cast a spell that makes the water push the boat forward. In keeping with normal fantasy idioms, dwarves do have an interest in technology, and have developed basic steam power and flintlock rifles. The discovery of Core Earth technologies has been of great interest in this area.

And now we come to the world laws. There are four laws all told, one of which was tweaked by Uthorion to make his job easier. That said, only two of them do anything practical and one of them is completely, utterly useless.

The Law of Observation states that reality in Aysle is defined by what one can observe through the normal five senses. What this means is that in Aysle, what is observed is true. The sun rises and falls not because that's how people observe its path based on the revolution of the planet in relation to a stationary object, but because the sun actually does rise into the sky then fall again.

quote:

Under Aysle’s Law of Observation, everything that is perceived is real, and everything that is real has been previously perceived.
This law has zero effect on gameplay, or really on anything at all. I'm not really sure what the point of it is.

The Law of Magic states the following, and I quote:

quote:

The Law of Magic states that magic is real.
I mean technically it exists in other realities where this law doesn't exist, but it also exists in Aysle. It's worth pointing out that this law also states that everyone in Aysle starts with one free add in a magic skill and a magic knowledge skill, and that racial stat limits are higher here. But really, the main reason this law exists is because the Law of Observation states that only things that can be observed are real, but you can't observe magic