RPGs that time forgot... Torg

Torg
Tag Line: Role-Playing the Possibility Wars
Makers: West End Games

What is it?
Our Earth is simultaneously attacked by a number of alternate Earths (or Cosm), who invade parts of the world and then start waging war on us, and on each other. You play "Storm Knights", heroes from any of these Cosms able to manipulate possibility energy, bent on freeing the Earth from tyrannical rule. Boxed set containing rulebook, adventure book, worldbook, Inifiniverse campaign booklet, drama deck and d20.

Neat Stuff
-A number of worlds are straight out of pulp fiction, so though Torg seems like SF, I've always considered it closer to pulp. The Living Land, the Land Below (not in the basic set), the Nile Empire (with pulp era superheroes) and Orrorsh (Victorian horror) are all in this mold. The Cyberpapacy is a really radical idea for a Cosm.
-The premise: For a multi-genrer like me, this is great, great stuff regardless of the execution.
-The Everlaws and axioms are an interesting way to show how Cosms are governed and what is possible in each. Portable to other cross-dimensional games.
-The drama deck is certainly a cool idea. Basically, you score cards that help you affect action scenes or subplots. It might be interesting to port this idea to other games, but the drama deck as printed is too rules-heavy to use directly.
-The chaos dice. I've always loved the look of this baby--->
-The provided adventure, "Before the Dawn" is a good introductory adventure that covers three Cosms.

Bad Stuff
-Some of the rules are overly complicated, as are some of the setting ideas. There are three kinds of damage, for example, and don't ask me to explain Stelae and reality storms. Some of that stuff I never really understood.
-Some of the worlds aren't very evocative. Aysle is just a generic fantasy setting, and Nippon Tech isn't made interesting at all in the core book. (Though when you talk to players, they might find the Living Land or Orrorsh lacking instead, or even the Cyberpapacy, so there are execution problems for sure.)
-There's a neat idea that you should sent your adventure results to West End so that they can skew the game world in accordance with the majority of campaigns is interesting, but in pre-Internet days, was impractical. And of course, once the game line ends, there's no point anymore. And what if you're in the minority anyway?

Quote
"This scene is a big production - if it were a movie, probably 30 percent of the film's budget would be spent on special effects for this one."

How I've used it
While in college, I tried to start a campaign because the concept was just too awesome. Played the introductory adventure, but I have no real recollection of how it went, and we didn't go ahead with the campaign after that. I think we struggled with the rules and that was that. More recently, I adapted the "Before the Dawn" as "The Still Earth Game" for Dream Park, tweaking it into a "death-match" between three GameMasters, each on responsible for one Cosm in the story (I played all three, of course, but with a different GMing style and different targets of disdain). It was pretty deadly, especially in the endgame, but the players did enjoy the middle part in the Nile Empire, with a nice hydroplane dogfight as its climax. And I would revisit the world of Torg many times in Dream Park, simply to exploit its cross-genre elements, but those are stories for another time, since I used other products to achieve my ends. It should also be noted that Torg inspired a PBEM wargame I called Clash, with homemade Cosms crashing into Earth. It was a cross between Torg and Risk, and two games were played until I didn't have time for it anymore (both times). Here I present the map of game two when we quit the second game.
By that time, three worlds were dead: Mecha, Gene Wolfe's Urth and Toon. What's left there is the tanks of Ogre (blue), Olympus (maroon), Grant Morrison's City of Bone from Doom Patrol (orange), Camelot (gray), the Romulans (arriving on Venus, indent), and my kid brother's Andorians (green). He'd won the previous game too (with Sauron's forces against smart dolphins, John Lennon's peace initiative, and others).

In conclusion
Torg simply didn't play to its strengths, so its beautiful high concept was always hampered by kinda samey Cosms, too-complex rules and dull products. Still, I found a lot of inspiration in this game, and in the end, that was enough.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Argh! Clash! How dare you tease me this way!

Anonymous said...

why does this ring a bell for me?
Did we play this? Must not have been memorable.

Siskoid said...

Yes, Doc, you were in the first group. Somebody might've played some sort of werewolf, and there might've been a priest of some kind or... a crusader rebel from the Cyberpapacy?

I can't find the relevant character sheets, though it's totally my style to have kept them all these years.

Unknown said...

Anyone still interested in torg should join us all at the 23 year old torg discussion group.

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/Torg-ThePossibilityWars/info

We look forward to discussing torg with you!

Cheers, mark.

Anonymous said...

Apologies if it's Gauche to ask about such an old post, but I'd love to hear more about Clash.

Siskoid said...

I'm not sure I have the original materials that would tell me what the rules were, but until my friend Dédé programmed his own bare bones version (which didn't support alternate realities/rules), I was rolling dice for hours interpreting everyone's moves. It's the reason it collapsed. As armies grew, it became more and more unmanageable. I was also creating jpgs of every territory with the proper armies on it every round. So analog!

 

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