RogerBW's Blog

Alternative Invaders in Torg (part 1) 10 January 2014

I'm running Torg at the moment. Because I didn't want it to turn into a research-fest, I'm running it pretty much as it was written.

But this raised the question: what would be a more representative, and more interesting, set of worlds to choose as invaders? One of the original ideas of Torg was that the worlds should be representative of popular role-playing genres, but this doesn't seem to have made it into the final game -- cyberpunk may well have been big, but lost-world fantasy with dinosaurs? Really?

So I'm going to try to come up with six invaders which are more representative of popular genres. Fortunately we have this recent list of sales priorities from Steve Jackson Games as a starting point. Obviously this is dealing with GURPS products rather than all RPGs, so I shan't follow it slavishly.

The first world has to be fantasy, no question. It may be more in the modern videogame style of Dungeon Fantasy rather than in the classical low-initial-power D&D style, but I can live with that; we're aiming for a cinematic feel, after all. Let's keep Aysle pretty much as it stands, with its tech level just on the edge of producing effective firearms.

Call of Cthulhu is still popular in many circles. The classic period for that is the 1920s, so this new invader ends up displacing aspects of both the Nile Empire and Orrorsh. It's a horror realm with pre-WWII technology. Magic is powerful but mostly corrupting and mostly available to the bad guys; more Orrorsh rules than Nile Empire. Let's call this new realm Tentacles, and make it the one that invades the USA, which is after all the natural home of Lovecraftian fiction.

Space SF is more of a challenge to fit in (as West End Games found with its own Space Gods). If there are lots of worlds out there, PCs can go a long way from Earth where the core of the campaign is meant to be happening. I'll leave this to one side for now.

Next we have introspective SF, and while cyberpunk was the obvious choice in 1990, transhumanist SF (on a big cinematic scale, more Eclipse Phase than Transhuman Space) seems like a better bet now. We'll put Eternals into Europe (from an American perspective, Europeans often seem to look like the people with the "civilised" mindset as opposed to honest sweaty farmers) replacing the Cyberpapacy and spreading into the industrial areas of Germany and further east. Unlike the Cyberpapacy, Eternals really is an effective panopticon (or as effective as it can be in an action sensibility). This also covers a bunch of the cyberpunk memes, at least the technical ones, though clunky metal arms are probably considered a bit gauche...

(To be continued.)

Tags: rpgs torg

See also:
Alternative Invaders in Torg (part 2)


  1. Posted by Phil Masters at 11:48am on 10 January 2014

    Four-colour supers are generally a popular genre (it's low on that SJGames list, but GURPS isn't generally seen as a rule-set to use for that purpose), but could lead to as many problems as space-oriented SF.

    "Hong Kong-style martial arts" is probably the clearly distinct genre with the strongest geek mindspace growth since Torg first appeared; as I commented in person a little while back, if someone was doing Torg now, I think they might well cut the "faith" axiom/axis in favour of a "chi" rating. You'd perhaps have a choice between turning China into a Crouching Tiger/Hero/Golden Flower-style indeterminate-date historical swordplay setting, and going for a more modern Kung Fu vs. spies and triads look, focussed on Hong Kong itself.

  2. Posted by Phil Masters at 11:52am on 10 January 2014

    Oh, and "steampunk" is probably the other genre to consider. These days, that's about style and appearance more than anything, so you can always overlay a steampunk aesthetic on another genre. One might be tempted to have steampunk zones erupt as an interference effect where fantasy Britain interfaces directly with transhumanist Germany - like, across much of northern France. A Vernean Paris seems appropriate. Or you could note the anime interest in the aesthetic, and impose it on Japan.

  3. Posted by RogerBW at 11:54am on 10 January 2014

    China is coming up in part 2. There are plenty of "modern gritty + weird martial arts powers" action films coming out of Asia, so there's something to work with there. I'm inclined to treat supers more as an emergent phenomenon: if a world allows things that work like superpowers (i.e. it has a high axiom of the right sort) and has a social context that allows them to emerge, it'll get something that looks like supers, but it won't be the mishmash of power sources that many classic supers stories have (some tech, some magic, some being born under a red sun, etc.). (Torg is already all about the mishmash.)

    Excellent point on steampunk, which I hadn't thought of.

  4. Posted by Owen Smith at 06:10pm on 12 January 2014

    I can't help feeling losing the Nile Empire is a shame, it's such an intriguing and fun cosm.

    In your list of currently popular genres, how about Wild West? You could have Cthulu on the East Coast and Wild West on the West Coast.

  5. Posted by RogerBW at 06:13pm on 12 January 2014

    I take your point, but I think I've compensated for the loss of the Nile at least a bit. That'll be in part 2. (Part of the problem is that it's such fun -- it does kind of overshadow the other cosms a bit.)

    Has the Wild West ever been a really popular genre for gaming? There was Boot Hill, sure, and later there were supplements for a variety of generic systems. Deadlands was more steampunk (or just plain old punk) than Wild West. I've never actually played, or known anyone who said they were playing, a "straight" Wild West game. If I were trying to write Torg from 1975, maybe...

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