RogerBW's Blog

Fixing the Possibility Chalice 14 November 2014

The Torg adventure The Possibility Chalice was published in the far-off days of 1990, when information about mysterious lands across the ocean was hard to come by, especially in a small town in Pennsylvania.

So Douglas Kaufman and the West End Games crew simply invented the bits of the UK they needed. However, it's easy to make some minor changes which make the British sections distinctly more plausible.

For a start, I shifted Casper Babbidge's surname to "Babbage". The former is not completely unknown in the UK, but it's much more common in the USA, and it just didn't feel right. (Let's not ask about how he was able to leave a magical message half-way round the world through Core Earth axioms. Maybe he just rolled really well. That's an explicit justification for the plot contrivance that sinks the PCs' ship in the final battle.)

The West End Games crew never gave much information about London in Torg – some notes here, a paragraph or two there. Little details like the half-completed Canada Square tower seem to me to add a lot. Sliding briefly into the Aysle sourcebook:

Power for London comes from the coal/oil burning W. Thurrcock [sic] and coal-fired Tilbury plants, located in the East End.

Well, I can see how you might think that if you assumed that the end of "London" would happen at the end of the buildings, the way it would in an American town where they care about precise boundaries and you may not even be able to get a fire brigade to turn up if you're ten feet outside the city limits. But actually that's twenty miles from the centre of London, rather further than I consider it plausible for the Core Earth Hardpoint effect to extend; I think of it more as a wavering boundary somewhere between the North/South Circular and the M25 (though certainly including Heathrow).

So instead Battersea Power Station, which is still standing unused after its shut-down in 1983, gets some salvaged equipment hastily installed; I suspect this can get it up to about 400-450MW, which is really nothing like enough for London even when coal is available. (West Thurrock managed 1788MW; I can't immediately find data for Tilbury.) There are no street lights any more. (The WEG authors didn't realise that the Underground has its own generators, but it's quiet plausible to me that they would be put to other use rather than keeping the trains moving.)

"Chiselthwaite" is not a plausible name for a section of London, though. There's also no sense of where in London it might be. I know that Torg mostly works from point to point rather than putting things in a geographical context (when the adventures were in Atlanta the team was only going to specific places), but for a GM and group that know London at least slightly I wanted some more detail. So I borrowed Rotherhithe, easily fenced off from the rest of London and suitable as a plague containment zone – yes, there was redevelopment and gentrification before 1990, but it didn't get seriously going until the Jubilee Line Extension arrived in 1999. The illustration of half-timbered buildings (for a zone that's still meant to be Core Earth) can simply be ignored.

A big change is at Amethyst's base. The UK never played host to Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles; the MGM-52 Lance missile (while it was at least used in the UK) was a short-range weapon, 50-75 miles, not operated from fixed bases, and had been entirely withdrawn from Europe by 1990 anyway. Really, you'd expect an American former wargames company to get American missiles right. Altogether it seemed to make much more sense to replace this with a Bloodhound surface-to-air missile site, which obviously affects the shape of the transformed golem "Lance" (though not its stats). If the launch button is pressed, rather than setting off for the 1,200-mile trip to Leningrad (too short for an IRBM anyway), "Lance" will leap into the air in a storm of rockets/wingbeats and rapidly be lost to sight. This does coincidentally end up giving Amethyst a bit of a "dog" theme, what with all the mastiffs already in the adventure, but that's no bad thing.

As for the final act, the "longship" is somewhat closer to a Russian koch) or another small decked ship, perhaps a cinematic version of a Roman galley, but mostly my concern was that vikings really ought to be smarter than to wear full scale armour when fighting at sea… even if they are going to have their throats cut by the not-Selkies as soon as they hit the water anyway. This may have made the final fight easier than it needed to be, when one PC is able to hand out 60-point hits to the vitals. Still, my players are smart enough to approach the thing properly; I often get the feeling in the Torg adventures I've read so far that the PCs are expected to blunder about bashing everything that moves, losing interest in the actual mission as soon as things get tough.

Tags: rpgs torg

  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 01:08pm on 14 November 2014

    The final fight did not seem easy. All bar one of the drama deck cards for initiative favoured the villains, some quite significantly. The fact that all the Vikings were P-Rated even if they only had one point made spending against them tricky, as Bob found (spend to make a Dodge, they cancel it, suddenly you take a lot of damage and 1 Possibility a round means you can't undo it; we realised it's better to take the hit and then spend to make it a 1HP Flesh Wound which they can't undo).

    Also if I hadn't had the card that cancels one opponent's action to cancel the Darkness spell, I don't know what would have happened. Carrying on the fight in the pitch dark would have ended up with most people in the water. Diamond would have flown up to see what was going on (people cast Darkness for a reason) and still seen Amethyst trying to fly away with the Chalice, but she would have had no backup for stopping him.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 01:22pm on 14 November 2014

    Good. It's supposed to be a tough fight. As a GM I do sometimes find Flesh Wound annoying, but it does at least cost long-term resources, and they aren't being handed out all that fast.

  3. Posted by Owen Smith at 03:09pm on 14 November 2014

    With no magical healing in the party, without Flesh Wound things would get grim pretty fast in a combat heavy game like TORG. I suspect we'd each have a character death about once or twice a scenario, until we all decided to wear heavy or high tech armour. Even that wouldn't help against all attacks. Designing characters would be dominated by ensuring they can survive, which would remove many interesting options.

  4. Posted by RogerBW at 03:11pm on 14 November 2014

    Indeed. I don't intend to change the rules; it's just that from the GM's seat, possibly because I can't see how many possibilities people have left, it sometimes feels facile. Still, as we saw, even 1HP wounds add up over time.

  5. Posted by John Dallman at 08:36pm on 14 November 2014

    Thorfin was coping with the fight fairly well. It wasn't easy, but those Vikings were the kind of opponent his martial arts are designed for. Making friends with the Uvwe is important, though.

  6. Posted by John Dallman at 12:22pm on 15 November 2014

    Incidentally, the UK has ben an IRBM base, but they were long gone by 1990.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PGM-17_Thor#Deployment

  7. Posted by Owen Smith at 02:12pm on 15 November 2014

    I'm surprised you say:

    " I often get the feeling in the Torg adventures I've read so far that the PCs are expected to blunder about bashing everything that moves, losing interest in the actual mission"

    From what I've seen, Torg adventures are all about the mission and there doesn't seem to be much else to them. If you abandon the actual mission, there isn't much else to do and there's nothing to succeed at. OK there was the option of a trip to the demon plane on this adventure, but the pretext for that was very flimsy (only a demon could get past the magical wards, honest) suchnthat it was very simple to see it as a time wasting exercise which would have given Amethyst more time.

    I am surprised there is no attempt in Torg at a wider association of Storm Knights loosely allied against the invading cosms. The excuses for finding adventures are very flimsy.

  8. Posted by RogerBW at 03:23pm on 15 November 2014

    Ah, thanks, I'd missed the Thor.

    There's lots of stuff in the adventure to haul PCs back on track should they get off it. With this group in particular, who home in on the key points and go through adventure material I've written about twice as fast as most groups (three times as fast as the typical pickup group at a convention), all of that is irrelevant.

    I agree, a wider association of Storm Knights makes a great deal of sense (probably based in Aysle or the Nile Empire, places where you can spot traitors relatively easily), and it's something I intend to look into; even without much in the way of internet access, there are all sorts of ways of getting messages about the place. There's one more adventure in this initial trilogy (The Forever City), after which I reckon the players should have got a decent look at the world and I can pick and choose a bit from the remaining material depending on what they feel like.

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