RogerBW's Blog

Fixing the Forever City 23 April 2015

The Torg adventure The Forever City didn't need as much fixing as The Possibility Chalice, but there were still some tweaks that made things work better.

The attack in London wasn't too bad, though please, I'm not going to drop in Molly Malone. I do know the difference between London and Dublin. (I suspect the writers were aware that these are in fact separate places; they just didn't feel like making the distinction.) But the PCs fought off the attack and got the cover story, and then the backup story behind the cover story, as they were meant to. (Why the Cyberpapists even bothered to tell their expendable pawns anything more than the cover story is not clear; they were after all supposed to get captured.)

The PCs, not being entirely dim-witted, immediately decided that this whole Signal Fire thing was a trap, and… left the Possibility Chalice in a vault in the Bank of England rather than taking it on the train with them. Even if the Signal Fire were the real deal, it wouldn't take more than another day or so to go back to London and pick up the Chalice. So instead they bought the cheapest chalice they could find from a religious supplies shop, and a hard aluminium case large enough to hold it.

The Royal Air Force has never operated Mirages. Fortunately that particular bail-out wasn't needed; thanks to a Connection, the PCs crossed the channel aboard HMS Manchester. Even a young and foolish dragon knows better than to take on a Type 42 destroyer.

The Orient Express sequence of Act 2 is clearly the major part of the action here (though it would have helped if the carriages had been in the same orientation on the player handout as they were on the GM's maps). Interestingly, this probably wasn't blatant copying of Chaosium's use of the setting in Horror on the Orient Express; that campaign pack came out in 1991, the year after this adventure was published. Something in the air?

I couldn't resist the temptation to tell the players about the Nippon Tech agent at the station:

Once he has several good photos (his camera is a Polaroid), the agent will slip over to a phone, plug in his portable fax machine, and fax the photos back to his masters in Japan for identification.

The technology of the FUTURE, folks!

The GM is enjoined not to let the fighting aboard the train start too soon, but really, with PCs determined to walk into the trap with their eyes open and fists out there wasn't much of a chance to put it off for long. It's a pity that as written the various Cyberpapal tricks and traps rely on being in Cyberpapal reality, which the Orient Express most explicitly is not (it's been re-routed specifically so as not to have to run through France), though this has been a general problem with the published Torg adventures: in a Core Earth Pure Zone, which the vast majority of Earth is, contradictions are impossible, so none of the nifty powers should work outside a reality bubble, but the writers just assume they will anyway. The cyber-cardinal has some Possibilities, but his goons don't, and following the rules makes life rather harder for them. Still, their armour makes life harder for the PCs, so it's not all bad.

After the fight and back in England, there was a side trip, a mini-adventure out of Queenswrath: go down the Channel Tunnel and see what's been killing people there. I was fortunate to have one player who knew the setup in some detail; it's, er, not a single bore, for a start. But the troll's monocrystal-edged slashers made handy backup knives.

The book's organisation is really horrible - I'd read through the thing several times and thought I had it reasonably internalised, but I was still unable to lay hands on some key descriptions during play. Sorry about that, folks. And then:

But this particular bank of clouds has been there every time you've come by – and that is unusual. Clouds move. Why doesn't this one? In desperation, you decide to enter the cloud bank. If there's a mountainside in there… well, nobody wants to live forever.

Um, no. Just, no. Really. This is an RPG, not a video game, and you don't get cut scenes where you can't affect what's going on. And the NPC pilot doesn't have On the Edge.

The two Nile Empire avatars were perversely incompetent, no match for a reasonably well-organised party even under the original Torg rules. The fight with the vampire went a bit better for the bad guys, but only because he had effective invulnerability against most sorts of weapon. I did rather like the players' hopeful assumption that the mysterious grey powder might have some sort of anti-vampire effect, so that they threw it at him; in fact it was invisibilty powder, but that was when an Escape card was played and the Signal Fire was lit anyway.

Oh, and why were there seven points of darkness on the map of the Earth? Without spoilers for the players, yes, there is an adventure in the catalogue called High Lord of Earth, but that hadn't yet been published when this came out. Did they not think that players might say "oh, seven, not just one for each invading cosm" and ask where the seventh point was on the map? (The adventure doesn't mention its location.)

Tags: rpgs torg

  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 12:23pm on 23 April 2015

    Single bore down the channel tunnel? Ye gods, that's a total lack of any research that is. TV coverage of the project, advertising literature, any number of things showed two train bores. I'd be a lot more sympathetic if they'd not known about the third bore for the service tunnel and it's almost a certainty they wouldn't know about the huge crossover chambers. But one bore? Really? Come on guys.

    On the train my character was not determined to walk into the trap immediately. With nice dresses bought for the occasion and first class carriages and fellow passengers, Diamond was rather enjoying talking and would have been happy to leave it at least until after dinner and cocktails. Hence when the fight kicked off, Diamond was back in the Lalique dining car chatting after lunch. She was rather enjoying channeling a crossover between Coco Channel and Nikita (the original French film, not any of the subsequent remakes or TV stuff). But the other PCs had other ideas, alas, and she never even got to wear the cocktail dress to dinner.

    I don't think it took me any time at all in play to say "hang on, seven black splodges, there are six invasions where's the seventh?". Leaving Roger to have to say "err, I'll have to get back to you on that". My assumption as a player was that the seventh was in Russia and the scenario author had forgotten that the Soviets fought off that invasion, but Roger came up with a better answer.

  2. Posted by Owen Smith at 12:25pm on 23 April 2015

    I forgot to ask, what were the avatars' capabilities as written? And you could have beefed them up if you'd wanted, they died in all of about three combat rounds.

  3. Posted by RogerBW at 12:25pm on 23 April 2015

    I don't suppose a lot of that TV coverage was being shown in the USA. It was harder to find things out then. (And unless you have knowledgeable players, it doesn't break the game if you get them wrong.) Now, all right, I am a perfectionist…

  4. Posted by RogerBW at 12:28pm on 23 April 2015

    He's a tough mêlée fighter with a big sword. She has lots of Charm and Persuade, but not at supernatural levels. They are a specific sort of Nile Empire thing explicitly without the magical boosts that they might be expected to have, for Reasons. But the adventure text clearly expects that this is going to be a bit of a challenge, and even in Torg I think they'd have needed something more than "strong and tough" in order to be a threat to a party.

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