Making peace with the Living Land

reedins
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Making peace with the Living Land

Postby reedins » Sat Jul 15, 2017 11:39 am

I still don't like the Living Land. I'll discuss what I dislike, and a few simple tweaks that are allowing me to make peace with it.

I am sure that a ton of work went into "fixing" the Living Land for Torg Eternity, and I will acknowledge that I think it's "better," but I still don't like it. Not (primarily) because of the rules or because edeinos weren't "cool" enough before, but because of the concept. In my opinion the most interesting realms are the historical mashups. The Inquisition with the Anti-Pope of Avingon with Cybertech. Victorian England with gothic horror - not a huge stretch, but setting it in a former British colony that is now radically different is great. 1930's gangsters and serial heroes mixed with ancient Egypt - inspired. There are plenty of historical mashups that could have gone into North America. Instead, in Original Torg we got Land of the Lost and in Eternity we get Edgar Rice Burroughs. Don't get me wrong; loves me some Burroughs. I loved the Land Below, and the new Living Land is much more Land Below. That's a good thing. It still doesn't do it for me.

I think that Lanala's Love of Life is a horrible religion for an invading force as the realm is described. This is weird to me, because when the Living Land was created they could have created any savage/primitive religion that they wished. The Living Land was explicitly the realm of religious power from day 1. It would not have been hard to conceive of a religion which provided a much better justification for invading new worlds. "We want to bring people new experiences" is conceptually dissatisfying to me.

The biggest problem for me is that I feel that even in its current form the Living Land does not conform to its Axioms. The most important Axiom for this is the Social Axiom of 7. At Social 5 tribes and alliances are possible. At Social 6 villages are possible. At Social 7 you can have commerce and differentiation of labor. You don't even get to city-states or networks of communities until Social 8. In a nutshell, I feel like the tribes in the Living Land are far too big to be justified by Social 7. Rather than 3 main tribes I feel like there should be thousands of smaller tribes. Whether this is actually the correct interpretation of the rules doesn't really matter to me; large tribes and armies of edeinos fighting the armies of the United States simply "feels" wrong to me.

During a long discussion about the Living Land with a friend of mine I finally landed upon a few tweaks which allow me to make peace with, if not be enthusiastic about, the Living Land.

Tweak one - The Living Land is exactly that. It's a world-sized organism (Lanala, to be precise) on which live dinosaurs and the edeinos. Just like Ego the Living Planet, really. Like all organisms, the Living Land wants to expand. In my Living Land the Saar isn't the most powerful chief or whatever; the word basically means "gardener". He provides the Living Land opportunities for growth which it is happy to take advantage of, and in growing it takes its inhabitants with it. The fact that this also allows Kaah opportunities for conquest is beneath its notice.

Tweak two - the central enemy in the Living Land is not roving tribes of edeinos. It's not rampaging dinosaurs. It's not even Kaah. It's the Living Land itself. Like a giant fungal patch the Living Land is both mindless and all-consuming. It has no other function other than to grow, and if left unchecked it will eventually cover the entire planet. Yes, even the oceans. I can easily picture continent sized masses of plants floating on top of oceans slowly dying from the increasing lack of sunlight. It's a passive invasion. It's not passive for Core Earth, though. If they don't stop the invasion of the Living Land they will be destroyed. This means sending troops or teams of Storm Knights into the Land to battle, well, everything in hopes of first halting its expansion and then driving back up the Maelstrom Bridges.

Tweak three is a direct consequence of tweaks one and two; edeinos are still the dominant sentient life form, but they live in small villages and small roving tribes. Large groups don't exist and aren't necessary to further the invasion. Most of them have never heard of Baruk Kaah, and probably don't even know that they've traveled to a new reality. The ranks of those curious enough to leave the Living Land would be exclusively filled with reality rated individuals. Tribes of edeinos also are a passive enemy. They aren't massed at the borders waiting to fight the U.S. Army; they're just hanging out doing their thing. When the Army penetrates the Living Land to fight it they will eventually run into those edeinos and those rampaging dinosaurs. The edeinos would appear to be a totally unpredictable force of nature. Maybe they'll welcome you with open arms. Maybe they'll cut you open just to see how humans look different on the inside. Maybe they're friendly today and murderous tomorrow. Lanala is their drug; are they hippies or violent tweakers? They are utterly disinterested in conquest, but they don't need to be interested. The Land is doing all the work.

Kaah himself just has to sit back and soak up those sweet, sweet possibilities as storm knights fight the invasion. His tribe is not large, but it is exclusively dedicated to furthering his plans. They can drive a nest of dinosaurs into a resistance village, or plant a new stella. They work the inhabitants of the Living Land the way gardeners work hedges. You mostly let them do their own thing, but you put them where you want them and trem them so that they go in the right direction. Communication is slow and impossible over long distances, so the Red Jaw tribe (I guess I'll keep the name) roam the Land constantly. His inability to coordinate across his Realm is the only reason that Kaah's Living Land doesn't already cover the entire Eastern Seaboard.

If any of that is useful to anyone else I'm glad. If it isn't, I'm glad that I was able to come up with something that works for me. It's actually not that easy to simply pick an entire realm and say, "That doesn't exist in my game." Now, pick it up and move it to South America instead, that I might do. Haven't decided yet. The necessity of creating new reality cards (whatever they're called) does make Eternity less home-brew friendly if I put something else in North America.

ProfessorK
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Re: Making peace with the Living Land

Postby ProfessorK » Sat Jul 15, 2017 12:04 pm

Cosms represent different kinds of pup fiction. The only real "mashup" is the Cyberpapacy which has a special history to explain it,

The new living land IMHo is the PERFECT Robert Howard type lost world.

Don't change a thing. At least for me,

utsukushi
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Re: Making peace with the Living Land

Postby utsukushi » Sat Jul 15, 2017 2:08 pm

I think those are some really cool twists that don't require changing anything on the `meta' level at all - just your descriptions of it. And it's off enough that if you keep it to where what's in the book is basically "The Delphi Council's understanding of the Living Land" (as it should be for ALL the Realms, really), then they're... significantly, even dangerously, wrong, but it still fits well with what they know. And the adventure in which the PCs learn that Lanala isn't just a Goddess, she's the actual world they come from, and she is here... would be pretty epic.

To a good extent, I take this approach with every game. Unless (as in that other thread) you have a full set of players you're introducing to the whole thing, you need things for them to discover. So taking what's in the book to be, "This is what people know," and then thinking, "So where are they wrong, and why does it look like that?" is important. What you have here is a great take on the Living Land, and yeah, thank you for writing it up. It was a good read, at the *very* least.


For ME -- every High Lord, as they take over their worlds, has to content with whatever is already there before they start. Mobius is still operating in a world where the Laws kind of favor his enemies; The Gaunt Man, and now Malreaux, have pretty thoroughly shaped their Realities the way they want them.

One of the most important things about the Living Land, in my mind, is that Baruuk Kaah is cheating. HE has been exposed to thoughts and concepts beyond his people's Axioms, and through his connection to Rec Pakken, has been able to expand his personal reality that way, and uses that to manipulate the Edeinos. No, what they're doing *doesn't* fit Lanala's... "teachings" isn't the right word for her, really, but you know what I mean. But Kaah has twisted their beliefs, and for the most part, even when some of them say, "No, this doesn't feel right," their Social Axiom keeps them from seeing how they're being manipulated.

I do see the giant tribes Earth is presented with as being a lot of smaller tribes put together. Kaah has united them in a completely unprecedented way that, indeed, should be impossible for them. He's the only one who can do it because he is literally the only one who can even think on that scale. And he has kept his Axioms low expressly because it keeps his people easier for him to manipulate and control.

As much as the Gaians, the Edeinos are absolutely being used. All of the High Lords benefit from understanding the nature of reality better than the people in the worlds they manipulate, but Kaah uses that perhaps more than any of them.

ProfessorK
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Re: Making peace with the Living Land

Postby ProfessorK » Sat Jul 15, 2017 2:39 pm

My Edienos are totally convinced that Baruk Kaa is the chosen of Lanala and that they are following her will.

How is this possible?

Read a bit of the Gospels, and then look at all the hate and vitriol many people who claim to follow Jesus commit is his name.

Its EASY for sentient beings to rationalize just about anything, especially when they are told it by an authority figure.

Wakshani
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Re: Making peace with the Living Land

Postby Wakshani » Sat Jul 15, 2017 3:37 pm

Kaah's biggest strength, I think, is that he has access to some kind of communication miracle, or a corrupt version of it form the Darkness Device, that lets him toss dreams in the heads of people. This lets him nudge whole tribes to go toward *something* and, along the way, they make with the killin' and the rampagin'. Otherwise, all orders are just word-of-mouth, passed around by runners and may well never be listened to. He has to cheat to control things.

And he's a really good cheater. :D

What you need, and badly, are for Kaah to have a lot of lieutenants, tribal chiefs that have sworn loyalty to him, and whose tribes are effectively aligned. This gives you low level bosses and midbosses to get through in adventures and each can have their own personality. Helps keep thinsg from being quite so "Oh look. Lizardmen and a T-rex. Again." Which tends to happen to some player groups.

Sprinkle in some variety and suddenly its a whole new ballgame.

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InertiaKitty
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Re: Making peace with the Living Land

Postby InertiaKitty » Sat Jul 15, 2017 3:55 pm

However he "inspires" them, the fact that he has such a huge army shamelessly games the Zone system, since he can significantly pad the population attuned to his reality by just moving hoards of eidenos into a zone until it flips, waiting 'til enough of the native population transforms, and then doing it again in the next zone.
"Whaddaya mean 'Twinkies are even a contradiction in Core Earth'?!?!?"

Wakshani
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Re: Making peace with the Living Land

Postby Wakshani » Sat Jul 15, 2017 4:09 pm

InertiaKitty wrote:However he "inspires" them, the fact that he has such a huge army shamelessly games the Zone system, since he can significantly pad the population attuned to his reality by just moving hoards of eidenos into a zone until it flips, waiting 'til enough of the native population transforms, and then doing it again in the next zone.


Yup. Pretty much the only reason his Darkness Device goes along with this whole "Lanala lovin'" reality. The initial rush and the slaughter makes it happy, but then they tend to settle in and be all peace-loving and, ugh, *wholesome*, with only moderate levels of savagery. It's always on the look for new potential patrons, just that no one has Kaah's level of chicanery and violence. He's the Ghengis Khan of Torg, after all.

That said? Now that the Living land's upgraded, you have good odds of finding wasp-riders, Leopard Men, volcano-worshipers, Alpha Businessmen, and who knows what all else running around in the mix. The place is filled with ADVENTURE, and plumbing the depths of that is where the fun starts. :).

Kuildeous
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Re: Making peace with the Living Land

Postby Kuildeous » Sun Jul 16, 2017 8:46 am

I agree that Lanala, the Goddess of Life, is a terrible banner to fly during a war.

But remember that Lanala also seeks sensations. Perhaps in a different world, Lanala worshipers would be decadent hedonists or perhaps wrist cutters. Even just thrill-seekers jumping out of planes could serve Lanala.

But the Law of Savagery rewards aggressive and passionate actions. Yes, there's life, but there's also the thrill of the hunt and the joy of partaking in a kill. And every death feeds the nearby plants and animals, so justification can be made that killing people is giving into life. It's a harsh tenet of life and not like some pacifistic god that would venerate life without death.

I played this up in a demo with a player who chose the edeinos priest. I told him that he recognizes that Lanala would not want this, so he became a traitor to his own people. I explained how the edeinos he encountered were clearly misguised and that the gotak were abominable foes who turned their back on Lanala.

It's all about perspective. As I recall, the book left plenty of room for several edeinos to stop fighting for Kaah. Instead, they just partake in where they are and might even fight any further attempts to unify them (again, Social axiom).

reedins
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Re: Making peace with the Living Land

Postby reedins » Mon Jul 17, 2017 9:40 am

I completely agree with the idea the Kaah is cheating his own reality. If that's not the definition of a High Lord then what is? Where it breaks down for me in terms of the Living Land is the idea of him passing along his cheats to others. The Social Axiom was always the most difficult thing for my gaming group to grok - it's next to impossible to think in terms of a lower social axiom. Kaah can be as aberrant as you want to make him, but he can't communicate it to more than his closest circle. A network of lieutenants? Not supported by the Social Axiom of the Living Land. Now, he can have a circle of Lts, but as soon as they're out of sight they would start to drift and follow their own agendas. Even if they continued to do exactly what they were told they would be working off of old information. It's tactically useless, which is why I like the gardener metaphor. It's much more strategic.

The concept of betraying your "people" also requires a significant change in meta-thinking, because your people are literally those who live in the same village with you. The Axiom definitions don't provide numbers, but a really large village was probably a few hundred people. The fact that all edeinos worship Lanala is imposed on them from an outside spiritual force, not perpetuated by preachers teaching a doctrine. It is feasible that in each tribe there is one edeinos that is the most influential in terms of spiritual thought (probably the one with the most Faith), but that would be different for every village. The idea that they're even resisting a High Lord is out of place. "What's a High Lord? Do they live in the next village? Let this Kaah come here and try to tell me what to do! Powerful, hah! Toothgnasher is the most powerful warrior I've ever seen. There's no way that this Kaah can be his equal!"

For a real world example of what I'm thinking you can research the history of the Native American tribes resisting white expansion into Texas. The Comanche understood that there were a lot of white people someplace, but they couldn't really understand what that meant. One of their leaders (can't remember his name now) went to Washington D.C. and came back to tell his people, "We are so screwed you don't even know." They didn't believe him, because that wasn't the reality that they thought they lived in.

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Hobbes
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Re: Making peace with the Living Land

Postby Hobbes » Mon Jul 17, 2017 11:01 am

My own personal head cannon, it's not so much an invasion as a semi forced religious migration. "Look at all the dead things, bring them life!"

As long as the Living Land is invading Cosms with higher Tech, Magic and Social Axioms (pretty much a given...) they win with the reality wash. The follow up migration is just to flip the zones faster.

Keep in mind, the invasion itself creates the Dinosaurs and such. They don't have to come over any bridges, they spontaneously appear or transform from animals that are already there. The Living Land itself is the invasion already with the Mist and the drop in Axioms and the World Laws. Defending Armies weapons stop working, the coordination and communication falls apart, and suddenly Dinosaurs! With some follow up Edienos. The Living Land itself starts destroying Roads, buildings, agriculture, and any other infrastructure, no army needed. Every population center in a dominant zone is immediately forced into hunter/gather mode.

You don't really need to "Push" the Edienos in a direction, just point out "Look new land that used to be covered by dead things that Llana has blessed, go forth and multiply!" The rest pretty much takes care of itself.


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