getting rid of the silly aspects of Torg

MAJT

getting rid of the silly aspects of Torg

Postby MAJT » Mon Jul 03, 2017 12:53 pm

Hi all,

Long time TORG GM, first-time poster here :) Pleasantly surprised to hear about the Kickstarter and to find that a 27 year old game still has a decent fan-base.

I’ve a lot of questions to ask, but the first one I wanted some insight into is this:

I recall that the initial wave of Torg fiction was actually quite dark and gritty, but over the years, sillier and goofier things started to slip through. The edienos were among the worst offenders, but they weren’t alone. The Nile Empire seemed to suffer from this too, and plenty of things that were supposed to be frightening just turned out ridiculous (Nexus Baruk Kaah, anyone?) War’s End was a repeat offender – John Terra seemed to relish the goofier aspects of the game, between Destructo Don and cyberpapal schoolgirls.

Some people may have enjoyed it, but for me it took the edge off the game. We did finish our campaign with War’s End, but to be honest, most of us had tired of the game and wanted to move on to something edgier, something that resonated better with gamers in their mid-twenties. By the end, Torg honestly felt like a parody of itself.

I note that Torg Eternity seems to understand this, and seems to have eliminated the siller aspects of the game, as well as streamlined the mechanics. My current group is interested in restarting Torg (more on that later) but I think any game with Elvis or Skippy the Edienos would be a hard sell to them.

So I was wondering how to preserve that atmosphere of the early books and novels, how best to keep some semblance of seriousness.

I feel the big thing that led to silly situations was transforming to another reality. The edienos weren’t goofy in their original context, but as soon as you transform them to Nippon Tech or Aysle or whatever, they become ridiculous. Also, all of the worst offenders in the Character Collection were transformed – Monty Hall, Vito the Godfather ogre and the like. I’m not saying that you couldn’t do a serious character who was transformed, but I think mixing axioms in general tends to make things sillier, and if I’m redoing Torg I think I’d want to keep it as ‘pure’ as possible (apart from the Realm Runner maybe, as that’s kind of his shtick...)

I must admit I like the idea of trying to keep the PCs mostly focused on their own cosm – in the old days everyone seemed to want a bit of everything, which blurred the distinction between characters for me.

Again, for me, I want the Nile Empire to be a 30’s version of Watchmen or Dark Knight Returns (or the 'Wild Cards' or 'Powers' comics) , rather than Destructo Don. I used to enjoy Nightraven in the 80’s Marvel comics, who was a 30’s hero a little reminiscent of Rorschach. And plenty of heroes like Mr A, or Stardust the Super-Wizard, were pretty vicious to their enemies. The film genres that define the Nile Empire – Indiana Jones, or The Mummy, had humour but weren’t goofy or silly. I’m delighted they got rid of the Good/Evil aspect and a lot of the campy elements.

Aysle was another cosm that really didn’t work for us. I love fantasy, but the pictures of centaurs in business suits and dwarves with SMGs ruined the place for me. It sounds like they tried to define the cosm better in this edition, between Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones and Once Upon A Time as their touchstones. I’m not personally a fan of how GoT ratchets the sex and violence up to 11 all the time, but I’d like to see more intrigue and politics in the Aysle noble houses. I always thought Eberron was a reasonable attempt at a ‘magic is common’ fantasy world.

And they’ve already stripped out the in-universe RPG and the goofy stereotypical gamer nerd. I’m actually all for the culture of Core Earth showing interest in the invading realms (I think they had Things magazine, and the more risqué PlayThings version…?). But it doesn’t have to be a silly self-parody either.

Lastly, no more celebrity cameos or real-world guest-stars… unless they’re only there to be eaten by a dinosaur or zombies :)


Does anyone else have any ways in which they tried to preserve a sense of seriousness in Torg? Or god forbid, are there people out there who liked the campy stuff? :)

To be fair, the new designers seem to have a good handle on this and I’m happy with most of the changes they have made.
Last edited by MAJT on Mon Jul 03, 2017 1:10 pm, edited 5 times in total.

MAJT

Re: getting rid of the silly aspects of Torg

Postby MAJT » Mon Jul 03, 2017 1:03 pm

And oh, one more question - does anyone have a better name for a 'Darkness Device'?

Dear lord, does that sound goofy and camp, like something from Masters of the Universe. You may as well just call it a 'Maguffin of Evil'.

I want them to be something dreaded, like the 'One Ring' of Torg, something semi-sentient always seeking an avatar to dominate the world. If we go with my idea of playing a post War's End version of Torg Eternity, then they will be the main enemies of the setting... so they are going to need a collective name that my players will take seriously.

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Re: getting rid of the silly aspects of Torg

Postby Kuildeous » Mon Jul 03, 2017 1:31 pm

You could go with Shadow Shard for a Darkness Device. Something with Obsidian always sounds menacing, but that implies they are literally made from obsidian. Something with Void or Destruction. Hell, they could all be Nameless Ones, though that is literally a lie as soon as you talk about Daikoku or the others.

As far as the silly things go, it depends on your threshold. For you, dwarves with SMGs was silly, but I view it as a major selling point of Torg. A dwarf could pick up an SMG. A Core Earth New Age weirdo could learn how to cast Fireball. An edeinos could study the US Constitution. A Shaolin monk could convert to the Sacellum. This is a world where axioms collide. A lot can be done with this, and it really only makes sense that a Storm Knight dwarf would be okay with using an SMG instead of relying on a crossbow.

There is a great opportunity for culture shock here. It really should be played up. I wrinkle my nose at the centaur in a business suit. Not because it's a centaur in a business suit—just like any other cultural bleeds, this would be inevitable—but because there's an implication that the centaur is freely accepted by the humans. I think there would be many arguments about nonhumans getting involved with human affairs. The Living Land sourcebook touched upon that with rogue edeinos. You can really play this up with outsiders.

I feel the transformations should be played up a lot more. What happens if your elf transforms to Pan Pacifica? How does he react? What traits does he develop now that he's in a permanent state of magical fatigue? Transformation should be more than simply changing your axioms. There should be a shift to your personality and worldview. How does that change and why?

From the posts so far, you may actually see more involuntary transformations out there. I had one happen in a demo I ran, but I ignored the result since it was a demo. But rather than try to avoid the notion of Tharkold edeinos or Nile elves, we should examine their stories and expand on them.
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MAJT

Re: getting rid of the silly aspects of Torg

Postby MAJT » Mon Jul 03, 2017 2:02 pm

Thanks for that Kuildeous. I'll try a few ideas about something Shadow or Obsidian-related for the DDs. I honestly wished there was an actual name for 'Nameless One' - 'Aperiros' doesn't sound too bad though for its opposite.

As for the transforming, to each his own I guess. For me, that's where Torg broke down. It feels like a gateway to the one place I don't want my version to go - into camp goofiness and cyber-ninja-werewolves. We'll be playing in a post War's End world, set 22 years after the Gaunt Man's Final Death, so things like stelae are mostly gone and realities are 'burned in' for the most part, to the land and the people both. Disconnection will be possible, obviously, but transformations will be very rare, and they'll be pretty complete (ie ords will have a physical transformation into a new native denizen with nothing but vague memories of their old life). Actual transformation of PCs will be incredibly rare; that's what they bring to the table really. We used to play it that the PCs were the only Storm Knights in the world, and that they were essentially living exemplars of their realities.

I guess our theme won't be 'invading realities' but 'twenty years on, how is Core Earth coping with its new neighbours?'

I recall that my old players really never got the concept of pure, dominant and mixed zones. I'll float it with my new group, but may keep things simple - keep Pure zones for the Realm and everything in a Cosm is only Dominant. That cuts down on daft things like NPCs dragging hard-points around. We used to play it that a PC could spend a Possibility to create their own reality bubble for a whole Scene, not 10 minutes.

One of my design goals was that the PCs should be allowed to play with their cool stuff wherever they are, but one-case contradictions might happen. And they should be very, very wary of risking a four-case contradiction. You can play with your own stuff in relative safety, or play with the cosm's stuff, but be very leery of playing with anything that's alien to both, unless it's literally a life or death situation.

But I guess everyone's mileage may vary.

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Re: getting rid of the silly aspects of Torg

Postby Gargoyle » Mon Jul 03, 2017 2:30 pm

Well the designers have said multiple times on the forums here and elsewhere that the silliness of things like Skippy the Edeinos won't be in Torg Eternity, so I would expect everything to stay more serious than oTorg in the official TorgE publications.

Players and GM's tend to add this stuff though, because it's a game and it happens. So if you're not the GM, you might still see more than you like, and even if you are, the players are going to be players. I find that RPG's get silly all by themselves sometimes, and that's not always a bad thing.

As for Darkness Device names...don't call them anything. Players aren't going to run across them anyway or hear about them most of the time; as they get closer to the Highlords, they might hear about "Heketon" or "Rec Pakken" but I actually can't think of a scenario where the work "Darkness Device" comes up in play, to me it's more of a meta-game term, or something that characters very knowledgeable about the Possibility raiders might be familiar with, but honestly most characters shouldn't know anything about them anyway.
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MAJT

Re: getting rid of the silly aspects of Torg

Postby MAJT » Mon Jul 03, 2017 3:09 pm

Gargoyle wrote:As for Darkness Device names...don't call them anything. Players aren't going to run across them anyway or hear about them most of the time; as they get closer to the Highlords, they might hear about "Heketon" or "Rec Pakken" but I actually can't think of a scenario where the work "Darkness Device" comes up in play, to me it's more of a meta-game term, or something that characters very knowledgeable about the Possibility raiders might be familiar with, but honestly most characters shouldn't know anything about them anyway.


I kind of need a name for them because they are going to be the main adversaries of our game. Throwing them into Mount Doom or whatever before they find new High Lords is going to be the focus of the game. I guess I could call them by their unique names but I'm sure a collective term would help.

That's why I was hoping for something scarier than 'Darkness Device'.

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Gargoyle
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Re: getting rid of the silly aspects of Torg

Postby Gargoyle » Mon Jul 03, 2017 3:50 pm

MAJT wrote:
Gargoyle wrote:As for Darkness Device names...don't call them anything. Players aren't going to run across them anyway or hear about them most of the time; as they get closer to the Highlords, they might hear about "Heketon" or "Rec Pakken" but I actually can't think of a scenario where the work "Darkness Device" comes up in play, to me it's more of a meta-game term, or something that characters very knowledgeable about the Possibility raiders might be familiar with, but honestly most characters shouldn't know anything about them anyway.


I kind of need a name for them because they are going to be the main adversaries of our game. Throwing them into Mount Doom or whatever before they find new High Lords is going to be the focus of the game. I guess I could call them by their unique names but I'm sure a collective term would help.

That's why I was hoping for something scarier than 'Darkness Device'.


Makes sense!
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MAJT

Re: getting rid of the silly aspects of Torg

Postby MAJT » Mon Jul 03, 2017 4:02 pm

I think Torg spans so many different genres, there's no real 'one true way' to play it.

If one group wants a really gonzo, anything-goes game, they can do that. Or they can stick to one genre, and play a team of fantasy heroes in Aysle or grim, fatalistic monster hunters in Orrorsh.

I know groups who eliminated some of the realms, or who didn't use the High Lords. From memory, I think that telling 'stories' and pulling up stelae was supposed to be a big part of game-play in Torg, but we never did anything of the sort, and some other groups seldom did.

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Re: getting rid of the silly aspects of Torg

Postby Stormchild » Mon Jul 03, 2017 5:01 pm

How about festucam nihilo (splinter of nothingness in latin) or festucam tenebris (splinter of darkness)?

I like to see the humor of Torg as in Firefly. Though the world is dark and grim there is no reason not to have fun but when the Reapers come keep firing and don't fool around.

The dwarfs in suits and edeinos with motorcycles are another story. This is what Torg is all about: mixing worlds. I can remember when playing an Ork was an absolute no-go, then Earthdawn came along and it made perfect sense, or when it was unthinkable that magic and high tech mix, then there came Shadowrun and everything got thrown around. That is what happens when genres mix and tropes are challenged. Torg is all about mixing genres and challenging tropes. Dwarven stock traders? Hell yes, everybody is looking for his niche where he can survive in this new world. The world of Torg is full of new ideas and sensations not only for people from Core Earth but for those of other realms too. They have to adapt and some just go nuts by all the crazy stuff around and start jumping around on pogo sticks while casting spells. People have fragile minds.

But after all, this is your world (as a GM), more than in any other RPG, so build it any way it suits you and your players. Your world is a whole cosmverse all by itself.

This said, TorgE seems to be more sincere than oTorg. Aysle is no more a D&D ripoff, Pan Pacifica fka Nippon Tech has a clear focus now, Tharkold is more than just splatter horror, survival in Orrorsh is possible, Edeinos are fearsome creatures, the Cyberpapacy knows what to do with its Tech Axiom and the designers promised they will keep an eye on the Nile to prevent it from evolving from pulp to four-colour-super-heroes.
Last edited by Stormchild on Mon Jul 03, 2017 5:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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MAJT

Re: getting rid of the silly aspects of Torg

Postby MAJT » Mon Jul 03, 2017 5:06 pm

Stormchild wrote:How about festucam nihilo (splinter of nothingness in latin) or festucam tenebris (splinter of darkness)?

I like to see the humor of Torg as in Firefly. Though the world is dark and grim there is no reason not to have fun but when the Reapers come keep firing and don't fool around.


Latin sounds quite impressive, so that might work, thanks.

I'd also argue that humour and silliness are really two different things. Star Wars has plenty of humour, but doesn't really get silly until Jar-Jar arrives.

As I said, I think Torg is big enough to cater to all kinds of stories. Some people feel that their fantasy adventure or corporate intrigue scenario would be improved by the addition of cybernetic werewolf superheroes, and others don't. As you mention, Torg (more than most games) relies a lot on making it your own.

It's enough for me that they excised the goofier things like Skippy the Edienos.


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