Wrapping my head around the cosms

Sword of Spirit
Posts: 146
Joined: Sun Feb 11, 2018 5:03 am

Wrapping my head around the cosms

Postby Sword of Spirit » Tue Aug 14, 2018 3:12 pm

So I've been thinking, and I've realized that some of the cosms are easier for me to "get" than others. I always wanted to play oTorg, but I never actually got to, so I knew basically nothing about the actual details other than Rifts and Torg came out around the same time, were both multi-genre earth invaded by other realities, and Torg seemed cooler to me for some difficult to explain reason.

Now that Torg Eternity is out, I'm really excited about it, and the sessions we've played have been great fun for all. But I have realized that some cosms are just hard for me to really visualize, either thematically or aesthetically. When I see discussions relating them to works of fiction it is helpful on the one hand, but on the other hand I sometimes see quite divergent works of fiction referenced as being good examples of the same cosm.

So in the interest of expressing what at least one Torg newbie might have trouble grasping, I'm going to explain which ones are easiest and hardest for me to visualize (again, whether theme or aesthetics) and why.

Really Easy:
Core Earth. Action movies in an "earth plus" (ie, minor mystical/folkloric elements). Nothing hard to grasp here.
Living Land. Lizardfolk and dinosaurs. Got it. Minor defining details explained in material that doesn't confuse the theme.

Pretty easy, I'll just need some more detail from the cosm book:
Aysle. Medieval fantasy. This one seems pretty straightforward. Grasping the *precise* point of central reference isn't clear to me, but I figure the cosm book will clear that all up pretty quickly.

Would be easy, but complicated by a twist:
Orrorsh. Gothic horror in a quasi-Victorian era. Check. Except...the way the evils are described they seem so ubiquitous and visible that it doesn't seem to have that element of understated mystery that is necessary for gothic horror. Maybe it's just the initial invasion when monsters were running rampant and then they settle down into the background and people forget they are there until someone dies or goes insane? But the impression that I get is that the Victorians are in a war against these horrifying monsters and everyone knows about what is going on. That really plays up the alienness of it, and gives it more of a sci-fi or fantasy feel (if not aesthetic) than a gothic horror one. With gothic horror, the average people don't believe vampires and werewolves exist (or they fear they exist, but hope they are somewhere else--they aren't expecting to find them nearby). In Orrorsh they seem to be rampaging through the streets (perhaps an exaggeration). I just can't see how to really tell the sorts of stories the cosm seems designed for with how obvious the threats seem to be presented as. So, I have a little difficulty understanding this one.
Nile Empire. The Mummy and Indiana Jones + The Shadow and The Rocketeer. This brings up the first example of a major confusing element: mixed theme cosms. The cosms with a single theme are a lot easier to understand than the ones that mix multiple themes. The Nile Empire is probably the easiest to get of that category, because both themes are really easy to understand on their own. The problem comes in seeing how they interact. What is the relative frequency of superhero pulp compared to non-super pulp? These genres have enough distinction amongst them in my vision, that it is difficult to put them together. In a world with supers, generally everything is about the supers, while in the other sort of pulp we are mostly dealing with interesting but more or less normal people. I just cannot visualize Indiana Jones and the Shadow in the same universe. Indie and Dick Tracey are easier together, and Dick Tracey and the Shadow together, but blending the two ends of the spectrum together doesn't really compute for me.

Much harder than it sounds:
Cyberpapacy. The mixed genre elements reallyconfuse matters here. If I'm anywhere close, it seems like the elements are cyber-tech + police state + single view utopianism (which together creates a distopia). Much like Nile Empire, it is easier to see how some of these fit than others. Cyber-tech + police state is a pretty straightforward cyberpunk take. Police state + single view utopianism has lots of sci-fi precedents. Even cyber-tech + single view utopianism has enough evocative precedents that I can get it. Unlike Nile Empire, there is nothing that strikes me as contradictory about the components (assuming I'm understanding them correctly), but when you put them all together, I'm not sure what it looks like (aesthetically mostly, but somewhat thematically). Are we looking at neon and chrome cyberpunk? Pristine futuristic cityscape? Gothic architecture? All three put together? Which element, if any, is dominant? On the one hand this is the highest tech setting, the "sci-fi" setting, so I really like the idea of multi-tiered cities where the poor live in squalor amongst neon, rusted chrome, and second hand cyber-tech at the lower levels, while the rich live in shining alabaster walls and shimmering mirror windows with beautiful cyber-enhancements and utopian living standards in the upper tiers (as long as they either believe in the cyberchurch or keep their mouth shut). I could throw some gothic architectural elements onto both of those without messing up the image, but I don't know how close or off-base I am here.

I have no idea how close or far I am:
Tharkold. That's cool! Um...I'm not sure what's cool, 'cause I can't really figure out what it's about or what's there, but obviously something is! This is probably the most difficult because rather than blending multiple strong genres together, it seems to be blending several individual pieces of fiction that don't really compose any sort of consistent genre. Ie, there are flavors of a lot of things, but exactly what those are, how they work together, or even what it looks like (aesthetically) is extremely unclear to me.
Pan Pacifica. By contrast with Tharkold, this one seems to be based on more clearly defined genres. However, like Tharkold, it seems to be composed of several of them, and I'm not sure which ones those are, much less how they fit into a coherent whole. I've heard that there should be a bit of cyberpunk here, but without actual cyberware--that must just be speaking of theme. Martial arts is a thing. Corporate espionage and paranoia. Psionics. Zombie outbreaks. Advanced weaponry and other post cutting-edge tech. Secret labs. And three or four other elements at least. ?

Now it's probably easy to say "all of the above!" to any of the various takes, but the cosms don't really seem as malleable as that to me. They seem like they are each their own thing, not just a broad category in which to set a variety of stories that don't gel well together. I expect the mega-adventures for each cosm will probably highlight that fact by presenting a unified vision of each cosm. So, yes, I can do whatever I want with them, but once the cosm books and their associated adventures come out, I'd rather not be saying, "Huh. That's not how I visualized it at all."

So...perhaps you oTorg veterans can see my confusion. :)

User avatar
Gargoyle
Posts: 1797
Joined: Mon Nov 14, 2016 8:20 pm

Re: Wrapping my head around the cosms

Postby Gargoyle » Tue Aug 14, 2018 3:26 pm

I sort of have the same feelings. Pan-Pacifica is a genre inspired by certain manga, anime, and movies like Resident Evil...and I'm just not a fan of that stuff. I don't hate it or anything, just haven't seen it and my limited exposure to it hasn't drawn me in. I do like the Walking Dead and various old zombie movies though. So I'm sort of going with corporate espionage from oTorg's Nippon Tech, with truly hostile takeovers, and the Walking Dead for my inspirations.

Tharkold was a puzzle for me until I decided to use the Running Man and Hunger Games as an inspiration, and make ultra-violent TV shows a big deal there in the urban areas, with a Terminator styled Resistance hijacking tv feeds etc. For Blasted Lands I draw on Road Warrior and the Fallout video games. I really enjoyed running my first session there a few months ago, all in the Blasted Lands.

For Cyberpapacy I focus on the Resistance and how the Church is a bastard but it does give benefits like free healthcare and protection from demons, and flavor it with lots of Augmented Reality and surveillance everywhere, but very slow response times to incidents because of the low Social axiom's bureaucracy. The Church stuff I make gleaming with circuitry and chrome. In the resistance areas there is no power at all, that's how they avoid the Godnet, they blow up substations and live in ruins. For the rest it's a mix of high tech and old France and Spain.
"That old chestnut?"

Gargoyle

User avatar
Matthew Surridge
Posts: 185
Joined: Mon Apr 16, 2018 10:57 pm

Re: Wrapping my head around the cosms

Postby Matthew Surridge » Tue Aug 14, 2018 10:04 pm

I've had to put in a lot of thought about the cosms myself, and I agree with a lot of what you're saying. Some make more intuitive sense than others. Of course, some of what's intuitive is going to vary with the individual. I never really had a problem with the Cyberpapacy, for example — I always thought of it as old-school 80s cyberpunk (which maybe was more intuitive in the early 90s, anyway) with a kind of religious skin. So all the tech stuff has religious iconography on top of it, and the corrupt authority that cyberpunk types are so often rebelling against happens to be religious rather than corporate. I don't know if that helps, but it seems to me what you suggest for the Cyberpapacy is close to the way I always thought of it.

Personally, I also tend to think of realities, particularly in Eternity more than oTorg, as being portmanteaus of different-but-related genres. So, say, Core Earth is action movies, but also slice-of-life dramas and documentaries and the everyday world. It makes sense to me that 'real life' would be especially powerful compared to genre realities; it doesn't make as much sense to me to think that action movies have special power (Possibility Energy) that other genres don't. Anyway, that might help you with Nile — it really is Indiana Jones plus Dick Tracy plus The Shadow, and what you want to focus on is up to you. (Plus, NE pulp heroes aren't really "super-heroes" in the comics way, I feel, but this is very much a your-mileage-will-vary point, I suspect.) Same sort of thing with Aysle, which has elements of myth, of epic fantasy, of sword and sorcery, even of black metal lyrics (oh, don't think I didn't get "The Blaze in the Northern Sky"). I guess I feel that sub-genres are the bricks that make a reality and the World Laws are the mortar, if that helps — the Laws (and cosm cards) determine how the world plays out.

I will say, though, that I've had a lot of the same hesitations with Orrorsh that you've had. And I've felt the same since back when the original Orrorsh sourcebook came out. At first glance an entire world of horrors is a bit unsubtle. My eventual rationalisation was that a certain chunk of the Victorian population was living in denial (the people who'd be shocked by the discovery of the supernatural) while a lot of others were … well, there were a disproportionate number of highly weird people. So the Victorian authorities maintain there's nothing wrong with the Empire, these things some call 'retreats' are just advances in a different direction, the natives appreciate the benefits of Victorian culture and the occasional massacres are just the work of malcontents and radicals, and so on; but many people have a knowledge of the world that goes beyond the official line, and that aligns with membership in the Orrorshan equivalents of things like The Society For Psychical Research and The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and so forth. So that sort of allows for M.R. James–style subtle horror, and also more straight-ahead monster-hunting.

I will say I think it's inevitable that the cosm books won't align 100 percent with the way individual GMs develop the worlds through play. What I found with original Torg was that as new cosm books came out some stuff would fit perfectly, some wouldn't, and some would be good ideas that were worth using but a bit of a pain to harmonise retroactively. So to stick with Orrorsh, which was one of the last books to come out — I loved most of it, really liked the Nightmare Court, loved the way it tried to deal with imperialism and Victorian sexism and all that as parts of the genre; didn't care for Gaea as a world almost entirely conquered by horror (though I've warmed up to it since); really liked the True Death mechanic but had to work out why all previous encounters with Orrorshan Horrors hadn't brought up the point. FWIW, I actually expect the new Orrorshan book to have stuff in it I won't care for — the mention of the "Ms. Bart medal" in the rulebook felt so, so wrong to me, because a Victorian horror realm doesn't work in my mind with "Ms." (there's actually a mention in one of the adventure books of a woman priest of the Sacellum, which feels both anachronistic and out of genre). But eh. Maybe I'm wrong about what'll be in the book; maybe I'm right, but they have a way that'll make it work. And maybe I still won't care for it — but I expect there'll still be a lot of cool ideas I can use to make the Orrorsh in my campaign make sense for me.
Humankind cannot bear very much reality
— T.S. Eliot, who didn't know the half of it

My Torg Eternity review, part one and part two

User avatar
Aenno
Posts: 317
Joined: Thu May 03, 2018 3:59 am
Location: Moscow, Russia

Re: Wrapping my head around the cosms

Postby Aenno » Tue Aug 14, 2018 11:48 pm

For Cyberpapacy I really recommend "If This Goes On—" by Heinlein.

I began to sense faintly that secrecy is the keystone of all tyranny. Not force, but secrecy . . . censorship. When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, ‚This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know’, the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives.
I argue fiercely, but I never believed disagreement should be capital offence.

I'm editing my posts often. English isn't my native language, and I'm doing a lot of mistakes; that, with thoughtful rereading, I often found and want to edit.

User avatar
mistervimes
Posts: 113
Joined: Mon Apr 02, 2018 11:29 am
Location: Ankh Morpork

Re: Wrapping my head around the cosms

Postby mistervimes » Wed Aug 15, 2018 8:34 am

Sword of Spirit wrote:Orrorsh. Gothic horror in a quasi-Victorian era. Check. Except...the way the evils are described they seem so ubiquitous and visible that it doesn't seem to have that element of understated mystery that is necessary for gothic horror.


Orrorsh has always been slasher horror with a Victorian skin on it. You can certainly add, or even favor, element of gothic horror instead of the slasher elements. I try to mix the two as the Victorian setting implies gothic elements and can cause cognitive dissonance when the players are expecting Dracula and they get Nightmare on Elm Street.
"He was an unshaven collection of bad habits marinated in alcohol, morose, cynical and ridiculously soft-hearted. One of Nature's policemen; his soul burns to arrest the Creator for getting it wrong."" - (Terry Pratchett)

User avatar
Spatula
Posts: 1042
Joined: Fri Jun 30, 2017 7:00 pm

Re: Wrapping my head around the cosms

Postby Spatula » Wed Aug 15, 2018 11:05 am

mistervimes wrote:Orrorsh has always been slasher horror with a Victorian skin on it.

Yeah, this. I blame this partly on modern tastes/norms overwriting a concept that's somewhat antiquated and unfamiliar to most people, much like the proliferation of superheroes in the Nile.

User avatar
Aenno
Posts: 317
Joined: Thu May 03, 2018 3:59 am
Location: Moscow, Russia

Re: Wrapping my head around the cosms

Postby Aenno » Wed Aug 15, 2018 11:09 am

By the way, I wonder where Lovecraft belongs.
By time-frame it's between Orrorsh and Nile, but as idea I'd put it into Orrorsh.
I argue fiercely, but I never believed disagreement should be capital offence.

I'm editing my posts often. English isn't my native language, and I'm doing a lot of mistakes; that, with thoughtful rereading, I often found and want to edit.

User avatar
mistervimes
Posts: 113
Joined: Mon Apr 02, 2018 11:29 am
Location: Ankh Morpork

Re: Wrapping my head around the cosms

Postby mistervimes » Wed Aug 15, 2018 11:46 am

Aenno wrote:By the way, I wonder where Lovecraft belongs.
By time-frame it's between Orrorsh and Nile, but as idea I'd put it into Orrorsh.



Right smack in the middle of that Pan-Pacifica/Orrorsh mixed zone.
"He was an unshaven collection of bad habits marinated in alcohol, morose, cynical and ridiculously soft-hearted. One of Nature's policemen; his soul burns to arrest the Creator for getting it wrong."" - (Terry Pratchett)

User avatar
Aenno
Posts: 317
Joined: Thu May 03, 2018 3:59 am
Location: Moscow, Russia

Re: Wrapping my head around the cosms

Postby Aenno » Wed Aug 15, 2018 11:54 am

mistervimes wrote:Right smack in the middle of that Pan-Pacifica/Orrorsh mixed zone.

Hmmm... why PP?
I argue fiercely, but I never believed disagreement should be capital offence.

I'm editing my posts often. English isn't my native language, and I'm doing a lot of mistakes; that, with thoughtful rereading, I often found and want to edit.

Brandon_C
Posts: 67
Joined: Fri Jul 20, 2018 4:10 pm

Re: Wrapping my head around the cosms

Postby Brandon_C » Wed Aug 15, 2018 12:40 pm

Aenno wrote:
mistervimes wrote:Right smack in the middle of that Pan-Pacifica/Orrorsh mixed zone.

Hmmm... why PP?


The sunken city of R'lyeh is in the South Pacific. This was the area where a merchant ship rammed Cthulhu.


Return to “Setting Discussion (TORG)”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 9 guests