Torg was the first game I encountered that allowed the party to play a mixed group of characters from a list of genres; so you could have a lost world hero rubbing shoulders with a cybernetically enhanced ninja. It was through a series of teaser adverts in Dragon that piqued my interest and it soon became a hot topic when I talked to other gamers at the local games shop.
In the beginning:
The story was that Earth had been invaded by High Lords from different realms and realities who wish to strip the Earth of the living energy of the planet. Each High Lord brings with them a chunk of their own reality and converts their conquered region to their reality.
Inside the box.
The core game came in a boxed set containing three books, an Infiniverse campaign newsletter, a 156 card drama deck and a possibility shard or 1d20 if you prefer 🙂
In the game the player characters are Storm Knights and they have the ability to control their fates by expending possibility energy which enabled the character to do extraordainary things including re-reolling the die if the result was unfavourable. Posibilites are a great idea and its good to see that the core of this mechanic has been carried onto other games but are called Fate Points or Bennies or something of that ilk. As the line expanded so did the meta-plot and things like a guild of Storm Knights appeared.
The game also had a meta-plot running through it and by sending the results back of how your group handled certain adventures you could influence how the overall War for Reality would play out. This was a great idea and I had never seen such a thing ever proposed, the idea that thousands of gamers worldwide had the chance to shape the overall plot arc was just mind blowing. West End Games did publish three campaign updates based upon the results of the global Infiniverse campaign and the idea seemed to work. It would be a very different thing to do today as the internet could make submission and compilation of campaign data much easier.
This was something else I loved the idea of using the special Drama Deck to govern initiative and also to define that if certain combat manoeuvres were used the player could be rewarded with additional cards from the Drama Deck; it would also set various combat conditions that could hinder or provide you with bonuses depending on the cards. Plus there were the “special cards” that players could use in any situation, cards that would allow you to define an ally or contact that you knew in the area and could call upon for help or advice when you needed it. Apart from West End Games other system Masterbook I have yet to see anything similar to this.
Cosms is how the invading realities were referred to in the book. Each Cosm had their own world laws and different axiom levels. If your character found themselves outside of their own Cosm and you failed a roll then you could find yourself disconnected from your home reality and instead become part of the invaders reality.
- The invading Cosms were initailly the following realms:
- Core Earth — “our” Earth, the base reality.
- Living Land—a primitive, Lost World-style jungle.
- Aysle—a magical, low-technology realm.
- The Cyberpapacy—this realm which was initially a repressive, medieval theocracy.
- Nippon Tech—an ultracapitalist nightmare society.
- The New Nile Empire — this realm combined a restored Ancient Egypt with pulp trappings.
- Orrorsh—a Gothic horror realm.
As the game supplements kept being released new Cosms were added to the list:
- Land Below—not a realm but a pocket dimension involving the mixture of Living Lands and the Nile Empire.
- Space Gods—a high-technology, space faring society very much in the style of Chariots of the Gods
- Tharkold—home of a race of magic and technology-using demons.
- Terra—not an invading realm but the home Cosm of the invaders from the Nile Empire.
As the game line progressed it started to become somewhat unwieldy to play as a visiting games master unless you could drive, each book added extra weight to the bags.
The game also enabled you to get the game going with templated characters and by adding a few skill packages to the template you could be up and running in no time. I always got the suspicion that templates found in later books appeared to much cooler than the ones in the boxed set and each exotic template could only be found in that specific book.
There was a lot to make the game interesting and special but I think the growing number of books required to play coupled with the somewhat bizarre characters that appeared in the books; for example Skippy , did make me wonder what was going on at West End Games HQ.
How do I do?
The game also used a universal chart for doing things which allegedly enabled you to convert from time to weight just by reading a different line. I say allegedly as I could never really figure it out and tended to fudge it when rolls had to be made.
When you came to take an action that required a success roll; you would roll the d2o and consult the success table on the bottom of the character sheet, then you add that bonus value to your skill roll for the action total and this is the final number that had to beat the target number of the gamesmaster.
The good news is that there is a revised and expanded version of Torg available if you want to play in the wars once more. and there is still a lot of good stuff to be had in the book.
If I was to play Torg these days I would use the background provided but use a different system like Savage Worlds as the two games do share several common features.
The other game dealing with multiple genre action Rifts takes a different slant on things and I had many fun hours playing this game. It has been criticised by several parties about power creep and I agree the game does have some issues when playing with some of the later books but I have always said you can use the main rulebook and the books for the region we’re going to be playing in.