Kansas Jim's review of War's End

    War's End is a 128 page module that covers the final days of WEG's run of the Possibility Wars. As it says in very small print on the content page, it is not part of OGP's continuity for Torg. It retailed for $18.

    This section of my review is a no-spoiler overview that provides a general look at the module and what I thought of it. More detailed analysis can be found in the seperate sections devoted to each of the Acts and the Epilogue.

 Also be sure to check out the rebuttal someone me sent concerning my review!

    To begin with, I was pleased with the wraparound cover. It may be artwork we've seen before (the Gaunt Man and his maelstrom bridge on a shattered, wasted landscape) but it's a good, effective piece of art. Players who see their GM pull this out of backpack will know they're in for a rough night (or four.) Fortunately the players will not see most of the interior art, the only reaction it is likely to inspire is apathy. There are a few nice pieces but they all appear to be lifted from the Japanese edition of Torg and have no real connection to the adventure at hand. There is a pretty good depiction of my old buddy Thratchen though.

    Despite the fact that the module is twice the size of a normal adventure it suffers from trying to do too much in too little space. There are a lot of loose ends tied up in the module that would have been better served by occuring at a different time, perhaps even receiving an adventure of its own. Of course such a thing would have required WEG giving a damn about Torg and actually supporting it in the two years preceeding the release of the module rather than letting everything sit and pile up until the last minute.
    So how does War's End stack up as an adventure, and as the end of the Possibility Wars? As an adventure it's a killer, but I don't mean that as a compliment, I mean that it's going to kill off PCs left and right, particularly in the last two Acts. The module does warn that it is for experienced characters and that it is a particularly lethal adventure, but some guidelines on what exactly WEG considers "advanced characters" would have been helpful. I know none of the characters from my campaign that I consider highly experienced would make it through this module, not without a lot of luck and breaks from the GM (that's Game Master, not Gaunt Man.)
    As for concluding the Possibility Wars, aside from the problem I mentioned above of everything being crammed into one adventure, it barely manages to do a passable job of it but overall I know it could have been done better. (Minor spoilers follow but nothing that will really affect the PCs.)
    Mobius gets off a bit too easily, the Warrior of the Dark's end is what you expect (it's so stereotypical I almost wonder if it was lifted verbatim from a bad sword & sorcery movie), Malraux's ending has some troublesome theological problems that I'm sure will resurrect old discussions about dieties, 3327's end is appropriate (at least given the stupid circumstances WEG had him in), Kaah was already screwed over by WEG long ago so finishing him off is a mercy killing, Jezrael's end is a cop-out (unless the PCs kill her themselves as a warmup for the Gaunt Man), Ayroa...who cares? And of course against someone like the Gaunt Man the PCs need a deus ex machina and they get one. Oh yeah, and the Akashans just pack up and go home.
    You might be wondering just how many Acts there are to this adventure since it finishes off nine High Lords. Not as many as you might think, since the PCs are only involved in the downfall of the Gaunt Man, and maybe Jezrael and Ayroa (should they feel like getting involved, the module actually provides for NPCs to take them out). For all the rest they're just observers of what occurs, most of it being through a cheap plot device of Apeiros teleporting them to the scene and letting them watch (if they're lucky the GM can have them fight faceless minions while the High Lord is brought down by others!) then teleporting them back to where they were previously. There are four Acts total, only two of which (one and four ) actually have the PCs meet any of the High Lords.
    I think this is the main flaw of the adventure, our heroes have spent five years fighting the High Lords and what's their reward? Watching other people bring down the bad guys. Oh sure, they get to take out the Big Guy, the Gaunt Man himself, but what if your players have spent the last five years battling just one or two other High Lords in particular, are they really going to be all that satisfied by watching someone else pull the trigger and bring them down? It would be like going through all three Star Wars movies with Wedge being the main character and this Skywalker fellow and his friends always coming in at the last minute and pulling off the big stunts like blowing up the Death Stars, killing Jabba the Hutt, killing the Emperor, and so on.
    Sure, if the module did actually have the PCs bring down every High Lord by themselves I'd be sitting here talking about how contrived of an ending that was, but it's just not cinematically appropriate for the PCs to be bystanders and witnesses, they should have some part in bringing down at least a couple of the High Lords.
    That said, about the only things left that don't involve spoilers are game mechanics and editing. True to form, there are a number of errors that should have been caught by a decent proofreader. The one that leaps immediately to mind is that at one point they repeat a writeup from earlier in the module and it includes two paragraphs of text from the earlier scene that have nothing to do with the scene the writeup is repeated in. In fact the lifting of writeups from previous scenes and reprinting them later occurs quite a bit. I suppose some GMs may like having writeups available for every scene they occur in but I prefer just having one writeup, it's a waste of space to repeat them.
    With game mechanics there's only one real problem and that's the way the Acts are divided up into Scenes and how the Scenes are divided between Standard and Dramatic. The first problem is really just a symptom of too much being attempted in this module. I don't know about most people but eight Scenes per Act is about twice what I usually put in my adventures, but I suppose if I made every single event into a seperate scene I might end up with that many. But there are several Scenes in the adventure where the players don't really do anything, certainly not enough that they need to refill their card hands before the next event occurs. An example - the first Scene of the first Act calls for two skill checks, a GM who is a bitch about using the Character Interaction rules might require another as many as four before the characters learn the information they need to go on to the next Scene. Two or four skill checks make for a Scene now?
    The second problem is the number of Dramatic Scenes in this adventure. The third Act, which does not take place in the Nile, has two Dramatic Scenes. The module does say that this is unusual and they have a good reason for it so I'm willing to let it slide. The fourth Act has four Dramatic Scenes that occur in a row, without a break, and are nonstop combat against very deadly opponents. If it was nonstop combat against dramatically appropriate opponents I might be willing to accept this, but two of them are little more than an endless battle against literally hundreds of faceless minions, the only drama inherient in the scenes is how much of a body count the PCs and the GM can rack up. The last two Scenes are encounters against dramatically appropriate opponents, at least if you consider the ridiculous God-Kaah dramatically appropriate (the Gaunt Man of course is dramatically appropriate) so I'd be willing to let those by, but not the other two.
    In case you're wondering why I brought up the Nile in relation to Act Three, Act One does occur in the Nile. It only has one Dramatic Scene, despite the Law of Drama suggesting that Nile adventures should have two Dramatic Scenes per Act. To make matters worse, the sole Dramatic Scene in that Act has very little actually occur in it, other than the fact that Mobius appears (only to deliver a monologue, then he's gone before the PCs can do anything) there's nothing in it that should qualify it as a Dramatic Scene.
    To sum things up for the non-spoiler section of the review, I cannot recommend this module. It's not horribly bad like I had feared it would be but it needs a lot of work before it will be good. About the only way I would consider using in my own campaign would be to take some of the High Lords' finales and rewrite them into seperate adventures that the PCs actually get involved in rather than just being spectators. The main plot would still be salvagable and in fact might come across as a lot more dramatic and appropriate spread out over the course of numerous adventures rather than squeezed into four Acts.

Continue on to the detailed sections of the review:

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page created 2/22/97, updated 4/11/2000