If you don't know what roleplaying games are, you should read this first and then come back.
This is basically a cut-and-paste of an old text file I last updated in 1994. I really should get around to updating it one of these days but you know how that goes....
WHAT IS TORG?
(version 1.3, last edited 02/03/94)
(editing assist from T. Erik Browne)
TORG is a generic role-playing game system where the various genre campaign settings are all located in one place (Earth!) instead of being seperate and unrelated. How did this happen? Simply put, the various genre universes (called 'cosms' in Torgnology) have invaded Earth and imposed their versions of reality over certain areas of the globe!
Why have all these cosms invaded our poor planet? They are after something that Earth possesses in great quantity: a unique form of energy known as Possibility Energy. Each cosm brings its own reality with it to Earth, where things may not work the same as they do on Earth. Magic, spiritual miracles, and high-tech devices abound in the alien realities.
The leaders of the invading cosms (the High Lords) have been brought here by their Darkness Devices, powerful artifacts that give their High Lords great power in exchange for continual conquest and destruction of other cosms. The High Lord of Orrorsh invited the other High Lords to help him invade Earth's cosm (there is so much
Possibility Energy on Earth that no one cosm could survive an attempt to invade it). The Darkness Devices drop maelstrom bridges into the cosm they are invading and the forces of the invaders come down them, spreading their reality over that of the native cosm. In the process, they absorb the Possibility Energy of the native cosm,
strenthening the Darkness Device (and the High Lord).
Each cosm possesses axiom levels (ranging from 0 to 33) representing the level of Technology, Magic, Spiritual energy, and Social advancement. In addition, each cosm possesses World Laws that make it unique from any other cosm, even one with the same axiom levels.
There are currently seven invading cosms on Earth, one that is attached to the Earth cosm but isn't an invading realm, and one that has come to Earth in response to a distress call. First off, the seven invading cosms:
The Living Land - Huge sections of North America have fallen to the invading forces of this highly primitive and spiritual non-human cosm. Technology above the level of "stone knives and bearskins" doesn't function here, and neither does magic. The natives of this realm do possess amazing levels of spiritual power though, making them more than a match for the suddenly helpless North American militias they're fighting.
The Nile Empire - Most of Africa is now under the influence of this strange mixture of 1930's pulp adventure and Egyptian mysticism. Life is like a movie serial (or an Indiana Jones adventure) here, with the action non-stop and the characters melodramatically one-dimensional (either Good or Evil). In addition to magical and spiritual forces, the cosm also boasts Weird Science, which allows people to build devices well beyond the normal laws of science (such as flight packs, lightning guns, force field belts, etc).
Aysle - Great Britain and Scandinavia have fallen under the control of this magical cosm. Technology has been stalled at a level around that of Earth's 14-15th centuries, but magic has more than made up for it. Spell casting is a common ability for the people of Aysle and magical (and mythical) creatures such as minotaurs, unicorns, and dragons are everywhere. Spiritual powers are also strong here. Imagine D&D with slightly more technology (primitive pistols) and slightly less magic (wishes are not supported by Aysle's magic levels).
Cyberpapacy - The French Inquisition meets the cyberpunk genre. A corrupt version of the Catholic church has spread its doctrine to our Earth's France and it's got cybernetics and high-tech weapons and instruments to back itself up! The GodNet is an electronic communications net incorporating virtual reality images with religious overtones and the cyberpunk 'decking' experience. Magic is powerful here, although not as powerful as the religious forces. The world laws make certain that magic and 'heathen' religions are not as powerful as the Church of the Cyberpapacy. Socially though, the cosm is still stuck in the Dark Ages.
Nippon Tech - The corporate aspect of the cyberpunk genre without the cyberware. This cosm is so much like Earth's Japan (which is where they have invaded) that most of the world isn't even aware of its presence. Intrigue, betrayal, and vengeance make up daily life in this polluted, corrupt world. Unsuspecting nations around the world are accepting financial and material assistance from Japan, anaware that they are helping one of the invaders by doing so. Rules for fantastic forms of martial arts and corporate business takeovers make Nippon Tech an interesting place to adventure.
Orrorsh - The horror cosm; it has taken over Indonesia. Not only is it filled with the nasty monsters you would expect from such a place (the classic vampyres, werewolves, and undead) but the entire cosm is actually out to scare you to death! The World Laws of Orrorsh make certain that the characters will be afraid of the monsters they encounter. You will not have very many players saying "Ho-hum, another monster" after they've been in Orrorsh. In addition to monsters, there are evil Occult magics, and the misguided (but well-meaning) Victorians from the home cosm of Orrorsh. Orrorsh is the most powerful of the invading cosms. Magic and spiritual energies are powerful here; the social and technological levels are about equal to Earth's Victorian society of the late nineteenth century.
Tharkold - A high-tech and magical cosm ruled by evil techno-demons and opposed by their 3000-year nemeses, the Race (ie, humans). A bizarre blend of magic and cyberpunk with a nasty edge to it. Tharkold has invaded Los Angeles and is seeking revenge on Nippon Tech for its part in foiling their last invasion attempt of Earth.
Connected to the Earth cosm but not part of it is:
The Land Below - Reachable from Earth through the cave systems beneath the planet's surface, the Land Below represents the 'lost civilizations' genre; kind of a cross between the Living Land and the Nile Empire. In 1993 a portion of the Land Below forced itself onto the surface of the Earth, forming the Land Above.
Finally, beings from another cosm have arrived on Earth, responding to a distress call sent out by Earth:
The Space Gods - The ancient astronauts of the Incan legends return to Earth. Ancient relics that they left behind have been utilized in the appropriate manner, sending a signal to the Star Sphere (which is actually another cosm) that Earth has advanced to a high enough level of technological and social advancement to warrent inclusion in the Star Sphere. The Space Gods arrive on Earth and are startled when they find out what the exact situation is on Earth (they had never encountered Darkness Devices or invading realms before) . The Space Gods represent the Sci-Fi genre, possessing space ships, alien races, bio-technology, and psionic powers. In addition, their realm is different from the others in that its presence isn't destructive to the well-being of Earth. However, they have inadvertently brought with them a horrible psionic disease that now threatens to spread to the Earth!
If the invaders are able to impose their version of reality over an area, what chance is there of defeating them? Fortunately, the great amounts of Possibility Energy that exists on Earth has led to the creation of a large number of stormers (or Storm Knights as the heroes in the source material call themselves). Storm Knights are able to maintain their own reality when they enter an alien realm, something normal people (called Ords) cannot do.
This isn't an easy task though; if the stormer attempts to do something that the cosm he is in doesn't allow (like using high tech in the Living Land) there is a chance he will 'disconnect' and be forced to operate under the laws of the reality he's currently in. But fortunately, a stormer can attempt to 'reconnect' should this happen (but it isn't easy in some cases).
A stormer can also avoid disconnecting by using a Reality Bubble, which enables him to operate under his own reality for up to fifteen minutes without worrying about disconnection. Reality Bubbles are also useful in some areas where the local reality is so strong that it doesn't allow any contradictions at all. However, Reality
bubbles are costly to the character and are usually used only when absolutely necessary.
Basic character creation is a simple task. There are a number of character templates available to choose from. The player chooses a template and then assigns skill points to the skills available to that template. Starting equipment and attributes are predetermined for each template. Attributes range from 1 to 13, although almost no templates have any attributes below an eight. Starting skills can have a maximum of three 'adds' and the character gets 13 adds for his starting skills. Each template also comes with a 'tag skill', which is the skill that the template is specialized in (and automatically starts at three adds which the character does not have to pay for). For example, a National Guardsman has Fire Combat as a tag skill while an Engineer has Engineering (or possibly Science) as a tag skill. A skill value is found by adding the related attribute to the skill. For example, a character with a Dexterity of 10 and Fire Combat of 2 has a Fire Combat Value of 12.
Each pregenerated template also has a generic background and personality description, but players are urged to be a bit creative and modify these to fit their character.
Characters (who are always stormers) also have Possibiliy Points, which can be used in several different ways. They can be used to modify dice rolls, negate damage taken in combat, and to improve skills and attributes. Certain cosms also allow other uses of Possibilities, such as using them to pay for super-powers in the Nile Empire.
There are some basic rules on creating your own templates in the rulesbook. More detailed character creation rules are included in "The Storm Knights Guide to the Possibility Wars" supplement book.
The Torg system is really quite simple once you get used to it. The player rolls a d20 and consults a small table (printed on the character sheet) to determine the bonus number. The bonus number (which can be negative) is then added to the appropriate skill or attribute. This value is then compared to a difficulty number to determine success. Some skills or actions need a level of success to be determined, in which case the amount the value exceeds the difficulty number by is used to determine the level of success (the GM has a table he consults). Characters can use skills that they don't actually have (you can shoot a gun even if you've never done it
before) but their chances of success are lower. Some or the more difficult skills (like Air Vehicles) can only be used by characters with adds in the skill. (There are rules in the "Storm Knights Guide" supplement for unskilled use of these difficult skills though.)
A nice feature of the system is that characters can reroll the die and add to their previous roll under certain situations. Stormers using a skill that they have can reroll and add if they roll a 10, a 20, or spend a Possibility point on the die roll. Stormers using a skill that they don't have can reroll if they roll a 10 or spend a Possibility. Skilled Ords can only reroll if they roll a 10 and unskilled Ords never reroll. (Most NPCs will be ords.) If a stormer spends a Possibility on a die roll he has the added bonus that the reroll has a minimum value of 10. And yes, if the reroll comes up a 10 (or 20) the character can keep rerolling (but only one Possibility can be spent on a die roll).
A unique feature of the Torg system is the Drama Deck. Each player is given a hand of cards from the Deck at the beginning of the adventure and can use the cards to affect game play in numerous ways. Some cards can be used to affect skill values or actions (+3 to bonus value or to an attribute/skill for example), while some affect the
actions of NPCs ("Opponent Fails" is a favorite card of players). Some cards even affect the course of an adventure; a "Connection" card enables the player to find a helpful NPC while a Subplot card (of which there are several kinds) can get the character more deeply involved in the adventure. There are also cards that can be used as Possibility Points. Cards can be gained in gameplay by performing certain actions during combat or other situations. In addition, at certain points during adventures the players are able to refill their hands of cards if they are running short. Players may also trade cards with other players, provided that their characters are close enough to interact with each other.
Combat is handled with the basic skill system and one die roll determines if the character succeeds and how much damage is done. The same bonus number generated for the skill roll is added to the damage value of the weapon (or the character's strength in unarmed combat). The modified damage value is then compared to the target's Toughness attribute (modified by any armor) and the difference is read as damage taken by the character (if the Toughness is above the damage value no damage is taken). The GM uses a table to determine exactly how much and what kinds of damage the character takes from a successful attack.
There are three kinds of damage a character can take in Torg; shock damage, knockout damage, and wound damage. A character can take an amount of shock damage equal to his Toughness before passing out. Knockout damage is represented by a 'K' result and an 'O' result. If a character takes a K result and then an O result before he recovers from the K result, he is 'KO'd' and passes out. If the character hasn't taken a K result then O's have no effect. Both shock and knockout damage are non-lethal.
Wounds represent lethal damage. There are four levels of wound damage; Wounded, Heavily Wounded, Mortally Wounded, and Dead. Being Wounded has no real effect on a character's performance. Being Heavily Wounded causes the character to lose his next action but that's all. When a character reaches Mortal though, he's in trouble; he begins taking one shock point of damage per round and will die when the shock damage equals their Toughness. Being Dead means you're dead.
Fortunately for stormers, they can use Possibilities to negate damage that they have taken and by their very nature are able to survive attacks that would kill Ords (there are two different damage tables; one for stormers and one for ords).
The Torg system is very 'cinematic' in feel and design. The opponents and situations are bigger than life and geared more for high adventure than 'dungeon crawls' or realism. The heroes are able to pull off things that normal people wouldn't even consider possible, due to Possibility Points and cards from the Drama Deck. Adventures are even divided up into Acts and Scenes, with some scenes being easier on the heroes than others; a Standard scene gives most of the advantages
to the heroes and most tasks aren't difficult. Dramatic scenes shift things the other way, giving the advantages to the villains and making tasks more difficult for the heroes.
A good example of a movie that is very 'Torgian' in feel is "Raiders of the Lost Ark". (Its also a good example of the Nile Empire's pulp genre.) The basket chase scene in the Cairo marketplace is a good example of a Standard scene; despite the odds being in the favor of the villains, Our Hero is able to deal with them all relatively easily. The fight with the big bald Nazi at the flying wing is a good example of a Dramatic scene; the gasoline is inching towards the fire, more Nazi's are closing in, Marion is trapped in the plane, and Indy is not having any luck in fighting with the bald Nazi (but things work out in the end of course). Marion could be the focus of a Romance Subplot or Belloq (the frenchman) could be the focus of a Nemesis subplot.
The Subplot cards and extensive rules for character interactions also place more of an emphasis on role-playing than many other systems do. Combat is also covered quite well and is usually simple and fast-paced. The magic system is quite balanced and beginning characters are capable of casting powerful magics while being limited at the same time. It is even possible for players to begin designing
spells of their own for their characters after a few playing sessions. (Spell creation, while possible, is complicated and does require a good grasp of the Torg magic system, which is explained at great length in the Aysle sourcebook.)