Another dozen pages
Further perusal of the Torg Eternity book has corrected a couple of assumptions that I had initially made, which isn’t a huge surprise. Apparently, the Statue of Liberty isn’t one of the Hardpoints of Core Earth, as I had guessed. (I blame the small map I was using as a guide. It seems that the Statue of Liberty isn’t actually holding the Living Land at bay in New York (although, it does seem odd that it isn’t), but the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia is. This was a staple in the original version, just one that I never took much advantage of. And further recollection points me to the plaque of The New Colossus (the poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty) as being an Eternity Shard.
On the other hand, the entirety of Washington DC is a massive Hardpoint, which has thus managed to keep Baruk Kaah at bay.
This is one of those things that I really hope gets addressed in the course of this brand new edition. I can understand why a lot of these things get labeled as Hardpoints, but there are enough weird exclusions to make me wonder why some things simply don’t make the cut. It’s not a gripe, per se, but it is a curiosity that I would love to have some explication laid out for.
So, moving along…
There are some new tweaks to Aysle, most of which are only relevant to the diehards who actually focused on the Realm in the original game. Some of the setting implies some Game of Thrones-styled intrigues and treachery, but since that aspect of the setting is mainly backstory, I’m not sure that it will ever come into play.
The Cyberpapacy is fascinating, this time around. It was always an interesting place to set adventures in, but now there are some fascinating subtexts to look at. For one thing, the role of Jean Malraux as a Savior has been given some relevant depth. Not only is he handing out truly phenomenal Internet, in the form of the GodNet (consider, when the game originally premiered, actual functional Internet was years away; now it’s so very ubiquitous that most people can’t function without it), he’s also offering cures for most physical disabilities. (There is actually a sidebar that notes – without mentioning any specific conflicts by name – that disabled veterans would be the first to take advantage of cyberware.)
These two elements, alone, make the idea of Malraux’s agenda look really appealing. I know, given my current state of internet connectivity, that lightning fast gigabit or terabit data speeds would be incredibly tempting. Add in the fascinating uses of bandwidth that the setting implies, and I can make a case for converting to The New Church.
We’ll just go ahead and ignore the absolutely hilarious level of surveillance that the GodNet has built into it.
The Living Land is one of the most contentious parts of the original game. It was the main setting for any game based in the United States, which was also the main market for the game. Add in the fact that it was the first sourcebook (and direly in need of a revision, given how things developed), when the designers were still finding their groove, and it ended up being a poorly received setting overall. There were some bright points, like the Temple of Rec Stalek, which introduced a horror-themed adventure into what was otherwise dismissed as being vaguely Pellucidar at its base, but those were not the main experience for most people. (It bears saying that Shane Hensley, who wrote that adventure, is also one of the main forces behind this new edition.)
In the course of the game, the Living Land fared really poorly. The invaders were treated as more of a joke, and Baruk Kaah himself was regularly beaten about the head and ears by the larger audience and staff themselves. (If you’re curious, seek out a copy of the third Infiniverse Update. Essentially, Kaah is chucked into the Possibility Nexus beneath Core Earth at one point, and shows up later, stripped of all power and infused with a weird, pastiche of abilities from being transformed into all realities at once. It was both really weird and fairly pathetic, all at once.)
This new edition seems determined to make the new Living Land a whole lot scarier than it had previously been seen as being. (I will note that I always saw a lot of dire potential in the setting. Any place that removed nearly every aspect of modern life, including the ability to work together as a cohesive group, was a pretty awful place to be stuck adventuring in.)
One new part of the Living Land is the introduction of different clans within the culture of the Edeinos. There are some easter eggs for the grognards, such as the appearance of the Whitespear Clan, lead by Thrakmoss. (See above, namely Rec Stalek, to make sense of why this is important.) Another clan, the Gold Sun clan showed up in the Yucatan when a maelstrom bridge dropped there. This is a reference to one of the other pivotal modules, where a broken Darkness Device is found during the course of an adventure. (There’s actually a lot of backstory to this, but since it largely references events that took place in the novel series, it’s mainly weird and irrelevant to most groups and GM’s.)
As a final notation to this bit, I’m becoming fascinated with some of the inherent hooks that each setting is offering up. Each setting has its own sort of “treasure map” aspect to it, ranging from the obvious ones like the implied “Dungeons” of Aysle. In the fantasy realm, any sort of underground passage has potential to be a treasure-laden crypt of some sort of another. So, in London, the subways can lead to some sort of opportunity to delve for treasure, where the fjords and caverns in Scandinavia offer thematically similar quests of their own. It only makes sense, given the overall fantasy setting that the characters are plunged into.
The other cosms aren’t quite so obvious, so new opportunities have been overlaid for that sake. In the Cyberpapacy, there are “reliquaries” of forbidden information in the GodNet. In the Living Land, there are weird remnants of Baruk Kaah’s past conquests that have mysteriously shown up and offer chances to plunder.
Also, it bears noting that apparently the Law of Savagery and the Law of Life somehow make the Living Land a very … sexy … place to hang out.