Why the Failed Invasions are Important
In the original timeline of the Possibility Wars, there were three main incidents that dragged the Invasion to a halt in the early days of the war. Without these events and the way in which they unfolded, it is heavily implied that the war would have been over very quickly, with very little resistance on the part of Core Earth. A lot of this owes to the level of power that the Gaunt Man personally had and the effects of the other Invaders on the ability of Core Earth to fight back.
There has been no indication of any of these events taking place in the timeline of Torg Eternity, which I find fascinating. Then again, the opening flavor text does imply that this new invasion is going to be a lot harder to fight off than the original. I guess we’ll see what Ulisses Spiel has in store for us.
Let’s start with the big one, the one that had the most immediate effect and longest plot implications: Tharkold.
Thatkold, as veterans of the original game can attest, is one of the deadliest realms of the whole setting. Cyberdemons are ridiculously powerful, both physically and otherwise, and the high tech, when combined with magic, was nearly insurmountable for the average player group. And nothing indicates that they’ve been de-powered this time around. In fact, they may have gotten an upgrade.
When Tharkold set down in Russia in the old edition, the Russian psychics were waiting for them and managed to pull up one of the key stelae at the critical moment. Core Earth reality pushed back against the invasion, essentially halting Tharkold’s involvement in the first couple of years of the war.
The story effect of this was that the Possibility Energy that needed to be drained off for the Gaunt Man’s plans to take effect wasn’t being managed, and the Invaders had to work all the harder to maintain their foothold in the war. This ground things to a halt, insofar as a workable end point for the Invaders was concerned. There was never really a set of victory conditions for them after this point.
A lot of this was further hampered by the actions of one of the iconics, Andrew Jackson “Ace” Decker. If you’ll remember, he was one of the many forgotten characters from the novel, the professional baseball player turned congressman. He appeared on the cover of the first novel with Tolwyn, carrying a Mac 10 and wearing a snazzy business suit.
As I recall, he ended up sacrificing himself, along with one of the first Eternity Shards that was discovered (and the only one detailed in the original main book), the Heart of Coyote, to shut down the Gaunt Man. (There’s a lot of in-universe lore that actually makes this make sense. Essentially, the Gaunt Man is allergic to Possibility Energy, and getting too close to an Eternity Shard locks him in a semi-permanent Reality Storm for as long as the game designers deem necessary.)
By removing the Gaunt Man (The Man Who Would Be Torg) from the board, the entire Invasion was stalled, as he was the only one that had any real design on how to conquer Core Earth. This led to a strange situation where one of Tharkold’s cyberdemons was left in charge of most of the management of Orrorsh.
This is an odd note to the Invasion, honestly. According to the novels, Thratchen was the last cyberdemon to flee Kadandra when Tharkold retreated to join the Invasion. Because he didn’t leave with the occupying forces, he had to essentially hitch a ride with the main force from Orrorsh, and when he got to Core Earth, it was revealed that Tharkold had already been knocked out of the game.
And that’s when he became the Kato Kaelin of Torg. He started out as little more than a tolerated guest of the Gaunt Man, but when the High Lord was locked in a Reality Storm, he essentially took over Orrorsh. Heketon, the Darkness Device of Orrorsh, had little use for him, but it didn’t do anything to thwart him, either. It was only when the Gaunt Man finally managed fight his way out of his imprisonment that Thratchen buggered off to the recently landed and re-established Tharkold realm in Los Angeles.
Finally, there was the weirdly subtle invasion of Nippon Tech (newly re-styled and less racist as Pan-Pacifica), which doesn’t count as a failure, per se, but does contribute to the way the war progressed. Normally, when a Realm invades, the clash of Axioms causes a Reality Storm. These are violent storms that rage at the edge of the stelae boundaries as the competing realities try to overwrite each other. According to lore, these amp up when the invading reality is pulling more Possibilities out of the surrounding reality.
Ryuichi Kanawa (or 3327, as established in the first edition) made the choice to go lean on stripping Possibilities for the sake of avoiding attention. This kept Storm Knights from wreaking holy havoc on his invasion, but it also slowed down his progress and did very little to balance the rest of the war. According to the lore, the Invasion required seven Invaders to strip Possibilities to the point that Core Earth could be subjugated in a timely manner. Without all seven, the Core Earth forces could easily stall the forward motion of the Invasion, and there was a good chance that the Invasion would eventually fail. Which it did.
There’s also the point to be made that, were the Invasion pulled off the way that it was originally supposed to, the Gaunt Man would have been able to fulfill the conditions required to merge with his Darkness Device and ascend into the Torg. (This was an odd bit, in that the intro module in the Adventure Book had the player characters tasked with an impossibly high stakes mission – destroy the device that had caused the earth to stop spinning and save the entire population of Core Earth. There was a bit of hand-waving to make this possible for starting level characters – the Gaunt Man was already locked down and hadn’t actually allocated the necessary resources to keep things going – but it was a bit of an absurd plot to follow.
This time around, none of these story factors have happened. The Gaunt Man is still in charge (and implied to be aware of the mistakes that the previous iteration made), and the realm of Tharkold is firmly established – albeit fairly weak because of getting nuked by Volkov; they have the smallest realm of any of the Invaders. Pan-Pacifica is still trying to lurk in the shadows, but this is a minor thing, comparatively.
In fact, this Invasion specifically is trying to avoid most of the mistakes of the previous one, and several important plot points are being pushed through on an accelerated time table, rather than letting them show up later on. (Specifically, the search for the broken Darkness Device, Tagharra, is taking place immediately. Originally, it showed up years after the initial Invasion.)
At this point, the only real counter to the High Lord’s plans comes in the form of Quinn Sebastian, head of the Delphi Council and avatar of every veteran player that paid any amount of attention.
I’m not sure that he’s going to be enough to keep things from going straight to hell.