Why Things Are Going to Go Wrong…
There is a pretty sizable secret hidden within the GM’s Guide section of the new Torg Eternity book, and while it doesn’t seem like much of a concern for new GM’s or players, it’s enough of a game changer that it merits some exploration and discussion. I’ve noted already that this particular version of the Possibility Wars has new complications and plot twists compared to the original, and this is one of those elements.
In the original plotline of the Invasion, there was a big, epic module series that set in motion certain later events. The Relics of Power trilogy of modules had the characters seeking out a version of the Holy Grail (the Possibility Chalice, as per the name of the second module) and using it to light the “Signal Fire” to send a message … somewhere. The module itself is cryptic and vague as to what this actually means, but there is an immediate result of sending hope to other people of Core Earth to keep fighting.
A year and change later, West End Games released Space Gods, the final Realm book for the game, which profiled the factions of the Star Sphere, the only sympathetic Realm in the Invasion. Ostensibly, they had received the message of the “Signal Fire” and traveled to Core Earth to assist. But since nothing in Torg ever quite goes as planned, the help from the Star Sphere was complicated by in-fighting and a rampaging zombie plague.
With the release of Space Gods, Torg finally had rules for psychic characters, which had been hinted at since the very beginning of the game with Iconic characters like Katrina Tovarisch (who had pretty much directed the Russians to keep Tharkold from invading). This was one of the things that I felt Torg Eternity had immediately improved upon, by having psychic rules in the new mainbook.
Also included with Space Gods was the means by which the Invasion could be thwarted, without the wholesale destruction of a good portion of Core Earth’s population. See, in the areas where the Invasion had taken over, the inhabitants of the Realm had converted to the new Axioms and World Laws. If the Storm Knights were to simply tear up the stelae in a given area without inspiring everyone within (this all goes into the economic theory of how Possibilities themselves work), everyone who had converted to the new Reality would simply burst into flame.
The Space Gods had come up with biotech known as Reality Trees. These were trees that essentially functioned as hardpoints for specific realities and allowed a counter to the plans of the Invaders. By planting trees in a given Realm, Storm Knights could preserve the Invading reality’s axioms, even after the stelae were removed. This would allow the inhabitants of the realm to survive, while destroying the High Lord’s grip on things.
So, what does this have to do with the price of rice? Excellent question.
In the GM’s section of the new book, it talks about how the Elves of Aysle carry a deep and abiding guilt with them for their actions in preserving their race against the wrath of Uthorian. Apparently, in order to stave off their inevitable destruction at the hands of the Dark Lord, they enacted a large and costly magic ritual to cast a prophecy for the chance to save themselves. And instead of being offered an explicit solution, they were rewarded with the location of a separate cosm that could serve to distract the Gaunt Man from helping to destroy Aysle.
As the book dryly states, the name of this new cosm was Akasha, which was the official name for the Star Sphere from Space Gods, and I quote, “the Gaunt Man’s powers had increased dramatically thanks his victory.”
This means that, in the timeline for Torg Eternity, the Gaunt Man has lain waste to one of the main saviors of Core Earth, thereby throwing a good portion of the later war effort wholly off-track. And remember those Reality Trees I was talking about? Yeah, those are now in the hands of the Gaunt Man, in the form of Nightmare Trees. I mean, it’s not like the Gaunt Man was a pushover before, but now he’s managed to co-opt one of the main strategies that the original game line had for win conditions.*
This is one of the things that Quinn Sebastian has already noted in his assessment of the new version of the Possibility Wars; there are new, subtle invasions, courtesy of this newly acquired tech, that there doesn’t seem to be a way to detect or counter in any easy fashion. Odds are, this will be a defining factor in the early portion of the war.
All things being equal, I’m not sure what’s going to replace the Star Sphere as allies for Core Earth. There are hints that the dead cosms can show back up as part of the as-yet unexplored factors of the Living Land’s Law of Wonders, but that seems like a long shot at best. (Although, they have noted the appearance of flying saucers, which seems like an awfully big hint of the Star Sphere. There are also lost cities, which will require a whole lot more information before I try to put them into play.)
For whatever it’s worth, this could point back to an idea that I’ve already discarded, namely the reappearance of Kadandra. I will note that none of the Ulisses Spiel guys online have even bothered to answer questions about the lost realm of Dr. Hachi Mara-Two, which could fuel a couple of conspiracies on that count. I think it would be a neat potentiality, but I’m not yet prepared to believe it.
I am, however, completely willing to be proven wrong on that point.
*The thing is, these new Nightmare Trees make a lot of sense having ended up in the hands of the Gaunt Man. In all honesty, they’re just a logical outgrowth of the stuff he was starting off with last time. The ability of the trees to go into unconquered areas and establish the axioms of Orrorsh are just a weird sort of mirror of the Gospogs that were the bread and butter of his original invasions.
For the sake of the uninitiated, Gospogs are the local version of zombies used by the Invaders. If you take the corpses from a local reality and plant them in fields with the special Gospog seeds, they reanimate as these weird, mixed reality zombies that can go anywhere and muck things up. They’re surprisingly effective.