Day One – Pan-Pacifica
Let’s start off with a nit-pick and build this entry out from there.
As a Day One adventure, the scenario set in Pan-Pacifica* gives half a dozen available pre-generated characters to choose from, with the understanding that they’re likely to die. This scenario, in particular, operates on the idea that we’re here to establish some atmosphere and show what kind of story the new Torg Eternity is here to tell. And when we’re given a Biohazard / Resident Evil-derived adventure to go with, I’m immediately onboard with the potentials.
In the original edition, Nippon Tech was a weird, weird realm. I mean, sure… we had the ninjas and 80’s corporate Japan flavor, but if we’re being honest, there weren’t a lot of hooks to make it stand out. There was a bizarre corporate finance sub-system that would allow the GM to properly simulate the boardroom level activities that would fuel adventure series, which made sense to me at the time, but it was a tremendously odd aspect to build out.** Otherwise, there were no particular campaign ideas that stand out to me when looking back.
But before I follow too many tangents to their logical conclusion, what was the nitpick?
Well, among the available characters, there is a North Korean emigre who runs a stall in one of the markets near Harajuku. For some reason, however, he isn’t actually given a proper Korean name. Sun Hyong is almost a proper Korean name, but it’s really only two syllables, instead of the correct three. (And yes, Hyong is one syllable. Much like how Tokyo is two syllables, the same as Seoul. Whee…) Sun can function as a surname, but it isn’t one that shows up in the common surnames, so I’m left to assume that this character is simply lacking a family name. Sun Hyong is his given name, and he’s probably a Kim or Lee.
There’s a further twist in that most emigres from North Korea to Japan take Japanese names, for the sake of fitting in better. That’s a tweak that’s unlikely to matter to most players or GM’s, so I’m not going to press that point. And well, there’s also the matter that there are heavy North Korean connections to the Yakuza, which could offer some heavy plot implications.***
The pre-gens for the scenario are a proper mix of Japanese culture / anime tropes, which allows them to be dropped into the hands of American players with little problem. We have the aging Kung Fu student who’s just looking for a purpose and the thuggish street ganger who is about to re-evaluate his life; there’s the genki corporate receptionist who loves fashion and the disillusioned novelist who’s considering getting a safe corporate job. And of course, we have the moody psychic teenager.
Sadly, the way the story unfolds, it seems like the whole adventure is written for the sake of the spooky teen girl, since it hits so many anime story conventions that it could be an unaired OVA from around 1991. If she didn’t end up being the sole survivor that turned up later in most people’s campaigns, I would be shocked.
And while we’re on the subject, the background of the Pan-Pacifica invasion lifts so much from the Biohazard franchise (Resident Evil in the States) that I’m sort of wondering why Capcom isn’t getting froggy about it. The scenario is wrapped around the outbreak of a new and awful biological agent that kills its victims and subsequently reanimates them as zombies. Naturally, the zombies are less like George Romero or Sam Raimi and more in the style of the modern video games, where they can further mutate into biological horrors. (Seriously, though… pick a video game franchise that deals with zombies, and you can pull inspiration for your game from it.)
These zombies draw inspiration from the “hopping vampires” of Chinese folklore, where rigor mortis has stiffened their limbs and made their motions erratic. In Pan-Pacifica, the Jiangshi move the way they do because of how their muscles realign, but it’s the same idea. (Point of note: While Pan-Pacifica is heavily Japanese in its influence, the actual term, Jiangshi, is the Chinese term. Properly, they would be localized to Kyonshi, but that’s solely for the otaku purists.)
As far as the adventure is concerned, it unfolds in fairly predictable fashion. The first scene establishes the setting – elements of Japanese nightlife in the center of Tokyo, people milling about and shopping, then … zombies! From there, we have a tense scene focusing on trying to escape Harajuku, with a nice example of Dramatic Skill Resolution for the players to work through. Scene three is the standard calm-before-the-storm set piece at a historical shrine nearby, which culminates in a zombie siege, leading to the final scene – the revelation of what’s really going on. The characters find the hidden lab where all of the infection originated, fight their way through the building as they’re being pursued by the final boss monster.
And that’s where it ends, with the final cinematic and credits.
I’m not kidding when I say that this adventure plays out exactly like a chapter of the Resident Evil franchise. There are sinister corporate agendas, lurking enemies and jump scares, and a resolution that has the moody psychic girl carted off for study. (Here’s your sequel hook, everybody… play through the F.E.A.R. games and use the character of Ayaka Kuroda as the psychic in a coma.)
Thus far, this is the first scenario that I’ve read in depth, and if it seems like I’m trying to harangue the designers for borrowing too heavily from the obvious source material, that is rather far from the truth. This is a fantastic adventure, hitting all necessary beats to make it a proper homage to the original material. For my money, it does exactly what it was supposed to do, and the result is a phenomenal introduction to a now-deadly Realm.
We’ll see if the rest of the book holds up as well.
*I swear, it’s going to take long, long years before I adjust to the loss of Nippon Tech to this new title. All in all, it’s a much better, more evocative name; but really, I’ve already built all these neural connections to the old version.
**None of this makes any sense without having read the cyberpunk fiction of the time period. Between Gibson’s Neuromancer and Williams’ Hardwired, there was a thread of corporate espionage to a lot of the near-future books of the time. R. Tal’s Cyberpunk 2020 and FASA’s Shadowrun both borrowed heavily from these sources, but they never went to the trouble of building out the same sort of financial warfare system to allow actual battles to be fought at this level. Mostly, it was hand-waved that Arasaka was picking a fight with SovOil over something and it was up to the PC’s to steal some techy bit of story maguffin. For whatever reason, Torg decided that this was inadequate.
***Fun fact: While I was living in Japan, I had an adult English student that was likely part of the Yakuza. Nice lady, owned a chain of Pachinko parlors. She had wanted to improve her English because she spent so much time in the States, touring casinos in Las Vegas. The tip-off of her connections was that she complained that a lot of Japanese felt that she looked “too Korean,” a distinction that flew past me at the time.
Posted on July 30, 2017, in Adventure Paths, Current Games, Gaming Philosophy, Kickstarter, Older Games, Review and tagged Torg, Torg Eternity, Ulisses Spiel, West End Games. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.