Day One – Orrorsh

Throughout the history of Torg as a game, Orrorsh has always been a hard sell.  It is the most dire and unfair of the Realms in the game, and there is nothing untoward about the defeat of a major villain requiring some great sacrifice.  This place is roughly the reason that the Martyr Card exists in the first place.  No one wants to go to a place where they’re just as likely to lose a beloved character as they are to actually succeed.

It didn’t help that the underlying nastiness of the realm was reinforced by somewhat heavy-handed historical commentary.  Part of the success of the Invasion was due to the misguided interference of the Victorian Regiments that came down with the maelstrom bridge, intent on bringing their “civilization” to the savages.  There was a whole “white man’s burden” subplot underlying the Gaunt Man’s Realm, and while it had an ironic literary aspect to it, it made things pretty frustrating.  The Storm Knights were faced with having to deal with a faction of potential allies as being part of the larger problem, and the GM had to deal with trying to integrate Kipling into an adventure game.*

The original setting for Orrorsh was New Guinea and greater Malaysia, which was rather foreign to the average American GM.  This has since been moved to the more logical and thematically correct Indian subcontinent, but that doesn’t make it much more accessible to the core audience.  Outside of the Bollywood genre of films, there aren’t a lot of media properties that offer ingress to the setting.

Take, for example, the first notable location in the Day One adventure for Orrorsh.  The text casually mentions that they’re starting out from Madurai, which happens to be a hardpoint for Core Earth.  Okay, that’s interesting, but why?  A quick Google search turns up the Meenakshi Temple, a massive and colorful Hindu temple that dominates the city’s skyline.  Apparently, it has existed in some form for about 2,500 years, but its present form was only built about 500 years ago.**

As I noted with Tharkold, these adventures invite the GM to do a lot of research, just to bring some depth and texture to the world the characters find themselves in.  While this is a fascinating aspect to the setting, I’m starting to wonder if it’s an overall strength or weakness for the game.  Granted, we’re only working with a single mainbook and the first book of adventures (and PDF’s, at that), but I feel like we’re going to need some seriously in-depth setting books to make any of this work worth a damn.

And while we’re on the subject, this adventure drives home how much easier this would all be if I had my Delphi Council Cargo Box in hand.  One of the first things that happens is the characters pass out of the sheltering effect of the Madurai hardpoint, and they’re immediately subjected to the axioms of Orrorsh.  With the proper material in hand, this would take the form of setting the Axiom Table Tent in front of the players and handing out the relevant Cosm Cards.  I’ve already started lamenting the lack of the Condition Tokens that I’ll be getting in October, and I’ve had to repurpose my Deadlands Poker Chips for Possibilities.  This is what happens when you try playing without all of the necessary components in hand.

The characters for the scenario are pretty fun, really.  They’re all members of a wedding group that’s traveling to the hometown of their friend / co-worker for the ceremony.  We have the sister of the groom, her best friend, the priest (who also happens to be the best friend’s adoptive father, more or less), two of the groom’s closest work friends, and the poor bastard that’s driving them there.  (One of fun aspects of the scenario is that the reason they’re not in the center of all the horror immediately is because the driver’s bus broke down and delayed them.  And he’s really defensive about it.)

Being a horror scenario (as though would be any other kind in Orrorsh), the GM starts out by putting the game on a clock, counting down to the inevitable sunset.  Because we all know things are going to go straight to hell once night falls.  The goal of the first act is to make it to the village where the wedding is going to take place in time to investigate it before the main plot kicks in.  Naturally, there are all the elements of creeping horror – mysteriously abandoned cars, inexplicable anachronisms, and a zombie attack.

Okay, maybe the last one is a bit more overt.

Between this adventure and the one from Tharkold, there’s an element of small children in danger.  The Pan-Pacifica adventure avoids this by setting the events against nightlife in Harajuku, but both of the other ones have small children that need to be rescued from the events of the Invasion.  It’s an easy Moment of Crisis, but I’m hoping that this isn’t going to be a crutch for the game designers to lean on.

In the context of the adventure, the characters have to rescue a young boy from a horde of Gospogs.  Gospogs are an interesting aspect of the game, as they were one of the first creatures detailed in both the original game and the new edition.  At their core, they’re little more than zombies that can get by the inherent contradiction of being zombies.  They’re mainly featured in the Orrorsh module thus far, but the Tharkold adventure had the Thralls (think the Revenant from Doom, although mounted shoulder cannons are not required) and Pan-Pacifica had the Jiangshi, which we’ve been over.

I don’t think it needs to be said that Shane Hensley loves him some zombies.  (Seriously, take a look at the introduction to his Unisystem take on Army of Darkness.  He lays out his adoration for the genre pretty clearly.)  I would be surprised if he hadn’t quietly nudged some of these adventures to include more Gospog or Gospog-variants.

Once the characters reach the village, they are treated to the “survive the night against the hordes of zombies” scenario, with a couple of fun added horrors thrown in.  It’s not too bad of a set-up, but I will offer some incredulity as to the fact that the rural village (which serves as the destination and therefore the killing ground) is less than a dozen houses with a well.  It makes sense in a Victorian setting (which is what Orrorsh is based around), but it seems odd, given modern times.  The module hand-waves it by saying that some of the outbuildings have been overtaken by the jungle, but I think if I were to run this module, it would be tweaked to be slightly larger.

Oddly, the overall scenario feels like it would be more survivable than either of the other two that I’ve read through, despite being Orrorshan.  Maybe I’m giving too much weight to the Realm, but it honestly seems like this is less apt to end in absolute, unavoidable slaughter.  Which, given the way that the Gaunt Man has changed the War this time around, seems out of character.

Then again, who knows?  Maybe this is to lull the players into a sense of complacency before bringing the hammer down.

*Not that Kipling is bad, by any stretch.  But when you’re plumbing your college texts of English Lit for thematic elements, there’s a bit more whiplash when everything is pulled off track by (and suddenly, Ninjas!) the interference of a different Cosm.  Torg works best when you have a blending of elements.  And just like the old game, Orrorsh is the most isolated setting.

**I must say this:  Being American, the idea of having a structure that’s five centuries old is hard to comprehend.  Having a city that’s twenty-five centuries old is just unreal.

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Posted on August 1, 2017, in Adventure Paths, Current Games, Gaming Philosophy, Kickstarter, Older Games, Review and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Two possible inspiration sources for a game in Orrorsh for someone who isn’t from there:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cult_of_the_Cobra

    This movie is dated, but it could provide a GM with a feel for India as a place of foreign mystery and horror.

    For a more up to date and realistic depiction of India to an outsider consider reading the India chapter of “To Hellholes and Back: Bribes, Lies, and the Art of Extreme Tourism” by Chuck Thompson. His experiences present a less than positive view of India, but I think it could give a GM ideas about how a westerner would be treated in India.

    • *adds movie and book to list*

      Sadly the most recent thing I read on India was a near-future treatment by Alan Dean Foster. Good book, great setting; not at all appropriate to Orrorsh.

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