Daily Archives: August 2, 2017

Day One – Cyberpapacy

Right or wrong, I’ve always felt like the Cyberpapacy was the weirdest Realm of the whole game.  Take the fanaticism of the Spanish Inquisition and weld it onto the bleak nihilism of cyberpunk fiction.  It certainly hasn’t been done in regular sci-fi to any great extent, so here we have West End Games inventing a new gestalt whole-cloth.  Granted, I always had someone in my old games that wanted to play someone from Cyberfrance, but I assume that was more of an indicator of “High Tech = Better Guns” or some similar equation.* Combining amazing armor and physical enhancement with the ability to cast gnarly miracles certainly did not hurt things, either.

Scanning through the pre-gen characters, there are a startling number of people who end up converting to the Invading Reality.  Pan-Pacifica had three characters convert, but all of them took on vague anime archetypes.  (Well, except for the spooky psychic girl; she had been waiting her entire life for this Invasion.)  The Tharkold adventure had one character go native, which turned him into a dermal plated Heavy.  I can get behind this.  Orrorsh similarly had one, who became the Slayer archetype.  But I’m not really sure why we have four of the six characters converting this time.

Of the four, one becomes a functional Priest, replete with Faith and Miracles.  Another is converted to a cyberwitch, albeit seemingly without the cyberware.**  The other two of the converted characters are largely unremarkable, insofar as why they specifically can’t be Core Earth.  We’ll have to see if there’s any reason given within the text of the module itself.  I have my doubts.

All right, so … I’m working my way through the first page of the module text, and here’s what has stood out to me:  First off, the crux of the adventure is searching for some of the townsfolk that have gone missing.  This is pretty standard, but the module notes that the new Church Police are busily loading the “undesirables” onto trains.  Well, that gives us a solid hook for at least part of the setting.  (And really, if you can’t portray a Free French Resistance in the face of ruthless, authoritarian occupiers, you need to get caught up on your history.)

Then it talks about the blind, street corner prophets proselytizing about the end of the world that would come in the form of “Dragons, demons, and nightmares […]”  Hells, that just sounds like people in the 80’s, when I would talk about my hobbies.

The actual course of the module is fairly simple.  The characters investigate in the first scene, rescue one of the missing townsfolk in the second and steal a train in the third.  None of it is especially complex or surprising.  The fourth scene of the adventure is the boss fight (much like the way the Tharkold adventure was framed), and the epilogue has the characters recruited by Quinn Sebastian.

I realize that we’re going to get rules for the GodNet when we finally see the book for the Cyberpapacy drop, sometime in the next year, but it seems strange that there is nothing that really references it here.  One of the main hooks for the setting, according to the mainbook, is finding hidden information within the realm of the GodNet to use in the greater Possibility Wars.***  (I’ll be honest.  I was sort of hoping that the reason that so many characters had transformed was that one of the pre-gens would have a way to jack into the net and monkey about there.  This was not to be, however.)

Now the question is, how did this module fare against the rest of the book?

The truth is, it seemed a little … dull.  I can’t say that it was bad, but it felt like it was just sort of a by-the-numbers adventure.  There were no real innate threats that had to be confronted (unlike the others I’ve gone through up to now, there were no zombies to be found), and the opportunities for selfless heroism (rescuing small children, defending the landmarks of Core Earth) were relatively minimal.

The way the adventure was structured, the hooks that set things in motion actually felt like the only reason the characters could be bothered to do anything.  If they weren’t trying to save missing loved ones, would they have even gotten involved?  It doesn’t feel like they would have.  Does that mean that this is a larger problem in the face of the Cyberpapacy itself?

In the lead-up to the game, as well as the book itself, there have been notations that the machinations of Pharaoh Mobius have actually gained him supporters amongst the Core Earth residents of the Middle East.  Similarly, Jean Malraux dropped his bridges after he had sent forward scouts to warn of the other Invasions.  Does this mean that resistance to the Cyberfrance Invasion is actually fairly minimal?  It’s an odd setting to deal with, if that’s actually the case.

There was one element that would only appeal to a hardcore English geek like myself, however, which redeemed part of the adventure for me.  And to make any sense of this (it’s always good when I have to launch into a lengthy sort of preamble), I need to lay some groundwork.

The longest poem ever written in the English language is The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser, ancestor of Lady Diana Spenser, the late and lamented Princess Di.  Spenser was a contemporary of Sir Walter Raleigh, and the poem was considered, among other things, to be an allegory in praise of Queen Elizabeth.

An epic poem, The Faerie Queene was a lengthy examination of sin and virtue, with the loyal knights of the story embodying certain aspects of proper Christian morality.  As such, they faced off against adversaries who were embodiments of sin and immorality.  In the first book of the poem, the main hero is the Redcrosse Knight, who embodies the virtue of holiness.  In his travels, he meets and challenges the Saracen knights; Sansfoy (the Faithless), Sanjoy (the Joyless) and Sansloy (the Lawless).  Being Saracens (which normally referred to the Moorish Islamic Knights, but in this context mainly just meant non-Christian), they were represented the antithesis of Christian values, hence their names and outlooks.

In the module, the characters encounter the formerly blind prophet who had preached the end times before the Invasion, and he lends them assistance in the form of weapons and information.  In the vein of The Faerie Queene, he is named Sansnom (the Nameless).

This is one of those points where overthinking and reading too much into the naming of an NPC is probably inadvisable.  The broader mythology of Torg deals with two greater aspects of creation, Apeiros the Creator and The Nameless One.  I feel safe in saying that this ragged priest is not representative of a primal force of destruction.

*Torg, I will maintain, is a game of bigger and bigger guns.  Hence the relative distaste for the Living Land (“Our guns no longer work!”) and the gravitation towards the realms of the Cyberpapacy and Tharkold (“Better living through firepower!”).  I’m not off to a great start in disproving that with my PMC crew.

**In the original game, sometimes merely converting to the reality of the Cyberpapacy was enough to install low-end cyberware.  I haven’t seen evidence of that as yet, but it would make a certain sense.  After all, official illustrations have full on Dragon Armor fading out of existence with disconnection.  (Which, by the way, is technically against the rules; Dragon Armor is a Perk, and depriving a character of a purchased Perk during the course of the game is generally forbidden.  As in, it has to be reinstated within a matter of scenes.  Having it wholly vanish from reality seems pretty final to me.)

***As a sidenote, this is a fascinating carry-over from the original edition.  Even then, it was noted that the GodNet was actually far larger and weirder than even Jean Malraux understood, and there were places hidden in the farther reaches of the matrix that might hold the key to winning the Possibility Wars.  However, like so many other dangling plot threads from the original edition of Torg, this was one of those things that never got further illumination.