Day One – Aysle
Down to the final two adventures in the Day One Adventures book. Aysle is the second longest adventure, spanning two full acts. The longest one, the Living Land module, is going to be my final review for the book, and we’ll see how it fares. So far none of the adventures really lend themselves to adaptation, which is fine, as that means that they are going to be run as written. These adventures serve their purpose in being a larger anthology framework to introduce new players to the world and the systems. Were I a new player or GM, this book would be a godsend.
As it is, I’m still probably going to work these modules into rotation, just as a palate cleanser for my home game. Killing off PC’s, even if they’re marked for death pre-gens, is a great way to underscore just how bad things can be.
So, let’s take a look at the available pre-gens. And … hells.
You might remember how annoyed I was when I found out that most of the characters in the Cyberpapacy adventure had converted to that Reality, for no obvious reason? Seems that I was premature in my irritation on that count. Where that adventure had four of the six characters converted, Ayle ups the stakes by having only one Core Earth character in the entire lot, and he’s the cranky old veteran with a gun. Everyone else seems to have gone native.
Of the now-Ayslish characters, we have one guy with chain mail and a mace, one priest, and one spell-caster. There’s a married couple who happen to be adrenaline junkies, both of which converted, but that’s about where the interesting parts end. (I think, if I do any modifications to running this, I’ll find a way to get the guy a fire axe. He’s already running the edge of barbarian lug, which would serve as great counterpoint to his wife, who ended up being the cleric.)
Point of note: This is the second module to involve a bus driver as a character. The other one was the Orrorsh adventure, and it seems like an interesting thread to pull on. Given the worldwide nature of Torg Eternity, it only makes sense that there will need to be some sort of transportation specialist. Even the original edition had a truck driver as a main option.
And a quick skim of the module tells me that we’re back to using zombies as part of the main antagonist force. And morlocks, from the look of things.* Being Aysle, there are also the inevitable corrupted sorcerers that feel like throwbacks to the Elric Saga, which serve as the eventual final enemies of the scenario.
Act one has the characters caught in the axiom wash of the initial Invasion, which occurs without any particular fanfare – at first. The ground shakes, publicly endowed art comes to life, people need rescuing, etc. Compared to the Invasion events in the Nile Empire, this module is pretty low key.
And then, the dragon shows up.
I have to give the game designers this much. They knew what was going to be required to hold the GM’s over until the Aysle book actually lands. Granted, the dragon is pretty much half-dead (picking a fight with the RAF will have that effect), but it’s enough of a challenge for the PC’s to be a serious problem. And conveniently, the stats for a healthy dragon are part and parcel to the encounter, so later adventures are accordingly stocked as needed. There is an odd note with the dragon having a mane of golden hair around its head and a puff at the end of its tail, but I have no idea if this is going to be a continuing notation on Ayslish dragons or a weird thing that slipped past copy-editing.
The rest of the act has the characters venturing into what had originally been Charing Cross Station. Now that the dragon part of the adventure is out of the way, clearly the next section had to cover the dungeon aspect. I’m left to debate if this particular idea of adventure design is brilliant, lazy or simply adhering to everyone’s expectations.
The second act introduces us to Ayslish elves and dwarves, in the form of one of the Torg Eternity Iconics, Tworek. These characters serve as the information dump for this module, detailing a lot of Realm specific information for the Player Characters (and the players themselves) as they work through the module.
Each of the modules has something along this line. The Living Land and Aysle modules are the most generally heavy-handed on this, given that they are supposed to be the first played. Even so, the Orrorsh module has a character filling in details about Gospog, while the Pan-Pacifica adventure features a newscast that covers the jiangshi aspect of the Invasion.
Most of the second act deals with the Temple of Corba’al, where the characters need to disrupt a sacrifice to the god of corruption. It’s a solid enough set-piece, with chains and traps, a snarling necromancer and his minions, and victims to save.
There is an interesting bit of scenery within the temple, where a shrine to the Gaunt Man is set up. Tworek, the dragon warrior, remarks upon it when they pass the statue, which is clearly out of place in both modern London and the Ayslish Land Between. The fact that the rank and file of the Cosm are aware of the larger Infiniversal goings-on hints that there is a bit less mystique than in the previous edition. And the presence of the Gaunt Man in a shrine points to strange things happening with the Possibility Energy of the Invasion of Core Earth.
My uninformed guess would be that the different High Lords (or their Darkness Devices, depending on how you want to frame the question) are being directly taxed on their own income of Possibilities.*** I’m not precisely sure how this is going to play out, in terms of the larger Invasion, but I figure that’s going to be addressed soon enough.
*The concept of the morlock, as given life by H. G. Wells, is an oft-repeated and imitated idea that ranges from Lovecraft’s ghouls (and the derivatives that populate every flavor of Dungeons & Dragons) to cinema’s C.H.U.D. There doesn’t seem to be much time spent on exploring the idea very far, in terms of how they’re treated in their various forms, but seeing them here, in contrast to the ubiquitous gospogs, fascinates me. It would have been dead simple to simply shorthand them as ghouls, but instead they’re brought back to their degenerate post-human origins rather than simply carnivorous undead. I would be surprised if they weren’t in specific reference to Wells.
**In the original game’s lore, there was always the idea that most of the Invaded Cosms were unaware what was going on. They had no idea that they were under attack by the forces of a multiversal adversary, and often they only woke up to the truth of an Invasion when things had reached a serious crisis point.
By way of example, the Invasion of Victoria took place in the Grand Canyon, in their own version of America. Over the course of the Invasion (which took decades, as I recall), the Victorians were slowly forced back to England, as the horrors of the Invasion overtook the rest of the world. The only reason the Victorians made the expedition to Core Earth in the original game was because they were pawns of the Gaunt Man. Otherwise, they had no real idea what was going on.
***In the original Invasion, it was stated that the Gaunt Man enlisted the help of the other High Lords simply because he couldn’t fully process the sheer amount of energy that was being put off by Core Earth (said to be the Possibility Nexus). Bringing in the other High Lords was a risky gambit, but it was done with the understanding that, as the oldest and most powerful High Lord, he would most likely be the one able to undertake the process of becoming Torg. There was never any implication that the other High Lords weren’t going to try their hand at ascending; they were just less likely to succeed in their efforts. So, to see this sort of control being exerted over them seems odd, if that’s what’s going on.