« Reply #20 on: February 09, 2011, 05:23:54 PM »
Here's a basic rundown on the game which I'm doing from memory, so please correct me if I get something wrong:
Summary: Torg was a roleplaying game made by West End Games in the early 90's. It was centered around the premise of an invasion of a modern world (Core Earth) in The Near Now by a force of entities (Highlords) from other realities (Cosms). Each reality had its own peculiar metaphysical qualities (World Laws) which paralleled genre conventions in literature, movies, and other sources of inspiration. The invaders had been engaged in a campaign of invasions like this across all realities in order to gain the most Possibilities, a sort of potential energy that they could use to shape and control all things, and Core Earth had an unusual amount of said energy. The ultimate goal of the Highlords, at least the evil ones, was to become Torg, the ultimate controller of reality and stuff for eternity. The goal of the heroes of the game (Storm Knights, your PCs) was to stop this from happening and free Core Earth (and their home Cosms, as appropriate) of the oppressive Highlords.
Gameplay centered around the use of a d20 die, cards (Drama Deck), and the expenditure and acquisition of Possibilities.
The d20 die was not added directly to anything but instead used with a conversion chart that gave you bonuses or penalties. These would then be compared to opposing values and other charts which determined the outcome of your actions. If you are familiar with DC Heroes from Mayfair, it shares some parallels with this system and its fondness for charts and tables.
The Drama Deck cards had a Torg logo on one side and game stuff on the other. The latter side had two ends, one for handling combat/action scenes and the other for providing players with effects they could introduce from their hand during play. Both ends combined narrative with mechanical elements, suggesting twists in the action, offering benefits for the heroes or their opponents, and simply determining initiative. They also could be used for timed/critical skill checks in situations like car chases, disarming bombs, or escaping deathtraps.
Possibilities worked a bit like Action Dice in that they juiced up your die rolls, helped you heal, and could power certain other abilities. You got a pool to begin with each session (or adventure?) and it fluctuated a lot due to events in play. You could gain more through cards and sharing with fellow players.
PCs tended to be made from templates you picked from the available Cosms' sourcebooks. These were mostly prefigured to allow for quick character creation, but you could customize them or make your own pretty simply. You could also invoke/use native Cosm-specific abilities which let you retain the flavor of your concept even in other Realms/Cosms/Cross-Cosms. There was also a chance you could be Transformed by visiting another Cosm, which meant you would be "tweaked" conceptually to fit into the thematic fabric of said place.
The Cosms I recall:
Core Earth: "Vanilla" Earth, though it later got some tweaks and laws of its own to give it some action-adventure flavor.
Nile Empire: Much-loved pulp adventure setting with mystery men, femme fatales, and nefarious masterminds, placed in the Middle East of Core Earth.
Aysle: A fairly traditional fantasy setting with the forces of Light fighting the forces of Darkness, placed in the United Kingdom and parts of mainland Europe.
Living Land: Not-much-loved savage survival setting with confusing mist, lizardmen, dinosaurs, and hostile plant life, placed in North America.
Orrorsh: A Victorian-esque horror setting with traditional monstars and laced with Lovecraftian dread which was put in Indonesia. Home to the leader of the Highlords, The Gaunt Man, voted man most likely to be Torg, and positively lethal to Storm Knights.
Cyberpapacy: A fusion of cyberpunk with dark ages Inquisition-era Europe, placed in parts of Europe (mainly France?).
Nippon Tech: A near-futuristic espionage setting with corporate bad guys and an Asian flavor that now looks really damn dated, placed mainly on Japan.
Later on, they added/updated a few Cosms, mostly in response to how people were playing the game and which settings were more or less popular.
Which leads me to another feature: the Infiniverse newsletter. They gave you the first issue for free in the core boxed set, then you could subscribe to it and get it mailed to you on a semi-regular basis. You could send in the results of your own campaign's adventures which could then be reported on and incorporated to West End Game's subsequent supplements and sourcebooks, offering a sort of interactive, living campaign canon. As such, Torg was sort of a prototypical Massively Multiplayer Game, only via snail mail and much cooler than anything Everquest or World of Warcraft has ever done.
Torg, as I recall anyways, did not sell well enough out of the gate to support itself, unfortunately, being too arcane/weird/innovative/clunky for its own good. While it had a big marketing push (I recall some, er, really BAD game novels for it), it sort of faded quickly save for a few die-hard holdouts like me and Crafty Alex. Its main canonical story was wrapped up with what I thought was a kind of lame ending scenario (War's End) and, despite some half-hearted attempts to restart it by publisher and fans alike, its still dormant. A lot of what it did or at least attempted to do has cropped up in later, contemporary games of every stripe, however, so I credit it with a lot of impact beyond its initial splash and feel it was way ahead of its time in a lot aspects.
Stuff it did well?
Drama, baby. If you wanted your tabletop roleplaying game to faithfully emulate genre fiction - particularly adventure stories of any stripe - and provide you and your players with exciting narrative surprises, Torg did it better than any other game of its era. The mechanics were extensive and often weird, but when your group grokked them, you could have some real barnburner sessions with high action, low villainy, and a lot of twists and turns. One flip of a card or one memorable die roll could really change things, and things like act structure, character development, and suspense were baked right into the system.
Another thing it did that I don't think many games of the period managed was empowering players. Storm Knights were potent and vivid from out of the gate and had an authentic chance to affect their world with their choices - mechanically and narratively, usually at the same time. While they were often placed in opposition to the adversaries controlled by the GM, they also were given every reason to "play along" with the developments of the plot and with one another. Teamwork was a big feature of any session, and that included the GM as part of the team.
It also did cross-genre gaming really well, albeit with some Torg-specific twists. You had a setting and premise which provided an excuse for Doc Savage and the Shadow to team up with James Bond, Bruce Lee, and Van Helsing to fight Sleestaks from Land of the Lost while riding on the Orient Express through territory controlled by fantatical Jesuit cyber-priests. As such, the sky was the limit when it came to character options, storylines, and weird crossovers, and those could result in some really interesting and fun interactions.
Lastly, if you could cope with charts and tables, it had some really solid bits of mechanics that layered together well. I could extrapolate weights, times, and all sorts of related stuff from one result of a die roll. That's a bit vague, admittedly, but Crafty Games fans like us can appreciate the feeling of "rightness" that comes from some well-considered crunch meshing well.