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Torg Eternity: New/Old Creatures of Tharkold

One of the good parts of having a new edition of a game is that you still have a lot of older edition material to draw on. One of the bad parts of that is having to figure out how to fit the older material into the new setting (which has probably changed some) and new system (ditto).

In that spirit, as the new edition of Torg has just been released and there’s a dearth of material for it right now, I’ve taken to going through the original Torg books looking for ideas that would fit in Torg Eternity. Or in this case, I was working on an adventure and was looking for interesting monsters to use…

Tharkold, the realm of “techno-horror,” has always been the red-headed stepchild of Torg’s invaders. As detailed in the novels that were released with the original game, Tharkold had failed in an attack on another world just before trying to invade ours. Then their invasion of our world was foiled by the Russians, with help from a rival invader. Then after the game’s metaplot had progressed for a couple of years, the cyber-demons of Tharkold finally touched down in Los Angeles, and later, Berlin. Whereupon they proceeded to do not much of anything.

But beyond the indelible stain of being losers, the cyber-demons also had the stink of trying too hard all over them. Tharkold was the home of sci-fi and alien horror that didn’t fit into the Victorian-era realm of Orrorsh – think Terminator meets Hellraiser. It was a very early 90’s sort of concept, the kind that was looked down upon by some segments of the hobby as “grimdark” or nihilistic. And it’s pretty easy, I think, to dip into parody (which is deadly to instilling an actual aura of fear/horror) when you cover everything in chains and spikes and skulls and gore. Arguably the published material slipped into that space, or if not, it was at least a tonal mis-match compared to the other realms. And again, it’s hard to see the demons as scary when they arrived in the game late, and after a long string of failures.

Anyway, all that is to say that while old Tharkold had some issues and, from what I’ve experienced in-game and online, wasn’t well-liked, so far I like what Torg Eternity has done with the place. They’ve thrown post-nuclear apocalyptic themes into the mix, made the demons less failure-prone and a bit scarier individually, and gave the setting a bit more focus. But it still needs non-demon foes – there’s no better way to make a monster not so scary than to let the players defeat lots of them – or rather, I needed some non-demon foes for a project. I found a couple that I liked, and once again I am sharing the conversions that I made of them here!

Converting monsters from original Torg to Torg Eternity, I’ve found, has some pitfalls. The old game had more attributes, more skills, and more complicated subsystems for areas like magic and spellcasting. Number values were higher across the board, and had a bigger range. Smushing the stats down into Torg Eternity form loses some nuance, but hopefully not in a significant way. And despite the above, most creatures’ stats are rather boring, which is something I sought to correct. I’m a big devotee of 4th edition D&D’s monster design ethos, where each creature has some mechanical bit that helps make it distinct from similar creatures. In any case, I hereby present some new monsters for Tharkold drawn from the original edition!

Flenser

Don’t really care for the name on this one, but I like the concept. Flensers are creatures made of nanobots infused with magic, that are designed to absorb living creatures, imitate their victim in order to infiltrate a community, and then they… well, the description doesn’t say, exactly. But we can assume they cause havoc and murder and stuff. The name comes from what they leave behind after absorbing a victim’s form and memories: the victim’s intact skin (and also its hair and teeth). They were created by the cyber-demons to go after human colonies, but of course they went rogue, as murder machines are wont to do, and now attack whomever they please to.

That’s their whole schtick, and the writeup doesn’t really embrace the T-1000-ish potential of an autonomous blob of nanobots that is designed to imitate other creatures. As far as what they do with their abilities, I imagine that a flenser takes satisfaction from imitating humans (or whatever), and then having them betray, hurt, or kill their loved ones, and then moving on to a new identity in the community before it can be found out. It would seem to others as if people are getting possessed… and then their empty skin turns up! And then someone else starts acting evil…

Flenser
Cosm: Tharkold (Magic: 12, Social: 25, Spirit: 4, Tech: 25)
Attributes: Charisma 7, Dexterity 10, Mind 9, Spirit 7, Strength 12
Skills: Divination 13, dodge 12, find 10, intimidation 13, persuasion 9, stealth 13, taunt (12), trick 13, unarmed combat 14, willpower 11
Move: 10 (30); Tough: 12; Shock: -; Wounds: 2
Equipment: Nanobot injector (Strength +0/12, Armor Piercing 3, Grapple), nano-weapon (Strength +2/14)
Possibilities: Never
Special Abilities:

  • Absorb: When the flenser has an unsuspecting or helpless living victim whose form it wishes to assume, it creates two small injector needles from its current body and attacks. Treat this as a grapple attack. If the target is restrained and damage exceeds Toughness, the injectors start pumping the flenser’s nanobots into the victim. The machines absorb and record the target’s current state; this causes 1 Wound per round. After a few minutes have passed (depending on the target’s size), the creature will have been completely consumed, save for its skin, hair, and teeth.
  • Assimilate: The flenser can assume the form of any creature it has absorbed, a process that takes about an hour. If the form is much larger than the flenser’s current size, it can only take that form immediately after absorbing it. The flenser gains the target’s recent memories and 1 add in any skill the victim was trained in. It can access deeper memories and more skill ranks with a divination test (the GM sets the difficulty for memories; for skill adds, see the copycat psionic power). Switching forms also switches memories and skills.
  • Highly Morphic Body: The flenser, despite its appearance, is really a blob of nano-machines. It is immune to extra damage from Called Shots as well as Shock damage. It can take an action on its turn to repair 1 Wound it has suffered. It can also create Strength+2 weapons out of its hands or limbs; use unarmed combat for attacking or defending with those weapons.
  • Supernatual Evil: Thanks to the occult energies that suffuse the flenser, it is affected by the ward enemy miracle and other effects that target supernatural evil.

Quon

The quon is another mechanical monstrosity, although this one is much more straightforward: it’s a giant metal scorpion that will grab you and remove a big chunk of your body with its tail that’s designed to extract core samples. Oh, and it’s lightning-fast and regenerates. It’s basically an autonomous tank that will rip your character to shreds instead of blowing you up from afar.

Given all the abilities that the quon has, I thought it was probably better represented as a Beta (β) level threat, which is to say it’s best faced by Storm Knights with 50+ XP.

(β) Quon
Cosm: Tharkold (Magic: 12, Social: 25, Spirit: 4, Tech: 25)
Attributes: Charisma 3, Dexterity 8, Mind 5, Spirit 4, Strength 14
Skills: Dodge 13, find 10 (F), intimidation (15), maneuver 13 (F), taunt (15), trick (10), unarmed combat 14 (F), willpower 10
Move: 10 (30); Tough: 18 (4); Shock: -; Wounds: 3
Equipment: Tail (Strength +4/18, Armor Piercing 4), pincers (Strength +2/16)
Possibilities: Never
Special Abilities:

  • Armor: Interwoven metal-composite plating +4.
  • Dread: When this creature is present, any Standard Scene immediately becomes a Dramatic Scene instead.
  • Liquid Metal Blood: The quon can use a simple action on its turn to test Strength. On a Good or better result, it repairs 1 Wound.
  • Pincers: Strength +2/16. The quon will typically use its pincers to grapple a target.
  • Quick Axion SystemFind, maneuver, unarmed combat, Active Defense, and Dexterity tests are all Favored.
  • Relentless: Ignores Shock damage, Fatigue.
  • Tail: Strength +4/18, Armor Piercing 4. The tail’s “stinger” is designed to extract core samples, not hit moving targets. As such, it can only use this attack against a restrained (usually by its pincers) or helpless target, and unarmed combat is not Favored.
  • Very Large: +4 to be hit.
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Kingmaker: Intermission #3, Session 3, Part 2

After the PCs finished slaughtering the House Raganus guards, Satampra the swashbuckler turned on Orseen the warpriest. “What did you do that for?!?” he demanded of his compatriot.

“You felt it, they attacked our minds!” the warrior-priest of Iomedae responded. “And anyway, this is what we all wanted, isn’t it? I saw the opportunity, I took it.”

Satampra grimaced. “It’s not what I wanted.” But he let it go. Aakif the arcanist had dealt with the guards at the door, and the group puzzled out where Bozhidar might have gone. They guessed the dungeon, and were not put off when they traveled down there and found nothing of note. Instead, Aakif cast a spell of detect secret doors, and found one such portal in one of the back cells. A part of the wall swung open, revealing a fog-shrouded hallway. “What, this again?” complained the swashbuckler, thinking back to their time in Armag’s tomb.

After getting turned around a bunch in the mist, eventually the party made it to a small antechamber with a big steel rune-inscribed door. Satampra took a few minutes examining the door for traps, and then picked the lock on it after not finding any. Orseen pulled the metal slab open, revealing… the head of a red dragon, breathing fire all over them!

Remesio the cleric and Aakif were burned badly, while Satampra completely evaded the blast. Orseen felt that something was not right about the dragon, or the fire, and though the flames washed over him, he was not badly hurt. It was like the fire was an echo of flame, or maybe a shadow of it. But despite the wrpriest’s feeling, the beast was digging its claws into the stone and pulling its bulk forward to get in a better position attack, and that all certainly seemed real enough!

Before the dragon could completely block the doorway, Satampra sprung over it and into the room, and the wounded Aakif followed via spider climbing. Orseen used Fervor to heal his minor wounds and still attack, while Remesio worked on healing himself. It appeared that the dragon’s bite and claws barely hurt Orseen, and in turn his blade seemed to barely hurt it.

In the room beyond, much of the space was taken up by the giant reptile. What little room remained was filled with alchemical and arcane equipment, that Satampra set about smashing while he dodged the creature’s wings and tail. Aakif scanned the chamber for secret doors, and having found none, looked for magic. The dragon was definitely magic! But when its bulk slammed into the arcanist, it felt real enough!

Eventually the group concluded that it could only hurt half of their number, and they weren’t really about to hurt it at all, so they teleported out of the castle and back to their army. As the cleric applied some healing magic to the arcanist, the heard gasps from the warriors around them. Looking at where the soldiers were pointing, they saw the great red dragon rise from behind the castle walls and swoop down upon them, breathing fire as it did so! The Emperor’s Guard broke and ran in the face of the dragonfear and fire. The PCs fled, as well, using dimension door to move themselves about a mile away and out of sight of the castle (and dragon).

Don’t Be a Chicken

“Ok, let’s not panic,” said Satampra calmly. “Let’s just do what we came here to do – rescue Aakif’s mother. Once she’s safe, we can cut loose on the cousins.” The party sat and camped out a bit until it was happy hour, when Remesio could regain his spells. He prayed for divine guidance via a divination, and asked the gods, “Will harm come to Aakif’s mother Thamina should we try to rescue her?” He then drank a flagon of ale and examined the pattern of droplets that had escaped his thirst. From that, he pronounced, “If the hidden mother can be found, she can be rescued with the right hands.”

Aakif had tried to scry on his mother before, but it had always been blocked. This time, now that he had allies and possibly a divine mandate to find her, he determined to keep trying until he succeeded (luckily for him, I had forgotten that the spell has a casting time of 1 hour). He scried, and scried, and scried, and suddenly… he was seeing something! It was the courtyard of his family’s keep. It was quite busy, as people ran about, clearly preparing for a battle or siege. But he did not see his mother anywhere.

“Maybe she’s disguised!” suggested the cleric. He prayed for true seeing and Orseen buffed himself. Then the group teleported right into the middle of the castle courtyard.

A general cry of alarm went up as the attackers suddenly reappeared behind the walls! Remesio looked around, and almost immediately saw that five of the chickens were really human women! “The chickens!” he cried.

“Which one?!?” shouted Aakif.

“Um, I can’t tell! Those ones!”

Meanwhile Bozhidar and Sergej had appeared nearby. As the PCs scrambled to steal the indicated chickens, Aakif resisted a baleful polymorph spell and Orseen ate a lightning bolt. But grab the chickens they did, and then Remesio teleported them back to their hillside.

Next: rescue reprise!

Kingmaker: Intermission #3, Session 3, Part 1

The rulers of Caerelia, along with Aakif (the arcanist formerly known as Skala), led the Emperor’s Guard (Huge army of human fighter 5’s) southeast from New Stetven, stopping at enemy forts and keeps along the way. The owners of these fortifications were given a choice: walk away with your life, or die in your home. Some fled, and were replaced by subordinates who agreed to swear loyalty to the rebel side in the civil war. Many more chose to not betray their oaths to Regent Surtova, and were killed. Your average minor lord might have been able to hold out against the Guard, but a group of 12th level PCs exists in an entirely different reality.

After knocking over a half dozen fiefdoms, the PCs and their army arrived at a small castle flying the arms of House Raganus, a ball of fire flanked by ravens. Aakif had used his hat of disguise before they got too close to appear as someone else, so that he would not be recognized. For Raganus was his father’s house, and his cousins had been holding his mother hostage to keep him away. Until her safety had been secured, he could not let it be known that he was here.

The PCs and their retinue rode forward under a white flag of parley, and the captain of the guard came out onto the wall to hear what they had to say. When Satampra the swashbuckler stated their terms – get out or die – the captain was defiant. “Your army of rebels and thieves cannot stand against the magical might of House Raganus!” And so it seemed that there would be no surrender! The rebel leaders rode back to their camp to make preparations for battle.

But soon a second white flag rode out from the castle, and its bearer delivered an invitation to discuss matters. Why fight, said the message, when we can talk as civilized men? The note was signed by Bozhidar Raganus, who claimed to be speaking for the Lord Constantin Raganus. Aakif confirmed that Constantin was his father, and Bozhidar his eldest cousin.

False Pretenses

Aakif had told them that the Force sorcery was strong in his family, and his father and both his cousins had some significant but unknown amount of personal power. So to the players, the offer to talk sounded like a good way to size up the opposition, and maybe also to find some clues as to Aakif’s mother’s whereabouts. They sent the messenger back with a RSVP, and then the four PCs rode back to the castle, where they were escorted to a meeting hall.

After a short time, Bozhidar and his younger brother Sergej entered the room and warmly greeted the visitors. Bozhidar apologized for the rudeness of his captain, and hoped that they could resolve this misunderstanding as noble men, and not barbarians. “But first,” he said while indicating the disguised Aakif, “your companion with the illusion must drop his – or her – spell.” One of the qualities of nobility is honesty, after all.

Satampra put a hand on Orseen the warpriest to keep him from drawing the sword that he was reaching for, while the arcanist quickly ran through different scenarios in his head. He tried to politely refuse Bozhidar’s request, which prompted some questions of its own. Who was this person, that they come here under magic disguise and refuse to reveal themselves? After a tense standoff, Aakif agreed to leave. But on his way out the door, he surreptitiously cast a message spell so that he could remain in contact with the others.

With the Caerelian’s magical mystery man gone, the honest people could get down to business. Bozhidar expressed surprise that a rebel army had arrived on his doorstep. “After all”, he said casually, “we sent word to New Stetven since the end of the siege that our family’s loyalty was to the throne, and if the throne was now in other hands, well…” The man made it sound like an offer to betray his liege lord (the Regent) was actually an act of the highest honor. And in fact House Raganus, along with a few other families in the lands between New Stetven and Restov, having found themselves surrounded by rebels and Caerelians on all sides, had extended feelers about switching sides. “Did our message not reach its intended destination?” Bozhidar inquired.

“No, we received your letter,” Satampra replied nonchalantly. “But there’s no deal to be had. You can depart, leaving everything behind, or we can take it from you.”

“To be sure, we do not wish to fight the mighty Caerelia,” said Bozhidar. “But I must make this plain: House Raganus was given these lands for a very important reason. Our knowledge of matters arcane is great, greater by far than the fools who fill Skywatch. It runs in our blood. We have been researching a great power here for some time. Now, we kindly refrained from deploying the power against your armies during the attack on the capital, as we did not wish to get involved. You see, Emperor, we only want to be left in peace. But if you provoke us, we will unleash our weapon. And you will not prevail against it.”

When Bozhidar finished, there was silence in the room as the guests considered the warning.

The moment was shattered, however, when all of the PCs succeeded at a Will save and realized that someone – they assumed Sergej, who looked like he might be concentrating on something – was trying to touch their minds. Despite their own attempts at deception, the Caerelians acted very insulted by the attempted mental intrusion, and Bozhidar threw his brother under the bus in order to placate them. Sergej was scolded for his recklessness and banished from the room, after which Bozhidar apologized profusely.

“Not good enough!” declared Orseen, who now felt he finally had the pretext he needed to draw his blade and light it on fire! Boz’s eyes grew wide at the (somewhat) unprovoked aggression, and he dimension door’d away as his guards attacked!

Next: the power revealed!

Torg Eternity: New/Old Creatures of Aysle

One of the good parts of having a new edition of a game is that you still have a lot of older edition material to draw on. One of the bad parts of that is having to figure out how to fit the older material into the new setting (which has probably changed some) and new system (ditto).

In that spirit, as the new edition of Torg has just been released and there’s a dearth of material for it right now, I’ve taken to going through the original Torg books looking for ideas that would fit in Torg Eternity. Or in this case, I was working on an adventure and was looking for interesting monsters to use…

The original sourcebook for the fantasy realm of Aysle covers the usual suspects: goblins, ogres, trolls, fairies, human-animal hybrids, and so on. I was looking for some more unusual monsters, though, and so turned to the old Creatures of Aysle book. West End Games published a handful of these “Creatures of…” splatbooks for Torg, which were (as one might expect) bestiaries that (as one might not expect) contained relatively few beasts, since each monster was given a two-page spread. I found a lot of the creatures in the Aysle book to be a bit ho-hum, and one to be very out of place*, but I did find a couple of monsters that suited my needs. And so I am sharing the conversions that I made of them here!

* The book contains the “nighthaunt,” which is a renamed “nightgaunt,” lifted directly from H. P. Lovecraft’s stories and/or the Call of Cthulhu RPG. I find its inclusion here a bit strange because there’s a couple of other realms in Torg that are all about the horror – wouldn’t you stick the monster lifted from horror stories / RPGs into one of those places, instead of medieval fantasy land?

(And what is up with that cover illustration? There aren’t even any snake-people in the book!)

Converting monsters from original Torg to Torg Eternity, I’ve found, has some pitfalls. The old game had more attributes, more skills, and more complicated subsystems for areas like magic and spellcasting. Number values were higher across the board, and had a bigger range. Smushing the stats down into Torg Eternity form loses some nuance, but hopefully not in a significant way. And despite the above, most creatures’ stats are rather boring, which is something I sought to correct. I’m a big devotee of 4th edition D&D’s monster design ethos, where each creature has some mechanical bit that helps make it distinct from similar creatures. In any case, I hereby present some new monsters for Aysle drawn from the original edition!

Charcharias

Charcharias are shark men that live in the sea. Rather similar to D&D’s sahuagin, now that I think about it. They look like humanoids with webbed fingers and toes and a shark-like head that nonetheless allows for a neck (unlike some humanoid shark depictions). It’s said they were once human, but Charcharia – Aysle’s shark-god of Corruption – blessed them with their new forms for their devotion. They like to eat people and uvwe (were-seals), and think that if they are fierce enough they will be reborn as a real shark. If they fail that particular test, they will instead get eaten by their god. Creatures of Aysle just has the base stats, but given their reverence of their deity, a priest option seems like a no-brainer. Also, it seems like they should have a giant shark to pal around with? It’s not D&D-style fantasy if you don’t have mega fauna.

The resulting monster is basically a slightly stronger humanoid than the norm. The original creatures did not appear to be tool-users, despite the seashell armor, but that’s easy enough to change. Instead of the classic tridents, I gave them harpoons, as they seemed a little more tactically interesting. I also gave the charcharias some faith-based shark abilities that weren’t in the original writeup, in order to make them a bit more distinct.

For the shark pets, I adapted the shark and giant shark stats from the “savage megalodon” stats in the Delphi Missions: Living Land adventure book. The ability of the priest to summon sharks is a bit of a two-edged sword, given their Feeding Frenzy ability. They could chomp on the charcharias (or each other) as readily as the Storm Knights!

Charcharias
Cosm: Aysle (Magic: 24, Social: 16, Spirit: 18, Tech: 14)
Attributes: Charisma 6, Dexterity 8, Mind 7, Spirit 8, Strength 11
Skills: Dodge 11, faith 10, find 10, intimidation 10, maneuver 10, missile weapons 10, stealth 10, trick 9, unarmed combat 12
Move: 8 (24); Tough: 12 (1); Shock: 8; Wounds: –
Equipment: Harpoon (Strength +2/13, Ammo 1, Range 10/20/30, Thrown, grapple at range, damage if removed), seashell armor (Tough +1, Torso)
Possibilities: Rare (2)
Special Abilities:

  • Amphibious: Can breathe underwater or on land.
  • Bite/Claws: Damage Strength +2 (13).
  • Commune with Sharks: As the commune with animals miracle, but it can only target sharks. Any charcharias can invoke this miracle within Aysle if they meet the faith requirement (10).
  • Harpoon: This barbed spear has a cord tied to the end. When thrown, it can be used to grapple at range. On an Outstanding result, the target is impaled and will take 12 damage, ignoring armor, when the harpoon is removed. This damage cannot be soaked. The cord has a defense of 10 and is severed if it is hit by a cutting weapon. A charcharias can pull a restrained target towards it by using an action to make an opposed Strength test, which also deals 2 Shock to impaled targets.
  • Swim: Move 10 in the water.

Charcharias Priest
Cosm: Aysle (Magic: 24, Social: 16, Spirit: 18, Tech: 14)
Attributes: Charisma 7, Dexterity 8, Mind 8, Spirit 10, Strength 11
Skills: Dodge 10, faith 14, find 10, intimidation 12, maneuver 10, missile weapons 10, stealth 10, trick 10, unarmed combat 11, willpower 11
Move: 8 (24); Tough: 12 (1); Shock: 10; Wounds: 1
Equipment: Harpoon (Strength +2/13, Ammo 1, Range 10/20/30, Thrown, grapple at range, damage if removed), seashell armor (Tough +1, Torso)
Perks: Miracles (bless, bloodlust*, call sharks, commune with sea animals)
Possibilities: Common (2)
Special Abilities:

  • Amphibious: Can breathe underwater or on land.
  • Bite/Claws: Damage Strength +2 (13).
  • Call Sharks: As the call animals miracle, but it can only be used to summon sharks with the following results:
    • Success: 1 shark.
    • Good: 1BD sharks or 1 giant shark.
    • Outstanding: 2BD sharks, 1BD great sharks, or 1 giant shark.
  • Commune with Sea Animals: As the commune with animals miracle, but it can only target marine life.
  • Harpoon: This barbed spear has a cord tied to the end. When thrown, it can be used to grapple at range. On an Outstanding result, the target is impaled and will take 12 damage, ignoring armor, when the harpoon is removed. This damage cannot be soaked. The cord has a defense of 10 and is severed if it is hit by a cutting weapon. A charcharias can pull a restrained target towards it by using an action to make an opposed Strength test, which also deals 2 Shock to impaled targets.
  • Swim: Move 10 in the water.

* The bloodlust miracle is from the Living Land sourcebook.

Shark
Attributes: Charisma 5, Dexterity 10, Mind 5, Spirit 8, Strength 10
Skills: Dodge 12, find 7, intimidation 11, maneuver 12, taunt (10), trick (10), unarmed combat 12
Move: -; Tough: 11 (1); Shock: 8; Wounds: –
Possibilities: Never
Special Abilities:

  • Armor: Thick skin +1.
  • Bite: Damage Strength +3 (13).
  • Feeding Frenzy: Once someone in the scene takes a Wound, or blood somehow gets into the water, the shark gains the Mindless ability and must always All-Out Attack.
  • Swim: Move 14 in the water.

Great Shark
Attributes: Charisma 5, Dexterity 10, Mind 5, Spirit 10, Strength 14
Skills: Dodge 12, find 7, intimidation 13, maneuver 11, taunt (10), trick (10), unarmed combat 13
Move: -; Tough: 15 (1); Shock: 12; Wounds: 1
Possibilities: Never
Special Abilities:

  • Armor: Thick skin +1.
  • Bite: Damage Strength +3 (17).
  • Feeding Frenzy: Once someone in the scene takes a Wound, or blood somehow gets into the water, the giant shark gains the Mindless ability and must always All-Out Attack.
  • Swim: Move 16 in the water.
  • Large: +2 to be hit.

Giant Shark (Charcharia’s Children)

Use the “Savage Megalodon” stats in the Delphi Missions: Living Land adventure book.

The Hound of the Baskervilles

The hound of the Baskervilles is well-known from the Sherlock Holmes novel of the same name. In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s story, the hound is a fraud, but the legend of the ghostly dog has become reality after Aysle invades England!

The subject of the classic story was inspired by one of the many “black dogs” of British folk lore. Typically, such dogs show up as a traveler is walking down a lonesome road at night. The dog’s bark or howl – or even the mere sight of it – meant the traveler would die very soon. Most kinds of black dogs don’t attack; they are merely omens of impending doom.

The original Torg monster was a corporeal canine with only its bite and the ability to howl, which was a boring mass intimidation effect. I spruced the howl up a bit, turning it into more of a curse. I also added the generic Fear ability and the ability to turn ethereal, as such creatures were often thought to be ghosts. I wouldn’t use it to attack the players, not directly. It’s a portent of bad stuff that will happen later in an act. It could fight, but that’s not its role in the story – if attacked, it will simply flee.

The Hound of the Baskervilles /  Black Dog
Cosm: Aysle (Magic: 24, Social: 16, Spirit: 18, Tech: 14)
Attributes: Charisma 5, Dexterity 10, Mind 8, Spirit 12, Strength 11
Skills: Dodge 13, find 11, intimidation 15, maneuver 15, reality 13, stealth 13, survival 10, taunt (13), tracking 12, trick 9, unarmed combat 14, willpower 14
Move: 10 (30); Tough: 11; Shock: 12; Wounds: 1
Possibilities: Never
Special Abilities:

  • Bite/Claws: Damage Strength +2 (13).
  • Ethereal: The hound can use a simple action to become ethereal or a normal action to become corporeal. While ethereal, it can’t be harmed by normal weapons. Magic weapons, miracles, spells, and psionic powers affect it normally when ethereal.
  • Fear: Characters must make a Willpower test or be Very Stymied until their next action when seeing the hound for the first time in a scene.
  • Howl: Once per act the hound can use its action to howl. Everyone who can hear the sound must make a Hard (DN 14) Willpower test or be Very Stymied until their next action. In addition, one character that failed the test will also automatically fail its next test to soak damage within the same act (if there are no possibility-rated targets, one target will fail its next skill test that has deadly consequences).

Shadow Dog

Shadow dogs are black hound-like creatures that have no ears or eyes – their faces are all mouth. Nevertheless, they are still able to see, hear, and smell through unknown means, and are actually the best trackers High Lord Uthorion has. Unfortunately, he has less than a dozen of them, so they are used sparingly. If a shadow dog can’t track a target using their skills, they can cast divination spells to find their target, or to find the magic that the target is using to conceal itself.

I was a little taken aback at how powerful these doggies are! I suppose that’s why they stipulate that there’s only a few of them in existence. The divination spells the dog has have been toned down in Torg Eternity, so I gave them an ability to beef their magic back up again. I also added a grappling helper ability – with that big mouth, it seems like they’d be good for holding the target once they tracked it down.

Shadow Dog
Cosm: Aysle (Magic: 24, Social: 16, Spirit: 18, Tech: 14)
Attributes: Charisma 5, Dexterity 11, Mind 10, Spirit 7, Strength 11
Skills: Divination 14, dodge 12, find 15 (F), intimidation 9, maneuver 13, reality 9, stealth 14, survival 12, taunt (8), tracking 18 (F), trick 11, unarmed combat 14
Move: 13 (39); Tough: 11; Shock: 9; Wounds: 3
Perks: Endurance (+2 Shock limit), Spellcaster (detect magic, pathfinder)
Possibilities: 2
Special Abilities:

  • Bite/Claws: Damage Strength +2 (13).
  • Magical TrackerFind and track are Favored, and any divination spell the shadow dog casts has its range multiplied by 10. Using those skills or spells is a contradiction in realms when the Magic axiom is less than 12.
  • Strong Jaws: If shadow dog is grappling a target and the target tries to escape, the creature gains a +4 bonus on the Strength test to keep the target restrained.

Kingmaker: Intermission #3, Session 2

Before the group could go off to rescue Aakif the arcanist’s mother, there was to be a gathering of the rebel leaders at the Ruby Palace in Brevoy’s capital of New Stetven. Aside from the Caerelians, the leaders of the Houses Orlovsky and Medyved were there, along with representatives of the Swordlords of Restov. The first order of business was… “Don’t call us ‘rebels’!” protested Satampra the swashbuckler. He wanted their coalition to have a more dignified and less ragtag name. Maybe something like, “defenders of the royal line of Brevoy,” or maybe royalists for short, but only House Orlovsky approved of that motion. The Medyveds and Swordlords had their own reasons for warring against Brevoy’s Regent, and were fine with the “rebels” label.

The real order of business was: who would be Regent (or King?) of Brevoy after the war was won? And then, what would be done with the lands formerly controlled by the vanished royal house, which spanned the distance from New Stetven to Brevoy? In the 19 years since the Vanishing, Noleski Surtova had gradually replaced recalcitrant lords in the area with those loyal to him. With the Surtovas having fled to their home in the northwest corner of the kingdom, those lords would need to bend the knee to the new Regent – whomever that may turn out to be – or be dealt with.

The first and foremost item on the agenda was an uncomfortable one. Lord Poul Orlovsky passionately wanted to preserve the regency, and Lord Gurev Medyved was nominally committed to that goal as well. But the Swordlords were not – ultimately, they wanted whichever outcome would lead to Restov’s independence, which Poul was not kindly disposed to. And if the Surtovas were not to hold the regency, then who should? Poul considered himself the most likely candidate, which the Swordlords objected strongly to. So was Gurev the compromise candidate? But he was not well inclined to want the job, which he regarded as “thankless.”

Satampra proposed turning New Stetven into neutral territory owned by no one, but that didn’t solve the actual issue of the kingdom needing a ruler. The Emperor of Caerelia also threw out the idea that maybe there should be a time limit on waiting for the vanished royals to return. At some point, he said, you just have to assume they aren’t coming back and get on with running the kingdom.

The debate went on for days. During that time, the other Caerelians started to talk amongst themselves about what they wanted for an outcome. It was put forth that perhaps if the rebellion didn’t end anytime soon, that would be good for Caerelia. For as long as Brevoy was at war with itself, their northern neighbor would be weak and incapable of invading the PCs’ kingdom – or of defending themselves from Caerelia’s invasion, noted Orseen the extremely expansionist warpriest.

Satampra’s idea of a neutral capital planted a seed in Gurev’s mind; a seed which grew into the idea of a kinda-sorta neutral Regent. The patriarch of House Medyved thus came to propose the creation of a new House to hold the throne – a merger of his house and the Orlovsky’s. To ensure the Swordlords’ agreement, further proposals were hammered out that they would be granted stewardship over the royal lands nearest them. Their rule would last until House Rogarvia returned, or until 100 years had passed from the time of the Vanishing. On the 100th anniversary of that dark day, Restov would assume control of those lands in full, and the Regent of the new House would ascend to the Dragonscale Throne.

The question of Restov’s independence was kicked down the road.

Furthermore, the new Regents would sign a non-agression pact with Caerelia. And with that, the summit came to a conclusion, with everyone reasonably happy. Well, everyone present. The other Houses were not likely to appreciate these deals being made without their input, or the throne being handed to the scions of Orlovsky and Medyved.

Off To Storm Some Castles

While preparations were made for the Caerelians to march home with some of their armies, Aakif teleported to the lands controlled by House Raganus and his father. He arrived just outside the town that supported his father’s keep, and cast prying eyes – a very handy information-gathering spell that I was previously unaware of. Nearly-invisible eyeballs appeared around him and flew out in all directions, seeking his mother. But they returned, as they had before, without having found her. And so he teleported back to New Stetven.

Eventually the armies were ready to move out, and the Emperor of Caerelia rode at the head of the Emperor’s Guard (Huge army of human fighter 5’s). The plan was to ride south-ish, knocking over Surtovan lords as they went, until they arrived at House Raganus’ keep. Either Aakif’s father would bend the knee, or they would depose him and set up Aakif as the new ruler of the House. For his part, though, all the arcanist wanted was to see his mother freed from captivity.

Next: House Raganus!

Where I Read: Captain Marvel, Part 40

Captain Marvel #28 (cover date September 1973)

“When Titans Collide!” by Mike Friedrich (script), Jim Starlin (plot, pencils, colors, script), and Dan Green (i). Friedrich is credited with the script for chapters 1 & 3, while Starlin scripted chapter 2, which seems like an unusually precise accounting of who wrote what. And yes, the issue is broken up into chapters. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a penciler take over the color duties before; I wonder what that’s about.

The opening splash shows Mar-vell flying with his arms outstretched, with the heads of several characters (Lou-Ann, the Avengers, Drax, Thanos’ hooded companion) and a single question mark arrayed around the page, and Thanos’ grinning face serving as the background. “Check out the page, people,” bids the caption, “This one’s got em all!” Uh, ok.

In chapter 1, Rick Jones is informed that his “heartflame” (gag) Lou-Ann is in a severe state of shock, and is only being kept alive by some Stark gizmo. There’s also a strange disc on her that Iron Man recognizes but doesn’t say much about. As Rick in turn tells the Avengers what he knows, Mar-vell witnesses a strange floaty island-looking thing with a giant eye on one side and a face on the other while he is within the Negative Zone. “The crisis-ultimate nears, Eon. Shall I act?” says one voice. “No, Eon, the tension must yet rise more. Then shall come the time!” says another. Then the bizarre vision vanishes.

Meanwhile, a shadowy Thanos-like figure bypasses the mansion’s security devices and hides behind a doorway to the meeting room where everyone is gathered.

Rick swaps with Mar-vell so the man of the Kree can better explain Thanos’ plan to find the Cosmic Cube, and since Mar-vell’s costume got shredded on Titan (did it? I don’t remember that at all), the Scarlet Witch has a new costume ready for him to don after the switch. Black Panther notes that Iron Man had recorded his experiences with Thanos after Iron Man #55, and helpfully goes to get the tape. He strolls by the shadow Thanos-like figure, which sucker punches the king of Wakanda and instantly takes him out. This is followed by every single Avenger going single file through that same doorway and also getting sucker punched into unconsciousness. The Vision thinks Panther is taking too long and goes to help. Then the Scarlet Witch rushes in to rescue Vision. Then Cap charges in, throws his shield to no effect and gets clobbered (through his shield, even). Then Iron Man tells Mar-vell not to worry, he’s totally got this, and waltzes into the Doorway of Death. He doesn’t come out.

So, to review: in order to defeat the Mighty Avengers, all one needs to do is hang out in the shadows near their meeting room and punch them as they walk by, one-by-one.

Not the team’s finest hour. Nor the writers’! Now I understand why Starlin didn’t want credit for scripting chapter 1!

With the Avengers all taken care of, the shadowy Thanos-like figure steps out to take on Captain Marvel, whereupon it is revealed that the intruder is actually… the Controller, and not Thanos at all! Hence the slave disc on Lou-Ann. I only know this villain from Official Handbooks, so I am interested in seeing him in action. In any case, they had me fooled; the profiles of the two are remarkably similar.

But on to chapter 2! In the cave where the Cosmic Cube is said to be located, Drax the Destroyer confronts Thanos and his mysterious robed companion. Who is revealed to be Death herself! (I totally called that) Not that Drax cares. “From the bowels of a far distant jade planet, I was spawned to ruin you!” Distant jade planet? I thought Kronos created him on Titan? We haven’t even gotten to the retcon where he was once a human and we’re already changing his origin around!

Thanos responds to Drax’s threats by initiating a “time-mind sync-warp!” With a name like that, you know some LSD-type shit is about to go down. And indeed it does! “First, be assaulted by fists of shattered illusions and broken promises!” (Thanos and Drax fight, their bodies stretched and distorted as if in a funhouse mirror) “Be now menaced by sinister ghosts of past deeds and the grim threatening spectres of future evils!” (Drax is beset by a gang of Thanoses) “Feel the power and frustration of a mind run amok! Your mind!” (a two-toned photo-negative Thanos punches a similar looking Drax, followed by an interior where everyone is standing on different surfaces, followed by Drax shattering a statue of Thanos that speaks) “I have created your prison… and your prison is madness!” (a giant Thanos grabs a little Drax and eats him)

Drax is defiant to the end, however, and vows that he will be free! Then there’s a page of pure weirdness that I cannot even begin to describe. Whatever is going on, it works in Drax’s favor, and he breaks out of the sync-warp. Although he passes out right after escaping, and thus is unable to stop Thanos from claiming his prize – the Cosmic Cube!

Which means it’s time for chapter 3! The Controller has Mar-vell in a headlock, and sticks a slave disc on him. But there are two minds inhabiting the Kree’s body – his own and Rick’s – and so the disc has no effect! Enraged, the Controller grabs a wall of machinery, rips it free, and hurls it at Mar-vell. At which point the two voices from the Negative Zone return: “Now, Eon?” says the first, and “Yes, Eon!” says the second. But the Captain is buried in rubble nonetheless. Satisfied that his foe is dead, the Controller grabs Lou-Ann and skedaddles.

Under the debris, however, is not Mar-vell at all, but Rick Jones! Somehow they were switched against their will, and when Rick clangs the Nega Bands together to switch back, nothing happens! He’s trapped!

And meanwhile, Mar-vell appears in a trippy space scene, only with his clothes and skin colored white and green, giving him a similar look to his original costume. Towering over him is the weird eye-face thing. The man of the Kree complains of being spirited away when “the very universe needs warriors to defend it!”

The first voice of the thing responds: “Know you, Captain Mar-vell of the Kree, we have summoned you here in full awareness of the threat of Thanos! In fact, that is our reason! For to combat a universal poison, a universal antidote must be prepared! You are that antidote, Kree! But in order to ready that antidote, Mar-vell the soldier must die!”

Yes, that’s right: it must be time for yet another phase in Mar-vell’s ever-changing life. Hopefully this new version will have less Rick Jones in it. I suppose it’s only fitting that the change in status quo is accompanied by so much cosmic weirdness on the page; it’s like a return to the days of Zo in that way. Come to think of it, this Eon is a bit similar to Zo. It’s like all the mysterious cosmic entities went to the same school or something.

Next: Chaos!

Kingmaker: Intermission #3, Session 1

Upon returning to Stagfell, the council got together to decide what to do about the armies laying siege to New Stetven. The kingdom’s consumption was sky-high, and there was some concern that the war would bankrupt them unless there was some reduction in forces. However, after going over the books, it turned out that the addition of Fort Drelev’s territory brought overall Consumption down to the point where the armies were no longer a problem!

Next on the council’s agenda was filling recent vacancies – both the General and the Councilor had moved on to other positions. Warden Kesten Garess, who had nearly been named General back when the kingdom was founded, was moved over to that position, and ex-General Boliden’s second in command (Aeson Stalkingwolf, a NPC created by Boliden’s player a looooong time ago) was promoted to Warden. And as Bill’s previous character, Aurelius Heptamus, had moved from Councilor to overseeing the new territory take from Drelev, his current character, Orseen the warpriest, was made the new Councilor.

Orseen the warpriest, who had never had a leadership role in the kingdom, took over the position of Councilor now that his player’s previous character .

With all the tedious paperwork out of the way, the rulers wanted to get back to the war in Brevoy. They figured the siege of the capital had gone on long enough, and that it was a problem that could probably be easily solved by 12th level characters. They weren’t wrong – there’s little that conventional low-level forces can do to even stymie PCs of that level, who are basically demigods in comparison.

They teleported up to New Stetven, examined the city gates, and devised a plan to teleport two teams in, one for each gatehouse. After dealing with the opposition, they would raise the massive portcullis, and their armies could stream in and kill the defenders. And that’s basically what happened, with Skala the arcanist and Satampra the swashbuckler on one side and Remesio the cleric and Orseen on the other. Each group took along a few mooks of their own, and team divinity ended up loosing theirs to the enemy, but otherwise it all went according to plan.

There was a final gate behind the portcullis, but Skala fireballed those trying to defend it and then disintegrated a large hole in it. The rebel armies battered down the rest of the gate and streamed into the city. Some looting and pillaging followed, but the Orlovsky and Medyved generals clamped down and restored order before it got out of hand. And that was the end of the siege of New Stetven.

Parent Trap

After the victory celebration, Skala gathered together the other PCs and let them in on a secret. “I am not who you think I am,” the arcanist began.

“Are you the Regent?!?” exclaimed Orseen.

“Errr… no,” replied the confused spellcaster. Although he had been keeping his true identity a secret! His real name was Aakif Stone, and he was the bastard son of the patriarch of House Raganus. Raganus served the Regent, and their demesne was in fact located not too far from the capital, in the territory that had once belonged to the royal House Rogarvia. Skala/Aakif’s eldest cousin was in line to take over the House, and had kept Aakif’s mother hostage to prevent Aakif from moving against him. With the siege concluded, Aakif asked, would you be willing to aid me in freeing my mother?

The other PCs, grateful for all the assistance that Skala had given them over the course of the war, were happy to help. Besides, noted Satampra, they were pros at rescuing captured parents! Well, except for Iofur the druid’s mom, who was killed during the rescue and had to be reincarnated… but hey, she was still alive, right? So that totally doesn’t count, right?!?

Next: who shall sit on the Dragonscale Throne?!