The Aysle sourcebook was originally going to get a "3" rating from me but I've bumped that up to "four out of five" after reading the revenge of the carredon and the short but excellent aysle "black cauldron" themed adventure in the Delphi Council Rising Storm book... still, this is the only Aysle sourcebook where I would say purchasing and reading the original 1990's Aysle sourcebook is not just recommended like I said in the Torg Eternity cyberpapacy sourcebook review in terms of purchasing the original 1990's cyberpapack book .. no, in this case with Aysle I would argue that the purchase of the original 1990's Aysle book is mandatory. I'll get to why in a moment but if you purchase all three books together... this one, the revenge of the carredon mega-adventure book (which is a worthwhile purchase in it's own right and should be seen as the companion piece to the torg eternity aysle sourcebook) and the 1990's Aysle book you will be in a position to run some very enjoyable, truly epic - as fantasy "sword and sorcery" themed adventures should be - adventures. There's a reason why I've seen some Torg Eternity fans list Aysle as one of their favorite cosms to adventure in and it will become clear if you purchase all three books.
So why the emphasis on the original 1990's Torg book if you already have the torg eternity version of the aysle sourcebook? To their credit the torg eternity team have done a wonderful job of updating and improving Aysle from the rules and statistics point of view which is hugely important... if you don't have a game that runs properly as far as the rules framework and if it becomes a sprawling over complex mish-mash of rules the same way the original Torg books from the 1990's did then you're going to have a problem.
And there's a lot to like about this book in terms of world building too or the emphasis on what I call the "role playing" part of things with a detailed look at the interaction of our "real world" core earth institutions, countries and viewpoints with the culture of not only the "friendly invaders" so to speak, Ardinay and her forces given that Ardinay sees it as her responsibility to stop the invaders of earth from "her" cosm, and the "unfriendly invaders", Utherion's forces though obviously given Utherion's forces are more of the mindset of "kill and conquer" there's going to be a more complex social interplay between Ardinay's forces and that of Core Earth (for those of you unfamiliar with the term "core earth" that refers to the "original" residents of earth not here from another cosm or invading dimension and who haven't yet transformed over to the invading cosm's reality.. covered in the torg eternity rulebook which you absolutely should buy, worth every penny, if you like see my review of it and the reviews several others have written on it here on drivethru rpg). And there's a lot of other great parts of the book I will get to later on below.
The problem is that Aysle is such a richly, lovingly detailed realm as described in the original 1990's torg book, it would have taken if I had to guess at least 40 pages of additional material.. maybe more than that .. to cover all the detail of the Aysle cosm itself in the torg eternity book... this becomes a huge handicap if you're running say the courtly intrigue which is supposed to be common to Aysle yet you don't have a lot to go on as far as the noble houses that came with Ardinay (as well as the game statistics for Ardinay and Towyln for that matter, present in the 1990's version of the aysle sourcebook but not torg eternity) that , honestly, don't get that much of a write up in Torg Eternity.. the information presented on the dwarves and elves is pretty neat but I appreciated the additional information given on them in the original 1990's torg book not ot mention the info on the noble houses again presented in the 1990's torg Aysle book ... the 1990's torg book also gives a detailed look at the history and culture of Aysle , the unique "shape" of the world and sun (literally disk shaped with the sun travelling through a hole in between said disk - torg eternity references this in passing but the original 1990's book goes into much more detail), how the giants (honestly in 1990's Torg they're really more like dungeons and dragons versions of ogres , much larger and more powerful in torg eternity) live on the "bottom half" of the disc and seek to attack kill and/or conquer the races "above" on the top half of the disc-world of Aysle, the history and culture of the deities of Aysle and how they fit into Aysle culture as well as a much more detailed look at said deities, some truly fascinating ideas of how Ayslish non-humans have adapted to life on core earth (I found the concept of a "giant bruiser muscle for hire" concept to be absolutely hilarious in the original 1990's torg book presented as he is in a three piece suit... though given giants are far too powerful to be viable as a player character option if I was the GM here I would call them "ogres" instead and make them the "smaller cousins" of giants, their own different race if you want to use this kind of concept) and more concrete information about the corrupted rule of utherion possessed ardinay in terms of the morally corrupt actions "ardinay" engaged in during "her" rule of Aysle at the time ..
As well there are noticeable differences between the original 1990's torg book and torg eternity that have to be addressed here like the corrupted by the forces of darkness head of house tancred , led by the noble Tolwyn a key player in both 1990's torg and torg eternity, that the GM would have to address ... or 1990's torg assuming every single citizen of Aysle is born predisposed to and being able to wield magic which is not the case in torg eternity (I would just drop the 1990's aysle idea of that completely as it would create all sorts of headaches for the GM to try and reconcile otherwise) .. still I see the 1990's book as not recommended but rather mandatory and I do find myself wishing the torg eternity team had made the 1990's books available at a steeply discounted price (say a few dollars) for persons who have purchased the torg eternity version of the book so you don't have gamesmasters and/or players grumbling about the additional price or just drastically discount the price for any interested parties given that torg eternity for all intents and purposes has replaced it .. but , the 1990's aysle book is absolutely positively worth the purchase price given it's , again, lovingly detailed and well written description of the Aysle home cosm and all the permutations within.
Don't get me wrong there's a lot of original material that the writers of Torg Eternity have brought in too that I like a lot ... the magical engines that generate the Aysle version of goblins called "lurks" making them the magical version of an artificial lifeform... and there's also some material from the original 1990's Aysle sourcebook that has made the transition to the torg eternity version to good effect, like a look at aysle's social axiom affecting the mindsets of the conquered areas of Earth such that earth denizens living there (whether directly transformed or simply suffering under the effects of the lower social axiom) such that they now directly accept a monarch-king or queen as ruler and basically "forgetting" or at least ignoring the democratically elected prime minister... given that the "original" royal families are in disarray due to the invasion (another nice touch on the writer's part) and given Ardinay's strong claim as queen and the forces she commands said earth denizen is likely to simply accept her as the new ruler although the part about Prince Edward , both British royalty and a soldier of Core Earth , not only bravely leading counterattacks against Utherion's forces but also being in a romantic relationship with a male noble from Aysle who came under Ardinay's banner is also a nice touch..
....the problem is the writers don't go on to address the status of LGBT individuals like they did in torg eternity cyberpapacy - how do the folk of Aysle feel about this? I would like to assume they're more enlightened than certain factions of "real life Earth" in this area perhaps due to the influence of the deity who has such tremendous influence on them, Dunad .. I go into more detail on some thoughts on this in my blogger post under my review of the Revenge of the Carredon book but basically I assume your average Asylish citizen doesn't blink at the concept of someone identifying as LGBT. It's worth noting from "Prince Eddie's" write up on page 114 that he at least as a teenager was bisexual (I'm assuming) given his liason with a female football (from our American point of view "soccer" player maybe given the different names given to the sport in England and America?) player so the GM will have to decide if this is still the case such that he's a potential romantic interest for a male or female PC should something tragic happen to the male Aylish noble Prince Eddie is currently involved with (or maybe Prince Eddie courteously yet mischievously flirts with female and male PC alike). Sadly no stats are given for Prince Eddie but I still enjoyed his writeup.
As well I enjoyed reading about the political games Utherion is forced to play with the Vikings he's seized control of thanks to his possession of their leader's body, a fact the Vikings are unaware of .. given that Utherion favors raising the dead bodies of vikings who fall in battle them having them fight alongside the understandably unnerved Vikings who fought among said raised bodies back when the owners were still living, Utherion is having some problems with the Vikings in this area especially given their tradition of ancestor worship, another nice touch that was not mentioned in the original 1990 torg book.
Revenge of the Carredon is also worth picking up not only for being a fun adventure in it's own right that truly brings Aysle to live and drives home what it's like adventuring in that cosm-conquered area of Earth, it also has a detailed look at Oxford which is a great read (although again the lack of NPC stats for important NPC's is troubling - Ardinay's arch magus is obviously an important individual yet no stats for him) ... also great was the detailed look at the Carredon and it's relationship with Utherion and the Gaunt Man. I will make the same comment here that I have with other Torg Eternity books - I greatly enjoyed the "city" sourcebooks (Berlin, Los Angeles, Toyko) that were written as part of the original 1990's Torg rules and I sincerely find myself hoping the Torg Eternity team will follow suit with say a London Torg Eternity sourcebook, updated Los Angeles/Berlin/Tokyo sourcebooks for Torg Eternity and so forth .. or at least that someone using the Torg Infiniverse license
(basically the Torg Eternity team has given permission for writers outside of the official Torg Eternity team to come up with their own Torg Eternity products a move I heartily applaud - see also my review of the Torg Eternity core rulebook for the pay what you want books published under the Infiniverse license that you can and should purchase even if you can't afford the suggested price - buy them for an American dollar or less if you have to and just make a note to yourself to pay more later on when you can afford it ! Or in the case of Torg Eternity Day One buy it for a dollar with no guilt at all since it was written by the original Torg Eternity team who clearly intend it to be a gateway drug to convince you to buy more Torg Eternity books :) .. But I digress)
Also fun was the introductory text which makes it clear that while a transformed formerly core earth now Asylish person's memories of their former core earth days may be "fuzzy" it can and will come back to them "unconsciously" in terms of concepts they talk about without realizing it (the paladin who has a knowledge of science far beyond Aysle tech and who has vague memories of this all being similar to the role playing games - dungeons and dragons? - he used to play prior to the invasion is a great touch as well as his aysle born allies dismissing such talk as nonsense).
Given the richly detailed culture and history of Aysle.. which shines through clearly in parts of the book where the writers have the "room" in terms of the page count they've probably been allotted to expound on it ... if you're a GM like me who's very focused on the world-building, role playing aspect of campaigns, you might be best off actually keeping a log or journal listing the various page numbers in the book that refer to different important things.. for example while the write-up of the dwarves in the torg eternity core rules is a fun and engaging read, it's good to know the information provided in the new perks section for dwarves where it's mentioned that no dwarf is willing to engage in formal "warfare" type conflict with another dwarf while Utherion (who as mentioned in the torg eternity core rules wiped out so many of the dwarven race) still lives. Unfortunately there's no entry for "dwarves" at the index at the back of the book to keep track of this sort of "world building" so the GM would need to maintain his or her own "index" so to speak noting the relevant page numbers and various topics .. also good information to pass on to say a player looking to play a dwarven character.
the magic chapter was a very fun read and as one might expect more extensive in scope than magic in other cosms although I notice the writers have declared Aylish magic to be different than science in that the results are more individualized in nature and not "standard" results that will will always apply based on formula and scientific principles the way science does .. the writers have done a nice job of streamlining the discussion of magic in the original 1990's torg bookk though some persons familiar with the 1990's torg magic system might yearn for it's complexity and more nuanced feel - still that's not a criticism since the preference can vary wildly from one GM or player to another ... the discussion of spellcaster perks such as the ability to cast "essence" spells makes a lot more sense when you read this chapter... and then there's necromancy.
I do understand why the torg eternity writers are trying to account for "morally nuanced" gameplay .. they're trying to accommodate players who like to play "morally grey" characters, who would say for example simply shoot the cackling NPC holding the screaming innocent hostage in order for the "greater good" and "the longer scope of things" and then feel guilty about it afterwards.. yet do it again in a heartbeat if the same situation were to arise. You can tell what the writers are trying to do with their discussion in the torg eternity core rulebook of player characters who take darkness perks .. and the writers go on to push that further in their discussion of the forces of Light and Darkness in the axioms and world laws section where they state that persons who serve the forces of Light can commit terrible atrocities while still fighting for "honor" while the forces of Darkness are capable of acts of gentle loving charity .. that last part I don't have an issue with, totally different genre but Dr. Doom and Magneto have both been portrayed as sympathetic villains in the past who are absolutely capable of acts of kindness.. Doom in particular has been portrayed as very invested in the welfare and safety of the citizens under his rule although he won't hesitate to make an example of citizens who defy said rule in a very public matter.
My big problem is with persons who in theory are aligned with the forces of Light then commit these heinous acts.. if you look at the writeup of storm knights in the torg eternity core rulebook it states right there in their goals that one of their primarily missions is to protect the innocents... as well it states that storm knights during their moment of transcendence make a conscious decision for good over evil that forever marks them as a storm knight rather than a morally corrupt stormer.. as well based on what I've read in previous torg eternity prepublished adventures.. the godbox, fires of ra and delphi council rising storm.. it's clearly expected that the players will at all times be the heroic good guys , and if they aren't the adventure can quickly go off the rails meandering in ways that cause it to go veering off the plotline the writer of said adventures have planned.
What I'm trying to say is that you can't have your cake and eat it too. A GM who allows morally grey characters like this is going to be in for a world of trouble if the GM tries to run said prepublished adventures (with the possible and surprising exception of the revenge of the carredon which allows for the players to make some shocking moral choices that I would argue should net them a darkness perk and eventually make them NPC's under the control of the gamesmaster given their reprehensible choices and the rules of the law of darkness in Aysle .. I couldn't wrap my head around that given the laws of Light and Darkness in Aysle.. see also my review of that book if you like) ..
...now granted if a GM has a lot of time and energy on his or her hands, uses the published adventures as a "baseline" of what happens if the PC's go the heroic route, and writes up alternate scenarios that take place if the PC's go the more morally grey route while being "heroes" you could have a very fun Torg Eternity campaign albeit one where I imagine the darkness devices, delighted at the PC's morally grey boundaries, starts tempting a PC with offers to become the new high lord of an invading cosm... which in itself would be interesting, does the PC give in to temptation and start harvesting possibilities from the hapless earth citizens s/he was trying to protect in the past, still rationalizing their evil actions by saying they are building up the necessary power to defeat the other high lords and ignoring the suffering the dimensional invaders they are now commanding are inflicting on the hapless citizens of earth? Do the fellow PC's go along with this or is there a fatal battle between PC's who have more of a conscience than the evil PC's? (be very careful if you go that route, players can be very attached to their PC's and having one player's PC kill off another player's PC can lead to all sorts of real life heartache and conflict at the gaming table).
If you don't have the time and energy to generate such alternate scenarios.. and even in the case of revenge of the carredon which still assumes the PC's will go on the quest Lady Ardinay assigns to them.. you're going to have yourself a problem.. I cringe when I imagine a likely scenario like this taking place:
Lady Ardinay " And so, noble heroes of the Light, this is why I must entreat you to aid us in this, our darkest hour and most desperate time of need. What say you?"
(player characters laugh and guffaw openly, falling to the ground laughing)
Player character one: " Us? ' noble heroes of light ' ?" (more uncontrollable laughter on the part of the PC's)
Player character two stands squarely in front of Ardinay violating her personal space and looking smug. " It all depends dollface.. what's in it for us?"
Okay sure there are players and GM's who would enjoy that kind of campaign.. I definitely would not and the GM needs to take into account players like me who are not uncommon, and I don't say it just because I'm that kind of a player, I've seen other players who definitely fall into this category too at the gaming table... in their heart of hearts they want to play a heroic good guy, or girl, who saves the day, rescues the innocents, is unquestionably a hero at all given times... heroic wish fulfillment on our parts if you will.. mix players like that in with the other type, persons who might be the nicest kindest people in "real life" but who just can't play that kind of "goodie two shoes" character in real life.. players who cannot for the life of them play a good aligned character in a dungeons and dragons campaign and who opt for the "Chaotic good " option but not really playing the character that way leaning back towards the morally grey darkness the player really prefers for their character .. and you're absolutely going to have a conflict between the two players.
It's a lot easier to come down on the side of the "goodie two shoes" players though you can and should expect grouching and complaining from the players who prefer more morally grey characters who will either fall in line or leave the gaming group entirely after you confront them on their morally grey choices one too many times.. but if you don't you will lose the "goodie two shoes" players .. I have almost had this happen to me in real life as a GM, when I try to accommodate morally grey PC's and the players who run them and then having a pair of extremely valued players who simply were not comfortable with this and needed a more heroic campaign to the point where they couldn't stomach borderline evil PC's in said campaign ... and that to me is the greater loss.. I hate to say it but as a GM I find such players are more "mature" in real life, a much better fit for gaming groups in general, tend to get along with their fellow players and the GM better in real life (and I absolutely admit there are notable exceptions here too, I had the pleasure of gaming with one such player who for the life of her simply could not play a "goodie two shoes" good aligned character - she still made her chaotic neutral character work in the midst of the goodie two shoes players she was surrounded with and she was and is an absolute delight in real life , the soul of kindness and compassion though she'd probably take issue with me describing her as such in public since she likes to pretend she's the exact opposite - shes not , really ;) - but she is the rare and notable exception in my experience), and are much easier to gamesmaster for since you know what direction the PC's are most likely to "jump" in... obviously GM's who are themselves "morally grey" players in real life will tend to come down on the side of the morally grey characters but said GM's will have their work cut out for them either in terms of writing up LOTS of alternate scenarios to accomodate said morally grey players or said GM would have to be very good at coming up with material on the spur of the moment to accommodate said players.
So... back to the necromancer perk.. I GUESS you could try to accommodate a player who wants to run a creepy necromancer PC and who raises the dead bodies of foes killed then doesn't blink at sending them off to fight their former comrades back when they were living or, shrugging their shoulders when a heroic NPC who fought by the PC's side dies a heroic death , raising the body of the heroic NPC and having this undead monstrosity fight side by side with the PC's.. an "ends justifies the means" approach means you're going to have a PC who quickly slides towards the dark side, not to mention the problem with players who are trying to be the good guys the torg eternity adventures and rules clearly want them to be confronting the necromancer PC on the necromancer's actions... the necromancer player will, understandably, be upset at not being able to use the necromancer perks the player spent valuable perk slots and/or experience points on.
Personally speaking as a GM I would make the moral expectations you have of the characters very clear... I would go so far as to write up a questionnaire for the players to fill out regarding their player characters with imaginary scenarios like the one I described above.. " Would you kill an innocent an enemy NPC was holding hostage if the end goal for your PC is important enough" " Would your PC risk his or her life to save an innocent even if it looks very likely that the outcome will be certain death for your PC?" "Will your PC attack someone for lethal damage who is insulting your PC even though the person doing the insulting has not yet engaged in lethal combat with you?" " Someone is attacking your PC for non lethal damage.. do you respond with non lethal damage or do you respond with lethal damage?" " a mind controlled NPC who is clearly not a bad guy under normal circumstances is attacking you for lethal damage - do you respond with lethal damage ?" .. questions like these (and if the player blows the questionnaire off stating they "don't have time for it" then inform the player you're going to assume the player just checked off every single morally grey choice on the questionnaire - warning bells should be going off in your head at this point) can quickly determine what kind of PC the player really wants to play.. and then if the GM wants and needs a more heroic PC (and in my honest opinion to play torg eternity as written the heroic not morally grey PC is what is necessary here) the GM will have to make it absolutely clear to players who express an interest for non-heroic PC's that it's simply not going to work AND make it clear that if the PC "backslides" into non heroic activity the GM will require the player to write up a new PC ... this can save the GM a lot of headache in the future and get all the players on the same page although for players who will simply say " sure" fully expecting to be able to get away with the same morally grey PC they've been playing their entire life be prepared for arguments during the game in the future " It was never a problem in other gaming groups!" or " This is why it's not morally grey" followed by a long diatribe about the nature of good versus evil... see what I mean about player maturity by the way? The player in this situation is far more concerned about making the campaign revolve around the player and his or her individual preferences than the player is about the gaming group as a whole or the time and effort the GM is putting into the campaign.. that's why I say cutting the " I like to play morally grey" players loose is the better option in the long run.. if you're unwilling to do that then just patiently explain, over and over , that it's not going to work and either the player backs down or the player leaves. Hang on to those players who like to play "the good guys" I've always found them to be huge assets to the gaming group in real life.
After reading all of that you've probably come to the conclusion that I am not a fan of the "morally grey" characters the torg eternity writers are trying to accommodate.. I would forget completely the parts in this sourcebook which states followers of the Light can commit horrible attrocities and still be followers of the Light.. I would go on to say that per the world laws of Light and Darkness in Aysle, PC's who commit morally questionable acts and who refuse to back down even after being warned this will net them a Darkness perk (as the rules states you should in.. think it's torg core rules, could also be this aysle sourcebook) should get that Darkness perk with the additional warning that if they get three Darkness perks total they become an NPC under the gamesmaster's control forcing the player to write up a new character (and I would forget the perk allowing players to get up to six darkness perks, as a GM encouraging this will only create a world of headaches for you). I would go so far as to describe how the PC's face contorts and shifts into a more monstrous visage for all to clearly see as the PC simply contemplates the evil act the PC is about to commit or starts to commit said act .. of course review the world laws of light and darkness with the players prior to running an adventure in aysle but hopefully the GM has gone the questionnaire route I mentioned above and made expectations clear to the point where this isn't going to be a problem to begin with.
Apologies for the tangent I went off on but given the discussion of Light and Darkness and the writers' well intentioned, but in my opinion potentially disasterous, efforts to accomodate players who want their PC's to have darkness perks it felt like a discussion that needed to be addressed.. getting back to the book itself.. while I enjoyed the writeup of the deities of Aysle I would be lying if I didn't say that I really missed the more extensive write up of said deities in the original 1990's torg aysle book including information on a lot of additional deities that really help as far as the world building, addressing the rich culture and history of aysle aspect of the cosm not to mention the much more detailed write up of the dwarven deities' creation of the cosm of Aysle. Still there's a great write up of the five major deities of Aysle albeit with a huge caveat.. the problem with the way the deity of "balance", Rak, is portrayed is that at the end of the day he and his worshippers don't come across as that different from Corbaal and the forces of Darkness.. Rak portrays giving in to your desires, now, this very moment, and that's all that matters.. this really isn't that different from Corbaal's the ends justify the means (literally, that's listed as one of his tenets - note this is the same deity Utherion chief bad guy of Aysle is the head priest of) , acheive your goals at all costs beliefs and tenets... given that Rak was the head of the giants who fought humanity and going by the 1990's torg Aysle book sought to enslave and/or kill off humanity, such a selfish outlook would make sense but to me he hardly qualifies as a deity of balance ...
Again this is one of those situations where I would strongly recommend picking up the 1990's original aysle sourcebook and using the deities from it instead.. shali makes much more sense to me personally as a deity of light as presented in the 1990's aysle book with the description of her tenets and practices and beliefs (and I will say that the torg eternity writers have done a GREAT job with the more narrow focus on just these five deities in torg eternity aysle in that they can describe their religious practices in greater detail with concrete examples of the kind of behavior each deity wants from his or her followers) in torg eternity still applying given that I don't see them as being incompatible with a follower of Light ... Minthod the minotaur deity and patron of the half folk (hinted at briefly in torg eternity with the wonderful addition of the mermaid the PC's encounter in revenge of the carredon but definitely something I would have liked to see included in the torg eternity aysle sourcebook) such as minotaurs, harpies, mermaids of course and so forth .. to me is a much better deity for Balance , the middle ground between Light and Darkness.. interestingly enough in the original 1990s aysle book Minthod's followers are listed as aiding the forces of Light since they feel the forces of Darkness have become too powerful under Utherion's influence and the Balance between Light and Darkness needs to be restored as a result... and of course the original 1990's aysle book gives game stats for the half folk (not to mention addressing how they're viewed in Aysle as far as their social acceptance or lack thereof by non half folk) that in my opinion could easily be converted over to torg eternity... also intriguing is how the 1990's aysle book goes into much greater detail on the elves including the literally spiritual/religious awakening it is for the highly respected elves who respect their patron deity's emphasis on knowledge and secrecy to the point where they become literal monks (normally) sequestered away in their temples studying said knowledge.. but for the traveling elven monks there's a number of cool abilities a GM could easily adapt into perks. As for Rak I would rename him as Arthuk, use the description of the deity of the giants of the same name from the 1990's Aysle book making him a deity of Darkness, and still use the tenets ascribed to Rak as far as the behavior expected of his followers from torg eternity with the clarification that while Rak's followers are perfectly capable of acts of decency and kindness that might typify a follower of the Light as a whole the race of giants are very unlikely to act on said tendencies towards the Light... if the GM wants a good-guy type of giant who ends up aiding the PC's I would just have an NPC giant find out about and convert to Dunad's worship. Corbaal by the way does appear in the 1990's torg aysle book just not in alphabetical order strangely enough under the deities of darkness.. keep reading you'll see an entry for him there at the very end of the deities of darkness listing.
As well, while the torg eternity does a good job at addressing dwarven religious beliefs, the original 1990's Torg book does a GREAT job of addressing said religious beliefs.. the game mechanic of "anti-faith" in terms of making it harder for a miracle cast under spiritual axioms to affect a dwarf from 1990's Torg has been left out of torg eternity but it's still a very worthwhile read for it's detailed look at dwarven religious beliefs, not to mention the original book's greater analysis of the dwarves in general their culture, history and where they tend to congregate whether it be on the surface world or the land in between (the GM will have to decide if there is in fact a clan of corrupted dwarves fallen prey to the forces of Darkness who seek to enslave and exploit their fellow dwarves as mentioned in the 1990's Aysle sourcebook .. given that the dwarves are described in torg eternity as being a fraction in size of their former numbers with Utherion having wiped most of them out I would do away with this entirely unless the GM wants to include it as a tragic part of Aysle's history with Utherion gleefully seizing on the dwarf enslaving dwarf situation and then arranging for the mass murder and extinction of the dwarves who fell prey to said darkness , perhaps harnessing their souls as part of the powerful rituals he conducted that allowed him to establish so many connections between earth and the aysle cosm as detailed in the torg eternity book - given the dwarven reputation as builders and constructors this would make sense).
The gear section as one might expect has an expanded section on both magically and spiritually enchanted items ... the rules on magic items having enough enchantments on them becoming sentient are interesting but the only in game effect is the items become "jealous" of each other such that a PC cannot have too many of them (apparently even the less powerful magical items still have limited sentience and get "offended" if a PC tries to wield too many of them together out of jealousy which I got a chuckle out of) .. while this is good for game balance from the GM's perspective I would have liked to see additional notes on say Lightbringer refusing to work for and even having some sort of game mechanic allowing it to seek out a more worthy wielder if it becomes convinced a PC is morally corrupt enough such that they will put Lightbringer to "dark" ends and even a Mind and/or Spirit score for items like that one similar to say Dungeons and Dragons ... consumable one shot magic items like potions are an excellent way to reward PC's without wrecking game balance. I got a chuckle out of how the stats for winged horses can be found here in the gear section under "air vehicles" as opposed to say the "monsters" section at the end of the book though I do feel they should have thrown at least a heading in for "winged horse" and simply given the page number in gear it can be found on to avoid GM confusion later on when the GM is referring back to the Aysle sourcebook (as I mentioned above the GM should really compile his or her own index for this book).
In what I consider to be a minor but potentially troubling problem to a harassed GM who may not, referring to the aysle sourcebook in the middle of game play with a zillion other things going on at the time, remember " Oh that's right the game effects of repel evil are described in the aurel blade description" , while the gear section does describe exactly what "repel evil" means in game terms for the aurel sword on page 57 , it simply states the Vanquisher blade that Tolwyn wields also "repels evil" without an additional note stating "see Aurel sword description" which is something a GM will want to add in the index s/he is hopefully compiling for this book.
The porpoise as a water vehicle listing was confusing at first until I remembered the various animal friendship spells given in the torg eternity core rules and the aysle torg eternity sourcebook ... even then there's still some confusion... wouldn't the dolphin be slippery to keep a seat on? Does it require a special saddle? Would the dolphin allow the saddle to be put on in the first place? Is there some sort of magical being that lives in the water that favors dolphins as mounts not mentioned in the torg eternity books? (the mermaid from the revenge of the carredon aysle based extended adventure comes to mind but she's portrayed as being able to swim vast distances all on her own). Strangely enough when I look even at the 1990's "creatures of aysle" sourcebook (which is also probably a worthwhile purchase and has creations both native to the original Aysle cosm and creations born of beings of earth that spawned into existence thanks to the Aysle axiom wash over Earth... loved the write up of leprechauns and various monsters of the United Kingdoms folklore from Ireland or Scotland, can't remember which one, come to life .. I would argue the creature stats there can easily be adapted to torg eternity ) there's no seafaring race which seems peaceful enough to use dolphins as mounts, and a GM who has the time on his/her hands might want to come up with some sort of humanoid fey human sized template write up that rides said dolphins and wanders the waters and rivers surrounding and criss crossing the United Kingdom (England, Ireland , Scotland) , perhaps a cousin-race to the mermaid presented in the revenge of the carredon book and who hire out their services in exchange for goods or perhaps even Ayslish gold currency as messengers or even carrying riders (this is where the saddles for the dolphins would come in - maybe the dolphins grew in number under the axiom wash to the point where a single aquatic fey has say five or six dolphins s/he has befriended) ... perhaps these fey lean towards the Light and might even come to the rescue of someone (say a player character storm knight) drowning or lost at sea particularly if the PC has a light perk (maybe the fey can sense this on some unconscious level as a racial characteristic).
See if you like my review of the revenge of the corredon book for my thoughts on the Aysle specific possibilities that are awarded for adventuring in Aysle... moving on to the warzones, like most other torg eternity cosm sourcebooks this was one of my favorite parts with a fine description of the state of the invasion in the various parts of Earth affected and an enjoyable description of the reaction of what we might consider "real life earth" to said invaders not to mention certain areas of Earth like stonehenge transforming into their magical equivalents as one might expect... sadly the Stonehenge section is one of many areas throughout the book that needs further expansion... mysterious druids who shun the battle between Ardinay's forces of Light and Utherion's forces of Darkness are intriging but some statistics for an "average" druid, and a personality and background write up of their leader would have been tremendously helpful.
As well, as enjoyable a read as the warzones chapter was I couldn't help but compare it to the original 1990's Aysle sourcebook which goes into greater detail as to day to day life in say their description of the use of coal burning to power electricity, the status of phone and sewer service in London, the intriguing possibility of many former core earthers in Scotland transformed into half folk such as centaurs and harpies and how harpies can be bribed into carrying messages, "trolls" in Olso, Norway (stats for said trolls can be found in the 1990's torg aysle book and easily adapted to torg eternity but given that earth elementals are also referred to as "trolls" in torg eternity I would simply rename the 1990's torg version to "ogres" instead, use the 1990's torg physical and personality description of ogres and use the stats given in that book for trolls and call them "ogres" instead) who have seized control of human gangs of miscreants, Scotland in general reverting back to their ancestral "clan" way of life and the rise of experts in divination magic with the "second sight" as a throwback to the ancestral customs and beliefs of Scots, and a higher than normal percentage of scots reaching "hero status" and transforming into storm knights much like the scottish heroes of old ... these are some of the little details that really make Torg "pop" and make it especially fun to read that sadly did not make it into torg eternity and which I would strongly recommend stealing from the 1990's torg book but making appropriate changes such that it comes into line with the torg eternity aysle book where the two differ (for example torg eternity notes the influx of dwarves into Glasgow so I would add that in too... worth noting that the original 1990's torg aysle book points out that glasgow was the industrial center of scotland prior to the invasion whereupon the torg eternity book leaves this important fact out). There is a passing reference at least to a clan of Scottish rebels calling themselves the "Fionna" who specialize in adapting modern technology to fit the lower tech axiom of Aysle such as the ethanol bomb, similiar to the more modern petrol bomb but able to function at Aysle's tech axiom.
The world laws and axiom section was as always an enjoyable read as it has been for all the other torg eternity cosm sourcebooks though see above for my thoughts on how a more "complicated" view of light and darkness can result in a real headache for GM's if you encourage players to take darkness perks. The new world laws involving the law of heroes, law of delving and the laws of epic quests were a new and fun read as well though I think the law of heroes needs some clarification ... despite what we've seen in "fetch and quest" side missions in fantasy themed video games, if every single peasant sat on their hands and waited for the "inevitable" hero to come along and rescue their missing chickens as the book seems to imply I imagine Aysle as a kingdom would have quickly ground to a halt centuries ago unless the writers are trying to say it generates such a huge number of heroes that peasants can just sit there whenever they run into any difficulty, no matter how small, and wait for someone to rescue them... I would amend this to the following... it's possible for a peasant to simply wait and eventually a hero will show up and rescue the chickens (I'm not joking either this is an actual example given in the Aysle torg eternity sourcebook) ... but peasants are far more likely to take matters into their own hands and try to track down the chickens themselves.. if that doesn't work the peasant can rest assured there's at least a chance some hero will show up, listen to the tearful tale of the peasant regarding how their family needs the eggs from that chicken and will starve otherwise and the hero will then return triumphantly with the chickens but this tends to be the exception rather than the norm for things a peasant could in theory accomplish on his or her own ... much more dangerous things like the monster making off with and eating villagers will inevitably draw a hero who may very well succeed in killing the monster and saving the villagers... or getting eaten him or herself until the next hero comes along to take up the defense of the village and so forth.
The section on the high lord , his personality, background, outlook and political relationship with the other high lords is always a fun read as well in the various torg eternity cosm sourcebooks and this is the case with this book as well.. particularly interesting was the story of how Utherion has come from fanatical zealot follower of the Gaunt Man to bitterly realizing the truth .. the Gaunt Man is not the devoted mentor Utherion originally thought he was ... but still remains loyal and obedient (if nothing else because the Gaunt Man is still offering him aid) while taking pains to pretend to still be the fanatical zealot Gaunt Man follower lest the Gaunt Man destroy him (worth noting the Gaunt Man is so powerful all the other High Lords fear him even as they plot and scheme for a way to overthrow him as mentioned in the high lord write ups in the cosm sourcebooks)... Utherion's belief.. that the Torg would be a being made up of various high lords as "components" including Utherion and his (Formerly ) beloved Gaunt Man fused into some whole being made up of the sum of it's parts was a startling idea but a neat one now that I think about it albeit an idea Utherion has now realized may be false although I get the impression Utherion is desperately trying to convince himself it's true out of a misplaced sense of lingering loyalty (love?) for the Gaunt Man.. also enjoyable was the fact that Utherion's darkness device is not only actively seeking a replacement high lord (basically trying to "fire" Utherion and replace him) but also that Utherion is bitterly aware of this and doing his best to track down and kill anyone said darkness device shows an interest in as a potential replacement.
Utherion's strategy of never putting himself truly at risk and promptly vacating his possessed body (while technically Utherion can die for good if he fails the appropriate magic skill check against the victim's willpower thereby nullifying the possession, his magic skill has so many adds this makes Utherion's victory practically a foregone conclusion especially if Utherion has possibilities left to spend on the roll )... to find a new one is also a neat concept , tying into the "evil never truly dies it can only be subdued for a while centuries maybe but it will always come back" mythos that is popular in fantasy fiction... or horror fiction when you think about it and it's worth reading the Gaunt Man's write up in the Orrosh sourcebook to see the Gaunt Man's unenthuastic view of Utherion in order to complete the picture given here between the two high lords (and as I mention in my Orrosh sourcebook it, along with the Living Land, are the two best cosm sourcebooks available right now .. I may or may not have to revise that opinion when the torg eternity team releases the pan pacifica sourcebook but for now rest assured if you're on the fence about buying cosm sourcebooks get either the orrosh or living land sourcebook first and that should convince you to start buying cosm sourcebooks as well as the torg eternity core rules).
The section about Utherion's battle strategy as far as his schemes and plans that he puts into effect to conquer and subdue the areas of Earth under attack and the political machinations as a result aside from his relations with the other high lords.. for example th e politics of Viking culture he's undermined and influenced thanks to his possession of their leader.. was also a very fun read. It's worth noting that stats for the most important viking chiefs including Sjodrekka whom Utherion is eyeing as a possible new host body given his current one (leader of all the Aysle Vikings) is 70 years old and "getting up there" despite appearing to be in fine physical condition especially for his age judging by the picture of him in this book - are included in Revenge of the Corredon, another reason to purchase that title. There was a great write up of the Dread Covenant, Utherion's chief underlings but, again, sadly no statistics for them... the original 1990's Torg books were great at giving lots of stats by contrast particularly for important NPC's and this presents a problem for Torg GM's who are say also working moms and dads or possibly busy working college students who want to indulge their love of the excellent RPG that is Torg but who wouldn't have time to come up with stats for these underlings on their own.
The personality write up of utherion's darkness device, just like the same personality write up in the other torg eternity cosms sourcebook, absolutely shines and is a throroughly enjoyable read... particularly intriguing was that, in a nod to the original 1990's Torg Aysle book, while the Torg Eternity version of Ardinay does not directly hear the darkness device calling to her in her thoughts trying to tempt her into taking control of it (with sweet whispers all the while I'm sure of how she could use it's powers for "good" to stop Utherion and so forth) , it has taken the more subtle and dangerous (to Ardinay and to Aysle conquered parts of earth as a whole) of implanting a driving desire for revenge against Utherion... one that to those around her would seem understandable and not suspicious at all, look at all the atrocities Utherion committed in Ardinay's name while wearing her body corrupting her rule of her beloved aysle (exactly what atrocities were committed are given a far better write up in the original 1990's Aysle sourcebook , worth picking up at the risk of sounding like a broken record) ... but the crown hopes that the implanted deep driving motivation towards revenge it's implanted will lead Ardinay into something even better than being possessed by Utherion.. choosing the Darkness over Light of her own free will ... and Utherion's darkness device views Ardinay as the chief contender for the new heir to the darkness device even if Ardinay isn't aware of it.. having said that I love that the darkness device has other contenders in mind as well with a reason given as to why for each one of them.
The stelae description and how they're disguised as proud gigantic moments to revered Viking ancestors and the whole " vikings are awesome look see?" part was also great ... no stats are given for the "vicious merfolk" described as one of the waves of defense guarding the stelae but this is where the extremely helpful contributions of this talented writer who it looks like goes by the name of daddydm can help out
I would just use his race of shark men as written complete with shark deity and decide if the shark deity is really part of the pantheon of Aysle or if , jerk that he is, Utherion has simply decided to take on the "role" of said shark deity and without realizing it the shark men are actually praying to Corbaal, Utherion's deity, who grants the shark men their divine miracles... which would be a great way for PC's who somehow find out to drive a wedge in between these admittedly still evil beings and Utherion, but possibly angered by the relevation to the point where they "quit" and stop guarding stelae, a move sure to aggravate Utherion and canny storm knights might even be able to "sic" the shark men on Utherion's Vikings at sea and other forces in the future .. daddydm has also provided stats for their shark companions (his write ups of the shadow dog and hound of the Baskervilles is great too).
The Reaper write up, part of Utherion's dread council, was a great read given it's interest not only in turning all of Earth into undead (the reaper's end goal being all life in existence becoming an undead version of it's former living self, something Utherion may or may not be aware of - certainly he wouldn't like the end result of all said undead no doubt seeing the Reaper as their ruler) but also it's end goal of creating an undead monstrosity powerful enough to replace the carredon... a terrifying thought when you look at the stats for even the less powerful version of the carredon from the revenge of the carredon book .. and towards that goal going out and actively harvesting terrified living beings and killing them to fuel this project (not sure if their dead flesh, possibility energy, souls or all of the above is being used as fuel?)... reading this book I'm not sure if the Abomination Engines mentioned below would be involved in this process though I tend to assume they would be.
Related to the Reaper is it's control over the abomination engines which was also a very fun read.. connected to Utherion's darkness device in a manner sort of like stelae but using possibility energy pillaged from Earth to churn out lurks, the aysle version of goblins, instead (also interesting was the fact that as an artificial life form the lurks have only been around for a few decades now) which Utherion uses as disposable shock troops ... also intriguing was the use of the Abomination Engines to create "clones" of important characters (albeit ones that will never know as much as the originals in terms of memories and other limitations.. still an incredibly useful tool in Utherion's arsenal if he was to say make a clone of "Lady Ardinay", draw PC's away to rescue "kidnapped Ardinay" and then use the opportunity to commit some foul attrocity that furthers Utherion's plans while the PC's are off on a wild goose chase) and the creation of disposable short lived "custom creatures" that can say wade through a pool of magma inside of a volcano to obtain say some magical item or spell component that's needed (a common enough situation in Aysle).
The section on "princess nott" is worth reading carefully given that a lot of us might be influenced and prejudiced by our experiences with dungeons and dragons to make the incorrect assumption that earth elementals... called trolls.. are "only" constructs summoned into being at a wizard's command.. while this is certainly possible the GM also has to remember there are enough of these constructs to form a race onto themselves and for some reason they find humans enjoyable and tasty to eat (why a human would be tasty to a being made of rock and earth I have no idea ... they're described as having a "root like skeletal structure" so if that part is still alive maybe it feeds off flesh? Altenately maybe trolls started out as burial mounds granted magical independence and intelligence who devoured the body in said burial ground, found it tasty and went out questing for more?) ... and also that they like "shiny things" that belong to their victims (presumably gold, silver, gems, metal items like weapons and so forth)...
Also worth paying close attention to is the section on Mad Duke Vareth though this is another tantalizing look at a great concept that turns disappointing when you realize there's no game rules or stats for what looks to be an utterly fascinating Ayslish magical version of a "cyborg", a mixture of dwarf and the technology Aysle dwarves are so facinated with (hinted at in the Torg Eternity books and covered in greater detail in the 1990's original Aysle book)... clan Vareth of the dwarves is portrayed differently in Torg Eternity which isn't necessarily a bad thing - instead of house Vareth falling to the temptations of Darkness and enslaving their fellow dwarves as in the 1990's Aysle book, Vareth, ruler of the surface dwarf kingdom of House Vareth, was a wise noble and just leader, closely aligned with the Light and a staunch supporter of Ardinay and the elves... until Utherion's forces decimated his dwarven kingdom.. his loyal followers sealed him against his protests into the Land Between hoping to ensure their king lived.. he did, but at an enormous cost... not a Lurker (and therefore not born with the magical innate sense that could lead him to things he thought about - like a way out ! ) and forced to engage in who knows what to survive in that dangerous realm, he somehow found a way to rebuild parts of his body with what I assume is magic fueled Aysle technology (or perhaps even he encountered some other cosm whose magic and tech axioms are supported by Aysle's axioms down there) .. and was driven utterly mad in the process... a well written, tragic story but also tragic in the lack of detail that I'm hoping will be covered in future torg eternity products. Although I guess in theory you could use the stats for the dwarven autonoma in the threats section at the end of the book (magical constructs that kind of look like dwarves wearing their dragon armor at first glance, another great touch) and beef them up with the mad duke obviously losing the immunities a construct would normally have but also having a higher Mind and Spirit score not to mention no doubt being possibility rated and having what I would guess to be a wide variety of perks... as well given that the torg eternity aysle book mentions the mad duke walked across the sea bottom along with his non-living dwarven autonoma I would assume he at least has a (perhaps retractable?) helmet he can seal his head under allowing him not to breathe and being immune to poisons and gases and so forth that are airborne. There's also the question as to whether his dwarven autonoma's ability to build the machines that are referred to in the torg eternity aysle book comes from some "preprogrammed" knowledge the dwarven autonoma can call on or if the Mad Duke somehow learned how to create his dwarven autonoma and for that matter created his metal legs then had his dwarven autonoma perform the surgery ... maybe the mad duke was an expert engineer prior to his ascension to ruler of the surface dwarves.
... this still requires the GM to come up with a backstory as to what happened to the poor Mad Duke that resulted in his physical transformation (though the insanity - losing the beloved kingdom to the forces of Darkness, watching them slaughtered before his very eyes , the people he'd sworn to protect and defend, then being forced to wander the land below fighting for his life.. the insanity is easily explained)... strongly hinted at by the presence of the dwarf envoy and former close friend of the Mad Duke "the Shanhand" in Ardinay's court is the possibility of healing the Mad Duke's fractured mind and the ritual sidebar mentioned in the miracles section of the torg eternity aysle book hints at the possibility of some divine ritual ,no doubt involving a quest, somewhat similar to the one in the revenge of the carredon but less epic in scope perhaps with say a priest of Dunad .. perhaps the PC's have to make the dangerous trek through the land in between, successfully get to the Aysle home cosm, seek out the priest and his or her ritual to heal the insane, gather the components required for the ritual perhaps some in the Aysle home cosm some on Aysle conquered core earth, return back home, get through the fortress the mad duke has set up for himself on the island in Scotland mentioned in torg eternity, fight through the duke's forces, subdue the duke and have the priest cast the ritual... I would imagine the duke as breaking down in tears and sobbing curling up into a ball, finally coming to grips with all the tragedy in his life but helpless for say a few months of game time after which he and his dwarven autonoma end up becoming a force that fights on Ardinay's side once again ... related to that as a "side quest" is looking up Lord Liandaar's daughter Aesther in the home cosm of Aysle given the notes that House Liandar might leave (along with his troops so desparately needed by Ardinay to fight Utherion's forces on Earth) out of fear for the safety of his daughter.. a letter from said daughter entreating him to continue the fight on Earth for her sake .. and more importantly this evidence along with the PC's own eye witness testimony that his daughter still lives... could be enough for Liandar to swear he won't leave Ardinay's side until Utherion's forces are routed, a tremendous relief to Ardinay and a great help to the Core Earth forces Ardinay is attempting to assist in the fight against Utherion.
(and at this point I realize my review is so long it exceeded the character limit for drivthru rpg :) .. if you're interested in reading the entire thing you can see it below at this link )