(as usual my review is so long that it exceeds the character/word count, if you like please see my blogger post below for the whole thing.. see also my review of the torg eternity core rulebook which should be your starting point before reading this and if you like see also my review of "blood on the blasted sands" which in my opinion is very much a companion-piece of writing that nicely complements the Tharkold cosm sourcebook)
I should start out by saying I'm probably holding this, and other Torg Eternity cosm sourcebooks, to a rather unfair standard .. the torg eternity writers raised the bar so high with the excellent Orrosh and Living Land sourcebooks that I feel like giving this a "5" rating would mean I liked this as much as those two other cosm sourcebooks which, unfortunately, is not the case here. And when you read my comments below you may feel like I'm telling you not to buy the book despite the "4 out of 5" rating I gave it. That is absolutely not the case.. while I would argue a GM has his/her/their work cut out for them in order to drive home the "mad max Apocalypse" feeling that a Tharkold adventure is supposed to convey, a GM who's willing to put in the work can make it happen either though their ability to "off the cuff" come up with interesting but doomed NPC's that elicit sympathy from the players or for GM's who don't have that kind of spontaneity, writing up a number of suitable NPC's in advance that can be dropped into a Tharkold adventure at a moment's notice.
Obviously players may grow tired of watching one NPC after another they've grown to care for die off and if I was the GM in this situation I would warn the players in advance, and again every time one of their beloved NPC friends they've become invested in dies, that this is meant to drive home that the Tharkold cosm is the closest to "hell on Earth", perhaps even more so than the Orrosh cosm. The Gaunt Man (high lord of Orrosh) is smart enough to know that having practically all of your loved ones doomed to death all the freaking time will numb the denizens of Orrosh to the point where it becomes more difficult to provoke the fear response the Gaunt Man is hoping for as emotionally numb and broken citizens shrug their shoulders and learn not to care about anybody.. whereupon in Tharkold this is, sadly, I would argue the response of the average hapless Earth citizen subjected to the horrors described in the Tharkold cosm sourcebook under cyberdemon rule.. emphasis on demon or as the Tharkold sourcebook describes them, the literal walking embodiment of evil.
The book is careful to describe members of Tharkold's version of humanity from the Tharkold cosm.. the Race.. as focusing on the bonds of love and friendship as weapons to be used against their cyber-demon rulers (not surprisingly the majority of demons can't seem to grasp this concept although the book does have some interesting examples of "corrupted" cyber demons who have found themselves actually starting to care in a way similar to the human thralls they subjugate .. and who obviously would be executed on the spot by their fellow cyber-demons should this be found out). While I see where the writers are going with this, I would personally play members of the Race as "brutally resigned" to death, maiming, suffering and other horrors in a way that shocks and discomforts the player characters , said Race members shrugging their shoulders and simply saying it's the way of life in the Tharkold cosm. Of course the Race members are also capable of fierce ties of love and friendship but I would portray them as putting EVERYTHING into said ties while the object of their affection is still alive, living for the moment since they are grimly certain tomorrow will bring death. This could make for an interesting PC concept although you'd want to have a frank discussion with the players as to whether or not this is going to cause real life conflict when the "soft" non-tharkold cosm PC's start arguing with the PC Race member from the Tharkold cosm.
Out of all the cosm sourcebooks the tharkold entry is definitely the darkest in nature to the point where it comes with an explicit content warning.. there's certainly a lot of potential here to be sure but at the risk of sounding like a broken record the Tharkold entry suffers from the same weakness the Aysle and Nile Empire sourcebooks do in terms of needing more source material particularly in the warzones section to properly capture the flavor and "feel" of the cosm.. though honestly after having read through both the Aysle and the Nile Empire sourcebooks and having read the accompanying mega length adventures Revenge of the Corredon and the Fires of Ra, I find those books in combination with their mega length adventures did a good job of bringing their respective cosms to life..the same observation applies to the tharkold sourcebook as well, "blood on the blasted sands" should be seen as a companion piece to the tharkold sourcebook particularly for the two final chapters that give a more in depth look at things left out of the tharkold cosm sourcebook.
And I'm not saying " don't buy this" by any means either... there's a lot to love in this sourcebook and as I've been arguing all along in order to fully enjoy your torg eternity campaign you need to purchase all the cosm sourcebooks to really bring your torg eternity campaign to life. I do find however that I tend to enjoy even the smaller adventures say from delphi council rising storm set in Aysle or the Nile Empire more so than I do adventures set in Tharkold ... I think the big problem is that Tharkold does it's best to create an even darker, more dystopian sort of "Mad Max" movie... but in order to really drive that home you need to actually care about the poor innocents that are being victimized in order to drive home just how dark and depraved the realm is... I would argue that the torg eternity writers are also hampered by their tendency to stick to "PG" ratings for a collection of adventures like those found in say delphi council rising storm or even the pay what you want torg eternity day one adventures...
.... the tharkold sourcebook states in it's "graphic advisory" warning on page 5 that quote "Tharkold is a reality where very bad things happen to good people. Acts and situations described in this book may trigger those who suffer from trauma caused by sexual assault, torture, slavery, and violence.".. but then it leaves those elements out of the tharkold published adventures that I've seen so far.
(at this point I'm going to insert the link to the rest of my review below)