As I mentioned in the torg eternity core rules sourcebook review (which I'm guessing you already purchased or else you wouldn't be reading this review), while it was nice of the publishers to include the absolute basics as far as what's necessary to run a Torg adventure in each of the cosms invading Earth, I still maintain that the purchase of all the Torg cosm sourcebooks (we're still waiting on the publishers to release the Pan Pacifica sourcebook but in the meantime Living Land, Tharkold, Nile Empire, Orrosh, Cyberpapacy, and Asyle sourcebooks are available) .. (edit and update .. forgot to mention this pdf is 146 pages long which appears to be the standard length of all the Torg Eternity cosm sourcebooks , Orrosh, Cyberpapacy and so forth ... not a complaint at all, this is 146 pages of good stuff in my opinion ! :) )
This is a sourcebook I can easily give a 5 star rating to and I agree with the other reviewer in that it's very well done compared to the original Living Land sourcebook published way back in the 1990's ... one big drawback (and I admit this is a minor quibble) is the introductory flavor text .. a fictional story set within the cosm that sets the mood for the entire sourcebook.. the original book had a wonderful little story about a father desperately in search of his daughter within the Living Land.. he finds her.. only to discover that she's not only transformed over to the Living Land's reality, her very mindset has changed such that she has no problem letting her father get sacrificed to the deity that the invading edeinos worship.. the father himself feels himself transforming to the invading reality and finds himself sympathizing with and agreeing with his daughter at the same time that he's sacrificed so basically too late ... it's a wonderfully emotional story that really makes the invading reality of the Living Land personal to you, or in my opinion anyways, and compared to that the introductory flavor text is, I'm afraid, rather weak.
But if you push past that you'll see a well written sourcebook starting with a short but insightful overview of how reality is different in the Living Land , then a summary of the various regions invaded by the Living Land and their reactions to the invaders whether it be the USA, Canada, Cuba, Guatemala or Mexico .. that part for me was particularly fun
( but definitely grab the pay what you want " ruins of the living land" torg book as well which fleshes this out even further and while you're at it grab "living land war of religions" .. also a pay what you want title making both purchases no brainers as you can pick them up very cheaply if you chose to... at the very least given the publishers themselves have made ruins of the living land a pay what you want book try not to feel too guilty about grabbing it at less than the recommended price and just put that money towards say this cosm sourcebook or one of the other cosm sourcebooks )
(edit and update.. it's possible that a gamesmaster might want a map not provided in this adventure ... surprisingly enough reddit is a great source of rpg maps, just google search "(type of building or outdoor thing like forest or cave or whatever you need a map of) rpg map reddit" in a situation like that, in the case of buildings overrun by the reality of the living land I find adding the word "apocalyptic" to the google search terms turns up an appropriately ruined or overrun building or highway or what have you.. other resources include "bogie-DJ deviant art " if you do a google search for that or " rpgmapshare" )
in that the USA (where I live) and the regions close by to it mentioned above are familiar enough with me such that it's entertaining on a personal level to imagine what it would be like if they were invaded by tribes of lizard-men bringing their primitive savage reality to said regions. The Warzones chapter goes into much more detail later on in the book and is also a very fun read ... I would argue however that the pay what you want "reality choir" sourcebook fleshes this (and all the other invading cosms for that matter) out further still and is absolutely a recommended purchase even if you can't afford the writer's asking price (heck buy it on the cheap , and then when you read it and you're impressed buy a second copy when you can afford it at full price as a way of thanking him). Also very helpful is the "common threats" section which basically gives suggestions on the type of "wandering monsters" if you will that you encounter depending on what section of conquered Earth you happen to find yourself in.
The Miracles section provides some fun options if you want to run a friendly edeinos "lizard man" player character priest(ess) who's chose to ally themselves with the human player characters and the sourcebook provides enough insight into the worship of the edeinos deity Lanala to let you properly role play such a character (although the war of religions sourcebook fleshes this out still further and again is highly recommended). The gear section is also fun to read particularly given it's recommendation towards bartering depending on whom you're buying it from and how far they're given in to the invading reality .. try showing an edeinos or a transformed human the funny green pieces of paper and convincing them that this American (or whatever nation your PC is from) currency can be used to "buy things" ..
I could see myself having fun playing a transformed human who has come over to the invading reality's outlook on life too though interestingly enough the " day one " prepublished adventure collection (also a pay what you want book which I've written a review of) in my opinion actually does a better job of educating the reader in that it gives a practical example not only of a player character mom who has transformed over to the Living Land reality and her new view of things but also an interesting depiction of transformed New York police officers who now view themselves as a "tribe" and how their very way of thinking and outlook has changed .. changed in a way that is now potentially dangerous for the player characters depending on how they approach the transformed police officers.
The gear section is also a fun read not only for the "normal " core earth gear it covers but, more entertainingly in my opinion, plant based items native to the Living Land that are of practical value to the characters and that can function normally in the Living Land (as opposed to that higher tech core Earth gear that can suddenly give out on you on a moment's notice) .. and it actually gives the PC's a reason to be interested in bartering with friendly (or at least not immediately hostile) edeinos.. they could also serve as rewards for PC's who take the more difficult but ultimately more rewarding route of calming down encountered edeinos who say threaten the PC's with their hrock spears or what have you when first encountered but aren't technically allied with the invading high lord Barak Kaah (more about him later) and not responding immediately with violence towards a potential ally.
The reality chapter deals with not only the axioms and how the upper limits of technology, magic, spirtuality and society (spirit and social respectively for those last two axioms) affect the very nature of existence within the transformed areas of the Living Land (which is always a fascinating read and is a large part of the magic behind any Torg campaign) but also the world laws which as a collective whole really drive home the fact that you are living in and being affected by an entirely different reality and that it can and will have an impact on your PC's behavior within said reality .. even if your PC stubbornly refuses to say embrace the Law of Savagery and it's subset laws like the "physical attraction" one, it's still going to have a huge impact on the beings you encounter (especially say the transformed humans to say nothing of edeinos friends or foes ) ... again I strongly recommend the " Day One " book given it's pay what you want price, even if you never plan on running the adventures contained within the Living Land one does a great job of driving home exactly what life is like when people in conquered areas of the Living Land (the portion of New York that adventure covers for example) fall prey to and are transformed by the invading reality.
The travel and the environment portions are also useful and do a good job of driving home how the law of decay can hamper movement (what happens when that jeep you're driving rusts and falls apart as it falls victim to the Living Land's reality?).. this section of the book deals with both the situations where the PC's are lucky enough to have both a functioning vehicle and a corresponding road that hasn't been overgrown by vegetation or the road itself has simply decayed out of existence .. and the situations where the PC's aren't quite so lucky and have to hack their way through overgrown vegetation and the appropriate rate of movement as a result... and of course this provides fodder for any imaginative gamesmaster.. for example this excerpt
" The US highway system remains intact over large stretches of the Living Land, particularly in mixed zones, and these roads also provide a good means to traverse the jungle. However, the creatures native to the Living Land—not to mention the edeinos tribes—have come to learn that these roads often provide prey for hunting. Therefore, the existing roads of Core Earth may be faster, but are also more dangerous than other trails."
It's not too difficult going from that alone to paint a vivid word picture for the players ... driving down say highway 95 , lush jungle-level vegetation rising to either side of you , the shrieks of predators and prey filling the air, hoping that the law of decay doesn't overcome your vehicle's engine (in game terms you get a setback on the drama deck for example) .. only to feel and hear the ground tremble moments before some gigantic dinosaur comes bursting out of the foliage ridden by edoinos bent on killing the player characters.
I loved the writeup of Barak Kaah even more so than his original appearance in the Torg books from the 1990's not only in terms of establishing him as a far more dangerous and canny foe (albeit one still prone to being inflamed to passion and savagery as the very reality of his cosm demands and as a result being more likely to fall victim to colossal errors in judgment due to his overconfidence) who fights on the front lines alongside his troops unlike most of the other High Lords (mind you there's every possibility Mobius may end up personally fighting the PC's in the Nile Empire but thanks to that cosm's world laws "dead" PC's can turn out not to be dead and pop up later on to bravely continue the fight true pulp comic book style - but that's a subject better covered in the Nile Empire sourcebook review when I get around to writing it ) .. the Living Land sourcebook makes it very clear that Barak Kaah's hands on approach means he can and will come after PC's personally who are very successful at disrupting Kaah's plans .. given how powerful Kaah is it gives the PC's motivation to do what they must, spread those tales of Glory... and then vanish and HIDE before an enraged Kaah tears them limb from limb.. or this is what the sourcebook says anyways, one big problem with that is that I've noticed over my years of gamesmastering that players are VERY unlikely to run from a fight quite possibly resulting in dead PC's.. this may force the GM to get creative and have the PC's say captured and probably maimed to drive home how serious a threat Kaah poses only to be rescued say by a well played card from the Drama Deck or simple GM fiat ... of course this gives the PC's plenty of reason to hate Kaah and kill him off personally when the PC's (finally) amass the experience points and power level necessary to do so... merciful GM's might want to either let the PC's spend experience points to buy off that maiming and the in game penalties as a result or arrange for healing (say from friendly edeinos rebelling against Khan - and yes those factions are detailed in the sourcebook - who are awed that the PC's fought Khan and lived to tell about it ). Alternately if you feel this will all simply annoy your players too much you can always just hold off on Kaah's confrontation with the PC's until the Storm Knights are powerful enough to take him down and kill him (though again given how powerful Kaah is this could be a long time coming in the campaign).
I've always enjoyed the write up not only of each High Lord's personality but also the High Lord's relationship with the other High Lords (often adversarial) and the sometimes complex game of politics the High Lords of each invading cosm play with each other in an attempt to achieve the best possible results for themselves.. assuming one High Lord isn't flat out at war with another one which is also a common occurrence.
Also of interest to me when reading the cosm sourcebooks is the writeup of the darkness device... the concept of this all-powerful force of destruction that uses it's High Lord as a tool to ensure more destruction and helps the High Lord alter the very laws of reality within that High Lord's cosm by way of reward .. and furthering the darkness device's own goals.. has always been an entertaining concept for me and the write up of Khan's darkness device is well done, exploring not only the relationship between it and Khan but also the influence of Lanala, the deity and the religion worshipped (primarily) within the reality of the Living Land.. there's enough information about Lanala and the Living Land (the write up of Lanana as an avatar that can walk the Living Land was a fun and unexpected touch) in and by itself but.. at the risk of sounding like a broken record.. given the pay what you want price it's a no brainer to grab " Living land Wars of Religion" too.. even if you don't agree with the proposed analysis of Lanala's worship, Khan's role and the darkness device's role in it not to mention the attention paid to the edeinos deity of death Rek Stalek, just reading the discussion and interplay between all four will definitely further your understanding of Lanala's religion.
Also a fun read was the write up of the edeinos, their way of life and outlook on things, the various tribes within the edeinos and the politics of how each tribe deals with each other .. which in my opinion was a brilliant move on the publisher's part, in the original Living Land sourcebook from the 1990's there's either the tribes for Kaah, the tribes against Kaah and that's it...
Then there's the chapter on the Delphi Council .. detailed information on Earth's response to the invaders in terms of fighting against them (the Delphi Council being the key organization in charge of said response in this and any other Torg cosm sourcebook) , a write up of various personalities in charge of said Delphi Council (sadly enough just a write up of their personality and background and even that not being nearly as extensive as I would like and no statistics for these guys either) and the various bases and secret operations the Delphi Council is running to counter the Living Land invaders.. also a very fun read.
There's a chapter on the themes and tropes a gamesmaster should explore when running adventures in the Living Land, along with a random table generator type things with detailed entries on each table result (you can roll randomly or just pick ones) to serve as a jumpstart for gamemaster's looking to write their own adventures and a write up of various lost worlds ...cosms within a cosm if you will, realms within the Living Land that follow their own axioms and rules - very different from the original Living Land sourcebook and also a very fun concept .. the Living Land itself can be viewed as a savage lost world within the original Earth reality and then having a lost world within the lost world? Fun stuff in my opinion.
The book rounds itself out with two final chapters, the first one on threats .. stats and a brief background write up.. for not only the various edeinos tribes , edeinos rulers of each tribe and their stats, the dinosaurs that the edeinos either ally with or that try to eat the very same edeinos, example stats for transformed now savage humans , transformed animals formerly of Earth who are now dangers the player characters have to face (or simply earth legends who have sprung to life in the Living Land reality - I got a kick out of reading the entry for the sasquatch) , transformed plants that try to eat the PC's and (kind of confused why this wasn't in the gear section) useful plants that can boost the PC's stats or other abilities albeit temporarily.
Normally the final chapter .. eternity shards.. doesn't hold much interest for me but the concept of iconic things like the Liberty Bell holding possibilities that the PC's can tap and use is a lot of fun to read about and honestly in my opinion the publishers should have spent more time writing up stats for "real world Earth" items of historical significance and turning them into eternity shards as opposed to the "original creation" eternity shards .. items borne solely from the publisher's minds which are a nice enough read but really don't capture your attention the way items based in the "real world" do. The section on items the PC's can discover due to the "lost treasure" cosm card from the eternity deck was a very fun read though (anything from hoverboards .. remember the "lost worlds" within the lost world of the Living Land theme mentioned above.. to a 1950's era icebox that keeps things cold inside even without any source of electrical power.. there's even ice cream inside the thing!
... edit and update - at this point I've finished reading the Orrosh sourcebook as well as the Living Land, Cyberpapacy, Nile Empire, Asyle and Tharkhold sourcebooks, review already written for Cyberpapacy and reviews forthcoming for the other sourcebooks hopefully soon .. at the time I wrote this review the Living Land sourcebook was my favorite - then I finished reading the Orrosh sourcebook and loved that too , and while I have yet to write the Orrosh review the Orrosh sourcebook is easily worth a 5 star review in my opinion along with the Living Land, both of those sourcebooks now being my favorites and well worth the purchase price. As far as the Living Land sourcebook.. there's a reason the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels dealing with forgotten lands and the savage existence the denizens of said lands led were so popular in their time.. in my honest opinion this sourcebook does a great job of bringing that "feeling" within the books to life and makes the Living Land an enjoyable experience for players flexible enough with their character's concept to simply "let go" and have their PC's react accordingly in a way that embraces that concept.
[5 of 5 Stars!]