Along with the Living Land sourcebook this is my absolute favorite cosm sourcebook, an entertaining and highly useful read, and absolutely worth the purchase price in my opinion. Please note as well the pay what you want orrosh oriented titles "the storm knights guide to monster hunters" (a detailed look at the secret societies within orrosh and new gear and perks which I will write a review for hopefully soon, 34 pages) and the “rooting out orrosh” prewritten adventure sold at the very generous price of 74 cents (and that's a suggested price so you can pay even less than that which I will also hopefully write a review of soon ) at 37 pages long.. absolutely grab both of these in addition to the Orrosh sourcebook.
This review will be longer than that of the other cosm sourcebooks since this time I actually remembered to take notes as I was reading through the sourcebook.. I apologize in advance for the review being so lengthy but on the plus side if your eyes start to glaze over from boredom and you stop reading, hopefully the numerous examples of exactly WHY this cosm sourcebook is so great that you would have read by then will convince you to buy it.. seriously, while I still maintain no matter what my rating all the cosm sourcebooks are necessary purchases to fully enjoy Torg Eternity and run the game to it’s greatest potential, the Orrosh and the Living Land sourcebooks are both a joy to read and should be your first purchases , hopefully impressing you to the point where you’ll spend the money on the other cosm sourcebooks as well.
(also worth noting.. it's possible that a gamesmaster might want a map after being inspired by the many, many great ideas in this book when writing up an 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 for example “mansion rpg map reddit” or “forest rpg map reddit” .. other resources include "bogie-DJ deviant art " if you do a google search for that or " rpgmapshare" )
Right from the beginning of the book there’s strong “intro” fiction that establishes not only the morally grey nature of Orrosh ... the protagonist forced into an alliance with a "civilized monster " to beat back the (presumably) mindless mob of monsters besieging the house she's taken residence in ... sipping tea with the civilized monster at the start of the story , a very Victorian custom (to the point where the gear section even gives in game benefits if a "tea party" is performed properly within Orrosh) ... and the protagonist being forced to abandon the hapless family the civilized monster is holding hostage simply because he has not yet collected enough information on the civilized monster to ensure her true death , silently and fervently promising the family she is no doubt torturing behind closed doors that he'll be back for them.. wonderfully written fiction that perfectly captures the mood of the orrosh cosm.
This is followed by an insightful overview of the Orrosh conquered parts of Earth (mostly India but also Bangladesh and Pakistan ) and their reactions to the invasion, as well as insight into the Victorians of Gaea who have immigrated from the cosm most recently invaded by the Gaunt Man’s Orroshan reality – not in small part due to the Victorians realizing their home world is lost and seeking to make a new place for themselves on Earth, not realizing they’re inflaming old wounds given India’s prior history with British “white colonizer” control of India …indeed the Victorians seem to fall into that awful “white man’s burden” racist outlook that was the bane – to say the least – of many countries throughout history .. what’s worse persons within invaded India, Pakistan and/or Bangladesh realize that these condescending Victorians bring a real expertise with them on hunting down and defeating the Orroshan monsters that have, literally, turned their countries into a nightmare realm.. lest things get too depressing (though it should be noted that depression and .. as one might expect given it’s the “horror realm”.. horror are the watchwords of the day in any Orrosh adventure, lest things get too depressing it is noted there are absolutely storm knights and even non reality rated persons of Indian, Bangladesh and/or Pakistani ancestry who are quickly becoming adept at fighting the Gaunt Man’s invading forces as well).
As usual there’s a section on new perks, new gear, and new spells whether arcane or divine/religious in nature that will be of interest given that even role-play world-immersion oriented gamesmasters or players like myself will take note of in terms of further customizing your character and/or NPC’s the PC’s interact with .. what was even more delightful to me however was the “flavor” of magic whether arcane in nature .. it’s clearly noted that arcane magic in Orrosh is by it’s very nature dark, corrupted, and it’s a continual struggle not to succumb to the forces of Corruption in Orrosh that will claim your very soul.. and, not surprisingly , the Sacellum is utterly opposed to and will no doubt hunt down any arcane spellcasters it discovers even arcane spellcasters desperately pleading that they and the Sacellum are on the same side as far as fighting the Gaunt Man and his forces.
Speaking of which, the Sacellum , the Gaea-Victorian version of Christianity, is given it’s own highly interesting write up not only noting it’s fire-and-brimstone emphasis and the almost complete lack of the “love and compassion” side of Christianity but what’s worse.. one could even say “horrifying” as suits the nature of Orrosh.. the Gaunt Man, as is typical for him, has corrupted even the religion that normally serves as such a potent force against the literal forces of darkness within Orrosh.. as the cosm sourcebook states the teachings of peace and love that are normally an integral part of Christianity in turn not only strengthens a Christian community in a web of mutual support, it also gives the recipient an inner strength that can see the recipient through dark times… said recipient may not immediately see “results” but they are content knowing it is “God’s will” and continue the struggle anyways.. in contrast the Sacellum version of Christianity emphasizes that results are needed NOW, right NOW and if you don’t get that divine miracle NOW your loved ones can and will die before your eyes in front of the depressingly commonplace occurrence of some Orroshan monster coming for said loved ones.
Furthermore the Sacellum version of Christianity makes a point of it’s faithful blaming each other, family member against family member, neighbor against neighbor, because this supernatural evil horror is “God’s” punishment on some sinner within the community.. to make matters worse given the law of corruption it’s very likely there really IS some sinner within the community who’s fallen prey to the temptations of darkness within Orrosh that strengthen those who succumb in various ways at the cost of their immortal soul .. this all leads to a community divided rather than strengthened, just the way the Gaunt Man wants it, even if the miracles of the Sacellum lead to the defeats of various horrors or Nightmares (and note this isn’t guaranteed either, even with a Sacellum spell casting priest or priestess on their side given how hard it is for even Storm Knights to survive in Orrosh given the world laws there’s every possibility the monster is STILL going to win – the Sacellum miracles just give you more of a fighting chance) – the Gaunt Man always takes the long view.. on top of that given that the most powerful Nightmares need to have their true death researched to really put the nightmare down for good (more on that later but something I also found absolutely delightful in sheer horror oriented entertainment value) the Gaunt Man sees any “minor problems” the Sacellum might cause as more than an acceptable sacrifice.
This is followed by a write up of new gear for Orrosh which I also loved for the sheer Victorian and horror oriented flavor that it captured, as well as some core earth higher tech axiom items (that admittedly might cause contradictions with the appropriate consequences if used in Orrosh conquered parts of Earth) that can come in handy.
As much as I loved all of this, I particularly fell in love with the following chapter “Warzones” that goes into even more detail on the Orroshan invasion of various parts of Earth and their reaction to said invasion.. I was delighted at the section on page 45 "A new custom of hanging dolls or puppets in trees to act as homes for errant spirits has become increasingly popular in the area. Whether an unembodied spirit is better or worse than a creepy inhabited doll is up for debate. "
And on page 46 more dark humor … " The factories on the periphery now produce steam carriages and other modified vehicles designed for use in Orrorsh’s axioms. Quality control measures have insured only a few of these machines have been shipped with malevolent spirits hiding inside them. "
Then there’s the pakistani rangers on page 50, a group of elite core earth born monster hunting forces ( see the “karashi” entry).. which I also loved but sadly there’s only a brief description given to the concept here, this is begging for future expansion hopefully by some of the talented writers we’ve already seen put out quality work under the Torg Infiniverse license .. there’s an intriguing write up of the Merangarh fort also on page 50 which, if I’m understanding correctly, takes note of a willing sacrifice 800 years ago (long before the Gaunt Man’s invasion), a human who agreed to be buried alive in the foundations of the walls when the fort was first built whose sacrifice has apparently turned it into that most precious of resources nowadays in Orrosh conquered areas of Earth, a core Earth hardpoint that keeps Orroshan reality at bay. Given the dark nature of Orrosh adventures it’s not surprising that core earth scientists are musing about whether or not similar sacrifices today of some willing and brave core earther could create similar hardpoints, said scientists … who must be allied with the Delphi council no doubt relying on information provided from say Storm Knight characters who played through the events of the Living Land Godbox extended adventure (will be writing a review for that later as well) … knowing as a result of said storm knight provided information that the Gaunt Man uses similar albeit unwilling sacrifices to “power” his stelae and Nightmare trees.
Then there’s the brilliant bit on page 53, the deceivers, humans who fall prey to the persuasive fear that all residents of Orrosh feel... and how they can drive that fear away by basically becoming smiling, deceiving serial killers that prey on their fellow humans misplaced sense of trust, thereafter being regarded as a "fellow terror" by the nightmarish monsters that stalk the realm... of course the cost of not being afraid anymore is the insanity that comes with being a serial killer as well as the craving to murder again and again
Then there’s page 54 – the ganges river which we’ve all probably heard about in popular India based fiction prior to Torg Eternity produces literal holy water that can be used against monsters … but in true orrosh fashion lest things get too bright and hopeful, this water can be corrupted and rendered useless as is being done to the lower reaches of the Ganges river with dead bodies and worse being thrown inside of it and gospog patrolling the now polluted portions of the river to make sure those portions stay that way.
As with the other cosm sourcebooks each warzone … that is each individual description of a large geographical part of conquered Earth .. comes with a “random encounter table” of sorts that will be a help to any gamesmaster, describing commonly encountered threats in that warzone complete with statistics found either in the Orrosh cosm sourcebook or the Torg Eternity core rules book.
One thing I particularly enjoyed was (to me anyways) is how well this section described not only the horrors that are infecting conquered orrosh zones but also India/Pakistan’s/Bangladehs’s reactions to it in brief broad yet well written strokes that give a real feel for what’s happening in the area despite readers not necessarily being familiar with these regions of India/Pakistan/Bangladesh, something that I felt was lacking in say the Tharkold or Nile Empire cosm sourcebook warzone writeups. Maybe it’s because the exotic (to a Western viewpoint) nature of India and those two other countries meshes well with the strangeness and horror that is the “feel” of the Orrosh cosm.. or at least in my opinion.
The warzones section wraps up with a great section on not only the victorians but the other cultures that came over from Orrosh – but briefer than I would like, I would love to see a sourcebook torg infiniverse supplement put out under that torg eternity open license system describing them in greater detail.
IMPORTANT NOTE - I would argue the rest of this review is best geared towards gamesmasters .. given a fear of the unknown is a big part of the feel of horror in Orrosh, players who continue to read this review may find their enjoyment of future Orrosh adventures to be spoiled.. on the other hand if I was a player who purchased this book I would , understandably, be reluctant to read the whole thing and not get my money's worth.. I'm sure that players who do so will be able to keep their real life player knowledge seperate from their in-game player character knowledge albeit again at the cost of not having as much fun as they normally would (I would advise players to at the very least not read the portions of the book on "bleeds" and to skip over the "world law of uncanny" when they see it in the book).
Then we have the usual chapter (as per the “standard structure” that cosm sourcebooks tend to follow) which goes into a closer analysis of the high lord of the invading cosm and said forces from that cosm that follow that high lord… there’s an absolutely wonderful description of the gaunt based on their stats man's origins and personality and tactics and approach (which was lacking in the original 1990’s era torg books), his end game and awful goals for earth and all of reality itself, the end game he's working towards as a whole… interestingly unlike original torg 1990's books no stats provided for any of the darkness devices which makes sense given they are basically plot devices that would have been impossible to destroy anyways even in the 1990's version of torg... the description of gaunt man's darkness device is as always a strong point in the cosm sourcebook (by which I mean the darkness device writeups in other cosm sourcebooks are also strong, entertaining reading). As usual we have a write up of the high lord’s (the Gaunt Man since this is the Orrosh sourcebook) relation with the other high lords and the politics taking place there, always a fun read given the scheming double crossing nature of high lords in general – but in this case it’s also noted in terms of sheer power the Gaunt Man can easily beat any of the other High Lords, something they are well aware of.
Absolutely loved the (appropriately of course) horrific write up of the Gaunt Man’s stelae, his Nightmare trees and his dimthread trees including details on exactly how to uproot or otherwise destroy them and the significant challenges the PC’s will face in the process which is (of course) terrifying and horrific in nature.. in perfect keeping with the horrific nature of Orrosh, page 67 notes that some portions of the populace are so terrified they'll actually sacrifice one of their own in order to create a makeshift stelae of their own creation, causing the gaunt man to actually ease up on terrorizing the realm , encouraging the populace's desperate fear and no doubt corrupting themselves as a result (admittedly the Orrosh sourcebook doesn’t make it clear if this actually works as far as the stelae activating and extending orroshan reality .. I would tend to guess not but if he’s got that section of the populace that terrified it serves the Gaunt Man’s ends regardless).
I also enjoyed the callout to the original Akashan reality/cosm from the 1990's torg sourcebooks and the trees they could plant which basically saved the hapless inhabitants of earth from dying when stelae uprooted even if they hadn't been refilled with possiblities from spreading tales of glory from the drama deck ... nightmare trees are a corrupt version of this technology acquired and polluted by the gaunt man – or to put it another way in Torg Eternity there were no Akashans showing up to save the day with their trees – the Gaunt Man long ago and subjugated their trees and other biotechnology to his own ends.
This does however disappoint me in that it seems there will be no akashan "space deities" sourcebook similar to 1990's torg given on page 69 the orrosh sourcebook states the gaunt man let " a few " askashans survive in case he needed them later implying that the gaunt man (indirectly albeit by manipulating them into destroying themselves) wiped out the vast majority of them... on the other hand some might argue the reality trees from the akashans might make winning the fight against the high lords too easy in an almost anticlimatic way so you understand the publisher's reasoning behind it.... I loved the intriguing origin story about how the akashan technology/magic hybrid allowed them to create devices that tether the forces of reality itself which the gaunt man corrupted into nightmare trees.. and gospog, thus giving the gospog an origin story lacking in the original 1990's torg books... the Akashans borrowing and using the concept of magic from their ancient allies the elves of asyle reality is neat concept albeit something that I'd like to see more fully fleshed out (probably upcoming in future torg books) .. . I was also intrigued by the mention of the oncoming doom that wiped out the akashans and how the gaunt man is hoping said doom will seek out earth which gives some hope that some sort of akashan material will show up in future torg products .. the 1990's askashan sourcebook detailed a psionic infestation that turned it's host into zombies under the control of the "root source" of the psionic infestation planted within an akashan who used the zombies as her minions to accomplish her goals ..I find myself wondering if the torg eternity publishers will use this idea or something entirely different in terms of the oncoming doom.
Going back to the nightmare trees.. wonderfully horrific description of how nightmare trees work, how they're grown and how they interact with orrosh reality to the point where they become hardpoints of orrosh reality even inside other cosms/dimensions. I consider it to be a brilliant move on the torg eternity writers’ part in terms of said nightmare trees eventual goal being able to simphon off possibilities in other high lord's cosms and/or that of core earth and illustrating one of the gaunt man' end goals.. let the other high lords subjugate various portions of earth then steal those possibilities from his fellow high lords via the planting of nightmare trees when the time is right, allowing him to use the other high lords as his unwitting tools to completely conquer core earth .. there’s a wonderful description of why the other high lords (who presumably are unaware the nightmare trees can steal possibilities the other high lords assume are all going to them not the Gaunt Man and his cosm) leave discovered nightmare trees alone, converting them into dimthread trees that can easily transport invading forces from cosms already conquered by the high lord into core earth .. but the other high lords are still unaware that the conversion doesn't change the "base" nightmare trees ability to (presumably) enforce orrosh reality and steal those possibilities (pages 69-70)
There’s a great write up of how Nightmares. .. the more advanced and powerful monsters of Orroshan reality .. work in terms of how, just like in true horror movie style, they always eventually come back even if killed, stronger than before… unless that is you research their true death and enact the circumstances required for said true death, also very much in keeping with horror movies.. game mechanics and outlines on how to do this and how to create your own nightmares are given along with some wonderful example nightmares both in that chapter and later on in the “threats” chapter of the cosm sourcebook, said nightmares almost invariably having a tragic origin story that could very well make the PC’s feel sorry for them while at the same time realizing the nightmare cannot go on unchecked and has to be put down for good giving it’s killing innocent people.
While I loved the write up of the Hellion Court.. the “senior” nightmares who make up the Gaunt Man’s ruling council.. I was disappointed that there are no stats for them.. though I understand the publisher's reasoning that they should be created and tailored to the PC's current power levels as an epic orrosh adventure .. and stats are provided presumably for one such hellion court member in " a trifling matter" adventure for orrosh (which is absolutely on my wishlist of future torg eternity books to buy).. this is still going to be a problem for gamesmasters who are too busy to write their own material and who rely solely on prewritten adventures (gamesmasters who say have a spouse, kids and are busy with work for example) .. hopefully a torg infiniverse writer will write their own stats for the hellion court.. alternately as a starting point gamesmasters could simply purchase the original orrosh sourcebook from 1990's torg which does include stats for them (and indeed they are presented as very powerful opponents compared to your average starting storm knight) and try to revamp them to fit the torg eternity rules ... there is some overlap but many of the nightmares (a name for members of the hellion court used in 1990's torg) listed are different in torg eternity than the original orrosh torg 1990's sourcebook.. this isn't necessarily a bad thing, the nightmares in the original torg book have an extremely interesting writeup in terms of their background and personality as well as stats and would arguably make great substitutes for the nightmares presented in torg eternity (with the understanding that doing so could render certain upcoming torg books incompatible with the campaign should nightmares be given stats in the future in torg eternity)... I suspect one of the hellion court members basjas has her stats listed in the torg eternity adventure “a trifling matter”.
Then there’s the usual great description of axiom levels ( a favorite part for me in all the torg eternity cosm sourcebooks).. technological , social, magic and spiritual.. and how they affect the Orrosh realm with the added clarification that the gaunt man has specifically set them at high enough levels to encourage terror but not so high that this terror is diminished ... for example not setting the magic axiom so high that magical monsters become an everyday menace you just accept as a part of life like in say Asyle... likewise the technological axiom is just high enough to allow newspapers to further spread terror and fear by letting everyone know about the horrible things happening in orrosh while not being so high that advanced technology that lets you more easily fight the monsters of Orrosh springs up thus inspiring hope... then there’s the intriguing revelation that there is no "home cosm/dimension" orrosh is anchored to unlike the other invading realms... the gaunt man uses them up as he travels from world to world leaving them as lifeless husks but it's a mystery as to where orrosh is drawing it's power from (hopefully the publishers expand on this in future supplements rather than just leaving it as a mystery)
I also loved the world laws write ups.. for example the law of corruption tied directly to the nameless one (embodiment of destruction ) and the void that the darkness devices (for the most part) owe allegiance too ... like everything else in orrosh the gaunt man uses it as a tool to ensure despair and a loss of hope, making it easy for characters to give in to corruption in exchange for the in game benefits it describes only to have the character eventually succumb to corruption to the point where they literally transform into one of the monsters they fought against... it presents a fun option for players who have grown tired of playing a PC and want an opportunity to write up a new one... have the existing PC take enough corruption benefits and the accompanying perks to the point where the PC becomes a monster and the other PC's have to track down and kill their former compatriot... if the player is okay with this (GM's should tread carefully, players are known to become particularly attached to certain NPC's and to not react well when said NPC is killed off) it's also a great complication for NPC's the PC's are fond of (perhaps ask players given the nature of the realm if they have an idea for an NPC the PC is fond of but not TOO fond of and write the plot accordingly - bearing in mind of course it's always subject to change based on PC actions, the whims of the drama deck and so forth)
To me there’s an intriguing tribute to horror stories in terms of the world laws and the explanation of horrors (monsters that simply come back to give the PC's problems later on if their true death isn't properly researched first ... the whole "evil never dies" horror trope) and how in game terms horrors can't regain as many possibilities as they normally would - normally (and terrifyingly enough) the horrors regain their full possibilities every round ... each piece of crucial information uncovered about the horrors diminishes these possibilities regained per round with the final bit of information leading to the ability to kill the horror off once and for all ... there’s some great crunchy rules related stuff about how various skills (like evidence analysis, streetwise, scholar, persuasion in terms of tricking a horror into revealing something crucial about itself) can be used to gain said information .. note that not every monster encountered is a horror, there are the "rank and file" monsters and then the "big bad " monsters (the members of the hellion court being the biggest bads ..next to the gaunt man himself of course) that represent the highlight of an adventure in terms of defeating the forces of evil ... there’s also a neat insight presented by the torg eternity writers about how even if the PC's aren't particularly sympathetic to the plight that drove say a former human being into becoming a monster (or maybe the more tender and kind hearted PC's ARE sympathetic) it still humanizes the monster, giving it a backstory.. and diminishes the fear normally felt in the realm of orrosh, understanding something makes it less frightening which is a big reason why the true death works in the first place.
The torg eternity writers are aware that given the deadly nature of Orrosh it’s possible for an entire party-kill of all the PC’s to take place.. one option they suggest is for the GM to show mercy to the players while simultaneously creeping them out .. the world law of 'uncanny' allows the PC's to suddenly return to life as if nothing had ever happened despite the PC’s knowing full well that they died and how they died, almost as if time rewinds itself… except an NPC they interacted with right around the same time the PC’s is now dead as if in the PC’s place.. this goes on, one NPC the PC’s know dying each act in the adventure, until a PC finally says “yes” to the ongoing whispers of corruption in Orrosh and takes a darkness perk at which point the NPC deaths stop. I absolutely LOVED this idea and it’s yet another brilliant move on the part of the torg eternity writers.
Then there’s that wonderful section on bleeds ... the orrosh cosm is itself haunted by other cosms that have taken on a nightmarish existence of their own.. practically "dead" for all intents and purposes and hopelessly corrupted, each of these cosms is written up in terms of their current influence on events within orrosh and the terrible things the bleed is causing to happen and how the PC's have to stop it .. basically a series of wonderfully well written adventure seeds for a variety of adventures the GM can flesh out (although obviously this doesn't help a GM who doesn't have the time to expand said adventure seeds further into a full blown adventure - hopefully someone in torg infiniverse sees the wonderful opportunity here and writes it up as a ready to go adventure for interested gamesmasters to purchase).... although stats are given for the final foe the PC's have to face in each of these bleeds which helps a lot and there’s plenty of stats for various Orrosh cosm threats including human death cultists in the “threats” section of Orrosh sourcebook the GM can draw from (maybe the cultists are the minions of the final adversary the PC's have to take down)... a GM who's good at coming up with stuff "on the fly" literally making up the adventure as the GM goes along (there are some GM's who are like that who are very talented, I had no idea they were making it up as they went along and thoroughly enjoyed myself as a player) actually has all the GM needs here for a full blown adventure. The race of assassins who actually succeeded in physically injuring the gaunt man twice and then were mostly obliterated with the rest doomed to serve as faceless assassins that literally steal the faces of their hapless victims (said victim dying as a faceless mannequin-like husk given enough time and failed reality tests) was particularly memorable and well written in my opinion.
As with the other cosm sourcebooks we have a chapter on the delphi council, their tactics and notable members in leadership .. a fun and interesting read but I was disappointed there's no artwork showing what they look like as opposed to the other cosm sourcebooks but this is a minor quibble at best. All the delphi council members are well written but oddly enough although religion is described as a key component of Vinutha Patel's life, there's no description as to what religion that is..which in the Torg campaign can be important in that it has actual in-game effects. One might guess Hindu but only because that's the most popular and widespread religion in India. Disappointingly, despite Pakistan being listed as definitely being an area of importance in Orrosh (the Pakistan rangers in particular page 50 who are listed as elite monster hunters in orrosh equal in expertise to the victorians who have been hunting monsters for centuries, ) there's no mention of a Pakistani high ranking member of the Delphi council which seems to be a huge oversight .. at the very least one would imagine the head of the Pakistani rangers should get a name and his or her own individual background and personality write up like the other senior delphi council members ... hopefully someone using the torg infiniverse license will follow up on this and give them their own mini-sourcebook with stats for their leadership, typical rank and file soldier, description of equipment they use , description of how one gains entry into their rank and how their organizational structure works and so forth ... I was also disappointed in that there are no actual statistics provided for the senior delphi council members but this is the case in pretty much every torg cosm sourcebook.
There’s also a great write up of the resources the delphi council can provide within Orrosh.. I particularly liked how there's both the standard stereotypical description of a safe house but which are less common apparently than in other cosms-conquered parts of earth due to the grueling, challenging dangerous nature of orrosh reality... and the more common "safe houses" which are simply homes brave ordinary citizens have volunteered as temporary hideouts to PC's (PC's are instructed not to stay too long at such households lest it attract the attention of monsters and/or horrors resulting in the slaughter of said brave citizens say after the PC's leave) ... the concept of individuals within orrosh who somehow overcome the fear and horror that permeates everything in the realm, risking themselves to help the cause somehow despite obviously putting themselves at risk and not being nearly as better able to defend themselves as your average PC, is rather inspiring and GM's who have the time to do so are encouraged to give a write up in terms of personality and background at least to these brave families. There’s an intriguing write up of INS Varsha, a submarine base under the water that can sneak storm knights to places inconspicuously and listen in on events on the surface.. and of course the realization that Orrosh has established it's own undersea bases after the Delphi concil intercepted telegraph signals which appear to state such a thing has happened. This fits with the theme of orrosh cosm - evil is everywhere.
There’s a very neat write up of how trains are the primary mode of transportation for PC's which very much fits the Victorian theme of Orrosh, to the point where given the scarcity of permanent safe houses trains are actually used to deliver the supplies and gear the Delphi council would normally give PC's .. I loved how the train doesn't stop just so the PC’s can get said gear …. to quote the orrosh sourcebook " Railpost employees work a mechanized arm to snag outbound bags from the post, and drop off inbound bags as the train passes by" (page 108).. I thought this was a particularly neat touch and it also makes sense - it draws less attention to the PC's and their activities that way in a clandestine sort of way.
The secret societies part is intriguing but not given nearly enough detail – fortunately the “storm knights guide to monster hunters” pay what you want torg infiniverse book does a superb job of covering this in greater detail, is an excellent read and at the risk of sounding like a broken record is an absolute must-buy in terms of running adventures in Orrosh to their fullest potential (in my opinion anyways).
This is followed by a chapter on how to run adventures in Orrosh including the themes and tropes which I also found to be a great write up.. however on page 111 sidebar “giving the characters reason to care” it’s worth noting that the advice given as far as endangering – and thus potentially killing off beloved NPC's or (given this is Orrosh) cursing or otherwise "twisting" them while enforcing the theme of horror could royally tick off players who are devoted to and care about their more beloved NPC’s… if I was the GM here I’d find it best to check with the player beforehand to make sure the player's okay with it and even go so far as to work with the player to come with NPC’s the PC likes but doesn’t like TOO much if that makes sense .. it will upset the PC if the worst comes to pass but not so much so that the player gets upset in real life....
One very neat idea in the Victorian Death rituals description is the idea of death jewelry .... the Victorians of Gaea, literally fashion parts of beloved and now deceased persons into jewelry that is worn .. if the death was cursed or just particularly violent the jewelry can become cursed itself and possess the wearer , potentially resulting in a dr jekyll and mr hyde situation for the unfortunate wearer ... of course presumably the PC's don't immediately know this is the case and have to figure it out on their own...also neat, paintings of the deceased are done in which the deceased's body is literally rearranged into various poses (imagine a dead person being propped up in a chair in a horrible parody of looking dignified – perfectly fits the creepy nature of Orrrosh) .. the paintings themselves can become haunted as a result.
Following this is a wonderful set of random generator tables (or even better the GM can just pick and choose from the tables to create a nightmare of the GM’s own design) to come up with a newly created nightmare's various traits that drive it's personality, background and that help discover it's means of true death lest a "killed" nightmare return from the dead to attack the PC's later on - and worse even more powerful than before. I found each entry on the table to be a wonderful idea that gives a great jumping off point to spark the gamemaster's imagination. Note that it's up to the GM to individually write up a true death specifically tailored to the new nightmare but the random table generators can easily inspire a GM to give a thorough enough writeup such that at least one idea for a true death comes to mind.
Next we move on to the threats section that appears close to the end of torg eternity cosm sourcebooks… pages 120-124 gives a great write up of orrosh gospog , which are noticeably more dangerous than gospog of other cosms which suits the orrosh cosm ... 2nd planting gospog housing swarms of mosquitoes that can not only infect PC's with malaria or some other such sickness (can't recall if game terms describing how sickness works are given in torg core rules), but a mosquito who bites a target allows the gospog to "tag" that target making it easier for the gospog to track the target ... plus the swarms of mosquitoes from it billow around a target making it harder for the target to act (and gives a nice horrific touch) .... 5th planting gospog seem a bit ridiculous at first being giant blobs but are formidable opponents, sticky beings that can trap targets with tenacles and drag them in to be digested .... also noteworthy is that oddly enough undead matter (i.e. other gospog) within the gospog is not digested enabling 5th planting gospog to ooze around acting as "delivery mechanisms", catching other gospog within them only to be released upon the hapless attacker if someone attacks the 5th planting gospog.
The write ups of other monsters are suitably creepy as suits the nature of Orrosh ... stats are given for disembodied hands and stats for creatures of real life Indian folklore like the bhoot and churel... possibly due to a fear of offending Indian readers … some notes on the wikipedia entry for churel ... " According to some legends, a woman who dies during childbirth or pregnancy or from suffering at the hands of her in-laws will come back as a revenant churel for revenge, particularly targeting the males in her family. " ... were left out of the monster description ... while India has hopefully moved away in modern times from certain practices in the past like a widow being expected to burn herself alive with her husband's corpse (it's true, google search it) … as recently as the year 2018 the guardian wrote an article titled " india is the most dangerous country for women it must face reality" , the washington post wrote an article called " why India's modern women say it's a burden to be female" also in 2018 while the economist wrote an article titled "life for Indian women is hard" (you can do a google search for the articles) ... as always with potentially sensitive topics a GM should get a survey from their players first as to how comfortable they feel with this sort of thing but there's certainly an opportunity here for a sympathetic monster-villain savagely mistreated by her male in-laws , a fact the PC's have to discover on their own particularly if you accept the view expressed in the guardian article that the churel's surviving female relatives will initially be too afraid to tell the PC's about said mistreatment.... this even opens the door to the male in law culprits themselves having fallen prey to the forces of corruption and becoming another threat the PC's have to take down ...
One very important thing to note here.. if you’re going to run this kind of story you’re going to have to run counter to the mood of Orrosh and GIVE THE VICTIMIZED WOMAN INVOLVED A HAPPY ENDING! Perhaps an unintended benefit of the occult ritual the PC’s have to enact returns the woman to the mortal life she had prior to becoming a churel .. Or if the GM feels this is too “fairy tale” in nature and feels it’s too late for the poor woman and she’s already a monster at least give her a peaceful death where she sees the males who mistreated her get their appropriate punishment (male victimizers who have fallen prey to the power of corruption and become monsters themselves who have to be killed would in my opinion be a poetic and fitting solution here). If you don’t give the victimized woman involved a happy ending in my honest opinion this gets way too dark even by the standards of Orrosh and you don’t want to depress players by having the game echo the real life plight of women in India and then have the symbolic stand-in for said women in the game “lose” if that makes sense. Bearing in mind the Storm Knights are, in pretty much every cosm that has conquered parts of Earth, the heroes who bring light and hope (even in Orrosh) this shouldn’t be too far of a stretch to get a happy ending even in Orrosh.
Note that lest the reader think I'm picking on India alone, there are those who argue the fight for womens' rights needs to continue in the USA as well ... there is a usa today article titled " equal rights amendment - will women ever have equal rights under federal law?" and then there was the recent overturning of roe vs wade ... another usa today article titled " abortion rights protests across usa" talks about protesters who say (correctly in my opinion) it's an attack on womens' rights.
I was amused by the faithful servant description for your typical "igor" type NPC foe ... " Every horror or Nightmare needs a minion who can attend to the rote, mundane tasks of managing an estate, allowing its master to focus on spreading fear. Faithful attendants come in many varieties, from lab assistants to butlers to guards to gravediggers, but all of them have some deformity or flaw which makes them unsettling to be around. They are not known for their intellect but their unflinching loyalty makes them invaluable to their masters."
I was also amused that stats are given for edgar allen poe's "nevermore" raven in the form of an omen bird.. I was pleased to see stats for creepy possessed dolls and frankenstein monsters or as the orrosh source book calls them "reainimated beings" as well as stats for both normal and advanced "master" vampires.. the skinwalker write up is very neat and gives the GM a potent tool in terms of having an NPC the PC's would normally trust turn out to be eaten and the NPC's identity taken by the skinwalker ... or if a player is absolutely convinced they are done with their current PC and want to write up a new one, with the player's cooperation the player can play a skinwalker leading to the horrified realization of the other PC's that their former comrade was eaten alive...
As I mentioned above there’s an outstanding write up of sample nightmares... the mary write up evoked a particular amount of sympathy and GM's might consider a more soft hearted, pure and "innocent" type of PC reminding Mary of herself when she was alive and even managing to convince Mary to let the PC's give Mary a true death ... provided of course the standard steps one has to complete to grant a true death are still run through.... all of the nightmares are actually very well written and evoke their own sort of sympathy from the reader given their tragic pasts. The Headhunter write up is also very tragic and like the other nightmares would be a joy to run through with the players ... interestingly Kurst, formerly a major character and ally of the heroes in the 1990's torg novels, has been presented here as a nightmare who will probably try to stalk and kill the PC's and needs to be put down.
I did find myself blinking in confusion initially at what the Orrosh sourcebook said on page 8.. “Multiple major religions have coexisted (in India/Pakistan/Bangladesh) in relative peace for centuries"... then when I read page 53’s reference to India’s prime minister Harminder Singh the lightbulb went off in my head.. then I read page 114
“Remember, “The path to Hell is paved with good intentions.” With all secrets, the Game Master should be aware of the players’ comfort level. Any of the Secret types, especially Habits, can tread too closely to real world prejudice and hate crimes”
At that point it becomes clear that the torg eternity publishers are trying to avoid references to real life prejudice/hate crimes that can make players uncomfortable
People unaware of what’s going in “real world” India at the time I write this review may wonder why I was confused… just to give a few examples of the many, many articles you can find online on this topic… google search "time India hindu supremacy extremism genocide bjp modi" to find an article where time magazine vividly describes how the “real world” prime minister modi took advantage of Indian fears of poverty , insufficient economic growth and corruption to mobilize the hindu majority against the muslim minority painting them as responsible for said woes resulting in some truly horrifying acts against muslims encouraged not only by modi's government but also by sensationalistic television programs which flat out advocate violence against Muslims in order to boost the tv shows ratings and get people to watch said shows …I wish I could remember the name of the youtube video that has actual footage of Indian TV show hosts talking about the “Muslim menace” in the most openly bigoted fashion you could possibly imagine.. I can’t but if you google search it, trust me you’ll either find the video or articles from reputable news sources like Time, CNN, The Guardian, Newsweek or what have you that talks about how Modi’s government has ridden the already prevalent anti-Muslim sentiment in India to political power.
I realize this is an ugly thing to talk about .. and lest someone think I’m targeting India alone I would like to point out that the politics of bigotry and hatred are sadly alive and well in my neck of the woods here in the USA as well.. when David Duke, the former “grand wizard” (leader) of the white nationalist hate group the Klu Klux Klan, repeatedly endorses Donald Trump and Trump goes on to win the presidency after his infamous comments on Mexicans, Muslims (perhaps he hates things that start with the letter M? Then again he does love money which also starts with M.. apologies that’s a terrible joke) and his personal history towards women in general .. then you know we’ve got a problem here in the states.. mind you Islamophobia and hatred of racial minorities (not to mention hatred of the LGBT population in general which is still an ongoing thing over here) was going on in our politics over here long before Trump ever got elected. Islamaphobia in particular has been a (sadly) popular rallying cry for far right nationalist leaders to cement political power in other countries too not just India and the USA.
(also lest one still think I’m painting every single Indian citizen with the same paintbrush I would also point out that there are news reports of politicians, students and concerned citizens alike in India who openly object to the Islamophobia and make it clear they’re definitely not okay with it.. just as there are Americans here who decry the forces of bigotry that appear to have become rampant in American politics)
So you would think given this ugly state of affairs the last thing you’d want to do is air a TV show that deals with Islamophobia right? It’s an ugly, terrible thing that any viewer with a conscience is probably going to want to avoid.. and then you have the Disney Plus show Ms. Marvel, which I personally enjoyed, which was a hit with the critics, and which was a hit with large segments of the American population too , 80 percent apparently according to the rotten tomatoes website (minus disgruntled critics who complained bitterly about “political correctness” but quite honestly I’m not inclined to take such critics seriously in the first place)… try watching it if you haven’t already, the protagonist is a plucky teenage Pakistani-Muslim girl you can’t help but root for and the show does a wonderful job of not only tackling Islamophobia head-on in a way that makes you root for said protagonist, it also addresses the also emotionally sensitive topic of the Muslims forced out of India into Pakistan and all the emotional and economic hurt and turmoil it caused.
I can hear what you’re saying … “Okay sure Ms. Marvel is a great TV show but it’s all cheerfulness and light, Orrosh is darkness and horror.. do we REALLY want to go there?” At this point I would like to use page 49 of the Orrosh sourcebook as evidence for my argument that follows below
"Eternal Corruption is an ever present threat. As heroes become unbalanced and go too far they risk becoming the very monsters they sought to defeat. The isolation of the desert, the tension between different ethnic communities, and the scars left by the Night of Screams plague the area, and push ordinary people to the edge of sanity. "
And it’s not just that page alone, if you read the entire Orrosh sourcebook it’s all about horror, making people uncomfortable and evil triumphant.
That’s where the heroes come in .. obviously you’re going to want to have a frank discussion about players about whether or not they want obviously monstrous versions of real life hate crimes popping up in the Orrosh campaign.. but I can tell you this much.. my players would JUMP at the chance to take down some bigoted Islamophobe NPC in the game who uses hatred of Muslims for their own political/financial/other sort of gain… just as they would jump at the chance to take down the NPC equivalent of that in America, that is some hate mongering American politician in my neck of the woods in the states , by which I mean an obviously fictional politician though sadly there are several real life politicians where I live who could easily serve as inspiration for said fictional hatemongers.. I make a reference to that in my upcoming review of the godbox Living Land prepublished adventure and yes readers of my reviews will notice I have a theme going on here but I’m going to stick to my guns .. taking on hatemongers as bad guys can be extremely cathartic for the right gaming group given the current sad situation in our real life world where hatred of various marginalized groups is alive and well. The obvious candidate for a human-turned-monster riding the power of corruption benefiting from India’s Islamphobia would be an Indian government official of some sort but the less obvious choice could make for a great story too..
Remember what I said about the TV hosts who play to the audience’s Islamophobia to boost their ratings.. the GM could use an obviously Islamophobic government official as a “red herring” of sorts , plant false clues that make it seem like the official is a corrupted monster but really is not … still a monster mind you just not one that’s fallen prey to Orrosh’s power of corruption yet.. the real monster (and the one who planted the false clues hoping it would lead the PC’s to attack and perhaps even kill the wrong person ) is the attractive (male or female take your pick) popular with the masses TV show host who is now a monster wielding Orrosh’s power of corruption .. even worse the PC’s have to subdue the bodyguards, fans in the audience and so forth , at least until the monster shows his/her true monstrous nature at which point said bodyguards and fans hopefully scream in terror and get the heck out of there leaving the PC’s alone with their true foe. Again the same argument for the churel applies here too.. there HAS to be a happy ending where the PC’s soundly trounce their foe AND it makes headlines in a way that forces even the most bigoted members of the population to at least temporarily curtail their bigoted nature since it is now clear the very laws of reality in Orrosh can literally turn you into a monster if you continue to act that way (I would have the PC’s fight with the tv host turned monster televised, the cameras still rolling, and have it make headlines in a way that shines the spotlight on this sort of ugliness in a way that simply can’t be ignored).
I would hope this goes without saying but the GM would want to make it absolutely clear when using real-life darkness as a source for Orroshan horror that the monsters it produces are clearly fictional characters who, while they may draw inspiration from real life persons, are not actually those persons ... writing a real life person into torg eternity and then having to do what you do with any Orroshan monster who is literally a creature of darkness and evil that will go on killing innocents if not stopped the way you have to stop any monster in a horror movie... using a real life person for that sort of thing would be in really bad taste. In the Living Land version of things however the PC's have more flexibility .... sure the hate mongering politician bad guy NPC of the United States (again, please, fictional not a real life politician) could force the PC's into a life and death battle backed as they are by let's say Kanawa tech and Kanawa soldiers in the proposal I give in the upcoming godbox review and in true dramatic fashion he probably should ... I would argue however that it would be far more satisfying for the PC's to do what they cannot do in Orroshan reality .. capture the hate mongering politician, make sure that his battle against the storm knights - whom by now should have a reputation for their heroics world-wide (in my Living Land proposal I suggest that such a confrontation take place later on in the campaign when the torg eternity writers make it clear, as I'm sure they will at some point, that Kanawa corporation is itself a dimensional invader and not the Earth-Japanese citizens they are pretending to be) - becomes public knowledge and force the disgraced politician to just sit there and watch from jail as his fame and political power wither and vanish around him, othe rpoliticians who had allied with him now publicly decrying and abandoning him. In the case of the Living Land I would argue the hate mongering politician there wants all edeinos dead knowing full well that there are entire tribes of edeinos who are opposed to Barak Kaah's rule and work either secretly or against the High Lord of the Living Land - but it doesn't matter, said hate mongering politician wants " all those lizards".. along of course with whatever minorities, racial, religious, LGBT or otherwise the hate monger cemented his political base on inciting hatred of said minority groups to gain votes and other sorts of political power ... forcing the Delphi Council to have the storm knights engage initially (with the Delphi Council disavowing any public knowledge of what the storm knights are doing lest the delphi council create problems with certain government contacts allied out of political expediency with the hatemonger) in a more "hearts and minds" public argument with the hate mongering politician, at first attempting to sway public opinion and then later on as the campaign progresses forced into a physical confrontation with the hate monger who tries to kill the PC's in some location the hate monger considers to be "off camera" little knowing that the delphi council has already planted cameras that can televise the event (or if the global satellite/internet system such a televised system is still having problems with in the USA as per the Living Land sourcebook ) at least provide irrefutable digital proof that can take the form of thumb drive or other types of "hard copies" that are in turn copied and distributed to all the news media outlets worldwide) much to the dismay of the politician and his Kanawa backers... while some voters may continue to blindly vote for said politician no matter what I would propose the GM have many voters who were "on the fence" on this politician decide this is too much for them to stomach given that the PC storm knights are known heroes who have been travelling the globe fighting dimensional invaders.. and, let's say, have played enough Glory cards to the point where EVERYONE knows who the PC's are and they have a huge public following of fans no matter what said fans' political beliefs are.. basically the hate mongering politician gets carried away by his own ego and sense of invulnerability.
Also worth noting page 236 of torg eternity core rules.. while the Living Land sourcebook states the internet in the USA is in a bad state (page 10) , page 236 of the core rules mentions " The internet is a resource many Storm Knights rely on, but it isn’t as reliable or fast as it was before the war. The Living Land, Aysle, and Orrorsh wiped out huge numbers of servers and exchanges, and may others have been compromised by the GodNet. Some sites are completely gone, and sporadic outages or massive slowdowns are common." .. however this implies that countries with internet servers who haven't had large portions of their geography taken over by invaders unlike the United States.. like say Germany for example (see the cyberpapacy cosm sourcebook page 19)... still have viable internet service, meaning that there are countries that CAN display said footage to it's viewers.. and which are probably quoted by old fashioned printed newspapers who can legitimately say they saw the live footage in countries where earth technology is still doing well - presumably the German authorities wouldn't hesitate to have it's technicians confirm to the news sources that based on their analysis of the video it's legitimate, not fake.
Apologies to Indian readers but I also found myself blinking in confusion at page 58 of the orrosh sourcebook stating “ The effect of social caste has been largely mitigated and eliminated in the workplace, and is even mildly taboo in some cases.”
In one of which I’m sure are many articles about the subject from reputable news sources, if you do a google search for “ bbc news word asia india what is india’s caste system ” the bbc flat out states the caste system is sadly alive and well despite being technically illegal in Indian’s government.. whereupon a google search of the words “google cnn india coronavirus lower castes” will bring up a cnn article saying the already poor treatment of the lower castes and the prejudice they suffer from became even worse when the coronavirus plague hit , said lower caste becoming identified with the coronavirus and shunned and persecuted even more so than they already were. Again this could be explained by the India of Torg Eternity being a happier place than the real world version where they really have done away with the caste system and once again there are GM’s and players who won’t want to touch this sort of real life ugliness with a ten foot pole either which is perfectly understandable.. alternately however I would argue there’s some excellent potential here for monsters the PC’s can really hate.. persons in power ….perhaps some business leader who takes merciless advantage of the lower castes, who are often financially poor as well who, once again, has succumbed to the power of corruption… again it’s key to have a happy ending here in order not to depress the players or, even worse, to even unintentionally seem to confirm that bias and bigotry of any sort is “okay in real life”.. the now monstrous business leader should be taken down in a very public fashion, the lower caste persons s/he was victimizing rescued and the story should make the headlines of the various newspapers.
Mind you there are GM’s and players who – understandably – won’t want to touch this sort of thing with a ten foot pole and that’s more than okay. I would argue you miss out on some powerful storytelling opportunities but again each GM and their gaming group will have to make their own decision on this sort of thing.. I will note that on pages 50-51 of the Orrosh sourcebook it points out that Hindus and Muslims set aside their differences due to the horrors of the invading cosm of Orrosh and one could make an argument that the fear mongering monsters invading India/Pakistan/Bangledesh could definitely force even the most die hard bigots to come to an agreement with those they have persecuted (and you could certainly make a similar argument in say Living Land threatened or conquered portions of the USA too where white nationalist bigots reluctantly fight side by side with racial and/or religious minorities on the grounds that “the lizards want to kill us all so we got no choice” argument) … or for GM’s and players who are uncomfortable with the whole bigotry thing in general simply make the world of Torg Eternity a happier one where this ugly sort of bigotry never made it’s way into politics to begin with whether American or Indian.
Interestingly enough the Orrosh sourcebook doesn’t end with a section on eternity shards the players can use to their advantage the way other Torg Eternity cosm sourcebooks do.. but perhaps this fits the sinister, frightening nature of Orrosh (or alternately the publishers simply didn’t have room for said chapter due to budget constraints and/or the time to write up such a chapter)… in the end it doesn’t matter.. this is an incredibly well written sourcebook that is absolutely worth the purchase price. If you’ve made it this far thanks for reading this admittedly very lengthy review.. I hope I’ve convinced you to buy this book, it truly is an outstanding value in terms of the content provided.
[5 of 5 Stars!]