The Drama Deck
What’s on the Cards?
The face of every card in the Drama Deck is divided into two areas. At either end of the card is a colored bar, either gray or orange. Gray bars indicate player information while orange bars indicate gamemaster information. Some special cards have orange bars at both ends, indicating that the information in the player area of the card is also used by the gamemaster. Each card also has a number next to the colored bars. This number is used to identify each card and can be used to keep track of which cards a player has at the end of a game session. That way at the beginning of the next game session the player can get back the same cards. Torg uses the cards of the Drama Deck to mimic the ebb and flow of action in an adventure story by introducing dramatic surprise and storytelling elements into the adventure. While Torg can be played without the Drama Deck, it is less involving and exciting when the cards are not used. Rules for handling certain situations when playing without the Drama Deck are included at the end of this chapter.
Underneath the colored bar on the gamemaster’s side of each card are five elements. During round play these elements are used by the gamemaster to determine the general course of the action during that round. Starting under the colored bar, these elements are as follows:
“Flavor” text: The text has no effect on play, it’s purely there to provide atmosphere. It can be used to give the gamemaster an idea of how to describe the action in that round.
Standard encounter line: During standard scenes this line is used to determine which side in a conflict has the initiative and any special modifiers in effect during the round.
Dramatic encounter line: During dramatic scenes this line is used to determine who has initiative and any special modifiers in effect during the round.
Approved actions: This line indicates which actions will provide player characters with additional cards from the Drama Deck if they successfully perform that action during this round.
Dramatic skill resolution box: The text in this box is used with the dramatic skill resolution rules.
Information on using each of these elements in play (except for the “Flavor” text) is covered below under “Gamemastering with the Cards”.
Underneath the colored bar on the player’s side of each card is a special game effect that players can use to modify their characters actions and the game story. There are two types of effects on the player side of the cards, enhancements and specials. Enhancements are indicated by a gray bar at the top of the player’s side of the card. Enhancements typically add a bonus to an attribute or to a bonus number. For example, a Willpower card gives the player a +3 bonus to his Perception or Mind attribute for the round. When an enhancement card is played, it takes effect immediately. Some enhancements are discarded immediately after being used while some last for the remainder of the round. An orange bar on the player’s side of the card indicates specials. Unlike enhancements, specials do not have to take effect immediately when played. A special card takes effect when the gamemaster decides that it takes effect. The involvement of the gamemaster in its activation is why specials have the same colored bar as the gamemaster side of the card, it lets them know that they need to work the card into play. Whenever a player puts a special card into play he needs to notify the gamemaster. Some specials are discarded after being activated; others may remain in play and continue to have their effect on the character or the story until the end of the adventure. The effects for both enhancements and specials are described below under “Card Descriptions”.
Playing With the Cards
At the beginning of every new adventure, the gamemaster deals a hand of cards to each player character. (If a player is running multiple characters, each character receives a separate hand of cards.) The number of cards each character receives depends on how many player characters are involved in the adventure:
CARD PLAY AND GROUP SIZE
Number of PCs Number of cards
The gamemaster does not deal herself a hand, and nonplayer characters do not receive cards. After dealing out the cards, the remaining cards are kept in a stack for use by the gamemaster. When players discard cards, they are placed face up in a discard pile to the side of the Drama Deck. When cards are flipped by the gamemaster they are placed in front of the deck in the action stack. If all of the remaining cards are used up during play, the discard pile is shuffled and turned face down, becoming the new stack of cards. During normal scenes, when the player characters are searching a room, using a macro skill, discussing among themselves or anything of that nature, time passes at about the same rate in the game as it does during real life. At these times, players may use cards from their hands at any time. When the action involves a chase, combat, or some other kind of conflict the action is divided into rounds and card play becomes restricted. Instead of being able to freely play cards out of their hand, players must first build up a card pool before they can put the cards into effect.
Keeping the Hands Secret
Each player should keep his hand a secret from the gamemaster and the other players - just as in any card game. This way he has the chance to surprise the group with what he plays; it also means that each player is in full control of his own cards. If a player doesn’t want to use a particular card, he doesn’t have to. If he wants to save cards to use later, they’re his to save. Players may reveal their cards whenever they want to - but to speed up game play, it should usually only happen when they play cards into their pools.
When a scene is progressing by rounds, players build a card pool by setting cards face up in front of them, aside from their hand. In a round, one card may be played from the hand into the pool after the character takes an action that would help move the scene along (whether he succeeds or not). If a character takes an action that does not directly contribute to the events in the scene, the gamemaster may choose to not let a card be played into the pool that round. During the first round of action, normally no one will have any cards in their pools because no one has had the opportunity to act yet. However, if there are only one or two player characters involved in the action they are allowed to start with a few cards in their pools. This is to give such a small group of characters enough of an edge that they can make it through the first few rounds. If there’s one character, he can start round play with three cards in his pool. If there are two characters, they can start round play with two cards in their pool. During round play, cards in the hand cannot be played for their advantages, only cards in the pool may be used. At any time during a round, players may spend the cards in their pool in any combination they wish, from one card out of the pool to using all the cards in the pool. The only restriction is that the player must decide on all of the cards he wishes to use before telling the gamemaster his final result and learning the outcome. He can’t play a card, ask the gamemaster if he’s successful, and then play another card after that.
Why the Card Pools?
Wouldn’t it be easier to just let the players use cards directly from their hands during round play and skip the whole idea of a card pool? Yes, it would be easier. But it would make things too easy. The card pools help build a natural flow of action for an encounter. The player characters should be at something of a disadvantage at the beginning of most encounters, just battling to survive. But as the encounter wears on, more and better options open up to the characters, until they can finally come out on top. The use of card pools simulates this by slowing down the rate at which players can use their cards, trading time for success. As the card pools grows in size, the characters have a wider selection of options available to them, they have more choices about what to do and how to do it. If players could use any number of cards they wanted straight out of their hand in the first round of an encounter, most encounters wouldn’t last past that first round. It would certainly be easier and more efficient, but a lot less exciting and not as much fun to play.
Playing for the Critical Moment
There is one exception to the restriction about only being able to use cards from a pool during round play. Once per act during round play a player may declare a critical moment and choose to play as many cards from her hand as she wishes directly onto an action. Cards from the pool may also be used during the critical moment. A player must declare a critical moment before they roll the die.
Players may trade cards with each other, representing teamwork and cooperation between the characters. During round play, only cards in pools may be traded. Outside of round play, cards are traded between hands. Both players must agree to the trade and an equal number of cards have to be exchanged.
Trading can take place at any time but needs to be more than just giving and receiving cards. The players involved in the trade must explain the trade in terms of how their characters are helping each other or working together.
Example: Quin and Marco have escaped from the mummy’s tomb and must now find their way out of the desert. Quin is badly hurt and can’t do much on his own so it’s up to Marco to find them some shelter and a source of water. Juan makes a survival skill check for Marco and rolls a 1, generating a really bad skill total of -2! Juan doesn’t have any cards that could help. Paul however has a Second Chance card, but must think up something for Quin to do or say that would let him trade the card to Juan. Quin has survival so Paul asks Becky if Quin would be able to give Marco some advice on how to locate water in the desert. Becky says that he can so Quin tells Marco what he should be looking for and Paul gives Juan the Second Chance card. Juan has to trade one of his cards back to Paul in exchange so he gives Paul a Haste card. Juan uses the Second Chance card to generate another survival skill total and this time rolls well and succeeds, spotting an oasis just over the next sand dune.
Refilling the Hand
At the end of each scene, players pick up the cards from their pools (except for some of the special cards as described later in this chapter) and put them back in their hands. If they have more cards in their hand than they were dealt at the beginning of the adventure they need to discard down to that number of cards. After that, or if they are already at that level or less, they may discard one card they no longer want in their hand. Once all the discarding is done, hands are refilled with cards from the deck up to the specific number of cards.
Example: It’s the end of a scene so each of the players picks up the cards from their pools and adds them back into their hands. Roger currently has three cards in his hand, Barbara has eight cards and Alan has four. Since there are three player characters, the number of cards each one should have is four. Barbara will need to pick four of her cards and discard them. Neither Roger nor Alan needs to discard any cards. Once Barbara has discarded down to four, each player may choose to discard one of the cards in their hand. Barbara is happy with her four cards and chooses not to discard another one. Both Roger and Alan decide to discard one card they don’t think their characters will need in the next scene. Barbara has four cards so she does not get to refill her hand. Roger is down to two cards after discarding and Alan has three. Becky deals Roger two cards from the deck and one card to Alan. Players may not trade cards with each other before discarding at the end of a scene since they aren’t likely to be doing anything, so there’s nothing for them to be cooperating on. If the players can come up with a reasonable explanation though, gamemasters may allow some card trading to occur before cards are discarded and hands are refilled. When the final encounter of the adventure is over, hands are not refilled. Cards are not saved from one adventure to the next, though they are saved from act to act (players should write their card types or ID numbers on their character sheets so that they get the same cards back at the start of the next gaming session).
Game mastering with the Cards
The gamemaster side of the cards affects the flow of the action by giving the initiative to one side or another, and by introducing additional dramatic elements. Each round, the gamemaster flips a card from the drama deck and places it on the action stack. Even if the action is not a combat and is not proceeding in 10-second increments, such as a character using charm on someone, the gamemaster might still flip cards to mark the beats and to regulate the flow of the action that each character performs in the conflict.
Standard and Dramatic Scenes
The gamemaster sets the tone of a scene depending upon how important the scene is to the story. Ordinary scenes are called standard scenes. In a standard scene, the player characters have the edge; the pace is quick and the action fast. In a dramatic scene, the player characters are faced with a tough situation, or a conflict central to the story. The cards are stacked against them, literally - only clever play, good cards, and a little luck will save the day. The pace is slower and more intense, as there is more at stake and the odds are greater. Guidelines for working with standard and dramatic scenes can be found in Chapter Nine.
Initiative and Advantage
The card on top of the action stack determines which side of a conflict has initiative and what advantages or disadvantages, if any, the sides have. The deck assumes there are two sides to any conflict: the hero side, consisting of player characters and their allies, and the villain side, which is composed of all of the characters opposed to the heroes. If the action includes true neutrals, those that are simply caught in the way, they are lumped with the heroes for card purposes. The faction listed on the left half of the encounter line has the initiative. An “H” stands for hero and “V” stands for villain. Any other advantages, disadvantages, or instructions are listed next to the appropriate faction. There are two conflict lines on each card. The top conflict line, marked with an S, is used in standard scenes. The second conflict line, marked with a D, is used for dramatic scenes. There are three advantages and five disadvantages that can appear on the conflict lines:
Conflict Line Advantages
Flurry: Every character on that side of the conflict gets an extra action that round. All characters on the one side take their normal actions and then everyone gets to act again. Characters can receive cards for performing approved actions during either or both of their actions but are still limited to only playing one card from their hands into their pools.
Inspiration: Characters who are inspired immediately remove all shock damage, KO conditions and knockdown results. Unconscious characters wake up fully recovered but suffer a knockdown result that round. Player characters that are inspired also receive a card from the Drama Deck for their card hands.
Up: Every character on the affected side receives a free additional roll to add to their normal rolls this round, like getting to reroll the die on any result instead of just on 10’s and 20’s. This reroll from an up condition cannot be countered with a hero Point, though it can be canceled by a stymied result, and vice versa. A Point may be spent normally to gain another roll on top of this reroll. Any character with multiple actions, such as someone playing a Haste card, gets the free additional roll for all of their rolls in this round.
Conflict Line Disadvantages
Break: Breaks will only occur on the Villain portion of a conflict line. During a break, any injured characters on that side of the action will flee the battle or concede the conflict if they are unable to harm someone on the other side, significantly improve their position or otherwise improve the situation in their favor somehow. Villains who break will flee or concede at the end of the round the break occurs.
Confused: Confused will only occur on the Hero portion of a conflict line. When confused, no player may use cards from her pool, although they may still gain cards from approved actions and can still play a card from their hand into their pool.
Fatigued: A fatigue result inflicts two shock points of damage on every character of the afflicted side. (Note that some types of armor and equipment might increase the amount of shock damage caused by a fatigue result.) The damage from a fatigue does not necessarily have to represent exhaustion, it could be due to fear, stress or a delayed effect of injuries.
Setback: Setbacks make life rougher for the afflicted side. There is any number of ways to represent a setback so it will be covered in detail later.
Stymied: Every character on the affected side of the action loses the first reroll they would otherwise normally get for any reason. If a character never has an opportunity for a reroll, stymied has no other effect. A stymied result can be canceled out by an up result, and vice versa.
Special Villain Actions: When any of the interaction skills (trick, test, taunt and intimidate) are listed on the villain side of the dramatic conflict line, a villain who successfully uses the listed skill against a player character gets to remove cards from the player’s pool. This is described in further detail below.
A “—” on the conflict line means no advantages or disadvantages are in effect for that side during the round.
A setback on the conflict line is a good tool for the prepared gamemaster, a chance to make the lives of the player characters even more difficult in a tense situation (or to help them out if the setback affects the villain side.) Gamemasters should plan in advance possible setbacks for encounters when designing an adventure, but if you feel comfortable with winging it, go ahead. Setbacks include sudden and unexpected turns of events, disastrous coincidences, and failures of people or items outside the characters’ control.
Example: Becky sets up an encounter along a narrow path leading up the side of a mountain. The heroes will be following the villain’s trail into an ambush set by a group of the villain’s henchmen. She decides that if a setback should come up on the conflict line, a character from the side receiving the penalty loses his footing and slips off the trail. While the character can grab onto a scrub bush growing out of the side of the mountain, he will hang nearly helpless, thousands of feet above certain doom, out of combat and
in desperate need of aid. The number of possible setbacks is only limited by the gamemaster’s imagination. Here are a few general suggestions for possible setbacks to use:
• Nonplayer characters on the heroes’ side lose their nerve and flee the scene (like a break result).
• The other side receives reinforcements.
• Equipment fails to work properly that round, bow string breaks for example.
• The nonplayer characters come up with a new fact or astounding but- believable-lie to confound the players, causing them to lose their actions this round.
• The environment causes problems - a rope begins to fray, a smashed lantern starts a fire, a bystander wanders into the middle of the fight, even something as big as an earthquake if it fits the situation and makes things tough for the afflicted side.
• Characters with projectile weapons have only a few rounds of ammunition left.
• Melee weapons are accidentally dropped out of reach.
• Characters slip on something and suffer a knockdown result.
If nothing appropriate can be thought up for a situation, a generic approach to a setback is to apply a +5 penalty to the actions of every character on the afflicted side. With a little experience, gamemasters should be able to find dozens of plot complications that can be introduced through a setback result. An effective technique is to set up a setback that could happen in any of several encounters, and give hints to the players that this might happen. If the villains’ underground complex is near a fault line, have tremors ripple through the tunnels now and again – then let the quake rip after a setback is flipped onto the action stack.
Combat Between Two Player Characters
Although it’s hard to fathom - every once in a while some heroes will see fit to fight each other. Since both sides are heroes, the conflict line advantage or penalty applies to both of them. The characters involved generate action totals with their Dexterity to determine initiative, highest total getting to act first. They play cards into their pools and use them as they ordinarily would.
Using Conflict Lines in the Story
The penalties and bonuses that appear for the villains and heroes each round can be used to inspire more varied descriptions of the conflict’s resolution. For example, although the card says “V Flurry,” the gamemaster could describe a specific way the villain is letting loose rather than just saying that she gets two actions. Does she suddenly go mad from watching the heroes destroy her meticulously built machine, and launch herself into combat without any regard for her own life? Does she suddenly put on a dazzling display of swordsmanship? Remember though, no one has to add color like this if they don’t want to. The game mechanic advantage of the villain flurry (two actions for the villain that round) makes what is happening clear enough.
Special Villain Actions
Taunt, test, trick and intimidate are possible villain instructions on the dramatic conflict line only. They have an additional effect when they appear on the conflict line: if the villains successfully use the appropriate skill when that option appears on the conflict line, the gamemaster removes one card of her choice from the card pool of the affected character and discards it. If the villain gets a superior success, two cards are taken from the pool; on a spectacular success three cards are taken. At the gamemaster’s discretion, the villain does not have to use the listed skill when the opportunity presents itself; she may attack or perform whatever action the gamemaster believes makes the most sense for that villain at that time. Keep in mind that, for instance, a mummy would be unlikely to use taunt, Zombies rarely trick, unintelligent creatures can’t really test, and so on.
On the top card of the action stack is a line labeled “Act:” which stands for approved actions. The line lists two actions, or “any” which means any of the following seven actions are approved: Attack,
Defend, Trick, Test, Taunt, Intimidate, or Maneuver. If a player character succeeds at an approved action, he draws a card from the Drama Deck and adds it to his card hand. An attack is considered successful if it hits, even if it does not cause any damage. A defense is successful as long as the character is attacked and not hit. The gamemaster may disallow certain actions in certain cases. Taking approved actions is the only way players can build up the really large card pools that are necessary to affect impressive opponents. Otherwise they would quickly run out of cards after just a few rounds. The approved action line is meant to encourage players to use tactics other than hacking away at their opponents (though at the same time, attack is in the list of approved actions because sometimes there’s no other choice but to fight.) The approved actions are not meant to be taken as actions that the players must perform in that round, there’s no way a card can predict what would be most effective for the characters to be doing that round. Sometimes the approved actions just aren’t appropriate to what’s going on so there’s no good reason to do them.
Dramatic Skill Resolution
In most situations, a skill use is resolved in a single roll; most of the skills are set up with that assumption. But there are times when it is desirable for the sake of drama to stretch out the skill resolution, to introduce tension that is not possible when something is accomplished with a single roll in a single round of action.
For example, disarming an arcane ritual falls under the province of one of the magic skills, and could be done in a single roll. But this isn’t very exciting, it misses the point of having to take steps to deactivate the ritual in a story; if that ritual were an important element in a story for example, a considerable amount of time would be devoted to defusing it before it goes off. Situations like this call for dramatic skill resolution. A dramatic skill resolution breaks down the use of a single skill into up to four steps, labeled A through D. The gamemaster determines, preferably in advance, what each step represents when performing the task. The same task can be assigned to more than one letter if necessary in Order to stretch things out. Each different step will also have its own difficulty. To successfully complete a dramatic skill resolution, a character must succeed at steps A,B, C and D in that Order (or complete however many steps are involved if not all four steps are being used.) Succeeding at each step requires a separate skill check. If the card shows more than one step for which the character is eligible, he may try to do more than one step in that round by taking a multi-action using the One on Many Chart.
Bad Things Can Happen
Not only can a dramatic action take time, but also things can happen to make the task more difficult along the way. These problems include possible setback, complication, and critical problem. Each of these effects occurs when listed if the character fails her skill roll for that round. If she succeeds, she does not gain a step, but there is no penalty. The difficulty number is the same as whatever step the character would perform next.
Failing when a possible setback appears causes the character to lose a step. If he had been on step C, something causes the character to slip back to step B; step C will have to be repeated.
A complication makes the task more difficult. Failing the skill check during a complication round adds +1 to the difficulty of all further skill checks for the dramatic skill resolution.
Failing the skill check during a critical problem round is real trouble; now the character must use another skill to accomplish the task, or attack the problem from a new angle (which would mean starting over from step A). The player is responsible for figuring out the new skill or course of action; if it does not sound convincing, she must try a different tack next round.
Skill Use as an Approved Action
During a dramatic skill resolution, whenever the character does not have the opportunity to gain a skill step he still gets to make a skill check against the current difficulty number. If he succeeds, it counts as an approved action and he gets a card for his hand. He may also play a card from his hand into his pool that round. This represents the fact that even when temporarily stymied, the heroes of fiction are usually still working toward the final goal. When a character succeeds on a step of the dramatic skill resolution, he may of course play a card into his pool, but it is not counted as an approved action. This may seem perverse, but the intent is to keep the tension high - success is its own reward, and failure leads to eventual success in a dramatic skill resolution.
Last Ditch Effort
It is always possible during a dramatic skill resolution that time will run out before the last step can be completed. If a character is on step C of defusing a Ritual when the spell is about to go off, for instance, he needs a way to take a final, rushed attempt at the problem. During any round of a dramatic skill resolution, the player may declare a last ditch effort to resolve the skill use; any unfinished steps are resolved all at once with the usual multi-action penalty. The difficulty number is additionally increased by +4 beyond the normal multi-action penalty to account for the desperate circumstances of the last ditch effort. If the last ditch effort fails, and there is still time remaining, treat it as a failure during a critical problem.
When appropriate, other characters may aid the lead character during a dramatic skill resolution. To do this, use the coordination rules in Chapter Four to determine any bonuses their aid contributes. They may also help out by trading cards or playing Supporter cards from their pools.
Working the Timing Out
Timing dramatic skill resolution can be tricky. If disaster is looming on the horizon (as it almost always is), how much time should the player get to complete the skill resolution? Use the following as a guideline.
To have the sequence A, B, C, and D appear in Order requires about 14 cards to be flipped if the character is going through the steps one at a time, or about 10 cards if the character is skilled enough to attempt two when the opportunity presents itself. For characters with high skill values (larger than the difficulty number), good cards, and no other pressing business, five flips is fine. As an average, we recommend giving them seven to 10 flips before disaster strikes. The player should be given an indication of how much time their character gets so that they know if they are expected to attempt multiple steps at a time or if they’re expected to go one step at a time. While it may not seem fair to penalize skilled characters by giving them less time, it may be the only way to create any tension for that character with the dramatic skill resolution. If they have too much time available, then all they’re really doing is just making a couple of skill checks instead of one skill check.
Other Uses for Dramatic Skill Resolution
Gamemasters may find other ways to use the dramatic skill resolution system during play. Generally anything that requires multiple steps or has to be done multiple times could use what’s in the dramatic skill box on the card the gamemaster flips onto the action stack. For example, it can be used as a randomizer; if the gamemaster needs to make a random decision about something the players are doing he can assign a letter or letter combination to each possible choice and then flip a card to see what comes up.
The two basic kinds of effects on the player side of the cards are enhancements and specials.
Many of the cards in the deck are enhancements. Some of these cards increase a character’s skill or action values while others allow characters to do something unusual. An enhancement card, once used, is discarded.
The Action card increases the bonus number for all actions a character takes that round (including flurry results and Haste cards) by +3. It cannot be used passively since it increases the bonus and not the underlying value.
Adrenalin, Willpower, and Presence
There are three types of attribute value cards, each of which increases any one of the appropriate attribute values by +3. Adrenalin increases the physical attributes Dexterity, Strength or Toughness, Willpower increases the attributes Perception or Mind, and Presence increases Charisma or Spirit. The player chooses which value to increase with each card. One card may not affect more than one attribute. The effect of attribute cards lasts an entire round - if the character uses a Haste or has a flurry, the benefit lasts for all actions taken that round. If Adrenalin was played on Toughness to increase the character’s resistance to damage, it will last for the rest of the round against any damage the character takes. The benefit does not extend to values that are not generated by the character’s attribute. For instance, an Adrenalin card could not increase the damage value of a gun but the damage value of a bow could be increased.
Coup de Grace
The Coup de grace card increases only the effect value of an action; if the action total fails, the Coup de Grace is no help. If the action the character performs does not have a separate effect value, only then can the Coup de Grace be added to the action total.
The Drama card may be spent as a Hero Point. This Point may be spent in addition to Hero Points a character may normally spend, including other Drama or Hero cards. Villains may negate a Drama card used for an extra roll just as they can a regular Hero Point. If the adventure is completed and a player still holds a Drama card, that player receives three extra Hero Points for his character. This is a reward for surviving the adventure while taking the more difficult path of not using the Drama card during play.
Escape allows the entire party of player characters to escape an encounter. There is only one Escape card in the deck. In Order to use the Escape card, it must be the first card played into a character’s card pool when round play begins. This is so the gamemaster will have time to arrange the necessary circumstances. Once in a card pool, the card can be played at any time.
Glory cards can only be played in rare circumstances. If a player rolls a 60 or more on an action that has a major impact during a dramatic scene, he may play this card. The award given out at the end of the adventure for all player characters involved in the adventure is increased by three possibilities.
The Haste card grants the character an additional action. The action is taken immediately after the card is played. A player may play a Haste card out of turn, during another player’s turn, or during the villain’s turn, as well as during her turn in a round.
The Hero card can be played to gain an extra Hero Point for any action. The point from the card can be used in addition to hero points that a character can normally spend, including other Hero or Drama cards. Villains may negate a Hero card used for an additional roll, just as they can a regular possibility. Unlike the Drama cards, an unused Hero at the end of an adventure is not worth any extra possibilities.
The Idea card simulate those brainstorms fictional characters always have at the right moment. Whenever a character (or the player) is stumped as to what should be done next, the Idea card can be used to get a hint from the gamemaster. When the card is played the player poses a specific problem dealing with the adventure to the gamemaster, who provides an answer. This reflects the fact that the character has deeper knowledge of the world’s workings than the player has, and simulates fictional characters who “get the right idea” at the right time. The gamemaster might simply give the answer to the problem, or might offer a list of solutions that the characters have to pursue.
A Leadership card allows the player to give up to two of her cards to another player, and then she can immediately discard any cards she wishes from her hand and refill her hand to however many cards she was dealt at the beginning of the adventure. Cards in her pool, if any, are not counted for this purpose. The player should explain what her character is doing that provides leadership for the other character. The player using the Leadership card can take the two cards from either her hand or pool if she has one. If used during round play, the Leadership card must be played from her pool like any other card. The cards given to the other player will go into his pool if done during round play, otherwise they go into the player’s hand.
This card lets a player take the top card off of the discard pile in exchange for the Master Plan card, which is placed on the discard pile. The exchanged card must be from the top of the discard pile, not the top card of the action stack. If the Master Plan is used during round play the exchanged card goes into the player’s pool, not the hand.
This card allows a character to stop all hostile action on both sides of a conflict while she makes a dramatic speech (this counts as her action for the round). If the conflict in question is openly violent, the odds of anyone listening to reason are small, but the card will still have the effect of canceling all other actions for the round. The effect of the card lasts a round, possibly more depending on what the character actually says. The gamemaster may want to have players actually perform the monologue themselves in Order for this card to work. There is only one Monologue card in the deck
This card negates any one successful action taken upon the player’s character. If a villain shoots at this character and hits, the player can use the card and the attack fails; it may just miss, or be stopped by hitting something in his pocket, or be deflected by some other stroke of luck. The card “rewrites the script” so that the opponent’s action fails. This is the ultimate defensive card. It is important to note that the card in no way safeguards a character from his failures; that’s what the other cards are there for. An Opponent Fails card may be played after any successful action taken against a character, but must be played before the next roll of the game is made by anyone. It cannot be used to negate actions of other characters that are not directed at the player character.
This lets a character immediately retry an action after he has failed the first time; all consequences of the first die roll are ignored, but any cards or possibilities used do not carry over to the second roll. The gamemaster must enforce the “immediately” - the Second Chance must be taken before another player rolls or any other cards are played.
This card allows the players to either keep the card currently on the action stack for one more round (if it is beneficial to them), or flip another card up for this round (if the one just flipped is bad for them).
Once the gamemaster flips the next card over, Seize Initiative may only be used to flip again, not to go back to the previous card. If the gamemaster flips over a card with a confused result on it, the Seize Initiative may not be played to flip another card; the confused result takes precedence and prevents the players from using any of their cards, including Seize Initiative.
This card lets a player add +3 to another character’s bonus number. This card may be played after the other player rolls the die but before the gamemaster announce the final result. The supporting character’s player should explain how her support benefits the acting character.
The Rally card lets all players discard as many cards as they wish from their hands and immediately draw to refill their hands to however many they were dealt at the beginning of the adventure. Cards in their pools are not counted for this purpose. There is only one Rally card.
There are three types of cards that have an orange bar on the player’s side. When these cards are played into a pool they remain there until used or until the end of the adventure. Players do not pick them up and put them back into their hands at the end of a scene and they do not count as being in the player’s hand when it comes time to refill the hand. These three types of cards are Alertness cards, Connection cards and subplot cards. Additionally, there are several different types of subplot cards.
Alertness lets a character notice an item or clue she otherwise would have missed. The card assures that a hero searching or examining an area will find or notice something (information, an item, an ambush) as long as it is there to be found, whether he makes his find roll or not. It is placed into the card pool normally, but once there, the gamemaster keeps track of it; when there is a clue to be found, and all characters have missed their chance to notice it, the gamemaster activates the Alertness card and tells the player what they missed. When the Alertness card is activated by the gamemaster, it is discarded.
Example: Father Wagner, when he arrived at the scene of a murder, failed his find skill check and did not discover the murder weapon, an ancient dagger, buried at the bottom of the garbage can in a corner of the room. However, Tina had earlier played an Alertness card into her pool. Because there is something to find in the room and Wagner missed it, Becky takes the Alertness card, puts it in the discard pile and mentions that Wagner spots a glint of gold in the garbage can - a rather peculiar sight. If there had been nothing to find in the room, the card would have remained in Tina’s pool. It would not be used until Wagner was in a situation where there was something to find and he failed to find it on his own.
Connection lets a player character know someone in the area that might be able to offer her some help. This reflects the fact that characters have a “past” that reaches back beyond the point where the player began playing the character. It does not mean that the character automatically finds the person, just that there is someone available. A Connection is played into the card pool normally, but once there the gamemaster keeps track of it until he activates it (which may not be exactly when the player expects it to be activated.) Once activated, it is discarded. It is up to the gamemaster to decide exactly who and what the contact is, and how helpful she will actually be to the player character. The players are free, and encouraged, to provide suggestions, but the gamemaster has final say. A Connection should show up as soon as it makes sense for the story. If the heroes are trapped in a tomb and someone plays a Connection card, there isn’t really much of an opportunity to introduce a friendly nonplayer character at that time, but it should show up somewhat soon.
A subplot is a story within a story. In Torg, a subplot card adds an additional wrinkle to the story as told by the players and the gamemaster. A subplot card assigns a character a role to play or a motivation that helps the player guide her character’s actions. When a subplot card is played into a card pool, the player can suggest to the gamemaster how this subplot applies to his character, but this is not necessary, sometimes the player may not have an idea for how the subplot might work. The subplot cards give players a chance to introduce elements that will broaden the role of their characters in the story. By making the subplots into cards that each player has the option to play or not, no player is forced to participate in a subplot that he does not want. The player decides for himself what entanglements he wishes to take for his character. If a player would rather not play a subplot, she may discard it instead of putting it into her pool. When a subplot is discarded, the player receives a “compensation” of one possibility for her character and a replacement card from the Drama Deck. The gamemaster can disallow any subplot card that he feels does not fit in the story. If the gamemaster disallows a subplot, it is discarded and the compensation is given to the player. Once a subplot has been accepted though, it cannot be discard later for compensation. Players may only have one active subplot per adventure. Subplot cards that have been placed into a pool may not be traded, though un-activated subplots in a player’s card hand may be traded like normal cards. Once in play, a character who has a subplot in his pool gains an additional possibility at the end of each act in which the subplot is active, as a reward for taking on the exciting, but sometimes detrimental, effects of the subplot. If a player takes on a subplot and then consistently ignores the story elements of that subplot, they do not get the extra possibility at the end of the act. Gamemasters may also wish to reduce a player’s final adventure award if the player consistently ignores the subplot throughout the entire adventure. Before an adventure begins, the gamemaster should outline which of the subplots are easily incorporated into the adventure and which ones won’t work. That way when a player puts a subplot into her pool, the gamemaster already knows whether or not to disallow the subplot. Subplots do not have to start as soon as the gamemaster approves it. It’s possible that a player will put a subplot card into his pool long before the planned circumstances will occur. For example, a gamemaster may have planned on introducing a nonplayer character in the middle of the adventure that would be suitable for a Romance subplot. At the very beginning of the adventure though, one of the players puts a Romance card down on the table. Even though the
Romance can’t start until the nonplayer character shows up; the gamemaster can go ahead and approve it at that time. The subplot just won’t be considered active until it can begin. The player must keep in mind that he does not necessarily know how the subplot will affect his character or whom it will involve. For example, when Paul plays a Romance card after Quin meets a jungle princess, it does not mean that Quin will become involved romantically with the princess - Becky might have a romance prepared with one of the princess’s slaves instead.
Circumstances of Subplots
Depending on circumstances, several of the subplots could be quite similar. If a villain kidnaps the true love of a character, it might be a Romance with a twist, or a Personal Stake, or the Nemesis pulling another stunt. If a hero is thought to have stolen the Queen’s jewels, is it Suspicion or Mistaken Identity? There are two reasons for leaving a degree of overlap between the subplots. The first is that the subplots are more flexible this way. If there is a theft involved in the adventure and the gamemaster wants one of the characters to be suspected of the crime, there are two subplots by which this suspicion may be introduced (Suspicion or Mistaken Identity). However, the circumstances may vary between the two subplots. Is the hero mistaken for Milton Avery, a renowned jewel thief, the man whom the guards suspect stole the jewels? Or does the detective investigating the case suspect the hero on a hunch? In one case there is an actual, well-known individual who is involved in the subplot, and in the other the hero has to clear his name. In other words, it makes a great deal of difference if the villain who kidnaps a woman is a nemesis or if the woman kidnapped is the hero’s romance. Not only would an encounter between the hero and the villain be played very differently, but also the motivation for the two subplots would differ greatly as well. In one case the hero would want to prevent the fiend from ever performing evil actions again, and in the other he would want to rescue his true love at all costs.
Types of Subplots
With this subplot the character is thought to be someone else by one or more gamemaster characters, or else believes another character to be someone she isn’t. The former is usually more fun to play. The mistake may be because of physical similarity or misinformation (“It will be the first man who walks through the door and says “good-morning! Fine day, eh?’”) The subplot may be comic
There is, somewhere in the adventure, someone against whom the character has a grudge, or who has a grudge against the character. The conflict may stretch back to their childhood, or may start when the player character bests the nonplayer character during their first encounter this adventure. The gamemaster should make sure that the nemesis and the player character have a few scenes alone together, including (and most importantly) a final showdown. The showdown does not have to culminate in a huge, knockdown battle to the death, but there should be a satisfying resolution. The nemesis might not settle for less than the hero’s death, though the player character might want to merely imprison the villain. If a Nemesis is campaigned, the villain might seem to be killed (falling off of a cliff or into a snake pit) only to reappear later, but he should be out of the hero’s hair for at least a couple of adventures.
When the Personal Stake subplot is played, the character becomes emotionally tied to the major plot at hand. The woman his group has been hired to rescue may turn out to be someone he loves, or a long lost relative. The villain may turn out to be the man who killed the character’s family or scarred him for life. The city under siege might be the character’s hometown. Whatever it is, it gives the character a stronger reason to triumph when facing challenges encountered during the adventure.
The player character becomes romantically involved with a nonplayer character. The romance may be one sided, with the nonplayer character in love with the player character or a love struck player character scorned by a nonplayer character. They may be in love with each other, but separated by social standing or jealous spouses. They may start out hating each other but eventually become attracted to each other. Remember that a complicated romance is more interesting than a romance with no problems, because a perfect romance isn’t very dramatic to anyone but the two people involved. There are two Romance cards in the deck. If both are in play it might mean that both player characters are involved with the same nonplayer character (causing some tension), or that there are two separate romantic interests available. The former is usually a lot more interesting to play.
This subplot casts a pall of guilt over a character. The character might be suspected of a murder in the past, a recent theft, or simply be regarded as somebody worth watching with a careful eye. The suspicion may be well founded or it might only be the result of rumor. The people who suspect the character might even be other player characters.
This subplot is the opposite of Mistaken Identity. The character actually is somebody who matters to one or more nonplayer characters, but nobody knows it. Alternately, the player character knows the true identity of someone else. The character with the True Identity may be completely unaware of her true identity, or may be deliberately hiding behind a false identity. Examples of true identities are the heir to the throne who was spirited away at birth, the son (or daughter) of the villain the heroes are pursuing, the man who was prophesied generations ago to kill the beast in the mountains, and the master villain masquerading with a double identity.
The Martyr card hangs a peculiar shadow over the character whose player took the subplot, for everyone knows that the character is so noble in intent that his own life is less important than the defeat of evil. Or perhaps the character feels so certain that he’s going to die on this adventure it casts a gloomy pall over everything he does that adventure. It could even be a death wish; the character wants to go out in a blaze of glory. However it’s interpreted, the character should be played as if his life is on the edge, because it just might be that way. The Martyr subplot card, because of the special game mechanics associated with it, cannot be campaigned. The Martyr card is the only subplot card with an additional rules mechanic. A character whose player has this card out may, at any time, sacrifice his life and automatically produce a victorious condition in the face of disaster. It is important though to remember that a character with the Martyr card does not have to sacrifice herself during the adventure. It is simply an option when all else fails. If the character makes it to the end of the adventure without using the card’s special game mechanic, the gloomy shadow hanging over the character is lifted. However, if the Martyr card was treated more as an “automatic victory” card rather than roleplayed as a subplot, the gamemaster has the option of reducing the character’s final adventure award by the same number of possibilities gained from the subplot during play (i.e., one Possibility Point per act the Martyr card was active.) But if the subplot was roleplayed, the character gets to keep the possibilities. The Martyr subplot cannot be campaigned.
The Campaign Card
In most cases a subplot lasts from when it is played to the end of that adventure. For example, a Nemesis is established for a player character at some point in the story, and by the story’s end the nemesis is defeated by that character. The player of a character with a subplot may want to retain the subplot for his character, in effect create a new background subplot (see Chapter Two) for the character. To do this he, or another player, plays the Campaign card while the subplot card is active. A player must agree to have his subplot “campaigned”, even if another player lays down the Campaign card. The gamemaster must also approve the campaigning of a subplot. For example, if Alan plays the Campaign card on Quin’s Romance subplot, and both Paul and Becky agree, Quin’s affair with the jungle princess’s servant continues through adventures to come. She may not be involved in all adventures (he’s a busy fellow, trotting all over the globe and such), but when she is involved in an adventure, Quin automatically has a romance subplot activated in that adventure, just like a background subplot. She may be in trouble, somebody else may be courting her, but the gamemaster will have her there, waiting with a subplot. This, of course, gives Quin extra Hero Points at the end of each act the subplot is active. Additionally, if Paul gets the romance subplot card again during a game and activates it, Becky already has some idea of who and what it should entail. A Campaign card is used only in campaign games, which are a string of related adventures using the same heroes. Campaign games are played on a regular basis; if you are not running a campaign, then the Campaign card has no effect. The Campaign card, if discarded or disapproved, is worth one possibility and a replacement card, as any other subplot.