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Action Cant

Design: Jasyn Jones
Commentary: Phil Dack

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Torg is a cinematic game, the mechanics of which encourage fast-paced action. Some realities, however, are more fast-and-furious than others.

The Nile Empire is a pulp realm, it draws inspiration from Golden Age comics and movie serials. Orrorsh is the reality of fear, it reflects various horror movies and novels.

The essence of Torg is the clash between different realities such as these. To depict this, the game mechanics use Axioms and World Laws.

Axioms limit the ability of the living to create and use tools. World Laws define the "genre" of a reality. Though they measure many ways in which realities differ, neither fully capture the differing levels of action common to all realities.

This article expands the basic reality rules of Torg. In addition to Axioms and World Laws, it adds a new aspect to the reality of a cosm: the Action Cant.

Action Cant
Core Earth
Land Below
Living Land
Nile Empire
Nippon Tech
Space Gods

*Or 1, depending on how tough you want the Living Land to be.

Value Action Game Effects
1 Gritty 1 damage packet per possibility. Roll-agains on a 10. 3 cards per hand. Glory 50.
2 Adventurous 2 damage packets per possibility. Roll-agains on a 10. 4 cards per hand. Glory 50.
3 Cinematic 3 damage packets per possibility. Roll-agains on 10 and 20. 4 cards per hand. Glory 60.
4 Heroic 4 damage packets per possibility. Roll-agains on 10 and 20. 4 cards per hand. First action is free. Glory 60.
5 Superheroic 5 damage packets per possibility. Roll-agains on 10 and 20. 5 cards per hand. First action is free. Glory 60.

High Lords and Ords

High Lords and chief lieutenants of High Lords should always be treated as if they were Action 5. This adds a little extra menace to these prime villains.

"Ords" are individuals who are ordinary. They are the dependents and minor characters in a Torg "movie." They are intended to be real people, whereas Storm Knights are the larger-than-life heroes. Ords should always be realistic, while Storm Knights are more cinematic.

Under these rules, ords should always be treated as if their Action Cant were 1. This highlights the contrast between Storm Knights and ords.

World Laws

World Laws can modify the Action Cant. In the Space Gods reality, for example, the rules on damage packets are modified by the alignment of the character (Aka, Coar, or Zinatt.) World Laws override the Action Cant for natives of that reality (always) and for visitors to that reality (only while they are there). Other World Laws can be adjudicated in a similar manner.

Gamemasters should also feel free to adjust certain World Laws, in regards to the Action Cant. This can customize these rules for a particular cosm. For instance, this author has modified the Nile’s Law of Action to allow Nilish characters to have access to their Action 4, even when they are in other cosms. In that case, using the benefits of their Action Cant causes a 1-case contradiction (as it is the effect of a World Law).

The Action Cant measures how action-oriented a reality is on a 5-point scale, from "Gritty" to "Superheroic." Cosms with a high Action Cant are fast-paced and furious, realms with a low Action Cant are more "realistic."

In general, most realities are assumed to have an Action value of 3, unless the genre of the reality indicates otherwise. Core Earth, for example, is a 3. The Nile is more action oriented, and so rates a 4. Nippon Tech is more realistic, so it would probably be a 2.

The chart includes the author’s interpretations of Torg realities and their probable Action Cant.

The Rules

The Action Cant governs how many damage packets a character can buy off with a possibility, roll-again opportunities, the roll required to achieve a Glory, how many Drama Deck cards each player can have in their hand, and (at a high Cant) a character’s first multi-action is free.

Damage Packets

Possibilities can be used to "buy off" damage. In default Torg, each possibility can buy off 3 "packets" of damage. One damage packet is 3 Shock, 1 Wound, "K," "O," or "KO".

With these rules, the Action Cant determines how many damage packets a character can buy off with each possibility. In a realm with Action 1, only 1 damage packet can be bought off with each possibility. In a realm with Action 5, 5 damage packets can be bought off.


Torg has a mechanic commonly referred to as an "exploding" dice. Whenever the d20 is rolled, the player can roll-again on a 10 or 20. This is modified depending on whether the character is an ord or a stormer and if the character has adds in the appropriate skill.

When using the Action Cant rules, ords and stormers are treated the same for roll-again opportunities— they both have the roll-again opportunities the Action Cant gives them. In a realm with Action 1 or 2, characters can roll-again on a 10, but not a 20. In a realm with Action 3 (or higher) characters can roll-again on a natural 10 or 20.

This restriction doesn’t apply to possibilities. When a character rolls the d20, then spends a possibility to roll another dice and add it to the first, the possibility die roll (but not the original) has roll-agains on 10 and 20.

Characters who do not have adds in a skill, yet attempt to use it, are considered unskilled. When using these rules, being unskilled has two effects. The Difficulty Number for unskilled skill use is usually higher (see The Storm Knights’ Guide to the Possibility Wars, pg. 63-65) and the character is stymied. This condition "cancels" the first roll-again opportunity, as normal.

Card Hands

When using the Torg Drama Deck, the normal size of a player’s hand is 4 cards. Whenever the player gets to refill their hand, they refill up to 4 (not counting subplots and other special cards).

The hand size of players is now dependent on the Action Cant of the realm they are adventuring in. In a realm with Action 1 or 2, their hand size is 3 cards- they can only ever have 3 cards in their hands (subplots and other special cards excepted). In Action 3, the hand size is 4 cards. In Action 5, it is 5 cards.


The One-on-Many multi-action rules (pg. 107 of the Revised and Expanded Torg Rulebook) enable characters to engage in the kind of cinematic heroics essential to a good Torg game. Instead of 1 action per each round, Torg characters can try multiple actions, though at a penalty of increasing each action’s Difficulty Number..

In realms with an Action rating of 4 or 5, multi-actions become easier: the first action taken in a round doesn’t count when calculating the multi-action penalty penalty.


The limited roll-again opportunities available at Action 1 and 2 make achieving a Glory result harder. Accordingly, the required roll for achieving a Glory in those realities is lower, a 50 instead of a 60.

Action Cant and Reality

Orrorsh and the Action Cant

Orrorsh has a suggested Action Cant of 1, making it a Gritty reality. Nearly all horror movies or stories are tend to the "gritty" end of the scale, not the "cinematic" end. In a Gritty reality characters are less likely to attempt (and succeed at) fantastic feats and less likely to shrug off damage (making combat more lethal and more rare) than in a more cinematic reality.

The "Marked for Death" Fear result (see the Orrorsh Sourcebook, pg. 63) overlaps somewhat with the Action Cant mechanics for buying off Damage. In a Gritty reality (like Orrorsh), characters can only buy off 1 damage packet with a Possibility, whereas with Marked For Death, characters can’t spend Possibilities to buy off damage at all.

Orrorsh’s Action Cant applies all of the time and so marking a character for death in those situations is somewhat gratuitous. If using the Action Cant rules with Orrorsh, it would probably be better to eliminate the "Marked for Death" Fear result, in the interest of balance.

Cants are a third part of a cosm’s reality. The first two are World Laws and Axioms. Axioms and World Laws both have different rules for contradictions and other reality-crossing mechanics. Cants function differently from both World Laws and Axioms.

A reality’s Action Cant affects all those who enter the reality, without contradiction. Anyone who enters takes full advantage of the Cant’s benefits (or hindrances.) This causes no contradictions, so never threatens characters with disconnection. Characters do not possess Cants, and thus are not affected by their "home" Cant when outside their reality.

These rules, despite being somewhat different from those usual in Torg, are necessary, both to maintain the integrity of a cosm’s genre and for game balance. Cosms with "gritty" action would be far too easy for a heroic or superheroic character to adventure in- they would simply be far tougher than locals. Conversely, characters from a "gritty" realm would be far too hampered in a "superheroic" realm.

The genre of a cosm is enhanced by an appropriate Action Cant rating. Characters can be far more heroic in a "pulp" realm than in a horror realm. By having the Cant be a universal convention, alien characters play by the same rules as locals.

Mixed Zones
Mixed Zone Chart
  Realm 1
Realm 2 1 2 3 4 5
1 1 2 2 3 3
2 2 2 3 3 3
3 2 3 3 3 4
4 3 3 3 4 4
5 3 3 4 4 5

Mixed zones are rare occurrences. They are usually violently storm ridden areas where two realities battle for dominance. Reality fluxes and shifts, with one realm or the other predominating. This instability means the effective Action Cant can change from moment to moment, although it can also remain stable over long periods of time.

Gamemasters may choose what the Action Cant is at any given moment, selecting the Cant of one reality or the other or any value in between. Of course, if both realities have the same Cant, this is the Cant for the whole mixed zone.

Alternately, gamemasters may consult the mixed zone chart (which averages out the different Cants). To use, read the Action Cant of the first reality across, then the second reality’s Cant down. The intersection of the two is the effective Cant of the mixed zone.

Updated: Feb. 4, 2006
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