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Drama Deck

Page history last edited by Garry Timmons 15 years ago

The Drama Deck

TORG uses drama cards to mimic the ebb and flow of action in an adventure story. The gamemaster deals a hand of four cards (hand size varies based on number of players)to each player, but does not deal himself a hand. The rest of the cards are placed into the drama deck. When cards are discarded they are placed face up into the 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.

During normal scenes, when the player characters are searching a room, discussing amongst themselves, etc., time passes about the same rate in game as it does in real life. At these times, cards may be played at any time during the scene (see "Your Hand," below, for more details).

During a scene that involves a chase, combat, or other conflict (see Combat ), action is divided into rounds.

During a scene with rounds, only one card may be played each round. Each round the gamemaster flips a card from the drama deck and places it on the action stack. Even if the action is not combat and is not proceeding in 10-second incriments, the gamemaster might still flip cards to mark the beats and to regulate the amount of action each character performs in a given part of the scene. The cards affect the flow of the action by giving initiative to one side or another, and by introducing additional dramatic elements. The cards have text which explains many of their functions. You can read about the cards below, or view them on the Cards page.


Standard Versus Dramatic Scene

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, your party is faced with a tough situation or conflict central to the story. The cards are stacked against you -- only clever play, good cards, or luck will save the day. The pace is slower and more intense, as there is more at stake and the odds are greater.


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 who 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 for villain. Any other advantages, disadvantages, or instructions are listed next to the appropriate faction.

A faction can have one of the following advantages: flurry, inspiration, or up. A faction can have one of the following disadvantages: break, confused, fatigue, stymied, or setback. A —- means that no advantage or disadvantage is in effect.


Conflict Line Advantages/Disadvantages

The dramatic text above the conflict line (“They’re on the run!”) is included for flavor, and has no effect on play.

Flurry: Each character gets 2 rounds of action before the other side can react.

Inspiration: Removes all shock damage and KO conditions.

Life Rage: Counts as an Up for any character whose reality is the Living Land.

They are filled with rage by Lanala, directed against those who use dead tools. This Up lasts for the duration of the scene, or until all characters (of which the Lanala worshipper is aware) stop using dead things as tools.

Up: All get an additional roll as if they had spent a possibility. May not be countered.

Break: Villains only. Damaged characters who fail to hit will flee.

Breakdown: Affects only characters fitted with cyberware. Automatically results in a cyberpsychosis check. Check adds a +2 bonus to the cyber total generated by the gamemaster to determine whether cyberpsychosis exists or not.

Confused: No player may activate a card from her pool.

Danger: Indicates a new danger which is in effect for only the round. Adds a +3 difficulty modifier to all Dexterity and Strength actions for that round. Danger affects both sides of the conflict. Due to the Law of Drama, all characters whose reality is the Nile Empire suffer a +5 difficulty modifier instead of +3.

Fatigued: All characters take 2 points of shock damage.

Setback: Triggers setback event, or prevents affected side from taking offensive action.

Stymied: All characters lose one chance to roll a die again for an action.

Taunt, Test, Trick, and/or Intimidate: If villain succeeds in a skill use, may remove card(s) from opponent's pool.


Your Hand

The four cards dealt into your hand are separate from the rest of the drama deck. Ignore the part of each card with the orange border; you are interested only in the half with the gray border, which gives you advantages over your opponents by increasing a skill value or bonus, or by allowing you to “break the rules” in some specific way.

During parts of scenes that are not progressing by rounds, you may play cards directly from your hand, at any time during the scene. But when the action begins to go in rounds (when the gamemaster starts flipping cards onto the action stack), you can only play cards from your “card pool.”


Card Pools

When a scene is progressing by rounds, you build a card pool by setting cards face up, aside from your hand. In a round, add one card to your pool if your character takes an action that would help move the scene along (whether he succeeds or not). If your character is taking an action that does not directly contribute to the events in the scene, the gamemaster might not allow you to put a card into your pool that round.

During rounds, you may not play a card for its advantage directly from your hand, only from your pool. At any time during a round, you may spend the cards in your pool in any combination you wish, from one card in your pool to all the cards in your pool. The only restriction is that you may not play cards, ask the gamemaster what effect you’ve had so far, and then play more cards. You must play all the cards you intend to play before finding out what effect you’ve had.


Approved Actions

During each combat round, there are at least two actions that are designated as “Approved Actions.” If a character succeeds at an approved action, the player draws a card. If a villain succeeds at an approved action (certain conflict lines allow them to initiate approved actions for this purpose), the player affected by the approved action loses 1-3 cards. Each action can only result in the gain of one card per round, but a character can earn multiple cards if he or she does multiple approved actions. If the conflict line allows “Any” approved action, a character can gain a card for each standard action category (Attack, Defend, Maneuver, Trick, Test, Taunt, Intimidate, Other). In a reality storm, the only actions that exist are Attack, Defend and Other, and thus cards can only be gained when the conflict lines allow those as approved actions.


Dramatic Skill Resolution

The only time two uses from a single card affect the game at the same time is when a card is placed on the action stack during a conflict,and dramatic skill resolution is also in effect.Use both the upper and middle parts of the card in this case.

In most situations, you will want to resolve a skill use in a single roll;most of the skills are set up with the 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 in single roll.

For example,disarming a bomb falls under the province of the science skill, and could be done in a single roll. This misses the point,though,of disarming a bomb in a story; if that bomb was a important element in a moive,a considerable amount of screen time could be devoted to defusing it.For this reason,at such moments we prefer to use dramatic skill resolution.

A dramatic skill resolutionbreaks down the use of a single skill into four steps,labeled A through D. As gamemaster you decide, preferably in advance,what each step repersents when preforming the task.You also need to define what the difficulty of the skill use is.Each step of a dramatic skill resolution has that difficulty.

In a round a character may only attempt the steps that are listed on the top card of the action stack.To succeed at a dramatic skill resolution,a caracter must succeed at step A,B,C and D in that order.Succeeding at each step requires a skill check.

If the card shows more then one step for which the character is eligible,he may try to do them all at once using the One on Many Multi-Action Chart(see gamemaster Chapter Two). Ignore the Toughness Increase column in this case.

Bad Things Can Happen

Not only can dramatic actions take time,but things can make a character's life harded along the way. These includePossible Setback, Complication and Critical Problem. Each of these effects occurs when listed, if the character fails his skill roll for that round.If he susseeds,he does not gain a step, but there is no penalty.

  • Possible Setback: 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 must be repeated.
  • Complication: A Complication makes life more difficult. Failing the skill check during a Complication round adds 1 to the difficulty of all further skill checks for this action.
  • Critical Problem: Failing a 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 od action: if it does not sound convincing, he must try a different task next round.


Playing For The Critical Moment

There are times when a player really needs access to a card that is not in the pool yet. TORG allows players to declare a character’s critical moment once each act. If a player does this, all the cards in his or her hand are immediately moved into the card pool, and are therefore playable and tradable. The drawback to this action is that as soon as the action that triggered the critical moment is done, any non-Subplot cards still in that player’s pool are lost.


Losing Cards

Enemy action can actually remove cards from your pool through tricks, tests, and taunts used by the villains. If a villain successfully uses one of these skills on your character, the gamemaster may remove some of the cards from your pool. Part of the tension of the card play is knowing how long to wait before expanding your pool. You cannot play a card when it is being removed to avoid losing it. Once the card loss action succeeds the gamemaster will remove a card and it is gone.


Trading Cards

Players may trade eligible cards with other players on a one-for-one basis, and may make as many trades as they wish, but only with players whose characters are in the same “combat.” So if there is a combat in one room with a vampire, and another combat nearby with a werewolf, the players in each combat can trade with each other, but they can’t trade with people in the other combat. If the one group defeats the vampire, and then joins the fight with the werewolf, they can then start trading with the players already there.


Replenishing You Hand

At the end of each scene, and at the end of each combat that occurs in the middle of a scene, the characters undergo the hand reset. Any player with more than four cards must discard down to four. Then all players may discard one card, and receive enough new cards to bring the total cards in hand to four. If this happens at the end of combat, all grey-topped cards in the card pool are returned to the hand before the hand reset begins.


Card Descriptions

Special Cards

There are three types of cards that are specially tinted with only gamemaster colors; these cards do not count against your hand total of four at the end of a scene. Once played, they remain on the table (they are considered to be “in your pool” even if the scene is not in rounds) until they are used, or until the end of the adventure. These three types of cards are subplot cards, connection cards, and alertness cards.


When a player plays a Subplot card, it immediately goes face-up into the pool, where it remains until used. If a player does not want the Subplot to take effect, he or she may discard it and add one Possibility to the character sheet. Likewise, a gamemaster may feel a specific Subplot is inappropriate, and remove it from the pool, giving the character a Possibility as compensation. If it is appropriate, the character earns one Possibility at the end of every act in which the Subplot influences the story. Subplots end when the adventure ends unless a Campaign card is played.


This card allows a player to notice an otherwise unnoticed fact, clue, etc. This Subplot usually ends once the card activates. Alertness is a gamemaster-tinted card, and so does not count against your total of four cards when replenishing your hand; it remains in your pool until used.


This card can only be played by a character with an active Subplot in effect. It allows the Subplot to influence other adventures beyond the current one.


This card allows a player to find another character in the area who can help out in a situation. It is up to the gamemaster to determine who the connection is and what help is available. Again, this Subplot usually ends when the card activates.


You suffer from an illness that hinders your performance. You have a -1 to the effect value of all skill checks. -2 if it is a combat skill (ie fire combat, dodge, etc..)


This Subplot allows a character to prepare for his or her death, and at the appropriate moment, sacrifice his or her life to achieve a party goal with automatic success. It is important to remember that the character with this subplot in effect does not have to sacrifice his life, it is simply an option when all else fails. However, if you have this subplot in play and do not use it, your possibility award at the end of the adventure will be significantly reduced.

Mistaken Identity

This Subplot causes a character to make a mistake about another person’s identity.


This Subplot causes a character to acquire a nemesis, who will take special attention to the character.


This card introduces a romantic element into the story. It does not have to be reciprocated. Some of the more interesting story elements come from having someone having romantic feelings for a person who doesn’t notice what’s going on.


This Subplot makes a character suspicious of another character’s actions or intentions.

True Identity

As above, but the suspected identity is true. True Identity can also mean that the character discovers something about him or herself.

Cards That Increase Value And Bonus


This card adds 3 to the bonus number you generated from a die roll. So if you roll a 7 (-2 bonus, see action chart) and then play an Action card, the bonus number is now +1.

Adrenalin, Willpower and Presence

These cards are grouped together because they do the same thing, only for different classes of skills. They allow a character to add 3 to the value of one skill based on any of the attributes listed on the card for that round. Adrenalin modifies physical skills, Willpower modifies mental skills, and Presence modifies social and spiritual skills. Notice that only one skill gets modified, not the attribute itself, but the modification lasts for the entire round. For these purposes, equipment whose rating is based on an attribute counts as a modifiable skill, therefore you can use Adrenalin to raise your character’s armor or spear value for the round.

Coup de Grace

Increases the effect value for an action.

Possibility Cards (Hero and Drama)

The Hero card acts as if you had spent a Possibility. It may be used in all the same ways.

The Drama card is like a Hero card with an added twist. If you end the adventure (not just the act) with the Drama card still in your possession, you add 3 Possibilities to your adventure award.

Other Cards


Grants a bonus to all skills used to defend against 1 specific opponent until the end of the scene.


This card insures that the group can escape an encounter alive. It has no effect unless it is the first card its player played into the pool in the current combat.


If played after rolling 60+ for a key action during a dramatic scene, increases possibility award for all players in adventure by 3.


Gives an extra action at any time during the round.

Hero Fails

This card cancels one of your successful actions in exchange for extra possibilities.


This card lets you ask about what course of action your characters should take. You will receive at least one useful idea about the next course of action.


Use this card to remove all shock and K or O damage from one character (including yourself).


This card takes two cards from your hand or pool and puts them in other players’ pools. You then draw cards until your hand (not counting your pool) contains four cards.

Master Plan

You may exchange a Master Plan for the top card of the discard pile. Unlike every other card in the game, you may play this card from your hand while in combat rounds. The card you get goes to wherever the Master Plan card came from.


This card stops hostile actions while you make a dramatic speech.

Opponent Fails

This card cancels an opponent’s action that was aimed at you. If the opponent aimed at multiple people, only the result against you is canceled.

Net Gain

Gain a bonus to skills used in the GodNet or on the Grid.


This card allows all players in the combat to keep or discard any cards still in their hands. Once all players have done so, they each draw until their hand (not counting their pool) contains four cards.

Reality's Favorite

Allows you to prevent the cancelling of one of your possibilities.


This card will allow you to automatically reconnect to your home cosm after suffering a disconnection, or it will allow you to ignore a disconnect result that just happened to you.

Second Chance

This card lets you retry an action that has been ruled a failure.

Seize Initiative

May keep current card on the action stack for next round or immediately flip a new card onto the stack.


You can use this card to cause one character to suffer as though a Setback result had come up on the conflict line, or use it to remove a setback from target character.


This card adds 3 to the bonus number another character generates from a die roll. This can include non-player characters.


Gives a bonus to any action to avoid danger or overcome the environment. It also acts like a Second Chance card if played in the Living Land.

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