Book - Torment: The Explorer's Guide

Our Defective Inspector turns games master with the tabletop game sourcebook Torment: The Explorer’s Guide by Shanna Germain, thanks to Monte Cook Games...

It happened again, someone gave me a book. I'm starting to think they trust me... Luckily for me this kind of book is something I am familiar with, a sourcebook which is often used for table top games similar to that seen with Pathfinder or D&D. This particular book is in fact source material for both a table top world and the video game due to arrive in the next few months. Rarely do my two worlds meet so successfully so once again I threw my hand into the air begging for a chance to go full Aladdin and enter a whole new world.

One thing I cannot stress enough; this is not a strategy guide. It’s not designed to allow you sneaky insight into a game still forming or as a cheat code codex to allow you to circumvent the harder moments in your digital life. NO. This is pure lore/information and acts as a spine of any good game regardless of medium. Torment: The Explorer’s Guide (Hence forth called TTEG as that name is far too long to keep writing) is designed to enrich the experience and help you understand, not overcome, the world you have embarked upon. Specifically, it is designed for the upcoming computer game under the same name but like all good source books it is a well of information which allows any kind of bucket to have its fill. It may answer questions like “How can air-breathing creatures survive in the Sunken Market?” or “What is the difference between a Meatmonger and a butcher?” but it won’t tell you how important the answers are. Like most pieces of atmospheric lore, it’s superficial but beautiful none the less.

So reviewing something like this you cannot really say if the information is accurate, really the question is if it’s interesting. Useful presumably accurate information is in there, mainly in the back when looking at particular creatures/classes/races/etc but the chunkiest piece of these 160 pages is descriptive enjoyment. Well… Not so much enjoyment as it is captivating… Remember the Meatmonger I mentioned? His name is Meuk and he has a very interesting device which seems to force regrowth of flesh mounds which can be sold as food. If that didn’t already put the gross in engross you later understand Meuk has attempted to use device on his own living tissue resulting in abnormal toe like growths to form around his body forcing him to wear clothing to avoid disgust from his customers. Within a relatively small part of the book I now fully understand the concept of a man described as a short, solid, greasy mess of a creature selling pulsating self-growing flesh sacks while hiding a body covered in foot fingers. This is how you can tell the book is good, I am genuinely disgusted by this creature and he’s a small slither of TTEG. For the love of the Changing God he is just a vendor, often an ignored and brushed over detail in video games! So going out of the way to provide source material for such low level NPCs is a good sign of a good book. That being said I’ll never look at beef mince the same way again…

From a functional perspective the book is rather handy. There is a top down interpretation of most geographical locations allow any Game Master to create a fairly simple world without too much hassle. When regions are describing particular characters or creatures there is often a guiding footnote to ensure you find the right creature on the right page rather than flicking through the index. There is some rather immersive concept art scattered throughout the pages which makes the less imaginative folk (Myself included) picture the unusual creatures/landscapes of each region. While none of this is conceptually unique I think the ratio is about right, I am not bombarded with maps or art but I am also given enough to help me along and keep my attention.

So can I apply what I’ve read to the PC game? Of course not, I don’t have it! However, I can do a dry run as a GM! So I took out a notepad and imagined I was creating a world based on what was available in this book. I never went anywhere near Google and tried to see how easy it would be to actually use this book with the intention of running a group based table top game. The answer? It was surprisingly easy. The book has a moment or two where the details become almost overwhelming when reading it as a reviewer, however when looking at it as a GM I found it very digestible. If I wanted to introduce an established character, it was fairly easy to do with all the information pre-written. If I wanted to create a new NPC there was enough flexibility and available lore to make it possible and realistic. Though each place was extremely well established within the book I was able to put my own spin on it within the established framework. While I’d like to pretend this was due to my creative flare and exceptional skills as a GM I know this isn’t the case, as I said earlier I am not an imaginative man. More often than not I am in the group, not the GM. So if I can do it this with book, anyone can.

So the questions remain. Is the content descriptive enough for me to imagine it? Yes. Is the logical information easy enough to understand that I could apply it? Yes again. Could I GM using this book? By some miracle the answer is still yes. Does this sourcebook work? Damn right it does. This detailed but digestible tome will assist any GM or lore hungry gamer seeking to enhance the digital experience. All that’s left for me to do is to try out the computer game when it’s released… *stares pointedly at /G-f Editors*

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