Alyssa Faden appeared on my radar when I saw some of her exceptional cartography work posted in a discussion group of old school gamers. Although she has freelanced for a number of gaming companies –Kobold Quarterly and Gygax Magazine, for instance– some of her work is born of her own setting, Torn World, a campaign world that has spanned decades and continents, both real and imaginary.
That setting slumbered like something massive lurking beneath the choppy waters of the internet. Over the years some people knew of its existence, and they eventually inspired Alyssa to assemble a team of writers, artists, and editors to wake this beast and unleash it upon an unsuspecting world. It’s like Godzilla, or Cthulu, assuming either of those timeless forces of nature/madness could also hurl a pilum…
Torn World’s Origins
The setting began in a Bushido game Alyssa ran in the early 80s. It wasn’t exactly “Torn” at the time but, thanks to a player’s actions, the game ended in a cataclysmic fashion. (Isn’t that always the way of things?) After picking up Dungeons & Dragons, Alyssa decided to place her game in the same world, post-apocalypse, and carry on.
Over time and after several different collections of players, Alyssa decided to set Torn aside and cook up something new. The end result, she decided, was a little too alien and so the idea was temporarily abandoned and she returned to Torn. But, “full of godlike zeal” (her words), she slammed the two worlds into each other. Not only did it allow her to redraw all the parts she didn’t like, but it was also the birth of the Torn World in its current iteration.
Those characters of the past? Some are still around, if only in legend, and several key names in the lore and setting remain. “How could I ignore that foolish samurai in the Bushido game that started the whole thing,” Alyssa asks. And although rules and systems have changed over the years (her home game is currently played with Pathfinder) the setting remains. Alyssa is a fan of published settings like Paizo’s Golarion but adds, “I just like the creative process of developing my own ideas, you know?”
What about that world that proved “too alien” for her players? It’s very clear that Alyssa knows something the rest of us don’t about the future of Torn. And we should all be concerned.
Torn World’s Future
Currently, some of the creatures and characters of the Torn World setting are being produced by Center Stage Miniatures for Torn World’s first Kickstarter. (I pointed people toward it in my Kickstart the Weekend blog post just a couple weeks ago.) These miniatures draw on some of the setting’s iconic artwork and imagery. But another Kickstarter, a fast-paced miniatures skirmish game called Torn Armor, is just poking the crest of its Spartan helmet over the fortification’s wall. My interview with Alyssa Faden spent more than a little time talking about this upcoming project, and she’s more than a little excited about it! I’ll post more about Torn Armor in just a day or two.
Both of these Kickstarters are part of an effort to bring the setting into people’s view. Being born of roleplaying games, the Torn World obviously needs to return to its roots as well. Although it’s still a little in the future, and decisions and meetings need to take place with the team, Alyssa says she would like to be able to hit two different systems if she can but “at least Pathfinder will be supported.”
When asked what led her to bring this idea to the masses, Alyssa’s short answer is, “Because it kicks ass, will make you popular with the lady-folk, and can make a mean barbequed burger.” Of course, that’s from the less-than-serious side of someone who has clear business plans and an unmistakable drive to succeed. Spend a few minutes following her efforts through social media and her online presence and it’s clear that the Torn World is part of a larger passion for gaming and imagination, and she approaches it as a fan, creator, and producer all at once.
It was only after a number of friends encouraged Alyssa to share the Torn World that she considered putting it in front of a larger audience. “Modern technology has made it easier to share, but also to show things like concept artwork, a miniature sculpt, share a little of a character’s background, and receive immediate responses from complete strangers. Those responses have always been positive, sometimes very much so.”