Monday, January 30, 2012

Temple, Tower, Tomb

By Mystra! I've found Rob King!
Still busy, and it doesn't look like it is going to get un-busy for a while. This means I will not be part of the A to Z Challenge this year. But I want to share this.

Back when I worked for TSR, my face appeared a couple game products.Some artists work from live models, and the staff provided a nice resource (Giogi Wyvernspur on the cover of The Wyvern's Spur was one of our legal staff).  And one of the cool ones I posed for was for a product called Temple, Tower, & Tomb, by Paul (now Jennell) Jacquays. Now Jennell is selling the piece on Etsy.

So here I am, in my full Mountain-Man beardage of that era. The robe was based on my Obi-Wan Kenobi cloak that the Lovely Bride made for me (and which remains one of the warmest things I own). The rune-covered lapels were Jennell's addition, and contain the secret message.

More later,

Friday, January 27, 2012

23 Questions

I've got a lot on my plate at the moment, so please accept this set of meme-questions from Zak's D&D with Porn Stars blog. The blog is tucked behind an "Adult Subject Matter" wall (so be aware), but is no more salacious than, say, that old copy of "Eldritch Wizardry" you have in the closet. Here's what I said:
1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be?
The Universal Table for MSH. In a world where CRTs have gone by the wayside, this remains viable and used to this day. Close second is the random encounter tables for the first MM II.
2. When was the last time you GMed?
About a month back – Call of Cthulhu, Goodman games series. The next time will be this coming Monday.

3. When was the last time you played?
Last night – ArenaNet 4E game (I discovered most of the traps by walking into them). Before that, two weeks ago – Steve Winter running his D&D Cyclopedia campaign.

4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven't run but would like to.
The Man from C.T.H.U.L.H.U – 60s CoC adventures in Swinging London.

5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things?
Make jokes, check references, make monsters tougher.

6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play?
Cheese, fruit, girl scout cookies.

7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting? 
Yes, after about five hours I start flagging.

8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing?
Covering our tracks after breaking into a underground complex of gator-men, making it look like OTHER dungeon monsters took out the guards.

9. Do your players take your serious setting and make it unserious? Vice versa? Neither?
When they are being unserious in a serious situation, it is usually that nervous humor of walking across the graveyard. I find that rewarding. Of course, I also run Call of Cthulhu with Scooby-Doo characters, and watch for the moment when the scales from their eyes and they see the twisted horror are the core of the adventures.

10. What do you do with goblins?
Not much. Kobolds tend to be my amusing low-level monsters, and Toede has the hobgoblins staked out. Goblins, which lacked an iconic look until Pathfinder, have been the ugly step-humanoids for a long time in D&D..

11. What was the last non-RPG thing you saw that you converted into game material (background, setting, trap, etc.)?
Reading Norman Davies Vanished Kingdoms and using it in the final write-up of the Grand Duchy of Dornig. Before that, using Greek city-state history as an insight into dwarven kingdoms.

12. What's the funniest table moment you can remember right now?
“I lift my lantern to get a better look” – famous last words from a CoC adventurer before they “Surfed the Shoggoth”.

13. What was the last game book you looked at--aside from things you referenced in a game--why were you looking at it?
Midgard manuscript for Open Design, but that’s work. I READ gamebooks for fun – the most recent being All For One: Regime Diabloque, from Triple Ace Games.

14. Who's your idea of the perfect RPG illustrator?
There are a number of excellent artists currently working in the industry, but you dance with the ones that brung yah – In my case that's the TSR bullpen of Easley, Caldwell, Elmore, Parkinson, Butler, and Brom (Jaquays and Fields are part of that group as well, and while excellent, were not part of the “art room”). Imagine a team like that with Brom as the “new guy”.

15. Does your game ever make your players genuinely afraid? 
I have frightened people off the sofa.

16. What was the best time you ever had running an adventure you didn't write? (If ever)
I run canned CoC adventures. The Beyond the Mountains of Madness mega-adventure was the best and most detailed.

17. What would be the ideal physical set up to run a game in?
D&D – Big table, comfortable chairs, room for snacks.
CoC – Open room, easy chairs, low lights.

18. If you had to think of the two most disparate games or game products that you like what would they be?
Dogs in the Vinyard and Avalon Hill’s Blitzkrieg.

19. If you had to think of the most disparate influences overall on your game, what would they be?
Emerson, Lake, and Palmer and the Marx Brothers.

20. As a GM, what kind of player do you want at your table?
Older, accomplished professionals. I don’t look for them – it just works out that way.

21. What's a real life experience you've translated into game terms?
Using knowledge of modern cities for 20th Cent RPGs. Like explaining how our zombie-hunters get to St. James Cathedral up on Cap Hill with detailed street directions.

22. Is there an RPG product that you wish existed but doesn't?
I may be working on that one.

23. Is there anyone you know who you talk about RPGs with who doesn't play? How do those conversations go?
I talk a lot with those who don’t play. My conversations come with annotations and footnotes.

More later,

Monday, January 23, 2012

A World Lit By Fire

Typical Snowstorm in Seattle
For the past four days, Grubb Street has been without power. It went out Thursday morning, and stayed out until Sunday afternoon/evening.

Let me lay out what happened. Seattle expected a major snowfall event this past week. Despite all the panic in the media, it DOES snow in Seattle, about once or twice a year, just enough to snarl everyone. Usually this is a snow that melts in a few hours. This was expected to be major, upwards of 12 inches, and while it was not expected to last long, we cued all the attendant panicking.

And Tuesday night it started, but produced only about 4-6 inches. Major roads were turned into impromptu sled hills, work was canceled, and things were pretty good. The dumbest thing we saw was the local news time driving around in the snow, as the driver gives an interview on camera about how you shouldn’t be driving around in the snow and giving an on-camera interview. Warm rain was expected, and that would be the end of it.

But we didn’t get warm rain, we got freezing rain instead, which left about a half-inch of ice on everything, with another inch of powder on top of it, and at that point the fun truly began.

Grubb Street lost power about 8:30 Thursday morning. The local trees could not handle the weight and started shedding branches. On yards. On houses. On highways. Power lines came down. The small pines out front looked like very depressed nuns, shrunken in their places. The temple bell out front, on its unstable, hand-repaired wooden frame, withstood huge cedar branches coming down on all sides, without a direct hit. The air was alive with snapping branches and the distant thunder of exploding pole transformers. And everything went dark.

And we held up pretty well. Mind you, being hardy Wisconsin expats, we already had massive flashlights and numerous candles, and a wind-up radio my parents got us several years ago (yes, it has a crank). And we also discovered that multiple energy delivery methods were a good thing. We had lost power, but kept the gas, and we had a gas stovetop and a gas fireplace in the bedroom (newly replaced). And we had a wood-burning fireplace and a side yard filled with the salvaged debris from previous years of blown-down branches and trees. So the house chilled down, but it was not bad.

The cell phone network was patchy for the first few days, but the land lines lasted into Friday before succumbing. So that was covered as well (Internet and cable were still shot as of Sunday night). The full idea was multiple systems made it much more bearable when the electricity went.

The Lovely Bride went pretty much full Little House on the Prairie, heating washwater on the fireplace top (until we remembered we had a GAS water heater and it was unaffected by the blackout). Our neighbor loaned us a gasoline-powered generator he was using for an evening in an attempt to keep the fridge cold, but in the end we just moved everything in peril out to the coolers in the garage (and the brisket and other frozen meats kept solid).  I cleaned up what I could but retreated to careful use of my iPad games (Tiny Towers, downloaded right before the storm) marshaled by computer battery to get work done, and used what sunlight I had to review hard copy. We sat in front of the fire and listened to jazz on the radio. .
And on Saturday, when the warm rain finally did arrive and most of the snow went away, I went to work, getting both a lot done AND recharging all my battery-operated devices.

And in the end, it worked out. Another two days would have been dire from the spoiled food and need for laundry, but in general its been a pretty good thing. We had the local neighbors gather out front as we cleared away some of the branches and chatted, and all ascertained we were in good spirits and health. Oh, and it will take a couple days for the waterbed to heat back up, but that’s small stuff compared to what a lot of people have gone through. All in all, we’re pretty good.

Thanks for asking.  More later,

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

White Out

No, I'm not talking about the upcoming Megastorm about to hit Seattle, but about SOPA and PIPA.

SOPA is a bill in the US House. It stands for Stop Online Piracy Act. PIPA is a similar bill in the Senate, and is short of PROTECT IP Act, which in turn is short for Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Threat of Intellectual Property Act. I swear, there's a job in Washington for coming up with names like this to provide cover to bills like these.

I'd normally send you to Wikipedia to learn about these bills, but Wikipedia is down for the day, in protest. So are some other sites. And if you scan down this page, you'll see a whole lot of nothing (I hope - I just set the text to white against a white background). Because that's the direction these bills will take us.

These bills, despite their cute names, do not protect content creators, but rather further empower content owners, a different class of beast, and gives them greater control over the Internet you enjoy. So here's what you'll get once bills like these become law. A whole lotta nothing.

More (maybe) later,

Update: And we're back up. Future readers will wonder what this is all about, but for one day, I whited out all the body copy on my site in protest of a horrible pair of proposed laws - SOPA and PIPA (as noted above). Now, I was not alone in this - a few other sites like Wikipedia and Reddit went blank, along with a lot of personal sites. And the interesting thing was that the bulk of the sites doing this were content creators - supposedly the very people these laws were (on paper) to protect. Google gave a strong head-nod. Twitter and Facebook noted it all, but stayed open, allowing the entire 'net to compare notes.

And this thing is, it was fairly successful. A lot of congressmen came out against the bill. Some of them were the original backers. A couple admitted that they hadn't read the damned things but were assured that it would be a good thing. The president has come down on it. Not bad for a buncha nerds.

Oh, and the spokesperson for the Motion Picture Association of American, a former congress-critter himself, complained, without a sense of irony, that everyone taking their free information off the 'net was an 'abuse of power'.Like having ten films up for "best picture" isn't.

This isn't over - not by a long shot. They are already talking bout floating this bill later once the heat is off, or it showing up later under an even cuter acronym (Freedom Respecting Every Action and Knowledge). And our Supreme Court just declared that stuff out of copyright can regrow its copyright (though not necessarily under the original owners). There's going to be a lot more of this going on as we go forward. But for the moment, this has to go down as a win.

More (definitely) later

Top Ten List

Beating the Late Show to it.

From the Home Office on Grubbstreet, here are the Top Ten things you're hearing Seattle natives talk about today (feel free to use a Letterman Voice to read this).

Number 10: Convergence Zone
Number 9: Microclimates. (Micro-climates. Micro Cli-mates).
Number 8: No, I'm sure a bus will be along at any moment, now.
Number 7: So, how do you put these chains ON?
Number 6: So, how do you get these chains OFF?
Number 5: OK, we're going to have a big snowstorm on Wednesday AND the Internet will be down? (Because, you know, Paul, Wiki and other sites are closing down to protest SOPA. SO-PA. Sounds like a Mexician desert treat).
Number 4: Meteorological cage match -  Cliff Mass vs. Al Roker.
Number 3: Wait, wait, we have a Pro Football team?
Number 2: No, I'm sure a snow plow will be along any moment now.

And the number one thing you're hearing Seattle natives talk about today:


(Thank you Seattle Times, for adding a new word to the Seattle repertoire. As if we needed one more word to describe the weather).

More later,

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pouring A Horse From A Bottle

The Four Accomplishments (SAM site)
This past weekend the Lovely Bride and I went to the SAM (Seattle Art Museum) to catch the last day of the Luminous exhibit of SAM's Asian Art. As many exhibits, it gave me a lot to think and reflect about, but for this essay I want to point out one piece in particular. This is a four-panel screen called "The Four Accomplishments" by KanĊ Takanobu (Full screens shown right).

Now, you will notice that it is a four-panel screen. And it is called "The Four Accomplishments", and the text to the left of the art piece states that the four accomplishments are an imported idea from China to Japan of the period that defined a gentleman. The four accomplishments were calligraphy, playing go, playing the zither, and painting.

So your have four panels describing four accomplishments, you'd think there were one accomplishment to a panel. Right? And on the first panel I see caligraphy tools (ink stick, ink stone, burner, reeds, etc.) before a gentleman as a small child climbs around the furnishings behind him. The second panel has two men playing go, while a woodcutter pauses from his tasks and a woman sets out the tea. The third panel has a family patriarch playing the zither for his family (who have varied levels of interest).

Source: Susan A. Cole/SAM
And the last one has a man pouring a horse out of a bottle (see left).

OK, that's odd. You start at the left again. Calligraphy, go, zither, and pouring a horse out of a bottle. Go back and re-read the explanation for a clue. Look again. OK, there is a painting on the reed screen behind the calligrapher, so you have two accomplishments on one panel, and  the one-to-one connection is not there. Now it is calligraphy/painting, go, zither, and pouring a horse out of a bottle. It is odd that a four-screen panel would not use each panel for a work titled (later, probably not at the time) "The Four Accomplishments".

Am I looking at magic? Is spell-casting a mysterious "Fifth Accomplishment"? It is a very realistic-looking horse. Was I having one of those weird Cthulhu moments, where an item in the museum kicks off a slow descent into madness?

And as I was watching, a young lady was explaining to her date about the piece. She seemed knowledgeable, so I asked her about it. She tossed out the idea that it was someone doing stage magic Indeed, the gentleman is pouring out the miniature horse for a small child. Another couple joined it, and expressed their confusion as well.

And I thought about it, and instead of stage magic, suggested puppetry. What we thought was a bottle was really a paddle for control of a lifelike horse. Still no mention of a fifth accomplishment, but it sounded like something that a gentleman would do when he is not playing go or operating the zither.

And these I do the research and this figure is described as "A Taoist Deity". Which takes me back a bit, because a) everything else in the piece seems mundane, and b) Most Taoist Deities (or "Taoist Deities") have particular icons attached to him, much like Western Saints (Catherine has her wheel, Chang Kuo-lao rides backwards on an ass). So if this is a Taoist Deity, which one pours a horse out of a bottle?

I'm going to go back to the puppetry explanation, but part of me really likes the "friendly wizard" idea.

More later,

Update:  Ask the Internet and it shall respond. Josh Reyer writes in:
Regarding the "Four Accomplishments" painting.  In Japanese the title
is better translated as "Zither, Go, Calligraphy, Painting, Sennin".
Sennin, called xianren in Chinese, were not deities per se, but
hermits who'd found the secrets of magic and immortality by esoteric
Daoist training in remote mountains.  Basically, wizards. :-)
So there we have it - the translated title sets us off in the wrong direction. And it is magic that we are looking at in that last panel. The Lovely Bride had a theory that the "Taoist Deity" mentioned was a the horse, and you have to pour him out of the bottle because you don't want a Taoist Deity drinking all your good liquor.

Thanks to Josh for the info!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Game Divided Against Itself

There has been a lot of news on the 'net about the Next Iteration of D&D (WotC is not calling it 5E, even if the media and fans are, and I will support this view for as long a I feel like it). The coverage has been interesting, but one thing I've seen a lot of is that the legendary Edition Wars of 4E/Essentials versus 3/3.5/Pathfinder have "split the hobby".

To which I have to say - this is news?

Most of D&D's lifespan has consisted of D&D product competing against itself, usually (but not always) against other D&D product produced by TSR/WotC competing against itself. Here's a partial listing that comes to mind of the story so far:

Original D&D versus the various Basic Sets. What is now called Original D&D (the little books in the little woodgrain or white boxes) originally showed up in hobby stores and mimed miniature rules of that era in format, presentation, and structure. The various early Basic Sets (later subdivided as Holmes, Moldvay Basic, Basic/Expert) were flat boxes with more frontage, but started out with a limited number of levels (introductory crippleware, if you prefer). Those who were weaned on (O) D&D were a bit skeptical of these new kids with their easier-to-understand, more mass-market game (something you're going to see many times here). Only the extinction of that OD&D caused them to move on, and then to AD&D (see below).

D&D versus other FRPs - The  Success of D&D brought about a small host of Fantasy RPG competitors, but let's keep this to the obvious D&D knockoffs. Some of these were attempts to improve/fix/expand the game game (Arduin Grimoire) comes to mind, while others were more about cashing in. The most notable of these were Mayfair's roleaids series, which not only used the D&D rules, but (through reasons I'm not sure of - I wasn't there at the start, but got sucked in over the years), could continue to do so, as long as they put something on the cover saying that TSR did not approve of them using those rules. Sort of a Bizarro license - they were allowed to publish, as long as it was clear the licensor had nothing to do with it. Some were good, many were bad, some were adventures written for conventions. Minor, but this continued into the 90s.

D&D versus AD&D - Most people know of the split between the Arneson/Gygax D&D and the Gygax only AD&D, which again, had its roots before I got to the company. For most of my (O)D&D gang, we made the switch over the two years of release of AD&D. D&D, at one point, was planned to be opened up into a wah-hoo over-the-top game (One of the older artists hit me up at a convention and wanted to know if I had known about it when I did Spelljammer). As it turned out, the version of D&D known as BECMI (Basic/Expert/Companion/Masters/Immortals) produced a steady expansion of rules into high-level play, an excellent one-volume Rules Cyclopedia, and a well-organized campaign setting called the Known World but eventually renamed as Mystara.

AD&D (1st Edition) versus AD&D (2nd Edition) - This split is not nearly as bad as you would think, in part because we made the case when we released 2nd Edition AD&D was more of a collection of "stuff that worked" from 1st edition, and existed in part to reduce the entire weight of what we were covering. (I joked at the time about how you needed your official AD&D fork lift to haul the stuff around. How little I knew then ...) Stuff went away and other tweaks showed up, but it was a relatively smooth transition. There were those who preferred 1st edition AD&D, but in those early Internet days, the conflicts between the two editions were minor.

AD&D 2 versus (AD&D Multitude of Worlds) - This is hailed as being a horrible, horrible thing by modern conventional thought, in that creating all these worlds thereby created too much choice, and spawned all of these smaller worlds that demanded attention and brought back limited results. Yet for a while, AD&D ruled the roost bycapturing and dominating shelf space and player mind-share. This was a time of the "Flavors of Fantasy" ruled the roost, and TSR attempted to be all things to all gamers by providing options. Looking back on this, I think it was a good move, and I learned a few things (but which merit a completely different post).
AD&D (1st/2nd Edition) versus D&D (3rd Edition) - This was a major break, the transition made easier by a change of management (and location) and a willingness and ability of the new guys to pillory the previous editions (Most of all the revised 2nd Ed of its later years). Those following previous editions were simply ignored for the new shiny, the idea being that if it was cool enough the old grogs would come back to the fold. The business plan did not care, to quote one executive 3rd". "If any player of 2nd Edition came over to 3rd.". We had T-shirts made mocking 2nd Edition weaknesses. And it was successful.

D&D 3rd Edition versus the OGL - The OGL, short for Open Gaming License, kicked off a glut of games from other publishers using the D&D Engine. Originally one of the in-house selling points for the OGL was that the smaller companies would pick up the small stuff - adventure modules and support product that would be of marginal profitability. What happened, of course, was that third parties launched full-fledged into hardbacks and full product lines, without the benefits of scale that a larger publisher provided.  Note that while having a huge host of competing campaign settings and rules was a BAD thing for 2nd Edition, it was just dandy when those settings and rules were published by others. No, I don't get that logic, either.

D&D 4th Edition versus (3rd/3.5/Pathfinder) And this is the huggamugga you've heard about, the most recent of the splits, the great Edition Wars. 4E in many ways tried to launch the same way 3E did, but the fan base wasn't going to have it (making fun of the involuted 3E grappling rules didn't win any allies, even if it was true (and hilarious)). And furthermore, with the OGL, they could still have new products not controlled by the company holding the D&D name. As a result, D&D is supposedly broken between them. People playing different games with the same name is a problem.

And it may only be solved by (wait for it) a new edition.

Looking at the listing of the various internal conflicts above, I have come to the conclusion that D&D has always had self-created, often internal competition, and that this is a feature of the game, not a bug. And furthermore, it is a good thing. It creates a robust environment that can bring in new ideas. (Remember THAC0? That wasn't an in-house thing, but rather came from tournament games that needed to quickly figure its to-hit numbers). It allows for flavors of fantasy that reach out to many different styles of play. It provided growth and evolution of the game over time. And it allows the game to reach out to new generations through that growth, and those new players to take "their" version of the game to heart, as they know it is superior to all that has come before, and all that is to follow.

And those are good things, all in all.

More later,

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The Magic Realm of the Talisman

You know how some gaming blogs post long entries about game rules that only maybe THREE people in the world care about? Well, this is one of those...

Some from column A ...
New Year's Eve the Lovely B and I held a gaming open house. Friends came over, ate pizza, talked, and played some old favorite games with a new twist - Ticket to Ride with the Asian Boards, Alhambra with the first expansion, Citadels with the alternate characters. And my friend from the early days of gaming Steve Shafer brought over a true vintage classic - Talisman on a Magic Realm board.

Talisman was a board game from Games Workshop where you marched a unique character around a board, collecting life, craft, and strength to eventually get a Talisman and challenge the demon in the center of the board (there have been a number of editions, but we're talking the 1986 Second Edition, which is the classic one). Magic Realm was a hex-based game from Avalon Hill where you marched a unique character around various paths, gathering stuff until you ... well, I forget the ultimate goal. The short version of this is that back when I was just out of college ... oh, 25 years ago ...(and Steve and other friends were in Grad school for computing), we played a lot of BOTH games.

...some from column B.
Steve believes the mash-up of the two came from a gaming weekend in the mid-nineties of himself, Bob Chancellor, and David Lamb. The challenge was - Talisman had a wide variety of characters, a set goal, but the game length was interminable and the board was extremely repeatable (outer ring, then inner ring, then an inner sanctum). Magic Realm, on the other hand, had a great board (first use of hexes as the board, long before Settlers of Catan), but the rules were ponderous and clunky and set-up time interminable.

So they put them both together, and I am transferring the rules to this venue [and I am using bracketed text to handle stuff we learned as a result of the game on New Years' Eve or to clarify rules for people beyond our little universe]. I have sought to maintain the original language and formatting where I can. Here goes:

The Magic Realm of the Talisman

At Start:

[Divide the Talisman Character cards into Tough and Wimp characters] Tough characters are: the four Specials [(from the City expansion)] + Amazon, Astronaut, Astropath, Centaur, Chainsaw Warrior, Cyborg, Dark Elf, Elf, Gipsy, Gladiator, Highlander, Knight, Leprechaun, Monk, Ninja, Philosopher, Prophetess, Soldier, Sprite, Swashbuckler, Swordsman, Troll, Valkyrie, Warrior, Warrior of Chaos, Wizard, Woodsman, Zulu.  [All others are Wimp characters - Hey, that's the terminology we used].

Deal 3 Tough character to each player. Player may choose one of these, or any Wimp character.

"Always Have Spell" status is evaluated at the start and end of the Player's turn. On each occasion, the player may first discard zero or more Spells, then, draws new Spells up to the indicated number.

The game is Talisman, but uses the Magic Realm board, a new set of hex feature counters, and slightly modified rules to accommodate the board. With these rules, on all the auxiliary boards (City, Dungeon, and Timescape), players who end their normal Turn on such a board immediately take one more Turn. [Maximum of one additional turn in this fashion per normal Turn].

[So what you need for this is: the hexes from Magic Realm;, the cards, characters, items, and spells from Talisman, along with any auxiliary boards you are using.  You will also need 20 counters in four colors (we use blank wargame counters). There are:

4 Cave Counters, marked "C" on the back. The front of these counters are marked as follows;
   6 Crypt
   6 Mines
   6 Oasis in Desert
   6 Warlock's Cave
6 Woods Counters, marked "W" on the back The front of these counters are marked;
   Black Knight on 1
   Cursed Glades
   4 Ruins
   5 Ruins
   Two counters (2) are marked "Forest on 1".
5 Mountain Counters, marked "M" on the back The front of these counters are marked:
   1 Castle
   Chasm on 1
   Crags on 1
   2 Hidden Valley
   6 Temple.
5 Valley Counters, marked "V" on the back. The front of these counters is marked;
   5 Chapel
   5 City
   5 Graveyard
   5 Tavern
   5 Village


To win the game, you get a Talisman, take it either to the Temple or Castle to have is "attuned" to you, and then take it to either the Mines or the Crypt and succeed at the die roll to cast it into the Abyss [Roll equal to or under your Craft or Strength on 3d6, depending on your location].

A Talisman can only be attuned to one character at any moment. It can be attuned to a different character at the Temple or Castle. attuning takes the place of encountering the Temple or Castle location. A character may have any number of Talismans, attuned or not, at any moment.

If you fail the die roll at the Mines or Crypt by 1, 2, or 3, you get teleported to a randomly selected hex adjacent to the hex you are in, and to a randomly selected clearing in that hex.


Movement is [on the Magic Realm board and is] from clearing to clearing along paths.

Cost is 1 movement point to enter a clearing, 2 to enter a Mountain clearing, 3 to enter a Cave clearing. You must use your full movement, unless you get stuck trying to enter a Mountain or Cave clearing [or are forced to move off the board]. Note that you might not be able to move at all, in which case you stay in your clearing and encounter it normally.

Horse, Mules, Etc. will go into Cave clearings at a cost of +1 Movement point [for a total of 4 Movement Points]. Unicorns will go OK [From the original manuscript: This rule is under discussion.]

If you Teleport using a Special Ability of your character, you choose the destination hex but must roll randomly to select the clearing you land in.

If you or a card are instructed to "move away" by d6 spaces (etc.), instead you roll to randomly select an adjacent hex, and then roll to randomly select your destination clearing in that hex.

A raft can be used to take you to any hex containing a dwelling; roll randomly to determine the clearing you end up in.

As you are moving, you can roll d6 ≤ Craft to discover a Hidden Path (brown) that connect to your clearing. If you succeed, you can move along it as though it were a normal path for the remainder of  this Turn. Similarly, you can discover a Secret Passage (black) by rolling 2d6 ≤ Craft.

You may end your move in a clearing containing a Dwelling [even if your move would take you past it].

Board Features

"Woods" spaces are all clearing in Woods hexes. "Hills", "Fields", and "Plains" spaces refer to all non-Mountain, non-Cave clearings in Mountain and Cave hexes.

Normally, all clearings are "Draw 1 Card" except for clearings with special interpretations, which have that interpretation instead.

Enchanted Hexes

At the start of the game, all the Valley hexes are Enchanted to the Gray side; other hexes are on the unenchanted (Green) side.

After movement but before encounters, the moving character may enchant the occupied hex by rolling 2d6 ≤ Strength + Craft.

Each color defines a Region (for game purposes): Green (unenchanted, Gray, Gold, and Purple. Clearing in enchanted Border Lands are in one or another region; clearing in enchanted Crag are in the Gray, Gold, and Purple regions all at once. The entire City is in the Gray region; the Dungeon is in the Purple region.

All "Draw n cards" clearings become "Draw n+1 cards in the Gold and Purple regions; and become "Draw 0 Cards in the Gray region (excluding Crags).


When movement ends, all face-up cards in the hex are considered to be in the clearing of the moving character, and are encountered according to the normal Talisman rules. When the character's Turn ends, any remaining face-up cards are placed in the hex.
Recall the Talisman rules" Face-up cards must be encountered if they are Enemy cards of its the clearing is "Draw n Cards"; otherwise they may be encountered instead of encountering the location itself.
In Mountain and Cave clearings, draw from the Tough deck, in other clearings, draw from the Wimpy deck. [Yes, we divided the Talisman Encounters Deck into Tough and Wimpy versions as well. If I ever print the house rules for that, I'll give you how we divided it. For this game it does not matter.]

[All face-up cards on the hex are discarded when a hex is enchanted or unenchanted. This does not apply to the Warp Gate (entrance to the Timescape board) or the Dungeon Doorway (entrance to the Dungeon).]

To get rid of the Poltergeist, you must cross any bridge (over or under). For other Followers that you cling to, you get rid of them at any dwelling.

There can be only one Dungeon Doorway on the board. If there is one, discard any others that are drawn and draw again.

The Archer, Bolt Gun, Etc. shoot in the current hex or an adjacent hex.

At Start

First, select characters.

Next, deal out the board tiles, and set them up according to the Magic Realm rules (start with the Border Lands; roads and blank hex sides must match; High Pass and Ledge [hexes] must have roads connection to both paths).

Place a Hex Feature Counter of the appropriate type, face down, on each hex (Note: High Pass [hex] is a Cave.).

Flip the Valley hexes to the Enchanted (gray) side, and reveal their Feature counters. The indicated clearing on these counters are the "dwellings". Other Feature counters will be revealed only when a character ends movement in that hex, or when needed to resolve a Teleportation.

Characters who start at a dwelling or on an auxiliary board are placed there; all other characters roll randomly for their start location (1: Chapel, 2; City, 3: Graveyard, 4: Tavern, 5: Village, 6 roll again)

Hex Features

Valleys: (These are the Dwellings.)

5 Chapel: Clearing 5 (or highest numbered connected clearing) contains the Chapel. At the Chapel, Good character may either be Healed free of charge back up to starting quota, or may Pray by rolling 1 die:1-4= Ignored, 5 = Gain 1 Life, 6 = Gain 1 Spell. Neutral Characters may be healed back up to their original quota at a cost of 1G per Life. Evil Characters lose 1 Life.

5 City: Clearing 5 (or highest numbered connected clearing) is the entrance to the City. [If you don't have the City expansion, if functions like the City square in the game]

5 Graveyard: Clearing 5 (or highest numbered connected clearing) contains the Tavern. At the Tavern, you must roll 1 die; 1= Miss 1 Turn, 2 = Fight a farmer (Strength 3), 3 Lose 1G, 4 Gain 1G, 5=May Teleport to any hex in this region on your next Move, 6= May Teleport to the hex containing the Temple on our next Move.

5 Village: Clearing 5 (or highest numbered connected clearing) contains the Village. At the Village, you may visit one of the following: Healer will Heal Lives for 1G each. Blacksmith sells Helmet 2G, Sword 2G, Axe 3G, Shield 3G, Armour 4G. Mystic, roll 1 die: 1-3=ignored, 4=If Evil or Neutral you become Good, 5=Gain 1 Craft, 6 = Gain 1 Spell.


Black Knight on 1: In any clearing of this hex, roll 1 die; the Black Knight appears on a roll of 1. When the Black Knight appears, you must either give up 1G or lose 1 Life. On any other roll, treat the clearing as "Draw 1 Card" (with the usual modification if Enchanted).

Cursed Glades: All clearings in his Hex are "Draw 1 Card", but you cannot count any Strength or Craft points derived from any Object or Magic Objects, nor may you use any Magic Objects nor cast any spells.

Forest on 1: On a roll of 1 on 1 die, you encounter the F0rest (I.e. appears the same way as the Black Knight does in his hex). In the Forest, roll 1 die: 1=Attacked by brigand Strength 4; 2-3= Lose 1 Turn, 4-5= Safe, 6= Ranger give you 1 Craft. If you don't encounter the Forest, treat clearing as "Draw 1 Card". (Note: There are two Forest on 1 hexes).

4 Ruins: Clearing 4 (or highest number connected clearing) is Ruins: Draw 2 Cards.

5 Runes: Clearing 5 (or highest numbered connected clearing is Runes: Draw 2 Cards.

Mountains: (includes High Pass)

1 Castle: Clearing 1 contains the Castle, where the Royal Doctor will Heal you up to your starting quota at a cost of 1G per Life. Alternatively, if you have one more Talismans there, you may have them attuned to you. [despite all the notes above, this should say Clearing 1 (or lowest number connected clearing is Castle].

Chasm on 1: On a roll of 1 on 1 die, you encounter the Chasm. In the Chasm, roll 1 dies for yourself: on a 1 or 2, you lose a Life, and roll 1 die for each follower: on a 1 or 2, the follower is killed. If you don't encounter the Chasm, treat as "Draw 1 Card".

Crags on 1: On a roll of 1 on 1 die, you encounter the Crags. In the Crags, roll 1 dies: 1 = Attacked by Spirit of Craft 4; 2-3=Lose 1 Turn; 4-5 Safe; 6= Barbarian gives you 1 Strength. If not Crags, treat clearing as "Draw 1 Card".

2 Hidden Valley: Clearing 2 is the Hidden Valley, where you Draw 2 Cards.

6 Temple: Clearing 6 is the Temple, where you may Pray by rolling 2 dice: 2= Lose 2 Lives, 3=Lost 1 Life, 4=Lose 1 Life or 1 Follower, 5=Enslaved until you roll 4-6 for movement, 6=Gain 1 Strength, 7=Gain 1 Craft, 8-9= Gain 1 Spell, 10=Gain a Talisman, 11=Gain 1 Life, 12=Gain 2 Lives. Alternatively, if you have one or more Talismans, you may have them attuned to you.


6 Crypt: Clearing 6 contains the Crypt. At the Crypt, if you have a Talisman attuned to you,  you may roll 3 dice and subtract your Strength: ≤0 YOU WIN; 1-3=teleported to adjacent hex, 4-5=teleported to Warlock's Cave hex [if revealed, otherwise to City hex], 6= teleported to City hex.

6 Mines: Clearing 6 contains the Mines. At the Mines, if you have a Talisman attuned to you, you may roll 3 dice and subtract your Craft; ≤0 YOU WIN; 1-3=teleported to adjacent hex, 4-5=teleported to Warlock's Cave hex [if revealed, otherwise to Tavern hex], 6= teleported to Tavern hex.

6 Oasis in Desert: Clearing 6 contains the Oasis, which is "Draw 2 Cards." All other clearing in this hes are not Caves, but are actually Desert, which cost 1 movement point to enter and have the encounter "Lost 1 Life and Draw 1 Card."

6 Warlock's Cave: Clearing 6 contains the Warlock's Cave, where you may choose to go on a quest by rolling 1 die: 1=Kill (take 1 Life) another player; 2 = Kill 1 Enemy; 3= Deliver (discard) 1 Follower; 4 = Deliver 1 Magic Object; 5 = Deliver 3G, 6 = Deliver 2 G [What it fails to mention is that the reward for succeeding in the quest is get a Talisman]

David Lamb Rule:

In David Lamb's set, the 5 Chapel Feature is on a Woods hex, and there is only one Forest on 1 [I have no idea why this rule is here, other than maybe David Lamb's set is missing a Valley.]

© - Steve Shafer, David Lamb, Bob Chancellor, 1994 or so.

More later,

Monday, January 02, 2012

Politics: Reps as Dems

Yeah, I've been putting off talking politics, keeping to some local stuff. But as things heat up for next election, where we're not only choosing a president but the entire Washington State government, we'll get more notes here. In this case, we're in that wafer-thin space between the last debate and the first primaries and caucuses. Most people haven't been paying attention, and we've already seeing dropouts even before the first vote.

Now, for those new to the 'street, let me be clear - I'm a leftie. You can call it progressive, but I will go with old-school liberal. Worse, I am one of the goo-goo types (goo-goo being short for good government, a Chicago term), who believes in seeking consensus and using process to advance your cause and honoring the spirit of the rule as opposed to just the letter. And while I am to the left of the current occupant of the White House (who will be his party's nominee, and as such is bad television), I still can see daylight between the two parties, even if I think both are being too conservative and/or corporate.

So I'm not going to concern-troll here. There very little that will make me vote for any of the folk running for the GOP position (yeah, I voted for Ford back in the day, but that was forever and a half ago, so calling me a former Republican is like calling me a former child). I would prefer to see a Republican candidate who, if elected, would do a good job as opposed to a nutter that hopefully be unelectable (though Americans are often punished by getting the leaders they deserve).

All that said, I think that the problem for the Republicans is that they are acting like Democrats. The GOP is supposed to be tight, small, organized, and heavy on message discipline. And most of all, following Reagan's Commandment of "Thous shall not speak ill of another candidate". This bunch? Not so much. In fact, it looks like they looted the political graveyards of previous Dem candidates in order to pull their gang together. I mentioned this four years ago, and it is even more clear this time out -  I mean, look at the comparisons:

Romney - A Massachusetts, non-protestant who supports universal health care and is accused of flip-flopping on his nuanced views? Meet John Kerry.

Gringrich - A charismatic, intellectual populist intensely disliked by Washington and known for adulterous relationships? Why don't you just nominate Bill Clinton and be done with it?

Paul - Equal parts enlightened and scary with a good ground game and organization, passionate, young supporters, ignored by the mass media until they find the right tool to slam him? Say hi to Howard Dean.

Santorum - The political bad penny. Odious and sanctimonious, he leaves you wondering how the heck he keeps showing up at the weirdest moments. Assumed to be running for VP. When he grows up, he'll be Lieberman.

Perry - A tough one. But he was considered an obvious contender until he actually entered the race, upon which he was set upon, dismembered, and left for dead. Let's go with Bill Bradley or Mario Cuomo.

Bachman - There are candidates that are not running for president or to make sure their issues are heard so much as maintaining their brand, so that after the inevitable defeat they can appear on TV shows as representing a particular demographic. The Dem version? Al Sharpton.

Huntsman - The candidate that everyone supposedly loves, but has no chance of winning. And if he ever got over single digits would be immediately savaged. Treated as a punchline by the cogonesti. The liberal version is that perennial short straw Dennis Kucinich.

(Cain) - Already dropped - Complete non-politician with hardcore following and makes whacky statements - Lyndon LaRouche.

(Palin) - Never declared but made a number of headfakes, looked at as being the great hope who would ride to the party's rescue - Wesley Clarke.

(Trump) - Another one dedicated to his personal brand, willing to run a third party despite the fact that it would be ultimately bad for his side of the argument - Ralph Nader.

(Palenty) - Here's an apparently nice guy for a politician, but never really gets any traction, could be confused with most of the rest of the Senate. Gephardt. I mean Edwards. I mean Richardson....

What's missing from this collection? A centrist who gives a good speech. Of course, we already HAVE one of those running as the Democrat.

More later,