Monday, March 29, 2010

Novice Magic Realm Session, April 3, 2010

I enjoyed playing Magic Realm at Cal-Con 2010. It was a nice change of pace from the usual dungeon-delving and story-heavy adventures of your typical D&D game.

I was sufficiently inspired by that experience to considering running an introductory (novice level) Magic Realm session this weekend, on Saturday, April 3, 2010 at The Sentry Box. This saturday is the D&D Meet-up, so I will have to check with the organizers, to make sure there is an extra table available. But before I bother doing that, I want to gauge whether there is any interest.

Magic Realm is an Avalon Hill boardgame from 1978. It uses 20 randomly placed, large hex-tiles, to build a "Magic Realm" game-map, also randomly populated with Monsters, inhabitants, and treasures. Each player selects one of 16 characters, for example, the Swordsman, the Amazon, the Wizard, the White Knight, the Witch, the Berserker, the Dwarf, the Elf, the Woodsgirl, or the Sorcerer. Then the players move around the board, and co-operate (and often compete) trying to achieve their pre-chosen, secret objectives. There is no referee -- the players negotiate between themselves regarding their intentions and actions, using the dictums of the rules where applicable.

Magic Realm could be described as an end-game for Dungeons and Dragons, or a more sophisticated version of the old classic boardgame, Dungeon!, in that the players move around a map-board (in MR's case, Magic Realm is mostly an outdoor adventure, with a few cave-complexes scattered about), encountering each other, monsters, friendly and un-friendly inhabitants, and discovering treasure hoards. Magic Realm is a more sophisticated game than Dungeon!, in that there is a 100-page rule-book, and each character has her own unique strengths and weaknesses, as do the monsters and inhabitants.

The first session I would run is intended to be an introductory one, and no knowledge of the rules is required, though I will bring some simplified rule-booklets to distribute. Most of the game-mechanics are straight-forward (other than combat and spell-casting), and unless the players want to try the combat rules, the monsters will not be set on attack mode ... they will simply stop any unhidden players from entering and looting their lairs. The combat rules are very different from anything you have experienced before, and they take some getting used to. Combat is essentially diceless: there is a great deal of strategy involved, some in the initial decision to fight or run-away, some in the decision of what weapon and equipment to use, and some in your tactical choices (each player has 12 actions to choose from). In addition, there are monsters that particular characters are unable to defeat (without magic items or extra equipment).

If there is any interest in trying out Magic Realm, I will check with the D&D Meet-up organizers, to arrange for a table. Incidentally, here's the write-up for Magic Realm, that appears on the Boardgamegeek site, via the MR 2nd Edition rules:

MAGIC REALM is a game of fantasy adventuring, set in a land filled with monsters, fabulous treasures, great warriors and magicians. The scene is set in the ruins of a mighty kingdom, now inhabited by sparse groups of natives and swarms of monsters. Beneath it all are the rich remnants of a magicalcivilization , scattered and lost across the map.

To this scene come the adventurers, seekers of riches and fame, to make a name for themselves in this promising field. Swordsman and Dwarf, Magician and Sorceror, the humans and the half-humans come seeking to loot the legendary riches of a lost civilization. Now you can play the part of one of these adventurers, stepping into an unknown Realm of magic and monsters, battles and treasures.

As a player, you will take on the role of one of the sixteen major characters who are represented in detail in the game. You will control where he goes, what he tries to do, how he handles himself in combat and much more. In the course of the game you will run into deadly monsters, tribes of humans ranging from old friends to sworn enemies, and treasures that will enhance your abilities in many ways.

MAGIC REALM is a complex game designed to recapture the suspense and desperate struggles of fantasy literature. The game creates a small but complete fantasy world, where each game is a new adventure with a new map where everything lies hidden at new locations. The game includes many more playing pieces than are actually used in a single playing. The additional pieces are set up and can appear, depending on the directions in which the characters explore, but many of the treasure troves, treasures and spells will still be set up, unfound, when the game ends, and many of the monsters and natives might never be met. The result is an extremely unpredictable game full of surprises, a game that plays very differently each time it is played.

The complete game system includes hiking, hiding and searching, fatigue, wounds, rest, trade, hiring natives and combat between characters, monsters and natives using a variety of weapons on horseback and afoot, as well as many magical effects.

Between exploring a new land where the mountains, caves, valleys and woods change every game, and not knowing what you will find in each place, you will find each game a new and unpredictable adventure, filled with surprises. You will find this like no other board game you have ever played.


Anonymous said...

Sorry to be a downer, but I've rarely seen anything like a free table once the Meetup group rolls in.

A Paladin In Citadel said...


The last time I visited TSB on D&D game-day, there were only three tables occupied.

You may be right though. It can be busy on game-day

I will check with the organizers once I hear whether there is any interest.

Jay said...

Dungeon! is my favorite game (obviously)--and I had no idea that Magic Realm was a close cousin (as far as concept/gameplay). I'll have to go hunting for a copy.

John said...

I love Dungeon! I love Magic Realm.

Dungeon! is Monopoly. Magic Realm is Go. Two great games, completely different. Once you get the Magic Realm bug, you could play it to exclusion for the rest of your life, if you can find like-minded people.

Jay said...

Holy crap--I just looked online for any copies of MR and it's quite expensive. Somebody needs to start a petition to get this re-released or fashion a homebrew version of it!

A Paladin In Citadel said...

You can download a free, electronic version of the game from Realmspeak (check out my blogroll for the link).

The game has been out of print for at least 12 years. Avalon Hill's properties were purchased by Wizards of the Coast, but ownership of Magic Realm is unclear ... did it revert back to the original designer, or does WOTC own it?

Because of this, no-one is willing to take the risk of re-publishing the game. A shame, as this is one of those truly unique game systems.

You would like it, its got treasure cards, interesting combat mechanics, and has the re-playability factor that I look for in a game.

Very expensive to get a copy, the least I have seen it go for on eBay is $50, and then you pay for shipping on top of that.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

BTW, if you go to Boardgamegeek, you may find links to resources to build your own Magic Realm game. That's a little too much work for me (since I already own a copy) but if you've got the time...

You can also find a copy of the revised, 3rd edition rules if you google Avalon Hill Magic Realm. Fans have re-written the rules, to make them easier to understand.

Jay said...

Paladin, that's a wealth of info. I plan to look into. I'm on BGG so I'll check it out. The hex tiles strike me as Catan-like which we're heavily into in our house at the moment. So I think I could sway the peasants into a quest or two with little effort.

Thank you!