Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Victory In The Magic Realm

As I mentioned earlier, winning in Avalon Hill's Magic Realm comes from meeting or exceeding your self-imposed victory conditions.

The related process of selecting victory conditions is performed at the start of the game. Each player assigns five points to any combination of Great Treasures, Usable Spells, Fame, Notoriety and Gold.

At the end of the game, you measure your performance against those self-imposed victory requirements.

Victory points require that you sometimes collect multiple points in the category, If you assigned one victory point to Gold, you would need to collect 30 Gold to satisfy that objective. For Notoriety, one assigned victory point equals 20 Notoriety. Similarly, for Fame, one victory point equals 10 Fame. One victory point in usable spells means you need to find at least two spells, and for Great Treasures, there is a one-to-one relationship between victory points and treasures possessed.

When I play the Black Knight, for example, I will either assign 1 point to Fame, 2 to Notoriety and 2 to Gold (if I intend to combat native groups) or 3 Fame and 2 Notoriety (if my goal is killing monsters). In the case of 3 Fame and 2 Notoriety, I would need to collect 3x10=30 fame points and 2x20=40 notoriety points to achieve victory.

For someone else, playing the Swordsman, they might assign points to Great Treasures and Gold. Another person, playing the Wizard, might assign most of their points to spells. The choice of victory conditions is left entirely to the player. They might even assign all their points to one category, if they were bold (or especially reckless).

It is critical that you play Magic Realm in keeping with your self-imposed victory conditions. While it's tempting to be opportunistic, straying from your original plan will not result in victory. For example, if the Sorceror player selects Fame and Notoriety as his only victory conditions, he should resist the urge to search for usable spells, even if treasures come into his possession that would yield spells.

Thus Magic Realm really is a player-skill game. You are not competing against the other players, nor against the Dungeon Master. Instead, you are competing against yourself. Can you meet the victory conditions you have set for yourself?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Great Treasures

Although Avalon Hill's Magic Realm is a competitive multi-player game, victory is not achieved through the defeat of other players.

Instead, victory depends on how much fame, notoriety and gold you collect, how many spells you discover, and how many Great Treasures you control.

In Magic Realm, each player pre-selects their victory conditions. They can choose any combination of victory conditions, from five categories: Great Treasures, Spells, Fame, Notoriety, and Gold.

At the end of the game, each player's performance is measured against their pre-selected victory conditions. If they meet or exceed their pre-selected victory conditions, they win.

Players can select Great Treasures as one of their victory conditions. However, while there are roughly 80 magic items in the Magic Realm, only seventeen of those are "Great Treasures". Great Treasures have a large red spot on them, to denote their Great Treasure status.

Let's have a look at the some of those Great Treasures.

The Cloven Hoof is coveted by the Witch and Witch King (Warlock), as the Cloven Hoof acts as a continuous supply of Black magic. It is worth 40 notoriety points if kept, and subtracts 20 fame points from your final game score.

The Cloven Hoof is a boon for the Witch and Warlock, but for the rest of the characters, its in-game effect (of adding one to die-rolls) is a bad thing ... the equivalent of walking under a ladder, crossing paths with a black cat, or breaking a mirror. That's because lower numbers are usually better than higher numbers in Magic Realm. Since the Cloven Hoof adds one to your dice rolls, you'll never roll a 1, and will more often roll a 6.

And once you have discovered the Cloven Hoof, you can't turn off it's in-game effect: you are saddled with back luck for the rest of the game. So unless you are playing the Witch or Warlock, the best thing to do with the Cloven Hoof is trade this to the Witch or Warlock, or travel to one of the safe valley clearings (no dwellings and not in the valley with the ghosts) and discard it.

You may think that selling the Cloven Hoof to the natives and collecting 4 Gold is preferable to discarding it. The problem is, you (and every other character) must add 1 to your dice rolls when subsequently interacting with that native group, so selling this is really not worth it, unless you intend never to visit those natives again, or wish to impede the other characters' interactions with them.

The Sacred Grail is sought after by both the White Knight (Magic Realm's version of the Paladin) and the Pilgrim (the equivalent of D&D's Cleric). For those two characters, the continuous supply of White Magic provides a way to activate their otherwise moribund spell-casting abilities.

The Sacred Grail is also a Large Treasure. This has no in-game effect: Large Treasures are simply the treasures that, during game set-up, are placed at the bottom of the treasure hoards, and are therefore more difficult to obtain.

For characters other than the White Knight and the Pilgrim, there is no reason to hold on to this Great Treasure, unless you need it for your Great Treasure victory conditions. Selling the Sacred Grail to the Order provides you 12 Gold and 50 Fame, while keeping it, instead, actually costs you 25 Notoriety.

Whenever I think of the Golden Icon, I think of the image from the front of the AD&D Players Handbook, or the primitive but valuable statues described in any number of Conan and other pulp fantasy tales.

The Golden Icon is a Tremendous weight treasure. Unless a character has tremendous strength, or a horse that can carry tremendous weight, she cannot move nor take possession of this Great Treasure.

That will be doubly frustrating for those weaker characters, as this is also the most valuable treasure in the game, worth 100 Gold if sold to any of the native groups.

The Druid, the Magician, and the Wizard would all benefit from the Golden Icon's continuous supply of Grey (Nature) magic, but none of those characters have tremendous move chits to carry the Golden Icon with them.

This is where cooperation in the Magic Realm becomes important: when cooperating with the Dwarf, Berserker, and perhaps even the White Knight, all of whom can carry the Golden Icon, the magic-using characters gain access to Grey Magic, while the fighters benefit from having a potent spell-caster at their side.

Because the Golden Icon represents a more primitive religious sensibility, you gain notoriety but lose fame in the possessing.

Let's call the Dragon Essence, "Cloven Hoof Junior".

Like the Cloven Hoof, the Dragon Essence has a baleful effect: it acts as a SMOKE chit, thus attracting dragons to your location. That is not entirely bad, for those few characters that can defeat Dragons; nor for the Sorceror, Witch and Warlock, all of whom have the ability to possess the Dragon so arriving.

As the Dragon Essence supplies continuous Purple (Elemental) magic, it is much sought after by the Sorceror, who can thereafter more easily rain down fire and lightning, storms and hurricanes, disappear, transform himself into monstrous creatures, and provide underground lighting to assist him and his compatriots.

Another notorious Great Treasure, Dragon Essence reduces your Fame by 10 points, while simultaneously increasing your Notoriety by 20 points.

This last treasure, the Flowers of Rest, is really not a Great Treasure at all, as you can see by the absence of a red "Great Treasures" spot.

However, in the interest of completeness, I wanted to include all of the five treasures that supply magic. In this case, the Flowers of Rest supply continuous Gold (Faerie) magic, of considerable value to the Elf and the Woodsgirl.

For the rest of the Magic Realm characters, the Flowers of Rest are more annoying than useful. The Flowers are annoying because they cause any fatigued character in the same clearing as the Flowers to fall asleep at the beginning of their turn, and wake up, fully rested, the next day.

That would be convenient if your character was seriously fatigued. But when the character has only minor fatigue, and the player loses her entire planned turn to the unavoidable effects of this magic item, it can cause some frustration.

Well, there you have it. Four of the Great Treasures, plus one. Many of the above Great Treasures are of specific benefit to one or more characters. We will look at the rest of the Great Treasures, in subsequent posts.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Things You Can't Say On The WOTC Fora

I have discovered, from sorry experience, that you cannot talk about the following things on the WOTC Dungeons and Dragons fora.

  • Nine-fold Alignment System

  • Realism

  • Save Or Die

  • World Of Warcraft

  • Random attribute generation

  • Vancian Magic

  • XP for GP

  • Fragile entry-level characters

  • Role-playing

  • Player-skill challenges

  • Narrative combat

  • Heterogenous classes
  • Tuesday, January 24, 2012

    Appendix N: January 2012

    One of the more convenient uses I find for this blog is as a repository for various lists. I maintain three lists, Appendix N, Microgames, and Dragon Magazines, and I access my blog from my wireless devices when shopping at second-hand bookstores.

    Maintaining my Appendix N list recently allowed me to identify 10 books at a local second-hand bookstore that were highlighted in red, and were thus on my "to-buy" list. Those included E.C. Tubb's The Winds Of Gath, and A. Bertram Chandler's The Road To The Rim, both of which were recommended (as Traveller-related Appendix N resources) by Chevski.

    I keep rolling this Appendix N list forward, as it's a nuisance to have to dig through my posts to find this list.

    Abbey, Lynn:

    Adams, Richard: Watership Down

    Alexander, Lloyd: The Book of Three 1; The Black Cauldron 2; The Castle of Llyr 3; Taran Wanderer 4; The High King 5
    Anderson, Poul: Ensign Flandry; Flandry Of Terra; Agent of the Terran Empire; The Long Night; Three Hearts and Three Lions; The Broken Sword; The High Crusade; A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows

    Anthony, Piers: A Spell for Chameleon; On A Pale Horse
    Ariosto, Ludovico: Orlando Furioso

    Asprin, Robert A.: Thieves World I; Tales from the Vulgar Unicorn II; Shadows of Sanctuary III; Storm Season IV; The Face of Chaos V; Another Fine Myth

    Barker, M.A.R.: The Man Of Gold; Flamesong

    Baum, L. Frank: The Wizard Of Oz, Emerald City Of Oz, Land of Oz
    Beagle, Peter S.: The Last Unicorn

    Bellairs, John: The Face In The Frost

    Bellamy, Francis R : Atta

    Bloodstone, John: Thundar Man Of Two Worlds
    Bok, Hannes: The Sorcerers Ship

    Brackett, Leigh: Eric John Stark, Outlaw Of Mars; The Best Of Leigh Brackett; The Sword Of Rhiannon; The Ginger Star 1; The Hounds Of Skaith 2; Reavers of Skaith 3
    Bradley, Marion Z: Sword and Sorceress Anthology
    Brooks, Terry: The Sword of Shannara

    Brown, Fredric:
    Burroughs, Edgar R.: Pellucidar; Tanar of Pellucidar; A Princess Of Mars 1; The Gods Of Mars 2; Warlord Of Mars 3; Thuvia, Maid Of Mars 4; Chessmen of Mars 5; The Mastermind of Mars 6; A Fighting Man of Mars 7; The Moon Maid; Out of Time’s Abyss; Jungle Girl, Land of Hidden Men; Tarzan Of The Apes 1; The Return Of Tarzan 2; The Beasts of Tarzan 3; The Son Of Tarzan 4; Tarzan and the Lost Empire 10; At The Earth's Core
    Campbell, J Ramsey: Demons by Daylight

    Carter, Lin: Thongor and the Dragon City; Thongor and the Wizards of Lemuria; Thongor Fights the Pirates of Tarakus; Zanathon; Tower at the Edge of Time; The Black Star; Beyond The Gates Of Dream; Down To A Sunless Sea; Journey to the Underground World; Warrior of World’s End; Flashing Swords 1; Flashing Swords 2; Flashing Swords 3; Flashing Swords 4; Flashing Swords 5; New Worlds For Old; The Young Magicians

    Cervantes, Miguel: Don Quixote
    Chalker, Jack L.: Midnight at the Well of Souls 1; Exiles at the Well of Souls 2; Quest For the Well Of Souls 3; The Return of Nathan Brazil 4, Twilight at the Well of Souls 5
    Chandler, A. Bertram: The Road To The Rim; The Hard Way
    Chant, Joy: Red Moon And Black Mountain

    Cherryh, C.J.:
    Cook, Glen: The Black Company

    Daley, Brian: Han Solo At Star’s End; Han Solo’s Revenge; Han Solo And The Lost Legacy
    Davidson, Avram: The Phoenix In The Mirror; The Island Under the Earth
    deCamp, L. Sprague: The Complete Compleat Enchanter; The Compleat Enchanter; Lovecraft, A Biography; Warlocks and Warriors; The Fallible Fiend; Conan The Barbarian; Conan And The Spider God; Lest Darkness Fall; The Carnelian Cube; The Emperors Fan; The Reluctant King; The Goblin Tower; The Clocks Of Iraz
    Derleth, August: The Trail of Cthuhlu
    Dickson, Gordon R.:

    Donaldson, Stephen: Thomas Covenant The Unbeliever
    Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan: The Lost World

    Dumas, Alexandre: The Three Musketeers
    Dunsany, Lord: The King Of Elfland’s Daughter; Over the Hills and Far Away; The Charwoman's Shadow

    Eco, Umberto: The Name Of The Rose

    Eddings, David: Pawn of Prophecy, Queen Of Sorcery, Magician’s Gambit, Castle of Wizardry, Enchanter’s Endgame

    Eddison, E. R.: The Worm Ouroboros; Mistress of Mistresses; A Fish Dinner In Memison

    Ende, Michael: The Neverending Story

    Farmer, Philip Jose: The Maker Of Universes 1; The Gates Of Creation 2; A Private Cosmos 3; Hadon Of Ancient Opar

    Fiest, Raymond: Magician
    Finney, Charles: The Unholy City; The Circus of Dr. Lao
    Foster, Alan Dean: Nor Crystal Tears, Splinter of the Minds Eye; The End of the Matter; The Tar-Aiym Krang; Bloodhype; Orphan Star; For Love Of Mother-Not; The Time Of The Transference

    Fox, Gardner: Kothar Barbarian Swordsman; Kothar and the Conjurer's Curse; Kothar and the Wizard Slayer; Kothar and the Magic Sword; Kothar And The Demon Queen; Kyrik Warlock Warrior; Kyrik Fights The Demon World; Kyrik and the Lost Queen; Kyrik and the Wizards Sword; Warrior Of Llarn
    Funke, Cornelia: Inkheart
    Gardner, Craig Shaw: A Malady Of Magicks

    Garner, Alan: Elidor; The Moon Of Gomrath; The Weirdstone of Brisingamen
    Gemmell, David: Legend
    Goldman, William: The Princess Bride
    Glut, Donald F: The Empire Strikes Back

    Gygax, Gary: The Samarkand Solution; The Anubis Murders; Infernal Sorceress, Death In Delhi
    Haggard, H. Rider: The People Of The Mist; The World's Desire; When The World Shook; She And Allan; King Solomon Mines; She
    Hambly, Barbara: The Time of the Dark, The Walls Of Air, The Armies of Daylight, The Ladies of Mandrigyn, Dragonsbane
    Harrison, Harry: The Adventures Of The Stainless Street Rat; The Stainless Steel Rat

    Heinlein, Robert: Glory Road

    Hickman, Tracy:

    Hodgson, W.H.: The House On The Borderland

    Holmes, John Eric: Mahars of Pellucidar

    Howard, Robert E.: Sword Woman; Almuric; The People Of The Black Circle; Red Nails; Shadow Kingdoms; People Of The Dark; Beyond The Black River; The Hour Of The Dragon; Black Hounds Of Death; Conan 1; Conan Of Cimmeria 2; Conan the Freebooter 3; Conan the Wanderer 4; Conan the Adventurer 5; Conan the Buccaneer 6; Conan The Warrior 7; Conan The Usurper 8; Conan The Conqueror 9; Conan The Avenger 10; Conan Of Aquilonia 11; Conan of The Isles 12; Solomon Kane, The Hills Of The Dead; Skull-Face; Black Canaan; Swords Of Shahrazar; Marchers Of Valhalla

    Hyne, C J Cutliffe: The Lost Continent

    Jakes, John: Brak The Barbarian; Mark of Demons; The Sorceress
    Jackson, Steve: Fighting Fantasy

    Kline, Otis Adelbert: Swordsman Of Mars, Outlaw Of Mars, Planet of Peril
    Kuttner, Henry: The Mask Of Circe; Elak Of Atlantis, The Dark World, Robots Have No Tails
    Kurtz, Katherine: Deryni Rising; Deryni Checkmate; High Deryni

    Lanier, Sterling: Hiero’s Journey; The Unforsaken Hiero

    L’Engle, Madeleine: A Wrinkle In Time

    Le Guin, Ursula: A Wizard Of Earthsea; The Left Hand Of Darkness; Tehanu; The Farthest Shore

    Lee, Tanith: The Book Of The Damned I; The Book Of The Beast II; The Storm Lord, The Birthgrave, The Dragon Hoard, Night’s Master, Death’s Master

    Leiber, Fritz: Swords and Deviltry 1; Swords Against Death 2; Swords In The Mist 3; Swords And Wizardry 4; The Swords of Lankhmar 5; Swords and Ice Magic 6

    Lindsay, David: A Voyage To Arcturus

    Lovecraft, H.P.: The Doom That Came To Sarnath; The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath; The Shadow Over Innsmouth; At The Mountains Of Madness; The Lurker At The Threshold; The Tomb; The Watchers Out Of Time; Waking Up Screaming; The Dunwich Horror
    Martin, George R.R.: Dying Of The Light; A Song Of Ice And Fire

    Matheson, Richard: I Am Legend
    McCaffery, Anne: The Ship Who Sang; Dinosaur Planet

    Merritt, A.: The Ship Of Ishtar; The Seven Footprints Of Satan; The Moon Pool; The Face In The Abyss; Dwellers In the Mirage; Creep Shadow Creep
    Miller, Walter: A Canticle For Leibowitz

    Moorcock, Michael: Legends From The End Of Time; The Jewel In The Skull; The Mad God’s Amulet; The Sleeping Sorceress; The Runestaff; The Lord of the Spiders; The Masters of the Pit; The City of the Beast; The Warlord of the Air; Stealer Of Souls; Stormbringer; Elric of Melnibone; The Sword Of The Dawn
    Moore, C.L.: Northwest Smith; Jirel Of Joiry

    Morris, William: The Well At Worlds End I; The Well At Worlds End II; The Wood Beyond the World; The Water of the Wondrous Isles

    Mundy, Talbot: Tros Of Samothrace; Avenging Liafail 2; Liafail3; The Praetor's Dungeon 3; The Purple Pirate 6
    Niven, Larry: The Man-Kzin Wars; A World Out Of Time; A Gift From Earth; Tales of Known Space; Neutron Star; The Magic May Return; The Magic Goes Away; The Flight of the Horse
    Norman, John: Tarnsman Of Gor 1; Outlaw Of Gor 2; Priest-Kings Of Gor 3; Nomads Of Gor 4; Assassin Of Gor 5; Raiders Of Gor 6; Captive Of Gor 7; Hunters Of Gor 8; Marauders Of Gor 9, Tribesmen Of Gor 10, Slave Girl of Gor 11; Time Slave

    Norton, Andre: Quag Keep; Exiles of the Stars; Warlock of Witch World; High Sorcery; Witch World; Sargasso Of Space; Lord Of Thunder

    Nowlan, Philip F.: Armageddon 2419 A.D.

    Offutt, Andrew J.: Demon In The Mirror; Eyes Of Sarsis; Web Of The Spider; Conan, The Sword of Skelos; Conan The Mercenary; Swords Against Darkness I; Swords Against Darkness II; Swords Against Darkness III; Swords Against Darkness IV; Swords Against Darkness V; The Iron Lords; Cormac Mac Art

    Piper, H. Beam: Space Viking

    Pratchett, Terry: The Colour Of Magic, The Light Fantastic, Equal Rites, Mort
    Pratt, Fletcher: Land Of Unreason; The Blue Star; The Well of the Unicorn; The Carnelian Cube
    Saberhagen, Fred: The First Book Of Swords; Second Book Of Swords; Third Book Of Swords; Empire Of The East

    Schmitz, James: The Witches of Karres

    Shea, Michael: Color Out Of Time; A Quest For Simbilis; Nifft The Lean

    Sims, John:

    Sirota, Mike: Master Of Boranga

    Smith, Clark Ashton: Lost Worlds Volume 1; Lost Worlds Volume 2; Out Of Space And Time 1; Out Of Space And Time 2; The Abominations of Yondo; Genius Loci; Poseidonis; Zothique; Hyperborea; Xiccarph; Tales Of Science And Sorcery; Other Dimensions 1; Other Dimensions 2
    Smith, L. Neil: Lando Calrissian and the Midharp of Sharu; Lando Calrissian and the Starcave of Thonboka; Lando Calrissian and the Flamewind of Osean

    Smith, E.E. ‘Doc’: Triplanetary

    Springer, Nancy: The White Hart
    St. Clair, Margaret: The Shadow People; Sign of the Labrys

    Stasheff, Christopher: The Warlock Wandering; A Warlock's Blade; Warlock And Son; The Warlock Is Missing; Her Majesty's Wizard; King Kobold
    Stewart, Mary: The Crystal Cave; The Hollow Hills; The Last Enchantment

    Swann, Thomas: Green Phoenix; Day Of The Minotaur; Cry Silver Bells; Moondust
    Tolkien, J.R.R.: The Hobbit; The Lord Of The Rings

    Tubb, E.C.: The Winds Of Gath 1; Derai 2; Toyman 3; Kalin 4; Jester Of Scar 5; Lallia 6; Technos 7; Veruchia 8; Mayenne 9; Jondelle 10; Zenya 11; Eloise 12;

    Van Arnam, Dave: Star Barbarian

    Van Vogt, A.E.: The Voyage Of The Space Beagle; Quest For The Future

    Vance, Jack: The Languages Of The Pao; The Dragon Masters; The Best of Jack Vance; The Dying Earth; The Eyes of the Overworld; Cugel’s Saga; Rhialto The Marvelous; Trullion, Alastor 2262; Wyst, Alastor 1716; Marune, Alastor 933; The Faceless Man 1; The Brave Free Men 2; The Astura 3; Lyonesse 1; The Green Pearl 2; Madouc 3; The Face 4; The Blue World; Galactic Effectuator; Big Planet; City Of The Chasch 1; Servants of the Wanhk 2; The Dirdir 3; The Pnume 4; Suldrun's Garden
    Verne, Jules: The Mysterious Island

    Wagner, Karl E: Bloodstone, Death Angel’s Shadow, Dark Crusade

    Weinbaum, Stanley; The Black Flame; A Martian Odyssey
    Wellman, Manly Wade: The Old Gods Waken; The Hanging Stones; The Lost And The Lurking; After Dark; Silver John; Who Fears The Devil?

    White, Theodore: The Once and Future King
    Williams, Robert M.: Return of Jongor

    Williamson, Jack: The Trial Of Terra; The Legion Of Space
    Zelazny, Roger: Nine Princes In Amber; The Guns of Avalon; Sign of the Unicorn; The Hand of Oberon; The Courts of Chaos; Jack Of Shadows; Dilvish, The Damned; The Changing Land; Isle of the Dead; Trumps of Doom; Blood Of Amber; Sign Of Chaos; Knight Of Shadows; Prince of Chaos

    It's No "Living In A Box" But It'll Do

    Monday, January 23, 2012

    The Sights And Sounds Of Magic Realm

    I should probably add smells and treasure sites to that list, as there are multiple sense-evoking clues regarding monsters inhabiting the Magic Realm, as well as eight treasure sites scattered across the kingdom, just waiting to be looted by enterprising characters.

    While the valleys in Magic Realm are relatively safe (except for one valley, haunted by a pair of ghosts), the caves and mountains are both dangerous and rewarding.

    There are eight treasure sites in Magic Realm, as well as the lost city and lost castle, hidden in the mountains and caves. When setting up the Magic Realm board, the treasure sites are distributed secretly and randomly, so that none of the players, not even the person setting up the board, knows where the treasure sites are at the start of the game.

    The above treasure and location chits include both the name of the treasure site and the clearing it will be located in. For example, the Altar is found in clearing 1. You may recall, from my earlier blog on the Magic Realm map, that each clearing on a map tile is numbered. That allows these treasure sites to be placed in a particular clearing of a map tile.

    As the characters travel throughout the Magic Realm, they will discover these treasure sites. Some of them are more rewarding than others. For example, the Dragon Hoard and the Pool Of The Octopus each contain nine treasures. Others, like the Altar, Shrine and Statue (guarded by Demons and Imps) have only 3 or 4 treasures each.

    The Lost City and Lost Castle are special locations. They signify large concentrations of monsters and treasures, as a map tile with either contains five monster and treasure chits, rather than the usual one chit.

    In addition to treasure sites, you're likely to hear strange sounds as you venture through the mountains and caves of the Magic Realm. Those sounds are clues to the types of monsters you will eventually encounter in that map tile. For example, you may here the slithering of a giant serpent, the pattering of goblin feet, or the howl of the giant bats, long before those monsters appear. These sound chits are accompanied by a number, indicating in which clearing the lair of these monsters is located, so it is relatively easy to avoid them, at first.

    In addition to the sound chits, there are the above warning chits. They are perhaps more aptly named the no-warning chits, because these chits represent clues indicating monsters are very near. The above chits all have the letter "C" indicating that these are warning chits found in the caves, attracting such monsters as the goblins, trolls and serpents.
    And the above warning chits are placed in the mountains, signified by the capital "M" under the warning description. The mountains are where the spiders, giants, and bats are most likely to be found.
    While most of the deadliest monsters are found in the mountains and caves, the woods are home to packs of wolves, poisonous snakes, and a pair of unpleasant ogres. It is often wise to hide before ending your turn in the woods, at least until you have determined who inhabits it.

    Sunday, January 22, 2012

    There's Only One Artist For The ADnD Reprints

    The question is, can Wizards Of The Coast convince him to abandon his self-imposed exile and complete three manual covers?

    Thursday, January 19, 2012

    Horse Power

    You'll excuse me if I get on my high horse, once again, over the lack of satisfactory cavalry rules in Dungeons and Dragons.

    Gary Gygax's original Chainmail rules recognized the advantages of fighting from horseback. In those original 1971 Chainmail rules, mounted warriors were three or more times as effective in combat than their foot-bound brethren.

    But in DnD's transition away from Chainmail's mass combat rules, and towards the alternate d20 combat system, the importance of mounted combat diminished.

    This is true of every version of DnD I own, and while I don't own a copy of the 4E rules, i'm willing to bet that mounts provide little or no combat advantage in the most recent version.

    Mounted combat is a problem for DnD, of course. Certainly in the early years, much of Dungeons and Dragons was focused on underworld adventures, an uncomfortable milieu for one's horse. And there were significant dangers in leaving your favorite warhorse tethered outside the dungeon entrance, not the least of which was returning to find nothing but bones.

    Apart from capricious DMs and their propensity for mount-related mischief, treatment of horses, as separate from a rider, with its own hit points, meant that horses became less useful as the character levelled up. While the character increased in hit points, his favorite mount did not. Therefore, as a hit-point sink, the horse diminished in value over time.

    Games like Lord Of The Rings: Strategy Battle Game restore the combat advantages of fighting from horseback. Other games, like Avalon Hill's Magic Realm, don't go quite so far, but do provide some not inconsiderable advantages to owning a mount.

    Magic Realm includes three categories of mounts: ponies (pictured at the top of this post), workhorses (above) and warhorses (bottom).

    The pony doubles a character's movement in Magic Realm. For every move action that a character performs, she gets a free move action, by virtue of riding the pony. Ponies allow Magic Realm characters to travel quickly across the map, permitting them to visit the natives and find monsters and treasures. However, ponies are vulnerable in combat, killed with medium damage.

    Workhorses are less vulnerable, being killed by heavy damage. For example, workhorses are invulnerable during encounters with giant bats, who can inflict only medium damage. Thus, a common opening day in the Magic Realm sees all of the characters gang up on, and eliminate, the Rogues, who possess a stable-full of workhorses that can be raided once the Rogues are dispatched. In addition to providing protection against giant bats, workhorses provide an extra move phase every day.

    Warhorses are kept by the Order of Knights, residing at the Chapel. Warhorses give no movement advantage, but are tremendous and armored, making them very difficult to eliminate. Warhorses make characters well-nigh unkillable.

    Tuesday, January 17, 2012

    Actual Play Report From The Belly Of The Beast

    Every so often, it's valuable to visit the belly of the beast, to see what is being digested.

    With the secret play-testing of an alpha-version of 5E still fresh in his mind, one blogger on the WOTC site decided to take a spin with Original Dungeons and Dragons. His OD&D play reports can be found here, on his WOTC blog.

    I thought that some of this blogger's comments were worth reprinting here:

    "We ran out of time [with OD&D] at this point. I asked the players what they wanted to do. Move on to the blue box, for the second version of AD&D? No way, they said. Both women said [OD&D] was the most fun they had ever had with D&D! The optimizers, used to crunching lots of numbers? These guys also wanted to keep playing and experimenting. These are guys that, before the session, said on their podcast "I expect to not enjoy the game at all". They were amazed by how great a time they had. So, yeah, more White Box this week! After that, my hope is that we can continue to climb the version and edition ladder.

    We had gone from expecting to just ridicule OD&D to actually having a lot of respect for how D&D started. More incredibly, we wanted to play more. Some of the playtesters have been allowed to share that they see the versions of old in D&D Next. And they are having a lot of fun."

    Monday, January 16, 2012

    Pathfinder Miniatures: Ones That Won't Get Away

    As far as painted plastic miniatures go, here are some of my Pathfinder keepers.

    Sunday, January 15, 2012

    Pathfinder Figs For Sale Or Rent

    Update: The goblins are sold.
    The ettin is sold.
    The Trolls are sold.
    The Ogres are sold.
    The Orcs are sold.

    My Pathfinder minis were a couple of days late, but I finally picked them up on friday.

    As I mentioned four weeks ago, i'm not a fan of the Pathfinder humanoid monsters, like the two Ogres accompanying the Half-Elf Cleric, above. So if anyone is interested in the extra miniatures pictured in this post, feel free to make me an offer via my email address. Any unsold figs will probably end up on eBay in late January.

    In addition to the available Half-Elf Cleric and two Ogres, I have two extra minotaurs and an extra Watch Guard with spear and Watch Officer with sword, perfect as henchmen.

    This Ettin is massive, as you can see by comparing it to the size of Seelah, Human Paladin.

    Here we have two Pathfinder Trolls menacing a Dwarven Fighter.

    The odd looking black-and-blue fellow in front is a Spectre, and is surrounded by two Orc Warriors and an Orc Brute.

    The above photo is of two Dire Rats and two Gnome Fighers. I kept two of each, and I don't think i'm going to need four of them. The Dire Rat would be good for a were-rat figure.

    Finally, here we have 12 Pathfinder Goblins, the ones I have been complaining about. Now available to good home, make me an offer and we'll see what we can do.

    Incidentally, if you're looking for other individual Pathfinder miniatures, you can find them on the Paizo website. The online Pathfinder store can be found here.

    If The Glove Fits You Must Acquit Yourself

    Most characters in Magic Realm will eventually be required to acquit themselves well in combat. As much as you try to avoid it, you will eventually be forced to face-off with some monster, or a group of natives with chips on their shoulders.

    This is where a set of magical gloves come in handy. There are four sets of magical gloves scattered throughout the Magic Realm: the Deft Gloves, Handy Gloves, Power Gauntlets and Gloves Of Strength. Each set of gloves provides unique advantages to its owner.

    The Deft Gloves are so named because not only do they provide the equivalent of a light fight chit with a speed of 2, useful for the nimble, swashbuckling characters, but they also allow the wearer to roll one die when looting a treasure site.

    Since the wearer would otherwise roll two dice, and use the higher of the two rolls when looting, employment of these gloves significantly increases the wearer's chances of obtaining rarer treasures, since those treasures are usually only discovered with low die rolls.

    The Deft Gloves are the most valuable of all gloves, worth 10 gold pieces to any of the native groups. In addition, if sold to the Order, you obtain 5 fame points towards your victory conditions.

    The Handy Gloves and Power Gauntlets are very similar. The Handy Gloves provide the equivalent of a medium fight chit with a speed of 3, while the Power Gauntlets provide the equivalent of a heavy fight chit with a speed of 4. Both sets of gloves are attractive, as most characters must exert significant effort to achieve those fight speeds, and where effort is expended, fatigue is suffered. Thus, the medium and heavy characters can avoid fatigue by utilizing these gloves.

    Like the Deft Gloves, the Gloves Of Strength are coveted by the Order, who will award you with 5 fame points if you sell those gloves to them.

    However, these gloves are far more useful in combat: they allow you to dish out significant damage, when employed with the right weapons, and can also be used to open the Crypt of the Knight and the Vault, two rich treasure sites, since you need tremendous strength to open either.

    The Gloves Of Strength, like the Handy Gloves and Power Gauntlets, also eliminate the fatigue that usually accompanies playing tremendous fight chits of this speed.

    Type V Will Be Awesome

    More evidence that Dungeons and Dragons Type V will be the most awesomest Dungeons and Dragons ever.

    I mean, have you seen the related images for Types I through IV? Do you really want to play a version of the game that is represented by a boar-headed goat-man?

    I'm holding out for Dungeons and Dragons: Succubus Edition.

    Magic Realm: Anatomy Of A Goblin

    Goblins have serious old-school credibility. They have been a staple of fantasy literature and folk-tales, and appear in the earliest Dungeons and Dragons rulebooks. So if I appear to be less than enamoured with the Pathfinder RPG goblins, it is that Paizo neutered them, making them seem less menacing and more cutesy.

    Not so for the goblins of Magic Realm. These guys are ugly and dangerous.

    There are three goblin tribes in Magic Realm: the axe goblins (above), the spear goblins and the sword goblins. The axe goblins are the least formidable, but because of their move speed (3, 4 when alert) and their numbers (there are six of them), they can easily tie up and overwhelm any character, even heavy hitters like the White Knight and the Dwarf.

    The axe goblins are pretty straight-forward. They inflict either medium (light + sharpness star) or heavy (medium + sharpness star) damage, depending on whether they are unready, or alert.

    The threat the spear goblins pose is less obvious. Let's have a closer look at the spear goblins.

    Every denizen in the Magic Realm is represented by a cardboard counter, printed on both sides. The front side represents the denizen when it is unready. The back of the counter represents the denizen when it is alert.

    The above counter is the front (unready) side of the spear goblin. When the spear goblin is front-side up, it poses little threat to the character.

    The unready spear goblin can prevent you from running away (with a move speed of 3, very few characters have the necessary move speed of 2 to avoid it). But the spear goblin inflicts no damage while unready (there is no damage information printed on the spear goblin's front, unready side).

    When the spear goblin flips to its alerted side (the black bar across the bottom of the counter tells you that the denizen is now alert), it becomes much more dangerous. While the spear goblin's move speed drops from 3 to 5 (making it easier to run away from) the harm it dishes out increases to tremendous (heavy + sharpness star).

    Normally, this would be a good time to run from the spear goblin. But not all of the spear goblins will become alert at the same time: some will still be speed 3, preventing you from running away. The entire goblin tribe battles you when you stumble on their den, but only a few of those six goblins will be alert during a particular combat round. So while a few, unready spear goblins prevent you from running away, the rest skewer you with their spears. Not a pretty way to die.

    The sword goblins are the most dangerous of the three goblin tribes. On their unready side, above, their move speed of 3 prevents you from running away, and they inflict tremendous (heavy + sharpness) harm when they hit you.

    And when they flip to their alerted side, above, they can kill anything, including that armored warhorse you purchased, for a not inconsiderable sum of gold.

    No, like the knights of the order, you do not want to tangle with the sword goblins, not unless you are the sorceror, who can scorch them with the fiery blast spell and then fade into mist.

    Saturday, January 14, 2012

    Melee And Magic Realm Counters

    It should come as little surprise that I like Magic Realm. It includes all sorts of features that I like in a game. A fast, diceless, player-skill combat system. A mysterious and unrevealed backstory. Player agency, with clear and deadly consequences for bad decision-making. A wealth of opportunities for both player cooperation and competition. A circumscribed game length of only one month (28 days), which turns victory into a race against the clock.

    And most importantly? Counters. Lots and lots of counters.

    Magic Realm is notorious for its fiddly bits and long set-up times. You can easily spend 45 minutes to an hour setting up Magic Realm. That may not seem like a long time, for those of you who enjoy spending hours, as they say in the modern D&D parlance, "building your character", but it does become a barrier to casual gameplay, when other boardgame setups take only minutes.

    But those other boardgames don't have cool counters like Magic Realm does. And since i'm also a big fan of Melee and other chit-and-hex microgames, I really dig counters with artwork.

    Here are a few Melee counters, juxtaposed with some comparable Magic Realm counters. Metagaming missed the boat with their counters, as they could have easily printed some of the monster and npc stats on the counters included with their various death test adventures.