Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Magic Realm: Anatomy Of A Monster

I'm mightily impressed with those few souls who comprehended and played Magic Realm using the first edition ruleset. They were a peculiar breed of gamer.

The majority of us struggled through Magic Realm's first edition, playing the game incompletely or not at all. Most of the blame rested with the first edition ruleset, but the Magic Realm counters were also to blame.

Not only did Avalon Hill misprint several of the monster counters during the initial print run, but the counters were incomplete, lacking sufficient information for efficient gameplay. The above counter, representing the tremendous troll, is a case in point.

Only the harm inflicted by the troll's attack -- heavy (H) with an attack speed of 4 -- and the troll's move speed (4), appear on the counter.

The second edition of Magic Realm fixed some of the rules problems, but failed to improve the counters. It would take some dedicated fans to resolve the problems with the counters.

Below is a counter for the tremendous troll, from the electronic version of Magic Realm, called Realmspeak. One of the most valuable innovations of the Magic Realm fanbase is the addition of the vulnerability code, shown in the top right corner of the counter.In this case, the vulnerability code is "T" and is surrounded by a grey circle. The T signifies that you must inflict tremendous damage on this monster to kill it, and the grey circle signifies that the monster is armored.

As I mentioned earlier, armor eliminates one sharpness star from an attack, so any attack on an armored monster loses one sharpness star before damage is determined.

For example, the Black Knight strikes the tremendous armored troll with an axe.The axe does heavy damage (medium weapon plus a sharpness star equals heavy damage) and the Black Knight overswings the medium weapon with his H4** chit, thus increasing the damage to tremendous. However, because the troll is armored, we must deduct one sharpness star. Therefore the Black Knight does only heavy damage, insufficient to kill the tremendous armored troll.

If a monster is unarmored, its vulnerability code is surrounded by a yellow circle, rather than a grey circle. Case in point is the tremendous giant.As you can see, the giant's tremendous vulnerability code of "T" is surrounded by a yellow circle, signifying that he is unarmored. In the case of the giant, the Black Knight's attack, above, would have dispatched the giant, as the tremendous damage inflicted by the overswung axe equals the vulnerability of the unarmored tremendous giant.


Matthew Slepin said...

So, is the combat totally binary: kill it or do no harm? Does the Black Knight in the example have any of recourse?

Aaron E. Steele said...

Magic Realm is extremely old-school. Think Gygax's original Chainmail rules. So yes, for the monsters, you either kill them or you don't.

For the characters, it's a little more complicated.

Each character has 12 chits, which act like hit points. A chit is taken out of play for each wound the character suffers, and as a result of fatigue from over-exertion.

When all 12 chits are taken out of play, the character is dead.

But characters can also be killed immediately, if the monster is powerful enough.

In the example with the Black Knight and the tremendous troll, the Black Knight has an option: run away. He can do this because he has a Move 3 chit, which is faster than the Troll's move 4.

His other option is to have hidden before he entered the troll's lair so that combat is avoided in the first place.

The 3rd edition of Magic Realm has optional combat rules that allow the Black Knight, with axe, to have a chance against the tremendous troll.

Jay said...

Aaron, two things:

1. I find these posts extremely useful and informative since I've STILL yet to play Magic Realm (the copy I snagged on ebay last year). We're in the process of buying our first home so I'm waiting for the move to happen. I have this series of posts bookmarked so I can sit down at our(hopefully) new dining room table to finally learn to play!

2. I just saw over at former TSR game dude Jeff Grubb's blog a nice long post on Realm. Worth checking out and I'd be interested to hear any thoughts you have (unfortunately, he doesn't have comments open on his blog).

Anyway, thank you for these!

Aaron E. Steele said...

You're very welcome.

I'll do my best to provide a thorough and easy to understand series.

I had a quick look at Jeff Grubb's post. It appears he has mashed MR and Talisman. I'm going to go back to it, it sounded pretty cool.

anarchist said...

Does this mean that you can never kill certain monsters with certain weapons? So for example someone with only a spear would never be able to kill a troll?

I can see the value of that in a game sense, but it's obviously not all that realistic.

chris said...

In the game as written, you are correct, certain weapons just won't kill certain creatures.

However, there are (widely?) used variant rules that add an element of randomness to the combat and either increase or decrease the amount of damage you do based on the relative speeds of the attack/defense and whether or not you "intercept" the defender (you play your move in the same maneuver box as the defender... happens 1/3 of the time). These rules avoid pretty much all of the situations where your victory or doom are 100% certain in MR.

anarchist said...

Thanks. I've had a look at the Magic Realm rules a couple of times, but couldn't work them out.

Aaron E. Steele said...

anarchist said...
Does this mean that you can never kill certain monsters with certain weapons? So for example someone with only a spear would never be able to kill a troll?

I can see the value of that in a game sense, but it's obviously not all that realistic.

I'm not sure what you mean by realistic. If I am heading to Africa and bring a mace with me, what do you think of my chances versus a charging rhinoceros? How about a spear in my hand, and I am confronted by an enraged elephant?

Realism is a difficult concept to implement in a fantasy game.

Do you mean, rather, that you disagree with that game design choice? An optional "variable damage" rule addresses that concern. What Chris said, above.

chris said...

Personally, I like both versions of combat. I think the non-random version is better for new players as it allows them to work out the combat mechanics with less moving parts. However, I hate the "binary" combat situations and so, as a relatively experienced player, I prefer the randomized combat. I find it a little tougher too, since the randomized rules downplay the importance of undercutting somewhat.