Sunday, March 23, 2014

Witch: Day 28

Day 1  Day 2  Day 3  Day 4  Day 5  Day 6  Day  7
Day 8  Day 9  Day10 Day11 Day12 Day13 Day14
Day15 Day16 Day17 Day18 Day19 Day20 Day21

The Witch has survived 27 days in the Magic Realm.  She awakens on Day 28, ready for one last chance to recover treasure and defeat monsters.

Sometimes Magic Realm games are wild affairs, with mad scrambles to the finish line, securing the last few victory points.  This game will end with a whimper, not a bang.  The Witch has already accumulated an impressive score of 41, all from defeating monsters while in Dragon form. 
As indicated at the start of this play-by-play, the Witch is a great Magic Realm character to select, as she can absorb the Tremendous Flying Dragon and defeat nearly any other monster in the game.  The strategy requires that the Witch quickly fly to distant parts of the realm and search, patiently, for the right absorb monster opportunity.

On her final day in the Realm, the Witch intends to continue looting the Octopus Pool.  Regardless of the monster roll, the witch will, using her second of two prepared black mana chits, transform, again, into the Tremendous Flying Dragon.  While in Dragon Form, the Witch will not suffer fatigue from looting the Octopus Pool.  If monsters arrive at the end of the day, the Witch will already be in Dragon form, ready to destroy them. 

It may be time for the Witch to adopt another familiar: her Cat has had poor luck, lately, with its hidden path search attempts.  Perhaps its eyesight is failing?

Witch: Search, Search, Search, Search
Familiar: Peer, Peer, Peer, Peer
The monster die roll is a 2: Serpents and Demons.  A disappointing Day 28 result, as no monsters will arrive in the Cliff.

The Witch's familiar fails all four peer attempts.  Sigh.  Time for Kitty to be given a soft pillow in some corner of the Witch's hovel, and a new more perceptive Black Cat brought into the fold.
The Witch uses her final black mana to transform into the Tremendous Flying Dragon, and then performs four loot attempts.  She recovers two more treasures from the Pool, the Map of the Ruins, and the Battle Bracelets.
The Map of the Ruins are useless to us, since it is the end of the game.  The Battle Bracelets are worth 2 Fame and 4 Notoriety.  The addition of the Battle Bracelets to the Witch's inventory, and the relatively minor increases in total fame and notoriety, increases the Witch's game score from 41 to 48.
Meanwhile, at the Inn: the Black Knight and Sorceror spend the last Day in the Magic Realm looting back the items they sold to the Rogues before they slaughtered them yesterday.  The exchange some gold with each other during the last phase of Day 28.  At the end of the Day, we calculate our final games scores:
The Sorceror and Black Knight racked up impressive scores, using the sell-kill-loot strategy, each finishing with a +22.  The Witch more than doubled their individual scores, with a +48.  As you can see, the Witch can beat even the powerful Black Knight/Sorceror team using her absorb essence strategy.

Day 1  Day 2  Day 3  Day 4  Day 5  Day 6  Day  7
Day 8  Day 9  Day10 Day11 Day12 Day13 Day14
Day15 Day16 Day17 Day18 Day19 Day20 Day21

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Witch: Day 27

Day 1  Day 2  Day 3  Day 4  Day 5  Day 6  Day  7
Day 8  Day 9  Day10 Day11 Day12 Day13 Day14
Day15 Day16 Day17 Day18 Day19 Day20 Day21

Only two days left in the Witch's adventures in the Magic Realm.  She and her Familiar are in the Cliff, looking for hidden paths and the Octopus Pool.  They will continue to do so today, on Day 27, while waiting for the arrival of the Bats and Giant Octopus, who the Witch intends to kill while transformed into the Tremendous Flying Dragon.

Witch: Search, Search, Search, Search
Familiar: Peer, Peer, Peer, Peer
The monster die roll on Day 27 is a one:  Dragons.  The Witch has already eliminated the Heavy Flying Dragons that can appear in the Cliff, so there will be no combat here today.

The Witch's Familiar Peers four times, and fails to find the hidden path in the Cliff.
The Witch searches for the Pool, and finds it on her first of four search attempts.

This is a good opportunity to demonstrate one of the benefits of absorbing monsters.  In Magic Realm, characters must fatigue a chit with one effort asterisk each time they draw a treasure from the Pool, or attempt to loot the Cairns.  However, hired natives and Monsters are exempt from those treasure recovery exhaustion rules.  Therefore, before the Witch attempts to recover treasure from the Pool, she will use one of her two black mana chits to activate her absorb essence spell, transform into the Tremendous Flying Dragon, and loot the Pool while in Dragon form.  Because she is in Dragon form, the Witch will thereby avoid having to fatigue any chits.
The Witch selects one of her black mana chits, and uses it to active her Dragon form.  She then loots the Pool three times, recovering the Shielded Lantern, Vial of Healing, and Lost Keys, without suffering any fatigue.
The Shielded Lantern is a useful treasure, allowing an additional phase in Caves, and the Lost Keys are handy if you come across the Chest, Crypt or Vault.  None of these treasures will be of much use to the Witch, as she cannot reach any Caves or the Vault before the end of the game.  The Giant Bats stay where they are, so there is no combat for the Witch at the end of Day 27.

Meanwhile, the Black Knight and Sorceror travel to the Inn, sell most of their treasure to the Rogues, and then defeat them using their fiery blast spells and mace attacks.

Day 1  Day 2  Day 3  Day 4  Day 5  Day 6  Day  7
Day 8  Day 9  Day10 Day11 Day12 Day13 Day14
Day15 Day16 Day17 Day18 Day19 Day20 Day21

Friday, March 21, 2014

Witch: Day 26

Day 1  Day 2  Day 3  Day 4  Day 5  Day 6  Day  7
Day 8  Day 9  Day10 Day11 Day12 Day13 Day14
Day15 Day16 Day17 Day18 Day19 Day20 Day21

Today is Day 26, and with only three days left, time is running out for the Witch to earn additional Fame and Notoriety from monster-bashing.  She has decided to visit the Octopus Pool, in the hopes of collecting a few treasures while she waits for monsters to arrive in the Cliff.

The Witch's familiar is having some difficulty finding the hidden path.  At this point, the Familiar's search is simply busy-work.  Unless we were planning on playing a "month two" with this game there's little point in knowing where these other hidden paths are located.  The Familiar's primary purpose (in this game, at least) was to help find the Tremendous Flying Dragon, which she ably performed.
With 118 Fame and 116 Notoriety accumulated, the Witch currently has a game score of 41 (negative scores are a loss, scores of 0 or more are a win).  Let's see if we can augment that score!  The Witch will perform four searches, in an attempt to find the Pool.  Meanwhile, the Familiar will keep Peering for the hidden path.

Witch: Search, Search, Search, Search
Familiar: Peer, Peer, Peer, Peer
The monster die roll is a 2: Serpents and Demons.  No serpents or demons inhabit the Cliff, so we are out of luck today for more monster-bashing.  The Witch's familiar performs four peers and fails to find the hidden path, again. 
The Witch performs four searches, and fails to find the Pool. 
Meanwhile, the Black Knight and the Sorceror head towards the Inn, where a new group of Rogues have taken up residence.  It seems the Sorceror has tired of waiting for Goblins that never arrive in the Borderland, and she and the Black Knight are going to try their hands at eliminating the Rogues again.

Day 1  Day 2  Day 3  Day 4  Day 5  Day 6  Day  7
Day 8  Day 9  Day10 Day11 Day12 Day13 Day14
Day15 Day16 Day17 Day18 Day19 Day20 Day21

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Witch: Day 25

Day 1  Day 2  Day 3  Day 4  Day 5  Day 6  Day  7
Day 8  Day 9  Day10 Day11 Day12 Day13 Day14
Day15 Day16 Day17 Day18 Day19 Day20 Day21

There are only four days left in our Magic Realm game.  The Witch has met her initial victory conditions and is looking to pad her final score by killing the monsters in the Cliff and collecting treasure from the Octopus Pool.

Yesterday, the Witch prepared both black magic chits, and removed the curse laid upon her by the Imp.  Today, she will record three searches, in an attempt to find the secret passage to the Pool, and will record two move phases (one due to her workhorse) in the hope that she will find the passage during those first three search attempts. 

Players are permitted to record actions at the start of the day that their character is not yet capable of performing.  If the actions cannot be performed during their turn, they are cancelled.  So if the Witch does not find the secret passage today, today's regular and workhorse-related move actions will be cancelled.

While the Witch searches for the secret passage, the Witch's familiar will search for the hidden path in the adjacent clearing.  There is no point in having the Cat join the Witch in the secret passage search: the Cat can only use the "Peer" table, which does not allow for the discovery of secret passages, only hidden paths.

Witch: Search, Search, Search, Move-Cliff 6, Move-Cliff 6
Familiar: Peer, Peer, Peer, Peer
Today's monster die roll is a 6: Giant Bats.  This is a good roll for the Witch, as it will summon three Giant Bats to Cliff clearings 1 and 2.  The Witch hopes for a second daily monster die roll of 6 before the end of the game, as that will bring the three Bats to whatever clearing the Witch is in.

The Witch's familiar peers four times, but fails to find the hidden path.  The Witch's first search reveals the secret passage to the Pool, so the second and third searches are wasted.  The Witch then moves to Cliff 6 (the clearing containing the Pool) and ends her turn.
At the end of the Witch's turn, one Bat is summoned to clearing 1, and two Bats are summoned to clearing 2.

Meanwhile, the Sorceror and Black Knight meet up in Borderland 3 and trade with each other.

Day 1  Day 2  Day 3  Day 4  Day 5  Day 6  Day  7
Day 8  Day 9  Day10 Day11 Day12 Day13 Day14
Day15 Day16 Day17 Day18 Day19 Day20 Day21

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Witch: Day 24

Day 1  Day 2  Day 3  Day 4  Day 5  Day 6  Day  7
Day 8  Day 9  Day10 Day11 Day12 Day13 Day14
Day15 Day16 Day17 Day18 Day19 Day20 Day21
The Witch begins Day 24 of her Magic realm adventures at the base of the Cliff. 

The Witch has dispatched the Imp, and all of the Heavy Spiders at the Cliff.  That leaves six Giant Bats and the Octopus still to be defeated.  Since the Witch selected Fame and Notoriety as her starting victory conditions, she is most interested in killing monsters.  However, the Pool, with its nine treasures, also beckons her from atop the Cliff. 

The Witch intends to kill the Octopus anyway, so searching for the secret passage leading to the Pool makes sense.  But before she can do that, the Witch needs to recover her black magic.  She will spend the entire day resting and converting her Type V chits into Black mana.

As the Witch's cat familiar successfully found the hidden path in the Crag, her next destination will be the Cliff and the hidden path there.

Witch: Rest, Enchant, Enchant, Enchant
Familiar: Move-Deep Woods 1, Move-Oak Woods 4, Move-Oak Woods 2, Move-Cliff 2
Day 24's monster roll is a 4: Giants and Trolls.  Giants do not appear in the Cliff, although Trolls are summoned to the Borderland.  It will be interesting to see what happens over there.

The Witch's familiar moves four times to Cliff 2 and ends her turn.  The Witch rests her fatigued Magic V chit and enchants both Type V chits, turning them into black magic.  The Witch is prepared for battle once more.  She ends her turn, and no monsters are summoned to the Cliff.

During Day 24's combat round, the Witch casts her Remedy spell.  She could not do this during prior days, as she transformed herself into the Tremendous Flying Dragon and could not cast additional spells while in Dragon form.  Now that she is in Human form, she can cast the Remedy spell to remove the Disgust curse laid upon her by the Imp.
The Witch chooses to cast a spell during the combat portion of the day.

She selects Remedy, and uses some Gray mana and a Magic VIII chit to power the spell.
She needs to select a target of her Remedy Spell.
She selects the Disgust curse cast upon her by the Imp.
Once the Witch selects the Digust curse, her Remedy spell removes the Curse.  The Witch now has all of her Fame restored, and with her Fame restored, she has a game score of 41.
Meanwhile, at the Borderland...
The Sorceror successfully hides in the Borderland and alerts her shortsword (she alerts this instead of a magic chit, as the Black Knight already advised her, at the start of the day, that he will arrive in the Borderland, so the Trolls appearing in the Sorceror's clearing will be moved to the Black Knight's clearing at the end of his turn). 

Two Heavy Trolls arrive in the Sorceror's clearing.  The Black Knight successfully hides and moves to Borderland 2, and the Heavy Trolls are re-located to his clearing.  He attacks the Trolls from hiding, dispatching both and suffering a single point of fatigue.

Day 1  Day 2  Day 3  Day 4  Day 5  Day 6  Day  7
Day 8  Day 9  Day10 Day11 Day12 Day13 Day14
Day15 Day16 Day17 Day18 Day19 Day20 Day21

Monday, March 17, 2014

Witch: Day 23

Day 1  Day 2  Day 3  Day 4  Day 5  Day 6  Day  7
Day 8  Day 9  Day10 Day11 Day12 Day13 Day14
Day15 Day16 Day17 Day18 Day19 Day20 Day21
The Witch is on the home stretch now: only six days left until the end of the game.  She has already met her victory requirements (she needs to remove that curse placed by the Imp) so any additional accumulated fame and notoriety will only increase the Witch's final score.

The Imp and two Heavy Spiders have already been dispatched in the Cliff.  The Octopus, the final Heavy Spider, and six Giant Bats still can be summoned.  The Witch will continue hanging around  the Cliff, waiting for those monsters to arrive.  In the meantime, she will rest her chits, prepare black mana and remove the Disgust curse if opportunity permits.  During subsequent days the Witch will search for the secret passage that leads to the Octopus Pool.  In the meantime, the Witch's familiar will continue peering in the Crag for the hidden path.

Witch: Move-Cliff 3, Rest, Rest, Enchant, Enchant
Familiar: Four Peers
The monster roll for Day 23 is a 5: Spiders.  The last of the three Heavy Spiders will arrive at the end of the Day.

The Witch's familiar successfully discovers the hidden path between Crag 2 and 3.  The Witch moves to Cliff 3, rests two fatigued Type V chits, and prepares some black mana.  At the end of the day, the last Heavy Spider arrives in her clearing.
During combat round 1, the Witch uses her black mana to activate her absorb essence spell, transforming into the Tremendous Flying Dragon.  The Heavy Spider switches to its dangerous tremendous attack and slower move, and the TFD gobbles up the Spider as a result.

Meanwhile, the Black Knight moves five clearings to the Pine Woods, and the Sorceror fails her hide attempt and alerts her shortsword, but no monsters are summoned to the Borderland.

Day 1  Day 2  Day 3  Day 4  Day 5  Day 6  Day  7
Day 8  Day 9  Day10 Day11 Day12 Day13 Day14
Day15 Day16 Day17 Day18 Day19 Day20 Day21

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Witch: Day 22

Day 1  Day 2  Day 3  Day 4  Day 5  Day 6  Day  7
Day 8  Day 9  Day10 Day11 Day12 Day13 Day14
Day15 Day16 Day17 Day18 Day19 Day20 Day21

Today is Day 22 in the Magic Realm, and there is one more week to go until the end of the game.

The Witch will spend Day 22 recovering one of her black mana chits, and move to Cliff 5, where a Heavy Spider is waiting.  There is no need for the Witch to hide now, as long as she has black mana readied before she encounters monsters.  The only danger in not hiding is if the monster roll is a 5, in which case a second Heavy Spider will battle her today.

The Witch will send her familiar into the Crag, to search for a hidden path there.

Witch: Rest, Enchant, Enchant, Move-Cliff 3, Move-Cliff 5
Familiar: Move-Crag 2, Move-Crag 2, Peer, Peer
On Day 22, the monster roll is 1: Dragons.  The flying Dragons have already been killed (back in the Deep Woods), so they will not appear in the Cliff.

The Witch's familiar moves to the Crag and fails to find the hidden path.  The Witch rests and enchants one of her black mana chits, then moving to Cliff 5. 
At the end of the day, during the combat phase, the Witch transforms into the Tremendous Flying Dragon and battles and defeats the Heavy Spider.

Meanwhile, the Sorceror once again hides and alerts her sword in the Borderland, but no monsters appear.  The Black Knight loots four more times at the Guardhouse, subsequently moving one clearing towards the Inn.

Day 1  Day 2  Day 3  Day 4  Day 5  Day 6  Day  7
Day 8  Day 9  Day10 Day11 Day12 Day13 Day14
Day15 Day16 Day17 Day18 Day19 Day20 Day21


Just hang on a couple more days, folks.  +1!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Witch: Day 21

Day 1  Day 2  Day 3  Day 4  Day 5  Day 6  Day  7
Day 8  Day 9  Day10 Day11 Day12 Day13 Day14
Day15 Day16 Day17 Day18 Day19 Day20 Day21

It's Day 21 of the Witch's adventures in the Magic Realm, and Purple Magic is provided throughout the Land (purple magic will automatically activate the Sorceror's Melt Into Mist spell today). 

The Witch spent the first fourteen days looking for, and finally finding and absorbing the Tremendous Flying Dragon.  The next several days were spent travelling to the Deep Woods, where the Witch transformed in the Dragon and proceeded to devour the monsters waiting there.  It is important, when playing the Witch, to be patient.  Because absorbing the TFD is such a powerful strategy, she can still win the game even if it takes several weeks to find that Dragon.
As a consequence of yesterday's combat, the Witch has accumulated enough Fate and Notoriety to win the game (Players win by satisfying their initial victory conditions).  The Witch has accumulated her necessary 30 Fate and 40 Notoriety, and has earned an additional 75 and 65 of each, respectively.  Her total score (a zero is a win) is 37, because of the bonus she gets for earning points in excess of her victory requirements.  With a week to go, the Witch has time to increase that score even further.

I have added yellow numbers to the map at the top of the screen.  Having analysed the monsters that can appear during the final week, and the combination that appear together, that number represents the total estimated number of additional Fate and Notoriety points the Witch can score, if she eliminates all of the monsters that appear in the tile. 

As you can see, the Cavern provides the highest potential score, at 128, but is dangerous since the Witch might have to battle two Tremendous Trolls simultaneously.  The Great Sword Goblins also appear in the Cavern, and can overwhelm and kill the Witch/Tremendous Flying Dragon. 

The next most valuable tile is the Borderlands, at 86, but the Sorceror is already there, and the Black Knight may not be far behind, so the Witch will be competing with those two for monsters. 

Therefore, the Witch will play it safe, and head towards the Cliff, with its 54 available points, where she will battle the monsters that are summoned there -- the Octopus, Bats, Heavy Spiders and the Imp.  Of those, the only dangerous monsters are the Heavy Spiders; the Witch will attempt to face them one at a time.  They are dangerous because Heavy Spiders can do tremendous damage, but if they employ that attack, they slow down and are easy targets for the Witch/Tremendous Flying Dragon's faster attack.

The Witch still has her workhorse and an extra black mana, so she will use all five phases to head straight towards the Cliff without resting.  If she encounters one or more monsters there, she can transform into the TFD by playing her last black mana, to transform into her permanently absorbed Dragon.
The Witch will send her familiar to search for the other secret path in the Deep Woods.

Witch:  Five Moves to Cliff 2
Familiar: Move-Deep Woods 1, three Peers
The monster die roll for Day 21 is a 5: Spiders and the Imp.  The Witch should have no trouble defeating both monsters, but she may suffer one or more curses from the Imp before the combat is finished.

The Witch's familiar moves to Deep Woods 1 and discovers the secret path.

The Witch moves five clearings to Cliff 2 and ends her turn.  A Heavy Spider and the Imp appear in her clearing, and she battles them at the end of the day.
The Witch begins combat by playing her last black mana chit.
The Witch uses that black mana to transform into the Tremendous Flying Dragon.
She then targets the Heavy Spider, since it can kill her with its' tremendous attack.  The Imp will no doubt cast a curse on the Witch, but the Witch has the Remedy spell, so she can cast that to remove the curse(s) later.
It's a good thing the Witch targeted the Heavy Spider.  It uses its tremendous attack, but the Witch/TFD attacks first, with her longer reach since it is combat round 1, killing it.  The Imp cast the "disgust" curse on the Witch this round, making the Witch's Fame worthless until she removes the curse with her Remedy spell.

During the second combat round, the Witch kills the Imp, as it flips to its non-cursing attack side and the Witch/TFD's head attack speed of 3 undercuts the Imp's move speed of 4.

Meanwhile, the Black Knight continues to loot the Guardhouse, and the Sorceror successfully hides while in mist form caused by the purple magic present today.

Day 1  Day 2  Day 3  Day 4  Day 5  Day 6  Day  7
Day 8  Day 9  Day10 Day11 Day12 Day13 Day14
Day15 Day16 Day17 Day18 Day19 Day20 Day21

Friday, March 14, 2014

Magic Realm: The Gypsy

The Gypsy:  The Gypsy is a travelling fortune-teller who knows a little about a lot of different types of magic.  She can cast nearly any kind of spell - if she can obtain the right color. 

Meaning of Symbol:

Weight/Vulnerability: Light

Start at INN with 10 GOLD plus:
Three Spells (any except Type I)

Friendly:  Rogues, Bashkars, Crone
Unfriendly: Patrol, Guards

Special Advantages: 
1.  Charms: At Midnight, all of the Gypsy's prepared MAGIC chits become unprepared without fatiguing.
2.  Knowledge:  Roll 1 die for all Reading Runes rolls.

The Gypsy is the third of five new characters for Magic Realm.  I have already posted the Valkyrie and the Maiden.  I will post the Enchantress and the Huntsman soon.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Magic Realm: Appendix N - Part 2

My exploration of Dungeons and Dragons' inspirational fiction has led me to several relatively obscure (by modern standards) authors.  Lord Dunsany, whose writing is lauded by later fantasy and horror authors, such as Lin Carter and H.P. Lovecraft, is among those more obscure authors. 

Lord Dunsany's novel, The King Of Elfland's Daughter, first published in 1924, may not have been a direct inspiration for Dungeons and Dragons, but it seems to have influenced another fantasy game, namely Avalon Hill's Magic Realm.

I want to share a few select passages from The King Of Elfland's Daughter, as its contents mirror many game elements central to the implied narrative of Magic Realm.

"And as [the Elders of the Valley of Erl] wondered, the Freer intoned, 'Cursed be fairies ... and whatever enchants the meadows ... Cursed be brooms ... Cursed  be witches and all manner of witcheries ... Cursed be toadstool rings.....'"(216)

"So now [the Elders] spoke over their mead of the future of Erl and its place among other valleys...."(32)

"And all that night in [Orion's] dreams he hunted deer in the deeps of the woods..."(77)

"And away rode Alveric out of the village of Erl with his company of adventurers behind him ... to houses built on the verge ... he would go by the borders of the fields we know ... got no glimpse of the pale-blue [elfin] mountains...."(96-97)

"[Orion] cheered on his hounds as they ran [the Unicorn] over three more small valleys...."(111)

"[The Hounds] crossed a few more hedges, and there loomed before them the dark of the wood ... they hunted the Unicorn clear through the wood and down to a valley..."(129)

"The Freer on his homeward way heard the cry of Magic, and gathered his sacred robe more closely around him and clutched his holy things, and said a spell that kept him from sudden demons ...."(137)

"And she saw by magic, as long as his fingers made the spell, the dark green forests and all the fells of Elfland, and the solemn pale-blue mountains and the valleys that weird folk guarded...."(172)

"And all his dominions had exulted in this, and the watchers on awful crags had blown strange calls... and monster[s] ... had rejoiced with a new joy...."(173)

"And in the dark of long caverns weird things in enchanted seclusion rose out of their age-long sleep...."(175)

"Alveric met one morning one ... whose thin high conical hat and mystical air proclaimed him surely a wizard..."(179)

"Alveric saw at evening a woman in a hat and cloak of a witch sweeping the heath with a broom."(195)

"And it was the hour at which he was wont to celebrate after bird-song..."(215)

He had on his sacred robe with its border of purple, and the emblem of gold round his neck...."(216)

"She besought a rune that should restore to her Alveric and Orion, bringing them over the border and into the elfin lands...."(221)

"She spoke of the magical orchids that came down once over cliffs like a sudden roseate foam breaking over the Elfin mountains...for all these wonders were his: bird-song and blooming of flower alike were his inspiration.  And she prayed again for that  ultimate rune, that long-hoarded treasure of Elfland...."(222)

Having completed The King Of Elfland's Daughter, my assumptions about the source of monsters and treasure scattered throughout the Magic Realm has changed. 

I always assumed that the Magic Realm's treasures and monsters were a product of the collapse of a human kingdom.  However, the story of The King Of Elfland's Daughter is about the sacrifice of the kingdom of Elfland to re-unite an elf-maiden with a mortal king. 

The King of Elfland casts his final rune, the one that maintains Elfland's timelessness, to re-unite his daughter with her husband and child, ultimately dooming Elfland.

If this truly is a central inspiration for Avalon Hill's Magic Realm, it may explain why there are no Elves in Magic Realm.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Magic Realm: Appendix N - Part 1

The following article appeared in Avalon Hill's "The General" magazine, back in November 1979.  I recall reading it at the time, but it has become all the more meaningful, now, as I pore over early fantasy fiction in my exploration of Dungeons and Dragons' Appendix N. 
I re-publish the article here on my blog (grabbed from this website) to preface what I will publish, later, in regards to the Appendix N inspirations for Avalon Hill's Magic Realm.  So without further ado, I give you Richard Hamblen's...

Here is a pretty problem to perplex a game designer: how do you capture the magic of fantasy literature in a game? Games and books can both present stories but they cannot possibly present those stories in the same way – and the thing that makes fantasy literature come alive is the way it is told (the details; the depth and the descriptions of remarkable characters striving to cope in fantastic worlds). Fantasy exists only in the telling and is built entirely of skillful storytelling tricks and tools. If games by their nature have different tricks and tools, then it is almost a contradiction in terms to do a game that captures the essence of fantasy. If you don’t believe there is that much clash between games and fantasy, consider these examples.
First, variety. No matter how many times you read a book, it doesn’t bother you that it turns out the same way each time (in fact, it would bother you considerably if it turned out differently each time you read it). But you expect to play a game repeatedly, and you would be utterly outraged if it automatically turned out the same way each time you played it. In a book the hero may be portrayed as making decisions but, in fact he follows only one path of adventure. He may have the choice of joining a caravan bound for danger, leading an outlaw band, or seeking some lost treasure in the wild jungles, but he does only one of these and the others are mentioned only in passing. In a game the hero may want to change his adventure from one game to another and different heroes may want to do different adventures in the same game. So, in the game, alternate adventures have to be constructed and presented.
This is a major headache because of the second problem: detail. Fantasy adventures capture interest because they are explained in enough detail to make the experience seem real and to account for the hero’s thoughts and actions. Books can do this because only one adventure is detailed and the narrative can handle that quite nicely. In a game all possible adventures have to be detailed without much narrative (after all, you want to play a game, not read it).
Fantasy games do have one advantage, but it just leads to the third problem: creating a fantastic world. Games can invoke a whole fantasy world in detail just by mentioning a fantasy world that has been carefully fleshed out in literature. After all, the people who buy fantasy games have almost certainly read fantasy fiction first. The catch is that the fantasy book has fleshed out the world from only one vantage point. If nobody ever goes to look on the other side of a hill, there is nothing there. In a game the world has to be filled out from all possible vantage points, so the whole world has to be built right down to the nuts and bolts. Games based on particular works of fiction have an advantage here because only the parts of the world that are interesting in the book have to be built in. A game about adventure fantasy in general, a game such as MAGIC REALM, has to include all the aspects that are present in adventure fantasy generally or it does not invoke its world.
The headache is becoming gigantic, and there is yet a fourth problem: surprise. You get the most enjoyment out of a fantasy book the first time you read it because fantasy (like all forms of storytelling) relies heavily on surprise to entertain its readers and to create the illusion of real experiences. A game that entertains like fantasy each time it is played must therefore be able to surprise its players with unforeseen developments even after they have played it many times and have become familiar with its mechanics. (If being surprised by something that is familiar is not a contradiction in terms, I don’t know what is). In this case, a game based on the book is at a fatal disadvantage. If the game contains only the things that are in the book then it can hardly surprise you after you have read the book, and if it surprises you with things not in the book, it is hardly about the book. Fortunately, adventure fantasy generally is so full of variety that a game can be based on it and still provide surprises, but only if it can keep the players from becoming completely familiar with everything that can happen. Here the very size and complexity of a general fantasy game becomes a key advantage. All the poor game designer has to do is to build a world with all of the variety and diversity of adventure fantasy.
Well, that's the theory behind MAGIC REALM. It is meant to be a complete fantasy world so full of variation that the players have real choices to make. so full of diversity that no matter how many times it is played it can still surprise you with its situations, and so filled with detail that the illusion of a complete world is created. All of this is derived from the annals and possibilities of adventure fantasy. You can ride with a caravan or warrior band. you can lead a campaign or build an empire, you can seek a fortune or a good fight, you can meet and deal with the nobles or dregs of humanity. You can tamper with dangerous magical forces. You can never be sure of what you will find, or what will find you.
One problem with such a diverse little world is that it is complex, so it takes some time to master tactics and techniques. In fact, parts of the game were purposefully designed to be subtle so that it takes a single thought to figure out how to use them to your best advantage. The game is full of little puzzles that need to be figured out, and each game's puzzles are different (I am not referring to the rulebook, which is an inadvertent puzzle of a different sort).
With all of these possibilities in play, I am willing to have a little mercy and show you how to use certain game mechanics: you might call it a little guided tour of the MAGIC REALM, with some observations about the dangers and opportunities that can befall you including some advice on how to escape the dangers and make the most of the opportunities. The individual elements will be discussed in roughly the order they are introduced in the ENCOUNTERS. So, if you're only partially through the ENCOUNTERS and come to a discussion that sounds utterly unfamiliar, it probably refers to an ENCOUNTER you haven't reached yet (at least let us hope so).
On with the guided tour.
Start where the game starts, with the players assembling the 20 hex tiles to form the MAGIC REALM. Strategy begins here because the placement determines how the road net fits together, where caves are, what areas will be blocked by mountains and what areas are accessible only by secret passages or hidden paths. The characters have abilities that give them advantages in different types of terrain, so a player can gam an advantage in the game by constructing the board to favor the character he hopes to play in the game. Some of the characters’ advantages are obvious. The Dwarf is great in the caves and rotten outside of them, so he would like to see the CAVES tiles placed close to each other so that he spends as little time as possible when he moves outside of the caves. He would like them to be centrally located so they get in the other character's way. Characters who have an advantage in dealing with natives (such as the Captain, White Knight, Black Knight and the Wizard, because of his large number of friends) would like to see the VALLEY tiles containing the dwellings located close to each other. Characters who have advantages in certain tiles and who will work alone either because of weakness or special advantages should place their favorite tiles off out of the way, where other characters will not come in and mess things up (so the Witch and the Druid would like to see the RUINS off in a corner, and the Woods Girl feels the same way about WOODS ties generally) The Wizard would like to see paths and passages get in the way as much as possible. Other advantages are more subtle. The Dwarf likes caves partly because he is designed to face the slow monsters there instead of the fast ones in the mountains. The Amazon's extra move phase allows her to hide and move two mountain clearings so she would like to see mountains blocking the board to hinder the other players. Characters who can take a Spell allowing them to fly like to make normal movement as inconvenient as possible, partly by placing the WOODS tiles where they will cut off sections of the board once they are enchanted. And so on.
Once the board is complete, the Warning, Sound, Treasure Location, Lost City, and Lost Castle counters are scattered around to indicate what dwellings, monsters and treasures are in each tile, while the ghosts and four garrisoned dwellings are placed in the VALLEY tiles. The inhabitants of the other tiles remain secret, although each tile's terrain gives some idea of what lives there; small animals and nomadic tribes in the WOODS, treasures and slow, powerful monsters in the CAVES, and more treasures and smaller, faster monsters m the DEEP WOODS and MOUNTAINS.
This information is helpful when a player is planning how he will approach the game. Planning is important because each player chooses the conditions he must fulfill to win the game ahead of time, and because he has a choice of how to go about avoiding risks and gaining the power he needs to fulfill these conditions. It takes planning to deal with the dangers and opportunities in the MAGIC REALM.
The first considerations in a player’s plans are his character’s strengths and weaknesses. Each adventure he can undertake involves different tasks, dangers and rewards so a character should plan his endeavors to match his abilities. Once he has chosen his objectives, a character has the choice of going after them directly or going on minor expeditions to gain power first and then trying for victory. A character can plan a whole string of adventures leading to ultimate victory.
A player's second consideration should be for the cooperation, antagonism or indifference of the other players in the game. Characters who travel together and cooperate in combat and other activities greatly increase their ability to survive, search, trade and hire successfully. A whole group can profit from a leader's abilities and discoveries if they all FOLLOW him (so they move faster when following the Amazon. use paths and passages when following the Wizard and hide better when following the Druid or Elf), although the group should search as individuals. Unfortunately, greed and fear are powerful motives for one character to attack another so characters must be careful of the company they keep. This is a consideration that leads many characters to operate on their own. In particular, characters who are weak in combat (the Witch, Druid or Dwarf) have reason to fear a strong character (the Elf, Black Knight or Witch King). The stronger character, in turn, has reason to fear that weaker characters will combine against him. A balance of power within the group helps, but this balance can fluctuate wildly or vanish as the characters are weakened or strengthened during play. In addition, certain characters' powers are most effective when alone (the Druid's PEACE WITH NATURE) or at a particular location where others may not care to go (the Dwarf in the CAVES, the Woods Girl in the DEEP WOODS), which encourages these characters to go off alone. The net result is that the Druid, Dwarf, Elf, Witch, Woods Girl and Witch King often find themselves operating alone for one reason or another.
Operating alone is not a guarantee against being attacked, however, since a character can hunt another down during play (a strong character like the Black Knight can even make a living off of hunting down his fellow players). The system of recording moves and moving in a random order each day allows characters to track each other down once they are within a day’s journey of each other, since a pursuer can record a move to the quarry's location (and use the extra phases to search for hidden enemies, if the quarry is hidden). If the pursuer moves first and rolls successfully, the quarry is caught, and even if the attempt fails, the quarry is still within a day's journey and the tactic can be repeated until it succeeds. The Swordsman can move first perpetually to avoid being caught (or he can move first to catch up each turn when he is the pursuer), and characters with an extra MOVE phase (e.g. the Amazon or any character with horses) can outrun pursuit with a little care, but for most characters the only means of escaping pursuit is to duck into a path or passage the pursuer can't use. A character who anticipates being chased is wise to search and prepare a few escape hatches ahead of time.
Whether a character should seek or avoid combat depends on whether he can deliver the first killing blow. Each Round of combat is an exchange of blows in which each character plays a FIGHT counter and weapon to show the speed, strength and direction of his attack and a MOVE counter to show the speed and direction of his defensive maneuver. If a FIGHT's time undercuts its target’s MOVE time then it hits. Otherwise it hits only if the two match directions. To see which opponent has the advantage in combat, look at the fastest FIGHT counter that each is able to play which can kill with one blow if it hits. The character whose attack would be resolved first (due to FIGHT time or weapon length) has the advantage. He can rely on playing that FIGHT counter and a slow MOVE counter because in an exchange of blows, his attack will kill first. The opponent who strikes second must play a MOVE counter that cannot be undercut and a slow FIGHT counter because if he can't avoid the undercut, he is lost). However, if this slow FIGHT counter undercuts the first player’s slow MOVE counter then either player can be defeated by an undercut and the battle turns into a guessing game. If both players avoid being undercut then the battle will be decided by who matches directions first.
Striking the first blow in an exchange does not work against armor, because the target will survive to return the blow (except when the attack inflicts ‘Maximum’ damage). An armored character can maneuver so that any blow that matches his direction also matches the area protected by his armor, so only an undercutting attack from an unprotected area can circumvent the armor An opponent who can make such an attack can ignore armor, but otherwise, he must first destroy the armor. If unarmored, or lightly armored, he needs to undercut to destroy the armor quickly without being undercut himself. If his armor is stronger than his enemy's, he can play fast FIGHT counters and slow MOVE counters to bring on an exchange of blows to wear down the enemy’s armor. The battle is once more a guessing game in which lucky blows can change who has the armor advantage.
Wounds and fatigue become important as a character loses his counters because he loses his flexibility, his ability to avoid being undercut, and his ability to play undercutting attacks. Thus, a character with extra asterisks and counters will slowly gain the advantage in a prolonged battle.
Some characters' peculiarities affect their tactics. Those with weapons too light to kill their opponent or destroy his armor must use avoiding tactics and hope to stay alive long enough to wound him to death. Such is the case with unready bows which are unlikely to kill so their owners must rely on avoidance tactics until the bows are readied. Characters who can inflict ‘Maximum’ damage can ignore armor and use first-kill tactics The Knights must husband their easily fatigued MOVE counters carefully. The Dwarf' DUCK counter is his only fast maneuver, making it easy for opponents to match his direction. Against many opponents he must lust duck and hope his helmet holds out until he gets in a lucky blow.
The effects of the weapon times, armor bonus and weapon length optional rules are worth mentioning. Weapon length and weapon times change who has the first-kill advantage each Round, particularly on the first Round (when weapon length determines the order of attack) and each time weapons hit (because they become unready), so the characters should change tactics accordingly. Readied bows gain automatic first-kill status. The armor bonus makes armor harder to destroy as heavy weapons an no longer inflict 'Maximum' damage, medium weapons have trouble destroying armor. and light striking weapons cannot damage full armor at all!
A quick examination of their counters reveals the tactics that opponents should use and which of them is likely to win. An armored character has a clear advantage and a character with the first-kill advantage has a decisive advantage if he can undercut and avoid his opponent's armor. If both of the characters are armored and or neither can undercut then the outcome will hang on lucky hits where the directions match.
A character who wants to avoid being overmatched or to avoid swapping risky blows can escape by running away. His opponent must play a MOVE counter equal to his lowest MOVE counter to stop him, but the opponent's MOVE counter asterisks count against the opponent's two-asterisk limit that Round and thus prevent him from playing his fastest counters in combat. The opponent is wiser to not stop the character if stopping him would cause the opponent to lose the battle. This is particularly true when the opponents are equal in speed and armor. If one opponent is faster he can stop the other at little cost but since he is weaker than the other he would not want to. Rather, he should use his quickness to run away.
The characters should play the game with these tactics in mind. A character should avoid enemies with superior fighting ability, and he should engage equal opponents only if the prospective gain is worth the risk. A character who can run away can afford to let himself be caught by an enemy, but a character who cannot run away must concentrate on evasive tactics and hiding to avoid combat. An important point is that a character's combat ability changes as his armor is lost, his FIGHT and MOVE counters are wounded or fatigued, and his weapon is readied. This has two effects on play. A character should avoid battles that will weaken him severely (especially battles that will cost him his irreplaceable armor) even when he will probably win, and a character should prepare for combat so his combat ability is at maximum strength when combat begins. He should rest to recover wounded and fatigued counters, and characters with bows (or any weapons when the weapon times rule is being used) should alert them for the start of battle.
The same considerations apply when dealing with monsters – fight only when the reward is worth the risk, avoid dangerous monsters you cannot run from, avoid weakening battles, and prepare when battle threatens. Monsters, however, require different tactics.
In combat, monsters, have the disadvantages of being predictable, of having to attack and maneuver in matching directions each round, and of having only 'tooth/claw’ weapon length. When fighting a monster, a character can ensure victory by playing a killing FIGHT counter that strikes the first blow and either: 1) undercuts the monster's move time; or 2) matches the character's MOVE counter direction when the MOVE counter cannot be undercut (so the monster cannot hit without running into the character's first-kill attack). If the character can neither undercut nor avoid being undercut then he must get the first-kill advantage and hope for a lucky hit by matching directions. If he cannot get the first-kill advantage his tactic depend on whether he can survive a hit. If he cannot, then he must avoid an exchange of blows by playing a MOVE counter that cannot be undercut and playing a FIGHT counter in a different direction in hopes of striking an unreturned blow. If he can survive a hit, then he can use the normal tactics of undercutting or attacking and move in the same direction while avoiding the undercut. The character should choose a play that works regardless of which side of the monster counter is face up, but if he cannot then he should choose the less risky play, always remembering that the monster will probably not turn over.
A character facing a group of monsters should group them and treat them like one monster targets that gets the first hit. If he cannot survive their hits, he splits his MOVE and FIGHT counters. If he can, then he uses normal tactics. Obviously, the deadliest monsters are his first targets. (Note: When the monsters must be divided into three equal groups because the DEADLY REALM rules are being used, the character should concentrate the deadly monsters in one group and hope they keep missing while he picks them off.)
Groups of characters are deadly when they coordinate their actions in combat. A character can volunteer to be attacked by a monster and play his best MOVE counter to escape while the other characters use their best FIGHT counters to attack from three directions to ensure a hit. Against multiple monsters each character can volunteer to be attacked by the monster he can best avoid and attack the monster he has the best chance of killing, with the characters protecting each other from the monsters on their sheets. However, characters can easily double-cross each other in group combat by attacking each other or just abandoning a character to his own devices after he has committed himself.
Monsters on the APPEARANCE CHART have only a one-sixth chance of being active and appearing on the board each day, and even when they do appear they will land on a character only if he is in the same clearing with the Sound or Treasure location counter or in the same tile with the Warning counter that triggered them. A character can avoid these tiles and clearings once he discovers what the counters are. Monsters that are already on a tile are more dangerous because when they are active they will automatically go to the character’s clearing when he ends his turn in the tile, and even when they are inactive they block and fight characters in their clearings. This also means that when two characters end their turns in the same tile, monsters can appear in the tile when the first one moves and then go to the second character's Clearing when he moves. This allows characters to decoy monsters into each other's path, causing groups of characters to draw crowds of monsters. However, a character who is alone and who is cautious about hiding and choosing where he ends each turn is safe if he is just moving through monster territory.
It is when a character is spending a lot of time in a tile (to find, move to, locate and loot a Treasure location there) that the monsters become a major problem. Every day more monsters can appear and move into his clearing, and they will attack as soon as he fails a hide roll at the start of his turn. (The accumulation of monsters is extreme to the point of being ridiculous in the LOST CITY and LOST CASTLE where the treasures and monsters are concentrated.) Caution and cooperation are the tools needed to deal with this problem. A character who avoids ending his turns in the tile as much as possible (by peering into the tile from a mountain clearing in an adjacent tile to find the Treasure location counter, circling around outside the tile to move to it, and even dodging in and out of the tile while he locates and loots it) retards the accumulation of monsters there. Once monsters have appeared in the tile, he needs to hide each day, and if they are already in his clearing he needs to hide on his first phase or they will block and attack him. As the monsters gather, he can try to thin them out by fighting each group as it arrives, or he can move away and hide to draw them out of the treasure clearing and then go back when it is vacant. If a group is looting the treasure, one character can volunteer to move away, block any monsters he attracts and then run away during combat, leaving the rest of the group to loot safely and pay him a commission. Most importantly, when things start to get too hot, the character can just leave. Staying around to draw just one more treasure is the leading cause of character fatalities. Incidentally, notice that at a rate at two phases per day (one if you hide) it takes a long time to dig treasures out of a cave clearing, which gives the monsters a long time to gather.
Treasures can completely change the way a character plays the game. Each treasure confers an advantage in some aspect of the game, and if a character gets a treasure that changes one of his weaknesses into a strength, it can change the whole balance of power in the game. Treasures are only tools, however, and a character must study how a treasure's advantage interacts with his own strengths and weaknesses to determine what tactics he should use to get the best use out of the treasure, particularly when the treasure is interacting with another treasure that reinforces or cancels its advantage. Sometimes a treasure is useless to a character, either because he cannot use it or because his own strengths are superior to the strengths it confers It may be very useful to another character though, and this provides a real motive for characters to trade with (or plunder) each other, which is another reason why groups are helpful (trading partners are always handy).
Most treasures also have fame and notoriety values that show a treasure’s effect on its owner's reputation among the righteous and the lawbreakers, and show how it counts towards his victory conditions. These values are somewhat opposite, so treasures with a large value in one category often have a minus value in the other. Characters thus have the choice between holding onto (or discarding) treasures regardless of their values. Characters can also shuffle the treasures around to come to a balance of fame and notoriety that exactly fulfills their victory conditions.
Treasures can also be sold for gold, which can be used towards victory determination or can be spent to buy items or hire natives. Natives can have valuable and useful treasures for sale. as well as improved weapons, more armor, and horses to carry loads (to improve a character's movement and to protect the character in combat). Natives can also be hired to fight for a character, to defend him in combat, to help him search, and to go off in raiding groups to prey on monsters and characters while he stays safely behind. Friendly natives are a powerful asset who can turn useless treasures and gold into useful items and hired armies. So, a character is wise to operate in an area where friends are nearby, even if he has to wait at a dwelling to stop wandering friends when they appear. Hiring natives is a key to success. especially for characters who are operating alone or who have advantages in dealing with natives. One hireling can volunteer to face attacking monsters so his owner can escape or attack safely, and a whole group can defeat any monster or group that is vulnerable to their weapons. A character who saves up the gold to hires fewer groups and who chooses their opponents carefully (since natives will stand and fight to the last man even when they are doomed) has a big advantage, although hired armies usually do not come into play until late in the game when the characters have had a chance to accumulate gold.    
Escorting missions to their destinations and taking treasures to the visitors who desire them are two ways characters can accumulate working capital without too much risk early in the game. Missions cost nothing except time, and once a character has a little gold he can buy items desired by the visitors and then sell them to the visitors for a fat profit, building up quite a bit of gold that he can then use to trade with or hire natives.
Campaigns offer the powerful advantage of gaining allies at the cost of some fame and notoriety and then trading with and/or hiring these allies. Characters need to undertake some small initial adventures to get the fame and notoriety with which to start a campaign, and some careful planning is required to pay the price and still fulfill one’s victory conditions, but a character who executes such a plan gains a huge advantage late in the game.
Magic is so powerful that it dominates how its practitioners play the game. Spells are powerful but very narrow in application, so a character has to plan his game very carefully, predicting the dangers and opportunities he expects to meet and then taking along the Spells he expects to need. Conversely, the Spells a character can take should determine his plans. Characters without combat Spells cannot plan on being aggressive, characters without protection Spells cannot plan on operating alone, and characters without Spells that can help a group cannot count on the group's protection. These limitations encourage different characters to follow different game plans. The Sorcerer and Witch King have the Spells to be aggressive and independent. The Druid, Witch, and Elf have the Spells to operate alone and avoid trouble, and the Pilgrim has Spells that make him valuable in a group. Only the Magician and Wizard have complete flexibility in choosing how they will play the game. The main danger to a magical character comes from the danger that contingencies will arise for which he has no Spell, so every magical character needs to learn all of the additional Spells he can from artifacts, books, Treasure locations and visitors
A magical character also has to worry about being able to cast the Spells he has. He should keep MAGIC and transformed color counters available, and he can greatly increase his power by transforming his tile (assuming it provides the proper color magic). Preparing magic is an effective way of ensuring that he will be able to cast his Spells, but it is expensive (it costs one phase to ALERT and then one rest phase to recover the MAGIC counter) and risks being blocked while the counter is fatigued, so it should be done sparingly (only when the character is in imminent dangers).         
This completes the $2 tour of the MAGIC REALM. A more detailed description of tactics and ploys would be nice but out of place in a general article about the whole game. There are too many elements that determine the best tactics in a situation and these elements vary too much from situation to situation (the elements: different mapboard, different distribution of monsters as individuals and armies, and even different treasures and spells since only twenty percent of the possible treasures and spells get into play in any game – even change from game to game). The result is a game full of variation and surprises where the players have to figure out how to handle each situation as it arises.
The different characters use very different tactics both in combat and in the play of the game. Usually it takes several games with the same character before a player learns how to make the most at his advantages and the least of his weaknesses, and even then unforeseen situations can catch him off guard. Hopefully this article gives you a general idea of the tactics that are available and how they can fit together in a plan that leads to victory, or at least that leads to an enjoyable journey into a realm of fantastic adventure.