It’s been called the best fantasy boardgame ever. Talisman: The Magical Quest Game has been in print since Games Workshop first released it in 1983 and now that the franchise has been licensed to Pegasus Spiele, this tabletop classic is getting the biggest expansion of all — a comprehensive re-imagining into the realm of the RPG.
Pegasus recently made available Talisman Adventures Playtest Guide, an 82-page introduction to the Talisman setting and rules that includes a set of pre-generated characters and a first-level adventure to playtest the mechanics. Talisman is written by a team of authors led by Ian Lemke (game designer at Green Ronin who co-authored The Expanse RPG), and art directed by Aaron Acevedo (art director at Pinnacle Entertainment Group). The result is a polished and graphically rich foray into a fantasy world that is both familiar and new.
At first glance, the format of Talisman Adventures will be well-known to any player of fantasy RPG settings. Players find themselves immersed in a world that is the proving grounds for an epic archetypal battle between cosmic forces of good and evil. Character creation begins with choosing (in this case) an ancestry — Human, Dwarf, Elf, Ghoul, Sprite or Troll — choosing a class — Assassin, Druid, Minstrel, Priest, Prophet, Sorcerer, Thief, Warrior or Wizard — choosing an alignment and lastly assigning attributes and skills. Characters then gear up and ready themselves for adventures in the wild.
But where Talisman sets itself apartment is with its “degrees of success” action gradient and its unique combat mechanics.
Talisman dispenses with initiative. Players choose amongst themselves their order of attack. And when players do attack, the enemy’s reaction occurs immediately — like a real-time/turn-based mash-up. Depending on players’ rolls, consequences come in four varieties: failures, standard success, great success and extraordinary success. In combat, for instance, a failed attack means that there is a heavy consequence — the attacker’s opponent deals full damage instead, and both turns are consumed. On a standard success roll, success is balanced by consequence — both attacker and opponent land blows on each other. A great success roll is a success with no adverse consequences at all. In combat, for instance, a great success roll means that the opponent does not land a return blow and both turns are consumed. And lastly, an extraordinary success is success beyond expectations, earning the character an extra attack, for instance, or the luck required to find an extra special item in a pile of dross.
Players roll 3d6 for all “test” rolls — attacks, spell casts and all skill, athletic and intellectual checks — the results of which are compared against a difficulty number set by the game master. But something very interesting is placed into each of those rolls — a “kismet” die, a differently colored die that triggers a critical consequence on a 1 or 6.
On a kismet roll of 6, a Light Fate is generated — a reward that can be used to alter the character’s fate. If used immediately, the player can re-roll any of the other two dice. Otherwise the Light Fate can be saved to turn any 3d6 test into a 4d6 (of which the best three dice are used).
On a kismet roll of 1, however, a Dark Fate is generated that grants the GM the power to dispense an extra challenge — increase an enemy’s threat rating, for instance, or activate one of its special abilities.
Talisman Adventures Playtest Guide is available in softcover and pdf. An additional supplement, Toads and Diamonds, takes characters up to level 3.
The new “degrees of success” mechanics introduced in Talisman is a home run. Looking forward to seeing this system develop.
Originally published on RPGBuyer.com