Most folks who tool around the old school blogosphere are probably aware that Talislanta is being released as free PDFs. What most people don’t know (or care about) is that Talislanta is, without question, my favorite game in the world I have never had the chance to play.
I first picked up Talislanta, the 2nd edition, at a long-gone gaming/hobby store whose name I have forgotten. I do remember that the owner was not well regarded. He had a great selection of Warhammer miniatures, which was my money-waster of choice when I was in college. Unfortunately, the owner had also had a fight with Games Workshop, and was no longer ordering new Warhammer miniatures. So, I’d go in every few days inbetween classes and look over the unchanging shelves of leaded sculpture. On the plus side, he also had a small selection of old RPG material – some old Dragons, some 2nd edition AD&D and Talislanta.
I remembered Talislanta from the ads in the Dragon, but they never really appealed to me. First of all, they seemed a bit condescending towards good old D&D. And besides the “No Elves” bit, the ads also weren’t all that eye catching – the ads for Bushido, Flashing Blades and Villains & Vigilantes did more for me back in the day. A quick jaunt through the pages of Talislanta, though, and I was hooked. More than Greyhawk and the Realms and all the other settings floating around back in the day, Talislanta was something really new. Bizarre races, different kinds of magic, a whole continent of weirdness to explore – the Encounter Critical of its day, one might say.
So I bought the book for the campaign world, but I after reading them I came away a firm fan of the system. Long before WOTC invented their “universal system”, Talislanta had a very easy to use universal system that really was universal. One table for everything, compare your skill versus your opponent’s (or a difficulty determined by the ref), roll a d20 and see how you do. The table had ranges for complete failure, failure, success, and complete success. Once you learned the ranges, you were set. I also liked the way this table interacted with combat. On any given round, you could announce some sort of special maneuver – grappling, knocking people over, etc. If you scored a success, you just did plain old damage. If you scored a complete success, you got to perform your maneuver. And if you didn’t want to perform some maneuver, complete success gave you double damage. Short and sweet, infinitely easy to learn and adapt. And yet, I’ve never played the game. The folks I played with were always D&Ders, and D&D, in one form or another, is always what we ended up using.
So – here’s some full-on nerd love for Talislanta. May I live long enough to finally play it!