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Talisman RPG: What Makes It Unique?

Talisman the board game is great but certainly has a beer and pretzels quality that I thought would carry over to the RPG. Instead, Talisman Adventures Fantasy Roleplaying Game is a nuanced dark fairy tale set in a magical world of competing alignments, ancestries, and powers. It impresses me.

talisman1.jpg

I love Talisman the board game. I’ve bought everything for it since second edition and played it consistently over the decades. I even wrote about how to use it as a D&D Adventure Generator Using Talisman the Board Game. I received a free PDF of the RPG to review.

Talisman Adventures FRPG takes everything wonderful about the board game, puts a fairy tale twist on it, and provides a living, breathing world to experience everything in. PCs can go on challenging adventures in a long-term campaign. The RPG is not about one quest to claim the Crown of Command. It is about hundreds of quests for a variety of different reason driven by the PCs. In addition, the game has a real old school feel while maintaining modern design sensibilities. There is alignment, traps, ten levels of advancement, and more.

Everything in Talisman Adventures FRPG is driven by kismet or fate. Player characters have light fate and Game moderators have dark that drive many game mechanics. PCs often have two choices for character advancement with an either or option. If your scout becomes a guide he cannot also become a brigand. Fate, once chosen, leads along different paths. The game uses 3d6 with a kismet die that can create additional harmful or helpful effects.

talisman2.png

Ancestries

Talisman has dwarves, elves, humans, and even sprites and trolls. More unusual is the ghoul as a playable character. Unique, however, is the leywalker.
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I made three others, just to see what would happen.” —Rifran Fristscion Evirseed, Wayfinder
A leywalker manifests the inherent magic of the Realm itself. Known as Children of the Portal, the leywalker is deeply connected to the magical webs of magical power that crisscross their world.

Leywalkers can create portal anchors that allow them to teleport. They also have inherent magic points that they can use to do psychic damage, share with others casters, or use themselves if they are a spellcaster.

Alignment

Good, evil, and neutrality are inherent qualities to the Talisman world. A character’s alignment can dictate what magic items they can use. Different places may be dedicated to good or evil with different effects depending on the character’s alignment.

No Initiative

Combat flows based on what actions the player characters want to take. Initiative is not hard and fast but instead is fluid based on the circumstances. However, each PC gets to take one turn before any other PC takes a second action.

Priests Don’t Use Weapons

Priests can kill using spells. But they take a vow not to use weapons. Some priests lean into this motif and focus on healing. Other priests develop cold hearts and can return the harm others cause them with weapons to a spell they later cast.

Prophets Suffer from Visions

Prophets either receive clear visions but suffer if they talk or write clearly about them, or they receive clouded and confusing visions that they can talk about. Either way, prophets know a lot but their lives are messed up.

Followers

Strangers and even Enemies can become a Follower. A Follower gives the PC they follow special abilities just like those gained from ancestry or class. Followers have Loyalty that must be maintained. If Loyalty ever falls to 0 for 24 hours, the Follower departs.

Random Encounters

Talisman is full of random tables and random encounters to assist the GM in adventure building. Random tables are included for a variety of different circumstances from random benefits a Follower provides to PC aspirations to what monsters are encountered.

Can you use the board game with the RPG? Yes. The Fate counters translate directly. The miniatures will work well and the cards can be used as hand outs of sorts. You will also see magic items, spells, and more make a direct translation from board to RPG. Becoming a slimy, little toad is still a thing.

This RPG is wonderful. It is different enough from both the board game and other fantasy RPGs that I would find new surprises to enjoy. It has its own depth and developed setting. Yet it is also familiar is many ways, with great old school vibes, and in many ways like the board game from which it springs. If anything could bring me back to running a fantasy RPG, Talisman Adventures Fantasy Roleplaying Game would be it. Highly recommended.
 

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Charles Dunwoody

Charles Dunwoody

R_Chance

Adventurer
I have really fond memories of the board game. And now the RPG sounds interesting. I think I'll pick up the hardback when it releases, and the PDF then for portability. After that we'll see how it goes. It's been a while since I was willing to dive into a new RPG system. Hmmm... "new" :D
 

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I have really fond memories of the board game. And now the RPG sounds interesting. I think I'll pick up the hardback when it releases, and the PDF then for portability. After that we'll see how it goes. It's been a while since I was willing to dive into a new RPG system. Hmmm... "new" :D
Just a warning on that: They aren't permitted to bundle the dead tree and the pdf; GW is greedy. This was mentioned in the comments on DTRPG by the company. So you're looking at $25 for the PDF. (at least if you're not a pirate.)
 

R_Chance

Adventurer
Just a warning on that: They aren't permitted to bundle the dead tree and the pdf; GW is greedy. This was mentioned in the comments on DTRPG by the company. So you're looking at $25 for the PDF. (at least if you're not a pirate.)
Not a pirate. Well, my first choice is the hardback. I'll pick it up and, if I like what I see, I'll pony up for the PDF. I prefer dead tree for reading but use the PDFs for reference. And I'm intrigued enough to want to read it. So, unless I decide to run it they are out the money on the PDF. Thanks for the warning on that.
 

MrZeddaPiras

[insert something clever]
As for many games of that era, it typically outlasts its welcome long before it's actually finished.

And as another artifact of that era, too many players felt obligated to play to the end even when non one else was having fun anymore but the eventual winner and second place contender. If more people had had the courage to call it quits after only a couple of hours of play, there would be many more fonder memories like the one quoted above.
I think a lot people played it wrong. You need to roll, move, do the thing and see what happens. If you do that it can be pretty fun and relaxing, and it's not even that long. If players stop to think, which is fairly useless in Talisman, the game drags and comes off as pretty unfair. That's my experience, anyway.
 

I think a lot people played it wrong. You need to roll, move, do the thing and see what happens. If you do that it can be pretty fun and relaxing, and it's not even that long. If players stop to think, which is fairly useless in Talisman, the game drags and comes off as pretty unfair. That's my experience, anyway.

Agreed. Just go and see what happens. Even becoming a toad or getting killed by a finger of death can be entertaining if you just play. And it gives you incentive to hopefully turn the tables on the player who got you in a later turn or game. All good fun and you never know what is going to happen next.
 

What do you two think people who think the game is too long are doing, other than "roll, move, do the thing and see what happens?" Roleplay? Attempting to auction off property? Trying to get a double-word score?

It's a beloved game that goes on longer than modern games, and that sometimes clashes with the expectations of contemporary players.
 

What do you two think people who think the game is too long are doing, other than "roll, move, do the thing and see what happens?" Roleplay? Attempting to auction off property? Trying to get a double-word score?

It's a beloved game that goes on longer than modern games, and that sometimes clashes with the expectations of contemporary players.

I have a friend who plays every game like it is life or death. He is planning moves ahead, reading spaces, doing math for all I know. He gives me a headache sometimes. So what do I think he's doing? Getting up to shenanigans. I know he figured out a way to get gold from the City expansion and use his alchemist follower to build a financial empire. He bought a Talisman somehow and won the game. I might have ended up having to pay him real money after that based on some obscure rule he invoked.

I have another friend who argues rules and syntax. No, I think teleport works even if you are a toad even though the toad has a move of 1. I should still get a roll. So what do I think he's doing? Getting up to high jinks. He reads all the words and puts emphasis on different ones so the toad can do more than move 1 space. He has a PhD in malarky.

Lots of ways to play Talisman. Some suck way more than others. Some are in the spirit of the game and some are not.

Still the best 100s of bucks I ever spent. And since I bought it I get to go first. Showed both my friends. It is IN the rules. Best day ever.
 




My hardcover arrived last week. It's bigger than I expected.
I've been running it. The travel and campsite systems result in a lot of encounters if one is printing the map on 11x17" paper and assuming 1/2"=8 km with a 16 km daily hike. I've only had 3 "planned" encounters, of over 25... it would be really nice to have each monster on an A6 sheet.
Advancement is a bit fast; next time I run it, I think I'll double the needed XP to level up.
Otherwise, we're having a blast with it.

I've found it useful to use a tracker with name abbreviations
I simply drew it on a 3x5" card, and it looks rather like the following ascii art. As players take their turns, I put a stone on their box; If the target was able to respond, I also mark its turn. (ranged vs a non-ranged-capable target doesn't use the target's turn automatically.)
Code:
+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+
|  NN  |  TH  |  MD  |  KB  |  SH  |  CC  |  JH  |
+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+
|                                                |
|                                                |
|                                                |
|                                                |
+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+
|   1  |   2  |   3  |   4  |   5  |   6  |   7  |
+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+

Note that, while spell difficulties are almost symmetrical (as in, yur odds of resisting a Craft X are the same as you casting with Asset X), melee damage is not - PC output averages about 1.5× NPC output per turn...

Also, by 5th level, the special abilities are getting extremely useful.
 




The distinction of light and dark fate is really a bit of a lie...
Dark fate is just GM fate, and light fate is really just player fate.

Right. But both are generated in game by the character's success or failure. So the more a PC does, the more the chance to generate light or dark fate. If they succeed Fate leans toward light. If they fail, dark. The GM is given to tools to tweak as needed to get the right balance. A simple mechanic that is controlled by the characters' actions but has a profound effect both on game play and in the world.
 

Right. But both are generated in game by the character's success or failure. So the more a PC does, the more the chance to generate light or dark fate. If they succeed Fate leans toward light. If they fail, dark. The GM is given to tools to tweak as needed to get the right balance. A simple mechanic that is controlled by the characters' actions but has a profound effect both on game play and in the world.
Except it's not tied to success or failure. It's rolling a 1 or a 6 on the kismet die.
It's not uncommon to succeed with a 1 in the pool; not so often to fail with a 6 in it, but I've seen that happen often enough. Especially with the midlevel encounter table.
 

Except it's not tied to success or failure. It's rolling a 1 or a 6 on the kismet die.
It's not uncommon to succeed with a 1 in the pool; not so often to fail with a 6 in it, but I've seen that happen often enough. Especially with the midlevel encounter table.

You are correct, I typed in haste and was incorrect. Fate is tied to Kismet not success. A 1 on Kismet still shows a dark result (can power GM effects) and a 6 is tied to light (can power PC effects) so to me this still fits the flavor well. But it does not tie to success or failure, which to me actually makes more sense. But YMMV.
 

My hardcover arrived last week. It's bigger than I expected.
I've been running it. The travel and campsite systems result in a lot of encounters if one is printing the map on 11x17" paper and assuming 1/2"=8 km with a 16 km daily hike. I've only had 3 "planned" encounters, of over 25... it would be really nice to have each monster on an A6 sheet.
Advancement is a bit fast; next time I run it, I think I'll double the needed XP to level up.
Otherwise, we're having a blast with it.

I've found it useful to use a tracker with name abbreviations
I simply drew it on a 3x5" card, and it looks rather like the following ascii art. As players take their turns, I put a stone on their box; If the target was able to respond, I also mark its turn. (ranged vs a non-ranged-capable target doesn't use the target's turn automatically.)
Code:
+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+
|  NN  |  TH  |  MD  |  KB  |  SH  |  CC  |  JH  |
+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+
|                                                |
|                                                |
|                                                |
|                                                |
+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+
|   1  |   2  |   3  |   4  |   5  |   6  |   7  |
+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+

Note that, while spell difficulties are almost symmetrical (as in, yur odds of resisting a Craft X are the same as you casting with Asset X), melee damage is not - PC output averages about 1.5× NPC output per turn...

Also, by 5th level, the special abilities are getting extremely useful.
Sounds cool. My copy arrived today and I promptly put it back into the Amazon box and requested a replacement copy. (Shipped in a very large box with no packing material or protection at all - every corner is smashed and the cover is scratched.)
 



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