Many of us have fond memories of the chase for the crown of command in the immensely popular Talisman: The Magical Quest Game. Monsters were fought, Talismans sought, and people were turned into toads. No game went by without-t a story to be told. Even more so, the game’s cards and characters were always brimming with lore and the promise of many more daring adventures to be had far beyond the board. This is why Pegasus Spiele, in cooperation with Games Workshop, has developed the Talisman Adventures Fantasy Roleplaying Game. With just a few friends, some sheets of paper, pencils, and a handful of six-sided dice, you can experience the magical Realm in a new light and more freely than ever before. Should you never have played the board game, do not worry, though: the Talisman Adventures Fantasy RPG offers an exciting world full of dangerous foes, wondrous places, and fantastical stories to all who venture forth. But let’s get specific: Who do you play? How do you play? And what is it all about?
The Realm of Talisman has entered a dark and uncertain age. The Great Wizard, who once protected the people of the Realm, has vanished, leaving no-one mighty enough to defend the land. Yet, from despair blooms hope and the Wizard’s powerful Talismans still lie hidden – scattered across the Realm. They might bring glory, they might bring power, but they might also bring death to those who are weak of heart and mind. Thus, in this day and age, the Realm calls for nothing short of heroes, to venture out and discover the Talismans so long forgotten and to fight off the creatures of darkness.
Before starting, you will have to agree on one person to be the game master. They describe the world as well as its inhabitants and prepare thrilling and gripping adventures for the others. Everyone else takes on the role of a hero, an extraordinary character who sets out for daring adventures. As a player, you choose an ancestry (e.g., human, elf, or troll) and a class (e.g., warrior, druid, or priest), which grants their character certain abilities, skills, and features. These choices also specify values for the two attributes, ‘Strength’ and ‘Craft.’ Just like in the board game, Strength describes your character’s physical capabilities, and Craft represents your magical and psychic aptitude. These two attributes serve as foundation and core tendencies, but each is broken into the aspects that describe how well your character is prepared for specific situations. Your character’s six aspects: Brawn, Agility, and Mettle (based on Strength); Insight, Wits, and Resolve (based on Craft). Are they cat burglars and have high Agility, or are they well-versed wizards and have high Wits?
What makes the Talisman Adventures Fantasy RPG so easy to learn is that the characters now already have all their basic stats and abilities defined – with just a few decisions! Once you’ve made those choices, you can fine-tune and individualize your character to make them the hero you have in mind. You’ll need to choose an alignment, select a few additional skills and traits, and then you’re ready to heed the call. But what do these stats actually do in play?
Let’s say your ghoul thief named Kadlin is on the run from a group of angry city guards and has to balance over an uprooted tree trunk across a river in order to escape. Anytime a character faces a risky situation (such as this), there is a skill test. That means three six-sided dice are thrown. Depending on the situation, the game master will set a specific difficulty for the roll; a 14, for example, seems suitable for quickly traversing a somewhat broad trunk. The combined dice result meeting or exceeding this number is a Standard Success with some kind of complication; Kadlin would make it but might lose her trusted knife along the way. A success in combination with doubles gives you a Great Success and eliminates the complication, and the same with triples makes the result outstanding, maybe allowing Kadlin to kick the trunk into the river behind her.
But wait, you just created your character to be specifically prepared for situations like this! That is why, before a roll, a player should check their character sheet for a skill applicable to the specific situation. Skills cover certain areas of interacting with the world like ‘bargain,’ ‘decipher’ or ‘ride’ and come with ancestry, class and can optionally be added at the end of character creation. In our case, the ‘athletics’ skill is required, which an experienced thief like Kadlin has listed on her character sheet. ‘Aha!’ you say enthusiastically to the game master, and rightly so! Now the aspects come into play. Having the applicable skill grants Kadlin the addition of her Agility stat to the roll, increasing her chances for a success remarkably. At this point, you only need to know one last thing that is important when it comes to rolling dice in the Talisman Adventures Fantasy RPG: Fate.
Fate influences the roll in a literal sense, of course, but also practically. When rolling the three dice for a skill test, there should always be one die colored differently than the other two. The so-called Kismet Die serves as a normal die for all intents and purposes described above, but it has an additional function. Rolling a 1 or a 6 on this die might change the course of your entire adventure! It marks favorable stars or dark omens. A 6 gives you a Light Fate token. These can be spent in a variety of ways: Rolls can be nudged in your behalf (even those the Light Fate was gained in), e.g., an additional die can be added, or an unlucky result can be rerolled. Certain powerful abilities actually require Fate tokens to be activated in the first place. But beware, because just the opposite is true when the Kismet Die shows a 1. Then the game master gets a Dark Fate token, allowing them to make situations more dangerous or activate mighty enemy abilities. Speaking of enemies….
Combat in the Talisman Adventures Fantasy RPG works just like skill checks, with only a few amendments. Characters alternate in taking actions when fighting anything from annoying city guards to ferocious monsters. And while attack rolls mirror skill checks almost entirely, what makes fights more dynamic and easier to understand than in other roleplaying systems is that the enemy action is included in the player’s roll. A Failure means that only the enemy does damage, a Standard Success means that your character does damage, but takes half the enemy’s damage in return and anything above that cancels out enemy damage. This was a specific goal of game designer Ian Lemke when creating the Talisman Adventures Fantasy RPG. The players’ decisions (and rolls) and their characters should always take center stage. They are the heroes of the story, and they should be the heroes with regard to the rules, too.
Getting the Talisman Adventures Fantasy RPG to this point, to a system that is easy to grasp but provides ample opportunity to dig in deeper, that honors the board game while delivering the freedom of a roleplaying game and that welcomes newcomers to the Realm just as much as Talisman veterans, was, in fact, a quest that Ian Lemke did not take up lightly. Ever since work on the project started back in 2017, it was of utmost importance to him to listen to the fans. Numerous iterations were tested at conventions, and feedback, in turn, was incorporated into the next drafts – even a separate Playtest Guide with a dedicated feedback section was published. This way, the core of the 3D Adventures rule set became the polished gold that has just been released.
“One of the primary design goals was to make Talisman Adventures feel as much like the board game as possible while offering the freedom to create your own stories. You’ll find many of the aspects of the board game carried over to the RPG, including a multitude of classes and ancestries, followers, an alignment system that meaningfully impacts how you play, light and dark fate, and some of the random chaos that is part of playing Talisman! You might even find yourself turned into a toad!” Lemke writes in his designer notes.
With the Talisman Adventures Fantasy RPG you get thrilling adventures, mythical fantasy, and a whole lot of Talisman, developed by fans for fans and beginners alike. So take up your sword and put on your armor, fetch your wand and gather your arrows. There are battles to be fought, Talismans to be found, and a Realm to be saved. Prove that you are worthy! Or fade trying like so many before you…
If you now want to take a closer look at Talisman Adventures Fantasy RPG, check out our videos about the world of Talisman and the rules of the Talisman Adventures RPG and the reviews from How to be a Great Game Master:
Furthermore, we hade some talks about Talisman at our online convention CONspiracy:
Questions, comments, feedback? Share your thoughts with us at firstname.lastname@example.org