Thursday, April 8, 2010

New and Free Games of Interest

Since I wanted yesterday to be devoted to commemorating Dave Arneson's life and accomplishments, I didn't comment on several pieces of news of potential interest to old school gamers, including one pertaining to Arneson himself.
  • Starter Traveller, a boxed set released by GDW in 1983 as an introduction to their science fiction RPG, is now available as a free PDF download at RPGNow. I owned this many moons ago and it's an excellent product. If you've never taken a look at Traveller, this is a great way to take the plunge.
  • Far Future Enterprises is offering reprints of all 36 issues of The Journal of the Travellers Aid Society (in three softcover books) for a mere $30. That's a great price and, if it weren't for the ungodly shipping cost for non-US addresses, I'd have ordered a set already.
  • FFE has also made old Paranoia Press licensed Traveller products available in PDF form, including a $10 bundle that includes the entire series. Paranoia Press's stuff was of uneven quality in my opinion, but even its more bizarre products were nevertheless thought-provoking and different than what GDW and other licensees were publishing, so it's well worth a look.
  • Stephan Secchi, owner and creator of Talislanta, has released the game for free as a PDF under the Creative Commons License. You can download the 2001 rulebook, along with many other related products here. I've never owned or played Talislanta, but I remember ads for it in Dragon during the 80s ("No Elves!"). I've also learned that Secchi was strongly influenced by Jack Vance's The Dying Earth in creating the game, so I may have to rectify this gap in my education soon.
  • D.H. Boggs has released a game called Dragons at Dawn, which is apparently an attempt to recreate the rules Dave Arneson used in his earliest Blackmoor adventures, based on the information Dave and his players gave us over the years. I know nothing else about the game and will admit to being intrigued, as I find these "alternate universe" old school games quite fascinating. However, I'm not yet sure I'm willing to plunk any money sight unseen, so I may wait for reviews from others before making a decision one way or the other.


  1. Thanks for the links. I'm already downloading the Traveller Starter Edition. After reading about (and discovering) Traveller through your blog, I found it really interesting.

  2. Fast Forward Entertainment is still around? Seriously? I thought they went teats up in the D20 boom/bust?

  3. I have read some of the Talislanta material, it's a great and original exotic setting which don't have any Tolkien style influence. It is like an amalgam of the works of writers like J.Vance/Clark Ashton Smith/Lovecraft/Moorcock but i think the biggest inspiration comes from Clark Ashton Smith and J. Vance.

    And another important thing, Talislanta doesn't have dwarves, elves or halflings, but it also doesn't have (normal) humans! There are some humanoid races called "races of man" but all of them have some unique characters that makes all of them different.

  4. The FFE above is Far Future Enterprises, Marc Miller's company for distributing his games (Traveller and others).


  5. I too am intrigued by Dragons At Dawn (thought it sounds like pistols at dawn, but with two antagonistic wizards, engaging in an early-morning duel, with dragons).

    I spend more than $8 on lunch, so the pdf cost is not a signficant impediment. I am curious to read a review or two first.

  6. Talislanta is a great setting, and I agree with the commenter who says it seems derived from or inspired by the Pulp fantasists. I have several editions of the game (2nd), 3rd(Wotc), and a 4th that was expanded to the size of the Hero System rulebook. There were also some great regional supplements that were done for the 2nd edition by the "Jovialis Design Group." They're not essential, but I quite enjoyed them.

    security word: "sesses," a group or herd of Sussureses.

  7. I just got my bundle of JTAS recently. That's a lot of reading material for 30 bucks!

    A nice bonus surprise: the great John M. Ford wrote a number of articles for JTAS. If you don't know him, read "The Final Reflection". It's the good Star Trek novel. In fact, it's amazing.

    Word Verification: "uniter"
    n.: Not a divider.

  8. This is good news all around, especially the bit about Talislanta. Hopefully making it open source will get it a bigger fanbase.

    WV: "fantedea" The goddess of fantasy?

  9. Far Future Enterprises is offering reprints of all 36 issues of The Journal of the Travellers Aid Society (in three softcover books) for a mere $30. That's a great price and, if it weren't for the ungodly shipping cost for non-US addresses, I'd have ordered a set already.

    If you are interested in this, but scared of the shipping, go for the CD-ROM collection, it's $35, but for example, only $7 shipping to the UK.

    Even though the reprints are $5 cheaper, I plan to eventually get the CD-ROM because I don't need more books for my shelves, and like the idea of having a digital copy anyway.


  10. I am pretty psyched about Dragons at Dawn (no big surprise maybe?)! I ordered a print copy so it will take some time before I will be able to write a review. I am sure others will beat me to it. :)

  11. @JD, FFE is Marc Miller's company and it's fine. You may be thinking of QLI, which is somehow still lingering in an undead manner. d20 Bust had nothing to do with QLI's misfortunes IMO.

    Talislanta...why I haven't given it a real go before now (aside from lack of books) was just so many races (no elves but lots of pointy eared folk) and places and character types. With Tekumel you have, if you want, 2 or 3 typical starting points and you tend to start with either an imperial or barbarian party. Glorantha has a couple of traditional starting places as well and you can play it as straight up Dark or early Iron ages+ in a pinch.

    With Talislanta I have no grasp on how to dig in and start, yet. At least now I have about 1gb of pdfs to pick from. Wildlands or 7 kingdoms have been suggested for Vance or Smith type wizarding, but I'm not sure on which edition for magic yet. Some of the supplements cover nomadic types, which might be useful.

    As for the Dragons at Dawn thing, neat, but no previews, freebie or even webpage to give me more info? Hard sell for me.

  12. This is no spontaneous product.

    There's been loads of public discussion and meticulous research by Daniel, Nicolas Dessaux and others over at the ODD74 forum to pin down the old rules, aided by Blackmoor players when possible.

    Check the comments on my blog for inarticulate enthusiasm AND CLUES !

  13. Can't recommend Talislanta enough. Really, really good. And although Vance is the always cited as the premiere influence, Tal always feels like CAS's Xiccarph stories to me. Maal Dweb would fit right in on Tal.

    But just to be clear--Tal is not going Open Source. The game's creator and owner is just making of the books published over the years freely available.

  14. Nice! I am on those JTAS books!

  15. But just to be clear--Tal is not going Open Source. The game's creator and owner is just making of the books published over the years freely available.

    True. It's not being made Open but it is free to download and distribute, which is awesome.

  16. Talislanta is awsome. I've been a fan for many years now. I always grab my old copy of the Talislanta Chronicles when I want to get the feel of how fantasy can be fantastic again.

    Being a moderator on the Talislanta mailing list I've had quite some work lately to approve new members. I think the release of the old books have spread the word quite wide.

  17. Thanks, James, for posting the Talislanta news on your site. Much appreciated.:)

    re: CAS influence on Talislanta - Vance mainly, but most definitely CAS as well (who is also often cited as an influence on Vance). Loved the Xiccarph and Zothique material, and also Lovecraft's Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath.

    Another big influence was Dave A. Hargrave's Arduin Grimiore. Very imaginative material which IMO never got the credit it deserved.

    Thanks again -

    Steve Sechi

  18. Great to see you here, Steve! Fun to hear you mention Arduin. I didn't know that.

  19. Hi Andreas -

    Yeah, loved Arduin. Some of that B&W art was great, and the ideas were really out there. Dave supposedly created all of that stuff for his friends, and people liked it so much that he published it.

    BTW, thanks to everyone here for the kind words about Talislanta. I'm a music-biz dude these days,but it's always nice to see that there are still people out there who remember Talislanta and/or still play the game.