Thursday, March 22, 2012

My Favorite Magic Items in Atlantasia

John Holland, in his The Realms of Atlantasia, presents a copious number of magic items – presents, but does not necessarily describe in detail. More precisely, Holland lists numerous magical effects (what he calls ‘suffixes’) which can be associated with a variety of items. For example, Johann Nederland – spy mage – owns ‘saddlebags of charity.’ There are also ‘dice of charity,’ ‘belts of charity,’ ‘pouches of charity,’ ‘packs of charity,’ ‘books of charity,’ ‘cards of charity,’ and the ever-convenient ‘crystal balls of charity.’ They each have the same effect which, according to Holland, is “never pays for food or lodging.”*

The existence of a variety of items with the same effect is important in Atlantasia because there are restrictions with regard to the number of magic items that a given character can have ‘active’ at a time. For instance, a character can only wear one cape or cloak at a time. So, if you have a ‘cape of agility’ and a ‘cape of protection,’ you can benefit from one only at the expense of the other. If, however, you have an ‘amulet of agility’ and a ‘cape of protection,’ then you’re in business. (You can have ten amulets or broaches, but only three medallions. Don't worry, you can keep track of it all on page four of the character profile.)

In Atlantasia, potions are brewed by alchemists.  There are twelve potions that only particular alchemists can make.  For instance, the ‘Potion of Shadow Dragon Control’ is made exclusively “by the Shai-elf Dragon-mage Trahl-issyss.”  This makes for some passable adventure seeds -- the king needs a potion, the player characters have to track down the alchemist, maybe they have to negotiate a price, maybe they have to help the alchemist out of a predicament or perform a favor, maybe they need to gather the ingredients, etc. So far, so good.  Yet once again, Holland seems to have a good idea going only to make a sharp left and pass into the inexplicable realm of WTF.

First, the potions are described twice (pp. 42-43 as well as pp. 188-190).  Yeah, sure, it’s only a couple of pages but considering what the 545 page book doesn’t cover, it’s a shame two pages couldn’t have been devoted to character movement or other absent rules.  Second, the pricing is odd -- big surprise.  The potions are rare and powerful, so it’s understandable that they’re expensive; however, for expensive items, the prices are rather precise.  For instance, the ‘Potion of Dimensional Travel’ has a price of 59,950 gold chips as opposed to a nice, round 60,000.  It’s not like there’s competition and you need to advertise $9.95 instead of $10.  Third, some of the effects are peculiar.  The ‘Potion of Mass Illusion’ “infects between 20-50 targets with a terrifying illusion.”  Do the targets drink the potion?  The ‘Potion of Seasonal Change’ “was developed to change the season you are in.”  How does that work?  Does the imbiber travel through time or does the potion somehow change the nature of reality?  Actually, any confusion about effects is rendered moot due to the next fact.  About these potions Holland tells us…

NONE OF THEM WORK!!!!... (they are all frauds)

That’s right, Holland goes through the trouble (not once, but twice) of describing a dozen potions, identifying their respective creators and assigning them a precise cost, only to tell us that they’re fake.  I can only assume that their fraudulent nature is generally unknown, but how well known would the potions be even if they worked?  So, the limited number of people who know of them at all are ignorant of their falsity.  Don’t you think that the first customer who was fooled (and survived) would make life difficult for the alchemist or at least spread the word about the swindle?  Maybe it’s like “The Royal Nonesuch” in Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; people are embarrassed that they fell victim to the ruse and they want others to suffer similarly.

Here are a few other magic items.

Cape of Electric Retard (p. 209):  I would have called it the ‘Cape of Protection from Lightning,’ but whatever.
Bell of Invisibility (p. 204):  This item is ideal if you want to avoid detection by deaf people.
Amulet of Sleep (p. 246):  Any person wearing this amulet “goes to sleep every time they try to attack.”  This is supposed to be a cursed item, but I think it would be beneficial since it prevents people from hurting themselves.

*  I’m not sure how this is supposed to work. Let’s say that Johann has been staying at an inn. The proprietor approaches him with the reckoning. Does Johann tap the saddlebags and then the proprietor just smiles and waves good-bye?


  1. I liked Cape of Electric Retard's first album better, the later stuff, not so much.

    All that description only to have the items be frauds is definitely dedication to a bit. That's Gygaxian realism for you, big time.

  2. This gets more and more compelling. Do you think you could give us more of Johann's spy adventures? Like the time he was spying on Shadow Dragons but fell asleep with his Amulet of Sleep and the dragons bit themselves to death attacking him? Or about the time he used the Cards of Charity and the Bell of Invisibility to make out with the deaf King's harem AND get free grapefruit?

    Cape of Electric Retard - did Holland just slam Raggi?

    Your bloody valentine,

  3. I am on John Holland's FaceBook group for the RPG. I felt that I wanted to see what was going through his mind before I decided to write him off. As a game designer I understand that a person's published game is usually going to be not up to par, or just really bad. John just astounds me with his attitude and egotism. His works border on the bad styling of FATAL and IMHO must be the only gamer up there in his neck of the woods, he comes across as if he has never seen another game other than AD&D in his whole life. On his FB group he had the nerve to ask "How many people on his group were "Real Gamers". I was tempted to tell him to F himself, but I think I will throw the same question back at.