Sunday, September 8, 2013

Wizards' Realm

In his Heroic Worlds book, Lawrence Schick has this to say about Wizards' Realm:
Fantasy system with a simplified, back-to-basics approach. Character creation employs a class-and-level system; classes include wizards, spellcasters, knights, and anti-paladins. The combat system is quite simple. Includes maps, a sample town, and an introductory scenario.
Schick also has this to say:
Fantasy system heavily inspired by D&D and set in a saccharin fantasy world where the worst you can say about the monsters is that they're naughty. The main city is such a terrible place, it's called “Mousehole.” The rulebook is printed sideways in a barely legible “script” typeface.
Both descriptions pertain to Wizards' Realm; however, the latter appears as the entry for a different game – Wizards' World – which immediately follows the listing for Wizards' Realm.  Perhaps Schick inadvertently switched the descriptions?  Well, no.  While Wizards' World has an introductory scenario (of a sort), it lacks maps and a sample town.  Also, the combat system for Wizards' World is no simpler than that for D&D.  So, we have two different descriptions for Wizards' Realm and none for Wizards' World.  (By the way, Wizards' World is available for purchase from Lulu.)

Schick makes no claims to perfection, but this Wizards' Realm/Wizards' World error highlights the problem of relying upon the information he presents in Heroic Worlds.  The first description is an even-handed and accurate representation of the game while the second description is laced with derision.  In which other entries does the opinion of “grumpy” Schick prevail over that of “professional” Schick?  What other entries are actually descriptions of completely different games?

Aside from being mean, the second description is wrong on several points.

The remark “heavily inspired by D&D” is one of disdain.  Yes, with regard to Wizards' Realm, the remark is true, just as it is true for many fantasy games from that era (especially from small publishers).  Wizards' Realm isn't any more derivative of D&D than other games of its class.

Rather than calling the Wizards' Realm setting “a saccharine fantasy world,” I would say “an intentionally nondescript fantasy world.”  Like any proper role-playing game, Wizards' Realm provides the GM and players with “latitude in shaping the world...”  The meager background that is provided is rather bland with a 'Tolkien vanilla' aftertaste.  Admittedly, the presentation of the game is sometimes 'cutesy.'  For example, two of the sections of the book are “Monsters 'n' Critters” and “Coin o' th' Realm.”  I'm not a fan of the 'cutesy' presentation, but I don't think it causes the setting to become “a saccharine fantasy world.”

I honestly don't know how Schick developed the notion that “the worst thing you can say about the monsters is that they're naughty.”  Here is a passage from page 9:
     Since a show of weakness is considered a sign of cowardice, bogeys often fight with an animal fury, and will choose to die on one's own sword rather than be taken a prisoner.  The lone bogey-man is then a most dangerous foe, for he will fight to the death over the smallest conflict.  Such beastial [sic] rages have given rise to the erroneous rumors of cannibalism and other outrages ascribed to their kind.
The above paragraph does not convey “naughty” to me.

The sample town (not “The main city”) provided with the game is named Mousehole, “pronounced `muz'l´ -- only an out-of-towner says `mouse-hole!´”  Of course, nothing prevents the GM from changing the name if so desired.  Sometimes, real-world place names are silly, so I would be disinclined to change it.  Besides, there has to be a reason it's called Mousehole; that reason could easily become the basis of an adventure.

Although the cover of Wizards' Realm is displayed in a 'portrait' orientation (see image above), the internal pages are presented in a 'landscape' orientation (or “sideways” as Schick has it).  The 'typeface' might best be described as no-frills, sans serif electric typewriter circa 1981.  It is most certainly not “script” and legibility is not an issue.  That being said, marginalia appears throughout the book in the form of “Realm elvish” – a substitution cipher of 'elvish' symbols.  This is certainly illegible in that it uses a non-standard alphabet – even the book refers to it as “gibberish” – but this is merely occasional marginalia, not the main body of the text.

Wizards' Realm was published in 1981 by 'Mystic Swamp' and written by Cheryl W. Duval, Niels Erickson, William G. Murphy, and Clifford Polite.  Alas, Schick neglects to list Ms. Duval as a creator in the Heroic Worlds entry, even though Wizards' Realm credits her for “original concept” in addition to writing.  If Schick is to be believed, a second, 'ring-binder' edition was released in 1983.  I suppose that's a 'binder with rings' as opposed to 'in the darkness bind them.'


  1. Good catch on the double entry! I agree Schick is pretty harsh on a lot of the games in his book. I still like the book for the guest essays and its attempt to be comprehensive, but I don't give his ratings too much credence.

  2. I don't own Wizard's realm so i'm happy to see your reviews.

    i never bought it maybe because i couldn't get fascinated by its cover. stupid decision.

  3. There are more than a few reviews in Schick's book and the similar book by Rick Swann that make me doubt if they actually read or played the product under review.

  4. I actually love Wizard's Realm. It had a lot of great concepts in it and was relatively clean in play. The colour on the cover actually does the line art a disservice. I'd suggest that the setting and art is Disneyesque rather than sachrine. The setting map is little more than an outline of coasts and mountains. Mousehole is actually a town in Britain and it's pronounced Muz'l. The ring binder edition got a positive review in Space Gamer.

  5. I am trying to find 2 copies of this. If you have a copy you are willing to get rid of please let me know.