Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Future Ain't What It Used To Be

As indicated in previous posts, there are generally two types of Psi World campaign; the fist type featuring psis oppressed by normal society and the other type where normal society is threatened by terrorist and criminal psis. Other than the presence of individuals having psionic powers, “background 'chrome' has been kept to a minimum,” the adventure book tells us, “to allow the GM the most design freedom possible.” While kept to a minimum, the standard background intended by the authors indicates a near future setting with technology...

...that is slightly more advanced than the present-day technologies. Regular shuttles service both space stations and lunar bases. The near planets and asteroids have been visited by manned probes. Giant solar collectors beam energy back from space to power an active society in which both software and hardware technologies are well advanced.

Evidently, the authors felt this “background information,” presented in the first paragraph of the introduction, to be a necessary component of any Psi World campaign.

Given that Psi World was published nearly thirty years ago, “the not too distant future” is now. We cannot chide the authors for an inaccurate prediction of the future, but it is interesting to see what the future might have held from the perspective of the 'old school' era. Even so, in those far gone days the extent of space exploration and settlement posited by Psi World seemed to me – a mere lad at the time – somewhat optimistic. Ah, but the shuttles – those were a different matter. When Psi World was written, the age of the Space Shuttle was just beginning. It was an exciting time, full of promise. Shuttle launches were a big deal; important enough that schools would forgo the usual lesson plan in order to watch them on television. Perhaps we can forgive some degree of optimism. Alas, the fruit borne by such optimism has been scant. The shuttle program has been retired without a successor, we have no lunar bases and only two modest space stations.

Anyway, in the authors' campaign, there are “space platforms...orbiting factories and...the lunar research station.” It should be remembered that these advances occurred despite a period of pronounced political upheaval. These space settlements do not have a direct influence on the campaign, but they do serve as a refuge for the “lobos.” The punishment for severe or repeated psionic crimes is a 'psionic lobotomy,' which leaves the recipient without any psionic abilities but which has no effect on the recipient otherwise. Such recipients are lobos, disdained by both normals and psis. Because of their status as pariahs, lobos tend to “migrate” to the space settlements. Realistically, I don't think that people with criminal backgrounds would be permitted in such positions, but it creates an interesting situation in the authors' campaign. Given that psionic abilities are hereditary, it is likely that lobos will produce psionic offspring which may lead to an eventual concentration of psionic individuals among the space settlements.

Other than space technology, the only 'futuristic' advances present in the Psi World rules concern weapons, specifically a couple of items which seem to have come from the Star Frontiers armory. “Tangle weapons” fire pellets that expand and “form a strong webbing which will cover an area of five feet by five feet and is extremely sticky.” Mag-Jet weapons fire gyro-jet projectiles accelerated by strong magnetic fields. There are also gyro-jet needlers, but no tasers.

With regard to the equipment list, “all prices are listed in US dollars and that all prices are roughly those one would expect to find for those items in the current day.” According to this site, $1.00 in 1984 had the same buying power as $2.23 does in 2012. Let's look at some Psi World (i.e., 1980's) prices with this in mind.

Candy Bar
Cigarettes, pack
New Car, Average
Gasoline, gallon
Home Computer (64K)
Hand-held Computer (16K)
LCD Watch

Check out the memory on those computers!  That was considered 'well advanced hardware technology.'  Also, I like how they specify that the watch is LCD.  Of course, there's no mention of mobile phones – back in the day, only doctors and drug dealers had those.  Why would it be any different in the future?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Where and When of Psi World

The setting of Psi World is an amorphous thing. The rulebook's fifth (and last) chapter – titled “The World” – provides setting information. The chapter begins, “It must be remembered that Psi World takes place in our own world, the Earth, in the not too distant future.” However, according to the book's introduction, “The game is set in a world (maybe Earth, maybe not)...” It is perhaps more accurate to say that Psi World represents a projection of what “our own world” might be, given the advent of psionic powers. Even so, the authors' campaign world was an alternate reality having nations different from our Earth. According to the first page of The Psi World Adventure...

The authors' playtest world is based firmly on modern-day Earth. Most of the people, societies, places, and events are derived from existing prototypes.

I think that 'analogs' is a more appropriate term than 'prototypes' in this context. Regardless, the authors' “playtest world” was was not Earth but it closely resembled Earth. 

Psi World does not postulate an exact year for its setting, that “is left to the Gamemaster.”  This represents a good try to avoid becoming dated.  (Make no mistake, Psi World is dated, but for reasons other than naming a particular year in its timeline.)  “The World” chapter explains that any given Psi World campaign should be set “in the next ten to fifty years.”

When describing their “playtest world,” the authors speak in terms of generations. Specifically, in the adventure book they say, “Three generations ago...” Actually, it should be two generations previous because the introductory scenarios transpire during 'the Third Generation.' Anyway, two generations prior to the current generation, 'the Bad Years' occurred. A small segment of the population developed psionic powers; these people became known as psis. Many became criminals or established themselves as petty rulers. “The world suffered a series of major sociological and political upheavals...” Eventually, people without psionics began to confront the 'Psionic Menace.' This was 'the Second Generation' (sometimes referred to as 'the Death of the Innocents'). Psis were egregiously persecuted. “Tens of thousands of psis or suspected psis died or were lobotomized...” With the onset of 'the Third Generation,' the government has stabilized. 'Normal' people discriminate against psis to such an extent that psis are segregated into ghettos.

Prior to 'the First Generation,' the authors' parallel Earth was loosely divided into three political factions: (1) the People's Confederacy (roughly analogous to Communist China) and its satellite nations, (2) the United Commonwealths (analogous to the U.S.), and (3) an association of “neutral nations” (similar to the European Common Market of the 80's). The People's Confederacy collapsed during 'the Bad Years' and has never re-unified. Although there is strong anti-psi sentiment in the United Commonwealths, many psis attempt to immigrate there “to escape the torture and murder in the world's divided and less-advanced nations.”

As hinted in an earlier post, Psi World allows for two types of campaign (or, as stated on the last page of the rulebook, “two basic types of worlds”).  In one type of campaign...

...ostracized and outnumbered Psis fight for survival against a paranoid and totalitarian government.

In the other type of campaign...

...valiant government agents battle cunning and vicious psionic revolutionaries and criminals...

Interestingly, the background setting that the authors provide accommodates both types of campaigns without any modification; the difference is subjective interpretation.  The adventure book contains two scenarios, one for psionic characters “or strongly in favor of the psionic position” and the other for characters who are “members of the Psionic Protection Agency” (the federal 'psi-police'). Both scenarios take place in Bishop County, which is in the “developing” commonwealth of New Arlin.  Bishop County includes Enclave, one of a few experimental communities – built “[t]hrough the use of funds donated by rich liberals” – where psis and normals co-exist in peace and harmony, working together to build a better society.  Neither of the scenarios actually takes place in Enclave, but psionic player characters for the first scenario are presumed to be Enclave residents.

The so-called “target” of the psi scenario is a safe house for the terrorist Psionic Freedom Organization; in essence, 'good psis' (the player characters) confront 'bad psis.'  The antagonist in the police scenario is a psi who is gaining control of an organized crime syndicate.  It seems there is good reason for normal people to be wary of psis.  (Even Enclave has a hidden agenda.)  While the United Commonwealths is not quite “paranoid and totalitarian,” other nations in the “playtest world” seem to fit that description.  In the U.C., the government poses less of a threat to psis than do certain extremist elements of society.  The League of Human Genetic Purity is an underground organization that is thoroughly intolerant of psionic society.  At clandestine League meetings, members wear hoods and frequently engage in “the burning of a large wooden trident (a stylized representation of ψ, the Greek letter Psi).”  How's that for heavy-handed analogy?

Psi World assumes two campaign types; either (1) psis persecuted by normal society or (2) “valiant government agents” who fight against a genuine psionic menace.  What about a third type?  What if a 'psionic elite' took control of the government?  The normals would be ruthlessly exploited by the 'privileged class' of psis.  The player characters would be part of the resistance movement.  In deference to the publication date of Psi World (1984), we can imagine the setting in Orwellian terms; the Thought Police would really be thought police.  Of course, who wants to play a game about psionic powers and not have characters with those powers?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

More Relics of Atlantasia

In a previous post, your humble host provided some information about 'relics' in John Holland's fantasy role-playing game The Realms of Atlantasia. The relic well isn't dry yet, so here is another post.

When a character dons the 'Mantle of Justice' (as described on page 232), there are several effects. One effect is that “the character can see through any disguise (even magically induced).” OK, cool. However, another effect is that the character “immediately goes blind (for justice is blind after all).” The blindness is permanent. That's right, this relic has contradictory effects. Although blind, the character can somehow “see” through disguises.

Holland tells us on page 233 that when “a dedicated to Kahlah [sic] (priesthood or bard)” uses the 'Lyre of Symphony,' that unspecified noun “gains -20% to defense.” That's not really a gain, it's a penalty. It seems that Kahlah wants her dedicated, unspecified nouns to suffer in combat. On the other hand...

Any who is not dedicated to Kahlah that picks up this lyre will immediately forget their entire past (including name) and restart their life as a bard dedicated to Kahlah. They do gain the ability to play 10 epic songs instantly.

Awesome. All of the development that you've put into a character – all of the plot hooks, all of the motivation, all of the personality – gone in an instant, just because that character picked up what seemed to be an innocuous musical instrument. Oh wait, this is Atlantasia – never mind.  As compensation there's the ability to play ten epic songs! What's an epic song? I have no idea; the only time Holland uses the word “epic” is in the above quote.  There are no epic songs.

According to page 234, the 'Marysh-ae-scand-zymurr' is a “1/4 staff” made “by the elven God Ccorr-yll-ae-lyrr.”  It is useful only to shamans of Ccorr-yll-ae-lyrr but if any evil person should pick up this relic, “they die immediately.”  That's what you get for being evil and picking things up.

On page 238, Holland describes another elf relic. The 'Shry-ae-ghan' is some kind of bow “donated to the world by the elven God Pprae-gahn.” Elves get special bonuses when using this item and Holland lets us know “these bonuses for elves is NOT added to the bonuses for everyone else.” [sic] I think Holland means that the elf bonuses are not cumulative with the bonuses that non-elves receive.

Yet another elf relic is described on page 241.  The 'Ahryss-ae-scand' is a “a full map of Atlantasia that is covered in sparkling runes” made “by the elven God of Magic Llugh-ae-caan.” The possessor can use it to 'translocate' to anywhere depicted on the map. “After 5 uses, the map will disappear.” If the character is an elven mage, he or she gets a telepathic link with Par-Traxx!  However, the relic disappears from the elven mage's possession “During the next Season of Chaos” (or, I guess, after using it five times – whichever comes first).

Speaking of Par-Traxx, it seems I was in error when I referred to his 'Staff of the Cosmos' as an artifact; it is a relic since it was fashioned by the demi-god Chaos Dragon Traxx-ell-rann-brer.  Did I mention that the possessor of the 'Staff of the Cosmos' get free access* to the never described Dragon Isles?  Well, he (or she) does.

When the 'Orb of Religion' “enters an unstable country, war breaks out within 1/2 cycle.”  Also, according to page 243, “if it stays in the proximity for 1 full season, friends will turn on friends.”  Why would John Holland call this the 'Orb of Religion'?

Remember the 'Crown of Power' from the previous post?  It was created “by the Shadow Dragon demi-god Pael-zar-grann-dazz.”  (Is anyone surprised that Atlantasia has a Shadow Dragon demi-god with four syllables and three Z's in its name?)  This relic only benefits mindweavers.  Anyway, according to page 228, this relic... the mindweaver the ability to link with all mindweavers (except Anton who has discovered a way to block this)...

Anton.  That's nice.  Who the hell is Anton?  (Is anyone surprised that John Holland names a non-player character but never bothers to explain what he's talking about?)  Thanks for telling us that someone we don't know anything about isn't affected by some obscure relic; that's much more important than knowing how fast our characters can move.

*  Actually, access to the Dragon Isles isn't so expensive (especially in the off-season), but the cost of parking is horrendous.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Role Playing Game of Psionic Powers

A multi-sided game system in which the players may choose to belong
to either side in a sociological and genetic clash of power.
                                                        -- From the Introduction

Science fiction fans and RPG enthusiasts are doubtless familiar with the word psionic.  The word ultimately derives from psi (ψ), a term for 'psychic phenomena' which apparently was first used by Robert Thouless (What? No thoul?) in a paper published in 1942.  The -onics (as in 'electronics') came from science fiction writer/editor John W. Campbell, Jr. in the early 50's.  Campbell applied the term "psionic" to a 'Hieronymus machine,' a pseudoscientific gadget.  Unlike Hieronymus, Campbell believed that in order to generate the effects of the machine, a person didn't need the actual machine, just a symbolic representation of it.  Powers of the mind would do the actual work.  Personally, I think a better word would have been 'psitropic,' but there's nothing I can do about it.

Psi World was published as a boxed set in 1984 by Fantasy Games Unlimited. (This was back in the day when publishing a role-playing game as a boxed set was standard practice, not a 'retro-novelty.') Included in the box were: a 32-page rulebook, a 20-page adventure book, a Game Master's screen, a master character sheet, and dice (2d10 and 2d6). Evidently, box sets are still available from the publisher, as are two of the three supplements. Otherwise, PDF scans are available from RPGNow.

The game was designed by Delbert and Cheron Carr (or, as they are credited, Del Carr & Cheron). Prior to Psi World, they both worked on some of the early Role Aids books from Mayfair; after Psi World, they lack any RPG credits.

Art was provided by 'Bain Sidhe Studio.' Among the studio's members were Bill Willingham and Matt Wagner. Willingham's art is, of course, familiar to aficionados of 'old school' role-playing games. Both Willingham and Wagner would go on to achieve remarkable success in the comics industry. (By the time of the publication of Psi World, Wagner's signature characters, Grendel and Mage, had both seen print, but his fame was still accruing.) Other listed members of the studio were Bill Cucinotta and Rich Rankin, whose accomplishments in the comics industry have not managed to rival that of their onetime colleagues.

Psi World may not have been the original name chosen for the game.  In Section 1A (Scenarios and Design Ideas) of the adventure book, we find the following sentence:

It is the wish of the Authors that players and referees should have FUN in their quest to fulfill fantasies and live out dreams in all potential worlds of Psi Wars.

So, the working title for the game may have been Psi WarsPsi World is certainly more appropriate; Psi Wars sounds like...well, a war game.

I find the above quote interesting for a couple of reasons.  First, the word 'authors' is capitalized while the words 'players' and 'referees' are not.  In the dedication, the Carrs seem to be more humble; 'authors' is not capitalized.  Also,  the term Gamemaster (thus capitalized) is more often used in the rules as opposed to 'referee.'  'Game Master' (as two words) seems to appear only on the back of the box. The other reason I find the sentence interesting is that it emphasizes the concept that games should be fun.  Nearly every game contains this exhortation in some form or other and, sadly, it is often overlooked or misconstrued.  Enjoyment is the entire purpose, not some ancillary effect.  Sometimes, it seems to your humble host that certain prominent entities within the OSR do not truly appreciate this or, perhaps, they have forgotten it.  I'm sorry...was I ranting again?  Let us move on.

Psi World is described thusly on RPGGeek:

Heavily influenced by such classic science fiction as Van Vogt's Slan and Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep [sic], the PCs are Psis in a world where they are hunted by an oppressive government. Alternatively, the game allows the players to take on the rolls of the hunters, as well.
Upon reading this description, your humble host thought that it must apply to an edition of Psi World with which he was not familiar.  Alas, there is only one edition of Psi World; the breadth of knowledge of the person writing the description seems to have been inadequate to do justice to the game.  I cannot discount A. E. van Vogt’s Slan as an influence – it is a science fiction classic – but I would hesitate to say that Psi World was heavily influenced by it.  More direct influences certainly include motion pictures such as Scanners and The Fury as well as various works by Stephen King.  Otherwise, there is definitely a PKD vibe at work in Psi World, but it emanates from works other than 'Androids.'
Additionally, the RPGGeek description states that player characters are Psis "hunted by an oppressive government" or they "take on the rolls of the hunters."  This is the 'multi-sided' aspect referenced in the introductory quote; however, the implication in the RPGGeek description is that the government is oppressive regardless.  This is simply not the case and I hope to show this as I continue my analysis of the game.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Dragons of Atlantasia

Dragons are the ultimate being on Atlantasia and any should think several
times before seeking out an encounter with one of these amazing creatures.
                                                                                  – John Holland
                                                                                    The Realms of Atlantasia:
                                                                                    The Game Master’s Bible

Although your humble host has touched upon Atlantasian dragons in prior posts, readers of this blog will doubtless appreciate a post dedicated to the “ultimate being on Atlantasia.”  Seeing as how we just discussed Dragons in Adventures in Fantasy, now would seem to be a good time to talk about Atlantasian dragons.  First, let it be known that dragons in Atlantasia are nigh invincible; not even hookers* would stand much of a chance against a dragon.  All dragons are spellcasters and no one can disrupt these spells while they are being cast; nothing must be allowed to diminish the dragons' capacity to overwhelm player characters.

The types of dragon include:  air, fire, water, earth, light, shadow, and chaos.  There are also ‘guardian’ dragons.  According to page 161, “Guardian dragons are the babies of the dragon world.”  It seems that guardian dragons are undifferentiated and they do not become a ‘regular type’ until adolescence (i.e., one thousand rebirths/years).  Furthermore…

Guardian dragons have a habit of choosing another life form and study that form throughout its life (this can lead to all sorts of trouble as the guardian dragon will put this life form through many different tests to see how they will react).  If this occurs, the guardian dragon will stay until the life form dies.

Aww, how cute!  It turns out there is a 5% chance that the guardian dragon will choose a player character to study.  Isn’t that adorable?  Guardian dragons have five ‘attacks’ per semi-segment; they will cast four devastating spells, then turn invisible.  Holland tells us that “not even a mindweaver** can locate an invisible guardian dragon.”  If they were detectable, it might actually be possible to harm a guardian dragon.  Do guardian dragons actually guard anything?  There is nothing that suggests they do; Holland specifically states that guardian dragons do not have treasure hoards.

I guess individual dragons mature at different rates.  The age range for adolescence is 1,000 to 10,000 rebirths but the age range for young adults is 2,500 to 25,000 rebirths and the adult age range is 11,000 to 30,000 rebirths.  There is also a 10,000 rebirth overlap between the elder and ancient age ranges.

Air dragons have 25 attacks per semi-segment, they are immune to “all air-based magic” as well as any spells cast at less than 65th level.  Also, “they will turn into airform before any physical attacks happen.”  I guess Holland means that the dragon will assume airform before anyone attacks the dragon.

While fire dragons only have ten attacks per semi-segment, they are immune to fire-based magic and any spells cast at less than 70th level.  Also, “only fire enchanted weapons will be able to withstand the heat near the dragon.”  Wouldn't 'fire-based magic' include 'fire enchanted weapons'?

As might be expected, water dragons are immune to water-based magic (and any spells cast at less than 70th level).  They have only eight attacks per semi-segment and they can’t even fly.  Like fire dragons, only fire enchanted weapons can hit a water dragon.

Not surprisingly, earth dragons are immune to earth-based magic; however, other spells must be cast at no lower than 80th level to be effective.  “Only dwarven forged weapons with a 90% or better to hit will have any chance of touching an earth dragon.”  To offset these advantages, earth dragons only get five attacks per semi-segment.

Light dragons are immune to “cosmic-based magic” and any spells cast at less than 80th level.  In order to hit a light dragon, the weapon must be (1) magical and (2) “from darkness.”  They get ten attacks per semi-segment.  Long-term readers might recall that light dragons “are beings of light and therefore, in a dragon’s neutral way, are pure compassion.” Has anyone managed to figure that one out?

Shadow dragons “are ominously, [sic] beautiful, shiny, [and] black-scaled.” However, there’s a problem in that “their scales actually absorb all light within 40’ of their body.” So how does anyone know what they look like? Also, wouldn’t shadow dragons be blind if light cannot reach their eyes? Naturally, they are immune to “dark-based magic” as well as any spells cast at less than 90th level. In order to hit a shadow dragon, a weapon must be “made from light.”

Lastly, there are chaos dragons. When chaos dragons mate, they dance through various dimensions and there is a 30% chance that a player character “will be caught” and become “deposited on some other dimension.” Their breath weapon is called “chaos rift” and it “sends chosen targets into chaos.” (Is that equivalent to death?) Don’t even think about magic spells; page 168 explains…

any spell cast at a chaos dragon is absorbed and thrown back at the caster at x 100. Plus, any spell cast at a chaos dragon and the dragon will automatically know that spell…[sic]

Only “a weapon made from a combination of all magic” can hit a chaos dragon. The number of attacks a chaos dragon can perform per semi-segment is randomly determined; it can be as low as two or as many as fifty.

** According to page 67, ‘hookers’ in Atlantasia have 25th level thief abilities and 10th level assassin abilities.  Imagine what the pimps must be like.

** Mage-types with 'mind magic'

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Unique Dragons

I always thought that dragons should be huge
blusterous things that – each of them – are unique.

                                                                                         – Dave Arneson

As of today, it has been three years since Dave Arneson departed this mortal coil. In remembrance, your humble host would like to expound upon one small aspect of Arneson's legacy. I came across the above quote in D. H. Boggs' Dragons at Dawn (which I recommend) and thought about how Arneson addressed the concept of 'unique dragons' in Adventures in Fantasy (co-authored with Richard Snider). For some time Charlie Warren had been posting about AiF, so I held off discussing that game. However, I don't think Warren touched upon the Book of Creatures and Treasures, about one-fifth of which is devoted to describing Dragons.  (The word 'Dragon' is consistently capitalized in AiF.) On page 1, we are told...

The Dragon is the most puissant, deadly and intelligent of all the creatures of man's mythi.  Of all his attributes, the individuality of the Dragon must be stressed the most.  Each Dragon is individual in its appearance, interests and personality and these features must be simulated to adequately do justice to the species called Dragon.

A Dragon's form is defined by its head, body, and extremities.  Among the six head options are horned camel and hornless crocodile.  A body is typically defined by color and either scales or armor; however, one option, "Armored Scales," leaves us wondering what color is appropriate.  According to the extremities table, most (but not all) Dragons will have wings.  Other possible extremities (with or without wings) include bovine ears and tiger feet.

In terms of age, each Dragon has a grade from 1 to 34; each grade is equivalent to thirty years. Dragons have a Size Grade of 10, 15, 20, or 30. Multiply age grade by Size Grade* to determine size.  A Dragon's hit points equals its size and the lethality of a Dragon's fire breath is based upon its size.  Any given Dragon is either female or male; females are 20% larger.

Adventures in Fantasy possesses a familiar single-axis alignment paradigm; the extremes of lawful and chaotic are separated by neutral. However, at least for Dragons, alignment is quantified. Neutral extends from zero to five; values less than zero correlate with law while values greater than five correlate with chaos. Alignment for Dragons is determined by combining the numeric values associated with the Dragon's Egotism Index, Greed Index, and Personality Traits.

The Egotism Index is, in essence, the likelihood that (and the conditions under which) a Dragon will travel with an adventuring party for the sake of obtaining treasure. Dragons that are more apt to co-operate with adventurers have an Egotism Index that favors law. The Greed Index measures how equitably a Dragon will share (jointly acquired) treasure. Dragons that are not inclined to share have a Greed Index skewed toward chaos.

Each Dragon has three Personality Traits that are determined by rolling on a table. I dislike this table for two reasons. First, the probability distribution is curved; I see no reason why the distribution shouldn't be flat. Second, it is possible to obtain contradictory traits. Below, I provide an example of how these issues could be addressed. There is a flat probability distribution of one through ten. Some listings have opposed traits such as “Kind / Mean.” For these, an additional roll is made; even results indicate the former trait while odd results indicate the latter. Once a given listing is rolled, it is ignored on subsequent rolls for the same Dragon.

With regard to magic, “A sorcerer is but an instrument of a greater force; the Dragon is a force in and of Himself.” However, only about 30% of Dragons are able to use their innate magical ability and even those Dragons “tend to make little use of it.”

The last important 'characteristic' of a Dragon is its Interest(s).  Most Dragons have only one Interest; 3% of Dragons have two Interests and 1% of Dragons have three Interests.  Examples of Interests are magic, histories (of major races), foods, and procreation.  While a Dragon's Interest does not affect its alignment, it certainly influences a Dragon's goals and behavior.  A Dragon's Interest also helps to determine what items (magical or otherwise) that a Dragon has in its treasure hoard.

*  Size Grade is capitalized, age grade is not

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Relics of Atlantasia

John Holland, in his role-playing game The Realms of Atlantasia, provides information about relics.  In Atlantasia, relics are unique magic items fashioned by the gods (as opposed to artifacts, which are unique magic items fashioned by mortals).  Relics are a form of treasure.  According to page 185…
When there is treasure to be found (there is a good chance of treasure for every confrontation <battle>) the first step is to find out which treasure table to use.
A roll of the dice determines which table to consult; results on said tables may refer to additional tables, etc.  If my calculations are correct, there is about a one-in-36,000 chance that an initial treasure roll1 will eventually result in a roll on the relic table.
There are thirty-six relics.  Holland tells us on page 227 that the formula for randomly determining a relic is 2d20 - 4, which gives us a range from negative two to positive thirty-six.  One wonders if Holland is acquainted with the concept of probability distribution.  Unlike a percentile roll, the relic table formula does not assign an equal likelihood of occurrence to each relic; it is far more likely that the cunningly named ‘Map Case of Maps’ will result instead of the ‘Gavel of Insight.’
Curiously, although relics are presented in a manner indicating that they are found randomly, the description of many relics includes a precise location where said relics are to be found.  For instance, page 228 tells us that the ‘Crown of Power’…
…will ALWAYS be found in the Forgotten City which lies under tons of ice on the Southern Ice Cap Tundra.
For the time being, let us not focus on the unfortunately realistic fact that tundra – by definition – is not covered by ice.  If I’m determining treasure for a location that isn’t in the Forgotten City, what do I do with a ‘Crown of Power’ result?  Do I reroll?  On page 239, the description of the relic called ‘Draco’s Medallion’ states that…
This relic was made by THE dragon God Draphet2 to contain the spirit of his daughter Sycaezz-aar-ryss-ail and then given to the sage Rann. So if this relic pops up the group will be heading to Baba-Luna for an encounter with Rann (he will have some information for the group) or with Sycaezz-aar-ryss-ail herself.
What gives?  Do characters not find the relic?  Instead do they receive a clue or compulsion to find the relic?  Regarding the ‘Rope of Change’ relic, page 243 indicates that…
…this rope will be found in a store among other ropes and MUST be bought (the store owner will not know where it came from or what it is so will sell it at the same cost as the other ropes).

So, amid a treasure hoard, characters find some indication of where they can get a bargain on this relic?  On page 237, Holland introduces the 'Rod of Glory.' In order... gain this relic one must complete a quest for Sycaezz-aar-ryss-ail. Therefore, if this relic pops up3, it will be an encounter with the demi-goddess who will give them a quest...This relic is only useable by any from the priesthood...

What if the party doesn't have a priest? Do they still have to go on the quest?  According to page 233, the 'Ring of Many Schools'... ALWAYS found in Shadowland on an ancient sand statue that is pointing towards the sky. The ring will be on the pointing finger but will appear to made of the same sand as the statue.

It's possible that characters could easily overlook this relic, but perhaps it's for the best – I'm not certain what's supposed to happen if and when the relic enters play.

It is only useable by human magi and whoever finds it will have to head back to the same school of magic they study that is in the war-torn area where all the archmagi of any school of magic in the area will rally behind the mage.


For a treasure room, three such rolls are made; ten rolls are made for Dragon hoards.  (Sometimes dragon is capitalized, sometimes it isn’t)
Beware of poser dragon gods that only pretend to be Draphet; accept no substitutes.

“Rod of Glory…pops up.”  Rendering appropriately juvenile phallic humor is left as an exercise for the reader.