MAGIC REALM
Designer's Comments



Stephen McKnight Richard Hamblen

1. Wounds Question

Rule 11.2 (2nd ed.) states that a character "must remove an active action chit from play and turn it face down to show it is a wound." Presumably a fatigued chit is not active, so cannot be wounded. (Opinions differ on magic chits converted to color.) On the other hand, Rule 11.7 says that "when all a character's chits are wounded, he is killed. When all of a character's chits are fatigued and/or wounded, he can do only the rest activity."

So the question is what happens when a character receives a wound when all his unwounded chits are fatigued? The fatigued chits can't be wounded according to 11.2, but all the chits are not wounded so the character isn't killed yet according to 11.7. (Also, can magic chits converted to color be wounded?)

The accepted interpretation is that a character dies when he receives a wound after all his chits are either wounded, fatigued, or converted to color. This is certainly reasonable and provides an incentive for characters to rest their fatigue frequently. It also increases character's vulnerability which is reduced when playing the "serious wound" optional rule. But it seems like there may have been an intent for something else to happen since there the rules provide for a character to do rest phases if all his chits are fatigued and/or wounded.

This is the only question that, as far as I can tell, can't be resolved by a single-word correction of the rules, and I'd appreciate your ideas on the subject.

1. Designer's Answer

You have hit upon something that has two answers, which requires a bit of explanation. When I was writing the second edition rules, length became a serious consideration. In several cases I wrote a rule one way, and then to save space either I or some editor rewrote the rule to save space. In some cases, the rewrite corrupted some part of the rule. This is such a case.

My original intent was to say: When you get a wound, you must wound one(unwounded) chit. It must be an active chit, if possible; you cannot wound a fatigued or enchanted chit until all of your active chits have been wounded. If you get a wound when all of your active chits have already been wounded, you can wound a fatigued or enchanted chit. When all of your chits are wounded, you die.

That was my original intent, but then the rules were shortened and published. Once a rulebook has been published I feel obliged to follow the published rules, so I now say that you have it right: if you get a wound when you have no active (unfatigued, unenchanted) chits, you die.

That is what the rules as published mean to imply.

2. Dwarf's Capabilities when Following

Rule 27.7 says that "notice that by following a guide who has extra phases, followers can do more activities and can move farther than they could move on their own." On the other hand, in the description of the Dwarf's Short Legs, it states "The Dwarf can never use 'sunlight' phases--he is always limited to two phases per day (plus any extra phases due to his belongings or spells.)" So, can the Dwarf follow the Amazon and move, for example, five clearings?

The interpretation that I favor is that the Dwarf is only doing one thing, following the Amazon, and that 27.7 specifically says he can move more clearings by following. The description of the Dwarf could be read that "The Dwarf can never [record] sunlight phases..." This "put the little fellow in the rucksack and go" interpretation encourages inter-player diplomacy, which always improves the game.

I also recall playing Magic Realm in Northern Virginia with Jim Stahler in 1979 or 1980 and discussing the advantage for the Dwarf of hiring a native leader to follow. (And the Dwarf can use the advantage, heaven knows!)

Complicating the question is a ruling attributed to the General magazine that the Dwarf can use at most one sunlight phase while following. This doesn't make anyone very happy because it requires the leader to specify which are sunlight phases and which are basic phases, and the rules aren't very specific what happens to a follower when he doesn't do the guide's activity (except when he stops following.)

Any light (no pun intended) you can give on this would be useful.

2. Designer's Answer

You are correct--the Dwarf's sunlight limitation applies only to the phases he can record, not those he can do while following. To be explicit: When a Dwarf follows, he can do any sunlight activities his leader does (picture him hurrying along clumsily behind everyone else, grumbling continuously and creatively). Someone else made that ruling, long after I was no longer responsible for answering MR questions. When I learned of it, I told them to correct it, but I don't think they ever did. In my opinion, they were and are very wrong! Being unable to keep up with a group is a very serious flaw in the game.

Incidentally, I remember Jim telling me about your discussion. Glad to hear from you!

3. Casting a Spell on Yourself While Hidden

In the 2nd edition, Rule 41.3/2 says: "When the spellcaster specifies a character or denizen as his target, he and his target are instantly unhidden; if he specifies anything else as his target, he remains hidden. He can specify a hidden target only if he found "Hidden Enemies" that day."

I had always assumed that there was an implied "another" in the rule, as in the first edition rules: "When the spellcaster specifies [another] character...". Clearly the idea that a hidden character would have to have found Hidden Enemies to cast a spell on himself is silly.

Nevertheless, for a number of players, the spellcaster is a character (and the target), so he should become unhidden when casting a spell on himself. This is most often used with the Ambush optional rule, so the character must pass a hide roll to remain hidden when he casts a spell on himself (despite the fact that he is also the target, and so should become unhidden for that reason.)

I would be interested in knowing if the dropping of the "another" between the 1st and 2nd edition rules was deliberate or an oversight.

3. Designer's Answer

It was deliberate, after much thought. You have been misled by a different error in the rules. There is a sentence missing at the end of 41.3/2. The sentence:

"Of course, a hidden character can specify himself as target whether he has found hidden enemies or not, but if does so he becomes unhidden." This sentence was another casualty of the shortening frenzy. I distinctly remember being told that "it's obvious you can always pick yourself as target, and you already say that you become unhidden". I disagreed then (to no avail), and I disagree now. The sentence belongs in there, and I must say I am delighted to hear from someone who (presumably) agrees with me.

As to why I changed this from the first edition: I disliked having the spellcaster jump out in the clearing to cast a spell on himself, but I also disliked having him hide behind a bush while he chants and gestures, and then call up magic with its associated light, sound, and other manifestations, all in perfect privacy. I greatly prefer using the AMBUSH rule, to make things unpredictable.

4. Flowers of Rest (1)

I don't know if you have seen the debate on the Magic Realm list-serve about the Flowers of Rest, what one person calls the "most questionable item."

I'm not sure I should call it a debate because nearly everyone is in agreement except me. But I thought that I should talk to an expert to see what another reasoned response would be.

The question involves the effect of the Flowers of Rest on:
1) A character with the Wither Curse
2) A transmorphized character who also has a fatigued chit.

In the case of the Wither curse, there are those who believe that the Flowers don't put the character to sleep since the chits can't be rested, those who say that the character sleeps and his chits are rested (but the curse isn't broken), and then there's me. I subscribe to the "bad mattress" theory. I think that the character sleeps, because the first effect of the Flowers is to put to sleep any character with fatigued chits, but because of the curse, the chits aren't rested. The character wakes up at Sunset with a "not quite rested" feeling, like he slept on a bad mattress and then falls asleep the next day (unless he runs out of the clearing).

4. Designer's Answer

In the case you post, the character cannot rest, so the flowers of rest do not affect him.

Generally, I mean the rules to be taken exactly as they are written. No exception stating that the flowers of rest breaks the wither curse, so it does not. The explanation of the Flowers of Rest on page 70 (section 7) states that it is the resting of the asterisk chit that puts him to sleep. Thus, no rest, so no sleep.

Generally I find rules-niggling distasteful, but in the second Magic Realm rulebook I tried to make my language as precise as possible in the very very very vain hope of diminishing the questions. Sigh. Of course, I also tried to make the rules intuitive, but that hope was even vainer, especially in a fantasy game where everybody is imagining their own reality.

5. Flowers of Rest (2)

If someone falls asleep and misses their turn, they can't block or be blocked. But do they attract monsters? Some have suggested that they attract monsters only if they have completed at least one phase before falling asleep. The description does say that if they haven't moved, the "skip their turn." Again, I'm in the minority here. I think they had a turn even if they didn't have a chance to do anything.

5. Designer's Answer

When a player is put asleep by the Flowers of Rest, he loses the rest of his turn, including the finishing of his turn. Thus, he does not cause any chits to turn up, he does not cause monsters to appear in his tile, and he does not cause monsters to move to his clearing.

In a sense, he is One With the Daisies. He is not really there, until Sunset.

I will resist the temptation to comment on all the implications for play, and just ask: Does that answer your question? Hope so.

6. Transmorphized Characters

What are the attributes in daytime of transmorphized characters? Does the Dwarf still have only two phases if he is a Troll? Does the Witch King still have to use Magic Sight to search if he is an Eagle?

The rule book [46.1/1] seems to say yes, but this is an issue of controversy.

6. Designer's (Short) Answer

Yes, a transformed Dwarf still has only two phases, and a transformed Witch King still uses Magic Sight.

7. Stacking Order of Native Treasures

a. Stacking Order of Abandoned Native Items Rule 35.7 says, "When an unhired leader is killed, his groups belongings are abandoned in the clearing, in the same order they are stacked in the group's box." The problem is there is no agreement on the order in which they should be stacked in the box.

b. I made an argument based on the rules and some fundamental principles (most valuable things are hardest to get) that they should go into the box with the horses on the top and the treasures on the bottom. Briefly, when I look at the set-up description in the Prepare for Play" section, Rule P1.3/4 and P1.3/5 say "put the Small Treasures, weapons, armor, and round horse counter in the box where they are listed" presumably in that order. But does the one listed first go on top or on bottom?

c. Comparing with the previous rule P1.3/3 where it describes the Large and Small treasures, it says: "Put the small Treasures and large Treasure in the boxes where they are listed. Put the small Treasures in the box first, so the large Treasures are on the top." Note the order: those on the bottom are listed first.

On this basis, this would say that the Small Treasures are on the bottom, then the weapons, then armor, with the horses on top. This is exactly opposite what most e-mail game masters are doing now.

There are actually two other arguments for this order as well.

    1. If you are playing on a board, it is almost impossible to balance the treasures on top of a pile of horses, weapon, and armor. (Something like balancing a mattress on top of a Coke bottle.) The treasures go much easier underneath with the armor, weapons, and horse counters on top.

    2. The average gold value of the 44 Small Treasures is 6.1 The average gold value of the 13 weapons is 6.5. The average gold value of the 14 pieces of armor is 7.9 The average gold value of the 15 horses is 13.7 So putting the Treasures on the bottom, then the weapons, then the armor, with the horses on top puts the most valuable things on the top and the least on the bottom, making the more valuable stuff harder to get.
Teresa Michelson pointed out that if you follow the order as printed in the boxes on the setup card, you get an even more ergonomic arrangement: treasures on bottom, followed by horses, armor, and weapons in order of counter size.

d. Also, what about new acquisitions. If the Order buy one treasure and two weapons from a character, does the treasure go under the treasure card and the weapons under their other weapons?

7. Designer's Answer

a. They are stacked in the box in the same order they were set up there. When you trade with the natives, do not disturb the order of the goods. When you sell things to the natives, put the things sold at the bottom of their layer of goods.

b. The first one listed goes into the box first, and is thus on the bottom, etc.

c. You're both right. The items should be stacked as you say; I did it that way to make the most valuable items the hardest to get, and also so that they stack comfortably.

d. Exactly, although this is an area where house rules should be specified to avoid misunderstandings. As the rules are written, purchased weapons might easily go under Small Treasures that are already there, and I have seen it played both ways. My preference is to keep the weapons together, and the Small Treasures together.

8. Running Away from Transformed Monsters

Do Transformed Birds, Frogs, and Squirrels Prevent Character from running away?

The example here is a magic character faces two monsters and transforms the faster one into a bird. Is the bird assigned to his sheet even though the transform table says that the bird "doesn't attack." If so, does the bird prevent the character from running away.

I think the answer is yes. We always play that the frog or bird keeps trying to attack until it is killed (or combat ends due to two rounds without wounds or fatigue, etc.) It makes the Transform spell useful (although risky) as an offensive spell to transform monsters into (hopefully) less dangerous ones.

My guideline to transmorphize questions is Rule 46.1 which says that chararters/denizens behave like they were untransmorphized with the limited exceptions listed in the rules.

8. Designer's Answer

Yes, it is assigned to his sheet, and yes, it interferes with the action chits he can play.

Trust me, treat the bird (or frog) just like a non-attacking spear Goblin.

Rule 46.4/3b says that the creature can use its move factor to charge during the encounter step), which means its move factor limits the time chits that the target can play.

Rule 46.4/3a says MELT INTO MIST can only run away. If I had wanted birds and frogs to run away, I would have said so right there.

I fear some will find this ruling perverse. Sorry about that. I guess I am a little perverse, but I always liked the idea of a bird or frog charging into battle. It also enables some interesting uses of the spell-breaking spells. Adds punch to exorcisms.

9. Enchanted Cards and Native Leaders

a. An enchanted treasure is held by a native group, and it has been turned up by a character looking at it. I assume from the rules that it would have to be revealed and be active, giving color magic to the native leader's clearing, even if a character just examined the treasures during a trade roll.

b. Now what happens if that native group is hired? Rule 32.2/1 says that when hired "the leader's own belongings are left on the SET UP CARD, out of play." But 3.4/3 says that "when a character finds [an enchanted card] he must turn it face up, and it stays face up for the rest of the game, even if is put back on the SET UP CARD or on the map. It cannot be inactivated." So can you use your hired leader as a source of color magic, or is the card simply not used at all?

c. If the hired leader is killed, Rule 35.7 says that his belonging remain out of play on the SET UP CARD until he regenerates. In this case the color of the enchanted cards must be inactive, because there's no clearing defined for it to affect!

9. Designer's Answer

a. You assume right. Looking at an enchanted card during a TRADE phase turns it on.

b. As long as the leader has the face-up Enchanted card, he is a source of its color magic for everyone in his clearing, whether he is hired or not.

c. It is not inactive, it is just unusable. It remains on the set-up card, radiating color magic into some unknown dimension, until a new leader for that group pops up.

You've put your finger on a hole in the game, not just a hole in the rules. My problem was that I didn't want the players to hire a native group just so they could send it off and then loot its home base, so I wanted the group's belongings to move with its leader. However, I also did not want the players to hire a native leader just to take him out and kill him for his group's treasures (e.g. "hey, native leader, go and kill that Tremendous Octopus for me"). So I am stuck with this rule, and this hole in the game.

Of course, the caching rule (Advanced Rule 1) would solve the problem adequately by leaving the goods behind (with a new rule or two to cover all of the variations), but I was unwilling to add another complex rule to the game, particularly in the early encounters. In fact, this is a perfect example of how the game changed because of breaking the rules into encounters.

If you'd like a rationalization of the rule as it is, imagine the hired leader hiding his group's goods in the woods as he travels. While he lives he keeps an eye on them, and scares off any bears or squirrels that might try to carry them off. When he dies, the squirrels carry off his group's goods, and only his successor as leader is determined enough to comb the woods to get back what is rightfully his (stubborn folk, these natives).

10. Publishing Question

Since some of these questions that you've been kind enough to answer come up again and again, I've suggested to Robin Warren, Dave Brown, and Nand that they might post them on their web sites. Robin suggested (quite sensibly) that I ask you if you had any objections first. Please let me know if I should tell Robin, Dave, and Nand that you are uncomfortable with your responses being posted.

10. Designer's Answer

Dear Steve,

No objections. Trepidations, perhaps, but that goes with the job. After all, in this context secret answers make no sense at all. I do appreciate the editing out of any personal stuff, however.

Warmest regards,
Richard Hamblen

11. Do Followers Attract Monsters

a. Rule 27.8 says, "When the guide's turn ends, the following stops and all of the followers are put back on the map in the clearing. They cause monsters to move and summon denizens normally." The antecedent of "They" in the second sentence is vague, but it seems that it must refer to followers and not the group as a whole. So the Guide and the Follower *each* cause monsters to move and summon denizens normally.

b. This is what happens, according to 27.5, when a follower stops following in the middle of a turn: "Each time the guide starts an activity, each follower has the option to stop following. If he stops following then he does not do the activity, his turn ends and he is put in the guide's on the map; when the guide finishes the phase the game pieces in in the ex-follower's tile summon denizens in the normal manner, and the ex-follower can block and be blocked normally."

Example b1: The Amazon follows the Berserker who does M / M / S / R* / M. At the beginning of the Search phase, the Amazon stops following. At the end of the Berserker's Search phase, the Amazon's turn ends. She draws monsters to the clearing who block her and her former guide, the Berserker.

Example b2: The Amazon follows the Druid. At the end of the Druid's turn, the tile chits are turned face down again and don't attract monsters. Then his follower, the Amazon, is put back on the board. Her turn ends, the chits are turned face up again and monsters come to the clearing to block her and the Druid.

Example b3: Amazon follows Berserker. Dragons are prowling. When Berserker ends turn in BL1, he turns up the Lair chit and a Dragon appears in at the Lair in BL3. Then the Amazon finishes her turn and is put back on the map. She attracts denizens normally at the end of her turn, so the Dragon at the Lair moves to BL3 and blocks her and the Berserker.

c. Is this the accepted ruling? I think there was a AH General question dealing with Example 2, but I don't have much confidence in the General's Magic Realm Q&A answers: they once ruled that the Witch King couldn't move because he didn't have any Move counters!

11. Designer's Answer

a. Exactly so. To be explicit, when a monster on the SET UP CARD is triggered by a sound chit, the guide causes the monster to appear in the clearing specified by the sound chit, and the follower(s) cause the monster to move to the guide/follower(s) clearing. The pronoun "They" requires a plural referent, and the only plural noun in that sentence is "followers". "Group" is a singular noun and requires a singular pronoun "it". I'm not trying to be snotty here--I know that poor English creeps into everyone's rules, mine very definitely included, but in this case I meant exactly what I said.

b1. Quite right.

b2. Quite right again. Each follower has his own end of turn. I will comment that I tried to design the Druid as the sort of character who could go off alone in peace, not as a tour guide for an army.

b3. Exactly so. I am of the opinion that regardless of whether the monster is tracking its prey by sight, sound, or smell, he would find a crowd quicker than an individual, so the rule specifies that the followers summon monsters when they stop following. At this point let's clarify exactly what is at stake. The point is whether a monster called from the SET UP CARD ends up in the clearing specified by the site chit, or the clearing containing the group. The followers do NOT summon any additional monsters to that tile that turn--each chit can summon only onebox of monsters per turn.

    Case 1: One intruder steps softly into the clearing. The monster at the site wakes up and says "What's That?!". He gets up and looks out at the other clearings in the distance, sniffs the air, and listens, but he sees, hears, and smells nothing more, so he stays at his site, looking around suspiciously.

    Case 2: A group steps softly into the clearing, many times. The monster at the site wakes up and says "Wheee! A party!" And, of course, he doesn't want to miss the party, so he goes looking for it.
Speaking versimilitudinously, the Demons pinpoint the clearing due to the increased number of bodies they can see, smell, and/or hear. It certainly works that way with deer--you can sneak up on a deer when you're alone, but I've never seen or heard of a crowd doing it. (I don't hunt, but I do walk the woods.) In any case, the rules say the followers do summon the monsters to their clearing. The added safety [of following] is due to having more people with which to fight the monsters.

c. Yeah, I remember complaining to Don Greenwood about some of those rulings, but as he pointed out, by then the other guys were making the rulings. For my money their rulings too often conflicted with the rules, and that entirely destroys the purpose of having a uniform rulebook. No uniform rulebook, no game.

I guess what I'm saying is that Avalon Hill had the right to change the rules, but they should have written a whole new rulebook and then made rulings consistent with that, rather than making flawed rulings about the old rulebook.

Of course people can agree to any variants they choose ...if your group wants to use Teresa's interpretation, they can of course do so, as long as they notify all of the players in advance (the VITP tournaments have used some house rules for years, and I suspect some of them are better than the rules I wrote).

In other words, as usual I am a little uncomfortable pronouncing rules decisions. I am not some Olympian Dungeon Master or Game Designer ready to hurl thunderbolts or send in the Game Police (if you don't believe in the Game Police, just try playing Tournament Bridge or, even worse, Tournament Scrabble).

I'm just a guy who tried to design an enjoyable, internally consistent game, and who now tries to provide consistent rulings so that people in different groups can play the same game if they should chance to meet. A LOT of the rules in the game could have gone different ways, but they had to be defined one way or another to provide consistency for everyone. Some of the rules are necessary for unobvious reasons, however, and I do try to point out when a critical question is at stake.

Most of the questions you have sent me, Steve, are of the first sort: they could be interpreted either way without much prejudice to the game. However, you should always try to warn all of the players of all of the rulings before play, to avoid bad feelings during the game. (I recognize that warning the players of all the rulings is an utterly horrifying notion in Magic Realm, so do the best you can).

So I'm happy as long as you're enjoying the game, whether you use my rulings or not. And if you make up some new rulings, by all means let me know--I might like 'em myself. Best of luck and enjoy the game!

12. Enchanted Cards and Wish for Vision

When a player examines a treasure pile due to a "Wish for Vision" and finds an enchanted card, does the card turn face up and start radiating color magic? Generally this is played that the answer is no, since the Wishes table says, "Return the cards to their box without turning them up or changing their order."

12. Designer's Answer

Exactly right. When you look at an Enchanted card as a result of a "Wish for Vision", you do not turn the Enchanted card face up.

13. Do Head/Club Hits Turn Monsters Red-Side-Up?

When the head or club of a Tremendous monsters hits (but not the body), does the monster flip? I would have said no, except for the note in the Missile Table: "If the result is Negligible or less, the hit inflicts no harm but it still counts as a hit: if a weapon attacks it is unalerted, if a Tremendous monster attacks it turns red side up." The reference to the Tremendous monster could only apply to the head of a Dragon using the Advanced Rule 4.6 where dragon heads breathe fire and rolls on the missile table. This suggests that if the head hits, the body flips red-side-up.

13. Designer's Answer

Right again. A Tremendous monster that hits with its head or club turns red side up. I think this is a change from the first edition rulebook.

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