Giving Suckers an Even Break in MAGIC REALM

by Michael Anchors

Players in MAGIC REALM quickly learn that teaming up with other characters is the best insurance against being eaten by hungry monsters. The stronger, armored members of the team can lure monsters onto their shields, while lighter, more vulnerable members can take the critters from behind. This strategy was illustrated in Richard Hamblen’s article: “Magical Mystery Tour” (Vol. 16, No. 4), Amazon and Swordsman mastered a gaggle of goblins that would have gobbled either character fighting solo.
Teaming up confers other advantages, too. By writing the “follow” orders, characters can share the Special Advantages of their companions. In the Swordsman-Amazon team, Swordsman could move an extra Move Phase by “following” the Amazon; or the pair can choose when to execute their move without having their Attention counter picked, when Amazon follow Swordsman.

Special Advantages that can be shared.

Magician Magical Paraphernalia: gets extra Alert phase
Swordsman Clever: chooses when written move is executed during Move phase
Woods Girl Tracking Skills: roll one die for all Search, Hide, etc. rolls that take place in Woods
Elf Elusiveness: gets extra Hide phase
Druid Concealment: roll one die for all Hide rolls
Wizard Experience: can move along all secret passages and hidden paths without having to search for them (followers may cross them off their lists)
Amazon Stamina: gets extra Move phase
Captain Reputation: when in dwelling, gets extra phase to use in that dwelling
Berserker Robust: gets extra Rest phase
Dwarf Cave Knowledge: roll one die for all Search, Hide, etc. rolls that take place in Cave Clearing
White Knight Health: gets extra Rest phase

Table 1 lists the Special Advantages that can be shared. Special Advantages not listed in Table 1 cannot be shared. For instance, players cannot use Dwarf’s “Short Legs” to rest two asterisks in a Rest Phase. Note that the Pilgrim, Witch, Black Knight and Witch King have no Special Advantages” that can be shared, Avalon Hill has also ruled that:
1) Dwarf can execute at most one extra Sunlight Phase per day, by following characters of using a treasure.
2) No one can “follow” or spy on the Witch’s familiar.
3) A follower can learn what another character learns through Magic Sight only if he is entitled to use Magic Sight himself.
4) Peace with Nature does not extend to characters “following” Druid: they trigger monsters normally.
A player must be careful in choosing characters to travel with. The best travel mates are ones which can help the player achieve his Victory Requirements; but, remember, traveling companions harbor hopes of winning the game themselves. Choose mates who don’t threaten you. Woods Girl may find the Elf amiable enough at the Inn, while both are penniless: but will chivalry stand in Elf’s way when the Girl finds a precious treasure on the road? No, my friends. He will quietly ready his bow during daylight. In the evening, Woods Girl can’t escape. Elf is too fast, and Elf’s longer bow will hit before hers, Elf comes away with Woods Girl’s notoriety, gold and treasure.

Safe Pairs in MAGIC REALM.

Table 2 shows which characters can pair safely at the beginning of the game. There are two ways in which a pair can be “safe”. Characters are safe from each other if both characters have a fair chance to kill the other in combat. Pairs safe by “mutual threat” are marked with a in the table. Even if one character is vulnerable and the other is not, the pair can co-exist if the vulnerable partner has a certain escape. Such pairs are marked . In other cases in the table, pairing is unsafe because one partner can block the other’s escape and deal a mortal blow with little risk to himself. For these pairs, the dominant character is marked in the space.
This table assumes that a character wishing to do away with his companion will ready his weapon or attack spell during Daylight. Since activities area recorded secretly, a player cannot anticipate when his companion will do so. Magic characters are assumed to record their best available attack spells. Characters with Type II Magic chits record “Stones Fly”; those with Type IV record “Fiery Blast” and, if possible “Lightning Bolt”.
The table does not consider “Melt into Mist” or “Transform”, because the target is not killed. Indeed, the spell is unavailable to its owner until the target is killed, leaving the spellcaster horribly vulnerable. In the case of “Mist”, the target’s possessions are out of reach of the spell caster because they are mist-ified with the target. In the case of “Transform”, the target may carry his possessions away with him. Even a frog can carry gold: it has negligible weight! The “Mist” or “Transform” caster can’t get his target’s notoriety until he kills him. It is tough enough to kill a squirrel before it runs away to a clearing the caster can’t reach. The little huggers don’t need to follow the roadways.
Characters with Type V spells could use “Curse” or “Power of the Pit”, but these are unreliable in a tense situation. Would the threat of “Squeak” dissuade the Berserker from bisecting Witch’s cranium? “Broomstick” is a much more useful spell. Its owner should cast the spell on himself in advance, in a deserted clearing. Later, when trouble threatens, playing a light Move counter to run away suffices to sweep the spellcaster out of the clearing – literally. The table does take “Broomstick” into consideration.
Remember, I said Table 2 applies to the first turn of the game. As soon as characters pick up treasure, armor, horses or wounds, all these relationships change. For instance, if the Magician finds “Dragon Essence” and recorded “Fiery Blast”, his row in Table 2 would look like this:

Characters, such as Sorcerer or Wizard, originally too strong to serve as companions, are now possible mates for the Magician with is “Dragon Essence”. Old friends like Pilgrim should avoid him. Of course, Pilgrim may not know that the Magician has “Dragon Essence” in his knapsack. Magician does not have to reveal his potion until he activates it. Magician may wait until Pilgrim obtains some notoriety, treasure or gold, before popping his surprise.
It is interesting to identify the factors that influence pair-safety most. Possession of armor was very important, giving its owner an opportunity to attack once or twice before the opponent’s blow could kill. Armor gives the Black Knight, Amazon and Captain the edge against Sorcerer and Wizard in Table 2. Horses conferred the same benefit, unless the optional rule permitting attackers to target the rider was in effect.
The “Stones Fly” spell was a more important factor than “Fiery Blast”, although Stones is an L* attack and Blast is L***. Stones has a longer effect, hitting first in the first round of combat, usually the only round that matters in a combat between unarmored characters. But even more important is that the Stones-caster resolves four attacks against each target (in the Second Edition rules), compared to a single attack for Blast. Richard Hamblen changed the Stones spell in this way to boost the power of Druid and Witch, previously perceived as weak characters.
Terrain makes a difference, too, “Lightning Bolt”, available in mountain clearings, has even longer length than “Stones Fly”. In the flats, Druid and Witch get the drop on Sorcerer and Wizard; but the Purple-specialists have the edge in the hills.
A “safe” pair of characters may become unsafe, when one player fatigues or wounds a vital action chit. The converse is not true, however. An unsafe pair cannot become safe by fatiguing a chit because the owner gets the chit back by writing “Rest” phases during the day, and his weaker partner cannot anticipate the threat. I have seen some players, forming a partnership, give each other physical possession of chits that would either allow either to kill the other – but that practice is illegal by the rules!
Table 2 demonstrates that, in general, light characters should not team up with light or magical characters. Magical characters cannot team up with other magical characters safely. But the heavy characters can match up with anybody. They will surely pull their weight in any team. Medium characters are in-between: some pairings are fine and others are not.
The final thing to note is that Table 2 only depicts interactions between pairs of characters. Interactions within teams of three or more characters was beyond my ability to compute. Diplomacy gets involved, too. Joining a team with to “safe” characters is not safe if the two can cooperate to do you in with little risk to themselves.
Having read all this, do you know how to pick your friends in MAGIC REALM? Are you sweaty palms nervously clutching the grip of you bustard sword? Is there a jealous gleam in your neighbor’s eye, a smirk on your opponent’s lips? If you have this much trouble dealing with these other characters, how will you face the Native bands that roam the realm? Read my next installment: “Bashing the Bashkars”.