by Richard Hamblen

Once upon a time there was a game that tried to eat its designer…
From the start, MAGIC REALM was meant to recreate a small but complete fantasy world with enough breadth and depth to allow adventuring. This admirable ambition led into strange byways filled with hoary design problems like ‘limited knowledge’ and ‘simultaneous movement’, and infested with game systems that had never been seen before. Using novel game systems to slay (wound?) the classic design problems was heady stuff, but the very novelty of the game systems created a new problem.
The new and terrible problem was: how much explanation is required for game systems that no one has ever seen before? At the same time, how much explanation could be done without having the game – and its players – choke on the verbiage? And how many rules could be presented without making the game incomprehensible and unplayable? The answers to these questions had to be balanced against each other in the writing of the rulebook, lengthening explanations to explain new game systems, paring away verbiage to keep the rules from getting lost and cutting out rules sections or whole rules to simplify the overall result. Expostulation, brevity and completeness had to be balanced against each other, and the result was a rulebook that was a compromise.
With the benefit of hindsight and the popular response to the game, it is now clear that some of our worries were groundless and that some of our compromises were wrong. The new game systems did not have to be treated so gingerly and explained in such detail (and so clumsily); they could have been made shorter and more comprehensible, particularly with the aid of some charts. The space gained could have been used to present the rules sections that had been dropped, and to organize the rules so that they could be referred to more easily during play.
With this information in hand we’re planning to revise the rulebook in a second edition (don’t order this until we announce it is ready – we don’t know when it will be done and we’ve hopefully learned our lesson about making predictions). The game system is unchanged except for a few second thoughts about particular details, but the rulebook will be simplified and reorganized, and a lot of additional material that was originally cut out (solitaire rules, combining games, extending play from game to game, etc.) will be put back in.
This article contains most of the new material along with some of the charts that present the rules more simply.

These changes in the rules either rectify typos, clarify ambiguities, reinsert rules that were deleted when the rules were simplified or correct contradictions and flaws that can arise in certain circumstances.


17.452 and MISSILE TABLE: The damage inflicted by a missile weapon decreases by three levels when a ‘6’ result is rolled on the MISSILE TABLE.

17.464 ‘Light’ damage that is inflicted directly on a character without striking armor automatically inflicts a wound.

Optional Rule 2.2 A dagger has ‘negligible’ weight, one sharpness star, ‘tooth/claw’ weapon length and no weapon time, whether it is readied or not.


Optional Rule 3.1 All Trolls and Vipers are armored and get the armor bonus.


41.5233, 43.333 and MEETING TABLE: Change the explanation of the ‘GIFT’ result to read: ‘GIFT: If you are TRADING, the item is free and costs no gold. If you are HIRING you pay no gold to hire the native(s), but if you do hire them you must subtract their value from your recorded NOTORIETY.’

Horse counter: The slow horse with no strength letter on its non-asterisk side should have ‘T’ strength on that side.


49.31 Different characters can record the same Spell, but each character can record a Spell no more than once – he cannot duplicate it.

49.32 When a character selects his Spells he can secretly transform any of his MAGIC counters into color magic so he has color magic available at the start of the game. He must reveal these counters when play begins.

53.331 A character can record a Spell only if he has a MAGIC counter of the proper type to Cast that Spell; he cannot record a Spell he cannot Cast using his own counters. He can record a Spell if he has a MAGIC counter whose type has been altered (by WITCH’S BREW, etc.) into the type needed to Cast that Spell; the counter must be altered at the moment he records the Spell.

53.332 A character cannot record a Spell that he has already recorded; he cannot record the same Spell twice.

53.4 A character can count a recorded Spell towards fulfilling his USABLE SPELLS victory conditions only if at the moment he claims victory he has in play a MAGIC counter of the proper type to Cast that Spell. He can use MAGIC counters whose type has been altered (by WITCH’S BREW, etc.) to fulfill this requirement.

FAERIE LIGHTS changes type III counters into type II and type VII counters into type Vl as listed on its card, instead of the changes listed in the rulebook.

DISSOLVE SPELL (VI PURPLE) Spell, Instant causes the target Spell to be broken. It cannot be used against curses.

Optional Rule 6.3 STONES FLY must also be aimed.


57.734 The WARLOCK pays bonus prices for the SCROLL OF ALCHEMY, not the SCROLL OF NATURE.

59.1 There are four weather counters, not six.


Swordsman: The Swordsman’s BARTER ability is to roll one die instead of two when trading, as is stated on his card. The statement in the LIST OF CHARACTERS is wrong.

Magician: At each stage of Development the Magician gets the MAGIC counters indicated by that stage’s Spells – at stage two he gets a type II counter instead of a type VIII, and at stage three he has types II and III instead of V and VI.

The rules listed as optional in the rulebook are optional to different degrees. Some are parts of the game system that are ‘optional’ solely because of the complexities they introduce; these rules should really be considered ‘advanced’ rules that are left out only when the players are learning the game or when they wish to play the simplest version of the game. Some of the rules refine the game system at the cost of additional complexity; these rules are suggested for those players who are willing to put up with the complexity to improve the game. Finally, some of the rules are truly optional and should be used only when they suit the players’ tastes.
Each optional rule’s status is given below – either ‘Advanced’, ‘Suggested Addition’ or ‘Optional’. Some new rules are also presented, with their statuses.


Optional: 1.1, 1.2


Advanced: 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.6

Suggested Additions: 2.7, 2.8 (new), 2.9 (new)

2.8 Severe Wounds: When a character is struck by damage exactly equal to his vulnerability, he is severely wounded instead of being killed outright. He rolls two dice and wounds a number of counters equal to double the number rolled on the higher die (the lower die is ignored). This die roll is affected by Spells and treasures that affect die rolls generally (e.g., LUCKY CHARM).

2.9 Alerting During Combat: A character can play a FIGHT counter during the encounter step at exactly the same time and under the same restrictions that he could play a MOVE counter to run away. If he plays the FIGHT counter he cannot do any other actions that encounter step. If he plays the FIGHT counter then his weapon is instantly turned ready side up, and is ready for that Round’s melee step. (Special: The Berserker can play his BERSERK counter similarly during an encounter step to go Berserk.)

Optional: 2.4, 2.5


Advanced: 3.1, 3.2


Advanced: 4.3

Suggested Additions: 4.1

Optional: 4.2, 4.4 (new)

4.4 Exchanging Characters (use this rule in place of 2.4 Reviving): When a player’s character is killed the player can choose a new character and start the game over again at the start of the next day (or week). He can choose the character who was just killed or any other character that is not being used. He must take his starting weapon and armor from the destroyed armor counters, native groups’ boxes and/or abandoned piles on the board (in that order, if he has a choice); he cannot take them from other characters, and if he cannot get an item he must do without it (no substitutions are allowed). Important: The player must record new victory conditions for his new character, and each time his character is killed he must record an extra victory point (so he would record two extra points if he were killed twice).


Advanced: 5.1, 5.4, 5.5, 5.6, 5.7, 5.8

Suggested Additions: 5.9 (new)

5.9 Credit: When a character is rolling on the ALLY column of the MEETING TABLE to hire or trade with a native group, he can announce that he is trying to buy on credit. He must announce this before he rolls, and if he rolls a PRICE result and chooses to take the item he can pay the indicated price in gold any time within the next fourteen days (counting the day of the transaction as the first day); however, he must immediately subtract the indicated price from his FAME, and he does not get these FAME points back until he pays back the gold – and if he fails to pay by the end of the 14th day he loses these FAME points permanently. He can pay back the gold any time he is in the same Clearing with the leader with whom he had the transaction even if the leader is under hire to someone else. If the leader is killed he can still be paid when he revives at the end of the month, as long as he is repaid within the original fourteen days.

Optional: 5.2, 5.3


Advanced: 6.3, 6.4, 6.5

Optional: 6.1, 6.2


Advanced: Glory

And a Final Word: Playing to four victory points makes for a fast game, but it is usually more satisfying to add a point or two and play to five or six victory points. This is particularly true when there are a lot of players, since the game tends to go faster when there are more players; a game with a lot of players can actually end too quickly when they are playing to only four points. You can set the victory points to any level you wish, but suggested levels are:

Number of players:
Short Game:
Moderate Game:
Long Game:


A number of charts which summarize information already in the game are included on the insert in this issue as a helpful playing aid. Players will also find a helpful compendium of frequently asked questions and answers on play of the game in the same insert.