Inspired by other projects and proposals around here, I revisited an old project that was mothballed and never finished - Addon Ability cards. It never worked out because players in Talisman want everything to be free and immediate once they get it... or they want someplace to buy it off with just gold. Either way, it just wouldn't work that way and would turn Talisman into chaotic game of "superheros" at the superpowers mall instead of stalwart adventures. I'm making this rather long post here vs. on my blog or elsewhere because this is where I've found the greater number or thoughtful homebrewers for this game. And I need feedback from such more serious developers before I decide if and how to burn more time on this idea stuck in my head.
The balance and superhero problem with too many new abilities piled on characters who already have them is still at issue. But if the abilities were gained outside of the Adventure deck, still had a cost to have them, and there was more uncertainty in drawing them, maybe that would work for some groups. Most of my stuff ends up being niche work anyway, but overall, that's the case with any homebrew. They aren't really made for ALL players groups. And so I'm proposing what I call a "Legends" deck for lack of a better term, which would be composed of multiple card types and not just Special Abiliites.
Each card [sub]type would be produced in separate supplement packs. Any group could decide which card [sub]type pack to use in their Legends deck. If they want to use just Special Ability cards, then they can have at it. Customization is always attractive... isn't it? Drawing from the deck would have a mechanic based in the actually where, when, what of activities by the characters themselves in the game. That way, access to the Legends deck is self-governing, and maybe produce some entertaining little races to get to its top card first.
You'll see why/how below, and the deck doesn't become obtrusive with too many draws too often. The greed of players for "more power" will govern how often a Legend card might affect the game. Card mechanics would be rigged so that anything extra required by a Legend's draw could be accomplished during general adventuring. Let's start off with how the deck would be prepped and when a card is drawn.
- Shuffle the enter Legends Deck and place it near the board for convenience.
- Take the top card off without looking at its front side.
- Slide the top card under the deck, face down, and not into the Legends discard pile. This way, the actual top card with its key to how to get it is a surprise to all before the game begins.
- Each card back indicates either a space or Adventure card [sub]type that must be encountered for the top card to be drawn.
- The first player to finish a turn in which it encountered what's on the top card's back may draw that card. A draw is NOT required.
- That player looks at that card, determines what type it is, and follows simple rules by card type to take action upon it.
- Some card types have the option to discard them immediately if the player/character does wish to keep it. This applies to the Special Ability card type. Other card types may affect the game as a whole and be an opportunity for all, so they must be put into play.
- Differing card backs are thematically linked to multiple card fronts of varied type (Special Ability, Legend, Task, etc.). Thereby uncertainty and risk in accessing this additional deck matches that found in standard encounter decks for the game.
Special Ability card type
These are what most players will want, but they shouldn't be free like drawing an Object or Follower. That turns back to the problem of unbalancing the game. Any one new ability added on top of those on a character card has the potential to make it futile for some other players/characters to continue a game. New abilties must be challenging to add, giving other players/characters a chance to do the same in reasonable time.
Nor are they to be bought at particular locations in most cases; in being drawn, they might be acquired in more places according to the card back. Some can be activated anywhere, during certain types of encounters, or on certain groups of spaces, or when a particular action can be first successfully accomplished related to the specific Ability. The actual place where an Ability card is drawn does not always match where it can be used once activated. Some abilities of limited "where" of use could still be potent enough for "when" of use that they need to be more readily available. Note "Cragwise" to the left is used in the Crags but its back (seen above) indicates that it can be drawn on completing a turn in any Hills space.
Drawing an Ability card
Upon doing so at the end of the current turn, the player may privately review the card and decided whether to keep it or not. If the card is not desirable, it is discarded immediately, and the turn ends. If the card is kept...
- The player reviews "Activate" requirements on the card front's bottom and places the card face down next to its character card. This indicates an "unactivated" ability, and the turn ends.
- The player may look at and review the card's requirements at any time. No other player may do so for any reason, by any means.
- An unactivated Ability cannot be lost in any way other through discarding it by choice.
- Any player may have only one unactivated Ability at any time.
- If the same player later draws another Ability card while it has an unactivated one, it must decide whether to discard new one or keep it and discard the one it already has. The new Ability card is then handle by steps 1 through 4 above.
Activating an Ability and the new "Seek" rule.
- When the activation conditions of an Ability are met, the Ability card is turned face up next to the character card. The ability can now be used as described, just like those found on a character card.
- An Ability cannot be lost or discarded once it is activated.
- Some activation requirements may included the the key word "seek." This is usually related to a particular space or spaces that must be reached in order to activate this ability. The "seek" does not apply to reaching a destination for "using" an activated ability; normal movement must be used for that.
The "Seek" Rule.
This key word may be found on other card types as well and is linked to description in the card of a particular space or space type. During play, a character uses normal movement options available, but it may stop short on any destination linked to a "seek." For example, Cragwise activation says to "seek the Crags." If the player is within 3 spaces of the Crags and rolls 3 or higher on the movement die, it may stop short on the Crags to "seek" that space instead of using its full movement roll.
NOTE: Unless instructions on a card say otherwise, the player may not access any other options for the space of the "seek." It does not draw cards or get to use options of choice (such as in the Village, City, etc.). But it must apply any non-choice effects as found in spaces like the Cursed Glade, Desert, etc., for it is inside those spaces. There are risks to be faced in gaining any new form of power.
The "seek" rule allows players a better chance beyond random movement to gain something drawn out of the Legends deck. It thereby also allows players to do so without interfering with normal, general adventuring. But it only applies where and when as stated on a Legend card.
Activation Costs - the price for power.
I analyzed probabilities for encountering all Adventure card and space types and subtypes in the core game, as well as subprobabilites within individual cards and spaces. I dug 3 to 4 levels deep into the probabilities. This built a statistical range based on a specific chance of the ability being used in relation to card and space [sub]types for its benefits, deficits, advantages and risks and how often any such would come up. The numbers for individual abilities revealed that common notions among some players about certain ones were off the mark or outright false.
One instance was the woods-walk (woods teleport ability) of the Elf, that some have poo-pooed. I've always used it to good and sometimes devastating advantage; now I know why for certain. Primarily it allows more certainty in raiding the Adventurer deck on more turns and also getting out of range of other characters coming after it in the Outer Region. There were other more subtle though rare advantages; too many to go into.
The constructed probabilty values for individual abitlities were then used to determine how much an Ability should cost to activate. Sometimes that cost was mitigated (lowered) by adding a location or other condition for activation. All costs were done by setting a cost range (initially 0 to 7) and applying the Ability value numbers to that range. Costs were not estimated off the cuff.
I did like probability calculations (up to 3 and 4 levels deep) for units of cost. I looked at how easy or hard it was to gain a "free" or commonly sought unit of various types (Strength, Craft, Life, Fate, Object, Gold, etc., and Trophy points in general or of a specific type or subtype). Again, very revealing. It turned out that Gold was nearly the easiest to get with the least risk... almost dirt cheap, one might say, compared to others. It's gotten only worse since the Highlands was introduced, but all probability calculations considered only the core game. And hence, why with most Abilities, it is not the best unit for activation... unless its makes sense for a specific ability. Gold is just too easy a way to pile on new Special Abilities.
Additional gained Abilities need to be treated more like adding on Strength and Craft "skil" points because of the balance issue. They should essentially be earned rather than bought. Almost all of them provide an advantage in dealing with the Adventure or other encounter decks, or such cards in combination with a space type. Thereby many (if not all) can directly or indirectly assist in gaining Trophy points. Though there are Strength and Craft to be gained for free, they are also more commonly raised in "skill" level through Trophy points, and getting them has the highest risk among units sought. Risk thereby mitigates their value versus other more "freely" gains units, even though Trophy points overall are the most readily avialable unit in the Adventure deck.
I'm open to adjusting the costs of abilities, as yes some seem a bit high (on the powerful ones). But change in cost cannot be done piecemeal one card at a time. A range adjustment approach (perhaps lowering the range to 6 instead of 7) needs to be used. Only cost unit types can be addressed on an Ability by Ability basis without creating more imbalance. But I think it would surprise many at what activation would cost FAIRLY in some of those other units. All comments, suggestions, and feedback are welcome and needed.
Legend card type
In order to build some uncertainty and challenge into the Legend deck, additional card types are best mixed in with the Special Abiltiies. As stated earlier, card types would be created in packs, so any group can decide on this themselves; they can just use the SA cards alone for their deck if they wish.
When a Legend card is drawn, it must be played. It cannot be discarded. That is part of the risk and challenge that can be added to the Legends deck for those groups who do not want the deck to just be a way to build Talisman superheroes.
For examples of Legend cards (and Task cards further below), I drew upon card concepts created for two past expansions: Talisman Tasks and the cooperatively developed Space Expanders, which can be found at TalismanIsland.com or on the Downloads page at my blog. The individual cards here are only for examples and not specifically ones that would be used for these card types. Notions for Legends, or even other card types suggested by anyone, might be considered as well.
The term "Legends" for the deck is drawn from these cards, though they are little more legends than the Quest cards are real quests. If anyone has a more suitable term that would work for most players, that would be considered as well. Some tweaking of information organization and card attributes is needed, but for now the examples should roughly show what they are about.
Note the Order number in the lower right-hand corner. Not all Legend cards have the same or any number, and some are outside the known range of 1 to 6 found Adventure cards. This is because certain Legends should have differing minor effects in how they are encountered if and mixed with other ordered game cards on a space. Such a combination would be rare, as by the Legend deck's draw mechanics, these cards should not come into play often... and only because a player has made it happen. The Dragon Tyrant needs to be quite dangerous, or its just nothing more than a strong dragon when encountered, hence its "0" order number. So if any Magic Object pops up on its space, you're going to have to get through him to get to it. And that's they way it should be in this case. Not all Legend cards would require an order number; such is only needed if the card is played on the board.
Legend cards can be seen as something of a mix of an Enemy, Event, and/or Stranger rolled into one. They have a Reward section in place of the Activate section found on Special Ability cards. The reward has been roughly balance statistically (not off the cuff) against the level of challenge involved but without pushing the gain to a game unbalancing level. They are subject to adjustment with this in mind, but in keeping with the deck as whole and not just to make one card more profitable. Overall, they should not be just an opportunity for gains but be a brief game changer, as well as providing some random "story" elements.
I have considered special rules where characters could "team up" briefly to face a Legend and take it out. That's accessory and I won't get into it right now.
Task card type
Task cards, as from the original Talisman Tasks alternative quest deck, are opportunites for characters to "work" to gain something extra. Again, the sample cards presented are only for examples and may not be ones that would be included in a proposed finally Tasks supplement pack. But most are rigged so that completing the task doesn't have a time requirement. Normal adventuring can usually proceed unimpeded, and the task can be completed as need. However, some task do have a time limit or a directive upon activity. Still, along the way, the character encounters the game environment and its opportunities normally.
"Caravan Duty" is one that would fall between the lines. It does require you take a certain route, and the simple "seek" mechanic allows stopping easily at all required destinations. But along the way, the character adventures normally, but with a little extra risk to completing the task. And in this case, there is not risk of additional losses for not completeing it; there are only some gains for how successfully it is completed. And general play for that character attempting it proceeds rather normally.
Like with a Special ability card, accepting a task is optional. When drawn, the player has the option to discard the task and not accept it... at least in all examples so far. I could see a rare task or two that might be require as indicated on a card, but that's and exception to deal with later, if and when.
Other than the braid frame and talisman corners on the card back, all graphics for the template were created from scratch. I did give the template front something of a look related to the front of character cards. The Legends deck is in many ways linked to character cards more than anything else in the game and this visual take seemed appropriate. Illustrations were constructed from free stock, copyright free graphics, etc. and some elements from general non-paid advertising graphics. No work from a paid artist was knowingly used. The template remains my property and is not for reuse in part or whole.
And that's what I have so far. At this point, feedback is needed in general and/or in any specifics. Seriously, before I decide if and how to proceed with this resurrected and reconsidered project. Thanks for taking the time with such a very long post.