desert
birdmad red in the sunset and blue in the pre-dawn glow

peering down from the airplane window

to and from

the heat and the dust

cool and seemingly clean as heaven on a winter morning

hell with the lid off on a summer day

succulents cacti and brush

what i wouldn't give for a coastal plain, high cliffs and vast stretches of green
011014
...
jester What is Talislanta?
An introduction to the game by the creator, Stephan Michael Sechi

If this is your first exposure to Talislanta, a word of explanation is probably in order. Talislanta is not your average role playing game. Unlike most fantasy games, Talislanta isn't based on traditional European mythology or some archetypal medieval setting. Instead,Talislanta is a strange and exotic place populated by unusual cultures, creatures, and characters such as Wizard Hunters, Dream Merchants, Thaumaturges, Rogue Magicians, and Mystic Warriors, to name just a few. If you're looking for elves here, you're out of luck. However, if you're looking for a unique and colorful role playing experience, you've come to the right place.

To find out more, take the Tour of Talislanta

A Short History of the Game

In 1988 a small company called Bard Games published The Chronicles of Talislanta, the first in a series of books about a role playing game called Talislanta. The fantastic artwork of P.D. Breeding-Black and a quirky world setting influenced by the works of author Jack Vance soon earned the game something of a cult following in certain circles, as well as some pretty good reviews. "Out of the ordinary", said Dragon Magazine. "So rich with information that even non-role-players will enjoy reading it", said Science Fiction Age. "Top 10 Recommended Games" (Heroic Worlds, by Lawrence Schick); "Ten Favorite Games" (The Complete Guide to Role-Playing Games, by Rick Swan).

And my personal favorite, also from Mr. Swan: "It's as if H.P. Lovecraft had written Alice in Wonderland with Hans Christian Anderson and William S. Burroughs".

Ten years have passed since then. In that time, Talislanta has been through three different publishers (and one non-publisher), four different editions (including the brand-new 10th Anniversary Edition), and enough perils pitfalls, and near-death experiences to kill-off a dozen other games. Yet despite the problems Talislanta has survived, thanks mainly to the efforts of its fans, whose loyalty and support have made Talislanta "the Rasputin of role playing games" -- hard to kill (and also a little weird).


Talislantan Unified Theory of Magic
By Stephan Michael Sechi

Background

Magic is not "native" to Talislanta. When the primitive Archaens found that strange ship they discovered the secret of how to use a new form of energy. They called this energy Magic.

From the beginning, the Archaens never fully understood what magic was all about. They just interpreted what they found in the ship as best they could, based on their culture and level of intellectual development.

So it was that the early Archaen version of magic probably resembled some form of paganism. They developed a few simple spells of witchcraft and elemental magic - things that were related to and/or important to their culture (predicting weather, locating food and water, healing wounds and illnesses, getting rid of "bad luck").

As time passed and the peoples of Talislanta grew in number and became more diverse, so too did the practice of magic. As magic spread among the population, each people altered, added to, or (sometimes) subtracted from the existing body of magical knowledge according to their needs. As new cultures came into existence, new forms of magic were developed. And sometimes, when old cultures/civilizations died, they took their own magical secrets with them (see The Great Disaster).

Here is the Unified Theory of Magic:

1. Magic is both a form of energy and a means of manipulating energy. All magic originally came from the same source.

2. There are certain "laws" governing the use of magic, but magic may take any number of forms. These forms are mutable, and are dictated by cultural prerogatives; i.e., if a society is agrarian, its magicians will work to develop horticultural magics. If a society is militaristic, its magicians will focus on combat-oriented magics, and so forth.

3. Only magicians can use Magic (talking about spells here, not magic items). Therefore, anyone who uses Magic is a magician, whether his/her title is priest, shaman, witch, thaumaturge, or whatever.

1994 SMS


Chapter I - The Staples of Life

Introduction

Sadly, many travelers are limited in their tastes, and are surprisingly unadventurous with foodstuffs given their dangerous pastime. As luck would have it, these poor fools are fortunate enough that a few staples of Talislantan cuisine are common almost throughout the continent. Unfortunately, they bear scrutiny for their importance, if not their tastes.

The Staples

Provender Plant
The humble provender, hardy and prolific in the extreme, is a taste known throughout the continent. Nearly always overlooked, the provender provides us with the grain for bread, and its grassy leaves are the fodder for much of our livestock.

Provender Bread
Possessed of a "nutty" flavor and a texture like moist sponge, few aromas set the mouth watering like the smell of freshly baked provender bread. It is served with the majority of common meals, adding bulk and substance to any dish. Of course, it can become bland if over-baked, so many eateries add a touch of something extra so that each slice holds a few tasty morsels. Examples include spice, tiny pieces of fruit, vegetables, and even fish or meat. Cheap, filling, and often surprisingly satisfying, provender bread is the cornerstone of Talislantan civilization. Toasted, it makes a tasty snack.

Provender Root
Sadly, where the grain makes for superb bread, the root is barely fit for animals. Although edible (and I use that term very loosely) it is potently bitter, leaving a foul, numbing after-taste that can only be removed with copious amounts of strong drink. Only the destitute lower themselves to consume it, and even they usually retch while doing so. Even livestock have the good sense not to eat it. In fact, the only beast that seems to have developed a taste for the wretched root is the Land Kra. It is typically baked in its skin, and it is incredibly cheap (its only redeeming feature).

Provender Dumplings
Stew is obviously common around the continent, with any leftover scraps being thrown together and boiled. No Talislantan stew is complete without provender dumplings. Baking the flour in a rough ball shape with animal fat, the dumplings are crisped-off and added to the stew, soaking up some of the flavor. If any cook is really serious about his trade he will mix in some herbs or spices with the dumpling mix. Surprisingly, small dumplings are also very popular in Mandalan culture, but that will be covered in a later volume.

Avir
Our winged friends are nothing if not commonplace, having adapted to most of Talislanta's variable climates. Of course, their meat varies, but is typically white in color, with a smooth texture. Strength of flavor varies enormously, as does the dryness of the meat, from the greasy (but succulent) flesh of the waterborne qwuk, to the dry flesh of the domestically raised, 6-legged kinchin. Indeed, it is truly astounding just how many meats taste like kinchin...
Served in an infinite variety of ways, avir is usually roasted. If any accusation can be leveled at the avir it is the accursed monotony of plucking them.

Avir Eggs
As if their meat was not boon enough, avir eggs are a blessing to cooks everywhere. That smooth egg white and green yolk have adorned many a platter, and avir eggs have a rich taste quite unlike anything else. Usually served poached or boiled, the humble kinchin egg is known throughout the realms, making a tasty snack when scrambled.

Durge
A common domestic livestock, the hulking but placid durge provide nearly 1000lbs of prime meat each. Indeed, even the liver, heart and tripe of the beast is commonly used, and its immense quantities of sweet marrow are scooped, roasted, and served in steaming slices. The meat is extremely thick, red and strong flavored, and is usually marinated before roasting to soften the flesh slightly. Dried strips of salted durge jerky form the basis of most trail rations, but even if you run out of provisions, durge are common enough in the wild, and make easy targets.

Erd Meat
It is actually uncommon to consume erd, for they are valued primarily for their milk producing qualities. As a result, most erd meat is from old stock, and is tough and chewy, with a weak flavor. At best, it is cheap.

Erd Milk
An uncommon beverage, erd milk is thick and creamy with a slightly "cheesy" aroma. Unsurprisingly its main use is the creation of erd cheese.

Erd Cheese
Possessed of varied flavor, erd cheese is found in a stunning number of varieties. Smoked Erd cheddar is extremely popular in Cymril, the cheese taking on a slight flavoring from the wood it is smoked with. The most popular (and expensive) smoking wood is from the spice tree, which gives the cheese a ginger tang. Texture varies greatly too, from the mild and crumbly Aarello of Aaman, to the zingy black pepper flavor of Zoldi in Zandu. Erd cheese is invariably served in slices with provender bread as a cold lunchtime menu.

Mudray
These murky-brown flatfish are found in nearly all the rivers, lakes, seas and oceans in and around the continent. Due to their abundance, and ability to survive in both fresh and salt waters, mudrays have become a staple of the Talislantan diet. Skinned and smoked, their soft white flesh is fresh and flavorsome, and fillets are often served with a herb and erd-cream sauce. The silverray, while smaller and almost indistinguishable in flavor, is regarded as somewhat of a delicacy simply because it looks more attractive, and is harder to come by.

Rock Urchin
Found in caves throughout the continent, rock urchins are a delicacy, both easy to catch and prepare. The still live urchins are dropped into pans of boiling water, and served when their black shell starts to crack. Iron prying tools are used to pull open the steaming shell, allowing the diner to partake of the mildly flavored, succulent white flesh.

Grog
The alcoholic beverage of the unwashed masses, grog is the catchall (and in my opinion, well deserved) name given to the basest and cheapest alcohol of any region. Tastes range from sickening to bland, and the alcohol content varies from negligible to "one-tankard k.o.". I myself had the misfortune to try a grog in Arim that almost peeled the skin off the roof of my mouth. Chakos seemed a godsend thereafter. At best, grog is a cheap way to lose consciousness.


The Seven Kingdoms Religions
by Colin Chapman

Creator/Tree of Life | Duality | Magister | Terra | Ancestral Reverence | Nature Reverence

The Ceator and the Tree of Life (Aeriad)

The Aeriad state that a great tree, the Tree of Life, exists at the center of creation, and is the aerie of the Creator, a winged, genderless humanoid with dazzling plumage in all the colors of creation, who soars through reality, bearing the seeds of the Tree of Life, and planting them so that new life may grow. The Tree of Life is considered the foundation of all things, its many branches the paths of life, its many leaves the infinite possibilities of existence.

Doctrine
Aeriad faith promotes reverence for, and defense of, the natural world, and the belief that the Creator's gifts should be used wisely. Worship is conducted with song, for the Aeriad state that the Creator soars so high it may not always see those far below, but can always hear skyward praise.

Symbology
A Tree is the most potent of Aeriad symbols, reflecting the Tree of Life. Every tree is a reminder of their faith, and seeds are symbolic of new life and beginnings, and often worn as jewelry by the Aeriad.

Worship
- Holy Days
"The Day of Seeds" is held on the 1st of Ardan, and celebrates the onset of spring and the new life it brings. The 49th of Drome marks the equinox, celebrated as "The Day of Trees", when those plants which started life in the spring months start to reach maturity.
The 1st of Talisandre is the "Harvest of the Silver Moon", celebrating the beginning of the week-long viridia harvest, praising the Creator and Viridian for their gifts.
- Temples
Large open-air chambers, amid the boughs of trees, serve as temples where the Aeriad gather to sing. These are naturally grown from tree itself, usually a span-oak or viridia, and are decorated with garlands of flowers that are encouraged to grow within, around, and without the structure. This open structure allows Aeriad hymns to be sung skyward unimpeded, and their songs, which sound remarkably like the warbling of birds, can be heard for miles.

Saints and Luminaries
Viridian is the only luminary of the Aeriad faith, and is held in great esteem and reverence for his many botanomantic observations, and useful creations, such as the viridia tree, whispbane, and yellow stickler. Viridian was a famed magician of the Forgotten Age, in actuality a magical simulacrum of the esteemed Koraq, and had green skin and grass-like hair.

Clergy
- Duties
Creativists lead their local community in songs of worship, and act as counselors and healers, as well as advising on matters pertaining to the wise use and protection of the environment. They are also respected for their calming influence on the more aggressive Blue Aeriad.
- Restrictions
Aeriad Creativists face few restrictions, save that they promote the tenets of their faith, and aid their fellow Aeriad selflessly. A calm and reasoning nature is necessary to fulfil their duties effectively, with the result that it is almost unknown for Blue Aeriad to become Creativists.
- Raiment
Creativists wear rainbow-colored viridia fabric robes, dye their plumage in multi-colors to better reflect the appearance of the Creator, and bear botanomantically-created living staffs that continually sprout fresh leaves and scented blossoms.
- Ranking
The Aeriad have a greater respect for wisdom and knowledge than age, and their Creativists turn to the colleague with the most appropriate knowledge, skill or expertise in any given situation.
- Magic
Aeriad Creativists practice Natural Magic that is in tune with the world around them. In fact, there are numerous areas throughout Vardune that aid the use of Natural Magic, including every Creativist temple.
- Resources
The Aeriad priesthood is supported by the two Aeriad councils and their local community, all of whom provide for whatever basic needs their local Creativists may require.

The Duality (Sindaran)

Many Sindarans have faith in the "Duality" - the Sindaran concept of the Creator - who they view as a representation of the ultimate melding of Mind and Spirit. Their faith is much more abstract than most races can easily fathom, and worship is too strong a definition for their philosophy.

Doctrine
The Sindarans believe that the Mind is the font of Reasoning, while the Spirit is the font of Understanding, and that only when the two merge to create the Duality can the ultimate truths of existence be truly realized. They envision the Duality as truly ephemeral and formless, just like thought, spirit and energy. It cannot be understood, nor does it possess traits that mortal minds can comprehend. It is quite simply the unseen energy of the universe and all things. The Sindarans do not practice their faith as an organized religion, nor do they gather together for such purposes as prayer. All are expected to find their own path, and engage their own spirituality by pondering the mysteries of all things.

The Magister (Cymrilian)

In general, few Cymrilians have any interest or belief in religion, being much more concerned with the workings of magic, or day-to-day life. This lack of interest means that less than ten percent of Cymril's populace actively profess belief in any deity, but of those that do, nearly all follow the Magister, the Cymrilian concept of the Creator.

The Magister is regarded as a being of mutable race and gender, demonstrating the mutability of magic. The use of magic is the ultimate expression of Creation, using the energy of the universe itself to form and transform in a near infinite variety of ways. Creation is Magic, and Magic is Creation. Both spring from the arcane energy of the Magister - the embodiment of Magic who conjures forth all things. The Magister is viewed as the ultimate neutral, and therefore unapproachable, for Magic and Creation are neither good nor evil, they simply are. The search for magical knowledge is said to bring enlightenment, as greater understanding of magic grants insight into the universe and Creation as a whole.

Doctrine
The Order of the Magister is particularly tolerant of other faiths and beliefs, preferring to pursue its own path of arcane knowledge. Given the view of the Magister as a neutral entity, followers try to remain aloof of events in the mundane world, and avoid interfering in events, except to promote the use, acceptance, understanding and research of magic.

Symbology
The seven-pointed star, as the symbol of the spell matrix, is used as the symbol of the Magister.

Worship
- Holy Days
Every "High Day" - date divisible by 7 - is marked by a liturgy.
The 49th of every month is also marked by a service dedicated to an individual luminary as follows:
Ardan - The Enchantress
Drome - Koraq
Jhang - Sylan
Laeolis - Xanadas
Phandir - Cascal
Talisandre - Arkon
Zar - Rodinn
- Temples
The Order of the Magister's temple in Cymril is constructed like a seven- pointed star lying on the ground, with the seven points serving as inward- looking halls of pews spaced evenly around a central hub. This central hub serves as the focus of all ceremonies, bearing a circular rostrum that projects a large illusory image of the speaker. The rostrum and pulpit actually levitate 2-feet into the air, and slowly revolve during services. The temple itself is composed of green crystal, enchanted so that soft-colored lights glow within the walls, and is carved on nearly every surface with runes of magical significance.

Saints and Luminaries
The Order of the Magister reveres many of the great mages and sorcerers of the past, such as Koraq, Arkon and the Enchantress, noting that these great Archaens possessed a more perfect understanding of magic than their descendants. As such, they must also have had greater knowledge of all life's mysteries and were therefore more enlightened.

Clergy
- Duties
The Order of the Magister does provide magical aid to Cymril's populace, typically in the form of healing services, but does so to increase the appreciation and acceptance of magic, and gather funds from donations, rather than out of any sense of altruism.
- Restrictions
Acolytes of the Magister may be of either gender, are not required to be celibate, and do not actively seek converts, believing instead that those searching for enlightenment will seek them out, although they do actively promote the use and acceptance of magic. They have few taboos, but must refrain from magical practices that could galvanize public opinion against magic.
- Raiment
All Acolytes wear necklaces bearing a seven-pointed star of green crystal, although these are increasingly ornate as they gain in rank. Their robes are tailored from enchanted spangalor, constantly swirling with color, and cut with the traditional Cymrilian high collar, and they bear enchanted staves during ceremonies, carved with magical runes, and topped with seven-pointed stars of green crystal, enchanted to glow softly with an inner light.
- Ranking
The Magister's priesthood organizes itself using the same structure as the Archaen Cabal, with the ranks ranging upward from Apprentice, through Initiate, Adept, and Master.
- Magic
Acolytes of the Magister do not practice Invocation, following the basic precepts of Wizardry instead.
- Resources
The Order is expected to support itself for the most part, and does this by taking donations from its parishioners, and using magic to aid the local community. In addition, the governing body of Cymril provides a reasonable donation, recognizing that the Order encourages the acceptance and use of magic.

Terra (Gnomekin)

The worship and belief in Terra is universal among the Gnomekin, and colors their very existence, personality and society, influencing the way they behave, and the way they view the world. They believe Terra is a living entity; an elemental of vast proportions that forms the world itself. The earth is her flesh, the rocks her bones, the waters her blood, and the air her breath. She provides shelter, food, water, and the very ground upon, within, and above which all things live. She is benign and loving: the ultimate mother, providing for all life. All living creatures are her children, even if they do not realize it, and children should reciprocate her love, treating her with care and respect. They must use Her gifts wisely, for abusing Terra is detrimental to everyone, as the Gnomekin believe that the combined abuses - in the form of excessive deforestation, strip-mining and pollution, etc. - could actually kill Terra. For all her power she is largely at the mercy of her children, which is another reason why she must be cherished and guarded. The Gnomekin believe that the Womb of Terra is within the earth itself, and that because they dwell there they are truly her children. Crystals are the Tears of Terra, and among her greatest gifts: symbols of her love, and the pain she suffered when birthing all life.

Doctrine
Friendship, tolerance, selflessness, and a reverence for the natural world are expressions of Terra's benevolence, and Gnomekin strive to embody these traits. A humble manner is the ultimate expression of respect for Terra, showing that no one is truly superior or favored in her eyes. All beings are equal, and although some must assume the burden of rulership, true rulers exist to serve their people, mirroring Terra's devotion to her offspring. The act of birth is sacred, symbolic of the Mother, and children are to be taught with love, respect and freedom. Unnatural birth control wastes the gift Terra has bestowed, and shows a lack of respect for life. The pain of childbirth, and the trials and tribulations it creates help people to understand Terra better, and is yet another reason why children are sacred, and childbirth is encouraged.

Symbology
Terra is recognized by no specific symbol, though the colors of brown and green are symbolic of her.

Worship
- Holy Days
None. All days are considered equally holy in the worship of Terra.
- Temples
The Daughters believe you can pray to Terra anywhere, although areas of great natural beauty (such as caves or grottoes filled with glowing crystals) are sacred. They prefer to conduct their simple services underground, as they believe this is "within Terra's womb".

Clergy
- Duties
The Daughters of Terra seek to increase the appreciation and communion with nature in those around them, as well as promoting the tenets of their faith, and providing services as healers, midwives, and counselors. While they avoid gender prejudice, for all are beloved of Terra, it is felt that females understand her best, being intimately connected to creation in a way no male could ever completely appreciate.
- Restrictions
All Gnomekin clergy of Terra are female, and call themselves "Daughters", but face few restrictions beyond upholding the faith and helping others.
- Raiment
The Daughters of Terra wear simple brown, hooded robes, belted at the waist with plaited vegetation, and all bear a roughly heart-shaped chunk of emeralite crystal on a leather thong around their necks, so that it hangs near their heart.
- Ranking
All beings are considered equal in the eyes of followers of Terra, although Terra's Daughters respect the opinions of those who are older or wiser.
- Magic
The Daughters of Terra practice Crystalomancy rather than Invocation, revering crystals as one of Terra's gifts. They that plaguing Terra with requests for further boons would be selfish and disrespectful. - Resources
The Daughters of Terra are not so much an organized church as a loosely organized cult. They eschew the collection of material wealth beyond that necessary for survival, and provide their aid and guidance with no expectation of reward. However, all Gnomekin are willing to help the Daughters in any way they can, providing them with food, shelter and protection.

Ancestral Reverence (Thrall)

Thralls revere and acknowledge their most accomplished ancestors as fine examples of Thralldom that an individual can aspire to, but do not worship them, or believe that their ancestors are spiritual entities.

Doctrine
Thralls have no illusions about their origins as a race of neomorphs created by ancient sorcerers, and have no belief in a higher being of any variety. The greatest deeds of a tribe's ancestors are tattooed on all members of that tribe for all future generations, and great heroes of the present receive recognition in the same way. In this way, the various tribes always remember their most notable ancestors, and aspire to be remembered the same way themselves.

Saints and Luminaries
While not saints and luminaries in any religious or spiritual sense, every Thrall tribe has a number of esteemed figures in its history.

Nature Reverence (Muse)

Muses admire the beauty of nature that surrounds them, and the spirits that provide such beauty, but they do not worship in any sense of the word.

Doctrine
Muses regard it is satisfying and respectful to revel in and enjoy the bounty that nature has given them.


Thrall Tattoo Symbology

(excerpted in part from a rare unabridged copy of "The Chronicles of Talislanta", by the wizard Tamerlin.)

"Thrall tattooes, while colorful in appearance, are not just a form of decoration. Nor are the designs simply a means of instilling a sense of individuality into a race whose members otherwise look exactly alike. In fact, the intricate symbology utilized in Thrall tattoes provides a virtual record of the wearer's life and history. In order to obtain some idea of how to read Thrall tattoes one must understand the importance of the tattoo's location, color, and symbolism.

"The location of a tattoo determines the general type of information it conveys. For example, the area of the head is used for information that is specifically about the individual: his or her name, rank, and personal embelishments. Name and rank are indited on the forehead, for easy recognition; as an individual progresses in rank this information extends to the areas on the sides and back of the head. Personal embelishments are primarily decorative in nature, and are located in the areas around the eyes, nose, cheeks, mouth, ears, and neck. Place of birth and clan alliance are recorded on the shoulders. The torso is used to delineate the wearer's lineage: his or her ancestors, their place of origin, and their accomplishments. The individual's own achievements and skills are indited upon the arms, legs, hands, and feet.

"Colors are used to indicate clan alliance, and to provide more specific information about the wearer. Each clan uses its own color combination, which is incorporated into the traditional shoulder-designs. The use of bright colors make such designations easier to read at a distance. The vertical forehead- designs used to show rank are also based on color: gold is the highest rank, followed in descending order by green, violet, blue, orange red, and white. Color is also used to indicate specific types of battle commendations; green for valorous conduct, blue for tactical expertise, gold for command excellence, etc. The tattoos worn by young Thralls may be comprised only of lines; colors will be added later, as the Thrall advances in experience and accomplishments. Changes in rank are indicated by the addition (or deletion) of new vertical designs in the appropriate color.

The most specific information is contained within the actual symbols used in each tattoo. Each of these symbols is an ideogram, expressing a word, phrase, or concept. Arranged in a variety of different combinations, the lines, patterns, and geometric shapes used in Thrall symbology convey the entire story of a Thrall's life."
030320
...
wingedSerpent Map of my soul's geographies.

Barren-ness.

Clouds pass over, but never rain
030320
...
outpatient I'm not in the mood today
Keep away or there will be hell to pay
I'm not in the mood today
Everything in my life has slipped away
I feel as dry as the dirt
Falling beneath the cracks
Trying to throw the rock
The one that's breaking my back
Been walking for days
Dying for a drink
Mouth's cracked and dry
And my mind can't afford to think
The snakes welcome my flesh
Drink the blood that fuels my viens
The throns of the plant take me away
from which was the way I came
And as the sun falls below the dust
The wind blows into my face
It's cold outside and no one knows I'm here
Banished without a trace
Don't try to follow my tracks
Because I won't be there
I dried out and left with the rain
This world was too hard to bare
So I'm not in the mood today
I left you all behind to lead someone else
Liquified by all of that dead ash
And bury it to grow and cry for help
031128
...
Candy My homeland. Where I was raised. Where I had my first kiss and where I lost my virginity. Sand, sunsets, brush... the river. Wooley bears... (sheep) Drinking, friends, dust devils. Mohave Valley. My home... I miss my home! 040218
...
andru235 no more storing nuclear waste
where the river system's based
reduce it, at the very least
or the midwest'll be desert, ala mideast
050101
what's it to you?
who go
blather
from