Through a veil of blue mist did I first behold Talislanta: dreamlike and surreal, as if suffused in amberglow
That is how Tamerlin begins his travelogue and journal across the fabled lands of Talislanta. I first encountered Tamerlin and the strange lands he travelled, in a booklet, published by Bard Games, called Chronicles of Talislanta. Reading it was a totally new experience for me. It was styled as a collection of manuscripts by someone who had travelled to other worlds and then putting it on thickly while telling of his exploits. Surreal it was, and dreamlike as well.
When I look back in the electronic archives, I realize that since the earliest message I have saved is from 1998, I have been a subscriber to the Talislanta e-mailing list for eleven years. This is a long love story. No wonder I have seen the ups and downs of the line.
After Bard Games it was actually WotC that published the game. Since then it has been through so much it's a wonder it's not dead and buried. But, Stephan Michael Sechi, the creator of Talislanta is correct in that this is the Rasputin of rpgs. Through all the events where publishers dropped it and different other projects never materialized, the fourth edition managed to get published. Not only was it the biggest rpg ever, it was also the first time I saw my name in print. I love that edition.
The love the game and the setting invoke in me is something special. The fact that SMS (as Steve Sechi is known) keeps watch over the game and always communicates with the fans, makes it feel like a very close knit tribe. Talislanta is home to me. Even though I'm not as active any longer, I still keep in touch.
What's so special about this fantasy setting then? I guess some of you have seen the old ads saying "No elves!", right? Even though some people think that the amount of fey creatures with pointy ears kind of invalidates that claim, it's still a signpost saying "this is not your daddy's fantasy rpg". Using the evocative illustrations of P.D Breeding-Black, and the chatty and conversational style of "Tamerlin", the game come across as different more than anything. No cows, no horses and no knights. On the other hand there are avian humanoids, a genetically engineered warrior race, faeries with gossamer wings and other outre things. It's a hallucinogenic feast and marvel, which is both funny and sometimes satirical. It makes fantasy feel fantastic again.
So. Why do I bother to proclaim my love for this setting? Well, apart from just wanting to share some knowledge of an under appreciated and fun setting for adventure, there are things happening with Talislanta. SMS have promised that while he is planning new and interesting stuff, all of the old books are going to be available for free, online! The idea of all that weird and wonderful stuff being shown to the world outside our tribe is exciting. While it might take a while to happen, you can go and bookmark the Talislanta web home so you know where to find it. I don't know about you, but for me it is a setting that always made me want to play a game there right now! We can dream together with Tamerlin.
Tamerlin, evidently anticipating the scepticism of future generations of scholars, had only this to say in defense of his work:
"As to the authenticity or value of my writings, I leave it to the reader to decide. Know only this: Talislanta exists, for I have been there, if only in dreams."