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Tabletop Game / Talislanta

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It's been called "the Rasputin of RPGs".

It has literally hundreds of unique character concepts... and that's just going by base templates.

It's inspired by the fiction of Jack Vance.

Its tagline is "No Elves".

To be more descriptive, Talislanta is a Table Top RPG created by Stephen Michael Sechi and published by Bard Games. First releasing in 1987, Talislanta has been steadily chugging along for 6 editions.

Taking place on the titular continent, Talislanta turns players loose into a world inspired by (among other things) the Dying Earth series and H.P. Lovecraft's The Dreamquest Of Unknown Kadath. Which means players and gamemasters ought to expect a surprise or two. Oh, and there's No Elves.

In 2010, Sechi released all of the Talislanta books under the Creative Commons License, and they are now available free to download at the Talislanta Website.

This tabletop RPG provides examples of:

  • Adventure-Friendly World: Talislanta is this because of the Great Disaster, a world-spanning catastrophe that dramatically altered the landscape and completely destroyed the Archaen civilization. In the present day, hundreds of years have passed since the Great Disaster, and civilization has been re-established, but it's a pale shadow of what the Archaens once had. Much of the world is dangerous and inhospitable, and travel is difficult. Talislantans are eager to reclaim what they can from their past, and that means searching for, and delving into, ancient ruins and tombs in search of lost knowledge and artifacts.
  • All Webbed Up: The Crag Spider and the Vasp use webs to trap their prey.
  • Alternative Calendar: Talislanta has a calendar based around its 7 moons. Seven days to a week, seven weeks to a month, and seven months to a year; all adding up to 343 days a year. The months are named after whatever moon happens to be highest, and the days have no names, simply being the number of day in the month.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: Cymrilians are green, Thiasians are purple, Farad are gray... and that's only some of the basically human cultures.
  • Apocalypse How: The Great Disaster was Class 2: Planetary Scale, Societal Collapse. To be specific, too much magic being flung around by the ancient civilizations led to everything going to pot, setting the world back by quite a bit. It's been quite a few centuries since then, and civilization has built itself back up, but some worry that a second Great Disaster is on it's way...
  • Blue Means Cold: The Mirin have naturally blue skin, and are immune to the freezing cold in their homeland of L'Haan.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The Drukhs have made torturing enemies and each other an integral part of their culture. The Rajans and the Aamanians are known for their use of torture as well.
  • Crystal Weapon: Gnomekin warriors wield shortswords made of crystal.
  • Festering Fungus: When disturbed, Scarlet Sporozoids release a cloud of living spores which consume organic substances of any sort. Once the victim is dead, new scarlet sporozoids begin growing from the host's remains.
  • Hive Caste System: Rankids are divided into drones, workers, warriors, and queens.
  • Horse of a Different Color: Equs, Aht-Ra, Striders, and Dractyl are just some of the creatures that have been tamed for use as mounts.
  • Humans by Any Other Name: Although some of the races are arguably very human, the term "human" is never actually used.
  • Intelligent Gerbil: Jaka (cat-people), Ferrans (rat-people), Aeriad, Gryphs, and Stryx (bird-people), and Saurans (lizard-people), among others.
  • Made a Slave: The Imrians are a race of slavers who prey primarily upon the primitive inhabitants of the southern coasts and islands. Even among those who use slaves, Imrians are regarded as backwards and disgusting.
  • Massive Race Selection: Talislanta has a wide variety of playable non-human races, and even the various races of "man" in the game aren't exactly human.
  • Our Angels Are Different: Archons are 10' tall beings of light. Guardians are 20' tall and look like stereotypical armored angels. Paramanes are 7'-10' tall silver skinned beings that serve as guardian angels for mortals.
  • Our Demons Are Different: Demons are chaotic beings associated with various elements (e.g. Aqua Demons, Frost Demons, Pyro Demons), while Devils have a complex hierarchy and are governed by a strict set of laws and customs.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Crested Dragons, Land Dragons, Sea Dragons, Ice Dragons, and a number of other Dragon-like creatures.
  • Our Elves Are Different: What elves? However, our Ariane are more enlightened and mystical than your elves could ever hope to be.
  • Our Gargoyles Rock: Gargoyles are a type of lesser devil that serve as mercenaries, guards, and heavy infantry.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Disembodied Spirits, which are stereotypical Ghosts, and Reincarntors, which are the spirits of dead Torquaran wizards who possess mortals.
  • Our Ghouls Are Creepier: Necrophages are humanoids from the Underworld that feed on the remains of the dead. Ghasts hail from the nether realms, and tend to haunt ancient graveyards, tombs, and battlegrounds.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: Kharakhan Giants, which stand 12' tall and weigh upwards of a thousand pounds.
  • Our Gnomes Are Weirder: The Gnomekin stand just over three feet tall, and they live underground, but otherwise have little else in common with "stereotypical" gnomes.
  • Our Hydras Are Different: The Kaliya is a dragon that has up to seven heads. It can't grow new ones, but it is intelligent, breathes fire and smoke, and can do magic.
  • Our Mages Are Different: In the 3rd edition there were two dozen different schools of magic, although that list was considerably shortened in later editions.
  • Our Nymphs Are Different: The Dryad Bush is a flowering shrub that, at night, turns into a green skinned forest nymph.
  • Our Orcs Are Different: Although there are no races actually called "orcs," Kang are basically the Blizzard sort, only red. And they ride dinosaurs. And then there are the Ur, who act more like the Tolkien variety, but look more like the Blizzard variety (aside from averaging about seven and a half feet tall).
  • Our Wights Are Different: Shadowights, the spirits of deceased persons sentenced to spend eternity as specters. When they touch a mortal, they drain substance from them to make themselves corporeal. A living being drained of all of its substance becomes a shadowform.

  • Plant Person: The Arborin are sapient plant creatures, and Mang are sapient trees. Both are native to the Aberrant Forest.
  • Pointy Ears: Very common among the many races in this game.
  • Proud Merchant Race: Most notably, Farad and Kasmirans.
  • Proud Scholar Race: Sindarans are the stand-out example.
  • Proud Warrior Race: Lots of 'em.
  • Racial Remnant: The Xambrian wizard-hunters are a Racial Remnant of a culture that was wiped out by evil sorcerers. The few survivors' descendants spend their entire lives tracking down and executing the ever-reincarnating culprits, over and over again.
  • Religion of Evil: The Nihilist Cult of Rajanistan, which worships death, and "converts" outsiders by means of Human Sacrifice.
  • Roguish Romani: The Sarista gypsies are clearly based on this archetype.
  • Sand Is Water: Dracartan Duneships glide across the red sands of Carantheum.
  • Sand Worm: Land Kra
  • Sexy Dimorphism: Batreans. The males are hulking, slow-witted ogres; the females are green-haired space babes with seductive pheromones, and quite intelligent.
  • Shout-Out: Among others, to Marvel Comics with the "Crimson Bands of Cyttorak" (and associated reference to the "sorcerer supreme" who created the spell), and to Star Wars with the "Tszarlak."
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: The Ariane has this ability.
  • Spiders Are Scary: The Crag Spider, which is 15' long, 300+ pounds, and has 12 legs.
  • Superstitious Sailors: The sailors of Talislanta have a superstitous dread of the open seas. As a result, ships tend to hug the coast. Then again, considering how many hazzards there are on the open waters, their fear is not entirely unfounded.
  • The Beastmaster: Jaka Beastmasters and Kang Trackers.
  • The Theocracy: Aaman and Rajanistan.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Several races have it as an option, but there's almost always a major catch.
  • Upper-Class Twit: This is the hat of the Hadjin.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: The Manra achieve this through ingestion of the leaves of the jabutu plant.
  • Weak-Willed: Several races have below average willpower making them more susceptible to mundane temptation, bribery, torture, mind influencing magic and Batrean female pheromones (if male). The exact reasons for being weak willed vary considerably though — the Zandir are very romantic and hot blooded and find it difficult to control their passions, Ferran are cowardly kleptomaniacs and Danuvian men are pressured by their matriarchal warrioress dominated society to be docile and submissive.
  • Weird Weather: As a result of the Great Disaster, Talislanta is subject to various forms of aberrant weather, including Black Lighting, The Black Wind, and Icicle Rain. Also counts as Hostile Weather.
  • Whatevermancy: Several types of magic follow this naming convention: Aquamancy, Pyromancy, Cartomancy, Technomancy, and several others.