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The RPG shelf: Atlantis, the Second Age

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I took out of storage a few roleplaying books last night, for a project I’m about to start, and while I was at it I took the opportunity to retrieve a game I like a lot and have not played enough, that I wanted to move to the shelf of my favorites, the games I play more often.

The game in question is called Atlantis, the Second Age, that is a game with a complicated history – there’s at least three different editions that I am aware of: the first by Bard Games (when it was just called Atlantis), the second by Morrigan Press which is the one I own, and recently a new edition was released published by Kephera Publishing (I do not own it, but all reviews are glowing).

What we are talking about: a fantasy, decidedly sword & sorcery-oriented game that runs on a modified version of the old Talislanta engine (we are really talking gaming archaeology here) and that comes with a huge world for players to explore and romp through.

The volume I own is a meaty 400+ pages book, with black and white artwork. The first 200 pages are devoted to the description of the game’s Antedeluvian World, that is supposed to be our world in a distant and mythical past. You get the continents in their current positions, plus a number of “lost” continents (including of course Atlantis), and a few variations like the Sahara Sea that help keeping the setting fresh.

Each area of the world comes with its local culture, folklore and creatures, that are based on local traditions. So basically, if you are looking for a Clash of Titans-sort of scenario, you’ll just have to go to the Mediterranean; elves and faeries and the whole Tolkien shebang? Northern Europe. Arabian Nights djinni and harem girls and adventure? The Arabian and Indian sectors.
And so on. And it turns out that Australia is lost Mu.
The names are changed and everything has a nicely Hyborian-feel – you know, places with names that sound just like someplace you might know, but not exactly.
The familiarity of the setting means you can get your players up to date about where they are and what’s the feel of the place in no time.

As I mentioned, this is a game designed to do sword & sorcery, and there’s a nice graphic that sums up the feel of the game:

The 200 pages about the world are a fun read, and are followed by 200 pages devoted to the system, the bestiary and the Game Master’s section.
Which sounds like a lot, but the nice touch is, the whole system can be summarized on a post-it. It’s nice, smooth, rather Old School-y (you can generate totally random characters) and task resolution is very simple.
Where the system really shines is in the handling of magic – and you get a game in which finally spellcasters can develop their own unique spells, and even (with a little effort and some quick notes) improvise them.

It is a documented fact that I am rather leery of the so-called Old School Revival – new games that look and feel like old games.
Why not stick with the real thing?
Atlantis, the Second Age is a game that is not artfully old-fashioned, but it’s just that – an old game (but not so old – the Talislanta-based Omni System has been updated and tweaked a bit) that works just fine like it is. Just one handbook (there’s a bestiary), you can pick-and-choose to customize the setting (hate the elves? OK, you can do without them) and an engine you can hack and rewrite and adapt to your needs.

So, yes, I like this game a lot.
Granted, the art is old-fashioned and pretty generic, but who cares?
This is one of the best games you never played, and I’d love to see that situation change.
In case you are interested, the pdf version of the Morrigan Press edition (the one I am reviewing here) goes for five bucks on DriveThruRPG.
And no, I’m not making a single cent out of this – but I still recommend this game.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

3 thoughts on “The RPG shelf: Atlantis, the Second Age

  1. What i really used to love and still adore about RPG is the chance to enter imaginary coherent echosistems and to loose myself into them. Not a big fan of rules, percentages and so on, but, you know, they are still one of these reigns where escaspism is pushed to its maximum extent. A sort oasis for authentic non fully integratetd nerds of our times. An undervaluated border between adolescence and adulthood. I just speak as an ex player, maybe a little nostalgic.

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    • I agree – I am a player because of the fluff, because of the Gazetteers and the world guides.
      But I like it when the rules don’t get in the way and I can explore freely.

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  2. Pingback: Sensor Sweep: Classics, Steve Tompkins, Queen of the Black Coast, Gun Ghoul – castaliahouse.com

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