Voodoo Zombie: What was your inspiration to design new expansion sets?
Paul Morrow: My game group and I were playing
once and I began to think about the City Space. I felt it was just
too confining to be an actual city. There weren't enough options,
not enough places to visit. Granted, at the time I thought this was
fun and would really enhance the game but, I no longer feel that way.
VZ: How did you get involved with Games Workshop?
Paul: Originally it was the only logical step. We had created The City as an expansion to Talisman and who else was going to publish it? The box had an address where to contact and we did just that. Happily we discovered they had a small office in Boston, I think it was Boston. and we made the first contact by phone.
VZ: Were there home made versions of any City
or Dragons components before they were
Paul: There was a "homemade version" of the
City. We had to play test it to see if it genuinely added anything
to the game and to get our friends opinion of it. Especially those
who played even more than we did. There was no homemade version of
the Dragons, per se. We did make cards up, again, to play test but
at that point we had already gained respect from the publisher and they
knew what we could do.
Interesting story here regarding the Dragons. At the Game Keeper there was a French company who had just produced Abalone. They had arranged a sales contest during the Christmas season. Whoever sold the most copies of their game would win a trip to Paris all expenses paid! Guess who won! I invited Evan, my partner in crime, along and we decided to spend an extra week on our own in England, most specifically to visit Nottingham, where Games Workshop is head quartered. We thought it would bode well for us to present our second expansion to them in person and we had another idea for another game we wanted them to do as well. But surprise they broached the subject first! "How would you guys like to do another?" We looked at one another and tried our best to hold in the excitement.
VZ: How much input did you have when it came to the overall design of City and Dragons?
Paul: By "input" I assume you mean from GW. As I recall we had almost none. We sent them The City and waited for a long time, ten to fifteen weeks. Then suddenly out of the blue they called Evan and said they were interested.
VZ: Are you pleased with the artwork from the
expansions you worked on? Did GW run
any samples your way before the sets were completed?
Paul: Oh, sure we never did any graphics on our own. My original set was hand drawn and hand written. We knew they would have their own graphics people to do the work. As far as samples... you've got to be kidding! They were a big company, in England. We were two small idea men in LA.
VZ: Which of your contributions to the world of Talisman are you the proudest?
Paul: If you had asked me that, a few years ago, I would have said The City, because GW kept about 80% of our original work. But now I'd have to say the whole of our work is what I'm proudest of. Here we are, two guys who like gaming but have no design experience and we managed to sell two expansions. I think that says something for us. Just like Charles Darrow, the guy who created Monopoly.
VZ: I've read about and seen your Scroll and
Site concepts. You said before, you were
hoping to use them as part of your next Expansion Set. Did the overall concept change
after GW scrapped Talisman from their line of games?
Paul: Yes, very much so. The overall concept became useless once GW chose to put out Talisman 3.0. They went a completely different way, so our work became superfluous.
VZ: Did your last expansion concept have a working title?
Paul: As I recall, it didn't. The Scrolls came about once when we were playing and no one was using any Spells. I began to think of a way to bring them into every game. I wanted to avoid the rules of encumbrance but use most of the same Spells. Scrolls just seemed natural.
VZ: I noticed your revised rules incorporate
the use of various gaming dice such as the 4
and 8 sided. At what point did you decide to add them to the game?
Paul: I think we originally wanted them in the Dragons but as with most of our ideas for that set, they were scrapped. We still use them when we're playing, although we don't play that much anymore. As a matter of fact, I have a whole new gaming group now. Anybody in the LA area interested in playing?
VZ: On your site, you don't really mention
anything about Dragons. I recently acquired a
copy for myself and I really love it. I'm a big fan of expanding the game with more cards.
What are your feelings on Dragons? If you knew then that GW was going to cease
production of the 2nd edition line, do you think Dragons would have been the same?
Paul: Unfortunately, it appears GW went the same way we did for The City. They just added more which focuses attention on itself. Looking back, I'm disappointed in both The City and The Dragons. Neither really enhances the original ending of the game! The City attempts to refocus attention to itself. If you've ever played it you know what I mean. One can get lost in the city (subjectively and objectively) for many turns. And the same happens with The Dragons. Those cards refocus our attention on just killing and/or hiding from Dragons. One of the best expansions is Talisman Adventure which added the new endings. At least it keeps our attention on the goal. I'm speaking only of the concept here, a few of the actual endings suck. Whoever came up with Pandora's Box must have been drunk or stoned. It just doesn't work in actual play.
Dragons would have been exactly the same if we had known of it's ultimate demise or not. Frankly, we didn't care. They paid us and we crept off into the night to work on our next idea. I can't say if GW already knew Talisman was going to change or not. I suspect they didn't know at that time, if they had then why buy from us?
VZ: If, by some twist of fate, GW decided to
make more sets for Talisman 2nd ed., what
direction would you like to see them take?
Paul: I'd like to at least have a chance to talk to them and know why on Earth they decided to change the whole concept to Version 3.0. When they did that it seemed as if they were forgetting all their loyal customers. All those people who had already bought the game and it's 5 expansions (total retail price over $100 US Dollars, which was a great deal of money for a "game"). They were in essence telling thousands of people, "Thanks for the money. Now spend even more 'cause we don't really care if you play our games or not!"
VZ: Have you done work on other games or GW products?
Paul: As I stated before, Evan and I had another game in mind when we went to England to see them. My working title was Universe 9 but Evan convinced me to go with something more GW oriented. Warhammer 40,000 had just hit and we thought something to go with all that was appropriate. So he came up with Warhammer 3D. I was an actual 3D space exploration game. I still like it but don't think anybody would buy it now.
VZ: Now for some standard questions. What are
your favorite Characters and why do you
Paul: Interesting thought. I've never had any until you brought it up. I do like The Prophetess, well duh... and The Warrior of Chaos. The WoC is probably the most powerful of the original characters. So much in fact, that we've made him a Master Level Character. I made up another Event card where he can be encountered and one may choose to become him... but only for 10 turns. Otherwise if one is the WoC and by some freak of nature or stroke of luck (depending on your point of view) gains the Champion of Chaos... the game is over, the other players are really screwed!
Also, I really like the Mystic, Master Level Character. One of my game buddies and I always compete to become The Mystic. This was a stoke of genius. It's tough to play without some tweaking to the rules but it's original concept but truly a great addition to the game. I understand most people think The High Mage is the best Master Level Character, and rightfully so... if you play the rules as written. This is one of the biggest mistakes GW made when they created The City. It's way too easy to become The High Mage! If anybody really cares what I think maybe I can right this wrong using this interview. Allow me to climb up on this soap box for a moment, will you?
People, please heed my words! Consider changing the rules to make this transformation more challenging and hence more fair to game play. To become the High Mage, a Character must enter the Magic Emporium in the Talisman City and roll a D8. On an 8 the power of the High Mage is bestowed. For each Magic Object donated to the Emporium (discarded), the player may add 1 to their die roll. See the Master Level Character Card for more Special Abilities. The High Mage may be resigned at any time.
For further rule changes, clarifications and additions, please see my web site. I've rewritten the entire rules book. Brag, brag, brag.....
VZ: Other than City and Dragons, what is your favorite expansion?
Paul: Ah, I was ahead of you when I told you about The Adventure with the addition of optional endings to the game. And let me add the Horrible Black Void is very funny if you are playing with the TimeScape. We have one player who inevitably chooses it... and he really hates playing with it.
VZ: How many players make for an ideal session of Talisman?
Paul: "Ideal" really depends on your definition. Obviously the more players the greater space of time out of your lives to play. I tried an 8 player game once. It was at a game convention where we didn't care of time spent... after all that's what we were all there for. We played 6 hours and still didn't finish. And, oh, yes, at the Game Keeper we once staged a Talisman Tournament with 36 entrants. We only used the original set, no expansions, and it still took over 8 hours to compete.
So, for me. I'd say 4 players is about right. The game then lasts about an hour per player. Unless Mark reaches the Crown of Command Space and chooses The Horrible Black Void... then we have to take 10 minutes just to quit laughing.
VZ: If you could change one thing about the
rules, components or playability of Talisman,
what would it be?
Paul: I feel the whole thing needs a rewrite of the rules... Which as I told you I've already done. It needed a more mature approach to the game, than we had when we created The City & The Dragons. Any addition must enhance play only enough to be enjoyable then it must help refocus the player on the original goal. The biggest problem now is that we've created a Board Version of D&D... we didn't mean to, we were just too enthusiastic for our own good. We were not mature enough to see our mistakes. We and our play tester liked the idea of playing for hours.
VZ: Do you have any other favorite games?
Paul: When SpellFire hit we got into it right away. I didn't want to go to the expense of Magic the Gathering but I must say lately we play a great deal of Magic. I even have an email game going with Kent. Yes, it can be played by email, but you must really trust the other one. There's too many opportunities to cheat... hey, maybe that's why he keeps winning.... We play games as a diversion, not so much for the competition.
VZ: Are there any custom expansions or cards
on the net that you have been impressed
with? Have you seen Frank Shulte-Kulkmann’s Pyramid Expansion based on GW’s,
Curse of the Mummy's Tomb?
Paul: Yes, I'm particularly excited and please with Jeff Mirando's Wizard's Tower. As I stated before, any expansion must enhance the play but still help us attain our goal. And The Tower does just that... literally as well as figuratively.
I've not seen the Pyramid Expansion, but I'm intrigued. Curse of the Mummy's Tomb was a great game, especially where the random movement of the Mummy was concerned. I'm interested in seeing how well that was (or if it was) translated to Talisman.
VZ: What does the future hold for your website, Talisman the Quest?
Paul: My whole purpose is to help regain the perspective of Talisman as I've stated here. It is a great game with many variables and hence can be played for many years without replaying the same choices. It can be something that is always new, but the rules must be rewritten to achieve this. Played as written right now, there are too many quick ways to gain the upper hand. One of the most important rules of game design is "Each player must believe they can win, up to the end." I've seen people attain the High Mage on the fourth turn and that's unbeatable.
I used to be one of those "Rules are Everything" die hards and insisted everyone play-by-the-rules. It if wasn't in the rule book it couldn't be done. But in the past 10 years I've gained new perspective and games have become something of a subjective pastime. One must be willing to be flexible, willing to bend... especially where expansions are concerned.
VZ: Any last thoughts before the interview is recorded in Vault history?
Paul: Thanks for the chance to expound a little and thanks for some thought provoking questions. Well done, Ken.
Thank you, Paul, for a very informative and entertaining dialogue.