Talismania! An adventure in homebrewing by Darren A. Dew

When I first encountered TALISMAN in 1984, I never thought I would be playing it nearly 40 years later! Several hundred games and several hundred CARDS later, I continue to find the game fascinating and constantly uncover new depths and angles to explore. My sons (17 & 28) are joining me for a game of 2nd edition tomorrow!

In 1988 my Army unit was deploying, but in an unusual way; we were doing tests on our equipment and would perform two 4-hour missions a day. At night, however, we would be staying in cushy TRAILERS, not on the ground, and could have showers, a bed and hot meals every day!

And TALISMAN every night!

Someone in the group got a pack of index cards from town, and we cut our first, most desired card. Long had we wished for some protection from being turned into a shiny, little TOAD!

And the Frog Amulet was born…

Soon after, a row of cards appeared, and we drew pictures, had to actually, y’know, write RULES!

In White Dwarf, some supplemental cards were offered for The City, but they never really ‘fit in’ so…

Artwork got better….we did COLOR…

Then…an infection…TALISMANIA!!!

In full tilt!

Cards upon cards, borrowed, untried, stolen ideas from all kinds of sources. Inspiration from the most niche element…there was no telling. People wandered in and out of our group…artists, gamers, weirdos…

Somewhere in here, color copies became AFFORDABLE! Gasp!! Choke! I paid to get some cardbacks printed onto card stock, so we could ‘mask’ the fact that you were drawing a custom card. Now, we were getting sophisticated!

And, one day, THESE GUYS dropped by…

Groo and The Sage are copyright Sergio Aragones. They’ve never been published, and are original hand-drawn images.

When Talisman: Dragons came out, we had a problem; we had severely AMPLIFIED the danger level in the game, particularly The Dungeon. Plus, we had done a NUMBER of dragon cards, becoz who DOESN’T like dragons??!!??

And if you hadn’t noticed, Dragons is extremely dangerous!!

“After a time, and using some of our learned skills, we decided we would ‘trigger’ the subset of Dragons cards with cards already within the set itself. Dragon Sleep and Dragon Dawn.

However, this also meant identifying the cards differently.

Also, we thought it would be clever if we used actual characters on cards, so we started doing that…

We developed a set of rules for SECRETS and STATES. Someone thought there was too little hidden information in the game and also, Magic the Gathering’s ‘ENCHANT WORLDS’ were the inspiration here.

Here are a couple of shots of the published Adventure deck next to my custom stack.

Whew! So that’s the ADVENTURE deck portion of our journey. We leaned heavily into the DUNGEON deck early on, and our customs comprise OVER half of the Dungeon deck now…and characters and some alternate endings and new cards, yet to be revealed.

If you’re wondering, ‘Talssmania’ IS an actual booklet, with my Talisman story, rules for stuff, modifications. Stuff like the rules for STATES and SECRETS.

The other brown booklet you see is where the torrent of new card or rule ideas go to be tweaked and edited.

These are the latest ready to go cards, with full art:

You might notice the odd WK on the card, VULTURES. That is a card from the infamous WHITE KNIGHT set, self-published by SOMEBODY, decades ago.

While I am not lucky enough to OWN that set, I did get a pretty good look at one and have decided to work in most of the cards, but also wanted to honor whomever created them first.

Also, I had to re-tool the tools, the various DRAGON CULTISTS and their retinue of cards. You see those redrawn and re-worked cards here, from DRAGONS.

This is a shot of various stages of finish on the card backs. After you have such a variety…you truly never know what kind of encounter you are turning over…

Annnnddd, these four shots show cards that don’t have art yet, but are getting sleeved and put into the Adventure and Dragons deck, for final ‘testing’.

They’ll probably pass muster, but you never know.

I THINK this is the only card we’ve EVER added to the purchase deck. The SCIMITAR.

That’s a photocopy back, by the way, on cardstock.

There have been a number of spells, but after plastering LOTS and LOTS of ideas, they kind of turn out the same. It’s pretty hard to come up with something truly ‘new’ in spells…

Some of these are from other sources (note the red ink) and some are from damaged cards…a couple got some soda onto them, during a session, that went unnoticed.

Then, as promised, the redone WAY OF THE LOTUS!

These are the newest batch, being playtested with my sons TODAY!

Note the CHIME of DRAGONS; another way to put the dragons cards back to bed…if you WANT to…

Not a great manufacturer of CITY cards, yet! My youngest son loves the City, and Master Level characters. Note, the back of published CITY cards go both directions, so…so do mine.

Note the Nexus of Realities: there’s one in the CITY, ADVENTURE, and DUNGEON decks, and they each feature characters. (That’s the Leprechaun!)

Also, one of our artists established uniforms for the established army on GUARDS. We have used their uniform again and again.

And, as with everything else, a batch of new cards, being introduced…

What does this tell you? The stack on the right is official DUNGEON cards. We REALLY like the Dungeon and rend to spend a bit of time there.

We really wanted to enhance the Dungeon. At times, it seemed too dangerous, others too easy. We leaned into that; like a higher risk vs reward investment, you can head into the Dungeon early and risk losing your neck to powerful adversaries. Or get help that can catapult you to fame and glory!

The Dungeon is replete with character appearances (there’s TWO on one card!), repurposed cards, even some from DRAGONS!
We were liberal with borrowing things like Kender and the Dragonlance…anything to spice things up. We wanted the DUNGEON to be the riskiest and most rewarding experience possible.

And, a stack of new stuff…

I really liked the idea of the TREASURE cards from 4th Edition, so I made those over…

And, finally, some characters. A couple of these are borrowed from other editions, some from DRAGONS, getting a redo, and a couple EARLY ones!

In case you are wondering what this looks like, in MOTION, here are some cards that are currently in progress.. still made out of index cards…I use the printed backs, too, but still make a lot out of the same, mundane index cards.

You’ll notice some additional WHITE KNIGHT cards in progress there…

/DAD 12-2023