Atlantean Trilogy (1984, 1986)
Orig. Publisher: Bard Games
Curr. Publisher: Morrigan Press
Copyright: (c) 1984 Stephan Michael Sechi and Vernie Taylor (The Arcanum)
Features: extensive and diverse classes, combined skill and class character definition system, various styles of magic, interesting setting (Atlantean Earth) with significant detail
The Atlantean Trilogy (first edition) is another one of those games that is fun to read through simply because there is so much detail packed into the nooks and crannies of the system that you are likely to come across a quirky little idea you hadn’t noticed before, but that really strikes your fancy at the time. These are the types of rulebooks and systems that I really like as resource material: not always the easiest games to actually play, but definitely fertile in terms of generating new ideas.
At casual glance, the character sheet for the Atlantean Trilogy will lead the reviewer to assume that the game is basically a D+D clone, with a few minor adjustments. Many of the old standbys of the genre are prominent: Race, Profession, Level, XP, Strength, Dexterity, and so on. The addition of Speed and Perception attributes, and renaming of Wisdom to Will… all fairly typical adjustments on the familiar theme.
Attributes are generally determined by distributing a hundred or so points amongst the 8 attributes, as opposed to by die roll, but the vast majority of the scores fall into the familiar 3-18 range (6-18, really), with races determining the maximum score allowed, as opposed to applying bonuses. A little different, but not majorly so.
The game features a wide selection of classes (and races, for that matter) to choose from, 27 to be exact, ranging from the more common “single-class” warrior and priest, to the somewhat more complex “double-class” corsair (fighter/thief/sailor) and witch/warlock (elemental magic/black or white magic). Even more esoteric options such as Spy, Martial Artist, and Harlequin exist as well. Each has it’s own bonuses, granted skills, and special abilities. Hit points are loosely tied to class and level, as well: everyone starts with HP equal to their CON attribute score, then combat classes have +6 hp/level, non-combat classes get +4/lvl or +2/lvl instead. Again, similar enough to D+D that it tempts one to categorize the game as a simple clone. However, it’s not nearly that simple once you dig a bit deeper…
Both Classes and Skills
Unlike D+D, the Atlantean Trilogy was not solely class-based. It was about halfway between D+D and Rolemaster, actually: where D+D is class-driven, with the occasional secondary skill; and Rolemaster is skill-driven, with classes mainly to help the player focus if desired; the Atlantean Trilogy is somewhere inbetween. Classes are important, and drive a large portion of the character’s development, but the skills selected by the player weigh heavily on the scale as well, and each system somewhat feeds back into the other.
New skills are purchased by spending the same XP that are used to advance in level: therefore, buying new skills will slow the character’s development in his profession. Once purchased, proficiency in that the skill is determined by and increases with the character’s overall level. The cost to purchase a new skill is sizable but reasonable, especially at advanced levels, ranging from 1000-2000 depending upon the type: by comparison, reaching 10th level in a “single-classed” profession requires 200,000 XP.
The skills available for purchase run the gamut: arts and sciences, combat proficiencies, thieving skills, the works. Characters are limited in the number of skills they can purchase unrelated to their profession (1/2 INT is the suggested maximum), but it is quite possible to generate significant diversity even with that limitation.
Styles of Magic
Another way in which the Atlantean Trilogy is strongly reminiscent of the Rolemaster system is in the sheer variety within it’s magic system. There are 9 types of magic defined, from Low Magic to White Magic to Necromancy to Sorcery, each of which has it’s own particular focus and quirks. In addition, there is an entire secondary system to describe and define Alchemical processes and procedures, allowing the creation of everything from potions to homonculi. As a bonus, much of the material is drawn from historical myth and legend, so there is a uncommon wealth of detail to peruse for inspiration in these sections of the game.
The setting of the Atlantean Trilogy (which is actually found in the second book of the trilogy, the Lexicon: the Arcanum was the initial rulebook, and the final book, the Bestiary, described a sizable variety of creatures and races to populate the setting) represents another of the notable features of this particular game. The setting is a fantasy Earth as it might have been in the time before Atlantis sank beneath the waves. There is a fascinating breadth and depth to the setting as a result, far more than that of the typical RPG world.
Like many of these older titles, the original version of the Atlantean Trilogy is long since out of print, and to the best of my knowledge, the original publisher, Bard Games, is also no longer in business (at least, not under it’s original name). However, there is a new, updated version of the rule system available from Morrigan Press.
I can’t speak to how closely this new release holds to the details within the original version, but since many of the same names can be found credited as authors, I’d imagine the core concepts are at least nominally similar, and I’d suggest that anyone interested in the game check out their site for more information.