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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Seven Voyages of Zylarthen - Review Part 1

Tell us about Seven Voyages of Zylarthen, Champions of Zed and Treasure Hunters. 

I don't think those 3 have ever been talked about around here. 

In fact, start a thread in the main forum about the games you like and what makes each unique and interesting.
On a forum I was asked to talk about these games and I am starting with Seven Voyages of Zylarthen written by Oakes Spalding and subtitled Rules for Original Style Sword and Sorcery Campaigns Playable with Paper and Pencil and Imagination.

Copyright 2014

Published as four booklets
Volume 1 Characters & Combat
Volume 2 Book of Monsters
Volume 3 Book of Magic
Volume 4 The Campaign
The brilliance and charm of that game's earliest version was its simplicity and elegance, combined with a certain asymmetrical quirkiness. It invoked many sources--King Arthur, the Crusades, Middle-earth, the Arabian Nights, pulp fantasy, fairy tales, even science fiction. Its breadth of tone was a virtue, offering to the players a multiplicity of delights.
The tone is set early in the correct use of the term "fantasy adventure game" in lieu of "role-playing game." To go beyond this the really correct term IMO would be Fantasy/Science Fantasy Adventure Role-playing Game.

Under Optional I like his suggestions for a minor number of props, I have found that children love props.
A cigar box or "chest" of pennies, dimes and quarters, as well as a number of small bags--to represent the characters' hoards of silver and gold.
Early on here you find out that he does not include Clerics. I find that usage to be interesting, even though I don't do that for the campaign. We have over the years had adventuring parties that did not include one of the classes or was composed of only one class. All of those variations are IMO fun to play. Balance is a dirty word IMO.

There is language every so often, that makes plain things that IMO were part and parcel of the original game, though not spelled out. 

The three base classes are Fighting-Men, Magic-Users and Thieves. In addition he includes Dwarves, Elves and Halfings(sic) as special classes.

I really like the emphasis placed on

many monsters and animals will have a keen sense of smell.
in regards to thieves sneaking around.

The Luck item for thieves could have some interesting ramifications, since there is no guarantee that it will help, but players will want to rely on it and take a risk they might otherwise not take.

I also like not allowing thieves the chance of using magical scrolls until they reach 10th level.

He retains the requirement for elves to operate as one or the other in a single adventure (fighting-man or magic-user). I don't do that; elves may cast a spell, switch to their bow and then go into melee with a sword. The either/or thing that AFAIK everyone does is immersion breaking for me.

I like his take on alignment, it is still important in many ways, but is downplayed and is mostly not in the foreground.

His take on Religion is I think a very fun thing.
The gods are many and varied. Some are malevoent. Most are jealous. All are dangerous. For the majority of mortals, serious and sustained worship of any of the gods is for priests and cultists only. Why devote oneself to one god, when there are a myriad to seek favor from or, more likely, to placate? And since deities are inscrutable and unpredictable, why not hedge one's bets by giving occasional offerings to many


There is IMO a healthy emphasis of language, which too many IMO just hand wave and ignore.
Knowledge of the right language at the right time can be extremely useful for adventurers, either in making friends (often unlikely friends), or in negotiating, bargaining, threatening, appeasing and so on. At the least, one might overhear mutterings of treachery or plots by monsters unaware of one's linguistic prowess.


I like this what is does is make clear that this game is not built around the post-old school murder-hobo trope that some misguided fools run around claiming is old school. When it really arose is when those with no grounding in fantasy got hold of the game.


BTW I would like to point out that the art in this game is excellent.

He has an optional strength rule for female characters, that some might like to take, but many will be offended by even though it is an optional rule and labeled as such.

His prime requisite, secondary and tertiary abilities rule to me is just unnecessary complication and go with prime requisite is enough. Some things have to be added to clones to avoid just being a copy which is not permitted. Things like this can easily be dropped and ignored.

His explanations are clear, but IMO a real attempt to keep the flavor of the original game was achived.

I also like his rule harking back to Arneson, about treasure granting experience when it is spent and not when it is hoarded.

His money system is based on Silver. Interesting rule "making change" is illegal for all except for officially approved money-changers. When you buy you always round up unless you have the needed small coins to pay the exact price. I like this, you can't just ignore everything that is not gold.

Hirelings and treasure has an interesting rule that is to prevent players from using the hirelings money as their characters money.

Anyone who wants a basic equipment list in silver, right here it is in volume one. A number of items are added, such as glue, deadly nightshade, shovel, sling just to name a few.

Also included is a price list for buildings ranging from a cottage to a large fort, keep or castle.

A list of men-at-arms and other hirelings.

Bear in mind that you can expand on any of this stuff if you wish.



I laughed (in a good way) when I read the list of level names, particularly for the Magic-Users and Thieves.

The attack matrix I for men vs men or monsters (melee) has weapon class vs armor class, it is IMO quite elegant. A similar matrix is provided for missle weapons with each one and its range listed.

He also provides a monsters attacking matrix with sample monsters listed to make the matrix clearer. 

There is a provided expanded turning undead table which is quite useful. Any character may attempt to turn undead by presenting a proper holy symbol. I really love this usage.

He makes the distinction between the full turn (10 minutes) and the melee turn (10 seconds).

Combat and Optional Combat rules are provided and they are clearly explained. You can easily pick and chose the options you want or of course others that you come up with yourself.

An attack matrix for fire and oil is provided and easily added to.

There is a rule and a table for what happens at zero hitpoints for PCs. IMO it is quite useful and I have been thinking of trying it out. It ranges from instant death to down for one melee turn then gets back up and fights and a whole range of options in between.

This closes my comments on Book 1.


BTW the full list I originally mentioned was this
I like/find interesting (in random order) the BLUEHOLME™ family of games, Iron Falcon, Delving Deeper, Seven Voyages of Zylarthen, Warriors of the Red Planet, Adventurer Conqueror King, Treasure Hunters, Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, Champions of Zed, Mazes & Minotaurs, Spellcraft & Swordplay, and Barbarians of Lemuria.

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