WotC's talislanta-l mailing list and AOL community

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WotC's talislanta-l mailing list and AOL community

Post by Big Mac » Fri Jun 22, 2018 5:58 pm

I just saw (on page 2 of Sub-Men Rising) that Wizards of the Coast used to run a bespoke mailing list (called talislanta-l) on their listserv mailing list service.

I also saw that they had a Talislanta folder on their AOL community.

Did anyone here take part in the Talislanta Mailing List or hang out at the AOL community?

How big were the two communities?

Did anything of them get archived? If so, has any of it been put up on Talislanta.com?
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Re: WotC's talislanta-l mailing list and AOL community

Post by writermonk » Fri Jun 22, 2018 7:05 pm

There have been (that I know of) two different Yahoo! groups lists...

As I recall, the initial Y!Group was the original WotC talislanta-l list (or migrated to that?). Then Yahoo did some restructuring of its groups and message board organization and the second Y! group list was made. (Incidentally, it's still up, but it's not necessarily active any longer. Most discussion happens either on individual boards like this, the FB group, reddit, etc.). The Y! list had about 400 accounts connected to it.

Some of the articles that used to be there are still there AND archived on Talislanta.com - mostly under the Fan materials subheadings (there's about 4 or 5 different pages there divided into archetypes, fiction, spells, and so on).

However, at a quick glance, I can tell that there's some stuff that's not there. I'll have to track that down when I've got more time.
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Re: WotC's talislanta-l mailing list and AOL community

Post by writermonk » Fri Jun 22, 2018 7:06 pm

Also, the stuff that is 'archived' are simply small bits that were cleaned up and presented as individual usable material, usually by one author.

The actual conversations and discussion threads aren't really saved anywhere (except that one still extant but inactive Y! Group).
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Re: WotC's talislanta-l mailing list and AOL community

Post by Big Mac » Fri Jun 22, 2018 8:11 pm

writermonk wrote:
Fri Jun 22, 2018 7:05 pm
As I recall, the initial Y!Group was the original WotC talislanta-l list (or migrated to that?). Then Yahoo did some restructuring of its groups and message board organization and the second Y! group list was made. (Incidentally, it's still up, but it's not necessarily active any longer. Most discussion happens either on individual boards like this, the FB group, reddit, etc.). The Y! list had about 400 accounts connected to it.
Interesting.

When I was on one of WotC's other mailing lists (spelljammer-l) it definitely was not run on Yahoo! I think it was called Oracle.

It was a WotC server and eventually they shut it down and deleted mailist postings for lots of D&D campaign settings.

There was no talislanta-l at that time, but they had also pulled the mailing list for Wheel of Time. I'm guessing that if something is licence, WotC gets rid of the fan support, when the licence runs out. (It's one reason I like third-party fan support.)
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Re: WotC's talislanta-l mailing list and AOL community

Post by Havard » Tue Jun 26, 2018 9:52 pm

Isn't it a bit odd that WotC ran a forum for a setting they did not own the rights to?

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Re: WotC's talislanta-l mailing list and AOL community

Post by The Dark » Wed Jun 27, 2018 2:12 am

Wizards had the license from 1992-94, and sold some older Bard books - I have a copy of A Naturalist's Guide to Talislanta that has Bard Games on the spine and a WotC sticker on the back cover.

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Re: WotC's talislanta-l mailing list and AOL community

Post by writermonk » Wed Jun 27, 2018 2:28 am

Yeah, Talislanta and The Primal Order were WotC's first foray's into gaming. They had the licenses for a few years, sold a bunch of books, and then hit on some card game idea and subsequently dropped RPGs to focus on that. Ha! Silly ol' gents.

Then later on, they translated the success of their card game into buying D&D.

Interestingly enough, the man at WotC behind 3rd edition D&D is the same guy who was overseeing the stuff for Talislanta when they owned it. There are some similarities between the two but that only makes sense because they both came out of the same source (Tal grew out of SMS's homebrew stuff for D&D through his Atlantis/Compleat series).
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Re: WotC's talislanta-l mailing list and AOL community

Post by The Dark » Wed Jun 27, 2018 2:42 am

Funnily enough, The Lexicon (for Atlantis) is the only Bard book I have other than the Naturalist's Guide. I think I got it from Lloyd Brown's shop in Jacksonville.

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Re: WotC's talislanta-l mailing list and AOL community

Post by Big Mac » Mon Oct 29, 2018 12:30 pm

Havard wrote:
Tue Jun 26, 2018 9:52 pm
Isn't it a bit odd that WotC ran a forum for a setting they did not own the rights to?
If TSR had not gone down the toilet and if AEG had not come to WotC with a deal to buy both Legend of the Five Rings and Dungeons & Dragons, Wizards of the Coast might have continued to licence and publish Talislanta products.

Aside from these old mailing lists potentially giving us an insight into early Talislanta fandom, they could have perhaps given us an insight into how Wizards of the Coast operated, before the D&D buy out and the need to focus on launching a new set of rules that both D&D and Legend of the Five Rings could migrate to.

SMS's world helped make WotC what they needed to be to buy out TSR.

I might have to go look for the Yahoo group that Writermonk mentioned. It might help explain how the big picture worked.
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Re: WotC's talislanta-l mailing list and AOL community

Post by Havard » Mon Oct 29, 2018 12:47 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 12:30 pm
Havard wrote:
Tue Jun 26, 2018 9:52 pm
Isn't it a bit odd that WotC ran a forum for a setting they did not own the rights to?
If TSR had not gone down the toilet and if AEG had not come to WotC with a deal to buy both Legend of the Five Rings and Dungeons & Dragons, Wizards of the Coast might have continued to licence and publish Talislanta products.
Sorry, are you saying AEG owned the rights to Talislanta at the time? Or are you simply mentioning AEG as an example of WotC's desires to expand?

From the Wikipedia page it does seem like WotC published at least one supplement for Talislanta, but the article a bit confusing.

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Re: WotC's talislanta-l mailing list and AOL community

Post by writermonk » Mon Oct 29, 2018 12:52 pm

WotC published a few Talislanta titles while they had the rights - everything for Tal 3 is all WotC.
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Re: WotC's talislanta-l mailing list and AOL community

Post by Big Mac » Mon Oct 29, 2018 7:41 pm

Havard wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 12:47 pm
Big Mac wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 12:30 pm
Havard wrote:
Tue Jun 26, 2018 9:52 pm
Isn't it a bit odd that WotC ran a forum for a setting they did not own the rights to?
If TSR had not gone down the toilet and if AEG had not come to WotC with a deal to buy both Legend of the Five Rings and Dungeons & Dragons, Wizards of the Coast might have continued to licence and publish Talislanta products.
Sorry, are you saying AEG owned the rights to Talislanta at the time? Or are you simply mentioning AEG as an example of WotC's desires to expand?

From the Wikipedia page it does seem like WotC published at least one supplement for Talislanta, but the article a bit confusing.
Sorry, it was the Five Rings Publishing Group (an AEG spin-off) that brokered the deal that got WotC to take over D&D from TSR.

AEG/Five Rings Publishing Group had nothing to do with Talislanta.

What I'm saying is that WotC were doing Talislanta first...and then along came Ryan S Dancey with a deal to buy TSR (D&D) and Five Rings Publishing Group (Legend of the Five Rings).

I'm not sure of the exact timing, but WotC would have had to have diverted most of it's RPG designers away from other projects in order to have enough people to work on D&D.

EDIT: Lets see if we can work it out.

WotC announced it was buying TSR in April 1997.

The 3rd Edition (Talislanta) product Sarista was published in 1994.

Anyhoo the RPG Geek page for Talislanta 3rd Edition says this:
RPG Geek wrote:The third edition of the Talislanta game originally developed in 1998 by Stephen Michael Sechi. This version was published by the newly created company Wizards of the Coast who sold back the rights when they picked up Dungeons and Dragons instead.
So the timeline is something along the lines of:
  • SMS invents Talislanta,
  • SMS gets too busy with his day job (music) and does a deal with WotC where they create Talislanta products
  • Five Rings Publishing Group find out that TSR is in trouble
  • FIve Rings Publishing Group get WotC to buy both TSR and Five Rings Publishing Group.
  • WotC stop making Talislanta products and start making D&D and Legend of the Five Rings products.
  • SMS has to find another company to publish 4th Edition Talislanta
The main point I was trying to make was that if Ryan Dancey from AEG/FIve Rings Publishing Group had not come along, Wizards of the Coast might have continued to create Talislanta products (and someone else might have bought D&D).
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Re: WotC's talislanta-l mailing list and AOL community

Post by writermonk » Mon Oct 29, 2018 9:08 pm

Having lived through those times, they're not quite as tight as all of that.

The 3rd edition Tal book came out in early 1992.

SMS started Tal with his home gaming group (similarly, the old Atlantis setting, the Compleat books, etc all came from those early games at home).
Tal was first published by Bard Games - a company that SMS was heavily a part of/invested in. However, it wasn't his 'day job' as it were. Bard Games published 1st edition in 1987. Those early books were fairly loose and intended in part to be an overlay for D&D.

Bard games also handled the 2nd edition in 1989, but went under not too long thereafter. (As an aside, Bard games not only advertised in Dragon magazine, but also the early White Wolf magazine that was started by some of the founders of the White Wolf game studio.)

WotC took over the Tal license in the early 90s. They published both Tal (3rd edition, early 1992) as well as The Primal Order - a multi-system supplement written so that folks could flesh out or even play pantheons in their RPG of choice). Jonathan Tweet was the head guy at WotC handling 3rd ed Tal.
Adkinson, head of WotC had been introduced to the Magic: the Gathering card game around this same time, but decided that the company did not yet have the resources to take it on. A year later, by mid/late 1993, things changed. (Also during this time a lawsuit involving The Primal Order was settled; perhaps freeing the path for the unrelated property, M:tG)

By 1995, WotC decided that it was losing money on its RPG lines (they had taken on at least SLA Industries and Ars Magica by this point), and sold off everything RPG related to focus on MtG.

97 was when WotC decided to get back into the RPG biz with the acquisition of TSR. Incidentally, Jonathan Tweet was still at WotC and headed up 3rd edition D&D. There ARE some similarities in the systems - however, they both grew from the same roots, so that's to be expected.

Now, during this same time frame (95-97), since WotC did not renew their license (or just let it lapse), Tal was up for grabs. A company called Plaid Rabbit/Pharos press bought the license with the intention of doing a 10th anniversary edition, but that never actually went anywhere. A small print run of ash-can copies were made and some found their way into the hands of fans, but they were never commercially sold.

Tal fans who had worked on the Pharos edition (or written things on their own) published the much beloved Tal 4 (the big blue book) around 2001. The primary two guys who did this did it under the auspices of their web-design company, Shooting Iron. Incidentally, those two guys were John Harper and Jonathan Elliot - they've gone on to some awesome other game stuff. These fans rolled the profits from Tal 4 into the Midnight Realms supplement in 2003, but at the time, they weren't ready to be game designers full time.

From 2004 til 2008, Morrigan Press had the license, producing Tal 5. However, Morrigan's financials in hindsight appear to have been shaky for much of the run which led to a rapidly dwindling staff so that when the books that were released did come out, they were riddled with errors, typos, and c/p errors from previous editions.

In 2010, the vast majority of the past books went 'public' in the sense that you can download them for personal use, free of charge.

From 2015-til now, work on Talislanta: the Savage Land was underway, with the books ultimately being produced by Stewart Wieck's Nocturnal Media publishing house (Stewart, it should be noted was one of the original producers/writers for the White Wolf magazine - thus bringing the game in a widening gyre).
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Re: WotC's talislanta-l mailing list and AOL community

Post by Big Mac » Fri Nov 23, 2018 12:20 pm

Thanks for that clarification of the history of Tal, Writermonk.

I knew a few of those details, but it's fascinating to see all the other stuff that was going on.

It must have been interesting to have lived through those times and to have seen various designers launching new Talislanta projects. But it seems like it might also have been slightly frustrating to see things miss the mark for reason that are not related to the game system or the game world.

I think that other product lines would probably have been buried, after having some or all of the problems you mentioned.

This reminds me how awesome it is that SMS converted the older commercial Tal products to free community downloads and that the designers (who didn't get paid by someone - I'm guessing Morigan Press, from what you said) joined in and added products that had never hit the shelves.

I'll be very interested to see how Talislanta: The Savage Land does.

I do think that, in a different world (or an unbroadcast episode of Quantum Leap) Wizards of the Coast might have kept the Talislanta licence instead of buying Dungeons & Dragons. I wonder how that might have changed things for Talislanta, D&D and the rest of the RPG industry.

(Perhaps there might have been a Talislanta SRD and perhaps Paizo might have been set up to publish a Talislanta magazine. :) )
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Re: WotC's talislanta-l mailing list and AOL community

Post by writermonk » Fri Nov 23, 2018 3:16 pm

There's still like 10 to a dozen or so things that Morrigan Press essentially commissioned (writers to be paid upon publication) that we want to get up on to the Tal site...

BUT we also want them to be done up as nice pdfs. There are a couple of examples already on the site, but as I said, I've got probably another 8 languishing on my computer.

We were relying upon volunteers to get those things converted into pdfs with the familiar border art and indexed/bookmarked. Some of them are small files (a single adventure) some of them are larger (the Celadon worldbook).


Savage Land has had it's own little hiccups. Stewart Wieck's sudden death slowed things down a deal and I'm sure that he and SMS had plans for future books. Also, it pared down what TSL is going to do - the KS was originally aiming at a variety of main sourcebooks each with a different rules engine beneath the hood - the Tal system, D&D 5th, Pathfinder, d6, and Savage Worlds. Now, it's trimmed down to the Tal system, D&D 5th, and Open d6. (Though I think someone was working on a personal Savage Worlds conversion.)



Oh, and we (the Tal community) had a bit of a field day when D&D 3 was announced and it was J. Tweet at the helm. There's lots of little parallels between Tal 4s simplicity and D&D 3... BUT J. Tweet had been there for Tal 3, not Tal 4. It really is just a case of similar but divergent evolution.
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Re: WotC's talislanta-l mailing list and AOL community

Post by Big Mac » Fri Nov 23, 2018 11:26 pm

writermonk wrote:
Fri Nov 23, 2018 3:16 pm
There's still like 10 to a dozen or so things that Morrigan Press essentially commissioned (writers to be paid upon publication) that we want to get up on to the Tal site...

BUT we also want them to be done up as nice pdfs. There are a couple of examples already on the site, but as I said, I've got probably another 8 languishing on my computer.

We were relying upon volunteers to get those things converted into pdfs with the familiar border art and indexed/bookmarked. Some of them are small files (a single adventure) some of them are larger (the Celadon worldbook).
I remember there being notes of all sorts of stages for scanning and indexing the published Tal stuff at Tal.com. And that was a lot of work for finished stuff, so I can see how it would be a lot harder for unfinished stuff.
writermonk wrote:
Fri Nov 23, 2018 3:16 pm
Savage Land has had it's own little hiccups. Stewart Wieck's sudden death slowed things down a deal and I'm sure that he and SMS had plans for future books. Also, it pared down what TSL is going to do - the KS was originally aiming at a variety of main sourcebooks each with a different rules engine beneath the hood - the Tal system, D&D 5th, Pathfinder, d6, and Savage Worlds. Now, it's trimmed down to the Tal system, D&D 5th, and Open d6. (Though I think someone was working on a personal Savage Worlds conversion.)
Stewart Wieck dying was doubly sad. It's always sad when someone dies, but to have all that work over the years to get new Talislanta stuff out to fans with the Kickstarter finally bringing Talislanta back - it would have been nice if he could have lived to have seen the end results and meet some happy players.

I suppose it might still be possible for some of the other stuff to happen...at some point, but people would have to raise the money to fund it.
writermonk wrote:
Fri Nov 23, 2018 3:16 pm
Oh, and we (the Tal community) had a bit of a field day when D&D 3 was announced and it was J. Tweet at the helm. There's lots of little parallels between Tal 4s simplicity and D&D 3... BUT J. Tweet had been there for Tal 3, not Tal 4. It really is just a case of similar but divergent evolution.
Sounds like there must have been some chatter about that on the talislanta-l mailing list and the AOL community...if they had not already been shut down by that point.

Has Jonathan Tweet ever been interviewed about Talislanta it it's possible influences on the d20 System?
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Re: WotC's talislanta-l mailing list and AOL community

Post by writermonk » Sat Nov 24, 2018 11:27 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Fri Nov 23, 2018 11:26 pm
Has Jonathan Tweet ever been interviewed about Talislanta it it's possible influences on the d20 System?
I think the question has been put to him during an AMA or two (in the past couple of years), and to him there's not any direct influence.

But, you also have to remember that all of that stuff came out basically decades ago. And both Tal and D&D3 are coming from the same roots. So, while he might not see direct connections, there's some things that make for obvious points of translation between the two.

But, it's neither here nor there. They're both decent games and folks can enjoy them and alter them and make any sorts of connections they want.
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Re: WotC's talislanta-l mailing list and AOL community

Post by Big Mac » Sun Nov 25, 2018 8:09 am

writermonk wrote:
Sat Nov 24, 2018 11:27 pm
Big Mac wrote:
Fri Nov 23, 2018 11:26 pm
Has Jonathan Tweet ever been interviewed about Talislanta it it's possible influences on the d20 System?
I think the question has been put to him during an AMA or two (in the past couple of years), and to him there's not any direct influence.

But, you also have to remember that all of that stuff came out basically decades ago. And both Tal and D&D3 are coming from the same roots. So, while he might not see direct connections, there's some things that make for obvious points of translation between the two.

But, it's neither here nor there. They're both decent games and folks can enjoy them and alter them and make any sorts of connections they want.
The 3rd Edition D&D compatible version of Talislanta didn't seem very successful. (It only had two products, if I remember correctly.) Was that down to another incident of bad luck getting in the way of the design team.

I thought I had saw someone suggesting it wasn't as good as Talislanta's own internal rules. :?
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Re: WotC's talislanta-l mailing list and AOL community

Post by writermonk » Sun Nov 25, 2018 2:18 pm

The d20 version of Tal was a victim of several internal things.

First, Morrigan Press was horrible at editing. They used a lot of cut/paste from past books to flesh out things, but (it seems) that they rarely cleaned up those c/p jobs. And since they were c/p-ing from things like pdf files, they weren't always grabbing solely text. So, the d20 version has some bad edits - misspellings, passages referencing things not in the book, etc. That could be overlooked but...

Second, by 2005 (when the d20 Tal book came out), the d20 glut had already choked a lot of people. There was a TON of d20 stuff out by then (the OGL and all) and no real marketing was done to push Tal or make it stand out from every other d20 supplement out there. Morrigan seemed to think that the name recognition of Tal would push sales for the d20 book. That did not happen. Without any sort of marketing, for a lot of people, the book just went under the radar. No one really knew that it existed; if no one knows about it, no one plays it or buys it. The one group of people who did know about it were, of course, Tal players...

Third, by the time the d20 version was released, Talislanta had largely eliminated some staples of D&D from its rules (e.g., classes and levels; Tal abandoned levels somewhere in its own 3rd edition, by 4th they were gone. The d20 Tal came out during Tal's 5th edition run) and other new bits of D&D (feats) had never been there. Trying to make a conversion was difficult because of this. The resulting mishmash felt like neither Tal nor d20 - a long time Tal player couldn't reconcile the old power of the Thrall with a 1st level fighter and some feats; and a long time D&D 3 player couldn't immediately reconcile why some races had such (seemingly random) limitations on them. GMs wanting to do simple spot conversions had already been doing so; few people, it seemed wanted a dedicated book to those conversions; those that did want such a book found some of the stuff in d20 Tal confusing and arbitrary and poorly written.

Personally, I get the impetus behind it - d20 was big and there was a huge d20 market with lots of folks publishing and lots of stuff being sold. But it was poorly implemented (not advertised) and produced (poorly edited).

I'll hold out and see how the D&D 5th version of Savage Land turns out (pdfs for backers are out, but I don't think it's on general release yet) and how reception to that goes.
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