Atlantis (role-playing game)

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For the (unrelated) role-playing video game, see Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura.
Cover for The Arcanum (1st edition)
Designer(s) Stephan Michael Sechi & Vernie Taylor
Publication date
  • 1984 (1st edition)
  • 1985 (2nd edition)
  • 1996 (3rd edition)
  • 2014 (Second Age)
System(s) Custom, Omni System

The Arcanum is a fantasy role-playing game (RPG) originally published by Bard Games,[1] set in the ancient world before Atlantis sunk.

The Arcanum was one of the many fantasy RPG games that followed the popularity of Dungeons & Dragons RPG. However, instead of featuring a fictitious world, Arcanum is based in a pseudo-historical version of the real world and features historical mythology and creatures from actual myth, such as hantu, bakru, alastor, bat horin, korupiru, balaha.


The world setting is Earth, but in a fictionalized Antediluvian Age (a quasi-historical/mythical interpretation of the ancient past).


The geographic regions and real-world influences are: Mediterranea (Europe), Eria (North America), Tamoanchan (South America), Turan (Arabia), Gondwana (Africa), Jambu (Asia), the Nether Realm (Antarctica), and Anostos and Jotunland (Iceland and Greenland-like). Mythical continents are added: Atlantia (Atlantis), Antilla, Hyperborea, Lemuria, Mu, and others.

Game history[edit]


The origin of both the "Complete Series" and eventual "Atlantean Trilogy" came out of a group of friends, including Vernie "Butch" Taylor, Steve Cordovano, and dungeon master Stephen Michael Sechi, who were somewhat incessant D&D/FRP gamers in the early 1980s. This little group also had a penchant for fantasy/sci-fi literature, world mythology, crypto-zoology as well as mysticism and the occult. Wanting to expand the magic system and player options available in the FRP games of the time while also minimizing game complexity, they experimented with new and various ideas in their own game play. This culminated in the Arcanum/Atlantean game system which included the introduction of schools of magic and added character classes and monsters

Edition history[edit]

The Compleat Series[edit]

A proto-edition of the rules for character classes (professions), magic, and alchemy were published as supplements for any fantasy role playing game (a phrase often used in the 1980s to mean Dungeons and Dragons) in 1983. These books were known as the "Compleat Series" consisting of The Compleat Adventurer by Stephan Michael Sechi (non-magical professions), The Compleat Spell Caster by Vernie Taylor & Stephen Michael Sechi (magic using professions), and The Compleat Alchemist by Steven Cordovano & Stephan Michael Sechi (an advanced look at alchemy and the one class that uses it to its full potential). All of the material from these three books would be edited and made a part of the core rules for The Arcanum.[2]

First Edition[edit]

The main rulebook The Arcanum, noted for its extensive magic and alchemy systems, was first published in 1984. A setting book, The Lexicon: Atlas of the Lost World of Atlantis,[3] was released in 1985. This was followed by The Bestiary[4] in 1986. These two books were republished in 1989 as a single book, with some new material, entitled Atlantis, the Lost World.

Second Edition[edit]

This first edition was quickly followed by a cleaned up and expanded Second Edition, (as clearly indicated on the cover) in 1985.

Third Edition[edit]

In 1996, Death's Edge Games would release a third edition (although this edition was mostly a reprint of the second edition, including all of the original typos; the only real difference was the addition of a new race, the Selkie) of the series with a cover style vastly different from the original two editions.[5]

30th Anniversary Edition[edit]

In 2012, the rights to The Arcanum were purchased by K. David Ladage. In 2013, doing business as ZiLa Games, he ran a Kickstarter to re-release The Arcanum in a new, cleaned up and re-edited form. Since ZiLa Games owns the rights to The Arcanum, but Khepera Publishing (Jerry D. Grayson) owns the rights to The Lexicon and The Bestiary, the original follow on books will not be released by ZiLa Games. This edition of the game is still in development.

Atlantis: The Second Age[edit]

Khepera Publishing has released an RPG called Atlantis: The Second Age using the Omni System. This game covers the original setting, but not the original rules set. The agreement between K. David Ladage and Jerry D. Grayson is a gentleman's understanding that the material presented in The Arcanum, even where that overlaps with the material in The Lexicon and The Bestiary are fair game for new games, printings, and/or editions; the material presented in The Lexicon and The Bestiary, even where that overlaps with the material in The Arcanum is fair game for any new games, printings, and/or editions.


Illustrations in the books include ink drawings by artist Bill Sienkiewicz.


External links[edit]