Fantasy Adventures In Other Worlds With OpenQuest
  • Fantasy Adventures In Other Worlds With OpenQuest


    I have followed the OpenQuest game from D101 Games, and its various spin offs, throughout the years. Based off of the open content from the Mongoose Runequest system reference document and their Legend role-playing game, OpenQuest harkens back to a simpler era of fantasy role-playing, and draws upon the inspirations of the early days of the Chaosium-published Basic Roleplaying System. I backed the IndieGoGo campaign for the second edition of the game a couple of years ago, and recently publisher and designer Newt Newport released a new, revised edition of the game's rules.


    While I am going to be focusing on the OpenQuest Basic rules, I will also bring in some things about the "full" version of the game, which Newport is currently calling OpenQuest Refreshed.

    So, what is OpenQuest Basic? It is a percentile based system that, rather than using classes like a number of other fantasy games, instead uses attributes and skills to determine what your character is and what they can do. While it can be more work for some people, it also means that it is easier to create more complex character concepts, because you aren't shoehorned into someone else's concepts through the archetypes of character classes. You want that wily thief who has picked up a handful of spells during their time as an adventurer? No need to worry about feats or archetypes or prestige classes. Pull together the right skills and go forward to adventure.

    Character generation uses a point buy system. You have a pool of points that you can use to buy up a character's attributes (starting from a base score of 8). Skills are broken up into groups, and you have a pool of points for each group to buy up the percentages of them. Skills have defaults that are based upon the character's attributes, so there is a correlation between the attributes of a character and their capabilities. I like this approach to character creation. In the OpenQuest rules you will find a couple of other methods for generating a character's attributes, including a random method.

    One of my favorite ideas in OpenQuest, something that comes from the long tradition of BRP games, is the idea that basically anyone who has the capability can utilize some form of magic. Called Battle Magic in OpenQuest, the concept is built off of a more folkloric idea of magic. Battle Magic is passed down through families, or is taught to members of organizations and religions. With Battle Magic you don't get fireballs, but you get spells that can make armor and weapons more effective, or cause a character to regain energy lost to fatigue. Spells "grow" with a character, as they become more effective. Casting is a skill, so there is always a chance that a spell can go awry, and magic is powered by the internal energies of a character, called Magic Points.


    OpenQuest Basic only offers battle magic, but the "full" OpenQuest adds two more "styles" of magic: Divine Magic and Sorcery. Sorcery is closer to the standard high fantasy approach to magic that players of other fantasy games might be used to using. Sorcery spells tend to be more powerful than Battle Magic spells, but a dedicated spell-caser will integrate the two forms. Divine Magic is similar to what you would expect from clerical magic in other games. Divine Magic spellcasters in OpenQuest games will have a more intimate relationship with the deities or spirits that they worship. Magic across the board in OpenQuest is more intimate, and more a part of the world than with other fantasy games. One thing that I like about this tradition is that magic isn't just about attacking people, but about doing things with the world and helping out your community.

    While communities aren't explored in OpenQuest Basic, membership in religions is addressed in OpenQuest. Not only are they a place for characters to belong and develop connects with the world around them, they are also places of training where characters can pick up new skills (or receive advanced training in their weaponry) and learn Battle Magic.

    There is a selection of creatures for OpenQuest Basic, but it is not an extensive one. There is more than enough to get a group of characters started on an adventuring career. You won't have a shortage of dangers for characters in an OpenQuest Basic game. The creature write-ups in OpenQuest Basic are also what you use to create non-human characters for the game. If there is a write-up for a creature, you can use it as the basis for a player character. This gives a lot of options for characters in your OpenQuest games.

    OpenQuest has a few more creatures, as well as a chapter on plunder that outlines the types of treasures that monsters will have in their lairs, along with some rules for creating magical objects.

    For me, one of the selling points for OpenQuest Basic is the fact that the rules are a lot grittier than many other fantasy RPGs. Combat is fast and deadly. Characters can quickly end up maimed (lost limbs or eyes are not unusual as an end result in an OpenQuest game), and healing magic isn't as omnipresent as it is in other fantasy role-playing games. Finding healing magic in the game typically means finding a temple or church and paying for the magic. Not every party will have a character with healing magic. The world is deadly and dangerous, but it also means that players need to think their way through conflicts more often instead of just throwing their characters at a problem until something breaks. A fight is a scary thing, and a fight with swords is even scarier. OpenQuest does a great job of bring out that feel to combat during play.

    But this also means that OpenQuest makes a good fit for games that want a swords & sorcery feel in the mode of characters like Conan, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser or even Elric (some of which have graced the pages of role-playing games using various version of the BRP rules). These are the sorts of worlds where life can be dangerous, characters are known for their skill and magic is woven into the very fiber of the world. The fuller OpenQuest game features rules for creatures that are powerful spirits and godforms, as well as rules for journeying into realms of magic, and of the gods. Questing in these other worlds adds an epic quality to games, for those who might not want as grim and gritty of a campaign.

    One (strong) negative about both of the OpenQuest books is that they could use a stronger editorial pass. There are a handful of typos scattered throughout the books (the same typos, due probably to using the same source files), and a stronger editorial hand could have helped with that.

    OpenQuest Basic also has the benefit of being a digest-sized book. This means that it is easy to carry around, allowing you to game any place that you want to game. Carry the book and some dice, and you are ready to go. I used to carry the previous printing of OpenQuest Basic with me in my bag, making pickup games easy. Both OpenQuest Basic and OpenQuest feature full color art and clean, simple and retro-styled layouts. The books are utilitarian, meant to be played rather than collected.

    If you are looking for a different approach to fantasy role-playing, it would be hard to go wrong with the OpenQuest family of games. Between OpenQuest Basic and OpenQuest Refreshed one of the games should strike your interest. There is also a modern military game, The Company, and a science fiction game, The River of Heaven, that are based upon the OpenQuest rules. If fantasy games aren't your thing, you have other options as well. There is also a setting available currently in The Savage North and adventures for OpenQuest with Life and Death. Everything that you need to get a game of OpenQUest up and running is out there and waiting for you to check them out.
    Comments 9 Comments
    1. SMHWorlds's Avatar
      SMHWorlds -
      Very cool. Newt has put a ton of work into OpenQuest. Nice to see it talked about.
    1. Banesfinger -
      D101 has put out some great stuff.

      One of the problems I've faced with d100 skill-based games is 'advancement'. Intuitively, you get a chance to advance skills you used in an adventure. However, this can also be problematic for the GM: e.g. if you have a rogue-type PC who wants to be a great lock-picker or trap detector, it almost forces the GM to put those kinds of obstacles in his adventures in order for that character to have a chance of advancement.
    1. SMHWorlds's Avatar
      SMHWorlds -
      Quote Originally Posted by Banesfinger View Post
      D101 has put out some great stuff.

      One of the problems I've faced with d100 skill-based games is 'advancement'. Intuitively, you get a chance to advance skills you used in an adventure. However, this can also be problematic for the GM: e.g. if you have a rogue-type PC who wants to be a great lock-picker or trap detector, it almost forces the GM to put those kinds of obstacles in his adventures in order for that character to have a chance of advancement.
      That can be an issue, but Training typically helps offset that somewhat. Improved Attributes / Characteristics also help and depending on how the skills are set up, improving one skill may help another. Regardless, I think experience systems are one of the most discussed mechanics of d100 games.
    1. neobolts's Avatar
      neobolts -
      The basic rules are $0 on rpgnow currently. I'll definitely be checking out the system when I get off work.
    1. satbunny's Avatar
      satbunny -
      I recommend "Crucible of Dragons" as one of the best sandboxes for a d100 game, and it's from d101 for OpenQuest..
      http://www.zunder.org.uk/2014/10/05/...openquest-rpg/
    1. Christopher Helton's Avatar
      Christopher Helton -
      Quote Originally Posted by neobolts View Post
      The basic rules are $0 on rpgnow currently. I'll definitely be checking out the system when I get off work.
      The basic rules are always free in PDF.
    1. Christopher Helton's Avatar
      Christopher Helton -
      Quote Originally Posted by Banesfinger View Post
      D101 has put out some great stuff.

      One of the problems I've faced with d100 skill-based games is 'advancement'. Intuitively, you get a chance to advance skills you used in an adventure. However, this can also be problematic for the GM: e.g. if you have a rogue-type PC who wants to be a great lock-picker or trap detector, it almost forces the GM to put those kinds of obstacles in his adventures in order for that character to have a chance of advancement.
      Wouldn't you have to put those sorts of elements in a game with a thief-type character regardless of the system? Who wants to be the Thief in a D&D game with nothing to do?
    1. Tom Thompson's Avatar
      Tom Thompson -
      That cover art looks familiar ...
      http://dungeonsandcaverns.blogspot.c...quest-for.html
    1. Christopher Helton's Avatar
      Christopher Helton -
      Quote Originally Posted by Tom Thompson View Post
      All of the OpenQuest books feature covers (and some interior art) by Jon Hodgson, as Newt Newport (the owner of D101 Games) and Hodgson are friends.
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