It’s time for a retroclone of the DragonQuest RPG. It’s past time, really, so there’s no point in delaying further.
Yes, that’s correct, it is April 1st. But when better to undertake such a fool’s errand?
I have been thinking about getting a clone version of DragonQuest for a long time. That’s ostensibly what the Yahoo DQ-RULES group was for. There is also the mostly dormant DragonQuest Rules blog that has been a collecting point for some of the revised rules (along with some tangential stuff). And recently, I’ve been thinking about making my Patreon about creating re-written rules for DQ with an eye toward developing a set of clone DQ rules.
Last month, Jarrod Shaw of Mythoard (a recent convert to DragonQuest compared to some of us grognards) was asking about a clone version of the DQ rules (in the spirit of the many other OSR games out there). And that got me thinking, once again, about moving forward on a full retroclone of DQ.
Over the past year, I’ve seen a lot of OSR material and found a widespread community producing materials and engaged with these games. There are many throwback RPGs, and each has its following. Not only are there versions of every stripe of old D&D, but even games like RuneQuest now have retro-clone versions (OpenQuest). DQ may never have had the fan base that some other games had, but it’s definitely a game with its merits and that ought to be brought up to date.
The original idea for Antherwyck House Games was to produce DragonQuest materials, and that is part of what we are doing. While I’m definitely intersted in continuing that, there hasn’t seemed to be much support or interest, so we’ve been working in some other directions. But let’s see how much interest this discussion generates now.
So is a retread of DQ a sacrilege?
The game many of us regard as canon was written in 1981. D&D is on its 5th edition (or more, depending on how you count things). Third Edition DQ is less a new edition than tinkering with a few rules and excising some of the “frightening material.” But really, nothing has changed since the 80’s. That was last millennium, folks!
What about copyright and trademark and so forth?
From what I know of copyright and the law in this area (and IANAL, but I’ve looked at this question more than a little bit), it is the specific expression of the rules (the particular language used to describe the rules) that is covered by copyright. The ideas of the rules themselves (such as having six characteristics for a character in a range from 3-18) can’t be copyrighted.
But every rule needs to be uniquely re-written in a new way. This is what’s behind many of the OSR clones, as I understand it. The general ideas are the same, and are compatible and interoperable with the games they descended from. But they are fresh and new (and often introduce some new angles to the system to avoid being a cut-and-paste of what had come before.
As far as trademark goes, the DragonQuest mark has been abandoned by TSR/Wizards/Hasbro, so it would presumably be available (although there is also the Japanese video game of the same name, which is always confusing), but a new name might be better.
What would a new DQ be like?
In all, there’s going to be a lot more discussion about what should and should not be a part of any such thing, so treat all of this as starting points for discussion, rather than anything that has been completely settled.
DQ has always been a modular system, and the designers’ intent seemed to be to have a system that allowed for extension and adaptation. New Colleges of magic were built into the system almost from the outset, and Arcane Wisdom almost made it to production.
The DQ-rules group on Yahoo was originally started to create a consensus version of new DragonQuest rules. I think a more open-ended numbering system, to allow for new rules to be added in a more orderly fashion, would be important. Being able to add or delete certain elements without breaking the whole system would be important.
Should DQ become a D20 based system?
That’s something that Chris Klug was looking at a while ago. A DQ/D20 system would make it much more accessible to the much larger audience of gamers, and might increase the number of players. I’m not sure that’s the direction I want to go with it. D20 is very familiar, though, and there could be some merit to adapting things to be more cross-compatible with That Other Game. On the other hand, there are a lot of other options already out there that offer that compatibility, and I don’t think that’s what DQ is best at.
What are the key elements of DQ that need to remain in order for things to stay compatible with existing DQ materials?
- Stats and stat ranges (or an easy conversion system if things are changed)
- World with multiple Colleges of Magic (but to remain exclusive?)
- Non-super-heroic system/Human-scale (a game where even an advanced hero might be cut down by a simple peasant with a knife, and where dragons remain a terrifying opponent no matter how good you’ve gotten)
But there are also some elements where I wonder if they are as important to retain in their current form:
- Extensive ability breakdowns (individual spells, weapons, etc.)
- Fine granularity in rules
- Experience and progression
So now what?
If you’ve read this far, then you’re definitely in the interest group and your feedback about this idea. What would you like to see in a new DQ? What are the things most in need of revision? What are the parts that represent the essence of DQ that need to remain as they are?