Posts Tagged ‘OSR games’

DragonQuest in 2018

January 2, 2018

It seems that, almost every year, around the holidays and the end of the year, there is an uptick in interest and activity about #DragonQuest (and other old games, as well). We’ve seen some of that already, during the break, and we’re going to add to it this year with some DQ news from Antherwyck House Games for the coming year.

Antherwyck House Games was founded to produce additional materials for DragonQuest. There are other gaming projects we’re also involved in, but DQ was the founding impetus, and it’s something we’ll always be involved in. We’ve developed several titles for DragonQuest, and here is a rundown of those projects:

  • The Sentinel Chapel
  • The Wilderness of Ordurak
  • The Water Works
  • Poor Brendan’s Almanac
  • Ordurak Gazetteer

* Almost six years ago, what was then called just “Wilderness of A–, a DragonQuest Adventure” crowdfunding project started. (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-wilderness-of-a-a-dragonquest-adventure#/) At the time, the last published item for use with the DragonQuest role-playing game was “The Shattered Statue” which was published by TSR in 1987. The whole process went through fits and starts, like many first-time crowdfunded projects. But ultimately, the adventure was completed and delivered to supporters earlier in 2017. When the project was launched, it was with the promise that the supporters would “get an electronic copy of the finished adventure, and will have it at least 6 months before the adventure is released in other formats.” That period has now passed, and “The Wilderness of Ordurak” will soon be available from DriveThruRPG and its sister sites.

* “The Sentinel Chapel” was meant to be a small capsule adventure, something akin to ‘House of Kurin,’ ‘Treasure of Socantri,’ or ‘Camp of Alla-Akabar.’ It started when I came across a map by Eneko Menica, which struck me as a great map for a DQ adventure as soon as I saw it, and the adventure was written from that inspiration. It’s been reviewed and playtested by a couple of loyal regulars, and I also got to run it as an event at a convention (UCon, near Detroit, in November).
The PDF version of this will be available from DriveThruRPG/RPGNow in January. As soon as print proofs are ready and approved (hopefully also by the end of January, as well), then we’ll have the print version available for those of you who would like to have it in print. (If you want the print version, but also want to get it right away, we’ll have a deal for you to get the PDF right away, and then get the print version once it’s available.)

* Our first title, The Water Works, has been available for several years.  There is an implied series of sequels to the “works” adventures (Earth Works, Gas Works, Fire Works) that has always been in the back of my head. This could be a direction for the next adventure we produce.

* The rules supplement, Poor Brendan’s Almanac has some revisions and clarifications needed, and that revision is targeted for beginning of Spring 2018.

* Separately, we’re planning to make the map of the Wilderness region into its own product and available as a separate release (The Ordurak Gazetteer). It will be much more akin to the Frontiers of Alusia, with a gazetteer to provide details about the region. Only some areas are detailed in the Wilderness adventure, and this will provide added information about the remaining areas.


 

This leaves the question of what the next DragonQuest project should be. Another adventure is certainly a possibility. Or there could be other things that get developed. Some of the final decision comes down to what seems inspiring and interesting; but another part of it is what people are interested in seeing.

The DragonQuest community has been online since the mid 90s. Originally, it was an email mailing list, then migrated to Yahoo and Yahoo groups for a while. More recently, it’s been on Google Plus and Facebook. (And if you have some other gatherings of DQ players you’re aware of, let me know about those, too.)

At this point, for most people, DragonQuest is a legacy curiousity. But there is still interest in it, and the name is recognized, despite it being out-of-print for decades. Many people had heard of it, but because it was never as widely available as other games, there are lots of people who know of it but haven’t played it. (The group who played in the Sentinel Chapel adventure at the recent UCon were a group who had played together for many years, but had never played DQ, and were interested in checking it out.)

With a recognized name and history, and with the interest in Old School games, there is an ongoing interest in seeing a revival or a reboot of DQ. Ever since the collapse of SPI in 1982, there has been a lingering interest in acquiring the rights, or republishing, or reviving DQ.

If there was going to be a new release of DragonQuest, what form should it take? Should it be a close 1:1 retro-clone of the original game? Or should it be an adaptation of the game that takes it in a new direction?

When I talked to Gerry Klug a couple years ago, he was talking about adapting DragonQuest to a D20 system. D20 is a hugely widespread game system, and the potential attractiveness to people who already know and understand basic D20 mechanics and can tie in with the huge library of available materials.

For me, the things that were always most appealing about DragonQuest were the things that differentiated it from D&D. That characters were fragile, rather than becoming invulnerable machines, led to a gaming style where character interaction came to the fore. Characters could also be any combination of roles. You weren’t locked into a set of abilities and excluded from others. Your character could carry a sword *and* use magic.

The emphasis on developing skills provided a background that implied a different setting and time period. Less fantastical in some ways, perhaps, and closer to a Renaissance setting, with organizations (like an Adventurer’s Guild) and the beginnings of formalized knowledge, with Colleges of Magic.

The Open DQ Rules has been a slow-moving group with the idea of re-writing (and maybe revising) the DragonQuest rules so that there is a freely distributable set of rules available. But this seems to be an effort without enough energy behind it to make any significant progress.

For the past couple years, I’ve been thinking about a revised, simplified set of DQ rules. My last regular DragonQuest campaign dissolved, in part, because the rule complexity got in the way of playing the game. Since we were only playing occasionally, the constant need to fiddle with the numbers got in the way of playing. And we realized that, most of the time, those little bits of difference didn’t really matter. My current thought is to take the basic structures of DQ and adapt them to a D10 system. In some instances, where the greater precision was needed, it would be easy to fall back to the D100 percentile system. But for faster moving things, in many cases, a D10 resolution would be enough. This could be a DQ-Lite that could draw more people in (as any new release of a game system would do) and connect more people to DragonQuest.


 

And, along those lines, there’s other old school game news on other fronts. Most interestingly, there was the good news on Boxing Day that Steve Jackson Games has re-acquired the rights to all of his works for The Fantasy Trip (TFT): Melee, Wizard, etc. They’ve been held by Metagaming (which has been effectively defunct for many years), so it’s all been out of print. SJG doesn’t know yet what they are going to be doing with them, but it seems like this will be a good thing for old school games in general.

http://www.sjgames.com/ill/archive/December_26_2017/The_Fantasy_Trip_Returns_Home

Like with DQ, the online groups that have supported it for many years have been an important part of keeping it alive. TFT could be seen as a kind of DQ Lite, as well. There are many similarities between the two games, and possibly some synergy that could come from this.

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DragonQuest Rules Clone

April 1, 2016

tarot-fool[1]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?)
  • Skills
  • 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?