Note this excerpt is from the upcoming OpenQuest Dungeons supplement, and is an unedited work in progress.

In this article I’ll be refereeing to D&…opps can’t call it that due to copyright reasons, The World’s Favourite Fantasy Roleplaying Game as D20 and OpenQuest and other games of the family it belongs to as D100.

This section highlights the differences between D20 and D100 games so that new players and Referees can get up to speed quickly.

What’s similar

Characteristics are almost the same as D20 with the addition of Power (POW) and Size, and the dropping of Wisdom (which you could argue is replaced by POW). Like D20 they perform the dual function of giving players an at a glance first take on what their alter ego in the fictional fantasy world is like, and some hard numbers that the game rules runoff. Unlike D20 Level Based Games, where characteristics provide modifiers to dice rolls, characteristics are the base numbers of the character’s Skills.

Characters have Hit Points, but they are based on the average of Constitution and Size and only change if the player increases these characteristics by spending growth points. Weapons do dice damage with the addition of a damage modifier that is worked out from a sum of Strength and Size.

It’s a fantasy game and many of the monsters are the same. I intentionally included lots of D20 friendly monsters in OpenQuest, so there are humanoids such as Orcs, Goblins and Giants as well as Dwarfs and Elves as serious playable character races. One of the huge differences between early D20 games (Original and 1st especially) is that Referees were encouraged make Monsters as People and having a full listing of characteristics in the stat block encourages that.

What’s different

No classes. Even if you use a Ready-Made Concept to create your character, its just a starting point and characters grow organically due to their experiences in play, rather than down the path set out by their classes level progression.

For example Ethelred the Reckless, the example character in the OpenQuest rulebook, starts out effectively as a fighter based on his previous experience in the Dukes’ mercenary companies. Once play starts the character encounters lots of supernatural foes, and their player decides to learn lots of magic to counter all the disembodied spirits that have been plaguing their adventuring group. This leads to the character spending time with a Shaman to learn this magic, and then undergoing somewhat of a career change by pursuing things that the character needs to qualify for that type of magic-user.  Oh, and when he’s finished his Shaman training, he still has the combat skills that he can increase alongside his new magic skills as needs be.

Its Humancentric, but every monster is a potential player character race. Creatures that are especially suitable are those that are listed in the Real-World section of the Creatures chapter (see OpenQuest page 148).

Character advancement is by growth points not experience points, which you gain for taking part in game sessions, and when you bring the character’s in game goals, set by the player, known as motives, into play. You also gain a point of growth when your character succeeds especially well (a critical) or fails really badly (a fumble).  You can then spend that growth to improve your character however you wish.

Magic is not fire and forget or limited by character level. Spell availability is determined by the character having magic spells from one of the three approaches to magic.

  • Personal Magic.  This is the basic magic of the game. Every character starts of with six points worth – and each spell has a magic point cost.
  • Divine Magic. For Priests. Do right by the character’s deity or group of deities (if your character follows a Pantheon) and they provide the magical power for the spells they teach.
  • Sorcery. if you want to be what is called a Sorcerer, either a solo magician or one who is part of a School of Wizarding, with access to a wide range of spells that can have their duration, range, and effects increased by spending more magic points.

Each of the three magic systems have their attendant Other Worlds, dimensions that exist outside of normal reality, which the characters can interact with from early on, in the sense that creatures can be summoned from them and the characters can visit them (see Other World Quests in the OpenQuest Companion on page 44).

Combat can always be deadly. The characters’ hit points never go up automatically with increase of expertise. Players have to put growth points into Size and Constitution, which is an expensive route, so instead, you are relying on your character’s experience and magic, to deal with tougher monsters.  Tactics play a bigger role in OpenQuest combat. If you blunder into combat unprepared and even the weakest goblin can take your character out on a sequence of unlucky dice rolls.  I go this in What to Expect If You Get Into a Physical Fight on page 63 of the main rulebook.

Violence is not the only option. If your character is more of a fast talker or a seasoned orator, there are rules for Social Combat. This is a robust system that supports not only players who are confident in their roleplaying skills, but whose characters may lack the skills, but also quieter players who have created character’s who have more points in their Knowledge and Social skill groups than Combat skills.

Skills and Skill Tests are the workhorse of the system and are used to resolve matters when the outcome is uncertain. Remember those moments in D20 when you can’t decide whether the smooth-talking player roleplaying the CHA 8 fighter, will convince a character who is much quicker witted than the character? In OpenQuest we make an Influence skill test to see how it goes. The player of the CHA 8 character would roll a D100 versus their character’s Influence skill. This is not to say that common sense and player ingenuity go by the wayside. If the player comes out with a clever plan, the Referee is encouraged to let it pass without rolling the dice or give the player a hefty +20% or even +50% bonus to their character’s skill.

OpenQuest Dungeons cover by Jon Hodgson