A Ramble in the Shambles

I’ve finally finished the long overdue adventure for Early Bird OpenQuest Kickstarter Backers, Catching the Wyrm.  

Catching the Wyrm, cover by Jon Hodgson

This 28-page adventure is a full standalone adventure that can be played in one or two four hour gaming sessions. It can be played as the final part of an introductory scenario arc, that starts with The Road Less Travelled (OpenQuest Main Rulebook), and continues with The Lost Outpost (the OpenQuest Quickstart).

it details a Quest where the characters arrive in Tent Town, a semi-permanent settlement that sits outside the cyclopean walls of the ruined city of The Shambles. They are quickly approached by one of the local shopkeepers, a reformed nomadic raider, who asks them to take up the task of dealing with a wingless immature dragon, known as a Wyrm, that has been sighted over the walls in the nearest district of the city known as the Squares. Whether they complete this Quest to the letter or forge their own path, is completely up to the players.

Writing Catching the Wyrm, which was originally meant to be a quick start adventure, really brought to mind that I tend to write three types of adventure.

Location-based. Be it a classic dungeon or a journey based adventure with ruins and settlements along the way, this is where the adventure is described as a set of locations, each with its own inhabitants, treasures and secrets to be found and interacted with. Obviously, you’ll be seeing lots of this in OpenQuest Dungeons, but The Road Less Travelled in the main OpenQuest rulebook is firmly of this type.

Scene Based. This is where I envision and describe the Quest in scenes, as you would a play or movie. Each scene is a loosely scripted encounter. There are elements of the location-based adventure, but there’s also lots of direction on how the encounter could play out to give the Referee the gaming juice that they need to get their imagination going. I’m pretty clear that any of the scenes may not survive contact with the players as written because I’m aware that this type of write up can fall foul of Referee Railroading during play.

Sandbox. This is similar to a location-based Quest but really goes to town on the NPCs, places, items and secrets – the things – that the characters can potentially encounter, without giving the Referee the same level of guidance on how to link those things together. It’s completely up to the players as they wander freely around the sandbox how the Quest emerges. Plot and narrative can be suggested by hanging suggested events, which are triggered if certain conditions are met, off locations – and this was the approach that I took in the for some of the Quests in the out of print Life and Death Saga.

I started writing Catching the Wyrm as a mini-Sandbox that features two adventure locations from The Shambles, as a taster for a larger book which features the full set of ruins. Tent Town is a ramshackle adventurer’s settlement, that provides safety, services and if the players want it intrigue. Then into the ruins proper. The Squares, is a middle-class suburb, with residential blocks, theatres, libraries and even an amphitheatre.  Swarming with Goblins, zombies and corrupted horrors. The problem is that it’s about 50 pages long without art or maps, and it’s still not complete. So I took what I had, ran it as a playtest and took the events in the playtest to write it up as a scene based adventure.

I’d like to think that the full sandbox will see the light of day at some point.  With a Tent Town that evolves depending on which faction the characters support and how much of The Shambles’ riches flow into its economy. With the full version of the Squares plus at least another seven districts that make up the entirety of The Shambles.

The adventure in both printed and pdf form should be out at the end of the month, after going to backers who qualify for a free copy. 

The World’s Favourite Fantasy Roleplaying Game vs D100

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

Deities of the Underworld

So I’m deep into writing the next OpenQuest Book, which is OpenQuest Dungeons. At the moment it’s a heady mix of writing new rules guidance articles, creating resources (such as a set of stock NPCs), and creating dungeon-based adventures. More of that when my content list is firmed up. Suffice to say the book’s scope has shifted slightly from being a book with a bit of guidance on how to run OQ for people coming from D&D (about 10-20 pages) and two scenarios I had written in notebooks from years ago.

One thing that came to mind while converting The Sorcerer Under Mountain and starting to detail the religion of the Orcs who are encountered in the dungeon, is that I could do with a list of religions that people who work in the underworld, as well as the monstrous deities for Creatures, follow. Here’s a quick glimpse into what I’ve started to come up with.

The Underworld Deities

From the Imperial Way

These are Underworld deities worshipped within the Empire of Gatan and partially included in the Imperial Way.

The King’s Head

A sect of Assassins. Sometimes in favour with the Emperor, sometimes out of favour. See themselves as “Kingmakers and head takers”. Very active during the Ducal Wars as hitmen for hire but redeemed themselves as they fought against the Burning Horde sticking from the Underworld.

Delica the Daughter of Darkness

An old goddess, daughter of Maia the Earth Mother and the Great Elemental of Darkness. Ruler of the Underworld. Patroness of Thieves everywhere.  She also helps those who have to work underground.

Figgis the Ratter

Friend (hero follower?) of Delia, this foul smelly man is Patron of the Small Vicious Dog (available as an allied Spirit). Followers can also turn into weredogs.

The Love from Below

This is an androgynous Underworld deity of orgies and secrets. They are generally regarded as Benevolent among its rich followers. Less so by the poor who often involuntarily get dragged into its rituals.

A “forgotten” god from the time of Old Empire, not mentioned in the recent Imperial Revelation. The Imperial Priesthood would have declared it heresy if not for the favour it courts amongst Sotan City’s social class.

Goblinoid Deities

The Hidden One

The Hidden God is the Goblinoids’ name for their lost creator deity. This religion is based upon the idea that they are hiding from the other deities in the Underworld. Very much an outsider mystic religion even amongst the Goblinoids, who quite reasonably reject the idea and whose adherents, known as Seekers, can only back up their claim that the Hidden God is in the Underworld by saying that they gave goblinoids the ability to see in the dark so that they can go find them. Critics point out that the religion has no Priests, down to the fact that they haven’t found the Hidden God yet. The religion is called the “Hidden One” because if Seekers call it the Hidden God in Goblinoid society, they will get their heads bashed in.


Want to write OpenQuest material for D101 Games?

OpenQuest 3rd edition has been a big success. I want to continue to support the game, past this year’s road map of releases, so it’s time to invite budding OpenQuest writers to contribute.

We’ve got history with this. The Savage North was co-written by John Ossoway, the lead author of River of Heaven, our D100 Sci-fi game. Rik Kershaw-Moore co-wrote the Company, and Simon Bray and Paul Mitchener co-wrote Crucible of Dragons. Paul is also writing the upcoming The Clockwork Palace adventure and Four Emperors historical/fantasy OpenQuest powered game.

This is all paid work, and rates will be discussed privately and depend upon the scope of the piece. I’m considering new ideas from writers and have several projects that need writers to contribute to.

So if you are interested, drop me a line at newt@d101games.com.


The Three Icons of the OpenQuest Covers

The sharp-eyed among you will have seen the three reoccurring characters on the covers of the main OpenQuest rulebook, the recently released OpenQuest Companion and the upcoming OpenQuest Dungeons.

This was intentional I asked Jon Hodgson to do this, but I wasn’t prepared for all the good-natured comments on the trio, especially theories of what the Duck looks so cross, that I got every time I previewed the cover. So when I sat down to write the Early Bird backers’ adventure for the Kickstarter, Catching the Wyrm, I made sure that I wrote them into the adventure. So here’s a bit more detail from the upcoming Catching the Wyrm scenario, In that adventure are more details about the characters including full game profiles.

Dragon Helpers

These three characters are part of a larger informal organisation, dedicated to helping Dragons survive in the wild. While others recoil in fear, the Dragon Helpers point out that Dragons helped end the Age of Blood, when they rebelled against their Blood God Masters.  They are not entirely sure what they are doing but feel strongly enough to put everything at risk. In the Empire of Gatan, being a Dragon Helper is a heresy punishable by a very public and gruesome death.

The Great Dragon Greenbach and the Dragon Helpers from left to right: Tres the Transformed, Shalla Dragonsaved and Ogg the Wise

This small group were sent to the Shambles by the leader of their Scale. Scales are the small cellular units that the Helpers organise themselves into, for protection and effectiveness. The leader or Dragon Friend in Ossoway is a librarian is, had found mention of the Great Green Dragon in some documents that have ended up in her Libraries’ archives.  As novice Seekers, who have just been initiated into the secrets of this Magical Society,  they are fresh with the joy and hope that they will finally get to meet a dragon and have meaningful discussions.

Tres the Transformed  – Shapeshifting Sorcerer

Tres is a Sorcerous Adept, who was kicked out of the Imperial University of Wizardry, after being caught in the forbidden library reading prohibited books on Dragon Lore. They would have got this knowledge ripped from their brain by the Imperial Inquisition, before some form of hideous punishment suited to the crime, but they were rescued by the other members of their Scale, Ogg and Shalla, who just happened to be in the imperial capital after their Scale Leader had an intuition that an important person to the group who shared their passion for Dragons would need saving. This is how Tres joined the group, and while they like being around people who like dragons, and value their knowledge, they are still not one hundred percent sure that being out in the field on dangerous missions is exactly what they want out of life.

Shalla Dragonsaved – Warrior Woman

Her home village burnt down to the ground during the invasion of Gatan by the Burning Heart Horde. During the attack, a Dragon saved her and the other survivors. “They are not the only ones who wields fire”, she regularly says when telling the tale of her escape.

She joined the Dragon Helpers after a stint in Imperial Legions, where she learnt about the group from officers while hunting down a dragon that was terrorising the borders. Years later the trail led to the Scale that she is currently part of.

Ogg the Wise – Duck Wise

Secretly Ogg isn’t fully on board with the Dragon Helper’s mission. His thinking is that Dragons love gold, so there is gold wherever there is one. His Scale Leader is well aware of this, he’s betrayed himself during many long drunken conversations they have shared over fine wines but thinks that the spiritually devoid Ogg has potential for great enlightenment when he actually meets a dragon. His colleagues are completely unaware of Ogg’s lust for Dragon Gold.  Ogg on the other hand is aware that his colleagues are dedicated to the study and preservation of Dragons, something he thinks is beyond stupid, and this often makes him ill-tempered and impatient with them.



After the Darkness

A new third party horror game using the OpenQuest SRD is coming to Kickstarter soon.

After the Darkness is an apocalyptic game of horror, family and selfishness. The sun has disappeared and a dense fog has covered the Earth, killing millions of people in just a few months and collapsing all its institutions, structures and creations. Although that does not seem to be the biggest problem, the sky fervently screams and it seems heavier than before, there are violent animal roars coming from the darkest shadows, and not everybody is dying of hypothermia…

You play as a nuclear family trying to protect their loved ones and looking for a warm safe place to wait for the end of the cataclysm. Because of this, you are forced to explore the Apocalyptic lands outside your old home, evading its monstrosities, socializing with unstable people, and struggling to eat, drink and sleep in the eternal nights of that new cold hell. Your final objective is to survive one entire year, starting in the final days of autumn, and ending in the first days of a bleak second winter, where no human could have survived on their own.

OpenQuest for Dungeons

Today I continue work on OpenQuest Dungeons. I’m working on a section that has the working title of OpenQuest for D&Ders (the final piece will have something less copyright-infringing – Probably “Rules for Dungeoneering”). The idea is to quickly cover the ground that new Referees and players have to cover to grasp the fundamental differences between OQ and D&D.

So far my document has the following headings

  • What’s Similar
  • What’s Different
  • Getting Started. A more hand-holding version of character gen, with pick a Race (or culture), then pick one of four ready made concepts that correspond to the four classic D&D classes etc
  • Specific Rulings: Opening Doors, Dealing with Traps (detecting, disarming), Spotting Hidden Concealed/Secret Doors, Backstabbing etc
  • A selection of Traps, I have some wonderful Jeshields art for this, explained in OQ terms.

I’ve opened this for discussion in the D101 Games Discord OpenQuest Channel, so if your think there’s anything that should be in this article, especially if you are a DM who is thinking about getting your D&D group into OQ, drop in and suggest anything that would help.

OpenQuest Dungeons cover

OpenQuest Dungeons © Jon Hodgson

OpenQuest SRD updated to version 1.1

Thanks to user feedback on the D101 Games Discord Server, it was pointed out that I had left out the Skill Bases from the SRD.

I’ve now updated both the text SRD and the Online SRD, so that Skill bases are listed in a table in the character generation section of the Characters document/page and next to the skill name in the skills description page.

There’s also a new changelog page, which will record changes (mainly corrections) to the OQ SRD.

Saran and the Three Bad Piggies

Time for a break from rules related OQ matters. Here’s another tale from Gatan’s folklore. 

Once upon a time Saran and his family came down from their cave homes in the hills and came to live on the great plain of Sur. Sarran who was head of his household decided to build a home for his family.

So he gathered up straw and mud and made a wattle and daub house. Then an awful Piggie (1), that walked on two legs came and wielded a big tree trunk as a club destroyed his new home, causing Sarran and his family to run to the hills.

When the pig was gone from the plains, Sarran and his family returned from their wanderings in the hills. Sarran built a new house made of strong sturdy timber. Or so he thought. Another Bad Piggie, that wielded a vicious two-handed iron great ax, came down from the mountains and chopped Saran’s wooden house into bits and made a fire out of it, on which cooked and Saran’s first son, who had not been quick enough to run away back to the hills (2)

Next, when Saran came down from the hills, this time on his own because his family still mourned the deceased son (and were quite frankly not seeing the joy in leaving their safe caves), he made a hall and a tomb for his son, made out of rocks. He piled the stones one atop another and made a sturdy thatched roof, but it still didn’t stop a third bad piggie from coming along and trashing the place!  Sarran who only got out in the nick of time, ran off to the mountains this time.

There he resolved to become a holy hermit, forsaking his family and material life. He climbed the highest mountain and looked skywards to some deity to answer why he was such a failure at life.

And lo the Grand Builder, who dwells in the Sky, answered his wailing. He told him to pull himself together get his family and return to the blessed plain of Sur.  So putting his trust in this new god, Sarran did just that.

Once there, the Grand Builder taught Sarran how to build gleaming buildings of white stone. Made out of massive blocks of stone, without mortar or gaps. And roads, aqueducts and other such wonders that allowed Sarran’s family to finally prosper.

When the Bad Piggies came again to blow  Saran’s house down, not only could they not do this, but Sarran and his family drove them from their homeland, using the steel axes that the Grand Builder had taught them to make in their new forges.

So the Bad Piggies, went whee, whee, whee, all the way up the mountains where they stayed and became the Dwarves problem instead.

Notes (for grown-ups)

Overall this is sort of an origin story for Saran the Builder (see OpenQuest page 214). Its commonly taught to all children ages two and up in the Empire of Gatan, since its tells of the foundation of human civilisation.

  1. The Pigs of this nursery tale are commonly held to be pig-faced Orcs (or Orc Tribes, led by a Warlord) who came out of the mountains and fought wars against Sarran’s Kingdom.
  2. some versions have Sarran’s first son – Derak – as a doomed but heroic warrior who sacrificed himself holding off the Bad Pig.

Note: The entirety of this text is product identity, and will be part of a future OpenQuest book. 

OpenQuest Systems Resource Document now live

A text version with a pdf for prospective 3rd Party publishers on how to use the SRD is available at no cost via the D101 Games web store.

Also, it’s available online via openquestrpg.com

I’ve had fun throwing this together, especially the website, so I’m looking forward to seeing how people use it.

All the best

;O) Newt

OpenQuest 3rd Edition

The OpenQuest Quickstart

OpenQuest Quickstart Cover by Jonny Gray

OpenQuest Quickstart Cover © Jonny Gray

OpenQuest Companion

The OpenQuest Companion, cover by Jon Hodgson

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