Holidays In Darkvale

Following on from yesterday’s announcement, I’m sure, as well as the book itself, you are interested in what’s going to be available as stretch goals. I’ve done a quick Mythic Fantasy setting called Dark Vale, where the ruling Sun Lord has fallen into the Underworld ruled by the Night Mistress, who has taken over his surface realm. The characters are from outside of Darkvale and have travelled there to work out what is happening and why their once bright northern neighbour is now permanently overcast with dark clouds. This will be split over four pdfs, which are nearly written and will be completed when they fund.

  1. Hidden Shrine. A quick Introductory adventure. It comprises a short encounter area, the Hidden Shrine of the title, wrapped up in the story of a Sun Priest who has disappeared from his temple in the town of Little Dithering.
  2. This Road Leads to Death. After the events of Hidden shrine, the characters head along the Victory Way to report what happened to the priest to the Merchant’s Guild in the town of Ridsdale. A body at the side of the road on the homestretch throws the characters into a sinister set of events.
  3. Death Comes To Ridsdale. A longer adventure where the characters reach Ridsdale and find that the forces of the Night Mistress have overrun it.
  4. The Darkvale Gazetteer. A quick setting guide with events/encounter tables and adventure seeds so you can continue adventuring there after completing the mini-saga of the three adventures previously funded.

In keeping with SimpleQuest, the stretch goal write-ups will be brief and to the point. The aim of all of the above is to quickly give you a memorable and playable setting that you can either use as a self-contained setting or drop into an existing campaign.

Here’s the work-in-progress map of the setting.

Announcing SimpleQuest

SimpleQuest was the original name for OpenQuest when I started developing it in 2007. Before the game’s release in 2010, I changed its name to OpenQuest to reflect the fact that it was entirely open gaming content under the OGL at the time.

OpenQuest today is much bigger than the short system that was SimpleQuest, since it grew due to customer feedback. But I always had the desire to present a shorter version of the game. D100 systems back in the 80s were very short and direct, one very famous ruleset had an edition that had 23 pages of rules!

The copy of SimpleQuest I had made for my holidays.

The copy of SimpleQuest I had made for my holidays.

So just before my holidays in August, I very quickly threw SimpleQuest together from colour art I already have from being a Patreon of Jeshields for the good part of a decade, and a gorgeous wrap round cover by Jon Hodgson that last was seen gracing OpenQuest 2nd Edition.  SimpleQuest combines rules from the main OpenQuest rulebook plus bits from the OpenQuest Companion (Deities list and One Magic System). It also has new concise rules for Religions and their Ranks, and also for Patrons who watch over adventuring parties and dole out one use magic if they please them (think Hera in Jason and the Argonauts). Also if you are wondering how I got a good portion of OpenQuest’s creature section in, I created a new concise version of the stat block that has all the essential bits for reference at the gaming table.  Finally, It’s 100% compatible with OpenQuest and its adventures.

Here are the first 36 pages and the character sheet to give you an idea of what the book is like.

And here’s the cover by Jon Hodgson.

SimpleQuest cover by Jon Hodgson

SimpleQuest cover by Jon Hodgson

The plan is to Kickstart this in a two-week campaign, starting on Monday 28th November until Monday 12th December. As soon as funds clear the pdf will be issued, and the book will go to the printers for a mailout sometime in January.

The stretch goals for the Kickstarter include adventures and adventures and a setting guide for a setting called Darkvale, written specifically for SimpleQuest. The plan is to do more settings/adventures for SimpleQuest in the future. I’m certainly planning to redo Life and Death (an out-of-print OQ adventure setting) for SimpleQuest, since it’s more a direct sort of fantasy setting than say the Empire of Gatan.

Darkvale, cover by Jon Hodgson

Darkvale, cover by Jon Hodgson

If you’ve already invested in OpenQuest, don’t feel you need this book. Its main selling point is that it’s a shorter full, colour travel-friendly version of OpenQuest, which I wanted for my holidays. There are a few new bits (see the SimpleQuest vs OpenQuest pdf link below), but it is 95% OQ that is available between the OQ main rulebook and the OQ Companion. Going forward I’ve already got plans to use SQ as a base for standalone games, and the relationship between SQ and OQ is similar to Fate Condensed/Accelerated and Fate Core or Basic/Expert D&D and Advanced D&D. Ie. they are essentially the same game, but do some things slightly differently.

If you are interested in the differences between the two games, check out this comparison pdf.

If you’ve not come across OpenQuest before, it’s a good playable version of the game that doesn’t have the complexity that OpenQuest’s three magic systems bring to the table.  When the Kickstarter opens in a couple of weeks, you can also pick up OpenQuest (at a discount) as an add-on if you fancy having the big book version and the existing adventures and supplements.

Update: The SimpleQuest Kickstarter opens next week, Monday 28th, for two weeks. Sign up to the notification page and back on the first day, to get bonus content

Coming Soon The Chronicles of Gatan

About two years ago I started my ongoing OpenQuest Empire of Gatan campaign. We play online every two weeks or so. It’s structured like a modern TV  series (like Deadwood, Rome) but in keeping with OQ being an Adventure Fantasy Game.  Season one lasted 20 sessions and was based in the Eastern Imperial Borderlands and kicked off with the adventure that is the OpenQuest Quickstart. Season two is currently ongoing and took the game to the imperial capital of Sotan and then out into the provinces. If season one was a typical borderlands campaign with the added bonus of taking tentative steps down one of the magical paths that the setting allows, season two is all about impressing the great and the good and getting a foot in the murky world of Imperial power politics. Not that the players would give you the impression if you watched them play. They enjoy the adolescent escapism of the pseudo-Dark Ages quite a lot. It’s in keeping with their characters, who are a band of twenty-something males, honest 😀

Copious notes, that will become at least one supplement, probably two (one for each season of play), have been written. But I’ve always felt a nagging sense of guilt that I’ve never done any actual play posts for the games. Then it hit me that one of my favourite Dark Ages sources is the Anglo Saxon Chronicle. This is a year-by-year listing of what happened in Anglo-Saxon England, which Alfred the Great originally commissioned and was continued to be maintained until the mid-12th century. It was written by the monks of several monasteries, so it varies widely in tone and style. Some entries are single sentences, while others, of more eventful years, are short paragraphs. There’s a certain bluntness, combined with a bit of poetic style, that I admire.

So the plan is for each game session is to write up a brief entry, with a quick Explanation section afterwards.

Here’s a taste, with a combined entry for this and last week’s session.

Season 2 Episode 11/12 The Great Goblin Hunt Begins

Bleak season 52 AU. The Great Goblin Hunt begins at Castle Uprising. The Emperor is overseeing the necessary rituals. The night before there is a great Hat Dance in celebration. Many nobles shamed by it. A party of Elves are expelled after it is discovered they went beneath the Caste trying to rescue their friend lost in the Outer Dark


Castle Uprising is a new castle, a square keep made of gleaming stone with a magnificent outer wall, built five years ago and raised up by the magic of the Builder Cult, at the command of the Emperor. It’s a hunting lodge, designed so the Emperor can retreat here and enjoy hunts, about half a day’s journey by coach, horse or canal barge (yes the Empire has a system of poorly maintained canals, inherited in part from the Old Empire). There’s a Vale of the Hunt right next to it, which is artificially stocked for the hunts. It’s loosely based on the real-world Castle Rising in Norfolk, and Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire.

Castle Rising, Norfolk, taken on a family holiday

Castle Rising, Norfolk, taken on a family holiday

The Great Goblin Hunt. Goblins running wild in the Empire of Gatan has always been a problem. Either feral packs from population explosions in their native lands or organised raiding bands led by their Orc brethren from the Goblinoid Strongholds beyond the Empire’s Border. Ten years ago, Emperor Ilmar got so fed up with them that he made an Imperial Proclamation that town criers across the Empire readout. The proclamation classified Goblins as vermin and decreed by law that landowning nobles should appoint a Master of the Goblin Hunt. Their job is to coordinate the local peasants to exterminate any Goblin infestation found upon their lands. A bounty is payable upon the collection of Goblin heads, and the formation of a professional class of Goblin Hunter was encouraged throughout the Empire. Every year the best Goblin Hunters, sponsored by the five Dukes of Gatan, assemble at Castle Uprising in the Imperial Heartlands, near the Imperial Hunting Forest. After a great feast, attended by the Emperor, they enter the Valley of the Hunt, carefully stocked with Goblins and other related creatures.  Whoever brings back the most goblin heads at the end of the day is declared the Great Goblin Hunt winner.

The Hat Dance. At this fifth hunt, the Emperor has commissioned a new dance that is to be performed at the feast the night before the hunt. No one knows what steps the dance will involve, only that they should wear their best and most elaborate hat!

Elves. Not going to say much here about Elves in the Empire of Gatan, but they are from a big forest beyond the Brightspire Mountains, that they stole from a group of Dragons. They have a treaty with the Empire that allows them free passage around it, and settlement in small “Watch Woods” which are effectively part of the Elvish Confederation.  In real-world terms, this gives the individual or small groups of Elves diplomatic immunity. Oh, and they are gits. Posh entitled gits, whose long lives give them license to have fun (as they see it) at the expense of humans (who they see as children). Most Gatanese see them as mysterious hooded strangers who sit in the corner of the local tavern, nursing a drink that never gets drained,

The Outer Dark. According to the Imperial Revelation, the source of all knowledge in the Empire of Gatan, the Underworld is made up of three layers, which are in order to closeness to the surface world.

  • Undersurface, the caves, passageways and chambers directly beneath the surface.
  • Near Dark, a layer deep in the earth where the Real World starts giving way to the Other World of the…
  • The Outer Dark, a hellish Other World of Darkness where the deities of corruption known as the Lords of the Outer Dark hold court over their demon minions.

So whatever that “lost Elf” was up to in the Outer Dark, you can bet it was not good.

Something Wicked this Way comes for Halloween

This believe it or not is my favourite time of year at the moment. The cool down after summer, the wind magically striping the orange and gold leaves off the trees, my birthday in late October, and of course Halloween, an opportunity to tell ghost and horror stories.

The Old Faith promo image

The Old Faith art by Paul “Spookshow71” Tomes

Coming to Kickstarter soon to coincide with Halloween, The Old Faith is a short adventure set in a dark ancient wood. Its a darker tale than usual OpenQuest fare, and certainly contains NO DUCKS. Cover art is by rising star Paul “Spookshow71” Tomes, a detail of the back cover is shown in the teaser above, and the internals are by the amazing Jonny Gray.

Here’s the pitch

Before Maximus, the Divine Emperor, brought the light of the Imperial Revelation, humanity lived like savages under the Old Faith. A dark and bloody religion based upon sacrifices to cruel nature spirits.
The Dark Wood is one of the last holdouts of the Old Faith. Within its confines, who knows what heathen practices go on? Sharan the Curious, a sorcerer of the Imperial Inquisition, has entered the wood, on a quest to root out evil. He’s gone missing, and the Elders of the nearby Woodend village are worried that he has been captured or killed.
Fortunately, the adventurers, Imperial Questors for the Emperor, happen to be passing through Woodend and are contacted by the Elders to find the sorcerer.

The Old Faith is an adventure about exploring an isolated ancient wood and discovering the culture there. I shall be using OpenQuest, a straightforward D100 system. No knowledge of either the system of setting is required.

Although it’s set in the Empire of Gatan setting presented in the main OpenQuest rulebook, it’s fairly self-contained so Referees can drop it in the setting of their choice. One thing though I’m deliberately showing off how Wises, highly proficient casters of Personal Magic, work at their highest level.

So watch out for the sign-up page, either later this week or early next week. Oh yes and there will be Stretch Ghouls not Stretch Goals, this is Halloween after all 😀

UPDATE: I missed the time frame for doing this at Halloween. So the plan now, since it is zine sized (A5) is to take it to Kickstarter’s ZineQuest 2023 in February.

OpenQuest goes to the Conventions!

It’s my autumn convention season here in the UK, here’s what I’m up to.

OpenQuest Quantum: Viva Weird Vegas!

Playing at Furnace 8th October

OpenQuest Quantum is my multi-genre version of OpenQuest that I’m going to be steadily working on over the coming year. This will be its second public outing (the first was a Christmas-themed adventure, Don’t Let the Krampus grind you down that I ran back in Jan).

The Bureau of Time Information Management focuses on Las Vegas of Alternative 23. Most versions of Las Vegas are important to energy flow into their reality. Alternative 23 is especially so and seems to be a hub for the other versions. So the Bureau has an office there, and Agent, that’s your first assignment. Please make the most of it, rookie. Vegas 23 is a great training ground for when you start alternative hopping full-time.

Currently, Alternative 23 is experiencing its hottest summer on record. Lake Mead, 24 kilometres east of the city, is giving up its secrets as the water level drops. The Bureau must resolve some strange secrets for the sake of reality-integrity.

OpenQuest Quantum is a multi-genre D100 game where anything is possible.

OpenQuest: The Old Faith

Playing at Grogmeet, Manchester, 12 November.

This is my Halloween adventure this year. There’s a good chance that it will be up on Kickstarter around the end of October, as long as I get other stuff out the door first. I’ll post more about this in the coming weeks.

Before Maximus the Divine Emperor, brought the light of the Imperial Revelation, humanity lived like savages under the Old Faith.  A dark and bloody religion based upon sacrifices to cruel nature spirits.

The Dark Wood is one of the last holdouts of the Old Faith.  Within its confines, who knows what heathen practices go on?  Sharan the Curious, a sorcerer of the Imperial Inquisition, has entered the wood, on some quest to root out evil.  He’s gone missing, and the Elders of the nearby Woodend village are worried that he has been captured or killed.

Fortunately, the adventurers, Imperial Questors for the Emperor, happen to be passing through Woodend and are contacted by the Elders to find the sorcerer.

The Old Faith is an adventure about exploring an isolated ancient wood and discovering the culture there.  I shall be using OpenQuest, a straightforward D100 system.  No knowledge of either the system of setting is required.

And announcing OpenQuest Online 2022 part 2, Saturday 10th to Sunday 11th December.

Formal details to be announced later this week. Already have two other GMs apart from myself. If you want to ref, drop me a line at

First glimpse of the Ducks

Dan Barker has got his ducks in a row 🙂  This is his male/female pair of Lake Ducks, one of the four main duck cultures from the upcoming Duck adventure/sourcebook The Feathers and the Fury. that is currently being worked on.
A pair of Lake Ducks

A pair of Lake Ducks by Dan Barker

OpenQuest Next, the Winner is…

Back in July during OpenQuest Online with my co-host Paul Mitchener I did a presentation about what would be the next big project after all the Kickstarter stretch goals were delivered. After which high tier backers of the OpenQuest Kickstarter where given the opportunity to vote for which of the five they would like to see.

Here’s the presentation again if you missed it.

The votes are now in, and the winner, by a small nat’s whisker is….

The OpenQuest Monster book

And here’s the voting break down.

I’ve already started the book. Its got a good portion of the art already done, which I’m using as inspiration and I’m slowly doing entries. Its progress is an exercise in slow and consistant, which I think more than any other type of RPG book for a creatures book is a good thing. I write quick rough drafts now, a couple a day when I’m free from other projects, and then come back to them in a couple of months time and reconsider/revise.  The only other thing is that this a book of Generic monsters, not tied to Gatan the example setting, but there will be enough flavour to inspire you to use them in your own games.

As for the close runners up?  Both Dark Corners of the Empire and OpenQuest Quantum are in active development. Dark Corners of the Empire already has a fair bit written, since its my OpenQuest campaign which I’ve been running since April last year. OpenQuest Quantum is a work in progress, with a firm outline of what it is, and bits of writing here and there. Its already been played, I wrote a Christmas themed scenario called “Don’t Let the Krampus Grind you Down” which I ran successfully over last holiday period, and I’m running another adventure called “Viva Weird Vegas” in October at Furnace and posisbly again at Grogmeet in November. Again its writing will be slow and consistant. Giving a definite date and commiting to go heads down to finish it, is what the winner of the poll got.

Levels of detail for Religions in OpenQuest

I’m currently working on OpenQuest Dungeons, which has a quick section on Underworld religions. This got me thinking that OpenQuest has three potential levels of detail when describing Religions for Divine Magic.

Short Write-up. Very brief and to the point. Give enough game information in the form of skills and spells to run at the table – see the Deities List in the OpenQuest Companion (page 38). Referees can then fill in some blanks and modify game information to adapt it to their game. Or they can use it as is, allowing the players to add game fiction and details through play.

Medium Write-up. A bit more in the description, perhaps setting specific, and adding detail about Ranks, which may vary from the usual Lay/Initiate/Priest form. See Heretics of the Imperial Way in the main OQ rulebook (p214)

Long Write-up. This level of detail is where the write-up ties the religion more into the setting. As the previous level of detail but may also include short supporting myths and background. Pantheon write-ups will almost always be of this level of detail because it’s necessary to talk about the relationships between the member deities. See the Imperial Way in OpenQuest

One thing I’m not a fan of, both as a writer and referee, is the third level of detail, which I will never use in OpenQuest. The Extensive Detailed Write-up. This level of detail is where you get a meandering mix of game fiction and rules. It’s confusing and doesn’t let the players have the same level of creativity at the table.

OpenQuest and Mythras?

Over at the RPGPub forum, in their epic BRP Edition Wars thread, The Butcher asked in response to me posting about my poll to determine which Mythras book I’m going to review next over at Sorcerer Under the Mountain blog.

…seeing as you’re the author of Openquest

What makes you choose either Mythras or Openquest as the system for a game? What would you say are the comparative strengths and weaknesses of each?

After a small amount of navel-gazing, and attempting to be straightforward, I gave this answer.

Without going into critical analysis which would be unfair to both games,

Basically, Mythras for me is the spiritual successor to RQ3, a game I loved dearly back in the late 80s and up to the late 90s, that clearly needed a logical tidying up. Mythras is that tidied-up game, and a little bit more 🙂 I tend to use it for games where I want to be a bit more considered and adult.

While OQ is taking BRP Fantasy mainly from Stormbringer which I adored but found a bit broken in places and early Call of Cthulhu (Games Worksop did a lovely edition in the 80s), mixing it up with RQ3’s three magic systems and taking it in all sorts of directions that my own house ruling takes it in.   So OQ fits my own looser GMing style, without completely sacrificing rules and numbers.

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

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 26 other subscribers.