Fun and Frolics at the Savage North

In support of the OpenQuest Bundle of Holding that is currently running until Tuesday 4th April, here’s the fourth of a series of posts this time about how the OpenQuest module The Savage North was written.

The Savage North was the first OpenQuest module that I released shortly after the games 1st edition came out. During OpenQuest’s final stages of production my thoughts turned to the games first scenario release. Life and Death, which was intended as the first release, was still in the writing stage and was bogged down in authorial angst 🙂  Me and John had already been chatting about our mutual love of D100 games at our weekly lunches and John mentioned his Conan RQ3 game that he had run. From his recollections they sounded like a lot of fun. He also mentioned that he had written them up (like he had done for his Cthulhu Rising scenarios). My eyes lit up at this. A quick conversion from RQ3 to OQ, a new setting to replace the Conan material and Lovecraftian Monsters (that’s right John’s original  adventure featured Dark Young of Shub Niggurath and Deep Ones as adversaries) was all that was needed. Thus the Savage North setting full of Crusading Nights, Pseudo-Viking Warriors and blood sucking Demons from the Outer Dark was born.  John did the art as well as the scenarios and it was fun to work with him on it.

Yes unpretentious old school fun is where I would put The Savage North on the scale of OQ releases. It has dungeons, it has a wilderness trek and it has a deadly dungeon with a big bad boss monster to challenge to prevent the end of the world.  This promotional comic, made up of John’s art, which I posted before the books’s release taps into that unbridled sense of fun. Check it out in the Starter Line up of the OpenQuest Bundle of Holding 🙂


Next: The Company


Post Easter Update

Just over one week to go on the OpenQuest Bundle of Holding. To repeat everything I’ve released for OpenQuest in pdf at crazy low prices that I’ll never be repeating.

Just noticed that Paul Mitchener’s  new 11 page mini-supplement for OpenQuest The Clockwork Palace has been added to the Starter OpenQuest bundle (which goes for $8.95 which is pretty much everything for OQ except The Crucible of Dragons which is in the Bonus Collection).

Also the updated OpenQuest Basic book, which now features full colour art, is in the Starter bundle (if you downloaded it previously through your file has been updated 🙂 ).

Also in case you missed them, I wrote some posts about the making of the various OpenQuest books to introduce them to people interested in the OpenQuest Bundle of Holding. More of these to come (I think Savage North is next on my list).

For those of you following the progress of Crypts and Things Remastered there will be an update later in the week, probably at the weekend (April 2nd-3rd). Lot of work being done in the background that isn’t quite pulled together yet, so that’s why I’m holding off saying anything for now.


A Matter of Life and Death

l&D coverIn support of the OpenQuest Bundle of Holding that is currently running until Tuesday 4th April, here’s the third of a series of posts about how the OpenQuest module Life and Death was written.

Life and Death  had two very direct and primary design goals when I started writing it back in 2007.

  • A desire to write and publish a RuneQuest adventure. I’ve been a RQ nut for years and with the release of the System’s Resource Document for the Mongoose version of RQ (aka MRQ SRD) and the maturing of the pdf/pod publishing model, that made it practical for one man creator outfits to publish stuff rather than risk thousands on the traiditional printing press model, put up the green light on that on.
  • Disillusionment with Glorantha as a muse. I had been playing Glorantha for a good 25 solid by this time and I was sick of it. Sick of the constraining setting assumptions, sick of the self righteous fan boys I was meeting at cons (my primary outlet at that time) and just a whole hunk of jadedness that you naturally get after being a bit obsessed for a good quarter of a century.

So I proceeded to stick my head down during my lunch hour at work and hammered the keyboard for a couple of years on and off, working out how to write a presentable setting/adventure pack as I did.

These are the things I learnt on the way.

  • I like my settings short sweet and flavoursome. The setting for L&D is 15 pages long and I have a general  rule that the basic setting set up chapter (which explains the fundamentals and includes character generation an other rules changes) for OQ adventures should be no more than about 30 pages long.
  • I’m a big Zombie film fan. Lots of the dead guys in the adventures, and the whole thing is a Fantasy Zombie Apocalypse.
  • I like big themes in my adventures, even if they are off screen and the players don’t make much of it. In Life and Death the players are at the heart of a choice that could see the resurrection of their world, which is in a sort of undead state, or its final damnation. Now that’s something I have got from Gloranthan and hold to even in my smallest of D&D adventures.
  • It is possible to write an D100 scenario without the temptation to write a big old railroady experience, that usually results in the rather linear “here’s a location stuff happens at it – then you go here and some more stuff happens – and finally you know to go here and have a big resolving confrontation (if you’ve been following the plot that the writer has laid down”)” way that some of the more poorly written D100 adventures adhere to.  L&D death has a structure that while still making sense upon a simple read through allows the players to be at the heart of the adventure and make their own way through it while still allowing the GM to bring it to a dramatic and meaningful conclusion when it needs be. Figuring this out is what took the bulk of my development time and the thing Im happiest about (oh and the aforementioned Zombie Apocalyse).

Because I was so intensely driven by L&D it was the second module that I released for OpenQuest and one I feel that has quietly slipped under the radar in many respects.  So if you’ve not experienced its wonders, check it out in the OpenQuest Bundle of Holding, where its heavily discounted until Tuesday 4th April.


Genesis of the River of Heaven

In support of the OpenQuest Bundle of Holding that is currently running until Tuesday 4th April, here’s the second of a series of posts about how our D100 Sci-fi game, River of Heaven (which is included with its supplements in the bundle) came about.

Jon Hodgson's River of Heaven cover

Jon Hodgson’s River of Heaven cover

Science Fiction was a big part of my upbringing as a young gamier in the 80s and in some ways a more accessible and immediate part than Fantasy. It’s easy to forget that it’s only been recent that we’ve had a bounty of Fantasy films and TV series.  In the 80s that sort of stuff was books and roleplaying games. Sci-fi had already hit the mainstream in terms of TV and Film, and as well as a solid base of literature to dip into, TV programmes such as Dr Who, Blakes 7, Space 99 as well as comics such as 2000AD and Starblazer were readily available and eagerly consumed on a weekly basis.

It was also really strange that my early gaming habits didn’t feature sci-fi at all.  I found Traveller too dry for my tastes and FASA’s Star Trek game to fiddly. The only one that got any time at my table was Games Workshop’s Judge Dredd Roleplaying game, due to my group’s shared love of this character from 2000AD, which was intensely played for six months to the point it we were burnt out on it.  When I got into Call of Cthulhu in the late 80s, Chaosium’s Ringworld game briefly crossed my radar via adverts in White Dwarf buy I certainly didn’t see sight nor sound of it in our local Games Workshop.

And so this pattern was repeated throughout the 90s and 00s. Traveller remained too dry for me and other sci-fi games were either too obscure or fiddly to catch my attention. I dallied with West End Games’ Star Wars, but it wasn’t anything too serious. Besides by this time I had a serious Gloranthan RuneQuest habit that I spent most of my time feeding.

In the early 2000s one of the players in a Delta Green game I was part of introduced me to Cthulhu Rising by John Ossoway, which was a fan made Cthulhu meets Aliens/Bladerunner that was published by Chaosium as part of their monograph range. It was a pitch perfect serious but accessible sci-fi setting. I already loved the system from my RQ love affair and to walk around the mean streets of the not too far future that was depicted in Cthulhu Rising rang all my bells too. Unfortunately we only played a couple of sessions but it stuck in my memory and I put it down as one to explore – once I had run that final epic RQ campaign that I was planning .

I’d almost forgotten about Cthulhu Rising when in 2005 I actually met John at the first Furnace convention in Sheffield and learnt that like me he was from Manchester and actually worked just down the road. So we arranged to meet up once a week and a series of chats both personal and about our gaming were had. One of the things John raised early on was did I think Cthulhu Rising could use the Mongoose RuneQuest SRD to become a standalone game? Yes I did, for I had just finished writing the first draft of OpenQuest. So more lunchtime chats and then John came to me with a new idea.

By this point he was pretty burnt out with Cthulhu Rising, which had already taken up up 5+ years of his gaming life, and he wanted to put out a less dark more hard sci-fi game and would I be interested in publishing it. So I asked him give me an elevator pitch of what the game was and why I should play it. So he quickly described River of Heaven a Pre-Singularity/Pre-Transhuman setting, where the drama came from the fact that the human society was near those tipping points, and while it was enjoying a Golden Age of Space Exploration, The Bright Age as it’s called in the timeline, there we forces at the edges looking to make things look a lot less happy. The setting while firmly human centric had in the past had the touch of enigmatic alien races which had left traces.

John wanted to use  OpenQuest  as a rules set because its flexibility and we were both keen to make it so players familiar with OQ can move straight to River of Heaven and easily get the rules concepts. For example the Augmentations, biological and nanotech based enhancements that all characters have, are based off Battle Magic rules at their heart and John used the Ready Made Concepts system of OpenQuest (which is pretty much an optional system there) to outline the iconic professions of the River of Heaven setting.   Don’t just think though that River of Heaven is a Sci-Fi version of OpenQuest (that’s not what I wanted). John wrote big chapters on Transport/Equipment and Setting to make RoH its own thing.

Talking of the Setting we decided early on to paint River of Heaven’s default setting in broad strokes. We had tired of settings that detailed every last interesting detail, leaving no space for the GM to create their own ideas. We had the fact that Space is big on our side and because setting doesn’t have Faster than Light drives then we only have to detail a system at a Time. The core rule book only details (with scenario seeds) the Sol system and nearby Alpha Centauri system (or the Kenturan Hegemony as it’s called ).  Sol is a mess of old National Powers fighting over the planets, since an ecologically damaged Earth is no longer viable. The Kenturan Hegemony is ruled by a Byzantine like culture, which is made of noble Houses who struggle for dominance. The two systems share some of the same organisations, such as the Space Pilot’s Guild, so there’s a natural connection between the two systems.

John put a lot of effort into a core rule book which was at the time of its release the biggest project we had undertaken. So finally it was decided to do a Kickstarter to pay for the iconic colour art of Peter Frain, and the full colour layouts that John (who is a graphic designer by trade). As an unexpected bonus, my friend Keef, an electronic musician, who was initially asked to do a ‘theme’ tune for the Kickstarter video got carried away and wrote a whole soundtrack for the game, about 100 minutes of music which is available via bandcamp.

Overall while it’s been a huge undertaking, it took about eight years of solid development, I find River of Heaven highly satisfying and coming full circle meets what I want out of a Sci-Fi game.

Curious to see if River of Heaven meets your expectations of what a Sci-Fi Roleplaying game should be? Then  check out River of Heaven in the Bundle of Holding.

Related Links

Why OpenQuest?

Jon Hodgson's OpenQuest cover that graced the 1st Editon and the current OpenQuest 2 Basic Edition

Jon Hodgson’s OpenQuest cover that graced the 1st Editon and the current OpenQuest 2 Basic Edition

In support of the OpenQuest Bundle of Holding that is currently running until Tuesday 4th April, here’s the first in a series of posts that looks directly at the books that are on offer in that Bundle.  This post looks at where it all started: OpenQuest.

I’m a life long D100 fan from my introduction via RuneQuest 2 in the 80s, playing Call of Cthulhu and RuneQuest from the late 80s through the 90s. For a long time heavily house ruled D100 was my game of choice.

Then in late 2006 a strange thing happened. My D100 gaming was on life support, I was dabbling heavily in Narrative Gaming via HeroQuest, since Glorantha was my muse at that time, and then suddenly RuneQuest came back. After being absent since the early 90s, when a crisis ridden Chaosium dropped it, Mongoose Publishing gained the license from its owner the venerable Greg Stafford. Because Mongoose had risen using the Open Gaming License during the halcyon days of the D20 revolution, they made the decision to create a System Resource Document (SRD) of the rules, effectively opening up their version of RuneQuest.

Initially I used the Mongoose RuneQuest SRD (MRQ SRD) as a basis for my scenario Life and Death (which also features in the current OpenQuest Bundle). Print on Demand publishing via Lulu had just opened up to me and the plan was to use it to sell Life and Death. Then I got thinking “Why don’t I quickly whizz through the MRQ SRD and write-up my house ruled system and make it available”? So this is what I did over a summer of lunchtimes.

My design goals broadly were:

  1. A rule set that could act as a common language for existing D100 fans. Therefore there was strong influence from old RQ2/RQ3 and some of the more playable aspects of Stormbringer as well as my own common sense house-ruling (the glue that held the bits together).  This was important to me, since in the late 2000s D100 was really on life support, Chaosium was focused on Call of Cthulhu and Mongoose RQ never got widespread acceptance, and many of my friends on the UK Convention circuit were D100 fans.
  2. Something that could teach the joys of D100 Fantasy gaming to new players, both old and new. So the idea was that the game was accessible to some one who had not played fantasy roleplaying adventure games before and old hands who had spent most of their time in the closed class driven worlds of Dungeons and Dragons, who wanted to try out a D100 system but were put off by the perceived complexity.
  3. Something that suited my own gaming tastes yet could be taken apart for ideas by other D100 fans. Being humble and honest that I didn’t expect anyone else to use the game as written so I designed it to be modular and easily broken up into bits that could be used elsewhere.
  4. A system that used the best practices of old editions while fixing some of the shortcomings of those rules with my own house rules and modern gaming standards.

As a result I set out to write simple version of D100 gaming and that intial version of the game was called SimpleQuest. After a chat at a con with my friend Tom Zunder, who basically called me on my plan to have some bits Open licensed (under the OGL) and other bits (like the setting) Closed, it was decided to call the game OpenQuest – to reflect that the whole of the text (setting and all) would be Open. I think it also nicely sums up the Open style of classless game play. It also reinforces my first goal, which why such fine games as Cakebread & Walton’s Clockwork & Chivalry (which uses OpenQuest as its base and then upscales it to meet the political reality and black powder technology  of the Early Modern Period, resulting in their Renaissance system) and Kristian Richard’s Age of Shadow (again a modified OpenQuest system which models Elves, Dwarfs and Humans against a Dark Lord and his creations: Sillmarillion with the Tolkien filed off).

In 2009 the first version of the game was released, with art by Simon Bray who stuck to the brief to keep it “Old School” both in that first black and white version and the colour OpenQuest 2 that followed in 2012.[check release dates]

OpenQuest 2, the current version of the game, grew out of feedback from the fans. I had been so successful with my 2nd goal that extra explanation for players coming from D&D was required. OQ2 spends extra time explaining how to get the best out of the character generation and development system, how characters grew from dirtcrawlers to demi-gods and how magic fits in – from low magic settings where magic is a rare and powerful commodity to high magic settings were magic permeates the fabric of reality and everyone is adept at manipulating a bit of it to do even the most mundane jobs.

I was brought up on big self-contained rules book courtesy of Games Workshop in the 1980s, and OpenQuest and the games based on it continue that tradition. OpenQuest 2 Deluxe is a 262 page book with an iconic wrap round cover Dragon with Elric like Sorcerer King by Jon Hodgson.  The rules light nature of OpenQuest really pays off here, with a complete set of rules (with three magic system), a complete fantasy bestiary , copious player and GM advice, a quick-setting and even a starting adventure.  That be said if you find big game books intimidating and/or want a nice small concise version in 6 inch by 9 inch US Tradepaper back format to use at the game table/fit in your man bag then OpenQuest Basic Edition is right up your street.

If this sounds up your street check out OpenQuest in the Bundle of Holding.

NEXT: Genesis of the River of Heaven

OpenQuest Bundle of Holding, through Tuesday April 5th

Big news! OpenQuest, River of Heaven, The Company and all the adventures are part of a Bundle of Holding, until Tuesday April 5th

Through Tuesday, April 5, we present the OpenQuest Bundle, featuring the comprehensive OpenQuest OGL-licensed tabletop roleplaying rules system from D101 Games inspired by RuneQuest. Easy to learn and fast-playing, OpenQuest extends the original percentile-based fantasy system (made popular in Call of Cthulhu and many other RPGs) to support modern-day and science fiction settings. Pay just US$8.95 get all four titles in our Starter Collection (retail value $34) as DRM-free .PDF ebooks:

OpenQuest 2 Deluxe (retail price $15): The complete 262-page Second Edition rulebook with fast-playing, easy-to-learn systems based on RuneQuest. As a convenience to our customers, we also include the free 170-page OpenQuest Basic rules in a newly updated color version that debuts in this offer.
OpenQuest Adventures (retail $7): Four complete scenarios that adapt the OQ system to other genres and settings — including the original D100 world, Glorantha!
The Savage North (retail $12): Sword-and-sorcery adventures in the frozen waste. A complete self-contained setting, including four adventures.

And if you pay more than the threshold (average) price, which is set at $18.95 to start, you’ll level up and also get our entire Bonus Collection with six more titles (retail value $57) that expand the OpenQuest system from fantasy to the modern day and beyond the Solar System:

Crucible of the Dragons (retail $12): Explorations of the Isle of Pharae, a 144-page Old School fantasy sandbox setting in the tradition of Clark Ashton Smith and Ray Harryhausen.
The Company (retail $15): Modern warfare and paramilitary security operations in hotspots across the globe.
River of Heaven (retail $15): Transhumanist hard-sf space opera in the 28th Century. We also include the River of Heaven adventures The Last Witness (retail $5), Reunion (retail $5), and A Message From Furthermost (retail $5), a new deep space search-and-rescue mission that debuts in this offer.

Open disclosure: Don’t wait too long to open up your wallet (or payment account), because this OpenQuest Bundle offer ends Tuesday, April 5.

New Releases Monday 21st March

Being released tomorrow:

OpenQuest Basics- Revised with Full Colour art!

A Message from Furthermost – A River of Heaven Scenario by John Ossoway.

The Clockwork Palace – Any OpenQuest Adventure Location, with new cult, magic, creatures, personalities and scenario seeds, by Paul Mitchener.

Watch this space for more details.

The Clockwork Palace by Paul Mitchener
At the edge of the city stands the Clockwork Palace, a huge building made not of stone but of brass. Over a mile long, it is an intricate mechanism of clocks, levers, hydraulics, and only the clockwork god knows what else.
The uses of some parts of the mechanism are obvious. Clocks are everywhere within the palace, mechanical men guard the automatic doors, and an orrery (a mechanical model of the planetary system) dominates the main entrance lobby.

But even those who live there, the Clockmakers, know few of the Palace’s ancient secrets. Nor do they know its original function. Was it a temple to a mechanical god? Was it itself a god? Did the Clockmakers once build the Palace, or did they move there, before even their accurate records began?

This short supplement for OpenQuest details the Clockwork Palace, its mechanical magic, the Clockmakers, and half a dozen adventure outlines linked to the palace.
You can use it in any OpenQuest fantasy game where such a part mechanical, part magical wonder fits in.

A Message from Furthermost by John Ossoway
Praise Kane the First of Us, Praise the Guilds.

Your team has been assembled by Father Francisco of Special Circumstances.
The Guild Council has ordered a live team to investigate the loss of contact with the Guildship Tannhäuser. No one has dared attack a Guild Stepship in centuries. Special Circumstances are taking no chances.
You go in, you establish what has happened, you recover the crew and as much data as possible. You’ll be operating on your own and there will be no reinforcements.
Business as usual.

A Message from Furthermost is an adventure for River of Heaven Science Fiction Roleplaying Game. It is self-contained, and comes with six pregenerated characters if you want to pick it up and play. It can also easily dropped into an existing campaign.

The Message from Furthermost, cover by Peter Frain

The Message from Furthermost, cover by Peter Frain