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Before Rough Quests

by Sergio Mascarenhas
Apr 14,2005



Before I actually start designing Rough Quests it may interesting which game systems I'll use for inspiration. Not that hard to decide: it's the ones I have with me. Which are 63... or more if I downloaded or received further games after sending the present column to RPGnet:

25 fantasy games: Agone; Ars Magica 4th ed.; Cuthroat, the Shadow Wars; d6 Fantasy; Dominion Rules Beta Release; DragonQuest; Dragonspawn 1st ed.; HARP; HeroQuest; Land Without a King Lite; Legendary Adventure v. 2; Mythweaver; Pendragon; Prince Valiant; Rune; Runebearer; RuneQuest 3rd ed.; RuneQuest Slayers; Spiritual Warfare v. 3.1.1 2nd ed. Revised; Steve Perrin Quest Rules (aka SPQR); Tchalrria; The Dying Earth; The Shadow of Yesterday; Tribe 8 1st ed.; Tunnels & Trolls.

20 generic games: Alternacy; D100 Rules System v. 2; Encounter Critical 2nd ed.; Fate (a FUDGE-based game); Formless; FUDGE; GURPS Lite 4th ed.; HERO Sidekicker; Imaginality; Imagination's Toybox Lite Revised; the Ladder; Mnemonic; Multiverser Demo (why do I keep this thing with me?); Nugget; PDQ Core; Risus; Savage Worlds Test Drive; Tri-stad dx; the Window; Worlds of Wonder.

17 non-fantasy, non-generic games: A|State Lite v. 2; Anarchy; Black Ops.; Contes de Fees; Dreamwalker; Feng Shui; Ghost Light (inspired by Risus); Heavy Ordonance; Hellboy (inspired by Ghostbusters); Into the Shadows (based on d6); Malfices; Monkey, Ninja, Pirate, Robot Preview; Shadows; Sorcerer; Terra Primate (based on Unisystem); The Classical Matrix Game; There is no Spoon; World of Darkness (the current Storytelling version).

And did I mention my own past or current projects like The Travels of Mendes Pinto, Amazing Journeys or Donjonfeist?

As I said, these are the games I have with me. The rest of my collection is thousands of kilometers away in Lisbon. It includes games I whish I had here (BD&D, R've de Dragon, RuneQuest 2nd ed., Skyrealms of Jorune 2nd ed., WFRP I'll bring to India some of these when I go to Portugal on vacation), others that could be useful but I can live without (Call of Cthullu 5.5th ed., Exalted, Hawkmoon, Ringworld, Stormbringer 1st and 5th eds., Toon), and others that I don't think are of use for the project (D&D 3rd ed., Hero Wars, MERP, Talislanta 4th ed., and several more).

I suppose that these listings give you an idea to why I choose fantasy as the genre for Rough Quests. Furthermore, I keep buying games. As these come, they may or may not contribute to the Rough Quests project. (Notice also that I used to have a lot more digital games but some problems with a change in computers lead me to loose many of them. I may re-collect it.)

Granted, my knowledge of those systems varies widely. Some I know very well, others I know from a couple of readings, and others I just skimed through. In other words, I need to order the 57 systems I have with me according to how inspirational they will be for Rough Quests. Let's see...


The core inspiration will come from RuneQuest 3rd ed. No, I will not attempt to compete with Stephen Durrall's Deluxe BRP, and that on two accounts: My game will be fantasy, it will not be a generic game system like DBRP; even if RQ and BRP are the core inspiration I will move in very different directions from what you can find in Chaosium games.

On the other hand, there's a whole list of games I think will hardly inspire Rough Quests -- but I may be mistaken since I plan to give them a second look as I move forward with the project. These include games such as Agone, Ars Magica, DragonQuest, RQ Slayers, Pendragon (in this case the core is just BRP with d20 and the passions and personality traits are not exactly to my liking), just to name some of them.

There are games that will certainly not be inspirational. For instance, I don't see what I can find useful in HERO, GURPS, Tri-Stat or Terra Primate (my access to Unisystem) since what they have to offer either moves in design directions I don't like (point-buy, ads/disads, etc.) or is redundant because I can find similar features in my main sources of inspiration. On the other hand, games like the Window are too free-form and lite for my purposes.

There are games I'm keeping apart because I'm reserving them for other projects. It's the case of both Prince Valiant and Malfices, two games that are my main sources of inspiration for my SLA Operations project. (Minor inspiration for this project will come from HeroQuest and Spiritual Warfare.)

All in all, the games that I can see providing inputs to Rough Quests other than RQ3 (and RQ3-derived games like SPQR or Worlds of Wonder) are:

BD&D. The idea of roles (classes and races), so important in the first ever rpg, certainly requires some thought.

d6 Fantasy. No, I'm not exactly a fan of the d6 system, but the paranormal rules are interesting. I will take them in consideration when I'll work on Rough Quests' magic rules.

The Dying Earth. Most often than not, Robin D. Laws games have some great twist into them. TDE is no exception.

Alternacy. In one of my first columns for RPGnet I pointed to a very interesting feature of this game LINK, its advancement rules. I'll look at it for Rough Quests.

R've de Dragon. I just love the scalling mechanics.

Exalted. A mediocre setting and a flawed system (but how many times do I need to say that this is just my opinion?), yet the character creation rules are solid and there's a tweak or two I need to look at again.

Skyrealms of Jorune. Don't ask me for what purpose, I just know I'll find something other than the Isho rules that will leave its inprint on Rough Quests.

Stormbringer 1st ed. . Those damn' rules for handling demons...

Hawkmoon. The pseudo-science just needs to be taken into account.

Rune. Relative scaling is one of my holy grails of rpg design, and Rune followed that path. It needs to re-checked. And did I say that Rune is a RDL design, the third in this list?

That's it, you know from where I'm coming. Next month I'll delve a little more into the design approach that I'll follow in the Rough Quests project, but before that it's time for...


Given the nature of the Rough Quests project, I guess I should pay my tribute to those people that influnced me the most in my design efforts, without them I would not be writing this column. Who are they?

Steve Parrin started it all. He was the original designer of RuneQuest and -- did I say this before? -- RQ was my first ever RPG (or not. Technicaly my first ever rpg was the BRP booklet that came with RQ). Steve's design was one of the most influencial in the history of rpgs. I may not be a fan of his latter developments with the system he originaly created (I'm referring to his SPQR rule set that can be found at http://www.perrinworlds.com/; it has some nice features, but it also has a good deal of needless improvements) but I will never fail to praise him for his original game. Fortunately he is still active and involved in rpg creation (as far as I can tell, his lattest design is Black9 Ops and you can get it somewhere in the net if you search for it).

The second person that deserves a special mention is Greg Stafford. He not only created Glorantha, the gameworld associated with the first incarnations of RQ, but he was also a great game designer himself. We own him Pendragon and Prince Valiant, two excellent games, among the best. Prince Valiant in particular is an enduring source of inspiration on how to design simple but meaty games.

The third cooky goes to Sandy Petersen. He created Call of Cthulu, thus showing the flexibility of BRP. With this game he also introduced one of the most influencial rules in the history of rpg design, the SAN rule (its influence cannot be understated; the SAN rule demonstrated that we can innovate by going completely out of the mold). Sandy was also a very kind person when two decades ago I sent my questions on RQ to Chaosium by snail mail. I always got his repply, patiently addressing the ton of issues I wanted addressed, no matter how minute and marginal these might be. Finally, he designed the only computer game I really loved (other than Pong, Solitaire and Minesweeper): Darklands.

My final word of appreciation goes to a person I met in the old RuneQuest-Digest, my main window into the rpg world before RPGnet. In that discussion list I proposed to start a series where I would present an interesting historical event and explain how it could be ported to Glorantha (my first attempt at a rpg column, actually). There were a couple of people that showed an interest in this idea. After a couple of stories one of them said that he would not be able to provide feddback in the future due to his buzzy schedule. I didn't know at the time that his schedule was overloaded with the design of the new Gloranthan rpg, Hero Wars. His name is Robin D. Laws. Latter I came to admire his designs, but that's another story.

All this people are very influencial in my rpg system design thinking. To them my tribute and the wish to see new games of their workings.

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What do you think?

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