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Announcing the QuestWorlds SRD: the rules-lite and prep-lite RPG engine


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Introducing the Questworlds System Reference Document (SRD), a roleplaying rules engine suitable for you to play across multiple genres.

QuestWorlds is a rules-light RPG system that facilitates beginning play easily, and resolves conflicts in play quickly. It features an abstract, conflict-based, resolution method and scalable, customizable, character descriptions. Designed to emulate the way characters in fiction face and overcome challenges, it is suitable for a wide variety of genres and play styles.

"QuestWorlds is meant to facilitate your creativity, and then to get out of your way", said Chaosium's QuestWorlds line editor Ian Cooper. "It encourages creative input from your players, resulting in an exciting, unpredictable narrative created through group collaboration."

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Genre Packs

Chaosium is keen to encourage publishers and fans to create genre packs using the QuestWorlds engine. The first step is the release of the SRD for the system.

This will be followed up by Chaosium with its own line of Worlds of Wonder genre packs as examples of what is possible with the system.

Other publishers and creators may also use the QuestWorlds system, royalty-free. The QuestWorlds Systems Reference Document (SRD) contains the Questworlds Open Game Licence (QOGL) content for Chaosium’s QuestWorlds role-playing game. This means that you can create your own content derived from QuestWorlds, provided that you comply with the terms of the QOGL, as outlined in the SRD.

Cosmic Zap

For the first of the new Worlds of Wonder genre packs for the QuestWorlds system we are fortunate to have enlisted Diana Jones Award-winning designer and theorist Ron Edwards, creator of the influential and acclaimed Sorcerer RPG. Ron was an early champion of the Hero Wars engine and is a huge fan of the superhero genre, so we asked him to combine his two passions in a genre pack called Cosmic Zap.

Ron Edwards says: “If they were going to get Ron Edwards, they were going to get something else - and what I see is this. HeroQuest (QuestWorlds) is the only role-playing system dedicated to trippy mythic fantasy, its roots firmly embedded in West Coast counter-culture no matter how many gamers try to [muck] that up. And therefore it is the only role-playing system that can be dedicated to trippy cosmic superheroes, and in this case, no matter how many consumer-fans of TV & movies try to [muck] that up either.”

You can find Ron’s exploration of the Cosmic Zap genre of superheroes over at his blog, Adept Play.

Version History

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These rules originated in 2000 as Hero Wars by Robin Laws. A revised edition was published as HeroQuest in 2003, and a new second edition in 2009. In 2015 HeroQuest Glorantha by Robin Laws and Jeff Richard set the HeroQuest rules in Greg Stafford’s world of Glorantha.

QuestWorlds, released as an SRD in 2020, once again makes the rules engine generic, suitable for play across a myriad of genres.

Please note: the Questworlds Open Game License for use of the Questworlds Roleplaying system differs from the Wizards Open Game License and has different terms and conditions.

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16 minutes ago, Archivist said:

When can I get this in a book form.

Considering it came out just a few hours ago, probably not many places 😛

In all seriousness though, they probably won't be releasing the straight SRD as a physical product. If you want it then you'll either have to wait until they make a proper core rulebook, with examples and art and stuff, or print all 70 odd pages yourself.

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24 minutes ago, Ian Cooper said:

We are working on a new core book.

Is it done yet?

</snark, based wholly on how unreasonable we fans can be... >

 

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2 hours ago, g33k said:

Is it done yet?

</snark, based wholly on how unreasonable we fans can be... >

I'll check on the Wyrm's Footnotes ad from 1987 and see when we promised it... it was probably next year 😉

 

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11 hours ago, Ian Cooper said:

 I'll check on the Wyrm's Footnotes ad from 1987 and see when we promised it... it was probably next year 😉

 

Dunno, man...

If you go back far enough, you'll find Chaosium has already produced Questworld.

 

That's like... crossing the streams, or something.

Something Bad.

You'd have to go back in time to kill your grandfather

or take your mom to her highschool prom

Edited by g33k
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6 hours ago, g33k said:

Dunno, man...

If you go back far enough, you'll find Chaosium has already produced Questworld.

The plural makes all the difference... but the idea, of something open that others could utilize, is one reason we liked the name

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7 hours ago, Ian Cooper said:

The plural makes all the difference... but the idea, of something open that others could utilize, is one reason we liked the name

Sounds good

Also, I am now nervous about Cosmic Zap due to your laugh react.  That still happening?

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From the QuestWorlds FAQ:

Quote

There is no fair use to Star Wars.

This isn't even wrong.  Fair use includes parody, for example, and it is perfectly legitimate to create a parody RPG of Star Wars, no matter what nastygrams and FUD Disney's lawyers may spread.

EDIT: In another example of legitimate fair use of Star Wars, Andrew J. Luther discusses on his personal blog how to adapt Star Wars to HeroQuest (non-commercially, of course).

Edited by Travern
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Skimming through the SRD, I must say that it looks like a very good evolution of the system! I like the slight alterations to how Resistances work (no more by-session-table), I like that Chained Contests are now a part of the core rules, and overall, the writing seems clearer.

Still not sure if this will ever become a rules-lite system that works for me (I just don't like the fact that the GM has to make an opposed roll for every test, and there seems to be no going around it, considering how much this mechanism is ingrained in the system). But I'm interested again!

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1 hour ago, Jakob said:

Still not sure if this will ever become a rules-lite system that works for me

I still think that Questworlds can be a very rules-lite system, if you strip away all the complex stuff. The complexity is fine if you want to use it, but it is not essential.

1 hour ago, Jakob said:

I just don't like the fact that the GM has to make an opposed roll for every test, and there seems to be no going around it, considering how much this mechanism is ingrained in the system

I don't bother with that. Instead, I use Simple Tasks to resolve some things, so the Player rolls and I don't. I only roll when the Hero is being actively opposed, or where conditions are difficult.

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1 hour ago, Jakob said:

Still not sure if this will ever become a rules-lite system that works for me (I just don't like the fact that the GM has to make an opposed roll for every test, and there seems to be no going around it, considering how much this mechanism is ingrained in the system). But I'm interested again!

Can you elaborate a little bit why the GM rolling a die is a problem for you. I am interested in the different factors regarding this aspect (GM rolling opposing roll) of QuestWorlds.

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An alternate approach would be to express resistance by deciding the result of the gm "roll." A fairly low resistance could be something like "Fail at 8," middling could be "Success at 12," and so on. It would mirror the way masteres work.

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5 hours ago, jrutila said:

Can you elaborate a little bit why the GM rolling a die is a problem for you. I am interested in the different factors regarding this aspect (GM rolling opposing roll) of QuestWorlds.

There are two aspects to it: For one thing, I just like to roll as little as possible as GM. It's one of the few positive things I took away from the Cypher System (and one of the many positive things I took away from Gumshoe). I feel that it keeps the focus on the players, their characters and achievements and also makes the GMing much easier.

Another slightly irrational gripe: I just can't picture how the Mountain you're trying to climb would succeed, fail or fumble. I know that these are just mechanical categories, but it still is so terribly counter-intuitive. It is just there, and therefore, it shouldn't do anything that is rated in terms of success of failure.

 

@soltakss I always kind of suspected that using such straight rolls would play havoc with the underlying systems, since the RAW seem to discourage them so strongly ...

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1 hour ago, Jakob said:

Another slightly irrational gripe: I just can't picture how the Mountain you're trying to climb would succeed, fail or fumble. I know that these are just mechanical categories, but it still is so terribly counter-intuitive. It is just there, and therefore, it shouldn't do anything that is rated in terms of success of failure.

You can see the "mountain's" degrees of success as the random variations which can affect its difficulty. The mountain rolls a success? It's particularly windy today, and the icy blades of the air threaten to destroy your grip as you climb, sending you plummeting downwards. It failed? Then there's an easy route, sheltered from the winds. A fumble? Oh, it looks like there was some previous traveller who left a marked route complete with rope to help you clamber up.

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7 hours ago, Jakob said:

Another slightly irrational gripe: I just can't picture how the Mountain you're trying to climb would succeed, fail or fumble.

In these cases, it's an abstraction of how difficult the Mountain is to climb/cross (given the circumstances of what the heroes are doing). Kero Fin - nearly impossible. Stormwalk - very high difficulty. Taking the mountain passes by Stormwalk to reach Prax - high.  Then as @Tindalos noted, it becomes the challenges you face during the climb/crossing.  Light winds vs. heavy gales; frigid cold; rockslides or avalanches; a secret path or stair; etc.  A good literary/cinematic example is the Fellowship in LotR trying to cross Mount Caradhras ("the Cruel").

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7 hours ago, jajagappa said:

In these cases, it's an abstraction of how difficult the Mountain is to climb/cross (given the circumstances of what the heroes are doing). Kero Fin - nearly impossible. Stormwalk - very high difficulty. Taking the mountain passes by Stormwalk to reach Prax - high.  Then as @Tindalos noted, it becomes the challenges you face during the climb/crossing.  Light winds vs. heavy gales; frigid cold; rockslides or avalanches; a secret path or stair; etc.  A good literary/cinematic example is the Fellowship in LotR trying to cross Mount Caradhras ("the Cruel").

That makes a lot of sense. But I am used to putting all the factors that haven't been determined in advance in the player's roll (I've long stopped looking at fumbles by players as "they just totally screwed it up", now it's usually "you are very unlucky as a rock loosens beneath your foot and sends you tumbling down" with me.) So I feel I have things like that already factored into the player's roll. However, you could split the characters performance and the random obstacles on two rolls.

I don't know, I guess I'll have to try. I must confess, it still feels more intuitive to me to say "character's trait score = characters performance, fixed target number = difficulty, die roll = all the random factors that make the task easier or harder."

Masteries are another factor, though. Since they make sure that no one with a mastery will fumble on his own accord, they do mitigate my usual gripe with fumbles and failures (being that it just seems unlikely that one time out of twenty, even a grand master will totally screw things up for no good reason). So I might be okay with splitting the random factors on two rolls, after all ..

 

@Runeblogger I could do this, but in this case, it wouldn't really make things easiser, because the second roll would still have to be compared to the Resistence, and both results compared to each other ... it's different with a straight "Both sides roll +skill and compare" scenario, where you can just give the player a positive and a negative die, add everything up and compare it to the opposing skill.

 

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6 hours ago, Jakob said:

So I feel I have things like that already factored into the player's roll.

That approach though will pull you into a simulationist viewpoint (i.e. more like playing RQ).  You really want to just think about the player's level abstractly and then ask yourself how difficult the stated goal should be for that.

6 hours ago, Jakob said:

Masteries are another factor, though. Since they make sure that no one with a mastery will fumble on his own accord, they do mitigate my usual gripe with fumbles and failures

Another reason not to think of this simply from player's roll.  Anything that is a hard challenge should have a difficulty with a mastery that cancels the player's mastery.  They can and should fail or fumble.  It's how you get interesting stories.  And if the player wants to really push to overcome that obstacle, they need to spend Hero Points.

6 hours ago, Jakob said:

it still feels more intuitive to me to say "character's trait score = characters performance, fixed target number = difficulty, die roll = all the random factors that make the task easier or harder."

I had this mindset at first too as it was what was familiar from RQ (and even modeled a bit in HQ1).  I think to really enjoy (and take advantage of) HQ, you need to shift the mindset away from this view.  It's worthwhile to go back through some of the sections talking about the Pass/Fail cycle or some of Robin Laws material "Sharper Adventures in HeroQuest" that was published for one of the Kraken conventions (and I think available from Chaosium) to take this more cinematic/literary approach.

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4 hours ago, jajagappa said:

That approach though will pull you into a simulationist viewpoint (i.e. more like playing RQ).  You really want to just think about the player's level abstractly and then ask yourself how difficult the stated goal should be for that.

 

Actually, I think the HQ approach is somewhat more simulationist than mine - after all, it makes a distinction between the quality of the character's effort and the circumstances (resistance roll). The way I usually think about it, a bad roll by a player doesn't necessarily mean a bad performance by a character; it can also mean an unfortunate gust of wind when he's losing his arrow or the sun in the sword of his opponent blinding him for a fraction of a second.

I prefer that approach because it gives me the option of not letting a character who does something that he is supposed to be good at look bad. No problem with failing, but I kind of dislike if it feels unearned. However, as I wrote, masteries mitigate that, because they mean that a character normally would never fumble, but he can still get a fumble result on a very hard problem.

In fact, my main gripe with HQ is that it feels a little too simulationist for a narrative ruleset; it is interesting, but I still feel that it sits in an uncomfortable place. But on the other hand, that's just my reading impression, and I still very much want to try HQ (or Questworlds, as of now).

 

EDIT: But to be honest, by now im intrigued enough again to make my next rules-lite experiment Questworlds. The more I think about the "both sides roll", the more I can see that it might open up some interesting perspectives!

Edited by Jakob
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On 4/24/2020 at 9:29 AM, Jakob said:

In fact, my main gripe with HQ is that it feels a little too simulationist for a narrative ruleset;

What other narrative systems are you also familiar with, and how would they compare to HQ?

(for the record, I think it's only the GM that has a simulationist or narrative approach... any system itself can be used either way... the main innovations of HQ are (1) to formalize and recommend a narrative approach in the first place, and (2) abandon the whole idea of action scenes' round-by-round resolution (although that wasn't new at the time, actually))

My main gripe with HQ by faaaar is the Mastery notation... It always trips me up. When I read "1W3", I always think "1 mastery plus 3", but of course it's the other way ("3 masteries plus 1"), which, errr, is weird to read? ("one plus masteries 3"?) I just can't get my brain to work.

Edited by lordabdul
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2 hours ago, lordabdul said:

What other narrative systems are you also familiar with, and how would they compare to HQ?

 

On the one hand, there's the heavily narrative one- or few-shot systems like Fiasco, Durance, Polaris - I love those three to bits, but they are very narrow in what you can and can't do with them, so they're not a really good comparision to HQ.

Then I know DungeonWorld and some other pbtA games (but mainly played DW), which hit, in many ways, my sweet spot for narrative systems in really sticking to their core mechanic. However, they also tend to be pretty limited in scope - they are usually structured around "moves" which do very specific things in the narrative (moves are not necessarily character traits, but often), and they really need to be tailored the the genre and setting.

Then there's Fate, which, honestly, I just don't like - it seems so elegant when reading, but at the table, it always feels clunky and mechanistic to me, and I don't like that it is so centered around its Fate points economy. However, Fate is a good point of comparision for HeroQuest: It is actually a more classical system with skills (and Aspects, which are more similar to traits in HQ, but work very differently), but also very much about enabling a narrative flow comparable to that of a pulp/adventure story instead of simulation some fantasy reality.

The thing in HQ is that it gives you lot of formalized options for conflict resolution, and some, at first glance, look wildly complicated (I have yet to fully wrap my head around group extended conflicts). What they mean with regards to hat happens within the fictional world is very open-ended, which is a great thing, because it means that you can decide which resolution mechanism exactly to use based on how much time you want to spend with the conflict and not based on whether the characters are fighting under water, climbing a mountain, doing a spell duel or having a debate with the High-Priest. It's actually not that interesting? Make it a simple conflict, however complicated events within the game world might seem.

Now, that is great. But coming at the rules with the desire to understand them, it is hard to grasp the advanced rules parts and how and when to use them. And they do feel simulationist to me, even they they are not about simulating some fictional reality, but about simulating a certain kind of narrative flow. Which is fine, as I said, but I'm not sure if I feel the need to go into the detail as much as things like group intended conflicts would have me.

On the other hand, as I said, I don't really need to use them - if I stick to simple conflicts and chained contests, everything feels quite straightforward.

 

EDIT: Oh, what I meant with "HQ feels a little more simulationist to me than my approach" actually is: I feel okay with having one roll for all the "random factors" - how the character performs in that particular instance and whether the problem got harder or easier by some accident (that's, as I mentioned, how I tend to interpret fumbles in "classical" games - they usually don't mean that the character screwed it up, but something bad happened to screw with him). HQ seems more granular to me in having one roll for the characters performance and one for random stuff involving the circumstances. That seems, in a wider sense, a little more "simulationist" to me.

Edited by Jakob
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