Nearly four years ago, when I moved to Colorado, I started a game of D&D for my family. When helping my sister (17yo) build a character, she asked “Can I play a Leaf Princess?” I did not have a good answer for her, so I said “D&D says no.” (well, it actually says ‘not without a bit of hard work, are you sure can’t just play an elf?’) “Why not?” was her follow up question, and I did not have a good answer at that time for that one either. My answers now include rambling about Verisimilitude and Mechanics, about the history of the forgotten realms, and, most importantly “Quest says yes.”
Quest is a new RPG that I learned about when I walked into my FLGS and was offered the book. My pseudo-boss needed me to see if it was an RPG worth stocking and selling. So I took the book, read it, and, well, this is my report/review.
Short answer: Quest is good. It might not be a good fit as your main system, but it’s worth having on your shelf.
A simple game…
Quest is a much simpler game than a lot of the big names. This might be the simplest RPG I’ve seen a book for. I think I’ve seen simpler games, but they’re usually just in a web page or in an appendix, not anything that has an ACTUAL product. Characters have a maximum of four numbers that they have to know about, and one of those numbers stars at 10 for everybody and rarely changes. Compare this to the minimum of 10 numbers that you need for D&D, and it is obviously a simpler game.
Some of that simplicity comes in the characters. There are no modifiers or ability scores, so whenever the die is rolled, the result on the face is the answer. No arithmetic required. This means that there isn’t a mechanical difference being the smart and weak hero, and the brawny and dumb hero. Those are just role play choices, not mechanical ones.
There are some choices that can be made, making characters different from each other. These are called abilities and the makers of the game hope you bought the deck of cards that go with it, because otherwise, it’s going to be a bit of work to track things. Luckily, the digital version has a printable deck. It’s possible to play without it, but having the cards made things a lot easier in my test game.
The way abilities are chosen means you can have a lot of variation, even with multiple characters using the same “role.” Characters start with 6 abilities, chosen from their various paths. The Fighter, for example, has 5 paths: Dueling, Tactics, Camaraderie, Leadership, and Body. Each of those has 4-5 different abilities you can take, so your Fighter can be very different from your friends. So even while the game is “simple” it can have some serious variation, and while the effects are all written to fit on a card, you can put some powerful abilities on a card.
I think one of Quest’s strengths might be initially perceived as a weakness. The game’s visual design is very different to the majority of RPGs that I’ve seen. There is a lot of whitespace, there is a lot of variation in sizes of text, and, frankly, it appears there is a worryingly low amount of information density. We’re used to books that are trying to cram as much information into each page as possible.
Quest, on the other had, has chosen a different path. Instead of trying to fit everything into their book, It looks like they asked “What if we had all the pages we needed, what would we do?” And there are some really cool things they do with it. For instance, on page 14-15, there is a two page spread that has 7 sentences and 4 pictures, and provides the best and clearest description of relative distance that I’ve EVER seen in an RPG.
One impressive thing they do is there is no thought that is broken up by a page flip. All the elements of their book, all of the rules and explanations fit the whole of an idea on a 2 page spread, then dedicated the next two pages to a different concept. For people new to RPGs, this is a great way to display information. For people used to hunting for mechanics spread across multiple pages, it’s a bit disturbing.
Child and Adult Accessible
Is it a good first game? When I was first handed this book, I was told it was a game for children. I slightly disagree with that. I think calling any piece of work “for children” because it’s simple is degrading. Instead, I would describe it as “Child Accessible.” The rules are simple enough that any child should be able to interact with the game. All they have to do is state their one action a round. If they can read, they can use the ability cards, and learn strategy..
Will older players enjoy the game? There is some crunch there, as different abilities have various interplay with how the player and the group play. Most of the gameplay, however, is between the Guide and the players, not rules or recommendations, just the interplay. Which, if you trust your table and have a lot of fun with them, should make it easier to have that interaction. If the rules are the only think that has been keeping your group together on the other hand, this might make things worse. Your mileage is going to vary here.
Things I love about Quest
- Abilities on cards: While doing my family test game, I loved the cards. Normally, when trying to figure out how a clever use of abilities effects the game, I have to open a book and find the ability or spell, and then read the thing, but instead, I could hold out my hand, get handed the card, and have ALL of the rules in question. If it was a question of how two things interacted, I could be handed both things. Super easy for me to adjudicate. This design also lets their character sheets be so simple, as no one has to write down what abilities do, as they have the cards.
- Bartering: I love the idea of no money, with a hand wave for small things like drinks and inn stays. 7th Sea did it as well, but where they had a Wealth system that was sorta okay for dealing with big items. In Quest, I like that heroes acquire trinkets that they can trade. It saves from having to create a money system, it allows items to vary in price, and it can be scaled up and down depending on desired game complexity. It also limits players from abusing item systems as having magic items limits the amount of treasure they can gather
- Legendary Abilities: There are some abilities that are locked until the Guide chooses to let the player have them. They are super powerful things, and make good rewards for personal stories and quests. I’ve been talking about this at my tables for D&D recently, and oh, look, they have it here.
- Simple monsters: The NPCs tend to be 2 numbers, and maybe some keywords that are super obvious what they mean. That means you can use the same numbers for goblins, space marines, FBI Agents, or anything else you may need, just with describing them differently.
Things that worry me
- Deck Required: It doesn’t come out and say it, but it looks like you either need to have copies of the book or a deck of their cards to make life as simple as possible. The cards are included in a print version with the digital copy, but there’s little to indicate outright that you need this accessory to play efficiently.
- Flaws: The flaws system looks like it could cause trouble for some DMs. D&D has been fighting a battle against “It’s what my character would do” for decades, and this seems to introduce character flaws as if that battle hadn’t happened. Granted, Quest has a good “How to be a good player page” but still, it worries me.
- Page number location: I thought inner fold page numbers were the worst, but this is a new level. The page numbers for a two-page are on the top right hand corner of the spread. I imagine this comes from their initial design as a digital manual that was printed, but it was very annoying to try and find specific pages.
- Starting Adventure: There’s one adventure listed on their website (www.adventure.game, if I didn’t say it before), but even with that, there’s little out there to demonstrate how to play the game. There are few examples in the book, and even as an experienced DM, I had trouble getting into the role of the Guide. Solid examples will help Guides new to the hobby to know how to do what they need to do, and how to know what’s going to be the right level of danger for a campaign.
- What’s in a name?: Quest is a cool name, but it’s also a common word. That means trying to do web searches for it is going to get a lot of false positives. There’s not much that can be done about it at this point, but it’s certainly a thing that worries me about it. Like, there’s the copyright law about words becoming generic. How does that apply to already generic names? idk.
While I’m unsure if I would have purchased this book on my own, having done nothing but seen it in the store. I’m glad I have a copy. I bought a digital copy, and when cards and other accessories get back in stock, I’ll buy some of them. I don’t think this is the perfect RPG, or a D&D killer, but I think Quest takes a couple of bold steps in the right direction. It will be interesting to see where this company goes with the next products they create.