The wonderful thing about the Open Gaming Licence and other such open licenses is that it has allowed a plethora of retro, alternate and innovative games derived from Open Content and the core System Reference Documents, such as the 3.5 SRD, the RuneQuest SRD, the Traveller SRD and others. Up until now the RuneQuest SRD has generated the GORE game system, which looks to be rooted in gothic horror games, and now is joined by OpenQuest.
OpenQuest uses the classic D100 rules mechanic, which uses percentages to express the chance of success or failure. It is a complete and easy to play Fantasy Roleplaying game, with monsters, magic and exotic locales. Open Quest is based on the Mongoose RuneQuest SRD (MRQ SRD), with ideas from previous editions of Chaosium’s RuneQuest and Stormbringer 5th, mixed in with some common sense house rulings from the author’s twenty years of experience with the D100 system. Everything in the core OpenQuest rule book, except the illustrations by Simon Bray, is open gaming content under the Open Gaming Licence. This means that you can use all or part of the book to produce your own games, rules, adventures even for commercial release as long as you include the Open Gaming Licence included in the back of the book.
Why another d100 game when we have Mongoose publishing RuneQuest and Basic Roleplaying from Chaosium? The answer has to be that OpenQuest is both a modern lean game system and also a game that recreates the retro feel of the older versions of RuneQuest, specifically RuneQuest 1 and 2 from Chaosium. OpenQuest has cleaned the Mongoose SRD of not just many of the new systems that Mongoose added, but has gone further and removed many of the older BRP stalwarts. The skill list has been pared down and rather than the tendency in Mongoose books to add new skills, this takes a rules ‘lighter’ approach. The religions and magic hark back to the Chaosium RuneQuest days, so spirit magic, divine magic and sorcery behave far more in a RQ2 style, maybe a little more cinematically. Strike ranks, hit locations, hit points for weapons, are all gone leaving the first genuinely light d100 game. On the other hand some parts of the Mongoose additons to RQ are there. Hero points, which I am never totally sure about, are here; as is a view of experience rolls that frankly sits uneasy with me. I have never seen the ‘tick chasing’ that people talk of in the usual Chaosium d100 experience systems, and if it happens below my notice then it’s never danaged the game. I shall go back to the RQ3 experience rules which are simple, clean and elegant.
OpenQuest was released for a few months as a wholly free pdf, an act of massive generosity by the publisher D101 games. Thousands of copies were downloaded before the full version reverted to a (very inexpensive) paid offering, and the print copy is very reasonably priced in line with other ‘retro’ games such as Labyrinth Lord or OSRIC. The OpenQuest Developers Kit is a free SRD from which others can build their own games, and the OpenQuest Companion wiki is growing with ideas and additions to the game. The exciting news is that a new ‘Hyborian style’ setting for OpenQuest: The Savage North will be with us soon, written by the talented John Ossoway. Othe developers are known to be working on ‘powered by OpenQuest’ games even now.
OpenQuest is not a pale imitation, it carves a distinctly simple and cinematic path between the complicated route that Mongoose takes and the encyclopaedic vagueness of the current BRP from Chaosium. However it still shares such a core with both that any previously published product from any other d100 game is easily utilised with OpenQuest and vice-versa if you wish. I shall port some of my favourite rules from RQ3 and Stormbringer back into OQ, and I could easily see a ref porting a lot of the rules from OQ into BRP or a Mongoose based game.