By Anthony “LibrariaNPC” DeMinico, 20 February 2019
Last year, I was keeping my eyes open for interesting, low cost games to pick up for review. One of my fellow gamers on Twitter shared a link for the Kickstarter for Quest, and while I was a bit wary, I really couldn’t resist. I mean, how many people can hate on a game that’s high fantasy with an alien invasion?
I threw in my money, waited, and finally got to reading the final version…
The people of the world are war-weary due to an ongoing war between two factions: one mastering magic, the other mastering technology. As the war wound down to a close, a third party from another world invades, hoping to find a weakened group of survivors to simply conquer.
Instead, they find stalwart heroes and people who will not yield to any invader, from their world or any other.
==What You Get==
As a PDF, Quest weighs in at 200 pages: nearly sixty pages of which covers the setting, with the rest covering mechanics and other “nitty gritty” details including rules, traveling, a creature collection, and a section on magic.
The one thing that stood out about Quest was the classic JRPG feel that’s within these pages. There’s a relatively in-depth lore to the point where everything has a name, there are distinct zones, and while trope-y, a number of elements that long time JRPG fans will recognize.
Mechanically speaking, the game is easy to grok. It’s just a simple Attribute or Skill+1 in d6s, rolled, then added together. It’s not original, but it is rather functional and drops the “cost of entry” down, as most households already have access to a number of d6s due to “traditional” board games.
Of the mechanics, the most interesting part is the progression. Instead of a standard “You gain XP per game,” XP is instead gained when you successfully complete a task. You track what the difficulty is, record it under the category of the skill (broken down by the four stats), and save up until you can upgrade the skill or the attribute in question. The idea is something I’ve been toying with myself for XP-based games, and the idea has some merits.
Finally, the character sheet is an interesting design that allows this progression mechanic to flourish. By using a half-circle to cover most of the page, there is a clear visual regarding which skills are associated with each attribute, and the boxes allow for an easy way to track just how high the skill is leveled. It’s an interesting aesthetic that I do enjoy, honestly.
I’m honestly going to start with the biggest issue here: the book is simply painful to get through.
From a writing perspective, it is horrendous. The text is rife with typos, from misspelled headings to multiple spelling of a character’s name in the same paragraph, which is just the sign of a bad editor. Sadly, it didn’t end there, as the writer overuses run-on sentences, often to the point of stream-of-consciousness styles of writing. These sentences are also plagued by repeated words, which makes this drinking-game worthy: while talking about a large bridge in the world, the word “bridge” appears TWENTY TIMES in the ¾ of a page on the topic. TWELVE of those occurrences are in a single paragraph of four (run-on) sentences, which takes up almost a third of the page.
I wish it ended there, but it doesn’t. There are grammatical errors, such as plurals where there needs to be a singular, the scenes of the fiction don’t flow and are plagued by clunky sentences that make action scenes sound dull, and generally enough words that are strewn together that you wonder if there was a coherent thought on a page.
And that’s just the writing. This doesn’t include the issues with layout, which consists of inconsistent font sizes and changes, headers not standing out enough, and erratic empty spaces, nor does it include the artwork, which is amateur for the most part with inconsistently good parts hidden within.
As an overall product, the book simply lacks quality. It could use a good layout person, some more consistent artists (as the art fluctuates from lovely detailed work to sloppy sketches), and absolutely needs an editor that’s willing to tell the author to change his style.
As a game, I felt that the mechanics are just not worth the time.
On one hand, it’s simple d6, which as previously mentioned, can be a good thing. Easy point of entry for material, you have an idea of your capability, and there’s just something about rolling a bunch of dice; what’s not to like?
On the other hand, the game requires an astounding amount of book keeping and higher math skills (namely adding up results and sometimes multiplying them). You are not only tracking your HP, but also MP (which spells have variable costs depending on how the spell is “built”), and up to five types of XP: one for each stat, plus a “general” pool.
While the idea of tracking XP this way isn’t terrible in theory (if anything, as previously mentioned, it’s a fun idea), the scale is the issue. Quest utilizes XP in the hundreds, and sometimes into the thousands, which are then used to purchase upgrades. Some of these upgrades are pretty cheap (equal to new skill rating), while others cost hundreds of XP (and function like Feats in the d20 system). Of course, you still have to earn these XP.
In Quest, XP are earned by rolling a success, with a number of XP earned equal to the difficulty rating; if the difficulty was 10, you gained 10 XP for success. This very mechanic promotes the idea of rolling as often as possible and as much as possible; in fact, it even states that a long, drawn-out combat is beneficial to players as it gives the most opportunity to “learn” (i.e. XP). In theory, this means every roll can net XP for the player, and whoever can find ways to roll the most, gets the most.
Finally, I felt that Quest did not deliver on it’s promised story. The Kickstarter made it sound like Eberron meets War of the Worlds, and the short story at the beginning of the book showed a classic high-fantasy dungeon crawl ruined by an alien invasion (that absolutely screamed War of the Worlds), but that’s all we see of the aliens. No stats, no tech, no…nothing. It is literally a generic fantasy setting that relies heavily on tropes from other games while hinting at something much more that is not delivered. Hell, there’s a map for half the world just sitting there, but nothing is provided for it beyond knowing it’s the “mechanical” side of the old war.
All in all, the game is just utterly inconsistent in just about every way.
While I originally wanted (and expected!) to give a better rating, I really can’t. I’m going to have to give the game ½ bun. I hope I’ll never have to use this rating again for another RPG.
The Kickstarter had so much promise. We saw a fantasy world being invaded by aliens, magic, anachronistic technology, and more! I was expecting more War of the Worlds meets Ebberon, and instead I got another generic fantasy setting that quite frankly doesn’t bring anything new. The mechanics are an uninspired, desk-check heavy cludge, and this is made worse by a writing style that I’d call “inconsistently adolescent” at best, and “an unreadable abomination” at worst. No amount of comedic jabs tucked into the mechanical side of the text can soften that blow.
If anything, Quest may have been the most painful RPG I’ve had the displeasure of reading.
If you like rolling a handful of d6s and tracking multiple sums every turn, then by all means pick up a copy of Quest. If you were expecting anything more than general fantasy and hate deskkeeping, go spend your money elsewhere.
Quest was created by John Dodd and was successfully funded on Kickstarter, with tiers beginning around $13 (after conversions). Backers are still receiving their print copies of the book, and the book should be available on DriveThruRPG at some point in the near future.