OpenQuest: Keep It Simple …

Posted: 2023-06-26
Word Count: 1703
Tags: d100 openquest rpg settings

Table of Contents

As I look over what I’ve written here and in my private notes I’m struck by how much work I’ll have to do for the settings I’ve defined so far:

This raises the question of whether OpenQuest somehow needs this much work done to it, or whether I simply haven’t imagined a setting with the OpenQuest three systems (well, one or two) or SimpleQuest One Magic. Maybe I should do that now.

Better Settings

The Broken Lands

A great cataclysm shattered what was once a flat, fertile plain. Now it consists of rocky outcroppings, fissures … and buried treasure. For the cataclysm was a crashing starship.

(Yes, I’m ripping off one of Pathfinder’s settings here.)

Today the residents of the Broken Lands include the barbarian tribes that have called it home for thousands of years, greedy foreigners who have been flooding in for the past two century, and the citizens of Darzo and other trading towns. These last pretend to be “civilization”; each is a hive of scum and villainy that profits off the folly of treasure-hunters.

If Troika! was an homage to Planescape, this will be my homage to Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and the science-fantasy underpinnings of Basic D&D. A magic-using culture sends out freelancers to dig up hoards of (alien?) technology … and fend off the guardians of said technology.

The tricky bit – one which breaks my rule of No New Magic – is that the pseudo-technology isn’t in the OpenQuest books or supplements. Hopefully I’ll have enough sci-fi sourcebooks, d100 and other, to cobble together some plausible high tech toys. Numenera might help here.

Daronia (Take Three)

Originally I designed Daronia as a setting for Tunnels & Trolls which has three basic “types”: Warriors who can’t use magics, Wizards who are only good at magic, and Rogues who can do a little magic, a little fighting, and a lot of roguing around. Then I transplanted it to the Kingdom, where it stood as a weird province far away.

Just as easily, though, I could bring it to OpenQuest or SimpleQuest with all the dwarves, “forest folk” (elves?), and T&T-style trolls, but with everyone able to do a little magic. (Although I like the idea of some people incapable of using magic and compensating by being warriors. But that would require a bit of work to balance them against magicians.)

The Empire of Gatan

OpenQuest provides its own setting, the Empire of Gatan. Why not just use that?

  1. I haven’t read up to that point yet.
  2. From what little I have read, it’s kind of a grim place.
  3. I’m like an artist, and RPGs are how I express myself. Or something.

But, if imagination fails, just lean on someone else’s right?

Let me quote OpenQuest 3rd Edition, p. 204:

Although it calls itself an empire, Gatan is a kingdom made up of six large duchies surrounded by the wilderness of the Dark Lands. Once the western provinces of an empire, long fallen to barbarians, Gatan was saved from the Dark Age that the rest of the known world wallows in by a vision of the Celestial Emperor Maximus. In the ‘Imperial Revelation’ he passed on his knowledge of the laws of civilisation and the mighty magic that bound together the Old Empire to the first ‘Emperor’ of Gatan, Duke Sotan the Victorious.

Surrounded by barbarian Dark Lands, the ‘Empire’ now looks to its borders as an opportunity for conquest and expansion, buoyed on by celestial mandate and human greed. As the armies of the Dukes flex their muscles in the name of the Emperor and Holy Imperial Way, the free forces of the Dark Lands make their plans to resist the coming yoke of the Emperor.

Yeah, that sounds better than the stuff I come up with.


Just because Hârn and Kethira had three distinct systems – magic, religion, and psionics – doesn’t mean the world I create from its maps does. Maybe it’s just a given that religions teach magic, and psionics (rare in Kethira IIRC) is just a myth.

With that out of the way I can use maps from Columbia Games or Kelestia Productions. I might even use the module text, since Hârn always assumed a pseudo-medieval setting largely unchanged by the presence of magic and miracles. Perhaps “personal magic” or “One Magic” also making no waves might be a stretch, but, hey, it’s fantasy.

For Kutheria substitute my setting and maps for Erebus, Telluria, or anywhere else. If I can use someone else’s, I can use my own. (To the extent they’re worth using, anyway.)

The New Continent

The players are part of a group who have colonized a new continent in the last century or so. They’ve built some towns, villages, and farms, but most of the land is unexplored. Furthermore, it’s a land where another civilization once thrived, and a current culture may yet thrive. So not only do we have the potential for dungeon crawling we have a culture clash between the colonials (colonizers?) and the natives. (Culture clashes were RuneQuest’s jam.)

In no way is this original; it’s simply the old D&D “Points of Light” idea with a new gloss of colonialist paint. This setting might benefit from OpenQuest’s standard three magics: perhaps the settlers use a combination of Personal and Divine Magic, while the natives use Personal Magic with the Shamanism rules. Or if that’s too stereotypical, maybe the natives have a caste of professional Sorcerers, much like the Malkioni1 in RuneQuest. I’ll finally get to pit one magic against another, even if they’re all from the same book.

On the other hand, maybe everybody uses SimpleQuest’s One Magic, and just the cultures clash. That works too.


Pasharand is a city on a island at the nexus of multiple worlds. Multiple displaced peoples have migrated there, and ships from across the multiverse sail into its ports every day.

My original concept did not include the sort of ubiquitous magic of OpenQuest, but it’s easy to add it in. The only other magic I imagined was the sort of swords-and-sorcery “stop the ritual before the evil god awakens” sort of rituals. (Heck, there’s no law I have to use any of the magic systems of OpenQuest, SimpleQuest, or anything else. Simply weave magic into the scenario just like Greg Stafford said and give players just enough healing potions and the like to survive.)


So there you have it, six worlds where I don’t have to add a single magic system. (Fingers crossed on the word “magic”.) Four and a half of them I invented myself.

With the possible exception of the New Continent none of them really excites me that much. Maybe I like the act of defining a world – and the magic in it – as much or more than presenting that world to players. I probably went nuts on magic because I’d had all these ideas for alternate magic systems in a dozen or more worlds, and decided to try to put them all somewhere. The Polar Continent was originally an arena where I could pit two d100 magic systems against each other: Enlightened Magic vs. anti-magic monotheists, Ars Magica wizards vs. Stormbringer demon summoners, Renaissance witches vs. hedge magicians and angry mobs, anti-magic monotheists vs. artificers and/or polytheists, etc.

With that confession out of the way, though, I really want to run something I made. To me the question is how much work do I have to do to make it vs. how much I can steal vs. how much can I handwave until later. New Continent shifts the arena from magic systems to cultures, creatures, gods, myths, and the inevitable lost civilization … which is what tabletop RPGs can do better than computer MMORPGs and single-player games. (After all you just need one over-enthused GM and a game book, not an entire team and a buggy game engine death-marching to a long-delayed release date.)

So maybe I’ll read up on Gatan, or the original Kethira, and see how much I can use. Then I’ll see if I can retool Daronia and Pasharand, and what I can steal for the Broken Lands. Finally, then, I may decide to flesh out the New Continent, or use one of the others, or maybe even go back to the Polar Continent or Godsplat or any of the others where I have to write (or steal) entire magic systems. That shouldn’t be too hard …

  1. A monotheistic culture of sorcerers who have a rigid caste structure ordained by the same all-powerful god that gave them sorcery. ↩︎