Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Path Not Taken?

I've been re-reading a huge stack of old Different Worlds that Victor Raymond sent to me a few months ago. In issue #17 (December 1981), there's an article entitled "QuestWorld" by Lynn Willis, Greg Stafford, and the Chaosium staff. The article is about the creation of the non-Gloranthan RuneQuest, QuestWorld, which was originally detailed in a collection of nine adventures published in a boxed format in 1982.

Reading through it, I came across several interesting quotes about the whys and wherefores behind QuestWorld.
We have published many detailed of the world of Glorantha for play with RuneQuest, but this setting is too restrictive or too unfamiliar for many writers and gamers, for Glorantha is a closed world, and is intended to stay that.
Elaborating on this point somewhat later, the articles goes on to say
QuestWorld is intended to be an open campaign world for RuneQuest and its variants, and for the constantly-expanding Basic Role-Playing family. Chaosium will minimally direct the development of this planet, intending it to serve as an example of an open world in the same way that Glorantha has been our example of a closed world.
From context, it would seem that the terms "open" and "closed" refer to both the level of detail, with an "open" world being sketchier than a "closed" one, and to the control that Chaosium exerts over the world's published development. This second meaning of the term is noted later in the article.
In making QuestWorld we needed a complete world, since we wanted a continent for our games and scenarios, and continents also for Judges Guild and Games Workshop. Given their own continents, these licensed companies could develop their own RQ- and BRP-related supplements, without the supervision needed for a Gloranthan scenario.
I found this section particularly interesting, as it suggests there was at one time a plan for RuneQuest licensees to get continents of their own to develop, in much the same way that GDW once granted licensees sectors of the the Third Imperium setting to develop in their own materials. So far as I know, this plan, if indeed it was a plan, was never realized, but it's possible there were such licensed products and I just never saw them. The same goes for QuestWorld supplements, something that I've seen reference to but have never actually seen.

In any event, it's fascinating to get some insights into Chaosium's attitudes about Gloranthan versus non-Gloranthan RuneQuest, even if the subsequent history of the game suggests that there wasn't a great deal of interest in the latter. It's also intriguing to consider a history in which QuestWorld took off and various licensees did indeed development different parts of it, as outlined in the article.

23 comments:

  1. I wonder if something similar would fly for the OSR. Put a skeleton of a setting out and design it so there is plenty of room for landgrabs. And site to track who doing what. There could be blank continents and a continent or two with blank kingdoms.

    The idea is that if a publisher (commerical or non-commerical) doesn't have a particular setting in mind for his adventure, they could pick an area and say the adventure is located there.

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  2. I'm sure it could be done and it might even be useful to do, but organizing it would take some effort and I'm not sure there's interest in such a thing, given the idiosyncratic nature of the old school scene nowadays.

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  3. Yes, really, why settle for a continent or part of one when I can have an entire world of my own? That's not a ding on other world-builders, either. Chances are if I do my thing it's not going to mesh with much of what others are doing.

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  4. Two words for you: wiki collaboration.

    Somebody puts together a clone or a new game or whatever, fleshes out some basic details, and then puts it onto a wiki where anybody can take any of the oblique references to other places or things and develop them into an adventure, or even an entire campaign setting. That way every DM only has to come up with a few pieces themselves, but can take advantage of an entire world (or several worlds!) of content for their players to explore. At the same time, because the defined part of the world is a fractal (the un- and hazily-defined border area is always potentially larger than the known world), no one is forced to deal with a completely closed setting.

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  5. I remember an article or two about Questworld in White Dwarf, but I don't think anything beyond that ever appeared here.

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  6. As Herb says, I would imagine that White Dwarf may hold some clues to Games Workshop's involvement. I have to confess to having overlooked most of their RQ articles, but I wonder if there's a coherency among them, and anything which sets them apart from Chaosium's output.

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  7. Ah, White Dwarf #38 has a single page preview of Questworld (alongside an AD&D adaptation of Moria for "beginning characters"!).

    There's lots of rules stuff in later issues, but I'm not sure if it's Questworld-specific, as I don't know much about Glorantha. The articles on Demon and Celtic sources of magic may well be, though.

    (There's a Tekumel-set RQ scenario in #54, if anyone's interested.)

    By #75, we're into the third edition era.

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  8. With regard to Glorantha it should also be considered in light with the following statement, from Griffin Mountain:

    Garsting is a Blank Land.

    Blank Lands are regions of Glorantha which will be left undeveloped by Chaosium Inc. for referees who would like to have a campaign set in Glorantha, but who may be afraid to have it conflict with an official publication. For this reason, areas like Garsting have been left open.

    Chaosium Inc. will not publish campaign packs concerning Blank Lands, nor will they authorize the commercial publication of them by others. However, this does not prohibit referees from privately distributing information for their own campaign.

    See Wyrms Footnotes 11 for an extensive treatment of the Blank Lands idea.

    [Unfortunately Wyrms Footnotes 11 was one of the issues that went walkies without me one time and I can't remember it's comments on the matter.]

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  9. Reminds me a bit of "Cidri", the central game world of The Fantasy Trip, which at one point the working model was stated as being a "Dyson Sphere" that would have ample room for any and all campaigns developed by users of the game system.

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  10. White Dwarf's excellent demonology rules were intended to be part of the GW Questworld pack, I believe. Around that time White Dwarf also published an excellent little scenario set in the Questworld continent of Theelar (I think) that used the demonology rules, had basic character generation rules for "Ancients" and contained a small map of the area. If I remember right, the continent was supposed to be the scene of a conflict between the surviving Ancients and their gods and the "invader races" and deities from Glorantha, allowing GMs to use the Cults of Prax (which were commonly used by non-Gloranthan RQ2 GMs because they were that good).

    Knowing Greg Stafford's antipathy to world-hopping, I'm not surprised this never saw publication, but it looks like plans were quite advanced. I'd love to know what happened and would equally love to see the unpublished manuscripts. It'd be interesting to know whether Judges' Guild ever developed anything as well.

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  11. What about the Megadungeon project? You could do an open world, and more power to you, but I think the Megadungeon.net project better encompassed the idea of common-designed "old school setting". Maybe that's just me.

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  12. If you haven't seen the Questworld pack, it might explain just why the project died. It consisted of three books and a poster map, but the poster map didn't match with the maps in the books. That is indicative of the effort put into the production.

    All the scenarios are supposedly set in the "sandbox" of Greenwald, but there's very little information given about the setting and what info there is doesn't gel between the scenarios. Gloranthan cults are used indiscriminately, and the three new cults are all jokes. They are Panash, the swashbucklers' cult (Rune Lords are called Flynns), Vrang 2Jhomang (not a typo) the idiot blacksmiths' cult and the gamblers' cult Nik-El. Yep.

    Of the three books, Candlefire is the tightest design, a town setting with a series of sequential adventures. It has its moments, but it's pretty blah. 6/10

    Lord Skyppen's Mansion is a mega-scenario that I always thought of as the RQ2 version of Tegel Manor. After a tough wilderness crawl, there's an extremely tough dungeon crawl to clear out the mansion. I actually like this one and might dig it out and convert to MRQ2. 7/10

    The final volume, Greenwald Tales, consists of a few workmanlike scenarios set in parts of Greenwald that aren't detailed elsewhere. There's a good solo adventure, again by Alan LaVergne, which is up to the standards of his Soloquest books from the same period.

    The whole thing just feels lazy. With a bot of effort it could have been a decent non-Gloranthan sandbox, but their heart just wasn't in it, it seems.

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  13. “...in much the same way that GDW once granted licensees sectors of the the Third Imperium setting to develop in their own materials. So far as I know, this plan, if indeed it was a plan, was never realized, but it's possible there were such licensed products and I just never saw them.”

    Judges Guild created several sectors, I believe the first was the Ley Sector, and placed their adventures there. The first adventure I ever ran for Traveller was the Darthanon Quenn, which was supposed to be set in the Ley sector.

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  14. The rumor/assumption "back in the day" was that any half decent RQ material presented to Chaosium got shoehorned into Glorantha. My understanding is that was how the excellent Griffin Island, transforming it into Griffon Mountain (and back again under AH RQ3). Anything else was "Gateway" which usually = lame.

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  15. Swordsman, I've done some digging, and that scenario is in White Dwarf #48, with the demonology articles appearing in #44-46. There's an article on undead in #54 which mentions Questworld, but isn't specifically for the setting, and that seems to be pretty much it. Certainly by the time RQ3 comes around, circa #64 or so, all mention of Theelar and QW has ceased.

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  16. There was some Questworld material in White Dwarf around the '40s. Not a lot though. "The Lone & Level Sands" was a very very cool scenario set in Questworld.

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  17. I see I was scooped by kelvin. Anyway Lone & Level Sands also has stats for 1e AD&D. It's a really awesome, atmosheric old school module in the pulp swords & sorcery mold, and well worth taking a look at. I waited years to finally run it!

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  18. What about the Megadungeon project? You could do an open world, and more power to you, but I think the Megadungeon.net project better encompassed the idea of common-designed "old school setting". Maybe that's just me.

    It's an interesting idea, as I have been pondering what to do with Megadungeon.net. The reason it didn't go as far as I wanted originally is because I lacked for submissions to assist me and I myself was distracted by other projects. Perhaps a new approach is called for ...

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  19. The whole thing just feels lazy. With a bot of effort it could have been a decent non-Gloranthan sandbox, but their heart just wasn't in it, it seems.

    I've often wondered about that myself, especially reading the DW articles that outlines the great efforts they went to make the physical details of the world conducive to fun adventures, one wonders why the setting itself feels so lackadaisical.

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  20. Judges Guild created several sectors, I believe the first was the Ley Sector, and placed their adventures there. The first adventure I ever ran for Traveller was the Darthanon Quenn, which was supposed to be set in the Ley sector.

    Oh, I know. I own them all and love them (mostly). I think you might have been misreading my reference to licensees for QuestWorld. So far as I know, there never were any.

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  21. The rumor/assumption "back in the day" was that any half decent RQ material presented to Chaosium got shoehorned into Glorantha. My understanding is that was how the excellent Griffin Island, transforming it into Griffon Mountain (and back again under AH RQ3). Anything else was "Gateway" which usually = lame.

    That certainly seems to have been the case. The Gateway Bestiary had some neat stuff in it, though, especially the Lovecraftian monsters.

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  22. Just in case anyone is still interested, I finally found out what happened to Games Workshop's Questworld pack. It may yet see light of day, in somewhat different form:

    http://fabledlands.blogspot.com/2010/02/invaders-ancients.html

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