Category Archives: PDQ

Review: Questers of the Middle Realms

Questers of the Middle RealmsQuesters of the Middle Realms is a tongue-in-cheek fantasy roleplaying game by Silver Branch Games. Questers uses the PDQ rules by Chad Underkoffler’s Atomic Sock Monkey and I have to admit that was the selling point for me. I was wondering how this rule system would handle the fantasy genre and I was surprised how good Questers managed to pull this off. Alas the setting, the “Middle Realms” is a very generic and not very interesting setting. But first things first …

QotMRs is available either as PDF or as softcover book. The first is available at RPGNow and costs $8.95, the printed version, that you’ll get at Silver Branch’s Lulu storefront, will set you back $16.50. For your hard-earned money you get a 72-page book with a nice full-color cover. The rest of the book is b/w but features some great artwork and the standard two-column layout. All in all it’s a pretty good looking book considering the low price.

Silver Branch advertises Questers as “The lighter side of traditional fantasy gaming. In less than 80 pages.” And if you expect a rules-light fantasy games you’ll be pretty happy with your purchase. But if you expect it to actually be funny, you’re out of your luck. Don’t get me wrong, Questers is not a bad game, especially when you look for a good example on how you could use the PDQ rules in a fantasy setting. But neither the writing nor setting of Questers is more than mildly funny or even original.

The strong point of the book are definitely its rules. The designers of Questers took the core PDQ rules and added a lot of additional rules to allow an almost D&D-like gaming experience. Each character in Questers can choose between one of the five basic races (Humans, elves, dwarves, orcs and hoblings) and even has a level (something unheard of in core PDQ). Each non-human race gets a Racial Quality that works like a cluster of normal qualities even including weaknesses.
Although the addition of racial qualities makes the rules a bit more crunchy than core PDQ, it’s an interesting concept that works well within the fantasy genre. Halfbreeds like Half-Orcs, Half-Elves, etc. can choose which Strengths and Weaknesses they inherit from their parents. So not every halfbreed character is exactly the same.

Another intersting addition to core PDQ are Questers’ magic rules. Characters can choose Spells from three different camps: miracles, thaumaturgy and mysticism. Each spell is its own arcane quality. Players are basically free to create their own spells but player and GM should make sure that the spells are a) not too broad nor too narrow and b) do have a proper application in the campaign to be played.  At the core of the magic system is the Magic Effects Table which helps the GM to decide which target number is appropriate for any given action. 

Another nice touch is the addition of a small bestiary complete with a list of monster qualities. It should be pretty easy to create hundreds of monsters using the examples in the book.

The setting of Questers is the weak part of the book. The world of Median is a generic high-fantasy setting with a standard pantheon of Greater Gods like Elal, god of sky, weather, strength and rulership, and an endless army of Lesser Gods that can be actually created by players on a whim. This is an interesting idea, although I fear that this could actually become problematic for the GM if the players go mad doing this.
The main continent of Median is Ludor, a place that is home for your standard fantasy realms like the north-african-inspired Ar-Karap, the League of Groth, where obviously all the goths of Ludor live and asian-inspired Tek Wei. All in all you get a continent that contains all the usual fantasy tropes. If you want to play a horned-helmeted viking, you probably hail from Valharia, and most elves call Yrsiriel Forest their home. 

The book is concluded by some sample characters, the aforementioned bestiary, a short game masters section with some tips on how to run Questers and a sample adventure.

When I have to judge Questers I am a bit torn. I love the idea of a PDQ-based fantasy RPG and I think Questers shines in some areas especially in how the rules have been implemented but it also falls short in a lot of other things. Especially the setting is a bit bland and the tone of the game is not as funny as it could have been. As a tongue-in-cheek fantasy RPG it fails but it’s a great fantasy RPG toolbox and with a very low price to boot!

Ad Astra: Starships using PDQ rules

When you have a look at the PDQ core rules you’ll notice that there is no section about how vehicles, space ships, etc. could be added to the system. In my opinion the easiest way is to handle vehicles just like characters. They get a name, a description, a few qualities and perhaps even a weakness.

ExcerptTake a space ship for example. In one of my early posts about the Ad Astra setting I posted the D6 Space stats for the Theseus Starfighter. Let’s now have a look at how we could rebuild this starfighter using PDQ rules:

Let’s first start with the vehicle type. Every vehicle should have at least one quality that designates the basic type of the ship. This quality should start at Average [0]. The GM can of course choose to improve this quality if the vehicle is exceptional for its class. So we write down Average Starfighter [+0]. I imagine the Theseus fighter as an old workhorse model that has been in use for quite some time now. So I assign Good Workhorse [+2]. The fighter should neither be very fast or have superior armor, but I think Average Armor [+0] is in order. We shouldn’t forget that we need some qualities written down, so that the fighter can take a beating. Finally I add the weapons as Average Medium Lasers [+0] and Good “Artemis” Missile Launcher [+2]. Finally lets add a weakness to make the design a bit more interesting. Since it’s an outdated model it’s not up to par with some of the more fancy designs. So, we add Poor Outdated Model [-2] as last quality. Ok, let’s review our design:

Theseus Starfighter
Average Starfighter [+0]
Good Workhorse [+2]
Average Armor [+0]
Average Medium Lasers [+0]
Good “Artemis” Missile Launcher [+2]
Poor Outdated Model [-2]

In order to totally disable the ship you’ll need 16 hits, which is pretty decent for a starfighter. The pilot can also decide to reduce the Armor or Workhorse qualities by one level in order to “take it on the chin” and ignore all damage from a single attack.

So, how does starship combat work? It works just like normal combat. But pilots may use both their own and their ship’s qualities. For example a pilot with the Good Starfighter Pilot [+2] quality wants to fire a volley of missiles at an enemy craft. He can add not only the bonus from his piloting quality but also the bonus from the weapon he used. In this particular case he rolls 2d6+4. In most cases player and GM should be able to decide which qualities and weaknesses are relevant for any given action.

Ad Astra PDQ character creation

Character CreationLast weekend my group of players and I decided to give the PDQ system a try. We’ll be using it to run my “Ad Astra” campaign. At first I thought about using the PDQ# rules, that are used for “Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies“, but then I decided to stick to the PDQ core rules. This has a couple of reasons: PDQ# was created with swashbuckling in mind. Especially the whole style dice mechanic revolves around that concept. But for my Ad Astra game I prefer a more subdued tone. It will have action, but it will be grittier and you won’t see any fencing duels, that’s for sure.

Both the free PDQ core rules PDF and the PDQ# PDF don’t come with any magic or psionics rules, but I own both Quester of the Middle Realms and S7S, that come with some additional PDQ rules like magic, vehicular combat (in the case of S/S) and more. But again I won’t just copy the rules from those books. But there is a nice table of modifiers for magic effects that I can use for psionic effects, too.

So, let’s talk about character creation for Ad Astra works. Every character consists of a name, a description (including such things like looks, biography, etc.), a weakness and a couple of qualities. Each character also starts with a fate point and 0 experience points. Currently I plan to use fate points mainly to allow players to save their characters in situations they usually would have died (like when they botched a climbing wall, hundreds of meters above ground for example), but perhaps I will allow more uses when I get more comfortable with the system.

Every character starts with a Past, Motivation and Nationality quality. That’s something I took from PDQ# and it helps fleshing out the character tremendously. My players where quite creative when they came up with their pasts and motivations, so this will surely be a very exciting campaign. All those qualities start on Good [+2].

The eligible Nationalities are Gaian Republic, Tovenaar Empire, Akkathon Federation, Venshran Principality and SpaceCorp Corporate State. The Nationality quality gives the character a bit more background and allows him access to a wide range of knowledge about their home planet, home region, local politics, et cetera. Nationality starts on Good [+2], too.

Aside from Past, Motivation and Nationality, my players were allowed to choose four additional qualities at Good [+2]. A special quality is Esper, since it gives access to psionic abilities. Esper starts a Average [+0], thus making esper characters a bit weaker than their mundane counterparts. But since the psionic talent is very versatile, I think it’s fair. Esper can be used to use such powers as telepathy, telekinesis, teleportation, psychometry, far seeing and many more.

In order to start with a quality higher than Good [+2] you have to forfeit one of the other qualities. For example: You want to start with Good [+2] Esper, so you have only two additional qualities left to choose (in addition to your Past, Motivation and Nationality) of course).

Another important character aspect is his weakness. Every character has one weakness quality and it starts at Poor [-2]. The weakness is a constant story hook and usually leads to downshifts when a characters weakness hampers his actions. But there may be cases when the weakness could also be a strength of  a character. For example a curious character may overhear a conversation someone else would have missed.

Alas I forgot to copy my player’s characters, so I will have to post their stats after our next session. So stay tuned for that!