During the 90s, in my formative years of running RuneQuest, one of my favourite fanzines, when I could get it was RuneQuest Adventures. Every issue took you on a guided tour of Glorantha, in the form of a series of linked adventures. Issue 3 for example The Block, was based around the Block in Prax and the adventure locations around it. As well as notes on the Stormbull cult, it had a fantastic adventure where the dungeon was the hollowed-out skeleton buried under a hill. So this was my primary inspiration for the Gloranthan Adventures fanzine, of which this is the first of two issues 1.
My records show this one too along with Hearts in Glorantha #4 (D101-010) was released in time for the bi-annual gathering of Glorantha fans at Continuum 2010.
First, for the record, of the covers Jon Hodgson has done for me over the years this is one of my favourites ever, depicting an Orlanthi Stormlord flying menacingly as farmsteads in the burn-in valley below. As well as being a cracking illustration it sets the scene for the content within its covers.
The four adventures in the book rise from my early days as a HeroQuest evangelist at my local conventions 2. I took the Sartar setting, that every Gloranthaphile has at least a passing familiarity with and is dead easy to explain to newcomers. Then I threw every chaos foe against a small “peace” clan, called the Silverwinds, who was woefully ill-prepared for such an assault on their way of life. Although there is a bit of clan politics in it, one of my aims was to provide a working example of a clan that the players could be members of, its fairly and squarely leveraging the HeroQuest system to provide an epic crusade against chaos. Think 13th Warrior mixed with Jason and the Argonauts and you’ve got the measure of it. 3
1. GA 2 Red Sun Rising appears four years later, and I’ve still got a cover and a good 30-40 pages for a series of Troll adventures, which is the unreleased GA 3.
2. When I was leading the Ring of HeroQuest Narrators which mutated into the semi-official Masters of Luck and Death and then imploded!
3. The set-up for the adventures, divorced from the Sartar Timeline, and general approach do a bit of roleplaying then fight a chaos thing, actually make it more like 13th Age Glorantha mini-campaign well before that book was put out.
This was a blink and you miss it, in the bumper year of releases in 2010. Basically, a promotional book for Wordplay the Big 5 (D101-09), that had a good chunk of the system. These days I would have done a Quickstart set of rules with an adventure. After a couple of months, I realised it wasn’t driving sales to the Big 5 as I had hoped, so it was quietly pulled. Did however form the template for OpenQuest Basics further down the line in 2014.
Ok, this is a composite entry that covers three releases.
Ye Little Book of HeroQuest 1 Dungeoneering (D101-011), released Sept 2010.
Ye Little Book of HeroQuest Monsters (D101-012), released Nov 2010.
Both of which were only available in pdf.
Ye Little Book of HeroQuest Fantasy (D101-023) which appeared years later in 2015 and is the combined pdf/print version of the above.
In 2009 if memory serves me rightly Moon Design offered the HeroQuest Gateway license 2 to potential third-party publishers. I had already done some generic gaming with HeroQuest, so thought let’s give it a go.
The “Ye Little Books of HeroQuest Fantasy” was meant to have been a series of cheap and cheerful short releases, a sort of counterpoint to all the D20 and even Savage Worlds pamphlets that were flooding drivethrurpg.com in those days. Looking at my folder on my hard drive, I also had plans to do “Adventures”, “Heroes”, and “World Building” as part of the series.
So I quickly brought the project together. HQ was easy to write for and I think each release only took a couple of evening writing sessions to write because I had a laser-sharp focus on what I was doing 3.
Dungeoneering was well-received. In its lifetime it was a Silver Medal seller on Drivethrurpg.com. Monsters did less well but still got a Bronze medal over its lifetime. I’m not surprised since it was basically a generic listing of typical fantasy critters, using the descriptions and art from OpenQuest at the time, and we’ve all got far too many books of that sort of nonsense 😀
I decided when I was putting the project together the whole series would then only get a full release as a printed version when all parts had been out. This is why there’s a huge delay between the pdf releases and the combined version. I kept putting it off because I kept thinking that I would do the other parts, which for one reason or another never happened. Truth be told by the time I put out YLBoHQ Fantasy, I was quite jaded with the whole idea because being a HQ Gateway publisher had not been the road to instant fame and fortune that I had expected it to be 4. I’d not had that crucial moment of self-realisation that the pdfs had actually sold quite well and had been well received by fans, who quietly emailed me politely asking when they were going to see the other parts. In short, I should have put my head down and got on with it 😀
1. The game is currently being rebranded as QuestWorlds and is due a new edition from Chaosium (current owners of the game) soon(ish). The actual rules have been released for free.
For the purposes of this article, I’ve kept with the old brand name, which has been sold back to Hasbro so they can bring back the board game of the same name, for historical reasons. Plus referring to it as “the-game-formally-known-as-heroquest” is a bit longwinded 😀
2. The HQ Gateway license was actually quite elegant. It nicely explained what you could do with the HeroQuest ruleset, basically do supplements/adventures without going too risque (or edgelord as we call it now) in a way that would damage the brand and reputation of Moon Design, and no Glorantha (but I had a separate license for that). And that was it. No approval process, apart from Moon Design giving you a license in the first place.
3. One of the successes of this project, was that I really got the whole idea of writing a scope, refining it, and then delivering it without scope creep. Well for the first two releases any way 🙂 This success helped me in other D101 Games releases further down the road. If nothing else it made me the master of putting out short pdf to print fanzine sized books, which are now actually good sellers and quite popular.
4. This was quite a depressing internal battle that I fought with myself over the next five years or so. 2010 was a great push to get as many books out, in the effort to become a “name” publisher. Something I’ve realised further down the road, due to my personality, I’m not all that interested in. For me, it’s the creation of the work. I’ve seen some RPG creators go to great lengths to publicise their works, and it just strikes me as vulgar. It coincided with a slump in my energy levels. Work and having two kids were to blame here 😀
Hearts in Glorantha issue four emerged in Summer 2010, just in time for Continuum 2010, which despite its general all games appeal, was still a major Glorathaphile gathering due to its roots.
This was the last of John Ossoway’s covers, and personal high-point with it featuring virtually no-Dragon Pass material (aka “those hairy barbarians” as one reader succinctly put it). Instead, it had part of Jamie “Trotsky” Revell’s Western Glorantha supplement in the form of the Kingdom of Joruna. D101 would go onto publish a full book worth of his work as the Book of Glorious Joy (D101-011) a year later. I did a mini-setting, the town of Vastar in the Lunar Heartlands, which would be the first trip I would make to this region before 2015’s Red Sun Rising (aka D101-035 Gloranthan Adventures #2).
This one was one of our big game releases and quite a significant milestone for D101 Games.
Wordplay was Graham Spearing’s D6 Dicepool narrative game that he wrote under a creative common’s license. My original publication plan was to do a standalone Fantasy game using rules and the Empire of Gatan setting from OpenQuest for D101. As well as contributing a setting or Theme, called Infinite War, to Graham’s big release of Wordplay, alongside three other themes. Mark Galeotti’s Cold Crusade (mythological superheroes), Charles Green’s Keep Portland Weird (Urban Fantasy) and Graham’s Epic Fantasy theme. For various reasons, Graham’s release of the core rulebook fell through, and Wordplay, the Big Five, was my release of the core rules + the themes as they were in 2010.
Here’s the content’s page
Everything was pulled together at breakneck speed, as was typical of D101 early releases, still keeping to a fast and furious Punk Rock ethic of Do it! The artists of Hearts in Glorantha came through big time. Peter Town and Ilkka Leskelä stand out especially as heroes who opened up extensive portfolios of illustrations that nicely illustrated a narrative game. Ilkka also, some fantastic full pagers, which he allowed me to use again in the recent OpenQuest 3rd Edition. This one especially stands out for me.
The book sold moderately well, making its costs and a little bit of profit, and was critically well accepted. It was also the first big book RPG that I wasn’t the primary author of but instead focused on being a publisher. Which was a good experience in itself and made me more confident later on.
Monkey started as an idea back in the mid-90s. I was stuck for what to read in Fantasy and asked my mate Keary Birch for a suggestion. He pointed me in the direction of the Journey to the West or “remember that TV series on BBC2 during the 80s”, as he put it.
My next port of call was Monkey – the James Whaley translation and the abridged version published via Penguin Classics. The full version of the book, which I got to just after 1st edition was finalised, is a four-volume series of 100 chapters, with each volume clocking in at 1000 pages. James Whaley’s version is only 40 chapters, missing out much of the repetitive monster-of-the-week type chapters that make up the bulk of the Journey itself and heavily abbreviating the start and end of the Journey. This version is very accessible to English audiences but at the cost of some detail and narrative logic.
I was immediately struck by the fact that this could be a Roleplaying game. There was a party of Adventurers, the Pilgrims: Tripitaka the Monk and his immortal guardians, Monkey, Pigsy, and Sandy. They have the main goal, go to India to pick up the missing scrolls of Buddhist teaching and return them to China, and be admitted into Chinese Heaven as Immortals. Along the road, a mythic version of the real-life Silk Road, the pilgrims have to battle and drive off villainous demons who are keen to eat the Monk because doing so will gain whoever does so great power. So there’s a goal and conflict right there.
As well as the Whaley translation, I drew from two other sources of inspiration.
My shakey remembrance of watching the Japanese TV series Monkey, or Monkey Magic, from the early 80s every Thursday Night on BBC 2 as kids.
My young son was also a Monkey fan 🙂
What I’d learned about Taoism and Buddhism from my own life experiences at the time. For example, the central Yin / Yang card drawing mechanism was drawn from the importance of that concept is not only the martial arts that I had been studying at the time, which were forms of Taoist Internal Alchemy, but also I Ching divination system. The necessity of the characters to be nice and protect mortal characters came from the book’s reflection of Buddhist teachings and the fact that the characters, all through powerful immortals, were being coached by Buddhist gods to mend their wayward ways so they could be readmitted into Chinese Heaven.
I had spent a good fifteen years putting Monkey together when I finally go the first edition out in 2010. Internals were done on the cheap via clip-art.com where I raided their ancient Chinese category. Also of note on this front, the 15th Century woodcuts that illustrate Monkey Subdues the White Bone Demon, which is based on one of the chapters from the full novel. Because they were in the public domain, I could use these fantastic pictures of Monkey and the rest of the pilgrims to do full-page illustrations.
The cover was technically the first of the Jon Hodgson covers I commissioned. I consciously put Monkey to one side while I got more publishing experience putting out Hearts In Glorantha (see D101-03 to 06), OpenQuest (D101-06) and the Savage North (D101-07). It had to wait until July 2010.
Another D101 Games first, was that Paul “The Tweadmeister” Mitchener did proofing/editorial for the game. Neil Gow (publisher/author of Duty and Honour/Beat to the Quarters) was officially the games’ Monkey’s Uncle due to the excellent advice and encouragement that he gave over its rather wobbly development.
The book’s release coincided with Continuum 2010, a sell-out on a small (50 copies) but significant scale.
I was immediately aware of its shortcomings and planned a 2nd edition ( D101-045) which was finally released in 2018. It is available from the D101 Games web store.
I realised quickly once OpenQuest 1st Edition came out that it needed an adventure/scenario pack which quite frankly showed how awesome it was. Life and Death was planned to do that, but I had descended into a pessimistic revise/rewrite loop which meant it wasn’t getting done any time soon. My friend John Ossoway had a series of old RQ3 Conan scenarios, which featured monsters from the HP Lovecraft Cthulhu Mythos, which he casually mentioned over a lunchtime meetup. Excited by the idea, I convinced John to let me release it as an OpenQuest adventure.
So the plan was.
For me to create a new setting. Which was faithful to the essence of Pseudo Vikings and a frozen North, fighting eldritch horrors in the wilderness, but didn’t include Howards or Lovecraft’s IP. This led to the creation of the Savage North, which is made up of three kingdoms. The two kingdoms, the Drakkar, Nortland and Sonderland*** and the misty hill land of Bogdan.
To do editorial on John’s adventures, strip out the Conan + HP Lovecraft IP and convert it all to OpenQuest. This led to many bloodthirsty demons replacing Lovecraft’s creations since I’m a bit of an 80s body-horror fan (Clive Barker, Chronenburg etc.). The adventures formed a mini-campaign, which took the characters up a glacier and through the underground dungeons that riddled it to face waking evil Serpentmen Priests. Then south for a spot of monster hunting while safely escort a Druid who was turned into a pig to a sacred grove to be turned back into a human. Finally, the campaign ended with a dungeon lair of a demi-lich on a remote island and a race against time to prevent the master from resurrecting as a full member of the undead nobility. The whole thing was very Old School with dungeons and set-piece encounters along wilderness journies. John wrote one section of the first scenario to provide an excuse to replenish the party after it suffered a Total Party Kill.
John did all the internal art, including this map of the Savage North.
It was one of the most fun collaborations that I have been involved in, and that playful sense of fun translated into sales, with it meeting my expectations. One of D101 Games’ best sellers, it was a no-brainer when I did the OpenQuest 3rd edition that there should be a new version of the book entitled Saga of the Savage North.
I threw together this web comix from John’s art, and I think it sums up the sense of mischievous fun we had 😀
*Drakar was a land of pseudo-Vikings, with a touch of the North East of England where I’d lived as a teen. There’s an Angel of the North, a massive statue that comes to life and crushes its enemies, a city called Newcastle, the twin river gods Way-Ai and Kan-Ai and Howay the Hunter God.
OpenQuest’s story starts around 2005. I was regularly going to cons, about every 3-6 months then, and well into writing adventures. Sick of me going on about it during TV time, my wife challenged me to write an adventure and release it. Drivethrurpg.com was a thing then, for pdfs anyway, and Mongoose RuneQuest (MRQ) was out with its OGL Systems Resource Document. So over several lunchtime writing sessions at work, the adventure pack that was to become Life and Death* started to take shape.
Then one day, it occurred to why not publish a ruleset to go with it? As a long time RQ fan, I was amazed that no one else had seized on this opportunity**, and in a wonderful, joyous sense of naivety, I set about working on it on days I didn’t feel like going out into the grey rainy Manchester city centre.
By 2008 I had the core of the game, which was at that time called SimpleQuest. My design goal was to make something that was easy and straightforward to play, D100 games at that time, even the modern MRQ often descended into a mess of crunchy rules when the basic core is quite straightforward yet. I also wanted to make something that would be accessible to my friends on the UK con scene that used D100 as a default system. So I took a spirally bound printout to Continuum 2008 (D101-02) and ran an early version of Life and Death there.
So the rest of the year was heads down get it done time. I used a mix of public domain art and art generously done by Simon Bray, another D100 fan who got what I was doing with OpenQuest. The game’s name got changed from SimpleQuest to OpenQuest in October of 2008, at the suggestion of Tom Zunder (who runs The Tavern BB) since it reflected the open gaming nature of the book.
So September 2009, it finally came out. As a free pdf and a paid-for low-cost Print on Demand book available from Lulu.com. This initial release went well, with something like 700 downloads of the free pdf within two months, but I was less than impressed with the sales of the physical book – which I needed to do more than beer money to pay for production costs of further OpenQuest supplements that I had planned. So I had a rethink after four months or so and started charging for the pdf. Suddenly the game was paying for itself!
The second big change was the cover art. It was nice that people cared about the game, but I got incessant calls to get a new cover. Initially, I was resistant, I like Simon’s cover to this day as a piece of vibrant art, but my publisher’s head won out in the end. Jon Hodgeson, who I was already in contact with to do Monkey’s 1st edition cover, was able to modify an existing cover to fit OpenQuest***. Sales then started to go up. Not in a way that was making me zillions, but away that showed that I had something to build upon.
All in all, we had about five versions of OQ1 to fix typos and rules****, and I also played about adding extra content. This was fairly typical of indie-RPGs of the day, so I felt justified doing it. Plus, it was fun to grow the game this way. I released two mini-settings with supporting adventures, the Savage North (D101-07) and Life and Death (D101-015), both in 2010. While this was going on, I was getting more feedback from the fans, and it was obvious that a second edition was on the cards. So by summer 2012, OpenQuest 1st Edition had had its day, and OpenQuest 2nd Edition was upon IndieGoGo.com being crowdfunded. But that’s another story 😉
Next up The Savage North (D101-07)
*Life and Death is currently out of print. The plan is to re-work it
** It became very clear why no one else seized on it later on. About five years later, Mongoose gave up the MRQ 1 license and released a second edition. At this point, the RuneQuest logo license, which, if you were saying “hey, this is compatible with RQ” was important, just disappeared. So you were stuffed if you had gone down that route. Cakebread & Walton, for example, took a year to redo their MRQ version of Clockwork and Chivalry game, moving it over to OpenQuest as a standalone game (so I guess it worked out well :D). But the rest of the more casual hobby publishers who used it were stuffed, and their supplements eventually disappeared. The MRQ 1 Systems Resource Document hung around, and is still on the internet to the best of my knowledge, but was the subject of some dispute as revitalised new management at Chaosium pointed out that several Glorantha elements had been released in it without permission – which of course invalidates the whole thing. Today, as a result, OpenQuest is based fully on the successor to MRQ1, through MRQ2, Legend, which was released in its entirety as Open Gaming Content under the OGL. One of the reasons I didn’t release Life and Death under the MRQ Logo license was that I saw that it could be withdrawn at any time. Even though I checked with Greg Stafford just before release, he was ok with it and never had any of the disputed Gloranthan material in OpenQuest, which has always been a non-Gloranthan game. Still, I didn’t twig that the MRQ SRD was on shaky ground until much later. Wiser eyes would have seen this mess straight out of the box. If I had realised this, I would have worried myself to death and never have done OQ. So it’s good my publishing naviety won out here 🙂
***The (in)famous Halfling to Duck change.
**** OQ 1 had a car crash of a proof/editorial. In the case of one proofer quite literally, another had a major life-changing crisis that took him out, and I had the game over the situation of my second child being born, literally the month I decided to publish and be damned. Part of me wishes that I had taken more time to squash the typos and clean up the rules mistakes. My rather happy punk rock attitude to getting games done in the early days of D101 gave us a reputation based on that, which some reviewers focused on and highlighted in their reviews. That made me very angry until I took practical steps to fix it and realised that they only said what they did because they cared about the books and wanted them to be better. But I stand by the decision to publish when I did. I don’t think I would have done it otherwise. My second child was a more bumpy ride than my first, which was effortless, and I think I would have lost the momentum of getting it out there. Plus, it gave me and a great many others, who told me in person at cons or via emails, a great sense of joy.
Hearts in Glorantha (HiG) was a big part of my publishing life for a good decade-plus. It ended just under a year ago, something I’ll cover when I do posts about the later issues (7 & 8). I remember the first three issues fondly because they just got done to the bi-yearly schedule that I set myself, and they were, on the whole, well-received.
My early years of running convention games were running Gloranthan games, first RQ3 in the dying light of the system’s popularity in the late 90s, and then a rapid succession of three editions of HeroQuest. I organised a group of demo referees, the Ring of HeroQuest Narrators, which warped into the semi-official Masters of Luck and Death before imploding. Monkey and my own efforts were on my mind, but I still lacked the impetus to actually get down and publish it. That impetus came unexpectedly one morning just before I set off to work in May of 2008 as I sat and read a 30 page + thread on RPG.net where an obvious sockpuppet called Angry Agarath attacked everyone involved in Gloranthan publishing from Rick and Jeff at Moon Design (who had just taken over from Greg Stafford’s Issaries Inc) to the fan publishers over the lack of urgency on the publication schedule. AA really riled me up, and after spending 45 minutes reading every post, I thought I could have a go at filling the void and Hearts in Glorantha was born. A quick check with Jeff Richard, who greenlit the fanzine, and I was off on a crash course learning InDesign, emailing potential contributors and artists.
Three months later, Hearts in Glorantha issue 1 (D101-05) was released to many happy Glorantha Fans at Continuum 2008 in Leicester. I’ve always followed the Pink Faries mantra (via the Henry Rollins cover version) of DO IT, so this, in my mind, is the official birth of D101 Games.
HIG 1 was a real hodge-podge of what I ever could pick up at short notice. But it worked, and I was happy with it. It had a gaming background, fiction, a couple of Stewart Stansfield’s infamous Duck articles and a very quick adventure by myself. But that’s how I wanted it. It was a magazine, not a supplement in disguise. I also set the Editorial policy, which lasted for the magazine’s entire run, where I resisted setting a theme, so authors could be lazy and write to order, because I wanted folk to come up with inspirational pieces that had just lept into their imagination. The feature for each issue was whatever came out from what was submitted. For issue 1, it was the very appropriate Mythology.
HiG 2 (D101-03) and HiG 3 (D101-04) came along according to schedule. It debuted our consistent look and feel, with John Ossoway creating a new logo, doing the cover (which he would do for the next three issues), and setting up the layout templates. HiG was also the Creature Feature, which saw Dragonnewts, Chaos Elves from Dorastor, Jack O Bears, Harpies rub shoulders more of Stewart Stansfield’s Ducks.
HiG 3 was, amongst other things, an Undersea Feature, which featured a write up of an all Mostali (Dwarf) mini-campaign, We All Live in a Brass Submarine, by Richard Crawley, as well as material from a never-released HeroWars era Men of the Sea second book by Nick Davison. I also got in there with an OpenQuest Scenario (the only OQ Glorantha adventure) based on the premise of WHAT IF the Big Rubble was in Dara Happa, and it was Solars vs the Lunars? To my knowledge, this was the biggest stretch of YGMV (Your Glorantha May Vary) ever published (Fan or Official) and I’m quite smug about that 😛
Worth noting, as well as articles by Gloranthan Luminaries such as Mark Galeotti and Jeff Richard, each of the first three issues had a one page bit of fiction by Greg Stafford himself based upon the three approaches to Gloranthan Magic.
In many ways, HiG 1-3 is where I learnt the hard way how to publish, and while Monkey and OpenQuest, my first two RPG releases, got put to one side they were both the better for what I learnt from doing HiG 1-3.
Part of me cringes when I look at the sloppiness of the layout, and my editorial. The whole thing was part of a learning curve and I was still in a happy fan publishing punk rock frame of mind, which helped me overcome some pretty crippling “omg, omg, I can’t believe I’m allowed to do this” self-disbelief.
I’m also very proud that I used HiG to get other authors work out there, and into the hands of fans. It’s the reason why to this day, D101 Games is not an exercise in pure self-publishing, that I have other people write and draw for it. HiG was especially good as a recruiting ground for many artists that would go on to illustrate other D101 releases.
My local gaming cons have always been important to me. It gets me out of my home and lets me try out ideas with other roleplayers. Most D101 Games releases have had an outing as a convention game at some point.
Continuum 2008 held at Leicester University, was a medium-sized gaming convention of about 200+ attendees, held over the Summer. I’d been going since 1998 when it was called Convulsion and was a Gloratha/Call of Cthulhu/Chaosium convention. At some point in the early 2000s, the organising committee resigned en-masse, leaving Lawrence Whitaker as chair of a new convention, that was really just the old one continued with a new committee. Hence the name Continuum.
“My attendance at Continuum 2008” was important in the D101 scheme of things and why it is counted as a release for the following reasons.
I spent a lot of time talking to people and promoting the idea that I was doing D101 Games.
I was running the early version of OpenQuest, which was known as Simple Quest Zero Edition, for several of the games I was running over the weekend.
I took along a box of forty copies of Hearts in Glorantha Issue 1 that sold out!
I also wrote a longer review for this blog just after returning.