Issaries’ next order: one HeroQuest, hold the Glorantha

At DunDraCon this past weekend, Issaries announced QuestWorlds, a new “poly-genre” roleplaying system built on top of Robin Laws’ system for HeroQuest. Here’s the closest thing I can find to an official online announcement. The authors have done some work before for HeroQuest and All Flesh Must Be Eaten; at least the latter gives them a little multi-genre cred. Can the market support another system of this kind right now… even if it’s a Robin Laws system?

19 comments

  1. Well, do you mean support another non-d20 system, a generic system, or a more “word heavy” system?

    The two big systems I see out there that cover multiple genres are Hero and GURPS. While QuestWorlds is poly-genre, from a system standpoint it’s very different from both Hero and GURPS.

    Not meant as a put-down to either system, but if you’re at all familiar with HQ and either Hero or GURPS, I think you’ll have to agree they’re at different ends of the game design spectrum.

    … and, of course the system was designed by Robin Laws.

  2. Agreed. The aforementioned Unisystem from All Flesh; the re-released Basic System from Chaosium; a number of others. But there’s something to be said for encouraging customers to try your game in new ways. Is this the “right” time to try it? Got me.

  3. One person at the seminar where QuestWorlds was announced described the concept as “GURPS for drama majors.” I’m undecided on the idea.

    On the one hand, Glorantha has a rich, sprawling, and sometimes intimidating depth of detail to it, much of which seems indispensable. Shedding the eons of fictional history and presenting Robin’s clean, streamlined system might appeal to some gamers, and bring in new blood.

    On the other hand, there are plenty of generic systems out there already. And with the RPG industry in the middle of a sales downturn, this could be a risky venture. Will the hordes of Glorantha fans buy a non-Glorantha product, thereby encouraging Issaries to focus more attention away from Glorantha?

  4. My one real worry is that we don’t know the answers to any of these questions. We don’t know if Gloranthaphiles will buy any given other product, and we don’t know if a substantially different system will motivate people to choose one generic RPG over another. Nobody can ever know for sure, but we could know a lot more than we know now.

    All it would take is a couple of people standing around in the hallway at a large con, telling passers-by, “Do you have a few minutes to answer some questions about games? There’s a $3 Starbucks card in it for you.” Spend two days doing that and you’d have a vastly better sense of why gamers buy what they buy.

    Robin’s system is wonderful, and Ben and Brian will do it justice, I have no doubt. But after that big-ass editorial I wrote, I would have no integrity at all if I did not ask why nobody did that before announcing this product.

  5. It was a more general statement about the industry as a whole, originally. Mike’s referring to his year-end rant on market research, and the apparent lack thereof in the game industry. He should’ve provided the link, darn him. Here it be:

    http://www.ogrecave.com/archives/004091.shtml#004091

    From the RPGnet threads I’ve seen, there does seem to be some excitement stirring, which is great to hear. Best of luck to you and Ben on the project, Brian.

  6. Ah, fair enough – I had thought at first he meant his comment as the editorial. Fair enough.

    Personally, I do think it’s a little, well easy, to put out an editorial floating a standard and then begin applying it as if it’s a game-changer (in the industry sense, that is). I suppose it rankled me a bit to be the first project to which the new standard was applied.

    But in any event, no harm done. I appreciate the well wishing.

  7. Huh – I had actually managed to convince myself we couldn’t link in comments. My bad.

    I don’t mean to single out this product, when my real concern is with the market for all independent RPG products, which seems to be in general decline. However, I should point out that self-volunteered information is not really that reflective of the market as a whole, as the posters themselves in that (excellent) RPGnet thread point out.

    But on the other hand, probably the only con at which you could really do surveys in the hallway and get a meaningful sample is Gen Con Indy. (I hope someone does! A paper survey slipped into the reg goodie-bag might also be productive.)

  8. a survey in convention reg-bags? I doubt many would get filled out. Unless con sign-up required a completed survey, which I doubt GenCon would go for.

    Interesting thought, though. I’m tempted to come up with hypothetical questions.

  9. Offer a free tchotchke for returning it to your booth, plus maybe an end-of-show prize drawing, and I bet you’d get plenty. People generally like being asked for their opinions.

  10. Misuba is spot on. I used to do Market research when working for a Marketing firm. We did standard market research and focus groups. People, in general, will give you data for nothing if they are interested in a subject. It stymies me that small Indy Roleplaying companies wont take advantge of the masses at the larger cons, and hang out with clip boards. 2 mins of someone’s time= avoiding a MASSIVE mistake. Web based surveys at low/no cost are always an option too, but that’s another topic.
    Example. I worked with a local computer weekly at one point doing some focus groups. The weekly paper/website wrote a lot of reviews on Hardware, ISPs, books, etc. They were very interested in finding out if adding ecommerce to their site would be something viable. IE they considering adding links to the bottom of their reviews to sell products and like products. They were stunned to find out that almost 90% of the people who attended the focus groups said they would flat out stop reading the magazine/website if they sold what they reviewed. Crisis averted by doing just a little intelligence gathering. And when I say crisis, think about it. They saved the cost of development/coding. The time it woud have taken to set up relationships with vendors for the products. Hiring a team to address issues Customer Service issues. The cost of marketing the new service…I could go on.
    Why is it so hard to belive that asking a few hundred gamers if they even cared about a new product in development, would be such a bad thing? How many “GREAT IDEAS” sit launghishing in the clearence bins of your friendly LGS, because no one bothered to ask if anyone wanted it in the first place? Indy RPG companies rarely have two pennies to rub together at the same time, yet over and over again they have just sent product after product, untested to the printers. The day and age where people just buy a product to see what it is all about are just flat out over. The RPG customer of today is as savvy as someone buying consumer electronics. They can go to numerous websites and read reviews and they can discuss it with people around the world to see if it adds value to their particular needs. Lastly, there is PLEANTY of competition for their entertainment dollars. I guess my genral feeling is that the gaming consumers buying habits and patterns have evolved, so…why hasn’t the average Indy RPG company? The old cliche certainly applies in this one. Evolve or Die. And they are. You read the stores about GOO, Hero, FFE. How many left the market in the past 2 years?
    I hope Brian and his coauthors don’t take offense to these posts. It’s unfortunate that their particular book was used as “the example” for all these comments. I certainly mean none by my post, and hope it does super well. But if you look at the comments people have posted as a generalization, I think it was high time SOMEONE said them….

  11. I think that the QuestWorlds game will do fairly well.

    For one, HeroQuest is a unique system that has pretty much wedged its way into being a system of choice for those seeking to emphasize more story-based play into their games. It’s not like another TSR, BRP or d20 clone game. The system is very distinct from other games on the market.

    One of my biggest beefs with HeroQuest was that it was difficult to extrapolate the system from the Glorantha setting in a timely fashion. The construction of keywords and retooling of the magic system could take a long time (and much typing). For those who weren’t interested in a detail-laden fantasy setting, Glorantha was a real deal breaker to trying out HeroQuest.

    QuestWorlds may help solve that. In terms of sales, I think (with a decent level of production) QuestWorld could outstrip sales of the HeroQuest corebook. With a modest pricing, I think that is a highly likely scenario.

    My concerns with QuestWorld, as described in the press release are as follows:

    1) The release date isn’t set. This could be because they don’t know when it will be finished and want to hold off to deliver the best product possible. Then again, it could be a sign that it stays on in production hell… forever. I’m thinking they’re only at the early stages of getting this thing together. Most releases of this nature at least mention (Fall 2005) or (Summer 2006). Can anyone remember the first press release for HeroQuest? How long did that take to reach the shelves (as HeroWars)?

    2) My second concern is how much of Robin Laws’ system will actually make it to the finished product. How much editing or tweaking is going on to the framework of what Robin put together? Reading him on the forums and his blog, he seems rather partial to the system. Which leads me to wonder why there’s really no mention of his involvement in presenting the system in (hopefully) its purest form (allowing some improvements, of course).

    Also, from the press release, it sounds like the writers will be using the Narrative method of character generation exclusively. Though definitely the path of least resistance in making a generic HeroQuest game (in a sense the narrative method makes chargen less dependent on keywords), it’s also the method I’ve seen used least of all among players. In fact, I’ve never seen (or heard of) a player using the Narrative method. I’m sure some have. But it’s certainly a minority in my experience. I wonder if it’s wise to bank on QuestWorlds converting gamers raised on lists of skills and feats to a mini-writing exercise during character creation.

  12. Sam:

    Some quick response:

    1) We’re planning on staying as close to Robin Laws’ system as possible. We think quite highly of it.

    2) We’ll be leveraging the narrative method, but all three will be presented. The leverage applies – at this early stage – mainly to narrator usage. For char gen, the three systems you’re familiar with will be represented.

    … and I’ve had complete beginners start with the narrative method quite easily.

    Thanks for your interest!

  13. Thanks for the comments, Brian.

    1) This makes me very, very happy. It was a personal concern of mine. From what I’ve read of Robin’s comments about the HQ system and how it diverges from the system he originally presented Greg (as well as some online correspondence), I’d really like for his system to see the light of day. However, I’m also aware that it might make a few HQites upset. So, that’s a pretty slim fencepost to sit on. I don’t envy you that. I am happy that you’ll be sticking to his original system as closely as possible though.

    2) This will set a lot of current HQ players at ease, I think. The List Method is far and away the most popular method of character creation, from my experience. And, regarding beginners using the narrative method, that does not surprise me. In fact, it makes sense. What would surprise me is if you got RPG vets to use it. Getting a newbie to write a couple of paragraphs to get a game going is not a big deal. You just tell them that’s how games are played. Getting someone who was raised on Hero, GURPS, D&D and Palladium to write up a paragraph before stats or skills or anything, now THAT would be impressive. Most RPGers I’ve known are list oriented. Whether that’s because they’re just used to it from years of list-based chargen or whether it’s because they’re turned off of writing about their character after years of GMs ignoring what they’ve written is anyone’s guess. But those players who do write up things for games are a minority (again IME). Most RPGers aren’t writers. If they were, you’d be out of a job. 🙂

    Still, I’m glad for the game that all three chargen systems will be represented. My interest is piqued as to how you plan to do it without having to write up pages and pages of keywords, however.

    Best of luck.

  14. P.S. I’ve seen elsewhere that individuals related with the project have predicted a release date towards the end of the year. How firm is that? Has Issaries budgeted for the printing and release of this product? I hold Greg, his game and his company in high esteem but I’m also well aware of how deadlines do magically seem to shift or disappear altogether with Issaries releases. Due to my interest, I’d like to see this game released as soon as possible. But there’s no talk of an official release date, which makes it difficult for me to take the project as seriously as I’d like. Any word on that?

  15. I’ll have to disagree with Sam, who said

    “One of my biggest beefs with HeroQuest was that it was difficult to extrapolate the system from the Glorantha setting in a timely fashion.”

    With not much work, I made a game based (mostly) on the HeroWars system for a (mostly) Ars Magica world. I think it took about a week of thinking about things (on the bus going to work) and a few evenings to write up the initial version. A few sessions to iron out the problems and we were off.

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