Monday, January 24, 2011

Questworld 2.0

If I'd written this post a few days ago, it would have been very different.  Like James from Grognardia, I'm fascinated by the road not taken for Runequest, to wit, the project called Questworld.  This project aimed to provide an alternate world for Runequest adventures other than Glorantha, where everything had to go through Greg Stafford's approval process.  Developers were free, however, to use Gloranthan gods.  In a particularly interesting idea, the Chaosium took one continent to develop (Kanos, pictured) but allocated others to the big players in the Runequest industry at the time like Judges Guild.  Another was to go to Britain's own Games Workshop, several years before that group became obsessed with Warhammer.

At the time - the early 1980s - GW's White Dwarf was going through a golden age, with multiple useful articles and scenarios in every issue.  In WD #38, the magazine's Runequest luminaries explained their plans for the continent, Theelar, and these guys knew what they were doing.  I was entranced.  I wanted to learn more about this project and be first in line to snag a copy when it came out.  For the next dozen or so issues, fascinating tidbits of the world came out.  A truly magnificent set of rules for demon summoning, complete with stats for demons and the demon lords, was the highlight, followed by our first glimpse of the geography and culture of Theelar.  The scenario Lone and Level Sands was one of the best ever published for Runequest, and it set out a conflict between a decadent and corrupt Ancient Empire and the Invader Race from Glorantha.  Rudimentary character generations rules for Ancients were included. It all looked like exactly the world I was waiting for.

Then it all stopped.  References to the forthcoming Questworld set became few and far between and eventually ceased, with no explanation given.  Whether the licensing deal got caught up in the disastrous transfer of Runequest to Avalon Hill or whether there were creative differences with Greg Stafford who was antipathetic to Glorantha having links to other worlds, I just don't know.

Nevertheless, for thirty years the possibilities of Theelar have intrigued me.  Until a few days ago I had a plan in mind.  I was going to catalog every reference to Theelar I could find to provide a skeleton of the GW Questworld project and then reconstruct a campaign setting from that.  I had spent months extrapolating from what I already knew, and had many seeds ready to plant.

Then this weeked, in researching the work of Dave Morris, one of the authors of the project, I discovered that the GW Questworld files still exist and may even be collated and published for his Dragon Warriors game:

The premise in brief: pilgrims from the known lands of Legend sail west seeking an earthly paradise as the millennium approaches. They arrive at another continent, which many are convinced is their reward from God. Some centuries later, few still believe that in their hearts, though it is still the official teaching of the Church and the capital city is called Deliverance. Inland, a decadent civilization known to the Coradians as Ancients, shored up by a slave army of creatures called habdigars, continues to oppose the newcomers' expansion along the great river Ophis. Think Legend meets Aguirre with a dash of Showboat World and you're not far off.
If you're a DW fan, don't expect this stuff to be rolling out overnight. It was originally written for Questworld, so much of it uses Runequest rules. Typewritten pages are not so convenient for re-editing as Word documents. Some of it is too close to other ideas we've used since. Role-playing has moved on (well, changed anyway) in the intervening years, so it would need updating. And editing material Oliver and I wrote over two decades ago has to take a back seat to projects like the Fabled Lands e-gamebooks. But in spare moments we'll tinker with it, and eventually, you never know...
Dave has included some mouth-watering tidbits, including a description of the city of Deliverance (perhaps originally Port Diaphos?) in his blog, which you can find by searching for Ophis, which I think was originally the Issaries River.  There's one splendid scenario outline in there already.

While delighted to hear this, this obviously squashes my beloved project, which I was just gearing up to after twenty-five years of thinking about it.  Yet the prospect of finally seeing this wealth of imagination, even in a non-Runequest form, makes my mouth water.

So back to the drawing board for my project.  I imagine that the basic geography of Theelar, if not the name or the specific geography of Tamary and the Wastes of Gizen, is still part of the Questworld project, so I can at least use that as the basis of my non-Gloranthan world.  And the idea of invader races whets my appetite.  So I have come up with a new name, cosmology and history for my Questworld idea.  I'll develop that here on my blog, as I use it to hone my thinking on Runequest mechanics as well.  Watch this space for the history of Ehlaar, coming very soon!


  1. I always liked the geography & topography of Questworld's "Kanos" cotinent, the scenarios from Questworld as a whole didn't excite me much, but some of the cults were interesting. Never saw the GW magazine articles about what they'ld do with their bit of Questworld, too poor back then to have both Different Worlds and White Dwarf.

  2. I, too, have been fascinated by Questworld. Every once in awhile I get the urge to transfer the world map to electronic format (Campaign Cartographer or Fractal Mapper or something like that) and start filling it up. Have you ever seen anything like that online?

  3. Why would they even need a world created by Chaosium? I've never understood why Games Workshop didn't create RuneQuest adventures in their own semi-medieval world. They could have created the go-to world for those that loved RuneQuest but didn't care for Glorantha.