Thursday, May 30, 2013

Quest of the Ancients: The Obscure Fantasy RPGs Appreciation Day

"Look upon this, old-schoolers, and know that this path has been tread before." -  Jeff Grubb

Today is The Obscure Fantasy RPGs Appreciation Day hosted by Mesmerized by Sirens.

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On this day I want to go back over some ground I have tread before.  Today I want to talk about Vince Garcia's magnum opus Quest of the Ancients.

QotA was the topic of one of my A to Z posts a few years ago. It seems I was not the only one to use it for Q, Jeff Grubb posted about it the same year and Charlie Warren the year after.   There is surprisingly little information out there about this game.  The Wikipedia article is sparse and the RPGNet database entry only has the basics.  There is very, very little else on the web and the author, Vince Garcia, seems to have no net presence I can find.  Plus there is no legal pdf of it out there. In fact if you search for "Quest of the Ancients"  + "legal PDF" you will only find me asking for it on RPG.Net.  I would also like to find a copy of the 2nd edition print.  It has different (and better) cover art but that is all I know for sure.  I have heard it was never printed and in other places I have heard it is longer by a few pages.  No idea.

So, obscure? Yeah. It has it in droves.
I don't even remember where I learned about it.  I am pretty sure I know how and about when though.
I was finishing up my very first netbook on Witches for AD&D 2nd ed and I wanted to collect all the AD&D  compatible witch classes that were ever made.  My idea was I was going to play test all the classes with the same character (same background and stats) and see how they all played out.  Something I still do to this day. I discovered the Judges Guild Witch Class and was not overly thrilled with it.  Somehow I discovered or was told about Quest of the Ancients. I picked up a copy on eBay and that was that.

Quest of the Ancients can be best described as an AD&D clone, an AD&D add on or as a collection of someone's AD&D house rules.  The author, Vince Garcia, had some publications before QotA came out including some material for AD&D2 and White Wolf magazine.  So he was not new to this. In deed the copyright date on this book lists 1982, so some form of these rules were around at least then.  Likely it was a collection of house rules.  What I noticed though right away was the Witch Class.

Let's be 100% honest here.  Vince Garcia loves the Witch class as much as I do.  Really.  The book is easily 70-75% class material and the class that gets the most attention and the most text is the witch.  Before I get into that let me talk about what the book has.

We start out with the title/author page.  He dedicates the the book to "Miss Stevie Nicks".  Ok. So let me be honest here.  I get this. No, I really do.  That doesn't not make it weird. But I get it.  He also thanks "Angelique".  Yeah, I did the same thing.

The QotA game (and I am unsure if this is intended to be a seperate game or as thinly veiled add-on to AD&D) characters have nine (9) stats.  They are rolled differently depending on the race of the character and sometime the gender.  Nearly everyone has the same mins and maxes (1-20), but the different dice and pluses usually mean different mean, median and modal scores.   The big stat is IQ (Intelligence) since it determines how high level you can go.  The ability adjustments for these abilities are D&D standard (+0 for average up to +3 for 18 and beyond). Our abilities are Strength, Agility, Conditioning, IQ, Charm, Appearance, Luck, Stamina, and Body (which is the average of Strength and Conditioning).
The book covers the standard races (human, elf, dwarf, half-elf, gnome) and some ideas on how to make other races like the ogre or a "furrfoot" (halfing) work.  This bit is not bad advice really and certainly expands on the ideas of races.

Chapter 2 covers the classes.  This is the reason you buy this book.
There are  Fighter classes. These include the Cossack, Gladiator, Knight, Legionnaire, Rouge (not a thief), Saracen, Viking, and Woodsman.  Another group are the Tricksters which are the Assassin, Bard (with some spell-songs), Cutpurse (this is the thief), and Gypsy.  The gypsy is interesting since there is a difference between male and female gypsies.  The males are more like a Bard/Cutpurse/Rogue while the females are more witch-like.  Lastly we have all the  Spellcasters.  Each class is presented and all their spells follow after.  This includes the Druid (different from the AD&D one), Earth Priest, Necromancer, Sorcerer, and Witch.    The Necromancer is more akin to the original idea of a Necromancer, one that speaks to the dead.  He does have plenty of death-related spells.  The Sorcerer is a "do it yourself" sort of spell using class.  No spells are even listed for this class assuming the GM will make their own or use some "from magazines".

Let's talk about the Witch now.
Like I mentioned the classes take up pages 13 to 157 (of 214),  the witch has 52 of those pages. Who does that remind you of?
 She has a lot of new spells up to the 7th level and about five new powers. The witch is also the only class to get a detailed NPC. Actually she gets three.  The "Queen of Witches" Elvyra, her familiar and her chief handmaiden. The rules limit advancement to 20th level; Elvyra is 25th and Night (the handmaiden) is 23rd.   Look. I am the last person that can throw stones at this one OK.  Part of me is face-palming over this, and another part is impressed with the shear bravado of it.
Notably the "iconics" from the cover are not stated up anywhere in the book.
The Witch and Gypsy are both pretty interesting classes.  I think what happened here is the author wrote all this material for the Witch and then had a bunch of spells and ideas left over that used for the other classes.  Or maybe I am projecting too much.  Hard to say.

There are some interesting rules on multi-classing.  It reminds a little of the D&D4 Hybrid class rules.  Basically you advance in two classes at the same time, taking the more advantageous options.  The experience points are a little more than 75% of the two classes added together.  So on the average a multiclassed character takes 1.5 times longer to level up than a single class character.  Neat idea on paper, not sure how it works in reality.

The rest of the book goes by fast, really just enough to call it a complete game.  There is a chapter on skills. only a couple of pages really but for an AD&D Heartbreaker it has some neater ideas.  A chapter on Equipment, one on "the Adventure" and another on Combat.  The Combat is a d30 deal which is again interesting, but not one I would ever use to be honest.
You might think the Chapter on Magic would be longer than it is. But it is only about 3-4 pages.  Though there is some interesting ideas on magical research for all classes.
There are chapters on Rewards and some Monsters.  The only thing that sets it apart is the listing of female vs. male unicorns.  One (female) is white and good and the other (male) is black and not as good.
There is also a chapter on the campaign world of Islay.  It is a typical game world where lot of quasi medieval and semi-mythical lands are clumped together Xena-style.
There is some historical  detail about the worshipers of Brigit and his witches which made me smile.  Vince Garcia and I read a lot of the same books it seems.

In the end I can't dislike the game and I admire the author intents.
I am not likely to use anything from it really,  but it is a fun book to pick up a flip through. Plus I kinda like that there is not a whole bunch known about it.  Gives me the illusion that I am some sort of occult expert in a very narrow field of expertise.  I can pull on my old professor clothes and have a snifter of age brandy; "Islay you say? Let me tell you about the lands of Islay. Her unicorns, demons and most of all about the Witch Queen.  Yes. You must hear about the Witch Queen Elvyra..."


Brett Slocum said...

Aaaiiieee! I thought that was tomorrow!

Timothy Brannan said...

Tomorrow is the day, I just needed to do mine now cause of the posts I have for tomorrow.

Charlie Warren said...

Good stuff! I have been intrigued by this game and still need to get it. I went ahead and posted mine today also because work might get crazy tomorrow; I had to go with what I have so far.

Charlie @ The Semi-Retired Gamer

Charlie Warren said...

Dang my manners! I also meant to say "Thanks for the shout out" in your post!

Charlie @ The Semi-Retired Gamer

Timothy Brannan said...


I am going to have some more tomorrow.

Fabio Milito Pagliara said...

Great post and more love to the witch...

By the way in Chevalier (and Chivalry and Sorcery) there is a lot of love to withces :)

In Chevalier you have the Hex Masters, in C&S you have various iteration of the Witch

On how to translate Witch in Italian once we went for "Selenidi" which means Sons/Daughter of the Moon when we translated Chivalry and Sorcery Light :)


Fabio Milito Pagliara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Timothy Brannan said...

That is very cool. I will need to check that out.

James Kight said...

I have a copy of the earlier printing that I am going to scan soon if you would like...

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