The History of Legendary Quest

I can't tell you how many times I've been asked, "Whatever possessed you to do this!!??" The LQ seed first began germinating in high school. Back then, I was an avid lover of Dungeons & Dragons™, the world's first role-playing game. Being the first of its kind, D&D's rules didn't have the elegance of many modern games. It's not that D&D wasn't a great game; my friends and I wouldn't have snatched every spare moment to engross ourselves in its rules if it weren't. Even so, there were several aspects to D&D that continually irked us.

Bit by bit, we tweaked a rule here and adjusted a table there to smooth out some of the rougher edges. That's not to say that we cheated. We didn't. The rules were strictly followed—they just weren't the rules that came with the game. We didn't realize it at the time, but the practitioners of role playing games are notorious for their habits of continually morphing the rules of their favored systems in their endless search for the "perfect" game. In this regard, we were no different than any other D&D players.

In the summer of 1983, though, my friend Bob Brown looked at all the hand-scribbled modifications that we had collected and had an epiphany. "Why don't we make our own game?" he said. Mike Patrick and I, who made up the other two-thirds of the closely-knit trio, readily agreed. So you see, originally it wasn't my idea at all.

Despite our many tweaks, we couldn't really claim to have created anything new at that point. Our cumulative efforts were akin to dressing a rhino in ballet slippers: regardless of the rhino's career aspirations, obtaining a graceful pirouette out of so clumsy a beast requires considerably more than pink silk booties. Our only recourse was to dump everything we had accomplished and start anew.

We quickly decided on a new name for our impending creation: "Warriors, Wizards, and Wenches," or WWW for short. Unfortunately, WWW was found to be far too difficult to say, so the name was almost immediately changed to Treasure Quest. In hindsight, this decision was probably the biggest blunder of our collective lives since trade marking the term "WWW" would undoubtedly have earned us enough green to hire Bill Gates as a personal doorman.

Even so, Treasure Quest was a good name that pretty well described the game's goals: adventure, power, and wealth. By the third edition, the game was actually rather respectable. It had a decent set of combat rules, was reasonably well-balanced, and had undergone a considerable amount of playtesting. We were proud of our little "baby," and considered it the height of role-playing achievement. That is, we did until I first caught sight of a copy of Warhammer™ on our local game store's bookshelf.

When first thumbing through Warhammer's pages, I was mesmerized: its artwork was truly spectacular. But its structure and unique flavor was what kept me flipping pages like a Judo master at a Congressional weenie roast. Warhammer employed concepts that I had previously thought were unique to our own beloved Treasure Quest. Obviously, Warhammer's authors had imbued their game with a lot of creative thinking. I immediately handed over the required $30—which was quite a tidy sum for a starving college student at the time—and took my prize home.

To be honest, I was disappointed with Warhammer's combat system. For my friends and me, it was way too simplistic. Its terseness was understandable, however, since Warhammer's game designers originally created it for miniatures combat rather than role-playing. What attracted me to the game, though, wasn't its battle rules at all. What fascinated me about Warhammer was its total division of skills from professions: Each Warhammer profession was essentially a simple list of skills, and a character could acquire several professions during his or her career.

I have played other games since which use this same basic structure, but Warhammer is special to me because it was the first such game I came across. It really opened my eyes to radically new ways of thinking about how a game should be organized. Another eye-opening revelation was Warhammer's concept of "beginning" and "advanced" professions: given enough experience and effort, a character with a beginning profession could be promoted to one or more specified advanced professions.

This idea hit especially close to home because at that time, Treasure Quest had an almost identical class system. Under our class system, hard work would allow wizards and witches to become promoted to mystics, necromancers, enchanters, and the like; but no other careers in our game had this flexibility. In allowing all their characters to attain advanced professions, Warhammer promoted distinct personalities in all their characters. I was inspired.

I worked diligently on Treasure Quest throughout the next summer, incorporating some of the concepts I saw in Warhammer along with many others that my newly-unencumbered viewpoint provided. When I returned to college the next year, my college gaming buddies barely recognized what I handed them as the progeny of the previous several year's efforts.

In fact, the game was so radically different than what we had before that I gave it a different name to reflect its new nature: Quest. The game was about adventure and developing a unique persona. Period. Sure, treasure entered into the picture as a somewhat obvious motivating factor, but the story was the central point. And, to have a good story, you've got to develop interesting characters.

The game was a huge hit with the playtesters, and was easily the equal of any other game on the market in terms of combat and overall structure. But I was still unsatisfied. The rules were good, but it didn't have a "flavor." Good rules only go so far.

In creating the first four editions of our game, I acquired quite a collection of books. History books, art books, dictionaries on mythology, encyclopedias of faery lore, dictionaries of ghost lore, illustration books of old woodcut masters, etc. I had a bewildering array of historical volumes at my fingertips which I used frequently as source material when I couldn't dream up new ideas of my own. Due to my love of role-playing, I was inadvertently becoming rather well-read. Without realizing it, the list of gods whose names and characteristics I had memorized slowly grew longer than our former Commander-in-Chief's dating schedule.

All this occurred without forethought. I was a computer geek, after all. What use could I have for such drivel, apart from game material? Even so, little by little, I gained a broad overview of the panorama of human beliefs and a better understanding of man's desperate need for a sensible universe.

Knowing how our ancestors' beliefs evolved over time provided me with a new perspective on the world. The various cultures of Europe and the Mediterranean began to gel into a continuous whole in my mind. When I finally realized this fact, I was very grateful that my hobby had borne such desirable fruit, even if this unexpected outcome was not one of my original goals at all.

And at the time of my revelation, I remember thinking how unfortunate it was that my playtesters couldn't enjoy the same benefits. Now, I've known players so devoted to mastering our ever-changing game that they memorized the page numbers of specific rules and could recite virtually any table by heart. Even so, without a Ph.D. in religious history, only the authors themselves could distinguish between the historically accurate beliefs the game incorporated and the baseless "filler" we inserted to flesh out the page count.

Then it hit me: if we eliminated everything that did not have a basis in historical belief, the players of our game would be a long way toward attaining the same appreciation of folklore that I had gained. The same intense study of our game that had always occurred might actually enhance the lives of the players in unexpected ways even after they ceased practicing our little pastime.

This was perhaps the most radical insight of all, and led me to undertake the task. It certainly required the greatest effort on my part, since the research requirements were harsh. Once again, I changed our game's name to reflect its new thrust. Adventure and story in a purely legendary setting: Legendary Quest. This is the game you are about to behold, now in its seventh edition.

Get a taste of the folklore found in Legendary Quest

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