Publisher: Fantasy Makers Industries
Review Dated: 3rd, June 2004
Reviewer’s Rating: 5/10 [ Perfectly acceptable ]
Total Score: 30
Average Score: 6.00
This review is based on a nearly finished copy of RealmQuest. That’s an important caveat to make because the game could change quite a lot between now and publication. Thankfully, games only tend to get better as they’re worked on and near completion so this review is more likely to be too harsh than too flattering. A casual glance at this copy of RealmQuest suggests that Fantasy Makers only need to add some pictures and tidy up the formatting (remove some of the empty pages – or put something in them) and they’re finished. In truth; RealmQuest needs more work than that. The editor needs to get their scissors out and needs to be horribly cruel to the authors. Text needs to come out.
I was supposed to do this review as quickly as possible. I failed terribly, but even if Real Life hadn’t stolen so much of my time, I would have struggled to do anything quickly with RealmQuest. At nearly 500 pages long it’s the largest game I’ve seen shoehorned into a PDF. The formidable size is just one reason why the editor needs to start hacking at RealmQuest. RealmQuest is a verbose game. I think it’s a mistake. It’s one I’ve seen before, in similar products to RealmQuest; comprehensive, large, fantasy RPGs which are often a small company’s first product, labour of love and planned flagship.
RealmQuest aims to give you absolutely everything you could possibly need in a roleplaying game in one shot. That is one of the reasons the PDF is so large. The Talarius system is designed so that it can be used as the game mechanics in any type of roleplaying game. It is an old fashioned system with modern tweaks and improvements. With plenty of different types of magic and spell lists for all of them and with, for example, a selection of chase tables for different environments (rooftop, wilderness, etc) the Talarius system is always going to require a forest of paper.
I think RealmQuest and the Talarius system is going to appeal most to gamers who prefer the old reliable RPG systems, with encyclopaedia type, meaty rules but who also want to try something spiced up with a shake of innovation and a dash of new-style mechanics.
I came to admire and loath the Talarius system. The RealmQuest PDF begins with a large introduction to Talarius. It’s clear that Fantasy Makers have invested a lot of time and faith in Talarius. They really like it and want you to like it too. At times it feels like you’re reading an advert for Talarius. That said, it’s really helpful (and surprisingly unusual) to find a succinct definition of the core mechanic so early on in a game. You have a nice summary of the core mechanic early on here and that really helps. There are some mixed successes in the verbose introduction too. We’re told why Talarius doesn’t have character classes and offered some work arounds if we’re stuck without them. We’re not told what a character class is though and that might be slightly confusing if you are entirely new to roleplaying. Talarius, RealmQuest, is suitable for newbies.
We have a mix of races. We have our usual suspects; humans, elves, dwarves and gnomes. Oh. I like the gnomes – RealmQuest does enough to give me gnome that isn’t just a sub-species of dwarf and isn’t a weird type of illusionist. We have the other type of gnome here – the mechanical specialists. The gnomes in RealmQuest have enough rules to make mechanical wonders a realistic addition to the game. We have the canine, feline and murine species and we have the ones unique to RealmQuest. There’s likely to be a race to appeal to everyone and with that there’s also the good chance that there is a race which seems a bit to naff to most people too.
RealnQuest does manage some innovations and the Redemption and Temptation points are one of them. I hate vanilla, over simplified alignment systems, and in most cases I wish games didn’t include alignment at all. Let’s leave it as a roleplaying, not a mechanical, issue. RealmQuest’s (Talarius’ rather) Philosophies tempt me. If you have lots of Redemption points then you’re likely to be “Good” and if you have lots of Temptation points instead then you’re likely to be “Evil”. The clever bit, I think, is that the actual number of these points you need to be “Good” or “Evil” varies according to your character rank (character rank is known as character level in any other game). You might successfully be “Good” at a low rank after doing some good deeds but as you, er, rank-up you slide back to “neutral” because you’ve not added to your Redemption points. This is a game mechanic incentive to keep on doing virtuous deeds if you want to be counted as a good guy.
The Talarius system uses d100. It’s not exactly percentile. Roll under your rating and every 10 points below (or fraction of) counts as success. This gives you room to add up fairly precise modifiers or penalties (+5% -7%, etc) and still have the clarity of a point based success range.
The core combat system – which includes the use of miniatures (and later scales up to skirmish rules) – uses action points. You need to have enough action points left in your turn to take the action you want. On the downside this is a bit county. On the plus side you don’t have to wonder whether you’ve taken a half or full action.
Since we get to roll d100s in Talarius we can include fumble rules which won’t produce fumbles with hilarious frequency. This is good if you like fumbles. I, for one, think MERP was forever ruined by tables that suggested our brave Captains of the West tripped over imaginary, deceased, turtles. RealmQuest isn’t that bad but it does include improbable physical self-injuries and the occasional and unfortunate mage may accidentally summon a demon rather than cast that healing. Uhm. If you like an expansive magic system then RealmQuest is likely to appeal to you. It has Psionics too.
In some ways RealmQuest is number-tracky and in other ways it is simple. It’s not impossible to have a character with just the basic stats and two skills. That’s a convenient simplicity and combines nicely with “third generation” rule ideas like automatic successes. Skills improve on merit. The route to improving skills involves rolling critical successes. This does away with inexplicable and blank skill increases with new ranks. On the other hand it does encourage players to want to roll lots of dice to increase their chances of winning that critical success.
There’s a nice attempt on social roleplaying too. This is always a debate among my local gamers. Should you play a charismatic character if you can’t actually roleplay the charisma? Sure, you can play strong hero if you’re not exactly strong yourself but if you’re actually a tactless oaf and you’re trying to play a seductive elf then you can wreck the all-important suspension of disbelief for everyone else. This debate manifests in something of a rant in RealmQuest. The effective ruling is that the more successes you have then the more likely the NPCs are to react favourably to you – but you still have to roleplay the social scene. We’re still left with the intelligence debate though; should you leave the players to solve puzzles or should that be left to the dice and character intelligence?
I’ll say it again. RealmQuest’s lack of harsh editing really puts me off. It’s far too wordy and clumsy for my tastes. That said I really appreciate the thoroughness and level of detail in the game. We’ve rules for aerial and water movement and manoeuvrability. I think that’ll appeal to gamers who like precise game mechanics. There are charts showing the levels and appropriate titles for Russian, Italian and Spanish nobility. That appeals to infovore gamers like myself.
Is that enough for nearly 500 pages? No. Never. RealmQuest has a whole campaign world too. The World of Kralis is a bit like the Talarius system itself; it’s strongly reminiscent of old style fantasy worlds – but isn’t. We have huge continents dominated by certain species, we have timelines and epic histories. Kralis is set in a Celestial Omniverse. Prime Terra is the physical Plane of Existence which most people would call reality. I suppose that’s fairly standard but it’s thoroughly described here. I do like the language glyphs and rules. Touches like that, I think, really do help conjure up a fantasy flavour for the world. The help to the GM (or RealmMaster) section is surprisingly good. The staff of Fantasy Makers are experienced gamers.
I could go on and on about RealmQuest. That’s easy. There’s so much here. In my opinion this review boils down to some pretty core points. This is a large game. It’s going to appeal to gamers who like large games and won’t appeal to roleplayers who like it fast, loose and light. RealmQuest goes on and on about Talarius and unless you’re enthralled by Talarius you may find this annoying. The content needs to be edited. It is not fair to say that RealnQuest is badly written but it is fair to say that it needs a harsh, professional, editor who will strip out the repeating halves of sentences, redundant words and looping paragraphs. This editing, of course, may come into play before the final version is officially published (and hopefully I’ve not taken so long on this review that that that’s happened…)
There is a free, lite version, of RealmQuest which you can download and check out for yourself. To be honest, based on this copy of RealmQuest, the game is what you make it to be.