DuckQuest: Quack Starter Edition
So… Y’know how RuneQuest sometimes gets some raised eyebrows for the inclusion of anthropomorphic ducks? And some people deemphasize that aspect of RuneQuest?
Not the authors of DuckQuest. They clearly saw those ducks, binged on some Scrooge McDuck comics, and decided “the world needs an RPG dedicated to Duck Fantasy Adventures.” (Note: It is doubtful this happened. If it did, it is the greatest of coincidences, and you should take investment advice from me.)
Let’s give you an idea of what you’re in for:
DuckQuest is a roleplaying game with an unapologetic humorous bent. There will be absurd flights of fantasy, fleeting moments of lucidity, and far too many fowl puns. This is a game of light and duck.
This is your game and you can play it anyway you like. You can even change these rules to have more fun with your friends. However you choose to play DuckQuest, is eggs-actly how you play DuckQuest.
I don’t know what the groan-inducing pun per page ratio is in this game, but it is high enough that if that makes you chuckle, you are in for a treat, and if it makes you groan, you should get the quack out of here now.
DuckQuest is a short RPG presented as a PDF of only 68 pages. I don’t know much about the publishers, Star Hat Miniatures, aside from having a lot of duck miniatures. As far as I can tell, the “Quack Starter” is the only RPG available at present, and I’m uncertain if there will be a more detailed DuckQuest forthcoming (the Quack Starter seems pretty complete to me).
The PDF is primarily illustrated in black and white with color covers and a map of AquaLoonia (this review is murder on spellchecking – I’m not sure if that’s a note for my editor or my audience). The illustrations are nicely done, with more anthropomorphic ducks than one typically finds in an RPG, save perhaps for one about ducks. One thing about its PDF version that can drive reviewers like me quackers is it lacks bookmarks.
DuckQuest is a game that assumes characters are playing anthropomorphic animals – while ducks are the default, any kind of animal is possible, much like the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles RPG.
Characters in DuckQuest are relatively simple. Character generation is broken down into the following steps:
- A name from a random table for bizarre funky names.
- QUACKtributes. The ability scores of a character, from an array of 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. The ability scores in this game are Quickness, Ugly (toughness/prowess), Arcana (mental/magic ability), Cool, and Kismet (luck/destiny).
- A Quackstory. Three sentences to describe the character’s background.
- A Unique Item. Some particular one-of-a-kind item.
- Quirks. Personality traits and/or special abilities.
Additionally, characters have:
- Kudos. A combination of fame and experience.
- Heart. Physical toughness (i.e., hit points) and perseverance.
- Psyche. Mental vitality. Used for magic and skills.
- Armour. A combination of physical armor and bonuses is provided by Kudos (“plot armor”).
At the start, Heart and Psyche total ten. When a character levels up (improves Kudos):
- They add one to one ability
- They add a total of ten to Heart and Psyche
Sample Quackstories give sample backgrounds, quirks, unique items, and equipment. These backgrounds range from traditional fantasy characters, like swashbucklers and magi, to cyborg ninjas and fighter pilots – suggesting a weird setting.
The basic rules are given on a single page. Essentially you roll a d20, add your attribute, and try to beat a target number.
This covers about half the book. The middle has a blurb about duck miniatures (despite gaming primarily online, I find myself suddenly needing duck miniatures), followed by details of the setting Aqualoonia. As described in the text:
Aqualoonia is a world of science fantasy. You can grab anything that comes to mind during play and throw it in the imagination blender to create an enjoyable cosmic smoothie gaming experience for everyone.
The rules described above would seem only to be appropriate for people extremely comfortable at winging it (and that was an unintentional duck pun). Much of the rest of the book is filled with optional rules for more crunch. However, this crunchiness is relative. The “crunchy” magic system essentially says there are three “levels” of spells, with guidelines as to what is in each level, what is required to cast such spells, etc. – it is up to players to make up their own magic as the situation dictates.
It’s in the crunchiness where Heart and Psyche get their explicit uses. Heart functions as a type of hit points tracker. When spellcasting goes awry, beyond any fowl result this triggers, the caster suffers spellburn to their Psyche. Non-spellcasters can also use Psyche as a “skill focus,” burning Psyche for bonuses to their rolls.
What about Quirks and Unique Items – technically, they just provide flavor, suggesting they can be used to negotiate bonuses.
So should you purchase DuckQuest? The good news is that the digital version is free—if this sounds intriguing, I’d definitely suggest checking it out yourself.
With that in mind, do I think it is a “good” game? Obviously, the game is filled with puns and humor, and different people have different opinions of humor in RPGs. It may be clear from this review that I seemed to be on the right wavelength to be receptive to these puns and humor.
At its core, I’d have to say there’s definitely a playable game here. It is a highly rules-lite game, even if you add all the optional crunch. This is definitely a game for people who want some goofiness in their games and are comfortable winging it on the fly.
Personally, I can’t imagine a long-term campaign of DuckQuest, but that’s just me. After all, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has managed to sustain itself if one form or another for decades—maybe in two or three decades, I’ll be in a retirement community and meet people who have been running a single DuckQuest campaign for 25 years. More likely, I could see using it for one-offs, occasional games, and mini-campaigns, and I imagine it could be quack full of fun with a like-minded group. And with a group of people looking for a deep examination of the human or avian condition, I imagine it would be agony. But watching such people suffer would be fun.
~ Daniel Stack
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