Quests of Yore: Epic Quest or Epic Fail?
Barley: We are going on a grand and glorious quest!
Ian: It’s not a quest. It’s just a really fast and strange errand.
Barley: It’s totally a quest!
Part of the charm of Pixar’s Onward was the main character, Barley, and his obsession with the role-playing-game Quests of Yore. From the first few minutes of the movie, onlookers were assaulted with Barley’s far-beyond-reason love for adventures in this imaginary world.
Watchers wondering what that world would be like don’t need to wait any longer. In collaboration with Pixar, The Op has released Quests of Yore, a family-weight role playing game.
Games like Quests of Yore don’t have a default player count or game length, as they’re based on the story being told, but it seems to fit best for 4-5 players (plus a Quest Master). The included Tome of Quests features an eleven chapter tale (The Perilous Pearl) and is recommended for four players. Each chapter took us around an hour to complete, a good fit for our 7-13 year old children.
For the purposes of our review, we used the pre-built characters provided in the Quests of Yore box. My family traipsed around Clovendell as Unora, Master of the 8-String (companion), Apprentice Rhys the Frayed (savant), Ashel of Sakra (defender), and Ethorn the Shadowhoof (vagabond). The Advanced Player’s Guide has steps for creating characters from scratch, too.
Each player grabs their character sheet, mini, and cards representing the items they’ve been carrying. They’ll need to take tokens to represent their Heart’s Fire and Grit as well. Put the collection of red, green, and blue dice in the middle of the table. Finally, the Questmaster sets up the QM screen and everything else within reach to orchestrate the adventure. You’re ready to play!
The Op wisely positioned Quests of Yore as a story-first adventure. In fact, the only person who should be worrying about stats at all is the QM.
At the core of this game is the story, driven by the QM’s presentation. With our plays through the Perilous Pearl, I was the QM, guiding my family through the adventures. As with any role playing game, the QM should be able to flex based on whatever the players want to do, and find ways to guide them down the appropriate paths. The included Tome of Quests provided ample opportunities for players to ask questions of the characters in the story. These were questions that I, as the QM, was free to answer as I saw fit. If the storytelling required skill from a player I could require a particular skill check (more on these later).
The group sets off once the mission is set! Plot weaves in and out of character interaction – remember you’re all playing roles! Make sure to have fun with it.
If it’s adventure you seek, you’ve come to the right tavern.The Manticore
Every kind of challenge (including fighting) uses the same skill system, which is clever and simple.
The front of the character sheet has three main sections: Reputation, Approaches, and Techniques. When a player wants to do something – anything – they describe it to the QM. The QM will tell them to make a skill check of a certain type. This type roughly aligns with what the player described. For example, if a player wants to shoot someone as fast as possible, they might roll a “Quickly – Aim” check.
Whenever the players finish a quest, they shade in the next Reputation square and a single die on a Technique. As their reputation grows, they can shade in more dice, leading to using better dice the more experienced they are.
If the player uses an item they have available to them to perform the task, they can add an assist die for the item as well.
Other players can assist in these skill checks, too. There’s a handy table inside the QM screen that provides the information for this and many other stat references.
The assembled dice from Approaches, Techniques, Items, and assistance are called the Action Pool.
Combat uses the same system as skill checks. The QM has hex tiles they can lay out for tactical maneuvering of players minis and enemies. The Perilous Pearl quests provide this information to the QM to set up during the story.
Enemy defense capabilities determine the difficulty threshold for attacking them. Regardless of how the attack is described, the result of the action pool is put up against the enemy’s defense to determine whether or not a hit was successful. Like player characters, enemies have Grit (see below).
But sometimes, the enemies fight back. Just like before, the QM describes the attack and the player describes how they will defend. Then they build an action pool and roll against the attacker’s attack value. If their die value exceeds the attack value, they dodge the attack. Characters lose Grit when an enemy successfully hits them.
Quests of Yore doesn’t deal with death. Characters have a certain amount of Grit that represents the damage they’re able to take. When they have no Grit left characters become “exhausted”. They’ll need a full night’s rest to restore it.
Similarly, characters use Heart’s Fire as their magic power. Spells and other special powers require spending Heart’s Fire, and players must sleep to regain it.
The players lose if everyone is exhausted. They’ll need to start the chapter again.
As this is a role playing game, it’s difficult to quantify what the “End of the Game” really is. A chapter might end, but an epic tale never has to.
The chapters of the Perilous Pearl adventure last around an hour. When a chapter is complete, each player fills in a reputation square (and the associated Technique die). We had our kids fold up their character sheet with the cards inside so they were easy to separate in our next play. There are no winners and losers in this kind of game.
And the provided adventure, The Perilous Pearl, is just the beginning. The Op has build a robust gaming engine here, and includes instructions on how to craft your own epic adventures when you’ve completed the one in the box.
Role playing games are often complicated. In order to capture all of the various elements of Quests of Yore from Onward, it was impossible to oversimplify the gameplay. Quests of Yore is a very good light RPG with strong ties to the Onward universe. While anyone can enjoy Onward, the movie is targeted to the 8-12 year-old audience, an age where adventure is both scary and exciting, and who still have strong ties to their parents. As such, Quests of Yore hits at the right spot.
There are simpler RPG’s available. If the children in your life aren’t quite old enough for a complex adventure, other games like No Thank You, Evil from Monte Cook Games or Hero Kids from Hero Forge Games might hit the spot better, for now.
But that doesn’t change the reality that Quests of Yore is an excellent game for its target demographic. The Op made full use of the work Pixar did to share the beautiful and interesting world of Clovendell. The team did a great job distilling skill and attack mechanics into a simple, narrative-driven system that kept the family’s nose out of their stat sheets and looking at one another, telling a story. That is, after all, what family gaming is all about.
The QM should probably have at least a little bit of storytelling skill, or even better some RPG experience. It’s just easier to run a game when you know the kinds of things that come up, and it’s more comfortable to flex in and out of the written narrative when you have experience bringing the party back where they belong.
Nonetheless, experience isn’t strictly *required*, and even the most novice QM will be able to guide the party, provided they have a good understanding of the rules.
Will you lead your family on an epic quest? Can you save the satyrs of Clovendell? Will you be so engaged in the world of Onward that you make your own quests when the provided ones are complete? In Quests of Yore you can do all those things, and you’ll have an adventure of your own while you do it.
Find Quests of Yore on Amazon or anywhere roleplaying games are sold.
The Op provided The Family Gamers with a promotional copy of Quests of Yore: Barley’s Edition for this review.
This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.
Quests of Yore: Epic Quest or Epic Fail?
Number of Players: 2-5
Age Range: 7+
Playtime: 60 minutes/chapter in the prebuilt story