Quests (and TTRPGS/play-by-post games in general)

Sup. General discussion question, because I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately. What are your opinions on forum quests, play-by-post games, tabletop roleplaying, and the like? Especially when it comes to how they relate to IF? As someone who hangs around those corners of the Internet a bit, there’s a lot of similarity between those mediums.

Quests: I read quests in my spare time and vote occasionally. (If you’re not sure what they are, there’s an explanation here.) There are some excellent quests out there: Ruby Quest*, Awful Hospital, and Souvarine’s quests** as examples. No this post isn’t just an excuse to shill Souvarine’s stories. Homestuck is probably the most well-known one (before it became the abomination it is now (disclaimer: I have not read Homestuck)). Like IF, quests are a niche medium split into small and relatively obscure Internet communities, not commercialized, mainly involving strangers online.

Something I’ve always wanted to do, which I probably never will because the work it would take is incredible and I don’t have the creative rights, is adapt one of the quests I like into interactive fiction. (Or, more likely, to make an IF heavily based on one of the quests I like.) I’ve thought about this for a while. Quests are very different from traditional IF, obviously. The main advantage of quests, which is also their disadvantage, is the quest master must live-react to the player’s choices and with a small enough player group can even have customized reactions for every single choice every single player makes. Which is why the vast majority of quests die before completion. With IF you can only take so many actions into account, you have to do it all ahead of time and then branch out the story based on the potential results. No live reaction involved, and much less of a social element.

One of the interesting things about quests is that though the basic format is somewhat similar to IF (interactive text stories), the genre and style tend to be different. I feel like quests (and their related cousins TTRPGs) hew closer to their RPG roots than traditional IF. Many quests involve stats and resource management and detailed mathy systems for interacting with the world, while from my experience simulation/RPG-type gameplay is less prominent in IF than, say, parser puzzle games (correct me if I’m wrong). I’ve seen quests play with this in unique and interesting ways I’d like to put into a IF game somehow, and since the two mediums are both text-based it’s easier to bring mechanics over from one to another than, say, to incorporate elements of a visual puzzle game into text.

TTRPGs (tabletop roleplaying games): I found one topic on this from 2006, but not much other discussion on the forum. If you’re here you probably know what they are. I’ve been in a few DnD games myself, all of which died after a few sessions, though I have hilarious stories from them. Such as that one time my character jumped off a waterfall and broke both their legs and had to be carted around in someone’s bag of holding for the two remaining sessions we finished before the campaign died.

Anyway, what are your thoughts? Do you have any experience with quests or roleplaying campaigns in general? Ever tried to run one, ever participated in one? How did it turn out?

* Ruby Quest was, perhaps unfortunately, originally run on 4chan. The archive omits most of the more questionable audience content from there, but there’s still a smattering, so be warned. It is also a graphic horror story.

** Souvarine’s quests are also run on 4chan. They’re not that bad though I swear. Seriously, Souvarine is worth looking at if you like bizarre and eloquent weird fiction.


I think there are lots of people on this forum who play or played tabletop RPGs (I’m in the past tense camp), and so an overlap of people interested in both IF and tabletop RPGs, but – mostly not at the same time?

As you’ve pointed out, open-ended scenarios that are also stat-heavy are not an easy fit with IF. Open-ended anything is not an easy fit with IF. These are closed systems in the technical sense that nothing that isn’t in the program at boot time can join it during runtime.

That doesn’t mean you can’t take subject matter and incidents from one of these quest games you play and make IF of it, but it will take a bunch of converting the material to make something satisfying in a different format.

Non-parser IF in general seems to go with stats a lot more, and while some of it’s a lot more open-ended-feeling than parser IF, it’s not open like a quest.

I got a laugh from your waterfall story. I have my own similar one. Maybe every RPGer has a waterfall story. My essay describes what I fell off as a ‘cliff’, but you caused me to remember that it was actually a waterfall. Wade-Memoir - 1989


Huh. I never knew the word for them was Quests, I had only ever encountered them as fan adventures, largely due to Homestuck influence. All Night Laundry was one that used the Quest format, but wildly deviated from its MSPFA roots and had a lovely binary tool heavy art style with terrifying monsters, a tremendous sense of ‘place’ with the backgrounds, and it’s own original site later on. I like them! :3

As for TTRPGs, I’ve played since I was elevenish, and been a GM/DM in some capacity since I was sixteen. I am 22, so it’s been a while! Usually campaigns have run for one to three years, though my longest one ran for seven. Mostly I’ve played in a homebrew that was a very simplified and watered down version of D&D, heavy on roleplay, typically in a supernatural or superhero or mafia or vampire universe, usually a mash up of all of those. I have only really in the last two years realized there were other TTRPG indie systems that do a lot of what I like with regard to less number crunching and more roleplay mechanics, so I’ve been playing some of those, like riffs on the Lasers and Feelings or the No Dice No Masters ones. I’ve found I really like GM-less systems. Much less stressful.


I’m partial to Fiasco, which is a narrative role play, myself. My Starfinder collection keeps looking more forlorn daily.

Amazingly, there’s Fiasco Construction Set! Check it out on bullypulpit website!


Very cool! Thanks for sharing. Always nice to learn about new-to-me systems out there.


I spent a bit of time playing Play by Mail games in the 1990s. There were a whole host of computer moderated, mixed moderated and hand moderated games out there, back then… a really healthy scene, with a fair amount of it qualifying as “interactive fiction”; especially on the hand & mixed moderated side of things.

Flagship magazine was always the place to keep up to date with the scene. Sadly, there aren’t any back issues on the site from the 1990s.

This is quite a good article on the history of the magazine, though…


Makes sense. The point of stats is to give the players a box of tools to game out scenarios that have come up on the fly. If the game designer is planning every possible interaction in advance, there’s not much need for stat checks.

They turn up again in IF games that adopt RPG-style combat mechanics. This is rather hard to do well – nobody thinks the combat scenes are the best part of Beyond Zork. If you go down that path, you tend to boil out the randomness and turn the stats into a highly strategic “what order will I do things,” “what paths will I pursue with my limited resources” model. (Look at Kerkerkruip, which was the eventual outcome of that 2006 thread you linked to.)


The Quests are interesting and really get to the meat of the part of TTRPGs I found more attractive. My brain goes toward blending the two forms, Quests and IF.

Brainstorming how one could blend the genres.

If you were to have an IF game hosted exclusively online, where the transcripts and choices of the players could be recorded, you could determine which choices were predominantly taken by the audience, thus potentially establishing which branches and endings could be considered canon. You could then roll these choices into a sequel IF that takes these as the canon facts of the previous entry and builds on them. If folks understood upfront that their choices during playthroughs in the game’s first 6 months or year would be compiled and would factor into the game’s sequel, it might change how they approach the game. There’s probably rough corners that could be workshopped out of that, but it certainly seems doable.

The audience is effectively voting for their preferred canon world state for the sequel by just playing the game.

ETA: On further reflection, perhaps still release a downloadable option for accessibility reasons, but make it clear only the feedback created by online play sessions would be factored into the sequel.

Also, I’m unsure if it’s best to factor in every playthrough, or to have folks set up an account they use to play, so only the last session would be considered. The latter allows multiple playthroughs and a more intentional weight on the decision, but the former is much easier to set up and creates less obstruction between folks glancing at your game and actually playing it to completion. Maybe a blend between the two where some form of cookie remembers your previous visits and keeps track of which completed transcript is the most recent from that player? They’re obviously all vulnerable to abuse, but given there’s no prestige or prize at stake, I suspect that might not be as much of a problem.


Oh man, All Night Laundry! Love that comic. Read it a while back before it finished and never got around to catching up on the ending (I should), but the plot is wild and some of the cutscenes are fantastic. Nice to have a fellow quest fan around.

Homestuck’s definitely a big reason why art quests/interactive comics are as popular as they are. Fanventures are a big part of modern day questing, but they tend to be more active on MSPFA where I don’t go that often.

And yeah, DnD has a fair amount of number crunching. I’m not actually a big fan of number-heavy systems, one of the reasons why all our DnD campaigns died was the combat rules are so elaborate that one person taking a turn would mean 10 minutes while the DM and player kept going over the rules for what they could and couldn’t do. The freeform campaigns we did were more fun, but in the end we didn’t have time to keep things going and people drifted off. Sometimes I wish I could go back to playing TTRPGs but I don’t have the time, sadly…

The 1990s are before my time, haha. Never looked too closely into Play by Mail games, but they seem interesting. I browsed through a few issues of Flagship and they give off heavy retro 90s vibes. Must have been a fun era. I’ve always liked the retro vibe of parser games, they’re like a little slice of the past. Cool stuff.

These are good points! I played Kerkerkruip a while ago, don’t completely remember how it worked, but it was rather rigorous, with strict guidelines on the best order to tackle enemies. Yeah, quests lend themselves to long-winded serials (there are quests on Sufficient Velocity that have been running for years and amassed hundreds of thousands of words), while IF games have to be smaller and more closed-off in scope.

On the other hand, I feel like there’s potential for complex mathy systems to work well with big games that are highly broad in scope, and have lots of procedural generation that can turn a combat system into something interesting. I’m thinking of feature-rich games with “the more the better” randomly generated content. Maybe something like Lost Coastlines or 4x4 Archipelago/4x4 Galaxy. Lost Coastlines had interesting random generation mechanics, though I felt like it became repetitive after a while. Think Olivia’s Orphanorium and a lot of ChoiceScript games also tend to go this route, though it’s been a while since I played any. Those are usually more management sim than RPG, but I think a fair amount of procedural generation was also involved.

There’s an interesting roguelike on iOS called Path of Adventure, which is another example of a text-based combat system done well. Played it a few times a while ago. That one has a DnD-like combat where different weapons have different chances to hit and do different damage, and since weapons can break, gameplay involves plenty of decision-making for inventory management and when to avoid or seek out combat. (I could talk about roguelikes for a while. Brogue, while not qualifying as IF, is a fantastic ASCII roguelike I’ve spent too much time on. Probably getting off-topic here though.)

Another thing I’ve considered is using quests to plan out IF. Maybe you have a concept for IF but want to flesh out your story and setting, and think about the mechanics, so you run it as a quest to see the decisions players want to make and what they’re interested in. Not sure how well that would work due to the difference between mediums.

Really cool idea. In terms of “your choices matter”, if every vote was counted somehow, that would be a great way to have players think carefully about what they’re doing. The main problem would be setting up a story that feels complete by itself while still setting up for a sequel. Or, maybe you could straight up have an unfinished story and tell everyone their votes will affect the second part. On a somewhat related topic, I know Homestuck had interactive walkaround adventures as parts of the comic, so I wonder if it would be possible to mix quests/IF via a long-term IF project consisting of several small IF games, where after each one players vote on what happens, which affects the contents of the next game.

Another thought I jumped to was, instead of only counting the last session, you could only count the first session. You could even do something that prevents people from replaying, à la One Chance. That way you’re really ratcheting up the player pressure. Might be a bit harsh though.

Your idea would be tricky to implement but could be great if done well. So many possibilities…


A post was merged into an existing topic: Introducing Ourselves

I haven’t encountered quests or TTRPGs much, but I do think what you’re saying here has a lot of merit.

In fact, I did have a chance to play D&D in school once, but I rejected it then for being ‘weird’ and ‘clunky’. I have no idea what I was thinking then, given that I now look at a lot of TTRPGs and go, wow, that is so cool, I wish I could play it and explore the story/world, but can’t because I’m rather limited in the players arena and also because I have no grasp on the rules of the system. However, I do see a lot of potential / story seeds in a lot of the TTRPG blurbs I read now on, and since I’m someone who’s always struggled with inspiration / coming up ideas that feel right, these alternative ways of exploring, of doing things, could be some really good ways to start to construct your work.

I’ve tried to use generators to combat creative block but they just seem really soulless a vast majority of the time. Quests/TTRPGs have a lot more personal involvement; for this reason, I think they might be great for testing out and pushing the boundaries of your creative waters, so to speak.

Or something that is a cross of the two: this city-generating TTRPG, which isn’t as boring as it sounds and actually has a pretty cool premise of the players behaving as the ‘guardians’ of the place in constructing it, along a timeline.

Or this. And this.

I don’t know, the TTRPGs I come across/like seem to be very low-key, which I think some other people might find boring :face_in_clouds: What ones have you guys played, or recommend? Or do you guys have any DnD campaigns you’ve done that were particularly interesting/successful? I’m just curious about this side of things, these physical games, that I don’t seem to know very much about at all.


I played The Dark Eye which is Germany’s number one TTRPG and MERP and Rolemaster and others (Midgard (German, too) and Cthulhu).

First things first: More important than the rules system is the GM. He makes it fun, immersive etc. or he doesn’t.


  • Dark Eye: Not cool, the world sucks. (Available in English.)
  • Middle Earth RPG (MERP) was cool but is out of print.
  • Rolemaster: EVERYTHING is done via tables where the GM looks up the result.
  • Cthulhu: Cool.

Other RPGs I know:

  • Harnmaster: Very realistic combat rules, boring low fantasy world.
  • D&D: Great afaik. Has evolved a lot over the decades. Many cool worlds exist for it.
  • World of Darkness: Storytelling, no dice rolls.
  • Wushu: Cineastic. The cooler the player’s description of the action, the more likely he wins.
  • GURPS: Universal system, good if you want mix of historical/fantasy/SF for example time travel or multiverse.

Fun fact, the original Fallout was supposed to be a GURPS videogame. In fact, the SPECIAL system used by the game is a bit of a bastardization of GURPS.



Depends on the edition, but all of them have some way of adding randomness. The tabletop ones use ten-sided dice, the LARP ones use rock-paper-scissors or a deck of cards. So it’s not diceless, but it’s a good system, and I like it a lot. The latest edition of Vampire the Masquerade smoothed out a lot of rough edges accumulated over the decades. I’m running two games of it currently.

Overall, my favorite tabletop RPG might be FATE, because I’m the sort of person who always has to hack and modify and customize everything. And that’s what FATE is designed for: it’s a toolbox for making a system that fits your needs. I made a variation of it for the Mistborn books which I’m hopefully going to be trying out in April. But it does require the GM (or someone) to hack the system into what they’re looking for.

Another general-purpose recommendation is Prowlers and Paragons, which is meant to be a superhero RPG, but is also a good framework for when you want supernatural powers that players can customize to their liking while still remaining balanced enough for combat. I’m currently playing in a Naruto-inspired game where the powers are ninjutsu (despite my knowing nothing about Naruto), and the GM for that one is also using it for a long-running She-Ra-inspired game where the powers are magical girl stuff.


Not DnD, but I’ve written up some games I’ve run on, in case they’re of interest for demonstrating how TTRPGs can work in action (the games are written up in-character, but with some out of character commentary explaining some mechanics and game-running decision).

First, The Cincinnatus Plot – this is a World of Darkness one-shot I ran based in the late-18th Century US (after the Revolution, before the Constitution), basically investigative horror with political undertones (it’s a WoD mortals game, meaning I didn’t incorporate any of the various flavors of vampires and werewolves and whatnot, nor any of setting – basically just taking “spooky stuff” and running with it. There’s some system stuff in my notes, but the game’s pretty comprehensible without that stuff).

Second, The Immanence Design, a longform campaign I ran in Exalted (a sort of superpowered, high-fantasy game by the same people who made the World of Darkness). This is a long read (probably novel-length?) and has more of a barrier to entry in terms of setting stuff and mechanics, but figured I’d pass it along since you seemed interested in that side of things – plus it was an awesome game, with honest to god character arcs, themes that emerged during play, years-long subplots that paid off in shocking ways, etc. Probably never going to top this one.

EDIT: in terms of recommendations, it’s probably helpful to clarify whether you’re interested in a system that will provide you a scaffolding to run a setting/premise you come up with – like FATE, as Daniel mentioned – or something that comes with its own world, characters, etc., since these behave pretty differently (you might be interested in both!)


I had an edition of Rage (Werewolves) and I only remember that I searched for stats and dice rolls but couldn’t find any.

My favorite would be Wushu as an experiment, or else D&D with Forgotten Realms.

Edit: It’s probably good to have a thorough look at the worlds for D&D.


Huh, weird - the White Wolf werewolf games were all just called “Werewolf”, with various subtitles (colon The Apocalypse or colon The Forsaken); I think the LARP might have had a “Laws of the Wild” tag or something like that. There was a CCG based on Werewolf that was called Rage, but of course CCGs aren’t books!

I’m guessing you might have wound up with a sourcebook rather than the main rulebook - Werewolf had a lot of supplements called things like “Rage Across the [X]”, and while I’m not very familiar with them White Wolf’s house style for such things often could have very little rules content in some of them. And there were a couple tie-in fiction anthologies called When Will You Rage, too.

Anyway, as Daniel says the World of Darkness games are all relatively traditional, rules-medium systems (I think some of the later editions of the new WoD stuff brings in a few indie-like mechanics, but they’re definitely nowhere near diceless or free form).

(Apologies for the mini tangent!)


No worries. It was a bit of a journey there. Almost a Quest one might say. :grin:


True! And when it comes to discussing different editions of World of Darkness games, it’s in fact a journey beset with conflict, danger, and flames (I still have scars from the Mage Revised wars…)


I guess that’s true. The athmosphere in it is great.