Sundial Games’ Quest Calendars series is an innovative gamebook format in which the game unfolds over the course of a year – they’re sold not as books at all, but as desk calendars of the tear-off-a-page-each day variety. The idea is that each day on the calendar is a scene in the story, presenting the player with a little thing to resolve – with necessary information on the resolution being printed on the reverse of the previous day’s sheet. This way, each day when you tear off a new sheet you have a fun little adventure snipped to play through.
I backed the Kickstarter for the 2022 calendar, The Gates of Terralon by Thomas Bedran, and fortunately despite the shipping and materials crisis which seems to have blighted every crowdfunding project (and, indeed, every industry utilising physical goods) I’ve received my hard copy in time for the new year. (Backers and preorder customers who don’t get their calendars in time aren’t out of luck – Sundial have put out PDFs to tide people over until their physical calendars arrive.) I thought it would be fun to play through the game and log my progress here on the blog. Rather than daily (I will almost certainly end up missing some days when I am off LARPing), I’ll probably start out doing this weekly and see how it goes from there – contracting to monthly if the articles feel a bit light.
Before we get into that, let’s take a look at the goodies and the rules rundown. Though you can play with just the calendar (in physical form or PDF format), I paid a little extra to get some handy tools – darling little polyhedral dice (I already have plenty, but these are very cute and compact), dry erase markers, and the Hero Book Companion to scrawl in with the markers. The Companion starts out with a rundown of the rules (handy so you don’t need to hold onto the first few pages in the calendar, though I imagine many players will want to keep hold of old pages to remind themselves of plot points), sheets for logging your equipment and inventory, and character sheets for the various playable characters (and a blank character sheet if you want to roll your own).
Apparently, we have to play through the first few days as a specific character for a sort of tutorial before our character choice opens up, so I’ll get into the PCs listed here in detail when I get to the point of choosing, but I notice immediately that there’s variants of their character sheet provided – one for each level they advance to, which is quite handy. In terms of the rules rundown, it looks like most of the resolution mechanics will be on the daily sheets, though there’s some pointers here about ongoing issues like rest, potion use, followers, and so on. (No unified resolution mechanic that I can see – let’s see how that pans out.)
Two interesting mechanics catch my eye. The first is that combat is on a time limit – rather than roll, roll, rolling until you are defeated, you have a set number of turns to defeat an adversary in, otherwise they win and presumably you suffer some detrimental effect. The second is that there’s rules for continuing after you are reduced to 0 health – you have to roll a die to see what sort of lingering problem afflicts you. We’ll have to see if that ends up putting us in death spiral territory, but it’s good to know we’ll be able to continue even if we get knifed in the heart on January 3rd.
That’s all I’ve got to say for now – I’ll check back with you in early-to-mid January with an update on how the adventure kicks off.