Questron was SSI's
first attempt at entering the young and growing CRPG (computer role-playing game) market. It is a single-character RPG that was written and designed by Charles Dougherty and Gerald Wieczorek. SSI published it in 1984 for both the Commodore 64
and Apple II
and It would go on to have a sequel, Questron II
, that would be published for the Apple IIGS
, Commodore 64
, and the Amiga
. The game served as a precursor to SSI's Phantasie
The game structure and style were licensed from Richard Garriott
, then the author of the RPGs Akalabeth
. This explains the similarity in both look and feel to Garriott's own work at the time.
The main adventure takes place in a fantasy land called Questron. The player is a serf who has managed to catch the eye of the kingdom's princess by proving their fighting ability. She then charges them to rid the land of monsters and eventually challenge the wicked Mantor by traveling to the Land of Evil to seize his Book of Magic.
The game was also among the first RPGs to feature mini-games that the player could optionally take part in to boost character statistics or earn extra gold. Roulette, blackjack, and a set of arcade challenges could be discovered within the game world of Questron.
The story of Questron, while steeped in fantasy, also flirts with sci-fi and modern world (80s period) references especially during its endgame sequence. For example, a creature called a Bzapp in the game has a description that alludes to it being an android-like machine created by Mantor. The manual was also filled with a great deal of background fiction as was typical for many games at the time as hardware limitations prevented many of them from delivering as much of it into their gameplay as the designers may have wished.
Several entries set the stage for the current strife filling the land of Questor such as a timeline describing the hierarchy of the land and the most recent events.
In 402 A.G., a letter from the Traitor Baron, Baron John of Blind Pass of the Realm of Questron, Lord of all lands and all serfs within 10 days march of the city, describes the seeds for what would become the driving catalyst for the downfall of the kingdom. He writes that the Rebellion had started when he had slashed King Gerald's throat with a ceremonial sword that he had secretly sharpened. This was done during the Spring Rites, a pageant for the serfs to celebrate the new growing season. The King only had a small retinue of guards with him who were easily overcome. The protecting Wizards, Mesron and Mantor, had killed many since a Wizard can only be killed in one way, but the Baron is confident that the Magicians are more than a match for them.
The Baron is confident that the Rebellion will be successful and that the fighting will soon end. Those that have complained will soon be silenced.
From the Magicians' perspective, a note in 411 A.G. from the Magician Priest, William of the Island Cathedral, Purveyor of magic and supplier of Holy Water and a Traitor to the Crown, writes of the utter failure of the Baron Rebellion and the subsequent punishments that they are forced to endure for supporting him. William speaks of being only two steps from the throne, but that Mesron the Wizard had used his power to crush their armies and defeat the Rebellion. Once King Gerald had been killed, they were certain of victory but severely underestimated the resolve of Queen Kristene.
Together with Mesron, they overwhelmed the Rebellion and finished it off. With its end, the Magicians were banished forever to reside within the Cathedrals and allowed to live only because the new King and his Knights require their holy waters. Mantor, however, was rumored to have secretly supported the rebellion, but no proof was ever discovered. The Queen also had her suspicions until she was killed herself by agents of the Rebellion before it had fallen, but the new King may also share the same thoughts.
The new king is young, only 24 years of age. He was 16 when coronated, 17 when he ended the Rebellion in 40, and well versed in the arts of war and politics. William complains that although his powers have waned outside of the walls of his Cathedral, they are still potent behind its walls. He would love to have the King visit him but knows that he would never accept his invitation despite how many guards he may bring.
William also notes that at least the Magicians have a better life than the Barons whose leader, John, was decapitated in 404. The others were imprisoned are are still being tortured to this day. And like those that had been spared such a fate, await the day when they would rise again.
But evil has begun to stir. In 432 A.G., Sir Michael recounts the rise of monsters in the region surrounding the Castle. It was one year after the Wizard, Mantor, had left the Castle on a personal errand and had never returned. Gar Mind Flayers were among the first monsters to surface, having once kept only to the mountains and swamps but now finding confidence in venturing closer to the cities themselves, slaying merchants, serfs, and even friendly dogs.
Then came the Flesh Feelers and Army Scorpions. Before long, facing this seemingly endless onslaught, the people began building mighty walls around their cities for safety. The Knights rode hundreds of days out, fortifying towns and driving off organized armies of deadly creatures. Sir Michael began to suspect that Mantor was responsible for leading them as twice he had been seen viewing the carnage from a far off hill but within eyesight of the King's Knights. Sir Michael approached the Wizard Mesron with his suspicions and he had also agreed that he began to suspect that his half brother was a traitor.
One month after visiting Mesron, Mantor appeared within the Castle using powerful magic and with it, committed the terrible Castle Massacre. Mantor then escaped, taking his book of evil magic. Only later did Mesron discover the source of the evil Wizard's book; Mantor had learned the secrets of time and space and used them to journey to a far away place and discover the book.
Little is known of Mantor's Land of Evil and just last year, Mantor's monsters assaulted the west coast of Questron. The kingdom's soldiers were almost unable to stop them. A powerful naval force was sent against the Land of Evil but were driven back after three months of terrible fighting. Mantor continues to grow ever more powerful.
Since the failure of such a large force, King Aaron and the Wizard Mesron decided to send individuals instead. Knights, with the courage to journey into such an evil place, were sent out against Mantor. Without the attention drawn by an army, it was hoped that the Knights would be able to sneak into the Land of Evil and do what an entire navy was unable to accomplish. Many tests were devised to find the best Knights among their number and one of which was to describe the monsters that may be encountered. Sir Michael had passed all such tests and has left for the land of evil.
Five months later, however, his squire reports that a merchant from the Land of Evil had returned with a burlap bag containing Sir Michael's armoured boot...with the Knight's head crushed into it.
In 437 A.G., the Princess Lucane writes that she only has faith in the legends prophesying the end of Mantor's reign, that a serf will rise up to eventually overthrow his evil. She recounts the Castle Massacre, of how Mantor entered the room as if borne by a cyclone and had demanded that the King abdicate the throne to him. The King refused at which point Mesron cast a nimbus of light at both the Princess and her father before all went black. When she had come to, the King cradled her in his arms saying that all in the room were dead including the Queen. Mesron himself had received a terrible wound, but Mantor was nowhere to be seen.
It is then that as a lowly serf of Geraldtown, former Barony of Vertaen, you find yourself chosen for the great task of defending the land against Mantor's evil. You receive a letter from the Princess Lucane who had been led to choose you by an Oracle. Legend says that ta lowly pheasant will rise to crush Questron's mightiest enemies. Failure will destroy the world. Success will save the lives of those you love.
To aid them, the Princess has included writings telling of the tales of the Realm along with an explanation that no map is provided for it is also a test to explore the land itself for the answers. Selling your oxen for 57 gold, you have equipped yourself with rawhide armour and enough food for 3 days of travel. But as for a weapon? The first stop is Geraldtown.
After many adventures and trials, the serf has become a hero. Within Mantor's stronghold, he discovers the truth behind the Great Wizard's power: a computer. Using his Book of Magic, you destroy it ending his threat forever. After teleporting back to the Castle using the same book, they are greeted by a parade of guards at the castle. The King comes out and congratulates the player on their success, lauding their victory, and then allows them to continue exploring the land that they had saved.
Questron's gameplay was tile-based movement with an overhead view of the world, its towns, and its cities. All commands were listed to the left of the screen with a scrolling list of commands and random encounters taking up the bottom of the screen. Only the player's hit point totals, gold, time spent, and food reserves were displayed. When the player had reached the Land of Evil, the dungeons were then represented in first-person as wireframes.
Travel across water was accomplished through the use of boats allowing you to reach the Land of Evil and a few islands. The player could also use horses or flying animals to traverse distances much faster without eating too much food.
Food was important as it could keep the player from starving to death. Every move on the map or inside a dungeon would slowly deplete the number of food units they had.
The game did not account for moral actions in the game. It was always assumed that the player was a hero. This could lead to several unusual situations where the player was free to slaughter merchants and kill nearly everyone in a town and yet be praised and then knighted at the end of the game for saving the land.
The main character was automatically generated by the game when started.
Questron's gameplay allowed the player to build up their character through the use of mini-games, if they so choose, or by visiting certain individuals. Dexterity and Intelligence were improved through such games. Hit points, in particular, were purchased with gold from killed monsters. Stamina and Charisma were also improved by visiting the Castle and speaking to Mesron or the Princess, respectively.
Because hit points can be purchased to improve the main character, it was not unusual to see one with over 20,000 which would be needed to help survive the final dungeon with Mantor. Hit points could also be "discovered" in dungeons and added to the total.
Encounters were simply handled through a series of menu commands such as "Fight" or "Use Item" and then watching the results play out until it is their turn to enter another command. Not every monster could be dealt with in the same way with the same weapon. Certain monsters were more vulnerable to specific weapons instead. If the player kept missing a type of monster during combat, it was usually an indicator that they should switch to another weapon.
Experience points were not awarded, only gold and hit points that were earned. Some enemies could even drain statistics from the character which could then be "re-improved" using existing methods.
There are a large variety of monsters in Questron, all of which had been outlined as part of the fiction behind the game. Each geographic region had its own set of monsters to contend with and certain monsters were marked as being particularly dangerous.
- Piercing Pungie - a monster that glides on giant wings through ocean waters in search of prey.
- Slime Swimmer - Appears as a mass of ugly seaweed, but each strand is actually a gigantic tentacle covered in thousands of tendrils
- Leech Woman - Escapee from the catacombs with razor sharp teeth
- Masher Whale - A massive, pink, mutated whale that uses its head to "mash" passing ships
- Hydro Snake - A common water snake aside from being 300 feet long and 20 feet thick that excretes a substance that can literally burn water.
- Sea Shrieker - Floats silently in the ocean until disturbed at which point, it shrieks so loudly it breaks the sanity of anyone within earshot.
- Pit Screamer - An aberration of nature that burrows into deep pits and whose cry sounds like a human whimper for help, luring the unwary into its barbed teeth
- Strangler Fiend - Appears as a green grey jellyfish that is inactive until touched. Clubs are useful against it.
- Rot Weed - Plant growing in the muck
- Albino Leech - Enormous blood sucker
- Gar Mind Flayer - An air fish with honed teeth and sharp tendrils. Clings onto the head of its prey to suck their mind dry.
- Slime Golem - Legend says that Mantor created these out of the very muck of the swamp.
- Venom Toad - A 35 pound toad that can shoot hundreds of poisonous quills from its tongue.
- Mud Walker - Has enormous webbed feet and air pouches allowing it to walk over quicksand. Buries its prey in the muck until they suffocate and then pulls them back out to feast.
- Dryad Squid - Magical beast that disguises its tentacles as a beautiful nymph, luring the unwary in.
- Fire Beetle - They shoot acid dissolving flesh and opening the way for them to burrow into the flesh of their victims.
- Rust Worm - It is believed that Mantor created this worm whose tongue is fast and large enough to knock a man off his horse. Others say that a Knight drove the once shiny-scaled beasts into the swamp instead where they became what they are now.
- Giant Turtle - Uses hypnotizing movements to lure unsuspecting victims to dinner.
- Stone Axe Beak - A mountain bird that stands 10 feet high with a very sharp beak for which it is named.
- Phazor Spider - Instead of webs, they fire laser beams, often engulfing victims in a web of light because they travel in packs
- Jackal Ram - One-hundred pound, wolf-like creatures roaming the mountains. Very clumsy and often challenge humans to fights.
- Leopard Yeti - Named for its quickness, these humanoid monsters reach heights of 8 feet and weigh 300 pounds of pure hate
- Crusher Rock - How this got out of the dungeons, no one knows.
- Bzapp - Created by Mantor to patrol his dungeons until some escaped.
- Army Ant - Giant and has two brains; one to attack its enemies psionically and the other to signal to its stomach to ignite the gases within it to roast them.
- Gnome Dweller - Thousand of years ago, it invaded the Tree Gnomes and resides in the brain stems of the infected, forcing them to move to the mountains.
- Ogre Monkey - Using magic given to them by Mantor, appears as a monkey that must be killed in less than five blows.
- Gas Floater - Uses the same gases that keep it aloft to burn its enemies.
- Orc - Hates the daylight, but lethal at night.
- Snake - What do you think? It's a nasty snake.
- Irish Stalker - Horned creature with a rack often 14 wide. Only the mace can do real damage to it.
- Bear - Questron is the only known planet in the galaxy to have bears identical to the Black Bear of beautiful Northern Michigan, Earth.
- Woods Ogre - So named for its love of wooden instrument. May set prey free if they like its music.
- Gorilla - Nasty tempered and show offs, they are dangerous in groups.
- Bloodhound Ghoul - An undead dog with an insatiable thirst for blood. Said that when weaned from blood, they can make good pets but the owners don't seem to live very long.
- Blood Brownie - Humanoid and vegetarian until Mantor taught them how to brew human blood into liquor
- Bone Displacer - Mutant gorrilla that uses its strength to pull its victims' bones and joints apart
- Cave Yenog - Cave dwelling untouchables
- Web Dweller - Humanoid with a hole in its chest that it uses to excrete web material that contains a sleeping toxin.
- Were Jaguar - Not to be confused with the weaker werewolves.
- Wolf - It's a wolf.
- Tree Gnome - They live in trees.
- Flesh Feeler - Magically created in the Land of Evil to sabotage and kill, many feel that they are being formed into an army.
- Army Scorpion - Resembling giant scorpions, they were conjured up from within Mantor's laboratories.
- Black Knight - Having graduated from Knight School, they think they are tough but most are unemployed for having failed the King's secret tests. They now make a living on the lecture circuit.
- Bandit - A thief by any other name...
- Maston Centaur - Has the head of a wooly mammoth, the body of a thoroughbred, and weighing over a thousand pounds, these are tough to beat.
- Dirt Weird - Stands six feet tall and walks like a human, spreads disease because it lives in filth and uses rusty weapons.
- Wrention Warrior - Said to be among the last survivors of a mighty warrior cult dedicated to worshiping wrens, will get violent at the mere mention of any birds, robins, wrens, etc..
- Fire Dragon - Nests in active volcanoes and drinks lava. Not a true fire breather, it spits lava at its enemies instead.
- Plains Elf - Uses a hunting scythe like a boomerang; often well hidden.
- Morbeth Fighter - Only race powerful and brave enough to take on the dreaded Fire dragon.
- Zombie - An army of undead under Mantor's control. Not worth killing.
- Blind Blood Dog - Rumored that because of how keen their sense of smell is, their eyes atrophied. May not be hostile and that the Plains Elves trained them to be harbingers of good will.
- High Elf - Noble, diminutive beings that shy away from grasslands but thrive in marshes and forests, they are often bearers of good tidings and only rarely make use of controlled substances.
- Naga Pilgrim - They greet everyone with "Na-Ga" which has lost its meaning to anyone else. Fierce fighters, they also accidentally cut themselves in battle. They seek the Lost Isle of the Skull during their pilgrimage.
- Faun Nymph - Friendly and seductive, they have the body and ears of a goat and the face of a lovely woman. They can often lull the unwary to sleep with tier songs, disappearing forever. No one knows if they are friend or foe.
- Shedu Monk - Members of a benevolent order, they never wear armor yet seem impossible to kill
- Merchant - Considered a legal bandit in many circles.
- Mince Meet - Monster that provides mince meat for Mantor's pies
- Wretchen Hag - Members of an ancient order of bag ladies, they prowl upper dungeon floors for handouts. If refused, will tell stories of the "good ol' days" until the listener begs forgiveness.
- Sparrow Piranha - Flying monsters that possess siletto beaks and always travel in flocks.
- Air Golem - Uses levitation to move about the dungeon usually above five feet above the floor. Moves like lightning and attacks by flying past its foe.
- Death Guard - Looks almost human in its robes, it is a half-human/half-spirit from Hell.
- Invisible Killer - Only the glint of its blade can be seen.
- Mad Monk - A group of Shedu Monks driven insane by the dungeon they are in.
- Knight of Death - Knights who enter dungeons never leave, often going mad if they do not die and for that reason, Mantor leaves them be. Their madness at failing will keep others from succeeding.
- Lesser Evil - A very large humanoid creature with a very bad disposition.
- Smoke of Hell - Always covered in a putrid, smoky mist often scaring away enemies. Hides a creature within.
- Thorad - Half mammal, half reptile, its eyes are said to emit a flash to blind its foes.
- Stilted Dreb - Highly intelligence although awkward to look at with its long legs, it likes to hypnotically freeze its foes.
- Flesh Render - Immense being that uses an iron battle axe to rend flesh.
- Electric Bzapp - An electrically charged spirit created in Mantor's Dungeon Laboratories.
- Soul Buyer - Creature that belongs to a mystic cult that believes in capturing the spirits of those it kills.
- Tiny - A small giant.
- Tweester - They hang from the ceilings before dropping down for a meal.
- Ghost Watcher - They don't normally attack and hover about the edges and corners of a dungeon.
- Lost Piker - They are from an army of Swiss time travelers and lost a battle to Mantor, forcing them into servitude.
- Blades of Blood - Mobile fungus that can expertly wield a sword.
- Mangler - An omnivorous scavenger
- Knight Seeker - Bored with disco, bowling, and country music, the Knight Seekers are enticed by the exciting Knight-life in the dungeons. They were refused service as Knights because of their unworthiness, so now serve Mantor.
- Apparition - Created by Mantor to attack only enemies of Mantor's realm
- Meldorn - A gigantic ant that can easily rip the armor off of its foes like paper.
- Acid Jelly - A distant cousin of Acid Peanut Butter.
- Brain Leech - Will only attack geniuses (those with an Intelligence of over 40), draining said intelligence.
- Body Leech - Uses its six arms to immobilize enemies and then its grinding teeth to eat them with.
- Body Lover - May resemble nothing more than a giant mouth with a penchant for bleu cheese and garlic sauce. Because of that, its breath is treated as a toxic attack that can stun its enemies allowing it to swallow them whole.
- God of Thunder - Originally from the Great Swamp Cathedral, it created mighty storms that Mesron used to repel Mantor's attacks on the Land of Good until captured and imprisoned by Mantor in a recent raid. Forced by Mantor's magic to attack the Knights it had once saved.