I had a chance to sit down with Diogo Nogueira and talk about his newest indy TTRPG Primal Quest.
Anton Kromoff: Hello Diogo and thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me about Primal Quest. Primal Quest is a weird Stone & Sorcery adventure system set in a fantasy alt-history style world where humans fight to survive side by side with dinosaurs, aliens, and strange ancient creatures.
Before we dig too deep into the system and setting can you tell us a little bit about yourself, Diogo?
Diogo Nogueira: Hey, everyone! I am a game designer and graphic artist from Brazil, and I mainly publish my own game through my label, Old Skull Publishing. I usually do partnerships with other RPG publishers to reach bigger audiences and distribute my games wherever I can. I started playing RPGs around 1993, and when I found out people like me were making their games from their home and publishing them around the world, I just knew that I had to join them. So here I am.
Anton: Have you always been involved in tabletop gaming?
Diogo: I’ve played tabletop games since I was a kid (Game of Life, Risk, that stuff), got into RPGs when I was 9, have always kinda been the GM. I started a blog in 2010 or something in Brazil and started writing about RPGs, reading more about it and in 2012 I discovered the independent RPG scene. And I feel in love. But it was in 2016 that I got the courage to publish something, and Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells was born. And I haven’t stopped yet. Nor do I plan to.
Anton: The character creation for Primal Quest is quick and intuitive with only three stats. What drew you to streamline the system in such a way?
Diogo: Well, 3 Stats and 5 Tags that can define very important and unique characteristics of the characters. More and more I want the game to stay IN the game. I don’t want to stop the flow of the session to look up details or rules. I want the solution to be in the game we are playing, in the player’s creative use of the simple narrative things they have, and just engage with the fiction of the world. So 3 core aspects of the character, BODY, MIND, and HEART can paint a broad picture, while Tags such as “agile as a panther”, “seeks their family”, and “shaman of the red flame” help not only create unique details about the character and the game world but has a direct impact on the PC’s competence and chances to influence the game. So that’s what drew me. Maximum impact with minimal effort.
Anton: I was fascinated by the magic system presented in the Essentials Guide, leaving a lot of the storytelling to the player and the person running the game, referred to in the text as the Referee, what was the inspiration for that?
Diogo: I want sorcery to be like in the pulp fantasy literature that inspires my vision of the world. Sorcery, even shamanic one, should not be taken lightly. It can be extremely powerful and useful, but it’s fickle, dangerous, and can have dramatic consequences if abused. So that’s what I wanted the mechanics to reflect. I took inspiration from games such as Barbarians of Lemuria, Blades in the Dark, my own games, and the concept of Magic Words by Nick LS Whelan. And I just keep tinkering with it for a while and arrived at this solution for Primal Quest that I find very elegant and very reminiscent of sword and sorcery literature. And since it’s a system to be applied to different kinds of “magic” it was left open narratively so you can adapt as you prefer. Your Arcane Focus that lets you cast spells with the FIRE magic word can be a ever burning magic ember you find in a crater, a flamethrower a time-traveler left in Thaia, or magic wand from an alien sorcery (and everything in between these extremes). But it will always be flexible, dangerous to use, but potentially powerful.
Anton: Currently Primal Quest has something called Primal Jam going on. Can you tell us a little more about that?
Diogo: Sure. Primal Jam is an event that I am organizing on itch (a platform that sells games and allows independent creators to publish their games) in which I invite people to create things for Primal Quest or using the Primal Quest system or setting to create their own things, including adventures, supplements and other games. The game has a free license, a compatibility logo and I have so far released 4 packets of curated public domain art that are suitable for a game of weird stone and sorcery adventure. The goal is to create a community around that game, uplifting fans and other creators, and making the game as communal as I can, like a Primal Quest tribe.
Anton: As we wrap up I wanted to take a moment a thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me about Primal Quest.
Diogo: Thank you for inviting me to talk about my latest game. I am really in love with Primal Quest and I believe it brings some unique things to the tabletop RPG scene right now. I hope people enjoy it and we can make Primal Quest grow. I have some daring plans for it!
I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me, Diogo. Currently, Primal Quest is downloaded at this link and is pay-what-you-want.