Embarking on a DuckQuest

This feature is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #172. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.


This series of articles is made possible through the generous sponsorship of Exalted Funeral. While Exalted Funeral puts us in touch with our subjects, they have no input or approval in the final story.

A black-and-white photo of an gothic castle turret in ruins. "Funeral Rites presented by Exalted Funeral" is inscribe on top of the image in a rockin' gold font.Looking at the cover of DuckQuest inspires thoughts of Darkwing Duck and DuckTales, as well as a smile. In a wild coincidence, the name of its creator, Darcy Perry, also conjures up visions of Perry the Platypus, a duck-billed secret agent from Phineas and Ferb. But Perry the creator says DuckQuest and its world of AquaLoonia all started with Jennell Jaquays, the iconic game designer who unfortunately passed away in January. Perry and Jaquays had worked together to make Quack Keep, a game also filled with duck characters and what Perry called Jaquays’s “glorious adventure design.”“Jennell had a way of seeing your potential and bringing the best out of you. She inspired me to draw and write for Quack Keep,” Perry shares. “We had wonderful conversations and built a friendship during that time. I was also the apprentice, and I soaked in everything. Quack Keep gave me the courage to try something by myself.”The result was DuckQuest. Perry had originally conceived it as a board game modeled after HeroQuest. Perry had even started sculpting miniatures with that in mind. But then he pivoted to developing a roleplaying game.“I had one main idea. What if ducks weren’t the comical sidekick? What if ducks were the heroes of the adventure? Of course, any world inhabited by ducks is going to be quackers,” Perry explains (while often playing with puns). “DuckQuest has been favorably compared to the adventures of Usagi Yojimbo and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. From a game design perspective, I was riffing on the light-hearted, rules-light style of Toon, T.W.E.R.P.S., Paranoia and Ghostbusters.”Fortunately, the miniatures remained. They’re included in a section from the Quack Starter Edition of the game, and Perry has sculpted a wide array of them for his online shop at Star Hat Miniatures. An instant favorite of mine from his catalog was Darktail, who embodies an even deeper homage to the caped crusader Darkwing Duck.Two mighty Ducks engage in sword battle in artwork from DuckQuest.“I sculpted Darktail for a Kickstarter backer who had an obvious love for Darkwing Duck. I used a lot of old Zorro film shots as a reference for that miniature,” Perry shares, noting the influences among various masked adventurers. “If I am sculpting a miniature for someone, then I work with their vision for the character.”He has a different approach for miniatures that are forged from his imagination.“For my own designs, I often let the putty decide as I work. The key thing is to start, and keep experimenting,” Perry explains. “My preferred method is still a paperclip, bent and twisted into a frame, followed by small additions of Green Stuff putty, which is prodded into shape with a sharp metal point. A dentist tool, or a needle point does the trick. And patience. Lots of patience. I also use a magnifying glass.”When the sculpting is done, he sends the “green” to a caster. They make a mold from the original sculpt and cast metal or resin replicas. Then Perry can send those to players around the world.“Recently I asked the legendary Jason Wiebe to sculpt a miniature. Pugerus, a three-headed pug-Cerberus, was sculpted with ZBrush and is a featured monster in The Village of Omelette.”The cover for the DuckQuest Quack Starter Guide shows four adventurous ducks with swords, axes and torches in wing descending down into the depths of a dungeon.Perry says that developing the latest entry in the DuckQuest universe, The Village of Omelette, started as a humble tribute to T1: The Village of Hommlet by Gary Gygax. “That module, for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, came from Gary’s original home campaign, which his children played characters in,” Perry says. “Hommlet is the classic village with a nearby dungeon that launched a million adventures and dungeon crawls.”He thought The Village of Omelette would be simpler to develop than The Banshee of Billfort, a previous DuckQuest module.“Banshee was a hard slog, but surely renovating Gary Gygax’s Hommlet would be easier? In a word. No. Because Advanced Dungeons and Dragons is a different beast. At least, in the ’70s it was,” Perry shares. “I couldn’t just rename NPCs and locations, and list how much gold was hidden behind the fireplace.”To craft this module, he had to dive deeper into his creation.“The Village of Omelette made me examine what makes DuckQuest tick. You have to plant your tongue firmly in your beak,” Perry explains. “When you have a Morris Dancing Owlberserker in a random encounter table, you’re headed in the right direction. Or, the Hammer of the Dogs, formerly belonging to Paw, the God of Chunder. Or, a pack of Schurks, brutal adversaries and calculating card players.”The book for The Village of Omelette is densely packed with all sorts of information like that – lore about the world and the characters that populate it.“Although I borrowed several NPCs from Hommlet, most are new characters, with their own agendas,” Perry shares. “[But] Morduckainen, the most powerful Archmage in all of AquaLoonia, is an obvious duck clone of Gary Gygax’s Mordenkainen.”Among a whole host of other NPCs, Falco Peregrine and his dynamic with Sir Cay are rather attention-grabbing.“Falco Peregrine is a Merlin-type character. If Merlin was also a miserly and eccentric shopkeeper, taking every opportunity to make a quick buck,” Perry says. “Omelette, now more of a town than a village, is Falco’s long-term investment. Sir Cay is your standard bolshy knight, an Egguana that travelled far to win the title of champion at the annual Quackalot Tourney. Falco has taken Sir Cay under their wing. An odd couple, bound to cross the path of adventurers new to town.”A black and white portrait of a duck in a modern-day soldier uniform with a rifle slung across his back. He wears a helmet with an antennae along with a steely resolve.This depth and playfulness with characters extends to Perry’s take on classes in DuckQuest, which includes tongue-in-beak options like the Karateka Kid – and in a twist, it’s illustrated with an anthropomorphic turtle instead of a duck in the Quack Starter Edition.“When I was a kid, I played computer games and did martial arts,” Perry shares. “Karateka comes from the videogame for the Apple II by Jordan Mechner. ‘Kid’ comes from The Karate Kid, which came back with a vengeance recently on Netflix as Cobra Kai.” Perry added that Chet Minton, the main character artist for DuckQuest, shares his love for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which resulted in the Karateka Kid being illustrated as a young turtle with nunchucks.“Each class was designed to be a mash-up of iconic characters and adventurer tropes,” Perry says. “My aim wasn’t to define exactly what adventurers are available to players. I wanted to show that DuckQuest allows you to play anything you can imagine.”This sense of fun and freedom of expression is found throughout his duck-filled setting. “The game world, AquaLoonia, is a collection of surprises waiting to happen,” Perry says. “A wondrous, quasi-mythical, post-apocalyptic, retro-futuristic world. Which is to say, if you have an idea that delights your gaming group, it is welcome here.”

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Alyssa Wejebe is a writer and editor specializing in the wide world of arts and entertainment. She has worked in pop culture journalism and in the localization of Japanese light novels. You can find her on Twitter @alyssawejebe.

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