I think metal and crystal costs need to be smoothed out a bit.
If you don't have either one at the beginning of the game then you basically can't build units.
That's what trade is for. And if you lack either metal or crystal, well then you'll have to come up with a strategy to compensate for that!
This is after all not a build all can do everything game. It has a STRATEGIC component... Have you ever read Frogboys early game experience logs? You should do that...
1) You don't need quest tech to go on quests.
That goes for the quests you can find on the map, yes. But for buying quest maps in your own shop if your faction has the wanderlust trait, you do. Apart from that and addressed at the OP: Breon's Journal DOES show up in the magic tech tree.