View Full Version : RuneQuest!

2007-01-26, 10:22 AM
Since I started running RuneQuest again, I've been going on and on about it... now I'll be doing it in a dedicated RuneQuest thread instead.

First of all, the RuneQuest SRD is free, and includes RuneQuest (the basic rulebook), RuneQuest Companion (extended rules, very good), and RuneQuest Monsters (also good and necessary). Get it here (http://www.mongoosepublishing.com/home/series.php?qsSeries=39), in .zip format. Check it out - it costs you nothing, and the system is quite cool.

Mongoose Publishing is publishing RuneQuest, with permission from Issaries, Inc. Issaries itself is still publishing HeroQuest, the once-long-awaited new Glorantha game, through SJG. Mongoose has permission to do Second Age material (set 800 years in the past of the Glorantha of old RuneQuest editions and of HeroQuest), while Issaries is handling the Third Age and Hero Wars stuff.

I'll put up short reviews of the books I've gotten so far in a later post. I'll also put up my own conversion/houserule notes, because I've had to tweak the game a lot already (not nearly as much as I ended up tweakin RQ3).

Thanks for that - I'd got the idea from somewhere that it was D20 stuff. Glad it's backwards compatible - a while ago a guy at work was having a post-wedding clearout and gave me all his old RQ stuff - and he had a lot! I haven't even read it all yet (though your recent posts on RQ/Glorantha have been making me want to get back to it)

Give in to the Dark Side ... [/Gbaji]

The backwards compatibility is great. I think it's always been one of RuneQuest's strong points (the other, lately, is the fact that Hero Wars / HeroQuest books contain much more "soft" setting information than "hard" rules information).

So far, I've translated - with minimal effort - Chaos Snakes, the RQ2 Krarsht cult (Cults of Terror), krarshtkids and krarshtides, the diseases in Lords of Terror, succubi, and hydras. I've also re-created vampires (because the MRQ default vampire sucks, just like the old RQ3 Deluxe default vampire did; the old Vivamorti vampires from Cults of Terror are still the best).

(I've also created the Aeolian Church from write-up in the HeroQuest book, and the Kolat cult from a synthesis of an old write-up I got online and the HeroQuest write-up available online.)

2007-01-26, 10:50 AM
First of all, something about Glorantha. (Check here (http://www.glorantha.com/) for more information, resources, and links.)

Glorantha is an old setting by now - Dragon Pass, a board wargame, was published in 1975, and set in Glorantha.

It is likely one of the more unique and most detailed settings in existence - not least of all because of three decades of fans creating parts of the world. A lot of that fan-material has been incorporated as official or inofficial parts of the world, and widely distributed through the miracle of fanzines like Tales of the Reaching Moon, which kept the game "alive" after it was no longer published.

Glorantha is a great cube of Earth floating in a boundless ocean of Water, roofed by the Sky, with endless Darkness underneath and around it - and beyond that lies Nothing, Void, or Chaos.

Mongoose's new RuneQuest is set in the 9th century of Glorantha's Time - that is, some 800 years after Time began. Before that, there was the God Time, when the gods lived and fought among mortals. (And here it gets typically difficult: all events before Time happened at the same time, but also one after the other; and all stories of the God Time are true, even when they contradict each other.)

Quoting Glorantha: The Second Age, Gloranthan themes include:

"1. Everything is Magical."
Every rock, every tree, and every stream has a spirit or a deity. The clouds and winds are daimones or spirits that can be commanded through magic. The Sun is the local Sun God making his journey over the dome of the Sky - an infinite yet finite distance from the surface. (The sky, incidentally, looks the same where ever on Glorantha you look at it - the sun always directly overhead at midday...). If you are powerful enough to make the journey and can find the hidden passageways, you could make your way beneath the Earth, into Hell, full of demons and Darkness, and the dead waiting for their afterlife. The stars and planets in the sky are gods or the bodies of comparable creatures; Pole Star, for instance, is one of the Sky's foremost heroes and captains.

"2. Myth is real." ... "4. Myth is true, even in its contradictions." "6. Truth is a matter of perspective."
When your people worship, the myths become real. You are transported halfway into the God Plane, to take part in the battles and deeds of your deities. Even all the conflicting myths are true - the Orlanthi are right when they say it has been eight centuries since Time began, but the Western sorcerers are right when they count back thousands of years of history, and the Dara Happans are right when they trace millenia of lineage for their Emperors. Heroes can take part and change the myths - in fact, one of the ongoing conflicts of the Second Age is the God Learner Empire meddling in and changing myths, thus changing reality (rarely for the good of those whose deities they meddle in).

"8. War can be heroic and glorious, but is always devastating and cruel."
Glorantha is always heroic and great, but there the community element is always important, and the heroic battles can have a very unpleasant effect on those "little people" who get caught up in it. Glorantha can be mythological and epic, but it can also be gritty, dirty, and nasty.

"9. Ordinary lives are sustained by the idealism of communal sacrifice, of love for family and clan. The grand sweep of history is fuelled by greed, aggression, and pride."
The story of the Second Age is the story of the Two Empires - the God Learner Empire and the Empire of Wyrms' Friends - of their conflict with one another and the Old Ways.

The Old Way rebels hold to hearth and home, the traditions of the ancestors, and the old gods and spirits and sacrifices that sustained them through the Great Darkness at the end of God Time. Their magic is tied to following the ways of their ancestors.

The EWF is made of humans who wield draconic magics that change their users - for the better, they claim. Their rulers are more concerned with their Great Dragon and its supposed ascension.

The God Learners are western sorcerers, atheists or monotheists who believe in the Invisible God, and who see it as their right to meddle in, rob, abuse and make use of the so-called gods of barbarians and nonhumans, who they believe are in fact no more than exceptionally powerful spirits.

The new, arrogant, and ambitious ways of these two Empires will spell disaster for them - and for many, many others. But for now, between the two of them, they rule the world.

"10. History is cyclical. The world rises from the ashes of catastrophe, recovers and prospers. People become proud and complacent, tampering with cosmic forces, visting catastrophe upon themselves. The world rises from the ashes of catastrophe..."
In the First Age after Time, there also rose a great empire, ruled by the so-called Council of Friends. They used new magics to create a god, Nysalor the Shining, and began to convert, then subvert, other nations to their faith and alliance. In the west a hero rose who waged a ceaseless, merciless war on this empire, claiming it was Chaos and evil. He committed countless atrocities and betrayals, and eventually destroyed his enemy.

In later times - the setting of the old RuneQuest games and the HeroQuest game - a similar conflict arises. The Lunar Empire combines a strange worldview based on enlightenment with the greedy materialism of the God Learners. They abuse and change deities and the God Time, they conquer, and they use Chaos as a weapon and an ally. Eventually, they bring on the Hero Wars - another immense conflict, but this time participated in by more powerful individuals than ever. Heroes like Harrek and Jar-Eel can defeat armies, and magicians like Cragspider can command dragons the size of mountains or mountain-ranges.

2007-01-26, 12:03 PM
Now, reviews of the books so far...

RuneQuest (A-)
I won't get into the actual mechanics; everyone can read the SRD for those. I'll focus on differences to old editions.

Skills have been reduced in number. This is, I feel, a Good Thing. Instead of separate Parry and Attack skills, you have a single skill for each weapon. 1H Sword, Shield, Bow, etc. You have Perception (instead of Spot, Listen, and Search), Athletics (instead of Climb, Swim, and Jump), and Stealth instead of Hide and Sneak.

Combat has been changed a little. Damage bonuses are somewhat lower, mostly, but armor, creature, and weapon APs have been reduced, too. Hit points have changed - there's no general HPs anymore, and locational HPs have gone up. You get killed by Major Wounds (over -X in location with X hit points), if you fail your Resilience skill test. (If you succeed, you die in CON+POW rounds of bleeding.) Hero Points (everyone starts with 3, and gain them as the GM gives them) can be used to change a Major Wound into a Serious Wound (merely crippling). Healing magic is no longer quite as universally available, by the basic rules, though.

Magic has changed a lot and a little. The spells are all the same, essentially - there's some new ones, and some function a bit differently (Speedart has a variable magnitude now). But the casting is different.

First of all, Battle/Spirit Magic is now Rune Magic. (The basic book only contains Rune Magic.) You find a rune (a Plant rune might be a magic leaf; a Death rune might look like a skull; a Metal rune might be a lump of magical iron; by the books, they spontaneously appear in the wilds, which makes sense in Glorantha, really), and you integrate the rune (paying 1 POW). This gains you the Runecasting skill for that rune (used to cast the rune's spells), and allows you to learn and use the runes for that skill. You also gain some special abilities appropriate to the rune (the Earth rune gives +1 STR, CON, and SIZ).

Advancement works nicely now - the pace is directly GM-controlled. The GM gives out Improvement Rolls and Hero Points. Improvement rolls are assigned to skills or characteristics. Like in the old rules, you try roll under your skill to get a 1D4+1 percentile raise in the skill - if you fail, you still get +1%. If you assign two improvements to a characteristic, you can try to roll to increase it by 1; if you fail, a related skill will go up by +1%.

Hero Points are used in game, or to buy Legendary Abilities. They vary in cost and have different requirements, and give PCs cool abilities (Decapitating Swing is crazy). I'm looking forward to a ton more of these in other books.

There's a tiny bit of rules about cults, but you want Cults of Glorantha Volume 1 and Volume 2 for that stuff. The creature index is tiny - just get the Monsters SRD.

RuneQuest Companion (B+)
Also available as an SRD, and very essential.

The Companion includes, first, the rules for Divine Magic and Sorcery.

Divine Magic works a little differently, too, though the spells are still the same. The casting skill is Lore (Deity Theology) - you use the appropriate deity's skill for the spells you get from worshipping that deity. You no longer sacrifice POW - instead, you dedicate it. You spend the time and the sacrifices (money, goods, whatever) necessary to learn the spell, and you dedicate POW equal to its magnitude. This reduces your effective POW (and MPs, and skills, etc.) for as long as you have that spell; once you use the spell, the POW returns immediately. This is essentially a variant presented in an issue of Tales of the Reaching Moon. Initiates can now use divine magic - hooray! (The trick is that initiates are limited to 2-point spells; acolytes to 4, and runepriests and runelords have no upper limit aside from costs and POW). You also can't store multiple uses of a non-progressive (nonstackable in old terms) spell - so you can only have one Heal Wound at a time, but you can use your Heal Body 8 as eight uses of Heal Body 1. (Heal Wound now heals Major Wounds; Heal Body heals Serious Wounds.)

Sorcery works more like Sandy's alternative RQ3 Sorcery now. (It's in Ye Booke of Tentacles - I forget which one.) You still each spell as a separate skill (but check out the review of Cults Vol. 2), and you learn the different Manipulation skills (Magnitude, Range, Combine, Duration, Targets) one at a time. Your level in the Manipulation skill limits your use of it; Manipulation (Magnitude), for instance, lets you cast spells of a Magnitude equal to skill/10 (rounded up). Applying a Manipulation art to a spell always costs 1 MP, and no more. You roll d100 once, against all the skills - the Manipulations that you fail don't take effect (and if you fail the spell skill, it doesn't work, period). This means high-level sorcerers are apparently very powerful - but they don't get all the other benefits (theists' Divine Intervention, animists cool stuff...), so it balances out.

Enchantments work well, although there's some changes. For instance, all spirits now have INT, POW, and CHA, so all spirit binding enchantments cost 3 POW. Armorblessing and weaponblessing both suck, though.

The Spirit World section is a bit jarring. There's no longer any actual spirit combat; instead, spirits calculate their damage modifier from POW and CHA (minimum +1), and roll dice against their attack skill, inflicting damage equal to their damage modifier. Yes, damage, to hit points. Similarly, magic weapons (or one's with the Spiritbane or Spirit Weapon spell on them) deal damage to a spirit's hit points. Discorporated persons fight like spirits, with damage calculated from POW and CHA. But old Spirit Combat (POW vs POW) never worked right, anyway; a spirit with 10+ more POW would always beat you. This is better, and you can always rule the damage is done to MPs instead. Possession also doesn't require spirit combat - it's an opposed Persistence test.

There's a section on superior items; mostly weapons and armor, for which there are several special abilities. This is quite cool; they're ostensibly nonmagical, but when reliably creating a Heroic level item (5 special abilities) requires a skill of 1600% (!), you can imagine some sort of god or magic has to be involved in their existence.

RuneQuest Monsters (C)
Basic stuff, nothing surprising. A lot of monsters from TrollPak got translated; and they included (in the book, at least) the Crimson Bat, the Chaos Gaggle, and the Mother of Monsters. At least they didn't put up those silly notices about how PCs can't fight the 'Bat... :smallwink:

I do have a complaint about this book, though: it's really, really badly edited and written in parts. A ton of the creatures are missing Dodge, Persistence, or Resilience skills, which every creature has to have (because Resilience is used to see how wounds affect you, and all three are used to resist spells). Some creatures or abilities have also been taken verbatim from old RQ3 monsters, which doesn't work - they don't make sense with the changed rules. Hit points have been miscalculated for a lot of creatures, and I have no idea where you get damage modifiers for STR+SIZ over 100; I charted the ones in the book, and they have no apparent progression.

If you have old RQ books and are willing to re-do hit points and skills and so on (you can use the old characteristics, though you need CHA for everything now), this may not be a necessary supplement. Overall, it's useful, though - at least it's available as an SRD, so it costs you nothing.

Arms & Equipment (C+)
The least necessary and useful book, but still quite good.

There's a bunch of new weapons (their relative stats and the descriptions will give anyone who knows weapons a stroke, though; katanas and other Japanese weapons are plain better than "western" versions, the zweihander is called a two-handed flamberge, and the longsword-broadsword-bastard sword issue is awful). All the usual suspects, plus chakrams, awl pikes, rondels, and other less common weapons. The weapon modifications are neat; watch everyone just get Spiked, though.

There's also more armor - bone armor, banded, false plate, enamelled, serpentscale, etc. Nothing special here.

There's a host of other objects, many with some uses (corsets give you a bonus to Influence).

Overall, no surprises, but it's a decent book.

Legendary Heroes (B+)
All right, this is the stuff.

First of all, there's the mass combat rules. Great! They're a bit shaky (hint: don't use units bigger than 100-200 men), and look time-consuming, but if you want to actually play out battles, they're a great help.

There's a few heroic skills - decently useful. Now, of real interest are the Legendary Abilities - because there's some good ones: Perfect Blow, Vanish, Avoidance, and so on. Most are more flavorful than powerful (although combining Black Waltz, Perfect Blow, and some other abilities will give you a crazy combat character).

Then there's Legendary Runes. Some - not all - of the runes have new, improved abilities Legendary characters can gain, and there's a bunch of super-powerful Rune Magic spells to go with them. Not including improved abilities for all runes is stupid, stupid, stupid.

There's also new runes - the Runes of Creation. These are insanely powerful - so powerful, in fact, that I will reserve their abilities for Heroes on the level of Jar-Eel and Harrek. They're great for that (and for inspiration/comparison when creating unique hero abilities).

Glorantha: the Second Age (A)
There's no rules information in this book, period, as far as I've noticed, aside from a sidebar on Gloranthan metals.

This book describes Glorantha in the age of the two empires; it also describes the empires themselves. Great stuff, of use for any Gloranthaphile. Nothing of special note here, but it's all A-level stuff. (Although some Glorantha-experts will point out inconsistencies and information that is "wrong," like Balazar being called Balazar already.)

Magic of Glorantha (C+)
A mixed bag. The draconic magic of the EWF is cool; much better than the old dragon magic. It's almost worth buying the book to get to use it with your dragonewts, whether you play a Second Age game or not.

There's some God Learner Sorcery, including a few essential spells (Teleport!). There's a couple of Divine Magic spells.

Then there's the HeroQuesting. I was excited but very, very disappointed.

They've failed totally in portraying HeroQuesting and the Hero Plane and God Plane. While it's understandable that HeroQuesting is described from the God Learner perspective, I can't understand why they didn't use the new HeroQuest (as in the game) definitions for it - they've obviously modelled the new magic systems after the HeroQuest magics.

It's awfully bland. Basically, a HeroQuest is just an adventure where you have to roll against your Lore (Theology) to get to participate. And at the end, you get a reward. There's no special rules; there's no rules for using magic on HeroQuests (every single player-made HQ system for RQ had special rules for governing magic-use). There's no rules for personality, passion, and willpower playing a part. (The PenDragon Pass rules, using Pendragon's personality and passion system, are a great example of a system that can do this.) There's just no rules for actual HeroQuesting.

This. Blows.

The lack of HQ rules isn't even nearly redeemed by the fortunately long section on what kind of HeroQuests some of the more prominent deities offer.

Don't get it unless you are desperate for anything official about HeroQuesting (you'd do better to get the HQ basic book and play King of Dragon Pass, though), or want better Dragon Magic.

And since when does Orlanth use a hammer? He's not Thor, he's Orlanth.

Cults of Glorantha Volume 1 (A)
This is the stuff.

The book starts with full rules for theistic cults - initiates, acolytes, runepriests, runelords, divine companions (they switched to the HQ terminology, instead of the old term allied spirit).

There's over 150 new Divine Magic spells - kick ass! There's over 50 cults - kick ass! It's obvious the writers have drawn deeply on HeroQuest material published so far; there's cult write-ups for Vinga, Barntar, Heler, Elmal, Orlanth Rex, Urvairinus, Shargash (Jagrekriand), Buserian, Urox, and even Yigg. Much of the terminology is familiar from HQ (Urox is the theistic god, Storm Bull is the animistic majestic spirit).

Get this book. It (and the second volume) is the best so far.

Cults of Glorantha Volume 2 (A)
This book has the rules for animistic cults and actual Spirit Magic, as well as sorcerous cults and "special" cults. There's a load of new spirit/rune magic spells and sorcery spells.

Spirit magic is very clearly HQ-influenced. Spirit magic spells are rune magic spells, but function a little differently (you don't need runes, you can learn a combined magnitude equal to your POW, etc.). The basic idea is to bind spirits in fetishes, and have them cast their spells on you, attack your enemies, or even give you special abilities (no examples exist in the book, but use your imagination). Animists can create charms based on runes that give them the special abilities the rune would give, and they can ally spirits (unlike a regular spirit in a fetish, a spirit ally does not have to be recovered from the Spirit World after being used). Shamans get varying special abilities based on their practice (this is based on alternative shamanism rules from an issue of Ye Booke of Tentacles). Animists cast all their spells and call their spirits with a single skill: Summoning.

Sorcerous religion is also based on HQ. You have churches, saintly orders, and wizardry schools. The only real new rule here is grimoires; instead of learning every spell separately, wizards and their apprentices only can learn an entire grimoire (each church, order, and school has one, and most also have the Abiding Book) as one Read (Grimoire) -skill. (Lay members, orderlies, and liturgists must learn their spells one at a time.)

Coming close in coolness are the "other" cults - mixed spirit and theistic cults like Aldrya and Kyger Litor, an elven berserker war cult (Song of Bergarra), and a bunch of Chaos cults (Mallia, Primal Chaos, and good old

That's it so far. I'm looking forward to getting Player's Guide to Glorantha, which contains new items, spells, and legendary abilities. (The uzuz maul, dealing 5D8 damage, looks especially appealing; with the Baleful weapon ability and the Weapon Mastery skill, that'll be up to 10D10...)

2007-01-26, 12:35 PM
So far, I've had to make a few house rules and little fixes.

The Movement rules are... zany. The table on page 84 of the rulebook says that in a minute, a character can run... 96 meters. 120m if you make an Athletics test. So apparently the hundred meter dash takes at lest 50 seconds... right.

I've increased basic movement to 4x Movement per combat action; this lets a DEX 13 character cover 48 meters per combat round, or 100 meters in some 10-24 seconds (a combat round is of variable length). It'd take 5 combat actions (a bit over 1 combat round) for a DEX 19 character who makes the Athletics test to sprint (increasing Movement to 5m) to cover 100 meters. Seems fine by me.

The main purpose here is to negate the immense advantage of using a longbow (damage 2D8 plus modifier!) in open terrain. If a DEX 13 human could only cover 8 meters per action while running, he'd take 7 rounds to get within charging distance of a longbowman standing 175m (longbow's range) away; enough for 7-14 shots, depending on the longbowman's DEX. 7-14 shots from a longbow will usually be enough to kill or incapacitate several opponents.

This way, it takes a bit over one round for most characters to cover 100 meters, which means far fewer shots.

Rune Magic
I removed runes. Well, not removed, exactly; you can gain them from minor HeroQuests, but they're not required for using Rune Magic. I made Runecasting a single basic skill - everyone gets it at POW+CHA. Common magic (HQ's version of Rune Magic) is available to everyone, and I try to simulate this. Lay members can only get 1-point spells at most, and even most initiates won't know more than a few spells.

The high cost of learning Rune Magic, and the cult-based limitations on Magnitude, keep it balanced.

I removed the "lose X combat actions" effect from wounds. I don't like stunning in Rolemaster, and I like this just as little. (Mostly it's a hassle for me to keep track of.)

2007-01-26, 12:42 PM
Simon Phipp's site (http://www.soltakss.com/). My absolute favorite resource for everything RQ- or Glorantha-related. Phipp GM'd and played in some super-high-level RQ games, and has just recently weighed in on the new RQ.

Nick Brooke's site (http://www.etyries.com/index.htm). It hasn't been updated in a long while, but there's great stuff there, especially relating to the Lunar Empire.

David Dunham's site (http://www.pensee.com/dunham/glorantha.html). PenDragon Pass rules and more.

Nikk Effingham's site (http://www.crashbox.com/nikk/rqpage.htm). Stats for Harrek, Jar-Eel, etc., and great stuff on Ralios and Otkorion.

Trolls' Wonderhome (http://www.wam.umd.edu/~gerakkag/rq.html). The best Uz resource there is.

There's tons of other good sites, most of them linked under "communities" on the glorantha.com site.