One-D-Six – RuneQuest Adventures in Glorantha QuickStart

I went on a HeroQuest on Free RPG day on 17th July 2017: to get hold of RuneQuest QuickStart.

There was such a great anticipation of the new RuneQuest, I knew that there would be competition to get hold of the 10 copies available. In my imagination, there would be a crowd of anxious gamers banging on the door of FanBoy Three, Manchester’s newly refurbished FLGS.

It was a tricky job wrangling the reluctant family to get there before the opening as they’d had a late-night the day before. I piled them into the car, bleary-eyed, “come on kids, I know it’s your birthday, but this will be fun!” They didn’t appear convinced.

Various roads in the city centre were closed, so I had to weave in-and-out of the one-way-system, while my 8 year old son thought it would be hilarious to play the theme from Mission Impossible on Spotify …

DUM … DUM … dum … dum … DUM … DUM … I abandoned the car and walked quickly in a parkour over walls and bollards to get to the Northern Quarter. DHAnnnnaaannnn!

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Someone on FaceBook said “I’d totally play RuneQuest with Elvis Costello.” I don’t get it.

I was the first one there. The only one to collect a copy. I’d destroyed all-comers.

While I was flicking through it, a PathFinder GM came over and said, “read this, on page 2, “If the highest rated participant in an opposed resolution has an ability rating in excess of 100%, the difference between 100 and their ability rating is subtracted from the ability of everyone in the contest … ” PAGE 2, page 2! And that is why we don’t play RuneQuest any more.”

He’d picked the wrong guy to have that particular argument with, so suffice to say, he left the store with his MathFinder slide rule and logarithm book in a place where Yelm doesn’t shine.

There was a demonstration game planned for later in the day, but I had to defer my gaming as there were kid’s parties to attend on command of the Fun Prevention Officer.

I finally got chance to run THE BROKEN TOWER at the new café gameshop in Bolton. At Slice and Dice, Tuesday Night is RPG Night, and this was a first outing there for the Armchair Adventurers, we were also joined by GROGSQUAD member Neil Benson, who travelled from Liverpool for the experience.

It’s been reviewed by both Pookie and Bud, but what’s like to play? The usual rules apply, five highlights and a fumble.

THE BROKEN TOWER 

I liked the scenario very much. Packed with atmosphere and great set pieces that were a joy to stage-manage. Chaosium’s core audience are Call of Cthulhu players, and there’s enough here to entice them into another setting. There is a mystery to uncover and moments of spine-tingling tension. I like my fantasy with mud and blood, so I cranked up the gore even more than suggested in the game. This is Dragon Pass, red in tooth and claw.

COMBAT 

(at the beginning of the first date with Annie, Alvy Singer asks her to kiss him)

And-and … uh, there’s gonna be all that tension. You know, we never kissed before and I’ll never know when to make the right move or anything. So we’ll kiss now we’ll kiss now and get it over with and we’ll go eat. Okay? And we’ll digest our food better.

Annie Hall, Woody Allen, 1977

The combat is familiar from RQ second ed. with a couple of notable additions. I applied the ‘Annie Hall’ GM tip – get the dice rolling around the table so that everyone can settle down and digest the rest of the scenario. I reshuffled the encounters to allow for a fight in the opening minutes of the session, so that the players had a chance to get used to the character sheet and feel comfortable with what was possible. The veterans around the table raised thier eyebrows at the parrying weapon depletion, which I liked on reading as it means that a critical parry is not wasted, but suspect that in play we’ll forget to keep track of it all.

Combat was covered briefly in my write up of the Play Test at UK Games Expo. Suffice to say, once again many left legs were struck in anger.

RUNES AND PASSIONS – lots of character

There’s a lot of character information packed into the character sheet. Character generation intricately entwines Dragon Pass mythology and history into the fabric of the character. The pregenrated characters have plenty of interesting yet intricate involvement with the various conflicts that have shaped the political landscape for the barbarian clans. There were conflicting loyalties and associations within the party, which were well played out during the scenario.

The characters’ associated Runes and Passions are expressed as a percentage and are mechanically invoked by attempting to augment skills by rolling an appropriate Rune or passion to influence the result. Neil’s character invoked his passionate loyalty to the clan to rescue their cattle – he succeeded, so could add 20% to his skill. The cows didn’t take a blind bit of notice; he still failed his Herd roll.

I suspect, for veteran players, these elements will be the most significant change to the foundational rule set. There’s also rules around conflicting Runes and passions, and an interesting idea where the Rune may compel a character towards a particular course of action.


MAGIC 

Regular GROGNARD files watchers will know that magic in RuneQuest has been something of an obsession. Glorantha is incredibly magical yet the RQ 2ed Magic seemed mundane and mechanical. Thanks to the introduction of the Rune affinities, it works much better in this latest version as it allows characters to access Rune Magic associated with their own culture.

After 35 years of Rune Magic being something of a rarity in our games, the players were a little over-excited at the potential spectacle contained in their new tool-kit, so much so, that they forgot to apply the simple but effective spirit magic that has served them well over the years.

An Air Elemental provided the stunning effects, but it was the good old ‘Befuddle’ that meant the difference between life and death.

REDEFINING SUCCESS 

The RPG Academy recap following the Trial of RuneQuest  concluded that they didn’t like percentage based mechanics, because they were supposed to be heroes, and they only hit 55% chance at a time. In this new edition, the characters start off in a much more powered up position than those farm-boys we had back in the day. Also, the chance to augment abilities means that very often, characters will have over 100% chance of success.

Failure is still possible and at key points of the adventure, the dice let the team down. Personally, I prefer the edge-of-the-seat potential of jeopardy that is created by RuneQuest as I like my fantasy to be more precarious and risky than the high fantasy of most F20 games. This introductory scenario is great at introducing the relativism of Glorantha where the moral certainties of high fantasy are complicated by passions, motivations and drives that come from the character’s place in the world.

The resolution to this adventure is far from clear-cut. Running away could be the most honourable action. RuneQuest Adventures in Glorantha continues BRP’s mission to redefine the nature of ‘success’ and heroism in role-playing.

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NOISE: THE GATHERING

Slice and Dice is newly opened and has only recently moved its RPG nights to a Tuesday. A few Magic players were gathered because they’d missed the memo. The rigorous tapping, occasional bellowing, intermittent yelping provided a hostile background for our nuanced roleplaying. I was struggling to be heard in parts, which meant I resorted to an impromptu LARP as I lay on the floor before standing up quickly to reveal a disquiet spirit. The players joined in to augment the summoning with dancing. Rubbish dancing. They rolled badly.

When the background  noise is this bad, it’s as difficult as a glichy online game. Extra effort was required to keep everyone engaged.

The search for the perfect, public gaming location, continues…

 

 

8 thoughts on “One-D-Six – RuneQuest Adventures in Glorantha QuickStart

  1. Huge RQ/BRP fan. Hate the ‘if one is above 100% in an opposed resolution, everyone else subtracts that from their skill’ rule. It’s in RQ6/Mythras as well, it’s a Pete Nash rule I just don’t get on with. But I just ignore it! Huzzah!
    I also think the very granular scaling in RQ6 was a pain, I liked the Big Book of BRP approach, if it’s EASY double your skill, if it’s DIFFICULT, half your skill.. which approach does this iteration take? Finally, have you played OpenQuest.. by a fellow Lancastrian, Newt Newport? https://goo.gl/dAK875

    1. I’d never heard of OpenQuest, but I located the Basic version and had a quick read-through of the rules; it certainly looks like a fork of RQ2, but I was surprised to see the replacement of Hit Locations with a critical damage table. I quite liked the Hit Location aspect of RQ.

  2. I have my RQ book from the Kickstarter, but I still haven’t really cracked the spine. I’m wondering if this game is too complicated for my liking. Great review though. Maybe you guys should show up on Magic the Gathering night and role-play Gringle’s Pawn shop.

  3. I’m glad you said your peace to the PathFinder GM! Hopefully he will be forced to revisit Runequest now.

  4. I came to the session with some RQ baggage; I’d briefly played it back in the early 80’s with some power gamers and a poor GM and have ever since had a dim view of the game (plus intelligent ducks as a character race just seemed silly to me). As a passionate RQer I suspect Dirk wanted to show me the light and reset my RQ barometer, and in return I came to the session with an open mind.

    I’ve played in Dirk’s games before and know the quality of his GMing, so I’ll focus instead on the adventure itself and the rules. Harmast, son of Baranthos, was a fully fleshed out character with a back story that was rich in flavour and also as I later discovered, was tailored to the adventure. I had no knowledge of RQ lore and so the relevance of a Lunar deserter as another character was lost on me, but with Blythy and Eddy being experienced RQ players it was easy to pick up, in theme at least if not in detail. A quick run through of the character and explanation of the basic rules and magic types and we were off.

    What started out as a simple recovery mission soon developed into a life or death quest, overshadowed with a growing supernatural threat. This was totally at odds with my recollection of RQ which had been a series of encounters against trolls in some dismal dungeon.

    The rules were only called upon when necessary and used to good effect – passions are intriguing and add depth to characters; it’s refreshing to have elements of a characters background and beliefs generating meaningful mechanical benefits in game; although their use has to be justified. I didn’t really get the difference between Rune Spells and Spirit Magic other than the frequency they can be used and the source of their power – maybe the difference is just in flavour. I was the only player who didn’t use their magic, perhaps due to my lack of RQ experience.

    The rest of the system made sense and felt familiar to some degree; percentage rolls for skills and attacks; d20 for location and d4’s, 6’s and 8’s in various combinations for damage. There were a few bits that needed explaining; Strike Rank, Location Armour and HP and weapon points. As most of this was already down on the character sheet it was easy to follow. Weapons deteriorating in combat adds a realistic element to resource management and a could create some heroic scenes where the adventurer fights on with a chipped and battered sword. I know we had only scratched the surface with the rules and there are layers of depth and complexity we didn’t touch on, but the core of the system seems clear, consistent and comprehensive and was also tied to the Glorantha setting.

    In summary, I had a great night and thoroughly enjoyed the adventure. I can see that scenario having the same impact on new RQ players as The Haunted House had on me first time I played Call of Cthulhu. Given the opportunity I’d happily play RQ again; it will be some time I suspect before I’m won over enough to consider GMing it myself though.

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