RuneQuest Glorantha Quickstart

After running a very successful Kickstarter to re-print the 2nd edition of RuneQuest, Chaosium began work on a new edition of RuneQuest, after ending its license to The Design Mechanism (whose game lives on in Mythras). Electing to use RQ2 as its rule-base rather than RQ6 or the newer Call of Cthulhu 7th edition, Chaosium brought on-board Jason Durall, author of the Basic RolePlaying Game (i.e. the Big Gold Book), to help create the newest edition of RuneQuest. Also like RQ2 and unlike RQ6, the world of Glorantha is back in as the default setting. Of course the amazing flexibility of the BRP rules means you don’t have to use that setting if you don’t want to, as well as all the other rules being fairly modular to mold, drop, and/or replace.

Debuting in paperback for Free RPG Day and now available to purchase from Chaosium and/or download the free PDF, the RQG quickstart is a marvelous way to get into the game, and is just as good, if not better, than the CoC7 quickstart. Let’s take a look at the quickstart and see how well it works.

Initial Impression

To say that the look and design of this quickstart is gorgeous is an understatement. Like the CoC7 quickstart, it’s clear the new Chaosium is putting a priority on the look and readability of their games, and it’s something I greatly commend them for putting more effort into. I also like the textured look of the page backgrounds; it isn’t so busy as to be distracting, and I also like the rune graphic lightly placed in the middle of the pages. The page borders are a neat gold and brown pattern, and the same color is used for headings. The tables are also well-designed, with alternate-colored rows. The use of plain black for some of the parts is a little jarring and seems out of place, but I’m not sure what would work better. The artwork, while sparse and almost all portraits, are in grayscale and make great use of shading. I do hope the full rulebook has quite a bit more artwork, and maybe some not in full color, but perhaps using the golds and browns. I think that would look fantastic.

The Game System

Like other BRP games, RQG uses characteristics named the same as D&D/OSR RPGs, along with two unique ones: Strength, Constitution, Size, Dexterity, Intelligence, Power, and Charisma. In addition to characteristics, RQG uses abilities, which can either be a skill, passion, or rune. While these three will be commonly used when attempting something, RQG also utilizes the characteristics in a characteristics roll, which is simply that characteristic’s value multiplied by 5. An oddity is that Power is used for luck.

This section actually continues after the Adventurer Overview. I won’t admit how long it took me to figure that out, but it really should have been noted at the bottom of page 3. In addition to the Opposed Roll, the Resistance Table is back! For those not familiar with BRP, the Resistance Table was used for a long time, and has its fan and detractors. The latest version of Call of Cthulhu doesn’t use it, nor does RQ6/Mythras. While I don’t personally hate it, I did see the latest rules leaving it behind as evolution and refinement of the BRP rules, so it’s quite odd that this new game is using it once again. It’s also not explained very well in the text, and when you look at the table it uses POW, which isn’t even mentioned in the text!

Overall this section is pretty brief, and while it mostly makes sense on its own, I think for those new to BRP-based RPGs more explanations and examples would be beneficial. I certainly hope the full game provides that.

Adventurer Overview

This next section, also very brief, quickly covers each term of what’s on a RQG character sheet. Most of these are self-explanatory, with the exception of Strike Ranks and Rune Points/Spells. The example character on the facing page is a great help. Some of the circled numbers are badly-placed.

Time & Movement

Similar to D&D/OSR RPGs, RQG uses turns and rounds when describing time within the game. The round is even further defined by strike ranks. This is a concept I’m not familiar with, and the very brief explanation here, while sounding logical, doesn’t make much sense. Again, a combat example would help greatly. Movement is determined by the number of Move points, each being 3 meters in combat and “much more” outside of combat. Again, it makes sense logically but I’ve seen it explained far better in most D&D/OSR games.

Runes

As the game is RuneQuest, it’s clear that runes are the primary focus of this game. They are what make up the world, the gods, the magic, everything in existence. They are used for magic, augemtning certain skills, and even define personality. There are four types of runes: Elements, Powers, Forms, and Conditions.

Cool concept, but it’ll take more than this quick-start to convince me it’s worth running a game that focuses so heavy on them. In less than two pages I don’t really understand just how runes are (or should) be used in the game.

Passions

This short section explains how hatred, love, loyalty, and more can affect a character’s attempt at an action. These can be attempted at the right moment by a player, or the GM may call for it. Pretty logical rules, and I would encourage their use in my games.

Skills

Pretty much the core foundation of a D100/BRP game, skills define just what the character can do and attempt. These are what improves as a character continues adventuring. Many if not most skill rolls are made by the player, but there are a few times when the GM should make it for him or her. As expected for a quickstart, the list of rules is fairly short.

Combat

Having read and reviews Mythras, I was bracing for an equally complex yet realistic combat system in this quickstart, and for the most part my instincts were right. Strike ranks are used, as are hit locations. There are quite a few spot rules, but they’re all logical and I would likely use most if not all of them. I am disappointed however to not see a combat example.

Damage

My first reaction was to wonder why this wasn’t in the Combat section. However, as the opening paragraph states a player can certainly receive damage outside of combat. Armor and hit locations are very briefly covered, as well as death and healing.

Spirit Magic

This is the first of the two magic systems described in this quickstart. I don’t doubt that the full game will have several more, perhaps as many as Mythras does. As long as they’re modular and I can pick and choose I’m happy!

Spirit magic is fairly similar to the spells and rules you’d find in D&D and OSR RPGs. In contrast to Vancian casting, in RuneQuest magic points are expended for each casting. Each spell’s magic point cost also factors into the spell’s strike rank.

Rune Magic

Well here’s the rune magic, hence the game’s name! There’s some similarities to spirit magic, but also some important differences. Rune magic is cast through the use of rune points, as well as a roll against that spell’s rune affinity (not explained at this point in the quickstart, so just gotta nod your head in fake understanding like I did). There’s a short list of spells, with some almost mundane and a few I’d really like to see what happens when used in-game.

The Broken Tower

Taking up the second half of the quickstart is the adventure. I’m very happy to see an adventure included in the quickstart (it’s amazing how many games don’t), especially one so well-detailed. This adventure serves to help introduce the rules of the game as well as the world of Glorantha for both the GM and the players. I won’t go over the story and the encounters here, but I will say this is an excellent adventure, intro or not. The maps are a little dark and could use their own page for more details, but otherwise it’s always a nice reminder to see that D100/BRP games don’t require a gridded map and can be a little more loosely-drawn. There are five pre-generated characters at the end of the adventure available, with an additional shaman that can be downloaded here.

Conclusion

As far as quickstarts go, this one is pretty good. The design, layout, and content are all fairly well-developed and promise a full game that will usher RuneQuest to a new generation of players. I’m curious as well as hesitant to see what the full game bring, both in terms of sheer amount of rules as well as details for the world of Glorantha. Chaosium has posted a new design for the logo, and I and others do not like it, as well as being confused why the design from this quickstart is now apparently abandoned. Hopefully more will be made clear in the time following up to the game’s release.