The End of Runequest?
This post is about my gaming hobby. If Dungeons and Dragons style games do not interest you you may wish to skip it! If you are a friend of mine and are interested in trying these sort of games, even just the once, drop me a line and I’ll set something up though. :)
Sunday saw us playing the second adventure in the excellent Dara Happa Stirs, Laurence Whitaker’s (with Greg and Jeff Richards) superb campaign source-book for the Mongoose RuneQuest table top roleplaying game. If you are a fan of pen and paper table top RPG’s, I’d really recommend this look at a corner of Greg Stafford’s world of Glorantha where I have not previously played, it is up there with Masks of Nyarlathotep in terms of the best RPG campaigns ever written. Apart from some fairly unclear prose near the beginning of the book, and the need to own MRQ core rules, Glorantha: The Second Age book, and preferably The Cults of Glorantha (volume 1) and Magic of Glorantha releases I’d give it a 10/10, as it is I’ll give it a 9.5 as a truly inspired and fun to run campaign. Often books like this read beautifully, but don’t make for as good gaming sessions, but my group have really enjoyed our four or fives sessions despite the absolute mess that is Mongoose RuneQuest first edition.
Mongoose RQ first edition an absolute mess? Yes. There are all kinds of issues with it – despite liking Steve Perrin’s RQ ideas often the idea of physical runes that are randomly rolled really does not work with the cults system, though there are fixes for this, and the combat system is slow, with actions and reactions needing careful plotting. We use counters sometimes to help, though I did not bother this session, as I followed Lawrence’s advice and we are playing with advanced characters who being Dara Happan nobles can afford to buy upgraded weapons and armour, so combats are short most of the time.
Not as short as they could be though, owing the critical flaw of MRQ1. There are no general hit points, only location hit points, and even reducing a limb to destroyed by repeated hits does not necessarily put someone out of a fight, as they get a kind of saving throw based on a skill called Resilience. If like one character encountered in Mernita they have 90% in this, then killing them becomes absurd, and fans of the game have named this the Black Knight Syndrome after this famous Monty Python scene…
Yes it really is like that!
Yet despite all these issues, Mongoose RuneQuest had much to commend it – I preferred the Gloranthan material which was released to it to the actual rules system, and some of it I can use with Heroquest if need be, but the good news was Mongoose accepted the flaws with the MRQ project, and took remedial action. Firstly they released Deluxe MRQ, which combined a number of the initial books which would have been too expensive for me in to one reasonably priced volume which has some excellent rules. And then, after the first edition acted as a rather expensive playtest consultation, they released Mongoose Runequest 2.0, a second edition that I am reliably informed is the best incarnation of the RQ rules to date. As I have until recently played the original Chaosium RuneQuest second edition, my copy now forty years old, it had taken reading Dara Happa Stirs to make me move to MRQ. It is now clear I need MRQ 2.0 – more expense, but worth it for the sake of this campaign, not something you hear me say often! (Normally no matter how good the supporting material, if the core rules suck in play I’m not going to waste money on them, but I have spent far too much over the decades on Gloranthan material anyway, and it was worth it. ;) )
However some very surprising news came from Lloyd as I announced that I was going to try and get a copy of the MRQ2 rulebook, but before I managed to persuade any of my players to donate ;) Apparently the relationship between Mongoose and Issaries has come to an amicable end, ended by Mongoose, who will continue supporting the (I’m told excellent) MRQ 2.0 system under the new name of Wayfarer. (Traveller is their SF game, a remake of the classic GDW game, and very good from a read of the core rules, so Wayfarer will be their fantasy system – but I really think they need a better reason to call it that, the name just does not inspire, and their were other games with just as unfortunate but similar names – Dangerous Journeys, Pathfinder, etc – Mongoose, choose a better name!) SO yes I’ll still be able to pick up a copy, which is good because I discovered yesterday Lawrence has done a Pavis Second Age book (he also did Fronela which was OK but not as inspiring, and much slimmer). The news broke a while back, but I missed it it seems…
Greg seems upbeat, and I’m looking forward to see what follows. Mongoose released a lot of excellent books, and only a few I was not that excited by (Ruins of Glorantha was OK but not really my thing for example, and I have not managed to get in to Fronela, but am looking forward to the forthcoming western book from d101 games) but while this may spell the end of RQ for now, I’m pretty sure it will rise again soon. Classic gaming still seems to have immense appeal, and with the Wayfarer system all the old books published for Glorantha’s second age will still be of use, but it remains to be seen how long they will be available for. Lucky I picked up a load a while back for a quid each on Ebay!
Anyway, if you can lay your hands on it I do recommend Dara Happa Stirs, even if Glorantha not normally your thing.