Friday, June 27, 2008

Runequest - it should be much cooler than it seems


Runequest and the world that grew up along with it (and boardgames such as Dragon Pass and Red Moon/White Bear), known as Glorantha, is home to some amazing mythology and wonderful fantasy creatures.

There are ducks, gorps, broo, jack-o-bears, walktapi and loads of others.

And while I really liked good old 2nd edition Runequest (from Chaosium), it always seemed to be much more popular in England than the USA. Then when Avalon Hill published their version, they sort of emasculated Glorantha, and also mucked with a simple magic system (battle magic and rune magic) by adding sorcery. For some reason they also renamed Battle Magic to Spirit Magic. Not sure why. The addition of sorcery, of course, wasn't just a rule change, it also changed the fabric of the runequest world. The older system (where the world, Glorantha, was an integral part of the rules) had a real reason for there to be the two main types of magic - battle magic was something that everyone could learn. Small, quick spells that you cast, and they would dwindle quickly. The more potent rune magic spells were part of the mythology of the world (love it, or hate it), and so had a reason to be in the game.

Then along comes sorcery - a new, and potent magic, that doesn't really fit in the game. BUT it did give a new type of scholarly type magic that fit most medieval European style RPG worlds. And Avalon Hill was targeting (at least in the basic release) a sort of mythic Europe setting for their version of the game. Eventually, due to fan demand, and the ability to sense a buck to be made, Avalon Hill produced much of the Glorantha material (and a lot of it was in a very good format). But the game was changed forever.

The faithful have since released Glorantha in a couple of (admittedly) very weak looking systems for roleplaying heroquests and epic mythic adventures. Maybe it appeals to some, but not to me and my group. Good news however, there does seem to be an adherence to things old with the Mongoose Publishing version.

EDIT - The Mongoose version seems to be a pseudo d20 version. Sad. However, in June of 2008, Chaosium released a version of Basic Role Playing. This is not the old 1980 version of BRP (which was a stripped down version of their d100 rules, sort of Runequest without the Runequest parts), but is actually a reprint of the four books that made up the Avalon Hill production, but with the name "Runequest" removed throughout, and with the name "Basic Role Play" inserted instead. So, if sorcery is to be included, and battle magic is spirit magic, then it seems like this is the best version currently in print.


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