If Glorantha-based Runequest was as big as D&D these days, you for sure would be having the guys at Dragonsfoot and other forums smack talking each other about the idea of anthropomorphic ducks in the game.
I don’t recall my exact reaction as a young teen towards intelligent ducks in a role playing game. But I do know that the second character I rolled up and ran in the old games at Aero Hobbies was a duck (my first and most beloved was a Dragonewt with a name so retarded I won’t mention it here). I might have been inspired by having a duck mini that was playing bagpipes. I think I only got to play him in maybe one or two games though. It wasn’t long into the first game before store owner Gary’s character took a dagger and deflated the pipes. Not that I didn’t deserve that; my duck was playing them as we explored the dungeon.
Back then, I guess ducks in Glorantha didn’t strike me as especially awkward. It was already a land that held great mystery and unknowns for me (that I am only getting the backstory on now, decades later), so ducks, dragon-men who came back stronger when they died, Trolls that didn’t automatically attack people nor get automatically attacked, and rapacious, diseased goat-men seemed as worthy as anything else in games. Plus I loved Judges Guild D&D adventure packs, especially those by Paul Jaquays, and those products got you used to lots of cheese and weirdness.
As to why they got included as a race, we may never know. I can’t find any info on specifics. I do know that Howard the Duck was very popular for a brief period in the late 70’s. On the cover of his first issue he was wearing Conan gear. This sounds as good of an inspiration as any, it being a part of the zeitgeist of the times. And they seemed a good replacements for hobbits in the way trolls and broos took the place of orcs and goblins from more standard fantasy settings.
I just know that in my eventual RQ games, Ducks will be a part of it (despite a serious lack of duck mini’s these days). Since I’ve got copies of Duck Pond and Duck Tower, that’s a given.