Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Runequest Obsession

Runequest was the second game I ever played after D&D. When I started hanging out at the local hobby shop as a kid, I had only around a year’s worth of experience with D&D. But the older crowd there were sort of past D&D, and heavily into other games. Traveller and Runequest was what were getting the most play at that time. Owner Gary had campaigns of RQ going on, and he had one big wall of the play area covered in situational maps for his games. Gary loved that game so much. Gary died a few years ago, but you can still find some writings of his online outlining various Runequest themes. He had obviously continued on with the Runequest love from the late 70’s and onward through the following decades.

When I stopped hanging out in the store after the early 80’s, Runequest pretty much left my life. The gaming side of my life would carry on for many years with only three favorites; AD&D, Call of Cthulhu, and Champions (games like Toon, Bunnies & Burrows, and Empire of The Petal Throne never got on my playlist, unfortunately). But I left my RQ at Aero Hobbies and never really looked back. I think my preference for AD&D, besides true “Sorcery” magic, was that I had a game world I loved and the rules of RQ would never have translated into it. By the late 80’s, RQ would have been just another game that my regular players were unfamiliar with, and would have taken up precious Champs and Call of Cthulhu time if I introduced it to them.

But man, those early games at the shop. They were this huge mystery to me. The world of Glorantha was based on historical places that were very much unlike what Tolkien, Terry Brooks, and other “classic fantasy” writers were presenting in their worlds. It seemed alien to me. Of course, I had yet to have any interest in ancient Mesopotamia, so I didn’t grok that influence. Adventures took my guys (my favorite was a Dragonnewt and second favorite was a duck. I called him “Scotty MacQuack” because I found a duck figure playing a bagpipe!) from the rough plains and temples of Prax, all the way to the greener hills and grasslands of Lunar Tarsh and Dragon Pass (I think I have that right). This was a patchwork world that was being put together and expanded, in-game, by the game designers at a time when I was having my earliest adventures with it. Cheapo modules like Apple Lane and Barristor’s Barracks gave me the medium to eventually start running some Runequest adventures for my friends. But those games soon got swept away by other things we wanted to play.

Well, I got my hands on a copy of second edition, 1970’s Runequest, and some other items on PDF like Cults of Prax, Pavis & Big Rubble, and Snakepipe Hollow. I never had these before, and my imagination is being fired up again by reading more about Glorantha than I ever did back in the day. Then I was just confusedly being a character running around in these modules and sourcebooks being run by the older pricks at Aero. Now, with all this reading I’m doing, I finally am starting to feel like and “insider” in regards to Runequest. I’m unlocking it’s mysteries for myself, man!

So I guess you could say I am a bit obsessed by old RQ right now. With a (probably short) Knights of The Old Republic campaign in full swing right now, I won’t be running any Runequest any time real soon, but when I do get to introduce its mysteries to my regular players I’ll be ready. It’s a long road to Rune Lords status. Better to get on that road sooner rather than later!


  1. Cool.
    --When you do run it, please let us know how it goes. :D

  2. Nice post. RQ was my #2 game too and it was the 1st serious RPG played, that is it had a skill system and encouraged less of a hack and hang out style like we used to play.

    Its still a great game and in fact I had a chance to try the Mongoose 1.0 version. The rules still generally delivered but I found out a couple things

    #1 It doesn't do anything that my other games like GURPS don't do.

    #2 It gave me a better appreciation for the uses of class level and niche protection.

    That being said, I'd cheerfully play again and in some alternate worlds where GURPS never happened but BRP and Worlds of Wonder did I'd be a perfectly happy gamer.

  3. RuneQuest is on my top five all time favorite games list. I played a little second edition, but mainly third. There was something about those games that set them apart from D&D back in those days. It sounds dumb, but playing RQ made me feel like I had graduated to RPG college or something. The system had a sophistication that AD&D never quite had. I wasn't a big fan of Glorantha back then, but I really love the setting more and more as I get older.

    If you haven't checked out OpenQuest ( I suggest you do so. It is a really well done update of the RQ system.

  4. Oh man, glad to hear your SW game is going well. I trust it's a better experience than that last SW nightmare you endured. ;)

  5. I will always love this game!

    I don't know if you're aware of this forum: , but they have good discussions with some really knowledgeable people.

  6. Timeshad: Thanks! Hey, Cyclopeatron has me wanting to go to the Texas con (maybe next year), so maybe I'll get a chance to see what your game is all about first hand.
    5Stone: I think in this case it may be pure nostalgia that has me going with those old rules I cut my teeth on. I'd love to create the same sense of mystery for my players I got back in the day. As far as GURPS, I'm pretty sure I never got into trying it out because I had Hero System, which is very much in the same subspecies of game as GURPS.
    Shane: I think I got a pdf of Openquest last year, but was hoping to find RQ2 (which I did recently) so I could get the same experience as back in the day. I have one player who played a lot of my Call of Cthulhu back in the day, and loved it. So I'll at least have her digging the system!
    Chris: Well, at least it isn't a bunch of middle age Star Wars geeks who are treating me like an employee (who worked for free). It's a giant plus that not a single one of my players is a Star Wars nut. They can appreciate that I am trying to NOT run a Star Wars movie (as if)! BTW, nice work on the house. Getting a nice secluded Valley cooking/gaming lodge going there! Good job. But surly you have an spare room for the gaming that you can paint dungeon bricks on the walls, fake Halloween webbing in the corners, and campaign maps on the walls? That's my gaming day dream (the old Last Grenadier in Westwood village back in the day had all that in the back room, and it seemed so cool).
    Kesh: That sounds just like what I need. Gonna check it out right now. Thanks! I think I have a good handle on Prax, but Dragon Pass still holds a lot of mystery for me.

  7. I like Openquest quite a bit. It gives you a good overview for running your own mythical flat-world setting should you not want to use Glorantha. I've been seriously tempted to only using BRP as I think it's the best pound-for-pound game system ever made.

  8. RQ wasn't my second RPG, it was my third, but I really relate to your post here. I never got to play as much RQ as I wanted, but I loved the heck out of it. RQ really opened my eyes to how much you could do with an RPG.

  9. I just picked up a copy of 2d edition RuneQuest for $5 at the comic shop and have been really intrigued by it. I have been seriously thinking about running a RQ campaign lately myself.

  10. Carl: funnily enough, earlier today I sent the group an email feeling them out on it. I may need an easy alternative to KOTOR on nights important players are missing, and I'm not really into doing more OD&D as the alt right now. So if they are open to yet another game genre and system, I may get to do some RQ sooner than I thought.