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Return from Continuum I 1 August 2006

Posted by Dr Moose in Uncategorized.

(Category: Role-Playing Games)

Having recently returned from Continuum, and being tired here are some first impressions of Mongoose RuneQuest. (Regular readers are entitled to glaze over at this point).

I almost want to say “I’ve been had.” There’s the old adage, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I’m sure that RQ2 wasn’t perfect (even though I have to say I preferred it to RQ3), but I’m not terribly impressed with MRQ. In fact I am distinctly “underwhelmed”.

I probably need to read it more closely, but I’m actually not sure I really want to. Here’s some observations and impressions.

As a physical object the book is nicely done. The hardback cover is solid, but rather too D&D D20 derivative for my taste, and the interior illustrations are good pencil drawings – although I can’t say I think much of the way the runes are portrayed. They might be meant to look like brass rubbings, but they really look more like someone has tried to scribble them out!

So far I’ve noticed one obvious typo (the word “crossbow” being rendered as “cros” space “bow” which is pretty inexcusable since spell checking should be able to pick that up) and one implicit error (the armour value of a leather hauberk). I’ve also found a “hole” in the rules, unless I read them too fast. Specifically I found no reference to an individual dying by taking a number of hit points in excess of their total. It might be implied in the combat example – but even there it wasn’t explicit.

It might be an isolated incident, but it could be based on a writer’s presumption based in knowing the former rules sets.

I like some of the ideas that have been introduced into the combat system, but not the implementation. For example “Responses.” Allowing a parry, dodge, dive, riposte, whatever as an opportunistic response to an attack seems fair enough. But do you really need to have the attacker roll again? The initial attack roll has already been made and declared a hit. To then force the attacker to roll again, which may mean the initial successful attack becomes a failure, just screams “wrong” at me. You’ve already determined the hit. It’s almost unjust to then see it taken away.

“Magic” or more specifically “integrating runes.” The rules book basically confines itself to this one system. While I can understand the principle that’s being made here, I’m not quite sure what’s going on. By requiring the integration of runes at 1 point permanent POW loss a time it is changing a fundamental feature of Glorantha. It actively reduces the availability of magic, something so pervasive in Glorantha that this too is just plain wrong. In a non-Gloranthan setting, maybe, but not for Glorantha.

Then there’s the nature and identity of the runes. A “metal” rune? Please! So the implication is surely that Bladesharp and Bludgeon (for example) only apply to metal weapons. By implication a spell tied to the metal rune should have no power on an obsidian sword, a flint spearhead or a wooden club, should it? On top of that there are cult and cultural issues to consider. Remember that old RQ mainstay, Disruption? By tying it explicitly to the Disorder rune what are the implications, especially given the traditional Gloranthan distrust of Disorder as being merely one step from Chaos? Which reminds me of another gripe. Possibly the strongest attack spell in the game “skybolt” requires the integration of the Chaos rune. Get that, the integration of Chaos? Not something most people would touch in classic Glorantha. And then to compound it, what’s one of the cult spells of the Storm King (generic, but obviously resonating with Orlanth, Dorburdun etc.)? Yep, skybolt. OK MRQ will be set in Second Age Glorantha with Lokamayadon and so forth, but it still just feels wrong.

Battle/Spirit Magic has effectively disappeared. Either there is no common magic at all or the runes characters need to appropriate are far too common and have lost value (And for what it’s worth it seems that Runepriests and Runelords need to be less powerful, and you can’t have a dual Runepriest/Runelord – which I’m sure you could before, but that could be my memory playing up!)

The stated position for MRQ if I remember correctly is to update RuneQuest and introduce Glorantha to a new audience. Very laudable goals you might think. The problem is that I’m not sure it does either especially well.

On the rules side there are some nice tweaks to RQ, but that’s all they are. I can’t get away from the unworthy and cynical thought that there is an exercise in Intellectual Property rights going on here, sort of “how many words do we need to change to get away with it?” MRQ is largely a BRP rip-off with the addition of Hero Points. Perhaps I should have expected nothing less. Still, I am somewhat surprised that there has been no legal objection from Chaosium.

On the settings front MRQ drops in some Glorantha references, but not too much. Glorantha is mentioned and implied and to be fair to introduction explicitly states that the “rulebook contains the core rules for RuneQuest and little else. However it tends to assume that … Glorantha…. will be used most of the time.” Beyond runes (including a new Communication rune, to get around using the Issaries one!) there’s something on the importance of cultic affiliation, then trolls, ducks and broo, but little else. That’s about it. We have to wait for the Companion and other volumes for that.

Possibly this is the biggest worry of all. The basic mechanics are good, but not noticeably better than BRP. As such they might make a good intro to role-playing, but the magic system is too tied to (Gloranthan) runes to apply much anywhere else and there are no other options provided in the book. And this is the problem. The strongest selling point RuneQuest can have in the current market is not rules quality but settings quality, as Avalon Hill discovered to their cost. Instead Mongoose have promised us a range of quality Gloranthan supporting materials. I just hope their policy pays off, but there’s more Gloranthan material in the old RQ2 rulebook than here, and it shows.

On the whole I’m disappointed. MRQ falls between the stools. Not strong enough to be generic and insufficiently Gloranthan to excite in one book.

(And while I’m griping, is it too much to ask for language consistency? We have “armour” (British spelling) but use “pants” in the American context, rather than trousers. It’s annoying!)

Should you buy it? No, probably not. Go onto eBay and do yourself a favour with a copy of RQ2, that, or get BRP or HeroQuest. But if you’re reading this and know what I’m on about, you’ll have those already.



1. Anonymous - 1 August 2006

Sadly, I think that systems can’t be copyrighted as such, but I guess that is why RQ got away with a 3D6 stat generation system.

2. Anonymous - 5 August 2006

I think the most important factor with the new release is that copies will be on shop shelves and probably initialy displayed farly prominantly. That is the main way to get RQ/Glorantha to grow.


3. Anonymous - 7 August 2006

There is nothing ‘sad’ about the fact that ‘systems’ can’t be copyrighted. The idea of anyone ‘owning’ the concept of rolling three six-sided dice to create a score is abhorrent.

4. Ben - 7 August 2006

What is “sad” about this, is that Mongoose managed to publish a BRP rip-off without doing any work on their own. Sure, they went along and changed a few rules here and there, but the core system is BRP.

And that’s just lame. Mongoose has made themselves a ‘big player’ in the industry, by simply riding on the coattails of others. They’ve never bothered to develop a new RPG (simply forcing more complications on to existing games) or setting (simply licensing settings from other people).

I read the SRD for RQ a few weeks ago, and while it seemed fine at first, the more I read it the more I just felt “this is just a rip-off”.

Not interested; not buying it.

5. CJ - 8 August 2006

Thank you for the article, whichj was excellent. Thoughtful, intelligent, interesting…

cj x

6. Gerry - 14 August 2006

Personally I’m really looking forward to MRQ, if for no other reason than because it will put Runequest back on shelves and generating interest.

I don’t yet have a copy so I can’t respond to most of your criticisms, however I’ve read the previews on the Mongoose site and am really intrigued by the whole Rune magic system. Let’s face it, removing all those completely vanilla spells that *every* character had (Bladesharp 4, Disrupt, Befuddle etc) and restricting access to cult related spells only makes life a lot more in interesting in my book.

Can’t wait…

7. Allan Goodall - 20 August 2006

Perhaps you didn’t get far enough, but there’s a big issue with opposed rolls. In particular, opposed rolls when a character is greater than 100%.

There’s a calculator at http://www.genomia.co.uk/mrqstats.html. Plug in the numbers for, oh, a character with a skill of 99% versus a character with 10%. Then do it for 100% vs 10%, then finally 101% vs 10%. You’ll see that once your character gets better — from 100% to 101% — his chance of success actually crashes!

No idea if anyone has house ruled a fix for this, but it’s certainly a glaring error that was never caught in playtesting.

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