As a long time RuneQuest fan,I wasn’t surprised by today’s announcement that Issaries INC (Licensor) and Mongoose (Licensee) were ending their agreement to publish RuneQuest.
Back in 2004 I was wildly excited by the announcement that Mongoose were bringing RuneQuest back into publication. That wild excitement died off somewhat during the playtesting phase, which was badly broken and lacking focus and direction, and the rather hit and miss nature of the new rules of first edition. It was reborn somewhat with the literal deluge of new stuff, especially the 2nd Age Gloranthan stuff (which for the record I quite actually like), which meant there was something new each month, and once again depressed by the whole fiasco of Mongoose setting up their own in house Print on Demand system – which saw books that fell apart and had warped covers!
If ever there was a game that thrived because of the intense effort put in by its Authors it was the second edition of MRQ, which rather craftily branded MRQ2 to tap into all us 30+ grognards happy memories of RQ2 (a surprising move since when MRQ1 was released Matt Sprange in response to some pretty valid criticism responded “This game isn’t for the old guard”). Lawrence Whitaker (Loz) and Pete Nash did a stirling job, not only fixing the broken bits of MRQ1 but also managed to add to the legacy of the game. Pete’s rules for Combat Maneuvers immediately spring to mind. I’m fed up of people asking me to add them to OpenQuest! 🙂 But alas Mongoose to these eyes managed to cock it up again. Despite shiney leather covers, a cheap gimmick in my book (what’s wrong with getting a decent cover artist?), the books were badly let down by poor almost irrelevant art.
Alot of the blame for the loss of the RQ license is being placed that Glorantha sold badly. I personally feel this unfair and that Mongoose dug its own grave here. That the presentation of the books let them down so badly, that many Gloranthafans, myself included just gave up on the line. Without engaging art to break up the dense blocks of text, no amount of system genius and well crafted gaming prose is going to sell the setting to players. There was a charge that Glorantha is inaccessible to new players, which to me is a weak charge when your core book is one of the most accessible versions of the setting guide ever produced. Where was the simple but catchy intro adventures? The short but punchy campaigns. RQ 2 & RQ3 excelled at the art of the combined source/adventure book which kept the line going for years. Instead Mongoose churned out splat book after splat book.
As for Wayfarer, which is the MRQ2 without the RuneQuest brand, forget it I’ve already invested in the same system twice already. I’ve had enough of Mongoose’s rapid fire publishing model, where quantity rules over quality (as evidenced for the piss poor editing and layout of some of the books I’ve picked up from them over the years).
Its not all bad though. Mongoose’s seven year tenure of the RuneQuest license did have some high points.
- Some damn fine books in Dara Happa Stirs, Land of the Samarai, both by that fine fellow Loz, and Glorantha the Second Age by Robin Laws.
- An exploration of the 2nd Age of Glorantha, which although patchy and contradictory in places -was brave and accessible. The Glorantha Second Age guide is still in my book the most accessible all in one guide to Glorantha ever produced.
- A ressurection of a game that was dead in the water prior to them publishing it. People are talking about and playing RQ, both plus points in my book.
- Giving Lawrence Whitaker & Pete Nash full time writing gigs, which will stand them in good stead now they are writing for Moon Designs (see announcements here & here).
- And of course most importantly to me, an Open Gaming License System Resource Document for the 1st Edition which may not have led to the hordes of 3rd party adventures/supplements Mongoose were hoping for, but allowed me to write my own tribute to the RuneQuest games of my yoof; OpenQuest 🙂
I eagerly await the announcement of what ever company has picked up the rights to RuneQuest, and await to see what they do for my gaming holy grail.