GoonQuest – an old inspiration for OpenQuest

By Loren Millar this “Almost Fully-Compatible RuneQuest Variant of” was a big inspiration behind OpenQuest, the difficulty modifiers and skill rankings by experience are directly lifted from it. When I played RQ back in the 90s, and it gradually mutated into OpenQuest, I even had an index file of NPCS 🙂


An Almost Fully-Compatible RuneQuest Variant of

Ultra-Lite Rules

RuneQuest is a trademark of Avalon Hill Glorantha is a trademark of Chaosium

Copyright 1994 by Loren J. Miller
All Rights Reserved

I wanted GoonQuest 1 to be a rules-lite system of sleazy shortcuts and time-saving guidelines that I as GM can use for NPCs and Monsters et al (Goons) while players continue to play their detailed PCs. Goons under this system should be 85% identical (the Orlanthi “all”) to fully detailed RuneQuest characters in combat situations, which are the game situations most closely covered by game rules. They approximate RQ characters somewhat more closely in most non-combat situations, where RQ characters are not described in such excruciating detail. Magic is a problem, but I’ve attempted to find a workable solution.

If I haven’t hit close to my goals with these rules, let me know how they can be improved.

You will need a pencil, some dice (10 sided, 6 sided, and others to taste), and a bunch of blank or lined index cards. I use 3″ by 5″ cards which I can get in any stationery or drug store in the USA. You could also use a pad of paper, or loose sheets of paper, but they aren’t as easy to index as cards are. The whole goal of GoonQuest 1 is to make things easy for the referee, and I’ve found over 17 years of GMing that a small file box with index cards arranged alphabetically is the ideal place to keep NPCs ready for quick reference. So I recommend that you get a small filebox and a bunch of index cards, and start going crazy with your pencil! Just don’t put out any eyes with it…

First off let’s get the terminology straight. In GoonQuest 1 we don’t call sentient gameworld entities “characters,” as most roleplaying games do. That’s because GoonQuest 1 isn’t a complete roleplaying game. It’s a method of describing non-player characters succinctly while allowing them to be used in a game of RuneQuest (RQ). So instead of calling them GoonQuest characters, we will call them Goons. Got that? Now it’s time to move on.

Every character has a defining ability. Some games call it a character class. In RuneQuest the defining ability actually turns out to be whichever skill or characteristic the character’s player rolls against most often. For most RuneQuest characters the defining ability turns out to be a weapon skill or a professional skill of some sort, though a shaman might be defined by Fetch POW, a wizard by his sorcery skills, and a priest by her ceremony or cult lore skills. In GoonQuest terminology the defining ability will be called the goon’s GoonPower (GP).

Choose the name for your Goon’s GoonPower. If the Goon is a fighter, then “Fighter” would make a dandy name for the character’s GoonPower. If the Goon is a thief, then “Thief” would make a dandy GP name (funny how familiar that sounds). If the Goon is a religious fanatic, then “Priest” would make a dandy GP name (we’re still playing RuneQuest, after all). Note that the main GP is supposed to be very broad. It’s a succinct description of what the Goon does. It should not be narrow like a RQ skill. It should be broad like a character class from The Other Game (TOG).
Now write it down on something. An index card (the kind you would keep in a small file-box) is a good place to write it. Everything you need for a Goon should fit easily on a single index card (a 3×5 card in american lingo). Choose a percentile score for the GP. I’d suggest somewhere around 60% as a solid score for average folks in society, 90% for expert opposition, and 100% and up for really scary opponents. You probably know how to gauge this pretty well already, being experienced RQ referees yourself. Here is a table that I try to stick to with my own NPCs. I find that if I don’t then skill masters are always popping out of the woodwork, yet nobody has ever heard their names… a ludicrous situation you will admit (I hope).

     GP%  How Good Are You?
     45%  Talented Beginner, Apprentice
     60%  Journeyman, Normal unmotivated folks
     75%  Professional, Business Owner, a Specialist
     90%  Master, Locally Known
     105% Master, Regionally Known
     120% Grand Master, Nationally Known, a local hero

     If one GP isn't enough to define the character then write

some more down. Call them GP2, and set them at about 30% below GP1 (GP1 == Goon’s highest GP). There should be no more than two GP2 entries. If you need yet more then call them GP3s, and set them at about 30% below the GP2s.

Finally, you may want to give each Goon a flaw, or something distinctive that helps players (and you) to remember it. One might be bald, another might have a high-pitched laugh at inappropriate times, another might have a nasty scar across its cheek, or smell like cheese. We will call it a GoonFlaw (GF). GoonFlaws might have game effects, or they might not, it’s up to the GoonMaster (GM) to decide. So that’s why I haven’t assigned percentile values to them. I suggest that if the PCs are getting demolished and you figure they need a break then the GoonFlaw makes itself obnoxious and gives them the break they need. Or if they’re having too easy a time of it the GoonFlaw doesn’t have any game effect at all.

Here’s an example Goon. Note that I’ve tried to make Koraloon more than just an enemy warrior. He has a personality of some sort. It is actually possible to roleplay him as is. And when the Index Card is filled out with all the stuff you need to know (look in MORE CHARACTER DESCRIPTION STUFF) he’ll be pretty darn easy to use in a RQ session.

     Koraloon the Goon
     Tough Customer of Kolating Descent
     GP: Mercenary Fighter 60%
     GP2: Drinker 30%
     GP2: Ancestor Worshipper 30%
     GF: Stutters

     Here's another example Goon, based at 90% instead of 60%.

Quite a different type of Goon, wouldn’t you say? Note that this Goon has a specialty in his main GP. See below for how to give a specialty to a character.

     Vangker the Tanner
     Expert Tanner in Nochet
     GP: Tanner and Leatherworker 82% (Huckster 98%)
     GP2: Streetwise 60%
     GP2: Initiate of Artisan God 60%
     GP3: Poet 30%
     GP3: Erotic Arts 30%
     GF: Smells like blood, stained with dyes

     And here's another, even weirder.

     Brainbusterandeater the Broo
     Feral Broo in the woods around Apple Lane
     GP: Feral Broo 57% (Head Butt 63%)
     GP2: Nauseating Body Odor 30%
     GP2: Write Disturbing Runes on Object 30%
     GF: Forgetful

     You may want to elaborate the character description a

little. Or you may not… until it’s too late. Following are some sneaky shortcuts to derive practically everything you could ever want to know from a Goon’s GPs. Luckily, if you discover a burning need to elaborate the Goon’s index card at the last minute (for instance in the middle of a game session) you can. Just hurriedly follow these guidelines and put on your best Mona Lisa face. The players will think something horrible is going on as you roll dice and smile enigmatically.

GOALS AND STRATEGIES: Generally you will want to add a sentence or so that describes what the Goon’s goal will be in the scenario, and what strategy it is likely to use to achieve its goal.

SPECIALTIES: Many Goons are specialists in some particular part of their GPs. A Mercenary Fighter might specialize with her sword. To make a specialty roll 1d10 and add it to the GP for the specialty skill, and subtract it from the GP for other related skills. For example, say Koraloon is a Swordsman. I roll 1d10 and get a 6. Now his GP looks like this: “Mercenary Fighter 54% (Sword 66%).” Alternately, if you don’t want to roll dice, you can choose a number between 1 and 10 and modify the GP according to the same rules.

COMBAT STATS: If the Goon has a tough-guy or combat-related GP then divide that by 5 to get its HP. Compute location HP as usual, or if you need a shortcut just divide HP by three and add or subtract one for bigger or smaller locations. Double HP and consult the Damage Bonus table for Damage Bonus. All combat skills are at the appropiate GP, and if there are no appropiate GPs written down, then add one at GP3 level (GP1 minus 60%, with a minimum of 10%). Unless you want to work out SRs assume that all Goons have a DEX SR of 3 and a Base SR of 5.

CHARACTERISTICS AND STUFF: If it becomes necessary in some game situation to get the Goon’s actual characteristics, roll 1d3 or 1d6 (your choice) and add or subtract from HP for SIZ. Do the opposite for CON. Roll 2d4-5 and add to HP for STR, or 2d6-7 would work too. Base Dexterity off the most physically adept of the Goon’s GPs, if there are any. Divide the GP by 5 to get DEX. Compute SR as usual. Base INT off any intellectual GPs, POW off any magical GPs (with a minimum of 10), and APP off any communication GPs (minimum 10, unless the flaw affects the Goon’s appeal). If you don’t like any of these options for a particular Goon, you should either pick a number or roll the dice. It’s your choice, GoonMaster.

MAGIC AND STUFF: Magic is the most problematic thing you have to deal with because fully detailed RQ characters are supposed to have so many spells. And since GoonQuest is designed for GMs who make up Goons on the run, in the middle of a session, the GM doesn’t have much time to decide on spells. Also, spell- users aren’t rare in RuneQuest like they are in the world of Glorantha. So… what can you do? I don’t have any answer for which spells to pick. You’ll have to consult your ethnic and social campaign resources for that. But I can tell you how much magic the Goons get. If the Goon uses spirit magic from a shaman or a divine temple, choose one of the Goon’s GPs, whichever is the magical one, and divide by 5 to get the points of spells the Goon has. If the Goon’s main GP is “Shaman” or a synonym, then it also has a fetch of GP/5 POW. If the character is a divine magic user, then the magical GP better be its main GP. If it is, then it gets GP/5 points of divine magic. If it isn’t primarily a divine magic user, then each point of divine magic counts as two points of spirit magic. If the character uses sorcery, then it knows GP/5 sorcerous skills and spells. Sorcery-using characters often have enchanted items. Each two points of enchantments counts as one sorcerous skill or spell. If a Goon is a sorceror/wizard/whatever with its main GP being sorceror, then it also gets a familiar of POW GP/5. Henotheists and other users of mixed magical systems combine all these systems. You’re the GoonMaster, you figure it out.

Take the Combat Stats you derived above and use them in your standard RQ combat. Goons lose Hit Points and inflict damage just like RQ characters do. Use the Goon’s combat-related GP for its attack, parry or dodge, and maneuver skills, modifying appropriately for specialties.

USING GOONQUEST IN SIMPLE SKILL USE SITUATIONS      Pick the appropriate GP, modify according to task difficulty, and roll against it on percentile dice, just as if it were a RQ skill. Contests of skills work just like they do in RQ. So do special and critical successes and fumbles. Here’s a simple table of modifiers that I use.

     Modifier  Task Difficulty
     +50       Ludicrously simple
     +25       Simple
     +5 to +10 Minor advantage

     -5 to -10 Minor disadvantage

     -25       Hard

     -50       Very Hard

     -75       Ludicrously Hard

     -100      Impossible (I wouldna believed it if I hadna seen

               it with my own eyes!)

     Divide the appropriate GP by 5 and use that in place of the

necessary stat. If the resulting stat is very low, you might want to bring it up to 9 or 10. Or you may not. Or you could roll 3d6 or some other appropriate number of dice for the stat. It’s GM’s choice. You will need this for POW more often than any other stat, because of RQ’s magic rules, so you may want to routinely record Goons’ POW when you first write them down.

USING GOONQUEST FOR CHARACTERISTIC ROLLS      Pick the appropriate GP, modify according to task difficulty, and roll against it on percentile dice.

It can’t be done. That would have to wait for GoonQuest 2 (GQ2). I have some ideas on how to go about it, but the result wouldn’t be compatible with RQ anymore. RQ characters used in GQ2 would have to be completely reworked, not a difficult task, but they would lose quite a bit of detail. The resulting game (GoonQuest 2) would still be relatively freeform, but the rules would be somewhat stricter since they’d have to handle PCs as well as NPC Goons. If you really want to see GQ2 let me know and I’ll try to coalesce my ideas and write them down. Or you can consult Over the Edge, a superb roleplaying game written by Jonathan Tweet and published by Atlas Games, to get a hint at the way I would develop GPs and the rest of the Goon description system into a complete resolution system.

1 thought on “GoonQuest – an old inspiration for OpenQuest

  1. I ran a long term RuneQuest campaign some years ago. This is pretty much how I wound up handling all NPCs and creatures. I started with lots of enthusiasm and spare time, statting out everyone by the book. It took quite a while. I soon whittled it down to the basics, like you detail here. Nice work!

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