Crisis of multiple RuneQuests!

“Arrrgh my leetle brain can not handle it” is what some of you will probably be thinking when you contemplate the number of RQ like systems that are available now or in the near future.

This time next year there will be at least :

Renaissance* (Black powder era flavoured RQ)
BRP with the Magic supplement
and of course

RuneQuest 6 itself.

(Systems marked * are OGL)

RQ 6 of course is the 400lb gorilla in the room. If you are a 3rd party publisher who is focusing on the sales you want to go that way. Lawrence & Pete are excellent authors, who I know are polishing and fine tuning the work they started with with MRQ2 into something that will be slick and awesome, that will have a solid schedule of support supplements which will have the same level of care and attention paid to them as the core rulebook. Pete n Loz’s legacy of MRQ2 and work they did on other systems during their short stint at Mongoose (Traveller – Judge Dredd and Strontium Dogs were ably pulled together by Loz, while Pete worked on the Lone Wolf multiplayer for example) speaks volumes.  The’ve also partnered with Moon Designs as a publisher, who are in turn distributed by Cubicle 7.  MD have successfully resurrected the fortunes of Glorantha and HeroQuest, making them playable and accessible to new players, without compromising the artistic vision of either, and been able to support books of a very high page count with large amounts of art and stay in business. With C7’s powerful distribution behind them, it means you’ll be seeing MD books in your local gaming shop.  The HQ Gaming license is simple to follow (no standalone games, page references to the rules with a very simple approval process to make sure that nothing obscene like a HQ F.A.T.A.L gets released). I speak from experience here and RQ6 will have a virtually identical license.

So where does this leave OQ? Well I must confess that when I heard Loz n Pete were going to be doing RQ6 I thought “Oh Funk that’s the end of it” and nearly gave up there and then. Then I remembered all the lovely OpenQuest fans, who regularly say nice things about the game and egg me on, how Rik and John have poured their hearts and soul into The Company (Modern OQ) and River of Heaven (Sci-fi OQ), to mention how much fun I’ve had with OQ and quickly realised that quiting was not an option. I’m also very hopeful that supporting OQ financially is a viable option as well, since people say repeatedly they like the simplicity of OQ over the other interactions of D100. OQ sells steadily enough to support itself. In other words OQ has its niche. With The Company & River of Heaven its quite a solid “Fist of Fun” too 🙂

I’ve always held that D100, like D&D, is a shared gaming language and that its worth keeping it alive. 2012 is going to strength the options that D100 players both old and new have and I hope that the community of gamers see this as a positive thing, taking what they like form the various releases to run the most fun game of D100 they can. This is certainly the case in the D&D OSR and I hope this something D100 fans learn quickly rather than descend into arguing the merits of their favoured system. Early signs ,from the various forum discussions that have sprung up around the release of Legend, seems that this is the case 🙂

This is my Swords & Sorcery RPG!

I’ve spent alot of time recently reading the old school renaissance blogsphere and seeing the explosion of Sword and Sorcery/Weird stories/Barbarians vs Evil Sorcerers/Lovecraft meets D&D/”What ever the heck you want to call it” that is currently going on. Its all fun stuff, but I still find the Sword & Sorcery genre confusing at times, because when I was a lad it was either Tolkien (and inspired rip offs) or later on Micheal Moorcock and his Eternal Champion books (Elric/Corum/Hawkmoon/Oswald Bastable etc).  Like wise our D&D games were more Tolkien inspired with a large dollop of pseudo-medievalism, rather than Conan and company.   That was until Games Workshop put out their printing of Chaosium’s Stormbringer RPG.

Stormbringer 3rd Edition (Games Workshop Printing) cover

If I remember correctly I encountered the novel of the same name first. It was my late teens, angst was firmly taking hold and I was tiring of Books/Films/Comics where the good guys were the focus of the story, I wanted a book/film where the hero was a villain or at least various shades of grey. In film I quickly encountered the “Man with No Name” Leone/Eastwood Spaghetti Westerns. In book form this desire took shape and was fully fulfilled in Stormbringer. The main character, Elric, was a bad guy, the last Emperor of an Evil Empire of weird sociopathic sub-humans. Everybody else he meet was either equally villainous, or Good and  dead in short time. There was buckets of blood and sex, and by the end of the book everyone was dead and the world was destroyed. I loved it (and still do secretly).

The Games Workshop edition of Stormbringer, often called 3rd Edition, was a fab book. It is a fantastic example of a one-book rpg, where truly all you need is within its pages. It had copious and relevant art, and as well as the core-rules it contained the Companion which brought the adventure count up to 7 (including a solo adventure!). It was powered by the Basic Roleplaying System, a variant more deadly and straight forward than RuneQuest. Major highlights for me was a character generation system were your nation (most Stormbringer characters were Humans or sub-human species) mattered and gave you firm identity both in narrative and rules terms, the sharp and deadly combat system (which was a firm influence on the world of pain that is OpenQuest’s Combat system) and the magic system – which was available only to the a select number of depraved sorcerers and was a highly flexible system of summoning demons.

The Demon Magic system allows Sorcerers to summon and bind into their service Demons of Protection (armour), Weapons,  Assassin/Bodyguards, Knowledge and Transport (either teleportation or more traditional beast of burden). Combined with the elemental pacts system its vastly over powered and breathlessly deadly. To my 16 year self whose highest D&D level was 5th it was a real eye opener.

Kinda in keeping with the novel’s premise (which Moorcock deliberately made the mirror image of Conan), but also because the munchkin players will want to be either a Sorcerer or a Warrior (who is being provided with armour/weapons by the sorcerer), the players  are definitely not the “Good Guys”. At best they are “Man with No Name” style anti-heroes at worst they are one step away from the deepest parts of Hell. Which is probably why I’ve not played it as much as I should have done over the years; it requires a great sense of maturity from its co-players. Without it descends into a parody of itself, where rules lawyers exploit the ambiguities of the rules and some decidedly unpleasant sides of your fellow gamer comes out in the roleplaying

Its a game that you would have to prise out of my cold dead hands, except it notoriously falls apart , the pages being the prime offender here. I’m currently borrowing my mate John Ossoway’s copy, mine long disintegrated into nothing 😉