Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Questing for Runes? Couldn't you just draw them yourself?

Way, way back, through the mists of time. Lunch times were dangerous. 

Going to the canteen was a positive hazard to your health. And not just because of the packet custard served at the melting temperature of steel. 

There were far more dangerous foes lurking there, sharp elbowed 4th years and the 3rd year smokers viciously queue jumping to get the most out of their fag time.

Not to mention the possibility of having to spend time in close proximity to the most mind bendingly fearsome of all the food halls inhabitants - Girls!

Still. At least there were staff on duty in the canteen. You took your life in your hands in the corridors. If you were caught at the wrong end of the French corridor then you could risk being ripped to shreds by some surly teacher who has spent their life having their subject ignored by hordes of uncaring little arseholes and decides to take his fathomless dissapointment out on you.

If you go outside there is no telling when the horde of rampaging Brosettes will appear to boot you to death with their Doc martens, or the amount of money you'll lose when being force to play pitch and toss or the terror of breaking bones when caught in the middle of a game of British Bulldog.

Let's not even mention the forbidden zone that is the A-wing toilets!

The safest thing to do is to ask a sympathetic teacher if you can use their room at lunchtimes. It may be a history teacher or a technology teacher but some kind hearted soul allows you and your friends to hide, quivering, within their room for the hour.

And it's in that room, with those friends that you start playing roleplaying games.

And the one you play for ages is..... Runequest.

I have no idea how we came across Runequest. I know that one of our mates big brothers had introduced us the D&D but once we were old enough that they weren't forced by their mums to look after us we left to our own fates. I have a sneaking suspicion that most of our game choices were made because Neil's aunt had donated stuff to him and we used what ever we had. We certainly didn't have any money buy stuff.

So Runequest came into our lives. We created characters by the dozen and launched into campaigns that mostly involved random excuses for lots of combat.

This version of Runequest was 3rd ed and had been published in the Uk by Games Workshop. We had no idea what the previous versions were or what was wrong with them that they needed a 3rd Edition.

We were especially confused when we found this book.

What I've learned since is that the original versions of the game were sent in a fictional world called Glorantha which had a rich and complex history and background which had been developed over nearly a decade and had a huge amount of fans and material. 3rd edition jetisoned all that. Obviously.
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The book itself is mostly text and covers everything you'd need for fantasy adventuring. Character generation, stats, armour, weapons, combat, movement, skills, character development, monsters, magic etc. All the basic rules for running a role playing game.

Runequest works on percentile roles so the glorious old d10 comes into play. It may have been possible that one us may have owned the mystical d100!

Most of the fantasy archetypes are present. Broo are the RQ equivalent of Beastmen and were the most common foe that we encountered. In fact these would easily have predated the GW version and a lot of the early citadel beastmen were in fact Broo designed for RQ. Elves, Orcs and Dwarves all have their place and obviously humans abound.

One of the weirdest creatures that were unique to the RQ universe was the Walktapus. Essentially a humanoid body with an Octopus for a head.

Avalon hill also released there version of 3rd Edition Runequest and it would appear that this came in nice little box.

GW took this box and split it into 3 books. The basic rules as seen at the top of the page.

Advanced Runequest which contained more detailed character background and rules as well as more information about creating and running adventures with an example adventure included.

And Runequest Monsters which expanded the choice of creatures within the game massively and gave rules and advice about using them as Pc's and Npc's.

GW also published another couple of books for RQ. 

Griffin Island, which was a complete adventure pack containing new rules and loads of adventures and ideas as well as new rules and creatures.

And Land of the Ninja another complete adventure pack, this time set in the far east, full of new ideas, adventures and monsters.

 Runequest gave us many hours of Roleplaying fun in our younger days. We even managed too get loads of the less geeky types to play. Folk that were normally more interested in what football team you supported (and at least one that had previously given me a good shoeing) actually showed some interesting roleplaying thanks to the solid little game.

Rune quest was one of many games that Games Workshop published under licence in it's golden era and one that featured commonly in white dwarf in the 80's. In fact it was as common to see material for RQ as it was WFRP at one point. The last adventure appeared in White dwarf 101. By this stage GW's own home brewed games were doing well enough to support the whole company. RQ and the rest of the licenses were abandoned and GW concentrated on WFRP ( as well as it's wargames, obviously).

I'm unsure of how popular Runequest was in the rest of the country, but with our little gang, we cut our roleplaying teeth on the pages go 3rd Edition RQ and more than any other game was gateway into the GW/Citadel world. That logo on the book made us hunt out more of it's mysterious kin and the rest is history. The nice thing about having the books in your hands these days is that you have access to illustrations form the GW luminaries that aren't seen as often as the ones in RT, WFRP and WFB. You'll art by Blanche, Miller, Goodwin, Ackland et al that you can't find in other books. They are nice little addendum's to the rest of the Oldhammer oeuvre.

Rune quest is still going. A sixth edition was released a couple of years ago but the ownership has changed hands a fair bit since the glory days. They had revived Glorantha but they seem to have abandoned it again. The american source books form the early era can be seen with a quick google search but they seem alien, disconnected for the version of the game we played. That's probably cos the version we played was designed for british audience by bods in nottingham. They certainly knew how package a game. To quote Nigel Stillman talking to Rick Priestley at BOYL15 'We must have been doing something right!'


  1. Ha ha, yes the lunchtime school RPG group in the History block, an oasis of civilisation in the Divina Commedia: Inferno that is the British Education System. Although we played AD&D, but ported a lot of Runequest from WD into the games.

    I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that if not for Greg Staffords Glorantha and Gary Gygax's D&D there would have been no Warhammer.

  2. You want hardcore, try playing Toon at lunch in the Canteen for all to see. I have the three core 3rd ed Rune Quest books and would love to take them out for a spin again some time.

  3. we played "Burrows and Bunnies" at a school games club circa 1977 and I still have a copy of the rules and associated jottings.

  4. I've only ever played Runequest once, but I liked it. The game mechanic's are excellent, the creature's are really cool.... Broo anyone? I'd be interested to get hold of a ruleset just for a read through.

    I got me one of those D100 die, but it only got used a couple of times. Having to roll it on a perfectly flat surface, waiting for what felt like forever for it to stop rolling & having to look very closely to see what number you had rolled relegated this oddity to the die pile....never to be rolled in anger again.

    I like those Walktapus (Cthulhu) monster's. They'd be an interesting element to have in a game.

    With respect to the duck men, I don't know why they thought it would be a good idea to try and include them in a game. Even if you thought you could make them really kick arse characters in the rule's, who would want to "seriously" play a Donald Duck character?

  5. I wish I had experienced Rune Quest and Glorantha back in the day, but somehow I missed it. I've only gotten a taste of Glorantha in the past year or so, playing the very wacky computer game King of Dragon Pass (it's an old and resurrected game, available at Good Old Games): what a fascinating roleplaying setting, even with the sentient ducks. If I'm not mistaken, Glorantha was first invented by a Canadian. (It's a CANFACT).

  6. Although I had the RQ box set, I could never get past the anthropomorthic ducks, and so never really got into it. Our school rpg club (based in the library, and even had access to the photocopier!) stuck rigidly to an AD&D campaign, which went on for years.

  7. Although I had the RQ box set, I could never get past the anthropomorthic ducks, and so never really got into it. Our school rpg club (based in the library, and even had access to the photocopier!) stuck rigidly to an AD&D campaign, which went on for years.

  8. Ah........such great memories of this game!

    Our group discovered this way back and never gave D&D a second look. Glorantha was such a well thought out world in which to game - Sartar based on Anglo-Saxons, the Greco-hoplite Sun Worshippers, the Tribes of Prax based on Native Americans (spent forever trying to convert Bison, Zebra, Llama, Sable & Ostrich riders!!), Broo, Trolls (my favourites) and the strangest of all Morocanth! Let's not forget the City of Pavis and the ultimate Bad Guys - the Lunar Empire!

    Your article has brought back so many great memories.


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