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HeroQuest vs. RuneQuest

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I am somewhat familiar with Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu material but I've never played either HeroQuest or RuneQuest before. What is the difference between the two games? Is HeroQuest a generic fantasy rules system which can be transferred to a number of settings (similar to BRP) and RuneQuest is a specific campaign setting like D&D's Greyhawk? Both games are set in the Glorantha universe from the descriptions I've read, so that is why I'm not sure.

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RuneQuest is a set of fantasy rules nowadays firmly married to Glorantha, but it had one previous incarnation which successfully carried over to other settings. Call of Cthulhu is a daughter systems of RuneQuest as a specific setting adaptation, and another wildly popular one used to be Stormbringer.

HeroQuest is a completely different type of rpg, originally firmly married to Glorantha, although the third revision of the rules (the original was called Hero Wars, so this is taking about  HQ2) was presented without a specific background attached (only to be followed up with HeroQuest Glorantha which was as firmly married to the setting as you can). HQ is a narrative system, often using a single opposed roll of dice to solve a scene that would use intense dice rolling in RQ and CoC.

HQ is in no way limited to fantasy games. There is a German language scenario book which has modern spy, urban fantasy, historical and Gloranthan scenarios.

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12 minutes ago, Joerg said:

RuneQuest is a set of fantasy rules nowadays firmly married to Glorantha, but it had one previous incarnation which successfully carried over to other settings. Call of Cthulhu is a daughter systems of RuneQuest as a specific setting adaptation, and another wildly popular one used to be Stormbringer.

HeroQuest is a completely different type of rpg, originally firmly married to Glorantha, although the third revision of the rules (the original was called Hero Wars, so this is taking about  HQ2) was presented without a specific background attached (only to be followed up with HeroQuest Glorantha which was as firmly married to the setting as you can). HQ is a narrative system, often using a single opposed roll of dice to solve a scene that would use intense dice rolling in RQ and CoC.

HQ is in no way limited to fantasy games. There is a German language scenario book which has modern spy, urban fantasy, historical and Gloranthan scenarios.

Thank you for your answer, I understand the difference now.

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RuneQuest is the grand-daddy to all BRP games (including Call of Cthulhu). If you're familiar with CoC rules, you'll find that RuneQuest is a crunchier and more combat-oriented version of the same rules. RuneQuest, in its latest incarnation, is completely tied to the world of Glorantha (which means it's awesome).

HeroQuest's latest version is also tied to the world of Glorantha. It's a completely unique system that is very high level (i.e. not crunchy at all, there's not too many rules), and that is biased towards the narrative side of RPGs (it's one of the very early pioneers actually).

To make a very approximate one-sentence description of the difference between the two, I'd say that in RuneQuest, you go where the stats and the rolls lead you, and from that a story emerges, whereas in HeroQuest you try to tell the story by using the stats to make it go forward. RuneQuest is old school RPG with miniatures and stat blocks, HeroQuest is improv-drama with 1-page character sheets. Pick RuneQuest if you like crunchier systems, grittier play styles, or tactical combats. Pick HeroQuest if you like adventures to feel like myths and legends, higher-power games, or non/less-combat-oriented stories.

Of course, ignore both games if you're not interested in Glorantha :)   (you could use either system on their own, but frankly there's enough generic or reusable systems out there that you don't need the extra work in my opinion).

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5 minutes ago, lordabdul said:

RuneQuest is the grand-daddy to all BRP games (including Call of Cthulhu). If you're familiar with CoC rules, you'll find that RuneQuest is a crunchier and more combat-oriented version of the same rules. RuneQuest, in its latest incarnation, is completely tied to the world of Glorantha (which means it's awesome).

HeroQuest's latest version is also tied to the world of Glorantha. It's a completely unique system that is very high level (i.e. not crunchy at all, there's not too many rules), and that is biased towards the narrative side of RPGs (it's one of the very early pioneers actually).

To make a very approximate one-sentence description of the difference between the two, I'd say that in RuneQuest, you go where the stats and the rolls lead you, and from that a story emerges, whereas in HeroQuest you try to tell the story by using the stats to make it go forward. RuneQuest is old school RPG with miniatures and stat blocks, HeroQuest is improv-drama with 1-page character sheets. Pick RuneQuest if you like crunchier systems, grittier play styles, or tactical combats. Pick HeroQuest if you like adventures to feel like myths and legends, higher-power games, or non/less-combat-oriented stories.

Of course, ignore both games if you're not interested in Glorantha :)   (you could use either system on their own, but frankly there's enough generic or reusable systems out there that you don't need the extra work in my opinion).

Thanks, I appreciate this additional explanation.

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Hi, ColoradoCthulhu! If you don't mind me asking, what are you planning to use RQ or HQ for? Or were you just curious about the differences between them? 

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52 minutes ago, Shawn Carpenter said:

Hi, ColoradoCthulhu! If you don't mind me asking, what are you planning to use RQ or HQ for? Or were you just curious about the differences between them? 

I was just curious about the differences between the two games. I don't plan on playing either RuneQuest or HeroQuest in the near future as I am busy with Call of Cthulhu for the time being.

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RuneQuest debuted as Chaosium's first RPG at the Origins convention in Ann Arbor, Michigan in July of 1978. Most of Chaosium's RPGs are based on, and derivatives of that core rule set, now often referred to as BRP (Basic Role Playing). The first mentions of the Call of Cthulhu game while it was still being written referred to it as RuneQuest: Cthulhu. Suffice it to say we greatly prefer the name it ended up using. Call of Cthulhu uses the core mechanics of RuneQuest, and added in some things that rounded out the game for the specific time period and genre, such as Sanity and firearms. It also removed some things that were not needed, such as detailed combat. Greg Stafford's game design philosophy kept evolving. Greg was not a numbers heavy, rules heavy sort of player. Greg personally preferred story telling and rules light sorts of games, and created Pendragon and Prince Valiant in that vein in the 1980s. In the 1990s he struck out on his own with his own company, Issaries Inc., and focused on creating a storytelling game for Glorantha. It was first called Hero Wars, and ultimately became known as HeroQuest when Greg was able to attain the HeroQuest trademark a mere 30 years after he wanted to (different story). As a storytelling game, HQ is very rules light. It uses a much simpler D20 resolution mechanic. If you choose to do so you can have an entire army battle resolved with a single opposed die roll. 

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What is funny is that the first & second editions of both RuneQuest (1978, 1979) & HeroQuest (2000, 2003) were firmly set in Greg Stafford's world of Glorantha, whereas the third edition of both - RQIII in 1984 & HQ:CR in 2009- were meant to be a generic FRP for the first & a totally generic system -like, say, BRP, GURPS, FATE, etc... - for the second. It is, for instance, no problem playing in the Cthulhu mythos with HQ:CR (2009).

Edited by Christoph Kohring
Added links.

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12 hours ago, ColoradoCthulhu said:

I am somewhat familiar with Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu material but I've never played either HeroQuest or RuneQuest before. What is the difference between the two games?

RuneQuest uses a very similar game mechanic to Call of Cthulhu, in that you have Characteristics and Skills, you roll skills on 1D100 and so on. call of Cthulhu could be viewed as a cut-down version of RuneQuest.

HeroQuest is a different game entirely, although it shares some concepts with RuneQuest. Everything is a Keyword, or Ability, you roll Keywords/Abilities on 1D20 and generally compare two rolls in some kind of contest. Keywords can be as Narrative as you want, which is a great strength and a great weakness. generally, HeroQuest is a fast-flowing, very flexible game that can probably be used for any genre.

12 hours ago, ColoradoCthulhu said:

Is HeroQuest a generic fantasy rules system which can be transferred to a number of settings (similar to BRP) and RuneQuest is a specific campaign setting like D&D's Greyhawk? Both games are set in the Glorantha universe from the descriptions I've read, so that is why I'm not sure.

Both games have been set in Glorantha, as both were designed for Glorantha. There are many d100 settings outside of Glorantha that are for different rulesets that could loosely be described as being variants for RuneQuest. HeroQuest had had official supplements in Glorantha, Mythic Russia and modern settings. The new QuestWorlds will hopefully open up a lot more settings.

 

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As I understand it, the idea behind QuestWorlds is to open up the very strong HQ engine to a wide variety of games and settings. Once it comes out it should be a very strong competitor to systems like FATE and the PbtA games.

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If Redditors are anything to go by then you will want to run Heroquest and play Runequest. I think I may be typical after all.

 

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On 8/30/2019 at 1:40 PM, ColoradoCthulhu said:

Questworlds WILL BE the general HQ multi-setting line.

It is (presumably as an intentional homage) named the same as ...

Questworlds used to be (and still is, if you can find it used) the RQ-engine'd (RQ2 era, before AH, MRQ, etc) non-Gloranthan RQ line, aimed at any/all of historical, alternative/non-Gloranthan fantasy, possibly 3rd-party licensing, etc.

 

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/archive/index.php?topic=21477.0;wap2

 

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13 hours ago, Valnar said:

you will want to run Heroquest and play Runequest

I like running both! 🙂

And since I have players who play in both my HQG and RQG campaigns, I can only conclude they enjoy playing both. 

Edited by jajagappa

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21 hours ago, lordabdul said:

Do you find that the type of stories and adventures differ between the 2 groups?

The HeroQuest characters are all part of the Orlmarth community, and working to save that from the machinations of the Lunars. But adventures have included a converted RQ scenario (Harvest Bride), treks to Jonstown and back for knowledge, and currently in a quest into the Underworld to rescue Orane.

The RuneQuest characters are a bit more diverse (the pregens Harmast and Sorola, a Balazaring Yelmalion, a Grazeland Donandar entertainer, and an apprentice shaman of the Impala Tribe off looking for something in Sartar), though nominally aiding Queen Leika. They've trekked down to Volsaxiland to try to experience a new vision for the Colymar tribe (with side treks into Kitori lands and Dekko Crevice to meet an Earth 'demigoddess'), they've fought at the Battle of the Queens, and are currently in Jonstown seeking knowledge of the Ivory Horn.

Probably not a huge difference in types of stories and adventures (both games seem to work for what I like to run) though the RQG campaign has maybe a bit more combat (and obviously more skill rolls) and more obvious fumbles.

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On 9/5/2019 at 4:56 AM, lordabdul said:

Do you find that the type of stories and adventures differ between the 2 groups?

Not tremendously - the main difference is that the RuneQuest characters find combat more exciting and threatening than in HQG. So paradoxically, there is far less combat in our RQG game (which is warrior-heavy with the original Vasana character, plus another four warriors) than in our HQG game (which had Queen Samastina as a player character). 

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10 hours ago, lordabdul said:

Is that the Garhound Contest scenario from RQ3/HW?

Yes, from the Sun County book.  I moved to the Orlmarth clan, changed the contests a bit and extended them over two days, and abstracted a bit with more contestants.  Each contest garnered some number of feathers. The person with the most feathers at the end was crowned the Barley King and got a Year-Marriage with the Harvest Queen.  I kept the subplot in as well, so that became a mystery/threat, but also added in the Lunar overseer of the nearby slave farm arriving with the expectation that he could simply marry the Harvest Queen.  The Orlmarth roundly sent him off, but he subsequently struck back against the clan through magic causing the clan to lose Orane.

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7 hours ago, Jeff said:

Not tremendously - the main difference is that the RuneQuest characters find combat more exciting and threatening than in HQG. So paradoxically, there is far less combat in our RQG game (which is warrior-heavy with the original Vasana character, plus another four warriors) than in our HQG game (which had Queen Samastina as a player character). 

My experience has been fewer fights occurring in RQ games, but those fewer fights end up taking more session time at the table than several HQ dustups do.

Where a HQ game falls on the gritty <-> high-adventure spectrum is very much a playstyle/social-contract choice. Interestingly, I have of a few occasions run HQ with very gritty detailed injuries and after affects ( including swelling, shock, etc.), realistic healing times, lasting impairments, and the like. As expected, the PCs got properly gunshy, and became more prone to things like arranging ambushes rather than risking fair fights. In a given game, losing a limb or being seriously burned might be Major Defeat  or Pyrrhic Minor Victory consequences, as long as everyone at the table understands the stakes.

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16 minutes ago, JonL said:

My experience has been fewer fights occurring in RQ games, but those fewer fights end up taking more session time at the table than several HQ dustups do.

Where a HQ game falls on the gritty <-> high-adventure spectrum is very much a playstyle/social-contract choice. Interestingly, I have of a few occasions run HQ with very gritty detailed injuries and after affects ( including swelling, shock, etc.), realistic healing times, lasting impairments, and the like. As expected, the PCs got properly gunshy, and became more prone to things like arranging ambushes rather than risking fair fights. In a given game, losing a limb or being seriously burned might be Major Defeat  or Pyrrhic Minor Victory consequences, as long as everyone at the table understands the stakes.

HQ, like many other "story-ish" games (forgive the "game wars" terminology), can be epically brütal depending on the stakes you set!

what I like about these games is the speed and ease of combat... I hate getting bogged down with hit areas and the like.

I've heard more than a few references to people using HQ for heroquesting conflicts in RQ because of the very different feeling it gives; converting characters from RQ > HQ is a snap and it makes for more "mythic" conflict. 

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I tend to invoke a really interesting idea by S .John Ross nowadays to describe the difference between the two; the Invisible Rulebook. The concept is that some games have more specific rules for what may happen, others less. So HeroQuest has just one universal rule (the contest) which GMs interpret for everything. RuneQuest has rules for a lot more things: how far you can jump, how much it hurts if you miss and fall etc. RuneQuest gives you a strong model of how its world works, HeroQuest relies on the interpretation of the GM (and if the GM wants a good play experience, the players). The advantage of an Invisible Rulebook game is speed, and flexibility. It's disadvantage is greater GM workload, you have to create far more rulings. [There is a lot of sympathy between the rulings idea in OSR and games like HQ].

Ultimately it's matter of taste. S. John Ross describes games like HQ as being 'high trust' meaning that they work well where players trust the GM's rulings. But another way of interpreting that is if you get entertainment from 'winning' against the GM and the challenges he sets, HQ is probably not the game for you. But if you want to tell fast-moving stories that cover a lot of ground as a group it may well be.

We are fortunate to have choice.

And it's possible to like both, for what each does, not 'choose a tribe'. In fact, that always feels like the smart choice.

Edited by Ian Cooper
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I see the real purpose of any rule system as being to create a shared experience at the table. RuneQuest, HeroQuest, and Call of Cthulhu are each written to emphasize different aspects of the possible group experience, and the key to choosing a system is to consider the experience you and your group are looking for. RuneQuest excels at the gritty details you want for a game that feels like the historical Bronze Age, while HeroQuest lets you explore the mythic Bronze Age where every encounter takes on some kind of emotional or spiritual significance. Moving away from Glorantha for a moment and into the pulps, you might find that Pulp Cthulhu does a better job of capturing a noir detective feel while HeroQuest makes it easier to replicate some of the more over the top pulp adventures like the movie Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

A good group can create almost any experience with almost any ruleset, but it's always easier if you choose one that's focused on those elements of the roleplaying experience that your group wishes to highlight. 

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