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RuneQuest Starter Set Design Diary #3: The New Adventurers


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By @Jason D Jason Durall, RuneQuest creative director

The Starter Set for RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha is coming! Between now and its release later this year, RuneQuest creative director Jason Durall's Design Diary will share insights about the development of this exciting new boxed set which will introduce the RuneQuest RPG and Greg Stafford's mythic world of Glorantha to all-new audiences.

Diary #1: What to expect in the RQ Starter Set
Diary #2: Cover Art reveal, and what's inside the box 

A Starter design choice: pregens rather than character creation

Once plans were made for the new RuneQuest Starter Set, we decided, after much discussion, that it would not include character creation rules. Though many starter sets allow the creation of new characters—including our own Call of Cthulhu Starter Set—an important aspect of creating new adventurers in RuneQuest is that it represents some creative effort and some decision making that is best done as a group, with the gamemaster at hand.

As presented in the RuneQuest rules, players learn about Glorantha as they create their adventurer characters – learning about the world, its recent history, how the Runes suffuse everything. With their family and personal history sections of the character creation rules, the players immerse their new adventurers into the world, with personal connections, loyalties, rivalries, loves, and even hates. The pages of the RuneQuest core rules walking players through character creation are filled with sidebars about clans, marriage customs, family relationships, ransom, guilds, and even sex and marriage!

For campaigns, this is an amazing resource, but for a casual introduction to the world, it’s a lot to process!

So, as with the Ennie award-winning RuneQuest Quickstart & Adventure, we decided to provide some pre-generated adventurers, a well-balanced group of ready-to-play Gloranthan heroes in the making.

Casting Call

We decided that rather than provide the same seven we had already used—Vasana, her half-sister Yanioth, their cousin Harmast, their friends and allies Vostor, Sorala, Nathem, and Vishi Dun—we would provide a new group of pre-generated adventurers to pick from, broadening the scope even more.

This time, we looked at what we had already presented with the iconic seven, then thought about the new ones we’d like to see, first starting with cults and cultures, picking some of the more popular archetypes we’d like to spotlight, broadening the initial group substantially.

We wanted a Chalana Arroy healer, a Babeester Gor Esrolian, a Yelmalio-worshiping Praxian, a Grazelander, a Storm Bull berserker, a Humakti, and a Eurmali. This new array hit all the high notes for us, and gave us a lot of variety and flexibility with the sorts of types of characters people like to play.

Rolling the Bones

The next order of business was to flesh them out, so I sat down with the RuneQuest core rules, a fistful of dice, and some blank adventurer sheets, and rolled them up just as if they were player characters. In the end, I had the following batch of new adventurers:

  • Aranda of Nochet, an Axe Maiden of Babeester Gor
  • Dazarim Crescentblade, a Sable Riding nomad of Prax
  • Ionara, Grand-daughter of Thiralda, a Grazelander priestess of Maran Gor
  • Mago the Fierce, a Storm Bull out of Wilmskirk, in Sartar
  • Makarios of Clearwine, a Chalana Arroy healer
  • Narres Runepainter, a Eurmali out of the Necropolis, in Nochet
  • Varakos Wolf-killer, a Humakti warrior

rqss-pregens1.png

L-R ARANDA OF NOCHET, DAZARIM CRESCENTBLADE, IONARA

rqss-pregens2.png

L-R MAKARIOS OF CLEARWINE, NARRES RUNEPAINTER, VAKAROS WOLF-KILLER
CHARACTER ART BY SCOTT PURDY AND JON HODGSON

One thing I enjoy when creating characters is digging into culture and also playing a bit against type, to demonstrate the wide range of possibilities and explore the freedom of expression Glorantha presents.

Reversal of Expectations

It’s rare to have a bandit-oriented character, so Dazarim is just that, the descendant of a famous Sable bandit chief, a daring outlaw and nomad, charismatic and deadly. Due to a freakish run of dice in his background rolls, he took part in nearly every major event in recent Praxian history.

And while the “dumb barbarian” is a classic trope, it seemed a welcome change of pace to make our Mago the Fierce a highly intelligent Storm Bull. Rather than the foaming-at-the-mouth sort of berserker, his is a cold fury, every bit as dangerous. 

All the pregens get adventurer portfolios – here's Mago's:

2140204390_MagoPortfolioTop.png.a8d0ecc6105ec3abebcac0f576d231b6.png

 

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More to Come...

Next installment, I’ll go into a bit of depth about another two of these new adventurers and a bit about how the new adventurer folios came about.

Edited by MOB
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By @Jason D Jason Durall, RuneQuest creative director The Starter Set for RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha is coming! Between now and its release later this year, RuneQuest creative director J

Yes Scott Purdy and Jon Hodgson did the art for the adventurer portfolios.

Speaking of this, wouldn't it be neat if his character sheet came with a pre-statted Small Air Elemental (the one he's used to summoning)? Everything to help the beginning player.

Posted Images

Loving the look of this. 

To add a slightly more useful piece of feedback: the how to play section is excellent from the perspective of a new player. I think it will really help new players just pick up and go. 

Edited by Arcadiagt5
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Yes, the format for the character sheets is fab, a real boost for getting new players going. This will make the return to in-person gaming really sweet! Did you revamp Vasana and Co's sheets to match? 

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7 minutes ago, Psullie said:

Yes, the format for the character sheets is fab, a real boost for getting new players going. This will make the return to in-person gaming really sweet! Did you revamp Vasana and Co's sheets to match? 

Yes

31 minutes ago, Runeblogger said:

Amazing! Who is the artist?

Scott Purdy and Jon Hodgson did the art for the adventurer portfolios.

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These look like very good additions to the pre-gens.  I'm interested to see more about the Maran Gor priestess, the healer, and the trickster particularly.

The different take on the Storm Bull is good - helps to establish some further ideas on playing these character 'types'. 

The 'How to Play' notes look to be useful and provide good reminders of various capabilities (e.g. use of Berserker, or the Summon/Command rune spells).

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Very nice. I think that Mago the fierce will soon find a place in my campaign as a NPC.

Looking at the character sheet, I noticed that Mago can summon an air elemental not only with the :20-element-air:rune but also with the :20-form-beast:and :20-power-death:ones.

Is that a mistake ? Did I miss something ?

 

Edited by Manimati
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It does seem odd to introduce two weapon fighting into the starter set.  The image on the character sheet implies Mago fights a Broadsword in his Rt hand and the  Battle Axe in his left.  But his skill sheet has no off hand skill with the Battle Axe - which according to the last Q/A I read should begin at base 05+Mod.  I suppose the saving grace to this is that he doesn't have sufficient SR to attack with both weapons in the same round - The listed SR of 8 with both weapons is however incorrect DEX SR2, SIZ SR 2, Weapon SR 2 for Broadsword and SR3 for Battle Axe , resulting in SR6 or SR7.

To avoid some confusion, my suggestion would be to add some text that describes sometimes Mago fighting with both weapons in his hands so he can alternate his attacks (from round to round), but only uses one weapon to attack and the other for defense.  Probably adding some text that full rules for fighting with 2 weapons are included in the RQG main rules.  This does somewhat gloss over the off hand rules but for a starter set seems OK.  Otherwise the explicit offhand skill percentage for the Battle axe should be calculated and added into the combat block.

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13 minutes ago, Psullie said:

P317 core book: Any Rune of the cult providing the spell may be used to cast a spell indicated with the :20-condition-magic:rune

That rule applies to spells with the :20-condition-magic:rune, but for Summon Elemental, the spell descriptions says "Rune varies depending on elemental being summoned" (in both RQG and RBoM). If Summon Elemental was just a variant of Summon Cult Spirit, then it would make sense.

Edited by Manimati
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17 hours ago, Manimati said:

Very nice. I think that Mago the fierce will soon find a place in my campaign as a NPC.

Looking at the character sheet, I noticed that Mago can summon an air elemental not only with the :20-element-air:rune but also with the :20-form-beast:and :20-power-death:ones.

Is that a mistake ? Did I miss something ?

You can summon your cult elemental with your cult's Runes, not just the Rune for the elemental. This is straight out of the rules (see page 317, et al): 


image.png.d5150801508e24c453cef7412eea9f4c.png
 

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1 hour ago, Sid Vicarious said:

I was thinking the same thing about the missing check box for Mago's Customs (Heortling) skill.

The core book is in error. Customs is not improvable through use. 

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29 minutes ago, Jason D said:

You can summon your cult elemental with your cult's Runes, not just the Rune for the elemental. This is straight out of the rules (see page 317, et al): 


image.png.d5150801508e24c453cef7412eea9f4c.png
 

I'm not sure I follow. If Mago can summon the Small Air Elemental using Summon Cult Spirit, what does he (or anyone) even need the separate Summon Air Elemental (Small) spell for?

Edited by Akhôrahil
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11 minutes ago, Akhôrahil said:

I'm not sure I follow. If Mago can summon the Small Air Elemental using Summon Cult Spirit, what does he (or anyone) even need the separate Summon Air Elemental (Small) spell for?

The Starter Set presents a simplified, easier-to-grasp presentation of the rules and information, so Mago's spell list explains exactly what he can do with that spell. In this case, he can summon a small air elemental. It didn't make much sense to say "Summon Cult Spirit" as the spell and then have the player have to wonder what that meant.  

Adventurers can learn Rune spells - such as elemental summonses - other than those taught directly by their cult.

It's surprisingly commonplace, though associated cults and though Spell Trading. In those cases, they would use the elemental's Rune. 

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20 minutes ago, Jason D said:

The Starter Set presents a simplified, easier-to-grasp presentation of the rules and information, so Mago's spell list explains exactly what he can do with that spell. In this case, he can summon a small air elemental. It didn't make much sense to say "Summon Cult Spirit" as the spell and then have the player have to wonder what that meant.  

Adventurers can learn Rune spells - such as elemental summonses - other than those taught directly by their cult.

It's surprisingly commonplace, though associated cults and though Spell Trading. In those cases, they would use the elemental's Rune. 

Thanks! I can follow that line of reasoning. So if you're an Orlanth initiate, you don't need to bother picking up any Summon Air Elemental spell, unless you intend to do something very particular with it like Spell Trading it or creating a matrix that includes it (as otherwise, you just use Summon Cult Spirit instead)? And similarly, when Orlanth Thunderous (but not Adventurous) subcultists can summon air elementals of any size with Summon Air Elemental, this should get interpreted as meaning that Large Air Elementals count as cult spirits for Thunderous but not Adventurous (because presumably Orlanth Adventurous subcultists can't summon Large Air Elementals using Summon Cult Spirit)?

Edited by Akhôrahil
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I think it's reasonable that if Mago knows the Summon Air Elemental spell, and has summoned it once, he can then summon it again with Summon Cult Spirit using any rune. That gives him an 85% chance, as against 70, and means he can still do it if his Air Rune is discombobulated by a failed augment. I'd allow that as a GM, if the player asked, so I think it's fair to list all the runes for simplicity.

So you still need to pick the spell, to be able to summon them in the first place.

Edited by PhilHibbs
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6 minutes ago, PhilHibbs said:

I think it's reasonable that if Mago knows the Summon Air Elemental spell, and has summoned it once, he can then summon it again with Summon Cult Spirit using any rune.

Speaking of this, wouldn't it be neat if his character sheet came with a pre-statted Small Air Elemental (the one he's used to summoning)? Everything to help the beginning player.

Edited by Akhôrahil
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2 hours ago, Jason D said:

The Starter Set presents a simplified, easier-to-grasp presentation of the rules and information, so Mago's spell list explains exactly what he can do with that spell. In this case, he can summon a small air elemental. It didn't make much sense to say "Summon Cult Spirit" as the spell and then have the player have to wonder what that meant.  

Adventurers can learn Rune spells - such as elemental summonses - other than those taught directly by their cult.

It's surprisingly commonplace, though associated cults and though Spell Trading. In those cases, they would use the elemental's Rune. 

Excuse me if I seem to be nitpicking, but the consequences of this ruling are huge: for example, this would mean that a Seven Mothers cultist can summon earth, darkness, water, fire and of course moon elementals only using only common rune magic, without having to learn specific summon spells. This makes 7 Mothers cultists the masters of elemental versatility, right out of the box ! 

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36 minutes ago, Manimati said:

... this would mean that a Seven Mothers cultist can summon earth, darkness, water, fire and of course moon elementals only using only common rune magic, without having to learn specific summon spells.

But Mago has taken Summon Air Elemental as one of his three spells. Where is this precedent that he didn't need to do that?

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3 hours ago, PhilHibbs said:

But Mago has taken Summon Air Elemental as one of his three spells. Where is this precedent that he didn't need to do that?

That is indeed correct, and it's surprising.  ̶I̶f̶ ̶I̶'̶m̶ ̶n̶o̶t̶ ̶m̶i̶s̶t̶a̶k̶e̶n̶ ̶(̶I̶ ̶c̶a̶n̶'̶t̶ ̶c̶h̶e̶c̶k̶ ̶i̶t̶ ̶a̶t̶m̶)̶ ̶b̶o̶t̶h̶ ̶V̶a̶s̶a̶n̶a̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶V̶o̶s̶t̶o̶r̶ ̶(̶n̶o̶t̶ ̶s̶o̶ ̶s̶u̶r̶e̶ ̶a̶b̶o̶u̶t̶ ̶Y̶a̶n̶i̶o̶t̶h̶)̶ ̶h̶a̶v̶e̶ ̶4̶ ̶s̶p̶e̶c̶i̶a̶l̶ ̶r̶u̶n̶e̶ ̶s̶p̶e̶l̶l̶s̶,̶ ̶o̶n̶e̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶w̶h̶i̶c̶h̶ ̶i̶s̶ ̶S̶u̶m̶m̶o̶n̶ ̶X̶ ̶e̶l̶e̶m̶e̶n̶t̶a̶l̶,̶ ̶w̶h̶i̶c̶h̶ ̶l̶e̶a̶d̶s̶ ̶o̶n̶e̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶b̶e̶l̶i̶e̶v̶e̶ ̶t̶h̶a̶t̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶y̶ ̶h̶a̶d̶ ̶3̶ ̶s̶t̶a̶r̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶c̶h̶o̶i̶c̶e̶s̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶a̶l̶s̶o̶ ̶S̶u̶m̶m̶o̶n̶ ̶E̶l̶e̶m̶e̶n̶t̶a̶l̶ ̶f̶o̶r̶ ̶f̶r̶e̶e̶.̶  Just checked the Rulebook and I was mistaken, I think the confusion comes from that what I said is true but only in the Quickstart version, which is somewhat different from the current one. 

I personally rule it so that all cult spirits (elemental or not) that are present at the Special Rune Magic list can be summoned with Summon Cult Spirit without having to learn the specific spell. It's not perfect, but after having the doubt for a lot of time and checking the Q&A with little success, I just chose to make it that way, as I know that my players won't exploit it too much. 

3 hours ago, Manimati said:

Excuse me if I seem to be nitpicking, but the consequences of this ruling are huge: for example, this would mean that a Seven Mothers cultist can summon earth, darkness, water, fire and of course moon elementals only using only common rune magic, without having to learn specific summon spells. This makes 7 Mothers cultists the masters of elemental versatility, right out of the box ! 

Well Lunars are masters of elemental versatility, the cult of the Young Elementals is popular in the LE after all. In game terms I don't think it's that much of a buff, though I might be wrong, as RuneQuest is not pokemon, and you don't really get much of an advantage of using some elemental rune over the others. Despite this, Vostor only knows Summon Fire Elemental, so one could make that each 7M cultist has to choose one elemental and stick with it. 

Edit: I was indeed wrong about the pre-gens,and if we assume that the pre-gens need to spend one of their 3 starting rune spells to get the elemental summons, then they don't come "free" as I understood. I don't mean to be harsh, but I think all this mess is caused by a poor choice of trying to link Summon Cult Spirit to Summon Elemental (or other spirit) or even of including Summon Cult Spirit at all. If you need a specific and distinct spell to summon an elemental, then you don't really use SCS, you use that specific spell, saying that "you summon the elemental by using SCS" despite the fact that you need to also know a distinct spell for each spirit you want to summon only messes up the players and GMs. 

Edited by Jape_Vicho
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Based on the text stating that cult spirits (pg 273) hang around cult holy sites, shirnes and temples - I have ruled that Summon Cult spirit can only be used in those locations - and that the more specific summon elemental spells can be cast anywhere the element exists in a sufficient large amount - thus giving characters a reason to learn the more specific spell.  But that is my Glorantha and YGMV.

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