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The newest segment of the RuneQuest Designer Notes is up at the Chaosium mainsite http://www.chaosium.com/blog/designing-the-new-runequest-part-5/

Designing the New RuneQuest - Part 5

Posted by Michael O'Brien on April 27, 2016

By Jeff Richard

A few thoughts on RuneQuest combat...

RuneQuest combat is a fundamentally different experience than in most other roleplaying games. First, and I think most commonly talked about, the actions in a RuneQuest combat correspond with what we imagine might actually happen in a melee - someone swings a sword at you, you are in big trouble unless you can parry it with another weapon or shield or get out of the way. Unlike level-based games, in RQ all human beings have more or less the same range of hit points, unless increased as the result of magic or from heroquesting. People often call this the "realism" in RuneQuestcombat mechanics.

However, I think that misses the point. The realism of RQ combat IMO is not in the values given for hit points or the specific spread between hit locations, or how skill values are calculated. It is from the results of combat - from the inherent dangers in resorting to violence. Combat always poses a risk in RuneQuest. I was playtesting the new rules recently with a group of players that included Rob Heinsoo. What everyone noted is how deliberate the decision to resort to violence needs to be in RuneQuest - battle is dangerous, and not something lightly undertaken.

Not only that, but RuneQuest is not balanced in the traditional sense. Your characters will regularly encounter things that are simply more powerful than they are and the only sensible response to these encounters is to flee. The Crimson Bat, Cwim, heck even some Full Priest dragonewts and their followers, could wipe out whole parties of rune lords and rune priests. Some monsters are so dangerous that the only way to have a chance is to first quest into the Gods World to find some mythological vulnerability or bypass.

The result of this is a sense of fragile mortality that is utterly unlike most other RPG experiences. In HeroQuest, you play the protagonist of a narrative, in 13th Age, you play an epic hero - but in RuneQuest, no matter how mighty you are, defeat and disaster is always just around the corner. You could say it is anti-heroic heroic fantasy.

No matter how it is sliced, RuneQuest is crunchy. But granularity that is not used in play can be discarded. A lot of the RQ3 granularity read better than it played, and I've gone through and tried to hack it out. Remember, rules that don't get used shouldn't be in the book.

As we continue to fine tune the new Chaosium edition of RuneQuest, more and more I find I'm stripping rules down to about RuneQuest 2.5, and then we're working in the consequences of Runes and Passions.

The new combat rules are primarily derived from RQ2, including how certain attributes such as hit points and weapon characteristics work. However, Runes and Passions have a potentially big impact on combat mechanics - but not on the combat results.

Both Runes and Passions allow the character to be inspired within certain limitations. For example, the Air Rune is the rune of violence and destruction. A character in the midst of a melee combat may try to call upon the primal powers of Air to get a bonus to their sword skill. A character strongly loyal to their temple may try to inspire themselves when carrying out a cult mission. In playtesting, people have strongly role-played their Runes and passions and have a game incentive to do so.

But inspiration can and does fail, resulting in penalties across the board. There are no hero points or luck points to bail the adventurer out - and in the end even your Rune Lord-Priest with their heroquest gifts will face mortality's sharp bite!

 

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I think the other key factor in the essential realism of RQ combat is its inherent fog of war. In D&D, characters have levels.  A 5th level character is, pretty consistently, tougher than a 3

The newest segment of the RuneQuest Designer Notes is up at the Chaosium mainsite http://www.chaosium.com/blog/designing-the-new-runequest-part-5/ Designing the New RuneQuest - Part 5 Posted

As an aside, The Swedish RPG fanzine Mjölnir is back (after a brief hiatus of only 34 years)! And the new issue features an ad for the forthcoming Chaosium edition of RuneQuest!  (To think, the previo

I think the other key factor in the essential realism of RQ combat is its inherent fog of war.

In D&D, characters have levels.  A 5th level character is, pretty consistently, tougher than a 3rd level character regardless of class.  A 5th level character should be able to handily beat a 3HD (3rd "lvl" monster: current D&D uses Challenge ratings), no matter whether that creature is a giant snake or a humanoid swinging a bec-de-corbin.  Even more, creatures are predictable: a tiger is CR1: ie an easy challenge for a party of 4 lvl 1 toons.

RQ denies players that clarity, and that's far more realistic (and terrifiying - we all fear uncertainty at some level) than other RPG systems.  That scorpion man could be ANYTHING - from a 25% attack feeble bungler to a 140% attack Chaos hero - very little will reveal the difference until you're fighting him.

One of the reasons I truly love RQ.

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"Both Runes and Passions allow the character to be inspired within certain limitations. For example, the Air Rune is the rune of violence and destruction. A character in the midst of a melee combat may try to call upon the primal powers of Air to get a bonus to their sword skill. A character strongly loyal to their temple may try to inspire themselves when carrying out a cult mission. In playtesting, people have strongly role-played their Runes and passions and have a game incentive to do so. "
 

Does that mean that you will no longer need to learn Battle/Spirit/Common magic spells ?

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Those spells don't require you to have the correct rune set for the task. I always found them useful bits for giving at least a modicum of competence to characters otherwise well out of their depths.

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I think that has always been the implication hasn't it? 

The magic referred to in the Guide to Glorantha highlights Spirit Magic (or Animism) , Runic (or Divine) Magic, Sorcery and Mysticism (or Illumination). The set up of HeroQuest uses Runes to define personality as well as ability and we've seen the designer notes of RQ going that same way. 

The Battle Magic of old looks like it will be an application of broader Runes associated with each character. 

 

 

 

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48 minutes ago, TrippyHippy said:

I think that has always been the implication hasn't it? 

The magic referred to in the Guide to Glorantha highlights Spirit Magic (or Animism) , Runic (or Divine) Magic, Sorcery and Mysticism (or Illumination). The set up of HeroQuest uses Runes to define personality as well as ability and we've seen the designer notes of RQ going that same way. 

The Battle Magic of old looks like it will be an application of broader Runes associated with each character. 

 

 

 

Nope - the use of the Runes to augment actions is to correspond with a character's inherent affinities with the cosmic Runes. They do not form an independent magic system - but part of the "physics" of the setting. Rune Magic takes this a step further - by giving part of yourself to one of the Gloranthan gods (sacrifice of permanent POW for Rune Points) you call call upon some fraction of the god's power (aka Rune spells). Rune spells have a much greater mechanical effect than a successful Rune augment and have no downside when you fail to call upon the god (other than the spell not happening). Additionally Rune affinities *only* augment or act as personality drives - even if you have 100% with the Air Rune, you can't summon Air elementals or Fly without Rune magic. Rune magic is POW (as in you need to sacrifice permanent POW to create those Rune points) and Rune based.

The Battle Magic of old is Spirit Magic - the use of spirits to perform an effect through use of a foci or charm. Bladesharp, Heal, Second Sight - all are spirit magic spells.

 

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1 hour ago, Mugen said:

"Both Runes and Passions allow the character to be inspired within certain limitations. For example, the Air Rune is the rune of violence and destruction. A character in the midst of a melee combat may try to call upon the primal powers of Air to get a bonus to their sword skill. A character strongly loyal to their temple may try to inspire themselves when carrying out a cult mission. In playtesting, people have strongly role-played their Runes and passions and have a game incentive to do so. "
 

Does that mean that you will no longer need to learn Battle/Spirit/Common magic spells ?

Most characters will want to have some spirit magic - they are less powerful than Rune spells, but don't require you to have any particular affinity to anything to cast (just the POW and magic points needed). They also replenish MUCH faster than Rune points - you get your magic points back each day, but you need to participate in a Worship ceremony to replenish Rune points. The more significant the Worship ceremony, the more you get back. Priests, god-talkers, and rune lords get Rune Points back much faster than mere initiates.

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2 hours ago, Jeff said:

Nope - the use of the Runes to augment actions is to correspond with a character's inherent affinities with the cosmic Runes. They do not form an independent magic system - but part of the "physics" of the setting. Rune Magic takes this a step further - by giving part of yourself to one of the Gloranthan gods (sacrifice of permanent POW for Rune Points) you call call upon some fraction of the god's power (aka Rune spells). Rune spells have a much greater mechanical effect than a successful Rune augment and have no downside when you fail to call upon the god (other than the spell not happening). Additionally Rune affinities *only* augment or act as personality drives - even if you have 100% with the Air Rune, you can't summon Air elementals or Fly without Rune magic. Rune magic is POW (as in you need to sacrifice permanent POW to create those Rune points) and Rune based.

The Battle Magic of old is Spirit Magic - the use of spirits to perform an effect through use of a foci or charm. Bladesharp, Heal, Second Sight - all are spirit magic spells.

 

I stand corrected, and it does mark a significant departure from RQ6 and some clarity from the GtG/HQ info. 

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From what I understand from the designer's notes and comments here, runic affinities and passions will be characteristics that can be leveraged to give you short term buffs: if you "Hate(Lunars)" at a certain level, if you're ACTUALLY fighting lunars you can check against it to give you a temporary buff for that combat.  I'd expect there has to be some sort of cost in fatigue or mp or something, otherwise you'd be doing it every combat.  Or maybe you're intended to?  Probably like the Geas/Gift mechanic already present in some cults, the more narrowly you define it, the more potent/reliable it is?  I.e. hating a specific individual would give you more benefit than something more vague against a whole culture.

I'd expect (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pendragon_(role-playing_game) that there's a downside in that these things at too high a level can be used as hooks by the DM.  If you have Hate(Lunars) 90, and you need to not kill that lunar to take him prisoner, the DM can make you check against your hate to restrain yourself?

That's how passions worked in Pendragon, not sure if the Runes are intrinsically different or just another 'flavor' of passion?

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3 hours ago, TRose said:
  •  If an Air worshipper can call on the power to help his sword skill , I take other worshippers can do the same, a Darkness worshipper call upon his Rune to help his mace skill etc

Yep. And that is explicitly called out in the rules. It makes having a strong connection to one rune or another pertinent and playable.

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1 hour ago, smiorgan said:

A bit on a tangent on these designer notes...

WHO does not love Jar-Eel the Razoress? 

http://www.chaosium.com/blog/designing-the-new-runequest-part-5/

 

 I certainly do love this picture. Is the other hand Harrek's? It should, given the bear claws.

 

Can we, please, have Jar-eel on the cover of the new Rune Quest?

 

 

 

 

It is Harrek. It's from a really nice two-page spread in the Guide to Glorantha.

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1 hour ago, Baulderstone said:

It is Harrek. It's from a really nice two-page spread in the Guide to Glorantha.

1. I have to get the Guide when they reprint it.

2. I'd really love to have that style of Jar eel picture on the cover of the new RQ. It reminds me of classic RQ covers (warrior woman in ancient-world armor) and conveys the idea that this is a truly Gloranthan edition of the game.

 

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Re the guide:

Just going to chime in that while the book(s) and information is magnificent, the artwork is where it really brings Glorantha ALIVE for me despite me mulling over this world regularly for 30+ years.  I can't express how fantastic a job the artists did, and that Jeff did in really engaging with them to ensure every detail is addressed.

 

There's a few things out there at http://www.glorantha.com/docs/art-of-the-guide-to-glorantha/ and more if you simply google image-search 'guide to glorantha'

From the representational, "real looking" stuff, to the highly stylized iconography...it all *works*.

Having the Guides as coffee-table books that people can browse through while they're sitting has gotten some terrific comments.

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On 4/27/2016 at 3:30 PM, styopa said:

I think the other key factor in the essential realism of RQ combat is its inherent fog of war.

In D&D, characters have levels.  A 5th level character is, pretty consistently, tougher than a 3rd level character regardless of class.  A 5th level character should be able to handily beat a 3HD (3rd "lvl" monster: current D&D uses Challenge ratings), no matter whether that creature is a giant snake or a humanoid swinging a bec-de-corbin.  Even more, creatures are predictable: a tiger is CR1: ie an easy challenge for a party of 4 lvl 1 toons.

RQ denies players that clarity, and that's far more realistic (and terrifiying - we all fear uncertainty at some level) than other RPG systems.  That scorpion man could be ANYTHING - from a 25% attack feeble bungler to a 140% attack Chaos hero - very little will reveal the difference until you're fighting him.

One of the reasons I truly love RQ.

Yeah, and it's one of the things that is hard for D&Ders to get used to. In D20 and many other level-based RPGs, character ability is rigidly defined by level. This makes it easier for the GM to set up and run encounters, but also has some drawbacks-not all of which are obvious. Most D&Ders tend to have very little regard for ability, since it is mostly a function of level., which in turn is a function of gaining experience, which is turn is automatic provided you keep playing. Character death is somewhat rare, thanks to "balanced" (nerfed) encounters, and dead characters can be brought back. So play long enough and you will eventually get to be Xth level, too. So there is little respect for the abilities that go with the level. There is respect for choices made and fighting style (i.e. what feats and seplls you pick, what gear you use and so forth), but not much for the level based stuff.

 

RQ is fundamentally different, since a high rating in a skill or other ability does not come automatically just by playing. The player has to work at it. So, to someone who is familiar with the game, getting a weapon skill to 90% is more impressive that getting a character to 8th, 12th or 16th level.  

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As Atgxtc alluded, I don't believe it's exaggerating at all to say that RQ combats are TREMENDOUSLY harder to 'balance' as well.  D&D provides a neat shorthand that yes, can sometimes be misleading, but RQ combats have so many interdependent variables, they are (if I understand my nomenclature correctly) NP-Hard.

Is one character of 75% combat value good enough to beat one character of 65% but better armor?  2x 45%'s (I think we're all acquainted with how much impact the number of combatants have in RQ)?  4x 25%?

Personally, I hope the new game has some room for advice for DMs on this because it IS so much harder and even a few unbalanced encounters can quickly disenchant new players with a game.  When I start people in RQ, I start them 2 or 3 vs 1 enemy, because even if they stink, they can usually overcome the wolf or weak bear.  But they get a good feel for how the system works, and understand that they can trust the mechanics to portray IRL-reasonable results and real-life logic/expectations do functionally apply in RQ systems.

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Sorry to let you down. I don't believe that RQ combats are tremendously harder to balance. At least not if a GM is familiar with the system. The thing to keep in mind is that most "balanced" fights in D&D are anything but "balanced".  They are set up in such a way that heavily favors the PCs. Opponents will be roughly 1/4th the strength of the party. That isn't all that hard to do in RQ. 

But, where RQ gets tricky is with it's critical and special hits. IN D&D the combat is handed by hit point attrition. A high level fighter will have lots of hit points and cannot be taken out of the fight by a novice who scores a lucky critical. In RQ, a unskilled character who rolls crit might just take down a highly experienced warrior. The odds are against the novice, but the chance is there. In a big fight, the chances that somebody gets lucky by the end, and takes down a skilled foe get pretty good. This is why those "PCs vs. hoards of baddies" fights so common to D&D get so deadly in RQ. Go up against 20 opponents and odds are somebody is going to roll a critical on a PC before the fight is over. 

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My rules of thumb regarding combat are:

  • A PC Party can normally defeat an NPC Party of the same skill level and numbers
  • A PC Party can often defeat an NPC Party of the same skill level but slightly superior numbers
  • A PC Party can rarely defeat an NPC Party of the same skill level but far greater numbers
  • A PC Party can normally defeat a single NPC Boss regardless of skill and level

 

The last one might need a bit of explanation. A tooled up PC Party that knows what it is doing can work together and defeat a single stupidly-powerful NPC by using clever tactics, teamwork and so on. Two powerful NPC Bosses might prove tricky, though.

 

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On 5/8/2016 at 6:39 PM, Atgxtg said:

Sorry to let you down. I don't believe that RQ combats are tremendously harder to balance. At least not if a GM is familiar with the system. The thing to keep in mind is that most "balanced" fights in D&D are anything but "balanced".  They are set up in such a way that heavily favors the PCs. Opponents will be roughly 1/4th the strength of the party. That isn't all that hard to do in RQ. . 

Maybe it's a difference in definition, but I meant specifically for someone who is NEW to the system.  

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12 hours ago, styopa said:

Maybe it's a difference in definition, but I meant specifically for someone who is NEW to the system.  

For someone new to the system try this:

1) Never throw an opponent against the PCs who has a better skill rating, more armor,  or does more damage than they do.

2) Never outnumber the PCs. 

 

I think that really just about all a new GM needs to do until he gets more familiar with the game and can experiment a little. And then the thing to do is experiment in small stages until you get a good idea of the cause and effect relationship of the game. 

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