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New RuneQuest Design Note (15)

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A new RuneQuest Design Note from Jeff: http://www.chaosium.com/blog/designing-the-new-runequest-part-15

Icv2.com has noted we're "pulling in a lot of star power for the new edition". Indeed we are: members of the RQG design team include Steve Perrin (RuneQuest), Sandy Petersen (CoC, RQ), the 'rune czar' Ken Rolston (Elder Scrolls, RQ3), Chris Klug (DragonQuest), Jason Durall (BRP, Conan) and the 'grand shaman of gaming' himself, Greg Stafford.

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RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha (RQG) has quite a different mechanical engine from the earlier Moongoose RuneQuest (MRQ) and its iterations, and part of the reason for that is the different design teams involved in each. 

I suggest that this piece of text is just not a good idea. It confuses things and just opens the way for annoyance. Why mention Mongoose at all? Something more like the following is, IMHO, more useful to a wide range of potential readers.

Quote

With RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha (RQG) we have returned to the original RuneQuest from the dawn of roleplaying and refreshed it for a new era of gamers. Our team (Rick, Neil, MOB and myself) grew up playing and writing for RuneQuest in the early days. And we've brought on to our RQG development team people who were involved in the actual design of the original RuneQuest rules: Steve Perrin, Sandy Petersen, and Greg Stafford, as well as the "rune czar" himself Ken Rolston.

Comparisons to MRQ and other editions so on are better off in a FAQ for those who want to know such things. Especially calling it "earlier MRQ."

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8 minutes ago, Iskallor said:

"the disconnect between Initiate and Rune Master"

What was that?

In both RQ2 and RQ3 it was extremely difficult to become a Rune Master and gain access to reusable divine - so much so that when I asked how they had Rune Masters in the Chaosium House Campaigns, the answer I got was "we just created our characters as Rune Masters - we almost never managed to raise an initiate to Rune Priest or Lord."

That's what David Dunham and I used to call the "initiate trap" - all the cool magic (ie reusable magic, allied spirits, iron, etc.) becomes available at Rune level, but it was nearly impossible to get there (especially if you were foolish enough to use your one-use Rune magic). Admittedly, it was easier in RQ2 than in RQ3, but in 20 years of pretty constant play, the number of Rune Masters I manage to achieve was ... maybe two. Given that a lot of the rules were about being Rune masters and that is when you really got to play with the fun toys, everyone on the team agreed that there was a BIG disconnect between Initiate and Rune Master. The disconnect was so bad that plenty of players and GMs assume that RQ was designed so that Rune Masters were really for play and should be retired. A look through the Chaosium house campaign folders say exactly the opposite.

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On 4/11/2017 at 3:21 PM, Jeff said:

In both RQ2 and RQ3 it was extremely difficult to become a Rune Master and gain access to reusable divine - so much so that when I asked how they had Rune Masters in the Chaosium House Campaigns, the answer I got was "we just created our characters as Rune Masters - we almost never managed to raise an initiate to Rune Priest or Lord."

That's what David Dunham and I used to call the "initiate trap" - all the cool magic (ie reusable magic, allied spirits, iron, etc.) becomes available at Rune level, but it was nearly impossible to get there (especially if you were foolish enough to use your one-use Rune magic). Admittedly, it was easier in RQ2 than in RQ3, but in 20 years of pretty constant play, the number of Rune Masters I manage to achieve was ... maybe two. Given that a lot of the rules were about being Rune masters and that is when you really got to play with the fun toys, everyone on the team agreed that there was a BIG disconnect between Initiate and Rune Master. The disconnect was so bad that plenty of players and GMs assume that RQ was designed so that Rune Masters were really for play and should be retired. A look through the Chaosium house campaign folders say exactly the opposite.

I'd agree with that ...

I managed it, but we didn't have high PC mortality, and i'm sure some teenage min maxing went on.

Edited by Jon Hunter

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However I think some tricks were missed in rejecting everything from the subsequent rune quests,

I think the skills lists, lack of skill bonuses(a big fat clunky faff), graded character starting levels that were in the systems were tweaks that could have been carried over.

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On 4/11/2017 at 10:21 AM, Jeff said:

In both RQ2 and RQ3 it was extremely difficult to become a Rune Master and gain access to reusable divine - so much so that when I asked how they had Rune Masters in the Chaosium House Campaigns, the answer I got was "we just created our characters as Rune Masters - we almost never managed to raise an initiate to Rune Priest or Lord."

That's what David Dunham and I used to call the "initiate trap" - all the cool magic (ie reusable magic, allied spirits, iron, etc.) becomes available at Rune level, but it was nearly impossible to get there (especially if you were foolish enough to use your one-use Rune magic). Admittedly, it was easier in RQ2 than in RQ3, but in 20 years of pretty constant play, the number of Rune Masters I manage to achieve was ... maybe two. Given that a lot of the rules were about being Rune masters and that is when you really got to play with the fun toys, everyone on the team agreed that there was a BIG disconnect between Initiate and Rune Master. The disconnect was so bad that plenty of players and GMs assume that RQ was designed so that Rune Masters were really for play and should be retired. A look through the Chaosium house campaign folders say exactly the opposite.

Do you think it was a case of design or execution? Honestly I would find it hard to be too critical as high level play in any RPG was less than a decade old. In my experience attaining Rune Lord / Priest / Master status was definitely a goal to be obtained, but seemed very end game to my mind. Though that could have easily been my rpg world view and not any deficiency in the rules or setting. It is much easier to point to a level (15-20 or what have you) than it is to say "you must have 75 or 100% in these skills/things" and a lucky trollkin can still cut your head off. 

Still a more manageable and reasonable route to Rune Master (not easier) is certainly a selling point for the new system.

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Well given that the House Campaign was filled with Rune Masters as early as 1978, it was pretty clearly an oversight. Heck, I've talked to several of the player's in Greg's game and they just made Rune Masters (as . 

Londra of Londros, Betty (Leika) Ballista, Blackmoor, Alebard, Asborn Thrice-Born, Jonathan Trollbane, Redbird - these were all player characters. Plenty of rune lord-priests and the like. 

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31 minutes ago, Jon Hunter said:

However I think some tricks were missed in rejecting everything from the subsequent rune quests,

I think the skills lists, lack of skill bonuses(a big fat clunky faff), graded character starting levels that were in the systems were tweaks that could have been carried over.

One person's faff is another's joie de vivre. In this regard, I love skill bonuses (especially their long term impact on skill progression). 

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42 minutes ago, Jon Hunter said:

I'd agree with that ...

I managed it, but we didn't have high PC mortality, and i'm sure some teenage min maxing went on.

FWIW...number crunching

To become a Rune Lord (RQ3) generally involved becoming 90% in what, five or six skills?   Generally, those would be things that the character is doing/enjoys doing (otherwise why pick that cult?) so we could assume they 'start their Rune Lord effort' at better-than-middling skills

Starting at a base of 60%, with a skill mod of 5%, getting to 90 takes 32 skill rolls (st dev 12 - I only ran about 170 iterations, that would settle down with more)

Likely the character is going to try like hell to get a skill check in every one of their primary target skills at least once each play session, certainly.  Let's say they only manage that in 80%.

Playing 2x monthly, then would be 40 sessions or a little more than a year and a half of play.

Obviously, this is subject to a lot of assumptions, but IMO it wasn't that hard to reach Rune Level...comparable to AD&D's reaching 10-12th lvl toons.

 

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30 minutes ago, styopa said:

FWIW...number crunching

To become a Rune Lord (RQ3) generally involved becoming 90% in what, five or six skills?   Generally, those would be things that the character is doing/enjoys doing (otherwise why pick that cult?) so we could assume they 'start their Rune Lord effort' at better-than-middling skills

Starting at a base of 60%, with a skill mod of 5%, getting to 90 takes 32 skill rolls (st dev 12 - I only ran about 170 iterations, that would settle down with more)

Likely the character is going to try like hell to get a skill check in every one of their primary target skills at least once each play session, certainly.  Let's say they only manage that in 80%.

Playing 2x monthly, then would be 40 sessions or a little more than a year and a half of play.

Obviously, this is subject to a lot of assumptions, but IMO it wasn't that hard to reach Rune Level...comparable to AD&D's reaching 10-12th lvl toons.

 

This depends heavily on mortality rate. It was another game, but one reason to abandon long time gaming group was 30-70 % of mortality rate. When a character dies approx. in every third of fifth gaming session, there is no high level play. Unless character wins in lottery and can train, study and research. But that was because of gaming style and GM:ing, by making unavoidable fights with too challanging foes.

 

And I love skill bonuses too, so that there is no compulsion to max every stat. 

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For my group it really wasn't a matter of skills; we all had characters at various points throughout our campaign that could have become Rune Masters or Priests (though I might be the exception to that, I'd have to consult records). The issue was really the campaign itself. It took the characters way out of their home districts, and over time created an extremely diverse group who's only binding factor was the mission of the campaign. Everyones character had so much invested in this at different times that no one wanted to retire their characters to have the become something more. That was always something that was to be done "once we completed the mission", which in grand BRP fashion became "if" for many characters.

The other issue, iirc, was POW. We had no trouble using our magic when we damn well needed to! :)

SDLeary

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In my experience (with RQ2; while I have the Deluxe RQ3 set, I've never run it...not my cup of tea) it's a lot easier to make Rune Priest than Rune Lord.  Generally all you need is POW 18, a bit of time spent as an initiate, and maybe one skill at 80 or 90%, depending on the cult.  Sacrificing for the spells, on the other hand, can be a slowish process.

Edited by Yelm's Light

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2 hours ago, SDLeary said:

That was always something that was to be done "once we completed the mission", which in grand BRP fashion became "if" for many characters.

So true.

I made the error of allowing players fairly frequent training opportunities early on, allowing them entirely too easily to get to the above-50s in a bunch of their skills.  So the subsequent campaign became frankly hectic, as these players have been almost literally DRIVEN from event to event across Genertela for 10 years.  Fortunately once they hit runelord status the 90% time/money to cult crimped their ability to train at will (sadly there isn't an explicit such need for sorcerers..and by the time I thought of one it would have been a punitive retcon).

As a result of my experiences I'd made this training 'minigame' in excel in case anyone finds it useful.  It's fairly system agnostic RQ2/3/MRQ/Mythras.  Once RQG comes out, if people want, I'd be happy to adjust it.  

 

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In hundreds of gaming sessions with the same core group of players, we had exactly two Runelords, a Humakt and a Zorak Zoran (different parties).  It was definitely considered an end-game goal.  Now that we play less, there's little to no focus on getting there.  Which is kind of nice, I don't have to put up with players trying to raise their "thrown rock" skill every session any more.  I've actually had more apprentice shamans become actual shamans under my watch, casualties notwithstanding.

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15 hours ago, Jeff said:

One person's faff is another's joie de vivre. In this regard, I love skill bonuses (especially their long term impact on skill progression). 

I don't have as big as problem it first sounded. I just like MRQ2's way of adding two stats to create a base levels, is simpler, easier, a more gradual curve, balances that stats more and is more intuitive to my way of thinking.  There were some good ideas involving the Runequest system between 1980 and 2015.

But as i've said you wont please everyone so its my preference nothing else.

Edited by Jon Hunter
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45 minutes ago, Jon Hunter said:

I don't have as big as problem it first sounded. I just like MRQ2's way of adding two stats to create a base levels, is simpler, easier, a more gradual curve, balances that stats more and is more intuitive to my way of thinking.  There were some good ideas involving the Runequest system between 1980 and 2015.

But as i've said you wont please everyone so its my preference nothing else.

I'm not a big fan of that approach. If you have neutral stats, why should you get a bonus? Shouldn't that simply be part of the base value for that skill? And why only two stats? And so on. 

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OK accepting that its not going to change, is of little import and does not significantly effect the overall quality of the products. For intellectual purposes only I will counter the arguments.

If you have neutral stats, why should you get a bonus?

Your stats set the base value of the skills which if average are average,low is low and high is high. Bonuses are built into to each skill individually and have gradients, rather than large 5% stepped jumps.

Why two stats ?

Because works well for game play, gives base skills in the 20 - 30% bracket, Is simple, allows the effects of different stats to be well balanced. In classic RQ Int & Dex 13 and Int 17 were remarkable important steps in  min maxing characters, This system removes that temptation. (Note 30 years later i can still min max an RQ2 character by rote in my sleep)

The obvious weaknesses of the MRQ II system is that some skills may need base skills lower or higher than the 20 - 30% which the two stats added gives, and if you start to play with that significantly to tweak you run the risk of undermining the nuanced simplicity of the system. 

Edited by Jon Hunter
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I prefer most RQ3 skillbonus system, where scaling is gradual. Most important part is a negative bonus factor. RQ is only game, that I have played, where you may get even better character by low stats. Great hunters are agile, small and have low POW. This is more, how real life works. I actually would like, that there were more stats to affects skillbonuses. Int is a bit dominant, but reasonable.

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3 hours ago, Jeff said:

I'm not a big fan of that approach. If you have neutral stats, why should you get a bonus? Shouldn't that simply be part of the base value for that skill? And why only two stats? And so on. 

I prefer the canonical RQ way, but I think Jon's point is that base skills being a fixed value is a naked rationalization and should be recognized as such.  Realistically, not everyone should start with the same bases - regardless of background, a person with good strength and dex is NATURALLY going to be better at throwing a rock than a klutz.  

3 hours ago, Jeff said:

 And why only two stats? And so on. 

No intrinsic reason at all.  In the same sense you COULD have HP be (STR+CON+CON+SIZ+SIZ+SIZ)/6, you could certainly have varied stat collections to represent various bases, in the same way that some skills are base 05%, and some are base 40%.

Again, I prefer the RQ canon system of (base) + (mod derived from one or more stats) because it's simpler, IMO.  But I don't think any amount of NIHism should blind us to recognizing that any approach is - like all models - an inherently flawed representation of reality that happens to sit at the intersection of realism and convenience, both very subjective measures.

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What annoyed me about the MRQ add two stats to get your starting value is this:

Right at the beginning of playtesting  I asked how this was going to be addressed, which of the legacy systems from different BRP games would be used?

Add two scores for a category?

Base + modifier?

Base with no modifier?

Or worst of all worlds the incredibly faffy ElfQuest thing where you have to add two scores individually for every single skill?

 

And AT THAT POINT Mongoose chose the ElfQuest version. Which (regardless of effectiveness or not as a mechanic) just highlighted my complete inability to influence RPG design!

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My group of players are all hardcore RQ 3 players.  They flat out rejected Luck Points, for instance.  But to a person they all approved of using the two characteristics to build the base skills from.  Too many skills start off way too low for even a semi-competent human being let alone a hero, the RQ2/3 ways.  Using two characteristics meant a person had what felt right as a base chance to succeed in a beginning skill.

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5 hours ago, styopa said:

Again, I prefer the RQ canon system of (base) + (mod derived from one or more stats) because it's simpler, IMO.  But I don't think any amount of NIHism should blind us to recognizing that any approach is - like all models - an inherently flawed representation of reality that happens to sit at the intersection of realism and convenience, both very subjective measures.

RQ2 is simple and beautiful in many aspect and even as a RQ3 Lover, I really like how modifiers are in this version. The system may have some flaws but it's a tiny price to pay.

As a Gamemaster with tons on npc, I even test using rq2 mods for low grade NPC and monsters. Even If I found a far better method, going back to rq2 was the first step to better system and it was a lot less tiring for me. Base % + mods (CAR1, CAR2) is still used in a lot of systems and the "representation of reality" is quite decent.

8 hours ago, Jusmak said:

I prefer most RQ3 skillbonus system, where scaling is gradual. Most important part is a negative bonus factor. RQ is only game, that I have played, where you may get even better character by low stats.

The Scalling in RQ3 skill bonus is great and it's the only game where having high POW could give you negative modifiers (in discretion). There was only two bad things in RQ3 modifiers : 1/ It was awfully annoying to calculate at each carac' evolution (like POW). 2/ I never understand why some modifiers have one carac' and some four carac'.

  • The first flaw made me hating pow economy and change a bit the POW evolution and the Runic magic behind (killing Rune magic flaw at the same time). I didn't master any RQ for sometimes but I think changing secondary modifier to +0.5% by point of carac and creating simplier table of carac to modifier will greatly help. But I don't know if all my players will like to have a "+12.5%" modifier...
  • The second flaw still let me without *good* answers. I still don't know ho to handle this -_-;;

To sum up, rq2 modifier is a bit simple, a bit less realist but I must admit a lot more easy to handle for GM, easy to play for players.

Edited by MJ Sadique
deleting un-needed quote
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On 4/11/2017 at 3:21 PM, Jeff said:

In both RQ2 and RQ3 it was extremely difficult to become a Rune Master and gain access to reusable divine - so much so that when I asked how they had Rune Masters in the Chaosium House Campaigns, the answer I got was "we just created our characters as Rune Masters - we almost never managed to raise an initiate to Rune Priest or Lord."

That's what David Dunham and I used to call the "initiate trap" - all the cool magic (ie reusable magic, allied spirits, iron, etc.) becomes available at Rune level, but it was nearly impossible to get there (especially if you were foolish enough to use your one-use Rune magic). Admittedly, it was easier in RQ2 than in RQ3, but in 20 years of pretty constant play, the number of Rune Masters I manage to achieve was ... maybe two. Given that a lot of the rules were about being Rune masters and that is when you really got to play with the fun toys, everyone on the team agreed that there was a BIG disconnect between Initiate and Rune Master. The disconnect was so bad that plenty of players and GMs assume that RQ was designed so that Rune Masters were really for play and should be retired. A look through the Chaosium house campaign folders say exactly the opposite.

We never had a problem, in any of the campaigns we played.

Initiates in RQ2 simply sacrificed for one-use runemagic and kept it until they got to 18 POW and the language requirement and became a priest. We had POW gain rolls every scenario, so had a POW gain attempt every experience session. 

In RQ3 it was even easier, as we could become acolytes and gain reusable divine magic with reduced requirements.

I fairly often sacrificed for one-use runemagic in RQ2 and cast it to get out of a tricky situation. Normally, it was when my PC reached 18 POW and used any POW increases to sacrifice for one-use runemagic. I remember casting a one-use Teleport to escape from some Lunars and cast a one-use Shield 2 in combat, losing both but surviving the encounters.

Edited by soltakss

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