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EpicureanDM

Looking for practical combat tactics for GMs

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I recently started a new RQG campaign more than 25 years after my last experiences with RQ3. My old group only played RQ3 for a couple of years and I wouldn't characterize us as squeezing the most out of the rules.¬†ūüėČ

I read posts here and other places about how experienced RQ players and GMs conducted combat. I get the sense that there's some strategy or common wisdom around casting spirit or Rune magic before fights, combining ranged attackers with skirmishers to put pressure on, releasing allied spirits against your enemies during battle, and more. These tactics are mentioned in passing, but rarely in the kind of detail that could be useful to a new/returning RQG GM. 

Can anyone point me to examples or guides that pull the veil back on advanced RQ combat tactics? I'm less interested in general advice ("Some opponents will send allied spirits into combat to harry PCs.") in favor of specific details illustrating real experience at the table ("Don't use allied spirits against the PCs unless one of them has stats or skills at X or X%. Spirits of [this strength] are a good match for PCs of [this strength].") I'm looking for the war stories that you'd tell when reminiscing about a memorable fight, but ones that illustrate a clever use of the rules to overcome your opponents. Most of my players come from D&D backgrounds, so specific examples that differentiate RQG combat from D&D that include tips and tactics would be especially helpful.

 

 

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As it is now possible to perform multiple parries (and the parries scores are globally much higher because of the single skill), the ranged attacks are even more important than in RQIII. So, slings and composite bows become weapons of choice, especially when your horde of trollkin (or other low grade NPC) is facing a character with over 100% combat skill.

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Thanks, Kloster. That's a good starting point, but it's what I consider general advice. It doesn't translate directly to the table when I'm behind the screen looking at my players.

What is a fair number of ranged attackers should I throw at a PC with 100% Broadsword? Three archers? The PC can't use their Broadsword skill to parry arrows, so now I need to worry about Dodge instead. If none of the PCs have invested in Dodge (and given how Dodge can be all-or-nothing), what sorts of encounters and opponents should I be throwing at my party? How do I know if I'm throwing too much (or too little) at my players? If the archers get in a lucky shot or two and the PCs are suddenly in deep trouble, what spells or tactics would help the PCs even things up or run away?

What are the best strategies for PCs to get the upper hand on archers? What spells? Is it better to use all your SR to charge the archers and engage in melee? Does RQG's combat system encourage or reward that tactic?

That's the sort of information I'm looking for. I'm interested to hear from veterans of RQ3/RQG about how the combat system (and other systems) are used to best advantage in an RQ fight.

 

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I think the best advice I've heard is to feel your way into the thing. There are so many variables: your 100% broadsworder might be casting Shield-2 and wearing 5 points of armour, which means your D8 sling bullets are going to bounce, even (most of the time) with Speedart, unless they crit. Start with 'some' small opponents, and ramp the number up if the early fight seems 'too easy'. Be aware that a big damage bonus can make a combat very swingy if you've only got a small party. The larger the party, the more the PCs can afford to have someone taken out of action by a lucky Special/Crit, and the more chance they have of getting them back into the fight (especially with Heal Wound readily available). I don't see any harm in making early combats near-walkovers; the PCs are supposed to be exceptional.

Push the numbers and skill of the opposition up a bit at a time, so the PCs get used to not having things all their own way gradually.

However, be aware that RQ combat can turn deadly very quickly: the first physical fight my lot got into was against a half dozen (really rubbish) Trollkin, and the first thing that happened to one of the PCs was that her arm got taken out by a slingstone. The fight was over by the time she patched herself up, but it was hopefully a lesson learned...

 

 

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It sounds to me like you're looking for guidelines similar to D&D and Pathfinder's Challenge Rating system. Sets of numbers which can be used to determine whether or not a combat is well measured against the party. The challenge is that, to my understanding, RQG's skill-based system is more difficult to compare in this way than D20 systems, largely because of how static HP is, and the adventurer's resistance to harming things. That being said I think advice like you're looking for is possible; but I caution you to not expect something too precise when seeking guidelines for an "appropriate encounter."

My experience has been that a combat of about equivalent numbers and skills and skill combinations (melee, missile, etc) is a good feel for a dangerous encounter. When I ran a large-scale battle, the most dangerous villains were a group of six trollkin with slings (that's including two large Shades summoned by the troll Rune Priestess, which fearshocked half the Orlanthi side and two of the PCs). If your group has only one person with high POW, be extra careful how many magicians you send against them. Even two fellas in the back with POW 13/14 shooting Disrupt at the same target a couple rounds will be a huge problem for a party averaging POW 11. Disparity in the POW stat, IMO, is really important. As a player, I find my first move in combat is to ask our shaman (with POW-detecting Second Sight) where the biggest source of POW is, then to go murder it.

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2 hours ago, EpicureanDM said:

I read posts here and other places about how experienced RQ players and GMs conducted combat. I get the sense that there's some strategy or common wisdom around casting spirit or Rune magic before fights, combining ranged attackers with skirmishers to put pressure on, releasing allied spirits against your enemies during battle, and more. These tactics are mentioned in passing, but rarely in the kind of detail that could be useful to a new/returning RQG GM. 

One problem you might face is that most people's experience of RQ combat is from previous versions.

Nobody has long campaigns with a lot of combat for RQG, as RQG has not been out long enough to have generated that.

2 hours ago, EpicureanDM said:

Can anyone point me to examples or guides that pull the veil back on advanced RQ combat tactics? I'm less interested in general advice ("Some opponents will send allied spirits into combat to harry PCs.") in favor of specific details illustrating real experience at the table ("Don't use allied spirits against the PCs unless one of them has stats or skills at X or X%. Spirits of [this strength] are a good match for PCs of [this strength].") I'm looking for the war stories that you'd tell when reminiscing about a memorable fight, but ones that illustrate a clever use of the rules to overcome your opponents. Most of my players come from D&D backgrounds, so specific examples that differentiate RQG combat from D&D that include tips and tactics would be especially helpful.

A lot of what you will get is general advice, I am afraid.

For me, in RQ2, we only used shields in some combat. We preferred to go into combat with two swords, as the APs were higher and it gave us the opportunity to choose to attack twice if we knew that an opponent could not attack or was indisposed. Although Soltak Stormspear used a Spear and Shield as his main attack combination, he also used two Bastard Swords in a lot of combats, especially when Berserk.

Using weapons with low Strike Ranks can give you an edge. In RQ2, Impaling Weapons were king, as they did more damage and attacked faster.

Attacking with Fanaticism gave you a higher attack chance, which gave you a better AntiParry if you had a high skill, so reduced the opponent's parry chance, Berserker was better, for Storm Bulls against Chaos.

We used Multispell Dispel Magics to strip opponent's spells down to nothing, or down to their undies, as we called it.

We used spell barrages, timed to go off on the same Strike rank, to blast through Shield spells.

Use weapons appropriate to the PC. For example, in RQ2, Crushing weapons did Maximum Damage Bonus plus normal Damage Bonus on a special, so a duck with a mace might not do any extra damage if it did not have a damage bonus. Ducks used swords or spears, trolls used maces and mauls.

Attack your friend's opponent rather than your own. That way, you get to parry your opponent's attack but your friend's opponent has to parry two attacks, which is harder. An opponent with not a very good attack chance could be sent Fanatical, as that reduces parry chance but doesn't really improve attack by that much. If you are fairly sure you can survive the attack, it is a good way of finishing the combat quicker.

2 hours ago, EpicureanDM said:

Most of my players come from D&D backgrounds, so specific examples that differentiate RQG combat from D&D that include tips and tactics would be especially helpful.ÔĽŅ

Missile weapons can be devastating in RQ, where they aren't in D&D. Use archers and crossbowmen to turn an opponent into a pin cushion. We used to use Multimissiles against heavily armoured opponents, as we were "going for the critical", the more arrows you fire the better chance of scoring a critical and ignoring armour.

Riding beasts in RQ are far better than in D&D. A trained warhorse can attack and has a big damage bonus, so can bite or kick an opponent at the same time as you attack the opponent. Lances are good, as they have a very low Strike rank, so you could use a lance and your warhorse can bite or kick in the same round.

It is normally better to attack a riding beast than the rider, in RQ, as people don't give their riding beast as good armour or spells as they do themselves. Chopping a horse might make the opponent fall and take damage, or lose attacks.

43 minutes ago, EpicureanDM said:

What is a fair number of ranged attackers should I throw at a PC with 100% Broadsword? Three archers? The PC can't use their Broadsword skill to parry arrows, so now I need to worry about Dodge instead. If none of the PCs have invested in Dodge (and given how Dodge can be all-or-nothing), what sorts of encounters and opponents should I be throwing at my party?

What is the PC's armour? Does the PC have the Shimmer spell? How skilled are the archers? What is the PC's Dodge attack? Does the PC have a shield that can be used to cover hit locations?

All these questions come into play when talking about particular tactics, which is why I said that most answers will be general.

My assumption is that an organised party of PCs will normally defeat a similar party of NPCs and will often defeat a stronger party. If you want to be sneaky, don't rely on numbers, instead use tactics. Have NPCs with missile weapons, have NPCs using Multispell and spell barrages against the PCs, Multipselled Disruption spells were devastating, as I recall. Have the NPCs gang up on PCs, making them choose who to parry.

48 minutes ago, EpicureanDM said:

What are the best strategies for PCs to get the upper hand on archers? What spells? Is it better to use all your SR to charge the archers and engage in melee? Does RQG's combat system encourage or reward that tactic?

Use Shimmer, as it makes you harder to hit. Run in jinky runs, as that halves the chance to hit. Cover hit locations with shields, as the missiles hit the shield first. Rely on your Natural Defence, i.e. hope they hit non-vital hit locations and don't kill you. Charging archers in combat is always a good idea, unless they are very skilled or are using magic. Teleporting behind them is also a good tactic. Using a Darkwall or Lightwall between them and you is a good tactic, if you want to charge them. 

 

 

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The old RQ2 supplement 'Rune Masters' had some great unit tactics for GMs to use, but you have to be careful not to make the enemy too tactically aware. Even with a good commander troops sometimes get distracted and can't process orders. In fact, you could even subtract from attack and parry skills if the troops are spending too much time in battle hanging off the words of their leaders. The sheer noise of fighting is indescribable and I've never even had the screams of the wounded to contend with.
Not only is this more realistic and therefore giving something your players can react to logically, but if you make your enemy a terrifying cohesive unit your players are going to get slaughtered. Ancient skirmish warfare is more individualistic than that.

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34 minutes ago, Crel said:

My experience has been that a combat of about equivalent numbers and skills and skill combinations (melee, missile, etc) is a good feel for a dangerous encounter. When I ran a large-scale battle, the most dangerous villains were a group of six trollkin with slings (that's including two large Shades summoned by the troll Rune Priestess, which fearshocked half the Orlanthi side and two of the PCs). If your group has only one person with high POW, be extra careful how many magicians you send against them. Even two fellas in the back with POW 13/14 shooting Disrupt at the same target a couple rounds will be a huge problem for a party averaging POW 11. Disparity in the POW stat, IMO, is really important. As a player, I find my first move in combat is to ask our shaman (with POW-detecting Second Sight) where the biggest source of POW is, then to go murder it.

This is in the vein of what I'm looking for.

You mention two opponents lobbing Disrupt at average POW PCs and how dangerous that is. But why? Close the loop on that bit of advice. Is it because if a PC takes 4 x 1D3 damage to general hit points over two rounds, they might be one glancing blow (maybe 2hp of damage to a location after armor) away from zero hp and death? 

What does your party look like in the general strokes that you felt comfortable unleashing two Large Dehori and a six-trollkin slingers squad (among others, including a powerful troll Rune Priestess, I presume) against them? The Bestiary says that elementals have one hit location and no armor. There's also no mention of combat skills, so they presumably can't Parry or Dodge. They can be hit and damaged by ordinary weapons. It sounds like as long as a PC doesn't fumble the attack, they just need to succeed on an attack then roll damage. This makes elementals feel like "semi-intelligent terrain effects" to me, which obviously require a priest around to control them. Is that a fair way at looking at them? 

What sort of impact did you expect the Dehori to have in the battle? What was their intended effect? Were there some strengths or weaknesses in your party that you wanted to connect with?

 

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47 minutes ago, soltakss said:

For me, in RQ2, we only used shields in some combat. We preferred to go into combat with two swords, as the APs were higher and it gave us the opportunity to choose to attack twice if we knew that an opponent could not attack or was indisposed. Although Soltak Stormspear used a Spear and Shield as his main attack combination, he also used two Bastard Swords in a lot of combats, especially when Berserk.

Using weapons with low Strike Ranks can give you an edge. In RQ2, Impaling Weapons were king, as they did more damage and attacked faster.

Attacking with Fanaticism gave you a higher attack chance, which gave you a better AntiParry if you had a high skill, so reduced the opponent's parry chance, Berserker was better, for Storm Bulls against Chaos.

We used Multispell Dispel Magics to strip opponent's spells down to nothing, or down to their undies, as we called it.

We used spell barrages, timed to go off on the same Strike rank, to blast through Shield spells.

Use weapons appropriate to the PC. For example, in RQ2, Crushing weapons did Maximum Damage Bonus plus normal Damage Bonus on a special, so a duck with a mace might not do any extra damage if it did not have a damage bonus. Ducks used swords or spears, trolls used maces and mauls.

Attack your friend's opponent rather than your own. That way, you get to parry your opponent's attack but your friend's opponent has to parry two attacks, which is harder. An opponent with not a very good attack chance could be sent Fanatical, as that reduces parry chance but doesn't really improve attack by that much. If you are fairly sure you can survive the attack, it is a good way of finishing the combat quicker.

This looks like the sort of advice I'm looking for.

What's different in RQG that invalidates some of these tips? That's the sort of advice that I can't find. Some of this seems like they would work in RQG, like the idea of "spell barrages." That's a neat trick that I can demonstrate via NPCs to players. If it does still work in RQG, what's the mechanical explanation for that tactic? How would I execute it?

By explaining this stuff in sufficient detail (how did it change from RQ2/3 to RQG?), new RQG GMs can get a veteran glimpse into how the rules all connect to each other. I read an old thread on these boards about the interactions between Axe/Sword Trance, Bladesharp, and combat skills over 100%. It contained experienced RQ2/3 GMs pointing out some very subtle differences in the spells and combat system in RQG. These discussions help new RQG GMs find the seams and pitfalls in the system so that they can be prepared at the table when problems arise.

 

56 minutes ago, soltakss said:

We used to use Multimissiles against heavily armoured opponents, as we were "going for the critical", the more arrows you fire the better chance of scoring a critical and ignoring armour.

That's another good tip. What's your experience with this at the table? It feels very swingy to me. If the only way the party's opponents can hurt them is via a critical, then a large group of archers (what ratio of opponents to PCs do veteran RQ GMs consider "large"?) feel like a nuisance (the GM rolls six or eight Attack rolls at 45% at 1d6+1 damage, which is a little dry and perhaps anticlimactic) until a critical suddenly drops a PC. But maybe that's the only way for rank-and-file archers to feel like a threat, so giving three archers Multimissile 3 is just how things are done in RQG? 

1 hour ago, soltakss said:

Riding beasts in RQ are far better than in D&D. A trained warhorse can attack and has a big damage bonus, so can bite or kick an opponent at the same time as you attack the opponent. Lances are good, as they have a very low Strike rank, so you could use a lance and your warhorse can bite or kick in the same round.

OK. How often have you deployed opponents on trained war-animals in your game? Do you find them tricky to run compared to more standard RQ fights? What do you know now that you wished you'd know when you ran your first fight featuring mounted combatants?

1 hour ago, soltakss said:

Use Shimmer, as it makes you harder to hit. Run in jinky runs, as that halves the chance to hit. Cover hit locations with shields, as the missiles hit the shield first. Rely on your Natural Defence, i.e. hope they hit non-vital hit locations and don't kill you. Charging archers in combat is always a good idea, unless they are very skilled or are using magic. Teleporting behind them is also a good tactic. Using a Darkwall or Lightwall between them and you is a good tactic, if you want to charge them.

There's good tidbits in here. Is the concept of "Natural Defense" found in RQG? If not, it's the sort of thing that only experience can teach (and share). 

Do you have a rules reference for "jinky" running?

You mention that charging archers in combat is a good idea, unless they're very skilled or are using magic. Does "very skilled" refer to them being able to shoot more in a round to incapacitate you before you get there? Are there other skills that you're thinking of? What sort of magic makes it a bad idea to charge archers? Are we just talking about magic that boosts their chances to attack and deal damage or do you have other spells in mind that would discourage charging them? Maybe Mobility or Leap?

 

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50 minutes ago, ChalkLine said:

The old RQ2 supplement 'Rune Masters' had some great unit tactics for GMs to use, but you have to be careful not to make the enemy too tactically aware.

Yes! I just bought this on DriveThru and it's exactly what I'm looking for. The advice about the importance of allied spirits, the different sections about tactics (especially Spell Tactics), and lots of other stuff reflects what I'm looking for. It's obviously written by people who have spent time with RQ's rules and have found effective combinations of rules and secrets that reflect a deep understanding of the rules, like casting Fireblade on a giant's sword to limit how much damage it can do. That's clever.

But there's got to be more out there, locked away in veteran RQ brains.¬†ūüėČ

EDIT:

Look at this example text from Rune Masters:

A RuneMaster faced with a foe who has Shield 4 and Countermagic 6 up just pulls an extra POW 14 from one of his familiars to go with a Harmonize spell and blows down the Countermagic.

I realize it's working within the RQ2 rules context, but that tactic isn't familiar or immediately obvious to RQG newcomers, is it? It would still generally work in RQG even if the spells are somewhat different? That might seem obvious to veteran RQ GMs, but it might not be to most. It suggests what fun and exciting RQ battle should look like, but it's expressed through the rules of the game. That's what I'm trying to find.

Edited by EpicureanDM
Added example from Rune Masters book.

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4 minutes ago, EpicureanDM said:

This looks like the sort of advice I'm looking for.

Thanks.

4 minutes ago, EpicureanDM said:

What's different in RQG that invalidates some of these tips?

I haven't gone through RQG in detail to see if these examples still hold up. It is close enough to RQ2 that they should work, but there might be cases where the rules have been subtly changed.

5 minutes ago, EpicureanDM said:

Some of this seems like they would work in RQG, like the idea of "spell barrages." That's a neat trick that I can demonstrate via NPCs to players. If it does still work in RQG, what's the mechanical explanation for that tactic? How would I execute it?

Everyone casts spells at the same Strike Rank at one opponent.

We played that Countermagic acted against the total points of spells that hit it, not against individual spells, so 5 Disrupts would blow down a Countermagic 3. With Multispell, you can do your own spell barrages.

7 minutes ago, EpicureanDM said:

By explaining this stuff in sufficient detail (how did it change from RQ2/3 to RQG?), new RQG GMs can get a veteran glimpse into how the rules all connect to each other. I read an old thread on these boards about the interactions between Axe/Sword Trance, Bladesharp, and combat skills over 100%. It contained experienced RQ2/3 GMs pointing out some very subtle differences in the spells and combat system in RQG. These discussions help new RQG GMs find the seams and pitfalls in the system so that they can be prepared at the table when problems arise.

The problem is that it would take a long time to go through every rule/spell in RQG and compare it with the equivalent in RQ2/RQ3. It could be done, but would take ages. I am not sure if it would be worth the effort, unfortunately. 

9 minutes ago, EpicureanDM said:

That's another good tip. What's your experience with this at the table? It feels very swingy to me.

It is very swingy, but can be effective. It works better with high-DEX PCs, as they can shoot at SR 1/6/11 or 2/7/12, also better if an Allied Spirit can cast Multimissile on the arrows, perhaps with a Multispell, so Multispell 2 allows you to cast 3 Multimissiles per round, Multispell 5 allows you to cast 6 per round, maybe on 2 archers.

16 minutes ago, EpicureanDM said:

If the only way the party's opponents can hurt them is via a critical, then a large group of archers (what ratio of opponents to PCs do veteran RQ GMs consider "large"?) feel like a nuisance (the GM rolls six or eight Attack rolls at 45% at 1d6+1 damage, which is a little dry and perhaps anticlimactic) until a critical suddenly drops a PC. But maybe that's the only way for rank-and-file archers to feel like a threat, so giving three archers Multimissile 3 is just how things are done in RQG? 

That is pretty much it. It works better with higher skills, so three archers at 100% would be better than three at 45%, as 3 archers firing 3 shots with Multimissile 4 on each get 45 chances to hit, at 100% that gives a goodly number of criticals on average.

25 minutes ago, EpicureanDM said:

OK. How often have you deployed opponents on trained war-animals in your game? Do you find them tricky to run compared to more standard RQ fights? What do you know now that you wished you'd know when you ran your first fight featuring mounted combatants?

Fairly often. Most of our PCs had Cavalry Horses and a number had warhorses. They get treated as another NPC and the PC normally rolls for them. basically, the PC gets another attack if they make a Ride roll, or if the Warhorse is intelligent. Our Yelornan Elf had a Unicorn with well over 100% Horn attack, it cast Ironhand, which increased Horn, Kick and Trample, more bang for your buck.

I'd use a Combat Tracker, or at least a Strike rank Tracker, for combats with multiple PCs/NPCs, including mounts.

 

28 minutes ago, EpicureanDM said:

There's good tidbits in here. Is the concept of "Natural Defense" found in RQG? If not, it's the sort of thing that only experience can teach (and share). 

Natural Defence is a concept used by my second RQ group. They would happily charge into combat against archers, assuming that there was a good chance of not being hit in a vital location.

29 minutes ago, EpicureanDM said:

Do you have a rules reference for "jinky" running?

It was in RQ2 and RQ3, so I assume it's in RQG. Basically, if you dodge around when running it makes it harder to hit.

30 minutes ago, EpicureanDM said:

You mention that charging archers in combat is a good idea, unless they're very skilled or are using magic. Does "very skilled" refer to them being able to shoot more in a round to incapacitate you before you get there? Are there other skills that you're thinking of? What sort of magic makes it a bad idea to charge archers? Are we just talking about magic that boosts their chances to attack and deal damage or do you have other spells in mind that would discourage charging them? Maybe Mobility or Leap?

An archer who is very skilled has a better chance of impaling and impales can easily take you down if you are not magicked up. 1D8+10 punches through all normal armour. An archer with a skill of 100% with Arrow Trance attacks at 200%, so Impales on 40 and criticals on 10, so using Multimissile gives a very good chance that you are going to be taken down.

Mobility or Jumping can be used to catch archers on the hop, especially if the PCs run as fast as they can. A lot of our NPC archers used Lightwall to screen themselves, especially if they were Yelmalian or Aldryami.

 

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Combat is complex enough that you have to make generalizations.  However.....

I deal with this by keeping the opponents at a stable power level.  If the Rune level PC's wind up in a fight with Trollkin, they are the same general power level as they were when the players started, unless some plot reason.  So the players will almost certainly smash them easily.  Similarly if the players decide to bite off more than I think that they can chew, it is on their own heads.  Sometimes a noble defeat is good Role Play.

Low level opponents will basically do one thing.  Trollkin will try to stab you with spears, basically. Street gang members may know a (very) little magic, but you are looking at physical attacks, normally with daggers, but sometimes a thrown rock or such.  This is mainly because this class of opposition simply isn't capable of doing more with any real potential for success.

Low/Mid will start to mix things up.  This would be angry Orlanthi farmers in a raid situation, a fairly strong baboon tribe, or an outlaw gang.  They will have one or more specialists (magic, ranged attack, mounted attack), and likely can fight with missile barrage and in melee in some fashion.  Likely better one than the others, but the players should expect some bow fire, javelins, and disruption spells mixed in with the broadsword attacks.  This type of opposition is still mainly limited by what it actually can do, as opposed to tactics.  However just about every opponent should have some type of culturally common battle magic.  Bladesharp, Protection, and Speedart seem to be the most universally important.   But the emphasis of the spells is to augment the generally weak skills and damage potential of the opponents, as opposed to defeat the PC's.  Sometimes this can be switched around, such as a physically weak dryad who can befuddle the PC's with a good % chance.  If one of the PC's has a 100% Broadsword, the Orlanthi farmer is more likely to give up or run away after realizing that he is outmatched, rather than try to circle around and throw javelins.  (How many javelins does he actually have, anyway?  I am thinking zero to one, and he threw what he had before melee anyhow.)

Then it turns up a serious notch.  You are starting to look at more organized opposition at the next level, and that's where Runequest combat really becomes Runequest combat.  Soldiers, Dark Trolls, opposing adventuring bands, Lunars, all start here.  This group should have much better equipment, skills to back them up, and about the same level of Spirit and Rune magic as the party.  On top of that they will almost certainly have one leader type, and should use magic very intelligently.

  • Trolls should throw Darkness spells liberally, Yelmalians should be using Lightwall, whatever is culturally appropriate should be pulled out and used immediately.¬†
  • The enemy may have been trained to Dispel enemy magic.¬† In particular I have professional soldiers do this.¬† Magic is just part of fighting and that is their stock in trade.¬†
  • There may be a "big damage" specialist with either a two handed weapon, or Fireblade, or some means to dishing out a lot of damage.¬†
  • There should be at least one person with stored power.¬† Typically he is the leader and may either enhance himself with multiple spells, or spend the early part of the fight throwing dispels.
  • Rune magic should be used in any combat that is serious.
  • Magic that is offensive should be used on a large scale when appropriate.¬† Be it befuddle, or disrupt, three or four casts while the players are casting Bladesharp and Protection can make a world of difference in a fight.¬† If the players cannot protect themselves from magical attacks, then just keep doing it!¬† Ransom exists for a reason.

So this is the point where the players are actually against "real" opposition for the first time.  It should more or less mirror what they have learned to do against weaker opponents, but now they have to deal with it.  Rolling up a warband or two and making them different in advance helps here a LOT.   If they players don't like all that magic hammering onto them, then they can learn Countermagic, Dispel Magic, Shield, or how to ambush.  What limits this group is not the tactics, more so it is again a case of what they actually can do.  For instance if there is a magical barrage and possibly buffing contest, these guys should be out of Pow, as most of them shouldn't have stored power, more than a Rune point or two, and about 11 Pow on average.  Skills can be all over, but 65%-75% combat skill seems reasonable.   That level of parry skill, backed by armor (metal in the torso and head), can stymie the players for a very long period of time, PC growth wise.  Normally the players will start to recognize serious opposition and hammer through it with raw power.  The fastest means to that power is Rune Magic. 

Which is where the next level starts.  Rune level opposition is very difficult to make generic statements about, as all the cults are so amazingly different.  However ANY Rune level opponent is, and should be, a very serious encounter, as well as a painfully difficult foe to dispatch.  Rune Lord Divine intervention alone can be near immortality, although I generally play it to remove a defeated Rune Lord from the field of play if they have been defeated once (after all they may be "killed" again).  But sometimes the stakes are high enough that they just use it to keep going.  Add on all the various Rune spells, likely hood of stored Power, good equipment, devoted followers, allied spirits and summoned creatures, and of course high fighting skills for a war like cult, and you've got yourself a knock down, drag out contest worthy of an adventure climax.  The main problem with these guys, is that the powerful one's can defeat you in a variety of ways.  They can dispel your best magics, protect themselves from your attacks and spells, can take you out with physical attacks, magical attacks, and sometimes even spiritual attacks.   So where ever the players show weakness, that's what these level of opponents should be going for.  If an initiate level Lunar in one of these retinues casts Mindblast and catches out a player with it, the next round at least half of the Lunars should have the air swarming with Rune magic the next turn. 

 

So really my answer to you isn't to base the challenge level on the player's capability AT ALL.  Base it instead on the capabilities of the opponents as you see them in your story.  The players have the advantage of using the same tools over and over, and so tend to get good with them.  As GM you need to look at the opposition in a similar way, and try to make them do what makes sense for them.  And some just won't have an answer for the 100% skill PC.  Others will try to weaken the PC with Demoralize, or Dullblade, and still others will just cast Protection and Bladesharp on themselves to try to match the PC.  If they have access to magic, or missiles that can bring him down, well plenty of Vikings die to arrows or being outnumbered in the Sagas.  Three bandits casting Disruption every round can tear apart a swordsman very fast too.  The main thing is who is teaching all of these bandits Disruption, and also training them to work together so well?  Maybe they are brothers.....

 

Edited by Dissolv
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40 minutes ago, EpicureanDM said:

What's different in RQG that invalidates some of these tips? That's the sort of advice that I can't find.

RQ2 has a Defense, which RQ3/RQG dropped. If you look in the back of the RQG book there is also a conversion list from RQ2/RQ3 to RQG which identifies spells that have been dropped or renamed.

Most tactics/tips should carry forward (there's not been that much change in either spirit or Rune magic spells).

The RQG Rune Point mechanic lets most PC's use both the "good" and the common Rune magic from their deity rather than having to explicitly make sure you had sacrificed for Shield and Spirit Block and Multispell to the detriment of the cool stuff.\

The Rune and Passion Inspiration mechanism is new/different and if successful potentially provides a bonus through a whole battle.  Of course, your opponents may get those too which goes to @Dissolv's points on level of capability of foes.

2 hours ago, EpicureanDM said:

What are the best strategies for PCs to get the upper hand on archers? What spells? Is it better to use all your SR to charge the archers and engage in melee? Does RQG's combat system encourage or reward that tactic?

Use terrain to either avoid or attack them (i.e. get height, hide from them, etc). Or make it difficult for them to harm you. They can only cast so many Speedarts or Multimissiles, so cast Shield (in combo with natural armor) to counter (and outlast) their magic.  Shield is good because you can add Protection or Shimmer to it.  Cast Lightwall in front while charging so you can see them but they can't easily see you. Use Fanaticism or Berserk once you're in the middle of them because they likely have few/no weapons to parry with and you want to maximize attacks.  Or if you're inspired, that may also put you over 100% so you can split attacks.

Another option if you're Orlanthi is to use the wind. Cast your Increase Wind and Wind Warp spells so that the arrows don't reach you, or Rain so that their bows become wet and useless.

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Like in the real world, in RQ, whoever dictates the timing and location of the combat has a serious advantage. If you have a round or two to cast your spells before the enemy knows they're in a fight, that's a serious advantage. A "juiced-up" opponent is always a major threat. That pack of trollkin are much more dangerous if they're firing Multimissiled slings at you from behind a Darkwall and have Protection or Countermagic up once you charge through. (Or more likely, they hurt you bad then run like hell.)

As a GM, you can compensate for inferior opponents by creating battle conditions disadvantageous to the players. Likewise, if your players are smart, they'll figure out a way to attack superior foes with some sort of tactical advantage. I've had players spend entire runs trying to set up just the right conditions for them to work over a superior bad guy.

My players are always happiest when they're the ones charging into the enemy camp in the middle of the night when the baddies have their armor off and their spells down instead of when it's vice versa.

Finally, remember that most intelligent foes are not willing to fight to the death. Since even the best heroes can die from a lucky crit to the head, not every combat has to be a knockdown, drag-out melee. Gloranthan foes will both offer and accept quarter. They will run if they're losing, or they will escape once they've achieved their goal. Combat can often just be the start of an encounter, not just its violent conclusion.

 

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Let me offer a couple of basic but oft forgotten things:

1. Cover and concealment [!]

There is more to sneaking than a successful Hide check. Just because someone knows you're there doesn't mean that someone has enough of a bead on you to accurately fire at you. It's not unreasonable to cut ranged attacks in half if the conditions warrant it. And that's a life-saver for the unprepared or lightly armored. 62% Composite Bow Attack [reduced because of lighting, brush, or whatever else have you] beats the Hells out of %124%, don't it?

And on that subject, remember a basic fact that is drilled into every soldier in Basic Training... 'cover' and 'concealment' are NOT the same thing! Cover is a barrier between you and enemy fire, concealment is terrain that does not provide that barrier. While both assist in preventing detection, only cover prevents getting hit by direct fire. Apropos of nothing whatever, one notices that there is a dearth of hand grenades in RQG...

2. Animals, Spirits, and Fetches do more than just attack or provide spell support. A lot of people forget about the scouting function. Remember that Allied Spirits perceive the world through Spirit Sight, not physical senses. The little guy you wrote off as 'just another trollkin' might actually have a high POW, spirits in crystals, or enchanted gear... all of which are indicators of its threat potential.

3. Dig into the Sorcery rules. Nothing throws a Wind Lord for a loop like an Adept with Strength Enhancement 8, duration 10 cast... Yeah, I know they can get complicated in a hurry, but there are some simple Sorcerous buffs that can up-end the plans of a party of Initiate levels.

 

Edited by svensson
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4 hours ago, RHW said:

Like in the real world, in RQ, whoever dictates the timing and location of the combat has a serious advantage. If you have a round or two to cast your spells before the enemy knows they're in a fight, that's a serious advantage. A "juiced-up" opponent is always a major threat. That pack of trollkin are much more dangerous if they're firing Multimissiled slings at you from behind a Darkwall and have Protection or Countermagic up once you charge through. (Or more likely, they hurt you bad then run like hell.)

This is also what I mean by advice that's too general. They're rules of thumb, but new RQG GMs need numbers and rules. Granularity, along with actual play experience, is what allows new GMs to dial-in their instincts at the table.

What does "juiced-up" mean exactly in RQG? What spells have they cast and at what strength? How many points of POW do they have available via matrices or spirits? I know that the answer can vary, but if you've got some actual experience in GMing RuneQuest, you must be able to provide some concrete benchmarks. What's the highest you've ever seen in your game? Would you recommend that players reach that level of power? How do you challenge them?

Describe these trollkin tactics using the game's rules, round by round. Is it fair to assume they've already cast Protection before the fight started? If they didn't have time to prep, then how should I be thinking about SRs if I want them to have Protection up once the PCs charge through the Darkwall? Should I prepare the encounter with one "spellcaster" trollkin who manages the Darkwall and then spends subsequent rounds casting Protection on each slinger? Do the slingers cast Protection spells in two shifts, half keeping up the rate of fire while half try to cast the spell, then they swap? 

If you were seated behind me at the table and I turned to ask you how to implement this trollkin strategy in accordance in the rules, what instructions would you give?

Edited by EpicureanDM

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5 hours ago, soltakss said:

The problem is that it would take a long time to go through every rule/spell in RQG and compare it with the equivalent in RQ2/RQ3. It could be done, but would take ages. I am not sure if it would be worth the effort, unfortunately. 

That's fair, but why is no one producing (or re-sharing) something like those advice sections from RQ2's Rune Master book? Even if the advice in that book is aimed at RQ2 Rune Lords and Rune Priests, it provides insight into how an experienced, sophisticated RQ veteran uses the combat and magic rules to generate advanced play. D&D players and DMs are always sharing ideas, tips, and tactics for getting the most out of a player's (and monster's) abilities. There's got to be some big, experienced RQ brains out here. I just want to crack them open to see what's inside.

5 hours ago, soltakss said:

It works better with high-DEX PCs, as they can shoot at SR 1/6/11 or 2/7/12, also better if an Allied Spirit can cast Multimissile on the arrows, perhaps with a Multispell, so Multispell 2 allows you to cast 3 Multimissiles per round, Multispell 5 allows you to cast 6 per round, maybe on 2 archers.

There we go, another good trick. Get your allied spirit to buff you before you attack. For players coming over from D&D, that's a pretty foreign concept. Relatively few 5e players have pet wizard-spirits that they can order around in combat to cast beneficial spells for them. Modern D&D players (and probably most modern gamers) aren't used to the idea of OSR-style henchmen, but that's arguably close to the roots of allied spirits when RQ2 was in its heyday. It would be more obvious for someone playing AD&D in 1980. Not as much today.

5 hours ago, soltakss said:

That is pretty much it. It works better with higher skills, so three archers at 100% would be better than three at 45%, as 3 archers firing 3 shots with Multimissile 4 on each get 45 chances to hit, at 100% that gives a goodly number of criticals on average.

Again, that's valuable perspective. You're suggesting this as if it's a sensible option, but most modern audiences and GMs wouldn't think that the GM rolling 45 separate attacks while the players look on to be exciting play. But if RQG's written to assume that's a sensible tactic (or its proponents think that it is), then it helps me triangulate on what might need to be done to compensate.

5 hours ago, soltakss said:

It was in RQ2 and RQ3, so I assume it's in RQG. Basically, if you dodge around when running it makes it harder to hit.ÔĽŅ

I have access to RQ3. What's the page reference there?

 

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5 hours ago, Dissolv said:

Combat is complex enough that you have to make generalizations.  However.....

Your post is great. It really provides some good, granular detail that I can build from. But I do have some questions...

5 hours ago, Dissolv said:

If the Rune level PC's wind up in a fight with Trollkin

Given that starting RQG PCs now start with much more Rune magic and the potential for much higher combat spells than RQ2/3, what does "Rune level PCs" mean in RQG terms? 8 points of Rune magic? 8 points of Rune magic plus an allied spirit (how strong would the spirit be?)?

5 hours ago, Dissolv said:
  • Trolls should throw Darkness spells liberally, Yelmalians should be using Lightwall, whatever is culturally appropriate should be pulled out and used immediately.¬†
  • The enemy may have been trained to Dispel enemy magic.¬† In particular I have professional soldiers do this.¬† Magic is just part of fighting and that is their stock in trade.¬†
  • There may be a "big damage" specialist with either a two handed weapon, or Fireblade, or some means to dishing out a lot of damage.¬†
  • There should be at least one person with stored power.¬† Typically he is the leader and may either enhance himself with multiple spells, or spend the early part of the fight throwing dispels.
  • Rune magic should be used in any combat that is serious.
  • Magic that is offensive should be used on a large scale when appropriate.¬† Be it befuddle, or disrupt, three or four casts while the players are casting Bladesharp and Protection can make a world of difference in a fight.¬† If the players cannot protect themselves from magical attacks, then just keep doing it!¬† Ransom exists for a reason.

This is good stuff. It's got the general advice component (i.e. "big damage" specialist) but then it's grounded in detail by mentioning a two-handed weapon or Fireblade (or, presumably, Firearrow). 

I have a question about the last bullet point. What does that fight look like for the first few rounds? Assuming neither side had a chance to prepare in advance, you write that the players are casting Bladesharp while the other side are casting offensive spirit magic, three or four times. Is that meant to suggest that combat could "start", but no one advances for the first two rounds while protective and buffing magic is cast? That would seem strange in the context of the game world. It would be like armies fighting with unloaded muskets. The signal to begin battle is given and they both sort of gesture to each other: "Wait, wait, hold on, let me get ready before we start trying to kill each other."

Are you assuming that the players are casting Bladesharp and/or Protection as they're rushing their opponents? You assume that there's a couple of rounds worth of distance to close before melee? In the meantime, the enemy's trying to stop the PCs with Befuddle or Disrupt? I know it's situational, but do you imagine that sometimes the party's facing opponents who can all cast Befuddle or Disrupt, and they all just unleash instead of shooting arrows?

6 hours ago, Dissolv said:

For instance if there is a magical barrage and possibly buffing contest, these guys should be out of Pow, as most of them shouldn't have stored power, more than a Rune point or two, and about 11 Pow on average.

I'm with you except for the first part. Does RQ/RQG expect there to be a "buffing contest" before opponents come to blows? Is it normal for there to be, say, two rounds of people not attacking each other and casting buffs before battle? One round of a "truce" before swords are swung? When I say, "normal," I mean if that's what happens in actual play at people's tables. If it happens, that runs against the grain of a D&D-style approach to combat, where you're expected to jump off the mark and kill your opponents as quickly as possible. But if RQG's designed with the assumption of "buffing contests" in mind, then what do those look like? How should I create opportunities for that to happen in play? If that's part of RQG's charm, I want to make sure I don't shut it down with opponents that are too aggressive.

6 hours ago, Dissolv said:

However ANY Rune level opponent is, and should be, a very serious encounter, as well as a painfully difficult foe to dispatch.

I read this a lot, but no one cashes it out with numbers. What does it look like to be a "Rune level" opponent in RQG? I can look at CR in 5e (even if the system's not very helpful) and at least get a general sense about what constitutes a high AC or lots of hit points relative to other opponents. Can it be described abstractly but in relation to a group of PCs, e.g. a "Rune level" opponent has Rune points equal to the highest PC in the group plus four? If I asked you to give me a stat block for a "Rune level" opponent in RQG, what would it look like?

6 hours ago, Dissolv said:

They can dispel your best magics, protect themselves from your attacks and spells, can take you out with physical attacks, magical attacks, and sometimes even spiritual attacks.

How do they do this? If you were going to create stats for a Rune level opponent for your group of PCs, what would they be? Walk me through the way that the stats and rules would put the party in real danger.

 

6 hours ago, Dissolv said:

If an initiate level Lunar in one of these retinues casts Mindblast and catches out a player with it, the next round at least half of the Lunars should have the air swarming with Rune magic the next turn. 

This is the good stuff. That's granular and specific. I can use that at the table.

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Simple and straight forward.   Kyger litor initiate with good spirit combat casts soul attack at the best melee PC.  This locks them into a spirit combat they probably cant win, or even survive very long.  My party has one of these and they use it regularly.  It was a first time rqer that came up with it for this party.  He carefully read all of his spells ad relized this was probably going to be hard to stop

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4 hours ago, EpicureanDM said:

This is also what I mean by advice that's too general. They're rules of thumb, but new RQG GMs need numbers and rules. Granularity, along with actual play experience, is what allows new GMs to dial-in their instincts at the table.

If you were seated behind me at the table and I turned to ask you how to implement this trollkin strategy in accordance in the rules, what instructions would you give?

Okay, it’s tough to get specific without knowing the PCs and the foes tailored to them, but let’s imagine an encounter between Korgo the Kaarg Son, stats here:

 

and 6 superior trollkin vs a group of high-end Sartarite initiates. I’m talking rq3 here, because I haven’t GMed RQG yet.

First question, what is Korgo’s objective? Let’s assume the PCs are sneaking into the Troll Woods to steal a Lead Mask from a shrine. Korgo’s objective is to convince them they are in the wrong place and they should go home. Now Korgo is a reasonable troll so first he sends a trollkin slave to warn the characters off. They kill the slave. Now Korgo is pissed. He wants to hurt them. Korgo first sends his mouse familiar Reepicheep to scout the party as they’re setting camp. Even if someone spots it, it’s just a mouse. No biggy. He gets a good idea of the party composition and potential targets. Then he waits for night.

At 4¬†am, he makes his move. He casts: Protection 6, Countermagic 3,¬†Jumping 5, Bludgeon 7 on his Troll Maul and Ironhand 6 on himself. Plus, fuck it, Darkwalk because he has three uses so why not. Oh, and he uses Command Shade and deploys his¬†large Shade from its¬†binding enchantment. Korgo is now ‚Äúfully juiced.‚ÄĚ Well not fully, but good enough for these numbnuts.¬†He and his allied spirits cast¬†Mindspeach on each of the trollkin so they can communicate silently, then the trollkin¬†cast CM 2 or Protect 2 or whatever defensive magic they know.¬†Korgo then puts up a¬†Darkwall or two a few yards beyond the edge of the party‚Äôs firelight. He and his trollkin sneak forward to the Darkwall. The shade moves¬†into position as well. I rule spotting a Darkwall in the Dark requires a crit scan. No luck for the two PCs on watch. I roll successes¬†on the¬†Sneaks, so the trollkin¬†make it into position, 20 meters away, still behind the Darkwall. The trollkin¬†pick their spots so they have line of sight (via Darksense) on their first target, probably the less armored guard. At Korgo‚Äôs signal, all trollkin cast missile magic. Let‚Äôs say 3 Speeddarts and 3 Multimissile¬†3. I might allow a special¬†Listen to hear the casting. Might not. Depends.¬†

We‚Äôre still not ‚Äúin rounds‚ÄĚ yet because nothing has happened as far as the party is concerned.

Now Korgo signals and ‚Äúthe balloon goes up.‚ÄĚ In surprise round (still not counting Strike Ranks) Reepicheep casts Extinguish on the campfire.¬†Korgo casts Blinding 3 on the most combat capable¬†guard. All six trollkin sling at Korgo‚Äôs chosen target, preferably someone¬†with little or no armor, but hopefully the¬†guard who‚Äôs not blind. 12 stones at 75%, 3 at 90% and +3 damage. A normal Listen from the awake guards will allow them to brace shields or dodge (at half unless they can see in the dark)¬†if either of them is the target.

NOW we start strike ranks.

SR 1 the Shade flies into the camp. I can‚Äôt remember Shade move rate, but once it gets there, it¬†engulfs and fearshocks¬†as many party members as possible. SR 1¬†Korgo yells ‚ÄúSurrender or die!‚ÄĚ in Trade and Slings a target. All trollkin recast their missile magic and volley again in the appropriate SR. They use cover against returning missile fire.

What happens next depends on the party. If they surrender, Korgo is reasonable, because that’s the kind of guy he is. There will be role playing, and chances to persuade and ransom discussions etc. If the party tries to assault through the Darkwall, the trollkin fall back and continue to snipe from darkness using cover and darkness to make it very hard to hit them. Korgo uses the Shade to keep the party disorganized and Jumping to leap to isolated/vulnerable targets and smash them. Don’t forget, he’s invisible and silent in darkness, so he’s hard to track until he attacks. If he’s really pissed or pressed he casts Crush 4. Now he’s doing 2d8+9+2d6+4d4 at 210%. With Ironhand, his kick does 3d6+6. He is fast enough to leap at a target and hit it twice per round. Or hit, disengage, then leap away into darkness. 

Any light spell gets hit with Dispel¬†Magic by Flash. A lucky hit in Korgo triggers a Heal Wound.¬†Probably the trollkin run before it comes to melee, but if a Korgo needs to, he Fanatacises them to use as cannon fodder.¬†If spirits attack, Korgo casts Spirit Block and ignores them.¬†If Korgo KOs a party member, or the Shade knocks anyone out, Korgo¬†grabs him or her, leaps away, then shouts, ‚ÄúSurrender or your friend dies.‚Ä̬†

The point of the encounter is not to kill the party but force a surrender for some fun role play interactions with Korgo, or to trigger a full on route and retreat to make the party come up with a plan B to get the mask.

In the unlikely event Korgo is beaten, he asks for quarter. If the party is smart, they accept, and trade him for the Lead Mask. If either the party or Korgo surrenders and everyone acts like a hoopy frood and roleplays well, there’s a good chance Korgo can become a friend or even an ally. They can strike a deal to borrow the Mask in exchange for completing a mission for the trolls. If they kill Korgo, he uses Rune Lord DI to vanish into the night and now he’s really mad and becomes a recurring villain and the next time he shows up, he brings friends...

Granular enough?

The main thing I want to convey here is that, tactics aside, this isn’t just a fight for a fight’s sake. The opponent and party motives are the key, and they should dictate the tactics used for the encounter, and win, lose, or draw, all three outcomes should advance the story.

 

 

 

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If you're looking for 'mean tricks' you can use in RQG:

Multispell is very good.
Case 1: Disruption. RQG Multispelled disruptions stack. So a Multispell-2 lets you cast a 3d3 POW v POW armour-ignoring attack as fast as you can manage the finger-wiggling. For 15 minutes, or as long as you have MP to fuel your finger, whichever is shorter.
Case2: Multimissile. Having 2 or 3 people shooting Multimissile-4-ed projectile weapons in the same round without them all having to know Multimissile-4 is really handy.
Case3: Buff spells. You want to be able to put up Vigour, Strength, Coordination, Protection, Bladesharp, Parry and Mobility, on yourself and Protection and Mobility on your mount... Good luck finding a spare round to actually do any fighting... With Multispell-2 you can achieve that in 3 rounds and have 7 rounds before you have to start refreshing. Or if your party is working as a team, they can each know one big buff spell, and mutually cast it on everyone, so if you have 3 folk: one knows Prot-4, the other knows Bladesharp-4 and the last knows Parry-4, if they all Multispell-2, the 'line' has all those spells by around SR 5-7 or so of round two.

Extension has its uses
You have to think about when you use it, because it commits RP for its duration (not in the RAW; an official clarification). But with many major Cults getting weekly RP refreshes, by the time the character has enough RP to think about having permanent effects up, using Extension-3 for a 'key Rune spell' to make it last a week is worth considering. Multispell is a good candidate, for a MP-rich character. Saves a round at the beginning of every serious fight, and means you can always fire up a location-busting stacked Disruption. The Stat-doubling spells are also pretty attractive for this approach.

Focused fire can be devastating
Even if none of them crit, the Encumbrance rules in RQG mean not everyone will be in arrow-stopping armour. A targeted rain of arrows or sling stones has a good chance of ruining the day of anyone in lighter armour. A targeted rain of Speedarted missiles much more so.

Cooperative enchantments
RQG allows people other than the caster of an Enchantment to contribute their POW towards that enchantment. An organised group with either a Rune Master or some Spirit Magic- or Sorcery-based Enchantments can produce very large MP stores quite rapidly. With "must be a member of our unit/Cult/Clan/[whatever]" user limitations (which are not so onerous when you're putting 10 points into something as they are if you're only putting in the one 'for effect') so you're not handing the party the ability to store a season's worth of MP...

Warding
For defense, Warding is amazing. If you've got an opening to defend, don't cast the Warding as an "area you stand in", cast it as a narrow block across the opening. Then any attackers take damage on the way in, and on the way out (when you shield bash them back, or they decide it's time to leave). And they last as long as the stakes are there, so if you're defending a place you're staying in, and you and your buddies (it's an Enchantment, which is, I believe, new, and something I'd missed before because it's not an Enchantment that's mentioned in the Magic chapter, and it's the only Rune Magic Enchantment that's both Common and not restricted to Rune Masters) can spare the POW, you can set some nasty traps.

Bless Pregnancy
A bit Dynastic, this one, but that's one of the game features/facets that RQG is bringing to the fore: Knowing an imposing (i.e. high CHA), mature (i.e. has a CHA full of RP) Ernalda Initiate or Priestess is really good for your children. If you're the Tribal Chief, you probably had 18 or more points added to your stat rolls before you were even born. As a GM, natch, you don't need to work stats up from the ground, but this is a plausible rationale for your Big Bads to have imposing statblocks, even when they're not a Big Bad yet (or, at least, the party haven't realised that the Chieftain's progeny  that they grew up with will be the Big Bad for their kids).

Healing
Don't forget that nearly all Initiates have access to Heal Wound. Keeping 'em all stomped down when you're outnumbered becomes even harder if they keep standing each other up.

 

 

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Yikes, you are looking for a very large amount of information without apparently having digested the core rules -- which are very crunchy by today's standards.  However that's the plus, not a minus.  There are more things that can be done with RQ combat that in most other game systems, making it more dramatic, and tactical, at the price of complexity and speed.  My suggest is to simply roll up a couple of characters and an opponent or two and fight them.  Try different things to see if they work.  It should all start to come into focus. 

The best rule is to have the NPC's lead with what they do best.  If they have a lot of magic, good armor, and aren't particularly impressive stat wise, then sure, trying to buff up while defending makes sense.  A group of trolls may just wade into the PC's, trusting to their very high damage attacks to make an impact. 

But that's circumstantial too.  Did the players surprise them? Is it a prepared ambush?  Remember that magic is highly visible in Glorantha, so having a 20 man bandit group all buffing for three rounds , and then jumping out within 10 feet of the players may involve a LOT of rolls or just be unrealistic.  Casting a lot of multimissile/speed darts at 100 yards distance, however, could be quite different.  However in a big battle situation, or before a duel, you can expect the maximum possible buffing to be thrown.  That's because there is a lot of stand off distance and plenty of time to cast.  Most "exploring the Big Rubble" type fights just don't have that, and typically I see the players wade into melee while casting.  But other times they see the bad guys coming and can't shake them after an extended time running around in Old Town, so they might turn to face their pursuers, and have a couple of rounds to cast spells.  Circumstances dictate a lot of this.

Any designated buffer, however, is likely to just hang back and power someone else up, normally the leader, given even half a chance.  That's his combat role.  With the players, I often see a shaman doing this, burning a large amount of magic points on the physical fighters to save them time.  In return they try to keep the shaman from melee if they can, even taking on multiple opponents.   Being wholly unskilled in melee is a luxury for the players, as the bad guys often out number them, but they do also have the option of hiring a bodyguard or other NPCs to help fill out numbers if they are going somewhere particularly dangerous, such as the Big Rubble.

Rune level = Rune Lord or Priest.  The lines have blurred there somewhat lately, but it isn't about a number of Rune points.  There are a whole host of things you can expect from an opponent at that level.  This includes societal support in the form of bodyguards/aides, magic artifacts, high quality armor and weaponry, and so on.  This person isn't just someone with a lot of "spells", this is somebody important to a society, and they are going to fight to keep them.

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I have a question about the last bullet point. What does that fight look like for the first few rounds? Assuming neither side had a chance to prepare in advance, you write that the players are casting Bladesharp while the other side are casting offensive spirit magic, three or four times. Is that meant to suggest that combat could "start", but no one advances for the first two rounds while protective and buffing magic is cast?

Two sides are both surprised.  There is going to be a fight.  The players elect to cast Bladesharp and such, but the bad guys are Morokanth slavers looking to take prisoners, let's say.  They all know Demoralize for this reason, and all cast it the first round, looking to soften up their opponents.  If they catch half the group, may as well try again next round for the other half, since it now clear that no one bothered to cast Countermagic.  If the Morokanth don't all know Demoralize, obviously they can't do this.  And a random group of say, Prax nomads, simply may not have this level of organization, but they will certainly know *something*, and will do whatever that thing is.  Bison riders will charge first chance they get (3d6 damage bonus on the lance, who needs spirit magic?), while a group of Sable Riders may have a couple of options to choose from, and may charge the party if they look weak (or are few in number), while they may hold off and cast buffing spells if the players have iron weapons, lots of metal armor, lots of Runes of various war gods, or other tell tale signs that they are truly dangerous individuals. 

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I'm with you except for the first part. Does RQ/RQG expect there ÔĽŅto be a "buffing contest" before opponents come to blows? Is it normal for there to be, say, two rounds of people not attacking each other and casting buffs before battle? One round of a "truce" before swords are swung?

Nope.  That's part of being the heroic Bronze Age.  There is nothing "normal" and no "truce".  There is no "knightly code" that anyone has to, or expected to follow.  Like I said, duels may allow (or even require) maximum preparation.  Battles likely give everyone time for maximum preparation.  But adventuring encounters can vary tremendously in circumstance and scope.  Also the players themselves may have a preference.  I have known some players that just refuse to engage without at least one cast, and others whole barely pause to smite chaos in the face.  How the circumstance, the players actions, and the NPC's actions interact will determine how combat starts. 

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I read this a lot, but no one cashes it out with numbers. What does it look like to be a "Rune level" opponent in RQG?

You own the supplement that does that -- Rune Masters.  https://www.chaosium.com/rune-masters-pdf/

They do vary greatly, and you need to make them up individually because of this.  Sample:

Rune Lord of Humakt.

95% Broadsword, 115% Two handed sword.  1d4 damage bonus.  18 POW

8 points of Rune magic, knows Sword Trace, True Sword, and Sever Spirit.   Prefers to cast Shield 4 immediately, then Truesword if he cannot penetrate his opponent's armor on a hit.  Will hold Sever Spirit for an opponent that he is having trouble defeating, or a highly dangerous spell caster that he cannot physically reach.

Iron armor in all locations, iron Broadsword with Bladesharp matrix.  Has undergone one heroquest giving him 8 hit points in every location.

32 points of stored pow, one 16 power crystal and one 18 point Cult Spirit.  Knows healing 6, bladesharp 4, dispel magic, befuddle (which he uses to force one on one fights).

Has two powerful initiate bodyguards sworn to defend him to the death, and accompany him at all times.  (80% skills, 15 pow, 3 points Rune magic each, bronze metal armor everywhere).  One of them is his lover and if she is killed, he will immediately use Sever Spirit on her killer.  Will divine intervention to have Humakt block critical hits on himself, and her.

So this guy is Rune level, and you now know more or less what he can do (without total specifics, such as everyone's spirit magic).  He is going to buff the first round while closing -- Rune magic is fast.  The second round and on he fights physically unless blocked by armor/protection/shield.  Then he buffs himself up more with truesword to get around that, and will only result to Sever Spirit in dire straights.  Being a follower of Humakt, he cannot use Divine Intervention to bring anyone back from the dead, but has learned to use it against critical hits, which should make him extremely difficult to defeat.  One or both of his followers may know dispel magic and healing, and prefer to keep him up and running over attacking, given the choice.  The two bodyguards are really an absolute minimum, and he may be found leading an entire tribe into battle.  He can also be challenged to a one on one duel, if the PC's wish to fight him alone......

There is no such thing as a "Danger Ranking" in RQ.  There is only the opponent, what they can do, and what the players judge they can deal with.  They do not deserve pity if they challenge this guy (obvious rune lord with bodyguards, iron armor, death cult).  He will kill them if he can.  Runequest combat in particular is meant to dangerous, and a big part of that is that they players do not always know exactly what they are getting into.  This works both ways too, and many a nomad has had the tables turned by a PC who was more powerful than he appeared. 

The big job as a GM in RQ is to flesh the world out enough so that the players can learn these things.  Everyone knows that getting lanced by a Bison rider sucks -- but the players may not realize what 1d10 + 3d6 will do to a RQ body. Let them learn.  There are no "levels", no "introductory dungeons", and not even a requirement to fight anything.  They don't get exp that way, for instance.  Combat does not have to be to the death either.  Again, the bronze age theme where everything isn't total war all the time like it could be against the "Dark lord and his orc minions".  You can surrender to trolls and offer ransom.  You can be defeated by your Yelmalio rival and he just taunts you and lets you go. 

But a word about Chaos.....that IS the enemy.  No rule necessarily applies to any of them.  They don't take captives (you hope!), and the players should learn to treat Chaos not as a bad guy, but as a cosmic horror, and evil blight on creation, and something that even otherwise hated opponents can band together to battle.

 

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6 hours ago, RHW said:

Granular enough?ÔĽŅÔĽŅ

Yes! I hope everyone can appreciate how much more helpful this sort of detail is for new RQG GMs. It's grounded in the mechanics, shows how powerful opponents might blend spells together to great effect, and demonstrates how RQ combat differs from what most people are familiar with, i.e. D&D. It might seem obvious if you've got a dozen years of active RQ3 experience under your belt, but it's not to newcomers.

Thanks for sharing that.

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2 hours ago, Dissolv said:

Yikes, you are looking for a very large amount of information without apparently having digested the core rules -- which are very crunchy by today's standards.  However that's the plus, not a minus.

I've actually got 35+ years of experience with RPGs, including two years of RQ3 back when it was first published. My first attack by my first-ever RQ PC was a fumble resulting in a critical hit to my own PC's leg. I immediately recognized many of RQG's rules.

I've played Rolemaster, Rifts, Traveller, Shadowrun, and lots of other crunchy games.¬†I'm getting back in the RQ saddle but, as I said in the OP, my old group from the '80's weren't the sort to uncover the sorts of advanced tactics and rules interactions that we're seeing in this thread. But I know this stuff is locked away in some RQ GM's brains and I'm trying to dig it out so that we can get the most out of our RQG experience.¬†ūüėČ

It's important to note that most new RQG GMs will be newcomers without experience in this type of game. Threads like this should be put in front of those new players and GMs so that they can see how much depth and strategy there is in RQG. That's the best way to make new, loyal RQG fans.

2 hours ago, Dissolv said:

Remember that magic is highly visible in Glorantha, so having a 20 man bandit group all buffing for three rounds , and then jumping out within 10 feet of the players may involve a LOT of rolls or just be unrealistic.  Casting a lot of multimissile/speed darts at 100 yards distance, however, could be quite different.  However in a big battle situation, or before a duel, you can expect the maximum possible buffing to be thrown.  That's because there is a lot of stand off distance and plenty of time to cast.  Most "exploring the Big Rubble" type fights just don't have that, and typically I see the players wade into melee while casting.  But other times they see the bad guys coming and can't shake them after an extended time running around in Old Town, so they might turn to face their pursuers, and have a couple of rounds to cast spells.  Circumstances dictate a lot of this.

That's some helpful detail. It helps me set internal expectations for how to adjudicate different moments in play, especially since my group's in the Big Rubble. 

2 hours ago, Dissolv said:

Rune level = Rune Lord or Priest.  The lines have blurred there somewhat lately, but it isn't about a number of Rune points.  There are a whole host of things you can expect from an opponent at that level.

My confusion came because of the fact that RQG PCs start with three Rune Points and they're reusable even if they aren't Rune Lords or Priests. That's a switch from RQ3. What I didn't consider was all of the related perks in the rules (Allied spirit, better DI, etc.). But there's still a range between "new" Rune Lord and "master" Rune Lord. 

2 hours ago, Dissolv said:

Nope.  That's part of being the heroic Bronze Age.  There is nothing "normal" and no "truce".  There is no "knightly code" that anyone has to, or expected to follow.  Like I said, duels may allow (or even require) maximum preparation.  Battles likely give everyone time for maximum preparation.  But adventuring encounters can vary tremendously in circumstance and scope.  Also the players themselves may have a preference.  I have known some players that just refuse to engage without at least one cast, and others whole barely pause to smite chaos in the face.  How the circumstance, the players actions, and the NPC's actions interact will determine how combat starts. 

Very helpful. I often read people talking about how hard fights will be if there's time for both sides to buff. It's clearer to me now that they're talking about relatively rare situations (duels, expected battles between large groups) rather than two groups of foes stumbling across each other in the Rubble. I know that it's very circumstantial, but this helps clarify some of the jargon and assumptions around RQG.

2 hours ago, Dissolv said:

So this guy is Rune level, and you now know more or less what he can do (without total specifics, such as everyone's spirit magic).  He is going to buff the first round while closing -- Rune magic is fast.  The second round and on he fights physically unless blocked by armor/protection/shield.  Then he buffs himself up more with truesword to get around that, and will only result to Sever Spirit in dire straights.  Being a follower of Humakt, he cannot use Divine Intervention to bring anyone back from the dead, but has learned to use it against critical hits, which should make him extremely difficult to defeat.  One or both of his followers may know dispel magic and healing, and prefer to keep him up and running over attacking, given the choice.  The two bodyguards are really an absolute minimum, and he may be found leading an entire tribe into battle.  He can also be challenged to a one on one duel, if the PC's wish to fight him alone......

Great stuff, especially the part about using DI to raise allies from the dead mid-battle. You mention that he can't do it, but that implies that others might (and will). That's not something that most people outside of RQG would think about, especially if every PC is a Rune Lord or Priest. In D&D terms, that would mean that everyone has¬†raise dead¬†regardless of their class. That's a peculiar mindset for D&D players, right?¬†ūüėČ

2 hours ago, Dissolv said:

The big job as a GM in RQ is to flesh the world out enough so that the players can learn these things.  Everyone knows that getting lanced by a Bison rider sucks -- but the players may not realize what 1d10 + 3d6 will do to a RQ body. Let them learn.  There are no "levels", no "introductory dungeons", and not even a requirement to fight anything.  They don't get exp that way, for instance.  Combat does not have to be to the death either.  Again, the bronze age theme where everything isn't total war all the time like it could be against the "Dark lord and his orc minions".  You can surrender to trolls and offer ransom.  You can be defeated by your Yelmalio rival and he just taunts you and lets you go. 

But a word about Chaos.....that IS the enemy.  No rule necessarily applies to any of them.  They don't take captives (you hope!), and the players should learn to treat Chaos not as a bad guy, but as a cosmic horror, and evil blight on creation, and something that even otherwise hated opponents can band together to battle.

Again, great. The purpose of this thread is to learn techniques and tricks to teach these principles to players by (gradual) example.

Grateful to you and everyone else who's contributing to this thread.

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