Episode 22 (Part 1) RuneQuest RPG Renaissance (with Michael O’Brien aka MOB)


Download Episode

INTRO: Three years of GROGPODing and Forty Years of RuneQuest seems like a great point in time to revisit the game that we played the most back in the day. RQ3 contributed to us stopping playing, so this is a chance to revisit the game and see what happened when we stopped playing. The sound is a bit haywire on this podcast, hope it doesn’t spoil things too much.

OPENBOX: Chaosium’s Vice President tells the stories of his formative years in role-playing and how RuneQuest in Glorantha was so important to him. He was instrumental in keeping the flame alive as a fan as he wrote and developed Sun County, the first RuneQuest supplement produced for 8 years, following Avalon Hill acquiring the game in 1984. He wrote a report in the early nineties for The Tales of the Reaching Moon explaining how the game could be revived.  This is a great chat about the nineties renaissance.

THE WHITE DWARF: A survey of RQ3 as it appeared (and disappeared) from White Dwarf, written by the wonderful @dailydwarf

JUDGE BLYTHY RULES! Dirk and Blythy pick over the bones of RQ3 and there’s a monster quiz!

OUTRO: Check out the RuneQuest Actual Play with The Smart Party   . If you’d like the GROGZINE 19 and The Collected Daily Dwarf Vol 3 and Judge Blythy’s Book of Judgments — then please chuck us a tip in the beret and join the Patreon campaign


Author: Dirk

Host of The GROGNARD RPG Files podcast. Talking bobbins about Runequest, Traveller, Call of Cthulhu, T&T, AD&D and others from back in the day and today.

18 thoughts on “Episode 22 (Part 1) RuneQuest RPG Renaissance (with Michael O’Brien aka MOB)”

  1. I looked at the building on the magazine cover and the first thought was, that’s pretty much what my players see when I look down behind the screen.
    Looking forward to hearing the episode!

  2. Great episode – I remember feeling faint outside GW in Manchester Arndale due to the price of RQ3! And I bought the FASA Star Trek RPG boxed set for £19.95 – and thought that was excessive!

  3. I’ve got to disagree with Hizzoner.

    I was one of the people who somehow scraped together the money (I faint at the thought even now) and tried to use it.

    I threw Fatigue points right out of the window, a decision that I sort of regret now. If I’d been as cunning then as age has made me now I’d have made it the GM’s job not to track fatigue of each individual character but the length of the fight which would have become a penalty over time. I tried to weld something like the GURPS encumbrance system onto RQ3: it never quite worked.

    I didn’t moan about the way the experience tick had changed. Once you’ve decided not to keep skills to 5% intervals then going to a d6 (and you could always choose to take 3% if you didn’t want to gamble) is perfectly sane. What was not sane in my opinion was the fact that training could give you zero more percentage points if you rolled and research could actually take you backwards.

    (Another house rule was needed to figure out how easy it was to find trainers and how much they would charge.)

    As to the magic systems, really there were very few changes in ‘Battle Magic’ other than the name and the Divine Magic was Rune Magic only lightly reviewed.

    But Sorcery was a disaster. It can’t have been properly playtested. At high levels sorcerers were deadly and powerful. But they could never reach that level. A sorcerer’s apprentice (I’ve played one and I know) spends their life trying to earn enough money to train up to journeyman, a feat he never manages before being eaten by some monster down the dungeon. And don’t get me started on the idiocy of Free INT!

    I still like RQ3… The real disaster was the never-actually-published cock-up that would have been RUNEQUEST: ADVENTURES IN GLORANTHA. We dodged a bullet there.

    1. I agree – I don’t really understand Blythy’s problem with the number of magic systems. As you say, Divine magic is Rune Magic and Spirit Magic is Battle Magic in all but name. Sorcery is the real problem. I understand that it was something that appeared in Sandy Peterson’s house game but it never really got thrashed out until the Sorcery supplement.

      The new RQ does deal with magic in a more interesting way as it ties it to the runes, makes the rune magic more accessible and allows for more interesting effects. I’ve always found RQ magic too mechanical despite it’s magical setting. HeroQuest deals with it well, the new RQ at least adds elements of HQ into a simulationist system.

      I still think that the use of Rory’s story cubes is an exciting concept.

  4. The price was not so abominable in the USA. Our group played 2nd edition, and after getting used to the system I enjoyed it enough to buy a copy of 3rd edition when it came out. I fudged fatigue a bit, applying penalties to combat after 3, 4, or 5 rounds depending upon the score.
    I prefer creating my own settings (which seems unlike MOST RQ fans), so I ENJOYED the separation of the Rule set and Setting. Glorantha was a plate of ideas to steal from’ Like most people I enjoyed the IDEA of sorcery, but practice never quite matched the concept. I STILL feel with a few tweaks there is a wonderful flexible magic system in there. It tempts me to start an RQ game in my large city setting….

  5. I listened with apprehension, not being a RQ’er, but the Grogs (castopod ramblis bobbinus) came through and this turned out to be a another surprisingly interesting and informative episode.
    The interview was a captivating as usual, guests like MOB give great anecdotes tinged with bitterness and enthusiasm, a great insight into the minds of those who have shaped the industry.
    In defence of defence, in any system you can only really have passive defence (where enemies find it harder to hit you, like D&D) or active defence ( where you get a defence roll, like GURPS) – the former is quicker play but the latter gives agency. The ideal system is Numenera, where you effectively get to roll the enemy attack, incorporating both aspects.
    My only gripe was, because I was not familiar with the system, the discussion on RQ3 changes would have been better explained if the RQ2 rules were given as well.
    Looking forward to part 2, and the D&D episodes that may follow. And I don’t see why you can’t focus on specific editions, many would argue Basic and Advanced D&D are two different systems, the same goes for the classic vs modern editions of Traveller.

    1. I look forward to your monthly feedback. You are my gauge. I also love how you manage to get a mention of Traveller into each post,

      I admire your persistence and as I result, I’ve conceded and made arrangements for a Fantasy Trip episode. I’m playing RuneQuest Glorantha at ConVergence next year, so I’ll be able to convert you then!

  6. Harsh but very funny as usual. The odd turn of RQ3 certainly contributed to the fading out of RPGs for me, although the initial import price was insane Games Workshop did eventually pick up the publishing and put out some more affordable and better quality books in the UK, which I also guess made it to the continent as well (?) I know RQ had a following in Spain during the 90s at least.

    I saw the changes largely the same way, fatigue I just ignored, sorcery was incomprehensible and from my reading was effectively impossible to use as a player, I wasn’t so bothered by the Gloranthan separation as it was still there, I felt like what they were doing was trying to make the system more useable to a wider audience and at least the Viking supplement was decent, the boxes of character sheets were hilarious though – boxed sets of character sheets which had been *imported*. My impression now is quite a few players liked the setting-neutral approach and the beefed up character generation rules made it a bit easier to adapt, characters in RQ2 were pretty shallow straight out of character generation, as you say this is a development from the dungeon crawling of the early RQ.

    I don’t get the complaint about Defense – it was terrible! one of those things you could pick up and exploit, (by spotting every time you could roll to increase it) I can’t remember how we played it but if you improved your defense skill it would destroy someone’s skill against you. It never made any sense to me to have both passive and active skills at the same time, and always have to work it out with each attack. The RQ3 dodge skill is probably even worse though, it seems to outclass Parrying unless I remember it wrongly.

    The later RQ3 supplements were great but by that time I was just picking up a couple out of curiosity. Strangers in Prax was a case study in the hubris of RQ3, the characters were interesting but mechanically they were bafflingly complicated. “Arlaten the Magus” was the first time I’d seen a fully worked out sorcerer in RQ3 and even though spells wise he really shouldn’t have been that complex, he needed a table to chart all his spell casting, magic point consumption, time taken, durations, etc. etc. I was amazed someone had actually worked all that stuff out, and managed to present it. The Lunars Coders were munchkined-up to the eyeballs, all had dense character sheet detailing body enchantments, crazily high skills, exceptional magic items, big lists of spirit magic spells, magic doodads, familiars, allied spirits, sorcery, divine magics etc. I didn’t come close to even working out how a single one of them might actually play out. The thought of a player party encountering all or even a few of them is mind-boggling.

    1. I think defence is one of those rules that you settle into. I think it works well as a simple way of making a tactical adjustment, but it does depend on your acceptance of passive ‘effects’.

      It’s clearly not for everyone, or it would have survived.

  7. Snagglepuss lives! “Exit stage left, followed by Dualysus Paralysis!”
    The perfect birthday gift, a new Grogpod.
    Cheers, just what i wanted.

  8. Regarding the change from +5% to +1D6% for experience gain, this may have been done to bring RuneQuest in line with Call of Cthulhu. CoC was built on the Basic Role Playing system, a generic version of RQ2. In the original 1981 edition of CoC, experience gain was +5. In the 1983 edition, this changed to +1D6 (and later, to +1D10).

    1. I think your are right, there are a number of elements that seek to align the system with CoC.

  9. Nice episode, as always.

    The discussion of Sun County reminded me that the floor plan of the Sun Dome Temple (p30-31, Sun County) is uncannily similar to the layout of Fountains Abbey (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fountains_Abbey) here in Yorkshire. This is even more surprising, now that I learn that the Michael O’Brien is based in Oz.

    Is this a coincidence?

  10. When I think about those paper covers, even now with all that water under the bridge, I can feel my blood start to boil. I never had time to worry about the differences between 2 & 3 because I could never get past the tissue paper booklets.

    The 1-6% experience is something people were doing before CoC. I picked it up out of Alarums & Excursions or maybe it was the Wild Hunt.

  11. Just come across an advert for RQ3 in Different Worlds 45. Deluxe Runequest is $38. Considering the strength of the £ at the time, paying over £40 was a rip-off .

Leave a Reply to Kathleen LambertCancel reply