Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How Best to Game Glorantha?

As some of you have noticed I have been on a bit of Glorantha/RQ kick as of late. I've really been interested in exploring all the new iterations of the settings and the rules.

RQ second edition (the old school Chaosium one that is) and the third are pretty much where I left off, and frankly looking around I am totally overwhelmed by the crazy-quilt amount of options these days. You've got Hero Wars, Heroquest, Openquest , Mongoose's Runequest (first and second), Steve Perrin's Quest Rules , Runeslayers, BRP, GORE, etc. 

Sweet screamin' Orlanth! A seemingly never-ending menu of choices I found once I opened the lid on this thing.

So for a casual, on-again/off-again lover of RQ2 and Glorantha--who tends toward the older school, lighter end of rules--what do kindly folks out there suggest and why? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each? What's crap and what's gold?

Can a kindly Glorantha-phile help a brother out here?


  1. I've played Chaosium Runequest, AH RQ, Mongoose RQ1 and Mongoose RQ2 and own both HeroQuest 1 & 2 and I'd say it's a toss-up between MRQ2 and HQ2. It probably depends on how much crunch you like.

    HQ2 is rules-lite, narrative-heavy but Sartar:KOH shows you how to run Glorantha in HQ2 and the Sartar Companion show that it can do old school. But the way it works means no stats for any opponents, which is a big leap for some.

    MRQ2 is eminently playable, cinematic and extremely flexible. I suspect if Loz and Pete had written this for RQIII, there wouldn't have been the schism that led to Hero Wars. If you like crunch and stat blocks, it's the way to go.

  2. I generally agree with Swordsman with a few caveats. HQ2 probably comes closer than any other iteration to representing Greg Stafford's vision of Glorantha but it is very narrativist and its system is far removed from anything that I'd call old school.

    I would advise that Runeslayers should be ignored entirely as it has little to do with RQ and nothing to do with Glorantha.

    MRQ2 and HQ2 both, in my opinion, represent huge improvements over the previous editions. Hero Wars, for example, is pretty much completely broken and HQ1 was much better but it received some significant fixes with HQ2. I think a minority of HQ fans preferred the first edition but I can't recall why. Both systems are too narrativist for my tastes although they serve pretty well for pbem.

    I have only skimmed the Sartar Companion so I can't really comment on Swordsman's belief that it "can do Old School."

    Oddly, as much as I like Glorantha I've always had limited interest in Sartarites. I love Pavis, Kralorela, the Kingdom of Ignorance, the East Isles, Dorastor and Carmania.

    I'm also not terribly fond of 2nd Age Glorantha so that's my main problem with MRQ2. otherwise it features some very clever mechanics and retains the feel of classic RQII pretty well.

    I found Openquest a bit too stripped down and it is Glorantha-free so you'd need to have older versions of cult books or invest some time in rewriting such books if you want to play in Glorantha. BRP and GORE would need similar background work for a Glorantha game.

    I skimmed SPQR years ago and it didn't seem like an improvement over RQII. I actually liked some elements of RQIII and would recommend giving it a look. It is very crunchy (maybe too crunchy and over complicated) but it added workable sorcery rules and supports playing in pretty much any part of the lozenge.

    If you can find a copy, check out RQIV:AIG (Adventures in Glorantha). The nearly complete playtest version of this unpublished game is floating around the internets and it is pretty interesting. It is generally similar to RQIII but, in my opinion, improves on it.

    Also on the web, and very interesting, are some notes on running Argath! (RQ in Glorantha with Chaosium's Elric! rules).

    Prior to my current obsession with Tekumel and Humanspace I was working on an RQ ruleset based on Openquest but with bits I liked from RQII, RQIV:AIG and even HQ2 added in. I eventually became discouraged as the amount of effort involved in this vis-a-vis the draconian Glorantha fan publishing policies left me thinking that I might be doing it completely for myself.

  3. I really like Heroquest and find it an easy to use and fun to play game. Hero Wars was similar, but buggier. I haven't played any of the others.

  4. I appreciate the thoughtful, helpful replies.

    I'm glad in general to hear some love for some recent--and thus reasonably accessible and supported--lines. I guess I've gotten so used to wandering in the wilderness that I'm surprised to see that new products (outside of our own immediate DIY circles) can actually enhance those gameplay experiences instead of dragging them down.

    Hearing mention of Mongoose in connection to RQ made me immediately wary, but I am glad to hear that there is some redemption (at least in the second edition).

    I will definitely be checking out HQ2 and MRQ2 as they are reasonably cheap on Ebay.

    I tend to be all over the map when it comes to crunch, or more accurately I have a pattern of escalating preferences. Typically I tend to like it fairly light when I am starting a campaign and enjoy adding layers and layers of it.

    I've never been much for narrativist games, there's just something in me that picks them apart in actual play though my head likes them on paper. But I will definitely give HQ2 a read and give it a good faith effort as I am intrigued by what I am hearing.

    "I've always had limited interest in Sartarites. I love Pavis, Kralorela, the Kingdom of Ignorance, the East Isles, Dorastor and Carmania."

    Funny I suppose we have similar tastes in a number of matters, so I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that I tended to dig Pavis/The Big Rubble more than some of the other campaign areas.

    Why so down on the Second Age? I was surprised that Mongoose would make such an interesting and radical setting choice, but I know even less about how they are presenting it than I do the game mechanics.

    I remember as a 13 year old being put off by the complications of RQ3, but I would like a system for arcane magic. I remember too digging the wider, randomly-chosen background choices in the chargen.

    I read the Gloranthan fan policy, man, the Tekumel Foundation's policies (which a number of fans fought kicking and screaming) seem much looser and benign. Glorantha's loss and Tekumel's gain IMO.

    Forgot to mention David's PenDragon Pass, which I find very interesting with its whole multi-generational colonizing business.

  5. Hard to add much to what’s been said, and I’m biased (having had a major hand in HQ2). I suspect you’re best off with newer editions (definitely no need to look into HW or HQ1).

  6. On Glorantha's Second Age, I'm not really sure what I find so unappealing about it. I agree that the choice to set MRQ in an earlier period was a great idea and shouldn't be criticized out of hand.

    It may be something lacking in its presentation in the Mongoose books-they released a ton of setting material for MRQ1, I've read a bit of it and found it generally uninspiring. I've only read the core book for MRQ2.

    It is equally possible that I'm stuck in the 3rd Age for nostalgic reasons, having spent a good bit of time there in the late 70s and early 80s. YMMV, as they say...

  7. I'm playing in a MRQII game right now, and thoroughly enjoying it. (It's not set in Glorantha, however.)

  8. I've been slowly picking my way through the RQ/BRP/clone materials. Sadly, I never played any of these games in my youth. I did see them in Dragon magazine but my access to anything nonTSR was pretty limited. I've been going back now and trying to dig into these games a bit more. I too appreciate the comments here. I do have MRQI and I've heard from a lot of folks that MRQII is the wway to go. I'll be making a purchase of the core and probably the Elric books as well.

  9. Like David, I'm pretty biased (being part of HQ2's publishing team). For what it is worth, our next HQ Glorantha book is a two-parter: Pavis and the Big Rubble. Lots of new material, new scenarios (plus a few old events revisited), and lots of new material from Greg. Even some bits from Loz!

    Our goal is to publish Glorantha material that both strongly reflects Greg's vision of Glorantha AND is good RPG fun. I think both Sartar and Sartar Companion met both criteria fully, and I hope that our next group of books do just as well (if not better).

    Jeff Richard
    Moon Design

  10. As an aside, the Fan Publication Policies are pretty darned easy to comply with in practice. Basically you tell us what you want to do and we give you the ok nice and quick (unless you are planning to do something that is obviously problematic). If you have any questions, just drop me an email (jeff(at)glorantha.com). Or ask Newt Newport about his experiences publishing Hearts in Glorantha (and a few other Glorantha fan publications).

  11. @Vingkot
    "For what it is worth, our next HQ Glorantha book is a two-parter: Pavis and the Big Rubble. Lots of new material, new scenarios (plus a few old events revisited), and lots of new material from Greg. Even some bits from Loz!"

    I would say that is worth a lot! I received the Moon Design compilation of the Borderlands material on Saturday and read it almost cover to cover. Definitely would welcome such a treatment of Pavis/Big Rubble. (Based on the feedback here I will be trying to get a hold of the recent Sartar books too.)

    "the Fan Publication Policies are pretty darned easy to comply with in practice."

    Good to hear. Readers interested should drop Richard a line.