[Let’s Study RuneQuest Roleplaying in Glorantha] Part 2: Character Creation

Character Creation in RuneQuest is a journey in itself. Taking the form of an 8-step process, forming an Adventurer is also a process of self-discovery for the character, as the first 2 things you do are to choose a Homeland and Determine Family History. I found myself surprised at just how much was already established even before I could get to determining characteristics.

And so without further delay, let’s get started on our example character!

Step One: Choose a Homeland

A character’s homeland determines their customs, language and religion. I’m going to start off with an Adventurer hailing from the homeland of Sartar, a hotbed of adventurers. I’ll note that the Suggested Occupations are: Farmer, Noble, Priest and Warrior.

This also determines my character’s starting Passions:

  • Love (Family) 60%
  • Loyalty (Clan) 60%
  • Loyalty (Tribe) 60%

Technically these are meant to be made more specific but I’ll leave these open for filling out later.

Step Two: Family History

Those familiar with Lifepath type systems will be completely at home here. But rather than just your character’s history, this section goes over the experiences of your chosen grandparent and parent before you came to be as well.

There’s a lot of rolling in this section, as each major historical milestone has a table to roll in to determine the events.

For the sake of brevity, I’ll only go over the key events. I’ve decided to go with the history of a Grandfather (Occupation: Farmer) and my character’s Mother (Occupation: Priest.)

Grandparent’s History:

  • Year 1561 – Grandfather was born
  • Year 1582 – Present at the Battle of Grizzly Peak, Killed by Lunar spirits, gain Hate (Lunar Empire).

Parent’s History:

  • Year 1613 – Fought in Starbrow’s Rebellion and survived
  • Year 1619 – A normal year
  • Year 1620 – Killed in a battle with a neighboring Homeland, gain Hate (Homeland)

Your History:

  • Year 1622 – The Great Winter, Year 2, Nearly froze to death and survived only by joining the rebels and fighting and surviving the Battle of Auroch Hills. Gain Battle +5%
  • Year 1623 – Fought in the Seige of Nochet, Gain Battle +5%
  • Year 1624 – Fought in the Battle of Pennel Ford and fought with great glory. Gain Devotion (Deity) and add +10% to Battle. Pledged undying loyalty to Argrath as the White Bull and to Jaldon Goldentooth. Gain Devotion (White Bull) and gain Loyalty (White Bull) at 70%.
  • Year 1625 – Nearly killed in battle. Gain +5% Battle, gains a distinctive scar

It’s one heck of a history, and while my character’s grandparent and parent led less… interesting lives, the recent history of the character already makes them out to be pretty competent!

Step Three: Rune Affinities

Every character in RuneQuest is associated with the Runes. In this step, we choose the Elemental and Power / Form Runes that our character is associated with. Runes are important as they influence how much control your character has over magic of that rune. Runes are also used to augment certain actions  but we’ll get to that during the rules entry.

We begin by choosing 3 Elemental Runes as Primary, Secondary and Tertiary picks. Since I’m looking at a worshipper of the Storm King Orlanth, I’m going with Air as my Primary, with Earth and then Fire as the Secondary and Tertiary picks respectively. The fact that I hail from Sartar gives me an additional +10% to Air.

Elemental Runes

  • Air 70%
  • Earth 40%
  • Fire 20%

Power | Form Runes on the other hand are listed as dualities that add up to a total of 100, when one figure of a pair increases, the other decreases by the same amount and vice versa.

After a bit of thinking as to what would make a fun Sartarite Warrior, let’s go with:

  • Harmony 50 | Disorder 50
  • Stasis 25 | Movement 75
  • Truth 75 | Illusion 25
  • Fertility 50 | Death 50
  • Man 50 | Beast 50

This pretty much puts my warrior clearly in the realm of the pro-active fellow with a penchant for honest and calling things as he sees them.

At this point I get to spend an additional 50% on my Runes. My final tally ends up as:

Runes:

  • Air 70
  • Earth 60
  • Fire 40
  • Harmony 50 | Disorder 50
  • Stasis 25 | Movement 75
  • Truth 75 | Illusion 25
  • Fertility 60 | Death 40
  • Man 50 | Beast 50

Step 4: Characteristics

Now we’re somewhere more familiar. RuneQuest Characters have the following Characteristics: Strength, Constitution, Size, Dexterity, Intelligence, Power and Charisma. Generating these Characteristics is usually a random roll, but the Gamemaster’s Guide supposedly has other methods to generate them. Characteristics range from 3 to 18.

After coming up with the characteristics, you may apply bonuses from your Primary and Secondary Runes, as well as some Homeland bonuses.

This is what my Sartarite Warrior has after a bit all of that:

STR 15
CON 14
SIZ 16
DEX 11
INT 16
POW 8
CHA 11

Attributes

We then derive my Sartarite’s derived attributes:

Magic Points: 8
Hit Points: 15 (Total)
HP (Per Location): Each Leg 6, Abdomen 6, Chest 7, Each Arm 5, Head 6
Healing Rate: 3
Damage Bonus: 1d4
Spirit Combat Damage: 1d6
Maximum Encumbrance: 14
DEX Strike Ranks: 3
SIZ Strike Ranks: 1

It looks pretty good so far. We’ll tackle the specifics of Strike Ranks in combat later when we get to the combat rules, but it seems our Sartarite is a pretty strong hitter.

Skills Categories Modifiers

Based on the raw Characteristics, we then derive the base chance for skill groups. Each is done by comparing the character’s Characteristics scores to a table, taking into account the total modifiers by having differing characteristics. It’s a bit tedious, but I understand the thinking behind this design and I have to admit that it’s pretty amusing to through this exercise.

  • Agility Skills Category Modifier: +/-0%
  • Communication Skills Category Modifier: +/-0%
  • Knowledge Skills Category Modifier: +/-0%
  • Magic Skills Category Modifier: -5%
  • Manipulation Skills Category Modifier: +5%
  • Perception Skills Category Modifier: +5%
  • Stealth Skills Category Modifier: +/- 0%

Not too shabby, sure there’s a penalty to magic but it looks like my Sartarite is something of a Conan.

Skill Base Chance

At this point, we modify the base chances of the skills on the sheet based off the Homeland. I was surprised at just how many skills got modified in this step but it made sense that each culture was going to impart its own set of skills native to those who live in a given region.

Step 5: Occupation

Now that we’ve gotten all the intrinsic parts of the character down, let’s move on to what they do. A character’s occupation answers this question. I chose the Warrior occupation, and looking it up reveals that I need to choose between Cavalry or Infantry, and again into Heavy or Light. I’ll opt for Light Infantry then, as they seem to be better associated with Orlanth.

For those familiar with Call of Cthulhu, the Occupations in RuneQuest are generally the same, with a package of skills, passions and gear to start with and are added to the existing character.

Step 6: Cult

Again with the focus on religion being a very big deal in RuneQuest. Like Occupations, this is another template layered over the character, imparting skills, but more importantly Runes, Passions and Magics available to each cult. As mentioned before magic is available to everyone, and as such every character has access to certain spells depending on their Cult.

Step 7: Personal Skill Bonuses

This is the customization step of the game, where the player can add +25% to any four skills and +10% to any five of their choosing.

Step 8: Other Information

Finally we get to fill out the remaining details such as name, age and gender. In addition we also get to roll on a neat Family Heirloom table.

As you can tell, character creation isn’t really something you breeze through in RuneQuest. That said, I did enjoy myself thoroughly in making a character, with the Family History being a high point in it. I can see a campaign starting off with a full session devoted to simply building characters and hashing out relationships. It’s not a negative in my book as I’ve always encouraged players to work things out early on as they put together their characters.

Next up we’ll be looking at the Homelands Chapter, where we take whirlwind tour of the setting of Glorantha and the various tribes and cults that live in it. After that then we’ll pop the game open and examine the rules.

If you’d like to check it out for yourself, RuneQuest Roleplaying in Glorantha is available in PDF from Chaosium or DriveThruRPG for only $27.95

For those interested in the hardcover, I’d recommend buying from Chaosium as they’ll be issuing a coupon for those who bought a PDF to discount the price from the physical copy!

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