Now we get to the part where we find out how to get things done in RuneQuest!
The Game System chapter opens up with a discussion of Time in the game. It’s a surprisingly detailed take on it, differentiating Real Time (actual amount of time that passes in-character and as a player, like when you’re delivering a speech in-character) from Narrative Time, and combat measures of time such as Turns, Rounds and Skill and Ability Times.
Fans of Chaosium’s games will find this very familiar. The basic mechanic of the game is a percentile roll against a difficulty set by the Skill or Ability’s corresponding rating. Unlike in Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition, Characteristics are rated from 3 to 18, and their ratings are multiplied to get the final rating to be rolled against. A part of me prefers having everything scale to 100% like in Cthulhu, but it’s not a dealbreaker.
Rolling equal to or lower to the rating is a success, and rolling above that is a failure. Critical successes occur if the roll is 5% of the modified chance of success, with “01” always counting as a critical success. Likewise, Fumbles happen when they roll equal to 5% of the adventurer’s chance of failure, and always occurs on a roll of “00.”
One of the neater mechanics in RuneQuest is the fact that when appropriate, you can use a skill, passion or rune, to augment another ability of the same or different type. This means that for example, a roll to attempt to make an impassioned speech to spare a kinsman’s life can be augmented by the orator’s passion of love for kin.
To augment, one simply has to roll the augmenting skill, passion or rune first, with the results adding a bonus to your second actual roll to perform the act in question. Success can net you a bonus of anywhere from a +20% to +50%(!) on the roll. However, failing in the augmentation roll means that you penalize your skill roll as well.
It’s a simple mechanic, and yet it elegantly ties together the role of emotion, motivation and know-how into a single mechanic.
Damage is handled next, with a discussion on hit point totals and the hit location system. Some games offer hit locations as an option, but in RuneQuest it’s baked into the core of the game, leading so some very interesting maimed characters further into the story. Some players don’t like having too much detail on this as it slows the action down, but I appreciate the level of detail since every hit means something.
Healing in RuneQuest can take the form of magic, which is handy in the sense that it can be used more often, and First Aid, which is a measure to heal a little bit of damage and to stabilize the dying. Outside of those two, you have to resort to natural healing.
Also there’s mention of magical resurrection for the recently dead available in RuneQuest, but it’s not widely available.
Conditions and Damage
The last part of the chapter covers a whole host of discomforts, from falling damage, being set on fire, exposure to temperature extremes, drowning, poison and disease and all sorts of other fun things that happen to Adventurers.
The following chapter is the Skills chapter, which details the various skills in the game, with their base chance, and a description of what the skill actually does. There’s a surprising amount of detail baked into the descriptions, with movement rates and how certain mechanics should be invoked in situations involving each skill.
It’s a hefty chapter, but one that a GM will do wise to study in detail as there’s a lot of small rules tucked away inside each of the descriptions. That said, this is one of those situations where having a PDF is an advantage as you can get away with doing a quick search through the file rather than flipping through it manually.
The rules of RuneQuest are about as solid as it can get. Decades of play have pretty much honed it to the point that the designers know that it works. There’s some really good elements like the Augmenting rules that I found to be more interesting than the old “I spend Willpower for a boost” rule more common to more recent rpg designs.
That said, it can be a bit intimidating to people who are more used to storygames. I still hope that they’ll give it a chance however, as there’s a great payoff to engaging with the mechanics and seeing everything just work.
Next up, we’ll be taking a look at combat in RuneQuest!
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!