RuneQuest 6th

[Let’s Study: RuneQuest 6th] Basic Mechanics & Improving Characters

RuneQuest 6th uses a Percentile system for tests, something that I feel is pretty handy for teaching players who are new to RPGs as to how to play. It’s elegant and appeals to the common individual. You’re given a percentage chance of success, and you roll the dice. If you roll below or equal to your skill rating, you succeed, if you roll higher, then you fail. That said, there are a couple of little considerations that matter as well.

Should you roll a result of 5 or Less, then you count as automatically succeeding in your task. Likewise, rolls of 95 or more are treated as automatic failures. This is a nice touch as it preserves some of the heroism found in fantasy games while still being quite rooted in realism. There are also rules for critical successes, which occur when a character makes his roll by one-tenth of his skill value (rolling an 8 for a skill that’s rated at 80% for example) while critical failures occur on a roll of 99 or 100.

There aren’t any specific rules for contested rolls from what I can see, but I’m sure that it’s easy enough to resolve with the basic system, both contestants must roll against their respective skills, and whoever succeeds by a bigger margin wins.

I like this system, it’s easy to teach, easy to use and is flexible enough to allow for all sorts of situations. Sure it might not be as sexy or “innovative” as most of the newer RPGs right now, but there’s a certain kind of satisfaction in knowing that the system being used is one that has so solid that it can pretty much be used for nearly anything. That said, I can imagine some players thinking that it might be boring in play, as you’re only rolling 2 dice and such, but Percentile has it’s own share of tension… as anyone who has played XCOM can attest.

While we’re here, let’s take a look at the advancement mechanic of the game. Rather than the traditional Experience point methodology practiced by many systems, RuneQuest relies on Experience Rolls. These are literally opportunities to improve a characters statistics. The way they are spent is determined by what you plan to increase.

For existing skills, a player can spend an Experience Roll, and roll a d100 against his existing skill rating. If he rolls equal to or greater than his skill, then he improves that skill by 1d4+1%, if he rolls lower than his existing skill, then he improves the skill by 1%. A neat touch is that if a skill is ever Fumbled between Experience rolls, then the character gets a free 1% skill increase by virtue of learning from their mistake.

Characteristics can also be raised, albeit temporarily by exchanging an Experience Roll in order to gain a Characteristic boost equal to one tenth of the Characteristic Maximum. So for example, by giving up an Experience roll, Altan could gain +2 to strength, having given up the chance to study in order to lift weights and generally getting stronger. Unfortunately such gains are temporary, and fade as soon as the Characters stops spending Experience Rolls to maintain the stat as it atrophies over time back to normal levels.

Gaining new skills, on the other hand is much more difficult, as it requires finding a teacher or a source of education, 3 Experience Rolls, and a month of study.

Speaking of study, you can also improve skills without spending Experience Rolls, and instead finding a tutor and spending a bit of coin. These tutors can take the form of a trainer or a teacher. Trainers are characters who have at least 20% more in a skill than the character that wishes to learn. Teachers on the other hand are professionals at conveying information and their use of the Teach skill can help in speeding up the rate of learning of the student. Of course, one limitation here is that a character must study only one skill at a time, and can no longer benefit from teaching unless they’ve spent an Experience Roll after the teaching. Therefore, after learning a skill via teacher, one needs to go out and apply it in the world, before coming back to study some more.

The focus on realism mixed with a light seasoning of fantasy is something that I’ve found to be unique to RuneQuest. I like their take on experience and learning, and how characteristics are permanent. It’s this sort of not-D&D ness that I’m looking for in a Sword & Sorcery setting, and RuneQuest seems to fit that bill very well.

[Let’s Study: RuneQuest 6th] Character Creation 3, Careers and Development

Apologies in the delay of getting this article out the door and online, but work has been ridiculously hectic as of late and that’s eating into my study time.

That said, today we’re looking at finishing up Altan’s character. We’ve already set the base character up, and spent some time fleshing him out with regards to his society, so now let’s go on and take a look at his career choices.

Careers in RuneQuest 6th are an indication of what the character did before adventuring. It’s important to note that we’re not talking in terms of classes, but rather defining what kind of skills the character chose to specialize in.

The process is rather similar to the Culture step, where the player picks three skills from the Professional Skills available to the career, and then distributes 100 pionts among the career’s listed Standard and Professional skill. The big difference here is that not every available skill needs to be improved. That said, no individual skill can receive more than 15%

One nice touch is the fact that each Cultural background has a list of Careers that are appropriate for it. So, no Agents or Courtiers in Barbarian, Nomad and Privitive cultures, for example.

Given Altan’s background, I’ve decided to give him the Scout Career, acting as an explorer for his people. For Professional skills, I choose Navigation, Survival and Track. Skills similar to his background, making him fairly focused on finding things and getting around.

Add the standard skills of the career (which I’ll denote in the list with an asterisk) these are the points I’ll spend, which I’ll be denoting as the percentage increase in parentheses)

*Athletics 34 (+5%)
Boating 24
Brawn 20
Conceal 23
Customs 62
Dance 28
Deceit 25
Drive 23
*Endurance 38 (+5%)
*First Aid 40 (+10%)
Influence 28
Insight 20
Locale 27
Native Tongue 65
+Navigate 45 (+15%)
*Perception 35 (+10%)
Ride 33
Sing 23
*Stealth 45 (+10%)
+Survival 48 (+15%)
*Swim 24
+Track 55 (+15%)
Unarmed 8
Willpower 18

*Horse Lord Combat Style +45% (+15%)

At this point, we get to the Bonus Skill point section of character creation, where I get to spend 150 points with a limit of 15 per skill. This amount can go higher or lower depending on the age of the character.

At this point, you may have realized that there’s a ton of points to distribute. It’s a bit of bean counting, but certainly nothing close to being difficult.

Athletics 49 (+15%)
Boating 24
Brawn 20
Conceal 23
Customs 62
Dance 28
Deceit 25
Drive 23
Endurance 53 (+15%)
First Aid 55 (+15%)
Influence 28
Insight 20
Locale 27
Native Tongue 65
Navigate 60 (+15%)
Perception 50 (+15%)
Ride 48 (+15%)
Sing 23
Stealth 60 (+15 %)
Survival 63 (+15%)
Swim 24
Track 70 (+15%)
Unarmed 8
Willpower 18

Horse Lord Combat Style +60% (+15%)

Now that we’re done with skills, let’s look at that kind of equipment and gear Altan starts with. Given that he’s a Freeman status, he starts off with:

Two sets of common, undecorated clothes suitable to his occupation, 2 simple weapons suited to his culture, I’m going for a spear and a sling. 1 piece of armor to cover a single hit location for 1 Armor Point (crappy rolling there!) and a mount.

This is the end of basic character creation for runequest, and Altan, our horseman tracker is starting to shape up nicely. He’s got a decent spread of skills, good plot hooks relating to family and society, and a lot of potential for a Sword and Sorcery game.

Tomorrow we look at the game mechanics for RuneQuest, and find out how the game ticks.

[Let’s Study: RuneQuest 6th] Character Creation 2, Altan’s Culture and Community

Perhaps one of the more interesting parts of RuneQuest is the role of Culture and Community in the lives of the characters. It is in this phase that we define the society where the character comes from, and the relationships they have with family and kin.

RuneQuest has four basic human cultures: Barbarian, Civilized, Nomadic and Primitive. The book goes into a detailed look into each of these, including an excellent section on the “voice” of each culture, lending insight to how they think and behave. Mechanically, each Culture also shows a list of skill bonuses and new skills appropriate to the character of that culture. These bonuses are applied immediately to the Standard skills.

Now that we’ve got the base form of Altan the Nomad scout in our previous article, let’s start applying the Nomad Culture to his character sheet.

The first step is to add +40% to both Customs and Native Tongue, which makes sense considering that the adventurer has to be somewhat socially capable in his society.

Next, I have to choose Three Professional Skills from the options offered in the Nomad description. For Altan’s case, I decide to go for Navigate, Survival and Track.

Altan also gets a pick of one Combat Sytle from the Nomad track. I decide to go for Horse Lord.

Finally, Altan gets to spend 100 points among the listed Standard Skills, chosen Professional Skill and Combat Skill. Each (and every) skill in the list receives at least 5 points, and a maximum of 15.

Given the listed Standard Skills and my Chosen Professional Skills, I decide to spend:

Endurance +5%, First Aid +5%, Locale +5%, Perception +5%, Stealth  +10%, Athletics +5%, Ride +10%, Navigate +10%, Survival +10% and Track +15%

This leaves me with 30 points remaining, which I decide to spend on Altan’s Combat Style for a total of Horse Lord +30%

So for a quick look at his skills, Altan’s new set of skills are:

Athletics 29
Boating 24
Brawn 20
Conceal 23
Customs 62
Dance 28
Deceit 25
Drive 23
Endurance 33
First Aid 30
Influence 28
Insight 20
Locale 27
Native Tongue 65
Navigate 30
Perception 25
Ride 33
Sing 23
Stealth 35
Survival 33
Swim 24
Track 40
Unarmed 8
Willpower 18

Horse Lord Combat Style +30%

At this point I can opt to roll for Background Events for Altan. This is an optional step, but I’ve always liked rolling for these types of things. Rolling a d100, I come up with a 33 resulting in:

“You have a favoured and beloved pet which follows you everywhere. It has no abilities or special powers, but offers comfort and companionship.”

Neat! No mechanical benefits, but it does add a bit of flavor. I think a hunting dog will do nicely as a pet.

Moving on to the community side of things, I roll another d100 for Altan’s Social Class and get a 37. Consulting the chart, that  means that Altan is a Freeman. This gives me a Money Mod of 1 and tells me that Altan has his own mount and owns a yurt or similar accomodations, half a dozen livestock, weapons, simple armour and maybe a slave or two if his society has such.

Not too shabby.

I also get to roll for starting money. As a Freeman I multiply my result by the Money Modifier of 1, so no real change there. As a nomad, my roll nets me 450 silver pieces.

Now let’s take a look at family. I find it interesting that you have the option of shaping the background by rolling on tables. Kind of like the Lifepath system, come to think of it. Rolling on the family tables, the following facts surface.

Altan was raised by a Single Mother, and has a single sibling.

I decide to try the optional Marriage table as well and roll a 10, way below Altan’s Influence rating, which means it passes, it seems Altan’s a husband to some lady as well. Whether this is a happy marriage is up to the GM and the player’s collaboration however.

He also has 1 surviving grandparent, 1 Aunt or Uncle, and 5 cousins.

Despite being raised by a single mother, Altan’s family reputation is untarnished and is of excellent standing, granting him 3 Contacts or Allies.

The family also enjoys reasonable connections within its community. However this also yields them a single enemy, possibly a rival of some sort.

Now we move on to Altan’s Passions, these represent his emotional connections, the people, ideals and organizations that have his loyalty.

As a Nomad, I’d say that he would have the following Passions:
Loyalty to Tribal Chieftain / Khan (30+Altan’s POW + khan’s CHA)
Love for his Wife (30%+Loved one’s POW + CHA)
Hate for his Rival (30+Altan’s POW + rival’s CHA)

I have to admit that the sheer amount of detail put into the characters for RuneQuest fascinates me. Sure they’re all rolled, but the important thing is that almost everything after the skills is something that a GM can work with to turn into a hook in play. Just looking at Altan’s character sheet right now I can see that he’s got a lot of hooks that I can use to spin off interesting stories, whether they be about his sibling, his mother, his wife, his rival or his tribe.

Tomorrow we continue with Character Creation, and we get to find out what Career Altan had before becoming an adventurer, and how that shaped his skills even further.

[Let’s Study: RuneQuest 6th] Character Creation 1, Base Character

Today we’re checking out the first thing that players experience whenever they try a new game: Character Creation. Thankfully, rather than being sandwiched somewhere in the middle of the book, this chapter takes place right after the introduction. Players who are familiar with the Basic Role Playing System from Chaosium will feel right at home here, as they are largely similar.

Right, before we go to the whole process, let’s see if we can come up with a concept first. I’m thinking I’d like to try playing a horse-riding nomad hunter / scout. Someone who relishes his freedom and is fascinated and puzzled by those who would much rather live their lives in the claustrophobic living accommodations of the city, forever rooted to some spot like plants. I think I’ll call him Altan.

RuneQuest has seven different characteristics:

  • Strength (STR)
  • Constitution (CON)
  • Size (SIZ)
  • Dexterity (DEX)
  • Intelligence (INT)
  • Power (POW)
  • Charisma (CHA)

The book offers three different means of assigning scores to these characteristics: Roll In Sequence, Roll And Assign and Point Buy. For the purposes of this example, I’ll go for Roll and Assign, where I roll 3d6 five times, and 2d6+6 twice for (SIZ and INT).

Altan’s resulting characteristics aren’t the type that would make a player cry out in delight, but I’ll make do:

STR 10
CON 14
SIZ 10
DEX 14
INT 11
POW 09
CHA 14

Considering that the maximum stat is a score of 18, this shows that Altan’s pretty much an Average Joe, but hey, sometimes playing those can be lots of fun. Moving on to Derived attributes I dive into a bunch of easy to use tables and minor calculations to get the rest of Altan’s statistics.

Action Points determine how many times Altan can act in a combat round. His Damage Modifier affects his ability to deal damage with his raw strength. Experience Modifier shows if he’s particularly good at learning from his experiences. His Healing Rate determines how fast he can get back to his feet after an injury and Hit Points determine just how much punishment each of his body parts can take.

I’d like to add that I have a soft spot in my heart for Hit Locations. They’re more fiddly, yes, but it’s cool.

Action Points: 3
Damage Modifier: -1d2
Experience Modifier: 0
Healing Rate: 3

Hit Points:
Head 5
Chest 7
Abdomen 6
R Arm 4
L Arm 4
R Leg 5
L Leg 5

That’s not all! Also on the roster of derived attributes are Luck Points, which can be spent to reroll a bad roll, or mitigate damage. Magic Points, which might not mater much to Altan, but are vital for spellcasters. Movement Rate (which defaults to a 6 for humans) and Strike Rank (which is used to determine initiative in combat) are also displayed.

Luck Points: 2
Magic Points: 9
Movement Rate: 6
Strike Rank: 12

That is probably one of the bigger blocks of derived stats I’ve calculated in a while. Thankfully, most of these are simple chart lookups and simple math. I’m enjoying this so far, everything is well written and clear, and I’m not getting impatient at all in terms of getting my character done. Next up, we move on to Altan’s skills starting with what RuneQuest calls Standard Skills. Similar to HERO’s Everyman Skills, these are skills that every adventurer is expected to be proficient with. The base rating for these are either the sum of two characteristics or a multiple of one.

These skills, and their base percentages are:

Athletics STR+DEX 24
Boating STR+CON 24
Brawn STR+SIZ 20
Conceal DEX+POW 23
Customs INTx2 22
Dance DEX+CHA 28
Deceit INT+CHA 25
Drive DEX+POW 23
Endurance CONx2 28
First Aid INT+DEX 25
Influence CHAx2 28
Insight INT+POW 20
Locale INT x2 22
Native Tongue INT+CHA 25
Perception INT+POW 20
Ride DEX+POW 23
Sing CHA+POW 23
Stealth DEX+INT 25
Swim STR+CON 24
Unarmed STR+DEX 28
Willpower POWx2 18

The values are also the ones based off Altan’s characteristics. Needless to say he’s got an average of about 25% on most skills, not too bad, but he could certainly spend his skill points to beef these up.

This completes a “Base” character for the game. Overall it’s a painless and interesting process, and any fantasy game that has “Sing” as a skill gets extra points in my book. As is I can imagine a no-magic version of RuneQuest being ideal for a game set in say, Guy Gavriel Kay’s books, such as the Lions of Al-Rassan. Needless to say I’m impressed with what I’ve seen so far, and I’m eager to dive into the next part of character creation.

Tomorrow we tackle the concepts of Culture, Background Events, Money and Passions, as we continue to shape Altan into a full character for RuneQuest.

[Let’s Study] RuneQuest 6th Edition: Introduction

RuneQuest is an old game. In fact, it was first published two years before I was born. Needless to say, it has a strong following of loyalists to the system that kept it going far longer than many other games have. Perhaps this series of articles might shed some light on exactly what Runequest does right to have it exist for so long.

Initially published by Chaosium (and now currently under License by The Design Mechanism, and with a trademark held by Issaries Inc.) RuneQuest shares more than a bit of system DNA with the Chaosium Basic Role Playing system. Not that it’s a bad thing, the combination of the “realistic” feel of Call of Cthulhu with a little bit of fantasy makes it an ideal option for someone looking for a low fantasy game.

In its 6th Edition, RuneQuest sets off to try and streamline and modernize the rules for a modern audience, while preserving the spirit and feel of the earlier editions of RuneQuest in order to cater to a new audience while continuing to care for its fans. These are noble goals and I do appreciate the fact that the game isn’t shy about evolving. And as someone who doesn’t even know RuneQuest at all, I’m pretty sure that this will be quite an eye opener for me as well.

The PDF that I’m reviewing is pretty big. Weighing in at 458 pages, the book is daunting at first glance, but I found that the language used was quite easy to get into and the authors really put some time into making sure that new players wouldn’t get lost. The presence of a Glossary of Terms is also plenty helpful.

Tomorrow, we jump in with both feet as we start off with Character Creation for RuneQuest.

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