How to Carve Out a Setting in Glorantha

A guest article submitted by a RuneQuest Lister – Bjorn Are Stolen

The sourcebook Genertela must be one of the ultimate teasers ever published in the RPG milieu. It is stuffed with intriguing notes on cultures, people, history and places of interest. These notes were never complete sourcebooks as we know them in other RPG’s (like Warhammer) though. So the box set made people wait in excitement for the books covering parts of Genertela in detail. -They had to wait for 12 years…

What I have done, and what I guess others have done, is to “develop” regions on their own, based on the few notes given in the official books. What I plan to do on this site is to share some of those regions that I have “developed”, so others can use it if they want to. There are types of regions that I’m going to avoid; those developed by Avalon Hill (Dorastor, Dagori, Inkarth and the Zola Fel Valley), and the blank lands. There might be a miracle; Jesus might turn up and become a Heavy Metal Vocalist, Ariel Sharon and Arafat could start a RPG club and make peace in the Middle East, and new sourcebooks might be published for Genertela. In that case things I have made should of course yield.

Then we have the grey zones; very good material published in Tales of the Reaching Moon”magazines (the Palmatelan Praxian and Sartari regions), and some of the stuff made by Etyries and Issaries inc. I really like the stuff they’ve written, and I think I should buy the Lunar Empire sourcebooks and see if they can be used in a traditional Glorantha setting before making anything for the Dara Happa region myself. (I am optimistic, and think they will be worth buying.)

When I carve out settings in Genertela, I some times alter the geography a bit, and with good conscience. I think the maps in the original RQ publications were intentionally made not to fit each other for two reasons:

  • To simulate the Genertelan population’s ability to make accurate maps (maybe also because of the influence magic’s have on the world).
  • So that GM’s could make the geography fit into their settings; to avoid any curriculum.

You can feel free to choose how your geography should be like in my settings if you don’t like my altering of the Genertelan geography.

I have made settings in two Blank Lands; Retrint in Fronela and Balazar east of Peloria, and if someone is interested, I could share them, but I will stick to my principle that the Blank Lands are for any GM to decide what is.

My next article will cover a small area along the southern shores west of Corflu. The name of the setting is “Skoddeheimen” (Norwegian for “home of the fog”).

This article was originally published on X October MMII

Salgrin’s Transmuting Snakes

Very powerful artifacts which can be interesting and deadly.
Very rare.
POT 14, Charges 1D4

History: Salgrin was a powerful alchemist whose enchanted artefacts became legendary in his own time. Perhaps some of the most bizarre items he created were his transmuting snakes. Due to their dangerous nature, not many were demanded and all record of how many he actually created has long since been lost in the mists of time.

Description: The snakes appear as a highly ornate golden arm torque, made of two snakes loosely intertwined so that a head appears at each end. The torque is about 15 centimetres in length and gives the appearance of the snakes coiling around the upper arm. The snakes are relatively lose, allowing the torque to be bent to fit anything form a SIZ 5 to a SIZ 18 arm. When properly fitted, the fangs of each head will push against the skin near the elbow and shoulder. The eyes in each head can be of ruby, emerald or sapphire – they will not be mixed, i.e. if one head has ruby eyes, so will the other. (See below). Snakes with other kind of gems as eyes have been rumoured to exist, but whether these rumours are true and what effect the snake has is unknown.

Usage: The snakes are a combination of the fine craft, alchemy and powerful enchantments. Normally they appear as an item of exquisite jewellery, but when worn, they quickly change. To be activated, the torque must be worn in such a manner that most of its inner side is in contact with skin, the fangs must specifically be touching flesh. Wearing the torque over armour or in such a manner that it is not tight against the flesh will not activate it

When donned, the torque will remain inactive for up to an hour, after which the snakes will appear to come alive. The first sign of their activation will be that they constrict the arm coiling so tight that the wearer will be unable to remove them. Once this has occurred, causing the veins to rise under the skin, needles protrude from the fangs, easily penetrating the skin and injecting the alchemist’s toxin into the bloodstream. Once this process complete, the needles will retract and the snakes will loosen their grip, returning to their inanimate state.

The toxin has a POT of 14 and must be resisted like a poison. Should the wearer fail his or her resistance roll, the toxin will poison them as per the Rune Quest poison rules. (I.E. 14 points of damage to global hit points). Should the character successfully resist the following effects will occur, depending on what type of snake “bit” them.

Ruby Eyes: STR enhanced by 1D3. Side Effect: As the alchemists brew burns its way through their veins, the character convulses and is overtaken by an unbearable pain and nausea. They may pass out and or vomit as the potent brew warps their muscles. Resist vs. POT again and if roll fails, loose 1 CON point. The character will also have his/her fatigue points reduced to 1 and must rest up o recover from the ordeal. (Remember to adjust stats to reflect new STR). This process is instantaneous.

Emerald Eyes: Shapechange into a Lizard Man. (Use Shapechange Sorcery Rules). Side Effect: As the alchemists brew burns its way through their veins, the character convulses and is overtaken by an unbearable pain and nausea. They may pass out and or vomit as the potent brew warps their very being and scales push through their skin. Resist vs. POT again and if roll fails, loose 1 CON point. The character will also have his/her fatigue points reduced to 1 and must rest up o recover from the ordeal. (Remember to adjust stats to reflect new STR). this process may take a few hours to run its course. Note: One of the strongest rumours evidencing other types of snake revolves around one with jade eyes that turned someone into a dragon or ogre, depending on who tells the story.

Sapphire Eyes: Stone skin. Increase characters hit points in each hit location by 1 point. Global hit points do not change. The characters skin becomes leathery to form a type of natural armour. This process takes up to a week to complete. Side Effects: As the effect of this snake is more gradual, most of the severe side effects associated with the other two snakes are avoided. Characters may feel nausea and temporarily loose up to 1D6 Hit Points. Once the process is complete however, the characters Fatigue pints will be reduced by 1D4 to reflect the extra weight they now carry around. Any tight fitting clothes and armour would also have to be replaced or adjusted.

Note: Other snakes may well exist, their effects beneficial or deadly, on GM’s discretion. No one has been able to replicate Salgrin’s potent brews although many have tried, with sometimes disastrous results. Thus, when the charges on a snake are finished, they are finished for good. What is left is a nice piece of ornamental jewellers which occasionally “bites” the wearer. A critical success Devise roll will allow an appraiser to access the cavity in which the potions were kept.

This article was first published on XIII July MMII

What is RuneQuest?

This is one of the oldest articles from this sites origina incarnation published. While it had received small edits in subsequent years, it is presented here, in the state of its last version, circa I October MMVI, for posterity.

Please read the History of RuneQuest for a far more accurate account of the games history.

RuneQuest is a role playing game designed primarily for play in an “ancient” setting, such as Europe was in the days when the Rome was just a city state and Alexander the Great was busy conquering Asia Minor.

Avalon Hill - RQ 3rd Ed
RuneQuest Third Edition (Deluxe) – Avalon Hill

The game had its heyday during the 1980’s. In its time, many considered it to be one of the best role playing systems and Glorantha (The RQ fantasy world at the time) was considered to be the best, most detailed and fascinating world available.

Different editions have been published by various companies, but the most recent (and well known), is the third edition, published by Avalon Hill. Although this edition is now out of print, some shops still have copies of the game and its supplements in stock. The third edition is also the only edition we have ever played, so unfortunately we are not in a position to comment on the previous two editions (which many have said to have been very good).

The main game came in the form of a Basic Boxed Set or a Deluxe Boxed Set. In later printings, the Deluxe Box was reworked as a book. Several supplements came out in the forms of adventures and boxed sets. Many of these were dedicated to the world of Glorantha. Herewith a list of RQ products. (I have worked from memory, so if I left anything out, please e-mail me and I will add it.)

RQ Basic Box
Sufficient rules to wet your appetite but not enough to get any real role-playing done.

RQ Deluxe Box / Book
All the rules, if you want to play Rune Quest, buy this box. The Deluxe box is probably a better buy because the information inside is split into 5 booklets, which allows for use by more people at the same time. You also get dice and a map of ancient Europe with the box.

RQ Players and GM’s Boxes
The Deluxe Box split in two. Why, we don’t know! You have to won both if you intend to play, so rather get the Deluxe Box, it will work out cheaper in the end.

Vikings Box (Earth)
One of the best supplements, lots of information on Viking culture, some new monsters and magic, well worth the money.

Land of Ninja Box (Earth)
For adventures in Japan, or so we believe.

Glorantha Box
Pretty impressive. Detailed look at Generatala and what Glorantha is all about although leaves one wondering if Avalon Hill ever planned to cover other continents.

Gods of Glorantha Box
Contains inter alia a book listing all/most the gods of the Glorantha and more importantly a cults book which gives more detail about many of the important gods, cult spells etc. If you plan to play a priest,the book is invaluable. Even if not playing on Glorantha, certain cult spells can be associated with your own adventure world deities.

Elder Secrets Box
More information on Glorantha. Quite entertaining except for the poor artwork.

Trollpack Box
In Tony’s opinion, the best of all supplements. goes into great detail about trolls, what they are like, their history, culture and much much more. Especially liked the Thunderbreath Gobbleguts menu. Make mine a plate of batter fried pixies please.

Troll Gods Box
After buying the Trollpack, the Troll Gods will be a disappointment. Poorly compiled, poor art and more than a few unforgivable errors – as in text just stops half way through a sentence and doesn’t pick up anywhere else. Still, has lots of details on Troll Gods, so can be of use.

Monster Coliseum Box
Has plenty of pre rolled adversaries, so can be of some use. Probably the best feature was the chariot history and charioteer occupations. Also has a nice floor map of a coliseum.

Griffin Island
A boxed campaign. It is still in transit so no further comment available at this time.

Eldorad – The Lost City (RQ Gateway)
Nice maps, decent art but we didn’t really enjoy playing it. Will have to give it a second chance someday.

Daughter of Darkness (RQ Gateway)
Adventures and plots on a random peninsular. There could be valuable material here, but the names of some characters sound silly.

Apple Lane Module (Glorantha0
Some nice adventures, and interesting people. Haven’t played it but it looks like it could be good.

Snake Pipe Hollow Module (Glorantha)
We think that Snakepipe hollow forms part of a trilogy (With Haunted Ruins and Troll Realms). More information will be forthcoming once we own it.

Into the Troll Realms Module
Adventures in the troll realms. Bought this in 1996 and still haven’t played it. looks very entertaining though.

The Haunted Ruins Module
Further adventures in the troll realms. Looks like it could be very entertaining. Nice art.

Sun County – Prax Campaign (Glorantha
The first of the Prax campaign books. Very impressive with plenty adventure potential and nice artwork.

Strangers in Prax Module (Glorantha)
Assumable the follow-up to Sun County.

Shadows on the Borderland (Glorantha)
Another comparing journal set in or nearby Prax. Impressive artwork.

River of Cradles (Glorantha)
The last and apparently the best of the Prax campaign books.

Dorastor – Land of Doom Campaign (Glorantha)
Dorastor is a dangerous place full of nasties. If you want to mete swift death out to foolish parties, send them to Dorastor. Very useful and decent art.

Lords of Terror Campaign (Glorantha)
We think this is a book of chaos cults.

Glorantha Bestiary (Glorantha)
Lots of new monsters endemic to Glorantha. Also has a small section attempting to make Basic RQ more playable by providing Deluxe RQ information such as additional magic spells etc. Nice art and some really weird monsters.

RQ Cities
We know little of this although rumor has it that it is a RQ Badged version of Midkemia Cities.

Adventure Sheets – Human
No, Tony is not gullible. Just attempting to own the entire Avalon Hill Rune Quest collection. Unfortunately that means buying unnessiary, money making scheme items, like pre printed adventure sheets. At least, when looking at the numbers on the sides of the boxes, all will be there.

Adventure Sheets – Non-Human
As above.

GLORANTHA is now a separate game, published by ISSARIUS INC.

AVALON HILL was bought by HASBRO INC during 1999. To date there has been little news as to whether Hasbro intends to publish further RuneQuest items or to sell the game rights to another company. Word through the grapevine has RuneQuest being managed by Wizards of the Coast, a Hasbro subsidiary.

Updated I October MMVI MONGOOSE PUBLISHING has been licenced to publish a new version of RuneQuest, which includes Gloranthan material. This new version deviates somewhat from previous versions in terms of rules. Alternately known as RQIV and MRQ, only time will tell if it is successful.

Grunts! by Mary Gentle

Grunts! Corgi/Bantam - Les Edwards
Bantam(UK)/Corgi Cover by Les Edwards

Possibly the original book depicting orcs as the main protagonists, Grunts! by Mary Gentle first saw publication in 1992. I am not one to make a habit out of re-reading books, yet this is one of the few exceptions I have made. Simply put Grunts! Is a very fun book to read!

Without giving too much away, the story starts off as pretty much standard old school high fantasy cannon. The Dark Lord is gathering his forces for the Final Battle. It is at this time that we meet band leader Ashnak of the fighting Agaku. Let us just say shortly thereafter things go pear shaped and then the story takes a sharp left and heads off into non High Fantasy territory. All in all an entertaining read that I can recommend to anyone looking for something a bit different.

But that’s not the whole point of this post. I am sure far more qualified people have reviewed this excellent book since its publication.

For me the most exciting thing about Grunts! (over and above the great read) was that it depicted orcs as the heroes. Well lead protagonists or maybe anti heroes if you like. It gave one a glimpse into what orcs could be about and came up with a bit of a standard for orcish names. Marukka, Dakashnit, Razitshakra etc all found their names used as time went by when I was Game Master in our local RuneQuest group. Suddenly orcs had names and eventually, after much winging on my side, the other core GM (Willo) caved and allowed me to play an orc. But that’s a topic for a future blog.

Roc cover - Romas
Roc cover by Romas

I think the key contribution Mary Gentle made by publishing Grunts! was to prove it could be done. There were punters out there eager for this type of novel. We were not out looking for a treatise explaining how orcs were misunderstood gentle creatures, but wanted to see them in all their violent glory, something Mary Gentle achieved.

So if you have not read Grunts! Yet, go out and get it. From what I can see on the net it has been republished, so it should be easily available.

Roc/New American library cover.
Roc/New American library cover.

For those willing to search about for old magazines, look for Orcs Drift by the same author. This is a sort story that was published in the old Valkyrie RPG Magazine (Volume 1, Issue 3 of 1994). It also saw publication on in Odyssey Magazine Volume 0, 1997 as well as the authors Cartomancy collection which was published in 2004.

This article was originally published XXVII April MMXII

Gateway Essentials
Gateway Essentials cover

The Mystery Bowls of Azun ka Nut

Religious talismans from the cult of the vulture god – Azun ka Nut.

Rarity: Very rare.

History: The mystery bowls of Azun ka Nut were used for religious ceremonies. Azun is a benevolent vulture god, but also a bit of a deceiver. All is never what it seams with Azun.

Description: These two ancient bowls are ceramic, set into a beaten tin outer shell. The lips of each bowl are purely of tin and thicker on the inside, so as to hold the ceramic portion in place. Each lip is inlaid with copper hieroglyphs on the inside and outside. The ceramic of one bowl is stained red with ochre while the other is stained blue with lapis lazuli. They are both 7 centimetres in height, the tin lip being 2 centimetres wide and have a top diameter of 15 centimetres. (Base diameter is 7 centimetres).

The bowls are of ancient origin and, for their age, are well crafted. What is more interesting is what they do. When placed outdoors over night, they will gradually fill with liquid until the whole ceramic portion is filled to the tin hieroglyph inlaid lip. This process will take the whole night.

The red bowl looks to be filled with blood, the blue bowl with water. The nasty bit is that these are illusions, and the reverse is true. Drinkers from the red bowl will only taste cool refreshing water, while the liquid in the blue bowl, when tasted, will be warm blood, which is quite refreshing to certain creatures, but not most adventurers choice of drink.

This article was originally published on XIII August MMII

Dragontales Magazine

Dragontales was an apparently one off anthology of short stories published under the auspices of Dragon Magazine back in 1980. The stories therein, at the time were original and had not appeared in previous editions of Dragon Magazine.

I picked this magazine up for USD1.00 some years back, along with a job lot of Dragon Magazine back issues. One of various reasons I bought Dragon Magazine was to read the short stories therein.

Little did I realise that the magazine, in excellent condition I may add, is apparently highly collectible, according to what people are asking for it on eBay anyway. That aside, is it worthwhile reading, or has its genre based fiction aged beyond readability?

Dragontales magazine cover

First and foremost the magazine has a striking wrap around cover depicting a priestess standing in front of a party of adventurers (one would assume) in an avenue of Mayan / Incan / Aztec / (Insert Alternate Mesoamerican Culture here) snake headed pylons leading up to a stepped pyramid type temple. Already impressive stuff, that set my GM’s mind scheming about plot ideas for our ongoing RuneQuest campaign.

In the sky/background of the picture one can see ghostly images of snakes – vipers by appearance – fighting warriors, distant landscapes and skeleton covered treasure troves. The artists signature is M Carroll.

Contents wise I felt it was a mixed bag. I did not enjoy the first story, The Wizards are Dying by John L Jenkin, at all. In fact it was so old school genre (1st edition D&D) based that I almost put the magazine away never to look at it again. But I persevered and took days to read a story that should have taken me a short train ride to work. It was the typical party gets together and makes their way (along with the obligatory stow away) off to stop a lich whose sealed tomb had been disrupted. Yawn. The story had a number of holes in it and was just not my cup of tea. That said the action did get better towards the end and well, I suppose it was a product of its time. It does explain why many a fantasy magazines writers guidelines vociferously state their disinterest in genre fiction.

Fortunately the rest of the stories vary from a bit, to remarkable better. Dragons Fosterling by Ruby S W Jung was light hearted and clever. Likely more so when it was published as I suspect there have been many takes on the same subject since.

Out of the Eons by Gardner F Fox was one of the stories I enjoyed the most. The story was a clever take on the standard hero with his goddess’ avatar wife. There were one or two small inconsistencies, or rather glossed over facts that had me paging back in case I missed a paragraph. Just a thought, but isn’t spelled Aeons?

Sir George by Carl Parlagreco was a decent attempt at fantasy humour writing. Bearing in mind this was written before the Colour of Magic saw light, or the likes of Craig Shaw Gardner, Tom Holt et al made names for themselves in this field. The story gave me a few chuckles, well worth a look.

Black Lotus Moon by Tom Moldvay was also a favourite. A tale of a protagonist thief, and betrayal at various levels. It was clever and well written. It may have been little risqué for its time, in its art and content, which I am sure helped push whatever boundaries existed at that time.

Some short work such as Honor (sic) Among Thieves by Roger Moore (Dragon Magazine Staff Member, not the actor), Ice Dreams by David F Nalle and Birth of a Wizard by Marie Desjardin were reasonable enjoyable but all too soon forgotten in my opinion. Call Me Albert by Martin Mundt was also an attempt at humour which alas failed as far as I was concerned. It was okay I suppose but also fell into the easily forgotten category. Writing humour is harder than one would think and I would point anyone keen to read fiction to a cowardly, reluctant protagonist to rather look up the excellent tales of Dao Shi by Iain Rowan, which are far superior.

Lastly, and defiantly the best story in the collection is The Darkness Hunting by Janrae Frank. It is a tale of an amazon warrior who has per necessity had to make her life amongst the strictly patriarchal society of planes nomads. Once again there have been plety of stories of woman living secret lives as men over the years, but this one, for its age, is still fresh and memorable. In my opinion that’s the mark of good writing.

In conclusion I would say Dragontales is a not just product of its time and the genre that spawned it. For sure there are aspects of D&D in more than one story, but at least three of the thankfully longer stories stand out on their own merits and satisfactorily span the decades since their writing to still be enjoyable today.

This article was first published XXIV December MMXII

The History of RuneQuest

A RPG orientated magazine called Gygax Magazine appeared on the market in January 2013. The initial issue included an article that paid homage to how Dungeons & Dragons inspired so many games, but only mentioned RuneQuest as a passing reference. To me this was not good enough, as RuneQuest’s pedigree and major influence on the industry cannot be denied. I approached the magazines editors and suggested a follow up article.

Sixth Edition - The Design Mechanism
The Design mechanism – Sixth Edition

This translated to a solicited article submission to the same short lived journal. Do note this was not an opinion piece. The article received review, helpful input and sanction by none other than Steve Perrin, Rick Meints and Lawrence Whitaker, RuneQuest alumni of the highest standing. The original submissions has been presented below verbatim:

RuneQuest Article for Gygax Magazine

Minerva and Thoth protect this text from detractors and disbelievers.

Third Edition (Deluxe) - Avalon Hill
Avalon Hill – Third Edition (Deluxe)


The inaugural issue of Gygax magazine had several articles that looked back with nostalgia at the history of role playing games, dwelling mostly on the familiar subject of Dungeons and Dragons. An article called The Cosmology of RPG’s detailed how certain games could be considered as alpha, beta and so forth waves in terms of when they arrived on the market as well as design principles. 

This article has been inspired by the aforementioned and hopefully serves to sufficiently expand upon, while not getting bogged down in details, the contribution that the RuneQuest game has made to the RPG industry. 

First Edition (Sepia) - Chaosium
Chaosium – First Edition (Sepia)

Canon and Cont-roversy 

RuneQuest and the world of Glorantha! The two are historically bound to one another. While many RPG systems came into existence and were followed by a supporting world, RuneQuest was possibly the first RPG system that was created to support an existing fantasy world.

Glorantha is the brainchild of Greg Stafford. He conceived and detailed Glorantha during the 1960s and eventually brought it to the market in the form of the war game White Bear Red Moon in 1975, published by the company he founded for this purpose, Chaosium. Unique, complex and detailed, Glorantha also has a substantial mythology. As the RPG phenomenon grew it became the ideal medium to allow players to better interact with Glorantha. A rules system was required and by 1978 RuneQuest debuted at the Origins convention. 

Fourth Edition - Mongoose Publishing. Aka MRQ1.
Mongoose Publishing – Fourth Edition (MRQ1)

The first edition was well received by Glorantha fans as well as role players in general. Initial feedback and review soon caused the Chaosium designers to determine that a second edition was required, to fix certain faults that one, in those days, may expect with a brand new game. A feature unique to RuneQuest at the time was players were allowed to play certain creatures or monsters as characters. 

The second edition of RuneQuest was much loved and garnered a large following. Gloranthan supplements were well received and were in many ways superior to most of what was on the market. Items such as Cults of Prax (1979), Griffin Mountain (1981), Pavis (1982) and Big Rubble (1983) gained cult status and are still well respected to this day. 

Second Edition - Chaosium
Chaosium – Second Edition

Chaosium eventually entered a tactical agreement with the Avalon Hill Games Company to produce a new third edition of RuneQuest and bring it to a wider audience. The rules were much revised with numerous additions. As with any revision some people received it well, but some disliked the changes. To this day there are still arguments as to whether RQII or RQIII is a better system.

Avalon Hill published the RuneQuest III rules in various formats, including a Deluxe boxed set which combined the standard Player’s and Games Master’s boxes, and a single perfect-bound Deluxe softcover rulebook. A Basic edition was also available. One of the key philosophical shifts between RuneQuest II and III was to delink Glorantha from the rules. RuneQuest III came with a Mythic Europe default setting. That said, Gloranthan material was published alongside Alternate Earth and Gateway supplements and a small booklet of Gloranthan material was made available with the Deluxe Edition.  The aim of this was to make RuneQuest available to a broader audience who may not have wished to use Glorantha as a campaign world. 

Avalon Hill published the RuneQuest III rules in various formats, including a Deluxe boxed set which combined the standard Player’s and Games Master’s boxes, and a single perfect-bound Deluxe softcover rulebook. A Basic edition was also available. One of the key philosophical shifts between RuneQuest II and III was to delink Glorantha from the rules. RuneQuest III came with a Mythic Europe default setting. That said, Gloranthan material was published alongside Alternate Earth and Gateway supplements and a small booklet of Gloranthan material was made available with the Deluxe Edition.  The aim of this was to make RuneQuest available to a broader audience who may not have wished to use Glorantha as a campaign world. 

Third Edition (Standard) - Avalon Hill
Avalon Hill – Third Edition (Standard)

Some supplement bashing was performed. Either to align to RQIII rules or setting requirements, while at times bringing back previously out of print material. Thus, for example, the Glorantha based Griffin Mountain became the Gateway based Griffin Island (slightly ironic since the initial submission of Griffin Mountain was as a Gateway supplement), while venerable items  such as Apple Lane and Snake Pipe Hollow were rereleased with expanded material.   For newcomers to RuneQuest these reprinted items were generally welcome, but existing players who already had these supplements would have preferred totally new material. In the early 1990’s new material in the form of Sun CountyRivers of Cradles and Strangers in Prax sparked what became known as a “Runequest Renaissance”. They were well received and gained favourable reviews in Dragon Magazine. Unfortunately, Gateway items such as Daughters of Darkness and Eldarad – The Lost City were thought to be sub-standard by many. 

First Edition (Colour) - Chaosium
Chaosium – First Edition (Colour)

One should perhaps note at this point that while RuneQuest did not spawn the volume of content that D&D did, much of said content until this time had been of a very high standard and was more aimed at thick sourcebooks than thin modules. Supplements such as Daughters of Darkness were thought to be a sign of Avalon Hill pushing shoddy content under the RuneQuest banner. That said some Gateway items were of a high standard, such as Land of Ninja and Vikings

RuneQuest took a publishing hiatus in the late 1990’s. At that time an unsuccessful attempt was made to re-integrate Glorantha back into the rules system. This was called RuneQuest – Adventures in Glorantha, but it was not approved and the playtest was halted. Just before the turn of the century another version of RuneQuest was mooted, called RuneQuest Slayers. It too never made it to publication and had nothing to do with the RuneQuest system, other than the name re-engineering using a totally different system. The rules were not even percentile based. To quote the authors: “RuneQuest Slayers is a completely new game. The campaign worlds are brand new and the rules reworked from the ground up”.

By this time Avalon Hill (and many other games companies) had been hit hard by changes in the industry. Hasbro bought Avalon Hill, WOTC bought TSR, and Hasbro bought WOTC. Before long a new version of AD&D emerged and many RuneQuest players started hoping for a similar outcome for their system.


By 1998 Greg Stafford had parted ways with Chaosium, taking Glorantha with him and publishing Gloranthan material under the auspices of his new company, Issaries Inc. The RuneQuest trademark was acquired by Issaries via mutual agreement with Chaosium and Steve Perrin. In 2005 Issaries licensed Mongoose Publishing to produce a new version of RuneQuest and also publish Gloranthan material.

A new, much revised edition of RuneQuest was finally available to attract new players to the marque. While it differed from RQIII, the core system was still very much recognizable. The “4th edition”, issued as First Edition but termed MRQI by many an owner of previous editions, was soon followed by a “5th” edition, officially RuneQuest II – MRQII. Mongoose RuneQuest II was welcomed by newcomers and old school players alike. It addressed a few “mistakes” previously made and provided a platform to launch a few aligned settings, such as Deus Vult and Clockwork & Chivalry. More recently Mongoose ceased publishing RuneQuest after mutual agreement with Issaries to part ways. Their RuneQuest II system was re-launched as Legend, along with a number of Legend specific supplements. It should be noted that Mongoose produced an Open Games License for RuneQuest (and Legend). Companies such as Otherworld Creations and Sceaptune Games have produced material under this OGL agreement. 

Moon Design Publications acquired a licensed to publish Gloranthan material in 2006 and are still doing so as of this writing.  The Design Mechanism is currently publishing RuneQuest 6th Edition, and have a number of new supplements in the pipeline. They also have a nonexclusive licence to publish Gloranthan material.

Fifth Edition - Mongoose Publising. Aka MRQ2
Mongoose Publishing – Fifth Edition (MRQ2)

System Design Principles 

Here we are going to compare the RuneQuest rules system to D&D of the same era, vis-à-vis the mid-to-late 1970’s. 

The first major differentiation between the two systems was that RuneQuest is percentile based whereas D&D is based on a D20. The second major difference is that Runequest does not use Character Classes with experience points for advancement. Both systems have their own merits and detractions but this article is not the forum for that (never-ending) debate.

RuneQuest requires that any success or failure be based on a characters skill in the task being tested. Thus a character requires a skill score and the test is as simple as a roll of D100 where 01 is the best possible roll one can make and is by its nature a critical success, no matter what, where 00 (100) is the opposite, the worst roll and destined as a fumble/critical failure, no matter what. 

That said, while success and failure may be percentile, other dice are still used to determine damage, hit location and a few other eventualities, so the prospective RuneQuest converts need not be heading to the dustbin with their non-ten sided dice. 

Second Edition - Games Workshop
Games Workshop – Second Edition

RuneQuest also employs a set of core characteristics much like D&D. Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Size, Intelligence, Appearance (or Charisma depending on which version) and Power. These are determined much like D&D insofar the roll of a few D6 where the max for a human is 18. These characteristics are then extrapolated to Attributes through certain formulae (also depends on version) to determine Agility, Knowledge, Manipulation, Stealth, Communication and Magic. Skills are then determined per attribute and these are the skills that one checks against when rolling D100, where <= skill on D100 is a success and > a failure. Extremely good rolls may be deemed critical or special with certain bonuses given where extremely bad rolls may be fumbles with certain penalties. 

Combat is also based on these skills augmented depending on weapon and other factors (such as culture in 3rd Ed) to determine an Attack and Parry skill per weapon or shield. Some versions also break combat rounds into a series of Strike ranks, which allows for a realistic flow of events for opponents with certain weapons r skills to get the drop on others, while at the same time making it a little easier for the GM to keep track of what is going on. One key factor of RuneQuest is the body map, which in terms of combat adds a degree of reality so that one can know where one was hit, which limb was lopped off etc. It is possible that RuneQuest invented the usage of the body map for RPG’s and this concept has been emulated by many games since. Combat in RuneQuest is realistic and as such can be quite deadly, as more than a few players who have had experience in other less lethal systems have discovered.

In terms of magic, a whole book could be written regarding this. Very simply stated and once again version dependent, there are three primary forms of magic: Spirit, Divine and Sorcery:

  • Spirit magic uses communion with the spirit plane where various spirits are bound to perform various tasks, which translate into effectively a spell. A famed RuneQuest spirit magic spell is Fireblade, which is relatively self-explanatory. (No it does not give the character a Honda Superbike). 
  • Divine magic calls upon the gods to grant magical boons. While powerful and more or less guaranteed to work, it takes much preparation by a priest to gain spells and so can cost quite a bit. If ones character happens to have a divine heal spell, their popularity will be guaranteed. (See deadly combat above). 
  • Sorcery comes from within, and takes a degree of skill to perform this kind of magic, which can also drain ones power rapidly if not used sparingly. 
Third Edition (Basic) - Games Workshop
Games Workshop – Third Edition (Basic)

Different versions have alternate takes on magic, these definitions are based on 3rd Ed. 

This brief synopsis of some core design principles can be used as a yardstick to measure other systems of similar age, where certain commonalities and divergences will be evident. 

Third Edition (Advanced) - Games Workshop
Games Workshop – Third Edition (Advanced)

Dead Ends

Official RuneQuest non starters:

  • RuneQuest Adventures In Glorantha (Avalon Hill) – 1994
  • RuneQuest Slayers (Avalon Hill) – 1997

Non RuneQuest but Glorantha Related

  • Hero Wars system for Glorantha  (Issaries Inc.)
  •  HeroQuest (Issaries Inc.)

Direct Offshoots

All of the below were published by Chaosium:

  • Stormbringer
  • Call of Cthulu
  • Worlds of Wonder
  • Superworld
  • ElfQuest
  • Ringworld
  • Hawkmoon
  • Nephilim
  • Elric!
  • Basic Roleplaying (BRP)

Offshoots from other publishers:

  • Legend (Mongoose Publishing). Effectively a rebranding of RuneQuest Fifth Edition aka MRQ2
  • Mythworld (Paul Cardwell)
  • OpenQuest (d101 Games)
Mongoose Publishing – Legend (Fifth Edition rebrand)

Special Branches

  • SPQR (Steve Perrin’s Quest Rules)
SPQR (Steve Perrin's Quest Rules) - Steve Perrin
Steve Perrin – SPQR

Other Systems

These are systems which have been identified as having been influenced by RuneQuest. This list is based on purely anecdotal evidence:

  • Element Masters (Escape Ventures)
  • Hârn Master (Columbia Games)
  • Other Suns (FGU)
  • Warlords of Alexandria


The much anticipated RuneQuest resurrection that occurred during the watch of Mongoose Publishing included an Open Game Licence. Some small press publishers embraced the OGL and published RuneQuest material:

  • Otherworld Creations
  • Sceaptune Games


Special thanks to the members of The RuneQuest Rules List; especially Steve, Lawrence and Rick for helping fact check this article

Core Timeline

Subsequent Developments

Events that have occurred since the compilation of the article.

Life moves on. The much anticipated Gygax Magazine turned out to be very sort lived , resulting in the article submission never seeing the light of day, until now!

By all appearances, after the long RuneQuest hiatus, the rejuvenated RuneQuest juggernaut was not content to stay where it was. Since the writing of the aforementioned article, RuneQuest has changed again insofar:

  • RuneQuest 6th Edition remains in publication by The Design Mechanism, renamed as Mythras.
  • RuneQuest 7th Edition has is the current official edition in terms of the RuneQuest canon. It is published by Chaosium, the company who originally created the game way back in the 1970’s.
Mythras - The Design Mechanism
The Design Mechanism – Mythras (Rebraded Sixth Edition)
Seventh Edition - Chaosium
Chaosium – Seventh Edition