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Designing the New RuneQuest - Part 3

Posted by Michael O'Brien on 13th Feb 2016

By Jeff Richard

So let's wade into some controversial waters, and talk about the decision to base the new RuneQuest on RQ2 and not RQ6. Initially, we had imagined that the new RQ would be a streamlined RQ6. But now, the final product is being built up from RQ2.

So what happened?

Three main things: RuneQuest returning to Chaosium, Streamlining and the Kickstarter.

RuneQuest returning to Chaosium

As many of you know, Moon Design Publications owns the RuneQuest IP and licensed it to The Design Mechanism, who produced an edition of RuneQuest in 2011. For many, this is your favorite edition of the rules. However, as many of you also know, The Design Mechanism's RuneQuest license expires in July this year. For pretty straight-forward business reasons, we chose not to renew it and decided to bring RuneQuest back "in house" and produce a new edition, set firmly in Glorantha.

From the start, Loz and Pete (of TDM) headed up and were the chief writers on the new RQ project. Along the way we ended up having incompatible creative visions. Naturally enough, TDM wanted the new RQ to be based on RQ6 with as few revisions as possible. The reasons included being directly compatible with their existing RQ6 products. However, as the project unfolded we came to the decision we needed the new RQ rules to have RQ2 as their basis and thus be compatible with the rereleased RQ2 product line.


Part of the challenge was distilling down an already 450 page rule book and what was estimated to be 300+ pages of supplementary Gloranthan material into a single book of reasonable size, format, and usability.

Early on, we concluded that special effects had to go from RuneQuest. Although the special effects result in "cinematic" combat, they ran counter to some key design goals for the new edition (already discussed). But once you remove those special effects, you need to reinsert certain results such as impale, etc. Which has you moving back towards RQ2/3. There were other modeling components I wasn't satisfied with, and pretty quickly it became clear that this had become a RQ2/6 hybrid. For RQ6 fans, it would be radical and unpleasant change. For RQ2/3 fans, it would be a radical and unpleasant change.The chimera wasn't going to work.

That's when the 90/10 rule (see designer notes part two) kicks in. We had already decided that the new RQ would integrate Runes directly into the character and that they would drive both Rune magic and personality traits. And that passions would be built up to a Pendragon level of importance, to tie in with the magical and social ecology of the setting. That was going to be the bulk of our 10%. So we had to choose one or the other to be our comfortable and familiar baseline.

The Kickstarter

The RuneQuest Classic Kickstarter resolved the question. RQ Classic was a smashing success, and soon we will have relaunched the entire Glorantha RQ2 line. That meant the new rules had to be backwards compatible to RQ2. And so RQ2 became the bedrock. 

Additionally, this makes creating new Glorantha RQ scenarios and products easier, as we have a bigger base of material and a larger pool of writers we can work with. RQ2 is hardwired into the forty years of design notes, unpublished rules and campaign material that Greg has given us and that will make up a big part of the new version. Sandy Petersen and others also have a tremendous amount of unpublished RQ2 material which now became more easily available.

Also, it became much easier for us to dive deeply into the rules mechanics. For virtually everyone on the design team, RuneQuest 2 was our formative game system. I still intimately "get" how RQ2 models Glorantha, remember how to determine strike rank by the charts, and think of ENC in terms of "things". The focus of the Guide (and other Gloranthan products) on population, cult membership, etc, strongly reflect that.

Are Loz and Pete disappointed that we had a different creative vision than they did? Probably - it would be strange if they were not. But are we all still friends? Certainly. This is just what sometimes happens in business. People - who are friends - work with each other, and have passionate differences in opinions about how to do a project. If those disagreements are substantial enough, they leave the project. Pete and Loz are professionals. Rather than beat their heads about the direction that Chaosium wanted to go, they asked to be let go. And we wish them the greatest of success with the (non-Gloranthan) direction TDM is now taking.

For those passionate fans who see RQ6 as the ultimate version of RuneQuest, we hear you - other than having a new name soon, TDM intend for it to live on. For those of you who wanted RQ6 with Glorantha, it is a brave new world. Put on your bronze vambraces, grab that iron sword, say a prayer to your allied spirit, and face the day!