This post is an out-loud musing about what to do with the growing desire, once again, to play with my 1980 RuneQuest books. The more I think about this old game, the stronger is the sense that I owe it to myself to go a-runequesting.
Question 1: Is it permitted to play RuneQuest outside of the world of Glorantha?
I suppose that, given the lack of an international RuneQuest police force, the answer to this must surely be, “yes”. I mean, it’s a roleplaying game and you can do what you want with a roleplaying game. Can’t you?
But I do sometimes wonder. The fandom of Glorantha is a tad… obsessive? I’ve had more than one occasion of being strongly “corrected” when I’ve tried to run the game in that world. I’m not sure how heretical it would be to simply play the game in a world of your own creation.
For me, this would be the natural direction of travel. To strike out with a character into the wilds of wherever and simply use the materials in the game as tools to create a world that fits RuneQuest’s vibe but isn’t really the official place. Using the monsters, spells, and other trappings from the books but largely ignoring the rest.
Question 2: If I did play in Glorantha, would it be ok to ignore the official canon literature?
But then, I really am drawn towards the literature. One of my favourite parts of the Gloranthan canon is the classic “Griffin Mountain” wherein we meet the primitive Balazarings and get to roam a vast sandbox about the size of modern France. But to travel there, I’d have to give myself permission to fudge the rest of the lore. There’s simply too much to learn all at once.
Of course, given my current situation, I’d really be exploring this realm alone as a solo roleplayer – powered by the GM emulation powers of Mythic – because I’m not sure I will find other willing players who can meet with me to play a social game. This makes the question largely moot, I suppose. And that leads me to wonder…
Question 3: Why am I even asking these questions?
Glorantha is famous for the now-classic mantra, “Your Glorantha May Vary”. It’s an open permission to run your game of RuneQuest however you want to with your group (or lack thereof). But for those of us cursed with these kinds of questions, these words feel hollow and trite. There’s a whole published canon and (as I mentioned before) plenty of people who stand ready to hold your feet to the fire of canon.
The worry is the one that always haunts, the fear of “doing it wrong”.
People who say there is no “Bad Wrong Fun” obviously haven’t spent enough time with other gamers, especially up here in the online world. The tribes of wandering pedants who lie in wait for things to correct, people to ridicule, and bloggers to berate are many and active. I’m pretty sure one will be along any time I sit down to play and then dare to tell people how I did it my way.
And yes, I am somewhat speaking with tongue in cheek.
But giving ourselves permission is the first and largest hurdle.
In answer to
Q1: Of course you can set RQ in a non-Glorantha setting, although not so easily with the latest version, RQG. I believe RQ3 initially was set in a Mythic Earth and Glorantha supplements were only added later. With RQ4 there were several released settings; Lankhmar, Elric, Hawkmoon, Mythic Earth as well as Glorantha. Personally I wouldn’t contemplate running RQG in any setting other than Glorantha, I’d simply run Mythras.
Q2: You can definitely ignore the official canon literature. Most of the Jonstown Compendium releases drift away from canon. I think it helps to keep the major events tied to canon if possible as that enables supplements written by other people, who also follow that rule, to slot more easily into your Glorantha. But if you’re writing your own stuff it’s less important. For example my Argrath is substantially different to the Chaosium canon
I always feel it’s important for each GM to stamp their own personality into any settings. I really enjoyed your take on Six Seasons In Sartar and thought the sessions were excellent. As you know, if you are ever going to run RQ again I’d definitely be interested in playing!
Just a quick note to encourage you to use the rules for whatever damn well pleases you. These days I tend to stick with the earliest, simplest versions of games and do my own thing. I ignore most of what might’ve been published later. Runequest spawned BRP and that’s as universal and tabula rasa as it gets. My only caveat would be that if you ever decide to attempt forming a group to play in your creation, you give them the skinny on what you’ve done and why. Canon-lawyers not welcome. So have fun.
I ran a RQ campaign for a while with some fairly substantial modifications to the rules and setting. I presented the world as a kind of “topsy-turvy” Glorantha, intended to draw on some key elements (ducks) ignore others (mostly historical stuff, Dragonrise) and mess with other details (Lunars not being the outright invaders, just a neighboring empire). It was done purposely to cut down on stuff folks needed to know to get into the game, and open up a little more space for players to change stuff.
I love RQ, but I have to be honest: playing in Glorantha is demanding for all the (what I regard as) unnecessary detail. The setting could really use on old-school broad-strokes random-chart revision. But until that happens, my recommendation: start with the adventures. The adventures of RQ (snake pipe hollow, rainbow caves, griffin mountain) are often properly regarded as masterpieces. Just start with one, modify what you need to, and build from there with minimal necessary world info. Just an idea.
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I used to use Runequest a lot to play in Harn back in the mid 80’s so don’t worry about to play it in Glorantha, in fact Glorantha was great in the 1980s, it was a bit Gonzo but has become bogged down in too much boring lore nowaday’s
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Yep, the modern non-Glorantha-specific rule editions are Mythras if you want complexity, OpenQuest if you want simplicity, there’s Jackals and Legend and…
None of which you need to use if you’re happy with your RQ2 rules, but most of which have active fan communities and lots of worldbuilding if you want to see how other people have adapted the rules to fit their own worlds. (Which I’m in the middle of doing myself right now, so I’m being a bit noisy about…)
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