Skittering Rubble Runners

We’re off out with family today but I managed to steal an hour of solo play in Mykovnia to run through a fight with Rubble Runners. The party was outnumbered by the beasts and it was a tough fight. No spoilers on the outcome but rather a comment on how entertaining such creatures can be.

RuneQuest gives us a description of the Rubble Runner:

Picture a large, rat-shaped, creature about ½ meter long. Move the corners of the mouth back to the front shoulders and open the mouth about 60 degrees to reveal a row of sharp-pointed teeth. Cover the whole gruesome thing with armadillo-like scale. Realize that it is always hungry and runs in packs, and you have a rubble runner.

RuneQuest (1980, reprinted 2016), p 96

I chose these creatures as alternatives to Giant Rats partly because they were more interesting but also in homage to my roots with RuneQuest as an young gamer.

What made them entertaining was imagining the ways that they would climb around the terrain. The party was coming down a stone stairway in a round tower and the Rubble Runners were entering from below. I had half the group of beasts swarm the stairs while the rest scaled the wall below the stairway.

The real fun started when the Rubble Runners skittered up the walls beside the stairs to get above and behind the lead warrior. These creatures latch on to limbs if they score a hit, so there was a lot of entertainment in having bitten fighters smash the beasts against the wall to loosen their grip.

My point is that interesting animals make for dynamic and energetic combat scenes. Thinking three-dimensionally and using the creatures to swarm up and around the heroes made the scene far more dangerous and highly entertaining. It could easily have become two Rubble Runners versus the lead warrior on the stairs, but that would have been boring.

There’s value in thinking about combat within the context of the scene. I think that an easy trap as GM is to think linearly – and this can be worse if you use a grid with miniatures because straight lines and boxes encourage linear, mathematical thinking. Imagining the scene in my mind, playing the role of the animals logically but also hungrily, made the whole fight better.

And you know, the key inspiration was just one word: skittering.

Game on!


      • Well, if you play solo then your PCs can take full advantage of every aspect of the environment your GM brain envisions. There is no loss of signal. Contrariwise, with multiple participants, minis and maps are IMO necessary to correctly convey the scene. I personally draw in elevation lines where necessary, and I’ve had players leap from balconies and swing on vines. But players will have great difficulty interacting with an environment they can’t see…


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