Monday, October 14, 2013

The Verdict On RuneQuest 6

My group now had three sessions of RuneQuest 6 under their belt. We’ve had one session with a fair amount of combat, one session with a moderate amount of combat, and a session that was primarily roleplaying. We were all essentially RuneQuest novices, and despite how much I really like the rules when I read them along with some of the folks in our gaming circle, I just wasn’t sure how they’d work in actual play.

So after over a month, what’s the early verdict?

Character Development
Character creation was fun, and allowed for a nice representation of cultural and background influences when deciding what the characters wanted to play. The sample professions in the book worked for most characters, although I think one or two created their own (very simply done in RQ6). My interest was more in how the game would do in characters improving in their skills and interests over time.

RuneQuest 6 is a classless system, with a number of “XP Rolls” as rewards based on accomplishment, participation, etc. These can be used to bump up skills or attributes, or purchase new skills (which costs a bit more than improving existing ones, as you can imagine). It’s a clean system, immensely simple, and I did not dread the process at the end of our last game—I think the players would agree it is a very easy aspect of the game. Additionally, I like that once for each skill, a character can take a one-time +1% in that skill if they fumbled/failed at it in play (the idea being these types of failures help us learn).

In terms of character development in relationships and motivations, we’re still working on using Passions to gauge and modify a character’s intentions and motives, so I can’t really assign a full grade there just yet. Overall, though, I’m pretty pleased with this aspect of the game.

I mentioned above a bit about how skills improve. In actual play, RuneQuest 6’s roll-under percentiles system is ridiculously easy to use. I’ve always been a sucker for percentile-based systems, and this one is no exception. As far as the skill list, in play I haven’t found it to be too vague or too specific/restrictive (“OK everyone, I know you all took Underwater Horticulture, but you didn’t take Deep Underwater Horticulture”). I like the fact that aside from the normal 01-05 critical success range, a tenth of your ability is also your critical range (so a skill of 80% crits on a 01-08 instead). The game runs quickly in this phase, and I have no real complaints I can think of.

Here’s where I was really worried about RuneQuest 6. We haven’t played with a crunchier combat system since Rolemaster, and most of our games since then (with the exception of the online StarCluster 3 game) have been fairly rules-light. Reading through the RuneQuest Combat chapter, there were so many potential modifiers and the like, I wasn’t sure where to start.

Well, I got some help from the folks at the Design Mechanism forums, and was able to get a flowchart that made sense. When you break down combat, there really isn’t a whole lot of difficulty to it. Yes, there are modifications based on reach and weapon size, but it’s not difficult to remember.

Further, combat is INTENSE. We had players partaking in trial combat for the honor of being the ship’s crew chosen to represent their island, and we hung on every action and reaction. Back and forth they went, each combatant losing weapons, desperately evading, disarming or tripping their opponent, desperately grappling, and finally, a decisive blow. If I GM another 30+ years, I won’t forget that fight. Combat will usually be over quickly in RuneQuest 6, but it can also turn into a duel, where positioning, strategy, and numbers play their part.

On the other hand, one of our combats this last weekend ended in a single-blow knockout. I absolutely love the Combat Effects system (I recommend the app from Google Play, which I’ve been using). There’s no complicated rolling beforehand to see if you can do this stunt or this effect; succeed well enough at attacking or defending, and choose from a list. A lucky blow can give even the most outclassed opponent hope, but combat is a lethal business in RuneQuest 6. I can’t believe how fun it is.

If there’s a part of the game where I’m not 100% comfortable yet, it would probably be here. We have one character employing Folk Magic, and another employing Theism. There are other kinds of magic available in RQ6, but I’m running a world where access to magic is less prevailing than perhaps the default assumptions in the RQ6 book. Folk magic seems easy enough, and we haven’t had any issues, but I’m worried about the power level of Theism, and I’m still sort of feeling out how player development with it will go. Part of my hesitation isn’t with the system; it’s just I need to know the spells better to know what they can do.

Ease Of Game Mastering
We’ve had to stop a few times to look things up, but percentile-based systems are usually pretty easy to adjudicate on the fly. I feel like we’re hitting our stride with the system, and we don’t have folks asking what type of dice to roll for initiative, various skills, etc. It’s not a totally unified system, but all the parts fits together pretty neatly.

Overall, I am very happy with RuneQuest 6, and I believe my players are, too. I absolutely cannot wait to get my Deluxe Edition sometime in the next month. There’s enough meat here to run a game for a long time. I am immensely happy we took a chance on RuneQuest 6, because it’s paying off some big dividends at the gaming table. Hopefully, the good times keep coming.

Was it worth the investment? Yes, this is a more expensive RPG, compared to most of the games I discuss on this site. But the book is also really helpful, with examples in the margins throughout, it’s well-written, and quite comprehensive for the type of Late Bronze Age/Greek/Viking/Earthsea mashup we’ve gone with. So far, RuneQuest 6 is earning a big thumbs-up at our table.


Ynas Midgard said...

How difficult was it to design rules-appropriate adventures? I'm not really interested in crunchiness but the fundamental difference between how D&D and Runequest scenarios play out in practice.

Keith S said...

I've used elements of RuneQuest 6 in my own homebrew. Like you, I had/have some reservations about the magic system(s). Many of the other systems have been quite useful and fun.

Zachary Houghton said...

@Ynas: I don't really do "set-piece" adventures in most of my campaigns, but in designing potential encounter notes and the like, it's pretty easy. I also have Monster Island, which is a nice supplement to use some creepies right out of the box.

My games are more human-centric, and there really hasn't been a lot the basic ruleset can't handle in the planning.

Sorry if that isn't quite what you're looking for; I wasn't quite sure of how to take the question.

@Keith S: Yeah, I'm running a fairly low-magic campaign (compared to the fantasy standard, I guess), so it isn't a huge deal. I don't dislike it, I'm just not comfortable with its limits.

Z.L said...

I have been enjoying the game so far, and I do share your concerns on Magic. I need to read up on Theism and see how it works and what options are available. My biggest concern as how many dice the lighting bolt was throwing even on the smallest of point costs. Folk Magic felt like strict utility which was a nice change of pace from most spell systems.

Yes, the combat has went fast despite the bit of chart looking we have to do. It is comfortable and fast paced enough that you don't really notice it.

Looking forward to the next game! said...

So, I am not sure if you got the deluxe bundle yet but the bundle of holding has a bunch of RQ6 books for whatever amount you choose. Not sure how long it will last:

d7 said...

Do you have that combat flowchart handy anywhere? I picked up the RuneQuest 6 bundle of holding and I'm just reading through it now. It's completely different than other systems I'm familiar with, so a combat flowchart to put everything into perspective would be very handy!

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