The Law of Truth

Another week of good responses, and with one of my players being in Germany on vacation!  I like the feel of this organization.  I think after we get through the last of the three organizations, I will try to put together a gazetteer for the Outlands.  If that happens I will most likely post a PDF here on the blog.

The Law of Truth came to the Outlands hunting the Cult of the Lost.  Founded in the mists of time, at the dawn of the church, to hunt the supernatural enemies of civilization, they grew into a mighty power in the Old World.  With the rise of the Cult of the Lost, which ended up causing the cataclysm that sent the Known World spiraling into a dark age, the Law was granted extra-national power.  Everywhere the light of the church spread, so too did the Law hunt the Cult.  Only in the Qion Alliance, with their strange animal headed gods, did the Law cloak itself to seek out its foes.  Its power rivaled that of nations and the church.  And yet it failed.

The Law of Truth is a fractured organization in the Outlands.  Their main power came not from holdings, or political power, but from ties to the Old World.  With that power base shattered, the Law has been greatly reduced.  While it has no cities under its control, and its influence has been reduced to the local level, every city in the Outlands has a Redoubt of Law in it.  Overt in most cities, a number of city states have banded the strange fanatics.  The Law merely assumes a more covert roll in these cities.  For their mandate is to safeguard the souls of man from damnation, therefore petty laws don’t apply to them.  The chapter houses act as home base and recruiting stations.  While the Cult has not been seen since the time of great darkness, the Law stands vigilant, eyes to the west searching for their foes. 

Their ties to the Old World are still strong indeed.  The Bastion, a hidden fortress in the wilds where the Council of Dukes maintains its command of the organization, is said to be the largest repository of Old World artifacts in the Outlands.  And it is rumored that the Council still maintains that it is still in contact with the Old World.

Strangely enough, with the lack of activity from the Cult, the Law has remembered its older duties, the hunting of all fell powers in the world.  This is by shear accident, as they merely grope for anything to justify their existence.  They have a fanatical hatred of anything superstitious let alone supernatural.  Most of the kingdoms tolerate their presence for the stabilizing presence they provide.  For the ever looming presence of the inquisition helps keep honest men honest.

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My (previous) Week in Gaming

My (last) Week in Gaming

So this last week in gaming was full of personal ups and downs.  I had to deal with a major week long disruption to my life due to gaming, had a fantastic session of Mage, and ran a fun one shot of RuneQuest.  It ended with more good than bad, so I call it a win. First off, here is the good stuff.

Gaming – Mage

Mage had a second strong week.  I am really excited about running this game.  The players are really getting into the story, and are enjoying the investigative nature of the game.  The one stand out moment was the puzzle in this week’s game.  I have a player who loves puzzles in games.  The Myst games, riddles, ciphers, etc., she loves them all.  Normally it is hard to add something like this into a combat heavy game, but Mage is all about this kind of thing.

So I decided to give her a scene just to scratch that itch.  To enter the vaults below the monastery they were given a poem and a phrase that was in Enochian (which I found on the internet).  The poem lead to the Benedictine motto, ora et labora, and that gave them a cipher for Enochian.  Then in the tombs, there was an Enochian inscription on the floor.  Using the cipher, she and another player translated the text.  And to ratchet up the tension, demons attacked.  So they were translating while the other two players were fighting for their lives.   When the translation was finished, the demons were banished.  It worked out well!

Gaming – RuneQuest

Our Dresden Files GM was away camping, so I stepped in with a RQ6 one shot.  Seeing as this was my first time running the game, I made pre-generated characters for the players and kept the story to a minimum.  It was designed to show the system to my players and get some screen time with it.  So I only made martial characters, no magic users.  I wanted to see how combat and skills ran at the table.

The player’s loved the combat system and special effect rules, and they want to try the game again with magic. (I am thinking of running a session with four players and using all four magic systems.)  They felt it was a simple game to pick up, but felt that they were not really that good at any of their skills.

I got to thinking about this on the way home from the game, and after talking with one of the more mathematically inclined players came to the conclusion that their characters were no less skilled than a 1st level character in a d20 system.  But in a percentile system you have a stark indifferent number that you can quantify.  And honestly seeing a 47% in a skill is a bit disheartening.  In the d20 system your bonus gives you an abstract measuring of how good you are.  A +3 or +5 looks good for a first level character, compared to a +0 or -3, but when you figure out what you need on the d20, you are at a similar competence level to that of a RQ6 character. 

It was crazy to see how a system presents the math of a game can affect the surface level enjoyment by players.

Fallout from the Disruption

[Get ready for a lot of typing]

I am not going to go into details on the bad, but I do want to address something that came out of it.  One of my players in an online game got very frustrated with the game, and posted a vitriolic post in the OOC thread.  It was directed at me personally as the GM. 

It sucked.  Not just because of the comments but because this player only offers negative feedback.  So it weighed heavily on me.  One of the players in the game commented that if he ever received such an email, he would give up on GMing entirely.   That is about as deep as I am going to go on this blog onto what was said in the email.

But it got me thinking, both the email and my buddy’s comment.  So here are the three nuggets that I gleaned from all of this.

One: GMs don’t ‘owe’ the players

This game routinely sucks up 4-8 hours of my week writing posts, planning responses, etc.  That is on top of the other planning and reading I do for all my other games.  This is my hobby, and I devote serious time to it, as I am sure most of you do as well.  My goal is to run a great game that everyone in the game enjoys.  I believe this is a game-masters job.  I am responsible for the story, the rules, and the end goal of enjoyment at the table.

However, I don’t owe my players anything.  I am not being paid, compensated, or in any way being reimbursed to run this game.  I am doing this for the love of the game, so to speak.  I have sometimes felt that when I have to put a game on hold, or delay a post, or am unavailable to answer a question immediately that my feelings or life is not as important to them as the game. 

Never let your players put this kind of weight on your shoulders; you don’t owe them a game.  You are sharing your time with them for the enjoyment of all.  You, as the GM, are included that ‘all’.  Your enjoyment is just as paramount as any players.  I think it is easy to forget that, and to confuse responsibility with indebtedness.

Two: Deal with problem players, but remember it is only a game

I get it, I do.  We as GMs tend to be highly invested in our games, and can take negative feedback as a personal attack.  It is very easy for us to react in kind, getting defensive and coming out of our corner swinging. 

We have to remember, it is only a game.  It is not life or death. It is not someone’s livelihood (and if it is, let me know how you got that sweet gig).  We are GMing for people we at least tolerate and for the joy of running.  It is not worth hurting someone over, or ending friendships.

That being said, when you have a reoccurring problem player, you need to deal with them.  I know that at first blush the two statements seem antithetical.  JM, how can you say deal with a problem player and also say let things go?  Well, I am glad you asked.

I feel like the main idea I am trying to get across here is that, when you respond or deal with a problem player, keep things in perspective.  Knee jerk reactions of kicking someone out of the group rarely solve anything, snarky comments exacerbate the situation, and punishing someone in-game doesn’t teach a lesson but fosters player dissent.

So here is how I handled this situation, I hope that my experiences can help someone out there in reader land.

First, I responded.  It is easy to let someone else step in to defend you in these kinds of situations or let it go and not respond.  The first is not advisable as it can heighten the player-in-question’s rage, by making him feel it is him against the group.  You may lose the player, and a good one at that, just because of this.  The second option is not great, because we are not talking about an isolated incident, but a perpetual problem player.  But even if it is the first time this happens, you should nip it in the bud as opposed to hoping it blows over.  It did not for me the first couple of times I had issues with this player, and came back to haunt me.

Second, I responded in kind.  No, this doesn’t mean I respond with vitriol or in like tone.  That is a HUGE mistake.  You are begging for escalation of force at that point.  This post was posted in the OOC thread, so I dealt with it first in OOC thread.  This was to show the rest of the group that I was handling it.  The response was designed to address all of the points this player made, acknowledging some and countering others.  I know that my knee jerk response was to apologize for everything in the mail that this player felt was wrong with the game.  But then I arrived at the previous thought about owing a player a game, and decided against it.  Take responsibility for what you can, but you don’t need to apologize to placate a problem player; their sense of entitlement doesn’t actually cause any onus to transfer to you.

Third, I moved the discussion out of the public view after this.  While I feel that the first response was necessary to post in the OOC thread, the rest was best handled in private.  You don’t need interpersonal issues to be public.  That is just good communication 101.

Finally, establish boundaries.  The player is still angry with me, from what I know, but still wants to be a part of this group.  So I needed some assurances that they understood where I was coming from, and that this would not happen again.   Also, I explained that this would be the last time I would deal with this kind of behavior.  The next time, they would be removed from my group.  While I didn’t want to start with this reaction, I am ok with removing them from the group after this latest exchange of emails.  This is because I have outlined my expectations and the consequences, and hopefully this will cause my player to consider their responses next time. 

Three: Let your GMs know you appreciate them

My players got together on Wednesday and got me a Starbucks card and the X-wing starter set.  Just to say thank you for all the games I have run and plan on running.  I was blown away.  This was not the first time this has happened.  One of my players (the same guy quoted above) did this after the end of the Anima game I ran.  Just as a thank you for running a great game.

Let me say this clearly.  These acts are the single greatest form of praise I have ever received as a GM.  I have reciprocated once in the same vein, but I think this is something that I will do for every game in the future.

If you think about it, a GM in my group runs a game for 3-4+ hours a week, not including planning time.  This year we have been doing 3 month games, so that is 36-40+ hours of running.  That is a full time work week.  And if you run a game at that frequency for a year? That is a work month of running a game, at least, for free.

So show your GM’s appreciation.  It revitalizes us, renews our love of the game, and lets us know that you like the game.  I am not saying go out and buy your GM board games (I am not saying don’t either ;)) but a cup of coffee or a beer once in a while will go a long way.

So those are my thoughts coming out of last week.  Have you ever dealt with a problem player?  What are your thoughts about dealing with one?

 

 

The Races of the Outlands

Man I really love my gamers, I had some great responses to this week’s Burning Wheel Question.  I am getting pretty excited about the world and the game thereafter.  Ok so let’s dig a bit into this week’s responses.

Everyone seems to want the main cultures to be human only.  This is alright with me as it fits the low fantasy/sword and sorcery style of game.  They, the race of man, will represent the status quo at the start of the game.  This is the familiar, the safe, the starting point of the player’s knowledge

One of my players loves him some Lizardmen, so we combined a couple of ideas and have Lizardmen out to the west.  They lurk in the dark places of the world, far beyond the borders of the petty human kingdoms.  They have been influenced by the Cultists, and they also have their own beliefs.  Their culture could be very animistic and tribal.

So, they will represent our ties to the way things were, what this land was like before the arrivals from the Old World.  Maybe with something added, like some strange ruins that hint at an even older race, like the elves.  One idea is that the elves retreated/were forced from this realm long ago and now only their monuments remain.

Finally, I would like to include beastmen as well?  Perhaps they are the true descents of the cultists and their foul magics.  I always liked the chaos beast men of Warhammer and their race fits well within our genre and themes.  They would either be a corrupted race, or a race that has devolved.  Either way they would represent a tie linking the Old World and New, as well as a dark hint at a long lost past and at a chaotic future.

Also, I have attached my first run at the region map.  If you have any comments, feel free to let me know what you think!  I am starting with a hex map, but might move onto more of an atlas style later

Tonight I am going to run RQ6 for my Wednesday night gaming group as our GM is off camping.  A recap of that, and the BW Week 6 question will be up tomorrow!

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Monster Island & Monster Island Companion Review

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Disclaimer: These books were graciously given to me for the purposes of review by Design Mechanism

Overview

I was very excited about this book, as I love bestiaries.  There are many reasons for this: they are filled with new creatures, new takes on old creatures, they help fill out a setting’s feel, and usually spark my imagination with many adventure ideas.  Some of my favorite ones have actually changed the course of my planned game, as they have presented a better idea or foe than I originally thought of (I am thinking of you Anima: Those Who Walked Amongst Us).

So when Design Mechanism sent me three PDFs, reading this first was a no brainer.  Man was I surprised.  This is not a bestiary, at least not in the traditional sense.  The RuneQuest team presented a complete adventure setting in this book.  And after I got through it, I feel they made a great call.

As before, I will break down my review by chapters.  So let’s dig into Monster Island and its companion.

Introduction

Monster Island is based on the prototypical island in the mists.  Isolated from the rest of the world, this place is filled with things that time has forgotten.  Or wishes it could forget.  As written this setting is a very large sandbox and is very entrenched in the sword and sorcery genre.  The writers give you a couple of ideas of how to place the island into your campaign, whether you are running a Glorantha game, a home brewed world, or even a game set on Earth in any time period.  As with the main rules, I feel this showcases the versatility of RQ6 and of the writers design principles.  The chapters start wide in scope, giving you a broad view of the land, and progressively drill down through layers of detail.  It unfolds at a nice pace that I feel is necessary when introducing you into a sandbox.  But don’t worry; although large and filled with a lot of history and monsters, Monster Island is still an island.  At nearly 300 pages, you are given just enough detail to provide you with many hours of play without overwhelming you.

The artwork appears with what feels like even less frequency than the main rule book, but again is poignant and evocative.

Chapter 1 – the Island

In chapter one, we are given a broad introduction to our new sandbox, starting with a geological tour of the island.  Monster Island is formed from the bowls of a number of dormant volcanos, giving it a unique shape and providing a basis for a number of cultures and climates.  We have everything from sandy beaches to glacier encrusted mountains. The writers give you information on the geology, topography, weather and ecology of your new island.  It is a lot of information to ingest, and I would recommend having the map of the island and the elevation map out while you read the book. If you are like me, you will want to have this reference to see where everything that comes after falls on the island. This chapter helps set the stage for the sandbox nature of the setting.  It gives the GM a physical place for the setting, and establishes the physical characteristics.

Chapter 2 – History and Cultures

As stated before in the RQ6 review, one of the things I think you do to really make the game work is tie the generic mechanics to narrative content.  This chapter showcases how that can be done, and provides a ton of examples for you to use as is, or port to your own game.

Monster Island’s history is rife with plot ideas.  We have fallen gods asleep in great bestial forms, lost sorcerer kingdoms, gates the bring new monsters to the island primitive spirit worshiping tribe, and a human colony attempting to establish a foothold in this madness.

The three main cultures (Colonists, High Folk Sorcerers, and Savages) are given detailed backgrounds as well as mechanics for playing a character from one of these cultures.  It takes the basic RQ6 primitive and civilized cultures, and tweaks them for this setting.  This includes a number of sample combat styles with weapons and traits already assembled.  All the cultures explore how status is gained and lost, as well a wealth of detail on the individual cultures, both mechanically and fluff wise.

It should be noted that while the default race of the Savages and the High Folk in the book are lizard and snake men, the fluff and information is designed to allow these raced to be interchanged with others.  Want savage elves instead of lizard men?  I did not see anything that would preclude that.

All in all, this entire chapter sets up a lot of Monster Island story.  But it is more of a framework, rather than the start of a metaplot.  There is plenty of information in this chapter to spark an entire campaign.

Chapter 3 – Settlements

As the title suggests, this chapter zooms in on settlements on the island.  But this is meant to be a guide for GMs, so it only covers three settlements, with the intention that these are to be used as models for others in on the isle. We see a Savage village, a High Folk city and the Colony itself.  With the Colony being the made entrance for human folk to the island, the other two settlements were chosen for their importance, and proximity to the Colony itself.

As we dig into this chapter we are given places, locations and people important to each location.  No stats are provided for the NPC’s in this chapter.  Each settlement has minor mechanical information to help run the location while the players are there.  The most flavorful one for me was the Avenue of Delights in the city of the High Folk.  Walking in these garden unprotected forces a roll on a table to see what narcotic is affecting your PC.

We are given a map only of the Colony, and again I think this is due to the intent of the designers for the colony to be the human/PC home base for the game.

Chapter 4 – Places of Interest

Here we are given nearly 50 pages of unique locations to the island.  Each is accompanied by a number of ways to use this location in your campaign, many of which could be turned into multi adventure stories. We do see more mechanics entering this section; NPC and monster statistics mainly.

There is a good mix of exploration, dungeon, combat, and other types of locations.  Also as you read through this section, the feel of the setting is handed to you.  I feel like I ‘got’ Monster Island better after this section than after the preceding ones.  It is an ancient land, with rules your civilized PC’s won’t understand to begin with.  It will seem random, chaotic, and deadly.  But slowly an order, or at least a framework, emerges.

We also are given more information on the MacGuffin of the island, the Smoking Mirrors.  These ancient, unfathomable objects are what keep the island’s flora and fauna stocked and ready for PC interaction.

Chapter 5 – Campaigns

This is a great chapter.  It begins by defining what the writers mean by sandbox campaign.  Mainly: no over arcing plot, not everything can be killed, no game balance, the need for consequences for actions, and why there is a lot of blank space on the map.  In each of these sections, there is a good explanation on why this is important, and more importantly how it ties into Monster Island.

Next we find an overview of the sword and sorcery genre.  Seeing as this is an older/lesser known genre when compared to say High Fantasy; this is a good include in this section.  It covers the major themes and preconceptions of the genre.  Not that you couldn’t throw all of that to the wind and run a spell-slinging High Fantasy game, but it helps explain the genre to the uninitiated.

The chapter finishes up with some great adventure seeds and for those of us who like them, encounter tables.

Chapter 6 – Magic

Only three of the five magic systems shown in RQ6 make it into Monster Island.  I feel like this was a good choice.  You have three cultures, so each culture gets magic systems fleshed out for its specific use.  Savages receive spirit controlling animism, the High Folk cling to sorcery, and the Colonists brought their gods with them to the Island.  This section details the rules used for magic in this setting, the various spells and miracles that are associated with each type of magic, some new and variant spells, and the cults at teach these skills.

It is a great example of what can be done with the RQ6 magic system.  The mechanical choices flavor the setting, while the broad strokes of the cults flavor the way the PC’s will interact with the magic.  This whole book does a great job of being an example for GM’s on how to use the RQ6 rules in their game.

Chapter 7 – Items and Substances

This chapter covers the setting specific equipment for the cultures.  We receive some information on the pricing of various goods, before we get into poisons and diseases.

Which are nasty.  The poisons are horrid and the diseases are even more brutal.  We have diseases that turn the victim into an undead, or cause him to spontaneously combust.  From what I have read about European colonists arriving in the South Pacific, this level of horror at strange and new diseases seems appropriate, but of course with a magical twist.

Finally we are given some magical artifacts, again by culture.  We see Animistic Fetishes, Sorcery Matrices and Holy Talismans.  And true to the sword and sorcery genre, a lot of these are not items your PC’s will want to have or have thrown at them.

Chapter 8 – Flora and Fauna

One hundred and Eighty-nine pages into Monster Island and we get to the monsters!  I was very excited, especially seeing that there are about one hundred pages left in the book.  The writers crammed a lot of setting in those first pages, but I was excited to see the creatures this island of terror held.

And I was not disappointed.  I am not going to cover all the monsters, but they are true to the setting, genre and feel of the island.  It starts off with a couple of new abilities, which are always great in a system where you are encouraged to develop your own monsters.  We have carnivorous plants, wasps whose sting turns the victim into an undead drone and incubator for its young, and a plethora of dinosaurs.

One of the creatures that I loved the best was the Cob Hobbler.  It is an infestation that turns a person into a spider hybrid.  Horrific and great stuff! Even though it amounts to less than half of the book, this section is a great bestiary.

Appendices & Companion

Here we find some stats on the Lizard Folk and Serpent People, with a variety of NPC statistics. But more importantly we find the lore and stats on the God Who Walk.  These are the gods that took bestial shape and sleep on, in and under the island.  The savages keep them asleep for when they wake they are basically a mobile cataclysm.

Companion

I am putting my review of the companion here as opposed to in a separate review, because that is where I feel this information belongs.  I recognize that Design Mechanism was probably hitting their page count sweet spot, and either had to cut this information or left it out completely from the get go, but the companion is filled with things that I feel should be covered in the main book, or was already covered.

NPC statistics for all of the major NPC’s listed in the Settlement chapters are found in this book. And we have a reprint of all the encounter charts from the Campaign section here as well, although in a nice format in one location.

However the map really makes this PDF worthwhile.  It is a full color map of the island, with hex and location overlays.  But each layer is able to be manipulated and hidden.  So you can customize the map’s information for your players.  It is a nice touch.  And it is only a $5.00 purchase currently, and is only available in PDF form.

Conclusion

I enjoyed Monster Island. Perhaps more than I would have enjoyed a straight bestiary.  It took me a while to get to this thought, as I was expecting three hundred pages of monsters.  But, as I have said, it is a great example on how to apply RQ6 to a setting concept.  What level of detail I would need to flesh out, and where the mechanics really need to interact with the setting.

The book is a great buy even just as a bestiary, but you get so much more than that.

Content: 5/5 – A good showcase and sandbox campaign

System: 3/5 – Not a whole lot of new system here, but a great application of what was established earlier.

Aesthetic: 4/5 – Like RQ6, the layout is clean and the art, while light, is thematic and evocative.

Now as for the Companion, I would say hold off on this one till you are running your Monster Island game.  It has very useful stats that would be a great aid to the GM, but unless you are running this setting most of the information, even the map, is not a must have.

Hopefully, I will be through Book of Quests next week, so stay tuned for another RQ6 review then!

*RuneQuest 6 products are available in soft cover through your FLGS or in PDF through driverthrurpg.com.  Both versions are available through the publisher at thedesignmechanism.com

Formation of the Outlands & Burning Wheel – World Building Question #5

I have not got the sign off on this week’s question from my entire group, but here is the proposed result.

Four centuries ago, the Outlands were discovered.  A land far away from the core regions of the Empires: lush, fertile, and most importantly an ocean away.  The great nations each saw their own uses for this land.  And the fact that it was sparsely populated by nomadic tribes meant the Old World’s wishes were not to be denied.

From Sardonia, colonists landed, seeking to strengthen their empire’s arm with new resources in the war against the Thresh.  The Acolytes of the Lords of Order sent established monasteries and Holy Sanctuaries to spread the light of the Lords to the heathens of the Outlands.  Dunaia, seeing the ignorance of the indigenous peoples sought to raise them up, as the Godlings once did for all the nations of the Old World.  The Qion Alliance established a prison for the worst that the island cities could produce. 

Finally, remnants the Cult of the Lost flocked to the Outland on boat of stone and ebony.  For the Inquisition had been culling them and was closing in on the last of them, but far too late to stop their master’s dark plans. They rode the wake of the Old World’s destruction; it carried them across the seas.  When they landed, they pushed past the colonies to the deep reaches of the Outlands, where it is whispered they insinuated themselves into the tribes they found there.

This history matters little however.  The wake of the cataclysm that rent the old lands fell on the ‘colonies’, and slew over a quarter the living.  It is said that the dead rose from those slain, to cull more of their own.  When the shadow of the Dark Night fell on the Outlands, over half the Ocean blooded were dead.  Former ties were severed, and each city clung to their walls alone.  Some of the Illuminated say that the Dark Night is coming to an end, but the kingdoms just wait for the rest of their doom to fall.

I will make an update if this changes radically, but so far people have been happy with the amalgamation of their responses. 

This week’s question is on what races inhabited the Outlands before the Old World invasion.  I am interested to see what Burning Wheel races we cut, and what my players want to keep and add.  It should be a great week for planning.

Go Ask Alice

The first session of Mage was last night, and I had a blast.  My group leapt into this new game with both feet.  We had a bit of housekeeping to take care of right off the bat.  Resonances were picked, game mechanics were explained, but after about twenty minutes I was able to start.  A little bit of an opening monologue over the sound of White Rabbit and we were off.

This game is a big shift from my last game, and I think I was successful in conveying that.  There was no combat and no resolution in the first session.  It was 100% setup and investigation.  The player’s had full control of where they could go, and did a great job of working together and getting a lot of leg work done.  They know there is a puzzle, and have started assembling some of the border pieces.

I don’t think I will go into the plot of the game here on this blog, or do recaps of the night’s sessions at this point.  Those will be available on our Obsidian Portal site.  I will talk about themes, or specific events that came up.

I plan on starting each story off with a theme song.  Sometimes I plan to voice over it, sometimes I will just let the song play.  The point will be to set the mood, or convey something about the story.  White Rabbit was chosen to convey, unsubtly I admit, that the world they were about to enter was not their own.  It is strange, and dark, and terrifying.  I honestly don’t know if the song conveyed that, but will we see how it plays out in the future.

Also, I have to say, I was caught completely off guard by two of my players.  I am blessed to have a 50/50 split in the group of guys to girls.  When I asked them about what they wanted for their closing scenes, the guys fixed their bikes or ran lab tests.  The girls, both of whom have romantic ties to this first story arc, wanted to go on dates.  It was completely out of left field but totally in character and I loved it.

We shall see how this all plays out.

Burning Wheel Week 4 response is out to my players, I will post that and the Week 5 question tomorrow.  Our Wednesday night game got canceled for the next two weeks, so I will be running either a Torchbearer or RQ6 one shot next week. That should be a lot of fun.

Speaking of RQ6, I would like to send big thanks to Design Mechanism.  They enjoyed the RuneQuest review and have sent me their other pdfs to review.  So expect Monster Island up sometime in the next two weeks, followed by the Book of Quests.

So that was my week in gaming, what about yours?

RuneQuest 6 Review – Part Three – Creatures, Advice & Conclusions

This is it, the last two chapters of the RuneQuest 6 main rules and my personal thoughts on this game.  Hopefully this will be the shortest one; I am trying to keep this total review under ten pages for my editor’s sake [Ed. – And he thanks you for that].

Chapter 15 – Creatures

I am finding that I like game systems that include a bestiary in the core rules.  The idea that this is really the only book I need to run a game is very seductive, and RuneQuest delivers on this new found desire of mine.  The section starts off with a couple of general rules for creatures and stat blocks, and then delves into abilities.  These are all in one section in alphabetical order, so referencing them during play should be a snap.  Under ‘creature competence’ the authors explain about how to balance creatures against PC’s.  There are no challenge ratings, XP budgets or any hard mathematical formulae here.  This is because of how RuneQuest is built and how it scales.  There are no hard levels to measure or balance against.  But they give some good insights on how to balance based off average numbers, and more importantly, off how the creatures fight.  There is some great advice in this section for any game.

The next section details sixty creatures (some of which can be player characters) and thirteen spirit types, pulled more heavily from myth and legend as opposed to standard gaming lore.  In addition to these seventy-three foes RuneQuest includes the rules for designing your own creatures, which I feel rounds this section out fantastically.  It gives you a wide range of choices to use in your game, and then helps you expand beyond there.  I feel this gives this book a complete feel; you really don’t need more than this book to run years of gaming in RuneQuest 6.

Chapter 16 – Games Mastery

This chapter covers the basics that most sections like this cover.  How to prep for a game, how to run through character creation, and advice on combats, investigations, and social conflict.  It is a great overview on how to run this game for the person who picks up this book for the first time.  I did not feel like they covered any new ground for the experienced GM, but they did a great job of viewing existing advice through the lens of their game. 

The last part of this section covers magic and cults, and if you read the last review, you can understand why.  There is a lot of effort on the GM’s part to get these pieces set up before the game.  This advice helps organize the questions you will want to ask yourself on how magic and cults relate to your game setting.  This is the just kind of advice I would want to see after reading through the book.

Appendices

These five appendices cover a number of specific and optional topics: tactical movement, chaos features (which are fantastic), non-human hit locations, the character sheet, and a combat tracking sheet.  The book finishes off with a nine page index, which is a major plus for my gaming group.  If a book doesn’t have a great index, it tends to taint our thoughts on it.

Conclusion

Wow.  That was a way longer process than I thought it was going to be.  But I am glad to have done it.  I really enjoyed reading through RuneQuest and taking a deep look at it.  After finishing it, I am thinking about running a one shot of it for one of my groups in the near future.  The system is solid; the customization is phenomenal and over all I would give it:

Content: 5/5 – the book covers everything you need to get a RuneQuest game up and running.

System: 4/5 – Highly customizable with a simple core mechanic. 

Aesthetic: 4/5 – The layout is clean and the art, while light, is thematic and evocative.

 

But how did they do with their own stated goals?  If you remember their goals were:

–          To recapture the spirit and feel of the earlier editions of RuneQuest.

–          Provide a comprehensive fantasy roleplaying game that capitalizes on RuneQuest’s strengths.

–          Streamline the system, but also introduce new mechanics and systems that reflect what is happening in 21st Century roleplaying games.

–          Bring RuneQuest to a new audience, and continue to care for its old fans.

 

Having never played RuneQuest before, I can’t speak to the first one with any sense of authority.  However, from what I know of RuneQuest, it does seem to succeed here.  The second goal I feel they met completely.  The system is very comprehensive, with great advice on how to grow the game to fit your game.  This ties in well with the third goal, as I feel their simple core mechanic is at the heart of every sub-system in the game.  However, I am unsure (having never read a previous version of the game) what “new mechanics” were added to the game to update it to 21st century gaming.

 

Finally, seeing as I have never played or read RuneQuest, there last goal was an outstanding success from my perspective.  RuneQuest 6 brought me to the world of RuneQuest, well done Design Mechanism.

 

Well I hope you enjoyed this review, and I look forward to sending many more your way.  Any comments or feedback would be great.

 

*RuneQuest 6 is available in soft cover through your FLGS for $62.00 or in PDF through driverthrurpg.com for $25