Disclaimer: This book was graciously given to me for the purposes of review by Design Mechanism.
Books of Quests is a 226 page PDF for RuneQuest 6th edition. It contains a series of seven adventures that can either be run as independent adventures to drop into your home game, or as a series of linked adventures in a campaign. With the level of detail the RQ6 guys have provided, while I think the former is possible and they do a great job of giving you advice on how to do this, the latter is where the book shines. The quests and storyline of the Book of Quests are geared toward sword and sorcery as a genre, and I believe that they pull this off nicely.
Each adventure is laid out in similar fashion: after an overview of the adventure, you are given: a list of major NPC’s, a time line of events and the areas to be covered. It is a nice download of information to get important names, places and events into your head before you start digging into the meat of the adventure. After walking you through the encounters, each adventure ends with all of the relevant stat blocks for the creatures and characters found in that adventure. Each adventure comes with a number of maps useful for running the adventure, however in the PDF these are slightly out of focus, making them hard to interpret.
The book starts off with a great map of the Realm, the lands and environs for the adventures within. It then heads into an introduction of how to use this book. Design Mechanism gives you some basic advice on how to prepare for running these adventures, such as what magic rules and cultures are most prevalent, a conversion guide to using this product in Glorantha and some advice on how to incorporate these adventures into your own pre-existing campaign world. This is one thing I liked about Monster Island, the default assumption by RQ6 that there are many ways a GM can use their books and they give you advice on how to make it work.
The introduction then continues on into an overview of The Realm. Climate, government, non-human races and economy are all topics that receive a brief discussion here. The rules for magic and religion come next, with the Realm having a simple pantheon of seven gods. If you are looking at running these adventures pay special attention to the side bars The Mad Rule of King Chandanar and Keeping the Faith and the Household of Lucius. You receive some background information on the Realm and some of the plots revolve around or tie back to these sections. A number of notable locations wrap this overview up.
We are then given an overview of the adventure’s main antagonist, Jedakiah the Sorcerer. His machinations against the Realm are what provide the impetus for the PC’s quests, and each adventure draws them closer to eliminating the foul sorcerer once and for all. Rounding out this section is information on adventurer’s (i.e.: your players) in the realm. It also includes the Order of Truth, an organization that can become a great ally to the PCs, and one that they might be able to join.
The first adventure is a good starting point. Not just for the Book of Quests, but for new GMs and Players to Rune Quest. There is even a section on how to prepare to run this adventure, which I feel is geared towards a group new to RuneQuest.
The plot is fairly straight forward. The PC’s are picked up as caravan guards, and along the way discover that a strange beast of Chaos is plaguing the route. This beast ties directly back to the sorcerer Jedakiah, exposing the players to the malignant influence of this evil. It also introduces the barbarian tribes of Gartharis, a group that will plague the Realm for most of the adventures. Along the way there are a number of interesting side quests that develop which round out the breadth of this adventure.
Beneath the Black Water
In this adventure, the players are hired by a duke of the Realm to recover his daughter, who has been taken by a tribe of chaos worshiping frogmen. This adventure reveals more of the Jedakiah’s plot for the Realm, including the fact that the duke’s daughter was the victim of a random abduction. She is a key part in the sorcerer’s plan to the ascension of Chaos.
This adventure, like Caravan, is a fairly standard fantasy/sword & sorcery adventure. While it ties in well with the overarching plot, and stands alone as an independent adventure, there is nothing truly unique about it. It is a solid, well established adventure
Shadows Behind the Throne
This jewel is tied for my favorite scenario in the Book of Quests. Shadows Behind the Throne is all about perspective, namely those of the quest givers in this adventure. It starts off with a princess rescue, that turns into a save Théoden from Wormtongue… er the king from his corrupt advisor who is a pawn for Jedakiah, and then throws a number of great twists into the mix. If you enjoy Lankhmar, this adventure feels to be in the same vein.
The urban city is full of corruption and intrigue and relies far more on the player’s investigative skills. There are, however, a number of foes which will make the fights memorable. More cannot be said without giving away the adventure, but I feel like this adventure has a number of great reveals that are well thought out. Also, keep an eye out for the player’s handouts at the end of the adventure, which you will want to have ready for your players.
The Chaos Mother’s Chalice
The Chaos Mother’s Chalice reveals more of the Realm’s relevant past to the players. If you are playing this as part of the campaign, it is also a great place to reintroduce some of NPCs that the players have interacted with over the past three scenarios. The Background and Introduction section gives you the Sorcerer’s Plots and how the Order of Truth reacts. If your players formed a strong tie with the Order of Truth, this is a good adventure to induct them into that organization.
The gist of the adventure is there is magic chalice that Jedakiah needs for his master plot, and the Order of Truth has uncovered this need and sends the players to stop him. There is a bit of investigation on the players part, some exploration, and finally a good old fashion dungeon crawl through a corrupt temple. The adventure does a good job of giving the GM information to make the temple a living dungeon, where the adversaries react as opposed to just wait for the PCs to kick in the door. And the named Chaos mutants look like they would be a blast to run.
Curse of the Contessa
This was my other favorite adventure in the book, tied with Shadows Behind the Throne. Another urban adventure, with a very sandbox/investigative bent, the players once again have to cut through layers of deception to discern who is using whom and to what end. I also enjoy the fact that the adventure as written has a very true sword and sorcery ending. While yes the players can “save the day” by ending Jedakiah’s machinations in Westport, the cost is quite high. The writer does give you a “happy ending” solution if you feel that the ending as written is too dark.
You are presented with a background, a list of NPCs, motivations, places and events, as well as a rough timeline for how the adventure will progress. This adventure also revolves around perspective, but in this case, it is more about the player’s perspective of events, rather than the NPC’s perspectives. All in all this was a fantastic scenario, and among the best in the book. It does demand a higher level of study and preparation on the end of the GM as multiple things are happening at once, and the NPCs are reacting to players. The players need to drive this adventure, and as the GM it is your job to help them keep the ball rolling to the bitter end.
Raid on Yagelan’s Bluff
Chaos Hybrids return in this adventure, and it is up to the players to end their menace once and for all. This is another dungeon crawl adventure, but reveals even more of Jedakiah’s allies and plot.. The players will interact with the insidious Ophidians and try to put an end to their breeding vats. A well written adventure, with a number of small side quests, this one moves the story along to the dungeon rather quickly. It does however give some great advice on what happens after your players blow up the breeding vats, as the large facility does not just let the players escape easily after such an act.
Reckoning at Distaff Peak
In the final adventure, the players finally attack Jedakiah in his sanctum and hopefully rescue the duke’s daughter before the mad sorcerer’s plans come to fruition. There are some great Chaos mutants in this adventure, and it has a solid plot. And, it does not assume that the players will win. It gives some ideas on what to do if they fail at this point, and what that means for the Realm. I would seriously recommend familiarizing yourself with Jedakiah and all he can do, so that this fight has the epicness that it deserves.
Over all, I enjoyed this book. It differs from Monster Island, a sandbox setting, and provided more of a typical adventure path for GM’s to use. While either book would make a great purchase for GMs, if you are new to RQ6 and/or GMing, I would recommend buying this book first as it provides a ready-made way to experience the RQ6 system. The writers do a great job referencing rules in the main rule book, with citations so you can look up the relevant details. The first sentence in the book implies that there are more such books, set in the Realm, forthcoming. I cannot wait to see them.
Content: 5/5 – A good showcase of the rules, two outstanding scenarios, and solid campaign
System: 4/5 – Not a whole lot of new system here, but the writers did a great job of cross-referencing with the main rulebook for ease of use.
Aesthetic: 3/5 – Layout is standard for Design Mechanism; however the blurry maps made it difficult to read some of the overland maps.
*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