A Time of Contemplation – RuneQuest

Here we are at the end of a Time of Contemplation.  (I know I mentioned looking at Pathfinder, but after looking at all the systems over the course of this series, I realized that I don’t particularly enjoy running Pathfinder.  So a Time of Contemplation will end today with this review.)  For the final system in A Time of Contemplation, I will be looking at RuneQuest, Sixth Edition.  RQ6 is brought to us by the Design Mechanism, it is a great system that I reviewed here, and here, and here.  One of the very first reviews I did for this blog, it is definitely the longest.  As I said back then, the highest praise I could give RuneQuest was it would be the system I would use to run a Malazan Empire game.  Now, almost a year later, I am looking at it for something much more personal.  My Ta’nar game.



How closely does the system match to the high magic, epic fantasy style found in Ta’nar? 10/10 – Runequest supports a very gritty style of game play, while still allowing for high magic.  This is much what is found in ACKS or the Malazan Books of the Fallen book series.  This is just the sort of tone and feel that I am hoping for in Ta’nar.  Add to this the way magic works in RuneQuest, and the customization of said systems, means that I can spend my time tweaking the system to true fit Ta’nar.

World Score: 10/10



Ascending to Godhood 6/10 – While there is no innate mechanic for this, Runequest has an open advancement system that will, with time and game play, allow players skills to rise heights above mortal men.  Couple this with cult creation, as well as with the wealth of older edition RuneQuest books, finding a way to add this aspect to the rules would be easy.

Establishing & Management of Nations 10/10 – Thanks to Empires, a RuneQuest supplement, I have a solid system for this category. 

Customized Deities 10/10 – Creating deities, and the cults that revolve around them, is a major part of setting up a RuneQuest campaign.  The main rule book provides a lot of guidance in this area, and while it would be time consuming, RQ6 engenders a detailed and well thought out mystical and theological paradigm in a gaming world.

Mass Combat 10/10 – Mass combat, like the Nations questions, has a solid set of rules.  In fact, just yesterday Design Mechanism released Ships & Shield Walls, a 32 page supplement on naval encounters and mass combat.  I bought this supplement yesterday, and it provides a nice light resolution mechanic for mass combat, that I think my players would enjoy.

Creation of Races 8/10 – While RuneQuest feels written towards a more humanocentric game, it does provide creature creation rules, as well as guidelines and examples of non-human races.  Also, like ACKS, RuneQuest has many years of older edition supplements to cannibalize for race creation.

Creation of Classes 8/10 – There are no classes for RuneQuest, so this is almost a moot category.  It allows for highly-free form character generation and has the flexibility and necessity for me to design cults and magic systems specifically for Ta’nar with the rules found in the main book.

Simple Monster Creation Rules 7/10 – I would not look at RuneQuest and label the monster creation rules simple.  However, I can only assume that is due to my lack of familiarity with them.  I still scored this as a seven due to the breadth of creature types the rule set supports, how close they are to the types I use in Ta’nar normally, and the wealth of supplemental monster books.

Fast interesting combat 7/10 – RuneQuest has a very dynamic and brutal combat system.  The couple of times I have played it, the fights were over quick, as a player can quickly found themselves out gunned or overpowering their opponents.  Plus RuneQuest’s combat system provides a level of system mastery as it relates to the ebb and flow of a fight.

Mechanics Score: 66/80


Does my play group enjoy it? 7/10 – I have only run one-shots of this game for my gaming group, and they did enjoy the game.  However, each time I have run it, we have not used magic of any kind.  We were trying to focus on the basics, so that meant limiting the game to skills and combats.  But the group did find the system simple and intuitive.  My major concern is the cognitive break from a d20 system.

Did I enjoy it? 8/10 – I was surprised by how much I enjoyed RuneQuest.  I never really liked percentile based resolution systems, but that seems to be mainly due to limited exposure through the Warhammer Fantasy RPG.  RuneQuest feels like the kind of game that I could really sink my teeth into for a long term game.

Is the system one that lends itself to mastery? 10/10 – Very much so.  The XP mechanic of advancements ensures that the players are continually forced to make choices on how their character evolves.  The mechanics for cults and magic allows a surprising amount of mechanical depth to be added into a setting, allowing the players to delve and explore the rules coupled with the mechanics.  Add in the mass combat and empires rules, and I feel I have enough of a system to sustain itself for years.

Mechanics Score: 25/30

Combined Score: 101/120 ~ 84%


Wow.  I thought for sure I would have seen a wider spread in the scores.  But there is only a 3% difference between 13th Age and Runequest and a 6% spread across the top three games.  Granted Cypher has been dropped from the running.  If we look strictly at the mechanical sections ACKS and Runequest pull well ahead, but the goal was to look at the games as a whole. 

So I have to look for a tiebreaker of sorts.  Next week, I will hopefully have heard back on a number of things behind the scenes and will be able to announce a winner for the Dark War System!



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