Conversion Rules for RQIII to HQ – is there such a thing?

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Conversion Rules for RQIII to HQ – is there such a thing? Mr Smith's picture Submitted by Mr Smith on Sun, 10/02/2013 – 22:59


Thanks to Charles for replying to a previous posting. I’m continuing this discussion as a new topic, but to get the rest of you up to speed: I’ve been part of a campaign since the early 80’s, and since moving from RQ2 to RQIII, we’ve been playing RQIII set in Glorantha for 30 years!  

I asked about conversion rules re: RQIII to RQVI – but apparently it’s not you lot! 

However, please indulge me: what about HQ2? 

Have there ever been rules for converting Runequest III characters to the HQ system? 

In my original posting I did mention some disquiet about the different feel of the Runequest Glorantha compared to the Heroquest Glorantha, especially Runequest III that put such heavy emphasis on realism.

Whether or not it ever actually was realistic, it did however make an effort to simulate a world similar to ours, but with the addition of magic. Whereas Heroquest seemed to be a far more malleable, fluid world in which magic and the impossible was seamlessly woven into the everyday. Including the ever-present activities of heroquesters. Our RQIII Characters have been denied such a pleasure! 

A nice touch with HQ rules (like I said, I bought the first deluxe boxed set of the rules) was the seamless transition between mortal and immortal. Skills could just keep increasing. This made sense of certain mythological events in Glorantha, such as  the mortal Yanafil Tarnils (I don’t care if I’ve misspelled this, can’t stand you chaos loving moonies) beating his God, Humakt in combat. We as players in RQIII- and our characters sitting over mugs of ale in Karse – have spent plenty of time thinking “how the f*ck did he do that?

Which ultimately brings me to my point: we have (some) characters that have fought our way to a RQIII plateau (and in RQIII, it’s not easy. It’s a tough world!), with no idea of “how to get up there” i.e. the Heroplane or the Godplane. HQ seems to be all about “up there“. 

If there even was a way to be on the mundane plane as RQ IIIers, and then Heroquest as HQ2ers, then I’m sure we’d be happy! But…. We do need a fair and reasonable set of conversion rules and lots and lots of Heroquesting scenarios! 

Over to you on this one! 




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Regarding levels of abilities

Submitted by Charles on Fri, 15/02/2013 – 23:13.

Following-up from one of your (unanswered) earlier questions.

Abilities in HeroQuest are scalable. Say for example, that you have an ability at 10W against a resistance at 18. The game mechanics treat that identically to 10W2 and 18W; or 10W3 and 18W2.

So that is what I mean when I say that the absolute level of abilities does not matter except to stroke player egos. It really does not matter what level you start at, the game mechanics work exactly the same way at every ability level.

The game system encourages the GM to set resistances relative to a notional base resistance level. This base resistance level is initially set at a level commensurate with their starting ability levels (default 14, assuming the standard starting ability levels are used) and goes up by 1 every 2 playing sessions. See pages 71, 72 and 73 of HeroQuest for the full explanation.

Take a look at the character’s story so far

Submitted by Joerg Baumgartner on Fri, 15/02/2013 – 08:19.

Your RuneQuest characters are way more than a bunch of stats – they are a travelogue of their adventures so far. So rather than figuring out how exactly to transfer those sword or sneak skills, take the most noteworthy achievements of your characters, and make those into more or less broad skills, at at least the first mastery.

Killed lots of broos? Give them a Slay Chaos Minion or similar ability, not on par with a Storm Bull’s perseverance against chaotic foes, but better than your average Joe Praxian/Orlanthi.

Explored half of Prax? Well-traveled in Prax, which combines geographic, linguistic and even magical knowledge as well as specific survival challenges.

Had to hightail out of Pavis because of notoriety? An ability.

And so on. List friends, contacts and foes, and try to group them into relationships – voila, abilities.

Make sure your party has roughly equal levels of skills, if you want to keep them grounded, make sure that their high specialist abilities (like brooslayer) are applicable against Joe Orlanthi only at a penalty (“sure, it’s a slayer ability, but there are no broo involved here…”).

I don’t believe there is any

Submitted by Tim Ellis on Tue, 12/02/2013 – 07:52.

I don’t believe there is any specific conversion tool for going from (any version of) RQ to HQ.  The general advice has always been to describe the character (in “normal” English rather than “rules-speak”) and use that as the basis for the  100 Word Narrative method of Character Generation.  Numeric values are assigned using the normal HQ rules and your knowledge of the character.


Particularly with HQ2, there is no way of linking the numeric values of a RQ Skill (eg  “Move Silently 75%”) and a HQ Ability (eg “Catlike Tread 5W”).  The whole philosophy is that regardless of the “Actual” power level of your game you can use the same (starting) ability scores and treat everything else as relative to that.  


There are some early conversions of old “Official” RQ scenarios to Hero Wars rules buried in the “Old sites” area of the Moon Design website – – the instructions were that no changes were to be made beyond converting the rules, and, of course Hero Wars has been updated (twice) to Hero Quest (1 and 2), but they may give some assistance.


More problematic to the plan of using RQ for the “Mundane” and HQ for the “Otherworldly” adventures is the problem of converting “back” to RQ to take account of any changes that result from the Quest.  (Way back when Greg had decided to work on a new Gloranthan game, but before it became Hero Wars, he was describing his plans at a UK convention where he was guest of honour (This was also pre Convulsion/Continuum) – even then he admitted that becoming a Heroquester was going to be Transformative, and although he (then) hoped you would be able to take your existing characters into the new game, he could see problems in returning to a normal existence (and “normal RQ”) for those characters thereafter).

Mr Smith's picture


Submitted by Mr Smith on Tue, 12/02/2013 – 19:17.


“…becoming a Heroquester was going to be Transformative, and although he (then) hoped you would be able to take your existing characters into the new game, he could see problems in returning to a normal existence (and “normal RQ”) for those characters thereafter”

Fascinating! I totally get that. With greater powers would come greater challenges, etc, etc, etc. 

In our campaign, my oldest & most powerful character is a Wind Lord who, through the ingenious combination of several magical artifacts (begged, borrowed and stolen) worked out that he could visit Valind on the Godplane (without freezing to death, starving or getting lost). So, he became initiated into the cult and off he went. As we don’t have Godplane Rules, Heroquest Rules or even a Scenario describing what happens when you meet a God, my character has effectively levelled up and out of the game! 

But I always wonder if we did have that Scenario and my character survived his various ordeals on the Godplane/heroplane (I mean if a God turns you into a superhero, he’ll expect certain jobs done), then what would he be like? When he walks back through the door of his old house to see his old wife ….and, looking like Mr Freeze, or a throbbing popsicle, how could he return to his old life? 

Looking at it from his perspective, and his wife’s – it has a certain ring of personal tragedy to it. I mean, could you even hug a Valind Superhero without getting frostbite? 


Anyway, that was a little self-indulgeant of me. Apologies. I got swept away in the Mills & Boon romance of it all. 



RoM's picture

what defines your character?

Submitted by RoM on Fri, 15/02/2013 – 09:01.

In my opinion converting RQ3 (or any other system) into HQ2 is pretty easy. Don’t convert your skills into abilities. Simply put aside your old character sheet and think of who and what your character defines, think of his skills, contacts, moral values, physical features, personality traits and flaws. Then put your thoughts into a 100 word description. Done.

Mr Smith's picture

Thanks for all your comments

Submitted by Mr Smith on Sat, 16/02/2013 – 16:51.

I was wondering. Has some kind soul put up an example of HQ gameplay on Youtube or another video hosting website? 

That might make me get to grips with the system a little better. 

And I get the conversion narrative thing: for HQ that totally makes sense because that’s how all characters start out! 

Whether it’s a security blanket kind of thing, or just the nagging feeling HQ isn’t for me (because I’m leaving a harsh Runequest III World of “we worked bloody hard to get to where we are and it’s not easy because your character can start off with rubbish stats and a useless background and characters die, and die, and keep dying” to enter a world “where everybody is a hero“, which brings to mind several scenes in ‘The Incredibles’ ~ when everyone’s super. No one will be), I need some convincing. 

Anyway, thanks for getting back in touch. Much appreciated. 

You can always choose to

Submitted by boztakang on Tue, 19/02/2013 – 16:58.

You can always choose to narrate HQ in such a way that PCs drop like flies. It really does all come down to the “genre conventions” that your group decides to go with. If you want lots of combat fatalities, it is not at all hard to do so in HQ. When you set the stakes of a contest, you just have to make it clear that those include death – setting contests like: “The broo want to kill you. If you do not succeed in this contest, you will be dead.” Can easily make HQ as or more deadly than RQ. 

In some ways, HQ might even lend itself to such high-bodycount campaigns more easily than RQ… If you use “as you go” char creation, all a dead player has to do to jump back into the action is come up with a plausable one-sentence description of their new redshirt. Chars who survived several sessions would naturally develop more abilities and backstory through the course of play, which is probably a much more satisfying “play” process than spending several hours rolling up a complete char just to be stabbed in the eye by a trollkin the first time you set foot outside the stead.

Of course, in most heroic stories, it is not really acceptable for the protagonist to be randomly killed by an incidental “wandering monster”. That is why HQ encourages contests like “the broo wish to capture you, so that they may perform unspeakable acts upon your helpless flesh at some later date.” That sort of contest maintains threat and tension, while making it highly unlikely that a PC will die “before their time” (you could potentially have several session of attempted escape and rescue before the hapless victim finally dies in some gloriously suicidal scheme to prevent their horrible fate)

In my current Troll campaign, we have had two PC deaths in around 8 sessions. One was consumed body and soul while attempting to summon a hell-beast from Subere’s realm to defend her clan, and another died in icy extacy after allowing himself to be seduced by the mountain-top goddess while he was trying to contact an avalanche spirit. 

In many cases, being a “hero” just means you get to die in a more interesting way than the “regular folk”

Jeff's picture

I may try to record a game or

Submitted by Jeff on Sun, 17/02/2013 – 03:29.

I may try to record a game or two when I am out in Seattle in next month (possibly with special guest stars). But here’s the basic difference:

Runequest is ultimately true to gaming’s wargaming roots. You play one of the previously anonymous metal figurines in the collection, give it a range of abilities within the parameters of that type of figurine, and then go out into the world. The consequence of failure is usually death. Usually your character dies, dies, and keeps dying. Maybe you become an “elite” figurine, until you finally die. If you become something greater, it was pretty much entirely luck, since every other character around you has died, died, and died.

Heroquest is true to its literary roots. You play a characters in a saga, epic, legend, horror story, detective story – whatever the campaign is (most are a mix of many genres). Your characters are the central protagonists in this story. Abilities measure that characters ability to overcome obstacles in the game, and aren’t connected to the wargaming roots of the hobby. The consequence of failure is not usually death but new obstacles to overcome. Characters can die, in some genres they die like flies, but in most genres death is the result of a climactic scene.

I grew up on RuneQuest 2 and AD&D, moved on to RQ3 and Pendragon. But my gaming group greatly prefers HQ2. Part of that is age – we just don’t have time to spend figuring out how to best manipulate the rules in order to survive. Part of that is changing taste – we want climaxes other than two hour long combat scenes. My current campaign is centered around an Esrolian noblewoman and an Ernalda priestess, along with their retainers, advisors, and bodyguards, as they set off to ally with the Three Terrible Men (the Evil King, the White Bear, and the Dragon Lord) that the priestess says are the necessary if Esrolia is to survive the Hero Wars.  Combat happens, but HQ2 lets the non-combatant characters be far more directly involved than RQ did. And combat is over quickly, so the characters can move onto far more relevant obstacles such as “how is the party going to get through the Lunar siege into Whitewall”” or “how is the noblewoman going to seduce King Broyan?”

Hope that helps –



Editor-in-Chief, Moon Design Publications

Mr Smith's picture

Helps? Yes. It does.

Submitted by Mr Smith on Sun, 17/02/2013 – 15:15.

Yeah, I totally get you. 

I grew up in Scotland and the first RPG we played was Warhammer, which is now a vast table-top fantasy wargame. In the early days we were very young 11 – 13 years old, but we still distanced ourselves from our peer group who we would now classify  as ‘powergamers‘. Soon however, we discovered RQ2, and we’ve been hooked on Glorantha and that kind of rule system ever since. I do remember in the early years we were still surrounded by AD&D players, and we used to mock them and their level 30+ characters for having ‘water powered space-ships‘ (and yeah, they did apparently). We prided ourselves on having a gritty, realistic game world, where challenges were tough and rewards hard won and therefore more appreciated. 

I totally understand taste changing with age, and this includes what we want out of a gaming experience. I’m far more interested in a more holistic view of ‘adventure’, i.e. the curious domestic scenes in the private lives of heroes as well as their epic dungeon bashes; their motivations, their families, etc, etc.

It’s just that – as you know – any character that can survive 20+ years of adventuring in Runequest III has really achieved something. I mean, how lethal is climbing? Or even travelling by ship? And on mere stats alone, one fight in twenty will result in some bugger delivering a critical. Ouch….  Somehow I would want the transfer to Heroquest to reflect that. 

What I am jealous of, is the few tales I read of other people’s campaigns: I mean there is almost no way that I can conceive of us playing these kind of games in RQIII. Trips to Hell? Quests on the Heroplane? And even yours: nobility and political intrigue! Is your Esrolian Noblewoman a ‘starting off’ character? Did you start playing her as nobility? 

I have a parallel example which perfectly illustrates the harsh uneasy world of RQ, which is SO down to a die roll. My main character is a Wind Lord who has essentially retired from play, as he’s gone off on an unmapped heroquest, and we neither have the rules for the Godplane, nor the scenarios. So, he’s not aging on the Godplane, but neither is he doing anything (an apt turn of phrase would be ‘on ice’ as he is actually at the foot of Valind’s Throne): so he’s out of play. Cheerio. However, he leaves behind an interesting bunch: his family and followers (if you’re interested, I could drone on for hours). One of his daughters spent her inheritance, savings, etc on training up to be a respectable courtier, (skills training in dance, sing, etc, not that she needed to, but I like to make it realistic) and then spent money on getting married, using the frankly ridiculous Runequest Cities Supplement Marriages Table. It cost her 5000 pennies to get +25% on to one of her two dice rolls, and unbelievably she rolled 97%, which makes her a Countess. Apparently she found a nice Count. 

Yes, she had bonuses, but the chances of this happening are so slim as to be near paranormal

It just seems to me that achievement is so hard earned in RQ, but not so hard in HQ, especially if you just make up 100 words to begin with. This is my tedious gripe. 

I’m pretty much like a tourist from a foreign currency complaining about the exchange rate! 


Anyway, thanks again for your response. And a video of gameplay would be really helpful and interesting! 



Jeff's picture

Achievement can be very hard

Submitted by Jeff on Sun, 17/02/2013 – 16:04.

Achievement can be very hard in RQ – that’s not really what it is built to model (that isn’t to say it can’t model it, just that’s not what it is really designed to do). It requires far far less handwaving to do something Game of Thrones (political intrigue) or Harmastsaga (mythological adventure) with HQ2 than with RQ. On the other hand, RQ is much better at having a attack/parry/dodge/attack/parry/dodge attritional contest than HQ (since that is exactly what it is designed to do).

FWIW, my longest campaigns have been in Pendragon Pass or HQ; RQ campaigns typically petered out from party casaulties.

In the current campaign, the noblewoman started as a noblewoman. The player said she wanted her character to be young, beautiful, and from a powerful noble house. “No problem” said I. The rest of her character she developed as the campaign went on (we always play with the As You Go method, which lets you figure out your character in play). The player of the priestess said, “I want to be an oracle of Ernalda, who has visions of the Hero Wars and how we can survive it, but the queen won’t believe me.” Again, no problem. The other characters are similar (“I want to be a trireme captain who survived the disaster with Harrek,” “I want to be a Black Fang assassin,” “I want to be the Caladralander bodyguard of the noblewoman who thinks she’s nuts but is utterly loyal to her,” and “I want to be an Sartarite mercenary who smokes pipeweed, and is infatuated with the priestess”).


Editor-in-Chief, Moon Design Publications

Mr Smith's picture

Sounds Fun!

Submitted by Mr Smith on Sun, 17/02/2013 – 16:38.

Your campaign sounds fun – and the characters sound fun to play too. In those single sentences you can already get a grasp of who these people are. 

And your ‘scenario‘? I’m assuming you’ve written this? I’m also assuming you’re using published material as inspiration? When’s your campaign? Presumably in the 1620s? 

What’s nice about HQ is that character and roleplaying ARE the flesh & blood of the game. You can’t have a character that is only a range of attributes on a scale between 3 & 18. Certainly RQ has character backgrounds with culture & profession, etc, but HQ, it all begins with their stories which works back to stats, instead of stats first in RQ. 

But yeah, I’ll wait til I see it in action. Still feeling a bit reluctant to change. I mean, we have HQ1, and we did play that for a few sessions, but ….maybe we weren’t doing it right? 




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