First published in Questlines II
Copyright © 1997 by Michael O’Brien
RuneQuest – as we know it, anyway – is gone, and whatever game Avalon Hill come up with for their new version, it will be nothing more than a bastard stepchild of the system all we grew up with – and, more significantly – it won’t be Gloranthan. Everyone waits with bated breath for the rabbit that Greg Stafford’s going to pull out of his Issaries Inc. hat; let’s just hope we won’t be waiting as long as we have for HeroQuest, hey?
RQ is the second RPG I ever played, way back in the late seventies when I was a kid in first form (there’s no prizes for the RPG®©tm I started with). Strangely enough, we got our hands on a little supplement called Apple Lane long before we saw the rules, and working out RQ from first principles was pretty tough, particularly as were spotty teenagers rooted in the DnD paradigm (just what armour class is Gringle? is Quackjohn chaotic evil? why are there no Gelatinous Cubes in this game?). What excited us though, were the glimpses of Greg Stafford’s game world, Glorantha. There wasn’t all that much to go on in Apple Lane, but plenty of tantalising hints and glimpses.
We wanted to know more, and fortunately, we were around at the just the right time: the golden age of RQ2 had just begun, and in a few short years, we were treated to Cults of Prax and Terror, Pavis, Big Rubble, Borderlands (my personal favorite) and more. Glorantha became a very exciting place. I played in my first ever games convention tournament – the now legendary Kree Mountain (and won!), organised a club campaign at university which at its peak had some 40 players traipsing all over our very own spot on the lozenge (some bits – Rabbit Hat Farm, the old Sun Dome you might be familiar with) and with naive boyish high spirits even wrote to Stafford with my wonderful ideas for his wonderful world (didn’t we all!).
As we know, the star dimmed as Chaosium and Avalon Hill got together the all new third edition of the game, which many people even today consider to be two steps forward and one backward from Classic RQ2.
I missed Rurik the Restless, and like everyone, moaned about the flimsy paper covers, the exorbitant price tag and (later) the incredibly shithouse artwork. Still, apart from a few stinkers (those boxes of character sheet pads, Monster Coliseum, enough reprints of the Kyger Litor cult to start a bonfire), many supplements remain invaluable resources: every inveterate Gloranthaholic’s bookshelf has their dog-eared copies of the “Genertela Book” and Gods of Glorantha, right next to their brittle and aging Cults of Prax (if they got in early enough).
Ironically, in 1989 as the Avalon Hill version nosedived past just merely appalling artwork (Elder Secrets, Troll Gods) to the very pits of The Lost City of Eldarad (which not only had appalling artwork, but also slipshod editing, poor writing, execrable design and unimaginative conception) a magazine appeared that has in many ways carried Glorantha as a game world ever since.
Of course, I am talking about Tales of the Reaching Moon. Dave Hall got my name somehow and sent me a freebie copy of issue #1, and I haven’t looked back since! A number of fine fanzines followed, some of which are still with us today.
In issue #5, we published a lengthy investigation of the (then) current parlous state of RuneQuest, and even featured our own Tales Eleven Point Plan for getting RQ off the ropes (“the products have to be new”, “quality control”, “a regular schedule”, “stick with Glorantha and alternate earth”, etc.) Sadly, the next thing AH brought out was the excremental Daughters of Darkness, an Eldarad-quality Gateway supplement which kind of went against everything we were saying in the Eleven Point Plan.
Reading through Eldarad and Daughters of Drek I thought, shit, anyone could do better than this, and in the end, I decided to have a go. The end result was Sun County (to link), and a new RQ editor, the consummate professional and all-round top bloke Ken Rolston.
What we got was a brief flowering again: the RuneQuest Renaissance we called it, and in short order under Uncle Ken’s capable hands we got Sun County, River of Cradles, Shadows on the Borderlands, Strangers in Prax, Dorastor and Lords of Terror.
We also got RQ Con in Baltimore, the first in what has become a very long line of meetings of the Gloranthan tribe in diverse places across the planet: Glorantha Con Down Under being the latest.
Sadly, the RQ Renaissance was to be as short as it was glorious: Ken moved to other pastures, the Chaosium-Avalon Hill relationship took a turn for the worse and a new edition of the rules was holed below the water before it could even set sail. This was a difficult and frustrating time for all involved, and one day the sad and sorry tale will have be told (don’t worry, I have all the relevant email files pickled in brine…).
We now pin our hopes on Chaosium and Issaries Inc. Gloranthan roleplaying is firmly back in the hands of those who love it, and where it started. RQ might be gone, but I hope whatever Greg comes up with will be able to capture some of the flavour of that great game.
I don’t mind if Glorantha The Game has its share of cathartic anthropowanking shamanistic bottom-sniffing, as long as it also has that amazing sense of pure joy that RQ had when you managed to crit that great troll with your short spear, or that sense of horror when you went for that last desperate parry and rolled snake eyes.
Vale RQ, long live Glorantha!
- Daughters of Darkness – Review
- King of Dragon Pass – Review
- Meints Index to Glorantha II – Review
- Pavis & Big Rubble: Gloranthan Classics Vol.1 – Review
- Questlines & Questlines II – Reviews
- RuinedQuest? – Resurrecting RuneQuest (1991)
- The Lost City of Eldarad – Review
- The Traditional Convention Book Burning, Convulsion C2K
- Ye Booke of Tentacles II – Review