Infobox RPG
Avalon Hill

caption=Runequest deluxe edition from Avalon Hill.
system=Basic Role-Playing
designer=Steve Perrin
Ray Turney
Steve Henderson
Warren James
Glorantha Material by Greg Stafford

"RuneQuest" is a fantasy role-playing game first published in 1978 by Chaosium, created by Steve Perrin based on the mythical world of Glorantha devised by Greg Stafford. It was notable for its original gaming system, designed around a percentile die-based and skill-based rule and its adherence to an original fantasy world called Glorantha. Throughout its existence, the game has been molded by designers and players alike into a complex mythology which is often linked to the teachings of professor Joseph Campbell. There have been several incarnations of the game, and as of 2008 has produced a fourth version: and all bar the third version have been set entirely in the world of Glorantha.

In Britain in the 1980s, the gaming world recognised the most popular games as the 'Big Three'; they held the largest market share and they were Dungeons and Dragons, Traveller (role-playing game) and Runequest.


"RuneQuest" quickly established itself as the second most popular fantasy role-playing game, after "Dungeons & Dragons". [ [] ] The first and second editions are set in the mythical world of Glorantha, while the third edition in the mid 1980s is more generic and was much less successful. [ [] ] "RuneQuest" is the original percentile die-based and skill-based rule set.

The game had been sold to Avalon Hill under a complex agreement that required all Glorantha-related content first be approved by Chaosium. In an attempt to also have a setting they could release freely, Avalon Hill also supported a new "default" setting, Fantasy Earth, based on fantasy interpretations of several eras of earth's pre-modern history. Later Avalon Hill published "generic"/"Gateway" fantasy material ("Lost City of Eldarad, Daughters of Darkness"). Critics consider these later "generic"/"Gateway" publications inferior to the earlier "Runequest" publications. [ [ RuinedQuest (broken link)] ]

Although both supplements for Fantasy Earth ("Vikings, Land of Ninja") were well-regarded, the popularity of "RuneQuest" as a system seems to have come from the strength of its original setting, reflected in the remarkably high sales of materials that were new editions of out-of-print Glorantha content. Fact|date=February 2007 A proposed fourth edition was originally meant to return the tight "RuneQuest"/Glorantha relationship, but it was shelved in 1994, mid-project.

Glorantha is the official setting of a new rules system called "HeroQuest", which is the successor to "Hero Wars". Part of the agreement that permitted a new Glorantha-based game was that Avalon Hill retained rights to the name "RuneQuest" but not to the "RuneQuest" game rules. An attempt was made to produce a new game called "" in 1997 that was neither Gloranthan nor used the original rules, but it was shelved when Avalon Hill was bought by toymaker Hasbro. At some stage in 2003 the rights to the trademarked name "RuneQuest" were acquired by Issaries, Inc.

In 2004, Chaosium began preparing the most complete version yet of "Basic Role-Playing", a multi-genre system derived from 3rd Edition "RuneQuest" and Chaosium's other BRP-based games. The new system, provisionally named "Deluxe Basic RolePlaying" ("DBRP") includes many optional rules for use with different genres, including fantasy, horror, and science fiction. "DBRP" will reportedly be released in November 2007, [ [ News - Basic Roleplaying ] ] and will not include any Gloranthan content.

Mongoose Publishing released a new version of "RuneQuest" in August 2006, under a license from Issaries, Inc., and "developed under the watchful eyes of Messrs Stafford and Perrin". However, Steve Perrin was no longer associated with the Mongoose "RuneQuest" project as of December 2005. The new rules were released under a variant of the Open Game License, and the official setting takes place much "earlier" in Glorantha's history than previous editions covered.


The strength of Runequest as a gaming experience was appreciated by those expecting more realism within their hobby. Physics was a difficult predictor with simple dice rolls, but the system of leveling within games such as Dungeons and Dragons was seen as unrealistic by many players; mainly due to the inability of high-level characters to be even phased by low-level opponents that would have proven deadly at their career beginnings. Through the removal of levelling, and the adherence to skill improvement, Runequest avoided this issue. Characters did not gain more 'hit points', they just got better at avoiding damage or delivering more damage to their enemies. It was still possible for an extremely powerful character in Runequest to be killed by the lucky dice roll of a weak character.

Before a player could begin a game, they would normally create a fictional character to be their character or avatar in the game. Player characters were devised through a number of dice rolls to represent physical, mental and spiritual characteristics, which would determine the abilities of the character throughout the game.

Once the character is defined physically, it is up to the player to decide on gender, background, motives and starting equipment, although this has to be moderated by the player running the game. The moderator is neither with or against the players, and should normally play out the game as if neutral to the players actions. The moderator or narrator determines the general situation of the part of Glorantha that the players find themselves within (political context, season of the year, current weather etc.), and the specifics of the "scenario" i.e. the story plot lines that the players will encounter and choose to follow (or not). The normal scenario opening is usually obvious to the players, though it is the players perogotive not to follow the game, but the narrator will describe the game situation in order to get the game started. What any individual non Player Character (NPC) is up to is something that the PCs must discover either by direct questioning or investigation & observation.

The rule book contained a large selection of fantasy monsters including all the traditional types (Elves, Dwarves, Trolls, Undead, Lycanthropes) and their physical stats. An invention of the game designers (and by some indications one of their favourites on the basis of their use and importance in Glorantha mythology) were creatures called Broo, humanoid goat-headed monsters. Also detailed for each type of creature were what magic spells they might know, which cults they might belong to.

The game's combat system was designed in an attempt to use what its creator, Steve Perrin, had experienced through live-action combat with the Society for Creative Anachronism. An attack is rolled using percentile dice (a ten-sided die, twice, to create numbers between 01-99, and 00 counts as 100). If your skill level is equal to or higher than the number rolled, you have hit your target. The defender has the chance to try to avoid the blow or parry it, again determined with percentile dice. For very low rolls there was a system of critical hits (armour protection negated), or for certain weapons a chance to 'impale' (double damage). Attackers always had a chance of missing (if they rolled 96% or above). They also had a very small chance of Fumbling, where something unfortunate happened to the attacker, such as losing a piece of equipment, falling over or even causing damage to themselves or friends. (These outcomes were randomly determined following the botched attack roll.)

A key component of the "RuneQuest" combat system was hit location. Successful attacks were allocated randomly to a part of the target's body. (Or else a particular part could be aimed at with a reduced chance to hit.) Combined with the innate chance of everyone to hit, as well as the critical/impale system, this meant that even the most powerful character could be disabled and killed by a weak opponent. For example, a lucky hit against a leg, weapon arm or head could render a character defenseless or severely limited in their attack.

As a result, combat in "RuneQuest" became more detailed, slower and often riskier than most other RPGs. This often meant play was not as combat focused as other RPGs, but where it was necessary the players would look to employ every advantange of terrain or equipment. The immensely powerful fireballs, lightning bolts and earthquake spells of "Dungeons & Dragons" didn't exist; instead a RuneQuest character would look to try to blind an opponent with a Light spell, or Befuddle them (confuse them utterly as to which side they're on) to take them out of the combat. If they could do this whilst dropping rocks or rolling logs down a slope at them (if their code of honour permitted) then so much the better.


Once a character has been created (often being recorded on commercially available character sheets) the player must then determine which, if any, cult the PC belongs to, as this was one of the main character progression themes of the game. Entry to the cult as a lay member is marked by passing a generally simple entrance test or set of requirements. As a lay member some skills and spells training is normally available at a reduced rate, but there are some minor restrictions on personal freedoms. After several years of good service it then becomes possible to apply to become an Initiate of the Cult. This involves a tougher test but access to better cult specialty spells if passed, plus further mundane benefits for other spells & training. The restrictions can also be harder to observe. The leaders of a cult are called "Rune Masters", which are further subdivided. "Rune Lords" are the warrior elite that are the melee specialists. "Rune Priests" are the mages of the cult. Both gain access to Rune Spells, the most powerful magics in the game.

The basic rules came with a handful of Gods which was then greatly expanded in the "Cults of Prax" and "Cults of Terror" supplements.

Magic in Runequest

Unlike other role-playing games, characters in Runequest were not divided into magic using and non-magic using characters. All characters were allowed access to magic, and the closer your link to your given deity the stronger was your magic. Warriors in the game would often circle each other casting spells to give advantages in the coming combat, or strike quickly before their enemy could put up defences. These basic spells were called battlemagic.

Battle magic

Battle magic is available to all in runequest, heedless of background. These spells could provide additional armour points, make you slightly harder to hit or add more damage to your weapon. The standard magical attack spell called 'disruption' caused small damage to your enemy, enough to annoy them but not fatal unless they were already seriously wounded. Healing was the spell used most often during and after combat, the most powerful of which could re-attach limbs, but couldn't bring someone back from the dead.

pirit Magic

Notable, though not unique, to the shamanistic classes within Glorantha were the classes that dealt with spirit magic. These brought forth their forefathers in the form of spirits or ghosts to protect and avenge the living relatives of the family. This ability also allowed the trapping of spirits to use as guides in familiars or soul-gems.


Devised during the Runequest III module, sorcery magic is probably the most popular gaming change to have come from the Avalon Hill rules. Linked within the game to the progressive Lunar Empire, sorcery was the enhancement of power of everyday items to an incredible level that would devastate the Rune Magic of the barabarian Orlanthi.

Rune Magic

Rune Magic was only available to characters that had sacrificed part of their soul to achieve ultimate powers of a godlike nature. These were related to your god, but include the ability to resurrect, severe your enemies soul from their body, or bring a burning shaft of light from the Sun itself.

The Dragon Pass area

The Dragon Pass area is the main land and focus of the game, detailed on a large map in the original rules. The original Runequest game was set during a period when the Lunar Empire, a sorcery weilding, expansive, Roman style nation; has invaded from the Northwest through Dragon Pass. They have subdued but not beaten the people of Sartar and the various tribes living in Prax. The "Cults of Prax" supplement adds more detail to many of the places marked, by the vehicle of a merchant travelling these lands and encountering each cult in turn.

The strong background of the game was an appealing factor to many players, giving motives to both NPCs and players alike. A God's War had been fought 1500 years ago and the ramifications were still being felt in the present day. Storm Bull worshippers hate Chaos so attack Lunars who permit, or in some cases embrace, such manifestations; Orlanthi wind god worshippers are eternal rivals to followers of Yelm the Sun God, and have a number of rituals each must go through when encountering the other. Humakti hate undead and seek to destroy it, and VivaMort worshippers aspire to become vampires and destroy the Humakti. Lhankor Mhy followers seek knowledge. To contrast this with Dungeons and Dragons, whilst religions where inherent in the game through the existence of the Cleric class, no actual details were ever supplied of what religions already existed. D&D supplements created new lands seemingly at random with no common theme or link to the rest of the game. D&D created a set of rules with extensive notes on treasure and magic items, but without the world in which they existed properly described. RuneQuest instead introduced your characters into a vibrant living world, giving them much greater depth and reasons for actions.


Chaosium reused the rules system developed in "RuneQuest" to form the basis of several other games, including:

*"Call of Cthulhu"
*"Ringworld RPG"
*"Worlds of Wonder"

Chaosium called this rules system the "Basic Role-Playing System" ("BRP"). In 2004, Chaosium released a print-on-demand version of the 3rd edition "RuneQuest" rules under the titles "Basic Roleplaying Players Book", "Basic Roleplaying Magic Book", and "Basic Roleplaying Creatures Book".

Steve Perrin, one of the authors of the original "RuneQuest" game, later developed a similar system known as "Steve Perrin's Quest Rules" ("SPQR"), which some RuneQuest fans consider to be a successor to the original game.


External links

* [ Official site]
* [ List of RuneQuest publications]
* [ RuneQuest Slayers]
* [ Rune Quest ZA (.org) home page]
* [ Pete's RuneQuest! page]
* [ GBC's RuneQuest Links]
* [ Small RuneQuest Supplement Publisher]

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