I have a very complicated relationship with RuneQuest, whose first edition (which I never saw, let alone played) was released in 1978 by Chaosium. Like Tunnels & Trolls, RuneQuest was a game spoken of mostly in derisive whispers by the older gamers who initiated me into the hobby. Unlike T&T, which was mocked for being "too silly," RQ caught flak for being "too trippy." When I asked for elaboration on this point, I received a lot of different answers, most of which pointed out, in addition to other things, that, in RQ, "everyone could use magic" and "you can play a duck man." These two facts, along with sundry other crimes against good gaming taste, made it damnably hard for me to learn much more about RuneQuest firsthand, as my attempts to do so were regularly rebuffed and I, being a newcomer to the hobby, simply accepted the wisdom of my elders.
But then I discovered White Dwarf, which, as I've noted before, contained a surprisingly large amount of material for RQ. This made me think that maybe, just maybe, my feeling that it'd be worthwhile to investigate RuneQuest more fully was a good one. Unfortunately, finding players of the game was quite difficult and I wasn't prepared to blow any money on RQ products without having had a chance to play the game first, even if it was published by the same company that made my beloved Call of Cthulhu. As luck would have it, I chanced upon a group of guys who were playing RQ at a games day at a local library -- those were the days! -- and they took pity on me and let me join them.
I don't remember much about the adventure or my character, but what I do recall are the feelings the the game and its setting evoked in me. It was at once frightened and exhilarated -- frightened because RQ is a lethal, unforgiving game where any combat could kill or maim your character permanently and exhilarated because this was the first fantasy game I'd ever played that felt viscerally different than D&D on almost every level. A big part of that was the game's default setting of Glorantha, which, at this stage (1982 or thereabouts) had a powerfully "ancient world" feel to it, as opposed to D&D's pseudo-medievalism. Being a big fan of Greek, Roman, and Near Eastern history, I was hooked and simply could not understand how many could deem RQ "too trippy" or "too Californian" or whatever other derogatory comments I'd heard about it.
Glorantha has a reputation, like Tékumel, for being arcane and inaccessible to newcomers. I won't deny that there's more than kernel of truth in this reputation, but my experience has been that, also like Tékumel, it's often exaggerated. Certainly one can easily become obsessed with all the minutiae of Glorantha, treating it more as an exercise in fantasy sociology than as an imaginative RPG setting. But it's not required in order to enjoy the setting and I daresay that Glorantha (again, like Tékumel) is best enjoyed as an idea mine for making one's own setting that just happens to use the same maps and place names as those in published products. This not only makes it far less onerous to referee, it also saves one from having to deal with aspects or developments of the setting that simply don't appeal to one's sensibilities.
I have never played in or run a RuneQuest campaign that's last more than a couple of sessions. For one reason or other, the game has never managed to "click" with most of the groups I've been in and, nowadays, my limited gaming time is dedicated pretty solidly to D&D, as it has been for most of my years in the hobby. That's a shame, because RuneQuest really is something special and unique, which is difficult to say about most RPGs, especially fantasy ones. In RQ's case, though, it's true. The game nicely marries a brutally simulationist rules set -- which evolved out of the Perrin Conventions for OD&D -- with a genuinely mythic world and worldview. The result is sui generis, ensuring that, in the annals of our hobby, RuneQuest will forever be remembered as one of its greatest games.