I've been devouring the Gloranthan Classics volumes I received yesterday with great pleasure. Reading them is a joy and, unlike my re-immersion in old school D&D, no one can rationally claim the positive feelings they're generating in me are based on nostalgia, as I had only a very limited exposure to RuneQuest in my youth. Reading them, among the many things that stands out is how human-focused published Glorantha appears to be. Most of the NPCs and sample PCs are humans, for example, and human concerns seem to drive most of the adventures. I find this interesting for a couple of reasons.
First, one of the things I "knew" about RQ even though I didn't play it was that the rules allowed you "to play anything." And of course there were the dreaded ducks, the very idea of which kept me away form RuneQuest longer than they ought to have. But if published products are any indication, non-human PCs don't seem to have been very common. Second, being a skill-based system, there are no level limits or mechanical disincentives to playing a non-human. Yes, there are Charisma penalties when interacting with members of other races, but they apply equally to humans in a non-human environment. Yet, talking to people who did play RQ extensively back in the day, hardly anyone ever chose to play non-humans. I find this especially odd, given both the variety of non-humans in Glorantha and the depth with which Chaosium invested many of them, enabling them to transcend stereotypes.
In the end, Glorantha, at least as it was published back in the second edition era, reminds me a lot of the way classical science fiction treated alien beings. Sure, there are lots of aliens out there, many of them quite different than human beings, and they often figure prominently in stories. However, they're rarely protagonists and, if they are, they're a lone example of their kind in a tale that's dominated by human beings. That's how Glorantha strikes me at the moment. It may well be a caricature of the truth or merely an artifact of the products Chaosium was able to publish back in the day, but that's how things seem nonetheless.
I certainly don't object to it and, honestly, I find it a nice change of pace from D&D, which, despite the intentions of at least Gary Gygax, became annoyingly less humanocentric as the years wore on. Speaking as an admirer of pulp fantasy stories, these old Gloranthan products strike me as often more in line with their sensibilities than does Dungeons & Dragons. Whereas non-humans in Glorantha are clearly alien "others," elves, dwarves, and halflings in D&D are (generally) just "guys at the office." They may look a little different and have special abilities you don't, but, fundamentally, they're no different than you or I -- little wonder, then, that so few D&D players ever batted an eye about choosing to be an elf over a human, especially once the game's already-weak disincentives for doing so were eliminated.