Saturday, July 16, 2011

An Embarrassment of Riches

According to this announcement, we're getting another version of RuneQuest, the sixth edition, in 2012. This edition is being written by Lawrence Whitaker and Pete Nash, the gentlemen who gave the world Mongoose's RuneQuest II. As you may remember, RuneQuest II, under the name Legend, will continue to be published by Mongoose and the FAQ on Whitaker and Nash's website states that there is "a very high degree of compatibility between the two games." There will be differences, but, from what I can tell, those differences seem more about coverage of content than game mechanics.

So, if I find myself in the ironic position of many an outsider to the old school D&D world asking the question, "Do we really need another version of RuneQuest, especially when this new one is designed by the same people as the previous -- and still available -- version and is largely identical to it?" I sincerely have no idea. My suspicion is that this sixth edition is a consequence of the severing of the ties between Issaries, the owner of the RuneQuest name, and Mongoose. In the announcement linked above, Issaries president Greg Stafford talks about RuneQuest being a "highly respected brand" with a "good name" and reputation. That suggests one possible motivation for this move. Likewise, I understand that Whitaker and Nash ceased working with Mongoose on RuneQuest II after a certain point, despite their products being considered among the best for the line. This new arrangement may simply allow them to pick up where they left off without interference.

Not being primarily a player of RuneQuest or indeed BRP generally, I'm not sure what to make of all this. It's definitely interesting and, were I a player of RQ, I'd likely find this latest news equal parts encouraging and baffling. Regardless, this is probably one of the most exciting times to be a player of BRP-derived games since the early 90s.

15 comments:

  1. I had the same questions myself. I suspect you are right when you hint at concerns over protection of the brand name though we both could be off base. I love how you pointed out the irony before anyone else could:)

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  2. It all boils down to the Glorantha stuff. The "Legend" game by Mongoose will be a generic d100 system and Runequest 6 will be more in line with the first two iterations of the game, but with cleaned up mechanics more in line with the last Mongoose version.
    I wish them the best, because they're great game designers and people in general, but I personally am a little pessimistic. It has only been five years since Mongoose relaunched the line. I think one of the reasons that Issaries withdrew the license was they didn't feel that the game was being marketed effectively. Putting the game in the hands of a startup company seems to run counter their desire to get the game out there.

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  3. it's great to see any sort of RQ revival, but a little frustrating personally as I only just purchased the MRQII rules a little while ago. Then again, I would primarily want to run it with updated versions of the RQ classics, so reintegration with Glorantha is a plus, at least in terms of compatibility. As far as attracting new players, though, I'm not sure. Glorantha as a setting is pretty daunting these days. Sometimes it feels like you'd need a Graduate-level course on Gloranthan culture and history just to run the game. And that's for someone who's already familiar with the early material.

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  4. So exactly how many times has RQ been "revived" by this point?

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  5. This has been in the works for some time. Many people involved with MRQII were dissatisfied/frustrated with the way that Mongoose had handled the title and game. Now the people who know RQ best will have control over what is produced.

    Based on some recent chats with Lawrence about RQ over pints of Guinness, I know that this isn't about profits, but instead simply about passion.

    The emphasis in future RQ6 products definitely will be on quality, not quantity. I'm looking forward to seeing what Loz and Pete produce -- as well as others (like Newt Newport at d101 Games) under the 'RQ Gateway License'!

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  6. "It all boils down to the Glorantha stuff."

    To some extent, but not primarily. (The core rules will remain 'setting-neutral'.)

    Design Mechanism is partnering with Moon Design to produce future Glorantha material for RQ6, including material for the 3rd Age. But that's not what RQ6 is primarily about. There will be other settings for RQ6, and 'setting-neutral' material as well.

    I'm not that interested in Glorantha myself (I'd be happy to play in a Glorantha campaign, but I'd never GM one). I'm more relieved that RQ now is in the hands of two game designers that clearly know and love the system, and have the full confidence of Greg Stafford.

    (Of course, since I'm friends with Lawrence Whitaker, I'm not exactly objective!)

    "Putting the game in the hands of a startup company seems to run counter their desire to get the game out there."

    My impression is that Loz has a well-considered strategy for RQ6. Teaming up with Moon Design is part of that strategy.

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  7. Interesting news. If the RQ6 core book does indeed stay setting-neutral then I'll likely pick it up, and use any refinements to the original MRQ2 system. I'm no fan of Glorantha, so that would probably be the only DM/MD product I purchased.

    As a BRP/MRQ2 fan, this announcement does shake some of my interest in Legend. Though I was interested in its repackaged format - stripped of any Glorantha content, and digest sized - I am more intrigued in seeing a MRQ2.5.

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  8. I think producing a "setting neutral" game is a mistake. The real strength of Runequest has been in it's direct relationship with Glorantha (for example the three types of magic are straight out of Glorantha).

    Each of the other half dozen or so Chaosium BRP games were not copies of Runequest - they had their own distinct identities when it came to magic (and even the standard skill listings). This is something that Mongoose forgot, which meant that they then needed to adapt the magic systems and cults to worlds they had no place in.

    Of course you could write a generic book like Chaosium's Basic Role-playing (4th Edition) which is a comprehensive guide to using the BRP system in any type of game, along with instructions on how to customize it, but why would you when it is already done.

    There is nothing to stop them (apart from the facts that their rights to the game system is based on the ownership of the name "Runequest"), from adapting the system completely for new lines of games, and that is what they probably should do. Much cleaner and nicer.

    [And much as I liked Lawrence and Pete's stuff, I'm afraid five editions of Runequest (plus a half dozen BRP variations) and three editions of Hero Wars/Heroquest, all of which have been Gregged over the years in various ways (which means there is no way the game will revert to being a second edition analogue), are finally enough for me. I'm calling it a day.]

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  9. MRQII is excellent, and I have a high opinion of the work of both Mr. Whitaker and Mr. Nash. I don't really *need* another set of RQ rules, but I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't at least take a look at RQ6.

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  10. HA! Reverence...
    Take a bath in epsom salt. You will feel better after a long soak.

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  11. In my opinion (and limited experience of talking with other RQ fans) the reason the Mongoose line has been a failure to catch on so far is this - with an old school product line, many of your sales will be to nostalgic old school fans. And OS RQ fans will remember the classic materials as being set in the third age of Glorantha, from Chaosium (and to a lesser extent, Avalon Hill). The Mongoose stuff was set in a radically different age in Gloranthan history. The "system" is all well and good, but with RQ it was all about Glorantha (starting with Red Moon White Bear and on through all the Lunar/Prax/Sartarite stuff, etc etc etc).

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  12. I played Runequest a ton as a kid at Aero Hobbies in Santa Monica, where RQ and Traveller (and before that Bushido) where the games of choice of the older guys. It was owner Gary's favorite game to play. I left it behind in the early 80's along with the store, but am currently going through a sort of an obsession with it. Early RQ, not any of this new crap. I have 2nd edition in pdf format along with Cults of Prax. This is all I'm going to use for a Prax centric campaign I want to run for next year.

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  13. I must admit to never having played RQ when I was younger, but the various "re-launches" do not inspire a great deal of interest. I think I'm with Brunomac here, and should I ever run a game of Runequest, I'll do it with the stuff I acquired (but never played) as a kid.

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  14. I'm just happy to see such a wonderful property like RQ freed from the clutches of Mongoose.

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  15. @Victor/Brunomac I generally feel the same way, with one caveat. There are aspects I like about RQII and aspects I like about RQIII, and, indeed, aspects I like about OpenQuest and Deluxe BRP. If I were to run RQ/Glorantha, I'd be most inclined at this point to use some rules-set and the Moon Design RQII reprint books (and maybe some additional material) as my primary works. Which set of rules to use? Well, that's the tricky part. As it stands now, I'd probably use OpenQuest as the best "modernization" of the RQII rules and perhaps the most likely, other than pure RQII, to be the most compatible with the original RQII materials.

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