Monday, May 3, 2010

Gloranthan Power Gaming?

While reading through my recently-acquired Gloranthan Classics, I noticed something very interesting: it's rare for NPCs or pregenerated characters to have lower than 14 in any characteristic. Indeed, in many cases, characters in printed products typically have scores even higher than that in most of their characteristics.

Granted, in RuneQuest it's possible to increase one's characteristics through training but neither Intelligence nor Size can be increased at all and starting characters will have had no opportunities to increase Charisma or Power. However, given that the assumption in the rules of second edition is that all characteristics are generated by rolling 3D6 in order, the odds that a beginning character would have so many of them at 14 or better strikes me as unlikely.

So, a question for old RQ hands: are these uber-characters I'm seeing more an artifact of supplements or do they in any way reflect actual play? What's interesting to me is that one of the example characters in the RuneQuest rulebook -- Rurik -- has only two characteristics above 12, as well as Dexterity of 6. To my mind, he looks like a believably generated old school PC, whereas the sample PC in, say, Borderlands are much more impressive overall and remind me uncomfortably of the "I really rolled this character up at home -- just ask my Mom" PCs from many a youthful campaign.


  1. The guys who wrote those books were legendary dice rollers.
    I never really paid that much attention, really. All I ever looked at was the skill scores. In fact, most games I run to this day are BRP based and I rarely look at ability scores except to determine damage bonus. I don't even generate scores that serve no immediate mechanical function for my npcs and homemade adversaries. Technically, I guess you should because of Resistance Table opposed rolling situations, but I usually just assign something on the fly based on my mental image of the individual.

  2. Evidently there's a lot of "mental image of the individual" going on.

  3. HA!
    I'm usually pretty conservative on my made up #s, though. Situations that require a fudged number aren't all that common, anyway. Add that to the fact that the RT's numbers are so easy to calculate on the fly and it's not as bad as it sounds. My general rule of thumb is that if I haven't scratched the number down, the worst odds a PC will have in most cases are a 40%, since I didn't even see the need to write it down. 40%s are very rare, too.

  4. As I recall, the characters in games I was involved in as a youngster at Aero Hobbies were more like Rurik than Conan. Strangly, I can remember my Dragonnewt's best stat, which was a 15 con. I think my duck Scotty MacQuack had pretty shitty stats.

    Weird though, I remember owner Gary always had one of his older friends or else young store pets (he seemed to have a thing for blonde kids) be the main character and group leader, almost always with way better stats than we had that were not rolled out in the open.

    In my own year or so of RQ games I ran for friends away from the shop, I'm pretty sure I used 4d6 pick best 3 for RQ like I did D&D, so those were more than likely slightly better than the average Joe.

  5. In all of our RQ games we always rolled stats BTB (though since we were playing RQ3 we used 2D6+6 for INT and SIZ) and most characters had fairly mediocre starting stats. We allowed lots of downtime for training between adventures so eventually most of them trained their physical stats up to fairly decent (by which I mean 12-14 range) amounts. Only POW ever got up to really high levels though (and even then all it took was one successful DI to drop you back into single digits).

  6. Remember you can also train most characteristics (the notable exception being SIZ). At least one of my characters undertook a fitness regime to train STR and CON, but then, he rolled a natural 18 for SIZ (which is the limit for training these characteristics), so it was worth it. [He was a Stormbull, so it fitted.]

    Rewards for doing stuff for your cult in Runequest typically took the form of free training, so it's good to make use of that.

    Remember as well that rolling 2d6+6 for SIZ and INT came into play in Borderlands (the first adventure) IIRC, and that POW is an easily increased characteristic if you have Disruption.

    And then again you also do have a natural selection filter in game play. Bad characteristics are likely to get your character killed early if you take up adventuring. The same sort of thing probably applies to the typical NPC opponents for adventurers as well.

    I better indication is to look at the SIZ characteristics (then again, some Lunar regiments have minimum SIZ requirements).

  7. ROTFL at the "rolled that stats at home" :-) So nostalgic :D

  8. I believe also that the Borderlands characters were not necessarily thought to be "just out of the box" PCs. IIRC, the notion was that they had enough experience that they'd come to the Duke as a viable option for employment in a mercenary capacity.

  9. I think that the NPC stats were beginning to reflect actual play at Chaosium and Greg Stafford's/Chaosium's changing views on the game. There may have been the assumption that powerful NPCs had undergone minor heroquests (the long-promised heroquest box) and gained bonuses to normally unimprovable stats as a result.

    I wish I could remember where I read this but I think at some point the intent was for RQ PCs to eventually become powerful enough to become the equivalent of a counter on the board of White Bear/Red Moon. IOW a bunch of individuals who could fight the Red Bat as statted in Cults of Terror.

    As a related aside, in the Wyrms Footprints article collection there is an article of White Bear/Red Moon superhero characters statted up by Arduin's Dave Hargrove. This from back when Hargrove's rules were being considered for RQ. Very much a supercharged version of D&D.

  10. I'm surprised, too. I would have thought only TSR could have afforded to employ the dozens of dice-rollers needed to generate the thousands of characters from which to skim the required paladins, samurai, and 18-int magic-users for publication as pre-rolled characters and NPCs.

    Maybe Chaosium out-sourced to India?

  11. I think Simon's right. The articles on Chaosium's early versions of Heroquest in Tales of the Reaching Moon refer to HQ as "Super-Runequest," implying it was the same system with bigger and better stats. These stats all come from that era, so it makes sense.

  12. I've always been a little lukewarm to the idea that in RQ that you can add extra stat points in-between games. Sure maybe if you ( naturally) doubled your skills using your battle axe all the time or maybe you go study with the old Kung fu Master in the mountains for a year, I could see an additional point in the STR or DEX category but this sort of physical curriculum not only takes time but the advancements become even less after you achieved your peak levels. So in all actuality, its not keeping your skills "up", but trying to keep them from dropping any farther down. Just my 2 cp's.


  13. James, as someone running RQ2 at the moment two things:

    1. POW is more variable than the others and will be going up regular.

    2. INT is rolled on 2d6+6 so 13 is average and 14 will occur 5/36 times. Same for SIZ.

    So, a fairly aged RQ character is probably going to have STR, CON, and SIZ at about 13 (STR and CON can go to the highest of those three and 13 is the average for SIZ). IQ is fixed but will sit at 13 often. CH, POW, and DEX can all go to 21 and smart characters will push at least the last two.

    So, I'd expect characters with 6 months to a year of playtime to have mostly 13+ stats.