22 December 2020

Analysis of the Red Book of Magic - Part One, Rune Magic

So the Red Book of Magic for RuneQuest is out. The funny thing is that, as a by-product of the Cults of Glorantha books, it should probably have been published at the same time as the two Cults books, or slightly later, but then because its illustrations were ready, whereas the art for the other books is still underway, it happened the other way round.

One annoying consequence is that the Red Book of Magic does not say which spells are learnable by whose cultists. Obviously the gamemaster is the sole arbiter at their table and they may decide that a given spell becomes available in their game but I can understand those who have complained on social media. Also, it has been explained to us fans that spell-to-cult correspondence tables would probably have taken up too much space; however, given how the Cults books are late, I reckon a free PDF would have done the trick.

Anyway, I have been perusing the book a good deal since I purchased the PDF, and I would like to share some analyses of the Rune spells.

There are 448 Rune magic spells in the Red Book of Magic. That’s a lot — there were 166 Rune spells in the core RuneQuest book, so that’s almost a threefold increase.

The cost of each Rune spell varies between 1 and 6 Rune points. Here is the breakdown by percentage:
1 Rune point (267 spells): 60%
2 Rune points (107 spells): 24%
3 Rune points (68 spells): 15%
4 Rune points (7 spells): 2%
5 Rune points (2 spells): negligible
6 Rune points (1 spell): negligible

This doesn’t tell us much, except that Rune magic is really readily available to all cult initiates, since they usually only have 3 Rune points.

A more interesting breakdown is the number of Rune spells per Rune affinity. Here it is:
Darkness 61
Water 39
Earth 51
Fire/Sky 58
Air 40
Moon 31
Harmony 40
Disorder 17
Stasis 8
Movement 26
Truth 14
Illusion 26
Fertility 39
Death 44
Beast 56
Man 18
Plant 11
Dragonewt 0
Spirit 0
Chaos 42
Mastery 0
Magic 19
Infinity 0
Luck 0
Fate 1
Variable/cult-dependent 4

I hate to say this, but I believe the above is good input for “munchkin” players to choose how to distribute their Rune affinity values during Step 3 of the character generation process. This is particularly true for the Power and Form Runes.


  1. Handy analysis, and I agree with your comments. Thanks.

  2. Honestly, I think the "munchkin" analysis RE rune-distribution needs to take into account the power/utility of the spells; not every Rune-Point worth of Rune Spell is equally appealing to the munchkin!

    Similarly, which Runes affect which Stats may need some attention -- Moon boosting POW is one thing, but POW is probably the most-variable stat there is! SIZ & INT are much harder to boost in play. I expect these sorts of considerations are other factors most munchkins will want to consider...


    Also -- I don't think it's exactly a "byproduct" of the Cults project. I think it began life as the internal Chaosium dev-document that authors used as reference, so they didn't accidentally quote a RQ3 variant, or what-have-you (the BRP/RQearlier-grognardian non-RQG-isms have been notable).

    1. it is a by-product of the Cults book, as explained here: https://www.chaosium.com/blogthe-red-book-of-magic-from-concept-to-page/?fbclid=IwAR2ywOMzQWI-XkyzYiMjnA1fEB0gkC3lJG6ayWjeGMHKwoZFyuQyjGdKN7U