15 November 2021

RuneQuest Starter Set

The RuneQuest Starter Set is available at last. Chock-full of Gloranthan goodness, it is an absolute must-buy for any serious TTRPG player and/or collector.

chock-full of gaming stuff, for €25 only

I'll point you to someone else's blog post for a ‘standard’ review of the RuneQuest Starter Set. Since this blog is mostly followed by seasoned Gloranthaphiles, I am going to concentrate on what a grizzled Gloranthaphile will find of interest in it and on why you too should purchase it. First and foremost, the RQ Starter Set has been written with years of feedback from newbie and veteran players and GMs, and it shows in how the rules have been clearly laid out, re-organised, and re-written. Honestly, except for character generation (which has been left out of the Starter Set and replaced with 14 pre-generated characters), Book 1: Rules of the Starter Set contains all the rules needed to play RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha. In this aspect, it is completely different from most TTRPG starter sets that only give you an inkling of the fully-fledged game system, and which require you to purchase the various manuals later on. With the RQ Starter Set, you can skip the purchase of the rulebook if you are happy not to go through the fully-fledged character generation procedure (the one with the adventurer's family history, etc., from the core rulebook) and if you are willing to use a simpler system like, for instance, my accelerated character generation or my ultra-fast character generation.

In some areas, I feel the Starter Set is even superior to the core rulebook. The tricky parry/dodge mechanisms with regards to success quality (fumble, failed, normal, special, critical) are clearly explained, with a very detailed table that details all the various cases with the relavant results. Spirit combat and the shaman–fetch relationship are also expounded upon in a much more unequivocal way than in the core rulebook.

Obviously, Book 2: the World of Glorantha does not attain the encyclopedic depth of the Guide of Glorantha, nor does it give the same overview of the myths and of the religions of Glorantha that the 220-page Sourcebook does, yet it does solve the eternal GM problem of ‘how am I going to quickly introduce Glorantha to my players’. In a mere 21 pages of (dense) text, it manages to give a satisfactory overview of the history of Glorantha, both mundane and mythical, of the Runes and of the Elder Races, of what makes Gloranthan magic and religion different from your vanilla TTRPG setting, and of what organisations your adventurer will gravitate to; it also includes a mini-gazetteer of the Dragon Pass area with the added benefit of it all being for GMs and players alike (which means you can safely pass on the booklet to your players for reading).

This is followed by what can only be described as a mini-campaign setting of Jonstown and northern Sartar. Again, in a mere 39 pages you have everything you need as a GM to run your games in the Jonstown area: city map, gazetteer, guilds, cults, major NPCs, sample NPCs, etc.

Book 3: SoloQuest is a Tunnels and Trolls-like solo adventure that has the double aim of teaching you the rules and of making you familiar with the situation in the Dragon Pass area in 1625. As a seasoned Gloranthaphile, you probably don't need to be taught the rules. However, if you've only played the adventures that were published for RQ2, RQ3 and HeroQuest, you won't be familiar with the new situation (the Dragonrise, the end of the Lunar occupation of Sartar, Argrath's conquest of Prax and Pavis, etc.), and going through the Battle of Dangerford with your player character will brush you up on your Know Glorantha skill.

As implied by its title, Book 4: Adventures presents three adventures set in Jonstown and northern Sartar. The interest for the seasoned GM is, again, to make you familiar with the new political landscape of the Dragon Pass area; the second adventure, A Fire in the Darkness, is particularly useful in this regard. As for the third adventure, the Rainbow Mounds, your players will certainly be extremely surprised if they try and go through it using whatever they may remember from the original RQ2 adventure— the times they are a-changin'!

Last but not least, the Starter Set contains several reference sheets, amongst which a handy ‘Strike Rank Tracker’ with helpful SR-related information directly printed on it such as spell casting times & SRs, held actions, spirit combat, aimed attacks, etc. Again, this should prove useful even for grizzled players & GMs.

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