This is a work in progress. Much of it has been typed from memory, without reference to the rulebook. If you have suggestions, questions, or additions, please email [email protected]. I'd be glad to credit anyone who helps! Once this document is finished it will be reformatted into printable PDF format and better-looking HTML and posted in a prominent place on the site.
If you know any version of Dungeons & Dragons, you're already more than half-way to knowing RuneQuest. And since D&D has been becoming more and more like RQ over the years, the learning curve has gotten less steep with every new version. That trend seems likely to continue; as of this writing, the word is that D&D will soon be adding a hit location system, something which has been a part of RQ from the start. Part of the reason for this congruence may be that the same company owns D&D and RQ, and by some accounts the past president of WOTC used a number of RuneQuest rules in his early homebrewed D&D campaigns. But even now, pure RQ has some clear advantages over the D&D/d20 systems.
Here are some similarities: Both systems use a set of characteristics to define characters, usually rolled on 3d6 and therefore ranging from 3 - 18. Both allow characters to use skills, although older versions of D&D restricted those skills to certain classes. Both have several different magic systems, including religious and non-religious options. Newer versions of D&D use a critical hit system; RuneQuest has always had criticals and fumbles, and they apply to non-combat skills, too.
But RQ has the advantage of being designed from the ground up around a few core concepts, which means that the system is much more simple and logical. It requires far fewer tables; once you know the basic concepts, you don't need to constantly look up tables of special rules and charts. In fact, all of the most common rules needed for play or GMing have been listed on one two-sided sheet. That sheet, combined with the character sheet and this guide, should be all you need to play or GM RQ.
RQ lacks the artificial biases of D&D; for example, PCs are not a special class of being with unique abilities. NPCs have the same capacity to learn and grow as PCs, as do "monsters" - who also have their own cultures and interests. RQ also lacks the humanocentric bias of D&D; there are no racial limits on possibilities for learning and growth.
The experience system of RQ is particularly well-designed; rather than improving all abilities at once in sudden jumps, you frequently improve the skills you use simply by using and practicing them. There are no levels in RQ. Learning from experience in RQ is a lot more like real life, and is much more intuitive. It also doesn't depend on killing. While more recent versions of D&D allow experience points to be gained by other means than killing monsters only, that's still the major means by which characters progress. In RQ if you climb a mountain you'll probably learn how to climb better, and if you fight a battle you'll have a chance to improve the skills of war - assuming you survive, of course.
In D&D, the GM decides what experience points the characters get; in RQ, players handle their own character growth, and the GM's role is limited to making sure that the players don't abuse the system. This makes RQ easier to run (less paperwork!) and less liable to GM bias.
All creatures in RQ are defined by their characteristics: Strength, Constitution, Size, Intelligence, Power, Dexterity, and Appearance. For normal humans the characteristics are all rolled on 3d6, except for Intelligence and Size which are rolled on 2d6+6 instead. Strength, Constitution, Intelligence, and Dexterity are all like the D&D characteristics, of course, with a few minor differences. Of course PCs may be designed, rather than randomly rolled up; a sample point-system for character creation is included in the Character Creation section.
Strength (STR): Physical strength. Unlike the awkward 18/00 semi-percentile system of D&D, RQ strength goes directly from 18 to 19 and beyond. Strength affects the weapons you can weild, the damage you do in combat, and the armor you can wear. High STR is somewhat helpful for skills that involve moving quickly, such as climbing, riding, and combat skills, among others. Low STR penalizes those skills.
Constitution (CON): Health and bodily energy. CON helps determine your hit points, as well as your resistance to disease. It also helps a bit in perception; healthy eyes and ears work better.
Size (SIZ): Height and weight. There are small variations, of course; two people with the same SIZ can differ in height by several inches, though the shorter one might weigh a bit more. SIZ affects your hit points and your damage bonus, as well as how quickly you attack in combat (a long arm allows a quicker strike). High SIZ makes it harder to sneak and hide, though. On the other hand, a low SIZ helps those skills.
Intelligence (INT): If you don't want to think of this as being the actual intelligence of a character, you can think of it as memory, speed of learning, that sort of thing. Even a low-INT character (or NPC) can be cunning. In RQ INT also determines the maximum number of spells you can know at any one time. High INT is also very useful for many skills, of course.
Power (POW): Spiritual or magical strength; it's used both to overcome others with your spells, and to resist the spells that enemies cast on you. It also gives you the magical energy which you use to cast spells. Points of characteristic Power can be permanently sacrificed to gain powerful magics or make magic items. Fortunately Power can also be increased naturally through use. Power also to some degree represents a being's harmony with life, animal magnatism, willpower, and soul.
Dexterity (DEX): Physical grace and quickness. Helps determine the speed of your attacks. Very useful for all physical skills, and even a bit for magic.
Appearance (APP): What you look like and (optionally) sound like. Appearance can help or hurt when using communication skills.
There's a limit to how high a characteristic can be raised. There are two different ways to determine the maximum score that a characteristic can reach; the GM should chose which method s/he prefers.
Note: Under this system, STR and CON are limited to the highest of STR, CON, and SIZ; so if someone has a STR and CON of 12 and a SIZ of 13, the most that STR and CON could be raised to is 13 each. I have yet to meet a gamer who actually likes this rule, and am including it only to urge that it be ignored.
|Optional: Some GMs allow POW to rise beyond normal species maximum. The chance for increasing past species max should never be higher than a flat 5%. This optional rule has also been applied to incorporeal spirits.|
Summary: STR, CON, DEX, and APP can be improved through research or expensive training; this process takes a lot of time. They can also be temporarily improved with spells, or (possibly) permanently improved through unusual magics. INT and SIZ can only be changed with extremely rare magic. POW increases naturally with use, by overcoming or (optionally) resisting enemies in crisis situations.
STR, CON, DEX, and APP: These can be improved simply by work on the part of the character, for example by lifting weights, running and eating healthier foods, practicing hand-eye coordination, or better grooming and skin treatments. The process takes 25 hours times the number of points already in the characteristic; a character with a STR of 13, for example, would need to work on their STR for (13 x 25) = 325 hours, which is approximately six and a half weeks of full-time work.
Research: If the character is simply researching a characteristic improvement on their own, there is a chance that they will fail. The chance of success is the maximum possible score for that characteristic (see Characteristic Maximums above) minus the current characteristic, times 5%. Example: a character has an APP of 9. The GM has decided that the racial maximum for his race is 21. After studying grooming, getting a professional haircut, and using expensive skin creamsfor 225 hours, the character has a (21 - 9 = 12) x 5% = 60% chance to increase their appearance. If they roll 60% or less on percentile dice their APP goes up by 1d3-1 - and yes, if they roll a 1 they get no increase.
Training: A character may instead choose to pay a qualified teacher for training in a characteristic - sort of like hiring a personal trainer. Such training is not cheap. The time needed for training is the same as for research - the current characteristic times 25 hours - but the character need not make a roll to see if they succeeded. Once the training is complete, they may automatically make the 1d3-1 roll to add to their characteristic.
POW: Power can NEVER be increased through any sort of training or research. Nor can it be increased through any sort of trickery. It can only be increased through use in a crisis situation. Only real conflict can give a soul the urgency needed to capture raw power from the fabric of the universe.
When a character has overcome an enemy whose POW is no more than 5 points below their own in a true crisis situation (either by overcoming them with a spell or in spirit combat (see "Spirit Combat"), the GM may allow a Power Gain check. One week after the event, the character rolls to see if their POW has increased. The chance for increase is the maximum possible POW for a member of their race minus their current POW, times 5%. Thus a human of POW 16, who has a racial maximum of 21, must roll (21-16=5) x 5% = 25% or less to increase POW. If they fail, they erase the checkmark next to their POW and hope for better luck next time. If they succeed, the player may chose to either take a one-point increase to their POW, OR to roll 1d3-1 - which averages the same, but obviously offers greater risks and rewards. The decision to roll must be announced before making the roll, obviously; you can't roll a 1 (i.e. a zero) and then decide that you want the one point gain after all.
|Optional: Some GMs allow a POW gain check for resisting an enemy's spell or spirit attack. Of course in that case that should apply to NPCs, too.|
SIZ and INT: These can only be increased by incredibly rare magic, usually a special gift from a god - a gift with a high price tag. False SIZ can be added (or lost) by over- or under-eating, if the GM wishes, but this is usually not worth bothering with.
There are no levels or character classes in RQ. Instead, all characters have skills. In fact, all humans share the same set of skills; for example, everyone can Climb. Of course, someone with a high Dexterity will climb better than someone who's clumsy. And someone who has spent a lot of time climbing will get a lot better at it than someone who sits home all day.
Skills are percentile based, normally ranging from 1 - 100%. To see if you succeed in a skill, roll percentile dile equal to or lower than your skill. If you have a 48% Jump, for example, and must jump over an obstacle during combat, you succeed if you roll 48% or less on d100. If you fail, you don't make it over; depending on circumstances, if you fumble your roll (i.e. roll 98-00 for a skill of 48%) the GM will probably rule that you fall badly and hurt yourself, taking some damage.
In RQ a roll of 1-5% is almost always a success and 96-100% is almost always a failure. Even if a skill is 100% or greater, if the player rolls a 96-100 they have failed. And even if a skill is only 1%, a roll of 01-05 is a success. If a skill is at zero, however (in other words is completely unknown to the character) this does not apply. You cannot even try to use a skill you don't know.
You don't need to make a Climb roll each time you go upstairs, incidentally; rolls are only required when the use of the skill actually makes a real difference in the game. If successful in a crisis situation, place a checkmark next to that skill; your character may have learned something from the experience (see Improving Skills below).
Adding Up A Skill: Skills are made up of three numbers (don't worry, you only need to add them up once, when you create the character). One is the base, which is the number in parentheses next to each skill on the character sheet. That's the basic chance that any member of the species has with that skill; racial aptitude, basically. Humans have a 40% base for Climb, for example, but only a 5% base for Ride.
|Note: A few skills have NO racial base. For example, you do not have a base chance to speak a foreign language that you've never heard - you must actually have been exposed to it and had a chance to learn it. Likewise, fish have no base chance to climb. Skills with a base of zero are not known by default, but must be specifically learned through 500 hours of research or teaching, at which point they start out with the category bonus and 1d6 from initial experience. But any member of a race can attempt any skill in which they have a base and at least 1% chance overall. For example, any human can try to pick pockets by using the Sleight skill, though if they haven't practiced it before their chance of success with be small.|
Added to the base skill is the Category Bonus, which is discussed in more detail in the next section. Skills are divided into seven basic categories; each category has a bonus which reflects the character's characteristics. For example, high DEX helps with all Stealth skills. Both Climb and Ride are Agility skills, so the Agility bonus is added to them when the character is first created.
Finally, there is experience - which includes previous experience, which is generated before the character is first played, and experience in the skill gained during play. This is added to the base and the category bonus to determine the total skill. Example: Let's add up the Climb skill of a random human being PC. His/her racial base is 40. We'll say he's slightly above average, so his Agility bonus is 4% (category bonus are detailed below). And (at random) it's decided that he spent a year as a pre-teen herding his father's goats on the mountaintops, so he gained an additional 9% in Climb from previous experience. That means he starts play with a Climb skill of 40 + 4 + 9 = 53%.
Experience is the part of a skill that changes regularly. It's how a character improves.
Note: A few skills (mostly Knowledge skills) cannot be improved through experience. These skills have no experience-check box next to them on the character sheet. These skills can be improved through research and training.
Special Successes: RQ also uses special types of success for skill rolls (including combat rolls): criticals, specials, and fumbles. A critical is the best, a special success is really good, and a fumble is bad, obviously. As your skill goes up, your chances of good results increase and your chance of a fumble decreases.
Skills can be improved through experience (i.e. actual use), training (with a teacher), and research (practicing on your own).
Experience: When you use a skill successfully in a meaningful situation, place a checkmark in the box next to it; the next time your character has a chance to rest and reflect, you'll have a chance to improve the skill, learning by experience. The chance to increase goes down as your skill goes up. In other words, the better you are with a skill, the harder it is to improve it. Any single skill can only be increased once per week, though there is no set limit to the number of skills that may be improved in a week. A GM may always chose to deny an experience roll for a character if he feels that the player was abusing the system; by switching weapons for each attack, for example.
The chance to improve a skill is 100 minus your current skill, PLUS your category bonus for that skill. Example: You sewed your own wounds on the battlefield and managed to escape alive. After a week to reflect, you get a chance to learn from your experience. Your First Aid skill is 56%, and your Knowledge category bonus is 4% (First Aid is a Knowledge skill). Your chance to increase is 100 - 56 + 4 = 48%. Roll a 48% or higher and your First Aid skill increases. You may choose to either take a flat 3% gain OR roll 1d6.
In any case, whether you succeeded or failed, erase the checkmark next to the skill. You'll have a chance to increase again if you use the skill in a meaningful situation again.
Note: the minimum chance to learn from experience is always the category bonus. If the category bonus is negative, the maximum that any skill in that category can be is 100 plus the (negative) bonus.
Training & Research: It is also possible to increase skills by training and by research, though this is time-consuming. It takes as many hours as you have percentiles in the skill. There may be costs for materials (targets and practice arrows if you are practicing your bow attack, for example), and if you hire a teacher there will be a cost per hour for training as well. As with characteristic training versus research, the advantge of having a teacher is that you do not need to check to see if you've gotten the increase; you simply take a flat two points OR roll 1d6-2. If you research the skill on your own instead, you must first make an experience check (i.e. roll under 100 - current experience + category bonus) to see if you wasted your time.
It is possible for characters to train each other, of course. A teacher cannot raise their student's skill above their own, however; someone with a skill of 41% who is teaching a student with a skill of 40% can only add 1% to the student's skill at most. It is also possible for a teacher to hold classes, teaching many students at the same time.
|Optional: Each additional student in a class beyond the first subtracts 5% from the teacher's skill for purposes of the maximum skill increase that students can gain.|
Note: You can normally only spend 50 hours in a week training, which is a full-time occupation. It's possible to divide those 50 hours between different skills, and even between skills and characteristics, but if there is a break of more than a few weeks (at the GM's discretion) some or all of the previous hours will have to be "made up".
You are a master of a skill if you know it at 90% or more. This can have certain professional benefits; you are likely to be recognized for your skill. If the category bonus for a skill is a positive number, the skill can be raised above 100%. Remember, the minimum chance to increase a skill is always the category bonus - so if you have a Manipulation bonus of 11, for example, your minimum chance to increase any Manipulation skill will never be less than 11%.
Combat skills above 100% can give special benefits to the user - see specific skill descriptions for details.
There are no experience points in RuneQuest, by the way.
Skills are divided into seven categories: Agility, Communication, Knowledge, Magic, Manipulation, Perception, and Stealth. Each category has a bonus which applies to all the skills in it. That bonus is determined by the relevant characteristics. For example, each point of Intelligence a character has above 10 adds one point to their Knowledge bonus, and therefore to every Knowledge skill. It works in reverse, too; each point of Intelligence below ten subtracts one point from the bonus (and yes, it is possible to have a negative category bonus). There's a bit more flexibility in this; some characteristics aren't as important as others for some categories, and some are actually negative. For example, since being big makes it harder to hide and sneak, Size is actually a negative modifier for Stealth category skills; each point of Size over 10 subtracts a point from the bonus, while each point below ten adds a point. As you can see, characters are quite unique in RQ, since every point or two difference in a characteristic changes their skills.
Having high scores in all characterisics can actually be bad for some skills; for example, a high SIZ gives more hit points and lets you be more effective in combat, but is bad for sneaking and hiding.
For category bonuses, a characteristic can be either:
Primary, meaning that every point above or below ten adds or subtracts one from the bonus
Secondary, in which case every two points (or fraction thereof) above or below ten adds or subtracts one from the bonus
Negative, which is like primary but in reverse - high scores subtract, and low scores add
And of course some characteristics have no effect on a category. For example, how good you look (Appearance) doesn't make it any easier or harder to Climb, which is an Agility skill.
Agility (includes all Parry skills): Skills which involve moving your whole body. DEX is primary, STR is secondary (because high strength makes it easier to move your body about), and SIZ is negative (because the more you have to move, the more effort it takes). Example: Joe has the following characteristics: STR 15, CON 08, SIZ 13, INT 11, POW 13, DEX 12, and APP 07. For his Agility bonus, he gains +2 from his DEX, +3 from STR, and -3 from SIZ, for a total of +2.
Communication: INT primary, POW and APP secondary. Note: the effects of POW and APP are added separately to the total. Joe gains +1 for his INT, +2 for his POW, and -1 for his low APP (remember, for secondary characteristics you always round in your favor). His Communication bonus is +2.
Knowledge: INT is primary. +1 for Joe.
Magic: This affects spells and magical knowledge, such as Enchant. INT and POW are primary, DEX is secondary (quick fingers can make spellcasting easier). Joe gets a +1 from INT, +3 from POW, and +1 from DEX, adding up to a Magic bonus of +5.
Manipulation (includes all Attack skills): Skills that mainly depend on manual dexterity, rather than moving the whole body. INT and DEX are primary, STR is secondary. +1 from INT, +2 from DEX, and +3 from STR give Joe a +6 Manipulation and Attack bonus.
Perception: INT primary, POW and CON secondary. Joe's INT of 11 gives him +1, his POW of 13 adds +2, and his CON of 8 subtracts 1 (ouch), giving him a total of +2 to all his Perception skills.
Stealth: DEX is primary, while both SIZ and POW are negative! This is the one great drawback of POW - high soul force tends to make you a bit more noticable. Joe's obviously not a born thief. His DEX of 12 gives him +2, but his POW of 13 subtracts 3 from that and his SIZ of 13 subtracts 3 more, giving him a total of 2 - 3 - 3 = -4!
Category bonuses are only calculated when the character is created. If a characteristic changes, of course, the relevent category bonus changes too, along with all the skills in that category.
To be completed.
Boat (05): use of small watercraft.
Climb (40): Ropes, walls, mountains. The GM assigns bonuses or penalties for hard or easy climbs. Failure means that the climber does not progress that round, but simply stays in place. A fumble results in a fall; the climber takes 1d6 damage for each 3 meters they fall, although a successful Jump may reduce this damage or at least restrict it to the legs only. When attacking while Climbing, it is necessary for any attack or parry roll to also be under the chance to Climb.
Dodge (05): Dodge out of the way of an attack. An alternative to Parrying. This is generally the choice of the lightly-armored. You may Dodge any number of attacks from a single source in a round. In order to Dodge attacks from more than one opponent, you must have a Dodge skill equal to or greater than 100%.
The original RQ3 Dodge rule is that a special Dodge success is necessary to avoid a special weapon attack, and a critical Dodge is needed to avoid a critical attack; but that rule is flawed.
Instead, use this popular optional rule: each level of Dodge success reduces the level of attack success by one. A normal Dodge success reduces a normal attack to a miss, a special attack success to a normal success, and a critical attack success to a special success. A special Dodge evades any normal or special attack, and changes a critical attack success to a normal success. A critical Dodge evades any attack. The table below illustrates this:
|Fumble||Attack misses, attacker rolls fumble results||Attack succeeds||Attack succeeds||Attack specials||Attack criticals|
|Failure||Attack misses, attacker rolls fumble results||Attack misses||Attack succeeds||Attack specials||Attack criticals|
|Success||Attack misses, attacker rolls fumble results||Attack misses||Attack misses||Attack becomes normal success||Attack becomes special success|
|Special||Attack misses, attacker rolls fumble results||Attack misses||Attack misses||Attack misses||Attack becomes normal success|
|Critical||Attack misses, attacker rolls fumble results||Attack misses||Attack misses||Attack misses||Attack misses|
Note: The Dodge skill is not included in RuneQuest 2. Instead, there's an odd mechanic called Defense which is too complicated to explain here.
Jump (25): Jump high or for distance; over a stream, a deep ditch, or a fallen enemy, for example. Failure means a fall; a fumble means a bad fall causing 1d6 damage to a random hit location (a Luck roll (POW x 5%) allows armor to reduce the damage, though).
Parry (specific weapon or shield) (base depends on weapon and culture): The fine art of blocking an incoming attack with your weapon or shield. If successful, the parrying object blocks as many points of damage as it has Armor Points (APs, listed next to every weapon on the Charts sheet). Any additional damage gets through, though it may be partially or fully blocked by armor. If a weapon is used to parry, damage in excess of its armor points reduces them by one; the parrying weapon has been damaged. Different objects have a higher or lower base chance to parry. The culture a character was raised in also affects their base chance; for generic examples of cultural weapon bases, consult the Cultural Weapon Bonuses table in the Charts sheet.
Note: Parry must be learned as a separate skill for different weapon types. Sword parry skill is different from spear parry. All shields use the same parry skill, however.
Ride (05): Successfully ride an animal if inexperienced (skill >30%). Also needed to perform unusual stunts and to attack from animal-back. When attacking while riding it is necessary for the weapon attack roll to also be under the Ride skill chance, or else the attack misses. An experience check can be gained by riding full-time for at least a week in new territory, as well as by successfully using the skill in a crisis situation, of course.
Note: Animals which are very different require a different Ride skill. Ride: Horse will allow one to ride any horselike animal, but won't be much help for riding an elephant. That would require the creation of a new skill on the character sheet: Ride: Elephant. The GM might allow 50% of Ride: Horse skill to apply to the initial Ride: Elephant skill if he felt like it.
Swim (15): Success allows the swimmer to progress through the water; for long distances or in bad conditions the GM may require additional rolls. Failure means that the swimmer isn't making much progress, but can roll again next round. If the roll is a fumble the swimmer starts to drown (see Natural Damage), taking 1d8 damage to total hit points. The GM may allow additional rolls to the drowner to see if they manage to recover themselves, but these should be limited. When in combat while swimming, any skill roll must also be under the user's Swim skill in order to succeed.
Throw (25): Throw a rock or any other reasonable-size object. This differs from the thrown dagger attack skill. A thrown object does 1d3 damage to the target, plus 1/2 of the thrower's damage bonus.
Fast Talk (05): Used to confuse the mind of the listener, persuade them against their better judgement...you know, fast talk!
Orate (05): Speach designed to appeal to deep emotions; often used to address crowds. A high art form, in some cultures.
Sing (05): Tra la la...
Speak Own Language (30): 30 = basic fluency, 90 = high mastery of the tongue.
Speak Other Language (00): 30 = basic fluency, 90 = high mastery of the tongue.
Animal Lore (05): Allows identification of animal types, behavior, health, etc. as well as training of animals.
Craft (specific substance) (10): Allows manufacture and repair of objects of the specified material. Craft Metal = blacksmithing, Craft Wood = carpentry or carving, Craft Leather = tanner, etc.
Evaluate (05): Used to judge the worth and value of an object. The GM normally rolls this skill in secret for the player, since they will not normally know if they have failed; the GM just rolls a die to randomly determine how far off the evaluation is, allowing a chance for a lucky guess (suggestion: plus or minus 1d10-1 x 5% of the true value). A fumble results in a catastrophic error.
First Aid (10): Treat wounds and basic illnesses. Success after 1 melee round stops bleeding; success after 5 melee rounds heals 1d3 damage to a wound. If there is more than one wound, each wound may be treated and rolled for seperately. Special success with First Aid heals a flat 3 points, while a critical success heals 1d3+3 HP. A fumble results in 1d6 additional damage.
Human Lore (05): Combines the fields of anthropology and psychology, in a crude way. Allows one to recognize the tribal tattoos of a stranger, for example, or to tell that he is uncomfortable (and maybe lying?). Often rolled by the GM in secret for the players.
Mineral Lore (05): Identify types and uses of minerals. Also useful in mining.
Plant Lore (05): Identify types and uses of plants, as well as ways to help them to grow. The basic farming skill.
Read/Write Language: In some campaigns this will have a 30% base (or even higher), but literacy is usually not universal in fantasy settings. 30 = basic literacy, 90 = high mastery of the tongue.
Shiphandling (00): Handling large watercraft; sailing, naval combat, piloting, etc.
World Lore (05): Geography and general knowledge.
Ceremony (05): For immediate spellcasting, this is a way to take one or more rounds of extra preparation to improve the overall casting percentage. Consult the Ceremony Time/Roll table on the Charts sheet to determine the number of d6s added to the overall success chance depending on the amount of additional time spent Ceremonying. The actual Ceremony skill itself represents the maximum add that can be gained from use of Ceremony. Ceremony does not add to the chance to overcome an enemy, only to the chance to cast the spell itself.
Ceremony also applies to enchantments, but in that case the basic time unit required is hours rather than rounds.
Enchant (00): The art of permanently placing magical effects in objects. This usually involves the sacrifice of permanent characteristic POW. Enchantments differ slightly for different schools of magic, but generally the enchanter must roll beneath their Enchant skill as well as the specific spell enchantment being used.
Summon (00): Summoning magical or mundane entities and creatures. This must be used with a specific Summoning spell, such as "Summon Nymph". Summoning differs slightly for different schools of magic, but generally the summoner's roll must be beneath their Summon skill as well as under the chance to cast the specific summoning spell being used.
Conceal (05): Camoflauge; hide objects, traps, friends, etc. with debris and branches, for example. Or hide an object on your person.
Devise (05): Set and disarm traps, repair simple mechanical objects, pick a lock, etc.
Sleight (05): Juggle, pick a pocket; make a handkerchief disappear; sleight-of-hand.
Play Instrument (00): Specific to one instrument type. As with weapons, at least five minutes of practice with a new instrument is needed to be comfortable with it.
Weapon Attack (specific weapon) (base depends on weapon and culture): Smack that troll! Different weapons have a higher or lower base attack chance. The culture a character was raised in also affects their base chance; for generic examples of cultural weapon bases, consult the Cultural Weapon Bonuses table in the Charts sheet.
Listen (25): Hear a noise, overhear a conversation, be woken by the sound of a snapping twig...
Scan (25): Spot an ambush up ahead, spy that glint at the bottom of a stream, notice the faint sword-scar on the cheek of that "princess", etc.
Search (25): Carefully inspect and, well, search an area for hidden or hard-to-find objects. This takes time; generally at least ten rounds for a cursory search of a small room. More time can be spent, allowing additional rolls or bonuses to the roll.
Track (05): Follow the tracks of an animal or person. This skill can be used in the wilds or in a city, although a GM would probably assign penalties in a city (and in the wilderness, depending on circumstances). Additional track rolls may be required by the GM when circumstances changes, for example if the quarry goes over a stream or if the ground cover changes.
Hide (10): Hide from sight.
Sneak (10): Move silently, without being seen.
The damage bonus is based on a character's STR + SIZ; for example, a character with a total STR + SIZ equal to 25 through 32 does an additional 1D4 damage on every successful melee attack. 1/2 the damage bonus is added to thrown weapon attacks. It is possible to have personalized bows constructed which also give this benefit (1/2 of the bonus), but they would be expensive - five times normal cost, at least. It is possible to have a negative damage bonus. Consult the Damage Bonus table on the Charts sheet.
|Optional: An alternate, more flexible damage bonus allotment system is included in the Damage Bonus table.|
Time in RuneQuest is measured in minutes, hours, days, etc. For combat purposes time is measured in rounds. There are X rounds in a minute. Rounds are divided into 10 strike ranks.
To be done.
Humans move at a rate of 3 meters per round.
Hit points are the average of SIZ and CON, rounded up. They reflect overall health and toughness. Poisoning and blood loss are taken directly from total hit points.
Total hit points also determine the hit points in each hit location (see below).
If total hit points are reduced to 1, the creature is unconscious. If a creature is reduced to 0 Hit Points, they are dead.
|Optional: Many GMs instead rule that zero hit points results in unconsciousness, and that negative hit points equal to CON equals death.|
RQ uses hit locations (seven of them for humanoids), so it's possible to lose the use of an arm or leg in combat - or to be hit in a vital spot such as the head, chest, or abdomen. The hit locations for humans are:
Left Leg - up to the hip
Right Leg - likewise
Abdomen - from above the hips to below the ribcage
Chest - the area covered by the ribcage, shoulders
Left Arm - fingertips to armpit/shoulder
Right Arm - fingertips to armpit/shoulder
Head - head and neck
Non-humanoids have different hit locations.
Each location has a certain number of hit points - how many are based on the total hit points of the creature. The hit points of all the hit locations added together are normally MORE than the total hit points; this reflects the fact that it's possible to be killed by damage to only a portion of the whole body (in other words, you don't need to destroy every single hit location to cause death).
Damage done to a location is taken both from that area's hit points and total hit points. When a location is at zero or lower hit points, it becomes incapacitated:
Leg - leg becomes unusable, and the character falls. They may attempt to First Aid or Heal themselves, attack (but only at half their normal chance), or try to drag themselves away.
Abdomen & Chest - the character falls. They may attempt to First Aid or Heal themselves, but only at half their normal chance.
Arm - arm becomes unusuable, and anything held in it is dropped. The character may run, continue to fight with their remaining arm, or attempt to First Aid or Heal themselves - but only at half their normal chance, since it's hard to put on a bandage or cast a spell with only one working hand. Obviously any weapon or object in the working hand makes First Aid and Healing impossible.
Head - the character is unconsious and falls to the ground. Anything held in the hands is dropped.
If a location takes double its Hit Points in damage, the person is incapacitated. If a person is
When you successfully strike an opponent, roll a d20 to determine which hit location has been struck. There are two different tables for hit locations; one for hand-to-hand combat, the other for ranged fire (i.e. bows, slings, and thrown weapons). This is because the odds of hitting some locations goes up or down depending on the type of combat involved - in hand-to-hand you're more likely to hit a leg, for example, than you are with an arrow shot.
Note: Hand-to-hand combat is called melee, while any ranged weapon attack is a missile attack.
The character sheet lists the melee and missile number ranges next to each location; for example, for a human the right leg is 01-04 for melee, and 01-03 for missile attacks. Humanoid hit locations are also listed in the Humanoid Hit Locations table on the Charts sheet.
Non-humanoid creatures have different hit location ranges.
Here's something which is pretty key to the system: the opposed resolution roll. The concept is really simple:
Two opponents of equal strength have a 50/50 chance of beating each other. Every point of difference between the two gives a 5% advantage to the stronger.
This applies to more than strength tests, but the best way to illustrate it is with arm wrestling: Joe and Frank are arm-wrestling in the local tavern. They both have a Strength of 17. The chance of either one winning is 50%. Let's say that Joe is the PC: he rolls the dice and gets a 19, handily pinning Frank's arm down.
Next up against Joe is another PC: Peter, who has a Strength of 11. Since Joe's Strength is 6 points higher than Peter's, his chance of beating him is increased by 6 x 5%, which equals 30%; his chance of winning is therefore 80%. Joe rolls an 00, not only losing to Peter but actually fumbling and (the GM decides) spraining his arm for 4 points of damage.
The victorious Peter challenges all comers. His first opponent is Uzrog, a troll with a Strength of 26.
As mentioned before, in RQ a roll of 1-5% is almost always a success and 96-100% is almost always a failure. So in the above case, even though the difference between the two wrestlers is 15 - which in theory gives Peter a negative-25% chance of winning (50% - (15 x 5% = 75%)) - he can still win the match if he rolls 5% or less. If the difference between the two sides is 20 points or more, the chance of success or failure drops to 1%. Obviously such situations are rare.
The opposed resolution roll applies to many situations: lifting heavy weights, opening stuck doors, overcoming an enemy with a spell (or resisting their spell), etc.
Note: Only one person makes the resolution roll. In the case of PC vs. NPC, the PC may make the roll to resist or overcome, as appropriate. In PC vs. PC, either the GM decides who makes the roll or the roll is made by the attacker by default.
|Optional: Extended Contest. If the GM wishes, two sides may enter an extended contest, in which each side makes an opposed resolution roll every round or as appropriate. Success or failure for both means that round is a standoff. If either fails while the other succeeds, the contest is over. Obviously this cannot be applied to instant events, such as spells.|
Another common mechanism is Characteristic x 5%. For example, say a character walks over a slippery surface; the GM has the player roll dice against that character's Dexterity x 5% in order to avoid falling down. If the surface is extra slippery, the GM might require a roll against Dex x 3%, or some other appropriate multiplier. Quick example: in the first case, a character with a Dex of 14 would have a 70% chance of making it across a frozen pond without falling. If the walk was longer, across a frozen lake, say, the GM might require that the roll be made three times.
Other cases in which Characteristic x 5% can be used: Constitution x 5% to resist disease, Power x 5% as a luck roll, Intelligence x 5% to get an idea, etc.
At the GM's option the multiplier for the appropriate characteristic may be increased or reduced.
To be done.
Armor absorbs damage, rather than making it harder for you to be hit. A suit of leather armor will block the first point of damage from any attack. A suit of plate mail blocks 8 points of damage.
To attack, you roll against your weapon attack skill. If you succeed, you roll your weapon damage (example: a fist does 1d3, a broadsword does 1d8+1), plus your damage bonus if you have one. The target may attempt to roll their parry skill (which could be with a weapon or a shield), and if they succeed, the parry blocks incoming damage the same way armor does.
Alternatively, a target may chose to Dodge instead, rolling against their Dodge skill. If they succeed, they dodge out of the way and the attack misses. See the Dodge skill description in Skill Details for more information.
Combats tend to be more realistic and detailed in RQ than D&D. They're also more dangerous; even a very skilled swordsman will have trouble dealing with multiple opponents at the same time.
The original setting of RuneQuest was the rich and highly original world of Glorantha. However, it's easy to use the RQ system with almost any kind of world-setting. The following sections apply to Glorantha, but other worlds may differ.
There are no "wizards" as such the area of Glorantha which was originally used for campaigns. And, of course, since there are no classes there really aren't wizards in the game at all. Any character in RuneQuest can learn magic, and in most settings and campaigns, everyone does. That includes NPCs, incidentally. It's possible to specialize in magic, of course, or just learn a few useful spells to bolster combat, stealth, and/or other skills; an entire range of magic specialization is possible. There are three major types of magic in classic RQ, but I'll only talk about two of them here. Incidentally, it's quite easy to tack on magic systems from other games, or to create entirely new types of magic.
Spells in RuneQuest have several attributes.
Duration: the effects of a spell may last for a short time (from five to 15 minutes, generally), and then stop; in that case the spell is temporal. A protection spell is an example of a temporal spell. Other spells, such as most healing and attack spells, are instant; the effects take place at once and then the spell is over. Of course the effects of the spell are permanent.
Enchantments are permanent.
Range: Some spells can only be cast by touch; for example, you must be touching a wound in order to Heal it. Other spells (most attack spells, for example) can be cast from a distance, in which case they are ranged. Different types of magic have different ranges.
Variable/Fixed/Stackable: Some spells come in only one "strength"; for example, the spirit magic spell Disruption always costs one magic point to cast, and always does 1d3 damage. Putting extra magic points into it has no effect other than allowing it to overcome anti-magic protective spells on the target. Such spells are fixed.
Other spells come in different strengths; these are variable spells. The spirit magic spell Heal is a variable spell; it can be learned as Heal 1, Heal 2, Heal 3, etc., although levels over four are very rare and are usually not found outside of professional healers. Heal 1 costs 1 magic point to cast and heals one point of damage, Heal 2 costs 2 magic points and heals two points of damage. If you know a certain level of a variable spell you may choose to cast any lower version of that spell that you wish - someone who knows Bladesharp 4, for example, may instead cast Bladesharp 1, 2, or 3 for the appropriate magic point cost. Variable spells do not normally add up; casting Heal 2 twice on the same wound does not heal 4 points of damage.
Finally, some spells are stackable; they can be learned several times over and then cast in batches which add together. The Divine spell Shield is a stackable spell; it can be learned several times over, and some or all of the learned Shield spells can be cast all at once, providing an added effect. This concept generally applies only to Divine spells.
Spirit magic are small, relatively quick spells that can nonetheless be very useful in all sorts of situations. They typically last either five minutes or are instant. Spells that work at a distance have a range of 30 meters. The spells are cast using magical energy, represented by magic points (MPs). Once you learn a particular spell you can cast it over and over, as much as you like, as long as you have the magic points to power it.
Your magic points are equal to your character's Power. As you use them, they go down. However, you regenerate magic points daily; the amount you regenerate is equal to your Power. So if you have a Power of 12, for example, you regenerate 1 magic point every 2 hours. Of course if you haven't used any magic points, you don't accumulate more. It may help to think of yourself as a self-recharging rechargeable battery; once you've reached your maximum, no further magic points accrue.
It's possible to create or find magical matrices and crystals which allow you to store your magic points and then draw on the stored points to cast your spells, but these are rare and valuable.
Chance to cast: Your chance to cast Spirit Magic spells is equal to your Power x 5%, with certain modifications. For example, a character with a Power of 16 has an 80% chance to cast a spell.
Spells cast at an enemy must overcome that enemy's Power. This is handled with an opposed resolution roll.
Example: Joe sees Uzzog approaching. He decides to cast the Disrupt spell, a bolt of magical energy which does 1d3 points of damage to a random hit location and is not blocked by armor. Joe's Power is 13, so his chance to cast is 65% (13 x 5%). Disrupt is a 1-point spell, so Joe must expend one magic point in casting it. He succeeds and a bolt of magical energy flies towards the troll.
Uzzog's Power is 9. Joe's chance to overcome him is 70%; 50% plus 20%, an additional 5% for every point of Power that Joe is stronger. Joe rolls a 69, barely overcoming the troll, who takes 2 points in the left leg. Painful, but not crippling.
Some useful spirit magic spells:
Befuddle - a two-point spell. If this overcomes an enemy, it puts them in a state of extreme confusion for 5 minutes. The foe becomes confused and vegetable-like, stopping whatever they were doing. If they are attacked, however, they immediately snap out of it and attack back.
Bladesharp - a variable spell; it can be learned in various strengths, most commonly from 1 to 4. Each point of this spell costs a magic point to cast. When cast on an edged weapon, that weapon gets an effective +1 for each point of the spell. This includes an extra point of damage and +5% to attack for the next five minutes. So Bladesharp 3 cast on a sword will give the user +15% to their chance to hit and an additional 3 points of damage on every blow.
Coordination - Variable. Each point of this spell adds 1 point to Dexterity. Duration 5 minutes, of course.
Demoralize - a 2-point spell. If this spell overcomes an enemy they are demoralized (for five minutes, which applies to any spirit magic spell with duration so I won't say it any more). They cannot initiate combat, will run away if they are able, and if forced to fight by circumstances (i.e. there's nowhere to run) all of their attack skills are halved.
Detect Magic - 1 point spell. Obvious.
Dullblade - Variable, ranged, temporal. If cast on an enemy's weapon (their Power must be overcome) each point of this spell subtracts one from their damage, and 5% from their attack percentage.
Fireblade - 3-point spell, temporal. When cast on an edged weapon, the blade is engulfed in flames and does 3d6 damage per blow, no matter what the size of the weapon.
Heal - Variable, instant. Each point of this spell immediately heals one point of damage.
Light - 1 point, temporal. This must be cast on an object, which then gives off a glow equal to a torch.
Protection - Variable, temporal. This spell blocks damage, acting as intangible magical armor. Each point of the spell blocks one point of damage for the duration of the effect. This is in addition to whatever physical armor is being worn, of course.
These are just a few spells; there are 47 standard spirit magic spells in all, plus some special spells which are exclusive to various cults.
Spirit magic is learned from spirits. Some cults have special groups of "teacher" spirits which they use to give spell knowledge to their members.
The maximum number of points of spirit magic that a character can learn is equal to their Intelligence. Variable spells count as the number of points of spell known. A character with an Intelligence of 9 could know Bladesharp 4, Disrupt (a 1-point spell), Heal 2, Detect Magic (1-point), and Protection 1, for example, but to learn any new spell they'd have to permanently forget one or more of the spells currently in their mind. They could re-learn that spell later, of course, but in any case could never simulataneously have knowledge of more than 9 points of spirit magic spells in their mind at one time.
It is possible to create or find matrices with the knowledge of spells built into them. Contact with such a matrix gives the holder the ability to cast that spell (though they must still supply the magic points for it), and is not subject to the limit of Intelligence for known spells.
Spirit Magic is also sometimes called Battle Magic.
Divine spells come from a god, and consequently are only given to devoted worshippers. They are much more powerful than spirit magic, but much more expensive: to learn a Divine spell, a worshipper must sacrifice a point of permanent Power from their characteristic for each point of the spell! However, most divine spells do not require magic points to cast, and there is a 95% chance to cast them. Another drawback, however, is that for most worshippers these spells are one-use; once they have been cast, they are lost forever. If the worshipper wants to cast that spell again, he must sacrifice still more permanent Power.
Temporal Divine spells last for 15 minutes. Ranged spells have a range of 100 meters. Some spells are "stackable", which means that the same spell can be acquired many times over and then cast in a bunch; for example, it would be possible to sacrifice for the Shield spell ten times, and then in combat cast five of them at once, giving the effect of a Shield 5.
High-level members of the cult (priests, for example) can re-use their divine spells. In order to "recharge" a spell, however, they must spend a full day in their temple praying for every point of spell.
Some sample Divine spells:
Lightning - Instant, ranged. Can only be cast in the open, with clouds in the sky. This calls down a blast of holy lightning on the target doing 3d6 points of damage. Only the weakest armor worn protects.
Shield - Each point of this spell gives the target 2 points of protection from physical damage and two points of protection against spells.
Sureshot - Temporal, touch. When cast on a thrown or missile weapon this gives it a 100% chance of hitting the target on the next attack, no matter what the skill of the user.
Truesword (or other weapon) - Temporal, touch. For the duration of the spell the user of the weapon which has been blessed with this spell rolls double the normal weapon damage - for a broadsword, for example, they roll 2d8 + 2 instead of 1d8 +1. Strength and magic bonuses are not affected.
Religions in Glorantha are called Cults, and almost everyone belongs to one. What cult you belong to defines much of who you are; warriors join the cult of a warrior god, farmers worship one or another grain goddess, etc. The concept of Alignment does not exist in RQ. However, gods are rather active in Glorantha (though heavily restricted in some ways), and worshippers who break their religious vows or violate the beliefs of their cults are likely to regret it.
Note: in Glorantha the word cults does not have the modern, negative meaning; it simply means faith, or church.
Cults generally have several layers of membership, in ascending order of importance:
One benefit that serious members of a cult gain is "divine intervention"; once a week they may appeal directly to their god for aid. This aid cannot directly harm anyone else; the worshipper may ask for their entire party to be healed of their wounds, for example, but not for their enemies to be hurt or killed. In some cases the worshipper may even ask to be returned from the dead, although this is not always possible.
Asking for divine intervention is dangerous. When making the request, the supplicant rolls percentile dice and compares the result to their characteristic Power. If they roll above their Power, there is no response or result. If they roll below their Power, however, the request is granted if possible - AND the requestor immediately loses points from their Power characteristic equal to the number they rolled. For example: Joe the Initiate prays to be taken far away from the angry troll. His Power is 13. His player rolls a 7. Joe instantly finds himself in his home temple, and his Power is now 6! That reduction is permanent, although the characteristic can be raised normally.
If a worshipper is unlucky enough to roll exactly their Power, their entire spirit is immediately taken into the direct service of their god. They are dead, and cannot be resurrected. However, if their appeal for divine intervention included any other factors than survival, it is granted; for example, if Joe had rolled a 13 his lifeless body would have appeared in his home temple.
Due to the special favor granted them, Rune Lords roll only 1d10 when asking for divine intervention.
AP - Armor Points, representing the physical strength and resistance to breakage of an object. Also represents the number of points of damage that armor, a shield, or weapon will block if used properly.
GM - GameMaster, i.e. DM.
HP - Hit Points.
Melee - hand-to-hand combat.
MP - Magic Points, the temporary and regenerating magical energy used to cast spells.
Copyright 2002 by Peter Maranci. Revised: December 12, 2002. v. 1.7