Sometimes (often) players zig when you expect them to zag. Last year, for example, I was prepping a pirate campaign set in Port Blacksand. My players (bless ’em) wanted to play a campaign in Glorantha using the new edition of RuneQuest instead. So, I’ve shelved the Port Blacksand campaign (for now).
It’s my fault, really. I ran a scenario for them using the quickstart rules late last year, thinking we would switch to the Blacksand Nights campaign straight after… but my group (including me!) found itself really enjoying both the world of Glorantha and the RuneQuest system. It’s certainly the crunchiest thing we’ve ever played, which I find both intimidating and refreshing after a couple of years of lighter systems such as Delta Green and Lamentations of the Flame Princess.
So, this year, I’ll be running RuneQuest. I love how gritty the combat system is. Sure, hit locations can be fiddly, but they also produce the kind of chaos at the table that I absolutely love. Unlike in D&D, HP in RuneQuest unambiguously represents meat, making combat feel much more detailed and simulationist; a well-placed arrow during our last game session caused a mount’s leg to buckle from under it, throwing its rider into the dirt. That sort of thing can definitely happen in B/X D&D (which, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore as a system), but it somehow feels more satisfying when it’s better supported by the game mechanics.
The metaphysics and lore of Glorantha are also rich and evocative. I understood that the central theme of the setting was mythology, but I didn’t realise, until we started playing, that Glorantha was literally a world built from myths, as in: myths are the laws of physics, the building blocks of reality in Glorantha. Myths are a programming language, and hacking myths can change reality. That’s great stuff.
Yet, ultimately, RuneQuest is but a stepping stone. I plan to explore Glorantha for a couple of months with my players, before finally trying out the quintessential British old-school game: Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play (WFRP, or “Woofrup”). I always think of WFRP as a potent brew of Call of Cthulhu, D&D, and RuneQuest, which is why I wanted to get some RQ under my belt before tackling it (I have plenty of experience with Cthulhu and old-school D&D by now).
My idea of the Old World comes straight from the mid-1990s. I played a bit of Warhammer Fantasy Battle (4th edition was what I cut my teeth on) back then, but nothing since. It’s as if my mental image of the Warhammer world has been stuck in a time capsule (my understanding of Warhammer 40k is, if anything, even worse – I haven’t read anything since the old Ian Watson novels).
I own copies of both the 1st and 4th editions of WFRP, but I’m leaning towards the 1st edition for a couple of reasons:
– I don’t like traits.
– I want to use all my funny-shaped dice (WFRP 4e uses only d10s).
– I actively enjoy lots of esoteric little sub-systems using different rules.
– I prefer scratchy B&W 1980s art to glossy 2010s art.
– I like how the Old World is so thinly-sketched in WFRP 1e.
– I’m a sucker for bad puns and a goofy sense of humour.
– I actually like a high whiff factor (and the zany plans it engenders).
Anyway, that’s the plan. I’ve got to run my group through RuneQuest first, which gives me some time to read through the WFRP rules. But, as I said, sometimes (often) players zig when you expect them to zag.