Hans began quite a conversation at Discord, which I think deserves to be imported here and continued. It goes like this!
HANS: So I’m reading the first adventure in the Starter set for Runequest: Roleplaying in Glorantha (the latest RQ rules published by Chaosium). The target audience is new GMs and players. The first situation is compelling enough, if simple: the players walk into a bunch of trolls ransacking a market. The trolls are scary but have understandable motivations related to a war that ended before they arrived to profit from it, and the players can approach this situation in any number of different ways. So what does the text advise? If nothing happens, bring in a bigger troll and have a fight. Or, if you don’t have a fight, and I’m quoting, “if a fight doesn’t happen, things get tense until the guard arrives.” Wait around until the cops come take care of it, super fun play. This is certainly not the only intro module I’ve read that does this sort of thing. What do these writers think is going to happen if they actually give people things to do that matter in a game? Do they think the book is going to explode and injure them? It just baffles me, this instinct to immediately remove all conflict where possible.
JAMES: I wonder if part of the problem is trying to write around players who either turtle up (due to inexperience, anxiety, or disinterest) and those who wanna monkey around with some other part of the scenario, leaving the presented situation unresolved?
JC: I have a lot less charitable things to say about the Starter Set (and Runequest Glorantha), but that adventure is the illustrative of Chaosium. Jeff Richard’s (the Glorantha Lead) house campaign, The White Bull, was on YouTube for awhile. If you want to get a good view of how he has designed his Glorantha to be ran, check it out.
JESSE: I think there’s layers. One layer is a problem with the expectations of a published scenario. The expectation is often, “Will do the majority of work for me”. You could publish a dynamic scenario which would likely consist of something like a backstory, character profiles, and maybe some starting points. But the rest would be up to you. To a lot of people it would look “incomplete” because it doesn’t tell you how it’s “supposed to go”. The second layer is that there’s this old adage that goes something like “The power of a story is not in the tale but in the telling.” which I think way way too many modules writers have bought into. They think they’re providing an outline. it’s an outline of scenes that tell you what happens but not how it happens because the “real story” is in the details. So the scene is “trolls attack and are defeated” but the “real story” is who gets hurt, who died, what sacrifices were made, what zinger lines got said at just the right moment. Okay now that the trolls are defeated there’s evidence that ties them to the old hermit that lives on the edge of the town. Okay, so the next scene is investigate the hermit. But the “real story” is do you try to con him out of revealing his secrets? Do you kick in the door and beat it out of him? Do you try to uncover his secrets and blackmail him? Do you send your most attractive party member to seduce him? Okay well now that you know how the hermit is involved the next scene is about…. but the “real story” is…. It’s a very commercial Hollywood blockbuster idea of storytelling. We all know how this type of story goes, we’re just here to fill in the details differently this time because it’s “the telling” that matters. And every table is a unique “telling” of that story and that’s what’s “supposed to” make it powerful and personal.
HANS: I wonder if part of the problem is trying to write around players who either turtle up (due to inexperience, anxiety, or disinterest) and those who wanna monkey around with some other part of the scenario, leaving the presented situation unresolved?
I have a suspicion that it’s exactly these sorts of “intro” experiences that create these tendencies in players. You’re told that this is designed to show you how this activity works, and then you’re incentivized to either turtle up (because the cops will show up anyway) or dick around (because the GM’s gonna force you to fight anyway).
JAMES: I am still trying to shuck off these tendencies in myself and I think they are learned behavior.
: I actually like the idea of Rune/Passion checks to get PCs in motion. How well it works in play, I don’t know, but the idea is attractive to me on paper, perhaps because I am myself so often hesitant in play.
like, I was viewing it from the perspective of a player, i.e., “neat, a tool outside of simply my decisions to play my character,” as opposed to a GM-control tool, which I suppose it could be used as.
JC: It has issues, beyond its use for GM control (which is its purpose from how it is used in adventure modules and the rules), I often had an outcome that’s “well, you decide” which makes the mechanic pointless.
SEAN: So this thread has a small amount of conversation about Runequest:Glorantha that I ran at a con many ages ago.
In practice Runes/Passions have not been used (by me) to control anything. Quite the opposite. Reliance on their passions in that game drove character success, and they informed character actions in the fiction by reminding them what mattered to their character
Noah would likely be the one to ask as his experience recently is certainly greater than my own.
JC: I think my feelings are mostly about the text and not in how I used them. I can see them being okay for that, but I dislike the null results that happened far too often.
UMBRAL DRAGON: I play Mythras, which is the child of RuneQuest. I use passions as a fulcrum in my games. Players use them frequently, when the actions run close to their passions, as bonuses or I set them against the characters as moral dilemmas. I don’t ever penalize them if they go against them. Passions can change and even be eliminated as the character develops. Hard to avenge a family member when the adversary is dead. That’s just an extreme example.
JC: I would love to read a post about your experiences playing and running Mythras!
CHRISTOFFER: Me and some friends played Runequest with me as the gm, earlier this year. First time in Glorantha for all of us. My take on it was to just use the rulebook (RQ1/2) with it’s background information and some cults from Cults of Prax and Cults of Terror. Built a situation from these things and then just play. Loved it, a great way to get into the game, get into our own Glorantha. We’re all from Sweden and all of us had our first introduction to roleplaying through swedish brp-based games, so it was more a feeling of coming home, and to my delight to a home more functional than the one we were used to.
Me again. Here is some relevant work at Adept Play, in addition to the link Sean provided above.
Q&A 3 parts 1 and 2 (directly for Hans) Q and A at the Patreon | Adept Play
Noah’s RQG game, beginning with Runequest: Roleplaying in Glorantha Sessions 1-3 | Adept Play and following the game title tag to continue (there’s a lot).
A conversation between Noah and me about fighting and probabilities in the versions of the games we were respectively playing at the time: Probabilities and RQG | Adept Play