Session 4 of our RuneQuest game! I wrote up a summary handout for them this time – see attached. It was fun to write, and also to feel as if I’d nailed down “this is what we’re playing” in some ways.
In thinking about this session, and riffing off the question Ross asked in the comments to the previous post about this game, I found myself writing an elaborate discourse on authorship and stories, especially the hard line between the experiences of contrivance vs. lacking contrivance, despite the fact that it’s always contrived. Then I took pity on anyone reading such blathering and decided to inflict it on my hapless patrons, who, if not precisely a captive audience, can at least sort of be like one as far as my own preferred delusions are concerned.
The bit that I’ll keep for this post is what I was driving at toward the end: that what this and games like it lack is situational framing in any way.
I feel that pinch particularly in terms of adjusting and sometimes misplaying the following:
- Recovery of injury, which is especially tricky because NPCs would certainly have Healing as casual spells, so that pretty much determines that all but the most heinous wounds are routinely healed by magic, for everyone, all the time. It’s a very artificial counterweight to the clinical butcher-shop aspects of the damage itself. Laws’ text in Hero Wars calls this out specifically, and I mention it here because one is often tempted to minimize the effect in the moment and to aggravate it as longer-term game effect, in both cases against the textual mechanics.
- Narrating for fumbles and criticals for noncombat skill rolls ... which glory be, and I knew this but forgot (or “forgot to remember it”) during play, do not exist in the rules. They’re just for attack rolls. But there you are, using them as extra-plot-power moments, frankly because you need mechanical cues for such things and the game doesn’t otherwise have them.
It’s also present, but somewhat easier, for the whole scenario or situation: “the adventure is located here, so here we are.” What’s wrong with that? Nothing with doing it as such, but rather, what it lacks in this case to make it genuinely satisfying as a prep for play device: any reason for the adventure to be “here.” The logic is backwards, based primarily on published adventure modules – since you bought the module, you’re playing this adventure, and since the adventure is “here,” well, “here” is where you are.
It was fine for this four-session bit, because the whole point was merely to flex our muscles and enjoy playing characters with to-hit rolls, hit points, and monsters to fight. But curse you, early RuneQuest, for stepping up and offering solid conceptual groundwork for actual mythic fantasy to ensue, and sure enough, protagonism sprang forth, and now we have freakin’ fantasy heroes in a freakin’ fantasy story.
Which means what adventure is next is actually a thing. I came to a conclusion, which you’ll see soon in the video for session 5.
[leading image is by Lee Smith from RQ: Adventures in Glorantha, by the Design Mechanism; this game is currently published as Mythras]