Runequest 6th Edition

September 8, 2013

The sixth edition of Runequest is a comprehensive successor to previous editions, and for me, comes the closest to capturing the look and feel of the second edition that was one of my favourite roleplaying games.  As well as looking at this new edition, I will also present my thoughts about the supplements and supporting material released so far.  I have played and run games with the second and third editions, looked at the fourth edition drafts that never went anywhere, and had the Mongoose edition – but for some reason I just never liked the they way they put the game together so I did not run any games with it.

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Runequest VI is a hefty 456 page all-in-one tome.  Its available as a softcover & pdf bundle from http://www.glorantha.com/product/runequest-6th-edition/ or http://www.thedesignmechanism.com/products.php ($62), and in pdf format from http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/index.php?&manufacturers_id=4057 ($25).

A hardcover version has been funded through Indiegogo and should be out soon for backers and direct sales.  Runequest VI is primarily a set of rules, but provides examples of game mechanics through a backstory set in the bronze age city state of  Meeros and the aspiring female warrior Anathaym.  This is kept in the sidebars, and I found the story entertaining, like Rurik’s story in RQ II, but not too distracting from the main text.  Apart from the cover, which is a colourful homage to the RQ II cover, the interior art is black and white illustrations, and largely complements the overall mood and themes of the text.  More setting specific supplements are due for publication in the future, including:

  • Luther Arkwright (based on a time travelling secret agent character, apparently a big UK comic in the 1970s-80s)
  • Mythic Briton (after the Romans have left)
  • Shores of Korantia (based on Age of Treason, a fantasy setting that tries to capture the feel of a rising new Empire, where internal threats may outweigh external threats).

A number of free pdf downloads are available for Runequest VI at the Design Mechanism website, including:

  • A supplement for Firearms (and futuristic weapons)
  • A GM pack
  • Character sheets.

Two generic, setting free, game supplements are already available:

  • Monster Island (a “sandpit” jungle island)
  • Book of Quests (seven loosely connected scenarios).

Organisation and Layout

There are sixteen chapters, plus reference sheets and an index.  While the material is in a logical order, there will be a bit of page turning in character creation as people start with the process in chapter one, but may need to dive into the skills, equipment and magic chapters to figure out what they want their character to be like.  I had some confusion on first reading the rules, in that while skills are mostly explained in chapter four, some specific parts of skill use, such as haggling, are dealt with more thoroughly elsewhere in the text.  If I were running a game, I would want prepared material for the players with example combat styles, magic traditions, cults and brotherhoods for them to join.

  • Chapters 1-3, character creation, culture, community, careers and development
  • Chapters 4-7, skills, economics & equipment, game mechanics, combat
  • Chapters 8-13, magic systems
  • Chapter 14, cults and brotherhoods
  • Chapter 15, creatures
  • Chapter 16, games master.

Character Creation

Basic character creation involves the seven traditional characteristics: Strength, Constitution, Size, Dexterity, Intelligence, Power, and Charisma.  These can be rolled for randomly, or purchased with a point buy system.  Secondary attributes are calculated based on the characteristics: Action Points (number of actions per combat round), Damage Modifier, Experience Modifier (bonus improvement rolls, based on Charisma not intelligence, as you smile sweetly at your instructor…), Healing Rate, Height & Weight, Hit Points, Luck Points (one use per game session), Magic Points, Movement Rate and Strike Rank (initiative in combat).  There are some fairly significant break points in these attributes, for example your Action Points are determined by combining Intelligence and Dexterity, 12 or less is one action, 13-24 two actions, 25-36 three actions.  If using a point buy system, I suspect the temptation for players to have intelligence and dexterity summing to 25 will be strong.

Standard skills are available to all characters, most are self-explanatory (Dance, Perception) but Customs (of your community), Evade, Influence (persuasion) and Insight (into motives) will need a look at the rules to figure out what they are about. Evade is not quite the old Dodge skill, its more a throw yourself to the ground that leaves you prone to vulnerable to whatever happens next.

Combat styles represent a major design choice for the individual game master.  For a combat light campaign you could decide to just have two styles, one for melee weapons and one for ranged weapons.  For a detail rich gladiators in the arena campaign, you might have a dozen or more combat styles (spear and net, spear and shield, etc).  Deeper in the book (page 135) its explained how combat styles can have special traits, such as Formation Fighting, where a group of soldiers work together to reduce their opponents action points by one.  Quite nifty, and an obvious place for house rules for campaign specific chrome.

Four generic human cultures are presented: Barbarian, Civilised, Nomadic and Primitive.  Each culture comes with a set of standard skills, combat styles, and professional skills.  Of these, I think the primitives are the weakest, but I just don’t find the stone age all that interesting.

A 1d100 random background event table is included. If choosing an older character, its suggested that you roll more than once.  I quite like 13 “You believe yourself to be suffering a divine or magical curse. Moan, groan and whinge at every opportunity, or remain completely stoic at every misfortune that befalls you in the future.”

Social class is an option, with as usual, the lucky nobles getting wealth, land, horses, weapons and armour. Personally, I like the idea of starting a campaign where the nobles start with equipment and hideously huge piles of debt.  One can keep rolling randomly for family, but for contacts, allies and adversaries you’re expected to use your brain and think of something.  The rules do provide a major incentive for the players to come up with a reason for hanging out together – Group Luck Points (tucked away on page 124) a pool of shared luck points anyone in the group can use, and you get one per player who has a good reason for being in the party.

The last section of culture and community is the most important from a roleplaying perspective: passions.  Passions are cool! Passions represent:

  • loyalties and allegiances
  • strongly held beliefs or ideals
  • emotion felt towards someone or something.

Passions are rated 1-100, can change over time, and be created or discarded in play.  Passions are described by a verb such as: comfort, desire, despise, destroy, espouse, fear, flee, forswear, hate, love, loyalty, protect, repudiate, respect, seek, subvert, torment, or uphold.

Over 20 generic careers are provided, offering a package of standard and professional skills for the player to spend points on for their character.  The careers are fairly broad, the Agent for example, is intended to include Agitators, Assassins, Detectives, Informers, and Spies.

An older character gets more skill points, and can spend them to a higher starting level.  Age penalties don’t kick in until 40+, so I see players being strongly incentivised to choose middle aged (200 bonus points) over young (100 bonus points).

Game Mechanics

Its the old 1d100, roll against skill level system, but with some developments:

  • 01-05 always succeeds
  • 96-00 always fails
  • A roll of 1/10 of skill is a critical success
  • A roll of 99-00 is a fumble.

Rather than providing an exhaustive list of modifiers to skill checks, the approach taken in Runequest VI is to adjust the skill level by fractions, e.g. for an Easy task, add half again to the skill value, for a Formidable task, reduce the skill by half.  Characters can augment a skill with one other skill, e.g. using local area knowledge to improve drive skill checks, equal to twice the critical success value of the augmenting skill.

For contested rolls, critical beats normal beats failure, but if two people have the same result, e.g. critical perception versus critical stealth, the character with the highest roll on the dice wins (i.e. a 13 beats a 7). Pro tip: because of the need to compare rolls you need to train your players to leave their dice on the table, untouched, until the roll is fully resolved.

Equipment

After that mechanic introduction the rules take off on a tangent for equipment, before going back for more mechanics.  Mostly familiar stuff with the traditional kitchen sink lists of ancient to renaissance era armour and weaponry. What I noted here was the armour penalty to Strike Rank (the average of Dexterity & Intelligence), which is determined by total armour encumbrance value divided by 5.  For a full set of plate mail this works out to a hefty -9 penalty.  This is also applied to the the characters movement.  I grumble about this, a custom fit set of plate armour can be easier to run in than a maille hauberk, but I can put aside the stickler for accuracy and recognise it for a game balance device that ensures some niche protection for those leather clad (or skyclad) character concepts out there.

Weapons have a list of combat effects they can do, for example the Glaive can inflict Bleed and Sunder (smash armour) effects, while the Rapier can Impale.

More Game Mechanics

Specific rules are given to handle: Acid, Ageing, Asphyxiation, Blood loss, Character improvement, disease, poison, encumbrance, falling, fatigue, fires, healing, luck, passions, wilderness survival, traps, visibility and weather. Phew!

Skill increase is familar, roll 1d100 and add 2-5% if you roll equal or greater than the skill, or 1% if not.  As a freebie, if you fumble, you get to add 1% as well.  Increasing characteristics is not easy at all, essentially you sacrifice experience rolls, both now and in the future, to boost a characteristic.  Stop making the sacrifice, and your characteristic goes back down to its natural level.  I think this is fine with a point buy system, but if using 3d6 rolls in the old school style, its very hard on the unlucky player.  An optional rule is provided for people like me who prefer something a bit more like RQ II.  FOr those with time and money, training is an option, allowing skill increases of anywhere from 1-2% to 5-10% depending on how much better than you your trainer is.  You can’t stay at school forever though, you have to spend an experience roll on a skill before you can work with a trainer again.

Encumbrance remains the rule most likely to be ignored by both players and game masters.

Healing serious/major wounds takes a very long time unless you have magic.

Luck points can be used to:

  • reroll dice
  • gain an Action Point
  • downgrade a Major wound to a Serious Wound (this is how player characters survive the brutal, gritty, Runequest combat system).

Combat

This is comprehensive enough for my re-enactor background, and complex enough to be intimidating – there is even an Android App for helping sort out combat effects!

Actions can be spent on proactive actions or reactive actions.  When you run out of actions you just have to suck up whatever hurt the bad guys are throwing your way. You probably want some tokens/counters to track this around the game table (and that might help with luck points as well).

Proactive actions include:

  • attack
  • brace
  • cast magic
  • change range (moving in closer or further away)
  • delay
  • dither
  • hold magic
  • mount
  • move
  • outmaneuver (make an opposed Evade check against a group of foes, those who fail cannot attack you)
  • ready weapon
  • regain footing
  • struggle.

Reactive actions include:

  • counter spell
  • evade (dive or roll clear, ending up prone – this is not the dodge of RQ II)
  • interrupt
  • parry (combining parrying, blocking, leaning and footwork to avoid the blow)

The detail about evade/parry is included as that seems to be one of the most common misapprehensions about how the combat system is supposed to work.  How effective your parry is depends on the size of the weapons/shields involved.  Equal or greater size mitigates all damage, one size less mitigates half damage. Two sizes down mitigates nothing. So if the giant is swinging a tree trunk at you, throw the buckler shield away and evade!

In addition to damage, you get special effects, potentially as many as three, if one side fumbles when the other criticals.  There are a LOT of special effects, too many to sum up, but I think its likely that players will choose things like Select Target (head) and Maximise Damage (instead of rolling one of the damage dice its treated as being at full value, so a 2d6 weapon becomes 6+1d6).  For those who want it though, you can do a lot more to your opponents than “whack, and I whack it again” which is where RQ II was it in 1980.

Shields are a passive block, not an active block, so you need to pick the locations being warded. A bigger shield can ward more locations.  As in past editions, weapon damage minus armour = hit points lost to a body location.  Damage and wounds are pretty horrific:

  • minor wound: location has HP left
  • serious wound: location has zero or less HP (this will put most people out of the fight very quickly)
  • major wound: location reduced to negative starting HP (this will kill most people without first aid or healing magic).

Magic

It is a joy to see all of the magic traditions in one rule book.  Each of them is quite different, and a game world might not have all of them present.  We get a primer on the runes too, as this is Runequest. What I would really like is a set of the runequest runes on some small tokens I could draw randomly from a bag for oracle type stuff in game sessions.  A quick web search did not find anyone with something like this for sale.  Maybe I’ll track something down later on.

Folk Magic – this is what we called Battle Magic or Spirit Magic back in RQ II, its fairly low power community magic.

Animism – dealing with the spirit world and its monsters, Shamanistic traditions.

Mysticism – warrior monk/Jedi enlightenment aiming for transcendence.  Potentially the most overpowered of the magic traditions as a skilled mystic can be very hard to kill and very dangerous in combat, not at all the glass cannon of your traditional RPG mage. Beware of little old men with brooms!

Sorcery – a complex system, potentially powerful but often very narrow in focus and difficult to use (but good for villains who need long rituals to be interrupted)

Theism – religious cult based magic and power.

Off-hand, not too different from past editions, but the GM should decide for the campaign how common magic is, how long it takes to cast a magic spell or ritual, and how quickly magic points can be regenerated and by what means.  A world where you only regenerate magic on the night of the full moon is very different from one where you get new magic points every sunrise.

The Rest of the Sixth Edition

The creatures, cults and brotherhoods and game master sections are all fairly straightforward stuff for world and adventure building.  On a second reading of the GM advice, it was better than the first time, and gives some good tips for using the preceding material.

How does it play?

This is not a convention friendly game, its just too rich and complex for people unfamiliar with the rules to get a lot done with it on the three-four hours you get.  The combat and magic systems, while powerful tools, are likely to confuse people at first.  It is much more a game system for running a long campaign with, and for people who love detailed world building … because you can always write up one more cult!  I am very much looking forward to running a campaign with it when my Dragon Age game wraps up.

The GM Pack

This 78 page free supplement contains two scenarios and charts and reference sheets for use with Runequest games.  Meeros Falling is a “prove the hero is innocent” scenario, and involves finding the conspirators/evidence and bringing this back to the authorities, with a potential earthquake to complicate things.  Has a deceased NPC called Mysoginistes!  The Exodus Matrix involves more action, monsters and magic and the plot involves stopping the bad gal from activating the matrix to do bad things in a temple in some post-apocalyptic post elder god intervention Earth.

The Firearms Supplement

Short, to the point, and free.  A few notes on myths about firearms accuracy and lethality, it has the tables you need for primitive and mdoern firearms, as well as blasters, flamethrowers, laser weapons and other far future oddities.  Does the job well.

The Star Wars Supplement

This free 47 page supplement was only available online for a short period of time before it was pulled.  If you search carefully, you may find it online somewhere.  The skills, equipment, vehicle combat, and homeworlds sections would be useful for any science fiction setting.  I quite liked the rule whereby the number of “magic points” spent in a session by a Jedi was the chance of the Emperor detecting them and sending off some assassins to hunt them down.  A useful mechanic for any setting with a Dark Lord and player characters who have special secret powers that can get them killed.

The Book of Quests

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I found this a bit disappointing.  Its generic and flavourless, which is not like the epic RQ supplements of yore.  In particular the opening scenario Caravan is weak, in that at its conclusion the players may feel like they have failed, as the merchant they are escorting will most likely scarper for safety rather than see their caravan through to its intended destination.  I also think players would struggle with the monster, which prior to their arrival had essentially acted as brute force deliver of a massacre, but now the players are present becomes a sneaky skulduggery murder in the dark.  The Curse of the Contessa is the diamond that makes this book worthwhile, an excellent city intrigue game with multiple factions, including a well portrayed demon.  Most of the other scenarios just felt a bit too linear, but this is one you could have a lot of chaos and fun with as the outcome is very open.

Monster Island

Wow. After the Book of the Quests, this is the sandbox pack to make you want more from the Design Mechanism!

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The main supplement is 298 pages, plus another 17 pages of companion material and maps.  It details a huge volcanic/jungle island, with mountains, ocean, highlands and ancient ruins and tombs.  It has a strong pulp theme, with shades of Mu, Lemuria, Skull Island, E. R. Burroughs, R. E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith and H. P. Lovecraft coming through.  The main protagonists on the island are the serpent folk, found in both degenerate lowland villages, and the vestigial remnants of the sorcerous priest-kings who once ruled the island.  Other foes can be found in the bestiary. The rationale for packing lots of apex predators into the island is that there are magic gates which drag them here from other dimensions.  So you can mix dinosaurs, werewolves and tentacled aliens in powered armour if you wish.  Humans have a colony struggling to establish itself on the island, with the natives preferring the obsidian weapons over the rusty iron the traders have.  Everything is detailed to the level you would expect from the great RQ adventure supplements of the past, a good bestiary, some magic and cults, ancient gods and lore, some nice tombs and traps and a world with shades of grey that leaves the players free to decide who they will ally with and who they will work against. While this is not something I will run out of the book anytime soon, I will be pillaging its pages for a lot of its ideas in a future campaign setting.

Summing Up

I am very happy to have these game books sitting on my shelf and in my hard drive. While there are some bits I disagree with here and there, on the whole the Runequest Sixth Edition rules are clear and comprehensive and I look forward to sharing them with a gaming group in the not too distant future.  I’m torn between some kind of Star Wars/Lovecraft mash up, or a Byzantium/Spider Oracle fantasy setting.  Its good when a set of game rules unlocks my imagination like this.


Reversion to the Sword

April 1, 2013

A couple of ideas in relation to roleplaying games:

(1) the idea of a culture deliberately abandoning gunpowder weapons and reverting to the sword, as happened in Japan.

(2) social implications for magic users based on medieval cultural practices of war.

…and a few notes from my Dragon Age game.

Reversion to the Sword

I’m inspired by Noel Perrin’s Giving up the Gun: Japan’s reversion to the Sword, 1543-1879.  Japan had a culture which encountered firearms, quickly adopted them, and had the industrial skill to manufacture and improve on the imported technology.  After some trial and error, firearms became crucial weapons used in battle.  Yet, after unification under the Tokugawas, Japan largely gave up the use of firearms for 250 odd years.

A few key points here:

(1) Someone has to want the use of firearms to be given up

(2) They need enough power to make this happen

(3) There needs to be no external threat requiring firearms to be dealt with.

Japan had a unified government (2), which was based on a Samurai social class which was distinguished by skill in traditional weapons.  Firearms were easy to learn, affordable, and any peasant with an arquebus could kill a veteran Samurai at range.  So the potential threat to the social order motivates (1) and the Japanese disarm both firearms and other weapons held by the peasants.  As an island nation, Japan was able to isolate itself from external influences (3) and it took a long time before anyone outside Japan was motivated enough to go and take a look.  The real history is probably more complex than that, and Perrin’s work has had strong criticism for simplifying history to fit his views, but its a good basis for a narrative.

For a cliched fantasy setting, the traditional feudal class of western Europe would stand in for the Samurai, but I can also imagine that miracle wielding Priests and sorcerous mages would also stand opposed to the spread of firearms (“I spent thirteen years learning how to cast a fireball, and that buffoon learns how to fire a handgonne in three weeks”).  Having multiple centres of social power opposed to firearms would make it harder to reintroduce them.

So, people know firearms existed, and probably have a name for them that the elders know, and they are largely not around anymore, except possibly as a prerogative of the higher social estates, or for agents of the government.  If not an island nation, or otherwise isolated by distance and harsh wastelands, perhaps the realm is a very large Empire – one so old and powerful it has no peers or rivals to challenge it.  Another alternative might be that there is a Dark Lord ruling the realm, and they have forbidden the use of firearms, even if this is sufficiently contrary to reason to ensure the Dark Lord’s demise when the forces of good invade with their Boomsticks.  One side-effect of being a post-firearms society, is that you could have other post-medieval technology around without it being too out of place.

So in these settings what roles do firearms play for players?

  • potential macguffin to drive the plot of an adventure (find and rescue/destroy the gun, gunpowder, gunsmith, book of gun lore, etc)
  • possession is a symbol of favoured status in the realm
  • or possession is a sign of rebellion against the realm/membership of a criminal gang, cult or clan of ninjas
  • a character element – demonstrates the character is not a good member of a social class opposed to firearms
  • a potential reward/power-up gained through adventures
  • possibly a long term goal to research/engineer the lost technology
  • if the bad guys have firearms, then they can be painfully scary bad as the lead slugs penetrate enchanted mithril like a hot knife through butter
  • weather is important … firearms don’t work so well in the rain
  • if gunpowder is hard to find/expensive, then as a scarce resource decisions about whether or not to use it to kill an Ogre should be interesting decisions for the players to make.

Magic and War

I was reading Richard Abels Cultural Representation and the Practice of War in the Middle Ages (Journal of Medieval Military History, Volume VI, 2008) which, inter alia, looked at how medieval knights reconciled chivalric literature/culture (how war should be fought) with the brutal realities of combat (how war must be fought if you are to survive it).  Keeping in mind that in any given society there will be multiple cultural interpretations of correct behaviour, I thought it interesting to think a bit about how magic users, as an estate/social class like knights, might perceive warfare and how it should be approached.

One approach is for the mages to adopt attitudes similar to the medieval church, being inclined towards peace rather than war, and moderating the practices of war to minimise non-combatant suffering and collateral damage to (for example) libraries, laboratories and isolated towers where mages live.

Honourable, unremarkable and shameful behaviour:

  • honourable behaviour is that which enhances reputation (martial glory, should involve a degree of risk to the wizard concerned)
  • unremarkable behaviour is the normal day to day actions that do not attract comment (if a magic user is busy being a magic usurer and concentrating on material profit, its unlikely to be viewed as honourable behaviour)
  • shameful behaviour (cowardice, oath-breaking, black magic etc).

Circumstances and context play a role here.  A mage who kills prisoners who have just been captured and are still in armour, when the prisoner’s friends threaten to attack, is unlikely to be thought to have engaged in shameful behaviour.  The mage who takes their prisoners off to a secure location and then sacrifices them to a demon, is probably going to be thought ill of.  If the cultural group has some vilified enemies (heretics, orcs, demon-worshippers, etc) then harder methods may be used against them than against more honourable opponents.

For medieval knights, there is a strong connection between honour and prowess (being a good warrior in battle).  If mages share this view, then honourable action for a mage in battle involves using their magic to great effect, not hoarding their spells for later use.  A key difference here, is that in most game worlds, mages are “squishy” and non-users of serious metal armour.  So a mage takes big risks on the battlefield, one stray arrow and ten years of college education goes down the drain.  Looking at examples from Joinville’s Life of St Louis, Knights would discuss honour mid-battle, when trying to determine if going for help or running away was an honourable course of action. Running away and leaving your comrades behind is nearly always going to be seen as shameful action, which is a potential problem for squishy mages.

Where a mage differs from some medieval knights, is that they will be literate (although after about the 12th century literacy was getting common among the higher nobility, in part because you needed it if the lawyers were not going to rob you blind).  This means a mage is quite capable of correcting the course of history by making sure that the written account of a battle shows that their conduct was honourable (“I did not teleport away until after the standard fell and the King was captured…”)

One reason for the raiding and looting that occurred in medieval warfare, was that “war must pay for itself”.  Wars were often funded on the basis of expected profits from invasion. Fortunes could be made in minutes after a successful battle (When King Jean the Good of France was being squabbled over by various parties as to who had captured him after the Battle of Poitiers, he is alleged to have said “Gentleman, I can make you all rich!”).  So nobles at war paid for their troops with a mix of cash, loot, chickens and promises.  A mage is going to expect at least the same.  A mage serving as a mercenary is probably after hard currency, or perhaps first choice of the relics captured on campaign.  A mage fulfilling feudal obligations probably has customary limits to that obligation, perhaps 40 days service in the field.  A knight would expect to have their horse replaced by their Lord if it was killed in battle, a Mage will expect similar reimbursement for alchemical expenditure, loss of apprentices, harm to familiars, etc.

One of the medieval writers on warfare and its customs wrote “call no man a soldier if he does not know how to set fire to things”.  While the chivalric ideal of warfare emphasised noble deeds of arms against other knights and nobles, the knights of the middle ages understood that warfare as it was actually practiced involved rape, pillage and destruction.  Now any decent mage should have a fireball spell, so that means they can do the practical side of destruction easily enough, and perhaps mages are effective at intimidating reluctant peasants into revealing where their food stocks have been hidden.  But after consideration of the dirty necessities, what particular actions would a mage engage in, in order to enhance their reputation – which is why the knights are seeking deeds of arms, as reputation increases their status among fellow knights and the chance of rewards from the King.

If the mages in our fantasy reality have a code of conduct similar to the chivalric code, then we can expect a degree of adherence to that code. For example, picking up on an element of Samurai culture, for formal duels and battles between mages, you could have a cultural tradition of introductions.  In this case, the introduction involves telling your opponents your true name.  So if a mage flees the battle, their enemy has the ability to use their true name to easily find them through scrying magic or to work up a more effective curse or voodoo doll.  Thinking a bit further about dueling  would it be possible for mages to engage in a “martial sport” of a magic tournament, which provides a warlike training setting, competition for prizes, but is expected to be sub-lethal in outcomes (but not guaranteed).  Perhaps mages have an expectation of ransom from other mages, or a tradition of servitude for a set period if taken prisoner.

One important element of deeds of arms, is that they are public.  People see you doing them.  So if a mage is deployed in skullduggery, or the magical equivalent of electronic warfare, opportunities for public recognition and renown are slim.  Effective results may convince the King to reward, but a large pile of bodies with your signature singe marks on them is undeniable evidence of your prowess.  This suggests to me, that on a battlefield a mage is likely to add a few twists to their spells, to make them showy.  “The blue fireball, your majesty, the one that toasted their champion, that was my spell, as you can see it turned my fingernails blue…”

My Dragon Age Campaign

My “Secrets of Samaria” game has been running for almost three years now.  One current frustration is that the player’s characters have just about out-levelled the available rulebooks, and the third set has been “Coming Soon” for about six months now.  On the whole the Dragon Age system is a simple old school system.  Where its creaking a bit is from the combination of high hit point totals and a system where armour reduces damage. Now that most of the party has either high defence or high armour scores, its getting harder and harder for me to challenge them.

On the whole, the players still seem to be having fun and are interested in uncovering the next few “secrets”. It has been very worthwhile for me, seeing them get a clue, then cross-reference it back to stuff that happened years ago, and figure out the connections, back story, probable NPC motive, and then proceed to formulate a cunning new plan.  So in that sense the year or so I spent thinking and writing up background before the campaign started has paid off very well.

I have found that social interactions really eat up time.  The players blitzed a dungeon level in less time than it takes to do the formal introductions for a Clan Ball in the Eleven Capital of Trion.  On the other hand, the players do enjoy the social stuff, but I did not plan ahead, having three major social challenges for the party prior to the dungeon.  That took eight sessions (including travel time to the city), which with fortnightly games was over four months real time.  I can improve a bit there.

Anyhow, the players have started figuring out all of the major factions and what their goals are, they just have to make some decisions soon about who they will ally with long-term in order to prevent the Dragons from setting the whole world a fire in a few game years…

… so I am starting to plan story arcs that can bring the campaign to a satisfactory conclusion, but there is probably one-two years left at least.  My brain is starting to turn towards future projects though, possibly something involving Runequest VI.