The RuneQuest Starter Set -Review

While learning about a new system is daunting for a group of players and GM to transition, resources that seriously reduce the load on a TTRPG group is priceless. And for a setting like Glorantha that is made by the gods and shaped by the powers of mortals it makes it so much easier to pick it up.

Note: This review was created due to the interest of the author in this resource. No endorsement copies were received for the creation of this article!

The RuneQuest starter set is loaded with clean, aesthetically pleasing resources that is informative and looks great at the same time. It’s a large box as starter sets though, however each resource fits here to add to the player/GM experience. While storage could be an issue, the value makes up any challenges in this area! The box includes the following:

  • Book 1: Rules
  • Book 2: The World of Glorantha
  • Book 3: SoloQuest
  • Book 4: Adventures
  • 1 set of polyhedral dice (D100, D20, D12, D10, D8, D6, D4)
  • 14 detailed, Pre-Generated Adventurers
  • 3 Maps
  • 3 Player Aids
  • 2 Blank Adventure Sheets (folios)

Before we get started: What is RuneQuest?

The short version is that RuneQuest is a bronze-age fantasy game that uses a D100 system. Initially published as a roleplaying setting in 1978, it features mortals in a human-dominated world who fight for the glory of the gods and prevail in a world of magic and peril. Unlike many other fantasy games, while the adventurers are powerful in RuneQuest and are capable of some superhuman feats, an excellent roll by an adversary from a farmer with a pitchfork may be enough to kill an unlucky player character!

Book 1: Rules

The rules in the Starter Set provide all the rules from the core book with no new additions. Like other starter sets produced by Chaosium, the starter set provides a clear overview and examples in more detail than the Core Book which greatly enhances accessibility.

RuneQuest uses a D100 system which may be familiar to some players and GMs, requiring a character to roll at or below a given percentile score to succeed. However there some differences in the system such as the Strike Rank (SR) which determines initiative in contact, and rune points which are required to cast spells. Runes can be also used to modify skills in combat and Passions which can provide advantages or hinder an adventurer.

Book 2: The World of Glorantha

Glorantha is a rich and detailed world; with a simple premise; “Your Glorantha may vary”. While there is a rich store of lore at your fingertips to help you get started, it allows you as a group to decide how the world looks to you.

Glorantha is a world where magic is a part of everyday life and mythology has a strong basis in reality. Creatures of fantasy like trolls, elves, dragonnewts and Runequest ducks coexist in a world that is currently dominated by humans. The second book tells a story of the history of the land from Dragon Pass and locales like Sartar to the Lunar Empire. Just like in the book it lays out how different cultures perceive evil, which provides a great way to understand motivation and a more objective standpoint to help you to piece together your own perspective on the setting.

Book 3: SoloQuest

Focusing on a solo adventure The Battle of Dangerford this book focuses on teaching the rules in a specific setting to provide cultural context about what the game is about. It’s a choose your adventure style module which leads to different outcomes in each playthrough – from political intrigue, to spying on the enemy and even about how honour works in this universe. As an adventure it tells you all about the game – it’s about culture and how it blends into the TTRPG system.

Book 4: Adventures

While by far the largest of the four books, it contains adventures that are written for GMs and players in mind. The adventures use isolated locations and environments to put the focus on learning the rules, rather than managing a lot of non-player characters and monsters. Adventure seeds are also provided to allow a group to continue with new scenarios.

A Rough Landing is a great introductory scenario that teaches players that violence has consequences, passions like honour and loyalty are important guides for behaviour, social connections are important and nothing is as straightforward as it seems. While linear, it supports players and GMs for future adventures.

A Fire In Darkness is the second adventure in the series and is more of a sandbox. The adventurers are hired to investigate a series of fires plaguing Johnstown and are asked to investigate. It quickly moves from responding to a building on fire to political intrigue that the adventurers have to get to the bottom of. Even better it’s an investigative scenario that is leverages multiple features including a creature that drives people insane to make it a compelling module.

The Rainbow Mounds is a dungeon style sandbox scenario inspired by AD&D modules with a twist – where most creatures can be bargained with and are tied in a plot with no clear or “right” outcome. It’s the most complicated of the three adventures with plenty of replayability. There is no correct solution allowing the adventurers to come up with different ways of resolving the attacks happening.

Other Resources

Similar to other Chaosium games like Call of Cthulhu, the starter set has incredible handouts designed for immersion and playability. All character sheets present the information you need to understand and play the character. Maps of the setting also provide a good background for TTRPG groups to learn about the setting and include maps of Jonstown, Northern Sartar and The Rainbow Mounds.

Final Thoughts

Overall the RuneQuest Starter Set is an excellent product with stacks of player aids and GM resources to get you into a game fast. It’s also relatively inexpensive ensuring that it is accessible for many out there, from existing players to those completely new to the system. It is also the resource you should look at before looking at some of the other great settings.

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