85/52 New RPGs: Runequest Starter Set

I’m on a study project to improve my understanding of roleplaying games. To this end, I already have two reading projects, A Game Per Year and An Adventure Per Year. This is the third, with the goal of reading or playing 52 games made in the last few years. Originally I considered making this “A New RPG Per Week” and that’s where the number 52 comes from, even though a weekly schedule is probably not within my abilities.

The cover of Runequest Starter Set

The latest edition of Runequest was published in 2018. This Starter Set was released in 2021 to help people get into the game. I find starter sets fascinating because they approach the subject of detailing a roleplaying game so differently than modern corebooks do. A corebook is a compendium seeking to completely describe a game while a starter set is a toolbox containing all you need to play. Interestingly, starter sets typically have stuff in them that corebooks often don’t, such as an example adventure, readymade characters, handouts and play aids.

Runequest’s Starter Set is an exemplary, sumptuous affair with four booklets, maps, dice, characters and play aids all in the box. It posits Runequest as the more serious fantasy roleplaying game, both in terms of mechanical complexity and setting fidelity. The specter of D&D looms large, although it goes unmentioned of course. The box is actually so generous that it demands more from the reader than the average starter set.

The way the setting is described is unusual in the sense that it shows a strong historical consciousness. This is not a shiny new world, but the venerable fantasy setting of Glorantha, created by Greg Stafford! The setting’s stature is clearly understood as a selling point.

One of the four booklets is a choose your own adventure -style solo scenario in which one of the example characters participates in the Battle of Dangerford. It’s used to teach the rules but it’s also pretty fun in itself. I haven’t read a solo adventure set in a mass battle before but it works great, distilling the combat into specific encounters.

I’ve never played Runequest and from an outside perspective, the game is intimidating, no less so because it has such a committed, involved fanbase. The game has been unusually popular in Finland both historically and today. Our local Glorantha society Kalikos puts out a lot of good stuff. For that reason, I was happy to read an introduction to the setting that was approachable and practical.

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