Runequest Thursday #133 - Acquiring Rune Magic!

Clint Staples

As I continue to write Runequest Thursday, I have been watching the ongoing development of the newest version of Runequest with a mixture of elation and trepidation. This week I am leaning more toward the former.

Some of the statements coming out in Chaosium's regular "Designing the New Runequest" blog give me hope that the system and setting are going to be treated well and fairly, but not too heavily modified. I have always thought, as was recently said by Jeff Richard in #16 of their blog, that "RuneQuest 2nd Ed wasn't broken, it had some weak points . . ."

They go on to talk about changes to the Acquisition of Rune Magic that I really like - making it more flexible, more enticing, and more supportive of the setting. They talk about the historical restrictions on Rune Magic, that pushed players into taking combat magic like Shield or Reflection at the expense of cultic spells that are, at least arguably, more evocative of the setting and the cultist's role in it. In games that I have played in, this often led to a dichotomy between player characters Rune Magic being all fight-y, and NPC Rune Magic being more geared toward support of society/ ritual and such.

It took me a long time to realize how much this sidelining of the PCs bothered me. It removed or distanced them from some of the coolest elements of the game, in my opinion: Things that make the Windlord of Orlanth a reflection of the god, rather than just a kickass fighter. Then I fell (unknowingly) into a phase where I blamed the players (myself included) for "choosing" combat Rune Magic over setting Rune Magic. Finally, I blamed myself as GM, assuming responsibility for "pushing" my players into these choices with the style of my campaign.

But the Design team at Chaosium has correctly identified where the fault lies, and they are doing something about it.  I can't wait for the New Edition of Runequest to drop later this year!

But I literally cannot wait for the new edition, either. I have an ongoing game NOW. So, I have written up my interrim rules for the acquisition of Rune Magic, based on the system outlined in the latest "Designing the New Runequest".

It is pretty close to the one discussed there, just fleshed out a bit to account for things that the Design Team will certainly deal with in publication, but did not have room for in the blog.

So here goes. If you like it, use it, tell me about it. Heck, tell THEM about it. They do seem to be listening to the Runequest community. Also, because I couldn't resist, I wrote a new Rune Spell.


Sacrificing for Rune Magic:

Cultists may petition for Rune Magic when they pray in a temple to their god, or when they are in the presence of a Rune sacred to their god.

  • If the sacrifice occurs in an appropriate temple, the petition is automatic. The Petitioner sacrifices permanent POWer, and receives the same number of Rune Power in return.
  • If the sacrifice occurs in the presence of a Rune, the process is the same, but the petitioner must succeed at his or her (pre-sacrifice) POWx5%. If the roll is a success, the petitioner receives the same number of Rune Magic Levels. If the roll is a failure, the number of Rune Power is reduced by 1 for every full 10% by which the roll was failed. If the roll was a Fumble, the petitioner receives no Rune Power for their sacrifice.


Rune Power Explained:

When cultists sacrifice for Rune Magic, they do not need to declare which spells they will sacrifice for, only how many POW points they give to their god. That is the number of Rune Power they can then access.

At any time that someone could cast a Battle Magic spell, they can instead call upon any number of their Rune Power to cast a single Rune spell that their god provides. The caster may devote as many Rune Power to a single Rune spell as she wishes (up to the number she has available), casting the spell as they would a Battle Magic spell.


Traveling through the Wastes to relieve the drought-stricken village of Umber, Yggrana Windrider, an initiate of Orlanth with 3 Rune Magic Levels, is attacked by a gang of broo. She hastily casts Stormshout at Rank 1, hoping to awe the beastmen, break their charge, even fling them away – buying her time to take up a better tactical position. Orlanth’s blessing is manifest as she looses a deafening roar of thunder that hurls several broos from their hooves and has others holding their long ears, distracted and demoralized.  Yggrana places an arrow on her bowstring as she spurs her horse up the ridge. Wheeling, she surveys the field, considering whether to use one or both of her remaining Rune Power to summon an Air Elemental. Instead, she looses the arrow, electing to save the Rune Power for Call Rain when she reaches the village. 


Recovery of Rune Power:

Depending on the cult status of the petitioner, Rune Power may or may not return after it is cast:

Initiates: To regain Rune Power, an Initiate must attend a High Holy Day rite at a full temple, making a POW x1% roll for each rank of Rune Power.

Runelord/Runelady: To regain Rune Power, a Lord or Lady must attend a High Holy Day rite at a full temple, making a POW x5% roll for each Rune Power rank. Instead, he or she may recover all Rune Power upon returning to pray at a temple or shrine after the completion of some great service to their god.

A Runelord or Lady may perform the Divine Intervention sacrifice, paying the POW cost to allow themselves and any of their followers or associates who share their faith (Up to one person per POW lost) to regain Rune Power as if they had fulfilled the requirements above. The sacrificing Runelord or Lady may make the POWx5% rolls to regain Rune Power with their pre-Divine Intervention POW.

Rune Priest/Priestess: To regain Rune Power, a Priest or Priestess must lead a Holy Day Rite at a full temple, at which time he or she recovers any spent Rune Power.


New Runespell:

Stormshout (Rank: Initiate or higher)

Runic Associations: Air, Storm

Duration: Instant

Ranged: Immediate area: Cone

Resisted: POW Contest

The cultist roars with all the force of the wildest of storms, striking fear into his foes, even hurling them away in a powerful blast of air. Stormshout affects all targets in a single 90 degree arc from the Shouter, up to 10 yards from the point of origin per Rank of Stormshout. Further ranks can increase the range by 10 yards or add another contiguous 90 degree cone, affecting a wider arc.

Any who fail against Stormshout are hurled from their feet, flung 1 yard for every 10 percent by which the shouter’s POW contest roll exceed the target’s SIZ, directly from the point of origin. Those who are overcome in the POW contest but too big to be hurled, are knocked down where they stand.

Subjects hurled into a danger (into a wall, over a cliff, off a bridge, etc), may make an Athletics or Evasion check to prevent damage, otherwise they suffer falling damage based on the distance they travel (or half falling damage if they slam into an obstruction). Anyone overcome in the POW contest is also Demoralized (exactly as the spell).