Runequest Thursday #52 - One year down, 99 to go!

Clint Staples

Welcome to the one year anniversary of Runequest Thursday at  Each week since September 25th of 2014, I have posted creature write-ups, alternate rules, loot lists and entire scenarios for Runequest. I have even Runequestified a number of creatures from my ‘Mythos Society Guide to New England’ for your gaming and/or reading pleasure.

To begin the second year of Runequest Thursday, I would like to do a couple of things.

Firstly, I would like to ask those of you who read these posts if there is anything I am not writing for Runequest that you would like to see, or see more of if I am not writing enough of it.

Secondly, whether you have been with me since this beginning, or are jumping onto this train on the roll, I would like to give you an anniversary present - something that I think is pretty cool, and that ties together two of the games that I am writing, and therefor are most passionate about at the moment.

First a little preamble.

Several months ago, a friend of mine, and a fellow Runequestophile, Chris Cortright, and I were lamenting the lack of Sci Fi settings for Runequest. Not long afterward, I converted my Weapons List for the BASH Sci Fi version of Knights-Marshal of the Commonwealth to Runequest, then posted it on

Well, neck deep in writing Knights-Marshal of the Commonwealth, I can tell you that a weapons list alone does not make a setting. Other things need to be addressed, so many that it needs its own book to do in full. At the present, I can’t commit to that.

But I can provide a few more things in the fullness of time, such that when KMotC becomes available, the basic system for Runequesting it will be there for those who want to use them. With that in mind I would like to address one of the things that makes RQ so cool, and makes it a tough port to a sci fi setting. Some of you may already know what is coming – Hit Locations.

Firstly - Hit Locations are cool! Lost of games have toyed with them, but Runequest had them from day one in 1978, and most editions, and many spinoffs, used them or provided them as an option.  Hit locations add a very visceral feel to rpg combat. After all, you might lose six HP in a lot of games, but in Runequest, that six HP could render your leg useless. And another shot in the same location could take it off. Players get anxious when you start cutting pieces off their characters.

Given the high-powered weapons that abound in Science Fiction, handling hit locations can be tricky. After all, if you have 18 Hit Points and you get shot for 10, you are wounded, but alive.  In Runequest, each hit location has a Hit Point total of its own, higher or lower based on total HP, but usually around one-quarter to one-third of the total hit points of the character. So if you have 18 Hit Points and get shot in the arm for 10, suddenly your arm could be blown right off, or damaged beyond recovery.

My solution to this is to combine two systems that have been used in various iterations of the Runequest rules or their parent Basic Roleplaying.

Here is how it works.

Each character has their total Hit Points figured in the usual way, along with a Wound Threshold, equal to half their HP [round up].

Wait, what is a Wound Threshold? You ask.

The concept of the major wound, which I am calling Wound Threshold, in Runequest has been around since the days of Stormbringer [Chaosium’s RPG for The Young Kingdoms of Elric of Melnibone], but has been used quite a bit since, but always instead of Hit Locations, instead of alongside them. In my system there are no hit points per location. The Wound Threshold handles that.

When your opponent hits you, in addition to damage, he will roll for the Location struck on a d20 [You can use the location chart from the version of the game you are playing].  Subtract the amount of protection you have in that location [from spells, psychic powers, armor, force fields, etc]. Any remaining is applied against your total Hit Points. IF the amount equals or exceeds  your Wound Threshold, you have taken a Wound. Now you have a choice. You can choose to:

  1. Have the location struck be rendered temporarily Lame. Your arm or leg is numbed and useless, the wound is too severe for continued use etc. If you are hit in the head, this option means you fall unconscious. If you are hit in the chest or abdomen, this option means that you fall to the ground [or wherever] unable to continue until you are healed of at least half your Major Wound total in that location. Feel free to describe the wound and its effects.
  2. Accept a -20% modifier to every action you take that requires a roll, be that attacking, defending, spellcasting, or skill use. This is cumulative in the case of multiple Major Wounds [which could result if you are only able to partially heal damage you have taken], and lasts until you are healed of all the Major Wound damage. It will however allow you to keep using all your bits, though not so well.  


Note: If you are hit in the same location with a subsequent strike, it does not stack with any damage that might have been done to the location, but it does reduce your total Hit Points as any other strike would

How is this system better?

There is no more keeping track of individual hit point totals in different locations. An arm is either good or not. So book-keeping is simplified. You also get to choose the option that works for you. Maybe you need both arms for your archery. So you take option 2. Your attacks will not be as accurate, but you CAN keep shooting. Or you might need to run for it, which is a lot easier with both legs.

PLUS, there are two further advantages, if you want to use them.

  1. You can spend a Hero Point to negate either a Lamed status of a location, or 20% of negative modifier for a single turn or action [if your system uses Actions].
  2. If your TOTAL Hit Points are exceeded, [i.e. you have negative HP] you can Turn your Lamed location to a permanently Maimed location, AND survive until you can be healed. You and the GM will need to work out a suitable Maiming, and likely an impressive scar. But you will survive.


Now, how does this affect Sci Fi Runequest adventuring?


Given the higher damage values associated with plasma guns, rocket launchers, and more, having low HP totals in different locations will rapidly lead to a lot of crippled Player Characters. The Wound Threshold’s higher number, and the decreased likelihood of being permanently maimed make Sci Fi action playable - still risky, but the Players gain greater control over what happens to their character. For NPCs, the GM is encouraged to do whichever is simpler, or more exciting, as she pleases.


Here is an example, using the Weapon tables from KMotC Runequestified.

Ser Reise Sonandra lets loose with a plasma gun, trying to put down a charging marauder before the berserker can get in range to use his Greatblade. The plasma blast hits, and a d20 for location indicates the left leg was struck, and the rolled damage amounts to 19 Points. After subtracting 6 points for the armor on the targeted leg, 12 damage is compared to the Wound Threshold of the marauder, which is 8. The marauder has suffered a Wound to the left leg. The GM decides that the leg buckles and the berserker drops to the ground, crawling forward, foaming at the mouth. But that clears the way for the Warlord of the marauders to charge in with his looted Tensor Blade.

            The warlord hits and does 20 points to the Reise’s chest. The Knight-Marshal’s breastplate stops 12 points. 8 points is lower than Reise’s Wound Threshold, so he takes the damage against his total HP, but does not suffer a Wound. Had the warlord done a enough to equal Reise's Wound Threshold, the Knight-marshal might want to spend a Hero Point to get some distance.