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Analysis Review Runequest

First Thoughts on Cults of RuneQuest Mythology

My love affair with RQ/Glorantha is back on. After gazing at the big pile of RQ G books I was going to sell for the best part of a week and thinking all the great things I could do with them, I realised there’s still the Great Gloranthan Campaign of the 2020s to run and the shared joy of running RQ G at conventions! 

So I renewed my vows by getting the latest  Cults of RuneQuest book, Mythology. From a quick skim of the pdf, it’s like much of the RQ G line, an expanded RQ 3 supplement with RQ 2 Redux* formatting and rules and the super wow Glorantha in full Technicolour presentation**. In this case, the 80s Gods of Glorantha RQ3 box set introductory chapters with a much more detailed overview of the pantheons and the mythological ages. It ends up with the universal cult format, which is how to present Glorantha’s religions in RQ G game terms.

Cults of RuneQuest Mythology cover

So it’s a bit odd that this is the fourth book in the series, yet it says it’s the first book in the Introduction! As an old hand, I get it. As far as the intended reading order, this is correct. Still, the first two books are fundamental to anyone gaming/digesting the Sartar campaign, and many RQ neophytes would probably run screaming if this book was put before them as the first book they needed to read. It’s quite logical, but it is very wall of text, which is in keeping with the more popular RQ2 presentation but more formidable than the deliberately brief RQ3 Gods of Glorantha format***. They also fold in Greg’s copious notes and information from the HeroQuest era, which is, thirty-odd years of on-off development of the 80s material, which has greatly expanded and only been previously hinted at in fan publications and online email lists during the 90s and 00s (Gloranthan Digest, HQ Yahoo, etc.). As a long-time fan, it’s lovely to see everything in one place and easily accessible. 

One thing, though, this isn’t the generic RPG version of how to present Mythology in your game. i.e. an RPG version of Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces. It’s very much how to present Gloranthan Mythology, and it’s setting up a framework for later RQ books (see the Universal Cult format, which is presented in RQ game terms), which kind of nixies the claim of the back cover that this is a systemless book. 

You can not fault its 158 pages of full-colour art presentation-wise. The quality of the art produced lots of “oos and ahs” moments, and everything complements the text, which is easily readable despite its density. The mythological maps are my personal favourite. One major nitpick I have is that they used red as text colour for the Myths pull-out boxes. I hate this because it violates obvious**** design, colour psychology and guidelines, and probably accessibility rules. Thankfully, it only seems confined to a handful of instances in one chapter.

A more detailed review to follow when I’ve read the incoming hardcover.

Newt’s RQ Nerd Notes

*RQ2 Redux is my shorthand for RQ Glorantha, reflecting that the game went back to RuneQuest 2, updated it with new stuff (and some old stuff sitting in Greg’s Game Design boxes) and then pushed it out to the adoring masses. 

** Which Chaosium, to their credit, are getting very good at after a somewhat shakey start with the core rulebook – which had a lot of reused art from earlier editions and glorious maps rendered unreadable by a faux ageing layer of grime.

***This an acdote which is from Sandy Petersen if I remember rightly. The idea was to introduce the whole set of Glorantha’s Gods in a shorter format, with all the game information but less of the game fiction, which gives colour and roleplaying detail. The long-form cult descriptions were intended to come along in later supplements – which, from memory, Troll Gods and Lords of Terror (the RQ3 version of Cults of Terror) was the only ones to make it out before the RQ3 licensing deal with Avalon Hill died in the 90s. 

**** Well obvious to me as 20+ years of web developer and desktop publishing experience. The number of times I have had to tell folk who presented me with text in red for their websites, “Do you want to present your website as written by a serial killer?” with them thinking that they were being cool and creative.