# The Game System
At the heart of RuneQuest are characters: either adventurers (controlled by players) or non-player characters (humans and creatures controlled by the gamemaster). The text in this book is directed at adventurers, but the rules apply equally to both adventurers and non-player characters.
All characters—whether adventurers, non-player characters, monsters, spirits, or anything else—are defined by all or most of these same seven characteristics.
|How strong your adventurer is. This determines damage bonus, how much they can carry, the weapons they can wield effecively, etc.|
|How healthy and robust your adventurer is. This determines hit points and healing rate, ability to stay conscious when seriously wounded, and how able they are to resist disease and poison.|
|How big or small are they? This determines physical mass (height and/or weight), helps modify hit points, damage bonus, and their reach in combat.|
|Speed and physical reflexes, influencing physical activities such as fighting, dodging, and strike rank in combat.|
|Reasoning, memory, problem-solving, inspiration, knowledge, also useful for some kinds of magic.|
|Spiritual presence, willpower, and luck, indicating favor from the universe and the gods. Determines magic points, used when casting spells.|
|Leadership and force of personality, determining how willing others are to be influenced, whether through charm or menace. Determines the amount of Rune magic available and how many spirit magic spells can be possessed.|
The higher value of the characteristic, the better. These, in turn, influence and determine other aspects of the adventurer.
Your adventurer has a few attributes derived from characteristics. Each are calculated below and described further throughout these rules.
# Move Rate
Movement is considered an attribute, but it is the same for every human (8 meters per melee round walking or 24 meters running) and does not need to be calculated.
# Magic Points (MP)
An adventurer’s magic points equal their current POW. Situations may result in magic points higher or lower than that number. Magic points are expended to activate spells. An adventurer using magic points to cast spells does not also lower their POW.
# Rune Points
# Hit Points
Hit points represent how much injury your adventurer can withstand before dying. An adventurer’s hit points are equal to their CON, modified by SIZ and POW.
Hit Point Modifiers
Each hit location’s hit points must be entered on the adventurer sheet. The amount of damage each hit location can sustain is determined in the Hit Location table below. It distributes hit points per hit location for all humanoids. Whenever your adventurer takes damage, you must cross that amount off their total hit points as well as to the hit location’s hit points. An adventurer dies when they lose all their total hit points.
If an adventurer loses all hit points in a location, that location is typically useless. The hit points of a hit location can go negative—if it goes far enough negative, that location may be maimed or even severed!
# Hit Points per Hit Location Table
The hit points per location are based on the total hit points of the adventurer.
|Hit Location||1–6||7–9||10–12||13–15||16–18||19–21||Each +3|
# Healing Rate
The healing rate determines how much and adventurer can heal each week.
|6 or less||1|
|13 to 18||3|
|Each +6 points||Additional +1|
# Damage Bonus
Damage bonus is added to an adventurers attack damage.
|STR + SIZ||Damage Modifier|
|12 or less||-1D4|
|Each +16 points||Additional +1D6|
# Strike Rank
Strike rank determines who acts first in a melee round. The lower the strike rank, the sooner in each round of combat your adventurer can act. Strike Ranks in combat are detailed here.
An adventurer’s melee combat strike rank is a combination of their strike ranks from DEX and SIZ (as determined in the tables below), and the strike rank for the weapon they are using. For missile combat or spells, it is only the DEX strike rank and that of the weapon or spell.
DEX Strike Rank:
SIZ Strike Rank
Most important actions require the use of an ability. There are three types of abilities: Skills, Runes, and Passions.
Skills are fields of expertise learned from upbringing, culture, and apprenticeship. Most can be learned and taught. Most skills have a base chance, the default chance anyone can attempt the skill. See the Skills section for more information.
Runes are the magical building blocks of the whole world of Glorantha. They guide and influence everything, and the gods are associated with them. Through understanding and mastering the Runes, your adventurer increases in competence in many aspects, particularly with magic. Runes are described further in the Runes section.
Passions are strong emotional responses such as Love, Loyalty, Hate, Fear, etc. usually focused on a particular entity or group. Adventurers have many Passions, the higher these are, the more strongly they are felt. Honor, however, is instead a personal code. See the Passions section for more information.
For actions anyone can accomplish without difficulty (getting up, getting dressed, eating, etc.), success is assumed, no roll required.
Determining the chance of success for any given action is easy. Most adventurer abilities, including skills, are expressed as a percentage chance of success on a D100 (abilities with a rating of ‘0%’ or ‘00%’ have no chance of success).
An adventurer with Shortsword 74% has a 74% chance of success when using their shortsword.
The adventurer sheet shows these chances for most actions, and non-player characters are described with their own writeups.
For abilities used in a dramatic circumstance such as combat, an action scene, or a tense negotiation, make an ability roll. It should be obvious when an ability roll should be made, but if in doubt, the gamemaster should consider the consequences of failure. If the risk heightens tension, makes things exciting, or if it adds fun to the game, the gamemaster should have the player make an ability roll.
Steering a chariot through the front gates out of town is not particularly interesting or dramatic, but trying to drive a chariot through the front gates when the town and gates are on fire and about to collapse… that’s worth a roll!
# Ability Experience Checks
Remember that when your adventurer successfully uses a skill, Rune, or Passion, they may improve it later, as practice makes perfect. Abilities with a small box (☐) next to the name can potentially improve with experience. When the ability is used successfully in play, check that box with pencil, like this: ☐.
Shortsword 74% has a ☐ next to it, meaning that the ability can improve with experience.
See here for more on experience.
Like an ability, Reputation measures your adventurer’s fame and renown. Unlike other abilities, the gamemaster rolls it for you, to determine if others have heard of your adventurer.
# Characteristic Rolls
When an action attempted is not an ability, the gamemaster can use a characteristic roll. Usually these equal the value of the characteristic ×5. This can be increased or decreased for different circumstances, from simple (×10) to almost impossible (×1). As always, though, a result of 01–05 always succeeds and 96–00, unless the attempt is simply out of the question.
Following are some examples:
Strength Check (STR×5): Intense muscular efforts like bashing a door open, forcing a stuck lever, etc.
Constitution Check (CON×5): Resisting illnesses, poisons, etc., or coping with intense or prolonged effort.
Intelligence Check (INT×5): Testing memory or logic, deduction, recalling somebody’s face or name, etc.
Dexterity Check (DEX×5): Handling actions requiring good coordination, manipulation, speed, or balance (catching something thrown, walking on a roof, etc.).
Luck Check (POW×5): Determining if the adventurer catches a lucky break or has a stroke of good fortune when the odds could go either way.
Charisma Check (CHA×5): Resolving verbal or other social contests where skills (such as Bargain, Charm, Fast Talk, Intimidate, Intrigue, or Orate) do not apply.
Whenever resolving some form of contest using an ability—whether a skill, Rune, or Passion—the player or gamemaster makes a D100 roll, trying to roll equal to or under the ability’s rating (the chance of success). When the dice are rolled, consult the Ability Results table for the exact result. Always use the best result indicated by the dice roll.
Possible results are as follows, ranging from best to worst:
# Results Table
|Critical Success:||A task performed exceptionally well gains extra benefits. A critical success is a result of 1/20 or less of the modified chance of success. A roll of 01 is always a critical success. The benefit of any critical success depends on the ability being used: weapons ignore armor, climbers gain extra distance, skills are performed more quickly or to higher quality, etc. In an opposed resolution, a critical success is always better than a normal or special success. Make an experience check for the ability.|
|Special Success:||A result that is better than usual, but not a critical success, can have additional benefits. A special success is a result of 1/5 or less of the modified chance of success. As with the critical success, the special success is based on the modified chance of success, not on the user’s raw ability rating. In an opposed resolution, a special success is always better than a normal success. Make an experience check for the ability.|
|Success:||A result of equal to or less than the ability’s rating indicates that the task succeeded. A roll of 01–05 on D100 is always a success, even if the ability rating is lower. Make an experience check for the ability.|
|Failure:||A result of greater than the ability’s rating (with any modifiers factored in) indicates failure. A roll of 96–00 is always a failure, even if the ability rating is higher. Do not make an experience check for the ability.|
|Fumble:||A spectacularly bad attempt is a fumble, equal to 1/20 of the chance of failure. The chance for a fumble depends on the modified percentage roll for the situation, not on the normal chance with the ability. This is the worst possible result, usually with disastrous consequences. In an opposed resolution, a fumble is always worse than a failure. Do not make an experience check for the ability.|
# Abilty Result Table
|06–07||1||1||Per ability||Per ability||96–00|
|08–10||1||1–2||Per ability||Per ability||96–00|
|11–12||1||1–2||Per ability||Per ability||97–00|
|13–17||1||1–3||Per ability||Per ability||97–00|
|18–22||1||1–4||Per ability||Per ability||97–00|
|23–27||1||1–5||Per ability||Per ability||97–00|
|28–29||1||1–6||Per ability||Per ability||97–00|
|30||1–2||1–6||Per ability||Per ability||97–00|
|31–32||1–2||1–6||Per ability||Per ability||98–00|
|33–37||1–2||1–7||Per ability||Per ability||98–00|
|38–42||1–2||1–8||Per ability||Per ability||98–00|
|43–47||1–2||1–9||Per ability||Per ability||98–00|
|48–49||1–2||1–10||Per ability||Per ability||98–00|
|50||1–3||1–10||Per ability||Per ability||98–00|
|51–52||1–3||1–10||Per ability||Per ability||99–00|
|53–57||1–3||1–11||Per ability||Per ability||99–00|
|58–62||1–3||1–12||Per ability||Per ability||99–00|
|63–67||1–3||1–13||Per ability||Per ability||99–00|
|68–69||1–3||1–14||Per ability||Per ability||99–00|
|70||1–4||1–14||Per ability||Per ability||99–00|
|71–72||1–4||1–14||Per ability||Per ability||00|
|73–77||1–4||1–15||Per ability||Per ability||00|
|78–82||1–4||1–16||Per ability||Per ability||00|
|83–87||1–4||1–17||Per ability||Per ability||00|
|88–89||1–4||1–18||Per ability||Per ability||00|
|90–92||1–5||1–18||Per ability||Per ability||00|
|93–95||1–5||1–19||Per ability||Per ability||00|
|(higher)||5% ability||20% ability||1–95||96–00||00|
# Opposed Resolution
Opposed rolls are made when one ability is pitched against an opponent’s ability. A simple success may not be enough to overcome the opponent. Opposed rolls are not used to resolve melee combat.
To make an opposed roll, both participants roll their respective abilities. If both participants succeed, the winner is whoever got the better type of success. If one participant got a special success and the other a normal success, the special success is the winner. If one participant got a critical success and the other a normal or special success, the critical success is the winner.
An opposed resolution may thus result in a winner and a loser, a tie, or two losers.
# Opposed Resolution Table
|Winner and a Loser:||The winner succeeds, and the loser fails.|
|Tie:||A tie (where both participants succeed but roll the same type of success) means the situation is temporarily unresolved. If both participants rolled a critical success, the result is a tie.|
|Two Losers:||Both participants fail their rolls. This is a stalemate, no success.|
Most of the time it’s obvious what should happen, but on occasion the gamemaster may have to interpret ties or situations where things go unresolved or in a stalemate.
Here are some examples of how to handle the most common of these situations, Move Quietly vs. Listen or Scan:
An adventurer is using Move Quietly to try to avoid detection by an enemy. The player rolls. If the player fails the roll, the adventurer makes noise. The enemy gets a Listen roll to see if they hear the adventurer. If the enemy fails, the adventurer goes on their noisy way, but perhaps the enemy gets into the adventurer’s path and prevents them from proceeding. Or the adventurer becomes obvious and moves out into the open, giving the enemy the chance of a Scan roll to see if they notice the adventurer. Alternately, the adventurer could avoid the first enemy but end up getting lost or taking a wrong turn, so focused were they on being quiet.
Determining what happens in situations like this is one of the more complicated things for the gamemaster to rule on, as it often requires many variables. A rule of thumb is to determine what the goal of each party is, and then determine what happens if they succeed and if they fail. Do they get what they want?
In cases where it’s still unclear, rule in favor of the player or pick an outcome that results in more fun.
# The Resistance Table
Sometimes an action depends on one raw characteristic overcoming an obstacle. Use a resistance roll to resolve these situations. Resistance rolls are not used for skill, Rune, or Passion rolls. Resistance rolls are used when pitting one characteristic against another, such as STR against the SIZ of an object to be lifted or the POW of a spellcaster against the POW of their target to see if the spell affects the target.
In a resistance roll, one characteristic is defined as active and the other passive. The active force attempts to exert influence on the passive side. Unlike an opposed roll, only one side rolls dice when making a resistance roll. Whenever possible, let the player be the one to make the roll, whether they are the active side or the passive side.
The formula for overcoming resistance is:
% of success = 50% plus (active ×5%) minus (passive ×5%)
If equal, there is a 50% chance of success. As usual, a roll of 01–05 always succeeds, and a roll of 96–00 always fails. As with other rolls, resistance rolls may result in critical successes, special successes, and fumbles. The gamemaster should interpret these.
The Resistance Table puts the resistance roll formula into an easy-to-use reference. The number indicated is the percentage needed for success. A line indicates there is no chance of success other than on a roll of 01–05, if it is possible.
The gamemaster may simply tell a player that even if they roll between 01-05, their adventure cannot perform some task beyond the limits of even heroic capability.
# Resistance Table
Note: The number indicated is the percentage needed for success. A roll of 1–5 is always a success.
# Augmenting Abilities
A Love (Family) Passion might augment a Search roll when looking for a clue to the whereabouts of a missing brother.
Only one ability can augment another for any given roll. To augment one ability with another, first roll for the ability being used in support of the other.
# Augment Result Table
|Critical Success:||Add +50% to the desired ability. Make an experience check for the augmenting ability.|
|Special Success:||Add +30% to the desired ability. Make an experience check for the augmenting ability.|
|Success:||Add +20% to the desired ability. Make an experience check for the augmenting ability.|
|Failure:||Subtract –20% from the desired ability. Do not make an experience check.|
A failed Passion augment imposes a –10% modifier for all ability rolls during that scene.
A failed Rune augment means the adventurer is at a –20% to use that Rune until they spend a day meditating on the Rune itself (see Meditation for more information).
|Fumble:||Subtract –50% from the desired ability for the roll intended.|
A Passion fumble means the adventurer is wracked with despair and can only dodge, flee, or hide for the rest of the scene.
For a Rune, the adventurer is alienated from the Rune and cannot use it or related magic until a day is spent meditating.
In either case, immediately modify the Rune or Passion by –1D10%.
These modifiers may take an ability to a value over 100%, which is desired. This modifier is applied to the chance of success for the primary roll, before the primary roll is attempted. An adventurer can even augment the casting chance of a spell through ritual practices or abilities, such as Dance, Sing, Meditation, etc.
Abilities may also be used to augment rolls on the Resistance Table, again at the gamemaster’s discretion.
Adventurers can help each other in the same fashion, using their skills in support of other adventurer’s skill roll, with the gamemaster’s approval.
# Abilities Above 100%
In some instances, such as when using an augment from a skill, Rune, or Passion, an ability might increase beyond 100%. No matter how high this goes, though, the adventurer still has no better than a 95% of succeeding.
If the opponent is trying to parry, block, dodge, or otherwise oppose the character’s use of the ability, then a 100%+ ability gives a greater chance of overcoming the opposition. If the highest rated participant in an opposed resolution has an ability rating in excess of 100%, the difference between 100% and their ability rating is subtracted from the ability of everyone in the contest (including themselves).
An adventurer has augmented their Broadsword skill to 135%. Everyone facing that adventurer in melee combat while that skill is above 100% must reduce their chance to parry that attack by 35% (135–100=35). This also applies to abilities other than combat. For example, a Move Quietly 110% skill reduces the chance of successful Listen rolls by –10%. The default chance of 5% remains, however much an ability is reduced.
While actual chance of success remains no better than 95%, the chance of a special or critical success continues to increase. For example, the above adventurer temporarily has Broadsword 135%, meaning that they achieve a special success on a roll of 27% or lower and a critical success on a roll of 01–07%.
# Reattempting Ability Rolls
An adventurer failing an ability roll may still be in a situation where they could potentially try again or where there has been some significant change in circumstances. The gamemaster may permit a follow-up attempt, but at a –20% penalty. If this second attempt fails, the adventurer cannot make any further reattempts without the passage of time or change in circumstances. This does not apply to combat rolls or actions where there is not adequate time to attempt again.
# Our Cousin Cthulhu
If you have played Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game—such as the Call of Cthulhu Starter Set (opens new window)—but this is your first experience with RuneQuest, you might notice some similarities. Both games derive from Chaosium’s Basic Roleplaying system (opens new window), which provides the core mechanics for a variety of other games as well.
The basic D100 mechanic is the same, along with many other similarities, but there are a few differences: RuneQuest characteristics are usually based on either 3D6 or 2D6+6, instead of being percentage values.
Call of Cthulhu divides skills by 1/2 and 1/5 to determine difficult rolls and special results, while in RuneQuest special results and critical results are at 1/5 and 1/20. RuneQuest does not use Luck points, Advantage/Disadvantage dice, or allow ‘pushing’ dice rolls.
RuneQuest uses the resistance table or opposed rolls to determine outcomes when two forces are acting against one another, while Call of Cthulhu uses only opposed rolls.