Casting Runes 3: Developing the Experience

This post continues the exploration and implementation of RuneQuest 6th Edition for the creation of a sword and sorcery campaign setting.

Balancing Interests

For me, the lure of developing this campaign is to delve deeply into RuneQuest. I hope to develop a believably violent world with mediation, tactical evasion, and strategic forethought as hallmarks of character combat where we all develop a good level of adroitness with the options the game allows. I hope to explore the rich imaginative possibilities inherent in the concepts put forward in the magic system. I hope that the characters will be able to struggle with and for power, physically, emotionally, and within the organizations that hold all the answers. I hope that players will be able to find enjoyment in the conflicts and challenges the background of the world will provide, bringing their cults, their cultures, and their opinions into focus as they deal with the mundane and mystical threats already in motion.

Where this all must be balanced most carefully is in trying to find a middle ground between the purely OoC drives to see the system in action over the long haul, versus the imperative to have all the right conditions in place for a story to evolve. Character motivations, secrets, and compulsions must mesh in ways that grip and entertain, while the scattered agendas of all the factions must support proactive and reactive interactions, turning over time into a tale worth the living.

Explore what exactly?

In many fantasy games, hell – in many roleplaying games – combat is an element to be managed, not feared. In this campaign, I want to use the potential for lethality in RuneQuest, plus its empowerment of the player to really focus on hit-for-hit tactics, to push combat toward an experience of more than just winning and losing. Each decision to enter into a violent encounter in this game has the potential to be a character-changing or a life-ending one, so it is a good vehicle for exploring heroism and villainy, or at least assessing how stupid happens to otherwise good people~

This is also a game of magic and mystery. While it will be harder to explore magic with the same depth with which it will be possible to explore combat, we will certainly be able to explore the effects and flavor of the differing magic systems.

Folk Magic

Folk magic will be presented in this campaign in two (but actually three) streams. There will be the folk magic which has become nothing but superstition, folk magic rooted in worship, and folk magic stemming from humanity’s quest for knowledge.

  • Superstition is a part of life in the magical world as it is in our mundane one, and lost or now misunderstood magic is still thoroughly ingrained in the population. It lacks noticeable effects, but it is now more a cultural and habitual element than a conscious activity. In some parts of the world, what has devolved to mere superstition in the major centers may still function as it once did, and would be classified as folk magic of one of the other two types.
  • The source of much of the toothless superstitious wardings and blessings of the common people. Theistic folk magic, rooted mainly in the sincere worship of regional deities, is based in knowledge granted to followers by the gods to ease their burdens. These small expressions of piety are rarely distinguishable in form from the aspects which have been lost to mere cultural trapping, but when invoked, true believers see the benefits and trust that their god is looking out for them.
  • The third type of folk magic is comprised of discovered lore found over time due to humanity’s inherent curiosity about the mystical world in which they live. Its simple and replicable effects laid the foundations of the researches which one day in the past branched off into the much more potent science of sorcery. In some areas, the charms cast have been given by the gods as gifts. In others, they had to be pried from the secretive grip of the fabric of life and death.

The Introduction

The campaign will open in one of the human kingdoms’ most holy cities as special ceremonies to the gods culminate in a long series of games, festivals, and challenges before launching a grand pilgrimage to the City of the Gods. Travelers specially chosen for the pilgrimage will journey from this coastal religious center, toward the center of the known world and the most holy city known to the sentient groups which populate it. The way is harsh, and the gods are known to test those who seek to make the journey from the so-called edge of the world, to the center.

The characters will be among those chosen to support the pilgrims on their journey as guards, scouts, hunters, and other skilled members of a long and arduous expedition expected to take several grueling months and end up with a weeks long slog across the pristine desert in which the most holy city waits.

The characters have been brought in as support staff for the pilgrims in a slight nod to rumors that the wastelands have gotten more dangerous. They have always been so, but even the least cautious and most profit-hungry merchants are hiring extra security these days, and not all of them survive to reach their next destination.

The pilgrims have been charged with the quest of escorting a member of the Blessed who seeks to end his days and be transported to the embrace of his deity. This honor  is rare, and the success of this journey must be assured.

Rumors, lies, and hooks, oh my~

Each character will begin play with a set of beliefs, rumors, and prejudices which will connect them in different ways to each other. What is or is not the truth will be a problem toward which they can choose to work once other concerns are taken care of.

As witnesses to a terrible event near the end of the games, one of their duties will be in carrying reports and rumors of the supposed destruction of the largest enclave under the sea, and the scattering of the surviving people of the gods of the sea. The sea has turned wild, and ships can no longer survive far from shore.

It is as though the gods of the sea have turned their love and support from their children and left them exposed to the horrors of chaos from the ages before humanity and its fellows first found shelter in the world under the gods’ protection. Are other horrors to follow? Is it possible that the Fidran people, or at least their civilization, is gone?

The high priests of the holy of holies must be told.


Stay tuned~

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