Saturday, October 23, 2010

RuneQuest II vs D&D

In a lot of ways RuneQuest and D&D are similar. However, everything works better in RuneQuest. Such as:
  • RuneQuest uses skills whenever a character attempts to do anything. e.g., singing, thieving, shooting, casting, etc. Skills all work in the same way and they all make sense. No base attack bonuses, saving throws, ability score checks, synergy, obscure exceptions, etc.
  • There are no classes in RuneQuest. If you want to create a thief, you devote skills that are useful to thieving (sleight, stealth, evade, disguise). If want a cleric (or healer), you devote skills and magic to healing. If you want to create a unique character, combine unrelated skills and spells.
  • D&D is full of redundancy. e.g., Cure Light Wounds, Cure Moderate Wounds, Cure Serious Wounds, Cure Critical Wounds, etc. In RuneQuest, there is just "Heal," the caster can increase the amount of healing as they improve their magical ability.
  • RuneQuest combat is more than just spatial, it is temporal too. Timing is key. This gives a whole new tactical layer to the combat that is missing from D&D.
  • Combat is a lot more deadly in RuneQuest. Fights don't go on and on like they do in D&D.
  • There is locational damage in RuneQuest (head, arms, chest, etc.)
  • Hit Points don't increase over time in RuneQuest. i.e., you don't miraculously become more resilient to pain.
  • There is no alignment in RuneQuest. You define your morality rather than fitting into an obscure and confusing category. (What the hell is Chaotic Neutral suppose to mean?)
  • In RuneQuest, armour works like one imagines it would. There is no weird abstraction (i.e., Armour Class). There are armour points that apply to parts of the body. If you are wounded, you subtract the armour points from the damage dealt. e.g., a Broo does 6 damage to the left arm. Leather armour on the left arm has 2 armour points. 6 - 2 = 4 damage. Simple and logical.
  • There are no levels in RuneQuest. At a particular juncture, players are rewarded with improvement points that they can use to improve skills or characteristics. There is no endlessly waiting until your character finally goes up a level. Beautiful.
  • RuneQuest doesn't have the utterly frustrating Vancian magic system. Okay, not entirely true, divine magic uses a Vancian system, but sorcery and common magic doesn't.
  • Skill checks are slightly simpler and require less tedious communication in RuneQuest. In D&D, the player rolls and applies bonuses (e.g., 1D20 + 5) and compares it with a number supplied by the Dungeon Master (e.g., need 17 or above). In RuneQuest, the player will generally already know the chance of success (e.g., 68% chance) and can just roll and declare the result (critical success, success, failure or fumble). This is a subtle difference, but it saves constantly needing to ask "What's the number I need?" or "Did I succeed?" It puts slightly more power on to the player. This a good thing.
  • Since 2000, D&D editions have been advocating the use of miniatures in combat. They even have special rules that apply best with miniatures (attacks of opportunity, movement rules to get past other characters/pieces, etc.) There is nothing wrong with using miniatures. However, one must be careful because miniatures reduce the luscious 3D environment of an imagined scene to a grided 2D battlemap with right-angles. On a battlemap it's difficult to visualise attacks from above (balustrades, trees, fly-by attacks) and below (burrowing creatures or a chasm traversed by a suspension-bridge). You can't see sloping or uneven ground. Stairs and various forms of cover (walls, bushes and tables) are often difficult to represent. Your imagination can handle all of this better than a battlemap. RuneQuest has a cinematic feel with not a single mention of miniatures or battlemaps. All of those environments mentioned above are easily supported by the RuneQuest game system. D&D can do it too, but it struggles.
  • With D&D and D20 games in general, it takes a bit of thinking to figure out your probability of success. E.g., you require 23+ for success and roll 1d20+8. You have to do a bit of maths to figure out the chance of success. It's more transparent in RuneQuest, everything uses percentiles, e.g. 25% chance.
  • Even though ability scores (or characteristics) are created the same way in both games (i.e., 3d6 or 4d6, drop the lowest, etc.) they're actually used in RuneQuest. In D&D, you roll the scores, derive a "modifier," and never use the score again, for anything. This "modifier" is used as proxy for everything. The obvious question is, why bother with ability scores at all? Just roll for the modifier instead. Ability scores in D&D are just one more number that you don't use. In RuneQuest, the scores themselves are used as a basis for basically everything.


  1. Bloody totally agree with everything - God, I detest D & D....

  2. Thanks for the pro-RQ review. I enjoyed this thoroughly! ;)

  3. Tried RQ and RQII both I found lacking but no doubt after the way D&D was slagged off in this topic no doubt so will I for my honesty, hey to each to their own.

  4. Hey darkharbenger. I don't know why I'd slag you off, you didn't really say anything. Do you have a reason why you don't like RQ?

    I would agree with you, however. I find RQ lacking (see later posts). In fact, I'd never play D&D or RQ again. I think I'll freeform all my RPG sessions from now on.