29 June 2012

RuneQuest 6 available for pre-order soon

RuneQuest 6 will be available for pre-order soon for £32/€40 from the 'Products' page of the Design Mechanism web-site. Here's the relevant announcement by Loz:

Today I sent the production files to the printers.

I'm therefore hoping that pre-orders can start next week. Here are the details.

Moon Design will be handling all print and electronic orders via their website. There are several reasons for doing this.

First is synergy. Part of our business model was to integrate with Moon wherever we could. By partnering with Jeff and Rick we can offer package deals on both RQ6 and Glorantha titles (for those that want them).

Second is expedience. Moon already has an established e-commerce gateway and it makes sense to take advantage of that. Plus, Moon can host PDFs for immediate download once payment has been processed which benefits Design Mechanism because we get a far higher portion of the cover price than relying simply on Drivethru - although Drivethru will still be used for PDF sales and Print on Demand options.

Our Products page at The Design Mechanism will have a link to the RQ pages at Moon, so clicking on our 'Order Now' button will take you to their site. Moon still have a little work to do before all that goes live, but it shouldn't take too long.

The PDF edition of the book will also be fully bookmarked and hyperlinked. We have to finish that work, but once its done then you'll be able to order the PDF immediately. If you order the print copy you also get the PDF free of charge, so you'll at least have the electronic content while you wait for your book to ship.

RQ6 is being distributed by Alliance, the largest distributor of hobby books and games in the world. They are also handling direct fulfilment for us, so that's where your book will ship from once it reaches their warehouse from the printer. I'm anticipating that stock will be available from about the 20th July, but its possible this date will shift a little. I will keep you notified.

Pre-order cost of RQ6 is $50 (US) + $10 shipping in North America, or $15 shipping elsewhere in the world. And you get the PDF free, which on its own is $25.

We will be maintaining the pre-order price until 22nd August. Two reasons for this. First, it takes into account Gencon US, and second its my birthday. Seemed like the right date. After 22nd August the price is $62, but this still includes the PDF if you order direct.

Some people have asked me if RQ6 will be available for Continuum (20th - 23rd July). Unfortunately, we won't be able to ship stock to the UK in time. However Pete will be there with a couple of sample copies so Continuum attendees will be able to whet their appetites.

Other than that, its great to be able to say that RuneQuest is firmly on its way. Stay tuned for pre-orders going live and the final release date.

24 June 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman

I've seen the film Snow White and the Huntsman yesterday and I've quite enjoyed it. Now, this being a role-playing blog, I'll gloss over its cinematographic qualities (or lack thereof), and concentrate on the inspirational parts of it, along with what 'improvements' I would imagine I would have brought to the film, had I been the director. Inspirational in terms of an Umathing campaign game, yes... Read on to see why.

By the way, the following may contain 'spoilers' but since everyone including little children already knows the story of Snow White, this shouldn't be an issue.

The stepmother is portrayed as a kind of [literally] life-sucking lamia or vampiress. Throughout the film, which spans several years in the life of Snow White, the Queen has most of the young females in the kingdom abducted so that she can remain young and beautiful by sucking their life force. Now this is shown by her "sucking" their breath through her open mouth. This actually reminded me of Oriental tales of -stealing vixen spirits. Pretty cool, but in my opinion it would have been more fitting with the faux European milieu of the film to depict the stepmother as a kind of Erzsébet Báthory, the notorious Hungarian countess who bathed in virgins' blood to keep her youthful looks, and thus to depict her bathing in blood. But then I guess the film would have lost its 12A rating...
The Queen got her cool -stealing power through her mother. This is shown in a flashback type of scene, although the mother looks like an unassuming peasant woman. How on earth could she possibly have been able to bestow this power on her daughter? In my version of Snow White and the Huntsman, the Queen's mother is a puissant God Learner who found the -stealing power in the Otherworld, and who passes it on to her daughter instants before she's taken care of by the Gift Carriers who are wiping out the God Learners.

The Huntsman, played by Thor, looks like a solid Umathing. Good.

Snow White is a wee skinny for an arse-kicking fighting princess, although she does look good in her armour at the end of the film. I wish she'd kept it on during the whole film.

The river folk are a nice addition. They don't look particularly faux European though. Too bad most of them get wiped out half-way through the film. I would make them a lost Umathing tribe who worships the river spirits rather than the Storm pantheon.

The Duke, his son, and their retinue look like nice faux European knights. That's OK with the old Gloranthan way of portraying the Westerners, but obviously they aren't aware that the canonical view on Westerners has changed. Bring on the new art!

The dwarfs are OK. What kind of wilderness-dwelling creatures could have taken care of a Malki princess on the run in Umathela, though? Durulz? I don't think there are any in Pamaltela. Olodo? Yes, I think Olodo would do. They would keep Snow White in their inhospitable mountains and train her to become a kick-arse warrior. In which case she should fight half-naked rather than in a Malki armour.

The troll that the Huntsman and Snow White meet in the wilderness is obviously an Aldryami. How uninformed of them.

Overall Atmosphere
The meeting with the white deer is a rip-off from Princess Mononoke. Shame on them.

Again, what with Erzsébet Báthory, the 18th century settig of Snow White, etc.... I think the film should have looked more like it had been cast in the 17th century, with crude firearms. Imagine at the end of the film the Queen would have used bombards rather than trebuchets against the forces of the Duke. Also the son of the Duke would be a master musketeer rather than a bowman.

Hollywood: next time, drop me a line :)

Art for Umathela (5)

Today's artist, contrary to all the previous ones, is not a Russian but a German, albeit pretty much from the same period of time as Ivan Bilibin, and drawing in a similar fairy-tale style.

Actually Franz Jüttner (1865-1925) is particularly remembered for his illustrations of German fairy tales such as Snow White, even though he also draw political cartoons, and, supposedly, comics, even though the latter seem to have been lost.

Snow White fleeing in the dark forest -- you can see the huntsman in the distance
The Queen asks her magic mirror

15 June 2012

The End of the Middle Sea Empire and its Consequences

I have been watching a lot of Rome lately and, although the TV series is set at the end of the Republic and at the beginning of the Empire, it has spurred me to read more about Roman history. By the way, if you want to play at the time of the TV series, I heartily recommend the Rome role-playing game.

Anyway, an interesting article I have stumbled upon is the Wikipedia article about the so-called Crisis of the Third Century: The Crisis resulted in such profound changes in the Empire's institutions, society, economic life and, eventually, religion, that it is increasingly seen by most historians as defining the transition between the historical periods of classical antiquity and late antiquity. I would add that it also prefigures  the key changes between antiquity and the Middle Ages.

Seeing how the end of an empire brings about social changes that deeply impact the areas formerly managed by the declining empire, I have excerpted and commented a few key sentences from the Wikipedia article.

a new Malki manour

In the years following the emperor's death, generals of the Roman army fought each other for control of the Empire and neglected their duties in preventing invasions from foreigners.

I believe the Middle Sea Empire likewise becomes the scene of many localised, small-scale wars to control the various now-independent (and isolated, because of the Closing) parts of the former Middle Sea Empire. This being a fantasy setting, though, these small-scale wars are as likely to involve powerful wizards as military commanders.

Dozens of formerly thriving cities, especially in the Western Empire, had been ruined, their populations dispersed and, with the breakdown of the economic system, could not be rebuilt. Major cities and towns, even Rome itself, had not needed fortifications for many centuries; many now surrounded themselves with thick walls.

This is in my opinion one of the most mediaeval-ish parts. The God Learner cities of the Umathelan coast, who used to be large, open, and without walls, are now partly destroyed, and their remnants of population have regrouped in the most easily defendable quarter of the city (possibly the one on a hill), and are busy building up defensive walls.

Internally, the empire faced hyperinflation caused by years of coinage devaluation. This had started earlier under the Severan emperors who enlarged the army by one quarter and doubled the legionaries' base pay. As each of the short-lived emperors took power they needed ways to raise money quickly to pay the military's "accession bonus" and the easiest way to do so was by simply cutting the silver in coins and adding less valuable metals like bronze or copper.

No-one trusts Umathelan coinage any longer... The metal therein is too debased. This is a further incentive for "dungeon delving" by the way: delvers hope to find caches of non-debased metal in the abandoned dungeons of the God Learners.

One of the most profound and lasting effects of the Crisis of the Third Century was the disruption of Rome's extensive internal trade network. Ever since the Pax Romana, starting with Augustus, the empire's economy depended in large part on trade between Mediterranean ports and across the extensive road systems to the Empire's interior. Merchants could travel from one end of the Empire to the other in relative safety within a few weeks, moving agricultural goods produced in the provinces to the cities, and manufactured goods produced by the great cities of the East to the more rural provinces.
With the onset of the Crisis of the Third Century, however, this vast internal trade network broke down. The widespread civil unrest made it no longer safe for merchants to travel as they once had, and the financial crisis that struck made exchange very difficult with the debased currency. This produced profound changes that, in many ways, would foreshadow the very decentralised economic character of the coming Middle Ages.

Roads aren't safe any longer — where they still exist, since no-one is able to maintain them any longer. Banditry is rife. Whatever trade caravans are left must hire various mercenaries and swords-for-hire to accompany them, and to protect them. This provides further adventure seeds in post-imperial Umathela.

Large landowners, no longer able to successfully export their crops over long distances, began producing food for subsistence and local barter. Rather than import manufactured goods from the empire's great urban areas, they began to manufacture many goods locally, often on their own estates, thus beginning the self-sufficient "house economy" that would become commonplace in later centuries, reaching its final form in the Middle Ages' manorialism. The common free people of the Roman cities, meanwhile, began to move out into the countryside in search of food and better protection.
Made desperate by economic necessity, many of these former city dwellers, as well as many small farmers, were forced to give up hard-earned basic civil rights in order to receive protection from large land-holders. In doing so, they became a half-free class of Roman citizen known as
coloni. They were tied to the land, and in later Imperial law their status was made hereditary. This provided an early model for serfdom, the origins of mediaeval feudal society and of the mediaeval peasantry.

Oh yes, former proud citizens of the Middle Sea Empire. If you haven't been strong or scheming enough to live through the upheavals of your cities, you must have fled to the countryside and started up eking out a living toiling the earth. Glorantha being Glorantha, country-dwelling Malki labourers must somehow have included worship to Ernamola in their once-monotheistic cults. They also need a protector in case of war, strife, or invasions. Hence the Malki manours that are appearing in the Umathelan countryside (whereas the Malki used to be concentrated on the coast before the Closing).

14 June 2012

The Tarmo Mountains

The Tarmo Mountains are the southernmost limit of Umathela. Here is how they look like:

(according to Greg himself!)

12 June 2012

Height and Weight Table

There is a single table in the T&T rules to roll a delver's height and weight. Yet one may want to have a thin player character. Or a fat one. And even beyond delvers, the game master may want to have a diverse array of NPCs!

The following table will enable you to roll a delver's or NPC's height through a random 3D6 roll, and then to assign a corresponding weight depending on the overall body frame the delver/NPC is supposed to have.


A: Severely Underweight (kg)
B: Underweight (kg)
C: Normal/Healthy (kg)
D: Overweight (kg)
E: Obese (kg)

3D6 Height (m) A B C D E
3 1.22 23 26 32 41 52
4 1.30 26 29 37 46 59
5 1.35 28 31 40 50 64
6 1.42 31 35 44 55 71
7 1.47 33 37 47 59 76
8 1.55 37 41 52 66 84
9 1.60 40 44 56 70 90
10 1.68 44 49 61 78 99
11 1.73 46 52 65 82 105
12 1.80 50 56 70 89 113
13 1.85 53 59 74 94 120
14 1.93 58 64 81 102 130
15 1.98 61 68 85 108 137
16 2.06 66 73 92 117 149
17 2.11 69 77 97 122 156
18 2.18 74 82 103 131 166

Obviously the table above is for humans, and it uses real world body mass indices. Depending on how you envision non-human sentients in your campaign, it must be modified accordingly...

Also there is no reason why this table couldn't be used with other role-playing games.

07 June 2012

Art for Umathela (4)

As already mentioned in previous entries, I am a big fan of both real and faux vintage fairy tale/mythological Russian illustrations as inspirational sources for my Umathelan campaign game.

Today I am presenting you some inspiring illustrations by Mikhail Fedorenko. I haven't been able to find any details about this artist, despite his works being widely available on the internet.

A Malki Noble
The Gates of Yoranday
The Closing

05 June 2012

T&T: New French-Language Edition - Character Sheet

A nice, professional-looking player character sheet is available on-line for free at this location. I believe you must have a valid login to download it, but it's worth it because the sheet is really beautiful.

Given the simplicity of the T&T stat blocks, I believe you can safely use this player character sheet even if you're not familiar with the French-language terms.

If you're really, really linguistically challenged, here are a few tips:
FOR is STR; CH is LK; VIT is SPD; FLU is WIZ.
I believe that Attaque normale is where you'd inscribe your usual attack dice.
Défense totale is the total hits blocked by your character's armour (I usually call these Protection Points in English — not sure how canonical it is).
Arme is Weapon; Portée is Range.
Sorts is Spells.

02 June 2012

Design Mechanism Seminar, 27 May

Your chronicler with the poster of the panel.
The Sunday panel of the Eternal Convention was dedicated to RuneQuest 6, the latest incarnation of the classic "D100" role-playing game (and sytem); the speakers were Loz and Pete of MRQII fame, who started their own company to write, publish, and sell RuneQuest 6. Loz and Pete were unable to make it to the con this year, so they participated through a G+ hangout. It worked out pretty well despite the unreliable connection; Nick Brooke acted as the local speaker, often 'translating' questions from the audience to Loz and Pete who couldn't always hear them well.

First of all, Pittel (Andreas Pittelkow, one of the organisers of the Eternal Con) had received extended preview printouts from Loz and had prepared a nice board with all the sheet laid out for us conventiongoers to read before the panel actually started. This enabled us to prepare our questions for Loz and Pete. Mysticism, the new magic system featured by RuneQuest 6 on top of the regular ones, obviously attracted special attention.

Now on with what I have been able to transcribe from the seminar.

First, the name. After all the abbreviations for the various editions of RuneQuest, RuneQuest 6 will simply be called 'RuneQuest'.
The Design Mechanism holds exclusive rights to the 'RuneQuest' name for 5 years.

The upcoming book— it will be as complete as possible in terms of rules, magic, creatures, and GM advice. Expect a softcover book with a total of 456 pages. A hardcover book is not in the works, except maybe as a future collector's item.

Amongst the novelties:
  • In terms of magic systems, it will feature the usual RQ magic systems plus mysticism.
  • Passions: each character starts with three passions (see the preview)
Expect a sword and sorcery feeling in the way the rules are presented, e.g., in the character examples in the side bars.

Of course, the new RQ is generic and not tied to Glorantha any longer — although the various magic systems can obviously be used to replicate Glorantha. Sorcery has been streamlined and should be more easily usable than in RQ3. Combat has an added level of complexity compared to RQ3; however, the way combat works, it should be over il less time than it used to mostly because you don't want to fight to death: you would either surrender or flee.

(The following stems from questions from the audience)
Opposed skill resolution: under your skill but as high as possible (so-called 'blackjack' mechanism).

Mysticism is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and jedi knights, but it will be magic point-hungry. Possibly similar to the super powers section in the BGB.

Compatibility with other D100 games: high, not only with former RQ versions, but also with D100-based games in general.

In the works/future plans:
  • Monster Island, by Pete: trying to capture the feeling of King Kong and sword and sorcery, with oodles of monsters, much in the style of Griffin Island.
  • Book of Quests, by Loz: loosely related sword and sorcery scenarios.
  • Mythic Greece
  • Mythic Britain
  • Mythic Constantinople
  • Mythic Mesopotamia
  • Glorantha will be supported, even though it's not yet a priority. Possibly, the first book will be Adventures in Glorantha, with advice as to how to use the rules in Third Age Glorantha; the book might also contain RQ statistics for already-published HQ books, e.g., Pavis.
  • There is also a licence in the pipe. Unfortunately nothing further can be revealed.
  • Also expect a free online downloadable magazine à la Signs & Portents.

The price of RuneQuest 6 will be approximately 48 euros. It should be available in July. You will soon be able to pre-order a hard copy directly from the Design Mechanism web-site. Pre-ordering it from the Design Mechanism web-site should entail a discount and/or the free PDF, and it is a nice way to support Loz & Pete.

Foreword by Steve Perrin. Only fitting. Shame on Mongoose for not having mentioned Steve in the MRQ books!