People of Legend/RuneQuest

by Karl Brown

This article provides greater access to non-human player characters for the Legend rpg from Mongoose Publishing increasing the utility and appeal of that game. It requires only Legend and the supplement Monsters of Legend for use. Legend is a ‘plain wrap’ setting-free version of Rune Quest II (RQ) by Mongoose Publishing. Therefore this article may be of some utility to players of RQ.

As written, Legend only covers human PCs. Like its sire RQ, Legend has a very loose approach to balancing PCs; even human starting characters can vary in utility. In the supplement Monsters of Legend several species are noted as being suitable for PC use but no guidance is given on how to do this. From reading forums for RQ and Legend it appears that most people just ‘eyeball’ the core characteristics to see if they are not too powerful. Players roll characteristics as per the monster stat-block and but ignore the skills listed for the monster and acquire skills and spells as per human PCs. The new PC has all the extraordinary abilities of the monster version. This approach can result in non-human PCs that are more powerful than their human companions yet also denies players those species the referee arbitrarily judges too be powerful.

Here I provide a way of generating non-humans that goes some way towards addressing balance issues while remaining in the spirit of the ‘near enough is good enough’ approach of Legend. I hope these rules make referees comfortable with including a much greater variety of PC species in their settings.

This article requires that the point-based method of determining characteristics is used. Unlike RQ’s Glorantha, not all settings for Legend endow PCs with 6 magnitude levels of common magic. Here the terms common spells setting and mundane setting are intended to mean simply settings that grant human PCs six magnitude levels of common magic at creation and those that don’t respectively. Each type of setting has a different way of balancing the powers of non-humans. A ‘mundane’ setting might still have wizards, clerics, and dragons; it is just that magic is not so ubiquitous that everyone knows a few spells.

Monsters of Legend
Most sentient creatures given in Monsters of Legend will be suitable for PC use. Every creature available for PC use has three values associated with it: assessment total (AT), characteristic points (CP), and skills reduction (SR). This article will guide you in assessing creatures from any Legend source, assigning these three values, then creating your character. For suitable creatures from Monsters of Legend these values have been pre-calculated (AT/CP/SR):
Human (0/80/0), Dwarf (1/80/0), Elf (3/86/6), Giant 2m-3m tall (2/82/2), Giant 4-5m (2/100/20) Goblin (1/80/0), Halfling (0/80/0), Ogre# (1/80/0), Orc (1/80/0), Troll (2/90/10), Centaur (2/93/13), Gorgon (6/86/6), Harpy (2/80/0), Lamia (2/99/19), Minotaur (1/97/17), Mummy (2/88/8), Satyr (1/95/15), Unicorn* (5/100/20), Werewolf (3/87/7), Wrym (5/100/20).
#assuming that the ogre characteristics being identical to orc in Monsters of Legend is not a mistake.
*Unicorns have high characteristic minimums and, while they just qualify, are not recommended.
Referees should disallow any of the above based on the setting. This is especially important given Legend’s emphasis on communities. Referees should have a good idea of how integrated humans and non-humans are in the community. Do centaur merchants pass through the town regularly? Are the players from a mountain village of wrym riders with humans and reptiles living cooperatively? Will they be based in a cosmopolitan port where the streets teem with humans, elves, dwarves, and more?

Assessing a species for PC use
To check before proceeding consider the following four points:
1. The creature must have a charisma score
2. The creature must have non-fixed INT
3. The sum of the lowest possible rolls for each characteristic must be less than 80. For creatures that increase in dice by age (such as wryms) determine for 17-20 years of age.
4. Count the creatures Traits, add one for each of the following:
a. a flight speed
b. natural armour
c. one or more gaze, poison, disease or other special attacks not listed as a trait
d. healing ability, such as that of the unicorn
e. mist-form as well as a solid form (like a vampire) or similar*
f. immunities like those of a werewolf.
g. a ground speed 10+
h. can create permanently enthralled minions, like the power of a vampire
Subtract one for each of the following:
i. ground movement speed is 6 or less and the creature cannot fly.
j. the creature has no hands and therefore cannot use tools.
*Creatures that are always gaseous or intangible, such as ghosts, do not add one for this. The advantage of being unaffected by the physical world is balanced by the inability to affect the physical world or be aided by physical companions when attacked by fellow gas-monsters or spirits.
If the sum is less than zero, set it at zero. Note down this ‘assessment total’. The sum should be six or less; if 7 or higher the creature cannot be used as a PC. Note that natural weapons without the formidable weapons trait do not add to the assessment total. Later during character generation assessment total will be used to reduce skills or spells, but not both depending on whether the setting is common magic or mundane.

Determining Characteristics
Add up the maximum possible roll for each characteristic. Multiply this sum by 0.63 and round up. If less than 80, raise to 80. If over 100, reduce to 100. This is the characteristic points you have to spend on characteristics. If the total is over 80, subtract 80 from this. This second number is your skills reduction, note this down for later use. A character that reaches all her species maximums without spending 80 points simply loses those remaining. This is most likely for spirit creatures that do not have STR, CON, DEX, or SIZ.
The minimum for any characteristic is the lowest possible roll. Characteristic points are spent one for one up to the highest possible roll. After this 2pt are needed to raise the characteristic by one. The maximum possible for any characteristic is: maximum roll + (1/6 x the maximum roll, round up). For creatures that increase in characteristic dice by age, such as giants, create a character of 17-20 years of age.
When determining characteristics players are advised to consider any relationships between species traits or powers and characteristics, such as POW for Breathe Flame.
Combat actions, age, damage modifier, improvement modifier, dedicated POW, magic points, and strike rank are determined as for human characters. Movement is as given in the creature’s description. For non-humans with different hit location charts to humans calculate the HP for each location using the values given in the monster version in two stages. First calculate the HP Adjustment (HPA), this is different for every individual. HPA needs to be recalculated SIZ or CON permanently change.
HPA = (PC SIZ+CON)/(creature average SIZ+CON), round down to 2 decimal places.
Next for each location multiply the HP of a typical monster by HPA to determine the HP by location for your PC, round up.
Example: An average centaur in Monsters of Legend has CON 11, SIZ 26, and 9HP for the chest. Darius is a PC centaur with CON 12 and SIZ 31, therefore Darius’ HPA=(12+31)/(11+26)=1.16 and (1.16x9, round up)=11HP in the chest.
Common Skills
These are determined exactly as for human adventurers. PC versions of creatures do not get the skills at the level listed in creature’s description.
Previous Experience
It is acceptable for some non-humans, particularly the elves, dwarves, and Halflings, to gain skills from culture and profession just as human characters do. Alternately, the creature’s description can be used as a culture and/or profession as described below.
Cultural Background
If the setting’s cultural details result in a non-human having a very different life experience to a human the following can create characters from a non-human culture, a creature culture.
1. Give the culture a name that includes the species such as Tanglewood Elves or Grey Orcs.
2. +30% to Culture (own)
3. +10% to Lore (own region)
4. +10% to two of the combat styles listed in the creature description (e.g. Bite). If only one is listed +10% to it and unarmed instead. If none are listed +20% unarmed instead.
5. 45% spread over four common skills listed in the monster description
6. +50% Language (native)
7. Choose two advanced skills from the creature’s list. Treat ‘Lore (All)’ as ‘Lore (Any)’, If only one advanced skill is listed use this skill and +10% to a common skill. If no advanced skills are listed add +10% to two common skills.
8. Record the culture as an aid to character generation in the future.
Regardless of the cultural background used a creature might use a profession available to human characters or a creature profession indicating she fulfils one of the many roles of her native culture.
1. Give the profession a name that includes the species such as elf enchantress or orc bandit.
2. 30% spread over your choice of the common skills and/or combat styles listed for the creature.
3. Select two advanced/magical skills preferably from the creature’s list but others are allowed with referee veto.
4. Record the profession as an aid to character creation in the future.
Free Skill Points
Non-humans begin with 250pt-(10x skills reduction). In mundane settings subtract (assessment total x3) from the number of free points for skills.
Points are spent as for humans.
Many species traits and powers are linked to skills, such as Resilience for Breathe Flame. Players of non-humans are advised to consider these relationships when spending skill points.
Flying characters are encouraged to consider athletics, acrobatics, and brawn. Referees are encouraged to require rolls on these skills for demanding flight manoeuvres especially during stressful events like combat. For example lifting a heavy opponent into the air might require an brawn roll, flying into a gale might require athletics, while landing on a narrow ledge or on a crowded battlefield could require an acrobatics check.
Unchanged, players should interpret all results through the lens of the creature’s culture and biology.
Final Stages
Names, hero points, and equipment are determined normally. Creatures that cannot use tools do not begin with a weapon. Whether nobles of non-tool using species begin with armour depends on the setting and the referee.
PC creatures do not automatically gain the spells listed in the creature’s description.

Common magic

For common magic settings the total magnitude of common magic spells known to the character is six subtract assessment total. Choice is limited by culture. If a creature culture was used then common magic is limited to any common magic listed in the creature description and the ‘All Cultures’ list.

Magic Using Characters

Sorcerers, priests, shamans, and witches determine spells just as humans of these professions do. If a character has a creature profession and has gained magic using skills from that profession the character has access to spells that are appropriate to the magic skills learned (i.e. Divine or Sorcery) from the creature’s spell list in Monsters of Legend or a grimoire of a faction designed for the creature’s culture by the referee.


After character creation PCs continue to grow and develop. Depending on the setting non-humans may face social or even legal restrictions on their access to training and social advancement. Conversely, non-human cultures will have their own unique guilds, factions, and cults.


To make vampires suitable for PCs remove the ability to create enthralled minions thus lowering the assessment total from 7 to 6. Vampires have 100pt of characteristics, and a skills reduction of 20.


Under this house rule dragons become mentally independent ‘adults’ before reaching full size. Dragons hatch with 1d6 for all characteristics, which are raised to 2d6 at six months of age then 3d6 at one year old. Every 10 years of age they gain another d6 until they reach the number of d6 listed in Monsters of Legend. After this SIZ and POW gain +1pt every 5 years until +30 has been added to SIZ and +12 to POW from aging. The dragon given in Monsters of Legend is full grown and over 340 years old.

SIZ Bite/Claw Size Tail/Claw Reach
1-9 M S
10-19 M S
20-24 M S
25-29 L M
30-34 L L
35-39 H VL
40+ E VL

Therefore a PC dragon is in the 4d6 range (maximum 28) for all characteristics if 17-19 years old. A 20 years old dragon is in the 5d6 range (maximum 35) for all characteristics except POW and DEX, which are in the 4d6 range.

PC dragons have 100 characteristic points, a skills reduction of 20, and an assessment total of 6. Dragons cannot use tools or weapons. Armour would have to be especially crafted, if the referee allows it at all. A dragon’s talons can crudely grasp, like those of an eagle, but cannot manipulate objects. The size and reach of a dragon’s natural weapons are determined by her SIZ. Tail size is one lower than claw size. Bite reach is one lower than claw reach. A dragons scales have AP=SIZ/3 (round up, maximum 12). At any age dragon breath inflicts 4d6 damage.

Designer’s Notes

This was a difficult project for me. I wanted to go far enough down the balance road that referee’s would be comfortable considering a greater variety of non-human PCs when designing their campaign but had to fight the urge to produce a full-on GURPS style point system at odds with the style of Legend. The most difficult compromise was the assessment total. I had to resist to assigning every power a spell magnitude equivalent. I know that some of the powers are more potent than others but the system here is of an appropriate complexity for Legend. In common magic settings humans have the advantage of choice of common spells compared to the assigned powers of non-humans; humans can choose spells with synergies to high skills and attributes. In mundane settings the non-human suffers a skill reduction instead; 1 magnitude = 3 skill points was inferred from the improvement roll system. Another hidden cost of many non-human powers is that players creating non-humans must also distribute points for characteristics and skills bearing in mind their powers as well as the usual criteria of preferred profession or party role. In any design problem the more criteria you want the ‘product’ to meet the less good it will be at each.

For some non-humans characteristics such as great strength or size are a defining feature. This system allows players to construct characters with one or a few higher than humanly possible characteristics provided they accept human-average or worse values for other characteristics. The skills reduction rule prevents non-human PCs becoming a cavalcade of freakish dolts, runts, and curmudgeons to get these higher scores. Since characteristics determine the base percentage for skills a PC with a skills reduction will generally have almost as many points of skills when completed (INT is used 8x in determining common skills, other attributes are used less but contribute to other game mechanics. The exact contribution of characteristics to a character’s advanced skills is variable). The limit on skills reduction to 20 ensures that players will have at least 32-50pts to customise skills and ensure utility for their characters.

Creatures that would have a negative assessment total or cannot spend 80pt on characteristics are not compensated. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the player has chosen this creature; either she wants to play the role of a weaker character or believes the powers of the creature outweigh its deficiencies. Secondly, providing more free-spend skill points or magnitudes of spells has too much potential for abuse. Here to value of choice plays a large part. More skill points allows player to channel points so that some skills are much higher than humans could hope to achieve or overcome skill based limits on powers. Similarly, even a single extra point of magnitude makes available geometrically more combinations of higher magnitude spells. Given the ‘close enough’ approach of Legend a slight under-powering is a lesser evil.

Finally, the social, size, and morphology issues faced by non-humans in a human world are not assigned values but should be present in play. With these points in mind, non-humans should be approximately balanced, which is as close as Legend gets anyway.