[Runequest] Game balance in different editions

Lawrence Whitaker lawrence.whitaker at gmail.com
Tue Sep 4 23:55:23 EST 2012

An interesting discussion.

Yes, we certainly adjusted some of the more egregious sorcery spells
in terms of their effects - not necessarily to make them more
balanced, or to limit sorcery's power, but to make their effects
easier to manage. Of course, a side effect of that is balancing to
some degree, but it wasn't an overt attempt.

Folk Magic - yes, this was an overt reduction in power to balance it
against the higher magical forms. Some Common Magic spells in MRQII
were actually outstripping some Divine and Sorcery spells at higher
magnitudes which was kind of odd given the general nature of this kind
of magic. We also accept that it doesn't necessarily model Gloranthan
workings; we're actually in the process of preparing specific magical
mechanics for Glorantha and these will address the relative power
levels to better model what's gone before.

Animism and Mysticism. Again, its true that both these forms of magic
can be very potent and, as read, they may seem to be wildly potent
when compared with Theism and Sorcery. However there are some
underlying limitations (and they are deliberate limitations) that help
balance them.

1. Both Animism and Mysticism are personal-focused. What I mean is
that shaman and mystics use their magic for personal enhancement and
not for the benefit of anyone else (Animism has some general
exceptions, but by and large its the shaman that benefits). Theism and
Sorcery, on the other hand, can be cast on others to their benefit (or
detriment!) and thus have wider social applications.

2. Animism and Mysticism are Magic Point intensive, whereas Theism and
Sorcery are less dependent on MP expenditure. Making frequent use of
mystical abilities or spirits can quickly drain MP reserves and,
depending on how MPs are regained in the setting, this might severely
limit their use. Theists and sorcerers have additional means of
accessing Magic Points, so, again, there's a deliberate attempt to
balance the overall effects.

But, in general, our concern in designing all the magic systems was to
reflect the way they work unto themselves, instead of striving for
cross-magical balance as the main objective. We have tinkered with
each to do a little rough balancing, but that came secondary to
portraying the nature of each magic system.

I hope this gives some insight into the design process here.


On 04/09/2012, lev at rpgreview.net <lev at rpgreview.net> wrote:
>> 	Game balance is an interesting question when you have complex rules
>> systems like RuneQuest. What is 'balanced' depends so much not just on
>> how you define balance, but play style. And rules interact in complex
>> ways. There are definitely issues that you will only find in playtest,
>> and not necessarily then. And once a 'problem' is found, how do you fix
>> it?
> Addressing this single issue, I agree with you concerns and there is two
> ways of looking at it.
> Balance by limiting: Which, if I read it correctly, you're claiming that
> RQ6 does (except for animism and mysticism where it goes a little wild).
> Basically by ensuring that magics don't stack etc, that the PCs remain at
> a relative disadvantage to some of the big nasties.
> Balance by smoothing: This is a lot harder. It allows for PCs to increase
> in potential and significantly so to the point that the hero who slays the
> dragon etc, is not impossible. However, this is really difficult to do in
> practise because if there is one trajectory that leads to a relatively
> high powered solution relative to other characters then this leads to an
> unbalanced game.
> I'm going to also suggest a third alternative:
> Balance by aggregation: This is where I go into my weird mode and suggest
> that RQ3 sorcerers were balanced, but in aggregate. Rather like their D&D
> equivalents they were not very handy at low-power levels (they were
> underpowered) but quite powerful at high levels (they were overpowered).
> In aggregate they are balanced, but at any one point in time they are not
> balanced with their peers.
> It is arguable whether you want this third alternative in a game.
> Personally, in terms of campaign style, stretched out over an entire story
> told over a few years, I consider this acceptable. For one-off games or
> even short campaigns, it's probably not such a good idea.
> I would have to give it a second look, but do you think that RQ6 animists
> and mystics might fall into this category? Or are they unbalanced from the
> word go?
>> 	I've been looking at some old RQ3 material. RQ3 never tried to 'patch'
>> the rules after creation, even though it was clear that some parts of it
> Oh, they did, they totally did. Just not that extensively. The RQ Deluxe
> book has a set of patches/errata in the back of the book. I believe a
> separate document was produced as well by AH for those who had the boxed
> set.
> All the best,
> Lev
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Will there be time enough and World for me to sing that song?

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