[Runequest] RQ Magic System Flaw

Gary Sturgess gazza666 at gmail.com
Sat Aug 24 12:53:04 EST 2013

RQ3, I assume? (Though Griffin Mountain is RQ2, I believe, but your mention
of the sorcery tables implies the former).

Well, bound spirits are essentially just magic items, to all intents and
purposes; there is no mindlink, you just get to make use of the spirit
(typically magic points, mind expansion, or getting it to cast spells for
you, depending on the type of spirit; for many you need to cast
Control/Command/Dominate first, if you want it to go "back in the box"
afterwards. In the RQ3 games I've played and run it was not at all unusual
for PCs to get lots of these; Binding Enchantment is probably the most
common thing PCs tend to spend POW on.

Familiars and a fetch ought, in most cases, to be incompatible. The former
are for sorcerers, and the latter for shamans; anyone with an awakened
fetch cannot become a sorcerer (though I'm unsure if the reverse applies;
certainly the RQ3 rules do not forbid anyone knowing spirit magic, sorcery,
and divine magic simultaneously, as long as they don't go to Shaman,
Priest, or Adept status). However, I suspect it may be possible in
Glorantha in certain circumstances; a troll might feasibly be an initiate
of Arkat as well as Kyger Litor, and if I recall correctly (I don't have
Trollpak to hand) I think priests of Kyger Litor are also shamans. I don't
recall whether Blueface is a troll or not, but if so that's probably what's
going on here. In any case from the perspective of PCs I don't think
there's likely to be much of a game balance issue. Having a powerful fetch
consumes POW that you would otherwise be using to bind spirits directly -
there is already a built in trade off in other words - and making familiars
requires sacrificing attribute points (by the core RQ3 rules at any rate,
though I think Sandy's rules only use POW). Unless you pick familiars that
only lack POW that's always going to be a sort of self limiting issue, and
if the familiar DOES lack POW then gaining it will generally make them a
fair bit weaker by imposing limits to their magic points they didn't
previously have; the sorcerer will likely have to burn quite a lot of POW
into the familiar, which is POW that otherwise would be going to their
fetch - so again, it's a tradeoff that seems fair.

Allied spirits are the sort of thing that you tend to get either on
achieving Priest or Rune Lord status, or else (presumably) from some sort
of heroquest (which I'm fairly sure is how Blueface got his). Heroquest
powers are always going to be difficult for PCs to exploit.

In essence, then, what we have here is a combination that is difficult for
PCs to get (troll with Arkat and Kyger Litor both at Rune level, or I guess
an initiate of the Red Goddess could probably do it too, but that requires
illumination) or else not really unbalanced (for the bound spirits - and of
course YMMV). That leaves us with the observation that it is a very strong
NPC, but NPCs don't have to follow the rules anyway. Let's say that the PCs
manage to beat Blueface (if it has stats you can kill it, after all); most
of his bound spirits are doubtless enchanted in such a way that they are
useless to the PCs, and the allied spirits/familiars/fetch are useless to
them in any case. So it's not as if they can take a giant leap forward by
offing Blue and nicking his stuff, which is the only sort of NPC balance
it's worth watching very closely.

On 24 August 2013 10:31, Craig Simons <craigms at q.com> wrote:

> To begin with, this post is clearly decades too late or I may be
> misunderstanding something completely. Maybe both. Additionally, I could
> not come to this conclusion without current computer and spreadsheet
> capabilities, neither available in the '70's.
> Also,
> 1. I am a firm believer in a consistant rule system, but "because" is not
> a valid rule, and
> 2. The GM may have house rules "because".
> What's the problem? There are inconsistencies and outright missing rules
> about combinations of fetches, allied spirits, familiars and bound spirits.
> In particular, there are examples of a NPCs having a fetch, multiple
> allies, and many bounds. Worst case: in Griffin Mountain, Blueface has a
> fetch, 3 familiars and 6 bound spirits. Granted, he is a special case, but
> he incurs no penalty for having so many.
> The RQ rules describe the connection between the shaman, fetch and
> familiars as basically that of the Mindlink spell, only permanent. This
> spell does not seem to have any downside for a permanent connection, a la Blueface.
> This stymied me for a long time until I realized that the Range and
> Duration Cost tables had a clue: math. Those tables are a listing of a
> formula that is rooted in x^n, where x is the distance/duration times 10
> and n is the number of MP used. Aha! Math. Formulas. Spread-sheets.
> With this idea, came a realization that the permanent Mindlink really
> needed to consume free INT. Assuming that the shaman wanted his allies to
> be able to coordinate with each other, besides himself, the best fit
> requires one two-way link between each member, so 2 points of free INT per
> connection. The formula n*(n-1)/2 (where n is the number of minds) covers
> the number of links, so twice that. Blueface would then need 20 free INT:
> 2*5*(5-1)/2. Try it. (Note: something else is needed for bound spirits).
> This INT can be taken out of the pool of INT available to the group, but
> because the link is permanent, so is the INT loss.
> An assumption I've made about these allies is consistent with the stated
> rules, to wit: besides all spells being available to all in the permanent
> Mindlink, so too are all POW and INT points, a big amorphous pool of points
> available to all in the link.
> Okay. This post is long enough, so before I move onto ramifications, have
> at this. What have I missed or misunderstood? (Please keep in mind #1,
> above, and discuss the rules, not game balance, etc.).
> Nervous thanks, hoping not to go down in flames,
> Craig Simons
> craigms at q.com
> Don't you ever miss the days when you used to be nostalgic?
> Steven Brust, Dzur
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