Friday, January 28, 2022

Rune in the 2022 Character Creation Challenge

For day 28 I down some mead and put on a horned helmet for the #CharacterCreationChallenge!

This obscure gem of a game came out in 2001; just as the rest of the world was leaning hard into D&D, Atlas games was commissioned by Humanhead Studios to build a TTRPG based on their video game RUNE. The result was a glorious love letter to pure kick-in-the-door-and-kill-orcs role playing that also acknowledged that the GM tends to get bored with that style of play before the players do, so the game is designed to pass the GMing duties around the table. Everyone is tasked with coming up with snippets of the dungeon and adventure – for which they have point budgets commensurate to the PCs power level – and once the GM is done with what they have prepped play hands over to the next player to become GM. 

Yes, it shifts the burden of world and adventure building evenly around the table. And yes, I'm OK with that because the lazy shiftless players should pick up the slack sometimes! 

Character creation is pretty simple in concept, a little more complicated when you're pre-calculating your various combat attacks in advance, and it's nicely crunchy in the base combat focus with real effects from choosing weapon, armor, and shield types. It's a nice balance of complexity and avoiding getting stuck in the optimization weeds.

Characters have 8 attributes – Strength, Stamina, Dexterity, Quickness, Intelligence, Perception, Presence, and Communication – and knowing a game about dungeon crawling Vikings are going to prioritize some things the last four attributes cost half as much as the first four. 

There's 30 some odd skills in the game, divided into Combat, Exploration, and Social (with an outlier in Divine Awareness), and the writer (Robin Laws… did I mention Robin Laws wrote this?) handily calls out the 8 non-combat skills that see the most use in play, and remind you in the rulebook that there are considerable penalties for not knowing a skill, so it's better to spread points out. Secondary Skills cost half as much as Primary skills, with the distinction being made on how useful the skill is for kicking in doors and killing orcs. 

Both skills and attributes are bought with the same pool of 60 points, so it helps to have looked over both lists a bit. I decided to design Vifgus the Fat, a large fellow with surprising dexterity, above average for a Viking social stats, with a skill for spatial awareness and mapmaking. (the Mapmaking skill is a great dungeon crawl addition; you roll against it to find your way back out of the dungeon, and possibly to sell your finished maps for money to other Vikings; no need for the player to make actual maps!) 

STR +1, Sta +2, Dex +2, Qik +1, Int +1, Per +1, Pre +2, Com +1

He's a big, voluable fellow who fills up space and leaves an impression. It's possible to purchase negative attributes, but the rulebook advises against taking any negatives for the first fours and no lower than -1 on the others. I decided to keep everything positive, even if that means not maxing anything out at +3. Tis is the equivalent of a lot of 12-15 scores in D&D 3E, which feels right. This costs 34 points so I have 26 left for skills

I put at least 1 into all the recommended skills (except Divine Awareness), as well as 2 into Demeanor (he knows how to best present himself, 1 into Carouse, and 3 into Mapmaking. That leaves 8 for weapon skills and being a sword and shield guy, I take Single-handed Weapons (which includes shield proficiency) at maximum +3 and Throwing Weapons at +1. 

Hit Points and Wound Threshold come from comparing attributes to a couple of tables and I come in middle of the road for a Viking adventurer. Last up is selecting equipment. I get some free gear for my Mapmaking and Traps skills, 3 common weapons, 1 common armor, and one common shield if I want it. As a Single Weapon fighter I don't have a ton of options for common weapons, but snag Viking Broadsword and Short spear, as well as a Throwing Axe if I need it. I add Studded Leather armor and a Round Shield and that brings my load to 5.5, out of a 6 maximum to be unencumbered at +1 STR. Perfect. 

Figuring out the combat stats for my attacks – which factor in attribute, skill, weapon, and armor for initiative, attack, defense and damage – takes a few minutes but it's the sort of logical implementation of the weapon speed and reach tables from AD&D that it makes you weep that it wasn't included there back in the day. And we're done! 

Does this seem a little minimalist? Yes, but RUNE is deliberate that all your special ability crunchy bits be purchased with victory points earned in play. These are gifts from the gods and they're not going to bestow them on just any horn helmed warrior. YOU MUST PROVE YOURSELF TO THE GODS! So things will get more complicated in play. 

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