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Friday, 10 February 2017

A RuneQuest Bestiary III

Originally published in 1978, RuneQuest Source Pack Gamma: Militia & Mercenaries was the third sourcebook published for the seminal RPG. In 2016, it was made available again as part of The Old School RQ Source Pack, funded by the Kickstarter campaign for RuneQuest: Classic Edition, the reprint of RuneQuest II. The other parts of The Old School RQ Source Pack include RuneQuest Scenario Pack 1: Balastor’s Barracks, RuneQuest Source Pack Alpha: Trolls and Trollkin, RuneQuest Source Pack Beta: Creatures of Chaos 1: Scorpion Men and Broos, and the previously unpublished Scenario Pack 3: The Sea Cave. Notably, Apple Lane: Two Beginning Scenarios - Gringle’s Pawnshop & The Rainbow Mounds (Scenario Pack 2) was not included as part of The Old School RQ Source Pack.

Just as RuneQuest Source Pack Alpha: Trolls and Trollkin and RuneQuest Source Pack Beta: Creatures of Chaos 1: Scorpion Men and Broos are by modern standards odd products, the same can be said of RuneQuest Source Pack Gamma: Militia & Mercenaries. All three are books of monsters, but not bestiaries in the traditional sense. Not one of the three is a Monster Manual, no collection of beasts, creatures, fiends, and more from a variety of environments and settings a la Dungeons & Dragons. Rather each is a collection of two types of monster particular to RuneQuest. Where RuneQuest Source Pack Alpha: Trolls and Trollkin focused on Dark Trolls and Trollkin and RuneQuest Source Pack Beta: Creatures of Chaos 1: Scorpion Men and Broos focused on Scorpion Men and Broos—all typically the foes of Man—RuneQuest Source Pack Gamma: Militia & Mercenaries differs in that it presents a book of stats of individuals that can be used as enemies, allies, or even player characters.

What RuneQuest Source Pack Gamma: Militia & Mercenaries contains are the stats of soldiers. These number some six officers, some seventy-nine soldiers—consisting of a mix of foot soldiers and foot archers, and some eleven warhorses. These are divided into seven companies. So the militia include Felton’s Loyal Farmers, whilst the mercenaries include the Thorns of Thalba-wak, Hygélac’s Hotshots and Foli’s Volleys (both all archers), Windyman’s Wonders, Roontin’s Reluctants, and Kozak’s Clans. Now none of these militiamen or mercenaries are particularly competent, most having skill ranges between 30% and 55%. Like RuneQuest Source Pack Alpha: Trolls and Trollkin and RuneQuest Source Pack Beta: Creatures of Chaos 1: Scorpion Men and Broos, this supplement is part “...of a series of pre-rolled monster books, each monster different, and each generated by computer to eliminate any conceivable bias.” Similarly, there is no backstory, no context, no characterisation. Just the stats. This reflects a number of facts. First, how much RuneQuest individualises its monsters and characters. Second, how basic a supplement RuneQuest Source Pack Gamma: Militia & Mercenaries actually is.

In fact, there is some context to these seven companies, but it amounts to no more than their names. These should spur the GM to create some background to the companies when bringing them into his game at the very least. When it comes using them, the eighty-five fighters on display can be used as NPCs or even player characters. They could even be used in teams perhaps to play through tough adventures like Balastor’s Barracks.

The previous entries in this series have both provided further support material for RuneQuest II in their back pages. RuneQuest Source Pack Alpha: Trolls and Trollkin provided a history of the Trolls, whilst RuneQuest Source Pack Beta: Creatures of Chaos 1: Scorpion Men and Broos gave ‘Geedunk Dungeon’. What RuneQuest Source Pack Gamma: Militia & Mercenaries provides is a number of new character sheets and a discussion of their design. These include a full new character sheet, plus sheets for major monsters, minor monsters, and identical monsters, plus a reference sheet for various elements of character generation and development. All are clear and easy to read, as well as of course, being serviceable.

Physically, RuneQuest Source Pack Gamma: Militia & Mercenaries is a product of its time. The dot matrix printing of the stats is slightly faint, so not necessarily the easiest of text to read. Elsewhere, the book is more than easy to read.

Of course, RuneQuest Source Pack Gamma: Militia & Mercenaries is a product of its time, much like the rest of The Old School RQ Source Pack. Yet RuneQuest Source Pack Gamma: Militia & Mercenaries is a product which the GM would really need to work at in order to get a lot of use from and of all the entries in The Old School RQ Source Pack it is the least interesting.