Kickstarting a port of Glorantha to the D20 system


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I always preferred Runequest’s rules to D&D, myself.


I’ve never met anyone for whom “Is it a D20 system?” is the breaking point for being willing to try out a game or not. And most systems with decent mechanics haven’t really benefited from the transition. So much as I enjoy many parts of Glorantha, I don’t see much of a reason to support this.

I certainly hope it works out for them, though, and the game experiences a resurgence, but I honestly just want them to make more video games (Dragon Pass, whoo!), which were much better than their P&P system!

Yeah – it pioneered Chaosium’s Basic Roleplaying System rules, which power Call of Cthulhu to this day, so it isn’t all that obscure.


Unless they do a full campaign setting using D&D it won’t attract any more of an audience than it does now. The problem is not that d20 is popular and well understood, it’s that practically no one getting into the hobby reaches for anything but D&D and a lot of the D&D players will stay with the D&D they invested in.

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MWAAAAHHH! To hell with another Glorantha RPG, I want my copy of Masters of Luck and Death.

For those who don’t get this:

Glorantha was a fantasy world setting for Chaosium’s Runequest system. Runequest was designed by people who had significant experience in real-world physical combat, mostly in the Society For Creative Anachronism (which is a medieval-themed stick-fighting group) but also in various other martial arts. Their combat system was specifically designed to address the shortcomings of the exceptionally silly D&D combat system - it more accurately portrays real armored combat, and it has a simpler system of determining damage based on percentiles. The Runequest system makes it harder to perform the one-time task of generating a character and easier to do the infinitely repeated task of playing the character.

Runequest uses a pair of 10 or 20 sided dice, but if you use D20 you only read the second digit (so they act as D10s). This allows a percentage system, which in turn allows the gamemaster/dungeonmaster to instantly resolve unexpected player actions without resort to tables and charts. For example, a player decides to do something that the GM did not anticipate during the scenario build - the GM decides this has a 35% chance of succeeding, rather than “railroading” the player into a preset scenario choice, and the player rolls two D10. If the numbers come up 3-4, the player has succeeded, and the scenario has become a collaborative art; if the numbers come up 6-9, the player fails, with whatever consequences failure entails.

The system’s not perfect, and I’ve skipped over damage assignment which is location based (similar to the earliest Dan Arneson D&D combat systems) and can use other types of dice. But porting Glorantha to a D&D combat system would be like refitting your car to burn whale oil.


I’m kinda indifferent to F20 games myself, but 13th Age puts a pretty excellent twist on the rules set, perfect for anyone who’s looking for a more freeform, story and character focused experience than 3.5 or 4th edition D&D provides. I’ve got two of the books that are out so far–13th Age and 13 True Ways–and they’re both gorgeous books full of novel ideas delivered by experienced game designers with great insight and a sense of humor. I’ve never really been into Glorantha, although I do have some experience with Chaosium’s BRP via Call of Cthulhu, but I may buy a copy once it’s published. I’m excited to see what Tweet and Heinsoo do with such an interesting setting.

Well… my first thought was why?

but my second thought is that Glorantha doesn’t make much sense, because sense would enable god-learning, and D20 doesn’t make much sense, because of all the special cases, so maybe they would go well together.

I do get it, but I don’t agree with

I started playing tabletop RPGs in 1975, and I’ve looked at owned and played a lot† of different rules sets over the years. They all handled combat differently, they all handled non-combat challenges differently, but that was not the most important difference between them.

If a GM “railroads” a player into a preset scenario choice, that’s not because the rules demand it, rather it’s because the GM lacks the imagination to go off script. The power to assign a probability and let the dice fall where they may is not granted by a rules set, but by the role of being the GM.

Glorantha is a place, it’s a setting, it’s a world. It imparts a particular flavor to the roleplay, gives a whole new set of implicit assumptions.

If all of one’s tabletop RPG defaults to Northwestern European High Fantasy, then the mechanics underpinning the play are immaterial, because all of the campaigns are going to seem pretty much alike eventually.

And likewise, if every campaign begins in a new world, then the only thing that’s important about the mechanics is that the players have some familiarity with them.

YMMV, but porting Glorantha to d20 opens a rich, vibrant, exciting world to a whole new generation of gamers. That’s important, because there is a shocking amount of gray hair on the heads of the people sitting around my gaming table these days :wink:

† Dungeons & Dragons, Tunnels & Trolls, Chivalry & Sorcery, En Garde, Empire of the Petal Throne, Bunnies & Burrows, Runequest, Metamorphosis Alpha, Champions, GURPS, Traveller, Paranoia, and many others.


My first question was: Why D20 System?

Unless they tweak A LOT the system it is going to be clusterfuck, like many other adaptations. D20 works fine for Dungeons & Dragons style games, no narrative heavy or simulacionist ones. In fact, using the D20 system changes the way the game itself is approached.

As an example I would say “Call of Cthulhu d20”.

Also: Why D20?? The new fifth edition rules of D&d looks WAY better fitted for that! :worried:

Wow, you actually played Empire of the Petal Throne? Kudos! I’ve never met anyone who could legitimately make that claim before, although I probably know a dozen folks that have read the whole thing. That was some seriously detailed work.

We’ll have to disagree on the importance of game mechanics, though. I think it’s fundamentally easier to go off-script with a system like Chaosium’s, that was designed to map readily to well understood shared paradigms like “you have a 50% chance of succeeding” and “if you are weighed down with armor you are easier to hit” and “luck can beat skill but usually doesn’t”. The combat systems of D&D strongly interfered with my enjoyment of the game because they were both excessively table-driven and because they did not in any way jibe with my knowledge of real-world use of weapons and armor. The whole “levels and classes” thing was ridiculous.

All that being said, my knowledge of the state of D&D is hopelessly out of date. I would be happy to hear that D&D had evolved into something less divorced from imaginability. But most often when I hear people defending the D&D rules it’s because they aren’t actually following them - they are redoing something more akin to Paranoia, where the DM’s imagination is the rulebook.


Well, no. It is helpful if the mechanics are already familiar, but it is just as helpful if the mechanics are easy to learn, especially if one of the players hasn’t played d20. It is also helpful if the mechanics either fit the setting or are free-form enough to fit the setting.

Now d20 was designed around Dungeons & Dragons and Dungeons & Dragons was designed around certain styles of fantasy and around certain types of characters. So d20 has to be redesigned to work with different styles of fantasy and with different types of characters. Now given the proliferation of special rules for different classes in some versions of d20, I don’t see why learning one relatively consistent system like Basic Roleplaying is going to be any harder than learning all the special rules for new classes in d20. And I don’t think you could represent Glorantha accurately using the traditional classes from d20.

Now I don’t have the recent Runequest rules. I do have the current Basic Roleplaying rules, and the character creation section is full of optional rules with incompatible results, and the character examples provided are impossible under the point-buy attribute system and implausibly overpowered under the die-roll attribute system. I think the best thing for new players would be a clear version of the character creation rules, explaining which options they would use, and why, and which options they would avoid, (For example, if characters are already experienced, I would give them extra professional skill points, but not extra attribute points; if characters are superheros, I could do the reverse), and a wide variety of playable character examples, all consistent with the chosen character creation rules, (And probably balanced using the point-buy attribute system).

It’s a bit like finding someone who actually in any real sense played Living Steel (now there was a top-heavy combat system. Never has shooting someone with a gauss rifle been so slow).


BRP/the RuneQuest system had it’s own issues - I recall a player who would be near encumbered with different weapons, and pull them out in turn until a hit was scored - so experience checks could be made on all of them as frequently as possible. Of course, a smart GM would just put a stop to it, but I was young and liked adhering to the rules as written.

My main concern would be for the magic systems - one area where RQ and it’s rules seemed to go together especially well was that the different magic styles played significantly differently. It makes me worried that with the d20 rules, either the differences would be somewhat lost as they were wedged in to fit the one system, or that you’d end up with one well flushed out (d20) system, and two poor seconds grafted on.

13th Age in Glorantha is an adaptation of the 13th Age rules (a D20 rules system by Jonathan Tweet and Rob Heinsoo) specifically for Glorantha. It has unique classes like Wind Lord and Earth Queen, as well as class variants for Sword, Storm Bull Berserk, Axe Maiden, Death Lord, etc. Trolls and ducks are playable species. If you are interested in more information, check out

If d20 systems are not your thing, you can also always check out HeroQuest 2nd edition (used for the Sartar, Sartar Companion, and Pavis books). A new Glorantha-specific edition will be coming out once we finish the final layout. HeroQuest is a rules light system that models stories and myths rather than tactical combat. Again, if you are interested in more information check out


I have actually seen this done in real life. Hrothgar had all these different weapons affixed to the back of his shield and clipped to his belt - I think he carried a morningstar, a short sword, a long sword, a mace, and a short axe. Maybe only the one sword. Totally not kidding! Let me see if I can find his picture on line… nah, too long ago, this was before internets and digital cameras, like 1975 or so.

(Not trying to say RQ rules didn’t have any issues, just fondly remembering my youth.)

Hrothgar was unusually strong, fast, and very skilled, and I think he had those spring-loaded clips you use to hold brooms and shovels in your garage screwed into the back of his shield. If you hit his shield really hard a weapon or two would fall out, which was amusing. We made pinata jokes.

After a duel with him the ground would be littered with weapons, since he’d typically take one strike with each until he worked his way up to the mace. He had something of a blitzkrieg style.


This is a bit misleading, because when people hear D20 System they think more recent editions of Dungeons and Dragons. 13th Age, while created by the designers of some of D&D’s recent editions and still built on the D20 framework, has many differences from the usual D20 mold including narrativist portions baked into the system itself. I’m not too familiar with the RuneQuest or HeroQuest, but even if you’re averse to d20 13th Age is an excellent game to look into.

Frankly I’m looking forward to this mostly as additional 13th Age material. It doesn’t carry brand recognition that D&D has behind it so I doubt this will actually do much to get Glorantha further into the public eye, but it’s a product that fans should look into.


Welcome to the BoingBoing forums :smile:

Are you part of the development team for the Kickstarter?