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Collecting Runequest

I’m a Runequest collector, and I’m proud of it. One of the fun things about collecting Runequest is that many of the products are so hard to get hold of that when you do find one for sale, you get really excited. Most other roleplaying games and supplements are easy enough to find for sale if you’re just willing to spend the money, but people who own Runequest products aren’t often willing to sell them. Chaosium was always a smaller company, and I get the impression that none of the products they’ve ever published had a high print run, either.

At one time, Runequest was THE competitor to Dungeons and Dragons. A version of Runequest is available via Mongoose Publishing, and it’s set during the Second Age of Glorantha, but it’s a pale ghost of the glory that was Chaosium’s version of Runequest back in the 1980’s.


Before Runequest

Runequest is a roleplaying game that’s set in Greg Stafford’s mythical world of Glorantha. Before Runequest though was a 1975 boardgame called White Bear and Red Moon. It was later republished as a game called Dragon Pass by Avalon Hill. The Chaosium edition of White Bear and Red Moon is very rare. You can expect to pay $500 or more for a copy of it in good condition.

Dragon Pass is a lot easier to find for sale, but in almost every respect, it was inferior to the original White Bear and Red Moon. The rules were harder to follow, and the artwork wasn’t as good.

The 1977 Glorantha boardgame Nomad Gods is as rare, if not rarer, than White Bear and Red Moon. Unlike White Bear and Red Moon, Nomad Gods didn’t have a reprint edition.

White Bear and Red Moon is a war game that concerns the Lunar Empire and the Sartar Kingdom coming into conflict in Dragon Pass. Nomad Gods, on the other hand, explores life in the ruined waste of Prax, where strange barbarians ride even stranger beasts. Prax went on to become one of the main settings for Runequest.

Runequest Rules

The first edition of Runequest was co-written by Greg Stafford and Steve Perrin and was published in 1978.

The second edition of the Runequest rules came out in various packaging. One was a boxed set released in 1980 that included three books–the Runequest rulebook, the Basic Roleplaying booklet, and Apple Lane, which consisted of a couple of beginner adventures for Runequest characters.

The more common editions of the rules were the stapled softcover printings. One of these had a monochromatic cover. (I think this might be the first edition.) Another had the same cover art, but with color added. And a third, rarer version of the rules was published in hardcover.

Any of these original Runequest rules editions are rare, collectible, and expensive. Finding a copy for sale in good condition is almost impossible. The lowest price I’ve seen on any of these editions was $40.

Runequest Supplements

The only thing that’s rarer and more collectible than the actual Runequest rules are the supplements that were released for the game. Here’s a look at some of them from the 1980’s that are particularly collectible:

Balastor’s Barracks

Balastor’s Barracks was more of a traditional Dungeons and Dragons style adventure than anything else, but it did have hints of things to come for Runequest and Glorantha. Balastor was a hero who helped fight the troll invasion of the city of Pavis years ago. The characters journey into the ruins of his barracks to try to reclaim his axe, which is a powerful magic weapon.

Multiple authors are listed on the cover of this adventure, but Steve Perrin is known for running a campaign set in Pavis and the Big Rubble at the time (which is where Balastor’s Barracks is set), so it’s safe to assume that he wrote the bulk of the adventure.

The production value of this adventure was poor, even for that time period. It was also a fragile book. I seem to remember that it sold for about $4 new at the time. It was only 24 pages long. I was able to find a copy in excellent condition at Noble Knight Games for $125.

Apple Lane

Apple Lane consists of two adventures and a town in the Kingdom of Sartar in Dragon Pass. This one was 48 pages, and the production values were slightly improved over Balastor’s Barracks. This one’s a little easier to find, and you can probably buy a copy for $20 or $25. Greg Stafford was the author of Apple Lane.

Apple Lane was eventually re-released for the Runequest 3 line from Avalon Hill, but that edition doesn’t hold the same fondness for collectors that the earlier edition does.

Snakepipe Hollow

Snakepipe Hollow was the first Runequest adventure I ever played in. It concerns a chaos nest and a bunch of caves in the northern part of Dragon Pass. The scenarios were written by Greg Stafford and Rudy Kraft.

Multiple editions of Snakepipe Hollow were produced. The most valuable is the original edition, which features an entire party of adventurers facing off against some of the creatures in the caves. The next edition featured a beautiful drawing of a walktapus on the cover.

Like Apple Lane, Snakepipe Hollow eventually got a Runequest 3 edition, too. The cover art on that edition features a broo.

The Soloquest Series of Adventures from Allan Lavergne

In 1982, Chaosium published three sets of solo adventures for Runequest, all of which were written by Allan Lavergne.

The first of these books was titled Soloquest, and it contained three solo adventures: “Dreamquest,” “Phoney Stones,” and “Maguffin Hunt.”

Scorpion Hall was the second book in this series, and it featured a very difficult adventure in a mansion full of scorpionmen.

The Snow King’s Bride was an entertaining solo adventure in which the character escorts Brunhild to her husband-to-be. Along the way he faces mountains, demons, and monsters. And Brunhild herself turns out to be a handful, also.

More Collectible Runequest Products

Chaosium published a series of books that included nothing but stats for various nonplayer characters. Some of these had poor production values, but later supplements had better production values. The earliest of these were:

  • Trolls and Trollkin, which featured stats for various troll opponents.
  • Creatures of Chaos: Scorpion Men and Broos, which featured stats for more opponents.
  • Militia and Mercenaries, which featured stats for various soldier NPCs.

These three supplements ran about 20 pages each and were written by Ray Turney. All of them are extremely desirable to the Runequest collector.

Foes was a later collection of NPCs of various races. The book consisted of nothing but writeups of characters for the heroes to fight, but since Runequest monsters required a little more detail than Dungeons or Dragons monsters, this was a pretty handy book.

Runemasters was another collection of NPCs, but not all of these were intended to be enemies. Each of the cults in Cults of Prax was represented by a Runelord, a Runepriest, and a Rune Lord/Priest of that religion, so there were a total of 45 characters featured in this book.

Both of the Cults books for Runequest are collectible. Cults of Prax was released in two different editions with two different covers. A dedicated collector will want a copy of each edition. Cults of Terror is rarer and more expensive, but it only came with one cover.

Plunder was a book you could use to randomly decide on some treasure to give a part who had defeated some bad guys. But it also included a collection of magic items in the back of the book, all of which had a distinctive Gloranthan feel to them.

Gateway Bestiary was a 1980 supplement with information about other monsters you could fight in Runequest, most of which were drawn from mythological traditions other than Glorantha. This one is Sandy Petersen’s first published roleplaying work, and it features several creatures from the Cthulhu Mythos.

Griffin Mountain was an extensive campaign set in the wilderness of Balazar. It featured 202 pages of maps, adventure seeds, and NPCs, which, for the time, made it one of the biggest roleplaying supplements around. Griffin Mountain was published in 1981, but a later edition for Runequest 3 was eventually published too. That edition was called Griffin Island, and it lacked much of the flavor of the original book.

Runequest Boxed Sets

The boxed sets of adventures are some of the hardest to find and most sought after collectibles from this era of roleplaying. You’ll rarely find them available on eBay, but when you do, you can expect to pay dearly for any of them. Finding them in good condition is tricky, too.

Most of these boxed sets featured a series of adventures in them. These boxed sets included:

  • Borderlands – This was a series of seven adventures intended for a beginning group of adventurers. In Borderlands, the characters become mercenaries in the employ of Duke Raus, a Lunar nobleman who has been banished to Prax.
  • Trollpak – Trollpak was a lot more than just a series of adventures, although it did include several scenarios. At the time, it was the most detailed attempt at creating another race in RPG history.
  • Questworld – Questworld is actually one of the less sought after boxed sets from Chaosium at the time. It features a series of adventures set in places other than Glorantha.
  • Pavis: Threshold to Danger – Pavis was an entire city for Runeuqest, located on the River of Cradles in Prax. Pavis is also located on the ruins of an older city, the original Pavis, which is now called The Big Rubble. The adventures in this box take place in the city though.
  • The Big Rubble – The Big Rubble included a revision of Balastor’s Barracks as well as several other adventures set in the ruins of Old Pavis.

Avalon Hill Runequest

Avalon Hill bought the rights to distribute a new version of Runequest in 1984. This new version of Runequest was not initially tied to the Gloranthan setting, and it’s a kind thing to say that the new rules inspired mixed feelings among fans of the game.

Dorastor for Runequest

During the mid and late 1980’s, the new Runequest line faltered, although some of the products from those days are now collectible too. In the early 1990’s, Avalon Hill started producing more original content for the Glorantha setting, and some of these new products were excellent. Examples of these include Dorastor, Strangers in Prax, and Shadows on the Borderland.

Runequest from Other Publishers

Several magazines supported Runequest and Glorantha through the years. Different Worlds and Wyrm’s Footnotes were both published by Chaosium, and both supported Runequest.

Other Runequest/Glorantha magazines from independent publishers include Tradetalk, RQ Adventures, and Tales of the Reaching Moon. All of these magazines had very limited print runs, so they’re hard to find and expensive when you can find them.

Judges Guild also produce a series of adventures for Runequest, which included titles like The Hellpits of Nightfang, Duck Tower, and The City of Lei Tabor.

Mongoose Runequest

Eventually, after being out of print for several years, Runequest fell into the hands of the Mongoose RPG publishing company. We have plans to eventually cover their line of Runequest products too, but none of their products are as collectible or as desirable as the earlier Chaosium or Avalon Hill products.

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One comments on “Collecting Runequest”

  1. Rick Meints says:

    Nice article. I’m also a RuneQuest collector, and am happy to report that many of the “hard-to-find” original RuneQuest related items are being reprinted by Chaosium. As a result, the prices of the original printings of these RQ products from the 1978-1983 era have leveled off or been dropping. Almost all of the RQ2 era products will be reprinted, faithful to the originals.

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