27 February 2016

Chaosium explains its decision regarding RuneQuest

Since I previously criticized Chaosium (under the new leadership of the gentlemen from Moon Design) for their decision to abandon RuneQuest 6, and to produce yet another version of RuneQuest (the fourth within a decade!), one embedded within Glorantha, it seems only fair that I should link to their official explanation for that decision.

I don’t have much to say about the rules-related reasons offered. Since I think that combat special effects are the best thing about RQ6’s combat system, and I have no interest in Glorantha, this forthcoming version obviously is of no interest to me. And even though my earlier post was strangely interpreted to be a comment on Chaosium’s financial condition (even though I said nothing about that in the post itself), a new Glorantha-based, 2nd edition-compatible RuneQuest may very well be a grand success for Chaosium. After all, there seems to be a healthy number of fans of Glorantha with deep pockets out there. I hope that those folks are happy with the new version of RuneQuest.

That said, there are some puzzling things about Jeff Richards’s explanation of Chaosium’s decision. He writes, “we had imagined that the new RQ would be a streamlined RQ6,” but that, in part because “RQ Classic was a smashing success,” they decided that “the new rules had to be backwards compatible to RQ2.” 

This suggests that the decision not to proceed with RQ6, at least in part, was motivated by the outcome of the RQ Classic Kickstarter. Yet the decision to not use RQ6 came well before the Kickstarter. I knew this already (as a semi-regular RQ6 play-tester with Loz’s group in Toronto). But MOB publicly stated this in a recent post at RPGnet:
We actually formed the design team last year directly after Gen Con and we first met in person (including Ken, Sandy, Jason and Chris) in late September. It's only Steve who is a recent addition, and we're delighted to have him on board!
 MOB
VP - Chaosium
So “directly after Gen Con” (August 2015) the new design team for the new RQ was formed.* Yet somehow, according to Richards, “The RuneQuest Classic Kickstarter resolved the question” – despite the fact that that Kickstarter did not happen until many months after Gen Con. 

Hmmm...

While Chaosium’s decision not to use RQ6 obviously was disappointing to fans of that system, what many found especially annoying (including myself) was how Chaosium miscommunicated this decision. As late as December 3rd – long after the decision to not use RQ6 had been made (as MOB’s post indicates), Chaosium’s Rick Meints publicly stated the following:
The RQ6 "Glorantha" project is progressing. We have it as a 2016 release, most likely later in the year. Lots of writing and editing is underway.
What could have motivated Meints to post such a misleading statement? Even if Chaosium did not want to make public their decision at that time, surely some other, less misleading statement could have been made. (And of course the decision did become public very shortly afterwards.)

To summarize: 
(a) Chaosium’s ‘official explanation’ for their decision not to use RQ6 suggests that that decision was made, at least in part, because of the success of the RQ Classic Kickstarter -- yet the decision not to use RQ6 was made months before the Kickstarter. 
(b) Chaosium unnecessarily put off announcing their decision -- and in fact made public statements that suggested that they were continuing with RQ6, long after they in fact had decided not to proceed with RQ6. 

Perhaps I've misinterpreted Chaosium's public statements, or there is a straightforward explanation for the prima facie contradictions of those statements?

[Finally, I should note that I stated in my comment on December 14: "I don’t intend to post anything more about Chaosium’s new direction for RuneQuest here (unless something especially newsworthy occurs)." I took Chaosium's recent statement to be "newsworthy," hence this post. Barring any further developments on this matter, though, I do not anticipate writing more about the new RQ here.]

* UPDATE (2016-03-01): MOB informs me that the team that formed directly after Gen Con included Loz and Pete (the Design Mechanism). I had assumed that they were not part of the team, as they were not mentioned in MOB's post. I thank MOB for the clarification. 

20 comments:

  1. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: in 5 years the Design Mechanism will still be supporting their renamed RQ6 and this version of Chaosium will be gone.

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    1. I certainly agree with you about RQ6/Mythras! But I have no idea about RQ7. There may be enough Glorantha fans to support it. I just don't know.

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    2. I think you are incorrect. Chaosium's bread and butter is Cthulhu, which is hot right now. If they can get out from under the debt of the two screwed up kickstarters and capitalize on that they'll be around for a while, even if they never sold another Runequest book.

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    3. Canageek, I read Mark as referring to Chaosium's version of RQ, not the company itself. But if he meant Chaosium the company, I agree with you. CoC very likely will keep them afloat, irrespective of the success or failure of RQ7.

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  2. I fear they've misinterpreted the success of the RQ Kickstarter as an indicator by fans of the direction they needed to go. I supported the Kickstarter because I enjoyed the old Chaosium RQ2 and my original copy is falling apart. I supported the Kickstarter for nostalgia and archival purposes. Not because that is a direction I wanted to see the product go. If I'd understood that by supporting the Kickstarter I was encouraging them to make an unwise decision on the future of RQ I would not have supported it.

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    1. I agree that interpreting the RQ2 Kickstarter in this way is really, really strange.
      (My copy of RQ2 is still in pretty good shape, and I dislike kickstarters in general, so I passed on this one.)

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  3. I think the whole Runequest = Glorantha is a big mistake. I love the RQ game system in most of its iterations and admire Glorantha as a splendid example of creative worldbuilding. But I've got no desire to run games in that setting. That's not a poor reflection on Glorantha as a setting - I backed both the Guide to Glorantha and the RQ 2 kickstarters - but it's a reflection of the fact that I'm more interested in crafting my own settings and having a game system so tightly integrated with a particular setting renders it useless to me. Mongoose did a lot of things wrong when they held the licence, but at least they did try to broaden the appeal of the system beyond hardcore Glorantha fans. RQ6/Mythras is probably going to remain the superior system for my own needs - the only disappointment is that it isn't released under the OGL like MRQ / Legend, but that's a philosophical concern rather than a practical one. As for CoC, it's interesting that the new edition of Delta Green looks like it might be a better 7th Edition than the one released by Chaosium. Interesting times ahead, I suspect. It seems to be the curse of the various d100 games - whenever they start to gain start to gain traction in the market, they fragment into a dozen variants....

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    1. I have no problem with CoC 7e (I ran it six times last year). But I don't think it is any better than 6e overall (it improves a couple of things, but introduces some unhelpful things as well).

      I'm looking forward to checking out Delta Green. I missed it entirely during the 1990s. I wonder if it'll be better for modern games than the Laundry RPG (which I quite like, but have yet to play).

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    2. CoC 7e is OK, but some of the changes don't seem to be well thought out. By contrast, the Delta Green is built on an engine similar to CoC 6e but with some genuine innovations - for example, the rules for bonds are a neat way to simulate the decay of close personal relationships with SAN loss.

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    3. Yeah, what little I've read about the new DG sounds very good. Looking forward to it!

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    4. @Akrasia: What things do you think CoC7 "introduces some unhelpful things as well"? I'd be interested to know since I haven't gotten the 7e rulebbok (becaus it's not out yet and I didn't participate in the KS). All reviews of the 7e rulebook is interesting for me. Thanks in advance. /Erik.

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    5. @dracopticon: I discuss some of the new features of CoC7 in this review of the quick start rules:
      http://akraticwizardry.blogspot.com/2014/12/trying-out-call-of-cthulhu-seventh.html
      I guess that the new rules, e.g. 'pushing', are okay (and easily ignorable if they're not your thing). I just think that CoC works best with as few fiddly bits as possible.

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  4. I don't think that Chaosium's comments are as contradictory as you imply. It's not uncommon for a company to spawn two different yet related projects and choose to focus on one instead of the other once they see where the wind is blowing.

    Maybe Chaosium was actively developing both an RQ6 and and RQ2 based RQ7, and chose to fully adopt the RQ2 based RQ7 after they saw how successful the Kickstarter was.

    Just a thought. If nothing else, that's what I'd like to believe happened. :)

    (And FWIW, I'm exceedingly excited about an RQ2 based RQ7, because I like RQ2 more than I like RQ6. I'm not a Glorantha fan, but when has a setting stopped ANY gamer worth his or her salt from using a system they like?)

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    1. Regarding: "Maybe Chaosium was actively developing both an RQ6 and and RQ2 based RQ7, and chose to fully adopt the RQ2 based RQ7 after they saw how successful the Kickstarter was."

      I think that the post by Jeff Richards (to which I linked) makes it clear that that was never the plan.

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    2. That said, I'm sure that there are other RQ2 fans who are pleased with this development. Fair enough!

      (I liked RQ2 back in the day, but preferred Hawkmoon/Stormbringer.)

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    3. For what it is worth, we initially were pursuing an RQ6/RQ2 based new RQ and starting doing preliminary work on that after GenCon. But at a certain point it became clear that the hybrid wasn't really working (at least for me - and as the CD I've got to be happy with the artistic direction things are going). And each revision took it closer towards being built off RQ2 (with revisions and rules changes from Arcane Lords, the Dragon Pass Campaign, and so on, some of which made it into RQ3 and some which didn't) and further away from RQ6. But the final decision on that wasn't made until considerably later.
      \

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    4. Thanks for that explanation, Jeff.

      Personally, I don't see what was wrong with simply sticking with RQ6 and publishing 'Adventures in Glorantha' for it (and additional Glorantha supplements as well). Or doing something like what was done with 13th Age. Even if I were a Glorantha fan, I doubt that I would want yet another version of RQ.

      But I appreciate your perspective on what happened. Thanks.

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  5. AW: So “directly after Gen Con” (August 2015) the new design team for the new RQ was formed.

    No, I didn't say that a "new design team" was formed directly after Gen Con, I just said "the design team" was. Including the TDM guys.

    Cheers,

    MOB

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    1. Thanks for the clarification. Since Loz and Pete were not among the names mentioned in the post, I had assumed that they were not part of the team in question, including the team that met in person in September.

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    2. I've added a note at the bottom of the post that mentions your clarification, MOB. Thanks again.

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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who divides his time between Milwaukee and Toronto.