25 November 2009

The Future of Mongoose’s ‘Runequest,’ ‘Eternal Champion,’ and ‘Conan’ RPGs

Apparently Mongoose Games is now the biggest company that publishes RPGs exclusively (WotC publishes non-RPGs). My opinion of the company is not terribly positive. Their books, based on my admittedly rather limited exposure to them, often seem poorly constructed, poorly laid out, and poorly edited.

There are some exceptions. The Conan RPG, at least the ‘Atlantean edition,’ is a decent piece of work (it’s the only Mongoose book that I owned until my recent acquisition of the Elric of Melnibone corebook). Of course, the superior quality of the Atlantean edition was achieved only after Mongoose fixed all of the horrible editing problems with the first printing. Nonetheless, in terms of its presentation and description of the Hyborian world, Mongoose’s Conan RPG is second to none. It is only because I had wearied of the d20 system by the time that I purchased it that I never actually played it.

In contrast, while I was excited when I heard that Mongoose would be publishing a new version of RuneQuest (a game that I had played and enjoyed in the early-mid 1980s), I was so disappointed by the actual product when I perused it in a local games store that I passed on the line entirely. Only my recent interest in the Chaosium version of the Elric!/Stormbringer RPG led me to purchase the MRQ (Mongoose RuneQuest) version of Elric. The Mongoose book’s author, Lawrence Whitaker, gave me some extremely helpful on-line advice (he was involved in some of Chaosium’s products during the 1990s), and the magic system in the MRQ version sounded intriguing. I just received the book today. While the rules do look interesting (except for the use of ‘hit locations’ for the combat system – something that I find far too fiddly for my tastes), the text is lost in a wall of grey. *sigh*

Anyhow, every year the head of Mongoose, Matt Sprange, posts an ‘overview’ of the company’s progress over the previous year and its plans for the upcoming year. The ‘State of Mongoose 2009’ has just been posted here.

Some initial reactions:

RuneQuest II

RuneQuest is back, and is better than ever! …

I’m glad that I waited before checking out MRQ. I hope that MRQII includes an alternative to the ‘hit locations’ system for combat, but I doubt it. Still, I’m interested in checking out the core book.

Also, it seems that all of the core MRQII books will be bound in leather. Does this mean that non-leather versions will not be available? The post was not clear on that.

The Eternal Champion

With RuneQuest II, we have the opportunity to redress the Eternal Champion series too. The original Elric and Hawkmoon books are great examples of why we have taken a new approach with the whole RuneQuest line. Both were originally 160 page books, but 100-odd pages of each was taken up by the core rules!

By taking those core rules out (and adding more pages!), we can now bring you great volumes packed with Eternal Champion goodness. Elric and Corum will appear first (backed up with some suitably fiendish campaigns – Lawrence Whitaker has already staked his claim for the first Elric campaign!), but you will be seeing Hawkmoon and the fabled Multiverse sourcebook soon enough. … There are plans to heavily support the Eternal Champion series throughout 2010 and beyond, so if you are a fan of Michael Moorcock’s greatest works and find RuneQuest II to be an agreeable system, you are going to love what we are working on right now.

Given this news, I’m relieved that in my recent spending spree on all things Elric/Stormbringer that I didn’t pick up any of the Mongoose line (except for the core book). I’m not sure what I think about the plan to not include the relevant MRQII rules in the Elric and Corum corebooks. On the one hand, it’s nice to have everything essential in one book. On the other hand, if one already owns the core rules (MRQII corebook), paying for a slightly reworked version of those rules seems like a waste of money. Since I'll probably purchase both the Elric and Corum books eventually, I suppose that it's a good deal overall. Hmmm...

Hopefully the new ‘Eternal Champion’ line of products will still be compatible with the BRP version of Elric!/Stormbringer (5e), the fantasy system with which I’m presently quite enchanted.

In contrast, the future looks grim for Conan:


A disagreement between ourselves and the licence holders has resulted in Conan being suspended in limbo. It is a tricky position – we cannot produce more material for the game (sales of further OGL Conan supplements will simply not justify the work required), and we have been forbidden to move the sword-swinging barbarian to a new games system.

This is too bad, as I actually think that Mongoose did a decent job with the Conan, at least in terms of their treatment of the Hyboria setting (which can be used with other RPGs). It would have been very interesting to have seen a RuneQuest version of Conan produced. The system certainly would have been more appropriate than d20, in my opinion (at least a suitably modified version of the OOP edition of RuneQuest with which I am familiar – I assume that MRQII will be similar overall).

Another comment-worthy quote:

The last State of the Mongoose also stated that we were revising our editorial and proofreading procedures.

Um, yeah. After eight years it’s good that this is finally addressed. Good grief!


We also made a promise this year that we would only be printing books in the US – not China, not Thailand, not even Canada, but the good old US of A.

Huh? “…not even Canada”? WTF? What’s wrong with books printed in Canada?

Ruffled patriotic feathers aside, I’ll be interested to see Mr. Whitaker’s version of RuneQuest this year.


  1. Interesting update. Thanks! Its awesome that RQ is still around after all these years :)

  2. I think since he didn't say "especially not" it's less a slight at Canada's books than it is a "I really mean local book printing, not even in a country we touch". And you know, when the economy is weird people here in the US like to get all "Buy American" and stuff.

    You ever look at Iron Heroes? It's d20 and all that, but it struck me as a d20 system that could do a good version of a Conan style game.

    Oh. Is that Dunlace castle in your pic? It's been a couple of years since I was there, but it defiently reminds me of it.

  3. Hey anonynos, I did look briefly at Iron Heroes, but decided that it was a bit too 'rules heavy' for me. Also, I had read that the IH spellcaster class was poorly designed.

    And yeah, the picture is of Dunlace castle. Good call.

  4. It bothers me that most of your blogs slant is to cause drama rather than the whole truth.

    You said "Huh? …not even Canada”? WTF? What’s wrong with books printed in Canada?"

    Mongoose has its roots here in the states and also in Great Britain. With the economy as its been it does make sence to do what ever printing in either Great Britain or here in the states because their businesses are there.

    With whats been going on with the economy having any Rpg company doing well is a good thing.

  5. Thanks for your comment, Chris. But I believe that the person in charge of Mongoose's RuneQuest II line in fact lives and works in Ontario, so Mongoose has a base in Canada as well.

    In any case, Mongoose, like any other RPG company, depends on support from people in many different countries. So, really, Mongoose's 'business' is international. It doesn't exist in an autarky. Economic nationalism is silly.

  6. > What’s wrong with books printed in Canada?

    What's wrong with books printed in China or Thailand, eh? Economic nationalism is silly, indeed.

    Don't know much about RQ, what makes it a better fit for Conan? Grittier/Deadlier? I really liked Mongoose d20 Conan. So much so, I used many of it's rules in my 3.5 game.

  7. "Don't know much about RQ, what makes it a better fit for Conan? Grittier/Deadlier?"

    Yeah, that's definitely part of it. Also, the absence of classes, levels, and increasing hit points. Conan acquires many different skills over his lifetime, and a skill-based system is better at simulating that than a class-based system. (He adds 50 to his climbing and stealth skills when a thief in Zingara; adds 40 to his navigate, pilot, and command skills when a pirate captain; etc.)

  8. By the way, Matt Sprange apologized for the wording of his "not even Canada" comment, so I'm happy to forget the entire matter.

  9. The only Mongoose book I own is the Traveller Core Rules Book, but I must say that I really love it. I do recall some minor editorial problems in the book here and there, but they didn't diminish my enjoyment of the product. I am sorry to here they don't do so well with some of their other products, because I feel like the Traveller book is very nearly perfect.


    Jeff Moore


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