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 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:
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.