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Saturday, 4 February 2017

A RuneQuest Bestiary I

Originally published in 1978, RuneQuest Source Pack Alpha: Trolls and Trollkin was the first sourcebook published for the seminal RPG. In 2016, it was made available again as part of The Old School RQ Source Pack, funded by the Kickstarter campaign for RuneQuest: Classic Edition, the reprint of RuneQuest II. The other parts of The Old School RQ Source Pack include RuneQuest Scenario Pack 1: Balastor’s Barracks, Creatures of Chaos 1: Scorpion Men and Broos, Militia & Mercenaries, and the previously unpublished Scenario Pack 3: The Sea Cave. Notably, Apple Lane: Two Beginning Scenarios - Gringle’s Pawnshop & The Rainbow Mounds (Scenario Pack 2) was not included as part of The Old School RQ Source Pack.

Now by modern standards, RuneQuest Source Pack Alpha: Trolls and Trollkin is an odd product. It is a book of monsters, but not a bestiary in the traditional sense. It is no Monster Manual, no collection of beasts, creatures, fiends, and more from a variety of environments and settings a la Dungeons & Dragons. Rather is a collection of two types of monster particular to RuneQuest—Dark Trolls and Trollkin. The book contains the stats for some forty-two Dark Trolls and one-hundred-and-twenty-six Trollkin—the brains and the runts of the Troll species. No backstory, no context, no characterisation. Just the stats. This reflects a number of facts. First, how much RuneQuest individualises its monsters. Second, how the stunty Trollkin would die in droves. Third, how basic a supplement RuneQuest Source Pack Alpha: Trolls and Trollkin actually is.

What Trolls and Trollkin describes itself is as “...the first of a series of pre-rolled monster books, each monster different, and each generated by computer to eliminate any conceivable bias.” The end product certainly looks like it and as it was printed out by a computer printer from the 1970s. This gives the text a slightly faded look, but the content is neatly and clearly laid out and organised, each entry being numbered and complete with stats, weapon skills, spells, other skills, armour, and of course, Hit Points. Any further personalisation and individualisation will need to be done by the GM.

Where RuneQuest Source Pack Alpha: Trolls and Trollkin actually is interesting is in the essay, ‘History of the Race of Trolls’. Written by Greg Stafford this tells how the trolls came to be created and how they were forced to leave the Darkness to live in the shadows of the surface world where they would eventually be cursed and began to decline as a race. Although this does not delve into the particulars of Troll society or life, it does at least provide some context towards using the Dark Trolls and Trollkin listed in the rest of the book.

RuneQuest Source Pack Alpha: Trolls and Trollkin is very much a period piece. It is of its time and was no doubt a useful resource in the 1970s.