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Friday 30 December 2022

1982: SoloQuest

1974 is an important year for the gaming hobby. It is the year that Dungeons & Dragons was introduced, the original RPG from which all other RPGs would ultimately be derived and the original RPG from which so many computer games would draw for their inspiration. It is fitting that the current owner of the game, Wizards of the Coast, released the new version, Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition, in the year of the game’s fortieth anniversary. To celebrate this, Reviews from R’lyeh will be running a series of reviews from the hobby’s anniversary years, thus there will be reviews from 1974, from 1984, from 1994, and from 2004—the thirtieth, twentieth, and tenth anniversaries of the titles. These will be retrospectives, in each case an opportunity to re-appraise interesting titles and true classics decades on from the year of their original release.


SoloQuest was published in 1982. It is an anthology of solo adventures published by Chaosium, Inc. for use with RuneQuest II, a roleplaying game not really known for its solo adventures, unlike, for example, Tunnels & Trolls. However, 1982 marked the beginning of a solo adventure trend with the publication of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, the first Fighting Fantasy adventure which would introduce roleplaying and solo adventures to a wider audience outside of the hobby.

SoloQuest presents three mini quests of varying complexity and storylines, but all playable in a single session or so. They are best suited to a Player Character who can fight, knows a degree of magic, and who also has a few decent non-combat skills. A Player Character with a weapon skill of 60% or more and the Healing and Protection spells, plus some Detect spells—which for RuneQuest II would have been Battle magic—will be challenged by these scenarios, but not overly challenged.

SoloQuest—now part of the SoloQuest Classic Collection—is written by Alan LaVergne, who also designed its sequels, SoloQuest 2: Scorpion Hall and SoloQuest 3: The Snow King’s Bride, and who also had been a member of Steve Perrin’s Pavis campaign. It contains three scenarios, ‘DreamQuest’, ‘Phony Stones’, and ‘Maguffin Hunt’. The first of these is ‘DreamQuest’ in which the Player Character’s god sends him off on a mini-heroquest to face four random opponents before an encounter with a foe that is definitely his equal. This is not an adventure for Rune Masters, but someone aspiring to that position, and success means that the Player Character is well rewarded. There is greater chance of skill improvement and raising the Player Character’s POW, and if successful on the first attempt, gaining favour with both god and cult such that an extra bonus is granted to becoming a Rune Master and learning a cult Rune spell. The fights themselves are to the death, but the Player Character is not physically harmed when he awakens since the combats take place in his dreams. For the same reason, any Chalana Arroy initiate on this ‘DreamQuest’ is not only allowed to participate, but also attack his opponents—although putting to sleep counts as a victory! The rules for adjusting to each fight are quite detailed, but essentially, the Player Character begins each fight alone, weapon in hand, and ready to assess the opponent. The set-up also suggests that the player keep a detailed record of the fights to track spell effects and the like, and avoid any confusion.

Where ‘DreamQuest’ shines is in its range of NPCs and combatants—all twenty of them! Infamously, they include Errol, a swashbuckling Manticore; Lucky the Human athlete against whom the Player Character must run an assault course; ‘Huey & Looie’, a pair of Death Ducks; and Elvis, a Centaur armed with bow and lance. All come with not just the full stats, but also their reaction to the Player Character and a detailed breakdown of their actions over the course of the melee. ‘DreamQuest’ is primarily an exercise in mechanics and working out how the combat rules of RuneQuest II work, one that can be both replayed by a Player Characters and played by different Player Characters. Yet it also serves as a showcase for the occasional weirdness of RuneQuest and Glorantha, as well as a source of NPCs for the Game Master.

The second solo adventure is ‘Phony Stones’. This begins with a lot more story. Someone is selling fake statues of Issaries in the city of Whitewall and the cult has brought in Zero, a Lhankor Mhy scholar who claims to be the world’s greatest living detective, but in a nice nod to Rex Stout’s Nero Wolf, never leaves the city. Fortunately, he has deduced that the culprit is hiding in one of ten houses on the same row in nearby Slime Haven. The Issaries cult hires the Player Character to do the physical investigation and the scenario begins with him outside the first house in the row. The Player Character can approach the houses in any order, each one mini-adventure in itself. Approaching each house follows the same procedure. First, casting spells such as Detect Life, Detect Enemies, Detect Magic, and Detect Gold, then entering the house and encountering the occupants. Most will be hostile towards the interloper, at least initially, and the Player Character will need to work hard to gain their trust. Once gained, the Player Character can begin to learn more about each of the inhabitants along the row as he moves from house to house, putting clues and facts together to determine who the culprit is.

Yet despite its story potential, ‘Phony Stones’ does not quite work as an investigative, mystery style scenario. To begin with, the Player Character has no real means of interacting with the NPCs other than fighting them or threatening them. Nor is he given any real means of actively hunting for clues. Effectively, this means that the Player Character cannot use the Spot Hidden skill or ask the inhabitants questions, so it feels more like the player is reading the plot of mystery which has been deconstructed on purpose and it is his job to put it back together. Neither does it help that the clues are not particularly easy to spot. Of course, building those elements into the scenario would have made each mini-adventure at each house all the more complex and difficult to design and present. Ultimately, it highlights the difficulty of designing a scenario of this type for solo play and just how close the designer got to creating an effective scenario. ‘Phony Stones’ is not without its merits. There is flavour and detail here if the player and his character can get to it, plus there is actually much more going on in Slime Haven than at first seems. If the Game Master was to extract this plot and then both develop and run it as a non-solo scenario for a single Player Character or a few, it would work very well.

The third and final solo adventure is ‘Maguffin Hunt’. The Player Character is hired by the Duke of Jawain to recover a ‘maguffin’, which has been stolen by some Dwarves. As the scenario opens, the Player Character stands outside their hideout, a small cave complex. Stealth is important as the player will track his character’s Noise level throughout the adventure. Amounting to just over one hundred entries, this cave complex consists of mostly tunnels plus a few rooms and barely a handful of encounters. The player will need to map his character’s exploration as it does involve a lot of going back and forth and trying one tunnel after another. The majority of the encounters are combat based and actually consist of multiple paragraphs that the player will need to work through as each fight progresses. The adventure itself is not that interesting nor is it that easy to keep track of the Player Character’s movement without drawing a map. Ultimately, what lets the scenario down is that the Player Character cannot succeed in locating the ‘maguffin’. This is because it simply is not in the cave and the dwarves do not have it. If there was some hint as to where it was or even a sequel scenario in which the Player Character could find, it would be another matter. As it is, ‘Maguffin Hunt’ is a disappointing end to the trilogy.

Physically, SoloQuest is cleanly written and presented. All of the paragraphs are organised into their own boxes which makes them self-contained and easy to find. Similarly, the various NPCs and monsters and enemies are neatly and clearly organised and presented. Bar the occasional silhouette, SoloQuest is unillustrated.


SoloQuest was reviewed several times in 1982 and 1983.

Forrest Johnson reviewed the anthology in The Space Gamer Number 55 (September 1982) in the ‘Capsule Reviews’ department. He described ‘DreamQuest’ as “[T]he first and best of the three.”; was critical of ‘Phony Stones’ and “[T]he frustration and futility of this scenario.”; and due to the fact that it was impossible to complete and suffered from difficult to identify paragraphs, described ‘Maguffin Hunt’ as a “[F]orgettable scenario.” He concluded with, “SOLOQUEST is not the best solo adventure booklet around, but if you play RuneQuest, there is not much competition. I hope Chaosium takes more care with future adventures.”

Writing in White Dwarf Issue 37 (January 1983) for ‘Open Box’, Clive Bailey was more positive, stating that, “Overall, I found this adventure pack easy and enjoyable to play.” He summed up the anthology, saying that, “The adventures are full of non-player characters ready for use in your own adventures and the ‘unusual’ encounter at the end of DreamQuest is an especially good idea. You can also run all three adventures as referee and player mini-scenarios (Phony Stones is even better played that way). Finally my rating combines playability and value for money.” He awarded SoloQuest a total of nine out of ten. (It should be noted, just as the review does, that at the time of the review’s publication, Games Workshop was printing RuneQuest and its various supplements, including SoloQuest, under licence from Chaosium, Inc.)

In the ‘Reviews’ department of Different Worlds Issue 27 (March 1983), Anders Swenson was also more positive. After initially explaining the nature of solo adventure books, he described ‘Phony Stones’ as being “[T]oo subtle”, whilst praising the other two scenarios. He finished with, “For a first book of solo adventures, SoloQuest is a great success. Alan Lavergne has demonstrated a good grasp of solo adventure design, and the layout and typography provide an excellent setting for the well-written text. This book is highly recommended for all RuneQuest players.”

Trevor Graver reviewed SoloQuest in the ‘Game Reviews’ section of Imagine No. 6 (September 1983). He was critical of the fact that “…RQ cults are referred to frequently, but the book carries no warning of this. If you haven’t got the Cults of Prax, it will lessen the entertainment value of this book.” However, he concluded that, “This apart, SoloQuest is a nice addition to the RuneQuest family. I look forward to the sequels.”


The adventures in SoloQuest can all be played using RuneQuest II, or if the player has access to it, a copy of RuneQuest Classic. The player will also need access to a copy of Cults of Prax. Armed with both, the player can happily play through SoloQuest without any issue. However, it is entirely possible to play through SoloQuest using the modern iteration of the roleplaying game, RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha. The mechanics are similar and there is a conversion guide, plus the player will not need access to a copy of Cults of Prax. If this is done, the player will need to adjust the opposition his character will face, at least for martial characters. Such characters are like to have double the skill of any opposition they face in the three scenarios, if not triple the skill in some situations, so will need to adjust accordingly. Less martial characters will be on more of an equal footing with the NPCs and monsters they will face in the trilogy of solo adventures.

In terms of the three adventures in SoloQuest, ‘DreamQuest’ is the most accessible and easiest to play, and it is replayable. ‘Phony Stones’ is the most interesting and has both the best story and plot, as well as the most potential for roleplaying. Consequently, it has the most potential for development into a proper scenario run by a Game Master. ‘Maguffin Hunt’ is the scenario most like a traditional solo adventure, but unfortunately not a very interesting one.

SoloQuest feels like an experiment in solo adventures for RuneQuest, one that almost works, but not quite. Even the ones that do not quite work have potential. After all, there is nothing to stop the Game Master from playing and then developing them, or the player just simply playing them. Plus, as part of the SoloQuest Classic Collection, both Game Master and player will more and bigger and better adventures to play than presented here.

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