HeroQuest 2: core system
Well, definitely the best incarnation of the system. The wrong, unplayable or simply stupid parts of the system were cut off, leaving only the Good Ideas that had always been there. I will probably miss the concept of Starting Advantage Points, but this part was almost unplayable and it is still there as a non-recommended option. Admittedly, saying that the contest is now at a 4-2 stage is easier than keeping track of APs, at least if you are into soccer.
However, I am not sold to the whole HeroQuest concept yet. The book is good, but for me it is rather a collection of systematic Good Advice for GMs than a game system. I do not think it will appeal to 90% of the players, who are less experienced than the average Gloranthaphile, and certainly the necessity to "figure all the details by yourself" could scare people away from it. Good grief, it doesn't even have a pre-made character sheet! I know that most of us make up our own sheets, but at least put in an example!
I know that the official answer to this is "Jeff's group is made entirely of newbies and they are oh-so-fond of it", but this is due to Jeff's ability to narrate rather than to the system. I suppose he could attract people to Glorantha even if he ran a D&D 1.0 campaign.
Would you recommend it to an experienced GM: yes! Would you recommend to play it with an experienced GM: yes! Would you recommend it to an unexperienced GM: no! Would you recommend to play it with an unexperienced GM: too horrible to even think of it!
HeroQuest 2: magic for Glorantha
An entirely different story. The system "feels" Gloranthan, is very consistent in its mechanics, and it is very flexible and playable. In addition to this it easily splits into three different approaches to magic (Spirit, Theist, Wizardly) while retaining the same basic assumptions. And the idea of allowing characters to pick their own runes is simple, yet great! Unfortunately, we have too few examples of Malkioni cults to be sure it works well with sorcery, but we all hope this will be fixed in the future.
Last but not least, all this can be easily adapted to D100 mechanics: call it RuneCasting or Allegiance instead of Affinity and there you are. The cults are now compatible with old versions, so you can move your favourite deity back and forth between systems with limited effort and distortions. It's the mechanics-independent, simple magic system that we had been all waiting for.
Okay, I'll just skip any comment about the artwork (or lack of it) and the price-to-completeness ratio. The book is labelled as unfinished (but still fully usable) and Rick did what he could with the layout in the time he had. But now that we gave you lots of money for a "preview" you no longer have any excuse: the final edition must have the great artwork that it deserves!
As for the contents, well…..
Wahooooooooo!!! Glorantha is back on track, at last! It's HeroQuest, but it is the Old Glory again. Gone are the cults like "Pingpongo the Nose Picker, aspect of Orlanth that oversees the elimination of excess body hair" with a fixed set of silly affinities, that no sane gamer would ever have his character worship. Gone are the Hero Bands like "The Society of Dara Happan Admirers of Britney Pilums". Gone are the scenarios that claim to be written in a narrativist style where the rules "get in the way" every second line. Here you find only relevant background information, a campaign with a well written plot and almost no rule stuff in it, and cults. Cults that are usable and enjoyable. Here, in the chapter labelled "Orlanth", you find a cult that is fully and remarkably a HeroQuest cult, but it is Good Ol' Friggin' Orlanth with no fluff added! And with the new Do-it-yourself runic approach, you can even work out your hero's peculiar way to worship Orlanth. And there are cool new ideas in the book. I must say it: I love the new sorcerous Grey Sages. Applause for Greg and Jeff and all other contributors! Great job!
Bottom line: you might not like everything in the books, and I certainly have my perplexities about some of the contents, but if you enjoy gaming in Glorantha you MUST have both books.
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