(that's a joke, son, just in case you don't get it)

Runequest II to HERO 5th Ed. Conversion Notes

by Mark Doherty

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Runequest (for those unfamiliar with it) is one of the old-time gaming systems set in Glorantha, a very original gaming world designed by Greg Stafford, Sandy Petersen and a cast of, well, if not thousands, quite a lot of people. It is a world where the gods daily take an active part in the lives of their worshippers (and enemies), and altercations between temples can alter the weather and the laws of nature as the balance of power in heaven shifts. The world itself is pretty bizarre, with many magical regions and technology is at an advanced bronze-age, early-iron age level. The general feel is very different from most generic fantasy settings, and is worth a look, if you are interested in a different setting for Fantasy Hero games. You can pick up the rule books from a variety of sources, but there's a gazillion web pages exploring various aspects of the world on line. A few good starting places are:

These translation notes are not supposed to be a complete campaign setting: for that you need the Runequest rulesbooks (2nd or 3rd Ed.) and campaign books. However, these notes should show you how to easily translate Runequest characters and monsters to Hero system while still retaining the Runequest flavour, or how to generate your own.

Starting Runequest characters hould be built on 100-150 points (depending on how powerful you want them to be) with the standard rules for heroic campaigns: equipment is free and NCM is enforced. For my games, STR is set at a base cost of 2 points per point of STR, and HA is set at 5 points per d6, which is more balanced, but that change is not necessary to use these conversion notes.


The statistics of Runequest translate reasonably easily to Hero system and it also uses skills and powers rather than levels, so the mechanics translate well. Here's how to do it:

Hero statisticsTranslates to:Runequest Statistics
Secondary characteristics are calculated as normal.

EGO plays a larger role in this system than in standard Hero system. In the text below, the terms EGO and POW are used interchangeably.

Experience and Characteristics

In Runequest most statistics can be trained up, but this is not generally that common. Since in HERO system players can buy what they like but are restricted by how much experience they have, letting them increase characteristics should not be a problem. If the GM wishes to restrict increases in characteristics, he/she can just rule that they can only be increased with training, which means during down time between adventures, and with access to suitable facilities/teachers.

The one exception is POW. This is very important in Runequest since it governs both the use of magic and a character's relationship to his god or gods. Obviously most players will want to have as much POW as they can buy. Also POW can be increased or decreased in the game by various means outside the player's control. To stop players continually spending experience to top up their POW, I suggest that you adopt the approach that extra POW can only be bought when the player attends a formal celebration on their holy days and only 1-2 points at a time. If nothing else, it should encourage pieity!


Runequest characters tend to start with similar skill sets and have many generic skills which are subsumed into "everyman skills" in Hero system. As a general rule, most Runequest skills can be rapidly assigned a Hero system equivalent (for example "climb" in Runequest is pretty obviously "climbing" in Hero system, and "hide" in Runequest is "concealment" in Hero system. If you come across a Runequest skill that is not easily identifiable as a Hero system skill, then simply translate it directly into Hero system as "skill X" at the usual cost. Runequest uses a percentile dice system, which translates to Hero system as follows:

Hero System
Hero system
language proficiency
Hero system
skill levels
4 or less1 — 3%
5 or less4 — 8%
6 or less9 — 16%
7 or less16 — 24%
8 or lessBasic conversation+1 CSL or PER25 — 37%
937 — 49%
10Fluent Conversation+2 CSL or PER50 — 61%
1162 — 74%
12Fluent, with accent+3 CSL or PER75 — 82%
1383 — 89%
14Native+4 CSL or PER90 — 95%
1596 — 97%
16Imitate Dialects+5 CSL or PER98%
18 or less100%

The easiest thing to do is to simply move the Runequest skill up to the first Hero system skill band (marked in yellow) above it (thus a 19% skill becomes 8 or less, while a 80% skill becomes 13 or less). This will give characters an awful lot of FAM:s at 8 or less, which can get expensive. Alternatively, you can (depending on character concept) drop skills which are below 8 or less — many of which are everyman skills in HERO anyway. The CSL levels are a rough guide; someone who is 55% in scimitar in Runequest should have at least +2 CSL with that weapon. Since Runequest combat seperates attacking skill and blocking skill, you could choose either 2 point levels in OCV or 3 point levels with the weapon. Likewise someone with high skill levels in Scan should get a PER bonus: so a character with 66% in Scan should get +3 with sight PER rolls.

For Runequest skills above 100, simply increase the Hero system dice roll by +1 for the first 10% then add further +1 for every doubling of 10% of the Runequest skill. For example:

Hero System RollRunequest percentageIncrease
19 or less101 to 110%+10%
20 or less111% to 130%+20%
21 or less131% to 170%+40%

One last note on skills: There are a few Runequest "skills" that do not translate easily into HERO skills. The first are cult skills like the Humakti cult skill of Sense Assassin or the Storm Bull skill of Sense Chaos. These should be built as Talents (for example Sense Assassin is intuitive Dangersense with the limitation "only intelligent foes, -¾". It would not help against traps, animals or unintelligent monsters, etc.

The second is Martial arts, which in Runequest is simply a chance to do improved damage in unarmed combat. You can instead allow characters to buy HERO system martial arts, but in general, I would discourage it, since it does not really fit well for most characters in the genre. At the very least it should be rare. Instead you may let characters with martial arts buy one or more dice of HA, which simply lets them do more damage in bare-handed combat. As a rough guide, you can use one d6 for each CSL on the chart above, which means someone with 77% in martial arts would have +3d6 HA.

Experience and Skills

In Runequest, improving your character required you to either practice those skills is stress situations or find a teacher. This could lead to some bizarre actions as players attemped to successfully use skills in stress situations ("I make a dramatic speech to the wolves, so I can check my Orate skill"). In HERO, the fact that you use experience to increase skills limits the number that can go up at any one time, so this is not a problem. However, the Runequest system did have one interesting effect: to increase a skill you had to make a second roll, and FAIL. In other words, the better your chance at success in a skill, the harder it became to improve. This means that characters tend to have many skills at low to medium levels rather than specialise in one or two things.

It's easy to ignore this, but if you want to simulate the Runequest effect you can do it easily by getting characters to mark skills they have successfully used and only allowing them to spend experience on these, or on skills for which they have teachers. I would not recommend requiring a "skill-learning" roll to be over the skill in this case, since HERO uses a 3d6 roll. Getting over the roll at higher levels is extremely hard. If you really want to restrict higher skill levels, then I suggest that the GM who wishes to use this system allows players to improve skills if they roll equal to or greater than the skill in question and give them a bonus if they have a good teacher. That still means skills over 14- are going to be pretty rare.

Strike Ranks

The strike rank system from Runequest has been totally abandoned in favor of Hero's SPD system. If you really want, you can use the strike rank numbers as a penalty to DEX for the purpose of calculating who goes first, thus allowing longer weapons to strike first, and more powerful spells to take more time. Personally, I wouldn't bother.


All Runequest characters have access (at least in theory) to magic. However, enchantments are not generally of earth-shaking power. Magic comes in four kinds — spirit magic, ritual magic, divine magic and sorcery. All use runes. A rune identifies something and in a sense gives it existence. The gods created things by creating runes for them, so to control a rune allows a character to control the thing the rune describes. Thus these spell types all require the limitation (Requires Runes, -½). This is most often a rune carved into the object to be used — so a sword will have the magic runes for Fireblade (for example) carved into its pommel where they are always ready to hand. Runes can also be placed on the skin by scarring or tattooing. Since it is difficult to remove all runes, and they can be reproduced if lost, the limitation (requires Runes) is given the same value as OIF (-½). Divine magic, spirit magic and sorcery are often used by PCs and cover typical adventuring-type spells. There is fourth kind of magic, (Ritual magic), but it generally involves the creation of magic items of the binding of spirits, and the casting of such rituals is therefore covered by Hero system rules on acquiring followers and the creation of independant magic items.

Spirit Magic

Shamans and other people can use Spirit magic, which is the commonest form of magic. The way these two kinds of spellcaster function is essentially the same in game terms, but the special effects — and some things pertaining to their use — are very different. There is a list of spirit magic spells here.

Those characters who cast spirit magic buy their spells in a multipower with each ultra slot being a single spell. They can only use spells that they have learned from a spirit, and they can have no more slots in their multipower than than they have INT (this does not mean that they will start with that many!). To offset this limitation, the GM should allow the character to "forget" a spell and swap out one multipower slot for another spell — if they have subdued a spirit or acquired a rune with another spell that they wish to learn. This is a +0 advantage since it is is offset by the limited number of slots they can have.

Spirit magic multipowers all require the limitation "Consumes POW (-½)". POW is simply another name for the EGO stat. What this means is that each spell cast causes the temporary loss of POW at a rate of roughly 1 point per 15 active points (the POW cost is listed with each spell). No spell can cost less than 1 POW to cast, and in some cases I have elected to round up or down to keep POW costs the same as in Runequest, so the "1 POW per 15 active points" formula is close, but not exact. This is because some spells are clearly more or less useful than others — Firearrow gives you a one use 3d6 RKA while Fireblade gives you a 3d6 HKA for 5 minutes — although both have the same active cost. Since most spells which affect an unwilling target will require an ECV-based attack, this means that a spell caster who uses many spells in a short time will find it harder to attack effectively, while he becomes more vulnerable to magical attack. This loss of magic points recovers proportionately over a period of 24 hours (for example, someone with EGO 12 will regenerate 1 point of POW every two hours).

All non-mental attack spells require the advantage — Based on EGO Combat Value (+1), so all spells use EGO to determine CV. In addition, all spells have charges: Spells do not cost END. Every spell is bought as having a single, recoverable charge — the act of "recovery" is spending the POW needed to cast the spell. This means effectively that once a spell is cast, the character loses the POW and the spell is ready to be cast again. This might sound abusive, but is not, because all spirit magic spells that do not have an instant effect (like attack spells) have a duration of 5 minutes — this means that the limitation on the number of charges is 4 steps higher on the limitation table (1 recoverable charge, continuing, 5 minutes, -½) and secondly that the actual effect on the slot cost is minimal. Moreover, all spellcasters (which means essentially all characters) have this advantage. Ranged spells have a limit of 50 metres (25") which is worth a -¼ limitation. Finally, all spirit magic requires a successful Magic roll, which is based off the character's permanent EGO/POW. This roll cannot be increased unless POW increases and is not decreased by the active points of the spell. It is thus more like an activation roll. However, since this value can increase or decrease during the game due to POW losses or gains, it is given a flat limitation of -½. A spell which is unsuccessfully cast costs 1 POW for the attempt.

Spellcasters who are not shamans, learn to cast spells from spirits that are willing to teach for some reason — deceased clan ancestors or totem spirits, spirits associated with a cult or similar. Non-shamans do not have Fetches (see below), but they may capture or acquire spirits which can cast spells. They are limited to a number of spells equal to or less than their INT.

Shamans acquire their spells by meeting and defeating spirits in spirit combat. Essentially this means that shamans can only cast spells that spirits they have captured know. If they have a Fetch (see below) they can add the Fetch's INT to their own for the purposes of calculating how many spells they can know.

Shamans also have magic powers unattainable to normal spellcasters. Shamans can travel to the spirit plane, where they can meet (for good or ill) the spirits of the dead as well as certain powerful spirits of other kinds (spirits of regions with spiritual qualities, or of powerful beings). The Amerindian idea of the spirit quest gives you a pretty good idea of the overall feeling. This power is bought as: Extradimensional movement (to spirit plane). If successful, the spell transports the shaman to the spirit plane, but his body remains behind and he must return to it. If it is killed or he does not return to claim it, before it dies of thirst or hunger, he is lost. Shamans can also buy a Fetch (treat as a follower) who is a faithful spirit that lives on the spirit plane. The fetch is normally only resident on the spirit plane, but can take the form of the Shaman's totem animal to guard his body when the shaman travels to the spirit plane himself. The Fetch shares a mindlink with the Shaman and can boost his spellcasting ability. (See the typical Fetch character sheet). The Fetch keeps control of captured spirits, which can be requested to teach a spell the spirit knows to the caster. Spirits must be encountered by the shaman on the spirit plane and beaten in combat — but once this is done, the Fetch can keep them subdued — the Fetch however can only keep as many spirits subdued as it has INT — if its INT falls, the spirits can (and will) flee. What this means is that if the Fetch's INT falls — or the fetch is killed, the caster must lose some spells to bring the number below that of the Fetch's INT again. The Fetch can also supply the shaman with Magic points to drive his spells, although this will not affect the shaman's ECV.

All shamans must be able to travel to the spirit plane. Thus, they must buy Extradimensional movement (to spirit plane), extra time (1 hour, -2 ½), requires a Magic Roll (-½), leaves body behind (-1) for a cost of 5 points.

Shamans also have second sight — they can see the POW of any creature — including those normally invisible, such as spirits and thus gain some idea of the creature's mystical might. This power is bought as Second Sight: Detect POW (sense, discriminatory), transdimensional (spirit world: +½), limited range (-¼) for 12 points.

While not necessary to start with (a shaman could learn spells from his master's fetch) a Shaman should also buy a Fetch — as noted above.

Divine magic

People who wish to cast Divine magic must somehow acquire divine favour — normally through the intercession of their temple. Most people get their Divine rune magic from their temple or cult. Divine magic is the easiest to deal with — essentially it is a one-use spell provided by your temple (which means you have to be a member in good standing, and then buy it off the priests). In addition to the cost in gold or magical items, acquiring divine spells also requires the user to sacrifice a point of POW — this goes to the temple, which uses it to power their own magics. In game terms, the player must give up a point of EGO/POW to the Temple, plus pay the experience points for the spell. Like Spirit magic, Divine magic must take the Consumes POW limitation at -½ and if a non-mental attack spell must take BOECV (+1). Divine magic requires no skill roll — it always works. Once it's used, it is gone. Characters who become Acolytes, priests or Runelords get to reuse this magic, although it requires a period of meditation and prayer. This means that these spells, which are normally fairly powerful, are bought with the limitations "1 continuing(15 minutes), recoverable charge, difficult to recover, (-½)" for Acolytes, Priests and Runelords. Initiates can also recover the spell, although in their case they must give up 1 point of POW permanently to the temple, allowing them to add the limitation "must resacrifice for spell (-¼). There are certain spells for which this limitation is mandatory (noted under their description). The charge can only be recovered in a temple of the caster's deity. It requires a week of prayer and meditation for an acolyte or one day for a priest or Runelord. Spells with a duration last for 15 minutes, which is 5 steps up the limitation table. Note that although the costs for the spells are calculated for a single casting, it is possible to learn multiple castings (more charges) of the same spell, in which case the cost will have to be recalculated. Divine magic spells are bought outside of power frameworks — which is just as well, since they often have a high points cost. Divine spells usually have gestures and incantations as a limitation, as the caster calls upon his god, touches his runes and makes mystical gestures, but this is not required. There is a list of Rune magic spells here.

Ritual Magic

Ritual Magic is the magic used to enchant magic items and enhance one's own spellcasting abilities. Unlike spirit magic, which is acquired from spirits, or divine magic, which comes from the gods, ritual magic is taught. The skills associated with ritual magic are Enchant, and Ceremony (see below). These skills are most often used by sorcerors and shamans. Ritual Magic is used in combination with another type of magic; for instance, the Spirit Spell Summon/Bind Wight could be used in combination with Enchant and Ceremony to bind the wight into a ritual object. Permanent sacrifice of Experience Points is necessary to enchant items. Enchanting items also requires the enchanting skill. This is a normal EGO/POW based skill, which is reduced by the active points of the enchantment required. However, magical tools or extra time can be used to increase the chance of success, as can the Ceremony skill.

Ceremony is a peculiar skill in that it has no use in and of itself. However, it is complementary skill to all magic rolls or magical skill rolls — in other words, by performing a Ceremony and successfully making your Ceremony skill, you can increase your chance of successfully casting another spell. By taking a longer time over a ceremony, you get the "extra time" bonus and thus the possibility of making your Ceremony roll by a larger amount, thus giving a larger bonus to your other rolls.

Other rituals, such as "Armouring Enchantment" or "Binding enchantment" simply involve making an independant magic item. The player crafts the item, adds the necessary runes to it and expends the experience points necessary to create the item (all such items take independant, since if the runes are destroye dthe enchantment is destroyed and the points are lost). Then, if he makes the Enchant roll successfully, the item is created.


Sorcery is rather different from the other kinds of magic, and sorcery is normally practiced only by a small number of cultures — although since sorcery can be taught, sorcerors can in practice be found anywhere. Like spirit magic, a sorceror can know as many spells as he has INT. Sorcerors use a VPP, with the following advantages and limitations: as for spirit magic, non-mental attack spells take BOECV (+1), Consumes POW (-½) and Requires a Sorcery skill roll (-½). The Sorcery skill is a a normal skill based on EGO/POW but unlike the Spirit magic roll, it is decreased by the difficulty of the spell (-1 per 10 active points) and it can be increased by spending experience on it. As for spirit magic, if the sorcery roll is failed, the caster loses 1 POW. Sorcery spells also require charges and cost no END. Spells with duration must take continuing charges with a duration of 10 minutes (4 levels higher on the limitation table). Finally, sorcerors can only cast spells that they have learned (whether because they were taught them by their master or because they have learned them by research amongst ancient scrolls). This is a -½ limitation. Ranged spells have a basic maximum range of only 10 metres (5"). This is a -¼ disadvantage described as "limited range" since it can vary depending on skill rolls (see below). So a sorceror's pool of magic would look like this:

VPP: Pool cost = active points. Control cost = active points/2.75. All powers have BOECV (if attack spells), duration 10 minutes (unless they are instant) and range 10 metres (if ranged). A sorceror may not have more spells in his pool than he has INT.

This would seem to make sorcerors rather weak, but it is only half of what makes a sorceror. For in addition to the VPP, a sorceror must have several skills to be effective. These are Intensity, Range, Duration, and Multispell — although not all sorcerors will know all of these, almost all will know at least Intensity. As well, the the sorceror who knows any of these skills will also have the Aid power. This is bought outside the VPP and defined as Aid to magical powers, any power, two at a time (+½), requires multiple skill rolls (-¾). It is possible to buy up the maximum on the Aid. The sorceror can use this Aid power to increase the power of his spells. But to change any aspect of the power, the sorceror must make the appropriate skill roll: thus to increase the duration of a spell, the sorceror must make a Duration skill roll. To increase the effect (ie: active points) of a spell, the sorceror must make an Intensity roll. If he wishes to do both, he must make BOTH skill rolls. Note also that if the caster wishes to increase the range out beyond that normally possible, he will have to increase the active points in the spell by buying the increased range or mega-range modifiers. Multispell is different — this skill roll allows you to tie several spells together so that they all go off at once — this skill allows the caster to add the advantage "linked" to one or more spells in the pool, so that the spells all go off together on a single casting roll.

Note that to Aid spells in a pool above the number of active points in the pool, the pool itself must also be Aided. Since the Aid can affect two related powers simultaneously, normally it will aid the pool and a single power.

For an example, the Mage Res'arcarh has a 20 point sorcery pool which cost him 27 active points. He wishes to cast a Stupefaction spell on a guard on the street so he can enter the guarded building safely. This is a mind control power — but the 20 active points available to him will only generate a puny 4d6 — not nearly enough. He also has 2d6 Aid, with a maximum increased by 20 points, allowing him to add up to 32 active points. This gives him 10d6, which should be enough. He also wants to increase the duration of the spell, so that he has a chance to escape before the guard recovers. He must therefore make his Intensity (to increase the number of active points) and Duration skill rolls (to increase the duration). Finally so he can do all of this without getting skewered, he decides to cast the spell from down the street — 80 metres away. This means increasing the range — thus he also needs to make his Range skill roll. This will take him at least 6 phases before he can cast the spell: one for each skill roll and at least three to get the Aid up to 30 points. In fact, it will take longer — since to get his Aid up to at least 30 points, he will probably require 4 or 5 rolls. If he makes all these rolls, he then has 50 active points to play with. He can increase the number of d6 of mind control to 10 (Intensity) increase the duration (normally the spell would be 1 charge, with a duration of 10 minutes (-¾ limitation). Finally he can increase the range to 80 metres.

As this example makes clear, sorcerors can be very powerful and very flexible — but the cost of this is that their powers normally take a lot of time and the sorceror would be well advised to spend many points on his skills. There is a list of Sorcery spells here.

Sorcerors can also buy familiars (treat as followers). These can be any kind of creature, although not a normally sentient being (a sorceror could make a familiar of a herd-man, but not of a normal man, for example). In addition, the familiar must have the following powers:

Notes on Magic

This translation of the magic system has not attempted to model every aspect of the Runequest magic system, but to give the flavour of it and encourage players to act in an appropriately "Runequesty" way. Many details have been translated into a HERO system alternative that gives a similar feel. For example, the POW vs POW contest needed to get magical spells to take effect on an unwilling recipient has been modelled instead by altering the mechanism to Ego combat. This is not exactly the same, since Runequest spells (apart from those which affect a weapon like Firearrow) always hit the target, but may not always take effect. Using ECV they may not always hit, but they always take effect. The chance that this will occur is dependent on the relative levels of the target's POW and the attacker's POW, so it works out pretty much the same. Moreover, most Runequest attack spells are not very powerful: requiring BOECV keeps the number of dice lower and simulates the effect that if you are within range then distance has no effect. Likewise, requiring all spells with duration to have continuing charges both simulates the Runequest "cast and forget" style and also prevents "Tankmages". Protective magic is very, very useful, but it has a limited duration — you cannot go around with protective spells always on, unless you are a powerful sorceror.

Spirit Combat

 The Runequest world is full of spirits: of the dead, of creatures even of mystical places. Some of these are helpful, many of them are malign — all are potentially dangerous. Spirits are not generally affected by magic or weapons unless they are met on the spirit plane — they interact with living creatures though their POW. Since spirits dwell on the spirit plane, POW can be considered to be "transdimensional". Since this is true of all creatures, in the Runequest world, it is the default and costs no extra points, since it is also offset by the limitation "Side Effect" (see below). If a spirit attacks a person, (or vice versa) they engage in spirit combat.

The mechanism for this is simple: EGO/POW defines CV — and also"attack". Each 10 points of EGO/POW gives 1d6 of attack. Thus a spirit with a POW of 18 has an ECV of 6 and a 2d6 "spirit combat" attack. Damage inflicted is taken from the target's POW. If a target's POW is reduced to 0, it becomes incapable of resisting further attacks. If the target is a spirit, and the victor has suitable container (such as magic item enchanted to contain a spirit) or has a fetch, the spirit is "bound". A person may never have bound spirits with more POW than his own (permanent) POW, although a shaman's fetch can guard bound spirits for him — up to the level of its own POW. Bound spirits may be interrogated, and/or persuaded or forced to pledge to perform a service (teaching a spell they know, attacking another spirit, carrying a message, etc). In either case, they will leave once they have performed the service. Alternatively, a spirit may be bound into an item or place by a binding enchantment (Ritual magic) if the victor knows that ritual, which prevents it fleeing, although some form of control spell will be needed to get it to perform any functions for the wielder.

However, if the spirit is victorious, its target is possessed. The actual effect of this varies depending on the spirit. A disease spirit will inflict a disease on a possessed person, while other malign spirits might force them to do their bidding — for example, the spirit of a dead person may wish their death avenged, while an evil spirit may wish to wreak havoc and a guardian spirit may simply command the possessed person to flee far, far away. A demonic spirit may eat the soul of its victims, killing them, while a tree spirit may force its victims to grow roots and turn into a tree.....

There is an all but infinite variety of spirits: as noted above, their powers and goals will differ. The way they affect their target is through the Side Effect of EGO/POW. The advantages attached to EGO (transdimensional and the Drain POW attack) are offset by a -1 side effect limitation (60 active points or more). In the case of spirit binding or simple possession this is a 12d6 mind control, but it could also be a 4d6 RKA (soul eating!) or a transformation attack, leaving the victim altered in some way. It could be mental illusions (madness or visions) or even several mental or physical limitations. There is no need for these powers to take range or transdimensional since they are a side effect of the victim's own POW triggered by the condition "POW reduced below 0 during spirit combat". POW lost to spirit combat will regenerate quickly: at the same rate as STUN, so this is dependant on the character's REC.

Critical Hits and Fumbles

While not normally a part of Hero system, critical hits and fumbles are a major (and often amusing) part of Runequest combat. They also serve to make combat more lethal — a feature of Runequest combat. I have therefore included them here, albeit in a simplified form.

A special success is obtained in combat by rolling 4 or more over what you need to hit. This allows you to do maximum weapon damage.

A critical success is obtained in combat by rolling 6 or more over what you need to hit. This allows you to choose between doing maximum weapon damage OR choosing your hit location (often allowing you to bypass armour).

A fumble in combat results from rolling 6 or more less than you need to hit. The result will depend on a second roll indicating severity, but can be anything from dropping or breaking a weapon to hitting an ally or even yourself.

In combat, an 18 is always a Fumble, while a 3 is aways a critical success.

With skills, a special success results from rolling under your skill divided by 2, while a critical results from rolling under your skill divided by 3. A fumble results from rolling 5 over your skill. A 3 is always a critical success, while an 18 is aways a Fumble. For skills, a fumble means that a negative effect of some kind is obtained while a critical should give some bonus, over and above success.

Divine Intervention

Glorantha (the world of Runequest) was once described as a world where you couldn't swing a cat without hitting two runelords and a god. So, naturally, Divine Intervention is very important. I thought about various cunning HERO system ways of approaching this, but in the end decided that just as the gods are outside the normal rules of time and space so are they also outside the normal rules of the gaming system. What I recommend is that you simply adopt the Runequest rules. When a player who is an initiate of a religion calls for divine intervention, roll d100 (I know, it is not HERO system, but still...). If the character rolls under their POW score the god will take some action — but the player loses that amount of POW, permanently (POW can always be bought up again, using experience, of course). Runelords and priests roll on d10 instead, which means they have a very high chance of success, but they still lose the amount rolled. If the player rolls exactly the same as their POW score the god will still take action, but their character's body is drained totally of POW, so they die.

If the use of a d100 or d10 really offends you (or you haven't got any) then simply use the skills chart above to work out the nearest percentage chance and roll it using 3d6 (for example a character with 14 POW has a 14% chance of divine intervention, which falls into the "6 or less" category. Then roll 3d6 to see how much POW is lost. Just let runelords and priests roll 2d6 for both chance of success and POW loss.

Sample Races


Humans are the default race and so — as such — have no special powers or abilities. NCM applies.


Trolls are powerful characters, but this is balanced off by some pretty severe limitations. Trolls should buy the folowing racial powers:

Trollish skin: +1 PD, +1 ED, Resistant3 points
Darksense: (Sensory sonar, targetting)17 points
Trollish stomachs; Diminished eating1 and immunity to phytotoxins and zootoxins, only if eaten, (-1), partial immunity (-½)

Trolls can eat almost anything. In extremis, they can even eat dirt, although such a diet would not keep them going for long. Thus, "diminished eating" is bought in this case, not because trolls only need to eat once a week, but to reflect the fact that trolls can get by on far less "normal" food than a human. There's almost always something around that they can eat. Likewise, a troll's digestive powers means that they are very hard to poison. The "partial immunity" reflects the fact that trolls are not totally immune to poison. A weak toxin would have no effect — it might even be considered to give the meal a bit of taste. But very strong poisons might make a troll sick, and incredibly potent toxins might even kill them. The cost of the limitation is the same as for a 14- limitation (90% immunity), so a troll can be thought to have 10 times the capacity for toxin of a human, if you need a guideline.

5 points
Trollish Size: 5 points of Growth, inherent, always on. +5 STR, +1 BOD, +1 STUN, -1 KNB, x2 mass

Note: Most Trolls are only a half meter taller than humans, so Growth might not be necessary. Generally however, they are also depicted as very heavily built. So making it hard for them to get through small holes, unable to wear human armour, and hard to knock back or down all seem reasonable. Also, growth gets around the problem of NCM: thus a troll can go to STR 25 and BOD 21 before having to pay double for these stats

10 points

and the following disadvantages:

Distinctive appearance (Troll, not concealable, causes major reaction, not in Trollish society)15 points
Vulnerability to Iron (1 ½ times body )

In Runequest trolls take double damage from iron weapons — AFTER armour and protective spells: this proved a little difficult to model, given that normally vulnerability is caluculated before defences: in which case, even a heavily armoured troll would probably die the first time he met someone with an iron weapon. In the end, I decided to give this one and a half times damage: since this is calculated before armour, it gives a similar effect to the the runequest "double after armour" rule

10 points
Physical Limit: weak eyesight (all visual PER rolls take double distance penalties, and -2 PER in daylight or brighter) Frequently, slightly10 points


Strictly speaking Mostali are the creator race of dwarves, but the term is often used to refer to all dwarves. Dwarves should take the following powers (Shrinking is not included since though smaller than humans, dwarves are still pretty chunky):

Tunnel sense: (Detect cave system, discriminatory, sense)

This dwarf-specific sense allows dwarves to "feel" a cave or tunnel system, so that they can move confidently in even unfamiliar tunnels. They can determine depth below ground, the presence of fresh or bad air, the direction a tunnel takes, general size, etc.

12 points
Immortality (only if following the code of correct behaviour, -1)

Dwarves who follow the code of the Mostali (work hard, do what you are told, etc) live forever — unless killed by violence or accident. The relatively large disadvantage is because player character Dwarves are going to find it very hard to keep to the code.

2 points

and the following disadvantages:

Distinctive appearance (Dwarf, not concealable, causes reaction, not in dwarven society)10 points


There are many different types of Aldryami, each reflecting the type of tree they are attuned to/grown out of. Fortunately, their powers are much the same. Elves have one "power" which is not compulsory — though most player character elves will probably have it. This is the power to grow an Elfbow, attuned to themselves. This bow is small and light, but does damage equivalent to a heavy longbow. Since it is living, it contains POW — up to 12 points — that the elf can use to power his own spells. Only the elf who grew it can use the bow. The bow is bought as 1 ½d6 RKA, OAF, personal focus. It has no STR Min. The Elfbow costs12 points plus 2 points for each 3 points of POW (OAF, -1 can only be used to power spells, -½). Elves should otherwise buy the following powers:

Elf sense: (Detect emotion, discriminatory, detect soil quality)

This is actually two senses: the Elf can determine the general mental state of the target, whether it is in pain and similar things. It is not a mind reading or empathic power, so gives no great detail. Elves can also determine teh quality and nutritive properties of soil.

15 points
Longevity (lives as long as a tree of appropriate type)

As noted above, different types of elves have an affinity to different types of tree, and they will llive as long as that tree does: so a "pine-elf" might only live 200 years, but an "oak-elf" might live 400 years or more.

2 points

and the following disadvantages:

Distinctive appearance (Elf, concealable, causes reaction, not in elven society)5 points
Vulnerability to Iron (1 ½ times body )

In Runequest Aldryami take double damage from iron weapons — AFTER armour and protective spells: this proved a little difficult to model, given that normally vulnerability is caluculated before defences: in which case, even a heavily armoured elf would probably die the first time he met someone with an iron weapon. In the end, I decided to give this one and a half times damage: since this is calculated before armour, it gives a similar effect to the the runequest "double after armour" rule

10 points

Sample Characters

Below are translations of a number of RQ characters, designed to show how the conversion works.

The joke is just that when Runequest (which used to be owned by Chaosium) was bought out by (I think) Avalon Hill, they took the system and genericised it, calling it "heroquest". I chose the name since it's a fusion of Hero and Runequest. Now that Issaries is changing the rules set to a more "storyteller-like" system they have changed the system name back to Heroquest. No challenge to the (probably long-lapsed) trademarks of Avalon Hill (if it was them) or Issaries Inc (who "own" Glorantha today) is intended, yadda, yadda, yadda. I didn't say it was a good joke :-)