Austin/Crel is to blame this time. I asked for prompts and he supplied, ‘Story of your favorite fight in RuneQuest?’ with a free shrug emoji.
And the interesting, meaty bit that I’ve decided to put up front, which is what I think the question REALLY is: how do you make a fight special?
A fight already is special, to some degree. In RuneQuest there’s always a chance that you’ll get messed up in a way that isn’t reversible, or where buying it off costs a lot and isn’t perfect. So there are generally stakes in a fight that don’t exist in other RP. However, to make a fight really memorable, there has to be a setting that shows off the fight. Emotions should be high, but the fight shouldn’t be instant. Build up to it, even if the people involved don’t know there is going to be a fight, or don’t know what it looks like. There’s intro music in boxing for a reason. Have a round of challenges, or a spouse trying to hold back the argument (and then surviving to bear witness about it). Have people insisting on honour, or people warning the PCs that their opponents are honourless. Don’t just go straight into a fight that you think might be important.
The aftermath is important too – let the PCs star if you can, not just by giving them rewards for a fight well won, but by letting them know how their fight changed things, or showing how their actions affected others. They are the stars of the game, and now’s the time to have it made obvious, at least for a while, before they get back onto the road and start wearing out shoe leather.
All of my favourite fights have something in common. They’ve got context outside the rolls that makes me remember them with fondness. Generally the fights that have a chance to be my favourite are the ones that have a big build-up, and that mean something, and that have high stakes. It’s the social setting that makes them interesting. So, in order then, as far as I can…
- That time my PC and another Humakti both thought the duel was pointless and made it clear even while we had it, then went off to get a drink.
- High Sword Gallem, the walls of Alda Chur, sword against sword. I even let him get up when an explosion on the walls knocked him down.
- The horror at Rabbit Hat, when there had been so much build-up, that even afterwards we were all amazed we were still alive.
- The time that the PCs swapped in a massively competent Wind Lord to help support my PC in a Heroquest, which made the High Sword who had organised the thing narrow his eyes and go ‘hmph’. The PC needed help from Storm Bull as well, which was not quite according to script, but definitely made for amazing drama.
- A fight in Crimson Petals. My PC wasn’t even present, but the Issaries trader and the Eurmal ‘warrior’ who don’t normally get to be central solved things by violence.
That’s one fight where I solidified friendship (or at least respect), three where I was fighting for something important and there was a lot of danger, and one that I really enjoyed because someone else was enjoying it. Fights work best when they are about what you might win or lose, not whether you will.