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“JoruneQuest”: D100 gaming among the skyrealms

March 7, 2012

If old-school roleplaying is a niche of a niche hobby, then I’m well aware that I risk vanishing into a niche of a niche of a niche (of a niche) with this post. Specifically, I want to talk about converting the 1980s and ’90s science fantasy game Skyrealms of Jorune to run with the Basic Roleplaying rules engine.

Anyone still there? One or two. Good enough.

This is a project I’ve been tinkering with for years. I am not alone. Now and then I get the thing out of the garage, don my overalls, and poke around under the bonnet some more. Then I put it away again, figuring that if someone else is going to do all the hard work then why should I get myself covered in motor oil? Especially when I have other projects awaiting my attention. But somehow I just can’t let it go.

I first played Skyrealms of Jorune in late 1986, and bought a copy of the game (the beautiful boxed second edition, pictured above) shortly thereafter. I ran it for my brother and a few friends, but although everyone liked the idea, the game never really took off. This was, no doubt, partly due to the fact that in the mid-1980s I was mainly obsessed with Call of Cthulhu and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Stormbringer. However, the sessions of Skyrealms of Jorune that I ran also foundered on the rocks of the game’s overly complex mechanics. Now, some might argue that it was no more complicated than RuneQuest or, indeed, AD&D. In my counter-argument I would point out that RuneQuest was/is also overly complex, which is one of the reasons why I’ve never been fond of it. (I know, I know. I’m a bad person.) As for AD&D, well, like many of those who graduated to the game via Basic D&D of one version or another, our group wilfully ignored many of the baroque excrescences (speed factor, weapon vs. AC adjustment, etc.) and effectively played a kind of “augmented” Basic. Also, I would direct the jury’s attention to Exhibit A: the character sheet for Skyrealms of Jorune, which was four pages long.

The main issue with Skyrealms of Jorune as regards complexity, though, is that the setting itself is already highly complex. We are presented with an alien planet, over three thousand years of history, and a rich stew of exotic life forms and cultures, as well as several varieties of technology, including advanced scientific weaponry and genetically engineered organisms. Not to mention isho, the “ambient energy” that surrounds and permeates the planet Jorune and functions as the game’s source of “magic”. All these things are described using quirky, invented nomenclature: “Do the dangerous cleash infest the East Trinnu Jungle Lands?” “Can I play shambo in the shenters?” “Do I have to eat my durling?” All well and good, but it’s a lot for the players (and especially the GM) to absorb and remember. For that reason, I feel that the system itself should be as straightforward and transparent as possible. I for one can’t be bothered remembering all the crunchy rules (for combat, isho use, etc.) in addition to all the evocative setting fluff. In my view (and in my experience running the game), the rules get in the way of the setting.

Hence my plan to convert it to a system which is (a) relatively simple and streamlined, and (b) familiar enough that I don’t have to assimilate a new set of mechanics. This dog’s too old (and lazy) to be learning new tricks like that. For me, it boils down to either old-fangled D&D or a D100 system like BRP. By all accounts, Skyrealms of Jorune evolved from Andrew Leker’s Metamorphosis Alpha campaign, but its skill-based game mechanics resemble RuneQuest much more than anything cooked up by TSR so, although I’ve toyed with the idea of a class-and-level system, the D100 route seems more profitable for less effort.

Anyway, I’m still tinkering. But these days I actually have a semi-regular gaming group, and I’m itching to set them loose on Jorune and see what happens, so the pace of tinkering has increased. I haven’t decided for sure whether it’s going to be “straight” BRP, or something like OpenQuest, or a homebrewed hybrid. But it’s time to post some of what I’ve done and see if anyone has any comments to make. So, here are are my thoughts on character generation. (N.B. In everything that follows I assume some level of familiarity both with BRP and with Jorune and its cultures.)

1. SPECIES

Roll 1d20:

1-5 Boccord
6-13 Human
14-17 Muadra
18 Bronth
19 Cygra
20 Woffen

Note: If the GM does not allow the “Iscin races” as player characters, reroll any result above 17.

2. CHARACTERISTICS

There are nine of these:

Strength (STR)
Constitution (CON)
Size (SIZ)
Intelligence (INT)
Dexterity (DEX)
Charisma (CHA)
Education (EDU)
Colour (COL)
Isho (ISH)

COL represents a character’s affinity with the spectrum of isho. Characters with high COL ratings are better at manipulating isho and have access to a wider range of colour groups.

ISH is a measure of the quantity of isho naturally absorbed by a character under normal conditions. Characters with high ISH have more isho points (IP) to spend on weaving, unweaving or interfering with dyshas (the isho-powered “spells” of the setting) or using charged crystals.

To determine characteristics, roll the appropriate dice depending on your character’s species:

Boccord
STR 3D6+6
CON 3D6+2
SIZ 3D6+6
INT 2D6+6
DEX 3D6
CHA 3D6
EDU 2D6+4
COL 3D6
ISH 3D6

Human
STR 3D6
CON 3D6
SIZ 2D6+6
INT 2D6+6
DEX 3D6
CHA 3D6
EDU 2D6+6
COL 3D6-2
ISH 3D6

Muadra
STR 3D6-2
CON 3D6
SIZ 2D6+2
INT 2D6+6
DEX 3D6
CHA 3D6
EDU 2D6+4
COL 3D6
ISH 3D6

etc.

3. CHARACTERISTIC ROLLS

Used for determining the success or failure of an action when no other skill seems appropriate (e.g., keeping one’s balance while fighting atop a pedestal, or quickly shaking off the after-effects of drinking too much rusper). There are seven such rolls, each associated with one of your characteristics:

Effort roll: STR x 5%
Stamina roll: CON x 5%
Idea roll: INT x 5%
Agility roll: DEX x 5%
Interaction roll: CHA x 5%
Know roll: EDU x 5%
Caji roll: COL x 5%

Most of these work as per standard BRP. New for D100 Jorune are the Interaction roll and the Caji roll.

The Interaction roll is very important. Jorune is a world of many competing cultures. The ability to communicate effectively with individuals of other sapient species – often with vastly different psychology, history, and attitude – can be crucial to your character’s chances of understanding the world and progressing within it to achieve his or her goals. Moreover, combat is deadly. Negotiation is almost always the best policy. Your character’s Interaction roll (CHA x 5%) is used as the base chance for all Interactions skills, modified in each case by the species involved. I’m not going to copy the whole table here, but humans, for example, get a penalty of -15% when dealing with the alien ramian, so a human character with CHA 12 would have an Interaction (ramian) skill of 45% (12 x 5 – 15). Woffen, on the other hand, get on well with humans and are not too culturally dissimilar (+20% bonus), so the same character would have Interaction (woffen) at 80%.

The Caji roll (COL x 5%) is used by a character trying to learn a new dysha or activate an isho-charged crystal.

4. NUTS & BOLTS

Damage bonus is calculated as usual from STR + SIZ according to whatever iteration of BRP you’re using.

Experience bonus is INT/2, rounded up. Add it to the percentile roll when your character tries to improve a skill.

Hit points (HP) = (CON + SIZ)/2, rounded up.

Any injury that inflicts damage equal to half or more of your character’s HP is a major wound. Roll on the nearest major wound table to determine the bitter consequences of your violent lifestyle.

Isho points (IP) are used by muadra characters to weave and unweave dyshas, and by other characters to interfere with hostile dyshas aimed at them. Your character starts with a number of IP equal to his or her Isho characteristic (ISH).

Skill categories: [under construction]

5. AGE

Default starting age for a human (or mutated human) character is 18-25 (1D8+17) years, with a minimum age of EDU+5.

6. OCCUPATION

Your character is not defined solely by his or her inherent characteristics, but also by whatever skills and knowledge he or she has acquired in early life. Choose an occupation. Some occupations have special requirements in terms of species and/or characteristics. For example, only muadra may choose to be caji (weavers of dyshas), the occupation of entris (translator) requires a minimum rating of 10 in INT and EDU, etc. If your character does not meet the requirements listed, you must select a different occupation.

Note: Some occupations grant bonuses to characteristic ratings.

Occupational skill points: You have EDU x 20 percentile points to spend on any of the skills listed under your chosen occupation. No occupational skill may begin higher than 75%.

Personal skill points: You have INT x 10 percentile points to spend on any skills you like, subject to GM approval. Do not neglect useful isho-related skills like Interference or Unweaving. No personal skill may be raised above 50% at this stage.

[I’m still tweaking the occupations, but I’ll post them soon, along with explanations of unfamiliar skills.]

7. MONEY & EQUIPMENT

Your character begins with 3D6 gemlinks (GL) in ready cash.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Bryan Irving permalink
    March 7, 2012 1:10 pm

    Looking good so far, keep up the good work. 🙂

  2. March 7, 2012 4:47 pm

    delightful – although I’d still be tempted to go the LL route, partly for broadest OSR compatability (flailsnails Jorune!), but mostly because I think Jorune could use some archetype-type thinking to help players orientate themselves. I say that knowing full well that it pulls directly against the do-anything, go-anywhere mood of the original rules. Because I’ve long thought, like you, that Jorune throws too much unfamiliarity at the players all at once, and I think restricting options at startup might help remedy that (knowing that the options can open up later, perhaps, with leveling up), while also helping to define the distinctive characteristics of the various races and jobs in a way players can grasp more easily.

    • March 7, 2012 5:12 pm

      Your reasoning seems very sound to me, and I did think quite seriously about going in that direction. There’s probably a very fine D&D/LL/SWN mashup of Jorune waiting to be made. But not by me, or at least not right now. Partly because “broadest OSR compatibility” was never my aim. I just want to be able to run Jorune for my group of players using a system my players and I are comfortable with. We all like Call of Cthulhu, and I have a soft spot for Stormbringer too, so I want to bring some of that Chaosium-flavoured goodness to the table. Moreover, I think it’s time the OSR embraced BRP more fervently. But your points are well taken, and food for thought. Thanks for commenting!

      • March 8, 2012 8:56 am

        I go back and forth on the question of system.

        I’ve never been a DnD fan, in fact, and I heartily agree that the OSR should embrace the whole gamut of game systems and ideas and traditions – I’m personally mostly a Cthulhu player with leanings into other systems/genres but most of all a whole slew of historical and sf campaigns that I’ve run under GURPS when I could be bothered and almost totally rules-free when I couldn’t. So the concentration on DnD and swords n sorcery baffles and friustrates me a bit. And I concede that giving in to it because it’s popular means that everything ends up being tinged with the same set of attitudes – Jorune in particular is not a gonzo dungeoneering setting, and converting it to LL is liable to erase the important differences.

        But on the other hand there is something to be said for Zak’s most disturbing room argument. If DnD already wants to contain all possible worlds, the only way to make it live up to that claim is to jam all possible worlds into it. Or something. And if I want to introduce some different flavours then I feel like I have to introduce them as ingredients into things people are already comfortable with? I don’t know, honestly.

  3. shichitenhakki permalink
    May 25, 2015 10:18 am

    Only just found this now but good for you. Has this project got any farther?

    • May 25, 2015 6:36 pm

      Hello and thanks for commenting. In answer to your question, not really. My interests have shifted somewhat over the last couple of years. I keep meaning to tidy up the loose ends of my work on D100 Jorune and make it available (even in bare-bones form) as a PDF or something. I will try and get that done soon. Meanwhile, there is a RuneQuest conversion in the works from Ian Kaufman, but I’m not sure that Ian’s pace is very much faster than mine so don’t hold your breath.

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