Cult Compendium Capsule Review by Mark Galeotti on 20/01/03
Style: 3 (Average)
Substance: 5 (Excellent!)
A glorious reminder of the heigh-day of Runequest - largely a reprint, but sumptuous and elegant.
Product: Cult Compendium
Category: self-review of RPG
Company/Publisher: Moon Designs
Cost: $45 (pbk)/$60 (hbk)
Page count: 352
Year published: 2002
Comp copy?: no
Capsule Review by Mark Galeotti on 20/01/03
Genre tags: Fantasy
Under license from Issaries, Inc (which now concentrates on its Hero Wars/HeroQuest system), Moon Design has been producing large collections of high-quality reprints of the best supplements released for RuneQuest in the late 70s and early 80s. Long since out of print, these have included such gems as the Griffin Mountain adventure pack and the city of Pavis. This, the third such book, is a compilation largely of cults detailed in two seminal works (Cults of Prax and Cults of Terror) as well as in other articles and supplements, including TrollPak, Wyrm's Footnotes and Different Worlds.
The result is a book which entirely lives up to the series title of 'Gloranthan Classics.' It includes 41 cults, the narrative adventures of Biturian Varosh (which featured in Cults of Prax) and Paulis of Longvale (Cults of Terror), as well as a whole range of other bits and pieces, from elven genealogy and troll skills to a treatise on slavery in Dragon Pass. The cults are of every kind, whether good (Chalana Arroy, the healer), bad (Mallia, chaotic mother of disease) or ugly (Aranea, trollish spider goddess).
Rick Meints, the powerhouse behind Moon Designs, has done a wonderful job of editing the whole together, and the book is illustrated not just with art from the old books but many new works. He has also sensitively dealt with a perennial problem of RQ, whereby multiple drafts of some cults appeared, often with small but significant variations.
Overall, this does exactly what it says on the cover. It is almost entirely a compilation of old material (there are a few new elements) and it is for RuneQuest, a game still being played but not supported with new supplements. (That is why I rate the substance 3 - Average - as it relates to what is, in official terms, a 'dead' game; those still playing RQ might well deem it worth a 4 or 5.)
That said, if you didn't leap enthusiastically on the RQ bandwagon the first time round, or simply want a new book to replace all those ageing and dogeared paperback books and magazines, then this is your answer. It's is obviously a labour of love, put together beautifully and both the hard- and soft-back versions are not just sturdy enough to cope with a lot more play, they are also great fun just to leaf through, reading the atmospheric text and admiring the artwork. Even for a committed convert to Hero Wars/HeroQuest like myself, this is both useful and also brought back fond memories of how it felt to discover a game that really was different from D&D, that put its world, with its distinctive societies and myths, at the centre-stage and invited you to explore and experience rather than just hack and slash...