Doraster: Land of Doom (1993)

Doraster: Land of Doom is a perfect example of both the best and worst of Avalon Hill’s stewardship of RuneQuest.

Avalon Hill bought the game in 1983, but Chaosium (read: Greg Stafford) retained the right of approval over all Glorantha material. Avalon Hill, meanwhile, wanted their own setting and publishing a number of generic supplements in hopes to find one more popular than Glorantha (they didn’t). They also mucked about unnecessarily with others (Griffin Island, the Avalon Hill version of Griffin Mountain is a hot mess). Even their approach to the rules system was needlessly confusing – dividing them into regular and deluxe sets, which made for endless mincing about which version of the rules you need to play a given supplement. Ugh.

For all the bad, though, I love the feel of the Avalon Hill books. The Glorantha books in particular have a lovely refined aesthetic, with cleaner layouts and higher production value than the earlier Chaosium books. They also dug into hither to unseen realms of Glorantha in deep detail.

Look at that cover! I love how it echoes medieval tapestries. That unicorn fellow is the king of the broo, Ralzakark, and looks stately, even religious. The broo, however, are disease-spreading creatures of chaos. Yet Ralzakark keeps them in check, somehow. Is he good? Is it a cover something more sinister? I don’t know, and the book doesn’t say, but it is damn interesting.

Doraster itself is a region full of chaos (nothing is clear-cut in Glorantha, but chaos is the closest the setting has to pure evil). It is all wonderfully detailed and well-illustrated, with a lengthy campaign and rich encounter tables. All hobbled by the crummy rules system. And Avalon Hill only published two more RuneQuest books after this.

Bonus fact: All broos are male and supernaturally fecund. They’re most often depicted as goatish, because goats are mean looking, but they can breed with nearly any kind of mammal. Which makes farmers angry. And also means Ralzakark’s mom was a genuine unicorn.

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