Apple Lane (1988)

Let’s talk about ducks. Not the birds you may find down at the pond. I’m talking anthropomorphic ducks, with hands and bad attitudes. Like right out of Ducktales. RuneQuest has them. They are weird as hell. I am obsessed with them.

One serves as a guard at Gringle’s Pawnshop in the village of Apple Lane. His name is Quackjohn, because duck NPCs need a punny duck name to remind you they are ducks (Borderlands, from Tuesday, has a duck outlaw named Pinfeather, which is a duck pun name that somehow manages to be badass). It ridiculous. The game seems to know it, too. Over time, ducks have been downplayed; they barely merit a few paragraphs in the recent, encyclopedic Guide to Glorantha. Which is a travesty. They do get a cool proper fantasy name for their race though: the durulz. But they’ll always be ducks to me.

Meanwhile, Apple Lane is a classic RuneQuest book, containing two bandit-centric adventures (this is the more polished Avalon Hill printing). The first scenario involves defending the pawnshop from sentient baboons (weird!). The second ostensibly concerns troll bandits in a distant cave but, in true Gloranthan fashion, winds up uncovering ancient secrets left over from the Godswar, and a minor deity as well.

RuneQuest excels at adjusting its tone from the silly (ducks!) to the serious (Whiteye the Troll doesn’t look like a comedian) to other, stranger sensations (the illustration of the newtling statue, for instance, captures a range of emotions for me, from mystery to sadness, all of which are reflected in the action of the adventure.

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