Check out the Rune website here: http://www.atlas-games.com/rune_index.html . In particular, check out the Jump Start Rules and the Rune Preview Kit.
Rune is an enthusiastically hack-and-slash roleplaying game (based on what was apparently a mediocre computer game) with a clear attitude of axe-swinging mayhem and horn-helmetted Vikings.
It really looks like a big advance in hack-and-slash roleplaying. Here are some of the features I find different and/or kewl:
- GMing rotates among the group. Everyone gets to play as well as to GM. This seems like a nice feature, to let people play both sides of the table.
- It's a competitive game--there is a 'winner' at the end of play (which could be the GM). This would clearly be a different style of play than most RPGs, and I'm not sure I'm taken with it, but it could be interesting.
- Character differentiation happens largely during play, instead of at character generation. I like this, because I think it allows for players to start with the basics of the game, and add Kewl Powerz during play. (D&D does this to a large extent, too, and I like that, but there's still a lot of up-front differentiation.)
- In order to support the competitive aspect, there's a design system for encounters and adventures, just as many games have a design system for characters. I think that this is nifty because it allows the GM to be an adversarial GM, with limits to keep them from being arbitrarily mean. I wouldn't want to have an adversarial GM in my usual game, but I can see that as a fun way to play, if it wasn't a one-sided contest.
- Also in order to keep the GMing fair, there's a flow-chart for directing the behavior of opponents, so the GM can't unilaterally pick on one player. I think that this attention to fair play is a must for a competitive RPG, but I also really like the idea of being able to GM with strong guidelines as to monster tactics.
I think I'd like to play Rune as a one-shot over a Saturday. I'm not convinced that I want to make the time to play it as a campaign, but a one-shot like our recent Tribes game or the long boardgames I sometimes play with Dani sounds fun.
I wonder, though, how easy it will be to play it with only one copy of the book. I suppose I'll probably end up buying the book and finding out.