Most of the haters of 2nd ed played the core game and moved on and, honestly, I don't blame them. It was slow & repetitive. The traversal was interesting on paper but tedious in reality, the events were rather bland & often slowed the game further, and as Josh stated, for an adventure composed entirely of flavor text... the writing was pretty bad. The PvP was handled poorly and I mostly avoided it, making me wonder how anyone would play this base game repeatedly with other opponents.
I got the big box expansion Frozen Wastes along with the base set in a math trade, so I jumped into that expansion almost immediately and it was like a light bulb had switched on. I'm not sure what the sequence of these expansions was, but Frozen Wastes felt like someone had finally honed their ability to repurpose the Runebound
framework and I think this style of reframing/tweaking may be the reason why some became fans of this system. I've become more conflicted about this malleability over time.
So, what mutated?
The generic "level up ASAP & defeat the dragon lord" garbage was thrown out in favor of an alien lord. Yep. The premise of this one was that an alien using quasi-steampunk technology crash landed into Terrinoth and his companion The Princess (ugh), encased like River Tam in a hibernation pod, was randomly ejected to an unknown location during the crash. Alien lord is now lonely and bitter and wreaking havoc on the countryside with his machines and cybernetically enhanced/frenzied critters. You can either power up and try to take him down in a fight, or you can triangulate the location of the Princess with cards that are dropped during encounters. Stand in a spot surrounded by all of the terrain types listed in your collection of cards and you've found her. If you bring the Princess back to the alien's location, you win instantly.
Traversal is still kind
of annoying but the expansion adds temporary items like snow shoes and um... warp crystals (I forget whatever Terrinothy term they used for it) to provide options that bypass bad rolls or tedious journeys back to town.
The simple addition of a frost effect during travel adds some narrative immersion to one of the core mechanisms along with a push-your-luck element. Some terrain types are colder than others (causing you to accumulate more frost) and the events become more interesting as they amplify or alternate these cold spots to different terrain, evoking the concept that players are constantly working around these shifting snow storms. Furry monsters often double as frost-abating items (pelts) once you kill them.
Towns come in two flavors: Inuit or Norse (again I forget the derpy Terrinoth terms). The Inuit provide frost-healing perks while the Norse provide more items in their store. The concept of Relic items was also added, using a similar triangulation mechanism to the Princess idea, but with redeemable terrain chits drawn from a cup. Collect enough of a certain type and stand in the right spot, and you could make a purchase from a smorgasbord of cool gear.
Overall the pacing felt less sleep-inducing, the goals more varied, & the premise a bit weirder… almost like a massive Skyrim sidequest with Dwarven bots and Yeti. It was interesting to see narrative structure injected into the system with more gameplay ideas rather than doubling down on the flavor text. I enjoyed it quite a bit and played a dozen sessions or so.
So I still remember Runebound
fondly but also believe that the adventure game genre has moved on. In the context of recent games like Gloom of Kilforth or Dungeon Degenerates, I can't imagine going back to these Terrinoth systems unless nostalgia and boredom overwhelm me. Their core framework is just kind of anemic, which certainly lends itself well to reframings and bolted on enhancements, but I'd rather play something that's more gameplay-focused, evocative, and varied at its base.