I’ll do this totally from memory, no cheating and looking things up on the internet.
My first exposure to Glorantha was with the GW imported RQ2 back in the early 80s. I’d not been in the hobby for very long, but even then I could get a sense of elitism. RQ was more serious than D&D (and a lot more than Tunnels & Trolls). I got a feeling it was for and by grown ups. This sense was heightened by White Dwarf, which was my only real view of the wider RPG world (apart from going to the Virgin Megastore on Oxford St). In WD, Glorantha looked mysterious and exotic. It got it’s own departments in the mag, with contributors like Oliver Dickinson and Dave Morris (later of Dragon Warriors fame). I read the Griselda stories and thought they were pretty cool. Grittier than the world TSR presented, almost Leiber-esque.
So a plunge was taken and I stumped up for the box set. As a 12(?) year old that’s a pretty big purchase. I thought it was well worth it, purely on quantuity of material. There were the rules with that female greek looking warrior fighting a lizardman. Great pic. On the inner covers was loads of errata. I took that as a good sign, and it added to the ‘grown up’ feel I got. The book was cool enough, and I enjoyed the saga of Rurik the Restless, but I didn’t get any sense of excitement of vim from it. Glorantha itself was described in really broad strokes IIRC. I liked the idea of it being a lozenge. The cults sounded weird, like they were for dirty old men. (I never got any of the old Satanism vibe from D&D, but I almost did from RQ).
It was the maps that blew me away. First the world map which had a tiny boxed out area. That referred you to the map of Sartar and Prax towards the back. Pure distilled awesome. They still stand up today. It made my imagination spin, and at the same time I was intimidated by it. What was the Block? How would I find out? Certainly the core book didn’t give me any help.
The rest of the box had clues. There was FANGS, a set of monsters that were done on a dot matrix printer I think. I remamber Walktapus, the Jack O Lantern, the Broo, Scorpion men, and Aldryami. And Dragonewts and Trolls. They were very ‘Harryhausen‘ to my mind. No pictures that I recall. The Monster Manual had it beat.
Then, the scenario. I’ve always used published scenarios. I use them to help me get a grip on the setting and to help me understand how to put together my own adventures. Apple Lane was awful. The Village of Hommlet was bare bones, but Apple Lane seemed almost childlike in it’s sketchiness. The nearby dungeon was the Rainbow Mounds. It had corridors with turns so sharp you could cut yourself. Fling.
I didn’t mind the ducks. I was reading Howard the Duck comics back then so I could visualise wise cracking feathered characters. I rolled one up and called him Killmallard.
I still own that boxed set, and I’ve never, not once, played Runequest.
I think many people did go down the RQ route, maybe ending up with Stormbringer, or Cthulhu or whatever. I think Glorantha left me cold, or intimidated by it’s scope, one or the other. But I chose the other fantasy path, the one with hit points, not hit locations. I think I made the right decision.