Q&A with Greg Stafford
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Post Posted: Tue Jun 13, 2006 11:38 am 
 

Post your questions for Greg Stafford here.

Welcome to the Acaeum, Greg.

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Post Posted: Tue Jun 13, 2006 12:13 pm 
 

I'm an Acaeum newbie, so I can rush in where angels fear to tread.    What stories can you tell about

(1) Favorite Chaosium RPG games or settings that you created while at Chaosium?  Favorite RPG games that were created by other companies during that time?

(2) Favorite current products (RPGs, CCGs, books, viceo games, whatever) that are related to gaming?

Ignore the following question if it's not appropriate or if you have answered it ad nauseum (which you probably have).

(3) So what was the deal with Cthulhu and TSR's Deities and Demigods?  First he was in the book; then he was gone, and Chaosium was thanked on the credits page.  Was Chaosium willing to let TSR use Cthulhu?  Was some handshake or official deal made that was later not used?

[edit: added bold and italics]

  


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Post Posted: Tue Jun 13, 2006 12:48 pm 
 

zhowar wrote:Post your questions for Greg Stafford here.
Welcome to the Acaeum, Greg.


Thanks!
I'm here to answer questions about Chaosium products from the time that I was president there, share stories from the "old days" and offer whatever else I can that is of value to this group.

I'm mainly a Chaosium guy, of course, but I'd like to share one tale about D&D to start, from WAY back when.

I used to work for Bergamot Brass Works, a belt buckle company out of Lake Geneva, WI after high school. Real hippy job. I'd take buckles, hitch hike around and sell them to shops, etc. After a while, though, I moved to California. My friend of the time remained there, selling buckles (we were called Buckle-itis).

Through various circumstances I'd decided to publish my first boardgame, White Bear & Red Moon, on my own. As I was finishing up work on it, I got a package in the mail from my old partner Jeff. His cover letter swaid, "I was picking up my catalogues from the printer the othr day and there was this guy waiting for his stuff. I asked what it was, and he said it was a fantasy game. I said, 'Hey, my buddy in California is doing one too! Can I buy one from ya?'"

Of course the guy was happy to, and so Jeff sent me this strange little booklet called Dungeons & Dragons.

Later on I though, "Heck, I wonder if that was the first one ever sold?" Well, I asked Gary Gygax if he remembered this incident and he did, and confirmed that it was the first one ever sold.

MAN, do I ever now wish that I'd not lent it to my DM and never gotten it back!!


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Post Posted: Tue Jun 13, 2006 12:56 pm 
 

JohnGaunt wrote:I'm an Acaeum newbie, so I can rush in where angels fear to tread.  
Many questions! I have only a little time right now, so I will break them up to reply.

What stories can you tell about
(1) Favorite Chaosium RPG games or settings that you created while at Chaosium?  

My personal favorite is King Arthur Pendragon, which I consider to be my masterpiece. This is mainly becasue I did just about all the design and writing work on it, whereas most games we did were rather by committee. I'd been fascinated by King ARthur and things medieval since I was a little kid and saw a picture of a castle. I remember thinking, "Gee, they sure had tall wals! And I wonder why it has no roof?"

And of course, RuneQuest is way up on my list too. I'd begun writing about Glorantha in 1966 while at college. I was dissatisfied with D&D, and so when other guys offered to do a rpg based on WB&RM I took them up on the offer.

Naturally, too, I am most proud of having published Call of Cthulhu. I had notthing to do with writing it, per se.


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Post Posted: Tue Jun 13, 2006 12:59 pm 
 

JohnGaunt wrote: What stories can you tell about

(1)  Favorite RPG games that were created by other companies during that time?


Well, I always had a vested interest in Chaosium, and was kinda a ame snob as a result. After all, we had the best rpgs out there!  :)

One in particular that springs to mind, though, was Bob Charette's Samauri game (I think that was the title!) I liked it so much I tried to buy it to publish, but couldn't, and so finally just hired Bob to write the RuneQuest supplement for feudal Japan, Land of Ninja.


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Post Posted: Tue Jun 13, 2006 1:01 pm 
 

JohnGaunt wrote:I'm an Acaeum newbie, so I can rush in where angels fear to tread.    What stories can you tell about

(2) Favorite current products (RPGs, CCGs, books, viceo games, whatever) that are related to gaming?


Remember that comjment about being a game snob? Well, I only play my own rpgs these days. I have a regular Pendragon campaign going, and recently played HeroQuest as well.

Time is a factor in playing, and so I mainly play boardgames these days. Current Favorites: Valley of the Mammoths and Serinissima.


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Post Posted: Tue Jun 13, 2006 1:09 pm 
 

JohnGaunt wrote:I'm an Acaeum newbie, so I can rush in where angels fear to tread.    What stories can you tell about

(3) So what was the deal with Cthulhu and TSR's Deities and Demigods?  First he was in the book; then he was gone, and Chaosium was thanked on the credits page.  Was Chaosium willing to let TSR use Cthulhu?  Was some handshake or official deal made that was later not used?


Oh, OK. I'll be polite here. TSR in those days was largely run by the Blums, a rather ruthless and careless administration.
They published the first edition of the book (wasn't it called Gods, Demigods and Heroes?) with both Moorcock's Elric and Lovecraft's Cthulhu materials in it. Well, Chaosium owned the licence to both of those works at the time, and so I wrote to TSR and brought it to their attention.

At that time I was doing the first multi-game supplement, Thieves' World. I wanted to capure all the existing games at that time, figuring it would be of curiosity interest int he future for people to compare the original systems. Of course, I wanted to have all the games in it, but TSR was famously reluctant to let anyone use their TM.

Well, since they had violated my TM, I offered to let them keep using it if I, in turn, could use D&D and AD&D in TW. They agreed, we had contracts drawn up, etc.

Then their next edition cut it all out! I was curious about it, and called their PR department (without giving my name.) They said they didn't want those in their books because they wanted to avoid any hint of satanic stuff (which was hot at the timne.)

That's what I was told at the time. You can ask me in private if I beleive it.


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Post Posted: Tue Jun 13, 2006 1:15 pm 
 

so even though they cut it from D&DG, were you still allowed to use their TM in your TW material? or did they force you to withdraw it...or were them contracts never finalised in the end?

this is quite interesting actually - dont think most ppl would have ever known all this and it places a nice piece in the history-puzzle so to speak.

Al



  


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Post Posted: Tue Jun 13, 2006 1:46 pm 
 

Greg Stafford wrote:
JohnGaunt wrote:I'm an Acaeum newbie, so I can rush in where angels fear to tread.  
Many questions! I have only a little time right now, so I will break them up to reply.

What stories can you tell about
(1) Favorite Chaosium RPG games or settings that you created while at Chaosium?  

My personal favorite is King Arthur Pendragon, which I consider to be my masterpiece. This is mainly becasue I did just about all the design and writing work on it, whereas most games we did were rather by committee. I'd been fascinated by King ARthur and things medieval since I was a little kid and saw a picture of a castle. I remember thinking, "Gee, they sure had tall wals! And I wonder why it has no roof?"

And of course, RuneQuest is way up on my list too. I'd begun writing about Glorantha in 1966 while at college. I was dissatisfied with D&D, and so when other guys offered to do a rpg based on WB&RM I took them up on the offer.

Naturally, too, I am most proud of having published Call of Cthulhu. I had notthing to do with writing it, per se.


Pendragon is still ground breaking, after all these years.


Regards,



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Post Posted: Tue Jun 13, 2006 3:30 pm 
 

Hi Greg - I have a question that I've wondered about ever since I picked up the Dieux Nomades reprint of Nomad Gods.  In the introduction to the rules it mentions a third Glorantha boardgame "Masters of Luck and Death".  

Was this game ever close to being published?  Is it ever likely to be published in future?

  


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Post Posted: Tue Jun 13, 2006 8:33 pm 
 

killjoy32 wrote:so even though they cut it from D&DG, were you still allowed to use their TM in your TW material? or did they force you to withdraw it...or were them contracts never finalised in the end?

We were still allowed to use it. We had the contracts.
this is quite interesting actually - dont think most ppl would have ever known all this and it places a nice piece in the history-puzzle so to speak.

That's why I'm here. :)


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Post Posted: Tue Jun 13, 2006 8:35 pm 
 

Ethesis wrote:Pendragon is still ground breaking, after all these years.

Thank you. I think so too. :)
And if anyone hasn't seen the new 5th edition from White Wolf, go out and get it! There will be naother of my "life works," The Great Pendragon Campaign coming out for it soon, too.


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Post Posted: Tue Jun 13, 2006 8:42 pm 
 

Marinagh wrote:I have a question that I've wondered about ever since I picked up the Dieux Nomades reprint of Nomad Gods.  In the introduction to the rules it mentions a third Glorantha boardgame "Masters of Luck and Death".  

I'm a bit surprised that they put that in there. By the time Oriflam printed their board games it was well established that Masters of Luck and Death--the boardgame--wouldn't be finished, never mind be published.
Was this game ever close to being published?  Is it ever likely to be published in future?

It got as close as having a map made and some counters made, by hand. It was to be a multi player war game, and also one in which the players ran around the board and assembled runes to create the winning combination, a new leader of the entire region. It was going to work in conjunction with the other games--Dragon Pass/WB&RM and Nomad Gods as well, hence the mysterious runes in them.
However, I got entirely diverted by RPGs, especially RuneQuest, and instead had planned to do the "make the leader" game as part of the RPG.
And, well, that never got done either.

Nor do I have plans to do it. I'm licensing a new version of Dragon pass and maybe the designer will want to pursue this. Just too early to tell.


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Post Posted: Wed Jun 14, 2006 1:13 pm 
 

Hi Greg, great having you on the Acaeum forums!

As you probably know, Mongoose is releasing a new edition of Runequest pretty soon, and an accompanying Glorantha setting book. I was curious what your thoughts are about it. Are you involved at all in the project?

  


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Post Posted: Wed Jun 14, 2006 1:42 pm 
 

El Diablo Robotico wrote:Hi Greg, great having you on the Acaeum forums!

Thank you.
As you probably know, Mongoose is releasing a new edition of Runequest pretty soon, and an accompanying Glorantha setting book. I was curious what your thoughts are about it. Are you involved at all in the project?

Yes, I know aobut it. After all, Issaries licenced it!
I'm glad to see it happening.
RuneQuest is one of the old flagship titles, and its style of play is still quite popular, both with old-timers and newer players. I don't see it as a rival to HeroQuerst, which has an entirely different style of play.
Mongoose seems to be one of the new, up and coming companies--the next generation, so to speak. They will be doing the Gloranthan RuneQuest first, will follow up with a Lhankmar version, and have other settings in the works as well. Since I'm no longer in publishing myself, I'm glad to have this license in the hands of such entrepeneurs.
I am involved as much as I wish to be. It's been an interesting experiencea to see what I really care about in this. Turns out (surprise!) it's mostly the Gloranthan information. I don't care too much about the spell list or interpretations of how the designers present Glorantha, but I DO care about the names of the cities of Brithos, the dynasties of the emperors, and such details that I have compiled over the last four decades. So I did a LOT of conferring with Robin Laws, who is writing the the background book, and less with Jeff Kyer, who is doing the cults book.


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Post Posted: Thu Jun 15, 2006 12:12 am 
 

Greg,

Did you have a part in the creation of the Stormbringer/Elric line of games?

For instance, how did the contract with Moorcock come about?

Mark   8)


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Post Posted: Thu Jun 15, 2006 8:12 am 
 

MShipley88 wrote:Did you have a part in the creation of the Stormbringer/Elric line of games?
For instance, how did the contract with Moorcock come about?
Mark   8)

Yes, I did, as publisher. Heck, back in those days I WAS Chaosium, though quickly Tadashi Ehara joined to handle the business end of things, and later other staff joined up.
I had read the Elric stories already, and admired them. I originally contacted Mr. Moorcock to do the boardgame that became Elric!. The licence that we wrote included all game rights--in those days there was no real "game market"--no rpg, card or computer game markets at all.
Once we had published RuneQuest and seen what rpg's could do we either: 1. realized we could do a Moorcock rpg, and asked Ken St. Andre to write it; or 2. were approached by Ken St. Andre who asked to write it.
Thus was born our first literature-based rpg and, I believe, the first licenced rpg on the market (though historicans can check on that for us.)


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Post Posted: Thu Jun 15, 2006 2:35 pm 
 

Without causing trouble for Chaosium today....

Could you comment on Moorcock's contention that the license contract no longer applies?

Specifically, Moorcock does not like some of the Chaosium Elric products, and he contends that Chaosium violated the contract by not submitting them for approval.

He says he has another deal under way.

Over on Moorcock's own web pages, his fans naturally side with him, but his position sounds weak...like maybe he had not realized how much gaming was going to grow.

Does the original contract likely still apply?

Is Moorcock's contention that the contract called for him to approve products a valid one?

Mark   8)


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Post Posted: Thu Jun 15, 2006 2:38 pm 
 

Another question:

What is the relationship between the Chaosium game, Elric, and the Avalon Hill version...and/or the Japanese company's version.?

Also, is Elric, Battle at the End of Time another version of the same game, or a different game?

Mark   8)


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Post Posted: Thu Jun 15, 2006 3:17 pm 
 

Hi Greg, welcome to the forums.

First off, I'd like to say that Chaosium was, to me, the paragon of quality RPG design.  I always had disagreements with the rules, but I never found the lore, source material, and encounter design in Chaosium products to be lacking.  Back in the early 80s, Call of Cthulhu introduced me to Lovecraft, now one of my favorite authors.  Pendragon encouraged an exploration of the mythic and historic underpinnings of the Arthurian legends that persists to this day.  Glorantha was my first introduction to a deep, breathing fantasy world that wasn't Middle Earth, and greatly influenced not only my own campaign, but also my entire creative process.

So in short, thanks!
8)

And now on to the possibly uncomfortable, long-answer-encouraged question (you knew it was coming).

Can you speak at any length about the average print runs Chaosium products went through?  Average number of copies produced, sell-through, reclamation, editions etc.?  Even something as simple as the average print run (excluding sales if need be) of an average CoC, Pendragon, Elric or RuneQuest supplement vs. ruleset would be very helpful.

The reason why I ask is this:  It's of immense interest to collectors, because print runs directly influence surviving copies and therefore rarity.  Some RPG items (cough TSR Demigods w/Cthulhu cough) tend to develop a mystique that causes their perceived value and rarity to go through the roof, when the actual print history tells another story entirely.  For Chaosium products specifically, I've often gotten into long and fruitless debates over just how rare XYZ is and how much/little we as collectors should be buying and selling it for.  The financial and rarity aspects of the hobby are of interest not only to sellers, but also to collectors on a budget.  It's one of the first questions newcomers to the hobby always ask me, and my answer is always necessarily partial and ambiguous.

I do realize that this information is sensitive to procure, because it speaks directly to a company's profitability.  For some, it's tantamount to releasing the financials for public and competitive consumption.  Others in the past (notably GDW, Mayfair and to a limited extent post-TSR WotC) have been amenable to giving answers to help collectors out, while others have been silent, especially if they're still in the business.  If you can give us some idea of how many copies of various things may be out there, that would be great; if not I fully understand.

Personal items of particular interest would be:
RuneQuest 1st Ed
CoC 1st Ed
Masks of Nyarlathotep boxed
Pendragon Knights Adventurous

Thank you for your time.

  
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