In Memory of Greg Stafford

Many of my RPG gamer friends have been in a degree of shock over the past few days with the news that Greg Stafford had died unexpectedly. Of course, this is (despite the popular culture acknowledgement of Dungeons & Dragons a bit of a niche hobby), and Greg's passing wasn't exactly spread around the world by the mainstream media, with the single very notable exception of Le Monde. Let me elaborate on just two reasons why this, however, should be more widely recognised.

Firstly, the fantasy world of Glorantha. There are many modern imagined worlds out there and a few which have gained popular culture recognition. Tolkien's Middle-Earth, C.S. Lewis' Narnia, Terry Pratchett's Discworld, Moorcock's Young Kingdoms each of these showed some genius as these authors all show considerable skill. But Glorantha is truly something special because Greg Stafford was a mythologist and a practicing shaman. As a result, at the very heart of Glorantha is mythical thinking which arguably makes it the greatest fantasy world ever created. Even more so, because Glorantha is so big, it is a world whose story has been created by many as a shared imaginary universe, which continues to evolve to this day. The fact that this was then built into an RPG (RuneQuest) that incorporated playable realism and a simulation of the mythological thinking by Steve Perrin and friends is worthy of note, but then also with the HeroQuest RPG which Greg co-authored as the first major "narrativist" RPG, where player buy-in to story creation had priority.

Secondly, the Pendragon RPG and in particular the supplement The Great Pendragon Campaign. Greg Stafford had a superb knowledge of the various sources of the Arthurian legend, and the Pendragon RPG represents the first game where character personality traits become an integral part of the physical mechanics of the game and a moral outlook of the world. That in itself is a very worthy contribution to game design. But more importantly, at least in my mind, is what Greg Stafford did to the story of Arthur. It has been well-recognised for hundreds of years that the volumes of stories that make up the Arthurian legends are both syncretic and anachronistic. Stafford took all of these works and constructed the most comprehensive single narrative that has ever been written of Arthurian legend and worked the technological and social anachronisms to fit into the moral rise of the Arthurian court, its decline, and fall. The result is that The Great Pendragon Campaign will be recognised by future scholars as the most important book ever written on Arthurian legend.

As many will know a couple of months ago I started publicising a RuneQuest Glorantha Down Under Con III, after some twenty years since the last one was held. I have been pondering in my head what do in Greg's memory (I was fortunate enough almost ten years ago to interview him in RPG Review, and ten years prior to that I believe he was also at the last RuneQuest Glorantha Con at the University of Melbourne). Over the weekend I did little else than work on RuneQuest Glorantha material. But I have come to a decision; through the RPG Review Cooperative, I am going to set up a Trust Fund for future RuneQuest Glorantha Conventions in Australia and New Zealand, because I believe that's what he would have wanted. To help provide the initial finances for such a fund I am donating my copy of White Bear and Red Moon for auction, Greg Stafford's first published game from 1975, set in Glorantha. Only eight hundred of these were ever produced, and they were hand stapled. In a sense, this is almost a priceless piece of art that I am surrendering - but if it can be used to promote future gatherings which will be in recognition of Glorantha, then this indeed is the worthy sacrifice to Greg Stafford's memory.

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