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Apropos of nothing, here's a parable from legendary game designer Greg Stafford...

Posted by Michael O'Brien on 15th Jan 2023

Apropos of nothing, here's a parable from legendary game designer Greg Stafford

Back in 1966, Greg first started creating Glorantha, future setting of the RuneQuest TTRPG. He began by describing the west coast of the northern continent. Wizards lived there, on the coast... 

Greg describes how these wizards built up a great empire and, using ruthless means, tried to consolidate all of the stories and myths of the world into a great unified whole under their control. (Yes, you could say these wizards "Gathered together all the Magic".) 

This hubristic scheme failed – the great empire of the God Learners managed to make so many enemies and have such internal contradictions that eventually what they so painstakingly built was torn apart in a terrible catastrophe that ended the age. 

Islands sank, the land was shattered. But from the ashes arose vibrant new kingdoms, who made their own way in the world without reference to the past. 

The once glittering empire of the wizards was shunned and forgotten, their very name cursed. 

Now, all of this Greg Stafford dreamed up in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when tabletop gaming was in its infancy. (Folks, this stuff predates TSR, let alone WotC.) Greg went on to found Chaosium in 1975 to publish his board game White Bear & Red Moon, and then the TTRPG RuneQuest (1978). Both games are set in his world of Glorantha, whose genesis began with Greg's tale of the rise and fall of the wizards living on the northern coast. 

When Greg passed away in 2018, John Wick in his tribute reminded everyone of the 'Stafford Rule': “The older I get, the more I hear young RPG designers say ‘Never been done before!’ And then I just point to stuff Greg Stafford wrote about a few decades ago.” 

Admittedly, the Stafford Rule is more about revolutionary game mechanics than linking happenings in a fictional setting to real world drama. But this insight did make JeffJason, and the rest of the RuneQuest dev team chuckle. We think Greg would have smiled cheekily too.

Greg Stafford