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Out of the Suitcase #45: RuneQuest Advertising in (The) General...

Posted by Michael O'Brien on 15th Oct 2023

The above RQ3 advert is from The General Vol. 25, No. 2, page 5 (1989).

Chaosium President Rick Meints shares stories from a life-time as a collector of all things Chaosium.

A few days ago I was asked about the Avalon Hill staff that worked on RuneQuest 3rd Edition (RQ3) products. From 1984 through 1989 it was Chaosium that did all of the development, editing, art, and layout. Avalon Hill handled printing and sales. 

For a variety of reasons Chaosium renegotiated their deal in 1989 and ceased doing product creation and development for RQ3, and so from 1990 through 1998 Avalon Hill did all of that work in-house too, using a combination of in-house staff and freelancers. 

RuneQuest got a fair bit of coverage in Avalon Hill's Heroes magazine between 1984 and 1986, but the magazine ceased after just 10 issues. I didn't realize that Avalon Hill's feeble marketing of RQ3 included advertising some of its latest supplements in their main house magazine as well - The General

Yesterday I had a look through various issues from 1990 through 1998 and found a few advertising gems I thought you might like to see*. In particular, the full page advert for RuneQuest: Slayers in 1998 surprised me. Just when you think you know everything... this advert appeared in the second to last issue of The General before it ceased publication forever. I doubt they ever advertised the product anywhere else. I did a bit of research on RQ: Slayers and wrote about it in as one of my "What never was..." segments in the MIG3. (page 115).

This earlier Elder Secrets advert (shown below) mentions "future Gloranthan supplements" of its kind, but they would be a few years in coming. I was hoping that they might mention what future supplements were in the works in other ads, and then I remembered this came out in 1989. They didn't have any Gloranthan ones coming from Chaosium. Greg was too fed up with AH to want to work with them any more.You could almost read the slow death on the vine coming...  

By the time I started investing in the online Gloranthan community in the early 1990s, most of the Avalon Hill RuneQuest drama had already happened. I wish I had paid attention to the larger picture of RuneQuest publishing**. I feel I missed out. These pages are just another small piece in the overall story. Fuller details are in the current edition of the Meints Index to Glorantha.

Sun Couty ad from The General, Vol. 28, No. 1 (1992). This ad contains no odd choice of background color like the Elder Secrets or Eldarad adverts. The ad copy was written by Michael (MOB) O'Brien. I miss Waldenbooks and B. Dalton.

The Dorastor ad is almost unreadable and debuted in The General, Vol. 28, No. 6, page 8 (1993). The "Ask for Operator G-286" line at the bottom was to help you order the product over the phone.

I was hoping to find a similar advert for Daughters of Darkness. It takes real advertising mojo to make these sound enticing. Eldarad advert from The General, Vol. 26, No. 4, page 56 (1990). The ketchup and mustard colors chosen certainly leap out at you.

*Note that while most of the pages in The General were B&W, adverts for other games were usually in full color.

**In High School and College I divided my gaming time between RPGs and wargames. As for wargames I played a fair bit of Panzerblitz, 3rd Reich, Civilization, and Star Fleet Battles. I bought, but didn't play RuneQuest (3rd Edition) much at that time. While at the University of Michigan from 1984 to 1989 I didn't subscribe to any gaming magazines, although I did read the occasional issue of The Dragon and The General. I didn't know what I was missing...