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​Out of the Suitcase #52: Looking at Games Workshop's Mailing Club Newsletters

Posted by Michael O'Brien on 10th Jul 2024

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

Many years ago I had the good fortune to purchase a set of the first eight issues of Games Workshop's Mailing Club Newsletters. Suffice it to say that I had never even heard of them before I moved to the UK. These newsletters were included for free to White Dwarf magazine subscribers, and they provide invaluable information as to what was going on inside the company at that time. The first newsletter debuted in early 1982, which dovetails nicely with Games Workshop's early RuneQuest publishing efforts via their shiny new license from Chaosium, which had been signed by Ian Livingston on July 5th 1981.

The initial newsletter had almost half of its four brief (A5-sized) pages devoted to RuneQuest, including the announcement that Oliver Dickinson, author of the popular 'Griselda' stories, would be joining the White Dwarf team as the RuneRites column editor, starting with issue 31.

Of note is that Games Workshop's version of the RQ2 boxed set debuted in March of 1982 (priced at £8.95). It contained the yellow cover version of Apple Lane, which appeared at the same time. The RuneQuest 2nd Edition rulebook was also sold separately (for £5.95), as was Apple Lane (for £2.95).

The second newsletter, published in May of 1982, noted that Wyrms Footnotes 13 and 14 were the last ever issues of that short-lived magazine. On the back page they wished Traveller a happy 5th anniversary, while also noting that White Dwarf #32 would feature a RuneRites column with Griselda's (interesting) stats.

Issue Number 3 spoke about the Rumble at the Tin Inn adventure appearing in WD#33. It also confirmed the rumor that it might also appear at the legendary never-published scenario book Under the Red Moon, which you can read more about in the Meints Index to Glorantha aka MiG3. Steve Jackson (the UK version) confirmed that GW's version of Cults of Prax was almost ready to print, thus confirming its publication date some time after August/September of 1982.

Issue Number 4 in late 1982 spoke about the Citadel RQ miniatures being produced. They hint of the Trolls being resculpted (they never were) to better conform with the details given in Trollpak, and that new Broos featuring horses heads and other disgusting features as described in the new Borderlands adventure pack were on the way.

At the very end of 1982, Issue Number 5's front page announced news about Chaosium's Questworld boxed set. Just as WD#38 confirmed, here too you heard mention of GW's own Questworld continent, Theelar, being under development. Albie Fiore, GW's production manager, also assured us that the GW printing of SoloQuest would be error free, including making it possible for you to play Maguffin Hunt without being ejected each time you surprised a dwarf. A few pages later we find that SoloQuest and Scorpion Hall (now both included in our SoloQuest Collection) schedule to debut in Jan/Feb 1983.

Issue Number 6 in early 1983 featured a Guide to Building Your RuneQuest Adventure. Of note is that a GW hardback version of the RQ rulebook never materialized, although they could have been referring to the Reston Publishing's RQ2 hardback book (in the US), which I do not believe was sold in the UK in any large quantities, if at all. Mention is also made of the errors in Scorpion Hall, to the point where they wonder if the author (Alan LaVergne) actually experienced the adventure prior to its publication! All the error trapping was to continue for GW's printing of the Snow King's Bride (also included in our SoloQuest Collection). Lastly, they announced their RQ Character and Adventure Sheets as a March/April 1983 release.

Issues 7 and 8 added little extra news about future RuneQuest releases. It seems that the newsletters were running out of steam, as was interest in new RQ products.

All in all, the Newsletters provide an intimate and timely insight into all things percolating within Games Workshop at that time, especially in 1982 and 1983. They confirmed when various GW printings of RQ2 books actually appeared for sale, usually a bit later than announced.

Games Workshop ceased publishing RQ2 when Chaosium basically did (late 1983). While GW published a number of "printed in the United Kingdom" editions/printings of some RQ2 books, the range was somewhat limited:

  • RuneQuest Boxed
  • RuneQuest softcover rulebook
  • Apple Lane
  • Griffin Mountain
  • Cults of Prax
  • SoloQuest
  • Scorpion Hall
  • Snow King's Bride
  • RuneQuest Character and Adventure sheets
Below is each of these products so you know what to look for. While I lived in the UK in the mid to late 90s the RQ2 books were looked upon by its fans with intense fondness. RuneQuest achieved a larger share of the RPG market in the UK than it ever did in the US, and much of that credit belongs to Games Workshop. They understood the UK RPG market with profound passion and astuteness. If only that golden age had lasted a little longer, and not been largely undone when the Avalon Hill edition of RQ3 debuted in 1984.

-- Look for the rolling die logo on the front or back cover... --

-- No need to show the character sheets back cover because it was just blank bare cardboard. Better to see the back of the rulebook, which was sold separately. --