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Steve Perrin: Creating RuneQuest – Part Four: Came the Ducks

Posted by Michael O'Brien on 15th Aug 2021

For our RuneQuest Classic Kickstarter in 2016 Steve Perrin generously provided a personal account of his role in the genesis of the RuneQuest roleplaying game. Although at the time of the Kickstarter we publicly featured an excerpt of Steve's recollections, the full account was only ever published a high level backer item (in the RuneQuest Playtest Manuscript) and so only received limited circulation.

In memory of Steve, here we present his account in full as a six part series, offering his fascinating insights into the development of RuneQuest, the rules that cemented Steve Perrin as one of the most influential game designers of all time.

STEVE PERRIN: Creation of creatures for Glorantha occupied a fair amount of our attention, particularly when trying to figure out what to toss at play testers this week. Many had already been created by Greg either in his board games or in Wyrms Footnotes, which started as a fanzine supplement to White Bear and became the voice of Glorantha. Creatures like the Walktapus and Dragon Snails and Pumpkin Jack (appearing in RQ as Jack O’Bears – Pumpkin Jack’s spawn) first appeared in the pages of Wyrm’s Footnotes,along with character pieces so they could be added to the game(s). We rapidly realized that we had a multitude of very nasty creatures but not many run of the mill critters for beginning adventurers to deal with before they ran into the big guns.

I am not sure whether Greg Stafford came up with the Troll curse at this point, or it had been brewing back in his very creative mind from the first time he decided to put trolls into White Bear, or before. So now we had Trollkin (another name I came up with, though there might be parallel development in other areas).

We were also lacking some kind of Hobbit equivalent for those players who really insist on a challenge. Came the Ducks.

From the time White Bear & Red Moon came out, and perhaps before, Greg had a friendship with a talented miniatures sculptor named Neville Stocken. Neville may have created some of the prominent monsters of Glorantha by first dreaming up (literally in some cases) something like the Dragon Snail and then Greg including it into the bestiary. Neville’s company, Archive Miniatures, created many Gloranthan miniatures that Greg used to promote his board games at conventions.

Among Neville’s creations was a two figure miniature set of Barbarian Duck and His Old Lady, taken rather closely from the cover of Howard the Duck #1. Marvel objected strenuously and immediately. Neville asked Greg to justify the Duck (anyone can do barbarian girls in chain mail bikinis) and now we had Ducks to essentially fill the hobbit niche in the Gloranthan mythological ecology.

The concept got a boost because one of the cities of Dragon Pass is called Duck Point. It got that name because when Greg was readying White Bear for initial release, he needed names for the cities he had been calling “City Number One,” etc. He asked each of the talented artists who had worked on the project with him to name a city. One of the artists, a definite fan of Carl Barks, pointed to one of the cities and said “That one is Duckburg.” Greg, not wanting Disney on his case, changed it to Duck Point.

But where did the ducks actually come from? An ancient curse is the accepted reason, but I always favored the story that I heard from Steve Lortz, Neville’ s assistant in the latter days of Archive Miniatures.

In ancient days, a cabal of sorcerers wanted to call up a giant fire-breathing Dragon to assist them in their conquests. However, they slipped a couple of decimal points and instead got 5,000 cigar-smoking male ducks, otherwise known as drakes.

One wonders how the race perpetuated itself, but maybe that’s where the barbarian girls in chain mail bikinis come in.

Another monster was based on an artistic creation, but this time the artist was my wife, Luise Perenne. She created a dynamic monochromatic cover for the first edition with an armored warrior woman dealing with a lizardy creature hanging on to her shield. For the second edition, she recreated the cover in color.

But we didn’t have lizard monsters. We had Dragonewts and Newtlings, but no dangerous just plain lizards. So Rock Lizards were born. We populated them in the ruins of Pavis and then came up with Cliff Toads to give them some challenge in their ecological niche.

Warren James helped with these critters and then came up with the Stake Snakes and their kin. Our Bestiary was unique for most games (though Tunnels and Trolls: Monsters, Monsters supplement had some of this) in that full characteristics were presented for each critter. A player could actually play a troll, or a broo, or a scorpion man, or an intelligent baboon, etc. Strictly speaking players could play dragon snails, though I have not heard of anyone trying it. More than one player has told me of campaigns that included no humans at all.

Next: An Ancient World Fantasy