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Steve Perrin: Creating RuneQuest – Part Six: Debut at Origins '78

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: By the time Origins came around, I had enough leave time from my day job to go along with Greg, Tadashi Ehara, and Lynn to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where the convention was being held while the students were away for the summer. We arranged for Warren to go with the crew to Gen Con the next month. Steve H and Ray Turney were too busy with their own lives to carve out the time, and Chaosium only had so much money for plane tickets.

At Origins I got to meet a bunch of people I had only known through correspondence and by reputation. Greg had one of his better marketing brilliancies and asked me to make up a list of people who should get review copies of the game. I put together a list of folks like John Sapienza, who later contributed so much to further editions of RQ, and Mark Swanson, the publisher of the Wild Hunt APA (Amateur Press Association), and Lee Gold of Alarums and Excursions APA, all of whom seemed like good and honest folk who would give a thoughtful review and hopefully generate some interest. And they were and they did.

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At Origins, I had to give some people back their money because they bought the book first, then introduced themselves as someone who was on the list.

Game demos were scheduled in the lounge areas of various dormitories at the University, and navigating to them to run the demo game was sometimes confusing. Neither the dormitories nor the lounges were very well marked. Thus was born the first RuneQuest spinoff game – RoomQuest.

The next anecdote needs a bit of backstory. Back in 1975, when we were getting ready to hold the first DunDraCon, when D&D was just three books in a box and some supplements, I wrote up a bunch of house rules for play in the official house dungeon for the convention. Since, once again, I was the person typing them up, I called them the Perrin Conventions. In theory they were only for local consumption, but several attendees at the first DunDraCon were from out of town.

While at Origins ’78, I took time off from the Chaosium table to go see the seminars. I sat down to watch one that included folks like Marc Miller, Dave Arneson, and others discussing RPGs. One of the organizers of the convention that I had met earlier, saw me and asked me to come on stage. I am not shy. I expected to be introduced as the author of the new game RuneQuest, or perhaps of All the Worlds Monsters. Instead, he introduced me as the author of the Perrin Conventions. Apparently my little pamphlet had legs I didn’t know about.

It was a great two years from July of 1976 until June of 1978. The time since the debut of RuneQuest has been equally fulfilling. I established friendships that are still active forty years later and established a name in the game business that has held me in good stead for the whole 40 years. Even as I write this I have new games coming down the pike from a variety of publishers. I am very pleased the new “Classic” edition of RuneQuest 2nd edition brings back into print what many fans tell me is their favorite edition. I am only sorrowed thinking of the friends who have not managed to make it to see this 40th anniversary of the game we all contributed to.

RIP: Clint Bigglestone, Steve Henderson, Jerry Jacks, Terry Jackson, Rory Root, and Lynn Willis. 

[And now RIP Greg Stafford and Steve Perrin himself. Vale to them all - #weareallus]