Greg Stafford is dead. Long live Greg Stafford!

By Dan Zappone October 14, 2018 4 Min Read
Photo of Greg StaffordGreg Stafford

Greg Stafford is best known for bringing the world of Glorantha to life, for founding Chaosium, and creating the games Runequest, Pendragon as well as helping bring forth many others. He was also one the most influential, if not the most influential designer of role playing games. It would seem that if someone has some new idea for a game mechanic, Greg has already come up with it long ago.  Greg left this mortal world on October 11th 2018. Chaosium released an official announcement, Vale Greg Stafford (1948 – 2018).

When I first heard the news about Greg’s death I wasn’t sure what to think. I guess, you never really know. As some days have passed many different thoughts and feelings have passed through my mind and now I feel like I should write something.

Greg was so influential to me in roleplaying that he has appeared as an NPC with a slightly altered name. He appeared as an unarmed shaman (of course) in several campaigns, a Lunar official Gregorius in another, and as Craig Stanford in a far-future Lovecraftian sci-fi game where he was the villain trying to bring back the Great Old Ones.

Knowing Greg Stafford

I didn’t know Greg Stafford well, nor had I even met him in person. I spoke to him a number of time on the phone in the mid-nineties as a group of us were trying to put together a Call of Cthulhu MMORPG. Being new to the whole idea of licensing or even creating online games I really wasn’t sure what to do so I dug up the phone number for Chaosium and with much nervousness at calling someone who I didn’t know and who I practically idolized I gave Chaosium a call with the intention of talking to someone. Someone answered the phone and I asked for Greg. Turns out it was Greg who answered the phone. That’s always a bit of an odd start to a phone conversation. I told Greg about what we wanted to do and he thought it was a fantastic idea. We exchanged email and had quite a few additional conversations after that and the whole time Greg made me feel as though I was talking to someone I had known for many years. Ultimately, nothing came of the project due to financial reason but the experience was worthwhile and Greg made the whole thing seem completely achievable.

A Lasting Influence

That experience is not the biggest influence Greg Stafford had on my life.

I start playing roleplaying games when I was about in 1978, I was 10, maybe 11, years old and bought a copy of Gamma World. A strange game to start with I suppose but that quickly led to Dungeons and Dragons which I’m sure was the first RPG that many people played. I met a lot of folks at King’s Hobby Shop and by 1979 one of the kids I was playing with wanted to try this other game. That game was Runequest. It changed my life.

It was through Runequest that I met most of my oldest and dearest friends. We played long running campaigns with the same core group for twenty years or so until circumstances caused some members to move out of state. It was because of Greg that I had many conversations with those friends about myth, the nature of reality, religion, philosophy, and storytelling. All those conversations were informative to my core self and belief system and none of them would have occurred without Greg.

After playing Runequest and visiting Glorantha I couldn’t play any other games or play in other worlds without comparing them. Even when playing in our own worlds they were always influenced by Greg and Glorantha. The mythology of Glorantha resonated more with us than any mythology of Earth because we could experience that mythology through our own storytelling.

Without Greg Stafford and Runequest I would would never have met any of those people, all of which I am still close friends with today. Our core group doesn’t game together anymore, mostly, there are a few of us around still. But now it looks like those if us that are will be getting back together to visit Glorantha once again, at least for a little while. And once again that is thanks to Greg.

RuneQuest Panel at GenCon 50
Greg Stafford (right) during the Runequest Panel at GenCon 50

So, to Greg, I say thank you. Thank you for showing me the importance of myth and storytelling. Thank you for helping me meet my closest friends. And thank you for sharing your world with the rest of is. May your journey in the God-Time be your greatest story.