Glorantha was a fantasy world created by Greg Stafford in 1966. Just before its 50th anniversary, the world seized to exits. This text is my very personal, subjective attempt to find out what killed it. Or who killed it.
I was a fan of the world of Glorantha for much, at least half, of its history so it is slightly sad to see it go. But such is the way of life. Even if I’ve spent a large portion of my life obsessing over it and spending stupidly large amounts of money on materials about this now dead fictional setting, it is still just that: A fictional setting, and as such, nothing really important. Still, I feel I have something to say about the demise of this world. I guess I need some kind of closure
Glorantha went through several iterations while it existed and each iteration changed portions of the world. For much of its existence the world of Glorantha was based on the singular vision of its creator but also heavily influenced by people using this world as setting for playing roleplaying games. This influence did not, however, prevent Greg Stafford from making significant changes, some of which may not have been very well received.
The choice of roleplaying game systems was at one point a clear dividing factor between people. The original RPG written for Glorantha was RuneQuest (RQ for short), which existed as a system solely for Glorantha for about the first five years of its existence. After that it became a more generic game which could be more easily used for many different settings, but Glorantha remained the main setting for most of the time the world existed.
At one point Greg Stafford decided that RQ was not good for Glorantha and the game Hero Wars (HW) was created. The second edition was called HeroQuest (HQ), after a never published RQ-supplement which was supposed to bring more powerful magical quests into Glorantha. HQ was a very different game from RQ. To simplify one could say RQ was more simulationist while HQ was a narrativist game.
RQ had first been published by a company called Chaosium, founded by Greg Stafford. Later, the third edition was published by Avalon Hill while HW & HQ were first published by a new Stafford company called Issaries. Issaries held the rights to the name RuneQuest and the world of Glorantha for a while. During this time RQ was licensed to Mongoose Publishing and later to The Design Mechanism (TDM).
Greg Stafford was getting old, tired and sick so he transferred the rights he held to a company called Moon Design (MD), which had published some Gloranthan books. Jeff Richard became the lead Glorantha writer. This eventually lead to the demise of the setting.
The Design Mechanism had created the sixth edition of RuneQuest (RQ6), which was highly regarded. The system made many streamlining improvents to the old mechanics of the system. Sadly, this was not appreciated by the new owners of the Glorantha & RQ trademarks, who decided to kill both RuneQuest and Glorantha.
In 2015 the trademarks of Glorantha and RuneQuest went back to Chaosium, which had not held them for decades. This was because after the death of Lynn Willis, Greg Stafford, who had distanced himself form the company noticed he owned a large enough portion of the company shares to take over again. At first this news was applauded, since Chaosium had, under Charlie Krank nearly been bankrupt. But the joy soon turned into nightmare after Stafford brought his buddies from Moon Design to lead the new Chaosium.
At this point Lawrence “Loz” Whitaker and Pete Nash had been promised they could create a world book of Glorantha for their highly praised RQ6. Unfortunately Moon Design crushed these dreams. First they announced that Loz & Pete would make a Gloranthaized version of RQ6 but later even that was dropped.
You see, during this time Moon Design had a run a succesful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaingn to publish a book called Guide to Glorantha. This was supposed to be the definitive guide to the world but eventually just managed to kill the whole setting. The Guide was based on earlier work published as a boxed set called Glorantha. Some missing bits were added as was some art, maps and shiny pages to make a large coffee table size book which ultimately was a fine effort but really quite dull and boring.
Even worse, at this time Moon Design published a new version of the 2nd edition of HeroQuest called HeroQuest: Glorantha. HW&HQ1 had been tightly tied to the setting but HQ2 was made a generic game, a decision which Moon Desing soon changed. Starting to see a pattern here? HQ:G was a very poorly written thing that made roleplaying seem like a boring chore for unimaginative people. This was mainly due to the bland examples, which did not even follow the rules as written. HQ:C turned the fantastically original world of Glorantha into a sterile, unimaginative, boring, generic, bland, unintersting and unoriginal setting. This was all thanks to Jeff Richard.
The new Chaosium was short for cash, so Moon Design ran another Kickstarter campaign to get some money. The decided to cash on nostalgia by remaking the old Chaosium 2nd edition of RQ. This was the final nail to the coffin of Glorantha. The campaing was so succesful that Moon Design thought that the only way to sell RQ was to cater to old grognards who refused to play anything made after 1982. Therefore they decided to drop the great and original writers who had kept the RQ brand alive while MD was busy ruining Glorantha for good and make a “new” RQ7 based on RQ2 with some bits ported from RQ3 from the 1980s. They even had the audacity to call this project RQ4 as if the great work of two great authors who had kept the brand alive had never existed.
MD’s misguided notion was, that since the Classic edition crowdfunding campaing was a success, that was all people wanted. Which was not true. At the time even I was under the false impression that MD would be keeping RQ & Glorantha alive, so I funded the campaign which lead to their doom.
Such ends the history of one of the worlds greatest fictional, magical settings and great roleplaying game. All because of corporate greed, stupidity and incompetence. The only good thing left from all this is that RQ6 continues to live under a new name that has not been published yet.