Four years ago, on this very day, I tried to express my grief at the passing of Greg Stafford (1948-2018). For a man I had only ever spent a weekend with at a convention, and spoken with only over a few drinks, the sense of loss I felt was striking. It shook me to my core. And it turned out to be life altering.
As a kid I was obsessed with mythology; the D'Aulaires books of Greek and Norse mythology in the second and third grades, Edith Hamilton around grade four, dozens of others. I must have checked them all out of the library so often no one else in the school ever had the chance to read them. It was this intense interest, in fifth grade, that introduced me to Dungeons & Dragons. A teacher had a set of the Holmes Basic Set and convinced me to GM it. "You'll love it, it has monsters and gods and heroes." She was right. I did.
I was excited to go to junior high school because they had a D&D club. I would get the chance to play, rather than run. To my surprise, when I arrived the older boys were not playing D&D, however. They were playing something called RuneQuest. That was how I met Glorantha. How I "met" Greg.
It was an earth-shaking moment because I realized for the first time that mythology could be created. While AD&D scavenged--it had pegasi and minotaurs and gods like Zeus and Thor--Greg was conjuring Orlanth's rivalry with Yelm, the Seven Mothers and their Red Goddess, Storm Bull dispatching the Devil with the Spike. Mythologies could be created...new mythologies! Soon after I would discover Lovecraft and Moorcock and Tolkien, but Greg showed me the possibility first.
I didn't really get to "know" Greg until I went to university, however. The plan was to be a history major, but in a comparative religion course I discovered Mircea Eliade's The Sacred and Profane.
...religious man lives in two kinds of time, of which the more important, sacred time, appears under the paradoxical aspect of a circular time, reversible and recoverable, a sort of eternal mythical present that is periodically reintegrated by means of rites...
That changed the course of my studies. I realized Greg hadn't just conjured Glorantha up. The setting had sources, forerunners. It was a revelation, of sorts. I felt I was following a trail of breadcrumbs Greg had left for me. I ended up spending the next seven years chasing it, moving into the study of ancient epic poems like the Iliad and Mahabharata. In this way I chased Greg's shadow throughout grad school, feeling a little thrill whenever I tripped across something that gave me a glimpse of where Glorantha had come from. Before I knew it I was a mythologist and Indologist. All from chasing Stafford.
It was in the midst of this that I met Greg in the flesh, at the very first RuneQuest-Con in 1994. Ironically, we talked mostly about Pendragon.
Then life got...complicated. A break-up. Leaving my country behind to cross an ocean and enter an alien world. It got complicated for Greg around the same time. Chaosium, the company he founded for Glorantha, was in financial trouble. He left and took Glorantha with him. As Hero Wars replaced RuneQuest I was in Japan, learning a new language, leveraging my linguistics background into a teaching career. Greg meanwhile was turning Hero Wars into HeroQuest, and way ahead of everyone else his Glorantha Trading Association was Kickstarter long before Kickstarter. I became a backer, and for the record the first edition of HeroQuest was the first Gloranthan book my name appeared in.
Life went on. While I had written a lot when I was younger--four novels in my teens and twenties, and in 1989 I had been the first winner of the New York Young Playwrights' Contest and the winner of it again in 1990--teaching had become my priority and the writing was happening less and less. This saddened me, so in 2012 I started blogging. To my surprise, the blog started to take off, gathering readers. Around the same time, Greg also returned to something he loved. He went back to Chaosium. As my writing picked up again, Chaosium was reborn.
Then came the news. RuneQuest was returning.
Threads seemed to be pulling everything together. Greg was back, Chaosium was back, RuneQuest
was back. I was running "Six Seasons in Sartar" as a HeroQuest Glorantha
campaign and blogging about it when I was asked if I wanted to review the new RuneQuest.
Of course I did. I jumped at the chance
. I published "Rites of Passage" on the blog a month after that review, then reviewed the Bestiary the month after that
. The "Six Seasons" blog entries were becoming huge hits, and I was getting more and more messages and emails about them. Something was stirring. I had this feeling that "Six Seasons" was meant to be something bigger than blog articles, but had no sense of what or how. Yet with RuneQuest
back, I knew "Seasons" had to be rewritten for it. I started the process. In the meantime, I reviewed the Gamemaster Screen Pack
A few short weeks later, Greg had entered the Spirit World and wasn't coming back.
The entire next year, 2019, nearly every article on the blog was about the world he left behind. No, not this one...I mean Glorantha.
I think that year I had no real idea what I was supposed to be doing. The blog articles had a strong following, and I had this nagging sense that I was supposed to be following Greg's shadow again. I had no clear idea how to do that.
Until the Jonstown Compendium
came along, and on its heels a very convenient pandemic that shut my school down and left me with nothing to do but write. Everything fell into place, and it felt in some sort of weird way that the universe was showing me what my next move was to be. No, that is an understatement. The universe seemed to be bending over backwards for me to do this. So the best way for me to honor Greg's memory, I decided, was to do what he did. Add something to Glorantha and share it.
Four years to the day after I blogged on his passing, it was announced that I was the 2022 winner of the memorial award in his name
. The last two years, Glorantha has become more present in my life than ever, having published about 540 combined pages on the Haraborn in Six Seasons in Sartar, The Company of the Dragon,
and The Seven Tailed Wolf.
I've worked with Jeff Richard on the heroquesting rules and written sections of the upcoming Sartar Campaign. I have two more Gloranthan projects to get out before the year's end.
I'm still chasing Stafford, but tonight I feel like I have at least caught his tail.
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