Tales of Mythic Adventure Episode 12 – ToMA talks with Greg

Greg Stafford – the original discoverer of Glorantha 0:00 – 7:03

Jeff and MOB are excited to introduce their very special guest, Greg Stafford, the original ‘discoverer’ of Glorantha. The guys are in Ann Arbor, Michigan, aka Moon Design Central, about to travel down to Indianapolis for Gen Con 2015, where there will be lots of awesome Glorantha and Moon Design stuff going on. This will include a demo of the reprint of Credo, the game of duelling dogmas. Greg breaks in to say that he has sworn a mighty oath to return home with a copy of Credo, and MOB says that he can have the demo copy (for that is all there is at the moment) so his oath will not be broken.

Lawrence Whittaker and Pete Nash, from Design Mechanism, will also be at Gen Con, showing off their latest RuneQuest product, The Adventures of Luther Arkwright. Heroquest Glorantha will be available, as well as some of the last copies of The Guide to Glorantha, and the bound copies of the first three chapters of the comic Prince of Sartar (which Greg also wants to take home a copy of).

MOB mentions the Diana Jones award, which The Guide has been nominated for, and there is some discussion about how many Diana Jones awards Greg has won. They settle on three. The Guide, says Greg, is the book that it took forty years and several sets of new employees to produce. There was a previous Encyclopaedia of Glorantha in 1982, and the project went through a number of iterations, but was finally brought to market by Jeff, who read every note written by Greg in the two year process.

Mob wishes that there was an Ennie for heaviest game, as the Guide would be a strong contender, but Jeff slightly disagrees with this, pointing out that Horror on the Orient Express* is a large product, as is Sandy Petersen’s Cthulhu Wars. It is agreed that this is a very good year for very heavy games. Jeff points out that if you are attending at Gen Con buying a copy of the Guide to take home in your car will save considerable coin.

What Greg Did Next 7:03 – 17:45

MOB asks what Greg has been getting up to recently. Greg has been busy in two main areas. Firstly, continuing to support Pendragon, published by Nocturnal Games (and another of Greg’s Diana Jones award winners), and also continuing what has turned into a multi-book project about Oaxaca, Mexico. Greg lived there for a couple of years and has made many visits since. Oaxaca is Mexico’s poorest region, and while Greg does not want to glamorise poverty the region is nevertheless unspoilt and very beautiful, having both many colonial buildings and strong links to the indigenous culture. There was no paved road into the capital until 1985, but this also means that it is a wonderful experience to sit in the Zocalo (town square) having a beer. In the mountains, the indigenous culture as paramount, and there are many amazing ruins. Monte Alban is the most famous ruin in Oaxaca, and Greg has been there thirteen times, and will make it fourteen in December. Oaxaca has ten or more indigenous tribes, but the largest are the Zapotec and the Mixtec. The Zapotec built Monte Alban. Monte Alban was the first city in North America, and although the Spanish did a pretty good job burning all of the pre-Hispanic documents, but some still remain. These include land titles (lienzos), drawn on gigantic pieces of cloth.

Jeff mentions that he has just been visiting some of the sites of the ancestral Puebloans, a people prominent in New Mexico. They used to be called the Anaasazi, however that was a Navajo term meaning ‘Enemies of our ancestors’, and so the term is no longer being considered polite, being the equivalent of calling the French ‘Cheese-eating surrender monkeys’. Exonyms such as these are the curse of Native Americans, as many of the well-known names of tribes are in fact not their own terms. On a related note, MOB explains that apparently Kangaroo means ‘I do not know what you are talking about’ and in England, Avon was a term for river, so the river Avon is the River River. There were also deliberate jokes by the indigenous, as in the Californian town of Loleta, which apparently means ‘let’s have sex’ in the Wiyot dialect (although it has to be said that Wikipedia does not agree with this translation).

To continue the discussion about place names, MOB raises the name of the city of Yelm just out of Tecoma in Washington State. While Greg disclaims any connection, MOB has researched and Yelm is a Native American word related to the world dawn, final proof (if it was needed) that Glorantha is part of the collective unconscious.

Translating Glorantha 17:45- 29:04

Greg first ‘saw’ Glorantha in 1966, when he had run out of books on mythology to read and decided to start to write a few. At this time Greg had not read Tolkien or any other fantasy fiction. He wrote one page, then a short story, and then had a ‘vision’ of Glorantha that he felt would require a staff of writers to help. Astonishingly, this came true. The fact that other people bought into Greg’s vision is one of the most important elements to him.

As the only other person besides Greg who has read all of Greg’s notes, Jeff wonders why all of Greg’s notes are written on legal size paper, a size that is so non-standard that it is very difficult to use and store. Greg agrees that this paper size is very annoying, but that he must have got a large amount for free at some point.

Greg’s first Glorantha story was published in a fanzine called Space and Time, edited by Gordon Linzer. Greg inherited a fanzine himself at one time called Wyrd Magazine, for five or six issues. Glorantha pre dates role game playing, which is one of the most unique aspects of it. Each game that Greg made was a different way of exploring the world. The game White Bear Red Moon was developed after Greg got an unkind rejection from another fanzine, saying WTTE that ‘all fantasy is the same.’ Greg walked around Albany stewing and thinking ‘No it isn’t’ and got up to the top of a hill where a dragon spoke to him and he had a vision of…a board game! White Bear Red Moon gives you the setting, the characters, and as you play the game it gives you the plot. When role game playing came on the scene Greg was introduced to Steve Perrin and the rest is role playing history.

White Bear Red Moon was originally not even developed for Glorantha, but Greg felt that it would all fit nicely into one of the blank spaces on the Gloranthan map. Jeff asks for the origin of the Crimson Bat. Greg jests that it must have been during a particularly bad hangover, but more seriously suggests that a lot of his ideas come suddenly to him fully formed, which is why he speaks of discovery or translation rather than creation.

MGF Questions 29:04 – 34:18

What does everyone know about Greg

Everybody knows that Greg discovered Glorantha, that he was the creator of Pendragon, and the founder of Chaosium games.

What does nobody know about Greg

Greg bought the first copy of D&D to be sold. He loaned it to a friend in the 1970’s and never got it back

What does Greg do better than other people

He is a great GM.

What does Greg do worse than other people

He is a really bad player. This has in fact been measured and proved.

Products mentioned in this podcast

The Guide to Glorantha


Prince of Sartar

The Adventures of Luther Arkwright

Heroquest Glorantha

Horror on the Orient Express*

Gods War

White Bear Red Moon


*An awesome game, written by Penny Love my awesome sister and Mark Morrison my awesome brother in law. I am in no way biased.