Chaosium

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Chaosium Inc.
Private
Industry Wargame, Role-playing game, Board Game, Fantasy and Horror fiction publisher
Founded 1975
Headquarters Ann Arbor, Michigan (originally Oakland)
Key people
Greg Stafford, Sandy Petersen, Rick Meints, Jeff Richard
Products Call of Cthulhu, RuneQuest, HeroQuest, 13th Age Glorantha
Website chaosium.com

Chaosium is one of the oldest publishers of role-playing games still in existence. Established by Greg Stafford in 1975, its first title was the board game White Bear and Red Moon (later called Dragon Pass), set in Stafford's fictional fantasy gaming world of Glorantha. Over the years Chaosium has published many acclaimed and award-winning games. These include the roleplaying games Call of Cthulhu, based on the stories of H.P. Lovecraft; and RuneQuest and HeroQuest, set in Glorantha.

Other notable Chaosium titles include the card games Credo and Mythos; the Arthurian RPG Pendragon (currently published by Noctural Media); the boardgame Arkham Horror (currently published by Fantasy Flight Games); Prince Valiant: The Story-Telling Game; and the RPGs Stormbringer, Elric!, Hawkmoon, Nephilim, Ringworld, Elfquest, Thieve's World and Worlds of Wonder.

Many notable RPG authors have written material for Chaosium, including Steve Perrin, Sandy Petersen, Lynn Willis, Ken Rolston, Keith Herber, Charlie Krank, David Conyers, Ken St. Andre, Robin Laws, Jonathan Tweet, Jeff Richard and Arduin creator David A. Hargrave.

History[edit]

Greg Stafford founded "The Chaosium" in 1975 to publish his board game White Bear and Red Moon. He derived the name partly from his home, which was near the Oakland Coliseum, combining "coliseum" with "chaos."

In 1978 Chaosium published Steve Perrin's roleplaying game RuneQuest, set in Stafford's mythic fantasy setting Glorantha, following up with a second edition in 1979 and various supplements over the next six years.

In 1980, the company officially incorporated as Chaosium Inc. That year, Stafford and Lynn Willis simplified the RuneQuest rules into the 16-page Basic Role-Playing (BRP). These simulationist, skill-based generic rules formed the basis of many of Chaosium's later "d100" RPGs, such as Stormbringer, Worlds of Wonder, Superworld, Call of Cthulhu, Ringworld, Elfquest, Hawkmoon, Elric!, and Nephilim. The King Arthur Pendragon RPG, released in 1984, is based to some degree on BRP, but takes a more narrativist approach to play.

Chaosium entered into a licensing agreement with The Avalon Hill Game Company in 1983 to produce a third edition of RuneQuest. Avalon Hill manufactured and marketed the game, while Chaosium was responsible for acquisitions, design, development and layout. This relationship was not financially successful for Chaosium, although several high quality and well-received products were produced in a so-called "RuneQuest Renaissance" after Avalon Hill brought acclaimed game designer Ken Rolston on board to manage the line as "Rune Czar".

Following the financial failure of the collectable card game Mythos, Greg Stafford resigned as Chaosium president in 1998 and left the company, along with Sandy Petersen (although they both remained shareholders). Chaosium effectively split up into various successor companies, each maintaining its focus on a few of the company's products. Stafford took the rights to RuneQuest and his game setting Glorantha, setting up the company Issaries, Inc. to continue publishing this line (later licensing it to Moon Design Publications, along with the game HeroQuest). Rights to the Pendragon RPG passed on to Peter Corless's company Green Knight Publishing.

Long-time employees and part-owners Charlie Krank and Lynn Willis remained at Chaosium as President and Editor-in-Chief respectively, continuing on with Call of Cthulhu as the main product line.

Problems and delays fulfilling the Kickstarters for Horror on the Orient Express and Call Cthulhu 7th Edition led Stafford and Petersen to return to an active role at Chaosium in June 2015.[1] Charlie Krank subsequently left the company (Lynn Willis had passed away in 2013).

Later that year at Gen Con 2015, Stafford and Petersen announced Moon Design Publications were now part of the Chaosium ownership, and the four principals of Moon Design (Rick Meints, Jeff Richard, Michael O'Brien and Neil Robinson) had become the new Chaosium management team. Chaosium would once again became the licensed publisher for RuneQuest, HeroQuest and other products related to Gloranthan universe, and continued to publish the Call of Cthulhu line.[2] Stafford and Petersen remained as board members (Stafford as chair), and creative consultants to the company.

Magazines[edit]

Three magazines, until recently all of them defunct, had been published by Chaosium to promote its products:

  • Wyrm's Footnotes ran for fourteen issues from 1976 to 1995. Initially it was a supporting material publication for White Bear and Red Moon but for its 11th issue, in 1981, it had become the official RuneQuest magazine.[3] The magazine was revived in 2012 by Moon Design Publications, continuing the issue numbering at 15, despite the 17-year hiatus.
  • Different Worlds. Forty-seven bimonthly issues from Different Worlds were published. Chaosium, from 1979 to 1985, published the thirty-eight first ones and Sleuth Publications, from 1985 to 1987, the nine last ones. In spite of being an old Chaosium's and Stafford's collaborator, Tadashi Ehara was the editor of the magazine during the periods concerned by both publishing houses.[4]
  • Starry Wisdom, a Lovecraft themed magazine, three issues of which Chaosium published in 1997.[5]

References[edit]

External links[edit]