Alexander Dotor once interviewed Greg Stafford, during which Greg Stafford stated the following:

Greg Stafford: I knew about D&D. I had a friend in Lake Geneva who was picking up abelt buckle catalogue at the printer and he saw another guy there and asked what it was. They guy said, A fantasy game. My buddy said, Hey, I have a friend making one of those. Can I buy a copy from you? And he did. Well, The guy was Gary Gygax and the gaming system the first copy of D&D ever sold. We read it but if you know that game, it was editorially terrible. At Chaosium we thought about a role-playing game with Glorantha as gaming world, but we needed a gaming system. I finally met Steve Perrin who had developed a gaming system and he created our system: RuneQuest. It was published in 1978.


Is this true (allowing for the difficulties that interviews with Californian Arkati Shaman-Publishers present to seekers of truth)? Did Stafford's friend acquire a copy of D&D directly from Gygax? Did he pay for it? (How much?) Were other copies sold beforehand?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Stafford's "Original Copy" has been sold on eBay. Stafford says in the attached Certificate of Authenticity that it's a 3rd printing and that is was his first copy of the game. So how could it be the first copy ever sold? (otoh, promotion of sheer falsehoods by virtue of popular vote is not unknown hereabouts.) :( \$\endgroup\$
    – ExTSR
    Oct 24, 2011 at 18:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Now this is little more than a trivia question about dollars and cents and photocopy generations. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 28, 2014 at 16:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ I suppose, but R Conley already showed how this early sale was irrelevant to Chaosium and is just an amusing anecdote they tell. D&D was well-know before Chaosium got into RPGs (their first publication was a D&D monster manual). I'm not sure there's an interesting question left to be made here. Ironically, I think the original question suits our guidelines better today than it did when asked, especially since R Conley so well challenged its frame and put the red herring to rest with the info on the real D&D–RuneQuest connection. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 28, 2014 at 16:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm really not sure what would be best here. It's not currently off topic, just not a great question (trivia is on topic, but makes for poor on-topic questions). It could just be left and we'd see what answers arrive. Changing it back would be a bit messy, what with all the deletes. Maybe add back in a small bit of the motive for the asking? Something like "I'm trying to figure out the truth and details of the sale to see how relevant it was to early Chaosium"? \$\endgroup\$ Nov 28, 2014 at 16:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie "put the red herring to rest" - His info is excellent, but there are possible answers to the fine-detail part of this qn that are consistent with what I know of the situation that would suggest the naive interest of the story is not entirely a red herring. And thanks: your suggested change strikes me as sound: I shall add it, and justify the interest of the fine-detail bit to some extent. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 28, 2014 at 22:56

3 Answers 3


D&D set the mode of play for RPG's through at least 1980... certain others deviate from the mode of play into more abstract in the 80's, and into more story driven in the 90's.

I'm rather certain that Greg was aware of RPGs before he bought a copy of D&D, as he was a game designer, and had seen play at conventions. (He's mentioned this in some discussions on WWG's Pendragon forums, now defunct.) When he wrote RQ with Steve Perrin, there were already at least 3 games on the market: D&D, Starfaring, and T&T. And Starfaring and T&T are in fact responses to D&D by Ken St. Andre.

Greg has not mentioned participation in the Braunstein games (which predate D&D by several years, and are part of the origin of D&D).

The quote in the question is the proof that D&D influenced RQ... Greg had a copy, found it editorially lacking, and set out to do better.

Note: RPGGeek cites Greg Stafford and Steve Perrin codesgined RQ1, and it was published in 1978; Boardgame Geek notes that White Bear and Red Moon was published in 1975. That frames the timeframe for D&D influence on RQ1.

T&T was 1975, as was Starfaring. Both by Ken St. Andre.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Greg was aware of RPGs before he bought a copy of D&D - Definitely - he says the difficulties he had finding a publisher for White Bear, Red Moon (the first Gloranthan game, and very much high fantasy) were what led him to found Chaosium, and look for other game ideas that he could publish. It was then that he got hold of the D&D photocopy. RQ came much later, and I think he didn't meet Steve Perrin until a bit later. The question is more the other way around: the influence of early Chaosium games on early D&D folk: the quote is but a piece in the jigsaw, one the WP editors don't see. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 15, 2010 at 6:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ RQ postdates Glorantha by several years. according to rpggeek.com/rpgitem/43637/runequest-1st-edition Steve Perrin and Greg Stafford cowrote RQ1, and it was 1978 published. \$\endgroup\$
    – aramis
    Nov 15, 2010 at 7:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Deleted due to significant question changes. Happy to undelete on edit. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 28, 2014 at 8:59

Early Runequest is a combination of two things. The first is the setting, Glorantha, by Stafford. Glorantha was in development well before D&D became a major market force. In this regard it shares a similar history to Harn and Tekumal. Both of which preexisted D&D as their author's private creation.

The second was rules developed by Steve Perrin. These were directly impacted by D&D starting as a set of house rules for Perrin's campaign spreading throughout various West Coast groups. A copy of these rules are known as the Perrin Convention. They were first printed in All the World's Monsters II by Chaosium. In fact you can read them on page 4 of the full size preview.

As it wound up; Perrin's rules were combined with Stafford's Glorantha to make early Runequest. Runequest in turn was a major influence on the development and acceptance of skill based systems for roleplaying games. Which in turn worked it way into D&D starting with the Survival Guide proficiencies in late 1st edition AD&D.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Good stuff. major influence on the development and acceptance of skill based systems - Do you have a reference for this? \$\endgroup\$ Nov 15, 2010 at 20:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Two very good answers, not an easy choice. This most directly answers my broader concern, so accepted. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 16, 2010 at 10:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks and to answer your first comment. No other than my own personal recollection and the fact it was the 2nd most popular fantasy RPG for a while. Runequest was the first RPG I know of that totally did away with any type of class. \$\endgroup\$
    – RS Conley
    Nov 16, 2010 at 13:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Deleted due to significant question changes. Happy to undelete on edit. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 28, 2014 at 8:59

The quote does seem to be trivia, rather than something interesting about the game per se. Furthermore, as hearsay it is interesting, but difficult to substantiate.

  • \$\begingroup\$ What is unsubstantiated? That Greg Stafford said that? Alex Dotor should be view as a reliable interviewer: certainly he has interviewed many important figures in independent role-playing. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 14, 2010 at 9:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Greg stafford had a friend who was talking to a printer who was a friend of Gygax. It'd be more useful if it was Greg or Gygax talking about what they remember. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 14, 2010 at 9:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Brian: Do you not understand from the quote that (i) Greg Stafford's friend bought that first copy and (ii) gave it to Greg? It is Greg talking about what he remembers. Additionally, many people comment on the poor production values of the original, but this is the sharpest quote I know of. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 14, 2010 at 12:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Greg is still alive. I mean, why not just track him down and ask him? ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – Adam Dray
    Nov 14, 2010 at 16:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @C: The designer's notes in T&T5 are much harsher about the game design than the layout of 1974 D&D... and basically, Ken referred to D&D as unplayable. Ken's occasionally used harsher words to describe D&D-74... \$\endgroup\$
    – aramis
    Nov 15, 2010 at 7:56

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