Griffin Island (1986)

Griffin Island is a Avalon Hill’s boxed set edition of Griffin Mountain, for their licensed third edition of RuneQuest. It is a bit of a mixed bag, but it’s history is a good encapsulation of how weird the arrangement between the two companies was.

First off, the original Griffin Mountain was submitted to Chaosium as a generic fantasy campaign, but Chaosium decided to publish it in the Glorantha setting, with additional material by Greg Stafford. Makes sense so far, right?

When Chaosium licensed RuneQuest to Avalon Hill, a couple of things happened. First, they maintained creative control. Second, they redesigned the system so that it wasn’t explicitly tied to Glorantha (allowing for supplements like Vikings and Land of Ninja. Meh.). Glorantha was still an option, but at the time of Griffin Island’s publication, the requisite background material (the Genertela box set, presumably) didn’t exist yet. So, they stripped out the Glorantha material, returning it to generic fantasy land. Weird.

The lack of Glorantha flavor is a bummer, because the presentation of Griffin Island is prettier and better organized than Griffin Mountain. I can keenly feel its absence, though.

It is also, you know, an island, which seems to make a bit more sense to me (the influence of Isle of Dread, no doubt), especially for inserting it into a homebrew world. But there are lots of orcs. And salamander men. Both feel out of place. It maintains the original’s bar crawling vibe, though, and boasts what is in my estimation one of the most beautiful maps in any RPG (Soldier Port).

Speaking of maps, the giant Griffin Island player reference map is great. It boasts both factual references and scribbled notes from the previous owners – informing and intriguing all at once – with plenty of blank space a la the Isle of Dread. I am surprised maps of this sort aren’t more prevalent in RPGs, to be honest.  

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