Griffin Mountain (1981)

RuneQuest’s Griffin Mountain is a kind of bookend to D&D’s Isle of Dread (both released in 1981, both sporting nice hydra illustrations), treating the same core concept with very different design philosophies. Both provide a large wilderness for players to explore as they wish, sandbox style. Where Isle of Dread is a longish module, though, Griffin Mountain is an entire 200-page campaign.

Like most RuneQuest supplements set in Greg Stafford’s Glorantha, this one is characterized by an astounding amount of thoughtful detail. We get not only the history and geography, but the religion, politics, characters, points of interest and even the weather patterns for an 800
kilometer wilderness. There’s so much detail, in fact, that I can scarcely imagine getting a handle on all of it in order to properly run it for a group. I find this is a unifying theme for Chaosium’s best products: an intricate approach focused on players experiencing a different reality (rather than tactical combat), that usually merits the use of the word “masterpiece.”

RuneQuest is also adorably goofy. That critter on the cover is a Jack-O’-Bear, that is, a bear-like creature with magical abilities and a head that looks like a carved pumpkin. Totally silly, but also totally awesome.

Finally, if you have a lot of Chaosium in your collection, you’re familiar with the square-bound books, often sporting white spines, which have dominated the line since the late 80s. This is the very first of them, though it would take eight years before the format became the company’s standard.

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