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Steve Perrin, co-creator of ‘70s fantasy RPG RuneQuest, has passed away

Seminal roleplaying designer created Basic Roleplaying system later used in Call of Cthulhu.

Roleplaying game designer Steve Perrin, best known as one of the creators of seminal 1970s RPG RuneQuest, has died.

After designing an alternative ruleset for Dungeons & Dragons’ first edition in the mid-’70s, Perrin (pictured, left) created RuneQuest’s gameplay to complement the fantasy setting of Glorantha penned by Greg Stafford (pictured, right) and previously used as the backdrop for board game White Bear and Red Moon. Stafford passed away in October 2018.

The Basic Roleplaying system, which required players to roll under a target number on a d100 (or percentile die) rather than the d20 roll-over system of D&D, would go on to power later RPGs such as Call of Cthulhu, to which Perrin contributed as part of publisher Chaosium in the early 1980s. Perrin’s first work for Chaosium was as part of 1977 Dungeons & Dragons supplement All the Worlds’ Monsters - the company’s first roleplaying release, which predated the first Monster Manual for D&D.

Inspired by his decade of involvement in a medieval recreation group Society for Creative Anachronism - which he co-founded in 1966 - Perrin crafted RuneQuest’s combat to feature detailed location-based damage, as well as a realistic effect on the durability of weapons and armour. The granular system stood apart from D&D’s use of generalised hit points, paired with a similarly innovative advancement system that prioritised the development of individual skills through use to form unique player characters rather than levelling class-based archetypes.

After starting development in the summer of 1976, RuneQuest was released in 1978. At its peak, the fantasy RPG was second only to Dungeons & Dragons in terms of popularity. RuneQuest went on to see a number of new editions and iterations from various publishers, before returning to Chaosium for 2018’s RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha, on which Perrin served as a designer. He rejoined Chaosium the following year as a creative consultant.

As well as RuneQuest, Perrin created superhero RPG Superworld as part of the Worlds of Wonder series in the 1980s and adapted the Elfquest comic books and Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melniboné novels for the tabletop as roleplaying games. Alongside designing and writing for a number of tabletop games, Perrin contributed to the world of video games during the 1990s.

Chaosium announced that Perrin passed away on August 13th, aged 75. In late 2020, Perrin launched a GoFundMe campaign to crowdfund home hospice care for his wife Luise Perenne following a heart attack and pneumonia. Perenne painted the cover artwork for RuneQuest’s first and second editions, and contributed artwork to other early Chaosium games while working at the publisher. The fundraiser has raised more than $23,000 to date, with a number of donations and tributes made following the news of Perrin’s death.

In a remembrance post, Chaosium president Rick Meints described Perrin as "an innovative genius who helped pave the way for us [Chaosium] to exist today, delighting gamers while they sit around a table, in person or online, exploring stories and adventures together, weaving new tales of derring-do".

“Many of us grew up playing his games. He was the uncle we admired, envied, and listened to for his wise counsel. In the last few years, as a new edition of RuneQuest was born he was there, his wisdom and experience reminding us of the simple, pure, and wondrous origins of the magic of roleplaying. How can you say thank you for that?”


Matt Jarvis avatar

Matt Jarvis

Editor-in-chief

After starting his career writing about music, films and video games for various places, Matt spent many years as a technology, PC and video game journalist before writing about tabletop games as the editor of Tabletop Gaming magazine. He joined Dicebreaker as editor-in-chief in 2019, and has been trying to convince the rest of the team to play Diplomacy since.

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