In my review of the book Dice Men, I commented on its neglect of various matters, such as the relationship between Games Workshop and Chaosium. Following a reader’s comment, I have put together a short timeline of the relationship as I understand it. I may in future return to this subject in greater detail.

1976: GW agrees to distribute Chaosium products in the UK.

1979-80: GW loses exclusivity on its D&D/AD&D distribution agreement and begins to look for an alternative fantasy RPG.

1981: Chaosium announces Questworld, an open RuneQuest setting for third parties to develop.

1981-82: GW obtains a licence to produce a UK printing of RQ2 and begins developing content for Questworld. Citadel obtains a licence to make RuneQuest miniatures.

1982: GW’s UK printing of RQ2 goes on sale.

1982-1984: GW promotes RQ2 and the game grows in popularity in the UK. RQ2 is ranked as the number one RPG at Games Day events.

1984: Chaosium enters into an agreement for Avalon Hill to produce RQ3. GW loses its RQ2 licence, stops producing UK editions of RuneQuest and abandons the Questworld project. GW starts to print a UK version of Call of Cthulhu‘s second edition.

1984-1986: The high cost of RQ3 and a lack of support for the game cause its popularity to decline sharply in the UK.

1986: Bryan Ansell negotiates a licence for GW to produce a UK version of RQ3, as well as other Chaosium games.

1986: GW starts selling a UK hardback of CoC3.

1987: GW starts selling UK hardback versions of RQ3 and Stormbringer‘s third edition.

1989: GW releases a softback version of its basic RQ3 book. This is the last Chaosium product produced by GW.

Title art by Angus Fieldhouse. Used without permission. No challenge intended to the rights holders.


20 thoughts on “READING THE RUNES

    1. Yes. I tried to stick just to the main releases, but there were quite a few other GW printings. GW even published some novel material for CoC: Trail of the Loathsome Slime (1985), Nightmare in Norway (1985), The Statue of the Sorcerer & The Vanishing Conjurer (1986) and Green and Pleasant Land (1987), which you, of course, worked on.


      1. I think the full list of RQ products released in UK editions by GW may have been: RQ2, Cults of Prax and Cults of Terror (all 1982, I think); RQ3, Advanced RuneQuest, RuneQuest Monsters, Griffin Island and Land of Ninja (all 1987); and the softback reprint of the first RQ3 book (1989).


  1. I remember wondering into an RPG store in the UK in the early 90s and seeing a Games Workshop RPG book with a picture of a 1920s(?) car on the front. If i recall correctly the car was speeding away, perhaps from a house. At the time it seemed like some sort of anomaly from a parallel dimension because all i knew of RPG products from Games Workshop, with the exception of some articles in older White Dwarfs, was WFRP. I didn’t have time to enquire as to the origins of this anomaly on the day and the RPG store closed down (and vanished without a trace) before i had the wit to do so. I think it must have been a CoC book.


      1. A best as my memory serves, that’s the one. Appreciated Gideon. Mystery solved.

        I don’t think i knew what Call of Cthulhu and Chaosium were at the time, so those logos wouldn’t have meant anything to me. I think i came across CoC largely through WFRP forums.


  2. RuneQuest 3 seemed to get good support from GW, with the hardback “advanced” rulebook following, and then a series of hardback supplements, all reprints of US material.

    Call of Cthulhu also received decent support, and unlike RQ3, it got UK-originated material rather than US reprints.

    I don’t think Stormbringer got much support beyond the main rulebook, but the game is a bit of a blind spot for me, so there may be more material than I know.


    1. Yes. I don’t think Stormbringer received a lot of support at the time even from Chaosium. I think Black Sword and Stealer of Souls (both 1985) were the only supplements, other from the Stormbringer Companion (1983), which was bundled in the GW hardback.

      There was also the unlucky Hawkmoon RPG (1986), which was compatible. It had the Shattered Isle (1987) supplement.

      None of these other products was rereleased by GW.


    2. The other notable thing about the hardback GW Call of Cthulhu is that it wasn’t just a UK reprint, but was the official 3rd edition.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve still got the GW RuneQuest and Advanced RuneQuest books since 1988 or so, although the latter is falling apart a bit. At the time they were probably the best-looking RPG books I’d ever seen, and visually at least they’ve mostly aged pretty well. Some of the artwork is recycled from (or was recycled for?) Warhammer, but those were still chosen with discernment – there’s still a consistent ancient / dark ages sword & sorcery feel to the artwork. Someone really paid some attention to getting the look of these books right. 🙂


    1. Yes, one of the things that doesn’t get recognised too often is that GW didn’t just reprint the US books and slap a GW logo on the cover. There was new artwork and re-arranged text. I think the GW version of RQ3 had new text too, in the form of the play examples, although I don’t have my copy of the Avalon Hill box to hand to check that factoid.

      I don’t think there was a lot of new art in GW Stormbringer, but I do recall a multi-page feature in White Dwarf about the new cover painting.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I remember hearing that Games Workshop ‘borrowed’ some content from Runequest for the original Warhammer Fantasy release, especially when it came to Chaos. Specifically, I remember hearing that the Chaos Mutation table in Warhammer was cribbed from RQ, and some Chaos and Beastmen units originated as the models for enemies in RQ. Is there any truth to those claims?


    1. There is certainly a strong influence on some elements of Warhammer. Beastmen, for example, certainly do derive from broo. The mutation tables may well also be inspired by RuneQuest, though I don’t think they were cribbed. I wrote about these matters here:


      There are also mechanical parallels between WFRP and RuneQuest, which I have discussed and will discuss further in other posts in my ‘WFRP Story’ series.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Michael O’Brien has added to this timeline in a series of tweets, telling how these events led to his becoming co-owner of Chaosium. See the link below to go to the first in the series:


  6. The history of Chaosium products in White Dwarf mirrors the general history.

    RuneQuest first appeared in White Dwarf in WD14 (August/September 1979), but was not a regular feature until WD29 (March 1982), when GW released its version of RQ2. Thereafter RuneQuest was a monthly fixture up to WD65 (May 1985), by which point Avalon Hill’s RQ3 was the current edition. RuneQuest content continued to appear in White Dwarf with less frequency until WD75 (March 1986), after which it entirely disappeared from the magazine.

    RuneQuest articles only reappeared in WD85 (January 1987) when GW started printing its version RQ3. They were frequent parts of the magazine until the last piece in WD101 (May 1988), when GW abandoned third-party games altogether.

    Call of Cthulhu shows a similar pattern. The first article was in WD42 (June 1983), but the game was only an occasional feature of the magazine until WD60 (December 1984), when GW had started printing CoC2. It then became a recurring focus of articles up to WD91. Call of Cthulhu articles then appeared less often until the last in WD99 (March 1988).

    Stormbringer’s only coverage in White Dwarf was a four-part adventure in WD95-98 (November 1987-February 1988).

    All of this highlights how White Dwarf was always a house magazine of sorts. Even when it published content for third-party games, its focus was very much aligned with GW’s own commercial interests.


    1. Oh yes, WD is often derided as turning into a “Games Workshop catalogue” but it always was, it’s just that pre-100 Games Workshop sold a lot more than GW products.

      Liked by 1 person

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