Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Elric to Mongoose

There’s an unfulfilled yearning I’ve had for a long time. It was the hope that Chaosium (the guys that publish the Call of Cthulhu RPG) would really support their Michael Moorcock licensed game Stormbringer. It was the first non-TSR game I ever played that I honestly enjoyed and it was also my first introduction to Elric, the multiverse and the Eternal Champion. Well, that’s not entirely true as I had read the Oswald Bastable stories years before but at that time I hadn’t realized their connections to Moorcock’s other works. After playing the Stormbringer RPG, I immediately went out and scooped up and read all the Elric novels. This of course led me to Hawkmoon and Corum as well as the rest of the Eternal Champion titles. The battle between Law and Chaos both in the books and in the game was a fantastic backdrop for the adventures. Also the dimensional and time travel aspects fired me up as I greatly enjoy this type of fantasy.

Eventually, I bought all the Stormbinger game materials I could get my hands on, many from used bookstores. The product line went through many aborted restarts that included a name change to Elric for a while and even a poorly adapted version for D20. Many promised supplements never came out as the line was always thrown on the back burner in deference to Call of Cthulhu. We finally did see a Corum supplement and Chaosium finally put out some of their unpublished but promised books out as monographs (cheap photocopy tape bound books) but the fan base for their Moorcock inspired works seemed greatly reduced as was the enthusiasm for game itself.

Recently, I discovered that Mongoose Publishing acquired the RPG rights to the whole Eternal Champion line including Elric from Chaosium. See the link here. In the end it’s probably a good thing because Chaosium really wasn’t doing a whole lot with it (the biggest missed opportunity of the RPG world in my opinion), plus they had terribly damaged their relationship with Michael Moorcock. Still, it is a little sad as I thought we just might be on the verge of a Basic Role-Playing System Renaissance, Basic Role-Playing being Chaosium’s house system. Elric and Hawkmoon, which are coming out very soon, will be using Mongoose’s new Runequest rules (MRQ) to make them compatible with other game products they publish. This is good as the original Runequest formed the foundation for Basic Role-Playing (BRP) and Stormbringer, although the new Mongoose Runequest rules has been tweaked to make it appeal more to D20 fans.

I’m a little leery on dumping money on these new game products as I have spent a ton of cash on Mongoose’s Conan line only to see it revamped with an updated second addition. This is very much like how many fans were stuck when Wizards of the Coast decided to go from 3 to 3.5 on D&D. But if the past is any kind of prolog, Mongoose Publishing will be putting out a bunch of supplements for the Eternal Champion line, something Chaosium was unwilling or unable to do.

To sum it up, I guess it feels like I was in a relationship where I was never getting what I needed or wanted but still I stayed. Now, that bad relationship is over and I wonder if I should start a new one. I think I'll wait and see. I waited so long for Chaosium to step up to the plate, I guess I can wait a little longer to see if Mongoose’s game is any good before I buy.



Dean Wormer said...

Out of all those stories I really like the Elric stuff the best and did a little rpg-ing in his world via the system you mentioned. Basically it was a game where by randomness of birth nation your power would be determined. If you were from Pan Tang or Melnibone you were most probably set...

Jeanne said...

For H
I left the info on the friday comments page. Hope to hear from you soon.

Overdroid said...

You are talking only about the first edition rules, later editions fixed that issue (as I'm sure Swine will inform you). Also in first edition, if you were a sorcerer, you could just summon a bunch of demons and elementals, bind them into your stuff and voila, instant magic arsenal!

Chaosium dropped the ball on something? Failed to support a product line? Messed up a relationship with a writer? I just don't believe it!


Dean Wormer said...


I remember it being pretty damn fun, though.

Dean Wormer said...

Not to be a complete whore on this thread but I just saw this news and thought it was pretty interesting and tied into the topic-


So his adaptation of The Golden Compass is already being hyped by studio New Line as the new Lord Of The Rings (rather inaccurately if you ask us, since the books share little in common). But that’s not enough fantasy limelight for the guy who, up until now, was best known for small-scale comedies like American Pie and About A Boy. Nope, along with his brother and former co-director Paul, Chris Weitz is going to take on the biggest fantasty-literature property as yet untouched by movieland: Michael Moorcock’s Elric saga.

Overdroid said...

Go Chris Weitz. Be careful of having your soul sucked out though. Oh wait, he works in Hollywood.

Swinebread said...

dean - It's interesting that later editions added spells along with the demon and elemental summoning. I wasn’t lucky enough to get a very high power back then but I still had fun.

As for the movie, I’ll believe it when I see it.

OD – They blew it big time for many years in fact. Finally, they gave up the ghost. We’ll have to see what mongoose does. I know the book will be pretty, but will it have useful rules?

The Moody Minstrel said...

I've played most of the games you've mentioned (Call of Cthulhu, RuneQuest, D&D) but I never even knew there was an RPG based on Elric! I'm also confused by all these publisher switches and revisions! I guess that shows how much of a passionate gamer I really was(n't). I was really into a few games, but I didn't branch out all that much.

As an Elric fan, though, I am curious!

Swinebread said...

Moody – I liked the fact that Stormbringer used the Basic Role-Playing system but Chaosium never put out enough stuff consistently to support it. Whether it’s good or not is another question but Mongoose will certainly be putting out lots of product for the eternal champion.

I never got a chance to play Runequest… it looked fun.

nathan_brazil said...

Just a little note. From what I understand Chaosium was not able to publish many materials after a while because Michael Moorcock was not happy with the direction of Stormbringer materials after a time and I believe has some ability to approve new material or not.

Swinebread said...

nathan - yes there is some truth to that but I think it had more to do with chaosium's bankruptcy problems