Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Interview: Rick Meints (Part I)

Rick Meints is the president of the venerable and celebrated RPG publisher, Chaosium – as well as a roleplaying gamer of long standing. Recently, he very kindly agreed to be interviewed, answering some questions about his history in the hobby, the games he's enjoyed playing, and what Chaosium is up to these days. Presented below is the first half of this interview; the second half will appear tomorrow.

1. How did you first become involved in the hobby of roleplaying? 

I first played D&D back in late 1978 when I spent my allowance on the D&D Basic boxed set. It opened a whole new world of possibilities. I used graph paper from my math class to sketch out dungeons, and bought a few Ral Partha minis at my local hobby store to move my imagined characters around the map. My parents encouraged reading and told my sister and I that they would buy us any book we wanted. That made it easy to purchase the Players Handbook and Dungeon Masters Guide in 1979. As a kid that took care of my toys, I still have those books close to hand on a nearby gaming shelf in my home office. During summer vacations I played through the entire Giants and Drow (GDQ) series, happily power gaming all the way. The hook was set deep for what was to come when Tim Webster, our GM, showed us the RQ rulebook and Cults of Prax shortly thereafter...

2. What was your initial impression of RuneQuest and, more specifically, of its setting, Glorantha?

My gaming group started dabbling with RQ a few years after the game came out, mostly with some home-brewed scenarios. I devoured every word of Cults of Prax, especially the stories from "The Travels of Biturian Varosh" that were sprinkled throughout the book. I had previously played a cleric, but the religious side of the character was not fleshed out at all. To be honest I can't even remember which god the character was a cleric for. Playing a warrior who worshipped Orlanth and then a merchant who became a priest of Issaries was a very pleasant change. The depth of the game world of Glorantha intrigued me as well. What set the hook deeply was playing through almost all of the possible adventures in the sandbox campaign Griffin Mountain during the summer of 1981. Everything we encountered while working on Joh Mith's caravan was novel and exciting, be it Jack O'Bears, Citadels built by Giants, the occupying Lunar forces, seeking out the Windsword on Griffin Mountain, carving a Windbery tree branch to make a magic staff, or meeting the legendary Gonn Orta at his castle hidden in the mountains. I actually kept a bit of a game journal back then, which was a first for me. I wanted to write these stories down. We only took a break from RQ to try the next Chaosium game Tim brought home, which was Call of Cthulhu.

3. What did you think of Call of Cthulhu? Were you already familiar with Lovecraft at the time?

I had never read any of his books before playing Call of Cthulhu, and only knew a little about him because I saw a few of his books on Tim, our Keeper's bookshelves. I was keen to play, partially because I really like the 1920s era, and also because my character was able to use a Thompson submachine gun with a 50 round drum. Because it basically used the core rules also used for RuneQuest, it was easy to get playing right away, and we were soon battling various cultists. I enjoyed those game sessions, but we were playing it when there weren't that many supplements published for it yet, so I didn't play through many of the classics. We would have kept playing it but Tim went off to college and his brother Tom brought home a 2" boxed set called Stormbringer for us to try next.

4. Stormbringer is a favorite of mine. What did you think of it? Were you a fan of Moorcock's Elric stories?

I was excited to get a chance to play an RPG set in the Young Kingdoms. I had read several of the Elric novels (classic DAW paperbacks) about a year or so prior to Tom opening the Stormbringer box at our game table. I played a sailor from the Isle of Purple Towns who worshipped Strassha. After reading through the rules I noticed "Impressive Scar" on the Major Wounds table and getting one of those became my first in-game goal. That was followed by getting a Melnibonean Gold Wheel. The combat system was a bit more streamlined, which I liked. The magic system was also streamlined, but that appealed to me less. We all loved demon weapons and armor, and as an Agent I got pretty good at summoning water elementals. I don't remember the mission we were given by Strassha, but when we completed it we got the power to breathe water from him, which came in handy on several occasions during our further adventures. Alas, the closest we got to Tanelorn was Nadsokar. 

5. A common element to most of the games you've mentioned so far are the rules originating in RuneQuest and later known as Basic Role-Playing. What did you find so appealing about those rules when you first encountered them? What do you still find appealing about them?

I initially liked the rules for a number of reasons. It was great that Chaosium uses the same basic rules in all of their games so if you know how to play RQ, learning Call of Cthulhu or Stormbringer or Ringworld is mainly learning about the game world. I also like the way you don't have a restrictive character class that limits what armor, weapons, skills, or spells you can use. With BRP you get to pick and choose a lot more of those things for yourself. I am happy to not have to chase experience points to improve my level and abilities. Skill use and combat also feel far less abstract. It means crunching more numbers, but I like crunching numbers. Most people immediately understand what having a 75% climb skill means and how much protection they get from two point armor. I've played a lot of game systems since the 80s, and the BRP rules still largely work for how I want to play, unless I am playing in a single shot adventure at a con. For one shots I usually prefer a more rules light storytelling type of system.

6. Are there any other memories you have of your early days of roleplaying, whether they be playing a BRP game or something else?

I bought the Holmes boxed Basic D&D set, but didn't know of anyone who played the game. I mainly just read through all the material and rolled up a character, but didn't really play the game until one of my friends in Junior High said he was willing to GM. He had just bought the Players Handbook and the Giants series of modules and was looking forward to running them. Because I was the only player, I played several characters, each of a different class. It worked for Brian and I. We ended up playing through Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl, Hall of the Fire Giant King, Descent into the Depths of the Earth, Shrine of the Kuo Toa, and Vault of the Drow over the next year or so. With Tim and Tom Webster, the four of us took turns GMing games of Boot Hill, Top Secret, Gamma World, and Traveller. Our interest in each of those didn't last very long though. Gun fights turned out to be too deadly in Boot Hill, Brian and Tim thought the post-nuclear Gamma World was too preposterous (especially when I played a Hoop), the Imperium seemed boring in Traveller even though we liked rolling up veterans, and in Top Secret I had a hard time GM'ing when the three of them decided to become terrorists instead of playing good guys. We ate a fair bit of pizza and had a lot of laughs at the table along the way though. On Boy Scout trips Tom and I would often play the little black box games by Steve Jackson. Arena duels were popular in Car Wars because lots of us could play. We took long bus trips with the troop and would often play fairly late into the night because we could sleep on the bus during the day. We also played Tunnels & Trolls, but all I remember is getting to cast the "Take that you fiend" spell. Up until I went to college we were always playing something throughout the summer, plus weekends year round.


  1. I am a large fan of what Meints is doing at Chaosium these days. I know they are kind of flakey, most small publishers are, but they are doing fantastic things. I wish more Sandy Petersen showed up, and maybe more prohibition/gangsters/gun molls showed up, but that is just a wish list....

    1. If you're just kind of broadly Petersen-curious, he has a fairly active Youtube channel over here:


      A lot of the content involves his work on shooter games like Doom, etc, but there's also quite a few vids dealing with the Mythos and TTRPGs. His subjects are pretty random and he sometimes meanders a bit, but he's generally worth the time.

  2. My interactions with Rick Meints has been limited to brief, but positive encounters at GenCon and Origins and through his work in the hobby. He seems genuinely interested in the hobby and in gamers. I think Chaosium has taken a great change for the better since he came to the helm. My experience has also been that Rick sets a great example of the best in our hobby. I have nothing but good things to say about his work and his friendly attitude, and it's nice to read this interview and learn more about him!