Chaosium is the oldest RPG publisher still in existence. TSR, if it still existed, would hold that distinction, but TSR has been swallowed up by various mega corporations. Chaosium is still a tiny RPG publishing company in California, now focused on publishing Call of Cthulhu and Basic Roleplaying.
People who are collecting Chaosium RPGs and RPG products are usually interested in the games and materials the company published in the 1980’s, which was the golden age of Chaosium gaming. At the time, Runequest was the only real competition for Dungeons and Dragons, at least in terms of the fantasy genre. (Other companies were, of course, publishing other games in other genres.)
Those old Runequest products are all out of print and rare. Many of Chaosium’s Runequest products only show up occasionally on eBay (if at all.) Even a battered and heavily used copy of Griffin Mountain sells for more than $40 on eBay.
A new copy of Allan Lavergne’s solo adventure, The Snow King’s Bride, sold for $6 or $8 in the 1980’s. Now you can find a copy on eBay for over $35. And it’s a relatively small product, just a sold module.
In the mid-1980’s, Chaosium sold the rights to distribute Runequest to Avalon Hill, another game publisher. Runequest collectors want those products too, even though they’re not published by Chaosium. Avalon Hill’s Land of the Ninja boxed set, for example, sells for between $100 and $200 now.
When searching for Runequest RPG products to buy on eBay, don’t limit your search to just the keyword “Runequest.” Try searching for “Chaosium,” too. I found copies of Balastor’s Barracks, Trolls and Trollkin, and Militias and Mercenaries for $85 a copy. Those are all rare, and they sold for around $4 a copy new. But just searching for “Runequest” wouldn’t have found them.
Call of Cthulhu Collectibles
Call of Cthulhu is still a popular horror RPG, and Chaosium published more supplements for that game than any other. Print runs varied on Call of Cthulhu products, but many of these supplements are now rare.
For example, Beyond the Mountains of Madness is a lengthy Call of Cthulhu scenario that serves as a sequel to HP Lovecraft’s novella, At the Mountains of Madness. It had a limited print run and now sells for $200 or so on eBay–if and when you can find a copy for sale there.
The first and second edition of the Call of Cthulhu game came in boxed sets. The first edition was produced in a box that was two inches deep, while the second edition came in a box that was one inch deep. A boxed set of the second edition sells for close to $200 if it’s in really good condition. I’ve never actually seen the first edition boxed set for sale, but I’d guess it would sell for even more.
Chaosium isn’t the only company that produced Call of Cthulhu RPG books though. Some of the other publishers that produced Call of Cthulhu materials had even smaller print runs, and if their products were popular, they became extremely collectible in spite of being relatively new.
Anything from Pagan Publishing is collectible, for example, especially their Delta Green supplements. I saw a copy of Pagan Publishing’s book The Call of Cthulhu Weapons Compendium for sale for $275 today.
Other Collectible Chaosium Games and Products
Chaosium published a series of licensed roleplaying games that all used the Basic Roleplaying system. Elfquest was based on the comic book series by Richard and Wendy Pini. The boxed set sells for $50 on eBay, and the second edition softcover rulebook, which didn’t come in a box, also sells for about $50. A completist will want both editions, of course.
Ringworld was another licensed game from Chaosium, and it was based on Larry Niven’s series of science fiction novels. It’s only rarely available on eBay, but it will sell for $40+, even if it’s not in great condition. Completists would also want a copy of The Ringworld Companion.
Prince Valiant is particularly collectible, and it’s also the only roleplaying game from Chaosium that didn’t use a variant of the Basic Roleplaying system. (Although Pendragon can only be loosely consider a variant of the Basic Roleplaying system.)
Collectible Chaosium Magazines
Chaosium also published an in-house roleplaying game magazine that supported the entire RPG industry. It was called Different Worlds. Tadashi Ehara edited Different Worlds, and I bought my collection of Different Worlds magazines directly from him. (My Different Worlds collection is still incomplete though.)
You can buy Different Worlds on his website here:
Prior to Different Worlds, Chaosium published a magazine called Wyrm’s Footnotes, which supported Runequest exclusively. It only ran for 18 issues, and it’s almost impossible to find copies now.
Collectible Chaosium Boardgames
Chaosium also produced numerous boardgames which are prized by collectors. Many of these are only rarely available on eBay. I once found a copy of White Bear and Red Moon available for sale on eBay, and it turned out to have been listed by Greg Stafford himself. (White Bear and Red Moon was later republished by Avalon Hill as Dragon Pass.)
Chaosium published another boardgame set in Glorantha, which was also the setting for Runequest, called Nomad Gods. It’s even harder to find a copy of Nomad Gods than it is to find a copy of White Bear and Red Moon.
Collecting Chaosium products can keep a collector busy for a long time, and finding certain products will be a challenge even if you have quite a bit of money to spend. But for those of us who remember the glory days of Chaosium gaming, it’s well worth the effort and expense.