The Complete Griselda

I took a break from rulebooks in my Great Gloranthan Read™ and grabbed my copy of Oliver Dickinson’s The Complete Griselda. These are stories about the eponymous heroine, a career criminal who adventures in Pavis and the Big Rubble, that Dickinson has been writing since 1982. Almost all of the stories are written in the style of Damon Runyon (“Runyonesque”), an American journalist and author whose work was the basis for the musical Guys and Dolls.

Yup, fantasy bronze-age game fiction written in the style of 1930s New York gangsters. Here’s a sample:

I am sitting in Loud Lilina’s one night with Treasure Trove Hurbi, talking of this and that, when who comes in but Griselda. This is not long after she and Wolfhead finish Lucky Eddi’s run of luck, and if I am them I will be keeping quiet about it, for Eddi is thought to have important associates who may not care to hear of his bad luck. But the story is all over town, and I consider it very unwise of Griselda to be wandering around on her own without Wolfhead to look out for her, for she may be smart, but she does not look able to cope with the rough stuff. Yet here she is, wearing her little sword but without any other protection, and looking as if she has a few drinks on board as well. She glances all around the joint, and when she sees me she comes over, saying in a loud voice, “Why, if it is not the guy who knows Lucky Eddi! Say, I wonder where Eddi is now, what is left of him? I do not figure even a Rubble Runner will be able to stomach him, but maybe I am wrong; maybe they really will eat anything.”

The first-person, present-tense vernacular was bizarre to me at first, but I quickly fell into the cadence and it fit perfectly. Like the classic rock music in A Knight’s Tale, Runyon’s style fits these tales of skulduggery to a tee, conveying the intended mood of the tales via the anachronism.

Anyway, I loved these stories. The Complete Girselda has most of them, but there were a few stragglers — including a Friends crossover (!) — that I tracked down online. Anyone looking to get an idea of “adventuring” life in Pavis or who loves tales of thieves will get a kick out of them.

Doubly-wonderful is that these stories are full of many and diverse women: thieves, priestesses, bar owners, nobles, con artists, barbarians, wrestlers, soldiers, servants, etc. And young, old, tall, short, rich, poor, etc. And, hey, NO busty barmaids, NO sexy sorceresses, and NO wandering harlots. Arguably, most of the primary characters are women. So refreshing!

(There is only one implication, in a footnote for one of the stories buried online, that there may be sexual violence in Girselda’s past. I found this unfortunate, but it’s nonexistent beyond the footnote in the body of the stories.)

This is quirky, old-school RPG fiction, largely drawn from Dickinson’s own campaigns (though, as a busy professor, he mostly plays solo, which I imagine means stat-ing things out and seeing how the dice pit them against each other) (and there are stats for many of the characters in various supplements). It’s a wonderful window onto Glorantha and the “hardscrabble” style of RQ2 and RQ3 play. I cannot recommend it enough to anyone interested in the setting.

You can get the PDF here for $5: