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Following on from my last post about phentermine 15mg price I have been thinking about combat rounds.

There are three combat round lengths in the ICE world. RM2, Spacemaster and I guess RMSS use the 10 second round. RMU uses 5 second rounds and HARP uses a 2 second round.

If was obvious that the 10 second round didn’t work for modern day and Sci Fi. There is no way you can only squeeze  the trigger of a gun once every ten seconds. The fix was to introduce fire phase 1 and 2 into the standard RM2 phased combat round.

If everyone was using firearms, which was not unusual in modern settings then it left anyone who had to move wading through molasses. If you could not get from cover to cover in a single move then you would get ripped to pieces.

Splitting the round into two five second rounds does improve things slightly but there is always going to be a disparity between how long different tasks take. Picking a lock could be seen as a 10 second activity for a skilled thief but it becomes more of a stretch at 5 seconds and surely for the typical PC two seconds is not likely?

Is it better to have some actions take multiple rounds compared to some actions happening multiple times in a single round?

I think I am inclined to go for the very short round and things just take as long as they take. We are used to bows taking rounds to reload. I think those times are a little exaggerated in RM2/RMC but that is because they have been rounded to an easy number of whole rounds. I know that I can shoot five arrows in twenty seconds from a galloping horse and be on target. That does not marry up with one arrow every 2 rounds for a short bow in RM2. One arrow every two rounds in HARP is closer to my observed reality.

But lets ignore combat for a moment. A real dramatic plot device is the hero in action movies defusing the bomb with 3,2,1… seconds to go. If you are in combat time, the rest of the party are keeping the enemy at bay while you are defusing the bomb then ten second time chunks do not fit well with this staple of the action genre. If you treat bomb disposal as a static action you really want to avoid partial or near success as either of those leave you with having another go 10 seconds AFTER the bomb went off.

The more I think about this the more I think the 5 second round is not the right choice for RMU. 2 seconds is tried and tested in HARP and works without compaint. Sure it means rejigging spell casting, durations, movement and critical results (bleeding) but they are rebuilding all of RM anyway so now is the time to do it and not in a future companion as an optional rule.

What do you all think? 10, 5 or 2?

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There was a comment to my last post that read:

The challenge I see with RMU as opposed to RM2 is the apparent lack of willingness to look beyond fantasy (and even then it’s their definition of fantasy). RM has always suffered (IMO) from the lack of a solid, accessible setting, and RMU just seems to accelerate that trend. They also took steps (especially in the combat system) to render it almost useless for non-magic settings if you leave it RAW. The flexibility that came with RM2 (and even RMSS in its own way) seems to be disappearing.

In addition in a recent comment Hurin had noted the amount of HARP that seems to have found its way into RMU. There is nothing wrong with HARP but HARP is not Rolemaster and definitely not RM2!

That got me thinking. Last year I bought HARP Fantasy and HARP SF. I bought them because I want to run a SF game soon and as I have said many times before I have lost my Spacemaster books.

So HARP is certainly not locked into a fantasy setting and not into one single fantasy setting. Shadow World is statted out for HARP and HARP has its own core setting of Cyradon. HARP SF plays out in Tintamar but by default it also shares the same setting as Kulthea and Spacemaster because of the Shadow World connection.

One of the things I like about HARP is that the last release was to truly unify the fantasy and sf rules and make them interchangeable. I only needed the fantasy rules as monsters make great aliens.

There is a massive gulf between RM2 and HARP and I agree there is a lot of HARP in RMU. The skill system is the same, character creation is very similar. The move in RMU to less combat tables is almost a single step towards the HARP way of thinking and that I think is the problem with RMU. The only weakness as I see it with HARP, looking from a RM background point of view, is the combat system and the criticals in particular. The same old critical comes around again and again way too often and even in the same fight. The rest of the combat system works really nicely as far as I can tell.

Another interesting thing is that the HARP forums are far busier than the RM forums if you exclude the BETA test forums. If you include them then you also need to include the HARP development forums as well. I see a far greater variety of voices in the HARP debates than in the RM ones these days. There is an active HARP community around the game and new HARP books are eagerly awaited,even if most of them are just re-releases to bring them in line with the unified Fantasy/SF rules.

Whether HARP’s firearms are as good as intothatdarkness’s firearms is a completely different question but the fact remains that HARP does have viable settings and it does have modern day and SF elements that make it go well beyond the fantasy genre.

I think RMU is trying to learn from HARP but is struggling to take the old guard with it to some extent. Which is a pity as we are the old guard.

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In a recent buy phentermine cheap online, I touched upon Time Travel as a technology or mechanism that could be introduced into a Shadow World campaign. Tricky, right?

A lot has been written on time travel in RPG’s and if you have ever allowed it in your game you know it can generate great adventures but create a lot of hassles as well. Some suggested solutions are only allow travel into the past, time travel only occurs in alternate timelines that don’t affect the current one or there are side effects to encountering yourself in the past etc.

I mentioned a few mechanisms to introduce time travel or time manipulation during game play:

  1. Portals. These can be used not just to transport over distances but over time as well. Several gateways Terry describes in Emer Addendum hint at such a power.
  2. Flow Storms/Foci. Want to change things up? Add a Time jump into the effects of an Essaence effect. Not only can you send the players to another interesting time/place but you create a whole adventure path if they want to return to their own time.
  3. Spells. Spell Law never introduced Time related spells, but I think some were added in a companion? (citation needed). I posted up our buy phentermine bulkspell list on the RM Forums. The list is a work in progress–and very powerful in some aspects and very limited in others. A couple of spells take some work and ingenuity on the GM’s part:

6. Time Jump I – Caster can “jump” 1 rnd/lvl into the past or future.

I thought of only allowing the caster to jump into the future–that’s an easy solution where the caster is basically “out of play” for the # of rounds. But that’s not really useful unless it’s just used to avoid a impending bad situation. So how do you handle a caster going back X rounds into the past? First you have to realize that there will be 2 casters for X of rounds (then the other will cast the spell and go back into time and everything is back to normal).  One option is to have the PC announce that they will be casting the spell in the future and then they can play 2 versions of themselves for those set number of rounds. One issue is that the original caster may not survive or be able to cast the Time Jump spell in the future… One resolution is to qualify that time travel creates a new timeline and that this new timeline might not end up the same way. That also means that there will be 2 casters permanently in this new timeline. Interesting…

This spell gets much simpler at higher levels when a caster can travel forward or back years or decades and thus removes the problem of 2 casters or travelling such a short time that the other “self” is present.

8. Time Bubble I – Caster is enclosed in a unmoving time singularity. He can either slow time by 1/2 or speed time by x2 during the duration. The caster cannot interact with anything outside the bubble or vice versa.(no causality). Perception is modified by the time difference(slow inside will make outside activity appear hyper fast, etc.)

Time Bubble is a more useful and less complicated time spell. Basically the Caster is demising themselves from the current timeline and either speeding up or slowing down time within that bubble. This allows the caster to create extra time to heal, prepare another spell or just get away from a dangerous situation. The bubble wall is inviolate. (Unless someone else has Time Merge to cross into the bubble.)

15. Time Stop I – Target up to MEDIUM size is enclosed in a time singularity where time is stopped. No information(visual or otherwise) can pass through the barrier.

A useful spell, it’s basically a version of Time Bubble that can be cast at a distance on a target–basically freezing the target for the duration of the spell. This does not slow or speed up time within the bubble but stops it completely. For a group, this would allow them time to prepare, heal or buff against a troublesome foe.

But Time Travel doesn’t have to be literal. Here’s the thing–one of the great parts of Shadow World is the immense timeline. It’s a great read, adds a lot of depth to the world building, but most of it will be lost on players: I’ve read it A LOT and I can’t keep track of most of it!So when people ask WHERE they should start a SW campaign I say how about “WHEN”? Want a hack ‘n slash one-off adventure? Introduce the PC’s to a battle during the Wars of Dominion. Want a mixed genre sci-fi/fantasy campaign? Start during the interregnum and have the PC’s be Worim, Taranian or Jinteni characters with technology and interacting with the fantastical creatures of SW.

So many possibilities–anyone play around with Time Travel in their game?

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For those that want to utilize it, ancient advanced technology is a narrative aspect to the Shadow World setting. Advanced technology was not just achieved by the Althan/Ka’ta’viir civilization in the 1st Era, but also utilized by several other notable cultures during the Interregnum: Taranian, Jinteni & Worim.

When we think of technology in fantasy role playing we often visualize laser pistols, laser swords, shield devices, power armor—objects that are just more powerful version of standard fantasy weapons (crowsbows, swords, armor etc). I posted up an older file on using technology in SW buy phentermine online mexico, but the convenient fact is that although it’s tech, it can be handled easily within the RM fantasy magic rules. Laser Guns cast “Firebolts”; Lightsabers inflict Electricity, Fire or Plasma Crits; Anti-grav belts cast “Levitation”, etc.

While there have been numerous ancient high-tech civilizations and contemporary cultures that use “science” (Krylites), none of them reached the advancements of the Althans or Ka’Ta’viir.(Tech Level 13+). Truly advanced technology can transcend common form factors and seem inscrutable to normal understanding. In other words, they will seem magical.

Here are a few advanced technologies that might be a good fit in your Shadow World game:

Post Physical Entities: This is a term often used to describe an “upload society” where consciousness can be transferred to a computer network, object or virtual emulator. Shadow World modules already features stored Ka’ta’viir intelligences (buy phentermine on amazon) and the Thalan are a good example of a post-physical entities (PPE’s). From a game standpoint, introducing an ancient Althan/Ka’ta’viir consciousness could be interesting. The entity would probably have their own agenda, limit information flow and perhaps “guide” the players to their own purpose. This could provide a useful guide for the GM to direct the PC’s through the adventure or tie multiple adventures into a greater campaign. Mechanically, PPE’s should be treated as an NPC, only limited by the ability to interact with the physical world. Additionally the PC’s may not even realize the “entity” is an uploaded consciousness or ancient being.

A.I.: Similar to Post Physical entities, A.I.’s are already featured in SW. Two prominent ones are the A.I. in Andraax’s tomb and Morik in Eidolan. Unlike PPE’s, A.I.’s are a technical/software artifact and may be limited by their learning ability, programming and information resources. Like PPE’s, A.I.’s should be treated as NPC’s.

Time Control: Ka’Ta’viir use a “Chronagenic” process to hibernate. Not to be confused with a cryogenic process; rather than freezing or preserving a person through physical or biological means the capsule seals the entity into a time singularity. It’s not clear whether the Althans had additional control over time (barring localized events). Jinteni also had some time dilation abilities (buy phentermine online uk and Inn of the buy phentermine online overnight shipping). Time travel and control have always been tricky in RPG’s: a GM needs to decide the long term effects of causality and impact on the game narrative. There are three basic mechanisms for time manipulation: devices (machines & portals), spells (I’ve uploaded a buy qualitest phentermine spell list on the RM Forums  ) or Essaence effects (Essaence Storms and Foci). Time Travel introduces an introducing plot device to allow PC’s to explore other parts of the immense SW timeline. In fact, you could probably roll randomly for page, paragraph and line or 1-100,000 years to pick a date in the timeline to send the players. At the least, they could be spectators to interesting historical events and experience some of the intriguing past of Kulthea!

Matter/Energy Conversion: A truly advanced society will have mastered matter – energy conversion. This is more than simple fusion, it’s a two way process to generate power from any matter OR the ability to produce objects or material from energy. This probably has less game-world impact than other technologies but it does allow for devices to be powered indefinitely (by harvesting small amounts of matter for energy), self-repair of devices and vehicles or for generating objects “out of thin air” like a Wish spell.

buy phentermine with paypal: Before they have the ability of creating matter from energy, a post scarcity society will have obtained the ability to create any object from scratch using “feedstock” raw material. These Replicators or “Cornucopia Machines” are just highly advanced 3D printers. In Sci-fi and economic theory, such a machine would be a major societal disruptor allowing for the easy creation and accessibility of wealth. This technology was the basis for the buy phentermine without a doctor society presented in Star Trek. In your SW game, this technology could be useful but not unbalancing on a limited basis—perhaps program/design access is prohibited except to authorized users (i.e. weapon mfg)

Mal-Metal: Malleable, changeable or programmable materials would be common in an advanced society. This allows for amorphous forms—wings that can change shape, weapons that can morph into others with a thought, adjustable cloaks, armor that can distribute impacts or force etc. This type of technology would be very useful to a PC and would be indistinguishable from common magic item tropes. Obvious examples would be morphing weapons (retain weight/mass but changes shape), fluid bracers that cover the arms as greaves at a thought etc. In SW, “Malloys” (malleable alloys) could combine advanced tech with materials like Keron, Eog or Ithloss.

Bionomics: A step past cyborg implants, Bionomics are organic based technological capabilities built into a person at the molecular and cellular level. These could be energy projections (disruptors, beams), shields (force fields or environmental shields), wetware computing power for advanced mental and calculative abilities. Unless they were born from a very specific parentage, installation of Bionomics would require substantial surgical procedures and DNA manipulation.  Bionomic abilities could be treated as innate spell abilities powered by a reservoir of cell energy (use CO. stat?).  In our campaign, Bionomic technology was a significant part of the buy phentermine with prescription heritage.

Von Neumann Self Replicators: These machines combine the technologies of molecular assembly and matter/energy conversion to build copies of themselves. This is a powerful concept but might not have too much relevance in a gaming environment. However these could also work on a nano scale—“Nannite” clouds that replicate and perform programmed tasks (healing, buffs, metamorphis etc). Examples of “Nannites” might be found in upcoming SW material!

Solid State Technology: When we think of machines we often conflate it to devices with moving parts and collections of components. An advanced society will utilize microtization, exotic meta-materials and atomic level functionality to produce devices that work as machines but won’t have moving parts. To PC’s this will give machine or software functionality to solid objects–just like magic items.

Neural Control/Interface: The Ka’ta’viir were not only advanced technologically, they were able to utilize the Essaence AND access Psionic/Mind powers. At the height of their powers (Late Imperial Era) many devices were controlled through mere thought. In the game, neural interfaces should be treated as quasi-mentalism or accessed via “Attunement” skill (treat as Absurd or -150 due to the complexity of this technology or allow a PC to have some Althan heritage and reduce the penalty).

While primarily a fantasy setting, Shadow World also has elements of a post-apocalypse setting and a sci-fi setting. Maybe the PC’s will initially be unaware they are encountering technology and not magic but these elements could add flavor to your campaign!

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One of my previous blogs discussed the “buy phentermine in egypt” and I felt like expanding on a few specific adventure environments that we’ve used that really enhanced our campaign.

  1. Underwater adventures. Having your players adventure underwater can add a new dimension to your SW environment. Lost cities, shipwrecks and new races can all be encountered and the challenges of breathing, moving and fighting add a new strategic element to group tactics and abilities. My current I.C.E. module submission, buy phentermine in england, is focused on water/underwater adventures and environments. It’s in edit/review and hopefully will see print in the near future.
  2. Zero G. There is a sci-fi angle to SW, why not exploit it. Introducing your players to a no-gravity environment can be a lot of fun—especially if they don’t understand their situation. (they assume it’s a magical effect of some sort). I’ve includes a great Zero-G adventure in my second project, “Realm of the Black Dragon” that is part of a larger adventure thread but would work as a one-off tourney style module.
  3. Skyships. I’m drafting a new adventure thread that takes place on a Skyship. It’s a bit of a clockwork/pirates of the sky/high adventure derring-do where almost all of the action takes place in the air with multiple aerial combats. The players will need to adapt to these new types of engagements and are limited by their environment (small Skyship), general lack of flying ability, and dynamic combat. The whole adventure is inspired by a random encounter my players had with a hijacked Skyship, a crazy old man and pursuit by the Eidolon air fleet. It was a side adventure, purely organic and events were driven completely by random dice rolls.

What were your most unique adventure environments? Share your game stories!

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I thought I would go a bit off normal topics to discuss Netflix’s most recent series: buy phentermine tijuana. The series is a nod (actually more of a trope head-butt) to 80’s science fiction and fantasy and written and directed by brothers steeped in early fantasy gaming. The show starts with a group of boys playing D&D in their basement—the game narrative establishing the plot and structure of the rest of the series.

Unlike E.T., which depicted some type of RPG’ing, the boys in ST are clearly playing D&D and the show references the game several times—plus it contains a few D&D product placements as well. These young boys are the protagonists of the story, and while they are characterized as “brainy nerds that get picked on”, the show clearly frames them in a positive light. The values of trust, loyalty, friendship between the boys is clearly contrasted against the shallow friendships of the bullies and popular kids. In a longer story arc, character redemption is not portrayed as the nerd who triumphs and gets their girl but as the popular rich kid who learns the lessons of friendship and learns humility. (Pretty in Pink?)

Without tackling the technical details of filming, it seems that almost every shot is evocative of an 80’s movie. On the most basic level, the show is an homage to Spielberg, Carpenter, Stephen King and Cameron but tropes and references are so dense and wide ranging that they still keep popping in my head.

Just a few that struck me:

  1. The sheriff driving the “Body” blazer in Jaws.
  2. The Underneath evoking both Pan’s Labyrinth and Legend (the drifting debris/petals in the air)
  3. Every time Jonathan pulled up in his car in front of his house I thought of Ash’s Delta 88 in the Evil Dead.
  4. Will’s cocoon and “facehugger” screamed Alien(s).

There is no doubt that early 80’s gamers have become key players in Hollywood/TV myth making and this show is a love story to that era. I think it was a positive depiction of gaming and just maybe it will spur a few 40-somethings to get back into gaming or teach their kids!

What references did you pick up on?

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As we gather here, of primary importance is to answer this question: what is this “Viir”, as we now call it, this seeming essential force that permeates our planetary system?  Let us review.  It’s been almost 75 years since our orbital sensors first detected these energy emissions.  Tachyon detectors, plasma traps, electron screens and a variety of other particle shields all registered this force—all of them.  Is it all of these? Or is it something altogether new to our reality?

We are close to locating its source within our system—perhaps in the gravity well between the planet and its second moon.  What do we know?  It’s unclear if this energy is modifying and transmuting our physical laws or subsuming them.  The “Viir” seems to fundamentally change both ionic and covalent bonds for molecular and macromolecular structures.  In practice this energy field is also distorting chemical interactions and material structures most acutely—its effect on life forms and our planetary biome is still under analysis.

…Perhaps most perplexing and disconcerting is that the background level of the field seems to be growing….

…..We are now monitoring two dozen subjects that have exhibited unusual sensitivity to the Viir.  We have yet to isolate the specific epigenetic mechanism that allows for this, but our experiments lead us to believe that the subjects are increasing their sensitivity through time and effort.  It is our belief that sensitivity acts as a feedback loop, allowing these subjects to conversely manipulate these fields to some unknown effect.

Notes on the “Viir”

Excerpts from Emergency Meeting,

Althan Imperial Science Committee

Like every fantasy game setting, Kulthea is a world of magic, bathed in energy flows (Essaence) which provide the underpinnings for magical abilities. Unlike many other settings however, the Shadow World is also identified as being in our “known universe”, (the planet Ceril VII). This makes Kulthea somewhat unique: a fantasy setting within our real world with an aberration of the physical laws of existence. Of course this is a game, so a bit of hand waving can gloss over any logical discrepancies.

For those that play a cross-genre setting (other Sci-fi and fantasy) or want a consistent framework for the magical systems then some more details need to be considered. Over the years we’ve put together a framework during our own rewrite of Spell Law and for arbitrating Essaence effects during gameplay.

We’ve also posted up some basic rules for magic and technology on the RM Forums here.

What is Essaence?

The Essaence is a fifth energy along with the Strong Force, Weak Force, Electromagnetism and Gravity and interacts with and modifies our physical laws. Unlike these other forces which are normally produced or manipulated with technology (depending on technology level), the Essaence is also “bio-manipulative”; able to be controlled by living beings who have or developed sensitivities to this energy. Because this is a non-native energy, alien to the established physical rules of the universe, it interacts with the other forces in unusual ways.

Source. Where does the Essaence come from?

Per the MA, a rift was created by interdimensional travelers allowing energy to seep into the Kulthean system. But what does that mean? The Kulthean planetary system is moving through the galaxy—is the source a fixed point? If so, where? The Essaence gateway is a keystone between dimensions that allows the continual seep of Essaence. This object (asteroid) is at the Lagrange Point between Orhan and Kulthea—providing a continuous stream of energy to the planet and the moon. Depending on their orbital positions, the Essaence will also interact with other moons/planets. (Most notably Charon, Essaence power there will wane and wax. The Night of the Third Moon coincides with the greatest amount of Essaence energy reaching Charon.)

Is Essaence unique to Kulthea?

Apparently. A group of Ka’ta’viir left Kulthea in the 1st Era looking for other manifestations of the Essaence. (the Old Ones-who later came back in the Interregnum as the Earthwardens). This means that Essaence powers will not work outside the Essaence envelop around Kulthea, Orhan and on occasion the other satellites. However, unique Essaence imbued materials and alloys (Laen, Eog Ethloss etc) will retain their material qualities, (i.e. pure crystals that are fabricated in zero g).

Fundamental Impact.

The Essaence is a physical force but non-native to our plane of existence. On Kulthea this means it has changed reality on a quantum/physical level. We see two obvious effects. Chemical interactions and material changes. Both of these shoe-horn well into the established SW narrative. Chemical reactions and associated technologies are both rare and unreliable in SW. Also, Kulthea has a number of native “magical” /superior materials and alloys beyond normal material science. Changes to the established physical laws on Kulthea are the result of the Essaence interacting with the other 4 forces.

Spell Casting.

The Essaence was first discovered by a handful of sensitives and then explored by Althan scientists. Over the millennia, the Essaence has become fully immersed in the biology of SW. Humanoids, creatures and flora have absorbed this power, imbuing special natural abilities and/or the ability to willfully shape the Essaence into unique effects (spells). Now, almost all native flora and fauna have developed Essaence sensitivity to some extent, although the ability to manipulate it may take training.

The Realms.

Spell casters draw Essaence directly from their surroundings and into their “well”—through practice their ability to hold more power and draw it more quickly grows. The standard RM “Realms” are just different mechanisms to call upon the Essaence and manipulate the physical world. Therefore we don’t differentiate between energy sources by realm: multipliers, adders etc. are Essaence. There is no need for pools of PP’s for each specific realm, or averaging PP’s for hybrid users. Channelers provide their own power just like Essence or Mentalism, but the spell formation is drawn from their patron God.

Foci and Flows.

Casters can tap into both Foci and Flows but there are dangers as well as benefits. Adventures taking place after the loss of the Northern Eye should see an increase in Essaence fluctuations, spell failures and other random effects of spell casting.

Treating the Essaence as the “fifth force” gives us a solid framework for creating new spells, set unclear parameters on spell effects and provides a solid framework for magic in our campaign.

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After decades of GMing one of my greatest challenges has been to consistently invoke the feeling of surprise, wonder, fear and even caution into gameplay. While they may not be “jaded”, my gaming group have seen it all: there is no plot device, game trope or foe that will truly surprise them. We will probably never replicate the wonder and surprise we felt gaming when we young teenagers but I would still like to instill some caution into my players—they often make decisions based on the assumption that every encounter is perfectly balanced or that they will get bailed out by “greater forces” if they get in over their head.

I think a number of factors have contributed to this:

  1. Simplified combat systems. Starting out on d20 game systems reinforced combat by attrition. Battles were a methodical race to 0 hits with no real impacts. You were either combat capable or unconscious. At mid to higher levels it was easy to keep a running tally of average hit damage; combined with players knowledge of monster stats combat became an exercise in simple math. The introduction of criticals in Rolemaster changed that calculation—combat could be decisive—quickly—and accumulated damage had a real impact on characters performance. Nonetheless there are still a great number of players who never parry, preferring all offense all the time.
  2. Assumption of “Game Balance”. There is a lot of lip service paid to game balance but let’s be clear—as long as there is a human arbiter (the GM) there really is no such thing as pure game mechanics ruled by random number generation. GM’s will often put their influence on the scales of balance. Players know this and rely upon the GM to tip encounters and balance in their favor to maintain the storyline. No GM wants to be considered heartless—this is after all a game, played for enjoyment—and allowing PC’s to die can be a fun killer. As a GM I want adventures to challenge, but I also want my players to act rationally.
  3. The Heroic Journey. Characters/players see themselves as the central characters in a storyline—and main characters don’t get killed. Heroes don’t retreat, don’t surrender and never take prisoners!
  4. Inside Baseball. Most experienced players are well versed in the rules and the monster stats. Combat becomes a quick calculation of abilities, offense, hits etc. Knowing what’s behind the curtain can take some of the fun out of the game and combat choices becomes a calculation of odds rather than true “role-playing” of the character.
  5. Magical Healing. Making most injuries healable, often instantly takes some of the penalty out of reckless behavior.

To counter these player mindset’s I use a number of strategies:

  1. Upend Tropes. I love using my player’s bias’s and assumptions against them. The “mysterious old man in a tattered cloak”: Disguised god? Powerful enchanter? Nope, he’s exactly what he looks like—a low level bum. The “red shirt” city guard: Low level fighter? Throw away nobody? Nope—he’s a retired army commander of considerable skill.
  2. Random Encounters. I use the random encounter table quite a bit without adjusting for the group’s level. They will encounter powerful beings or situations but they’ll have a chance to talk, parley, hide or run. Shadow World is a dangerous place and the players are a “tiny fish on a big hook”.
  3. Ancillary costs of losing. I don’t want my players to die but I’m not rewarding foolishness. There are other potential costs to losing a battle: being captured, losing possession/favorite items, temp stat loss from injuries or even more serious permanent stat loss or loss of a finger/limb/organ. Most damage be fixed with magical healing and items replaced but it’s going to cost the players time and effort.
  4. Personalize opponents. I think players react different when their opponent is personalized a bit more. Fighting “4 mercenaries wearing leather armor and wielding short swords” is antiseptic and anonymous. However, when the players are confronted by “3 men and a women wearing worn and dirty leather armor, all with long unkempt hair, dirty faces and rusty swords approach the party hesitantly but with a desperate look in their eyes…” the players will not only visualize their adversaries but perhaps react differently as well.
  5. Have foes behave rationally. Whether humanoids, animals or monsters, my foes behave to their nature. They don’t fight to the death; they flee when injured, surrender when beaten or call for the PC’s to surrender when triumphant.
  6. Most opponents are NPC characters. Our Shadow World is “monster lite” and we use a “no profession” system so it’s difficult to gauge the powers and abilities of NPC’s. My players have to be cautious when engaging with NPC’s and they can’t assume typical abilities implied by the profession system when a NPC utilizes a distinct skill or spell.

Over time my players have become naturally distrustful—mostly of my craftiness—but that translates to their gameplay. They are cautious engaging and they rely on an initial strategy of defense until they can take the measure of their opponent. They understand the importance of parrying and they know there are worse things than death! How about waking up unclothed, without any of their hard-won treasured items and missing your sword hand? Yikes.

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For those that feel like table-top RPG’s are a stagnant market or that there is no growth opportunity for ICE, RM or Shadow World I would point out two facts:

  1. There are an average of 27 new forum members per day on the ICE Forums. That’s not a lot but that’s incremental growth. Every new member will be able to see the development of RMU, the large number of resources in terms of thread topics, file uploads and Q&A’s that are available and the active participation of product authors. Being able to get quick and detailed responses from the RMU developers or Terry himself is pretty cool—especially to a new ICE customer!
  2. There are still gamers that haven’t heard of, or are not familiar with Shadow World! Even after almost 30 years. I recently saw this thread where several posters were completely unaware: buy phentermine slimming pills

There are three basic ways to grow sales: acquire new customers (grow the game community), convert competitor’s customers or sell/upsell to your existing customers. Many would argue that growth in new table top players is stagnant, lost to new media and video games. But growth is occurring and RM and SW have a place in that market. Converting gamers to RM and SW is a bit easier—RM started as a modular “bolt on” product to D&D and SW has never really been stat intensive and can and has been used with a variety of gaming systems. Selling more product to current customers is the fall-back approach; what we call “low hanging fruit”. Publish a new product or revision and you’ll get a certain percentage of existing customers that will buy it—baked-in sales.

There is certainly opinions and criticisms of each of these approaches. Some argue that RMU won’t bring in new gamers; that ICE needs a simple introductory rule set. Others feel ICE just needs to push out more products in general. If there was one right answer, or if business strategy was that definitive than everyone would be a millionaire! The truth is that all three channels need to be explored and I think that ICE is doing a fairly good job given its organizational footprint and resources to bear.

There are new tools for small or emerging companies: social media, organic growth strategies, guerilla marketing etc. Putting those aside, there is one essential strategy for growing a customer base: from the ground up: “boots on the ground”. RM and SW need to be introduced locally, whenever possible. Gaming nights at the local library, game store or youth center. Tournament modules at gaming conventions etc. Other industries use “sponsorships”; this might be worth exploring. Having GM starter packs, online private forums and other tools to encourage local GM’s to adopt ICE games and use them locally builds a customer base. Reimbursing GM’s for travel and hotel costs at GENCON might pay itself off quite well.

Let’s look at another industry that has some similarities: rapid adoption, youth client base, local growth. I used to be heavily involved in the paintball industry. The sport grew rapidly in the 2000’s: tournaments were televised nationally, fields opened up everywhere, there were at least 8 glossy magazines dedicated to the sport and equipment companies had robust sponsorships for teams and local retail stores. Over time, the equipment manufacturers started their own retail websites and sold directly to their customer base. Once they captured direct sales and the associated retail margins they became less motivated to spend money on local sponsorship and player development. They became direct competitors of the local stores. While the economic crash was a contributing factor, since the late 2000’s the industry has shrunk by 80%. Yes, part of the issue was the wholesale/retail strategy of the manufacturers, but a larger part was a slower and more insidious feedback loop: there is no place to play paintball.  Store retail sales suffered, which reduced player development, field investments and local marketing. Because of this, fewer players participated in paintball and store sales suffered further. Local paintball businesses closed and there were less options to play and thus less players. Overall a self-fulfilling downward spiral.

What are the analogs to the gaming industry? Local development can be an effective strategy to growing a customer base. I don’t think RGP’s will see the same boom that we experienced in the early 80’s BUT…aging gamers are teaching their kids to play and creating a new generation of RPGers. It’s a slower process that requires a broader strategy than a top-down advertising or point of sale effort. Supporting gaming conventions, creating a GM starter pack, reimbursing experienced GM’s to attend every con possible, creating a “game ambassadorships” for targeted cities/regions—these are low cost strategies to build the game base. Growing the local gaming community grows the base, which then grows company sales. A virtuous feed-back loop.