Rolemaster Unified Character Law Cover

‘Well sir, if I were you, I wouldn’t start from here’

This is my reply to Brian’s http://www.rolemasterblog.com/rmu-mission-accomplished/

Well here is a real bunch of thoughts for you…

Firstly, I don’t think the RMU devs have any intention of attracting new players. Through their inaction they have proved their intention. If they had reached out to any one of the other games systems communities and looked for play testers they would have got fresh eyes on the rules. They would have found out if the rules as written are enough to engage those new to RM. They would have started the discussion about the new version of RM with the wider gaming community. They would have raised ICE’s profile all over the world and the on going conversation would have drawn in more people.

They didn’t do that.

There was never any hope that RMU would really unite the RM2 cohort and the RMSS cohort. There are things in each version that do not appeal. None of us ‘need’ RMU as we all have bought and paid for games that fit us like a glove. We have nations of NPCs that would all need recreating and ploughing thousands of hours of work just to get back to where we are now. On top of that there are bound to be parts of RMU you don’t like compared to the version you play now. I don’t like the size rules but the experimental tables on the forum get rid of most of the problems, the complete rewrite of creature law to get rid of normalised stats get rid of more. I have never liked talents and flaws and that is for the most part the last bastion of the size rules. That is just my perspective. Hurin, not to put words in his mouth, will not be using the skill category system. He wants individual skill costs and the RM2 professions. I like his 5AP variant of the combat round as well.

The point is that the existing community are so used to house ruling and the modular design strength of RM that none of us are going to play RMU, we are going to play a personalised variation of the rules. As you say above, you have already decided what will make it into your game and what won’t.

RMU has been designed for people who want a new RM but they want it to be just like the old one but better. The problem is that those people already have a game that is just like the published RM but better, that is their own house ruled version.

Look at us… Brian has his own character law (SWARM), his own spell law (BASiL) and working on his own arms law (that I think should be called BAAL Brian’s Alternative Arms Law).

Intothatdarkness has the modern weaponry rules and unique variation of character law.

Hurin is the most dedicated to RMU but will also the biggest issues with Character & Arms Law.

Edgltd doesn’t even play RM.

We haven’t seen Warl on the forums for a while but I have played in his game and it is very heavily house ruled when it came to Character creation, combat and magic. What else is there?

RMU cannot and will not meet all these peoples’ needs. It cannot be a unifying force.

So here is a hypothetical question for you.

If you sat down at the gaming table and your character has the right stats in the right range (1-100). They had the right magnitude of stat bonuses the right number of skills and those skill to the right level of competency do the rules that creating the character matter?

We all have our own hybridised versions of Character Law and yet all our characters fight the same monsters in Creatures and Treasures in the same numbers, deliver the same criticals and take the same wounds. Do the character creation rules actually matter?

Brian has SWARM, it sounds like OLF on the forums and I are going down the same road with Spell Law and the open and closed lists. Spectre711 on the forums does not even use spell law, they exclusively use Elemental Companion, then does it matter what the source of the characters spells are (from a rule book perspective) as long as they are all on the same power level regarding ranges, durations and effects?

I am creating a new monster book based upon creating all the D&D 5e SRD monsters into Rolemaster compatible monsters. This will mean that I can produce completely statted out adventures without using any ICE intellectual property. I can also share that document so other adventure writers will be able to do the same. The book will be published under the WotC license as I am using their intellectual property. Edgltd said himself in a comment only this week that RM could go back to its roots and engage with the 5e and Pathfinder community.

Long ago I used to write this blog completely on my own, producing two posts a week, week in week out. In 2015 I produced this post http://www.rolemasterblog.com/roleplaying-games-do-not-exist/ and I still hold to that idea. The problem for RMU and ICE is that if the experienced players do not need Character & Arms Law, Spell Law and Creature Law and none of these have been designed to be attractive to new players nor to draw in players of other same genre games then who is going to buy into RMU?

I think ICE are going to have to do the most outstanding marketing task I have ever encountered and I am a lover of marketing, both in my professional life and privately. I would love to be in charge of marketing RMU. The problem is that I would have wanted to start 5 years go. There’s a well known joke about a tourist in Ireland who asks one of the locals for directions to Dublin. The Irishman replies: ‘Well sir, if I were you, I wouldn’t start from here’.

Things I would have done…

I would have posted invitations to the first beta on every major gaming community. To give you an idea scale I rarely ever see more than 7 names and as many as 15 guests as being active on the ICE forums. Right now there are 3 registered users and 11 guests the best ever was 276 back in 2006. On the first D&D forum I look at there were 191 members and 398 guests right now and the best ever was in March this year 18344. The first War Hammer forum I looked at had 600 users online at that time.

I would have bundled up a play test set into a single zip file and put it on RPG now as a public play test. By letting people download it that way you can automatically send out updated version and you are immediately building a marketing contact list for when you want to sell them the finished rules (at a hefty discount but everyone appreciates a thank you).

I would not have produced multiple hundred page PDFs for each book. Each chapter would be a separate document so they are easy for the tester to read and digest. You can then hold a separate discussion on a chapter by chapter basis with your testers. That sounds like a Dev action but it is actually marketing. The more people you engage with the more good will you will engage.

There should be a playtest adventure and playtest pregen characters as a single download. This will get people actually play testing your game without having to read and understand 1200 pages of text. Play first and look under the hood second. You can commission some great evocative art for that first adventure and the characters to fire the imaginations of these first play testers. Art does not have a short shelf life. You can reuse it in the final paid product so nothing is lost.

That art is the only expense in everything I have just outlined. You can pick up some great art on Deviant for $20 a piece so there is no real need to spend more than $200 in total. I would set myself the aim of getting 300 active play test groups. That then would show up the flaws in the system but also bring in 300 advocates for the new game. That isn’t a limit either 300 would be my failure test. Any less than that and I would have considered my efforts a failure. There is no real maximum limit for the number of testers you could reach. Over time that community is likely to grow as more people discover the game. The more testers you get at the beginning the bigger their online footprint becomes.

With a large testing community the flaws will be found faster, the rules refined faster and the game would have been brought to market faster. I would have expected it to be on the shelves back in 2013. By now we should have SMU and some companions out!

I don’t think that is overly optimistic. I do recognise that this is a rambling mess of a post. I think the nub is that RMU isn’t really for us, it is for the next generation. That is its mission. Whether it is accomplished or not remains to be seen.

 

34 thoughts on “‘Well sir, if I were you, I wouldn’t start from here’”

  1. There’s also your suggestion of creating a game aimed specifically at young players. I can see why ICE have done RMU – it clears up any possible IP problems – I’m just not certain that they were really set up to cope with it.

    1. I totally agree about the IP issues but the fact remains that as time goes on the IP they have is diminishing in value. This is the age of community created content and distributed content creation. We love RM but do we really need ICE if we all have our own homebrew rulebooks?

    2. The wild west game that I am working on over at Stargazer’s World is another baby step towards Rolemaster Kids.

      The frustrating thing is I actually enquired to the price of a license for that game to use the Rolemaster name and got no reply.

  2. I’m a bit more optimistic about RMU, but you make some good points Peter. I especially like your idea of a playtest package: I have run multiple playtests and would be happy to donate them (or post them on the forums) for people to use free of charge.

    The only real beef I have with RMU at present is the individual skill costs. I am ok with the size rules (never had too great a problem with them), though I would like to see the addition of more weapon charts (for weapons like shortsword, composite bow, heavy crossbow). That may sound like a recipe for more ‘chartmaster’ taunts, but from a practical perspective, it simply is easier for my players to have a chart for each of their weapons rather than having to do size conversion math every time they make an attack. In this case, the charts are easier than constant math.

    I’d also like to see the weapon charts tweaked to display all size results at once, so players and GMs never need to do any math. Charts like the one I made and posted on the forums would do that.

    Aside from the individual skills issue, and perhaps the charts, I am very much looking forward to RMU. Yes, I’ll be modding it significantly; but I’m still excited about the rules themselves. What they have done with encumbrance, spellcasting, and the spells themselves is more than worth the price of admission.

    There’s certainly still fat to trim in regards to the rules though. I’ve never been a big fan of knacks, which I think can easily be jettisoned to make character creation easier. I’m not that big on talents either, though I can see their use. The movement pace chart could easily be eliminated entirely if we just charge Action Points for movement. That would all make RMU easier.

    1. I do not have any real issues with the rules for RMU. I will also mod it. I like the experimental weapons charts, like you one you posted. I also like 5pt increments. As nearly all OB and DB modifiers are in 5pt multiples it makes skipping up rows much faster.

      I know it is only opinion but I think your version of APs is better than the rules as written and I agree the pace chart adds nothing if movement costs AP.

      My frustration comes from the lack of progress. With so few play testers and the intention to go from Beta 2 to production what we have is something that has taken years to develop and has really had very little testing. Part of the problem is the PDF structure. They are just so massive that it is hard to comprehend then entire book. If one were teaching RMU as a college subject then you would break it down into bite sized chunks and deliver that, once your students were secure in the knowledge you would move on to the next chunk. That is why I think it should have been a single chapter per document. Each one could be checked and tested and signed off pretty much in parallel.

      Think how easy to get into RMU could be if a quick start document had half a dozen pregen characters, a single skill resolution table, the tables for a small selection of weapons and a few spell lists and the resistance rolls. That makes up the first half, what you could think of as the Players half. The second half would be an adventure ready to play. One book and probably less than 30 pages. It would take any one of us less than a week to create all the content bar the artwork.

      1. Pregen characters: OMG, yes! I would say 80%or more of the time i have spent prepping playtests has been taken up by making characters. This is definitely a must in a playtest.

    2. So I am neither expecting my ideas on character creation to be adopted or your individual skill costs to be adopted either. I think their is a middle ground solution which is similar to my chargen but yours after the fact:
      Assigned Profession skills for 1st level generation.
      So a player picks their “culture” but their skills are assigned based on their profession choice. This solves several issues;
      1. Fast character creation which I support.
      2. Profession driving skill cost which you support.
      This also walls off the strategy of picking a profession that might not fit the character needs, but meets the long term skill costs. The problem with that is that it makes no sense to argue “paths”, “aptitudes” or “training” to justify Professions if you can really pick an skills in early development (apprenticeship)

      1. Can you explain Brian how that differs from the current system? My players currently already do choose culture and then have profession determine skill costs, so i am not understanding how what you are proposing would be different.

        1. Yes, the second “pick” (profession or apprenticeship) is a fixed bundle of skills appropriate to the Profession meme. So a player chooses a culture and gets the pre-set culture skills, then chooses a profession and gets a pre-set professional skill package. It’s quick, easy for new players and more importantly, justifies the argument for having Professions! After 1st level, players choose skills based on profession skill costs as they see fit.

          1. This is in essence what my modern rules do, although I only assign about half of the normal DPs as “basic training” skills, leaving players some room to customize while still speeding creation and making sure they have the essential skills to survive the first session.

          2. I like it! I think RMU should offer that as an optional ‘quick start’ rules. It would also of course give stats for level 1 NPCs of all classes– which is another thing we could use in RMU.

  3. Oh, one last thought on the weapon charts: I used 5-point increments as my minimum increments, and that worked well enough. There was very little variation from the existing weapon charts. If that is the case, then you really could go back to RM’s early days and sell the charts as an addon to DnD, because 5-point increments can easily be handled by a d20.

    1. In these days of PDF publishing it is very easy to create something and publish it. If you get feedback and there is a need for errata then you update the PDF and it gets pushed out to everyone who has downloaded the original copy.

      To produce a d20 version of the RMU Arms Law is simple, as you say. Someone at ICE could bash that out quickly enough, publish it on RPGnow/OneBookShelf and you would get instant sales and instant feedback.

      The sales would add to the cash reserves of ICE and could go towards either freelance page setting, the page layouts seem to be the biggest bottleneck, or to commissioning art which seems to be the biggest expense.

      The feedback can be sifted into two piles. Feedback on the system as a whole so is pertinent to Arms Law in RMU as well as the d20 version and feedback that is purely in relation to the d20 version and how it integrates with either 5e, OSR or PF.

      That second pile of feedback can be used to spin off additional versions so you get Arms Law for OSR, Arms Law for Pathfinder, Arms Law for Whitebox and so on. All of these bring in more money for ICE. You are in a virtuous circle.

      To get an idea of how simple it really is… Tonight I have written and published a 24 page fanzine for RM. It is available on RPGnow/OBS and on Amazon as downloadable PDFs and it will be on Amazon as a paperback in 72 hrs.

      Over on Stargazer’s World, another blog I write for, I am creating a Wild West rpg. I published a single document outline of the complete rules system and since then have expanded on character creation and skill resolution. In the next post I publish I will cover combat, wounds and healing.

      At the start of November I will put all of it together, titivate it with some creative commons and public domain art and publish a quickstart playtest version. The entire system will have gone from first inspiration to publication in about 5 weeks. Now this game will be no RMU. As of yet it doesn’t even have a name. What I am really trying to pin down is the game mechanic engine so I can produce any genre of game with the same core mechanic.

      Also in September I have written the first companion to my d6 game. I am now doing the page layout on that. That supplement is an 80 page book and pdf.

      I have done the final editorial pass on 3 adventures to be published in November and I only need to create one new monster to complete the fourth adventure.

      Because modern publishing is so fast it motivates you to ‘just do it’. The danger for ICE is that anyone could put together their own Character Law, Spell Law, Creature Law and make a RM compatible game tomorrow. If they also embraced OGL or community content they could sweep up the entire d100 market. If the game had open ended rolls and descriptive criticals and characters that were on a par with everything we already know what would we lose?

      I think the answer would be ‘only the brand ICE.’ If someone steals the march on them they have nothing to offer. That is a very tenuous position to be in. Looking at the inactivity on the forums and in the directors briefing one could be forgiven in thinking that RMU is stalled.

      1. Totally agree regarding making add ons for the other systems. In fact, if I knew enough about the mechanics of how the critical system works and how it was added on the D&D in the first place, I’d look at doing it myself. Perhaps the most interesting part is critical, and sometimes funny, critical descriptions.

        You’re right about the ease of publishing for PDF these days as well. My total wordcount output per year is probably similar to ICE’s at the moment, and I’d say it’s rising. Sure, their publications are bigger, more expensive and sell more, with a higher turnover, but mine are generally getting better looking and often larger. Plus I’m reaching the point where I can employ a freelancer to develop one per month and be able to wait a couple of years before it pays back fully (although sooner looks more likely) – I have plenty of ideas but quite a few stall at the idea stage.

        1. I am fast approaching that stage myself.

          I want to have three full game systems in my stable. The first is my d6 game, that is out and available. My playing card based system will be released in November under the banner of NaGaDeMon. I will produce a quickstart pdf book for it. The third system will be my rolemaster kids game.

          In addition to that I want to keep the fanzine going. I think if ICE can breath life into RMU then the fan base should grow.

          Finally, I am producing more community created content as I find these are selling better than the generic/system agnostic supplements. I earn less but sell more and ultimately I get more hard cash at the end of the month.

          1. I have started publishing stuff that isn’t system agnostic, although my top selling generic product has netted $328.55 so far. I have published a few Pathfinder supplements but I’m also looking at OSR. I’ve just read Swords & Wizardry Complete and that’s certainly the type of system I’m much more familiar with than Pathfinder. It may be a much smaller market, but it’s one I could probably write for more easily.

            I’ve also got some generic supplements I want to publish in Pathfinder versions (as well as probably Starfinder and Mutant Future). I’ve thought about the Community Content Programs but of them all I’m most familiar with the Forgotten Realms but only up to early to mid 90s. For Traveller, I think I’d rather publish for Cepheus Engine.

            1. With the community created content the commission rate is only 50% not the normal 70% but the sales volume is more than double. So that is a net gain for me. It is also much easier to write for a single explicit rule set as you can include actual skills, monsters, weapons or whatever.

  4. What’s frustrating for me is I have three substantial rules packages for RMU more or less ready to go to play testing (espionage, modern military special operations, and undercover law enforcement) with another two in various stages of development (Old West and a historical supplement for the three previous systems)…but they’re all on hold while RMU thrashes about. I think it would have helped greatly if they would have actually put some firm dates out there (playtest for Beta I done by 2nd Quarter 2016, for example) so people had an idea of when input wouldn’t be taken any more. Endless play testing (or what appears to be endless play testing) does no one any good.

    I suspect my systems will either never come out or will come out under some sort of licensing agreement (if ICE ever makes it that far), in no small part because I’m changing some of their systems (combat and character development for two examples). At this stage they might actually be better done as stand alone products.

    1. That frustration is a real danger signal for ICE. As I said above, there are countless ways at arriving at a 1st level character that is on a par with an ICE RM by the book character.

      Alternative D100, roll over, open-ended and critical based systems could spring up over night. To make it worse the up and coming gaming community are being brought up to expect creative freedom from IP issues either through the OGL, and SRD or community content system. Half the blogs that review games now spend half their time talking about the ‘game engine’ rather than the game mechanics. The difference being that a really neat engine can be lifted out whole and dropped into brand new chrome with no real game design knowledge.

      Create an evocative setting, drop in the engine of your one choice and you have both a ready to play game and if your urges take you there a ready to market game.

      Just look at Powered by the apocalypse or Savage Worlds or FATE and all of these are reskins of a simple game engine.

      If your variants had been built around just about any other set of core rules you would not be stalled and your system changes would not be a problem.

    2. Corey and Peter are back and forth on this topic over at RM Forums. Corey is asking for details on page count etc. You have 3 ready to go with 2 more in the queue.

      I have pretty much ready to go to edit/or close to it w/o illustrations or good maps and floorplans:

      1. Priest-King: 150 pages+
      2. BASiL: 300 pages+
      3. SWARM: 75 pages
      4. Legends of Shadow World: 25-35 pages.
      5. Book of the Pales: 35-45 pages
      6. Empire of the Black Dragon: 90 pages
      7. SW Religion Supplement: 80 pages
      8. Revised SW Master Atlas: 350 pages
      9. Nontataku: City of Sails. estimated 200 pages
      10. Regional Gazeteer: Argyra. 150 pages
      11. Dark Deeds. 5 Adventures for Evil Doers. 20 pages.

      Add to that what Peter has or Adrian can do, and you get to a lot of material that could be put out fairly quickly.

      1. My core rules for the modern stuff comes in at about 270 pages, possibly more if I flesh out some of the vehicle stuff (and that’s not including the charts and crit tables). That doesn’t count a setting that I have ready to go but am hesitant to give over to ICE under the current structure. The two additions (special operations and undercover LE) both come in at about 200-250 pages each, since they add new elements to what I consider the core system I’m dealing with for modern stuff. The LE one will have a detailed setting as well, and I’m contemplating a stripped-down one for the military version as well.

        This is stuff that could likely be used to update SpaceMaster as well, since the combat system is overhauled to deal with rapid-fire projectile weapons instead of being centered on casting. The skill system is also a bit different, as has been mentioned before. But it’s all stalled while RMU does whatever it’s doing. And even then I’m not sure they’ll be able to relax the system ‘borders’ enough to deal with different concepts.

          1. It’s been fun to write, I can say that. I’m looking at a system that’s very customizable, so it’s being written with that in mind. I also want it to be accessible to new gamers, so the intro adventures are as detailed as I can make them, with settings that can be reused for other missions. But who knows if it will ever come out? That’s the whole RMU frustration.

            1. So whats the solution?
              1. Hope for Nicholas (Terry with SW)to agree for licensing.
              2. Hope that ICE accepts you submission and then takes over publication (Priest King is going on 4 years since acceptance)
              3. Create d100, system agnostic products that can easily be used with OLD (RMSS is how old?) IP.
              4. Battle Royale. Under law, game rules are not subject to patents or IP protection. Nothing about RM or d100 is really protected. SW is i different, but still draws on common, unprotected IP.

              1. option 5.
                Nicholas realises that community content programmes are good for RM and all ICE products and they open up portions of their IP to allow independent developers creative freedom in return for a 20% royalty on all sales.

      2. You know, I read that last line and thought “Who’s Adrian?” That probably says something. Not sure what though.

  5. There was discussion in the thread on the ICE forums about Paizo being a lot bigger (it is; only Wizards looks bigger) and ICE being solely dependent on freelancers. One thing that seemed to be overlooked is that, although Paizo do have permanent staff, a lot of their work is written by freelancers. Owen K.C. Stevens (who is on the Starfinder team) runs Rogue Genius Games, as well as doing stuff for Rite Publishing and Green Ronin. Greg A. Vaughan, who has written a lot of adventure path modules (he may still have written one adventure for each path) is also the Creative Director: Pathfinder for Frog God Games. Heck, for the last couple of months I have hired a freelancer who has published works for Paizo!

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