In response to Brian’s call to arms for new content on the blog, I figured I could hit two birds with one stone. As has been discussed here, on the I.C.E. Forums, and on Discord, one of the issues RMU has to somehow overcome in order to attract new players is the question of setting. It seems, at least at present, that RMU is moving in the direction of a relatively generic fantasy setting — the standard fantasy races, a smattering of the elements that have become Rolemaster staples, and a smorgasbord of creatures in Creature Law that GMs can mix and match to create a setting. This isn’t a bad thing necessarily… RM’s strength has always been its modular nature. But looking over some older content from other games, D&D in particular, I’m more convinced that setting is its biggest weakness.
I was thumbing through the D&D 2e Monstrous Manual the other day, and the first page is a reference of their various game settings at the time: Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, Ravenloft, Dark Sun, Dragonlance… each with a distinct flavor and lending to the overall mythology of the WotC multiverse. In recent years, this has only grown and now is a key element of their game appeal. The addition of Diablo II, Magic the Gathering, and other worlds to their repertoire has only given D&D more fuel and appeal.
This isn’t new to RM which has some rich settings in its vaults already: Shadow World is easily the most developed, although the sheer amount of lore can be daunting. The RMSS Shades of Darkness setting is fascinating, and deviates from the standard fantasy tropes without deviating from fantasy roleplaying. And of course there is MERP…
What I’d like to see are some truly developed world settings with some unique flavor to them that I.C.E. embraces as their “core worlds”. A quick Wikipedia search shows over a dozen world settings in D&D that have the backing of the main developers, and living lore that continually gets development. Every GM (and there seems to be a lot of us old veterans floating around out there) have takes on worlds in which we’ve created our adventures… some of them are cookie-cutter fantasy settings, some of them are built into the aforementioned RM settings, and some are our brainchildren with their own unique flavor, rules, and lore. This may be presumptuous in the extreme, but would the powers that be of RMU be open to creating sections of their forum or website dedicated to living worlds that they could call their own? Would GMs be willing to work on them, largely as a creative endeavor, as a project for expanding the accessibility and appeal to RMU? Thoughts? Or am I simply repeating what’s already been suggested?
Stay tuned for additional writings. In Part 2, I’ll introduce my own setting under development: The Far-Realms, a universe created by Dragons, warped by Demons, and a place of primeval magic and natural wonders attempting to recover from the constant blighting assaults by the forces of Corruption. Think of it as Lord of the Rings meets the apocalyptic fantasy elements of the Gunslinger world (minus the technology).