I don’t know how many of you know of this game? To cut a long story short what Against the Darkmaster (vsDarkmaster for short) is is MERP plus house rules rebranded and launched as a new game.
It is so new that we only have the public play test, quickstart adventure and pre-gen characters to play with so far. The kickstarter is not even ready yet.
What is also interesting is that vsDarkmaster also has a marque called open00 under which they are going to release an SRD, system reference document, so any indie developers can release their own material for the system.
Even more interesting is that my own attempt at free to use monsters, under the brand of Open100 appears very close to the open00 and vsDarkmaster. By very close take a look at this.
|AT||3(1-20), 2(1-10) or by armour type||Rigid Leather|
|DB||5 + shield||30 inc shield||none|
|OB||67 weapon||60 weapong||+/-7|
You can see that there is barely a gnats whisker between the two versions of the same creature. In one you get a slightly higher OB but less hits but they pretty much trade off.
vsDarkmaster vs RMU?
So right now both games are technically in public play test. The difference is that vsDarkmaster is actively looking for play testers and engaging with bloggers and reviewers. I have emailed them and got a personal reply within hours, which considering the time difference is as prompt as you could wish for. They are also building a contact list of everyone who has play tested the game, you need to register to get the free version of the game. This is good marketing sense.
The Kickstarter will also create a bit more buzz around the game. It gives them something else to talk about and share.
I would be shocked if there are less people queuing up to back vsDarkmaster than there are firmly committed to converting to RMU right now. The real uphill struggle for RMU is the ‘U’. RM2 players are reluctant to give up the RM2 way of doing things and the RMSS crowd are reluctant to give up the RMSS way of doing things and neither really want to give up their mass of companions, supplements and house rules.
vsDarkmaster does not have that fractured community. They have a whole new bunch of gamers waiting to play this new game.
vsDarkmaster also has a release date of 2019. I hope that RMU has the same release year but I would not be overly shocked if that slipped into 2020.
vsDarkmaster also has a sense of momentum. There is a public play test edition. That play test will end and it will be followed by a kickstarter campaign, and that will end and the game will be released in 2019. There will be stretch goals published as part of the kickstarter so we will know what future publications are in the pipeline.
With RMU we live in hope of the ‘singularity’ we don’t when that will be and we don’t know how long the post singularity period will be.
*IF* vsDarkmaster hits the shelves first, and that is certainly possible then what unique selling point does RMU have? Open ended rolls? Criticals? Weapon specific combat tables? Point buy skills? Spell lists? Sorry but vsDarkness has them all.
The real killer will be open00. I can honestly see 20, 50 or 100 publications for vsDarkness for every one for RMU. You could claim that the RMU publications will be more substantial or higher quality than all the indie releases for vsDarkmaster but that misses the point. Rather than spending $20 for an RMU supplement that you may use some, none or most of you can spend $0.50 or $1 on a booklet here or a booklet there that fill a particular need at that precise moment. It is a different world and a different way of selling gaming material.
Referring to Brian’s last post there is nothing to stop either Brian releasing Priest-King of Shade or Jengada releasing Nomads for vsDarkmaster, they could even combine the two and set Priest-King in the world of Nomads.
I am not advocating that we all give up playing Rolemaster and play vsDarkmaster instead. What is viable is to use vsDarkmaster books, adventures and all the other weird and wonderful supplements as and when they arrive with RMU as the games are close enough. Once that is established we can write and sell our own adventures as compatible with any open00 system.
I don’t want it to happen but I could see vsDarkmaster being the death of Rolemaster. The cliche is ‘not with a bang but a whimper’. I think that will be the case. We won’t move over and abandon Rolemaster but I can see vsDarkmaster swallowing up all the new players who would be interested in RMU but discover vsDarkmaster instead. Without new players and new members coming to a community it will wither and die. If vsDarkmaster and RMU have to share the market and sales for this sort of game how viable will they be? Who knows but open00 gives the publishers,
The Fellowship & Sego | Games, a revenue stream that ICE do not have. I know how much money ICE makes each year and it is not a lot. Also most of that is likely to disappear as ICE must withdraw RMFRP and RMC from sale when RMU is released as you cannot compete against yourself and the reason for developing RMU was to get away from the IP restrictions hanging over the older games and to unify the market so they did not need to support two versions of the same game. Supporting three versions of the same game makes even less sense.
If you have a look at vsDarkmaster you will see it is no RMU. It is not intended to be. It claims to be an evolution of MERP and it is true to its word. The thing is that we know how easy it is to drop a new spell law or an arms law into a MERP game to expand it. It is easy and it doesn’t break the game.
Take a look and see what you think.