Is it the butterfly effect where some small event begins a chain of events with significantly bigger but unforeseen consequences?
I cannot even remember the conversation that started it but I ended up emailing back and forth with Ken Wickham, from the ICE forums and trying out his super light ABS12 game system. Ken got me talking about 3Deep, my vanity project d6 system and I sent him a very rough first draft of the rules. Prior to that, it ran entirely from my memory as it was written by me for me.
One thing lead to another and I published 3Deep as PDF and Print on Demand, I then, at Ken’s suggestion, bundled up some blog posts and started selling them. The idea of selling collected blog posts turned into the fanzine and today I have released the 33rd monthly issue.
Enter Brian Hanson and Egcdld on to the scene and we started doing the 50 in 50 adventures. From there I started adventure and supplement writing as a serious hobby. All the while I kept up this blog. Sometimes it settles back to an easy once a week, sometimes it ramps up to a more exciting a blog a day for a special event.
Finding things to write about, week in week out for years is sometimes a challenge. I saw a really nice series of blog posts by Jeremy Friesen called Let’s read “Stars Without Number”. Rather than a book review Jeremy dedicated a blog post per chapter and did a really detailed look at the rulebook. This appealed to me. I don’t like reviewing things I haven’t played as a single blog post. It hardly seems fair to take years of someone’s work and reduce it down to 500 words, spout an opinion on it, having never actually used it in the way it was written to be used, i.e. playing the game. The Let’s Read idea solved that problem. Yes, I may not have played a game but I am not glossing over most of it in just 500 words, here are 6,000 words over two months showing I have really read your work. It also serves the purpose of I know what I am going to write about for the next two months when I take on one of these extended Let’s Read projects.
Let’s Read lead to a read-through of Zweihander. That, in turn, lead to me starting to write supplements and adventures for that system. This was at the beginning of 2019. In the same way that I can be rather prolific on this blog, I can also be rather prolific on Discord and I am an active member on the Zwei (or Grim & Perilous) discord server.
I have always loved collaborating with people, think back to the 50 in 50 adventures, and in the Zwei dicord I put together collaborative projects know as the Grim & Perilous Book of … Where the last word was one of Chases, Murder or Monster. The basic idea was to get people teetering on the brink of becoming publishers to take the first step. Rather than take on an entire project or adventure module on their own, they could submit a single scene, monster or encounter to the collaborative project. It was an easy point of entry to publishing and I paid everyone on a royalty basis managed by DriveThruRPG.
I believe the three books I pushed forward are all silver best sellers or on the cusp of gaining their silver badge. My best selling supplement for Zwei is an Electrum best seller today but not far off of a Gold best-seller medal.
Zwei became my testbed for Rolemaster projects. They have so much in common, gritty d100, skill based and simulationist with an emphasis on actual wounds over hit points of damage. They use an AP based combat round and there are dozens of other points of similarity. This is not unusual. If you want to write a gritty simulationist d100 fantasy RPG you are starting at the same point and using the same tools. At the end of the process, you are never going to be that far from the same destination.
My interest in publishing continues to grow. I have published 3Deep as PDF and Print on Demand (POD), Devil’s Staircase was successfully crowdfunded and published both as PDF and POD. Navigator RPG is in playtest (and looking good) with a new version of the playtest document nearly ready to upload and finally a new game The Things That Grown Ups Cannot See [Things!] is being proofed and edited prior to its playtest release.
Things! is another collaborative project with the writers drawn from the Zweihander creator community.
On Friday the creator of Zweihander and I had a Skype call and he offered me the chance of becoming Art Director of Grim & Perilous Studios, responsible for the POD products for the Grim & Perilous Studios Community Content Program, known as the Grim & Perilous Library.
This puts me in a funny old position. I have always ‘goaded’ ICE with the point that as a private individual I could do X, Y and Z. I wanted to see more access for 3rd party ‘indie’ publishers, ideally a community content program. I have repeatedly tried to purchase an official license to write for RM but with no success. The attempts on the forums to create an adventure path have faltered and appear to have died, but in the fanzine I have written one to the best of my ability. The Guild Companion has faltered and gone the way of the Norwegian Blue, but this blog is still going strong and puts out more free content than the Companion has managed for several years now. The Guild Adventurer managed 4 issues in about 7 years. The fanzine has run to 33 issues so far.
I have produced two adventures, The Jungle Collection is a standalone adventure module, and Plague, Famine & War is a four-part mini-campaign. If ICE had a Community Content Program they would have earned money of every single sale.
I cannot help but think, if this is one person, what could two, three or ten people do?
Now, I will be helping people to achieve everything I have always wanted to achieve but for a game system that could be the death knell for Rolemaster as a viable game system.
None of us are ever going to stop playing it. I am not suggesting that. I mean we are all getting older, players will inevitably drift away, groups break up, old GMs and players die off. There must be countless players who would want to play RM but the only game in town is 5e. Without new blood where do new customers come from? Without customers, where is the community? Who is going to drive RM forward into the 2020s and 2030s?
Zweihander has that community, it has that following. As more games go to PDF and POD only, Zwei has gone the other way and you can buy it in bookstores all over the place. Every month that goes by does not put RMu in a stronger position. It is odd to be enjoying the success and dynamism of Zwei but deep down knowing that this is what RM should be doing.