Pilot RPG Playtest!

So this is a re-run of how I set up Navigator RPG. Today I have put the Pilot RPG draft up on DTRPG as a Pay What You Want download. You can grab it for free, and any money it does raise will go back into developing the game.


I am a fan of putting things on public playtest, unlike RMu that has put behind a registration wall. The more eyes on the game the better, as far as I am concerned.

This game is covered by the OGL Open Game License. This means that you can grab it and hack it however you wish, and you can add community content. In this book, the Unarmed Attack Table and its condensed Claw Law were both community contributions, as was the Logo you can see on the cover (bottom left).

This is the Bare Metal Edition [BME] logo, which you can find on Github as a project. The idea is that all the rules, spells, monsters, items, etc. that I create as I iterate through genres will all feedback to a central public repository. In theory, anyone should be able to download the BME source files and build whatever they want.

This game builds on and extends Navigator RPG.

If you don’t have that game, you can grab it from DTRPG here:


In both these games there is a lot of content you will recognize, both as being rolemaster-esque, and as being straight from Rolemaster’s great grandparent D&D. All I did was follow the same process, going from the d20 source to the open-ended game mechanics that we know and love.

I you look at the screenshot above (from Pilot RPG) you will recognize the skill cost progression, and the numbered paragraph structure. I wanted to keep the numbered paragraphs because they make drop-in house rules incredibly easy to share. You just replace one paragraph 7.3 with a new 7.3 and everything else remains the same.

If nothing else, these OGL versions of the game mean that should ICE go bust again, there is a free alternative version of the game, now both fantasy and science fiction, that will live on, and one that anyone can write adventures for and companion material.


It is unfortunate, but all titles that are released on DTRPG for free or Pay What You Want get hoovered up en masse. They are then bulk rated at 2* or if you are lucky 3*. These star ratings are then used by the site as a ranking metric.

If you download either or both games, if you get an automated email prompting you to rate your purchase, please could you give it a half decent rating just to offset the trolls?

Pilot RPG Update#2

I am pleased to say that I have finished the monsters, or at least I have finished the core monsters. There are some OGL monsters that I would like to include, but they are most definitely bells and whistles and not a requirement.

As I was doing the conversion, I noticed that Pilot monsters have OBs on a par with RM monsters, but they tend to have lower DBs and #hits. Essentially, they hit hard, but they are much easier to put down, a bit of a glass jaw.

My first reaction was to fix that, but upon reflection, I want to leave it. It will be much easier to adapt the thousands of OSR adventures to Pilot RPG than it would be to convert them to RMu.

It gives a Pilot RPG character a more heroic feel, and you can put more creatures down with #hits even if you cannot roll a decent critical to save your own skin.

OSR adventures tend to use larger numbers of monsters, and the way they have converted over means that you are likely to be able to use those encounters as written.

The other thing I have done is get stuck into the treasure tables. I have converted over 10 or so today and I have another 13 pages to go. The changes are minimal, converting each +1s to a +5 and so on. Things that were doing a d6 of fire damage become an A fire critical, etc. These are minor tweaks to each item.

That is thirteen pages of items and then a big block of random encounter tables for each biome. Then, I need to finish off the missing attack tables.

None of these are a lot of work; they are just repetitive. I think the most time-consuming single task is getting tables written for d6s, d8s, and d12s into d100 tables.

I does look like it is possible to get the first draft of the game on DTRPG for Tuesday as a playtest edition.

Pilot Update

You may see a lot of these between now and the end of the year. They help keep me on track as I feel that if I commit to telling the world about how much I have done, then I need to do something to justify it, and by telling the world how much remains to be done it motivates me to get it done.

Since the last post, I have started up all the monsters I have (basically the D&D SRD monsters) from B [Banshee] to D [Dryad]. There were no A monsters in the game book I am converting. If I have time for bells and whistles later I may try to add in more monsters, but no promises there.

I have copied across the weapons from Navigator RPG, and have found a list of 13 attack tables and so far 1 critical table that the fantasy rules have that the Sci Fi rules didn’t. I have made one attack table, and one critical table, Morning Star and Cold criticals.

Fantasy monsters are often poisonous, and I didn’t have any poison rules, so I have written those up.

In a completely unrelated subject, I have decided that the World War II version of the game is going to be called Ranger. That follows the theme Navigator/Pilot/Ranger and the US Army Rangers are also dead on the genre. I imagine that I will be able to get some public-domain imagery from the period that I can use for illustrative purposes.

You may ask why I am worrying about the WWII version of the game when I haven’t even finished the fantasy edition, but it was because I was having to cut out the firearms and grenade rules, and that started the mental ball rolling.

I have converted 25 monsters so far, and I have 77 more to complete. Following them are two big sections, a small one on converting monsters and creating your own monsters plus random encounter tables, and treasures and magic items.

Those will be the rules; then I have to circle back and complete any further combat tables and critical tables and then read Navigator RPG and Pilot side by side to check that there are no contradictions between the two systems.

The writing is the hard part, that is then followed by art direction, listing the images that I would like, finding what I already have, and sourcing art for the images I don’t have.

Then we go to layout.

Then we go to playtest.

Last time, I put the rules up for public playtest as a Pay What You Want download and made the commitment that the rules would always be free. It is my intention to do the same again and probably do the same for all of the books in the series.

Doing it this way means that I can go live before I have sourced all the art and reinvest PWYW donations to pay for the art. I can get playtest feedback, update the PDFs, and iterate until done.

That is enough rambling for today, I am now going to get back to monster converting.


Navigator RPG & Pilot

I have been away for far too long, and there multiple reasons for that, but my own tardiness aside, what I want to write about today has its origins back in 2014.

When I started this blog, someone was asking where was all the playable material online. There were no free adventures or anything for someone running an RM game that was short of time to grab and run.

I also honestly believed that RMu was about to be released. I think we were all given that impression.

Five years later and there was still no sign of RMu, but we were told that there was definitely no plans for an SMu, or Space Master Unified.

I was pretty frustrated, as were many of us, and as I prefer SF to fantasy, that was a real pity.

My reaction was to ‘do a Rolemaster’. The origin story for Rolemaster is one of taking D&D and converting it to the D100 system that we all know and love. These days there are plenty of D&D retro-clones built off of the D&D System Reference Document and the Open Game License [OGL].

Some of these retro-clones step outside of the fantasy genre and one of them, White Star was a FS version of D&D that borrowed heavily from Star Wars and Dr Who, and countless other classic TV and movies, you got Jedi, Cybermen and countless others. All of that was under the OGL and free to hack however you wanted as long as credit was given.

I wrote a bit of software that could make critical tables for me, and a formula to turn D&D damage dice into RM-esque attack tables, and I was 90% of the way there.

D&D had discrete spells whereas RM had spell lists, but I was a fan of HARP style spells with scaling. So I turned D&D spells into the bastard children of HARP but where D&D used per level as a common scaling device, I started using per rank or scaling. I compressed related spells (think cure light wounds, cure serious wounds and so on) into single spells but with scaling, etc.

There were some cool ideas in RMu, such as Combat Expertise, all potentials being 101, and the Vocational skill and some cool suggestions that seemed to fall on deaf ears, like stat bonuses of (Stat-50)/3.

All in all I kept what I liked about RM2/RMC. I adopted what I liked from RMu, and I imported stuff that I liked from elsewhere. The result was Navigator RPG.

That game is virtually backwards compatible with all existing SpaceMaster materials and at the time, if ICE had failed again, it would have kept the Space Master game alive. In the spirit of keeping the game alive I a) made the game free as in free speech – it is OGL so you are free to hack it as you wish, and b) made it free as in beer. The game is PWYW so you can download it for free. It is available in print soft and hardback and you only need to pay print and shipping. I make nothing if you pay the minimum price.


I also promised a Pilot RPG, a fantasy version of the same game. In theory, that should have been even easier to create.

This is where things went sideways. Firstly, it is never a good idea to think “This will be easy!” Secondly, Terefang from this blog and the RM forums had a brilliant idea. In the spirit of open gaming, we could abandon the OGL/D&D parts, write an absolutely minimal RM system, make it modular, so character stats was one part, skills another and so on, and then create a github for it so anyone could fork off to make their own games or contribute to the project. This was called Bare Metal Edition or BME.

As with many projects, it started with a lot of enthusiasm while we did the easy bits and then floundered when it became work and progress slowed.

That also consumed the time I had free that I had earmarked for Pilot RPG.

So Pilot RPG ended up on the backburner of eternal inactivity.

Skip forward now until November this year. Knaz started talking to Brian and I via the blog and email. The subject of Navigator RPG came up and it got me starting to think about Pilot again. The stumbling block last time around was the magic system. For Navigator RPG, I had made the Star Knight (read that as Jedi) meditations (read as mind tricks/force) by kind of eyeballing it and making a best guess. With BMI, Terefang had noted that the HARP spells had little or no rhyme or reason behind their math but had shared some stuff with someone I cannot remember the name of (sorry!), and between them, they had a balanced system. When I read the BME magic rules, I didn’t understand them, and they seemed pretty incomplete, or I was missing something.

What I didn’t want to do was bash out a wonky, eyeballed system when there was an open and balanced system out there.

With Knaz’s interest, and not understanding what we had written for BME, I thought ‘sod it!’ and I dug out my draft of Pilot, and my OGL source game, and then this week, I started keyboard bashing.

All of the character creation is done, and the dreaded spells are done (in my best cobble-it-together eyeballed version). Most of the weapon and combat tables are done.

Much I can import from Navigator RPG as the rule system is the same and then just fantasize it.

The last biggest task remaining is converting all the monsters and magic items. Converting big lists of items is a chore, but in principle, it is not a huge amount of work. The monsters will be a lot of work, though.

I honestly think I can get this done before Christmas.

Considering that we still don’t have all of RMu yet, I am only 4 years late, in RM terms that is but a blink of an eye.

I will get this finished.

I will ensure that it will always be free.

I will let it all be added to BME so anyone else can build their own game off it.

If you end up downloading it, and you like it, you can thank Knaz, it is their fault, they poked the bear.

Prepping Session #3

My next session of Lost Mines of Phandelver will be a week today. The characters have made it to the town and have been picking up rumours. There were three possible ways that they could have chosen to go from what they learned, and I picked the one that I thought was most likely to appeal to the players.

I am recreating all the maps in the module using DungeonDraft and then importing them into Fantasy Grounds for us to play. DungeonDraft has a trace image function so I can easily screenshot the PDF map, save it as an image and then draw over the top. It makes building maps quite quick.

I assumed that they would go after the bandits, and two of the players immediately latched on to those clues, but then the most stubborn player decided that they needed to head back and deal with the goblins and help rescue their NPC patron.

I, of course, had planned and mapped the bandits and set up all the encounters on Fantasy Grounds. The effort isn’t lost because I know that they will come back and deal with them.

There was more than enough to do in town to keep them amused during the session and it was only at the end of the game that they finally decided on their next course of action.

I now have this week to build all the maps, encounters, and loot parcels for Cragmaw Castle. I also copy’n’paste the adventure text into Fantasy Grounds Story boards so that I can link from those to the encounters, maps, images etc all from within the VTT.

My prep looks to be 8 planned encounters, one map to create, one trap, and about 10 parcels of things that could be found and looted. Then just copy the text over.

So far I have been pleased with how the conversion from D&D to RMC has gone. I have had to increase encounter numbers because the characters are tougher than first/second level D&D characters but apart from that it has been easy to find equivalent monsters, spells, and items.

My Gaming

During the pandemic, we started a Shadow World campaign and I got to play. We made it to about 5th level, but then the game fizzled out and we stopped playing. The GM caught covid, and that caused the first break, then they had another time clash, and before you know it two months had gone by and we had lost all the momentum.

Now the GM has lost the motivation to restart the game and that was the end of that.

I was running a game set in my generic, not quite forgotten realms. It started as a one-shot for us to learn how to use Fantasy Grounds, and it turned into a campaign. The characters are about 6th level now.

I have often been interested in converting between systems and for their current adventure I have taken Lost Mines of Phandelver, a low-level D&D 5e adventure, and I am converting it to RM Classic.

I haven’t moved over to RMu yet for two reasons, the first is that we can only play via Fantasy Grounds and there is no FG support yet for RMu, and secondly, the RMu rules are still only partially published and I don’t what to faff around with house ruling the missing parts or using beta stats.

RMC is complete and we know it and it is well supported.

It is interesting to convert D&D stuff to RMC. A 10′ pit is no threat to a 5e character, a few hit points lost that are recovered at the first rest. In RM they can break your hip, if not your neck.

I am also dealing with a level disparity. My characters are 6th level, and the adventure is written for 1st-5th level D&D characters. Some challenges are way too easy, such as stock goblins, but the adventure has a young green dragon as the main showdown, and RM has lots of options for me to use, lesser drakes, greater drakes, and if I really needed it, actual dragons.

D&D 5e characters are a lot more robust than RM characters, and they recover faster. It will be interesting to see if these many small encounters will grind my characters down, and what seemed easy at the start becomes death by a thousand cuts by the end.

1st Adventure Idea pt 2

I want to use JDales NPC generator to create all the NPCs for this adventure. If you have not seen this already it gives output like this.

The nice thing is that it will do down to 0th level.

The above NPC will just be one of the pirates on the ship. If the characters are 1st or 2nd level then 0th and 1st level pirates should be a fair challenge.

I would like to include a variety of NPCs, such as a scholar as the ship’s quartermaster, thieves as basic pirates, and laborers as deck hands.

Then add in a couple of named NPCs as the captain and first mate.

However the players decide to approach this, the GM should be able to pick out some suitable NPC stats.

I have one really minor sticking point. If you look at the example above, that 1st level laborer is a child of 11. This is because Core Law ties level to age. What I want is low level threats, not a kindergarten pop-up pirate ship.

This is not a suitable Rolemaster villain.

The solution is simple, I just write my own descriptions. The players should never know the villains level or stats.

What I want is a fun and interesting first experience of Rolemaster. I also want the player characters to win. It would be a really crappy session if you died before you have even finished creating your character. This is Rolemaster not Traveler!

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1ST Adventure Idea

Following on from my last post…

I am thinking of an adventure for 1st or 2nd level characters. The intention is that you run this before you finish your character creation. If you are going to start at 2nd level, run this at 1st. If you are starting at 3rd, then run this at 2nd level.

An adventurous interlude will give new players a chance to use some skills before they have spent their last round of DPs, so they can make some last-minute changes or improvements before starting for real.

It also means that if anyone takes a nasty injury that is going to take weeks or months to get over, that time period can be glossed over as they will be starting the campaign for real long after, and one experience level, after the end of this training wheels adventure.

My initial idea is for this:

Someone/wealthy merchant/relative of a character hires the characters to retrieve a stolen item.

The item is now aboard a merchant ship in the harbor.

The ship will leave on the dawn tide tomorrow.

The characters need only retrieve the item to claim their reward.

On board the ‘merchant’ ship the characters can discover a disproportionate amount of weaponry.

There is no cargo.

The crew will be outwardly respectable, but below decks they are rough and ready.

I will create the crew from the Reaver culture.

The item will be found in the captain’s quarters, in the captain’s possession.

This little adventure can be solved by stealth, sneak in, steal the item back, and sneak out.

It can be achieved by force, if you are extremely lucky, by storming the boat and taking the item.

The expected route will be an attempt at stealth that will only get them so far, a confrontation with the captain and some of the crew. A fight on the deck of the ship, allowing movement over different levels of deck, rigging, ropes for swinging on, and gang plank.

A chase scene as part of the getaway.

The merchant ship is obviously really a pirate here in disguise, which will give the new GM a chance of a recurring villain, as this ship can turn up in docks and ports repeatedly through the characters’ careers.

If they are successful, it also gives the GM a potential quest giver in the initial merchant.

All of this can be done just using Core Law.

I will also put together a rag tag crew of several different player races, to help differentiate the crew and showcase some of their strengths and weaknesses.

With no monsters or magic, I think pirates is a good source of ‘obviously the bad guys’.

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Those ‘between the years’ days

I confess that I haven’t so much as read Core Lore yet. I started to, I read the first dozen pages, but I have no one to play it with at the moment, we have an ongoing 5e campaign, and one of my main RM players is busy with other stuff, so my game is on hiatus again.

I then decided that I would wait for Spell Law to arrive, hoping that it would be before Christmas and I could then read and make characters and maybe run a one-shot in this odd week between Christmas and new year.

No Spell Law, and my reading goals have gone awry as I had books for Christmas which have been taking my attention.

I am impressed that RMu is still the No.1 best selling title on DTRPG nearly a month after its release. That is no mean feat. It has been momentarily displaced by War Hammer and Traveler, but to take the top spot back again is even more impressive. It is much more common for titles that lost that top spot to start to slide down the rankings.

So far the book has sold between 500 and 1000 copies. I hadn’t realised that the RM community was that big, and I am assuming that the magic here is that old Rolemaster was such an iconic game system that there are a lot of people that played it decades ago and are curious about the new edition.

We, as a hobby, are terrible for buying games that we will probably never get to play. I hope that those people that are not Rolemaster die-hards are not just buying Core Law just to collect it.

This is where ICE struggles a little. There is no introductory adventure included in Core Law, and with all attention focused on the core books and getting them published, there is not likely to be an official introductory adventure coming any time soon.

I think that is a real pity.

I think that I will use this idea to make a Core Law only introductory adventure issue of the fanzine and kick that back into life.

But, for that to happen I will really have to read the rules and make some characters. Maybe this is the motivation I need?

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Is it out yet? Yes!!!

RMu is out and available to buy as of today.


This is the first book but it gives us characters, combat, and the regular GM fayre [poisons, disease etc]. You also get many of the customisation options.

What we are missing are spell law, creature law, and treasure law.

As we have a lot of non-human playable races, you can fudge some of the classic foes, your orcs, goblins and trolls etc. using the playable races and build them as basic NPCs.

Even without magic you can run a cool Robin Hood themed game or anything set in the real world or alternative history settings. There are many cool Crusades historical novels that spring to mind as potential first settings.

What I am going to do next is start reading and do a series of “Read Together” posts working through the chapters, and if I get any problems I can put them to JDale on the official ICE discord.

In the meantime, happy reading.

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