Blog Intro Death and Dismemberment

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned Dyson’s Dodecahedron as a great source of maps. Today I thought I would mention Lloyd Neill’s occasional Death and Dismemberment blog (

Neill is an OSR/D&D and Rolemaster enthusiast and house rule fan which is kind of a prerequisite for Rolemaster GMs I guess.

This is relevant particularly given this weeks discussion on OSR. Last year there were some interesting discussions on House Rules. I am not a fan of OSR roleplay as it, in my opinion, just a thief tax but each to their own.

Amazing Treasure Hoards!

Do long-time rpg’ers get desensitized to treasure? I think I was 11 or 12 when I first saw the Basic box cover and was fascinated by the treasure and items in those colorful illustrations. I was equally fascinated by Mel Fishers treasure hunting and dreamed of becoming a marine biologist or treasure hunter myself.

My first D&D adventure was just me and my friend and he ran me through a very simple layout: stairs, corridor, pit trap, slime, metal bars, and a treasure chest. Like you, that simple format hooked me into D&D and roleplaying from then until now. I wonder if it was the inevitable monty-haul, or just the sheer amount of treasure needed to level up when 1gp = 1 exp. Over at RM Forums there was a short discussion of generic treasure (for instance 2000 gp, 5000 sp, 10000 cp and a gold sceptre) but that feels more like an accounting tally than an awe-inspiring treasure hoard. After playing for 30+ years, can you recover that sense of wonder and delight? I think part of OSR is due to older gamers wanting to recapture those golden days when roleplaying was “an elegant weapon for a more civilized age”.

I’m not sure we can ever relive those heady days, I tried re-playing Basic, Expert and AD&D and it sucked! However gaze in wonder at real life treasures for inspiration in your own adventures and campaigns.

Bronze Age microscopic gold work from around Stonehenge.

The Malagna Treasure.

The Eberswalde Hoard.

The Treasures of Troy.

The Staffordshire Gold Hoard.

Varna Man.

Scythian Treasure 

Intricate worked gold, delicate jewelry, master crafted vessels. Treasure can be more than gold coins, they can be works of art.


Monumental Sculptures. Fantasy & Reality.

I found this shot, from the TV show Lost to be evocative. Perhaps more so because it’s just a remnant of a much larger construct. The mind fills in the blanks–envisioning the size and appearance of the “original” construct. There is something awe inspiring in monumental architecture and sculpture and it’s often featured in fantasy illustrations and images.  I’m reminded of this powerful shot from Jackson’s Fellowship of the Rings.

But massive statues are not just found in the realm of fantasy.  Our own world is scattered with ancient and contemporary works of similar magnitude. A few of my favorites:

Like the foot from LOST, this is The Hand of Hercules, the remnant of what is believed to be a massive statue. The only other part found is from the elbow, but based on the size of these parts the statue would have been 13m in height (43′)–making it one of the largest known marble sculptures.

One of the great wonders of the ancient world was the Colossus of Rhodes. Few believe that the statue actually straddled the entrance to the harbor, but it was huge and real–the pieces of the statue were recorded by later travelers.

Other famous statues are the Colossi of Memmon. Each is almost 18m (60′).

Did you know that many of the maoi statues on Easter Island only have their heads exposed? The bulk of these statures are buried under ground. (an interesting note is that they have the “hand/navel” found found on other ancient statues throughout the world and cultures)

For modern sculptures few can beat the towering “Motherland Calls“.  At 285′ it’s almost twice the height of the statue of liberty.

How about Genghis Khan in Mongolia!

Finally, one of my favorite. Unfortunately, this one was apparently destroyed by rebels and might have been a contemporary construction. But still cool.

Megalthic architecture, massive statues and awe inspiring structures can add flavor to your RPG game–but you don’t have delve into a fantasy realm to find them!

‘Appy Inspiration

I have been gallivanting around Iceland for the past week or so and being surrounded by reminders of elves, known locally as the hidden people, trolls and giants is quite good for gaming inspiration.

Ironically possibly the best bit of inspiration that came to me was nothing to do with the fantasy rich local culture but from my mobile phone.

We all recognise that magic items are not just about +15 weapons, daily spell items and multipliers. It is the more colourful items that can give a campaign its flavour.

I installed a Aurora Borealis forecasting app on my phone as soon as I arrived and it was pretty good and we did indeed see the lights display when forecast. When you see the northern lights it begs the question of what on earth must the first people to see it have thought. No wonder so many cultures have myths and legends of magic. Without our scientific understanding of ionisation and solar winds magic would probably be the next most logical rationalisation.

So if these displays of lights are created by magic then surely you could either tap into that source of essence or read from them some heavenly enlightenment or foreknowledge. Knowing when they were going to appear and where would be really useful and I am sure many a seer or astrologer would want a magical device that could predict the northern lights. A sort of ‘orb of the heavens’ sort of thing.

So this set off a train of thought. In our culture ‘there’s an app for that’ is a bit of a joke but what if for every app there was a magical item?

Looking in the itunes store at the most popular apps I see that a QR reader is one of the most popular apps. I can easily see that materialising as a crystal of attunement (runes).

Spirit level apps seem popular and in magical terms imagine an item that combined the low level spells of mannish scale and the lay healer diagnosis spells that could tell you so much about the target. What form it would take is open to interpretation. I am personally envisioning a set of lenses and crystals through which the user peers.

There are countless musical instrument tuning apps and they would make great magical items that any bard would love.

Voice changer apps can be reimagined as Sound Mirage based items.

The more I look at the range of apps available the more I possibilities I can see and for the most part based upon first through third level spells. Not that everything has to be tied directly to a spell in spell law but items that are simply useful whilst not being exceptionally powerful are easier for the alchemists of the world to create and are more likely to be created if they do not cost the earth or take forever.

I think the take away from this is that if you are looking for ideas to perk up a treasure horde or to make an NPC a bit more interesting then you can get some interesting ideas from either itunes or Googles app store.

Shadow World Flavor: Cool suits of Armor.

Just a few days ago I posted up some of the unique armors that I had developed for Shadow World cultures and groups. This included a laminate process, slate armor and various hide armors using Wyvern and Quarnak skins. You can download the file HERE (you need an RM Forum user account)

So it was interesting to see this short article on historical armors HERE. I thought the crocodile armor (pic above) was really neat!

Breaking News!!!! ICE to publish special, limited edition of RMU!

Rolemaster Unified, the in development new RM ruleset , is planning on releasing a limited set of premium books. This edition will feature individual tomes, parchment pages, sheathed in 24k gold leaf and personally signed by the authors and developers.  The limited set is priced at $999 with only 500 editions planned.

With the purchase of this premium set you also get access to “RMU University”. This individualized program will give users in depth training into the rules and gameplay by trained, top level GMs and RMU specialists. There will be 3 levels of training at RMU University:


Bronze Elite                                                          Retail Value

RMU Game Retreat                                 $5,000

Campaign Quick Start Retreat           $5,000

Total Value                                      $10,000 you pay $7,000!!!

Silver Elite                                                       Retail Value

RMU Game Retreat                                 $5,000

Campaign Quick Start Retreat           $5,000

Creative Adventure Retreat                 $3,000

Training your Players Workshop        $2,500

Total Value                                          $15,500 you pay $10,000!!!

Gold Elite                                                             Retail Value

RMU Game Retreat                                 $5,000

Campaign Quick Start Retreat           $5,000

Creative Adventure Retreat                $3,000

Training your Players Workshop        $2,500

Personal GM Workshop                         $4,000

Creature & Profession Design            $2,000

Advanced RPG Techniques                   $4,000

Gold GM Life Membership                    $5,000

Total Value                                             $30,500 you pay $20,000!!!

An official spokesperson, John Miller, on the new RMU limited edition and RMU University:

“Rolemaster has been the best RPG rpg game of all time, with more players and games sold than any other competitor. With RMU we’ve brought in an experts, the best people, to offer a fantastic product to the market. The other games on the market are losers, just bad and are failing badly. RMU will appeal to every player, with better more expansive rules and at a cheaper price. RMU limited edition is amazing, a premium product and RMU University will teach and train attendees to be amazing and successful GM’s using knowledge and techniques by hand picked experts all over the world. With RMU limited edition and RMU University we will create the #1 RPG and a community of role-playing winners!”


Weekend Roundup: March 25, 2017

Welcome back to the “Weekend Roundup”! It’s been several weeks since I’ve done one; it’s been hard to scan the news here in the U.S.A. without getting bogged down in political crazy. In the interim, I got a message on the RM Forums:

BHanson: Do you think you could post more roleplaying news rather than obscure or fringe stories?

To clarify, the ‘Roundup’ is more a collection of news, stories or facts that grab my attention or give me an idea or hook for my own RM/Shadow World campaign. Sometimes a story just clicks, I make a note of it and when I get enough of them, put them up on the ‘Blog. I was hoping for more comments–just curious if any of the links spark a similar thought, idea or creative path for anyone else. I think I just posted up general RPG news, it would a. be topics covered at other bog sites, b. rarely be about RM or SW! So with that said, let’s begin.

Keron, Eog, Laen, Ithloss…..ORICHALCUM????

I was doing research and found these real life Roman SUPER SHIPS!

Syrkakar Armor?

Something found in a Wizards Tower. In an RPG, THIS would have to be a powerful artifact!

Detailed and Mystical Statues.

Real life Arms Law


The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Sweet Jesus!  #$&@!& more Elvish crap!

Legacy of the Earthwardens: Cultural transmission of knowledge.

No Elves…how ’bout Gnomes?!

It’s been 5 years, but still a great reservoir of RPG blog posts.

Now I’m enjoying this RPG blog.

Speaking of “Longskulls”….The HUN also practiced skull elongation….

Good advice for the Next Generation.

I’ve posted up quite a few files on the RM Forums and linked to them on various posts on this blog. For those that asked–you need to have a RM Forum account to SEE and DOWNLOAD files and see the RMU development forums. JOIN! REGISTER NOW

Pulling at loose threads

How many loose ends does your campaign have trailing behind the PCs? I have only been running my face to face game for a few years now, playing maybe 40 hrs a year or so and yet already there is a trail of loose ends, uncompleted quests and unsolved mysteries.

I have intentionally set up two concurrent story arcs. The point of having two is that I don’t want the campaign to feel linear or railroaded. One plot often interferes with progress in the other and the inter-weaved stories are richer and more complicated than a single story.

On the other hand too many loose ends do not add to the overall story, in my opinion. I think that too many loose ends can leave the players feeling frustrated and for the GM more balls to keep in the air if he is to keep tabs on every loose end.

Something I learned from solo rpgs is to keep a log of plot lines or more accurately loose ends. This simple technique first of all made it blatantly obvious how many loose ends there were. It also made it pretty easy to plot in mopping up these loose ends as I prepped future sessions. I am not saying that you have to nicely clean up every loose end in the very next session but when an opportunity presents itself it can be very fulfilling for the players to finally track down  loose end.

For the GM it can also mean less work. Why create a new assassin when there is one in the characters’ history already? My player characters are hanging around a 50 mile radius area and bringing people back into the story is pretty easy right now.

It isn’t just me that says keep the total story lines count down. Look at classic sci fi and fantasy TV series and although you may get a different adventure every week you rarely ever get more than one over arching story arc that spans from episode to episode.

I have no idea if there is an optimal number of story arcs to have in a game but I bet it is more than one would expect. When I started thinking about this I thought the right answer is two but that I think is way too low a number.

Firstly one needs the main campaign plot. I also think you should have a side plot to stop it all becoming to linear as I mentioned above. Each PC should probably have a story arc that comes from their character background and I would say that each character should be able to spawn their own story arcs, most PCs do not start out wanting to become a lich lord or whatever but the GM should be be able to accommodate those that are compatible with the game.

I make that two story arcs for each player and the campaign. That also fits with that is happening in my campaign now.  Or to be more exact, I have more than the twelve (five PCs and the campaign times two) story lines  and loose ends and that is why things seem somewhat crowded and my players often forget who did what to whom and why.

The forgetfulness could be middle age but having too many plots, NPCs and clues floating around certainly doesn’t help.