Current “lay of the land” for d100 systems.


Due to time constraints I don’t have the luxury to explore new or emerging game engines, systems or settings so I have to count on Peter’s blog posts to find out more about other d100 products. Peter is assessing Zweihander and Gabe just mentioned “Against the Darkmaster” in a blog comment.

I vaguely remember reading about vsDarkmaster but was quite surprised when I checked it out–the cover art, logo style and basic system seems very much like Rolemaster. In fact they frequently use *master to reference RM. Is this a blatant copy of RM but better adapted to a MERP setting?

Since my writing time might be better spent writing adventures for newer, growing game systems I thought I would explore these game systems further…but.. I have no time. Instead I thought I would shout out to the gamer community here on RMBlog. Which d100 games are worth checking out? Do they have a setting or good game modules? How close are they to RM? Any and all information is appreciated!

15 Replies to “Current “lay of the land” for d100 systems.”

  1. Hi, BriH!

    Actually, it was this blog that first alerted me to VsD (Against the Darkmaster). I think Peter mentioned it and the designers’ plans for an open game system in connection with the designers’ official game material. The game hasn’t been released yet, but a QuickStart in connection with an official playtest is, if one signs up for it. (A KS for the full game system is scheduled for sometime this year.)

    My impression is that VsD definitely is derived more from MERP than from RM (my own familiarity with RM ends with RM2), though the designers clearly are conversant with many more iterations of the *master games than I am. VsD deviates from MERP in many ways; it might have begun as a “clone,” but now it clearly is not. The only open-ended rolls are OE high (no low). Skill development is a lot more generous. PCs get a hefty boost in HPs right away at first level, based on their “Kins.” The Wealth system is abstracted. Background character options are bought with “points” and contribute to roleplaying and PC-centered storytelling. There are further story-driven mechanics such as “Passions” and “Drive.” The Spell system is a departure–a character “buys” spells in Spell Lists by buying Ranks in a particular Spell List (e.g., a Spell List with 4 Ranks in it would enable the PC to cast Spells up to Level 4, and the total Ranks count as a bonus towards the spellcasting roll for any spells in that list). I’m not sure if this is an innovation in spellcasting, but I really like it.

    I should add that many of the rules are designed with a mind towards emulating very specific epic high fantasy fictions. The developers cite Tolkien, Le Guin, Donaldson, Brooks, Goodkind, and (Tad) Williams.

    I’ll be running VsD soon with my homegroup. I started a PbP using it on VsD’s official Discord channel.

    As far as other 100s, I would love to play Basic Role Playing sometime. I’ve glanced over the QuickStart a couple times, but it hasn’t gelled with me. The most I know about Zwei is what Peter has written about. I see something called Jowzam’s Den has recorded some play sessions (and an interview with its creator) of Zwei. (Jowzam’s Den also has been playtesting VsD.)

    All this brings me back around to a question I had last post: how difficult would it be to abstract all these percentile systems into one workable–even playable?–house system designed by the bloggers here? I know most of you have house rules and new ideas. Could they be synthesized into their own, new system?

    1. I don’t think they could as each has something that makes then unique and appealing to particular players. Any reduction of the system would necessitate removing the very thing that makes appealing.

      What would be extremely simple to do would be to build a personal frankengame from stitched together parts from all of the bits of d100 systems that you like.

      It would be personal as what I would choose for my d100 system would vary from everyone else’s as would yours.

    2. a Spell List with 4 Ranks in it would enable the PC to cast Spells up to Level 4, and the total Ranks count as a bonus towards the spellcasting roll for any spells in that list). I’m not sure if this is an innovation in spellcasting, but I really like it.

      That’s just individual spell pick and how my own BASiL spell lists work.

      how difficult would it be to abstract all these percentile systems into one workable–even playable?–house system designed by the bloggers here? I know most of you have house rules and new ideas. Could they be synthesized into their own, new system?

      I think pretty easily, but would take some integration and compromise–pretty much the same process as RMU. How long has vsDarkmaster been in progress? There is a lot of stuff that sounds very deja vu from RM Forums and RMBlog. Not accusing, I think many of the solutions presented by us or RMU were common sense.

      1. VsD went public with a website, Facebook and g+ pages and playtest documents in July 2018.

        That was also the point they announced their 2019 goal for their kickstarter and started to collect email addresses.

        Their forum for feedback started about 3 months ago and is populated by about 10 people.

  2. So from my perspective I can see three d100 games on the horizon in 2019.

    Zweihänder is here and has plans to explode into every genre and niche. It intends to do this in a two pronged attack. The first is their own games built and released in-house. So that is Zweihänder, Main Gauche and I think the third is Testudo. The second approach is their open gaming standard and licensing so that anyone can create and sell games under the brand umbrella of Powered by Zweihänder. In addition Grim & Perilous Studios provide a shop front so people can find your home grown games.

    The second big d100 entity is RMu which we now know will be resolved somehow this year. One hopes that this will be ready to play pdf books being sold on DTRPG. Print books will then follow sometime, probably 6 months later when the pdf has had all its typos and layout flaws fixed. If the manuscripts were finished the editing and art commissioning could proceed quickly. Personally I would have already commissioned the art as it is not as if you don’t know what art is needed. Possibly 10% is up in the air but the other 90% should be nailed down. So from singularity to release should be fast.

    VsD on the other hand needs to finalise its rules, then go to kickstarter, hope and pray for success. After the end of the KS they will hopefully have the cash to finish the game to release standard. VsD has been collecting emails of interested people for quite a while so should have an idea of how many people they can ask to support their KS. They still have a lead time of multiple months.

    I see it as a race for second place behind Zweihänder and only one of RMu and VsD will survive.

    My money is on RMu. If they get the marketing right. VsD has no pedigree and I suspect a weakness in the strength of its community. If RMu arrives at the same time or first then part of its reason for existing is gone.

  3. “Anybody download the playtest and check out the adventure sample? Just curious.”


    I’m using the playtest, but not the adventure. The adventure just isn’t for me, but that Twitch channel Jowzam’s Den is using it, and those gamers seem to be having a good time with it.

    I had to laugh when you said the forums are populated by about 10 people! You’re not wrong! And I believe I am the only truly engaged member (outside of the developers) in that community. But I do see that 503 people are registered users. From talking to other people in the greater overall rpg community, my sense is that many have signed up out of curiosity. You know, many of us just like to look at a thing. That’s how I started with VsD. I think I finally decided to give it a go simply because I wanted something new (and more simulationist) this new year.

    I have a sense that there is a bit of a difference in interest between RM gamers and MERP gamers, which might be why I’m attracted to VsD. Last year I got nostalgic for my first childhood rpg. But MERP (all grown up) didn’t do what I wanted. I bounced off of RM2. My mind glazed while looking at later RMs. I started running Original (Swords & Wizardry) and kept the RM aspects that I liked (including critical tables, of course). The VsD playtest adventure telegraphs some of this simplicity. There are beautifully drawn maps but no measures (as far as I can find). Though the QS has tables for overland Movement rates, so I don’t quite get it.

    And as far as the QS, there are a lot of developed rules that aren’t included. This is evidenced by some lines in the text and in the tables that aren’t supported. The developers are quick to share these rules if talked to on the forums or on Discord. I actually have a sense that they have a product just about ready to go but are maintaining an open playtest to generate interest and awareness.

    1. With the amount of game options out there, I really think the setting is the differentiation. I wasn’t blown away by Numenera mechanics but the setting was very cool. Same with older games like Twilight 2000, Ringworld etc. World building is a lot of work, a lot of content and lots of art needed so the barriers to entry are much higher than self publishing a retro-clone.

    2. I think they are going to struggle with their KS. In fact that could be a race against time. I am starting to pick up a vibe that the kickstarter bubble is about to burst as far as RPGs is concerned.

      If the funding goes away then there are a lot of business plans that need tearing up and throwing away.

      My only interest in VsD is their SRD and OPEN00, both of which they have not really spoken about. The SRD is intended to be used as a KS stretch goal.

      1. Regarding Kickstarter, from what I’ve seen there have been a few big disasters (in one case stretching back almost a decade). Often this seems to be people biting off more than they can chew. I don’t think you can totally rely on crowdfunding as your only capital source. I noticed that Schwalb Entertainment’s recent Kickstarter did not do as well as I expected. It funded and hit quite a few stretch goals, but there were many more still locked.

        The SRD for VsD is perhaps their biggest appeal, and it is something they could use to challenge RMU.

        1. Another KS black cloud is the John Wick Presents campaign for 7th Sea 2nd edition. It was well over funding but now they are struggling to produce all the promised stretch goals. They have laid off staff and scrapped the time table for the promised releases.

          1. The 7th Sea Kickstarter is one I was thinking of as well. It’s all very well raking in over a million dollars, but if you’re a small company and have stretch goals all the way there, you’re more than likely going to have a problem. Certainly in a decent timescale. Heck, the amount raised in that Kickstarter is probably more than the annual turnover over of nearly every single RPG publisher.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *