My Unpopular Opinion

This post is inspired by a SubReddit I found on Reddit.   It’s called Unpopular Opinion.  The beauty of that sub is that someone is allowed to express their opinion there, specifically because it’s unpopular, without fear of reprisal.  It’s a ‘safe haven’ (as safe as any opinion on the internet is able to be) for a person to get off their chest, that which they have been keeping inside.

To those ends, and owing to the fact that my brutal, orcish, task master has given me a break from Devil’s Staircase: the Wild West, I’ve found that I’m sitting here anxiously wanting to type something.  It’s partly owing to the fact that I spent so much of the past few weeks just buried in the DS:tWW, that I’ve come to see more failings in another gaming system.  So brace yourselves, because here comes the unpopular opinion.  And bear in mind that it is exactly what I advertise:  Opinion, unpopular,  merely my own.

RMU is not impressive at all.

This isn’t the first time you’ve heard me voice my thoughts on the latest hot topic on RMU.  The most recent topic is the discussion of the use of an Action Point to move a weapon from one hand to the other to start casting a spell.  There has also been the initiative system.  There has also been the DP cost for skills and the severe lack of variability between the professions.  There has been the stat buying system, but this one is just a general dislike that I have in any system and unfair to pin specifically to RMU.  The list is simply growing the more attention I give to the system.  Bear in mind, I’ve deliberately stayed out of the Beta2 Spell Law and Beta2 Creature Law forums and have very lightly dabbled in the Beta2 Treasure Law recently.  All of my displeasure has been limited to Beta2 Arms and Character Law.

I limited myself to the single forum for a several reasons.   RMxx (Insert favorite flavour here) is a huge, daunting, RP simulation-style system.  The entirety of RMU would have been too much to take in all at once to still be able to offer educated, in depth responses.  Now it’s been years and I’ve started to expand to the other sub-forums and rather than adding to the awe and excitement I had, it’s been adding to the dismay and confusion.  The more of the RMU system I explore, the more disappointed I am, not more excited.

The new armour system: Awesome!  I thought that was a great change and I like the mix and match type armours.  Clearly more ‘realistic’ and simulationist.

Simplified initiative:  Amen!  It’s still not as simple as I’d like though.  I use an extremely simplified initiative system for RM2.   D100+QU bonus.  Resolve from highest to lowest.  A fumble is simply a failure to act that round.

Slimmed down skills:  OK.  That’s a good thing.  Some people claim there is skill bloat and/or lack of DP to cover the skills available.  I’ve started to write a post on several occasions addressing that topic but never finished it.  I’ll save that for another time.  (Spoiler alert:  There’s no skill bloat and/or lack of DPs especially since I’ve recently picked up GURPS 4th ed!!!!  Holy Crap.)

Unifying the crit tables:  It’s a nice tweak to have a 84 E-Slash Crit target the same area as an 84 E-Puncture Crit, etc.   But it really wasn’t that difficult for the GM to change the word in the crit description to match.  “Slash to foe’s thigh… and you puncture his nose…”  Simply change it to “Slash to foe’s thigh… and you puncture his other thigh…”

Apart from a couple of other minor tweaks that I like, the wheels start to come off the wagon.  I don’t care about a set date for the Singularity Event.  I would rather see a fully developed, or extremely well-developed RMU, when it’s ready, not before.  I don’t want to see something rushed out the door that’s loaded with broken rules, things that need to be house-ruled, things that simply don’t make sense.  That would be more detrimental to the brand than the moniker of ChartMaster or RollMaster.  So the time delay is not the issue.

I, and I think maybe a good majority of us old-timers, have to look at the new RMU as decidedly Not-RoleMaster.  It’s a different game system, just as Vampire:the Masquerade is different, just as GURPS is different, just as D&D 5th is different.  It will not be the RM that we know.  I have to do this because if I try to trick my mind into thinking this is RM, the whole system breaks down.  To get fresh, new players, the RM brand needs to re-invent itself.  (This was also a topic of discussion.)  RM can’t half-ass its way between holding onto the existing RM community and trying to bring in the new generation.  It was generally accepted that if it tried to do both, it would fail at both.  Let’s face it… the RMxx brand isn’t going to bring in many new players because the system is so old.  Therefore, RMU has to be new and different.

So now I look at this as a brand new gaming system that I’m going to learn.  The only real ties to the old RM systems will be the crit tables and the ‘realism’ it brings vs. a board game or an arcade game.  Some people call this “grit.”  If it wants to be any type of competition in the RPG market, I don’t think RMU it’s going to succeed.  If it wants to pull players from the D&D franchise, it’s going to need to appeal to that crowd.  It’s going to need to shake its stigma of ChartMaster.  It’s going to need support material!  Bundle it with Something from Terry’s Shadow World collection!  Work out a deal to include Green Gryphon Inn.  What a great book that is for having a small, manageable region with plenty of starting adventures and plenty of room to expand into a grander adventure with well-fleshed out NPCs.

RMU is going to need to appeal to the masses, not the dedicated fan-base it currently has.   RM and ICE need to pull in NEW and younger players, not appease us old-timers.  I accept that fact.  I also accept that I have to forget what I know and love of the RMxx systems.  I have to learn a new game system.  For the record, I’m all for “Adventure Title – *Powered by RMU game engine”  That was another great idea that was brought up.

To put things in perspective.  I just spent nearly $90 on GURPS 4th ed., only to find out, I only needed one of the four recommended books… of which I only purchased three anyway.  It’s looking like RMU is a minimum of three books and probably a fourth book where I can run GURPS from one book.

For Christmas gifts, I purchased three copies of RMC-II and three copies of Elemental Companion for less than $50 total.  Of those copies, two of them are nearly New Condition, two look Used but still great, and two are brand new.  I purchased the new hardcover of Jaiman.  When Haalkataine comes out, I’m getting the hardcover as well.  I’m going to be extremely hard pressed to even consider buying RMU, even in electronic version.

Now where’s my revised copy of Devil’s Staircase???  Before I start going off on another rant.

37 Replies to “My Unpopular Opinion”

  1. OK, I agree with probably 90% of this but…

    The big thing, I think, is that RMU has to appeal to a new generation. There is no way on earth that a new, barebones set of core books is ever going to compete with our entirely house ruled to fit us like a glove, comfortable, favourite RMxx version that he know like the back of our hand.

    All the ideas and suggestions are out there already, tie it to the setting, franchise out the core system to smaller niche ‘powered by’ games, create a quickstart with pregens.

    You are right in that what was bloat in the 1990s is now barely scratching the surface of many games such as GURPS or Pathfinder.

    One of my pet hates about RM2 is the pigs ear of a skill system. You must have heard me complain about this before. Some skills are +1 per ranks (eg. ambush and stunned maneuver), some are used to cancel penalties (eg. spacial location awareness), some are bought on a sliding scale of costs (eg musical instruments and weapons), others you can buy loads of boxes all at the same cost and the same ‘bonus’ (eg armour and spell lists). Some have unique rules buried in their skill descriptions (eg flying, disarming and quickdraw). Some describe almost magical abilities (eg. divination and power projection) and some are so niche I wonder why they are separate skills (set trap and build trap).

    To put it bluntly this is not a simple to use skill system. You literally have to get out one of several rulebooks to check the usage of every skill before it is used or what we found was that we had been using a skill incorrectly for decades so that is how it works for us now.

    The RMU skill system I like. Yes it is a bit barebones right now and you can tell that they are going to dump a million skills into that structure when the companions come out but at least you have just two mechanisms. Expertise skills reduce bonuses and skills are roll 101+ to succeed.

    Regarding success or failure of a game system it is almost impossible for a game system to ‘fail’. In commercial terms as long as RMU eventually makes back the cost of the commissioned art then every cent after that is profit. Is a profitable game a success for its publisher? It most likely is.

    ICE do not have to declare how many people bought or play RMU. The most vocal of the forum users will probably adopt it within 2 year to 5 years. Not for love of the game but hopefully once RMU is published it will clear some of the production channels and we will get to see more books. If all the nice new shiny things are for RMU then we will have to buy into RMU or house rule everything back to RMxx.

    I think I could hybridize my game to make it RMU compatible but still play, look and feel like my game. It would mean starting with RM2/RMC and transplanting in the few bits of RMU I really like. That would mean that I could leave the size rules on the operating table and use the RMC Arms Law with all the combat tables already done.

    I could scrap RM2/RMC background options and use RMU talents. I just need to use a rule of thumb that a size shift is a +/-20 OB for each level.

    I cannot see many problems with using RMU skills and categories in RM2/RMC.

    All of this is pretty much speculation. I haven’t actually looked in detail at merging the to systems. My game is heavily house ruled anyway so a few more won’t cause a stir. The objective would be to use as much of the skills and spell law as possible so bought adventures would be usable off the shelf.

    I think the three parts of RMU I don’t like are the size rules, passive skill bonuses and the detailed round. The last no one has to use, it is entirely optional. The passive skill bonuses are easily sorted out at your own table, you just red line the skill. Extracting the bonuses from monsters in CL may be harder but I am also going to see just how different the monsters between RM2/RMFRP and RMU end up. I suspect that ‘not very’ will be the answer. RMU characters are pretty much on a par with RMxx characters when OBs , DBs and Hits are taken into account (without passive bonuses). So I expect monsters to also be n a par.

    The biggest single threat to RMU is that it has no unique selling point and this time round it has a lot of competition. Critical tables are now really quite common and skill based characters are the norm. There is nothing to make RMU characters stand out. Grit, realism and simulation is out of fashion but for those that want it there are plenty of established games out there that provide it. Zweihander is a a classic example.

    Competition-wise there is Against the Darkmaster that is due for release in 2019. The game itself is not that remarkable. It is just MERP without the tolkien references. What is more threatening is that it comes with an SRD, system reference document, which means that anyone can freely and legally create compatible games. As Against the Darkmaster is almost identical, in game mechanics terms, to RMxx then everything I have been saying about ‘powered by’ games could come true but powered by a competitor and one that is happy for you to sell for profit which will draw in more indie developers and small games companies.

  2. My unpopular opinion: 4e DnD was better than 5e DnD. It was easier to learn for new players, added many interesting powers and classes (like Warlord), and was actually very well balanced.

    There, I said it!

    I’ll also say I like RMU. I am holding out hope that the passive skill rank bonuses will be jettisoned, and then I will have an edition that is roughly compatible with my old MERP and Shadow World books but that is now fully supported by a publisher. No more having to search on Ebay for core books. That alone for me is worth the price of admission.

    I recognize of course that your mileage will vary!

  3. I have really only skimmed the RMU ruleset and found nothing that encouraged me to adopt immediately and I think this would be an issue for ICE to sell more rule sets to anyone. Let’s face it, the reason we bought our first rule set was to play as a set of adventures that were written for that system because we wanted to be the hero/tell stories linked to the genre. Old die-hards will only adopt a different system if it appeals to their style of roleplay and then of course only with a raft of house rules.

    1. So far in playing RMU it plays exactly like RM2. The big difference is in the character creation. At the table the only real differences seem to be the size rules for attacks and there are many solutions to that a)use the homebrew combat tables with all the damage precalculated or b) downgrade to a previous arms law for the tables or ignore the size rules for attack size and use a fixed modifier such as +20 per size step. The passive skill bonuses to DB make a big difference in a medium to high level game but they can be stripped out easily enough. The detailed round and AP economy is entirely optional but treating any instance of APs as -25/25% per AP fixes them.

      I cannot see existing players rushing to buy it as I said above, unless you are an early adopter. I will but I will also house rule it.

      The ultimate success or failure of RMU will be down to marketing. As a set of rules it is a good or bad as anything else out there. It is not the most complex or the least, it is not the most ‘realistic’ or the least. For 99.99% of the playing public it will be ‘just another system’.

      Interestingly, Spectre mentioned drawing in some of the existing DnD players. There is absolutely no evidence that happens or has happened. Despite the huge spectrum of games available DnD’s market share is the same or higher than it was 10 or 20 years ago. People tend to play other systems alongside DnD but because it is the biggest game it is the easiest to put a group together to play. The trend if anything is for people to migrate from minority systems to DnD because of that ease of access. I don’t have any demographic data I can apply to it but I guess that college students tend to play a wide variety of games and then when you get older and it becomes harder to find players then the variety of games played goes down and migrates towards a few big name systems, DnD/PF and possibly GURPS.

      Marketing is vitally important and the first step is to identify to whom you are going to market your game. If it is old farts like us then retro-1970s art is fine. If it is to millenials then they have different tastes. I once wrote an article and a forum thread about how there was only one female character in any of the examples and she was failing her skill roll if I remember correctly. If you are trying to attract millenials then that will simply turn off a lot of potential buyers. If the target is us of course then it could well be fine, I assume we do not buy game books because there is a warrior princess in a chainmail bikini on the front cover. All my kids are daughters so I am more likely to introduce them to a game with strong and positive female characters then one where they are only seen as supporting cast members. It could be I am strange, that has been said more than once. It still remains true that to sell the game you need to know who you are selling to and then use that to shape your advertising.

  4. I think the biggest problem ICE are currently going to have is to convince people to shell out and buy a whole bunch of rulebooks. Pathfinder may have had rules bloat that was appalling (hence v2) – but you could get started with the beginner box and most of the rest of the information is available online. Call of Cthulhu quick start rules – free. And more and more of the same. $100+ to start a new system when you can start other, bigger systems for little or nothing? That’s going to be a hard sell.

    1. Yes, you are right. Having said that RMFRP is a bigger system than RMU and they did a single volume $20 book. I know as I bought it recently.

      They also must have about 100,000 OBS publisher points. They could make a single volume RMU game the ‘game of the day’ for about 6 months and sell it at a knock down price. It is a running joke that no one has ever bought Zweihander at full price and yet it was the first ‘Adamantine’ rated game. If they could sell 1000 copies at $5 (something like 75% off a $20 book) that would get them a natural listing in the hottest games lists, platinum metal rating and a good crop of new players.

      1. Zweihander is also a huge book – I bought it recently. At a huge discount of course! $1.99 as a special Black Friday/Cyber Monday deal. It has also shifted a heck-ton of physical books as well. One thing I didn’t like about the book was there was no setting.

        It’s hard to know what’s happening behind closed doors but it doesn’t seem to me at the moment as if RMU is going to be marketed as a single comparatively cheap book. Rather three big expensive ones. And yes, ICE must have a lot of points; it was years before I noticed them spending any. They still don’t appear to be using a lot.

        1. I am not suggesting that RMU be a single book but RMFRP has a single volume introductory book. Once you are hooked then you need to buy Spell Law, Arms Law, Creatures and Monsters and so on. It is basically Character Law with just enough combat, spells and monsters to get you going.

          1. Which would be a good idea – just like so many other systems have core sets for little or no money. But is RMU going to do that now? It’s a bit late in the game to try to create a lightweight core rulebook. Heck, something like the old MERP boxed set would be good.

            1. Who knows….

              Making a starter edition is not difficult. Creatures & Monsters was reduced to a single page in the RMFRP book. Just a table of monster stats and a key to abbreviations. The monsters were all common fantasy stock monsters so no description needed. Limiting spell lists to just a single pure caster for each realm and a single semi keeps the spell list count down and you can limit them to the first 10 levels. Arms Law is not that bulky and you can trim out a few weapons if needed but probably that wouldn’t be necessary.

              You can strip out some of the races such the more esoteric ones and player character trolls. You can forget all the racial talents completely.

              I think that would squeeze into a single volume.

        2. The fact that Zweihander was setting less was why I chose it as an example of a direct competitor. It is ‘gritty’, D100, fantasy and already out there.

          1. Yes, it is comparable in that way, and they’ve definitely gone all out in promoting it. Plus there’s now a community content program, which was one reason I picked the core book up.

      2. Crunching some numbers, based on my other reply, here is my current prediction.
        I’m almost certain, without considering any other factor, they will sell 200 to 350 copies if they maintain active existing customer base. (RuneQuest level success)
        From what I have seen, selling 400 to 500 is very likely. (The One Ring success)
        If it does well and many RM2 GMs buy-in, selling 500 to 1000 is in reach. (Palladium or Hero Games level success)
        If they manage to convert new RM players 1000+ is in reach (GURP or Cypher success)
        If they manage to radically retain and gather new players 2000+ (Warhammer or Zweihander success).

        My current prediction is that it will at least be 400 to 600 copies, based on an quick estimation based what I have heard, and comparing with Palladium reprints & Hero System 4e results. If It finishes a new Spacemaster revised, then it has a better potential of reaching 1000 by increasing that total up by about roughly 200 more.

  5. I hate the unstated assumptions in RMU. They have both roll and purchase for stats, but the roll system is so broken they might as well have made purchase the ONLY option. The fixed AP regardless of actual stats is also in my view fairly ridiculous. I’ve also never seen a good reason not to extend the flexible skill cost model used for Combat Training to other skill categories, allowing for almost custom builds and individual skill costs (to a degree) without breaking the core or excessive bloat.

    Frankly, RM in any version is one of the most flexible core engines I’ve seen. It lends itself to pretty much any genre with minimal adjustments, and can be expanded almost at will. Yet there seems to be no interest in doing anything with it aside from cramming it into a small box and pushing it as HARP-gritty or something similar. It could be so much more, but it likely never will be. I could do a modern core system in one book, with add-on books for other modern genres at a reasonable price and modular construction allowing them to work easily with each other. I’m sure someone else could take on SM and do the same thing. Will it even happen? I can’t say I’m hopeful.

    1. If I were you I would go one of two ways.
      1) Fill in the missing gaps in your modern system and release it as a standalone game. It doesn’t really sound like you are using any of ICE’s intellectual property so there is nothing stopping you. Going down this route you can fix all the things you don’t like about the core RM system and you can build all those variant games afterwards.
      2) This idea takes a bit more vision but we all know how RM started life, as house rules for another big name game. So repeat that trick. You are only talking about ‘Mundane Law’. Build your modern game as two expansions for DnD 5e that creates modern genre characters, converting them from 3d6 to d100 and times there hit points by 5 and then a drop in modern day combat system. That really does give you direct access to a potential audience of 10M DnD players.

      1. I thought about option 1, but I really don’t want to design a melee or unarmed combat system. Part of that is laziness, I admit, but the other part is those elements of RM work reasonably well so I never put a whole lot of thought into changing them. Firearms are a different story, as are elements of the skills and Profession systems which is where the bulk of my changes occur. I do admit having a distinct fondness for the martial arts system used by the original Top Secret rules, but I don’t know how well something like that would work today. I’m not familiar with 5e so I can’t really comment intelligently on option 2.

  6. I made a “Thought provoking” thread! 😀 Yay me!

    When I logged in this morning I was stunned to see 13 responses. I read all of them and they are full of great ideas, points, counterpoints, and observations.

    Working backwards through the responses, I really think a starter edition or quick-starter is a great way to get new players into RMU. It has to be fast and quick to at least get people to give it a chance. It’s like the first hit of crack cocaine. The first one is free… then you’re hooked.

    * – I do not condone the use of nor have ever tried drugs, I just saw it on a TV show where the dealer was giving away the drugs for free, then the user was hooked.

    If RMU is going to be several books, as it looks like it very well will be, the box set is a nice start. I still have my red-border-3-book-box set of RM2. The box has been taped a few times, but I still have it.

    RMU could easily go the way of GURPS. There is really only one GURPS book to buy to be able to run ANY style system you want from Tolkien-esque, to wild west, to film noire, to space fantasy. It’s a generic system and designed for that purpose. Any other books after that are optional and add flavor to the particular game style the GM wants to run. In my case, I bought the Supers book because I want to run a superhero/comic book hero style game. Sadly, I didn’t need to buy that damned book as all of the references to skills and powers point back to the core book. (See pg.48, see page 129, see page 232.) I was extremely pissed when I found that out.

    Hurin – I enjoyed DnD4 more than DnD5 and I liked DnD 2nd best, and a lot of players have been saying that same thing. All of the players I know personally liked 4th better than 5th. The extended groups they game with in their other gaming circles have all said the same thing. A really good friend of mine has joined a group that is playing DnD 1st hardcore version: Roll the dice, those are your stats, in order of the roll. Choose your class. No compassion, no quarter. Level 1 mage with 2 HP? too bad. No elves. No Dwarf spell casters. The DM is tracking heal time in real time. Using the official calendar of the game system. One of his PCs was injured and has 8 weeks recovery time which equates to roughly 6 weeks of real game time so he just rolled up a new PC as he won’t be playing that one until some point in January.

    I alluded to another post topic I wanted to write, that of skill bloat in RMxx. GURPS 4th simply proves my point, but I have to temper that statement with a caveat. GURPS is SUPPOSED to have every skill in the world because it’s meant to cover every gaming genre in the world. It’s “Generic” and “Universal” It says so right in the name, so maybe my comparison to GURPS is slightly skewed.

    Peter is right in saying that skill bloat exists in the games coming out now. Also that RMxx is not an easy skill system to use. And yes, there are some skills we found out that we were doing wrong. I just realized a couple of weekends ago that I was doing HP wrong since Day 1 and that the GMs of my time were giving us some more HP to help us survive. I could never figure out the math for calculating HP when there was a negative CO modifier. The math didn’t work. Well… I understand it now. Something in my old brain finally said “Ah-ha! You dolt! THIS is what it means.” So holy crap on me. I know how to calculate HP now. Should a good (not even a great one) gaming system take a person 30 years to realize how to calculate HP???

    There have been some heated discussions about the skill variants, most notably Detect/Disarm Traps, Detect /Use Remove Poison, Tracking/Read Tracks. The DnD players argue they are all the same thing and if one is skilled in one, they should get freebies in the counterpart. I can easily argue that away though. I don’t need to know what poison it is to know something is poisoned. If the poison is colorless/odorless what good is detecting it? A good Use/Remove Poison skill will make it as undetectable as possible. I may know how to administer a poison, but not how to detect it if it is colorless odorless. Watch any crime show with a forensics lab tech; NCIS, Criminal Minds, Hawaii 5-0.

    I may be able to follow someone through the woods by following a path of broken twigs and impressions in the ground, but I may not know who or what I’m tracking. I can tell you that someone or something went this way. I spent years hunting when I was younger, I made a concerted effort to try to learn the paw prints and signs of various animals. I can tell you that it’s easier and very different tracking an animal than it is to identify it. I’m smart enough to know the difference between a bear and a rabbit, but can I tell the difference between lion, bobcat, tiger, leopard, jaguar??? No. Wolf, dog, coyote, hyena, jackal??? No. Did something go this way? Yes. Animal or human? Human. The human we are tracking? I don’t know. What boots was he wearing?

    Yes, RMU could do with more “inclusive” skills and less specialization. That will address some issues with skills, DP availability, skill bloat, speed.

    Skill clarification. Yes. The issue with using the skills the wrong way or not knowing what they were really meant to do. Two Weapon Combo is overly complex with its own special rules within the rules; parrying, parrying vs. 2 attacks, parrying vs. 2 opponents, attacking 2 different opponents, using TWC with 1 weapon (Isn’t that called “making an attack”?)

    Power Perception. Is it magical? Yup. Oh, ok. Thanks. Even for a mage, it’s a less than helpful skill. The definition in RMC-II is that it allows the caster to detect the realm of the magical aura in order to cast a counter spell. Forget doing that in combat to counter a spell. This was another point of heated discussion with a DnD player who has yet to grasp that RMxx is very different from DnD. They are not the same game systems nor do they share any game mechanics. He wants to use Power Perception to identify a magical item, but that’s not what PPer is, not how it works, not what it’s for. I let him roll it and I tell him it’s magical. He thinks that’s somehow important in the game system. It’s not.

    1. So many of the perception problems your DnD players have would simply disappear if RMU had an official setting. Then the player facing world information can explain how magic works and why anyone, with the skill, can see essence auras.

      I see your tracking example as increasing skill ranks in tracking. A few ranks and you know something went this way. A few more ranks and something big went this way, a few more ranks and a horse went this way, a few more and it was a horse shod with an iron shoe, a few more and it was a horse shod with an iron shoe but see that indent there? That is an elven farrier’s mark.

      Something that GURPs did that RMU hasn’t done is be upfront and honest about its skills. RMFRP was the same. We all kind of know that there are going to be 200+ skills in RMU, more if you really unify SM into the same universe*. If you start with just a relatively small set of skills and then start dropping more and more skills into the game, one book at a time then you will get the accusation of skill bloat. The reason is that with that first tranche of skills characters were perfectly competent. The more you detail skills down the more specialised things become. It used to be that you could find and remove traps but now you need two skills. You used to be able to X but now you cannot because that is now a different skill. The point is that every new skill weakens the character from the players perspective. From the GMs chair it may look great that you now have a combat style that allows you to have a ninja that can throw playing cards as shuriken but for players with their favourite characters new skills equal mini-nerfs that harm their characters. Never once did anyone say that RMxx had spell bloat when they added new spell lists, people love having more and new spells. RM2 can be somewhat forgiven for this as at the time no one knew that there were going to be all these skills as they were invented and added after the games release. For all the newer versions, everyone knew what there skills were going to be, they were just pretending that the skill system was small and compact.

      *a real requirement if Shadow World is to be a setting as SM is the greater universe and Kulthea is just one world in the SM universe and Rolemaster just the rules for playing on that single world.

      1. And that was the challenge with the Companions. They were “optional rules that weren’t optional” as far as many were concerned. RMU’s skill organization isn’t bad, although there are some issues remaining with how skills group under a supposed parent skill, and if you expand the assignable skill cost model from the combat skills to other skills it even allows for customization. But it does get back to a point Peter, I, and others have made: with no actual official setting the logic of RM’s skills and magic system (as well as the races) remains fuzzy at best. You could always tell there were unspoken assumptions behind all those areas (RM in any flavor is full of unspoken assumptions), but without knowing what they are it makes things difficult to understand or use.

  7. This may actually be controversial, since a view that I see a lot is assuming that many people will not switch to RMU.

    I believe that many people want to see RMU succeed and will even buy it. Having said that, they will not necessarily play the system. It’s no secret that gamers habitually buy games that they never play. Or they will play it with heavy house-rule changes.

    While it’s great that Classic RM is a silver metal, which I think means ~ 200 PDF games or more were sold, the last RPGNow report showed 71 Rolemaster games on their site. And one of those is mine which I haven’t played since two years ago. I don’t want to read into those numbers too much, but I imagine that many of them are RMU beta games which have also been either not started or abandoned.

    RMU does need new players but need to do it without loosing their own identity. Hearing the more recent debates, I don’t think that they concern any identity related topics, rather non-essential or superfluous. I haven’t seen many “change the spell list system”, “change all the professions”, or “rewrite the critical chart” posts.

    To me, for long term survival, the worst result of the development is if the final game is not fun. “Not fun” > “not play” > “not buy the next book”. Fool me once… . But that issue is in the hands of JDale and Nicholas.

    As for competition, there is already a RM-like OGL available for the last two years, so I’m not sure if Against the Darkmaster will actually take away any more RM players or GMs. More likely, they will just take the old MERP GMs, which are only given HARP as an alternative—which is far from being a MERP system. But, if AtD does a successful kickstarter, it might actually take away potential new players and GMs by saturating the market with a basic RM-like system before RMU has a chance to go live, in much the same way as Zweihander took Warhammer 4e’s momentum. Warhammer 4e is platinum. Or maybe it might help RMU by buttering the market into accepting a more advanced version of “alternative MERP”.

    Timewise, two years ago, I thought RMU would take two more years to be finished. It has now been two years. I give it one or two more years, unless they are deliberately being secretive about the current progress. If the creature books are nearly finished, then maybe we can see it sooner rather than later. I get the suspicion that Nicholas wont be able to fine-tooth-edit everything in 4 books in one year, however. Unless they radically change styles of layout from HARP, I don’t see layout and art taking that long, the biggest issue being the creature images. The rest of the books have just a few pictures, chart styles, heading fonts, text flow, or fancy border.

    1. I don’t think you are far from the mark. As I said above, I don’t think RMU will take any players away from DnD. Something I have noticed is that minority games take a lot of effort to get any sort of momentum, sales wise. The sort of buyer who buys minority systems will keep on buying the next thing to come out, it is a part of the hobby. Whether they will ever play any of the games they buy is a different matter.

      Success or failure is a very personal benchmark and as such just getting RMU on the shelf will be a success in its own right. Given the stockpile of publisher points that ICE must be holding they should be able to give RMU a massive level of publicity for a very long time. If that doesn’t buy in new players then there would have to be a good reason.

      1. It’s currently 51+ sales for Copper, 101+ for Silver, 251+ for Electrum and 501+ for Gold. The sales are counted by site though; one RPGNow and DriveThruRPG merge quite a few supplements will jump up the medals. Plus, sales on sites where the supplement isn’t listed – Wargame Vault, DM’s Guild etc. – don’t count towards any medals.

        I’m probably going to be one of those people who buys RMU simply to support ICE. Or, as Peter suggests, one who buys supplements because it’s there hobby (my OBS library has just shy of 3,000 items in it, then there are probably getting on for another thousand from other sites).

        1. ICE don’t tell the sales stats, but with that information a ballpark range can be figured for PDF sales just focusing on those available medal sites. I’ll round the range results however, since these are ballpark figures and to make it look more pleasing to the eye.

          Combined DriveThru + RPGNow PDFs for:
          Classic RM Arms Law, Spell Law, and Creatures & Treasures are more than 251+101=352, but less than 251+500=751. They’re between 350 and 750 PDF copies.

          Classic RM Character Law are more than 101 +101 = 202, but less than 251+251 = 502. They’re between 200 and 500 PDF copies.

          Classic RM Creatures & Treasures II and Creatures & Treasures III are more than 101+51=152, but less than 251+101=352 PDF copies. They’re between 150 and 350 PDF copies.

          RMFRP core and RMFRP Character Law are between 200 and 500 PDF copies.

          RMFRP Arms Law and Spell Law books are between 150 and 350 PDF copies.

          RMFRP Creatures & Monsters, Treasure Companion, Gamemaster Law, Races and Cultures are more than 51+51=102, but less than 202 PDF copies. They’re between 100 and 200 copies.

          RMFRP Elemental Companion is under 100 PDF copies

          1. Yes, you can get general estimates. I’d probably add 10% or more on for sales on non-listed sites. Incidentally, I think the medals aren’t just for PDFs (unless the product only has PDFs of course), but for PDF and print. So PDF, hardcover and softcover to the same person would probably count as three sales.

            We’ll get a more accurate picture of sales when RPGNow and DriveThruRPG merge. Still not sure I’m happy about that; I don’t know if it’s going to be that beneficial to the smaller publisher. It’s far easier getting to the top of the best-seller lists on RPGNow than DriveThruRPG for many small publishers.

            1. Most of the prices are set up to yield a $20, the prices vary to cover the print costs. Given at typical exchange rate of about $1.3 to a £1GBP and OBS’s 30% commission that means that typically ICE earn £10.77 per book.

              Their net gain in cash, for tax purposes last year was £4392 or 408 books at £10.77 per book. That is across all sites and all titles.

              ERA will skew those figures somewhat and some books do not yield a full $20.

              I presume that Terry gets the money from SW titles, as he must live off of something and absorbs the cost of art.

                  1. I’m estimating based on the drop in Classic RM and RMFRPG #s that RMU might do:
                    ~400 to 600 A&C Law
                    ~400 to 600 Spell Law
                    ~400 to 600 Creature Law I
                    ~300 to 400 Creature Law II
                    ~300 to 400 Treasure Law
                    Also assuming $20 price for each PDF, $100 for a set (though I think a $60 partial set is likely A&C, Spell, and CrL I). They probably be a few one or two-book-only sales.

                    Companions these core books that doing ~100 to 300.

                    Scaling this ratio if they do better or worse.

            2. I do have the sales numbers for Sea Law, and they don’t line up with the displayed medal if the total sales numbers for each level are correct.

              1. Sea Law shows copper on both sites RPGNow and DriveThru.

                From (51+51) 102 to 202 quantity sales?

                egdcltd would probably add 10%.

              2. I don’t get any royalties from other publishers, so I don’t know what reports you can see, and I’d be interested to know. Do you get a breakdown on sales by site, just the total number of sales or something else?

                1. I get royalties and I get a very basic report of number sold, my commission rate and earnings for each product.

                  I do not get a sale email as you would when you sell one of your own products.

                  1. That will be why Intothatdarkness’ sales aren’t matching up with the medals then. The sales are total sales across all sites, and medals are worked on a site-by-site basis.

    2. There were comments on the main ICE boards about changing some of the Professions, but it was made clear fairly early on that wasn’t up for discussion so it died. But (again) without any official setting it’s hard to ground professions of any sort. RM’s identity has always been centered around its game engine in my view. That’s why so many discussions burrow into the mundane engine items.

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