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.

3 Replies to “Navigator RPG & Pilot”

  1. This looks really interesting! I’ll be checking it out for sure.

    Like you, my ongoing journey into RPG design (modern gaming in my case) started in the early days of RMu. Mine’s still a work in progress (I’m shooting for the core rules and two additional “genre”-type add ons), but it also came from some frustration in the direction RMu (and by extension any possible add-ons) was going.

    1. Off the top of my head, the series of D&D retro-clones I am working from did fantasy, Old West, 1920s Detective, 1930s Lovecraft horror, WWII, and Star Wars SF. Those would be the easiest for me to expand into. They would give different magical traditions jedi mind tricks, fantasy magic, eldritch rituals. Fantasy weapons, energy guns, and a range of muskets to machine guns. We have horses and spaceships but I would need to add in rules for carts, carriages, stage coaches, planes, trains and automobiles. But in all cases the core system remains the same.
      I think this was the idea behind BME. Make it all modular and feeding back each new rule system into the Git so someone else can just grab the blocks they want stripped of all genre and world building. A library of all the weapons, all the criticals, all the spells, all the monsters/enemies, and they could just clue it all together with the creative writing side.

      1. Yep. Mine’s aimed at modern stuff, or at least things without magic or magic-like science. My core remains unchanged…only the available occupations and some of the skills and such change. Since I don’t used fixed classes or professions it’s all interchangeable and easy to adapt (the Western one might be a slight exception, but it’s minor). Skills are plug and play, and the framework I have allows groups to add specializations if they need them. I happen to prefer percentile-based systems, so that’s what I’m working with (two dice to play…nothing more). You could call it old school in a sense, I suppose, but more what I consider the second generation of games (Gangbusters, Top Secret, James Bond, and so on). Maybe it counts as the third…who can say.

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