Shadow World Review: Emer, The Great Continent

If you are like me (mid 50’s) and have been playing Rolemaster and using Shadow World since it’s release in the late 80’s, the publication of the Emer box supplement was a huge step forward for the Kulthea world setting. By 1990, there were over a dozen Shadow World products, but until Emer, only 2 were written by Terry: Shadow World Master Atlas and Jaiman: Land of Twilight. The other 10-12 products were by third party authors. While all of them have their strengths as game supplements, they were generic adventures that were shoe horned into the game setting and did relatively little to expand world building.

Before I dive into my thoughts on Emer, let’s quickly review where “Canon” was in 1990 and the two Terry products mentioned above. For the most part, the Shadow World Master Atlas (SWMA) was fairly generic, establishing a few SW tropes: Navigators, Loremasters and Dragonlords but mostly was meant to connect Rolemaster to a useable setting. These elements were kernels of ideas from the Loremaster module series and expanded and built off of that early material. The Flora and Fauna book was mostly generic creatures straight from Creatures and Treasures and covered all the basics from standard D&D. The timeline was only 2 or so pages and didn’t add any depth that the later Emer regionals provided.

If the SWMA set the table for the setting, Jaiman was the meal. Clearly not a regional book as it was titled, it nonetheless brought a specific tone and style to the setting. A lengthy adventure tied various elements together and promised a larger world (The Grand Campaign took this further), cool “dungeon” style tombs embraced Terry’s architectural background and fused high tech elements in a fantasy setting. It was light medieval fantasy but there was a hint of darker things: Evil Gods, Unlife and enigmatic Lords.

In my opinion, Emer brought a whole new vibe to Shadow World: more mature, more grimdark and more malevolence. One aspect that contributed to the look and feel of Emer was the artwork. You can’t talk about the Emer box set without referencing the incredible box art done by Les Edwards. I suspect that art launched hundreds of adventures and sold many on the Shadow World setting. Prior to his death, Terry even planned on carving the City of the Dead out of the Emer IV supplement to give it it’s due. For more Les Edwards art; interestingly, he did the cover art for the fighting fantasy books by Ian Livingstone who IIRC did one of the Shadow World fantasy fiction books?

Besides the box cover, the interior art was different than that found in SWMA and Jaiman. This piece appears to be done by Michael Alexander Hernandez. It feels modern, perhaps even futuristic but foreboding. It certainly lent a different tone to the setting from previous books.

This piece doesn’t seem to have an artist signature, but it’s in the same style. While B/W, it appears to have a Lugrok tearing into the victims skull…is that rivulets of blood on his face?

History of Emer

The timeline and history of Emer introduced several powerful factions: the Jerak Ahrenrath, the Eight Orders and the Masters of Emer. In further work, the Masters have sort of disappeared, but the Jerak Ahrenrath and the Eight Orders become integral to the wider plots of Emer and the future of Kulthea itself. For me this is entirely new material that expands the Canon; none of this material was seeded in the earlier Loremaster series nor hinted at in the SWMA, so it was a delight to read and shifted my view of the setting–for the better.

Flora & Fauna

Again, Emer added to canon with some new plants and creatures. As I have argued, SW needs more of this and less Terran standard critters and plants to help in game immersion. One of my favorite (if you’ve read Priest King you’ll know this):

It’s important to note, that many of the Canon SW books introduce new flora and fauna, but these weren’t all included in future Atlas’s. For instance, the Shalish, Frask or Boerk were never included in SWMA 3 or 4. I believe I compiled a full list of plants/creatures from all of the core books to be included, but I think it’s a failing that they weren’t included in MA’s.

Races

With a new canvas to paint and a huge land area to fill in, Terry was able to expand on the races found in Shadow World. Of note are the Kuluku. Most of the new Emer races seemed to finalize the racial types found in all later books.

Geography

Part V of the main book covers the various regions which, like the rest of Kulthea are wide ranging in styles, cultures, topography and climate. The Essence Flows are given less credit for this phenomena, and I think that the later de-emphasizing of the Flows as Barriers was a lost opportunity to reinforce a key element of the setting.

This section is further expanded in the later Emer regional books and all, if not almost all of it, is found in those later books. (except for the pending and final quadrant Emer IV)

For me a few takeaways:

Kaitaine really needs it own supplement. From the glassed roof grand marketplace to the Palace of the Bankers.

Krylites are very cool and make a better foe than Orcs.

Part XI (slight spoilers)

I recall reading Emer for the first time and it was this section that really shifted by view of Shadow World. The Jerak Ahrenreth, the “Secret Circle” and it’s history became a more compelling plotline than some abstract Dark God or Evil NPC Magician. A dense world spanning history tied the past with the present made this evil and twisted cult the long term antagonist(s) for my Shadow World campaign. Much of the material seemed familiar and is reminiscent of the Court of Ardor (but that’s ok, cuz that was cool too)

The Circle of 8, the Adherents and the cool citadel layouts are Terry at the top of his game.

ATLAS ADDENDUM

The second book included in the Emer Box Set is the Atlas Addendum and this is where all the new material and cool stuff can be found.

Part I is a grab bag of topics and delves into world awareness, the nature of “good” vs “evil”, more details on other planes, and even advice on modifying Navigator charges.

Part II is the extended timeline, specific for Emer and greatly expanded in later books.

Part IX Places of Power includes a number of magical, mysterious and relevant places in SW. Most can be moved around and used anywhere. My f

Part VIII and Part X: Other Powers & Goodies

But the Jerak Ahrenreth wasn’t the only power introduced in Emer. Terry introduced is to the Eight Orders of the old Emerian Empire, let by Aldaron (a nod to Star Wars?). There is great material here, either as foils for the group or as possible back grounds for the players. And there are Yarkbalkas! We also learn about the Storm Wizard, who is retconned in later work and his 4 mysterious Storm Heralds.

The Dark Gods

Perhaps the biggest addition to Other Powers is the inclusion of the Charon pantheon, the Dark Gods. Of course this is a major expansion to the setting and impacts the metaphysics of the game, channeling and future SW products.

Artifacts & Lost Technology

Often time we buy and read supplements for the “goodies” and not necessarily to use in gaming. NPC stats, fortress layouts and cool magic items. The Emer box set delivers in spades with a good list of artifacts and notable items. I believe that most of these were never incorporated into later Master Atlas’s, so the Emer Box set is the only source for this material. Notable items include (finally…) the Ilarsiri, the Starsphere, the Leafblade, a number of books which I missed in my previous blog, powerful staves, and a slew of Lords of Essence items. Also included is the Lense of Strok, which was my McGuffin for my high level adventure series: Legends of Shadow World.

Other bits. Terry also threw is a more comprehensive look at magical materials, some Warding and a few other Spell lists and pretty good Encounter Table that I used for my version.

So why is Emer Box set worth a look?

  • It appears that only Emer III is currently available on DrivethruRPG. The Emer book will provide an overview over the whole continent–including Emer I & II and the pending Emer IV.
  • While the material was included and expanded on in Emer I-III, it was a better template than that used in Jaiman. (Assuming Xa’ar is Jaimain: NW; Wuliris is Jaiman NE; Tanara is Jaiman SE and Haalkitaine is Jaiman SW). A broad overview of a continent with smaller regional supplements seems a better format.
  • The addendum was the precursor to the desired “Artifacts and Technology” supplement that Terry always hinted at. There is cool stuff in this supplement.
  • It leaned further into the fusion of scifi and fantasy.
  • It established a globe spanning danger that could anchor any long term campaign.
  • Combined, the SWMA and the Emer Atlas basically “fixed” core canon material. Besides some smaller regional powers, some expansion on the Jinteni and some discarded ideas (like Jewel Wells) the framework is all there for future work.

Like many SW products, the Emer Box Set will never be reprinted. Perhaps the Addendum could be republished as a PDF? Or even better, a Master Compendium could be collated from all of this disparate material.

Ultimately, the Emer Box Set was the maturation of Shadow World as a setting, laying the groundwork for all subsequent material.

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Happy New Year!

I had posted up some past New Year’s blog posts, but I changed my mind. Rather than review the past year or even put out some goals of my own, I wanted to focus on an “Independent Creator Program”, the Jonstown Compendium, put out by Chaosium:

2023 has been a huge year for the Jonstown Compendium, our independent creator program for RuneQuest and Greg Stafford’s world of Glorantha at DriveThruRPG. Congratulations to the wonderful community of creators involved, and to everyone who has supported the program by buying products, and leaving ratings and reviews!

Since the Jonstown Compendium community content commenced in December 2019 there have been some 349 independently-created titles added, or an average of seven new titles every month!

And in October 2023 a highly significant milestone was achieved, with over 50,000 titles sold! This year alone, more than 80 new titles have been added! Thanks to our community creators we are truly living in a golden age of Glorantha!

Highlights of this extraordinary program include:

  • regularly topping the best seller lists at DriveThruRPG;
  • received critical praise from reviewers and customers alike;
  • winning several ENNIE and other awards;
  • the creation of a dedicated Storytelling Collective stream for first-time RuneQuest creators;
  • promoting new releases in the Chaosium blog’s regular Journey to Jonstown series, as well as promotion on BRP Central, EN World and RPGNet;
  • selling out at pop-up stores at conventions Chaosium attends including UK Games Expo, Dragonmeet, PAX Australia, and of course, Chaosium Con;
  • serving as a stepping stone to further work as a professional in the TTRPG industry, a prime example being Greg Stafford Memorial Award winner Katrin Dirim whose art graces the 2023 RuneQuest release The Prosopaedia;
  • and, most importantly of all, helping foster a growing and dynamic community of independent creators, each exploring Greg Stafford’s mythic universe in their own way, yet strongly supportive of each other in such groups as the Jonstown Compendium Creative Circle on Facebook.

Here’s to 2024: we can’t wait to see what is created!

And congratulations to the talented RuneQuest creators behind the Top 6 best-selling Jonstown Compendium titles released in 2023!

  1. Harald Smith, for NOCHET: QUEEN OF CITIES
  2. Ian A. Thomson & Friends, inc., Peter Johansson, R. Andrew Bean, John R. Hutchinson, Graeme Prowse, for OLD PAVIS: THE CITY THAT TIME FORGOT
  3. Martin Helsdon, for SHIPS & SHORES OF SOUTHERN GENERTELA
  4. Simon Bray & Friends, inc., Nick Brooke, Mark Galeotti, Michael O’Brien, Chris Gidlow, for FURTHEST: CROWN JEWEL OF LUNAR TARS
  5. Nick Brooke, for CRIMSON KING
  6. Ian A. Thomson & Friends, inc, Mike Dawson, John Hughes, Vincent Jugie, Cristoph Koring, Mitch Lockhart, Sergio Mascarenhas, Erik Nolander, Soren Petersen, Simon E. Phipp, Graeme Prowse, Jeff Richard, Bo Rosen, Alban Schmid, Robert Wolfe, for PAVIS COUNTY & BEYOND: SECRETS OF THE BORDERLANDS.

For those that aren’t familiar, you can find the content guidelines HERE. and the user templates HERE.

This program has been running for a number of years, and it appears that the content output and quality are quite good. I’ve always been intrigued by RuneQuest and curious how large the player base might be. Did this community content increase RQ’s base? Is it just supporting the existing one? Is this a viable path forward for RMU, which needs game content to support the rules?

I’ll end this with another request to our readers. If you want to contribute to the Rolemasterblog, even 1 post a year, just let us know. We encourage and welcome a diverse range of ideas and creativity!

Have a great 2024!

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Rolemaster Review: Initiative.

I was ready to post pt 2 of my blog series on high level adventures, but recent discussions on the forums and discord server about initiative caught my eye and I had a few thoughts.

Initiative.

While I’m shying away from writing about rules (everyone has their own strongly held beliefs), I’ve always felt that initiative was a critical, but overlooked, component to Arms Law. One of my best working house rules was adopting a d100 initiative system and including it into the allocation of OB process. I wrote about it back in 2016. We use the allocated skill bonus all the time, but my rules around “combat spheres” is only used for 1 on 1 combat with disparate weapon reaches due to it’s complexity with multiple combatants.

In the RM combat system, attacking first can be the difference between winning or losing a battle. In many cases, a good hit and critical will be the result of a very high or open-ended role and the first to inflict a stun or similar effect is going to give the advantage. Thus initiative is no less important than the OB or the allocation to defense for parrying. The balance between attacking fast, attacking hard or defending can be real player strategy. For my players, the process is so intuitive and natural they probably assume it was baked into RAW.

Opportunity Action is also Lost Opportunity.

The second aspect to our initiative system that we’ve fiddled with is in regards to “Opportunity Action”. In our game, a player can delay their action until later in the tur, but it will cost them 50%. (-50 penalty). This not only reflects the lost time in waiting for in turn developments (we use a 5 second round) but also the precious seconds in processing unfolding events and then deciding how to respond. Allowing the player full action later, or at the end of the round, might risk them getting attacked but gives them too much agency. I don’t know if this our own invention or something I picked up from a early companion or someone’s house rules, but it works very well.

Initiative in High Level Play.

Ultimately, this touches upon our own analysis of high level play. At 50th level, the allocation of OB between initiative, offense and defense can make the difference between success and failure.

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Rolemaster High Level Play. Pt 1.

There has been some continued chatter in the RM channels about high level play, and recently some “D&D” blog post topics as well so I wanted to weigh in again. A few recent blogs about high level D&D play may be worth checking out:

https://grodog.blogspot.com/

First let me clear in my position: I believe d100 systems like Rolemaster are better suited for high level play than systems like AD&D. That may seem a curious stance to RM players who feel that higher level RM play isn’t workable at all, OR, at least isn’t embraced by the community as a whole. It’s been my experience that high level Rolemaster is not much different than lower level play; which ultimately may not be a selling point! For AD&D you can at least say that high level play is doable, but it can be almost a different game.

Let’s examine a few elements of Rolemaster that may affect the perception that it’s not suitable or appealing for high level play:

  1. Game Rules Support Low Level Play. Perhaps RM is seen as “gritty” or “low fantasy”. Copper coins, exhaustion points, and workman like magic items and realistic/verisimilitude mechanics lend itself to this perception and to lower level play.
  2. The Hero’s Journey. Many players, myself included, enjoy the challenge to get the PC to a level that’s at least survivable and have some effective skills and spells. Higher levels may seem just “more of the same”.
  3. Lethality. If low level combat seems deadly, then it’s easy to assume that high level combat is even worse.
  4. Complex Large Scale Encounters. Big bad buys aren’t going to single handedly confront the PCs. It’s expected that high level encounters could include dozens of combat participants including retainers, summoned creatures, armies and followers. Admittedly this can be quite a lot of work to track and make for a smooth running combat session. Why not just avoid it!
  5. Arms vs Magic Gap. Like many RPG systems, an abilities gap occurs between fighter types and magic users. By 20th level, a RM spellcaster will have all of their Base lists, all of the Open and most of the Closed. Their spell abilities will cover virtually every skill set needed: offense, defense, analysis, movement, control etc.

These are just general perceptions and in my experience haven’t been borne out in actual high level gameplay. I’ll explore this more in depth in future posts.

So, are D&D style games subject to the same perceptions? The Expert system introduced the Companion rules (covers characters levels 15 – 25); Master rules from 26 – 36; Immortal rules from 37 on up. Some of that ruleset and rule philosophy bled into AD&D and Gary even acknowledged that the next steps of high level AD&D should be in extra planar environments. But in general are the AD&D rules also seen as cumbersome or problematic for higher level play? My perceptions:

  1. Even at high levels, average hit point attrition makes almost any combat worth engaging in: if things go downhill you can usually disengage. This greatly reduces risk.
  2. Spell powers are GREATLY enhanced at higher levels. Wish, Globe of Invulnerability etc completely changes gameplay .
  3. Many professions get special level abilities that are real power enhancers that impact play balance.

Most seasoned gamers’ exposure to high level adventures comes from early AD&D modules: Vault of the Drow, Tomb of Horrors or Isle of the Ape. These were very much “railroad” style adventures with very specific challenges matched to PC skills, abilities, resources and powers. It feels like the best way to handle high level play is in very specific, carefully defined adventures like modules, but can high play work in a open world, “sandbox setting”?

We don’t have much guidance for high level Rolemaster play, but you could extropolate the Grand Campaign into a very high level adventure and much of the material in the Emer books could require high level PCs. I’ve commented elsewhere that one of the most common criticisms of Shadow World is that it’s a high level setting, and yet, no one seems to lean into that and play high level!

I’m going to explore this more in future posts but I wanted to get everyone thinking about this and perhaps offer your own comments. What do you think works or doesn’t work at higher level play?

Perhaps, after some examination, one appeal of the Rolemaster system is it’s useability at all player levels?

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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.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/462737/Pilot-RPG–Playtest-Edition?affiliate_id=730903&src=RMB

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:

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/288954/Navigator-RPG?affiliate_id=730903&src=RMB

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.

Finally…

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?

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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.

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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.

Peter

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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.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/288954/Navigator-RPG?affiliate_id=730903&src=RMBlog

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.

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New Magics in BASiL

One of my frustrations to completing ongoing projects is that I tend to jump from one work product to another. I started on my “Channeling Chronicles” but got distracted into BASiL Mentalism and then I started reworking BASiL Essence. The positive news is that I continue to create content, but I would rather finish one off, post it up and then move on to the next rather than having 5 projects going all partially complete and moving slowly. I had asked Terry about this when I did my interview with him; I wanted to get a sense for his work flow, motivation and even writers block but we didn’t dive too deep into it. From his own public comments he seemed to have a patchwork approach to his own projects: he was working on Wurilis, moved to Emer IV, stopped to do Green Gryphon Inn, etc.

Anyway, while revamping BASiL (I think I’m going to put up final, revised versions on DTRPG in d100 format) I wanted to formalize some spell casting structures that were still a little loose in all versions of Spell Laws: Power Analysis and Delayed Casting.

Power Analysis.

Broadly speaking, I’m referring to a number of spell abilities that allow casters (or “sensitives”) to interpret power and spells. This could include detecting and visualizing the “Essaence”, Auras, Power Perception, Colors of Magic, and various “Analyze” or “Detect” Spells found in Spell Law or BASiL (Power Analysis).

RM has 3 different mechanisms that can impart information about spells or power:

  1. Passive w/ no latent ability. By allowing spellcasting emanations to be colored by Realm/aspect anyone watching a caster will be able to determine some information about the spell and/or the caster. This allows anyone, even without casting ability or magic skills to visually learn information from someone casting.
  2. Inherent Ability. Some races have or could have the ability to see, feel or detect the Essaence. (Lords of Essaence, some magical creatures, some high Elves?)
  3. Active Spell Ability. All the realms have Detection or Delving spells that can be used to detect the presence of power, or determine the spells effects, level, source or creation.

Like much of RM and Spell Law, it’s a bit of a hodgepodge without any underlying logical framework. Fine. I think that all works, but there is a side to this that hasn’t been fully explored: Caster Signatures. I see this as similar to the Mentalism spells around “Mind Typing”. Basically, every caster leaves a signature, their own flair or style to their casting, that can be detected, stored and analyzed. Much like a fingerprint. So higher level spells like “Spell Analysis” doesn’t automatically provide who the caster is unless the analyzing caster has encountered the target caster’s work before, has “typed” it and the target caster hasn’t hid their spell signature in any way.

This doesn’t add much for real mechanics to Spell Law, but provides a playing dynamic that can add depth to the game. Yes, new spells would include “Spell Typing” or “Store/Recall Spell Signature” and there is a need for counter spells “Hide Signature”, “Distort Signature” or even “Counterfeit Signature” that would utilize another spellcasters casting style. This also adds a clear mechanism for “Evil” casters to hide behind a facade–like Priests Arnak. Currently they are provided this cover with a simple handwave–they all possess a magic ring that hides their evil nature. Bah.

Delayed Casting.

There are a number of “Delayed” spells: Runes, Wards, Symbols, Glyphs, Store Spell and Trigger Spell. Again, I feel it’s a confusing bunch, some of which have individual mechanics that feels more like AD&D then Rolemaster. They are all just slight variations on the same idea: Delaying a spell effect until some variable is met. In BASiL these types of spells are grouped into a different “Realm” due to their similarity and the idea that their casting mechanics, use, rules are VERY different than traditional Essence/Mentalism/Channeling spellcasting. Even moving them into another realm is still confusing. What’s the difference between a Rune and Weapon Rune? Is a Glyph different than a Sigil? How/Why?

Sometimes it’s easier to create a new mental model that acts as a bedrock foundation for spell lists, powers and mechanics. I’m working now on a concept of “Shells” or “Cocoons” to represent this concept. Does it really change anything or does it just help to unify all of these types of inscribed magics? The basic spell concept is the creation of a vessel (shell or cocoon or any other name, culturally or professional) that wraps around another spell and holds it inactive. At lower levels that spell vessel may be visible, may need to be “attached” or anchored (like a rune or symbol) or at high levels float in the air (like a Glyph or Sigil). They can be triggered by simple to complex stimuli and it’s the wrap itself that holds the spell for X time–with that duration growing in spell level. Basically a Spell Bomb Shell.

With “Spell Shells” (say that 3 times fast) you can separate the soft mechanics of Imbedding, Storing and Delaying/Triggered. Right now there is some cross pollination that confuses the situation.

One other possible benefit is that it puts delayed spells back in the normal casting framework, you can stylize it to fit the peculiarities of each realm and you don’t need to have Glyphs, Runes or Symbols with any particular power, it’s the wrapped spell that provides the effect.

Alternatively, it can be just another spell list that adds variety, complexity to BASiL, either as a open or closed list.

Just a few thoughts as a modify, edit and expand upon BASiL. What’s new with you?

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