The Sun Always Shines On TV

Last year there was a flurry of excitement around Stranger Things, the Netflix series, mostly in part as the opening and closing scenes were of ourselves back in the 80s playing Dungeons and Dragons.

On several of the blogs I read there was an almost yearning for a Stranger Things RPG and in fact Fria Ligan basically produced exactly that with from the Loop. Watch the trailer if you do not know this game!

There was a similar desire for a Sense8 RPG as well and the Game of Thrones RPG, A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying, taps into this same TV hook up phenomena.

I saw a post on Facebook this week about how BBC America bought the rights to  Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and produced a card game. The week the game was released the show was axed. Not exactly what you want when you buy into a franchise!

So this is all about settings and genres. These TV shows were highly stylised and all about the setting. Sense8 was the master of this with the scene changing to contrasting  locations literally sentence by sentence during the dialogue.

Last week I touched on Cthulhu Rolemaster and Hurin reminded me about the Darkspace source book, it looks like that is a book that is our of print. If I remember correctly it was quite Sci-Fi but I will not have  a chance to borrow the book until April.

There are some settings that I just cannot see Rolemaster inhabiting, Supers is one for a start, but is it really that unlikely? Are super powers just talents and flaws magnified in impact? I cannot remember off the top of my head any RM mechanics for ‘always on’ powers or unlimited use powers. Even melee was limited by endurance/fatigue. Magic is limited by power points as were Psions in Spacemaster. I cannot see Spiderman’s spider sense requiring a SCR or The Hulk shrivelling back to Bruce Banner just because he ran out of power points. The only comic book series that RM could really do well would be Watchmen which was intentionally brutal and down to earth.

The beauty of these setting/genre source books is that you can release an unlimited number of them and none of them lead to the system bloat that lead to so much criticism of RM2. The absolute master of this has to be GURPS. There are over 120 GURPS supplements, for every genre under the sun from GURPS: Action Heros to GURPS: Zombies, there is a literal A to Z.

The key missing part is firearms. If Arms Law is pretty much ready to go to print I would implore ICE to start work on or buy in a firearms supplement. If we have guns then we have have pirates, private eyes, spies, the war of independence and the wild west.

Black Powder was invented in the 9th Century and the Fire Lance in the 10th century, according to Wikipedia, So they [firearms] basically predate medieval plate mail; that is a staple of every fantasy RPG of all time.

I don’t think they should be in the core system because I don’t want RMU delayed any longer than it has been already but firearms would open the door to so many possibilities that the deserve a book of their own and as fast as possible.

10 Replies to “The Sun Always Shines On TV”

  1. I picked up Dark Space second hand a few years back when it was mentioned in the ICE forums. It’s set in the Spacemaster universe I think, beyond the Terran Empire.

    Supers might not be beyond Rolemaster. Avalon Game Company converted Pathfinder & 5E into superhero systems, perhaps not perfectly, but it could be done with those, so maybe it could be done with Rolemaster.

    I like the GURPS supplements. I’ve picked up a few over the years – but never actually the core rules!

    1. One of my players has it [Darkspace] and I am seeing him in April. I will borrow it and have a look.

      I bought a GURPS bundle last year and have the core rules and a few supplements. You can also get GURPS Lite as a free download. There are two free editions GURPS 3rd and 4th edition.

      Regarding Supers, any mechanic can be written and labelled rolemaster but I think rolemasters philosophy of trying to model a ‘realistic’ fantasy setting and the nature of Supers’ games makes them almost mutually exclusive.

      1. Yes, Supers and realism don’t really go that well together.

        Having an RPG – or anything else for that matter – tied to an existing franchise can help, but it can also cause problems. ICE and MERP spring to mind. Developing a game world into other media and creating the popular franchise from the game would perhaps be a more secure, albeit much more difficult way – but even that can cause problems. I believe fiction returns (under the US idea that shops can get a full refund for books they have destroyed) helped take down TSR.

        1. I had read that about TSR.

          I liked the GURPS model/goal of static core rules accompanied by a great many genre books. For the player it means that they can pick up the rules they need only as they need them. I am sure that many GURPS fans bought every single book just to have a complete collection.

          Here are two interesting quotes from the GURPS basic set “GURPS starts with simple rules, and especially in the combat system – builds up to as much optional detail as you like. But it’s still the same game. You may all use it differently, but your campaigns will all be compatible.


          We plan to release one high-quality hardcover sourcebook every month . . . indefinitely. As I write this in April of 2004, we’re already scheduled more than three years out.

          The usual come back is that ICE doesn’t have the writers or the staff to hit a schedule like that but GURPS had just 3 writers plus freelancers working for 1c a word.

          1. A good sized hardback every month is a decent output for almost any company. I think – not really knowing whether to class Games Workshop as an RPG company; they’re probably more a boardgame/wargaming company, a bigger market perhaps – that SJG are possibly the third biggest in the industry, after WotC and Paizo.

            I think a major problem for ICE is that they don’t have any full time staff (this isn’t an industry that’s really flush with money) nor do they have any freelancers who work as freelancers full time, even if spread amongst other companies. An advantage of OGL writing is that there are many, many companies you can write for. Even at the, admittedly poor (even though I’ve paid others it myself – if returns are good enough I can increase it) 1 cent per word. There are many OGL freelancers who do work for half a dozen or more companies, paying different rates, and often including self-published work.

            1. I imagine the way to achieve it is to plan (in SJG’s case 36 books) ahead and then have one or at most two people work on each book. Each one is written in parallel rather than sequentially. As each manuscript is ready then you commission the art and go to press. It is entirely possible that the books will be complete before they are scheduled to be released. Some projects will fail do to freelancers falling off the edge of the world but if you are ahead of schedule then others that have produced high quality work, that required very little editorial input, can be given additional books to work on. Eventually you will end up with a shortlist of reliable freelancers that know and understand your game and company needs.

              ICE’s bottlenecks seem to be Nicholas with the editing and Terry with the page layout.

              1. Having supplements planned out three years in advance would be good! I’m struggling to get more than a week or two at the moment – too many in progress, but incomplete, projects!

                Nicholas mentioned once about having tried to clone himself unsuccessfully, but it’s definitely a bottleneck having important people who need to be involved in projects who also have regular jobs. Probably ICE’s biggest problem at the moment. (*cough* community content *cough*).

                1. Interestingly SJG is one of the companies that dabbled with 3rd party content and then withdrew. I tjink it was under the brand Powered by GURPS I think.

                  I suspect that in having a plan that went that far forward any 3rd party or community content would highly likely clash with planned official content. Almost by design there is no room for the indy developer.

  2. Dark Space was a fun mix of Sci-Fi and Fantasy. It had many Sci-Fi elements but integrated them into a Fantasy milieu. For example, it had ‘Soft Tech’ which was basically living organisms grown to be tools, like chitin armor, microorganisms that purified your blood of poisons, and spaceships that were living creatures tamed for human (and alien) use. It is my all time favorite RM supplement (but very hard to get a copy of, as you all know!).

    I haven’t seen Sense8, but in regards to super powers, I think the closest RM ever came was the innate high-stat abilities introduced in the RM companions. These were extra abilities you got for having an exceptionally high (over 102, IIRC) stat. So for example, if you had a 105 strength you might do double concussion damage or extra severity criticals. This system was also used in the RM Mythic Greece supplement for the almost super powers of ancient Greek heroes and demi-gods.

    1. I actually managed to pick up Dark Space quickly, and, if I remember correctly, inexpensively on eBay, right after it was mentioned on the forums. Guess I was lucky!

Leave a Reply

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