RMU Combat and My House Rules

So this time I am really wide open to suggestions!

What I have done in the past and certainly want to keep is the 2 second combat round. I use this in RMC and it works perfectly.

I have eliminated all notion of flurry of blows. Every attack is discrete. Short combat rounds have a few knock on effects.

Movement

Obviously in 2 seconds you can move 20% of what you could move in a 10 second round or now 40% of what you would move in an RMU round. I have never like the notion of the detailed 1AP count down in RMU but I think this is because my 2 second rounds provide almost exactly the same granularity but with out flurry of blows you don’t have to start an attack 5 seconds before you even see your target.

Shorter rounds make things naturally more tactical as it is entirely possible to get peppered by bullets/arrows/spears if you try and cross an open space without covering fire.

Spell Casting

RMC doesn’t have the fast and penalty free casting of RMU but 2 second rounds comes close to emulating that. If your mage is being charged down then because movement is 20% as fast they have more time to prep and cast. So I kept the requirement for 2 rnds prep, cast on the 3rd round despite the rounds being shorter, so 3 x 2 second rounds not 30 seconds.

This has produced some fun situations where one member of a charging party chose to accelerate faster to get to a spell caster that was prepping a spell hoping to get there before the spell was cast. The fact that the players’ plan was kind of dependent on the entire party arriving simultaneously went completely out the window. 

Spell Effects

I do not adjust the spell effects to take into account the shorter round. This does change things. Spells that last hours, minutes or seconds are potentially more powerful especially ones that have a combat usefulness.

Spells that last for rounds/level or rounds/ 5 or 10 RR failure are possibly weaker. If you wanted to blind an opposing magician while you all charge then the charge will take more rounds making Sudden Light less useful in that situation.

On the other hand shorter rounds make ranged spells more powerful as it is harder to get out of range or you need to spend more rounds in range if you are trying to close distance.

I have been playing these rules under RM2/RMC for something like 7 years and this has never been a problem, but it does have an impact of spell selection sometimes.

The impact under RMU should be half that as it was under RM2/RMC as the spells are all set up for 5 second round and not 10 seconds. I don’t think this is going to be an issue.

Bleeding

I do have a house rule that bleeding 1 hit per round will stop on its own after 50 rounds of inactivity. the reason I have this is because I spent a few years when I only had one player and multiple times they were knocked unconscious and bleeding 1hit/round. There was no chance of me being able to justify bringing in an unexpected NPC so they should have bled out. This happened just too often for my liking so once the character is unconscious, and therefore not moving, if there is no one around to save you or finish you off that 1 hit of bleeding will stop.

I mention all of that as bleeding is more dangerous with shorter rounds. I don’t want to halve the bleeding in all the criticals but there is another solution.

The first is the natural clotting I mentioned above and the second is staunching the flow.

Staunching the flow takes 1 hand to do and basically means the character is applying pressure to stem the flow of blood. No First Aid or medical skill roll is required. The character can choose on a round by round basis if they want to apply the pressure. The down side is that you cannot use that hand for anything else while staunching the flow of blood. So no shield or just shield by no attacks.

The effect of staunching the flow is to half the blood loss for that round. I tend to round down so staunching 5hits/round will result in bleeding 2/rnd.

This gives characters a way of mitigating the more dangerous effects bleeding in the 2 second rounds without having to make changes to every critical table. It also makes another tactical choice available for characters.

Action Points

I have never used an Action Point system. I am a big fan of the RMC percentage action system. I have just viewed AP as blocks of 25% activity.

If you eliminate the AP by AP tactical round then lots of the problems with the Action Point system disappear.

I know Hurin has suggested in the past adopting a D&D 5e approach to what can be done in a round but I don’t know much about what that entails now. The last time I played D&D it was in about 1993 and it was 2nd Ed. I think.

So what is the best solution to stay as compatible as possible to RMU but using a 2 second round?

Character Stories

This is not about what you think it is going to be about.

The experience rules in RMU and in HARP offer experience for minor and major personal goals (HARP) or Minor, Moderate and Major personal events (RMU).

So as a GM how do you know when your players’ characters has achieved a personal goal or event? Where is the break point between Moderate and Major events (other than on page 107 of the beta rules). Will you remember to account for these or in the case of minor events can you even count all of these?

I know there are loads of alternative experience systems from count every PP used and hit taken to you level up when I tell you. I was recently very kindly given a copy of the 7th Sea Second Edition rules. 7th Sea is a game I really like but is worlds away from Rolemaster. There is almost no cross over between the two systems for example 7th Sea heroes can take out many thugs in a single turn but no attack is ever fatal. In RM if you faced six thugs at once on your own, whatever level you are you have to seriously consider the consequences of that one freak open ended attack and possible critical.

I said there is ‘almost’ no cross over. 7th Sea doesn’t have levels or experience points. Characters progress by being awarded skill increases or other bump ups in individual traits. What is interesting here though is the concept of Character Stories. So when you create your character you also create the start of a character story. Most of us already do this as part of our character back story. The difference here is that although there is a clear end goal, such as avenge your father’s death or clear your name, you only create the very first step or task to achieve that goal. So your story may be “Clear your name from a crime you didn’t commit” but step one is “find the name of your accuser”. So imagine this a just a title and a single bullet point below. During the role play you may well find the name of your accuser so then the next step is of course to find that man and question him. So now you have a second bullet point. The GM always has a clear idea of where each character is in their background stories, things that he or she can weave into the game session and from a RM point of view when Minor, Moderate and Major personal events have happened.

I think this is a really simple mechanism that brings together a method of making characters’ back stories really relevant the characters future, it helps the GM keep those stories straight and it dovetails nicely with the new experience rules.

I am never one to pass up a good idea when I see one! If you are interested in 7th Sea then there is a single volume core rulebook (just the sort of thing that RMU needs 🙂 ) on RPGnow for about $25.

Interview with Jonathan Dale RMU Dev

Today I have for you an interview with Jonathan Dale about the current state of RMU and I did my best to get the release date out of him but he was having none of it.

Peter: For those people who are not part of the RMU Beta test on the ICE Forum could you tell us how you came to join the RMU Dev Team?

JDale: The glib answer is that I posted too much in the playtest forums, and now here I am. That’s sort of true. ICE is currently made up of freelancers and people’s available time changes, and an open playtest is an exhausting process, especially at the beginning when the rules are still rough. Some of the team were not going to stay closely involved and that meant some new people had to be brought on board. Some of the team had told me they appreciated how, in my comments, I was looking at other people’s views, explaining my reasoning, and suggesting alternatives rather than just criticizing. I also had met with Matt Hanson at an RPG event at Jetpack Comics. Initially I was brought in to help Matt, and we did a sit-down session as well as conversing by email, but as his free time ran out, I ended up the lead on A&CL. I also did some work on Creature Law, mainly on the talents and updating the giant spreadsheet used to create the creatures, and Vlad is plugging away on updating the creatures themselves. Nicholas also brought in Graham Bott to do some work on Spell Law (which did not get changed very much) and Treasure Law (which got more changes, unsurprisingly since it had only been through one beta cycle).

Peter: It has always struck me that you come across as the voice of moderation, on the forums as least, especially when there are some very strongly held views. How much of Arms & Character Law would you say is ready to sign off and how much is still open to change given that most people are praying every day for the RMU Singularity?

JDale: A&CL is basically done. I could have signed off on it a while ago. It’s Creature Law that is taking time. That said, because of that delay, I’ve continued to make minor tweaks and adjustments to A&CL based on feedback, mostly improving wording for clarity. The current discussion of tactical movement is an extreme case of that, I actually have two versions of the manuscript, one each way.

Peter: The problem I have had with play testing was getting the players. I took me over a year to get my RM2 stalwarts to accept RMC. Going to RMU was rejected out of hand. I did find one new player but he comes and goes and we didn’t get to play much. You on the other hand seem to have several games on the go. Did you hit many problems at the game table with the new rules?

My player’s biggest complaint is that…

JDale: I still don’t get to play nearly as often as I’d like. I’ve been forced to fall back on playing a D&D game although the current plan is I will take over and launch another RMU game when that campaign ends later this year. In any case, I started my current (still-running) RMU game before joining the development team. I think my player’s biggest complaint is that I keep changing the rules on them as we go from update to update; I started that even before joining the dev team. We did run into many of the same issues others have mentioned on the forums, for example injury penalties were too high and too frequent (these have since been reduced), and damage was too low (this is being raised). We also converted our long-running (but not frequently meeting) RMSS game, in which I am a player not GM, and conversion is different from starting a new game. Some things go up, some things go down, there were some complaints about the latter but nobody complained about the reduced need for spell prep or their skills that went up. The biggest issue there was with the very different number of starting language ranks between the two editions, which we mostly dealt with by giving everyone 20 extra ranks.

Peter: I would like to ask about monsters. I know you are mainly working on A&CL but the foes we fight are an integral part of combat. When the Beta of Creature Law hit it was dramatically behind in its level of development in terms of presentation and it stirred up a hornets over the normalised creature stats. Is there a secret ‘new and improved’ creature law that the dev team are using that we haven’t had a chance to look at?

“…to a mere 286”

JDale: The core of Creature Law is in the talents and archetypes. The archetypes are basically a streamlined way of handling normal level progression, so the GM does not have to pick individual skills and stat gains when creating a creature. And the talents cover everything else. The archetypes have been slightly updated to take into account other changes but we did a lot of work to clarify the talents, remove redundancy, and make the costs more consistent. That reduced the number of talents and flaws to a mere 286. All of the talents now have full descriptions in the same style as those in A&CL. That required us to update the creature-building spreadsheet to take into account the changes. We also made changes to how movement rates were calculated, how hits are presented (e.g. larger creatures now have more hits rather than taking reduced damage), etc. So, the framework is definitely improved. And I have used it to create creatures for my campaign. But ultimately the books (it will be two volumes, not one) will also present more than 800 creatures that are ready to go; the creature stats all need to be updated based on those changes, and that’s what’s still in progress.

Peter: That is really good to hear, I was one of those people who moaned mightily about the normalised #hits for monsters.

So the thing I like the most about RMU is the skill system. RM2 skills by comparison are a nightmare of inconsistency with some skills giving different bonuses per rank depending on the skill, the costs had no continuity and even really important game mechanics being given buried in the skills descriptions; such as all flying manoeuvres being at -75 only  being mentioned in the Flying skill but not under the manoeuvring rules. RMU by comparison is really neat, skills give bonuses and expertise reduce penalties.

If you had to point to one thing in RMU that really stands out as an improvement or a problem solved what would it be?

JDale: That’s tough. I’m mostly coming from RMFRP, so the streamlined skill list and similar skills rules are a nice improvement from the skills and categories of the previous system. I can definitely see the improved organization and clarity being a big step from RM2, that’s why we switched to RMFRP in our group after all, and there was still room for improvement. The improvements to the attack tables are big in my opinion too. But as someone who enjoys worldbuilding, I was really excited to get tools for creating and customizing professions, races, cultures, and monsters. Those are super useful for me and I think will also be useful keeping everything working when the system expands with future Companion books.

Peter: OK, this will be a bit of a curved ball but I actually did a bit of research before asking to talk to you. So without looking in Creature Law, what OB would you give a starfish?

JDale:  Maybe I gotta keep clam about that. 🙂 I’m sure they’re awesome grapplers with a secondary acid critical… if you just sit there and wait for them.

The answer is 25T(3)gr ;25D(2)be (grapple and beak) but to my horror I discovered that the number encountered is 2d8(!) I play Rolemaster, I don’t own 2d8!

Peter: OK, one last question, and this one I know you cannot really answer, but you have seen more of the books in their present state, the working spreadsheets and so on. You have seen how they have been progressing over the past six months. If I had to press you, when do you think the singularity will happen, at least to the nearest month or season? Should I be putting RMU on my Christmas list?

JDale: Even after the singularity, there will be a round of proofreading, probably a round of fixes to the issues it reveals, and then art and layout. I have no idea how long that will take. I would love to have a copy in my hands this year, but no idea whether it will happen.

My thanks to Jonathan for spending the time to answer my questions and what I think was the coolest bit was that he signed off saying “I am off to go run our LARP for the weekend so thanks for the chat!” In my experience there are not many conversations you can drop the word LARP into and get away without some fairly long explanations. 🙂

Maybe I should make movies?

On Sunday I found myself with an hour and a half to kill but also tied to the house so I decided to watch Conan The Barbarian on Netflix. My first impression of the first five minutes was that they had the the depiction of the Pictish warriors/savages down perfectly. At that point things looked promising.

Pictish Warriors from the movie…

Pictish Warriors, they all seem to share a sort of brutal Native American vibe.

After that my opinion changed somewhat. To be honest I think this is a pretty dreadful movie and I read this evening that it cost $90M to make and grossed $21M, making a net loss of $69M. I am guessing most of that went on the CGI which was certainly plentiful and was mostly used in place of any real plot and dialogue. I admit that you don’t engage with Conan for his witty repartee.

So even when watching the movie it was plainly obvious that this was a dreadful film and no amount of topless slave girls and serving wenches was going to save it. Surely this was obvious to the creators at the time?

What the film tried to depict was what we would consider an entire adventure, not a full campaign but certainly more than just a collection of encounters. There was a definite character motivation, revenging Conan’s father’s death, that ran through the film but the fact that Conan was plainly not doing anything to further that revenge until a huge clue lands in his lap says that if this were a game and not a movie then the film represents a character goal inserted into a greater campaign.

We do get a few encounters along the way. Conan and crew attack a slave caravan. Their plan involves starting an avalanche of rocks down on to the slavers caravan and then charging in and killing the remaining slavers. Being Hollywood all those rocks only hit slavers, no innocent slaves were hurt. You try that in one of my games and there being 20 or so slaves for every slaver there is a very good chance that you will be scraping Slave jam off the road.

Another encounter has some bad guys row up to Conan’s ship and attack them. Conan’s crew then defeat them and stand around on deck cheering. No one thought to wonder where the attackers had come from. Maybe if Conan had asked a few more questions he would have exacted his revenge a few years earlier?

So was there anything good about this movie?

Yes, right near the end the hero and NPC thief (for want of a better phrase) do battle with a submarine beasty. We never really see it, just a mass of kraken-like tentacles. The fight is a bit so-so and the CGI a bit mediocre but the set for the scene, and the beast itself was really evocative of the Cthulhu style dark gods of the Robert E. Howard’s Hyboria (Howard and HP Lovecraft were close friends).

So what I think distinguished the best from the worst in this movie what that all the early encounters were disconnected and there was no visible plot thread to bring them together. Leading up to the water beasty scene we got to see Conan recruiting his thief NPC, breaking into the BBEG’s fortress and then encountering the beast and its ‘keeper’. We were suddenly into a story that was progressing from challenge to challenge and had a continuity.

I suspect that writing a good movie is slightly harder than writing a plot for a gaming campaign or at least a enough plot for a few gaming sessions but if we put the player in the seat of the viewer, unless there is a reason and a feeling of progress then games would be just a procession of meaningless encounters. We are almost back to wandering monsters, that is how the first half of the movie felt.

So how could the movie been made better? Well you could have lost the first half of the film and started with the recruiting the party to attack the fortress. Conan could have explained the entire plot up to that point in about 5 seconds “Fifteen years ago this man killed my father, I will have my revenge! Who is with me?” <kick over tavern table and shake sword>

We could then have launched into the one bit of the movie they made well. After the kraken scene they tried a bit too hard to be Indiana Jones and the movie slumps back into the mire.

For GMs, if you have ever watched his movie, or any like it, the lesson must be to draw a compelling world for your players. Not for the characters, but the players. If they are not invested in it then the best plot in the world will become just a linear series of hack and slash encounters. I think this is same idea that Brian has been pushing for for RMU. It has to have that compelling world, Shadow World, to get people to invest their heart and soul into wanting to bring the game, world and story alive for their players.

I know there is an argument that not everyone wants to play in Shadow World but casting RMU as the Shadow World rules does not exclude anyone. I don’t adventure in Grayhawk but I reuse old style D&D modules. Most people do not adventure in Faerun but they will happily use 5e stuff. GMs tinker with bought materials, they reuse and they extend them. They always have and they always will. I have put RM characters, adventuring in the Dales through Traveller adventures. I just replaced spaceships with wagons. After all a good adventure is a good adventure regardless of any fancy dressing up but for my players the clothes I put on that adventure helped bring their little corner of the Forgotten Realms to life.

Pathfinder Second Edition, D&D 5E, RMU and Complexity

Pathfinder Second Edition, D&D 5E, RMU and ComplexitySo, you may have heard that in the past week or so that Paizo has just announced the playtest for the second edition of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, with an aim to publish the new edition in 2019.

I admit I’m not that clued up on all the details but I have been reading what others have posted who seem to have rather more of an understanding on what is happening.

One of the changes would appear to be a lack of backwards compatibility between the second edition of Pathfinder and the original rules, which could prove to be a mistake. After all, lack of backwards compatibility between D&D 4 and 3.5 was probably one of the factors that led to Pathfinder’s success in the first place. Paizo got a lot of players from D&D 3.x who didn’t want to move to the 4th Edition.

In the decade since then, some of Paizo’s customers will have purchased perhaps thousands of dollars of official material from Paizo (given the various subscriptions) that may not be compatible with the second edition, never mind third party content. I certainly wouldn’t be willing to have that all written off. So this could cause the Pathfinder market to fragment.

However, that is not really why I am writing this post. One thing I have taken note of is that, according to more than a few comments, Pathfinder Second Edition seems to have quite a bit in common with D&D 5E, in terms of reduced complexity. So, perhaps the system is being simplified to regain market share. 5E may have taken some players from Pathfinder.

Now, after I admit I have no idea how many official rulebooks, the Pathfinder system was getting a bit bloated, and perhaps impossible to keep on top of. I have stated more than once that Pathfinder is at least as complex as Rolemaster. So, if Paizo is shifting towards a less complex format with the second edition, such as seen in 5E, that does not exactly bode well for complex systems such as RMU.

Is there a general trend towards the less complex in game systems and, if so, what does this hold for Rolemaster? Will it remain an extremely niche game system even after the release of RMU?

Merry RMU Christmas

You will be glad to know that I am not actually here on Christmas morning writing a blog post. For me it is Christmas eve and family are all dozing on the sofa after lunch.

I am spending any boring moments reading up on RMU as I have not used it much. I have decided on a few rule choices and house rules.

  1. First up it is definitely a No Profession game.
  2. No Passive bonuses from skills such as footwork, running and Shields
  3. Stats will be point buy.
  4. Skill Costs, the 9/12 (Combat Skill #4 and Closed lists) will be 7/10.

Behind the scenes I have the combat tables spreadsheets from Merkir and Thrud from the forums. I will be using the 7 sizes on a single table, see this thread for an idea.  I need to make these tables but I will be trying to create unique tables for every weapon in use in the game. Related to the tables I will be doubling the basic #hits damage done by each attack.

That is all I have for now.

Merry Christmas to everyone! Have a great day!

Is it better to beg forgiveness or ask for permission?

Rolemaster Unified Character Law Cover

I know for certain that it is a damn sight faster to get things done if you just do it and then ask for forgiveness afterwards.

Here is my dilemma and objective. I spent last evening rereading all of JDales ‘New Tables’ thread to try and come back up to speed with RMU. The motivation is to try and put together a set of rules I am happy with that use the rules as close to what will be in the final released game as possible.

The cornerstone will be the No Profession profession as that is RAW. There are lots of things that I want to house rule and the problem is do you house rule and have a better game or do you play RAW and have a viable play test?

I am coming down on the side of house rules. ICE have had years of play test feedback and the impression I get now is that the rules are pretty much set. Even with house rules I would not be changing EVERYTHING so all that remains unchanged will be viable playtest feedback.

What I would like to do is play a game and then publish my impressions here on the blog. Now that is very dodgy considering the NDA but if I do not publish the rules as written, which is what I think the NDA is there to prevent, then I feel morally comfortable with that.

I would then want some players who are happy for the game to be publicly discussed although obviously they would not be discussed, just their characters and what happened in the game world.

The blogs would then cover character creation, the selection of the house rules and the official optional rules and how the game sessions played out.

I would run the game as a PBP so that I had a written record that I could then review for the blogs.

This blog exists in part to promote RM in all its forms so publicly promoting RMU has to be part of its remit surely?

My Christmas Day post will be the list of options and house rules that I intend to use, these will be up for discussion so anyone else that is playing RMU can chip in their own suggestions as to anything they think I will regret.

Rolemaster Unification: One Size Rule fits ALL!

For me, one of the great innovations in early RMU Betas was the new sizing/scaling rules. Of course, much of that rule was modified due to player feedback, but the core idea is still incredibly useful as a scaling and informational tool for the game. In it’s basic form, the size scaling allowed for damage adjustments between combatants of differing sizes. Player feedback argued that on the fly adjustments added to much work to the game flow, and subsequent RMU beta’s incorporated size differentials into the weapon charts. However, the size rules can be applied to more than melee attacks. What information does/can a Size impart:

  1. Toughness: A size difference implies that a larger target will take less damage from a smaller. However, a GM can also apply a size label to a creature that is different from their actual size to make them more tough and harder to damage. For example, a Steel Golem may be human sized, but for combat purposes be treated as Large or Very Large.
  2. Deadliness: Larger size opponents should do more damage to smaller targets relatively. But again, a GM can adjust size to model a unique deadliness or efficacy of a smaller creature to perform as if larger as in the example above.
  3. Geometry: Size labels can impart information about the general dimensions (DIMS) in relation to other objects. This allows the size rules to not only apply to beings, but to objects like vehicles, space ships, wagons, carts etc. This allows easier comparison of one object to another. For example, a Skyship to a flying Dragon.
  4. Capacity: Tying into geometry above, using the size rules to impart carrying capacity: weight allowance or # of passengers can impart useful game mechanics without further explanation. A medium rowboat could hold 1 human size passenger, a large tent could shelter 2 people, a very large cabin could hold 4-6 people.
  5. Weight: While size rules can bend and adjust to scale certain effects, it is also a placeholder for weight/mass. That can be useful in Ram/Butt/Crush results.

What mechanic can use the Size rules? Combatants and melee have already been changed in newer Beta rules, but that doesn’t mean the mechanical framework should be dismissed.

  1. Spells. Spells are often defined by range, AoE and a presumed default size. Should a massive dragon cast the same size firebolt as a 7th level magician? With size rules, it doesn’t matter–size is established via the Spells or the size rules. In addition, size rules can establish effective radii. A small fireball might have a radius of 5′ while a medium would have a 10′ radius.
  2. Traps. Looking through the old MERP modules it’s clear that traps were a prominent feature. Most traps deadliness were modified by 2 components: a + to hit and a multiple of damage. Both had to described. With size rules you can just scale traps up or down via size. Not only does that model efficacy but it sets size parameters as well. A “Small” 5′ wide pit trap isn’t going to be a very effective on a Huge Troll.
  3. Structures. As discussed above in capacity, the size rules can establish occupancy limits for huts, tents, lean-to’s, cabins, towers etc.
  4. Vehicles. Rolemaster is part of a wider genre ecosystem. Spaceship hull sizes can be quantified in the same way a Dragon, Kraken or other gigantic creature.

The great aspect to the size rules is that its incredibly easy to add  categories-especially if you don’t worry about qualitative labels. I use 10 sizes, I-X, just to make scaling calculations easy and direct. Is it possible to add more? Yes, it’s easy and “scalable”. Certainly, for Scifi or modern settings it might be helpful to expand the sizing: smaller categories for molecular/nano level objects and much larger to incorporate massive space stations or even planet size categories!

I’m not re-arguing the role of size scaling in combat–only recognizing the power of scaling efficacy as short-hand for the Rolemaster system to unify 5 varying aspects of a creature or object. As a GM I find it invaluable.

 

A trailer for RMU? Yes please!

Is this the most awesome trailer for a role playing game you have ever seen?

To be honest I had no idea that people even made CGI trailers for rpgs! You can download a free sample of the game giving you character creation and an introduction (41 pages in total) here http://bit.ly/MutantFree.

The publisher must have thought of that too. So not only do they have the 41 page intro book but they also have a 66 page MUTANT: Year Zero – Starter Booklet.

Surely, that creates a funnel to draw people in? Hook them with the movie, give them a range of free material to get them hooked, let them play the game. Only then do they need to actually pay for the game book. At $24.99 it is hardly the most expensive game in the world and you do get a 269 page rule book for your money. So M:YZ is not a light game by any standards.

Since the original release in Oct 2015 there have been 11 releases for M:YZ, so what is that, once every two months? Strip out the freebie intros and you are looking at 1 every 3 months. Oh yeah, there are just two writers and everyone else works freelance.

Here is something else. This is the hook or vignette as BriH blogged about…”She had wandered too far into the Zone. Tula had walked through the dark forest, followed the old rail tracks between crumbling ruins and rusting train wrecks, towards the glimmering silver disks by the horizon. She wanted to reach them so bad.  Become a hero of the Ark. A famous stalker. Now, she would be a dead stalker. If the thirst didn’t kill her, zone ghouls or the rot would. That’s when she saw them. Scattered across the ground like metallic rag dolls. Machine beings. Dead for decades. Tula had heard stories of them. What had happened here? Suddenly she heard a noise. Growls. Voices. Tula drew her scrap pistol and got ready to fight for her life.”

A strong female lead to promote your game? Welcome to the 21st century!

I think ICE etal. could learn a lot from M:YZ. How to entice people into trying the game, about 21st century marketing, about feeding the desires of the fans.

Now for a funny thing. M:YZ was first written in 1984 as a Swedish language game. It was somewhat niche due to the language barrier but it is of the same vintage as RM, has just gone through a reinvention, just like RMU and needs to reach a broader audience, just like RMU.

Are there lessons to be learned?

I personally don’t see the need to put character creation in the free sample or quickstart rules. I fall on the side of give them pregens and get people playing. That is about the only thing I would have done differently.

Finally, this is slightly worrying, the highlighting is mine but look at the feature list.

  • 269 page full colour core RPG rulebook – everything you need!
  • Create a unique mutant player character – including skills, talents, mutations, gear and relationships – in mere minutes.
  • Push your character’s skills to their limits, releasing amazing mutant powers in the process.
  • Fight fast and furious battles, making every bullet count and using a detailed list of gruesome critical injuries.
  • Set your game in one of the Zones provided – The Big Smoke and The Dead Apple – or create your own Zone, based on your home town.
  • Develop the Ark – your settlement in the Zone – by undertaking Projects, building a new society.
  • Explore the Zone using the grid map and the unique sector generation system that populates the Zone with mutants, monsters and phenomena.
  • Experience the five Special Zone Sectors – scenario locations that can be placed in any sector of the Zone.
  • Search for the mysterious Eden bunker in the Path to Eden campaign frame provided, which includes an epic finale.

RMU and Kickstarter

Rolemaster Logo

Rolemaster Logo
Copyright; 2002-2014 by Aurigas Aldbaron LLC. All rights reserved. No reproductions without permission.

I’ve mentioned Kickstarter, and Patreon, a few times in the past. For those who aren’t that familiar with them, what both of those, and others like Indiegogo, do is reduce the risk for making products. Essentially, you are getting a guaranteed income rather than a potential one. The guaranteed income may be lower – but if a product doesn’t work out it will actually be higher. So, lower risk.

Now, I don’t actually think that it would be a good idea running a Kickstarter to complete RMU. The process is simply taking too long, and depends too much on freelancers with variable time, that running a Kickstarter would have a very high risk of simply annoying the backers due to how long it takes. There’s a great article on running regular Kickstarters by a very successful one man band in The Sandbox #1.

OneBookShelf and Print on Demand

What I do think Kickstarter could help with is getting RMU out there. Sure, OneBookShelf is a great network for electronic and print on demand books, but it doesn’t really work for getting the books in bricks and mortar shops. OBS does offer a discount for bulk purchases, up to 20% for 250+, but that’s a lot of books, a lot of investment and the margins aren’t really that great. 50-99 books only gives a 5% discount and 100-249 10%. The smaller amounts will work for conventions and similar, but not really for distributing to shops.

Making Money

In such a case you need a margin that’s high enough that both retailer and publisher makes money. Supposedly TSR was losing money on its boxes in the 90s; no matter what you think, if every product loses you money, you cannot make it back on volume. All that does is simply cost more money.

To really get into bricks and mortar means dealing with traditional printing and distributors, and that has problems itself – especially as, for books, the U.S. has an appalling concept whereby retailers can get back everything they paid for books even though they haven’t returned the product but destroyed it. I can’t think of anywhere else where you would be given a full refund for a product you’d chucked away. RPGs might not be classed as books, but as games, but it’s still a potential problem. Again, with TSR and, I think, the old ICE, both wound up with problems due to traditional distribution.

KickstarterHow Kickstarter Could Help

So, you want to get into bricks and mortar shops but you can’t afford the risk – which could easily destroy the company – of paying for up front printing and distribution of books, which may never make the money back. That’s where I think that Kickstarter could help. If a successful campaign was run that could pay for this, the risk would be greatly reduced. It would also be possible to reduce the risk for retailers, by offering books on sale or return – they may well not want to risk money on inventory that they have no definite interest in.

Setting up such a campaign would need some careful planning to make sure the numbers work, and might not get a huge amount of support to begin with, but, if done successfully, it could get RMU out there in front of a wider audience – and, by having physical books for sale in shops, make the system look like it’s here to stay.