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.

‘Well sir, if I were you, I wouldn’t start from here’

Rolemaster Unified Character Law Cover

This is my reply to Brian’s http://www.rolemasterblog.com/rmu-mission-accomplished/

Well here is a real bunch of thoughts for you…

Firstly, I don’t think the RMU devs have any intention of attracting new players. Through their inaction they have proved their intention. If they had reached out to any one of the other games systems communities and looked for play testers they would have got fresh eyes on the rules. They would have found out if the rules as written are enough to engage those new to RM. They would have started the discussion about the new version of RM with the wider gaming community. They would have raised ICE’s profile all over the world and the on going conversation would have drawn in more people.

They didn’t do that.

There was never any hope that RMU would really unite the RM2 cohort and the RMSS cohort. There are things in each version that do not appeal. None of us ‘need’ RMU as we all have bought and paid for games that fit us like a glove. We have nations of NPCs that would all need recreating and ploughing thousands of hours of work just to get back to where we are now. On top of that there are bound to be parts of RMU you don’t like compared to the version you play now. I don’t like the size rules but the experimental tables on the forum get rid of most of the problems, the complete rewrite of creature law to get rid of normalised stats get rid of more. I have never liked talents and flaws and that is for the most part the last bastion of the size rules. That is just my perspective. Hurin, not to put words in his mouth, will not be using the skill category system. He wants individual skill costs and the RM2 professions. I like his 5AP variant of the combat round as well.

The point is that the existing community are so used to house ruling and the modular design strength of RM that none of us are going to play RMU, we are going to play a personalised variation of the rules. As you say above, you have already decided what will make it into your game and what won’t.

RMU has been designed for people who want a new RM but they want it to be just like the old one but better. The problem is that those people already have a game that is just like the published RM but better, that is their own house ruled version.

Look at us… Brian has his own character law (SWARM), his own spell law (BASiL) and working on his own arms law (that I think should be called BAAL Brian’s Alternative Arms Law).

Intothatdarkness has the modern weaponry rules and unique variation of character law.

Hurin is the most dedicated to RMU but will also the biggest issues with Character & Arms Law.

Edgltd doesn’t even play RM.

We haven’t seen Warl on the forums for a while but I have played in his game and it is very heavily house ruled when it came to Character creation, combat and magic. What else is there?

RMU cannot and will not meet all these peoples’ needs. It cannot be a unifying force.

So here is a hypothetical question for you.

If you sat down at the gaming table and your character has the right stats in the right range (1-100). They had the right magnitude of stat bonuses the right number of skills and those skill to the right level of competency do the rules that creating the character matter?

We all have our own hybridised versions of Character Law and yet all our characters fight the same monsters in Creatures and Treasures in the same numbers, deliver the same criticals and take the same wounds. Do the character creation rules actually matter?

Brian has SWARM, it sounds like OLF on the forums and I are going down the same road with Spell Law and the open and closed lists. Spectre711 on the forums does not even use spell law, they exclusively use Elemental Companion, then does it matter what the source of the characters spells are (from a rule book perspective) as long as they are all on the same power level regarding ranges, durations and effects?

I am creating a new monster book based upon creating all the D&D 5e SRD monsters into Rolemaster compatible monsters. This will mean that I can produce completely statted out adventures without using any ICE intellectual property. I can also share that document so other adventure writers will be able to do the same. The book will be published under the WotC license as I am using their intellectual property. Edgltd said himself in a comment only this week that RM could go back to its roots and engage with the 5e and Pathfinder community.

Long ago I used to write this blog completely on my own, producing two posts a week, week in week out. In 2015 I produced this post http://www.rolemasterblog.com/roleplaying-games-do-not-exist/ and I still hold to that idea. The problem for RMU and ICE is that if the experienced players do not need Character & Arms Law, Spell Law and Creature Law and none of these have been designed to be attractive to new players nor to draw in players of other same genre games then who is going to buy into RMU?

I think ICE are going to have to do the most outstanding marketing task I have ever encountered and I am a lover of marketing, both in my professional life and privately. I would love to be in charge of marketing RMU. The problem is that I would have wanted to start 5 years go. There’s a well known joke about a tourist in Ireland who asks one of the locals for directions to Dublin. The Irishman replies: ‘Well sir, if I were you, I wouldn’t start from here’.

Things I would have done…

I would have posted invitations to the first beta on every major gaming community. To give you an idea scale I rarely ever see more than 7 names and as many as 15 guests as being active on the ICE forums. Right now there are 3 registered users and 11 guests the best ever was 276 back in 2006. On the first D&D forum I look at there were 191 members and 398 guests right now and the best ever was in March this year 18344. The first War Hammer forum I looked at had 600 users online at that time.

I would have bundled up a play test set into a single zip file and put it on RPG now as a public play test. By letting people download it that way you can automatically send out updated version and you are immediately building a marketing contact list for when you want to sell them the finished rules (at a hefty discount but everyone appreciates a thank you).

I would not have produced multiple hundred page PDFs for each book. Each chapter would be a separate document so they are easy for the tester to read and digest. You can then hold a separate discussion on a chapter by chapter basis with your testers. That sounds like a Dev action but it is actually marketing. The more people you engage with the more good will you will engage.

There should be a playtest adventure and playtest pregen characters as a single download. This will get people actually play testing your game without having to read and understand 1200 pages of text. Play first and look under the hood second. You can commission some great evocative art for that first adventure and the characters to fire the imaginations of these first play testers. Art does not have a short shelf life. You can reuse it in the final paid product so nothing is lost.

That art is the only expense in everything I have just outlined. You can pick up some great art on Deviant for $20 a piece so there is no real need to spend more than $200 in total. I would set myself the aim of getting 300 active play test groups. That then would show up the flaws in the system but also bring in 300 advocates for the new game. That isn’t a limit either 300 would be my failure test. Any less than that and I would have considered my efforts a failure. There is no real maximum limit for the number of testers you could reach. Over time that community is likely to grow as more people discover the game. The more testers you get at the beginning the bigger their online footprint becomes.

With a large testing community the flaws will be found faster, the rules refined faster and the game would have been brought to market faster. I would have expected it to be on the shelves back in 2013. By now we should have SMU and some companions out!

I don’t think that is overly optimistic. I do recognise that this is a rambling mess of a post. I think the nub is that RMU isn’t really for us, it is for the next generation. That is its mission. Whether it is accomplished or not remains to be seen.


More Musings on Professions: Are they Necessary in Rolemaster?

For a game system that was predicated on “no limitations” for player characters, I still find the need to cling to Professions curious. More importantly–beyond PC creation and occasionally leveling–do Professions serve any other purpose? Is a Professional label important for NPCs–the most generally the predominant characters in a game world?

Besides acting as a general trope label, NPC’s in ICE products still list out all skills, skill bonuses and spell lists. Unlike D&D, there are no intrinsic skills or abilities imparted to professions at various levels in Rolemaster. The Profession listed on an NPC stat might give a GM a “sense” of that character, but what really matters is the stat block itself. There is really no need to know a Profession for an NPC–only their stats and abilities. That’s the whole point of a skill based character system.

In Shadow World Terry pretty much throws away strict adherence to Professions; in my mind this an acknowledgement of the creative limitations such a system produces. Loremasters and Navigators are clearly a Profession, but due to RAW, are first assigned a standard RM Profession and then given extra base lists. The Steel Rain, Priests Arnak etc are all given extra lists on top of the Profession (whether it be Mentalism, Channeling or Essence) with NO REGARD to realm limitations.

As a GM do you build an NPC from the ground up? When creating a 22nd level NPC do you go through all 22 levels of character build using Profession skill costs??  I don’t, I just fill in stat blocks based on a general sense of power level and the narrative needs the NPC serves. Have you looked at any NPCs in MERP or Shadow World and analyzed whether the skill stats have any relation to Profession skill costs, ranks or bonuses?

My point being that “descriptors” are more useful to me than some arbitrary Profession assignment in an NPC stat block that serves no other purpose in the game mechanics. Unless PC’s know the NPC’s Profession and then make meta-gaming decisions based on that, they serve no purpose.

That means, in practice, that Professions only serve a purpose for a handful of people; the 2, 3 or even 5 players in your group. All those rules, all the arguments about skill costs and the nitpicking about whether Weather Watching should be 2/3 or 2/4 for a Animist seem complex for complexity sake.

I’m building a city in Shadow World: Nontataku.  Like any RPG city, this is an NPC intensive environment. Per RAW (RM2), I need to assign a Profession to shopkeepers, blacksmiths, porters, etc. Obviously giving them a RM Profession is absurd. Assigning a shopkeeper the Profession of “Figher, Thief or even Mage” is pointless. Some versions of RM do add non-adventure tropes as additional Professions (craftsmen, laborer and even “no-Profession”) but, for me, that is just another example of “Rule for Rules”.

For me, simple descriptors like “Shopkeeper” or “Loremaster” or “Merchant” work better than some arbitrary, and limited, Rolemaster profession.

#RPGaDAY 29th, 30th and 31st

This is the last of the #RPGaDAY posts. My answers the 29th and 30th are pretty generic but skip down to the 31st for the best answer!

29th What has been the best-run RPG kickstarter you have backed?

I have never backed a kickstarter. I don’t think I would for an RPG either. I have nothing against kickstarter or RPGs but I just do not have the gaming group to buy games and play them. With my meagre collection of games I still don’t have time to play all of them so backing games just to get more games that will sit on a shelf and never be played does not make sense. If there was a decent RM based kickstarter then that would be a different case. I guess I am just not part of the kickstarter/crowdfunding sub-culture.

I have seen a lot of interesting things done with crowd funding. I also blog on Stargazer’s World and that is now patreon funded. The past time I look there were only three patreons paying $3/month. I think it is an interesting concept to pay bloggers to blog and one I think is a damn fine idea! Dyson Logos is patreon supported to produce his maps and that seems more successful running to hundreds of dollars per month.

Kickstarters though are just not may thing. What keeps coming up again and again is art. If you want to produce RPG publications be it rule books, companions or supplements then the one skill that almost all of us lack is artistic talent. This is where the expense is in producing professional looking material. This will come up again below in the answer to the 31st question!

30th What is an RPG genre mashup you would most like to see?

I have often done mashups, I mentioned my Doom/RM one off in a comment this week. I recently put my players into a classic night of the living dead scenario. I tend to think of these as really fun one offs rather than something I would like to play on a regular basis. I think the fun is in the shock or surprise value. Very soon either the joke wears off or gaps in the rules appear.  If you are playing something set in the wild west then you can build a very detailed representation of that genre. If you then try and stick space pirates in then it is harder to maintain a coherent world. Combat rules tend to break down when you try and model too many different types of weapons. If you look at the movie representation of a light sabre it does not behave like a sword, armour is not effective against it. If anything it behaves more like a D&D vorpal sword than a RM longsword.

I think the answer to this for me is I don’t know yet. The inspiration will grab me. If I am pressed for an answer I think I would like to do something soon involving Ninjas and Terminators.

31st What do you anticipate most for gaming in 2018?

This has to RMU. I don’t think it will be delivered this year but I would be very surprised and disappointed if it was not released during 2018. If I had to say I would imagine it will be probably just before Christmas 2018!

Now, this is not intended to be an ICE bashing but I am not impressed with the way the publish Beta but 1 & 2 have been run. There are a number of problems with it in my opinion and these have been brought into sharp focus this week when I saw another companies public playtest.

Part of the problems I think comes from ICE not committing to who RMU is being created for. It seems like they have tried to take good bits of RM2, RMSS and HARP and blend them together. The result is that the RM2 players miss the bits of RM2 that didn’t make the cut, RMSS players don’t like the bits that do not work like RMSS and HARP players don’t like the bits that are too crunchy for HARP. That is a generalisation but the principle is sound. The U in RMU is meant to be Unified but I do not see RMU unifying the RM community. I think RMU will be house ruled back into its constituent parts probably before it hits the shelves. Hurin will have his individual skill costs, I will have my minimalist rules, BriH will have his free market economy. Arms Law will be ripped a part and alternative tables will abound, and so on.

The real shame is that there has been no visible effort to engage the wider gaming community.

I want to show you how it could be done differently. There is a game called Eclipse Phase. It was released in 2009. Since its release there have been 70 additional books/publications. That is nearly 1  a month for 8 years. If we had had that sort of publication rate we would be over the moon. Ah yes you say, but ICE is only a small company, they cannot produce books like that. Posthuman Studios who make Eclipse Phase is just 4 people Rob Boyle, Brian Cross,
Jack Graham, and Adam Jury. The books they have produced range in price from free and PWYW and from $0.99 to $19.99. There is literally something for all pockets Take a look at their listing on RPGnow.

I would also argue that because Posthuman Studios has this terrific production rate, they earn more money which enables them to buy in the art and freelance page layerouters (made up word but I don’t know the collective noun for people who do page layouts) which enables them to produce more books. The more books they produce the more they sell and so on.

Now what is really interesting is that they are developing Eclipse Phase 2nd Edition right now. They have put an open play test out on RPGnow. Anyone can download the playtest rules. These are not hdden behind a NDA agreement and hidden forums. They want the game discussed in public.

When you download the open playtest you a set of PDF documents that are text heavy and lack art just like the RMU beta 2 books but you also get a pdf quck-start rulebook. This book would not look out of place on sale right now. It is beautiful to look at. The book is just 26 pages and includes a background to the setting, the core game mechanics, and full first adventure and pregen characters. Anyone could pick up that pdf, print it and be playing inside of an hour.

This is a page from the 2nd edition quick start. The actual pages are very light on the artwork whilst still being very visually attractive. You are looking at a single icon for the page number and a single page background image.

In addition the playtest files are not arranged at multi-hundred page PDF books. They are broken down into almost chapter sized booklets. This means that each part of the rules is easier to read and digest and discuss. Our mammoth books are not the easiest to navigate and the contrast is striking when you see it being done this way. Each booklet has its own public discussion forum, again not behind closed doors. I guess that by working on the rules ‘chapter by chapter’ they can be signed off and finalised faster.

The simple fact that anyone can download the play test for free and has everything they need to play the game means that the play test itself is bringing new players into the game. With the quick start they are up and running and with the beta rules they can go on to make their own characters and create their own plots and adventures.

It can be argued, and I accept, that Eclipse Phase is a smaller game than RMU. That does not take away from the fact that the play test is being run in a completely different way. It is almost as different as it is possible to be, in my opinion. I will put my neck out and say that the Eclipse Phase 2nd Edition open play test started on 5th of May 2017, RMU first play test was released 27th of September 2012. I reckon that Eclipse Phase 2nd Edition will be on sale before RMU hits the shelves.

I don’t mean to be down on ICE and RMU. RMU is my most anticipated game of 2018. The frustrating thing is though that RMU could have been on the shelves in 2015 and we could be anticipating its 5th birthday in 2018!

RMU – to infinity and beyond!

There was a comment to my last post that read:

The challenge I see with RMU as opposed to RM2 is the apparent lack of willingness to look beyond fantasy (and even then it’s their definition of fantasy). RM has always suffered (IMO) from the lack of a solid, accessible setting, and RMU just seems to accelerate that trend. They also took steps (especially in the combat system) to render it almost useless for non-magic settings if you leave it RAW. The flexibility that came with RM2 (and even RMSS in its own way) seems to be disappearing.

In addition in a recent comment Hurin had noted the amount of HARP that seems to have found its way into RMU. There is nothing wrong with HARP but HARP is not Rolemaster and definitely not RM2!

That got me thinking. Last year I bought HARP Fantasy and HARP SF. I bought them because I want to run a SF game soon and as I have said many times before I have lost my Spacemaster books.

So HARP is certainly not locked into a fantasy setting and not into one single fantasy setting. Shadow World is statted out for HARP and HARP has its own core setting of Cyradon. HARP SF plays out in Tintamar but by default it also shares the same setting as Kulthea and Spacemaster because of the Shadow World connection.

One of the things I like about HARP is that the last release was to truly unify the fantasy and sf rules and make them interchangeable. I only needed the fantasy rules as monsters make great aliens.

There is a massive gulf between RM2 and HARP and I agree there is a lot of HARP in RMU. The skill system is the same, character creation is very similar. The move in RMU to less combat tables is almost a single step towards the HARP way of thinking and that I think is the problem with RMU. The only weakness as I see it with HARP, looking from a RM background point of view, is the combat system and the criticals in particular. The same old critical comes around again and again way too often and even in the same fight. The rest of the combat system works really nicely as far as I can tell.

Another interesting thing is that the HARP forums are far busier than the RM forums if you exclude the BETA test forums. If you include them then you also need to include the HARP development forums as well. I see a far greater variety of voices in the HARP debates than in the RM ones these days. There is an active HARP community around the game and new HARP books are eagerly awaited,even if most of them are just re-releases to bring them in line with the unified Fantasy/SF rules.

Whether HARP’s firearms are as good as intothatdarkness’s firearms is a completely different question but the fact remains that HARP does have viable settings and it does have modern day and SF elements that make it go well beyond the fantasy genre.

I think RMU is trying to learn from HARP but is struggling to take the old guard with it to some extent. Which is a pity as we are the old guard.

Is Rolemaster Worth Saving?

This is a bit of a gloomy post but if you don’t like it skim down to the ‘…and finally’ which hopefully is a bit more fun!

Over the decades I have bought a great many role playing games. Many of them, or most of them, got played once and are now just on top of a wardrobe. The death blow for all of these games was either I didn’t enjoy running it or my players didn’t want to play it.

It doesn’t matter which side doesn’t want to play, if either withdraws their support the game is dead.

My first RMU play test ended when my players didn’t want to play it anymore. These are all players that have played RM2 and RMC since the early 1980s.

My second play test is going a bit better especially since I have adopted JDales new tables.

Now what happens if the RPG community treats RMU as so many of us have treated other games, that it is condemned to the top of the wardrobe? What if the existing RM community condemn RMU to the wardrobe of oblivion?

The first reaction is to say “stick to RM2/RMC/RMSS/RMFRP (delete as applicable)” but that is not going to work. If ICE is committed to RMU then there will be no more legacy publications. All the new Shadow World material will be HARP or RMU compatible. There will be no more companions and no more guild companion articles. I guestimate that 95% of all the forum discussion is about RMU in the beta boards. If you are not playing RMU then the ICE community will wither away for you.

The second option is to house rule just about everything you don’t like in RMU so you get a working system that your players will play. That fixes it for you but not for the RPG community.

This is a rather gloomy look into the future but it is a real possibility. The RM community is not big. RMSS did not convert all the RM2 players. RMFRP did not convert all the RMSS players. RMC is the most recent version of RM that you can buy and none of the RMSS and RMFRP players will have converted. Very few RM2 players have converted to RMC. It was recently revealed that the core books have only just achieved Silver status on RPGnow. What that means is that 250 copies of the core rules have been sold up until 2 weeks ago. 250 copies in 4 years is not a lot of sales!

Given the really negative impression touted online about chartmaster, rulesmaster and rollmaster any new version of RM has to overcome these prejudices and misconceptions and go on to enthuse a new generation of players. That is not going to be easy in this world of thousands of free or almost free games and in a time when OSR and simplified games are rising in popularity.

I suspect that ICE have a massive marketing challenge ahead if RMU is to be a success. Given the effort so far in getting RMU as far as beta two and the current ‘behind closed doors’ changes, I think that the greatest effort is yet to start for the RMU team.

…and finally

My adventures regardless of whether I write them for my own game or for publication always have a title. I frequently take a film title or a song title or lyric. I was on a long journey recently and one song stuck stuck in my mind. The song was Here Goes Norman by The Undertones.

My gut reaction was when hearing the song was a sort of Bates Motel style of adventure but then I thought what if Norman was the victim in the story? Think along the lines of The Hunchback of Notre Dame with the outsider vilified by the public. So with the title of There Goes Norman what adventure hook does that inspire with you?

Play Test Session #2

This actually took place a while ago now but what with Christmas and the #12daysofRolemaster this post got pushed back somewhat.  My playtest player is back from university soon and it suddenly dawned on me that I never posted this write up. It was also useful to me to come back up to speed with where Gao is.

We left Gao out cold after losing a sword fight with a couple of assassins. Unbeknownst to Gao the assassins had left him for dead. The Emperor had used the body of the assassin that Gao had disabled to cover himself with fresh blood and had played dead.  Eventually the assassins had been discovered by the palace guards, the alarm raised and a running battle ensued as the assassins attempted to flee though the Forbidden City.

The Emperor had been recovering in bed when the assassins had attacked having been magically healed by a court healer (lay healer). The Emperor’s wounds and Gao’s had me go over the healing rules in Arms & Character Law. I did really want to use the rules as written but there is no way on earth I am ever going to apply those healing rules. The rules would have had Gao laid up in bed for 10 days given the Injuries and Recovery roll and by chance there would have been a permanent injury because of an even double roll! In my RMC game we use cinematic healing and the same will apply here. The issue is not just with, possibly, realistic healing times but also the plot was supposed to follow this thread. The Emperor has witnessed first hand that Gao saved his life on the night of the first attack and saved it again on the second when someone had obviously arranged for the guards to be elsewhere. When no one can be trusted at court Gao is the shining exception. Thus the Emperor can entrust Gao with the task of finding who the assassins are working for. If Gao is laid up for 10 days then this is ridiculous and any trail would be stone cold by then and even the Emperor would not sit on his hands for nearly two weeks doing nothing when assassins could strike at any time. One option would be to massively up the level of the Lay Healer. The way the spell acquisition works in RMU a 25th level Lay Healer would be more than capable of solving the whole conspiracy anyway without Gao so the whole adventure is moot. Option ‘B’ is to go back to Cinematic healing. This heals Gao’s broken bones in 10 hours rather than 10 days and giving him his #hits back is not a problem.

So on with the adventure!

Gao wakes up in a comfortable bed overlooking a tranquil palace garden being attended by many servants. His aches and pains have gone but he has no memory of anything since being in the fight with the assassins. Soon after he is awake an official brings him the Emperors gratitude and a request to attend the Emperor in his chambers. What happens is the Emperor explains that no one can be trusted except just a few of his closest advisors, including the court healer who could easily have declared the Emperors original chest wound fatal and allowed him to die though inaction. Simply by healing the Emperor he has proven his loyalty. As no one else can be trusted it falls on Gao to find the traitor that is plotting against the Emperor. There are some clues to start off with. The assassins’ weapons all bear the makers mark of an honoured sword smith here in the Forbidden City. Furthermore, three of the assassins that were killed have been identified as men sentenced to months in a cangue (punishment cage) for violent crimes. It is possible that these men had bought their freedom in agreeing to slay the Emperor. Gao gets a set of documents that give him freedom of movement around the city and a rank equivalent to an auditor or tax collector that means he had great authority. This comes complete with an over robe bearing a square badge displaying a Peacock known as a Mandarin Square.

The audience ends with Gao being given a fine quality Qi Jian. I am not normally in favour of giving out free bonus items but the combat last time was so disappointing and the fact that with only one PC the chances of him being out numbered is great I think he needs a bit of added fire power.

Gao leaves the palace and decides to investigate the sword smith first. What follows is three failed perception rolls cumulating in an open ended downwards which leaves him completely miss informed. The emperor had sent a couple of trusted guards individually to shadow Gao with two ideas in mind. If they are loyal then should be able to lend him some assistance if he gets into trouble. If one is loyal and the other is not, then chances are the traitorous one will try and kill Gao and the second will still be able to assist him. If both are traitorous then Gao will die but two more traitors have been exposed.

The player had been trying to see if anyone was following him through the narrow streets of the city or looking suspicious. The failed rolls had meant that the guards were not spotted but at this point I made a mistake. I thought that with the open ended roll leaving Gao completely miss informed I would tell him that one of the stall holders was paying a bit too much attention to him. This send the player into a spin of paranoia and and at one point the player was considering doubling back to kill the stall holder. I think in retrospect I should have ignored the OE downwards and just treated it as a normal failure. That cost us a great deal of the game session, we live and learn.

Eventually we arrived at the weapon smiths abode. It is a double storey building with sloping red tiled roof and a central courtyard. Dragon shaped ‘gargoyles’ project from under the roof tiles carry rain water away from the walls and ornate iron gates, again with the dragon motif give access to the courtyard.

Gao has the vocational skill for Oriental Administration so he knows how to act as a tax collector and his plan was to inspect the weapon smith’s order books to see who bought the weapons. Gao decided to go in heavy handed and try an intimidate the weapon smith. Seeing as he is dressed in official mandarin garb and has all the right credentials I gave Gao a +20 to his intimidation attempt but as it happens he didn’t need it, he succeeded with his natural skill. Furthermore, Gao makes a Vocational skill roll to understand the order books and the abbreviations and marks. This is only partially successful but he gets the weapon smith to explain what he doesn’t understand. It turns out that weapons were ordered and paid for by a Magistrate here inside the Forbidden City. The only address is for the palace and the weapons were collected in person so he does not have a delivery address. These blades stuck in the weapon smith’s memory because he made 4 sets of 8 blades. 8 is the luckiest of numbers representing fortune but 4 is the number of death. Most of his orders are for pairs of blades as these are both lucky and bring peace.

Gao decided that he was probably dealing with an innocent here and commanding the weapon smith to report any more orders by the magistrate directly to the palace for approval in future he left the workshop.

Leaving the shop Gao again totally failed to spot anyone following him or acting suspiciously.

Before the session started I had not decided if one, both or neither of the guards following Gao were actually traitors. I try and have one combat per session but with all the faffing about with fake spies earlier I decided to just roll and see if either of these guards had it in for Gao. As it happens the first I rolled for turned out to be a traitor. I also habitually roll the Empathy, Reasoning and Self Discipline of my casual NPCs so I can get an idea of how to play them. This first guard has a 12 Empathy, 92 for Reasoning and 19 for SD. It is not a great leap to guess that he has worked out that Gao is now heading to the guard house and this is not good for the traitors. Gao is heading straight towards him when Guard 1 draws his Qi Jian and attacks. This fight turned into another grind it out, chipping away at #hits. Neither combatant moved much, the first guard caught Gao flat footed etc. but the attack roll was abysmal and after that they stood in the street and parried and counter attacked at each other. Gao slowly increased the percentage of his OB to attack once he realised the person fighting him was not getting through. The worst critical inflicted in 6 rounds was 5AK. Previously I had not read up on the changes to stun so this time rather than having Dazed, staggered and so on we just had the different levels of stun (-25/-50/-75). This didn’t make much difference but the important thing in this fight was the fact that the traitor guard is alive despite being unconscious.

That is where we left this session. Gao is down to 12#hits and is standing over the knocked out guard.

Next time…

I am hoping next week to be able to continue this game using RMU Beta 2. I am using the Beta RAW with the exception of the changes listed in JDales New Tables thread on the forums and next time I will be using double the #hits damage as discussed on the forum.


Big Beasts and Big Hits

There is an ongoing discussion on the RMU beta test forum over weapon sizes. How do you handle a halfling wielding a trolls dagger? Is the dagger a shortsword or a broadsword to the halfling. Does the fact that it was made for different hands make a difference to how you wield the weapon? There were complications where using an under or oversized weapon such as a undersized two handed weapon may be more effective than using a one handed weapon specifically made for you race. So all your human warriors are using halfling two handed swords rather than broadswords.

This is a long rambling debate and you can check the ICE forums if you want to get involved. One of the things I find frustrating is that one never really knows what the devs have taken on board, what their solution is, if any, and is just being ignored because that part of the rules is are already written.

I will say I am not a fan of the RMU size rules. I think they sound fine in principle but they just didn’t work for my play test group so much so that the group didn’t want to play any more.  The play test lasted two sessions!

So how do I handle size variation between different size combatants? I totally agree that all things being equal a giant hitting hitting a halfling should do more damage than the halfling hitting the giant. There is just more kinetic energy in the attack!

The big monster hitting the little character requires no modification. The big monster has its size and mass figured into its OB. So that was easy, just play the RAW.

The smaller combatant hitting a larger one though does need a slight adjustment. It doesn’t need the multiplied hits or stepping up and down for criticals. The very largest creatures have this built in in C&T anyway. So what I do is for every relative size smaller than Medium incurs a -10 OB, every relative step above Medium gives a +10 OB. That results in smaller creatures doing less damage and maybe a lesser crit. Larger combatants tend towards harder hits.

Breaking 150

In another closely related rule is my ‘breaking 150’. For me I use a +1 on your critical roll for every 10 more than 150 rolled. So an attack roll total of +175 would give a +2 to your critical. This also tends to mean that massive attacks tend to do better criticals. My critical tables have an UM66 and a second 66 result. Obviously you cannot shift your critical up to the UM66 result.

Wrong Size Weapons

So how do I handle wrong sized weapons. Well the weapon uses the table for what the weapon actually is. So a halfling using a human broadsword as a two handed sword still uses the broadsword table. But for every one step in size difference gives a -10 OB. This reflects the fact that the weapon was just not designed for that size hand.

It also takes into account that a dagger is a stabbing weapon designed for pushing into the gaps between armoured plates. A broadsword is a swinging weapon designed to use speed and mass to inflict damage. A human picking up a halfling breadsword does not change the shape and design of the weapon and turn it into a dagger.

So the example of Sting. Could Bilbo wield Sting? Sting is regarded as a Elven shortsword in RM terms. So Bilbo would be using it as a shortsword but at -10 OB. Chances are that Sting has a greater than +10 magical OB anyway so even with my penalty it is still worth using Sting in combat and its orc sensing powers make it even more useful.

So in conclusion I would say whilst it may not be the idea engineers solution my rules are very quick and easy to use, easy to understand and cope with all the combinations I have ever had to adjudicate on.

By Jove I think I’ve Got It!

<I have a horrible feeling that is a miss-quote from Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady>

I have been thinking a lot about my Rolemaster feeder system rules and I think I can build two systems one for 4yrs to 8yrs and one for 9yrs to 12yrs. It took the example criticals that BriH suggested (“Bam!! Foe hit in face and forced to blink for 1 rnd”, “Kapow!! Foe is disarmed”) and some comments by Edgcltd to give me the inspiration.

I think I can build a game for 4 year olds. I am going to have to examine the National Curriculum in some more detail to see what skills I can expect children to have but that is actually a useful framework to work to.

So down to by game concept.

Imagine rendering skills down to a number of gold stars. You get no stars for having no ranks (-25) and then roughly one star for every +25 or so as we would think of it. So a typical OB would be in a 1 star to 5 or 6 star range. DB would be 1 star for a shield. Magic armour may be 1 star or maybe even 2 star.

You attach roll would normally be in a no star to 4 star range with open ended rolls taking it up to 8 or more stars.

Stat bonuses would typically be no stars or one star.

If any of you have young children or have had them you may be familiar with a number line. It is used for teaching addition and subtraction (check this out if you don’t know what it is https://www.mathsisfun.com/numbers/number-line-using.html)

So I am sticking with cards as they remove the need for dice and being able to self print cards makes the game easily expandable.

Each card will have the attack/skill roll as a number of stars in a top corner. The body of the card will have a number of criticals on a vertical number line. The player when they want to make an attack draws a battle card, sees how many stars on the card and then counts on to add their OB, and counts back to take off the defenders DB and then reads across for the result. That is where the “Thwack! Foe is knocked down and out!” comes in.

Healing would be cinematic and fights last until everyone is either knocked out or runs away. At which point the surviving characters help their friends to the their feet and the adventure continues or the character wakes up in a cell held by the villain.

I think I need three professions; knight, archer and magician.

I think I need 4 stats. Players will be given 9 stars to share between the four stats.

Strength will combine Strength and Con.

Agility will combine Agility and Quickness

Sympathy will combine Empathy and Intuition

Cool will combine Memory and Reasoning (yes, being a geek is cool!)

Presence and Self Discipline are not needed in this simplified version.

The nine into eight means that everyone gets at least one stand out stat.

There will be at least three races Human, Elf and Dwarf. This is not yest fixed in my mind. I think I would like more but not sure which.

There will be battle cards, skill cards, movement cards and spell cards. The battle cards will work as I described above. Skill and moving maneuver cards will work in a similar way but the content of the table will resolve the static action or moving maneuvers. Spell cards will a pack per spell list with half being utility spells such as Light and the other attack spells like Lightning Bolt. So there will be many Lightning Bolt cards each with its own attack roll and unique critical table. The utility spell cards will have the roll for BAR or SCR built into them.

So that is a whirlwind tour of Rolemaster for 4 year olds.

I am thinking of calling it Gamemaster Kids as I have not had any response from ICE when I emailed them and that would mean I am no longer using any of their IP. The version for lightly older players could then be Gamemaster Heroes. That would be the true feeder system into RMU.