Thinking About Square One

Unless you have been living in a monastic cell for the last decade you cannot have failed to be aware of the OSR movement. You can be forgiven for not knowing what the R in OSR stands for but that is par for the course. It could be Old School Revival or it could be Renaissance or quite simply Old School Rules, who knows and frankly who cares.

The OSR movement is about trying to capture that feeling of simpler times from the 1980s RPGs but that is a pretty fuzzy idea and as such it encompasses a lot of vagaries. For example Zweihander is a thoroughly modern game but also considers itself a Warhammer retro clone and markets itself as OSR game. Curiously the DrivethruRPG categories it puts itself in are “d100 / d100 Lite”, “Old-School Revival (OSR)” and “Other OSR Games”. I don’t really know when something becomes ‘Lite’ but Zwei is a 700 core rulebook and already has multiple supplements of additional rules and is growing.

OSR often means D&D Basic/Expert set clones or AD&D 1st Ed. clones. We have seen above that Warhammer retro clones also qualify.

By every measure RM2 should qualify as an OSR game, but that is not where I am going with this.

Square one in Rolemaster terms was as a set of house rules for D&D. If there is one thing that the readers of this blog are good at is House Rules, we propose them by the bucket-load.

In my opinion RMu is moving ever further away from its D&D roots. This is not a bad thing. If you try to be too D&D then you may was well play D&D. There are enough previous editions of varying complexity to satisfy most tastes.

What I was thinking was more along the lines of a “gateway drug”. An original set of house rules for OSR D&D/clones that fix what we know to be the original flaws in the system like the implied DB associated with different armours.

I don’t want to stomp on ICE’s toes but how about a Sci-Fi OSR game. SMu is so far in the future I find it hard to envision it ever existing. Anyone with a RM2 Creatures and Treasure has all the conversion rules they need (these are also in the download vault over on the forums if you don’t have the original C&T).

Furthermore, I would quite like to put all the rules under the OGL license or even better a CC license so it will be perpetually free. I don’t have time to write it all right now but I think I could set up a shared development infrastructure (I know that sounds complex but it really isn’t). What it would entail would be a Trello shared board which would be used to control the project management and documents stored on the cloud, probably google docs so anyone can dip in and work on the project.

I will cogitate a bit more on this idea and blog again on it next week. I think it has legs. I also think that between us we could create a perpetually free RM2 retro clone that will keep Rolemaster alive forever regardless of what happens to ICE in the future.

8 Replies to “Thinking About Square One”

  1. Cepheus Engine is effectively a sci-fi OSR game. It’s pretty much classic Traveller with the serial numbers filed off. In some ways is more popular than the latest Mongoose version of Traveller.

      1. I’ve written two supplements for Cepheus so far, both adventures. They’ve sold 50 and 52 copies, despite being released about a year apart.

        Michael Brown has essentially converted the engine into a lot of different settings, such as Wild West and Pulp. Plus published a heck of a lot of no frills adventures. There are also other supplements, such as some nice looking ones from Gypsy Knight Game, and lots more.

        1. The important thing is to retain the same style and feel of the original Spacemaster, rather than that of traveller. D100 Traveller is not the same a Spacemaster after all.

          1. Regarding Spacemaster, there’s the question of just when an official version would be ready. Which could easily be the best part of a decade, although probably quicker than RMU. So an OSR clone version, perhaps with tweaks, could get a lot of interest from RM fans.

            1. I agree, it really could be that long but also with Spacemaster we would have to build guns and as soon as you have guns you can work backwards through time from modern day to prohibition to the wild west and keep on going.

              1. Already done guns…. I’m also seriously adjusting my core system away from RMU (5 stats, moving many things into stat checks as opposed to skills). Not quite OSR, but it’s getting close.

  2. Anyone took notice of “Aborea” (of the German 13Mann Verlag) ?
    You can consider that a Rolemaster retro-clone:
    * using d10 instead of d100
    * 5 Attributes (STR, AGL, CON, INT, CHA)
    * RM-like skill DP-costs with fixed DP per Level
    * HARP-like spells in Spell-Lists

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