There have been thousands of works devoted to the future of Rolemaster, Shadow World and other ICE properties here on this blog, on the RM Forums and around the web. Like everyone else, I have my own opinions. Some are based on my emotions and hopes for a game that I’ve enjoyed, but other opinions are founded in my own business experiences–which are not unsubstantial.
A recent discussion here on the blog included a link reference to HERE which was a useful summary of some issues–although I’m not sure I agree with the conclusions presented or inferred it’s definitely worth the read.
At the risk of simplifying things I would offer the following concepts in no particular order or relationship:
- The RMU ruleset might provide a boost to the ICE catalog, even if by fond curiosity of older gamers.
- Shadow World is the default setting for Rolemaster and probably HARP, even if that hasn’t been fully embraced or executed.
- “Companions” sell, even if they bloated the system and contributed to the negativity it created on the brand. “Chart Master”, “Rules Master” or RoleMathster” are common conceptions.
- MERP was simplified, but solid, version of Rolemaster. However, it’s use was due to the draw of the Middle Earth setting. MERP was a gateway drug to Rolemaster.
- It’s believed that rule books and similar supplements sell better because they can be bought by the whole gaming group, whereas modules are usually only bought by the GM. (not sure I agree with this, but the economics seem to support this theory).
- When game rules become stale, or mature, they can be re-invented with a new rule set to re-brand and re-sell to the same audience. D&D did this how many times?
- I’m thinking RMU is not a bad idea from a general business standpoint, but maybe it’s taking too long? Would it have been better to license the Rolemaster rules to another published with more in house talent?
- Does PoD, self-publishing and distributed business models allow for small gaming companies to be nimble and quick?
- How does any small gaming company, lacking in-house talent, generate quality artwork, trade dress, floor plans and maps?
- How can any company build a setting to support their rule-set, effectively, while competing with larger companies, their ecosystems and settings built over DECADES.
So, recently, I watched DUNE (should have been a Spacemaster variant setting). Yes, I’ve read the books and saw the 1984 movie and was spectacularly unimpressed. But watching this last week, it struck me, although this is obvious, that there are already amazing works of world building, that might work with the RM/Spacemaster/RMU ruleset.
You are probably thinking, hey Brian, this is not that insightful. Agreed. But let’s be honest, Rolemaster’s popularity got a huge boost form the Middle Earth IP. As great as Shadow World is…it’s not known by most people or in the collective popular zeitgeist. So there is a company that is monetizing pop culture–Modiphius. From the looks of it, they have Dune, Fallout, Star Trek, Conan, Mutant Chronicles among others! It’s a 2d20 system, but I’m a dinosaur (and probably a luddite), so I encourage all your thoughts on this.
This got me thinking, based on the various #1-#10 items above. Is the best path forward for ICE to license semi-popular properties to adapt that setting for Rolemaster. Why would this make sense?
- The world building is started or evolved enough to save development work.
- Basic mapping and geography is established.
- The setting has a fan base. They can be cross marketed into a RPG.
- The setting REINFORCES the ruleset’s strength.
- The author would contribute to the process.
- Each setting would have a setting “rulebook” that would adapt RM/U to that particular world. (this sells more products one way, and introduces players back to RM the other). It’s a virtuous loop!
My idea is to find popular (but not too popular!) fictional settings to license for the RM/RMU ecosystem. Why would any author agree to using a 40 year old game system?
- It’s undergoing a revision.
- The specific setting would have a source book to adapt the setting to RM/U. (like MERP did for ME)
- Many authors are US. They are out age, and know or have used RM in the past.
I have a number of settings that might work. Of course, licensing an IP is a commitment, but kickstarter or crowd sourcing strategies could allow for a responsive product publishing schedule–especially if the original author was on board.