Rolemaster Unified?

sharps54

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They have been working on it for years and you could at one time download the beta documents from their forums. It is a set of huge books semi based on “Rolemaster Classic”, they lean heavily into the crunchy parts of the system last time I looked.

I would have much prefer something along the lines of RoleMaster Express personally.
 

David Johansen

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Yeah, ten years after I walked away, it's done. I haven't followed the development very closely since the first year of discussions when I flamed out and burned my bridges pretty thoroughly. Anyhow it's an attempt to really clean up and redesign Rolemaster as a modern game. The lead developer had pretty much written his game before the process began and really only used the process to clean up any glaring problems and tighten up his arguments. He basically hated Rolemaster Standard System and had been its biggest opponent on at least three Rolemaster forums for as long as I was into it. I was promised that it was a process to unify the fanbase and it never was. I tried to withdraw at least three times during the process due to the behaviour of the main developer and his lackey. Eventually I grumbled to ex-RM lead developer Rasyr about it and he went public with private conversations. Don't get me wrong, I think the change of management screwed him harder than anyone and he's got a right to be angry but I started burning my bridges at that point.

So where was it last time I looked, the professions were reworked using a points system rather than the process used in RM2 and RMSS where a list of skill costs was integrated with a list of professions in order from best to worst. I think a points system just asks for players and gms to make broken messes but really it's as good as any other method. The skill list has been substantially rationalized and skill categories are gone. I really like that mechanic but there was no way it was getting kept, no not even as a sidebar option.

A real effort has been made to fill in and balance the professions and the spell lists. Hopefully Dabblers won't be worse than Magents at virtually everything and Rangers won't suck. There's a system behind the building of spells and lists now.

Combat was using an action point system last I looked. It was still using percentage activity with snap, normal, and deliberate actions when I left. There's a shield skill that works with weapon skills now. There were going to be six hundred odd attack tables integrating size, damage type, and shape but there would be a core set and an ap. The problem was that the lead dev wanted to remove size from hit points so a halfling and a dragon would have the same hit point scores but the dragon would take and deal more damage. It's counter intuitive and I doubt it survived the fan review process. We had a long argument about that but it's philosophical so there's really no winning.

So, my hope is that it will be good. I really want it to be good. Differences with the lead developer aside I've said from the beginning that a good game needs vision and leadership. Just trying to please everyone just produces crappy, bland games. Personally, fan review processes produce crappy, bland games. It took about eight years longer than planned and I suspect it's just going to produce a third division in the fan base. Again, I really hope I'm wrong. Most of what I liked about Rolemaster came from RMSS not RM2 and all of that's gone but I'll be buying a copy anyhow.

I just wish the company's CEO had been honest about what was being done and that I hadn't wasted a year of my life banging my head against a wall for a game I'd pretty much given up on a couple years earlier. That said, I don't think I'll ever work on anything I don't own outright ever again.
 

StonesThree

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I would have much prefer something along the lines of RoleMaster Express personally.
I was pretty pissed when this current version of ICE took over and killed Rolemaster Express. 2007 that came out. My mind boggles at how much time has passed since they junked everything the previous owners were doing with the line and began their Neverending Playtest. We could have had a streamlined and faster Not-MERP version with an OGL 15 years ago. I mean, it wouldn't have made a dent to the sales of the last 2 editions of DnD, but it could have found a fanbase had it been allowed to grow.
 

David Johansen

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I think I should maybe discuss the 'why' of Rolemaster Unified.

When ICE 1.0 went bankrupt it was a result of their MIddle Earth License from Tolkien Enterprises, who didn't want there to be a second line of licensing to exist when the movies came out. When ICE renewed the license in the late eigties the cost was substantially higher than it had been and to make matters worse, Tolkien Enterprises made them destroy the Lord of the Rings Adventure Game books line because it was too close to creating new fiction in Tolkien's world. Even when their CCGs were doing very well in the market, ICE was losing money on Middle Earth. They lasted longer than they should have because the video game company behind Dark Age of Camelot wanted to do a Middle Earth MMPORG using ICE's license.

But at the end of it a lot of freelancers didn't get paid and many of them blamed the management.

In the wake of the bankrupcy, a British investor bought the rights to ICE and kept the management in place. They published the Rolemaster Standard System and and Spacemaster titles they had ready to go because they needed to start getting product out and bringing in revenue right away. The problem was that the rights to many books, including The Essence Companion and The Martial Arts Companion reverted to their authors, freelancers who never got paid.

There was also a real divide in the community. Rolemaster Standard System was more complex than RM2 in some ways even if it brought a lot to the table. It's a bit like a hybrid of GURPS and D&D with highly flexible and indepth character building and niche protection but with more charts. The balance leaned towards RM2 at maybe 2/3 to 1/3. So, ICE decided to create HARP to replace MERP only HARP was closer to RMSS and more complex than MERP and did a bunch of things RM2 and RMSS never did like scalable spells that were learned individually instead of in lists. It was ambitious, personally it was a bit misguided, but really they just created a third fracture in the fan base without making Rolemaster more accessible. HARP was its own thing and it sold HARP rather than leading people to Rolemaster. I think it would have been better if ICE 2.0 had just made it the new edition of Rolemaster and gone forward with one line but instead they juggled RMSS and RM2 now called Rolemaster Classic but the writing was on the wall and ICE mainly wanted to cater to RM2 fans. After a couple of years of arguing I gave up and walked away.

But ICE wasn't thriving and the owner wasn't happy. I don't know both sides of the story but ICE had put substantial work into RM Classic and RM Express (which had attack tables that resembled MERP enough that they got a C&D order over it) and had new stuff on the go but the owner handed the company to the editor of The Guild Companion, RM's online magazine, sinking RM2 and creating ICE 3.0. The Guild Companion made significant headway in regaining the rights to the missing RMSS books. But there was a real desire there to create a new game and clean up the rights ownership issues.

And that's really the reason for RMU. Copyright and property ownership. ICE can happily sell pdfs of RM2 and RMSS and HARP with the current CEO favoring HARP having written an sf version and had a fair amount of frustration with ICE 2.0 in trying to get it published. But there is hope the new game will revitalize the fan base an allow RM to grow.
 

TristramEvans

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RM Express (which had attack tables that resembled MERP enough that they got a C&D order over it) grow.

Interesting, who sent a C&D order? Did another company own the rights to the MERPs system divorced from the Tolkien license?
 

Dammit Victor

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The lead developer had pretty much written his game before the process began and really only used the process to clean up any glaring problems and tighten up his arguments. [...] I tried to withdraw at least three times during the process due to the behaviour of the main developer and his lackey.
Honestly... the way that the change in management was conducted told me everything I needed to know about what kind of people they were and what kind of business they were running. I hate to say it, but, "everything" GCP has "accomplished" in the intervening years has only-- in my own mind, at least-- vindicated my low opinions.

That said, I don't think I'll ever work on anything I don't own outright ever again.

Honestly, if that's the only lesson anyone ever learns from this saga-- but everyone directly involved actually learns it, and then some-- I will have considered my (small) role in it to be a small life and a small fortune well-spent.

If you're the kind of small fish to whom a big license seems like a good deal... licenses. are. the. devil.
 

RangerRupert

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I'll probably check it out, but I suspect that I'd use RMC if I ever had that itch again, or maybe VsD if I wanted something more MERP like.
 
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sharps54

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I still have MERP, it’s what we used last time we played and I expect what we’ll keep using when we return to the system. Still I’ll pick up a copy of RMU out of curiosity’s sake.
 

Akrasia

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I still have MERP, it’s what we used last time we played and I expect what we’ll keep using when we return to the system. Still I’ll pick up a copy of RMU out of curiosity’s sake.

Against the Darkmaster (VsD) is essentially a de-Tolkien-ized, updated, and modified version of MERP. I was a huge MERP fan (still have my collection) and I think VsD greatly improves the system.
 

Akrasia

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I hate to say it, but, "everything" GCP has "accomplished" in the intervening years has only-- in my own mind, at least-- vindicated my low opinions.

Well, Terry Amthor published his Shadow World books through GCP (once they took over RM) and they are of high quality (IMO). But that's because of Amthor not GCP (no idea how much help GCP actually provided, beyond help with the RMSS stats [Amthor played RM2/RMC]).
 

sharps54

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Against the Darkmaster (VsD) is essentially a de-Tolkien-ized, updated, and modified version of MERP. I was a huge MERP fan (still have my collection) and I think VsD greatly improves the system.
We played VsD when it came out and went right back to MERP, I don’t remember exactly what turned us off but it did.
 

Akrasia

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I
We played VsD when it came out and went right back to MERP, I don’t remember exactly what turned us off but it did.

Huh, that's surprising. I'd be curious to know what the issue was.

I guess VsD dials down the lethality at lower levels, which some people may not like? And character creation is a bit more complicated (because of the separation of kin and culture, plus the additional background options). Then there's the "passion" system with "drive" points (and the associated "milestone" improvement system). The wealth system removes keeping track of money totals. And the experience system is simplified.

Those are the main changes. IME they all improve the system. Though I can see how some people might not like the "passion" and "drive" mechanics.
 

Sharrow

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Those are the main changes. IME they all improve the system. Though I can see how some people might not like the "passion" and "drive" mechanics.
They were definitely a turn off for me when I looked at the system. For some reason I'm okay with Hero/GURPS style mental disadvantages to model such things, but don't like most other forms of this stuff - and my main complaint, that they require me to know more about my character at chargen than I like applies equally to Hero/GURPS' system.
 

David Johansen

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Interesting, who sent a C&D order? Did another company own the rights to the MERPs system divorced from the Tolkien license?
My understanding is that it was Tolkien Enterprises because the rights to MERP went to them. I could be wrong but I know their lawyers watched ICE's site fairly closely to ensure compliance. Moving RM away from Tolkien would be another benefit of an entirely new edition.

I guess that "I could be wrong" disclaimer should apply to pretty much everyhing I've said. I talked to Rasyr a lot during his time at ICE. We didn't agree on much, heck, Novus would have been 2d6 not 2d10 if I'd had any influence there, but I consider him a friend. I had a couple interesting discussions with Nicholas Caldwell as "the process" moved along, enough to know that his issues with ICE 2.0 weren't imaginary and the situation with ICE wasn't good. But what I don't really know much about is that situation and process. I know Rasyr and Nicholas's complaints but I really don't know the other side. I never found the ICE CEO particularly approachable or open. I suspect he had a bad case of eighties game company paranoia of the sort that leads to non-disclosure agreements and such. I personally think ICE's new owner is the real problem, he shot down a couple things I wanted to do and I get the feeling that the ICE 2.0 folks would point the finger directly at him for their failures. But I really can't speak to that end of the situation fairly.
 

David Johansen

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Honestly... the way that the change in management was conducted told me everything I needed to know about what kind of people they were and what kind of business they were running. I hate to say it, but, "everything" GCP has "accomplished" in the intervening years has only-- in my own mind, at least-- vindicated my low opinions.



Honestly, if that's the only lesson anyone ever learns from this saga-- but everyone directly involved actually learns it, and then some-- I will have considered my (small) role in it to be a small life and a small fortune well-spent.

If you're the kind of small fish to whom a big license seems like a good deal... licenses. are. the. devil.
I've got very mixed feelings about it. I write my own games, I have no delusions about their marketability. The reality is that there is an insane glut of different games out there and in many ways most new games are redundant. The Cephus Engine and WoTCOGL are great boons to creators. I've spent a couple decades working on games that could have been spent on settings, fiction, comics, adventures and so forth if I could have just hitched my wagon to GURPS or Rolemaster. No, I've got no interest in working with any D&D or Traveller based license so don't bother to suggest it. The simple reality is that reinventing the wheel is only worthwhile if they won't let you use a suitable pre-existing one.
 

David Johansen

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So, what would I have done with it? Well I've always believed the skill/category divide could have been handled to make it possible to scale the detail up from MERP to RMSS at its most insane. The big issue would be making the culture and training packages work on all three levels. As written it's impossible but you should be able to play with only skill categories, only skills, or both without introducing incomatibilities or other complexities.

I'd also want to fix training packages. They're vital to RMSS because the skill list is so exhaustive. A training package is a tool to help fill in your character sheet, especially if you're unfamiliar with the system. The big problems as currently implemented are the discount scaling (which got changed at least a couple times) I don't think anyone knows for sure, the unspecified ranks (I just flipped to this training package, I shouldn't have to flip back and forth to the skill list a dozen times), and the mismatched ranks (if you want to be able to change complexity levels the points in the package need to line up). If there's any discount on training packages at all it should be reflected in experience points. Also, I'm sorry ICE there are no first level Navy Seals giving a massive discount to that absurdly long list of skills to make it fit shouldn't be necessary.

I'd also clean up the skill lists, you had Scientific Analytic Basic and Advanced and the four Tech/Trade categories but SPAM adds a bunch more subdivisions which really needed to have the others dovetailed into them rather than being in addition to.
 

David Johansen

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The attack tables were too much like the MERP ones and they got a C&D from Tolkien Enterprises. Also the author got screwed pretty badly by the change in management. Really they only got screwed because they were loyal to the old management. I'm pretty sure the new management would have been happy to work with Rasyr but I think the new edition of Rolemaster he was working on would have been scrapped either way. Again, I'm not privy to the details of everything that went on behind the scenes but I mostly blame the new owner because he squashed my The Rolemaster's Apprentice introductory system. Oh well, sour grapes, I've written my own games instead.
 

Dammit Victor

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I wasn't privy to... well, much more than you were, but I know the bad blood between GCP and pretty much everyone at Mjolnir went back months before the sudden-yet-inevitable "change in management". It was one of the (many) aggravating factors that kept AfterWorlds in development hell even after HARP Sci-Fi (eventually) made it out the door.

I don't want to speculate about... the inner workings of GCP or Aurigas Aldebaran because I know that ten years (and counting) later I'm still far too angry to be even remotely impartial.

All I know is that they spent months talking shit about Mjolnir and trying to push me and my partner around because Mjolnir "wasn't doing anything" and... well, they got handed the reins ten years ago and this thread is the first indication I've seen that they've done sweet fuck all for the franchises they lobbied so hard to steal.
 

Armchair Gamer

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All I know is that they spent months talking shit about Mjolnir and trying to push me and my partner around because Mjolnir "wasn't doing anything" and... well, they got handed the reins ten years ago and this thread is the first indication I've seen that they've done sweet fuck all for the franchises they lobbied so hard to steal.

Based on their production over the past few years, HARP seems to be their real passion.
 

David Johansen

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Honestly, HARP should have just been the new edition of Rolemaster and they should have just gone forward with it. All the guys who bought the new RMSS and SPAM stuff would have gotten burned pretty badly but they burned us in the end anyhow. I think if they'd explained the rights and royalties issues people would have understood. No liked it but understood the need. They might have lost some people but I think them might have been able to move forward instead of floundering and running back and forth between too many product lines. It would have provided clairty and a second edition of HARP could have been used to settle complaints. They'd have lost me, of course, but I'm a fanatic with a big mouth and probably bad for business anyhow.
 

CRKrueger

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Yeah, ten years after I walked away, it's done. I haven't followed the development very closely since the first year of discussions when I flamed out and burned my bridges pretty thoroughly. Anyhow it's an attempt to really clean up and redesign Rolemaster as a modern game. The lead developer had pretty much written his game before the process began and really only used the process to clean up any glaring problems and tighten up his arguments. He basically hated Rolemaster Standard System and had been its biggest opponent on at least three Rolemaster forums for as long as I was into it. I was promised that it was a process to unify the fanbase and it never was. I tried to withdraw at least three times during the process due to the behaviour of the main developer and his lackey. Eventually I grumbled to ex-RM lead developer Rasyr about it and he went public with private conversations. Don't get me wrong, I think the change of management screwed him harder than anyone and he's got a right to be angry but I started burning my bridges at that point.

So where was it last time I looked, the professions were reworked using a points system rather than the process used in RM2 and RMSS where a list of skill costs was integrated with a list of professions in order from best to worst. I think a points system just asks for players and gms to make broken messes but really it's as good as any other method. The skill list has been substantially rationalized and skill categories are gone. I really like that mechanic but there was no way it was getting kept, no not even as a sidebar option.

A real effort has been made to fill in and balance the professions and the spell lists. Hopefully Dabblers won't be worse than Magents at virtually everything and Rangers won't suck. There's a system behind the building of spells and lists now.

Combat was using an action point system last I looked. It was still using percentage activity with snap, normal, and deliberate actions when I left. There's a shield skill that works with weapon skills now. There were going to be six hundred odd attack tables integrating size, damage type, and shape but there would be a core set and an ap. The problem was that the lead dev wanted to remove size from hit points so a halfling and a dragon would have the same hit point scores but the dragon would take and deal more damage. It's counter intuitive and I doubt it survived the fan review process. We had a long argument about that but it's philosophical so there's really no winning.

So, my hope is that it will be good. I really want it to be good. Differences with the lead developer aside I've said from the beginning that a good game needs vision and leadership. Just trying to please everyone just produces crappy, bland games. Personally, fan review processes produce crappy, bland games. It took about eight years longer than planned and I suspect it's just going to produce a third division in the fan base. Again, I really hope I'm wrong. Most of what I liked about Rolemaster came from RMSS not RM2 and all of that's gone but I'll be buying a copy anyhow.

I just wish the company's CEO had been honest about what was being done and that I hadn't wasted a year of my life banging my head against a wall for a game I'd pretty much given up on a couple years earlier. That said, I don't think I'll ever work on anything I don't own outright ever again.
I loved RM2/MERP, but there’s a ton of stuff I liked about RMSS - the skill categories, the lifestyle and vocational Training Packages, etc.

I’m afraid this sounds like a combination neither RMC or RMSS people will like.
 

Akrasia

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I liked what Rasyr was doing with RMX -- it was sort of an attempt at a MERP-ish '"lite" version of RM. I still have a half-dozen copies of RMX stored somewhere.

Once the new team took over and RMX was canned I pretty much lost interest in ICE and RM (aside from Shadow Master).

I'll probably check out RMU once it's available but I'm quite content to stick with VsD for my non-Mythras d100 gaming needs.
 

Acmegamer

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Against the Darkmaster (VsD) is essentially a de-Tolkien-ized, updated, and modified version of MERP. I was a huge MERP fan (still have my collection) and I think VsD greatly improves the system.
So far, I've not really cared for AsD, I miss MERP. I don't like the updates and the way it layout and reads. I need to attempt to read through it again and see if I'll change my mind.
 
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StonesThree

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Its nice to see I wasn't alone in my admiration of RMX.

Take the RMX book and fold in a lot of the extra classes, races and other bits from the RMX Express Additions PDFs, add a few more monsters and you would have had a decent core rulebook.

Oh well. The road not travelled and all that.
 

StonesThree

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I loved RM2/MERP, but there’s a ton of stuff I liked about RMSS - the skill categories, the lifestyle and vocational Training Packages, etc.

I’m afraid this sounds like a combination neither RMC or RMSS people will like.


standards.png
 

David Johansen

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That's the site, you click on forums and there's the forums but I haven't seen the announcement advertisement anywhere but here.
 

Mankcam

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Back in the late 1980s my group loved MERP and the Second Age Middle Earth setting, lots of books we had for that.

We also loved the RM 2E era, and played heaps of RM 2E sessions set in Shadow World; that was our Greyhawk or Forgotten Realms.

Sometime in the 1990s we moved to RMSS, then onto a new setting with the HARP rules in the early 2000s.

Played heaps of other systems since, but we still like occasionally returning to HARP for those colourful ICE Critical Tables (and HARP is slightly more streamlined than RM).

As far as ICE's settings go, I liked the exploration feel of HARP's Cyradon, a continent set after a magical devastation. In some ways it was a bit Jack Vance or Numenera.
However for me it still didn't match the richness of RM's classic high fantasy setting of Shadow World (RIP Terry Amthor).

Now that we have Against The Darkmaster (VsD), I can’t see us getting hyped for RMU.

VsD runs great, it has a version of the classic ICE mechanics, minus the bloat, and it keeps the great crit tables which are a trademark feature of ICE rpgs.
The additional narrative mechanics update the original ICE system in a good way, helping flesh out how to portray the characters.

It’s just been too long waiting for RMU.
My group won’t be getting too excited about it, especially when VsD ticks the boxes we like in regards to ICE system rpgs.
 
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Sable Wyvern

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I've already done all the work writing my own Rolemaster (which is mostly a modified RMSS). It will get some more tweaks if I decide to run RM again, but I certainly have no need for anyone else's RM, official or otherwise.
 
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