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tooley1chris

I.C.E Rolemaster

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Anyone else been keeping tabs on Iron Crowns Rolemaster? They're really putting A LOT of effort into revitalizing their materials. 

New releases, re-releases, a massive new electronic software release. It's all really looking impressive. Wonder how much the fan base has grown, and how many previous fans are taking another look because of it...

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Though I found the combat and spell systems were far, far too crunchy for me (my perspective is decades old), I thoroughly enjoyed a few of their publications and am glad to see the company is still around and investing in their fan base with official forums, timely communications, as well as creation and re-creation of new  and old material. Their GM club "Order of the Iron Crown" is a cool idea too and I like that they're offering play-testing opportunities to their fans as well.

I invested in Spell Law (both boxed and bound) and Character Law & Campaign Law over 30 years ago (WOW! I am an old fart!) and got the most bang for my buck from the later. I bought SL because I was playing SB1E at the time and all it had was demon magic and I wanted a spell system I could adapt. It didn't work out so well. I'm sure a more knowledgeable GM could have made the conversion better. The campaign portion of CL&CL delivered. I literally have almost worn the cover off that bad-boy. I still use the outline offered for "...Developing a Campaign" and world-building. Good times.

Cheers!

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I tried to learn the system (now known as Rolemaster 2 or Rolemaster Classic) back in the 1990s.  I figured out how to make basic fighter characters for the material I wrote for ICE but never really grasped it.  Much later, my son and I tried to create characters with Rolemaster Express.  After about a week we gave up.  I just don't get it.  By that time, ICE was also selling HARP and a revised Rolemaster Fantasy Role-Playing, which wasn't exactly the same as Rolemaster Classic.

They have a massive back catalog, though.  It is good they're not letting it go to waste.  However, back in the day they had a definite presence in my local game shops.  Today it is as if they never existed.

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My close friend is a big ICE supporter, and pretty much has most of their games dating back to the mid 1980s. I had alot of fun playing MERP and Rolemaster over the years, and my nostalgia for their products are quite high. Despite this its far too complex for me to GM, with heaps of tables and large maths calculations, which is why it was often jokingly referred to as 'Rulemaster'.

I have bought both editions of HARP Fantasy, which I think is a best version of the ICE mechanics. HARP is much more compact and versatile than Rolemaster, although it doesn't have the Rolemaster name to sell it. Still a bit clumsy at times for my personal tastes as a GM, but I don't mind simply being a player-character with those rules.

Rolemaster probably has a better high fantasy setting than HARP, and I really wish they would have ported over the setting of Shadow World to HARP. That makes more sense to me, but they seem to be developing the lines separately.

ICE is another great old rpg company, and I like the fact that they are still alive and kicking. They are a bit like Chaosium in the fact that most support for them appears to be online, and you rarely see their products on the shelves sitting next to the likes of Wizards Of The Coast, Games Workshop, and White Wolf. But like Chaosium, ICE was a major competitor against TSR back in the '80s and early '90s.

However the core ICE system is just a bit too crunchy for my tastes. Having said that, the amount of detail they have put in the setting books over the years is very good. Shadow World is just screaming out for a MagicWorld or RuneQuest conversion. Ironically my friend wants to do a HARP version of Glorantha, so I guess it works both ways.

 

Edited by Mankcam

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Yeah, Chartmaster has always been a bit too clunky for me as well, though I understand the people who appreciate it. I've had a few really fun campaigns in Shadow World, Eidolon, and Middle Earth, but mostly because of the Crit tables. Really should work on porting those over... :)

I was just really impressed with the companies new energy, dedication, and rejuvenation. I hope the same for others. :)

Edited by tooley1chris

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I've been hearing a lot about these systems for a bit on different forums and will probably pick up HARP just to see what it is about. Unfortunately, Rolemaster isn't available as a POD on DTRPG so will probably have to wait and see what the new edition does.

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Is HARP something that grew out of MERP? Not that the answer to that would leave me any the wiser. Although I owned and ran quite a lot of I.C.E. Rolemaster and MERP adventures in the past, I used RQ2 rules throughout so I never really got to understand their game system. Production-wise their Middle Earth books were by far my favourite RPG products of any publisher, and even now I love their dense content and beautiful maps.

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Is HARP something that grew out of MERP? Not that the answer to that would leave me any the wiser. Although I owned and ran quite a lot of I.C.E. Rolemaster and MERP adventures in the past, I used RQ2 rules throughout so I never really got to understand their game system. Production-wise their Middle Earth books were by far my favourite RPG products of any publisher, and even now I love their dense content and beautiful maps.

No, HARP didn't grow out of MERP per see, but yes, it is a more recent version of the ICE system mechanics.

MERP often felt incomplete as far as mechanics went, and was really there as a primer for Rolemaster. Many people ended up playing Rolemaster using the Middle Earth setting (as was suggested), but the setting of Shadow World was also quite good. By the 1990s the company had lost the rights for Middle Earth, so Rolemaster was pretty affixed just to Shadow World by then.

By the mid 1990s Rolemaster had become one of the major alternatives to AD&D for simulationist rpg gamers. I always preferred to run BRP of course, but many of my troupe back then played Rolemaster and I was involved as a player for a few campaigns. When AD&D became D&D 3E in 2000 and the D20 OGL wave hit, Rolemaster pretty much declined as a major contender on the market. I think even Chaosium fared better here, due to having Call of Cthulhu.

HARP came out about 10 yrs ago, although a more recent version of it has now been produced as HARP Fantasy and HARP ScFi; same system, different genres. I think it was a way for the company to stay relevant with new gamers who were no longer wanting heavy simulationist rule sets.

HARP is kinda like a more basic version of Rolemaster. It has a much better magic system, and it is all contained in one rulebook. The character classes are quite good in the fact they are very broad in scope, allowing for a lot of customisation. So no books are required beyond the core rulebook, which is quite nice. The system itself is reasonably good, and plays like a streamlined Rolemaster. Much less tables to reference, and a bit quicker. Despite such, the rules are still very recognisable as ICE system mechanics, and it could be considered a bit clunky compared to many current (and past) gaming engines. It needed even more trimming, in my opinion.

However I still thought HARP was a step forward in many ways. Rolemaster was dormant by then, so it looked like HARP was the heir to ICE's fantasy line. The world setting didn't seem to capture people's attention as much as Shadow World did, and HARP suffered a bit because of this. The Rolemaster name itself seemed to have more product identity, so it looks like ICE has resumed that line and is currently in the process of formulating a new edition of Rolemaster. They have made much of the back catalog available in pdf and PoD, and are also starting to write new material for Shadow World. 

I am a bit disappointed that HARP will be the second cousin to Rolemaster, as I think it is a superior set of game mechanics to that of Rolemaster. This is not a big issue for me however, as even HARP is a little awkward for me to GM, and I much prefer running a BRP set of mechanics.

I don't see Rolemaster products filling up the shelves of my game store anytime soon, but I think it is carving a niche in the online sales market at present. 

Some of the regional sourcebooks are very well detailed, and there are some sandbox scenarios just screaming out to be ported over. This goes for the Shadow World setting, as well as the old MERP books. 

So there is plenty of material here to hack for RQ6 or MagicWorld if anyone is looking for reasonably good high fantasy world settings. 

Edited by Mankcam
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I've been hearing a lot about these systems for a bit on different forums and will probably pick up HARP just to see what it is about. Unfortunately, Rolemaster isn't available as a POD on DTRPG so will probably have to wait and see what the new edition does.

It is available in POD. But only the RMC version. You will find them on the link. If you want the RMSS/FRP version you are out of luck unless you can track down a copy in a store or amazon.

Either way we are running a current RMSS/FRP campaign. We started Paizo's Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path with Pathfinder but I just wasn't feeling comfortable with the Pathfinder system because of that we ported over the characters to RM and continued with that system. The choice was between BRP, RQ6, GURPS or any of the RM versions. All the players picked RM. Been a long time fan of RM/MERP and ever since the shift from Mjolnir to Guild Companion they have been working hard to to make the ICE and RM brand name mean something again. I have the second Beta files of the new RMU and it really looks like they are on the right path. Even though I don't play in Shadow World I do really love the modules for that world. I myself prefer something with a more S&S/Nordic feel to it. Something like the Swedish Trudvang setting that interesting enough is soon available in English. 

Edited by Chorpa

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Ahh, Shadow World brings back a lot of fine memories for me. It might even have been my favorite setting back then. Almost as detailed as the MERP books but with a more open and magical feeling to it. I haven't read any of it in years, so I'm not sure how well it has aged though. It could be dungeon-bashing with a fancy metaphysic topping… There doesn't seem to be much new material published for it, but it's good to see a new version of the Master Atlas. Otherwise I recognize most titles from 20+ years ago. If I remember correctly my preferred location was the continent of Jaiman, northeast of Emer and a bit more harsh. And the place for The Gryphon College : ) Does anyone know if Terry K Amthor is still involved in ICE and Shadow World?

And yes, Trudvang in English would be nice! But I wonder if that is going to happen? It seems the most recent news are from early 2014... 

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Ahh, Shadow World brings back a lot of fine memories for me. It might even have been my favorite setting back then. Almost as detailed as the MERP books but with a more open and magical feeling to it. I haven't read any of it in years, so I'm not sure how well it has aged though. It could be dungeon-bashing with a fancy metaphysic topping… There doesn't seem to be much new material published for it, but it's good to see a new version of the Master Atlas. Otherwise I recognize most titles from 20+ years ago. If I remember correctly my preferred location was the continent of Jaiman, northeast of Emer and a bit more harsh. And the place for The Gryphon College : ) Does anyone know if Terry K Amthor is still involved in ICE and Shadow World?

And yes, Trudvang in English would be nice! But I wonder if that is going to happen? It seems the most recent news are from early 2014... 

Yes. T.K. Amthor is very active part of the new cast of Iron Crown. Most of the time after the shift in management have been spent re-branding the old modules and updating some of them so they are available as POD. But most of that is done now. Last I heard T.K.A is currently slugging away at Emer IV that hopefully is not to far out for publication. Latest release I know of is the adventure Shadow World: Tales from the Green Gryphon Inn.

About the Trudvang Chronicles. Yes it is going to happen but unfortunately it is only going to be a electronic release through their online feature which in my opinion is a downer.

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I invested in Spell Law (both boxed and bound) and Character Law & Campaign Law over 30 years ago (WOW! I am an old fart!) and got the most bang for my buck from the later. I bought SL because I was playing SB1E at the time and all it had was demon magic and I wanted a spell system I could adapt. It didn't work out so well. I'm sure a more knowledgeable GM could have made the conversion better.

I happily use Spell Law in my BRP games. I treat each spell list as a particular magical skill, which can increase with use as normal. To cast a spell you roll your skill - (spell level x5%). Magic point cost is the spell level if it works, or 1 if it doesn't. As your skill increases in each list you automatically gain access to the harder spells in the list. Works quite nicely, and the diversity of the spell lists allows you to make very different spell casters.

For Channeling spells (equivalent of Runequest Divine spells) they automatically work. The magic point cost is 1 from the caster and the rest from Allegiance points to your god (go do some deeds your deity approves of to get more).

 For Mentalism spells there's no magic point cost. You use (POW - spell level) x5 to see if it works. If it doesn't you get more and more Fatigued, as per BGB p.32 (except I added one level). If you want to learn to cast the most powerful Mentalism spells in Spell Law you'd better work on increasing your POW.

Fatigue levels:

Psychically drained: Mentalism skill rolls Difficult
Tired: All skill rolls Difficult (equiv. CONx3 rounds of physical exertion)
Spent: Stamina roll required for any activity; skills at one quarter normal (equiv. CONx4 rounds of physical exertion)
Exhausted: Difficult Stamina roll for any activity; skills max = POW x 1 (equiv. CONx10 rounds of physical exertion)

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Nice port of the RM Magic System to BRP - I kind of tinkered with something similar about 15 yrs ago, but never got it off the ground. It was very much like your port if I remember correctly

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Nice port of the RM Magic System to BRP - I kind of tinkered with something similar about 15 yrs ago, but never got it off the ground. It was very much like your port if I remember correctly

Thanks. Simple is best for BRP!

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On 24/8/2015 at 6:07 PM, clarence said:

Ahh, Shadow World brings back a lot of fine memories for me. It might even have been my favorite setting back then. Almost as detailed as the MERP books but with a more open and magical feeling to it. I haven't read any of it in years, so I'm not sure how well it has aged though. It could be dungeon-bashing with a fancy metaphysic topping… There doesn't seem to be much new material published for it, but it's good to see a new version of the Master Atlas. Otherwise I recognize most titles from 20+ years ago. If I remember correctly my preferred location was the continent of Jaiman, northeast of Emer and a bit more harsh. And the place for The Gryphon College : )

I've been gradually accumulating second-hand Shadow World modules over the past few years, due to curiosity about the setting, the possibility of plundering ideas and the fact that I couldn't afford them back when we were all more newly-released. I never played Rolemaster though I have a few of the rules books (notably Arms Law and Spell Law) and I dabbled with Space Law. There a lot of ideas in Shadow World -- too many for consistency in my opinion. I don't get any view of the whole world from reading the different modules. But then, the whole idea of Shadow World was that it was too vast for anyone to explore all of it, I guess so that GMs could carve out little bits for their own campaigns and then use 'Navigators' to take players off to new and completely different regions when they grew bored.

The ones I have are:

  • Emer
  • Sky Giants of the Brass Stair
  • Quellbourne : Land of the Silver Mist
  • Nomads of the Nine Nations (superceded in my mind by Wind on the Steppes)
  • Norek : Intrigue in a City-State of Jaiman
  • The World of Vog Mur

Most didn't leave much of an impression on me. My favourites are the smaller-scale ones, like the World of Vog Mur (three isolated islands) or Norek, although cities can sometimes be difficult to transplant into other settings. I don't ever plan to set a campaign in Shadow World as published. Shadow World's mishmash of locations and cultures doesn't look like it would work at large scale.

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On 9/21/2015 at 9:40 PM, Questbird said:

I happily use Spell Law in my BRP games. I treat each spell list as a particular magical skill, which can increase with use as normal. To cast a spell you roll your skill - (spell level x5%). Magic point cost is the spell level if it works, or 1 if it doesn't. As your skill increases in each list you automatically gain access to the harder spells in the list. Works quite nicely, and the diversity of the spell lists allows you to make very different spell casters.

For Channeling spells (equivalent of Runequest Divine spells) they automatically work. The magic point cost is 1 from the caster and the rest from Allegiance points to your god (go do some deeds your deity approves of to get more).

 For Mentalism spells there's no magic point cost. You use (POW - spell level) x5 to see if it works. If it doesn't you get more and more Fatigued, as per BGB p.32 (except I added one level). If you want to learn to cast the most powerful Mentalism spells in Spell Law you'd better work on increasing your POW.

Fatigue levels:

Psychically drained: Mentalism skill rolls Difficult
Tired: All skill rolls Difficult (equiv. CONx3 rounds of physical exertion)
Spent: Stamina roll required for any activity; skills at one quarter normal (equiv. CONx4 rounds of physical exertion)
Exhausted: Difficult Stamina roll for any activity; skills max = POW x 1 (equiv. CONx10 rounds of physical exertion)

I really like this idea. But...seems the MP cost is going to be too high for a lot of spells whose cost would outweigh effect. How did you work those level 20, 40, 50 spells? 

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5 hours ago, tooley1chris said:

I really like this idea. But...seems the MP cost is going to be too high for a lot of spells whose cost would outweigh effect. How did you work those level 20, 40, 50 spells? 

For a start, I run a low magic campaign, so the limited effects doesn't bother me particularly. As for the high cost spells, it's the same problem faced by sorcerers everywhere. You want to cast a spell that you don't have the POW for. Here are some solutions which have been used in various BRP games:

1. Ritual magic -- the spell takes a long time but perhaps allows you to keep feeding it magic points as yours recover, or maybe assistant magicians can lend POW to a spell in a ritual

2. Some sort of POW battery, like Brazier of Power, or an artifact

3. Chaos Allegiance points can be used to provide extra magic points on a 1:1 basis. Or in fact any ratio, depending on how strong Chaos is in your world. Divine magic is explicitly powered by Allegiance points already.

4. Situational magic points. Perhaps a certain glade at a certain phase of a certain moon might be awash with 'free' magical energy

5. Human or animal sacrifice might release some magic points for darker Sword and Sorcery games

6. Ditto a pact with some Demon or entity which provides more POW or magic points to draw on, in exchange for unmentionable services

Most of these methods require some preparation, so casting those high level spells will not be something a wizard can just dash off. That suits me fine. It means sorcerers have to be a bit strategic about deploying magic.

Alternatively

If you want more magic in your campaign, do away with the magic points entirely. To cast a spell you roll your skill - (spell level x5%). There's no magic point cost but a special or critical failure increases your Fatigue by one level. You can have as many spells active at one time as your POW.

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