All posts by Peter R.

I have been blogging about Rolemaster for the past few years. When I am not blogging I run the Rolemaster Fanzine and create adventure seeds and generic game supplements under the heading of PPM Games. You can check them out on RPGnow. My pet project is my d6 game 3Deep, now in its second edition.

Let the Quest Begin!

In my recent post (‘Looking for a Spiritual Home’) Johnkzin made loads of constructive suggestions and asked a few questions.

The problem with Pathfinder and 5e for that matter is that I have suggested both these systems to my players in the past and they are definitely not interested. I think to some extent they have closed their minds against all things D&D. I have been playing with this group since the early 1980s so I am not about to abandon them and try and find another group.

I have never played Pathfinder or even read a rulebook so I have no valid opinion.

5e on the other hand I have a strange relationship with. I have never played it but 5e and I keep crossing paths. I was one of the two editors in the 5e to d100 conversion project 5e x5. More recently than that I am doing a port of all the 5e SRD monsters to a generic form compatible with all versions of Rolemaster including the old RM2 right up to the forthcoming Rolemaster Unified and taking in HARP along the way.

There are two reasons for doing this. Guild Companion Publications jealously guard their IP. This means that you cannot publish any home brew adventures that use their monsters or the spell lists. I personally think that this closed shop approach has damaged the Rolemaster game community. If there are no free or pocket money price adventures out there or even throw away home brew supplements, then the system appears dead or worse unsupported. GCP have a terribly slow rate of production.

Rolemaster started life as a set of house rules for AD&D so there is a kind of symmetry in reintegrating the open attitudes of WotC and the 5e SRD back into Rolemaster. This gives independent supplement writers like myself a complete set of monsters with which to create adventures.

The other sticking point is spells and spell lists. I have future plans to write up my house rules for magic in Rolemaster and reintroduce the 5e SRD spells back into Rolemaster. That is a potential project for another day. I have already written up and sell my house rules for character creation. I have also fleshed those same rules out into a full on standalone rulebook.

The reason for the character creation and magic system is an insurance policy. One Rolemaster Unified comes out GCP are not going to support either current version of the game. It would be madness to release a new version of the game and still produce material for older versions. If, heaven forbid, the new version is a failure then there could be no future support for Rolemaster players. On the other hand, if there was a 100% compatible system out there released under the OGL and free for anyone to take, use and change then all these over versions can be supported. I will write more on this at a later date.

So back to my gaming investigations…

I do like my games on the light side of crunchy and more simulationist than narrative. This coming week I am going to start with looking at Mini Six: Bare Bones Edition by AntiPaladin Games. I have not checked but I guess that Michael reviewed this years ago. I will give my thoughts next time.

The featured image is obviously me, setting out on my quest for a new game system!

Looking for a spiritual home.

Excepting this past year, I have spent the last 25 years pretty much just playing the same game system, Rolemaster and its sci fi cousin Spacemaster.

I have just recently started to look at different systems looking for something that gives me the same thrill as Rolemaster but also something fresh and exciting (Michael knows all about excitement!). The funny thing is that as soon as I discovered Eclipse Phase I also learned that 2nd Edition is in development. I have just spent much of last week reading the players guide to 7th Sea and learned today that there is a 2nd Edition of that as well.

Both of those systems shine because of the setting and if I can get a group together I would love to run them.

Right now I am in that “I don’t know what I want but I will recognise it when I see it.” phase. Some systems are a complete turn off, FATE is definitely not for me, that much I do know. One look at the sheer volume of books behind pathfinder and my blood runs cold.

I do spend a lot of time creating games. Each game I build tries to explore different possible ways of doing things. The basic anatomy of a plot is force the characters up a tree, throw stones at them, get them down again, repeat in the next adventure.

The basic anatomy of a game system is create a character, enable them to do stuff, reward them for doing stuff.

With such simple specifications it is no wonder that there are so many ways going through those simple steps.

Rolemaster has been criticised for having character creation take the best part of an entire game session but Rolemaster players see it as lovingly crafting their characters. It is funny that for a game that is so deadly the character creation takes so long. It reminds me of playing Traveller back in the 80s when you could take all afternoon to create a character only to have him or her die during the creation process.

There is an obvious trade off, the more detailed the character the longer the process is going to take to create them.

My regular players are more hack and slash than story tellers so for me the combat system has to be good. 7th Sea really stood out in this respect. I would love to get my hands on a pdf of the new rules to see if it is even better. The only thing lacking in 7th Sea so far, to my tastes, are the humour and detail of the Rolemaster criticals. I guess I cannot have everything!

Good night to the Devil

This will be my last post on Devil’s Staircase for a while. It is not going away, quite the opposite, but I will tell you abut that later. This post is in two halves and the more exciting bit is the second part. I shouldn’t really have said that so just ignore it for now.

Part 1

In testing there were two things that came up. Now these are both combat tweaks but I never really wanted the game to be all about combat. The objective of creating a standalone game engine was that it could be applied to any genre. Anyway, my play test group cannot wait to whip out the colt .45s and after that things only go one way.

The first thing that became apparent was that an initiative system was needed. It was not in the first draft because if you have ever read Michael’s post on Combat it was pointed out that a combat that lasted 2 minutes or so could take hours to play. I wanted a system where every card drawn was a bullet flying or a punch being thrown. What I didn’t want was so many stages to go through that fights bog down. So here is a single card draw initiative system…


The GM deals everyone a single card including one of each major NPC or group of NPCs. These get turned face up. If a joker is dealt it can be played to win the initiative or added to the players character record and a new card dealt. If there is a draw then the characters speed stat can be used to divide the characters. If they have the same card and speed then their actions are considered simultaneous.

The system now works on a system of interrupts. The person with the lowest card describes that they want to do. The person with the next lowest can then interrupt the first action with their own or just describe their own choice. And so it goes with each person has declared their own actions.

Once each action has been declared then they are resolved in order of fastest first, the reverse of the order they were declared.

So in this example we have three protagonists, A Sheriff, Deputy and Rustler.  They are currently in a bit of a stand off gun fight on the main street. Their initiative cards are

Sheriff: 4
Deputy: Jack
Rustler: 5

The Sheriff says ‘I am going to try and dash across the street to get more cover.

The Rustler says ‘As soon as I get a clear shot I am going to shoot the Sheriff.

The Deputy says ‘I will give covering fire to protect the Sheriff.

The actions are resolved with the Deputy shooting at the Rustler as the Deputy is the fastest. If he survives then the Rustler can fire upon the Sheriff as he crosses the street. If the Sheriff survives he can run for cover across the street.

So, despite the introduction of initiative we still don’t need rounds or turns. If the Rustler had said that he wanted to try and crawl away without being seen then all the declared actions could have taken place without any interruptions. The Sheriff and Deputy could have eventually got to where the Rustler had been hiding to find him long gone.


The next bit is more setting specific and this will effect all future DS games.

So far the damage done in combat comes in the form of ‘1’, ‘2’, ‘many’ with the many being inflicted by a Joker. When all the test fights had been carried out with gun slingers striding out into the dusty streets this was fine. We had more damage being done by sticks of dynamite but that was still ones and twos being done by individual sticks. The sorts of weapons we have in the wild west range from deringer single shot pistols to Gatling guns and hunting knives to cavalry sabres. Some of the feedback I have had says that players like cool equipment. Ranged weapons have already been differentiated somewhat with different range modifiers making it easier to hit at range with a rifle than a revolver. The solution that was most popular was pluses to damage. So a single pistol round would do the standard damage. A Winchester Rifle could then be a +1 weapon so the damage would be ‘2’, ‘3’, ‘many’ and a Gatling gun could be +2 when used to spray several targets (3/4/many) or +3 when used against a single target (4/5/many). Seeing as there are not going to be many magical weapons this means that particularly high quality weapons or large calibre guns become the sought after loot items. It takes no real effort to record a weapon as being a +1 or +2 on the character record.

For melee combat the standard hunting knife or a dagger would be the norm then a war axe would be +1 and a cavalry sabre +2.

These changes were well liked by the play test group. In future projects such as a fantasy version this means that we can have shortswords and daggers as the base weapon and then +1 for broadswords and battle axes and +2 for halberds, lances and greatswords. I can even see a bastard sword being +1 when single handed and +2 when used two handed.

Finally, it is interesting now that the rules changes we are getting are now becoming more tweaks than major changes. Continue reading Good night to the Devil