A couple of days ago Google announced that they will shutdown Google+ in 2019. This was a shock especially to many tabletop RPG fans which have used the platform basically from day one to discuss the hobby, organize events, or generally post great content. Last time I checked there were countless RPG groups for even the most obscure games out there.
For me, Google+ has lost a lot of appeal during the last few years. Some of the changes made by Google worked directly against how I have used the social network at that time, and so I used it less and less. It also became more difficult to avoid the more toxic people in our community. So begrudgingly I moved a lot of my activity over to Facebook while still looking for alternatives.
One alternative was MeWe, which looks a lot like a cleaned up Facebook with a focus on privacy and free speech. Unfortunately not a lot people were using it. For a long time my number of contacts was about 5 to 10 people. With Google’s recent announcement that number quickly rose to over 70. That’s because a lot of the more active people from Google+ seem to have decided to migrate to MeWe en masse. Several RPG groups have been created and are already extremely active. The group chat feature plays a huge role in this.
Some concerns have been raised that MeWe might be a bad choice because of its CEO’s stance on free speech. Mark Weinstein is a registered Libertarian, and has openly catered to some right-wing nutjobs who got thrown off other platforms like Twitter. On the other hand Tim Berners-Lee is on MeWe’s advisiory board and according to Weinstein, the site if fully GDPR compliant (for all users) and hosted in Ireland.
At the moment MeWe is exploding with activity. Everyone is setting up new RPG-related groups and the one’s I’ve checked so far are friendly and inclusive. Everyone is excited. If you want to check out MeWe for yourself, I recommend joining “The Great G+ RPG Exodus” even if you haven’t been on G+ before. It’s a great hub for new members of the network and people point out new RPG-related groups, give advice, and help newbies to find their way. If you want to connect with me on MeWe, follow this link! I’ll see you there!
So I came across Against the Darkmaster this week and it peaked my interest. The game is, according to its website, vsdarkmaster.com a fan developed game derived from the original Iron Crown Enterprises MERP.
So right now the game is in the public play test stage and has a kickstarter planned for next year.
This is just a literal first look as I have not even read the play test document yet.
There are lots of things you want to see if you are looking at something that shares its DNA with Rolemaster and MERP. Open ended rolls are one and they are definitely in here, skills based characters are they are in here, combat tables are here and criticals. All of those you can tick off.
The character creation is a little different to how I remember MERP being. Here you just get some may bonus points to distribute between your stats. This not uncommon in Rolemaster circles as the actual 1-100 stat is never used just the stat bonus. vsDarkmaster has gone down the same route and scrapped the unused 1-100 stat and just kept the stat bonus.
VsDarkmaster has eradicated the work Race from the game and uses Kin in its place. Despite the name change the kins are exactly how I remember the MERP races to be and they have even retained the Background options. If you never played Rolemaster or MERP then you can spend background points to get some form of bonus for your character such as a magic item as starting equipment or extra money or something less tangible like coming from a respected family or a bonus to one of your stats.
Characters each have a culture and these give you a selection of skill ranks that you can spend buying skills. Skills are all grouped into categories and the cultural skill ranks are distributed amongst these categories so you cannot just pile them all into combat or magic!
Character classes or Professions are called Vocations in vsDarkmaster. There are six vocations in this play test version Warrior, Rogue, Strider, Wizard, Animist and Dabbler. the first three have no magic and the last three are all spell casters.
A while ago I read about the new Endless Quest books by Candlewick Press. They have been written by Matt Forbeck, are set into the Forgotten Realms, and in each book you can follow the adventures of a wizard, fighter, rogue, and cleric respectively in a “choose your own adventure” style. The reviews I’ve read are mostly positive.
But there’s one aspect that utterly surprised me: Endless Quest doesn’t use any random elements like combat, dice rolling, etc. but everything that happens is based on your choices. This might make it easier to tell a great story, but it is – at least in my opinion – a missed opportunity.
These books would have been perfect to introduce new players to D&D. Sure, they can already do that, since they are based on currently available D&D campaigns, but wouldn’t it be better, if they also introduced interested readers in a couple of D&D’s basic concepts? I could easily see a gamebook using a simplified version of the D&D mechanics. Adding random elements would perhaps also add to the replayability (or is it rereadability in this case?) of the books.
But aside from this minor gripe I am glad that this kind of adventure game books is making a comeback. I enjoyed them tremendously back in the day. I still have fond memories of playing the classics like Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf series, or Steve Jackson’s Starship Traveller. Recently I acquired a copy of the first book in the Fabled Lands series which I have heard good things about.
What are your thoughts on the matter? Have you actually read one of these new books and how did you like them? Did you miss random elements or do you think it’s great as it is? Please share your comments below!
A Roleplaying Games blog
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