Wednesday 19 December 2018

Manifesto 2.0 & Why Are These Games Not More Popular?

It’s no doubt becoming increasingly clear that this blog can no longer be called a Rolemaster blog, and probably won’t be unless or until RM is released under some sort of OGL or Creative Commons License: there’s just no point stepping gingerly around IP issues. I lack both the know-how to do so and, frankly, the cojones to just ignore such things (I also find it ethically questionable to do so). Aside from possibly reviewing the new edition of Rolemaster when it appears, and the occasional HARP product, I shan’t be covering RM or HARP henceforward.

So for the foreseeable future, my focus is going to be on several d20-type systems for which I can write without angst – and these are great games in their own right. I’ll keep doing my work with OSR-type Skills and Petty-classes: it’s fun to do and throws up some interesting ideas from time to time that might feed through to the other writing I want to pursue, but it is, in a way, a species of low-hanging fruit, tasty, easy to get at, but ultimately lacking in nutrition. This’ll serve to keep the blog ticking over between ‘New Kingdoms’ posts, which, I’ve found, require considerably more thought and preparation.

I’ve recently got myself into a position whereby I can buy print copies of games I’ve owned digitally for quite some time. I’m sufficiently old-fashioned to prefer reading books to PDFs, and I garner more information when I’m doing so, so I’ve been able to get a much better handle on several systems than I have done previously. I’m sort of in mid-contemplation of these systems, but liking more and more what I find there. The systems, in no particular order, are For Gold & Glory, Fantastic Heroes & Witchery, Blood & Treasure and B/X Essentials.

Not the prettiest or most symmetrical display, but boy oh boy am I glad to have got these in print!

Two of these games are, more or less, re-visonings and re-organisations of old editions. FG&G is a reworking of 2e for the OGL, and B/X Essentials is an excellent, streamlined version of Basic/Expert. I’m not going to say much more about them but to point out that FG&G is, as far as I’m able to tell, not very heavily supported so far, so writing a module or two, or a rules expansion, might be a cool thing to do (also, 2e was my favourite version when younger, especially once I got kits and such to get my teeth into!). B/X Essentials on the other hand, is well-supported by Necrotic Gnome Press (Their work totally gets my brain ticking), but, as a base for expansion, its pretty outstanding. I’ve been looking at converting my RM races to a B/X format, and the results are quite interesting (at least to me!). I may post them here.

The systems I’m most interested in, however, are Fantastic Heroes & Witchery, and Blood & Treasure, two games that might be best typified as “OSR+”, in that they draw their aesthetic, basic engine and ambience primarily from older editions but incorporate ideas and mechanics from 3e-style games. For someone like me, who missed the OGL and edition wars (and the OSR!) and came to post-OGL gaming via Pathfinder, they’re rather a treat, and full of creativity – and creativity-inspiring material. I’m not going to outline these games (there are some good and informative reviews here and here), although I am going to heartily recommend them, and ask the question: why the devil are they not more popular? (Although FH&W seems to have been more or less forgotten since its 2.0 release some years ago, which will no doubt partially account for its current neglect).

I’m not schooled enough in the history, economics, politics (or the hagiography?) of TTRPGs to answer that, but I do find myself wondering if the very thing that appeals to me might, at least in part, account for it. Where I see versatility and options, others might see games that fall between two stools, so to speak...I don’t know, but those systems, in particular, (with guest appearances from Swords & Wizardry, OSRIC and Labyrinth Lord) are going to be the mains on the menu at Tales of the New Kingdoms, now that I’ve finally settled on the systems and approach I want to take. The work I’ve done so far on the Chelmsey series and Kambyra Island will be continued using those systems, and I’ll post new character information for the various NPCs and critters I’ve introduced previously (usually with Pathfinder statblocks) to reflect that change. I’m hopeful that, in my meagre way, I can do something to promote these excellent systems.

I’m looking forward to it.

The systems mentioned above are all available at DriveThruRPG as follows:


  1. Have you seen seen Against the Darkmaster's Kickstarter ( It's a spiritual successor to Rolemaster, and has a cool aesthetic.

  2. yes I have! I signed up for the playtest and have scoped it a bit, and like what I've seen. If ever they bring out their OGL, I will be all over it.


Wolves of War: The Ulfarga for Blood & Treasure (& RMFRP)

  Ulfarga (Lupine Beastkin) Wild-hearted but honourable wolf-like humanoids, Ulfarga represent one of the largest populations of any Beastki...