Director’s Briefing – May 2024

Welcome

To the one hundred-and-fifty-fourth Briefing and fifth scheduled Briefing of 2024.

Gen Con 2024

I mentioned last time that all the tables at Dragonmeet 2024 had sold out within a week. The exhibit hall map for Gen Con 2024 has been released and that is on a whole different level of scale. Dragonmeet maps show specific tables, Gen Con show booths and sets of booths. ICE is on the map key and our booth number is #2904. It is an impressively long list of exhibitors.

As with Dragonmeet, contact Colin if you are intending on running Rolemaster or HARP (or Spacemaster or any other ICE games for that matter). We would really like to publicise your games.

Rolemaster

I will be undertaking my review pass of RMU Treasure Law with the intention of reaching a final print master. The intention isn’t to drive Nick crazy as I spiral inwards towards the perfect master but I am sure between software failing to save changes or uploading correctly, there will be at least one set of changes that Nick makes but don’t take as expected. Hence the process is one of requesting changes, changes being made, changes being checked, and so on until I cannot find any residual issues.

Software – ERA

As mentioned last time, we have switched to the zip format for ERA. The latest base version of the software has been uploaded and a new dataset for RMFRP Construct Companion has also been released.

Software – AutoHARP3

David Klecker is happy again with the new version of AutoHARP, known as AutoHARP3. The base package AutoHARP3 Fantasy is now available on DriveThru, and the Martial Law and College of Magic datasets will go live across the week as DriveThru prefers that publishers release one new product per day if possible. AutoHARP3 is being released as new products as it is substantially changed from earlier versions.

I have sent out emails via DriveThru already providing discount codes so that anyone who purchased AutoHARP Fantasy, AutoHARP Martial Law or AutoHARP College of Magics can use the code to upgrade for Free to the equivalent AutoHARP3 file. You can use these codes even before the product goes live.

If you did not set your DriveThru email preferences to receive email from ICE, please ask Colin very nicely for the codes.

HARP

I have completed my review pass of HARP Steampunk, written by the incomparable Phil Masters. (Yes, the Phil Masters who has written umpteen GURPS sourcebooks and supplements, as well as books and articles for other systems). This has been written as a supplement that can be used with either the HARP Fantasy or the HARP SF rulebook. The expectation is that most GMs would use HARP Steampunk for a steampunk setting, but there is nothing to stop GMs moving their fantasy world to the Age of Steam or incorporating more technologically backward worlds in a science-fiction universe.

HARP Steampunk uses the standard HARP character creation process but introduces a distinct set of professions for the Age of Steam and adjusts the skill set, moving some skills into different categories for a tighter fit to the milieu. Characters may be equipped with historical gear or with more over-the-top marvellous steam items and electrical marvels. Characters can call for a hansom cab in the style of Sherlock Holmes or perhaps cruise the seas in a submarine akin to Nemo’s Nautilus. Phil has created a set of subtle mystical powers in keeping with the steampunk setting, which is reinforced with a selection of spiritual adversaries. It is an excellent manuscript.

I have two areas that I wish to double-check, namely if there are any additional skills that could be added to the training packages, and whether some stat-based maneuvers might be better positioned as skill maneuvers. However, I can happily let Colin start commissioning artwork for it.

We will have much more to say about HARP Steampunk once we approach its release.

Until next time

Please stay safe and keep gaming.

Best wishes, Nicholas

Director, Iron Crown Enterprises Ltd

Director’s Briefing – April 2024

Welcome

To the one hundred-and-fifty-third Briefing and fourth scheduled Briefing of 2024.

Dragonmeet 2024

In the last briefing, I mentioned that I had placed our order for tables at Dragonmeet within ten minutes of the bookings opening. And an incredibly good thing I did so. Every single table at Dragonmeet was sold out within a week. Fastest ever. The organisers are now trying to see if they can find a bigger location for the 2025 show, which is likely to be no easier than it was last year or the year before.

To remind you, Dragonmeet 2024 will be at Novotel Hammersmith in London on Saturday 30th November. GMs wanted to run Rolemaster and HARP demo games.

Rolemaster

Nick has been implementing residual fixes to Treasure Law. An interim update of the pdf is likely. Please report any residual issues as we will soon need to proceed towards the print masters.

Nick has also circulated a new Creature Law layout draft version. It’s not yet ready for the formal series of iterative passes but that will come.

Software – ERA, Roll20 and AutoHARP

Every so often various antivirus software packages report false positive alerts on the ERA software. At least one of the reasons for this is that antivirus software is sensitive to software that is packaged as a self-extracting executable. From now on, ERA in its Windows version will be packaged as a .zip file – hence you will need to use the Windows built-in unzip facility or a third-party software to uncompress the file. We hope that this reassures the antivirus packages.

Our RMU incarnation for the Roll20 virtual tabletop continues to make progress.

AutoHARP was ready in February, I held off uploading it to ensure a correct listing, and then David had a “Columbo” moment of “just one last thing”. This “one last thing” morphed into sorting out a new HARP Bestiary dataset at the same time. As soon as David has reassured himself that everything is as he and his beta testers expect it to behave, then I will upload the new AutoHARP edition.

HARP

Not finished yet on HARP Steampunk, but still no need to nudge Phil Masters for him to make any corrections.

I will be doing a round of checking on how other authors are getting on with their respective adventure module drafts.

Until next time

Please stay safe and keep gaming.

Best wishes, Nicholas

Director, Iron Crown Enterprises Ltd

Director’s Briefing – March 2024

Welcome

To the one hundred-and-fifty-second Briefing and third scheduled Briefing of 2024. Later than I expected due to some unwanted problems in the real world, which have now been resolved.

Dragonmeet 2024

Yes, I know it is only March, but this is when the trade bookings open. There has been debate at the highest echelons of ICE as to what “table” arrangement we should bid for this year. We hope to secure two tables this year as we are finding a single table too small for all the products we now have. I had the order placed for two tables on the lower floor within ten minutes of the bookings opening. We also want to upgrade our table setup to create a bigger visual impact and run some demo games – volunteer GMs wanted!

Dragonmeet 2024 will be on Saturday 30th November and will be at the Novotel Hammersmith again.

Rolemaster

Treasure Law has now been happily available for some weeks. Thank you for everyone who has submitted residual typo catches. Please submit any additional issues you spot on the forums so that the print release can be as perfect as humanly possible, and that we can have it ready in good time for Gen Con. Last-minute panics have all of us biting our nails hoping against hope that the printer completes in time and the shipping goes without a hitch.

Software – ERA, Roll20 and AutoHARP

ERA RMU Treasure Law is also safely available on DriveThru. Again, if you find any issues, please report them on the forums so that Max can investigate and resolve them.

We are hoping to enjoy a runthrough of the current RMU-in-progress for the Roll20 virtual tabletop this month.

Although the new version of AutoHARP was ready last month, I held off uploading it onto DriveThru as there were some things that I needed to check to avoid any errors in configuring the listing. If you are an existing AutoHARP user, please do ensure that you have enabled receipt of emails from us through DriveThru.

HARP

I am enjoying my gentle editing pass on HARP Steampunk, and hope to be able to complete the pass without needing to nudge Phil Masters for any corrections. Looking very good so far.

Colin continues to commission the artwork and cartography for Banecroft: The Mage’s Tale, and progress is being made on producing the RMU stats for this adventure module.

Until next time

Please stay safe and keep gaming.

Best wishes, Nicholas

How to Incorporate PC Backstories into your adventures

A lot goes into creating a Player Character and rightly so. I know many people who have been playing the same character for years or decades. It’s not just stats and skills and talents etc, a really well-crafted PC has goals, dreams, a backstory and a raison d’etre. These elements form a treasure trove of adventure ideas and opportunities for immersive world-building.

In this blog, I thought I’d share a few ideas for seamlessly integrating the backstories and personalities of your player characters into the epic narrative you’re weaving.

1. Collaborate from the Start:

Encourage open communication from the beginning of your campaign. Invite players to share their character backstories and aspirations. Think about ways that the past could come back to bite them and think about where the gaps are. Probe these gaps during games to encourage deeper consideration of the character’s drivers and then exploit them.

2. Integrate Personal Quests:

Identify key elements in each character’s backstory that can evolve into personal quests. It doesn’t have to be saving the village or seeking revenge. It could be rediscovering lost heritage, finding forgiveness, or mastering a skill. Personal quests add depth to the narrative and provide characters with meaningful arcs.

3. Create NPCs from Backstories:

Bring characters from the pasts of your players into the present storyline. These could be friends, mentors, or rivals but also strangers who relate to their backstory. Maybe it is someone who went through the same experience but reacted differently, someone on the same quest as your player or someone who has been down this road and knows what lies ahead. These connections ground characters in the world and evoke emotional responses.

4. Invoke Character Strengths and Weaknesses:

People are defined by their strengths and weaknesses and the decisions they make when asked to confront each of them. Use this to your advantage. Introduce challenges that force characters to confront their weaknesses or place them in situations where their strengths might be misused. This adds layers to their stories and promotes character growth.

5. Tailor Villains to Personal Histories:

Design villains with connections to the characters’ pasts. Again, try not to be too on the nose with it. Perhaps it is an old enemy seeking revenge, but it could also be someone who has strikingly similar motivations to one of the characters. Personalized adversaries intensify the emotional stakes and offer an opportunity for players to grow.

6. Celebrate Character Milestones:

Acknowledge and celebrate character milestones related to their backstories. Whether it’s achieving a personal goal, overcoming a fear, or discovering a hidden truth, rewarding characters for their growth reinforces the importance of their individual narratives.

Remember, the heart of any great tabletop roleplaying game lies in the stories created by the players and the game master together. By seamlessly integrating player character backstories into your narrative, you transform a campaign into an unforgettable epic, shaped by the personal journeys of the characters at the table. May your adventures be as rich and diverse as the tales your players bring to life!

ERA for Rolemaster Treasure Law (RMU) out now!

Hot on the heels of the release of the PDF of Rolemaster Treasure Law (RMU), we’re thrilled to announce that you can now get the Treasure Law data set as an add on for the brilliant ERA for Rolemaster!

This feature package adds the herbs, random treasure tables, spell failures, professions and spells present in RMU Treasure Law. You will now have the option of creating random coins, weapons, armor and spell casting items. There are 72 tables in total to choose from, or you can just start from the Treasure Code and roll to get a complete result. If you need a player or non player character to create the items, you get all 3 alchemist professions (Adept, Psychographer and Sanctifier), with their 34 spell lists with complete spell descriptions.  To enrich their failures, 10 alchemical spell failure columns are included. You could trigger an earthquake when enchanting a location, or blow up your workshop when enchanting an item! And if you’d rather go for more natural resources, 149 herbs are at your disposal for foraging. Cure muscles with Curfalaka, resurrect with a dose of Vulcurax, or go on the offensive and destroy your enemy’s nervous system by applying Acaana.

This product is an add-on feature package for ERA for Rolemaster which is available for free from DrivethruRPG.

ERA (Electronic Roleplaying Assistant) is the ultimate companion for Rolemaster campaigns. Using ERA players can create their characters using a step by step wizard, then level them up and configure all details in stats, skills and special abilities, even overriding the automatic calculations. Afterwards, they can be added to a running campaign in the adventuring module. From there, the game master can control all aspects of the game: resolve maneuvers, resistances, resting, and of course, spell casting and combat.

With ERA, you can create Rolemaster characters and then manage their adventures. Players can also monitor their characters from their mobile devices as the action progresses. To create an interesting character, a good selection of race and profession is paramount. Rolemaster also provides background options to add more variety between characters.

Find out more about ERA for Rolemaster on our dedicated webpage.

Rolemaster Unified Treasure Law out now!

We are thrilled to announce that the third book for the Rolemaster Unified system is now available in PDF. Get your copy of Rolemaster Unified Treasure Law exclusively from DrivethruRPG. For a limited time only you can get it for just $25.

Rolemaster Treasure Law is the magic item system of Rolemaster Unified.

At the heart of Rolemaster Treasure Law is the definitive system for magic item creation. Revised, reformatted, reorganized and expanded, and fully integrated with Rolemaster Spell Law, three new distinct alchemist professions can utilise their spells to create magical marvels.

Over two hundred items are fully detailed for use both as treasure and as practical examples. Production costs and spell failure results are included for player-character alchemists while typical market prices are included for those more concerned with magical commerce.

In addition, Treasure Law offers extended equipment lists, magical herbs and poisons, and gems including their physical and magical properties. Random treasure tables are provided for the gamemaster, including various forms of wealth, superior non-magical equipment, and magic items suitable for any level of play. A chapter on economics discusses worldbuilding considerations as well as the mechanics of buying and selling goods.

Don’t forget you can also pick up your copy of Rolemaster Unified Core Law and Rolemaster Unified Spell Law exclusively from DrivethruRPG.

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Director’s Briefing – February 2024

Welcome

To the one hundred-and-fifty-first Briefing and second scheduled Briefing of 2024.

Rolemaster

Treasure Law is now ready for pdf release and will go on sale on Wednesday 7th.

The third instalment of Rolemaster Unified, Treasure Law is the definitive magic item creation system as well as providing a comprehensive collection of loot with over two hundred items as worked examples of the alchemy rules.

Three new alchemist professions are introduced. Adepts are the unrivalled Essence masters of fashioning enchanted arms and armor as well as bladerunes and Constructs. Psychographers are the consummate Mentalism masters of empowering items with skill, talents and powers from themselves and others, and the creators of magical clones and abominable monstrosities. Sanctifiers channel the power of their god to dedicate items with powers aligned to their religion, to shape Golems and to consecrate shrines and the very land itself. Each of these professions can choose from at least ten spell lists, allowing for both versatile and specialist enchanters. Each spell list contains a complete set of spells from 1st to 20th level, plus epic 25th, 30th, 35th, 40th, 50th, 60th, 75th, and 90th magics, enabling the creation of artefacts of legendary puissance.

Treasure Law also has extended equipment lists, new magical herbs and poisons, and details of gems including their physical and magical properties. There is a chapter on economics discussing worldbuilding considerations as well as the mechanics of buying and selling goods.

Software – ERA and AutoHARP

Max has made a series of updates to ERA and various of the datasets, which have been uploaded onto DriveThru. ERA RMU Treasure Law has also been updated – as DriveThru prefers publishers not to release multiple products on the same day, ERA RMU Treasure Law will release after Treasure Law is safely up, so should appear on Thursday 8th.

The new version of AutoHARP is also now ready – customers who already have purchased an older version of AutoHARP will receive an email via DriveThru enabling them to obtain a free upgrade to the new AutoHARP. Please ensure that you have enabled receipt of emails from us through DriveThru.

HARP

As RMU Creature Law I is still receiving layout changes, I have been able to move onto my HARP editing queue so I am currently working on the manuscript for HARP Steampunk. I hope to have significant news to report on Steampunk next month.

Joel Lovell is pushing hard on HARP SF Poseidon Gambit. Colin has started commissioning the artwork and cartography for Banecroft: The Mage’s Tale.

Until next time

Please stay safe and keep gaming.

Best wishes, Nicholas

Director, Iron Crown Enterprises Ltd

Director’s Briefing – October 2023

Welcome

To the one hundred-and-forty-seventh Briefing and tenth scheduled Briefing of 2023.

Part Works and Explaining Roleplaying

I don’t watch much normal “terrestrial” or “linear” television – and to be fair my consumption on streaming services is relatively low as well. And I write about “Dungeons & Dragons” even less in these briefings! It was pure chance therefore that I saw a television advertisement for a new Dungeons & Dragons magazine that was being launched as a “part work” magazine and pitching itself as an entry point and explainer of D&D.

“Part works” seem to be a British thing where a magazine will be launched as a serial of some number of issues. The first issue will have a low introductory price and this then increases to its full price and you are intended to buy all the issues. UK readers of a certain age might remember the “Joy of Knowledge” encyclopaedia (I found the space and history issues fun) or some of those on computing in the 1980s that explained how to write programs and how computers worked. What made me wince about the advert was spotting that it was a part-work and just how much the follow on issues cost. Each of those issues is the price of an adventure module from DriveThru, so this is an expensive way of getting into the hobby.

It reminded me nevertheless that it is difficult to “get into” roleplaying – and how some of us back in the 1980s had to figure it out ourselves. And yes, my family did ask where was the board in the red box Basic D&D set? I still have in my book collection a paperback with the title “What is Dungeons & Dragons?” (from 1984) which was a good read and an informative one (and only £1.50!) I am not proposing that ICE jump on a part-work bandwagon, but I will encourage Colin to persuade some folks to perhaps do some podcasts or video tutorials.

The other thing it reminded me is to say a big thank you to all of you who have ever explained Rolemaster or Spacemaster or HARP to anyone wholly new to gaming or to the ICE family of games.

HARP

I am still in the nuanced editing on HARP SF The Corporate Worlds. Dave has created a whole new sector of space for HARP SF. Here the megacorporations have set up shop in the form of colonies and bases to explore and exploit the star systems. While there are worlds in the original “Human Sector” centred around Sol that are run by corporate interests, the new sector is more aggressively organised and governed by the larger companies with smaller enterprises and freelancers still having chances to strike it rich on a brave new frontier world or become very dead in an “accident” in unknown space.

In the Tintamar universe, our “house” setting for HARP SF, the human worlds are united under the government of the Terran Federation, but individual worlds have their own governments and are sovereign in their own jurisdiction. The Federation’s role is to keep the peace between the worlds, prevent any local government from stepping over the line into committing crimes against humanity (and punish them if they do), and protect humanity from existential threats such as hostile alien species. The nuanced editing work is to ensure that the new corporate sector allows for adventure, skulduggery, and occasional outright mayhem, without pulling apart the rest of the Tintamar premises of human civilisation. So I have been increasing the Federation presence in the corporate worlds in order to strike the right balance. The goal is to ensure that SysOps and players can enjoy a variety of campaign modes, whether they see themselves in the classic vein of Poul Anderson’s van Rijn and David Falkayn as traders to the stars or FedPol Investigators uncovering corporate malfeasance or something else entirely.

Dragonmeet

A heads up that Dragonmeet will be on Saturday 2nd December at Novotel Hammersmith. I have seen the first draft of the stand positioning so I can confirm our position has been secured. As the train strike continues in the UK, I have fingers crossed that the unions will choose some other day to disrupt travel (and ideally that the strike action will come to an end). One way or another ICE will be at Dragonmeet.

Until next time

Back to the future of the twenty-sixth century for me.

Please stay safe and keep gaming.

Best wishes, Nicholas

Director, Iron Crown Enterprises Ltd

Director’s Briefing – September 2023

Welcome

To the one hundred-and-forty-sixth Briefing and ninth scheduled Briefing of 2023.

RMU

As a reminder, we did send out a wave of discount coupons for print copies of Core Law and Spell Law for the early adopters of both books and those who lucked out at Gen Con. I know some people have already redeemed their coupons. If you did not receive the coupons, please contact Colin.

RMU Treasure Law is the current focus of attention in prepublication checks and layout. I will be tearing myself away from HARP SF The Corporate Worlds shortly to enter into a round of my own checking as I will have fresh eyes at that point.

Colin has been commenting that he is coming to the end of the commissioning phase of artwork for Creature Law – so I soon feed him another manuscript for artwork commissioning.

HARP

The manuscript for Colin in terms of artwork is Banecroft: The Mage’s Tale.

I am still editing Dave Martin’s other manuscript, namely HARP SF The Corporate Worlds. This is a much larger manuscript and requires much more nuanced editing. Easy editing is of course catching typos – and that is either just correct there and then or put a comment in and have the author make the edit. Editing to ensure that a setting book is true to the setting is that nuanced editorial work. The Corporate Worlds is a new sector of space in the Tintamar universe, the “house” setting for HARP SF. Various nuggets of information have been established for the Tintamar universe in HARP SF and HARP SF Xtreme, and so The Corporate Worlds has to adhere to those nuggets, such as the size of ships that can transit portals as opposed to using the normal Lagrange Drive. There isn’t a written-up setting bible for authors to follow, though. I ran a long playtest campaign when writing HARP SF and SF Xtreme (which I did write up narratives of the game sessions) so I am slipping into the twenty-sixth century gracefully and adjusting Dave’s text as I go and putting in comments to explain why a sentence has been substantially altered or even deleted. My intention is that the Corporate Worlds will thus extend and expand the Tintamar setting without contradicting any of the backstory or accidentally breaking any of the established “science/technology” constraints. The constraints actually empower rather than limit: We have faster-than-light travel so we can explore the universe, we don’t have faster-than-light “radio” communication so explorers and merchant adventurers are on their own and can make independent decisions without real-time second-guessing from armchair admirals or corporate directors back home. I am having fun.

AutoHARP

David Klecker is also having fun. He has coded the HARP SF and HARP SF Xtreme with the exception of vehicular combat, and has flipped back into HARP Fantasy. He is singing the praises of his beta testers who are testing the code to the nth degree.

Until next time

Back to the future of the twenty-sixth century for me.

Please stay safe and keep gaming.

Best wishes, Nicholas

Director, Iron Crown Enterprises Ltd

Director’s Briefing – August 2023

Welcome

To the one hundred-and-forty-fifth Briefing and eighth scheduled Briefing of 2023.

Gen Con 2023

The run up to Gen Con 2023 felt a bit hectic even on this side of the pond. Lightning Source ran closer to the wire with our megashipments of books than was desirable, but thanks to great support from our partners at DriveThru, the nightmare scenarios of no RMU books at Gen Con was avoided.

Our booth team (Aaron Smalley, Nick Morawitz, Monte Iafrate, and Jonathan Dale) had a more hectic time of getting the books and the T-shirts (stylishly showing off cover artwork) to Gen Con and getting set up, and a very busy time at the convention itself – Jonathan answering queries on RMU on tap. By the end of Thursday (Day One), all of the shiny new Spell Law hardcovers had sold out. By the end of Friday (Day Two), all of the shiny new Core Law hardcovers had sold out as well. I created a very fast web form to capture email addresses of those who arrived too late to buy copies (see below). In addition to heroic efforts at the booth, we also had a crack team of GMs (Aaron Smalley, Charles Town, David Martin and David Hay) run nineteen (yes, nineteen!) sessions with Aaron and David Hay running RMU scenarios in Aaron’s Channel Cities and Shadow World respectively, and Charles and David Martin running HARP Fantasy and HARP SF scenarios respectively.

A very successful convention and ICE will be back for Gen Con 2024.

RMU

I mentioned above collecting email addresses, and I have been encouraging early adopters of the RMU pdfs to sign up for DriveThru notification emails. I sent a wave of discount coupons out on the Tuesday after Gen Con, both for Spell Law to all early adopter pdf purchasers, and to those who filled in the physical and web form for Core Law and Spell Law. If you did not receive the coupons, please contact Colin.

ERA for Rolemaster

Max has made a modest update to the ERA base software, so please download at your convenience.

HARP and AutoHARP

With Dave Martin safely back from Gen Con, he has been able to make his tweaks to his adventure module, Banecroft: The Mage’s Tale. We will progress it shortly into the artwork and cartography commissioning phases. I am now editing “The Corporate Worlds”, a Tintamar setting sourcebook for HARP SF, written again by Dave Martin, who tried some of his proposed scenarios out at Gen Con.

David Klecker is working away on HARP SF aspects for AutoHARP3, particularly the combat elements, and will then move onward to HARP SF Xtreme components. He is expecting to reach an alpha test for the SF version of AutoHARP3 by the start of October. David is still seeking more beta testers for the Fantasy version of AutoHARP3.

Until next time

Back to The Corporate Worlds and the twenty-sixth century for me.

Please stay safe and keep gaming.

Best wishes, Nicholas

Director, Iron Crown Enterprises Ltd