Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye, ICE; Hello New ICE!

Snagged this news announcement over RPG.net:
Aurigas Aldebaron LLC, owner of Iron Crown Enterprises and all its intellectual property, announces the appointment of Guild Companion Publications Limited, based in the United Kingdom, as the licensee for our High Action Role Playing (“HARP”), Rolemaster and Spacemaster game systems, which is in addition to the recently awarded license they hold for HARP Science Fiction system and the long-running Shadow World setting. 
Aurigas Aldebaron LLC is instituting its vision of “next generation game company management” by reducing the number of vertical layers in the industry which stand between game creators and the fans that play such games. It is seeking game developers to utilise its additional properties including Cyberspace and the pirates-based game Run out the Guns!, and possibly the Silent Death game system Combat Express license. Its new strategy also includes more involvement from a community support and marketing perspective, and it expects to have some more involvement with its properties than it has had in its past. To support these efforts, Aurigas Aldebaron LLC has recruited third parties and volunteers to manage its licensee properties, relationships, website, forums and marketing efforts.
About Aurigas Aldebaron LLC: In December of 2001, Iron Crown Enterprises (“ICE”) and all its intellectual property was purchased by Aurigas Aldebaron LLC, a Virginia-based company backed by several wealthy individuals. Aurigas immediately replaced the former ICE management with part of the management team from ICE which formed itself into a separate company to manage ICE under license. Aurigas Aldebaron LLC will continue to act in a capacity of an intellectual property owner licensing its properties to qualified game creators and developers. It will continue to seek properties to acquire and additional game creators and developers to work with. For more information, please visit www.ironcrown.com.
About Guild Companion Publications Limited: Guild Companion Publications Limited is the commercial arm of the Guild Companion magazine (www.guildcompanion.com). Previously it published Rolemaster, HARP and Spacemaster products under license from Mjolnir LLC, and already holds a direct license from Aurigas Aldebaron LLC to publish HARP SF and Shadow World products, and its Director (Nicholas HM Caldwell) is the author of Rolemaster’s Mentalism Companion and Construct Companion, HARP’s College of Magics, and of the upcoming HARP SF and HARP SF Xtreme products. The new license arrangement with Aurigas Aldebaron LLC provides GCP Ltd a complete offering in fantasy and science-fiction gaming. GCP Ltd’s commercial products are available exclusively via the OneBookShelf network of ecommerce outlets (see http://www.rpgnow.com/index.php?manufacturers_id=461).
Guild Companion Publications Limited is a private limited company registered in England and Wales under No 7094505. Registered office: 77 Speedwell Close, Cambridge, CB1 9YS.

So, while there's a loss of the current holder of ICE intellectual properties, apparently a new group will be taking over the reins. And I've grabbed some stuff from Guild Companion for HARP (primarily to look at the system) and HARN (to look at the setting), so I'm hopeful.

My big interests here are more HARP and HARN and Shadow World, as I'm not a big fan of Rolemaster.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

State of the Mongoose: Point of Interest 1 -- Noble Armada

I read up on the State of the Mongoose today and found out this little item (which I'd read about in passing on RPG.net in one of the threads) was confirmed:

A Call to Arms: Noble Armada 
This came about because of a fortuitous meeting with Chris Wiese of Holistic Design at Gen Con this year. In a nutshell, Chris was looking for a new vehicle for Noble Armada (especially as the 3rd edition of Fading Suns is due for release in 2011 – more on that a little later), while we were looking for a new setting for A Call to Arms. 
We had looked at Star Trek, and even developed a working conversion of the rules, but during the licence negotiations we found we were going head to head with Wizkids. And that was never going to go well! 
When Noble Armada was suggested to us, however, it just seemed like a perfect fit. Multiple fleets with room to add more, a developed universe to draw upon, and a very different style of ship combat for us to play with. No downsides! 
Signs & Portents [#87 for those of you interested in looking for it] is currently previewing CTA: Noble Armada, and we would direct you to look at the current issues for more details of this game – it is going to be a good ‘un, so if space fleet combat is your thing, take a peek.
CTA + NA =?
This is good news, because I really wanted to try out a whole bunch of Babylon 5 stuff when Mongoose had the license, but unfortunately wasn't able to. Fortunately, A Call to Arms lives on with its unusually named maneuvers (which look fun to call out when you declare 'em) by transitioning into the Fading Suns universe!
Also, it will help answer some of the questions that I've always had about the ships and their role in the Known Worlds -- not the least of which is locking down what kind of differences there are in the various ships (Hawkwoods, Decados, Guild, al-Malik, etc.) so that you get that thrill you got in B5 -- where the tech and the ship design is so well-defined you can tell where a ship is from and what kind of technology it has built into it.

Also, it may be that the old ship lists of B5 may be usable still, and perform the role of ships to round out non-provided fleets -- the minor houses, the new ships of the Imperial fleet, mercenary fleets, alien ships, and perhaps ships from the Kurgan Caliphate and various Lost Worlds...

Here's hoping for rules on ship-building as well, just in case I'll need to tweak them existing ships for some pirate ships with extra surprises, and some 'ghost ships' that have survived long voyages through the blackness of space.

My ultimate meta-gaming layer for the Fading Suns universe would be somehow integrating Victory By Any Means (VBAM) into the macro level of the setting. Someday, perhaps.

Preparing for FS3 -- Kitchen Sink Musings

As I eagerly await the release of Fading Suns 3rd Edition, it's time to get my head together on all the stuff that can be done with this kitchen sink setting.

Now, a kitchen sink setting may be a derogatory term for some -- for me, it can be a godsend if it's done well. This is because it's a snap to raid other gaming source material and drop them into a campaign, given that the setting has enough hooks to hang them on without too much handwaving.

Fading Suns -- with its Hyperion meets Dune meets middle ages meets Gothic Fantasy feel -- has a lot going for it. For example:

  • dungeon crawl-ish campaign -- Guild-sponsored explorations of ruins on Lost Worlds;
  • Cthulhu-inspired investigations -- enough Antinomy and isolated locales to shake a stick at;
  • swashbuckling space opera -- should be a snap, and normally part of regular campaigns especially with the support of Mongoose's upcoming A Call to Arms: Noble Armada to help further define the ships;
  • politics and courtly intrigues -- there's plenty of noble houses, church factions, and guild agendas already there;
  • macguffin-based adventures -- 2nd Republic artifacts aplenty.
I'll post more concrete examples with actual gaming materials I plan on raiding in the future.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

How old is old school?

Well, it's a relative matter of course. Watching my 2+ year old son struggle with a TV that won't react the same way to his touch the way his mom's iPhone does drives home that point every day.

So what does that mean in terms of my sense of "old school"? It means it's relative -- my old school will be older than those who started gaming later than I did, and will be newer than those who started back when dinosaurs ruled the earth.

What's my old school then?

Does the period when I wanted to game -- but couldn't because my grade school years were spent in the Philippines -- count? There were many reasons why (only saw a game run once, couldn't find all the books, 700 Club said it was evil, couldn't find enough players, etc.)

I only bought RPGs and had bad attempts at running these games back then. But I did pick up not only T1: The Village of Hommlet, but the AD&D rulebooks and the Basic & Expert Set and a variety of early modules and things like Geomorphs available in different places known to Philippine gamers for this rare hobby (National Bookstore, Lil's Hobbies, Squadron Shoppe, Nova Fontana).

I rolled up characters that I'd never play, and I randomly generated dungeons that no one would ever see. And because of the strength of the TSR brand, I picked up Top Secret (not S.I.) and Star Frontiers as well.

And picked up those damn minigames (which I actually played when I strongarmed some friends and relatives into trying them out)!


Or is my real old school my exposure to the U.S. gaming scene in high school? AD&D in Bill Homeyer's "World of the Wheel" campaign, Traveller, Call of Cthulhu, and -- as a San Mateo gamer -- classics of the Hero System: Champions, Danger International, Justice Inc. and Robot Warriors?

What about Car Wars and Autoduel -- are they old school?

Does being able to put together the classic Champions stat block from memory give me old school cred, as much as knowing who Black Dougal and Morgan Ironwolf were?

Or am I considered a newer breed because I collected TSR's attempt at the "Choose Your Own Adventure" market -- the Endless Quest series of books? Is there an issue with filling in some idle gaming time with the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks and the Lone Wolf series of adventures?

And is there any value if I am considered old school?

My understanding of the use of the term Old School Revival / Revolution / Renaissance is that it is a reclaiming of a much maligned style of game design and gameplay. It is an assertion that there is value in these old games beyond mere nostalgia, that there is -- beneath the in-jokes and the deathtrap dungeons -- something of value that more modern games have lost or turned their backs on in search of newer horizons, subtler story techniques, and novel RPG goals.

But it need not be centered on the fantasy genre, though much of it was (and still is) dominated by it.

Is there something for old school superhero gamers? The popularity of games like BASH and G-Core suggest there is. Can new school power mechanics and old school superheroic flavor intermingle and create new offspring? ICONS seems to be something very much like it.

If so, can we expect similar developments in the horror genre? Or the science fiction genre? Or perhaps an explosion in the western and romance genres?

I hope so. And I hope it comes from someone like you -- because whatever future this hobby has rests in the minds and hard work of gamers trying to make something better for that next generation. Perhaps -- if my son feels so inclined -- he'll be part of that future generation.

We'll just have to see.

RPG History Links for December (partial)

Been trying to find more articles on RPG history, but only found this one so far. Good one though:

Experience in Generic Role-Playing Games

This give a good rundown on how experience in RPGs progressed (beyond the well-known D&D iterations of experience tables and classes).

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A New Fading Suns Blog Post!

Not just this one, but the one on the official site!

The dream is not dead, is in fact alive and well and waiting to get published. Some intriguing snippets from the upcoming edition include:

The Hazat teeter on edge of bankruptcy from their war effort against the Caliphate (and the Emperor Wars), though temporarily buoyed up by the vassalage of their former lords, House Chauki, and the acquisition of the world of Iver. But neither the Emperor nor the Universal Church are being seen to offer support in their war against the heretic Kurgans.

It's nice to see the Chauki plotline still alive and kicking in the 3rd edition.

With the impending death of the Patriarch, the Universal Church has turned inwards with thoughts of succession. Candidates now jockey against rivals in a bid for esteem in the eyes of the College of Ethicals. Some seek noble patronage in their quest to rise to the pinnacle of Church hierarchy, while others court the esteem of their fellows (and, some say, darker paths).

A good effort to weaken the overwhelming power of the Universal Church (though not too much, hopefully, as they provided a nice twist to the Dune-ish feel of the setting).

The Merchant League continues to scheme quietly. The recent granting of a new interstellar patent brings a sixth guild to interstellar recognition, and some cry foul. New worlds have opened on the jumpweb, but many are savage and dangerous places that threaten the flow of interstellar commerce. The dream of a Third Republic remains just a dream for now.

Looks like the new patent will add interest to playing groups from the Merchant League, though I feel that there should be time spent explaining how the League's influence counterbalances the Noble Houses and the Church.

Being based in the Philippines, I once remarked to a friend how similar the Fading Suns universe power structure was to our country. The Nobles were akin to our own wealthy families -- some long-time juggernauts with holdings in various key industries, some withering on the vine, and some (buoyed by celebrity status and bolstered by solid business or political sense) establishing themselves as new players in the field. The Church covered not just the dominant Catholic church, but also the various denominations and religious organizations that have great influence on the populace. The League: lawyers, accountants, and other professions that make the machinery work...

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