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September 17, 2018 0 comments

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Rules similar to other game systems?

Hi all!

I just now heard of this system and I was very excited to come see what it was all about!  I am a longtime fan of M.E.R.P. (Middle Earth Roleplaying) and have been playing ICE's Rolemaster for over 25+ years. I am also an avid Pathfinder, D&D and Shadowrun gamer. I was looking over this system and noticed that it has so many similarities with both MERP and Rolemaster.

How did you guys get around the legalities for the IP held by both Tolkien Enterprises and Iron Crown ( Aurigas Aldebaron LLC) for all the d100 stuff? I am immensely curious as I would LOVE to start playing/writing for this system and don't want to see it gone in an instant after I fall in love with it! 🙂

Hi Jason, great question!

So yes, Against the Darkmaster is inspired by both MERP and Rolemaster (and a bunch of other games, too, like Dungeons & Dragons, The Burning Wheel, and possibly many others that influenced us more or less indirectly as we were writing the game).
We make no secret of that, nor try in any way to conceal it.

The keywords here are "inspired by". As you noticed, VsD has many similarities with MERP and Rolemaster, but the game is in the end actually different from its sources of inspiration.

In other words, Against the Darkmaster is not a MERP clone. We worked very hard to streamline the rules, revise the math of the game and create our own tables, spells, vocations and other content. We tried to make our game closer to our literary sources of inspiration, and to give it a unique feeling, improving aspects we found unsatisfactory in other games.

If you want a comparison, you could say that VsD is closer to what Zweihander is than to Pathfinder or OSRIC. It's a love letter to MERP, but ultimately it does things in its own way, rather than trying to fully replicate an older game.

 

Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.

Hi Jason and welcome to the forums!

In addition to what Max said about the game being a tribute to ICE games, with its own rules, tables and spells and list, there an additional thing to be kept in mind about copyrighting and intellectual property: you can't copyright a single mechanic of a rule engine. There's no way as far as we know to claim intellectual property on the concept for example of "rolling a d100 an looking up a table". As such, ICE has the right to claim intellectual property over their games in the form they're compiled and written down as a whole and on each specific part, such as text chunks, tables contents, specific game jargon. But they will never be able to claim rights over broader, general concepts. Of course the whole "Middle Earth" part of MERP was a different thing. Those was rights given under license to ICE by Tolkien Enterprises and now returned to their owners as the license expired. That is a completely different matter as using names, toponyms, characters and facts from Tolkien Enterprises intellectual property without their consent (but given we're not New Line Cinema nor Amazon it is very unlikely we would ever afford paying for it!) would not be the wisest of things to do... ?

With that in mind we obviously didn't limit ourselves at copying slavishly someone else's game, only changing names here and there. As Max said we used that material as a source of inspiration for building a whole new game with streamlined mechanics, new rules and a slightly different focus. Proof is that, although its initial core rules were more, now VsD is not effortlessy compatible with either MERP or Rolemaster. Quite similar indeed but definitely not the same game. Think of the difference between playing a d20-derived game like PFRPG and pretending it is seamlessly compatible with D&D 5e or B/X. Of course it's not. Like speaking similar dialects if a commin mother tongue!

For no one in this world you can trust, my son. Not man, not woman, not beast. But STEEL... this, you can trust!

Many people were questioning about it. Good to see that point clarified by you guys.

I've never had much worry about the license VsDM myself. Merp spirit's there, for sure (and that's what I like about it) but it's free of any of he complicated rules that went with it. Same as Rolemaster/ Harp. Too many skills, too many options, too many things to deal with.

VsDM is just as simple as it needs to be, to enjoy it. Nowadays, a vast majority of people are looking for rules as simple as possible. Open00 looks to be following that way, while Rolemaster isn't. Hope that the final release of the game won't make Open00 more complicated than it is with the Quickstart Rule 😉

My gallery on DA: https://www.deviantart.com/fred73fr/gallery/
Quote from Fred on November 25, 2018, 1:05 pm

VsDM is just as simple as it needs to be, to enjoy it. Nowadays, a vast majority of people are looking for rules as simple as possible. Open00 looks to be following that way, while Rolemaster isn't. Hope that the final release of the game won't make Open00 more complicated than it is with the Quickstart Rule ?

The full rules will include more options and a little more detail, bu we want to keep the core of the rules, the Open00, as simple as possible!

Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.

Great!

I'd love to see some more, especially regarding combats. I should probably start a thread in the rules section…

My gallery on DA: https://www.deviantart.com/fred73fr/gallery/

Great info guys! Thank you for the input and I am very excited to play and provide input for this system!!! I have always wanted a d100 system that was similar to the OGL that WotC has! I hope this is the direction of your vision for this system!!

I also LOVE the black and white artwork (which I fell in love with back in the day and seems to capture the essence of the game system).  Keep up the great work!!!!

Hi,

I found this game based on an interview you all did and was intrigued by it.  After downloading the quickstart guide, I was surprised that you were able to complete a game so similar to MERP without any licencing from ICE.  I have been a long time MERP fan from the mid 80's and can appreciate the desire to give homage to this system.  My issue with the game is this...you want it to be a system that stands alone and is it's own game, yet the entire game screams MERP clone from the cover art to the tables that one uses to complete any task.

With all the nostalgia buttons you are hitting with this game, it makes Against The Darkmaster look like a cover band.  Just my opinion, but you can't say this game is original if you are using art that immediately think of the MERP cover or by using tables that are incredibly similar to those in MERP.  I hope your final game creates enough differences to make your game look original, but as it stands now, there's not enough to differentiate this game.

Quote from Jeff on April 26, 2019, 11:50 am

Hi,

I found this game based on an interview you all did and was intrigued by it.  After downloading the quickstart guide, I was surprised that you were able to complete a game so similar to MERP without any licencing from ICE.  I have been a long time MERP fan from the mid 80's and can appreciate the desire to give homage to this system.  My issue with the game is this...you want it to be a system that stands alone and is it's own game, yet the entire game screams MERP clone from the cover art to the tables that one uses to complete any task.

With all the nostalgia buttons you are hitting with this game, it makes Against The Darkmaster look like a cover band.  Just my opinion, but you can't say this game is original if you are using art that immediately think of the MERP cover or by using tables that are incredibly similar to those in MERP.  I hope your final game creates enough differences to make your game look original, but as it stands now, there's not enough to differentiate this game.

Hi Jeff, welcome to the forums and thanks for sharing your thoughts!

As we said before, we have no problem saying that MERP was a great source of inspiration to use, nor we try to hide the fact in any way. And yes, with our aesthetic we wanted to pay homage to the old classic, however, we really think it's much more than a simple clone!

While at a cursory glance the similarities will obviously be noticed first, reading the manual you'll see that Against the Darkmaster is a beast of its own, and actually is quite different from MERP.

 

Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.

Hi, Jeff. Perhaps you would like my outside perspective. My group has been playtesting these rules since January of this year, and I have been a very vocal—and often critical—stakeholder in this project. I have conducted a thorough analysis of VsD on the Rolemaster Blog. You can find every entry by searching “Against the Darkmaster” on that site.

If we’re looking for antecedents to VsD, I’d say we could broaden our perspectives to include also every iteration of Rolemaster (including the most recent one) and HARP. Are there “original” innovations in VsD? Maybe not “original” (I assume we’re talking about something “brand new,” something never seen before), but it definitely is “innovative” in that this package of rules never has been articulated in just this way.

My own pet criticism remains directed at the combat system. I find its execution way too time consuming, for my tastes, but I’m acknowledging that this emulation might be directed towards 80s barbarian movies and heavy metal, neither of which particularly conform to my sympathies. As I’ve said on my DriveThru review, though, this is customizable. As we all should do, I’m going to take what I like and leave the rest.