September 17, 2018 0 comments

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Why Darkmaster?

So I've owned/played RM going back to 1st Edition, I've ran Middle Earth campaigns - house ruling RM to make it fit. I've read ICE HARP and find it unappealing, which was recommended to me by fellow players. I'm looking to run a new Middle Earth campaign, set in the 2nd Age. Why should I go buy Darkmaster? Clearly it's influenced by RM, I just want someone here, a player, a developer to sell me or pitch me this game. I'll go drop 30-40 on getting some books here if you find this game great and worth it to a veteran RM gamer/GM/player.


Thanks in advance,


Welcome to the forums!

So, straight to the point: why Against the Darkmaster?

If you're coming from RM, you'll find the core game mechanics very familiar and easy to learn. But what separates VsD from HARP or Rolemaster it that it's focused on a very specific fantasy subgenre. RM is a great generic fantasy RPG, but Against the Darkmaster is built to help you emulate classic fantasy sagas at your table, so it's going to be much easier to run a campaign that feels like Lord of the Rings or The Wheel of Time using VsD!

Characters will feel heroic and competent right from the start, and thanks to the Passions & Drive rules their own motivations and backgrounds will help creating epic and dramatic moments in play!

Ever noticed how in fantasy sagas the heroes are always traveling around in some big quest? Well, the travel system in Against the Darkmaster emulates just that, potentially turning each journey in a grand adventure. And the mass battles rules will help you recreate epic scenes like those from the Helm's Deep siege, without breaking immersion and without turning your game into a wargame!

Magic is subtle and powerful, and you'll get no "blank spaces" in your spell lists: every spell counts and many of them can be "warped", increasing or changing their effects by instilling more power in them, so that low-level spells stay relevant even at higher levels.

Combat is quick and dynamic. You get attack tables and criticals, just like in RM, but they're streamlined to be easier to use and reference in play, and minimize book-keeping to avoid situations that could bog down gameplay.

Then of course you've got the Darkmaster itself, with rules and guidelines to create your own dark lord and detail the effects of His presence on the game world, together with His minions, strengths, and weak points.

Add tons of options to customize your game, GMing advices, a bestiary, magic items, a full introductory campaign, and much more all in a single book. With Against the Darkmaster you really won't need anything else besides the Core Rules to play for years to come!

William Hays has reacted to this post.
William Hays
Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.

I'll chime in as a customer. If you like MERP, but tire of those who knock it as a vehicle for playing Middle Earth, this game is for you. It cleans up MERP, makes it simpler, expands the customization without bogging it down, and focuses it on emulating heroic fantasy. Also, if you are like me and have all your old MERP stuff, this game gets those not interested in tracking down old rules and enduring the older presentation to the table. The timing of the KS made me miss it, but I've got it on order now and am enjoying the PDF. Just comparing the character sheets should give you a feel for the improvements (though let me say that I prefer the all on one page nature of the MERP sheet, plus I like the little boxes for skill ranks).


I downloaded the Quick Start and paged through it, skimming most and reading some. This rules set hearkens back to Spell Phase, Missle Phase, Movement Phase and Melee but adds sub phases which I think will work well to balance things for the fighters vs wizards and archers who always came in at a disadvantage in RM.

Crits seem similar and easy, the charts are reduced and damage caps based on weapon are put in to differentiate, which makes it simple. I would still have too curb the spells some and remove some as well. Does the game end at 10th level or is that as far as the Quick Start covers?

I can sub out the Darkmaster for Sauron of any of his evil servants so that too is easy and I also like the casting detection rules in place. Spell warping is a nice touch as well. I'm going to get a few of my guys to look at this and that will give me the decision to buy. If I get some sign off or approval from them I will call it the rules I'm using and run with it.

Right now I'm in the long prep work of ramping up a new campaign. I've never ran 2nd Age M.E., and have avoided it out of fear of not knowing the period well but after digging in and reading what is available from J.R.R., the 2nd Age offers a plethora of opportunities. It's just not familiar to most people or MERP players. I had looked at The One Ring, and read a lot and ditched it, even though it looks fantastic but there was a lot there I didn't like mechanics wise. Then I looked at Burning Wheel and read about 80 pages and wasn't feeling it there but didn't really find flaws, it was just not gelling with me. Then I looked at HARP an it's a power gaming version of RM... a min/maxers wet dream IMO and too over the top for the subtleties of M.E. So that leaves me with considering this game/rules to use.

I think I'll head over to discord and see if I can chat with folks there.


Thank you for the replies,


The game goes up to level 10, but one can easily keep it going. With spells one could invent new higher level ones, replace those you took out into the higher level slots, import spells from RM Spell Law, just have the lists cap out and enjoy the increasing magic points, etc. Also the rules suggest capping the XP and level advancement to level 10, but keep the heroic path revelations going (that come from spending drive). This would mimic to some extent the Name Level thing that TSR era DnD had.