… And a 10-Foot Pole

Written By Maxwell Bernhardt

Reviewed by Nicholas HM Caldwell


… And a 10-Foot Pole is described by ICE as a role-playing sourcebook for the "Standard System". As such, it is designed to be usable in conjunction with any role-playing game, not just Rolemaster. Naturally there is a slight bias towards Rolemaster.

Once upon a time, this sourcebook was entitled "Equipment and Technology", and that remains a fair summary of the book. The vast bulk of this 192-page sourcebook consists of equipment lists. Each item has a name, suggested price, weight, size, availability and time to create (or harvest or whatever). For those without access to Rolemaster Standard Rules or Rolemaster Fantasy Role-Play, it would have been helpful to have clarified the other table headings, namely B# (Breakage Factor), RelStr (Reliability [for devices], Strength [for weapons]), and F (fumble range of weapons). Descriptive notes and over twelve hundred illustrations help in visualising this vast array of equipment.

…And a 10-Foot Pole is not a huge alphabetical list of equipment. Instead it has been organised according to historical eras, ranging from the Stone Age to the present day. All the major eras of technology - Stone Age, Copper Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Middle Ages, Renaissance, the Age of Reason, the Industrial Revolution, the Age of Steam, the Electric Age, the Atomic Age and the Information Age - are covered. Within each era, the equipment tables have been further organised by category, such as foodstuff, tools, transport, science, medicine, clothing, weapons, etc., with not all of these being present in every era. Later historical periods have significantly longer listings than earlier ages. For eras up to the Age of Steam, prices are in the Rolemaster standard of tin pieces, copper pieces, bronze pieces, silver pieces and beyond. From the Age of Steam onwards, prices are given in American dollars and cents.

Before the historical purists become too anxious, it is explicitly stated that "prices" in the Stone and Copper Age tables are purely present to assist the gamemaster in constructing a barter economy by providing some suggestions as to the relative worth of items.

For those running less historically pure settings, such as alternate histories or historical fantasy campaigns, …And a 10-Foot Pole only covers normal equipment. There are no magical items, exotic herbs, pulp fiction gadgets or science-fictional devices.

For each era, …And a 10-Foot Pole provides a summary of two to three pages in length on the historical trends and technological developments shaping the era. There are no howlers or errors obvious to the educated layman in this material, which is well researched and clearly written. Given the space constraints, the suggestions for possible campaigns are understandably only "seeds", and none of them are very startling. The suggestions for introducing magic and fantasy races into the various historical eras are also somewhat cliched. It should be noted that such cliches have formed the basis for many successful games and even published game systems! The formulaic nature of these proposals only becomes apparent when you read through all the eras.

A short section on economics and trading with a reprise of the relevant Rolemaster rules and a short bibliography completes the book.

Summing up, my nitpicking is a consequence of reading the entire book with a critical eye for review purposes. In use, and I have personally used this book for the medieval period, and conventional items of the Electric Age for a Pulp campaign, it is an excellent and comprehensive resource. For Rolemaster gamers, …And a 10-Foot Pole is a "must-buy", for non-Rolemaster gamers, it is a highly recommended addition to the gamemaster's library.

Editor's Note: …And a 10-Foot Pole is published by Iron Crown Enterprises. Their contact details are as follows:
Iron Crown Enterprises, Inc.
P.O. Box 1605
VA 22902
Web: http://www.ironcrown.com/
Email: icepbx@aol.com
Tel: (804) 295-4280
Fax: (804) 977-4811

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Editor's Note

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