Words from the Wise (Guys)
An Editorial Rant
To the twenty-third issue of The Guild Companion, and the new millennium. (Contrary to all the hype, the third millennium did not begin on 1st January 2000; it actually began on 1st January 2001. Happy New Millennium!)
Rolemaster and Spacemaster Update
As I mentioned in last month's editorial, a creditors' meeting was held at the very end of November to determine the fate of ICE's remaining intellectual property (IP) assets. All indications are that Tolkien Enterprises, the major (if not the sole) secured creditor, is willing to sell the rights to Rolemaster and Spacemaster, if the price is right. It is rumored that Tolkien Enterprises has valued Rolemaster at one million US dollars plus.
Yes, one million dollars.
That's a huge price for a role-playing game with an active fan base which is in the thousands at present. There are very few tabletop role-playing games which could legitimately justify such a price. And to be honest, Rolemaster does not have the market share to be on that elite list. The key, however, is the word "tabletop". The real money in gaming today is not in traditional face-to-face role-playing, it is in computer gaming. The plethora of freeware character generation software and spreadsheets, the combat management software applications (which cannot be distributed), and so forth show how easy it is for computers to handle all the "hard" parts of Rolemaster. So using Rolemaster as the rules engine for computer games makes sense: the players get all the fun of realistic combat, detailed characters, a rich magic system, and so on without page flipping, without running round tables, without adding numbers together, etc. The computer does all the tedious stuff.
Prior to ICE declaring Chapter 7, Mythic Entertainment was negotiating to buy the electronic rights to Rolemaster for a cool two million dollars, paid in installments. The deal fell through because Mythic couldn't raise the capital in time to save ICE. So Tolkien Enterprises isn't plucking a number out of the air, but whether any of the current bidders can muster that sort of money is a different matter. Tolkien Enterprises and the other creditors are likely to have to settle for a more modest payment.
The Bankruptcy Trustee has been corresponding with and examining the proposals of various bidders to purchase ICE's IP assets. The IDTiger consortium is (at the time of writing) calling upon its supporters to firm up their promises and is preparing its final business plans and stockholder agreements. My sources indicate that there are other independent fan-based groups who are also hopeful of submitting serious proposals to the Trustee. It is unclear whether any corporate bidders are still in contention.
One thing is certain: The Trustee wants to complete the process as soon as possible, intending to achieve a sale by the end of this month.
Silent Death Update
Negotiations continue between Mythic Entertainment and SeanMike Whipkey's consortium to rescue Silent Death as a tabletop game. The consortium is hoping to license the paper-based rights, but they have been unable to report any significant progress.
If this rescue attempt fails, it is likely that the hardcore of the Silent Death community will start work on building a new miniatures war-game with different setting(s), possibly using the Combat Express rules mechanics, if they can secure them from the dissolution of ICE, or possibly using a completely new rules set.
All indications are that Tolkien Enterprises is considering at least two potential companies to take on the mantle of producing a new Middle-Earth role-playing game to be released around the same time as the first part of The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. It is believed that Wizards of the Coast is not interested in pursuing this license. Its flurry of recent licensing deals and the pre-Christmas downsizing of Hasbro (which included job losses and resignations in the Wizards of the Coast division) all suggest that Wizards has more than enough (perhaps too many) products and product lines to support and develop without taking on the responsibilities of Professor Tolkien's legacy as well.
Decipher Games continues to work quietly on their new collectible card game for Middle-Earth. According to the most recent news, Decipher is not yet ready to play-test the new game.
Guild Companion Update
Of course, I should be using this part of the editorial to reveal The Guild Companion's plans and intentions for the new year.
Unfortunately we don't know who will replace ICE as the owners of Rolemaster, Spacemaster, Silent Death (tabletop) and the Middle-earth RPG license, and the content of future issues will depend on the attitudes of the new owners. We intend to continue supporting these products; we hope that the new owners will permit us to continue.
The first set of d20 System submissions have already been received. You will have noticed two d20 System articles in the current issue. Several others are at various stages in the editing cycle. We expect to publish Open Gaming Content and d20 System articles regularly in forthcoming issues.
Naturally we will also be maintaining our reviews, news coverage and fiction features to inform and entertain you.
Unfortunately that's as much as I can safely reveal at this time. Top Men (and Women) are working on Secret Projects for The Guild Companion, but the precise implementation of those projects may have to change as a consequence of decisions outside our control. So for the moment, those projects will be remaining under wraps.
Farewell (for now ...)
Our next issue will appear in February 2001, but until then
Keep gaming and have fun!
Nicholas HM Caldwell
General Editor for The Guild Companion