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Against the Darkmaster Core Rules
by Marcus M. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/08/2021 12:24:10

Against the Darkmaster is a new fantasy tabletop RPG, a retroclone of Rolemaster. I’ve not played Rolemaster before, so this review won’t be able to compare the two.

This tome is REALLY massive rulebook, containing character creation, rules mechanics, game mastery, bestiary, magic lists, and an adventure. There’s a lot to it, but it’s all contained there in a single book, and would be very easy to run an entire campaign all out of this one 563 page book. The book is much thicker than Zweihander, though fewer pages. The paper’s a lot thicker, so it all feels really durable.

The basic mechanics of Against the Darkmaster are pretty simple: A D100 percentile roll is used for all rolls (with a few exceptions using a D10). Your skills and attributes have values both negative and positive. You’ll roll your D100 and add or subtract the appropriate attribute, trying to meet or beat 100. The game has degrees of success and failure, so 75-99 will get you a partial success, while over 175 will give an outstanding success.

Character creation has a lot of different components to it. Players will choose their character’s Kin (race), Culture (which tells where you came from), Vocations (your class), Background (where you’ll choose to spend Background Points for different advantages), as well as Passions and Drives.

Combat works in phases. All characters declare their actions, then move into the actions. First spells prepared in the previous round go of, followed by instant spells. Then ranged weapons prepared the previous round are fired. Close combat then happens (longest to shortest weapons in order). Then ranged attacks that hadn’t gone off before are fired. Finally, all unprepared spells go off. I love the way this goes, allowing tactical preparation, and then watching a cascading effect take place as all of the actions play out.

Taking damage is very dangerous. Tables for each type of weapon determine the severity of damage, and how likely critical hits are. As you take damage, you’ll suffer penalties, which can lead to a death spiral. Luckily, your enemies are also under the same effect, so it balances out.

One of my favorite aspects of the game is the creation of The Darkmaster. There is a large section for creating your own Darkmaster. A series of D100 rolls determine the epithet of the powerful being, as well as the coveted artifact that is tied to them. The game master and players can work together to determine the Darkmaster’s origins, their goals and servants, and their powerful dark fortress. There’s also a great selection of premade Darkmasters with great backgrounds and info. Here, the pages are inverted, so the black pages actually stand out when the book is closed, which I like.

Magic is another cool aspect. There are a collection of Spell Lores. Each lore must be purchased separately as a skill, but each rank grants the next highest spell in the list as you weave more complex spells. For example, Communion: first gives you Question Animal, allowing you to summon and speak to creatures. Higher levels allow you to cast auguries, divine visions, and speaking with he dead.

The art throughout is REALLY solid, all in solid black and white, very evocative of the implied setting.

I really like this ruleset. I can see why people love Rolemaster and MERP. It’s has straightforward rules that’s a lot less complicated than it seems at first. I can’t wait to try out some one-shots soon to really run the system through its paces.

If you’re looking for a grim and brutal system, Against the Darkmaster is a solid contender.

Dice Monkey was sent a copy of Against the Darkmaster by Gamerati for review.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Against the Darkmaster Core Rules
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Against the Darkmaster Core Rules
by Michael G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/14/2021 07:12:34

Other games have come close to perfection. Against the Darkmaster is one of those games that might have achieved it. In rules, art, substance, and errata. The rule system is likely familiar to those who have experience with ICE games but condensed to rules that can be remembered and applied. Honed is probably a better word. Where the rules might not strike "right" for everyone, the authors present options that increase the crunch for simulationists/traditionalists, don't make the system any more difficult, but maintain the genre feeling they intend. Many art pieces create a feeling that they can be found in classic hero's journey literature or their representative games. Often this reader was sure pieces were brought over from RM or MERP but are original and match the intended tone. This is not a game where players or GMs are left waiting for the follow-on products to understand how to create more for their game. Kin, adversaries, and magic items are all examples of where groups can understand the engine and have a relatively small limit as long as imaginations hold up. After several read-throughs, there are no unanswered or conflicting rules. However, there are sparse grammar issues, most often in the form of double plurals. The only thing that would ruin this game is if data was not updated on the final edit/translation. For example, if weapon info, like the range errors in Forgotten Lands or target numbers, like the autofire difficulty tables in Cyberpunk Red, was incorrect. Like those games, these would ruin the perfection but could be forgiven for all the other positives. While missing large variability of perceived persons of color, kins, cultures, and artistic representations, each has binary representation. The same also seems to have gotten respectful treatment. Even the genre's traditional enemy kin/cultures are presented as being taken advantage of by the main protagonist. In this setting, it's just as easy for the "good" races to be adversaries as the "evil" ones. It seems all of the things that the D&D crowd has been trying to hit since the realization of 5e's societal shortfalls are met by Open Ended Games' release. If these aren't a group's concerns, though, there is no pandering here.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Against the Darkmaster Core Rules
by Thomas K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/19/2020 04:52:55

This is the game I wish I could give to teenage me. A wonderful mixture of traditional mechanisms, modern insights and design ideas, all stirred to produce a solid game conducive to the kind of traditional epic fantasy stories it clearly and enthusiastically draws inspiration from. And all wonderfully customizable and adjustable. A love letter to the genre and to tabletop fantasy gaming in the best possible way.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Against the Darkmaster Core Rules
by Thibaut C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/01/2020 10:57:44

Against the Darkmaster (VsD) is a successor or MERP (Middle Earth RolePlaying), with the same mood but without direct references to the Middle Earth setting. It's a clear and concise new take and a great system. Character development is clear and made easy, combats are brutal and deadly... happily you have a mechanic of Drive Points, earned from your passions, to survive :)

So VsD is a new take on MERP, but it's more than that. It's a solid fondation for classical fantasy, dark fantasy and sword & sorcery, easy to adapt.

You have a nice character development system, a great combat system, a good wealth system (not counting every gold piece), travel rules, many spells and a good bestiary.

A elegant and complete game for a more civilized age :)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Against the Darkmaster Core Rules
by Jeff S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/30/2020 08:05:24

One of my earliest loves in TTRPGs was Rolemaster. I played and ran that constantly in middle school and high school. Against the Darkmaster is the best successor to Rolemaster/MERP on the market, and I've looked at them all. Happy to have supported this and look forward to more open-ended d100 adventures!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Against the Darkmaster - Quickstart
by Mark A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/10/2020 03:06:29

Great quickstart rules, but really hoping on the magic side of things to have more offensive spells that can make a wizard tougher and more playable at lower levels, like AD&D.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Against the Darkmaster - Quickstart
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Against the Darkmaster - Quickstart
by Chad K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/22/2019 17:43:56

A great start with the full game coming to KICKSTARTER soon. Any fan of MERP from the 90's will really enjoy this game. Weapons and armor have charts- with heavier armor being easier to hit, but take less damage and criticals. criticals are where the pain starts- you either like criticals or you dont. Combat can be very deadly, you just dont lose "hit points"- you bleed and can have broken bones or worse. Magic at low levels is weak, much weaker than 5E.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Against the Darkmaster - Quickstart
by Gavin B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/26/2019 01:21:42

I have two major complaints. One is that divine casters ruin every game they are in by making the magic mundane. The other is the extremely short ranges of spells, as they are effectively useless at the listed ranges.

The rest of the game looks great, but these two things are dealbreakers, as they not only undermine the otherwise great setting, but also punish players for investing in magic.

Without these two things it would be a 5 star game, but with them it's effectively unplayable. I hope you fix these things in a later edition, but until then it's a no from me.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:
Hi Gavin, thank you for your feedback, we'll keep it in mind for the full rules!
Against the Darkmaster - Quickstart
by Gabe D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/26/2019 10:09:06

It can go without saying, but this product is evocative of 1986’s Middle-Earth Role Playing (MERP) from Iron Crown Enterprises, from the overt homage demonstrated in the color cover to the gorgeous black-and-white interior art to its d100 rules structure and attack and critical tables. But Against the Darkmaster (VsD) is not precisely a retro clone. Instead it articulates a number of innovations that can be adapted to many a rules system.

Traditional high fantasy Kins are matched with Cultures (this is common to many games) to identify base Stats and starting Skills. After this, players spend points (as many as 5, for Human Kins) to differentiate player-characters with starting abilities, items or backgrounds. This is a refinement from MERP’s Background Options Table and one of my favorite features of VsD.

VsD presents an abstracted system for Social Class and Wealth that feels slightly at odds with the deeply granular and simulationist combat system common to the games out of which VsD derives. Furthermore, as a way of decreasing this system’s lethality for PCs, VsD uses PC Drive Points to improve Skill tests and reduce the severity of Critical Hits to PCs.

VsD simply has the best magic system out of the games to which this one might be compared. All lists contain ten spells. No spells are duplicated across lists, making all casters unique. All the spells are "useful" and interesting. None are more powerful versions of other spells. While casting a spell, additional Magic Points might be spent to increase/alter effects or durations.

My group has been playtesting these rules since January of this year. After this campaign, for my GMing style and the pacing of my tabletop stories, I might readapt to a d20 OSR system, but I’ll be porting into it many components from VsD, particularly VsD’s XP system, which rewards PCs for doing things and behaving in character. For these reasons I recommend it, and for d100 gamers who want streamlined Skill development in character creation and advancement as well as gritty, “heavy metal” combat, I highly recommend it. Obviously I’m eager to back the upcoming full release on Kickstarter.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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