TrekRPG.Net Routes Around Paramount Damage

This is a story about two companies with very different attitudes toward their customers: Last Unicorn Games and Paramount.

I’m one of those folks who loves to hate Star Trek, and Last Unicorn Games did an excellent job with their four separate role playing games for the various Star Trek properties (they were the same game at the core, but with different emphasis and some custom rules to cover the differences between the series). If I had time to role play, a “destroy the Federation” Star Trek campaign would be great.

Anyway, a few months ago Wizards of the Coast — the folks who brought us the Magic: The Gathering and Pokemon collectible card games bought Last Unicorn Games. Since WoTC also owns the Star Wars RPG license, I was looking for the inevitable crossover book. Alas that is not to be.

There is a proviso in most such licensing companies that allows the licensing agreement to be reviewed if the licensee is sold or its ownership is otherwise transferred. So, in its infinite wisdom, Paramount decided to cancel the Last Unicorn Games license literally only months after it had finally managed to get all of the Star Trek series books out and get geared up on supplements. Instead it awarded the license to another game company which will bring out yet another Star Trek role playing game (this is the fourth such game — there was a Star Trek: The Original Series game published by FASA in the 1980s and another Trek RPG that used the Star Fleet Battles license rather than the Star Trek license).

After watching this unfold, it is easier to understand why the Star Trek movies and series have begun to suck so badly lately. First lure in people to spend hundreds of dollars on an excellent sci-fi RPG and then say “Ha! Sorry suckers. We’re going to force that company to discontinue production and make you buy another game!”

Dumb.

Not that all is lost. TrekRpg.Net, a web site devoted to the Last Unicorn Games RPG, is carrying on with supporting the game and they managed to get cooperation from Last Unicorn Games. Before the license was cancelled, the company was close to finishing a supplement on starship construction and combat, Spacedock. That 200 page supplement can now be downloaded for free here. Better get it before Paramount sends them a cease and desist order, though.

Free Role Playing Games

Even though I have not had time to play one in over a decade I am still fascinated
by roleplaying games and actually buy quite a few of them. But why buy role
playing games when there are dozens (approaching hundreds) of free role playing
systems available on the Internet?

The pen and pencil RPG market has always been relatively small compared to
other traditional publishing enterprises, so designing a system and profitably
publishing it is an iffy proposition at best. Instead, a lot of folks are putting
the roleplaying games they have designed on the web as free downloads. As with
anything free, the quality varies widely, but on the whole I am impressed at
how professional and playable many of the free games are.

So where do you find free RPG systems? There are several directories on the
web:

Unfortunately it us hard to find many reviews for free RPGs. Brian Gleichman
is trying to do something about that situation — on his site he posts a
new review of a free RPG
on a monthly basis.

Independent RPG Companies

Another thing the Internet is doing is allowing for small independent roleplaying
game companies to sell their wares. The best example of this is Microtactix.
Microtactix sells a variety of products from a downloadable generic roleplaying
game, Simply Roleplaying,
to an entire line of cardstock miniature towns and people (again, in a form
that users download and print off).

I bought a copy of the Simply Roleplaying core book a few weeks ago
and while I have not had time to go through it thoroughly enough to do a review,
I was very impressed by the way it was packaged with multiple formats, and a
lot of extra goodies in the ZIP file. The whole package came across as very
professional — well worth the $9 I paid.

Play By E-Mail RPGs

One of the reason I have not played a role playing game in years is because of the logistics of it all. Finding mature individuals worth gaming with is one problem, and actually finding the time to set aside several hours to do so is another. Fortunately, just as the games and game companies are moving onto the web, so is the actual playing of games.

Many folks out there are playing RPGs online through e-mail or on web-based discussion forums. PBEM.Com is the best resource for getted started in playing RPGs over the Internet. They typically have over 500 announcements of games looking for players as well as extensive material on how to get started in e-gaming from both a player and a game master perspective.