Iron Crown Enterprises

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Iron Crown Enterprises
Industry Gaming
Successors Aurigas Aldebaron LLC, Guild Companion Publications
Founded 1980
Headquarters Virginia
Key people Pete Fenlon, S. Coleman Charlton, Bruce Neidlinger, Rick Britton, Terry K. Amthor
Products MERP, Rolemaster, High Adventure Role Playing (HARP), HARP SF, HARP SF Xtreme, Shadow World, Spacemaster

Iron Crown Enterprises has produced role playing, board, miniature, and collectible card games for 30 years. Many of ICE’s better-known products were related to J. R. R. Tolkien’s world of Middle-earth, but the Rolemaster rules system, and its science-fiction equivalent, Spacemaster, have been the foundation of ICE’s business.

History[edit]

Founding[edit]

In college in the late 1970s, while running a six year Dungeons & Dragons campaign set in J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth, Pete Fenlon, S. Coleman Charlton, and Kurt Fischer began to develop a set of unique house rules; after most of them had graduated from the University of Virginia in 1980, many of the group's principals decided to turn their rules into a business and formed Iron Crown Enterprises (ICE), named after the regalia of Middle-earth.[1]:133 Besides Felon and Charlton, the original ICE also included Richard H. Britton, Terry K. Amthor, Bruce Shelley, Bruce Neidlinger, Kurt Fischer, Heike Kubasch, Olivia Fenlon, and a few others.[1]:133

ICE was incorporated in 1980, shortly after the youngest of the principal founders graduated from the University of Virginia. Among the founders were Pete Fenlon (then in Law school), Rick Britton, S. Coleman Charlton, Bruce Neidlinger, Terry K. Amthor, Olivia Fenlon, Kurt Fischer, Bruce Shelley, and Heike Kubasch. The company originally only had a few full-time staff, relying on volunteer work from the other founders. But as income increased, it brought more on as employees. Among many competing role-playing game companies in the 1980s besides TSR, ICE distinguished itself as one successful organization that was run by a group rather than by one master.

Role-playing Games[edit]

ICE quickly published three products: Arms Law (1980), The Iron Wind (1980), and Manassas (1981).[1]:133 Arms Law was the first release of the house rules from the University of Virginia days, and thus became the start of Rolemaster, although at that time Rolemaster was not seen as a standalone RPG but was offered as an alternative combat system for AD&D.[1]:133 The Iron Wind was a system-generic campaign centered on a fantastic island, and although it was unsupplemented for years it would eventually be recognized as the first release in ICE's Loremaster campaign setting.[1]:133 Manassas was a Civil War era wargame set in ICE's home state of Virginia.[1]:133

ICE began by publishing a series of rules supplements, beginning with "Arms Law", which were intended to serve as modular add-ons to other RPG systems offering greater detail. This was followed by "Spell Law" and Character/Campaign Law." In time, these supplements were tied together to form an RPG system of their own, Rolemaster. Concurrent with the rules supplements, ICE began releasing world campaign content materials in what was originally called the "Loremaster" series, beginning with "Iron Wind".

The Middle-earth License[edit]

Rolemaster had grown out of a Middle-earth game, so ICE approached Tolkien Enterprises seeking a license to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, which Tolkien Enterprises granted because no one else had ever asked.[1]:134 Tolkien Enterprises signed an exclusive, worldwide license with ICE in 1982, and ICE started the Middle-earth line off with a generic sourcebook that could be used with AD&D or other games, called A Campaign and Adventure Guidebook for Middle-earth (1982).[1]:134

The company enjoyed a sudden jump in status when it acquired the license to produce an official fantasy RPG based upon J. R. R. Tolkien's world of Middle-earth, which would come to be known as MERP ("Middle-earth Role Playing"). According to some interpretations, at the time of its publication ICE's Middle-earth Role Playing was the second best selling fantasy RPG after TSR's Dungeons & Dragons.

Science Fiction and beyond[edit]

ICE then added the science fiction RPGs Spacemaster and Cyberspace to its line, and, with the rise of collectible card games, the Middle-earth Collectible Card Game. ICE also published a moderately successful space miniatures battle game called Silent Death, based on Spacemaster but with simpler mechanics. Silent Death was released in two major editions, with supplemental books and a fair number of paintable lead miniatures.[2] ICE also expanded its original Loremaster supplements into a full-blown fantasy world to support Rolemaster, called the Shadow World, supported by dozens of adventures and sourcebooks. ICE signed in 1986 a publication contract to take over Hero Games' production and distribution. Later with Hero Games staff leaving for other jobs, ICE took over the creative reins of Hero's products.[2]

Solo Gaming[edit]

Iron Crown branched out into the solo gaming books under the Tolkien Quest (later called Middle-earth Quest) and Sherlock Holmes Solo Mysteries book lines.[2] Unknown to ICE at the time, the Middle-earth Quest books violated ICE and Tolkien Enterprises' contract with Tolkien's book publishing licensee, George Allen & Unwin. (ICE and TE considered the books to be games, and so fall under their license, but the format came too close to being literary books). ICE was forced to recall and destroy the whole line of books, at devastating cost. Meanwhile, ICE sued the Narnia licensor as they turned out to not have the necessary rights to license Narnia to ICE. That company went bankrupt from the legal settlement and was unable to pay ICE their damages. ICE reached terms in 1988 for a gamebook license with the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien and George Allen & Unwin for four new Middle-earth Quest books, beginning with "Spy in Isengard". However, the solo game book market was going soft by this time. ICE canceled all solo game book lines, with dozens of books still in development. Returns were high on the Sherlock Holmes Solo Mysteries line. All this brought ICE to near bankruptcy in a "voluntary-type of receivership".[2]

Financial Decline[edit]

Despite ICE's many successes and overcoming many setbacks over 17 years, in 1997 ICE suffered financial difficulties from a rapid decline in its distribution net; nearly 70% of ICE's distributors either went bankrupt or became moribund. There has been some debate over whether TE forced ICE into bankruptcy in order to get the gaming license in anticipation of the upcoming new movie franchise.

The company entered bankruptcy and filed for Chapter 7 in October 2000. This bankruptcy cost ICE the Middle-earth license, ending both the MERP and CCG lines. Many of the authors and illustrators were not paid for substantial amounts of work.[citation needed]

The ICE Assets purchase and Mjolnir[edit]

ICE's logo since relaunch

In December 2001, ICE's assets were purchased by Aurigas Aldebaron LLC, an intellectual property ownership company backed by several wealthy individuals. The new owners licensed the Iron Crown Enterprise name and other assets to Mjolnir LLC until 2011. Starting in January 2011, licensing was transferred to Guild Companion Publications Ltd.[3]

Iron Crown Resurgence[edit]

Since taking over the reins, Guild Companion Publications Ltd (GCP) has been involved in the comprehensive rebranding and recovery of products from three decades of ICE publications, including some that have never before been available commercially. Using print-on-demand publishing via its partners, the OneBookShelf eCommerce network and Lightning Source, GCP is already working to make much of this back catalogue available in print and as PDF files. Most importantly, GCP has also published three brand-new products, HARP SF, HARP SF Xtreme and the Shadow World Player’s Guide, in both PDF and print-on-demand. In addition GCP are currently working on a new edition of Rolemaster which is hoped will unite fans of the various versions under one new version.

The current ICE has no connection with Middle-earth Role Playing, which was not one of the properties purchased by Aurigas Aldebaron LLC in 2001.

Publications[edit]

Board games[edit]

  • Manassas[4] (1980)
  • The Riddle of the Ring (1982)
  • The Battle of Five Armies (1984)
  • The Lonely Mountain - Lair of Smaug the Dragon (1984)
  • Cleric's Revenge (1985)
  • Star Strike (1988)
  • Armored Assault (1989)
  • The Hobbit Adventure (1994)

Solo gaming books[edit]

  • Middle-earth Quest line
    • Tolkien Quest (1985)
    • Night of the Nazgul (1985)
    • "Spy in Isengard" (1988)
  • Sherlock Holmes Solo Mysteries line
    • Murder at the Diogenes Club (1987)
  • Narnia Solo Games line
    • Return to Deathwater (1988)

Role-playing games[edit]

  • The Iron Wind (1980)
  • A Campaign and Adventure Guidebook for Middle-earth (1982)
  • Angmar (1982)
  • "Ardor in Southern Middle-earth" (1983)
  • MERP - Middle-earth Role Playing (1984)
    • Bree and the Barrow-Downs (1984)
    • Dark Mage of Rhudaur (1989)
    • Lords of Middle-Earth (1986)
    • Minas Tirith (1988)
    • Minas Ithil (1991)
    • Palantir Quest (1994)
    • Kin-Strife (1995)
    • Hands of the Healer (1997)
  • Rolemaster - A role playing game system.
    • Arms Law (1980)
    • Spell Law (1981)
    • Character Law (1982)
    • Claw Law (1982)
    • War Law (1991)
    • Sea Law (1994)
    • Rolemaster (1982)
    • Campaign Law (1984)
    • Rolemaster, second edition (1986)
    • Rolemaster Companion (1986)
    • Rolemaster second edition 2nd iteration (1989)
    • Shadow World: The Cloudlords of Tanara (1982, 2013)
    • Shadow World Master Atlas (4th Edition) (2003, 2011)
    • Shadow World Master Atlas (3rd Edition) (2001, 2011)
    • Shadow World powers of Light and Darkness (2003, 2011)
    • Demons on the Burning Night (1989, 2011)
    • Islands of the Oracle (1989, 2011)
    • Kingdom of the Desert Jewel (1989, 2011)
    • Quellbourne: Land of the Silver Mist (1989, 2011)
  • Spacemaster - An adaption of Rolemaster in a sci-fi setting. first edition (1985), second edition (1988)
    • Future Law (1985)
    • Tech Law (1985)
    • Action On Akaisha Outstation (1985)
    • Imperial Crisis (1985)
    • Spacemaster Companion (1986)
    • Lost Telepaths (1986)
    • Beyond The Core (1987)
    • The Cygnus Conspiracy (1987)
    • Tales From Deep Space (1988)
    • War on a Distant Moon (1988)
    • The Durandrium Find (1989)
    • Disaster on Adanis III (1989)
    • Raiders from the Frontier (1989)
    • Spacemaster Companion I (1990)
    • Dark Space (1990)
    • Aliens & Artifacts (1991)
    • Time Riders (1992)
    • Spacemaster Companion II (1994)
  • Cyberspace (1989)
    • Cyberspace Core Rulebook (1989)
    • Sprawlgangs & Megacorps (1990)
    • Edge On (1990)
    • Cyber Rogues (1990)
    • The Body Bank (1990)
    • Death Valley Free Prison (1990)
    • Death Game 2090 (1990)
    • Cyberskelter (1991)
    • Chicago Arcology (1991)
    • Cyber Europe (1991)
  • Campaign Classics line - dual statted for Hero System and Rolemaster:
    • Robin Hood (1987)
    • Mythic Greece (1988)
    • Vikings (1989)
    • Pirates (1989)
    • Mythic Egypt (1990)
    • Arabian Nights (1994) (actually a "Rolemaster Genre Book" without Hero System stats)
  • Lord of the Rings Adventure Game (1991)
  • High Adventure Role Playing (2003, 2004, 2011)
    • HARP College of Magics (2004, 2013)
    • HARP Martial Law (2003, 2004, 2013)

Miniatures games[edit]

Collectible card games[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Shannon Appelcline (2011). Designers & Dragons. Mongoose Publishing. ISBN 978-1-907702-58-7. 
  2. ^ a b c d Appelcline, Shannon (2006-11-21). "#8: ICE, Part One: 1980-1992". A Brief History of Game. RPGnet. Retrieved 10 July 2009. 
  3. ^ uncredited (2011-03-03). "Products from the Guild". IronCrown.com. 
  4. ^ Manassas on Boardgamegeek.com, a boardgames specialized website