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The History of ICE

Shannon Appelcline recently posted on RPG.net the latest in his series of articles about the histories of various companies in the adventure gaming industry. This is a two-parter about Iron Crown Enterprises (ICE).

I worked for ICE back in the early ’90s. In fact, ICE published the first large book I wrote entirely on my own: Western Hero (also produced as Outlaw, a supplement for Rolemaster). I added bits to a number of books in their Middle-earth Roleplaying line, and I handled the second edition of Silent Death for them and worked on retainer as that line’s developer for a good while.

Shannon does a fine job of summing up ICE’s history. Of course, there are many tales that can’t be told in public about any company, but he dug up some great sources (including myself) and got them to talk, so this is about as good a history as you’ll find without cornering one of the company’s ex-employees over a beer at a convention.

To add to what he says, I’ll tell you that ICE owed me a large chunk of change at one point. I never badmouthed them about it, though, and I worked with them to get what I could out of them. When they published the Middle-earth Collectible Card Game—a huge hit—they paid off every dime and even handed me a complete factory set of the cards as a way of saying thanks for being so patient.

I still run into many ex-ICE folk over the years. Pete Fenlon and Coleman Charlton are now with Mayfair Games. Monte Cook co-designed the third edition of D&D, and he and his wife Sue now run their own successful Malhavoc Press. Kevin Barrett moved back to Canada where he wrangles all the writers for Bioware. Terry Amthor works as a Mac tech in DC. Jason Hawkins co-designed Parthenon: Rise of the Aegean, published by Z-Man Games—which won the Origins Award for Board Game of the Year last year. Bruce Neidlinger and his wife Heike Kubasch run the new Iron Crown. There are others, of course, who I’ve lost track of over the years, but I enjoyed working with them all.

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  1. The, pre-Dark Champions, ICE era of Champions is probably my favorite era of that particular RPG. ICE brought in some wonderful artists and good writers, as well. One might want to look at those copies of Fantasy Hero to find a nice little offerings by one future creator of the Tick.

  2. The, pre-Dark Champions, ICE era of Champions is probably my favorite era of that particular RPG. ICE brought in some wonderful artists and good writers, as well. One might want to look at those copies of Fantasy Hero to find a nice little offerings by one future creator of the Tick.

  3. I loved working for ICE back in the day, and I still count many of the ICE folk as friends. I started with them not too long before Dark Champions hit, and I remember Steve Long and I working with Monte Cook (who was the Hero developer at the time) on our books. Steve and I glanced around at one Origins and realized we’d been admitted to the exclusive Hero Authors Club—which included people like Aaron Allston and Mike Stackpole—and we just grinned.

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    I loved working for ICE back in the day, and I still count many of the ICE folk as friends. I started with them not too long before Dark Champions hit, and I remember Steve Long and I working with Monte Cook (who was the Hero developer at the time) on our books. Steve and I glanced around at one Origins and realized we’d been admitted to the exclusive Hero Authors Club—which included people like Aaron Allston and Mike Stackpole—and we just grinned.

  5. Just to clarify, my “pre-Dark Champions” comment was not meant to say that Dark Champions was a bad product. It wasn’t, like Strike Force, it was one of the supplements that revolutionized the Hero system. Steve Long obviously had some good insight into the system.

    But I do think that, like in the comics of the time, the Dark products began to dominate a little too much and that Mr. Long’s desire to tinker took it a little too far from time to time. As much as I admire what he has done with the 5th edition revised, the 4th edition has stat blocks that I feel more comfortable with than the current lists. The base costs of supers has had to be upped just to allow for all the skills etc. to be purchased. But the game, and its supplements (especially the new Fantasy Hero), is an indespensible addition to the gaming library.

  6. Just to clarify, my “pre-Dark Champions” comment was not meant to say that Dark Champions was a bad product. It wasn’t, like Strike Force, it was one of the supplements that revolutionized the Hero system. Steve Long obviously had some good insight into the system.

    But I do think that, like in the comics of the time, the Dark products began to dominate a little too much and that Mr. Long’s desire to tinker took it a little too far from time to time. As much as I admire what he has done with the 5th edition revised, the 4th edition has stat blocks that I feel more comfortable with than the current lists. The base costs of supers has had to be upped just to allow for all the skills etc. to be purchased. But the game, and its supplements (especially the new Fantasy Hero), is an indespensible addition to the gaming library.

  7. Understood, Christian. I think Steve’s done a fine job with the new Hero Games, and playing a large role in it is the gig of his dreams. His style and mine don’t always match, but I admire the passion and skill he’s applied to the Hero System.

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    Understood, Christian. I think Steve’s done a fine job with the new Hero Games, and playing a large role in it is the gig of his dreams. His style and mine don’t always match, but I admire the passion and skill he’s applied to the Hero System.

  9. My first published work in the gaming industry (and to date only such work) was an article on converting Justice Inc. to Hero 4th edition. I originally submitted it for Adventurers Club, but Bruce Harlick had Steve Peterson add to it and it was published in Hero System Almanac #1. They sent me the contract AFTER it was published; I was supposed to get $50 and some copies of the book. I signed the contract and returned it..and to this day have never received the money. Thus, my experience with ICE is sadly not as positive as yours in terms of payment of money owed.

  10. My first published work in the gaming industry (and to date only such work) was an article on converting Justice Inc. to Hero 4th edition. I originally submitted it for Adventurers Club, but Bruce Harlick had Steve Peterson add to it and it was published in Hero System Almanac #1. They sent me the contract AFTER it was published; I was supposed to get $50 and some copies of the book. I signed the contract and returned it..and to this day have never received the money. Thus, my experience with ICE is sadly not as positive as yours in terms of payment of money owed.

  11. Sorry to hear that, Allen. I’m sure that by now that debt has officially been stricken from any books. Reborn companies (like both ICE and Hero) don’t often take on their predecessors’ debts, especially if a bankruptcy is involved.

    Sometimes you just have to write off bad debt. I did that long ago with a company called New Infinities, which Gary Gygax founded after leaving TSR. It was one of my first professional experiences in the industry, and I got burned badly. However, it’s rarely happened to me since.

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    Sorry to hear that, Allen. I’m sure that by now that debt has officially been stricken from any books. Reborn companies (like both ICE and Hero) don’t often take on their predecessors’ debts, especially if a bankruptcy is involved.

    Sometimes you just have to write off bad debt. I did that long ago with a company called New Infinities, which Gary Gygax founded after leaving TSR. It was one of my first professional experiences in the industry, and I got burned badly. However, it’s rarely happened to me since.

  13. Yes, I long ago gave up on it 🙂 I figure hey, its a byline anyway, and maybe that will benefit me some day…and if nothing else it gives me street cred with some Hero fans.

    I did play MERP back in the day and enjoyed it…more than Decipher’s effort, actually.

  14. Yes, I long ago gave up on it 🙂 I figure hey, its a byline anyway, and maybe that will benefit me some day…and if nothing else it gives me street cred with some Hero fans.

    I did play MERP back in the day and enjoyed it…more than Decipher’s effort, actually.

  15. I worked on both games and enjoyed them each for their own strengths. The MERP books aim at fans of Tolkein’s literature (they came long before the latest films, of course), while the Decipher books shoot more for those who enjoy Jackson’s films but may never have picked up any of Tolkein’s work. I like both. 🙂

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    I worked on both games and enjoyed them each for their own strengths. The MERP books aim at fans of Tolkein’s literature (they came long before the latest films, of course), while the Decipher books shoot more for those who enjoy Jackson’s films but may never have picked up any of Tolkein’s work. I like both. 🙂

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