We all know the skills system(s) in Rolemaster are a bit of a shambles, the stats system is decidedly wonky with its 11 stats working in several different ways. The magic system seems to have as many people favouring HARP scalable spells as those that like the lists and those that like spells as skills. What almost everyone seems to agree on is that the Criticals with their mix of graphic description, dark humour make Rolemaster completely Rolemaster.
This is pt. 2 of an ongoing blog segment on Rolemaster “skill consolidation. The first part on the Channeling skills can be found HERE.
While character differentiation is important, the absorption of secondary skills into primary skills caused not only skill bloat but also a huge disparity in the value of various skills. For our game, one of the most effective consolidations is the use of the “Survival” skill. Depending on the environment, the Survival skill rolls up quite a few useful, but minor, skills: foraging, fauna or flora lore, bribing, hunting, tracking, weather watching, trap/snare, fire starting, shelter building, etc. None of those skills are learned in a vacuum, but are part of a larger survival skill set. Since we use cultural skill sets for adolescence, PC’s will have several ranks of Survival skill which encompasses the environmentally appropriate sub-skills.
A nice round 11 stats
Deconstructing Rolemaster a little, the stats system is not particularly outstanding. The whole stats system lacks conviction, there is one option to use just a single stat bonus with skills, another to use the average of two or three stats and the latest version with smaller stat bonuses that are added together. If you bring HARP into the frame then there are 8 stats, in Rolemaster there are 10 stats if you ignore the poor relation of Appearance that makes 11 stats.
Peter’s blog Monday, “Is a Kenku a race or a monster” made me think about the Neng, a creature/race in the “Artificial Beings” section of the Shadow WorldM Master Atlas. SW has a great many odd races: Hirazi, Jhordi, Kuluku, Quaidu, Synshari, so it always struck me that Neng could be moved to the race section and available as a PC choice. Terry in fact states that the Neng can breed/reproduce and qualify as a race.
I came across the Kenku last week and I really like them. The basic idea is that these are humanoid avians. They are great mimics, infact they have not language of their own but rather string learned phrases together from what they have heard but all in perfectly mimicked form of the original voice. They are also natural thieves.
I am debating as to whether they should be a monster or a race when converting them over to Rolemaster. As a monster they are rather weak but as a race they require a lot more effort from the GM to prepare them before time.
There can be no argument that Terry has designed Shadow World with a strong meta-narrative. These over-arching plots, high level NPC’s and secretive organizations reinforce an image of SW has a high fantasy adventure setting. Multi-chapter adventures like the Legacy of the Sea Drake Crown and the Grand Campaign may discourage GM’s from adopting the SW setting or see it poorly suited to low level “one and done” adventures given the rich history and background presented.
Sword Coast Encounters
Limitless Adventures have very kindly given me review copies of three of their ‘Encounters’ booklets. What I like about Limitless Adventures is that they sound like a Tuesday night gaming group that every time they have a great idea they publish it, and why the heck not?
The first of these I am going to look at is Sword Coast Encounters. What you actually get is 10 ‘5e’ encounters each confined to a single page for ease of printing. Each contains the opening scene, creature or antagonists stats, a GM only explanation of what is actually happening, advice on scaling the encounter to different challenge levels, the treasure and finally adventure hooks that could spin off of this encounter. When the encounters refer to locations or NPCs these are nicely grounded in the Sword Coast (in this instance). Below is one example.
While I’ve posted up quite a few files, bits and excerpts from our Shadow World campaign over at the RM Forums, I put many of them up with minimal explanation or background. Since we are in the Halloween season I wanted to go back and discuss one of my posting in more detail: The Soulless or UnMen.
We’ve always run Shadow World as “monster-lite”, preferring the unique creatures (Shards, Gogor, Kaden etc) over the traditional ubiquitous fantasy RPG monsters. But generally my group is dealing with human/humanoid adversaries rather than fantastical ones. Shadow World does have one over-arching “foe”, the Unlife, but that tends to be an abstract malevolence that also raises quite a few questions. In our own campaign, we’ve made a distinction between good/evil and the Unlife and eliminated the entire “anti-Essaence” concept that further muddied the waters. We also distanced the Charon pantheon from the definition of “evil” to a more “chaotic” one.
But I did want a better mechanism to manifest the Unlife to my players and I also wanted to replace the traditional D&D Undead that can genericizes a SW campaign. Thus the “Soulless” (“UnMen” to some societies) so named because the hosts eyes turn black. The Soulless can occur in 3 ways: the animation of a dead body (“zombification” which replaces some Undead types and allows for Unlife Necromancy), the possession of a living host (replaces Demonic possession and ties into corruption of a person accessing the Unlife) and in some cases the Non-Corporeal manifestation of the Unlife (replaces Wraiths, Spectres etc).
I like this solution because it shoehorns into the existing spell system, ( “Turning Undead”, “Possession”, of Slaying “Evil”, detection of “Evil”), while it also replaces known, generic Undead with a setting specific adversary. Like Undead, we’ve built the Soulless into “Classes” I-VI with powers and abilities that increasing accordingly. Both Unlife animation and possession touch upon common tropes popular in culture: Fear the Walking Dead, Ash v Evil Dead etc, but add unpredictability and even paranoia to the group. Anyone or anything could be “infected” with the Unlife. Even better, it unifies differing and problematic mechanisms created by the “gap” between the RM ruleset and SW setting.
In this Halloween season, maybe it’s time to introduce your players to the “new and improved Unlife”: the Soulless
There is so much I can write about after the last session I don’t really know where to start.
Firstly, the house from Saltwater Marsh worked perfectly so thank you for that suggestion.
Secondly the Spooky effects from Azukail Games were brilliant and even before the players worked out the place was haunted they were beginning to say that the session was getting creepy. That is all you can ask for really when GMing a bunch of 50 year olds!
I like to use Navigators in our campaigns. Like Loremasters and Essaence Flows, Navigators can allow the GM to inject direction and narrative changes into the game. Plus SW is a dangerous place–and Navigators give the party added insurance when travelling through the wilderness.
It seems like some GM’s are reluctant to using Navigators. Reading posts on the RM Forums there are a few main areas of concern that people post about:
- Cost. Navigators are expensive–and forget about using them for a Jump (teleport)!