Rolemaster – An Embarrassment of Riches

I have an idea for a game I want to run. Rather than strict ‘rules as written’ this time I want to house rule to fit the game world. I intend ripping out as much of the rulebook as possible and stripping things back to as close to ‘no rules’ as possible whilst still being recognisably Rolemaster.

Most people seem to say that the thng that drew them in to Rolemaster in the first place was the critical tables. I think the two most striking features are both the critical table and the open ended roll. I will keep both of those.

Another central element of rolemaster is that any character can learn to do anything, not necessarily easily or quickly but there are very few hard limits. I want to keep that.

Those three things are not really constraining me that much but I do have some other ideas I want to incorporate. I want to do away with all the professions, to make rolemaster ‘classless’. This is not hard, Rolemaster Classic and HARP both have the No Profession ‘profession’ and the new Rolemaster Unified will almost certainly keep it too. So I can go with any of those and still have the game I want. I have bought HARP and HARP SF recently and I aready own RMC. I will buy RMU when it is released. So I wil have all the rules I need. The RMU skills buying system is simpler than RMC with its single cost per category of skills but HARP is even simpler again with all skills falling into two piles those that cost 2pts and those that cost 4pts. Both HARP and RMU have finxed DPs for character creation that gives them the edge over RMC for generating characters.

I am scrapping levels and experience points in this game and instead I am going for a runequest/CoC style ‘roll to improve the skills you have been using’ method of advancement. So powerpoints will have to based upon a skill rather than level.

I am also moving to a one or two second combat round and that means that the HARP combat system may be the better suited. I am leaning that way anyway as the final solution for the size rules in RMU is as yet unknow to me.

The magic in the game is an interesting question. The idea will be that you buy ranks in the spell list and you can cast up to that level. This is known as spells as skills in RMC, it is the standard method of learning spells in RMU and closely related to the way spells are individually developed in HARP. The RMU Spell Law is quite closely integrated with the RMU combat system especially when dealing with what are known as Action Points (AP). Whereas in the old rules Haste spells would give you double actions for the duration, RMU Haste gives and increase in APs. That is going to be harder to translate. The RMC Spell Law is based more on Level for the effects and durations. You can simply read Skill Rank for level and nothing breaks. HARP is already built around skill ranks in spells so no problem there. I like the HARP magic system but none of my players have every used it. They are very familiar with the RMC Spell Law havin played RM2 and then RMC since the late 1980s.

The combat round and initiative I am lifting out of Champions or Hero System as it now is. This will make the quickness stat more important as that will be used for calculating the characters speed. This gives me a ‘turn’ of 12 seconds and characters can act a set number of seconds within that turn based upon their quickness stat. We call each second a segment and count though them. Characters will bleed or do their bookkeeping of stun and such on the first segment of each turn. This is so alien to all forms of Rolemaster that it is effectively system neutral.  One of my new turns will be six HARP rounds, two RMU rounds or one RMC round.

I like the idea of Training Packages. I have never used them before in RM2/RMC but the rules for creating them as stated in the HARP rules is so simple that they can be imposed on any system. At present the only set of rules I have that use them is HARP so they are the rule I will use.

Healing. Healing has always been an issue in Rolemaster. It takes too damn long for my taste. RMU has a set of rules called ‘Cinematic Healing’ I want to use these as it puts what I do informally in a structured set of rules. I am using rules from RMU in my current RMC games and there have been no problems with the transplant.

Logically the next step from Healing is Combat. Not sure what to do yet with this. I want to see the new Arms Law before I discard it. I like the RMC condensed combat. I am more than capable of recreating it with the RMU stats if needed. I have never used the HARP combat system but I do like the look of it and it is by far the simplest. There is one potential issue with it but fixing that would be only a fraction of the work required to recreate the condensed combat system for RMU.

So as it stands I am am man with an idea but so many different version of Rolemaster to play with I don’t know quite where to start. I think it is quite likely that I will end up with a fusion of the best of all of them in my final game. I will let you know how it turns out.

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