I thought I would stir things up a bit and do a quick blog on what I consider the most problematic spell lists found in the early version of Spell Law. I’m going to refer back to Spell Law #1200 which is the punched up version of Spell Law from RM2. Now that I am fiddling with a 4th iteration of BASiL I had a chance to review my original notes and comments.
The original Rolemaster probably ignored a few key class tropes in their original work. Paladins comes to mind of course, but in my mind one of the most important is the Shaman!
If Clerics/Priests are defined as members of an organized religion, than perhaps we can define a Shaman as a leader of a decentralized or non-organized religion. Maybe the society or group worships a local god, or a real god under an avatistic identity, but the belief system lacks the more coherent structure and trappings of an organized religious institution. If you are gaming in a “classic” fantasy setting, you’ll probably have, or encounter a variety of primitive societies: Orcs, Goblins, barbaric tribes etc. These groups will most definitely have a version of a “Cleric”, but different than the type found in Rolemaster that casts Absolutions and Channels.
If you follow the Rolemaster threads or the RMU threads you’ll see people asking for clarification on a certain spell, list or spell mechanic. With so many spells, various realms and lots of companion spell lists, it’s not surprising that the Spell Law edifice is showing a few cracks after 30+ years. For me that started the process of “deconstruction”–tearing down Spell Law and looking at it from a unbiased and objective mindset.
BriH touched on this with his high level adventures but a very high level spell caster is highly likely to have every open and closed list and every base list to the max. Obviously the rules in play can affect that. I am playing my lay healer in a game where almost everyone in the world has at least some kind of magic and every family has a spell caster.
In that game 10 ranks in learning a spell list is enough for automatic success and you can learn lists in parallel. You can learn one list for every powerpoint/level you gain. The GM also allows you to add your stat bonus to the spell gain roll if the chance is not automatic.
Brian recently touched upon the need for Rolemaster to fully commit to Shadow World as its default setting. I am 100% behind this idea.
It is obvious from Brian’s deconstructions that as soon as you start to look critically as Spell Law that the amount of setting specific magic is far greater than one would have given credit for initially. This will always be most pronounced in the Channelling realm as gods have a big role to play in most fantasy settings. That then throws up the issue of why is a cleric of a fire god just as good at healing as a god of healing?
I thought the commentary on “Illusions” in my last blog post was pretty good, so I thought I would discuss another spell mechanic that might need to be re-examined: Summoning.
Spell Law contains a number of spells to summon/conjure Demons, creatures and other beings in Essence and Channeling. But really it’s a just a big hot mess of vague, confusing spells.
Now this is a different beast!
Everything I disliked about Creature Law does not apply to Spell Law. It looks like a professional, high quality product and give or take the odd rough looking table, it is. It is still a weighty tome but you have to look at it from a players point of view and a GMs’ point of view. As a player you could easily print off just your spell lists and you would have one page (sometimes two) per spell list and you get all the parameters, spell descriptions and any applicable notes that are important. Every spell list stands on its own two feet. This necessarily means that the spell list section if physically large but you do not have to read it all back to back.
I remember when I first saw Spell Law, the rolemaster magic rule book, I was not overly impressed. When dealing with magic my background was largely D&D with the hundreds of PHB spells and probably an equal number of add on spells from Dragon magazine and from the backs of modules and such. Spell Law and the Rolemaster magic system takes a bit of getting used to but if you leave your preconceptions at the door it is an amazing system.