I thought I would share a little bit of background as to why I am so interested in Rolemaster and Faerun. The game I am running is not your usual Friday night gaming session. My players and I get together just twice a year for a gaming only weekend where we manage about 30hrs of pure roleplaying once you take out the time needed for sleeping and eating. The next of these mammoth weekends is just eight days away and I have been working up to this session since November last year.
The game is set in Faerun as you know and after the time of troubles. I have never played a game in the forgotten releams before but I do own a lot of the materials, picked up cheaply second-hand, and none of my players have adventured in there either. Due to the infrequency of the gaming sessions I wanted something that would keep the game alive between meetings. There are so many forgotten realms books now on kindle for free or so cheap as to be almost free
that both my players and I could read about the world gaining in our understanding of the setting and its lore.
My players are familiar with Shadow World, a native Rolemaster game setting, and one of the features of Shadow World are Eassence Storms. Faerun after the time of troubles had areas of wild magic and for me I can make the two almost synonymous and give my players a point of reference they can identify with.
I hope you can see that as a setting the realms is an incredibly easy option even if like me and all my players you have busy lives and obligations and cannot devote the hours and days required to create a believable and rich bespoke gaming world of your own. I honestly believe that if you have never visited the realms and you are planning on starting a new campaign then it is definitely worth your consideration.
If you are coming from the D&D world then as a transition to Rolemaster it is easier to have as many familiar points of reference for your players and again the realms can serve you well. Not every monster or race has a direct one to one equivalent but that is one of the things I am addressing here. I am creating the Rolemaster statistics for anything I find in the forgotten realms that I cannot find in the Rolemaster rules and more importantly I am going to create them for the forth coming new edition of Rolemaster, Rolemaster Unified (RMU).
I have up until now been holding some things back. These are creatures and such that my players have not yet met and I do not want to reveal before the game session coming up just in case they stumble upon this blog. They do not know I am writing this and I am not going to tell them. Once they have met/defeated and have the measure of the next new monster on the menu then I will happily share the stats with you all.
I will of course share with you the parties progress as they get on with their adventures.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you but this is going to smack some one up really badly when it unwinds!
In the Monster Manual we had Treants, in MERP they were Ents and Active Trees. If you are just coming to Rolemaster then Creatures & Treasures (Page 51) gives you three varieties to play with, the Awakened Tree, Slowroots and Treeherds being 5th, 10th and 20th level respectively.
Your Awakened Tree is the the classic horror moving dark forest that the innocent fool wanders into before disappearing never to be seen again while everyone in the audience is thinking “Why do they always go into the forest in the middle of the night all alone when people are disappearing?” (If you know what I mean.)
Your Slowroots and Treeherds are the more ‘goodly’ variants and the Rolemaster equivalents of Tolkien Ents as seen in the Lord of the Rings.
I am pretty sure the tree in the photo above is completely natural and the twisting just a turn of fate (groan!) and that I didn’t catch it about the beat the hell out of me. If that is true then how would a party of adventurers ever be able to tell when they walk into an ambush of this kind?
I did say a while ago that I was going to give the gameable stats for both RM2/RMC and RMU for everything I write about. In Nicholas Caldwell’s directors briefing this month he says how well the second beta of Rolemaster Unified is coming along and there is the promise of the RMU Creature Law to come too.
I cannot see the benefit of statting things out for RMU Beta 1 when Beta 2 is just around the corner so for the time being I will skip the RMU stats and just stick to RM2/RMC.
What I am really looking forward to is getting some RMU stats for the Undead. There are a few adventures I would like to create using the undead as the main existential threat with an evil cleric or necromancer pulling the strings in the background. I like playing an NPC to the absolute max of their ability to see just what they could achieve.
This is one area where Rolemaster spell casters massively out-gun their D&D counterparts. In the AD&D that I used to play Animate Dead was a 3rd level Cleric and a 5th level Magic User spell meaning that the characters needed to be 5th or 9th level respectively to case it. In Rolemaster your evil cleric can go around raising his Zombies or Skeletons from 1st level although they will only last for a minute a level at that point. From 5th level onwards he or she can create permenant undead followers.
One of the beauties of Rolemaster spell users and spell lists is the way you can combine things. With Channeling users such as Clerics they can use Symbols to create your classic standing stone type shrine that will happily create an undead ‘guardian’ once a day if an infidel were to wander by. Again this is a 5th level spell. So even if the evil cleric isn’t at home when the players come knocking they still get to fight any permenant undead they ay have created and have others effectively respawn should the players return the following night.
Fearûn definitely has enough evil gods to give any GM ample opportunity to play with the undead, evil clerics and necromancers in abundance.
As a setting Faerûn can be a bit of a marmite setting. The diehard Gygax followers have never accepted it. Greyhawk adherents never needed it and it seems that with every new edition of D&D they feel the need to reinvent it. So why bother with Rolemaster and Faerûn?
I will not deny that Faerûn is not perfect. The original (grey box) edition barely sketched out the world as a setting for half a dozen modules and we were kind of teased into it by Elminster articles in Dragon magazine. After then there were so many seismic shifts that it is hard to keep track of it, gods dying, Mongolian hordes and volcanic eruptions not withstanding. Another criticism leveled at the Forgotten Realms setting is the über powerfull NPCs such as Elminster and Drizzt Do’Urden.
I, like many other roleplayers, cut my teeth in the D&D world, Greyhawk in my case, but then moved on to other games and other worlds. Last year I started to plan a new campaign after not GMing for a few years and I offered my players the option of a D&D game just for old times sake and I was surprised at the negative reaction. Despite that the D&D game had moved on generations since we last played no one was interested. We have always been dedicated Rolemaster players and that is what they wanted.
Setting a rolemaster game in Faerûn is pretty easy. Creatures and Treasures (I, II and III) cover 90% of all the creatures you will ever need. There are very simple rules included in C&T I to convert any that are not there over to Rolemaster and you are 50% of the way there. The other 50% is the NPCs.
There are numerous excel based spreadsheet type character sheets to help speed up character creation and my favourite piece of software (Rolemaster Charactder Utility) makes creating a middle to high level character the an hours work. This is where you can decide if you want and all powerful Elminster or not.
If you have a party of experienced D&D players then having a go at Rolemaster, even with a fairly simple adventure will be an eye opener (in a good way I hope)!
I am a RM2/RMC (Rolemaster 2nd Edition and Rolemaster Classic) player but there are other flavours available including a freebie 3000L_HarpLite (High Adventure RolePlaying) which has everything you need to get playing.
In my Monster Snobbery post I mentioned a creature that is unique to the Forgotten Realms setting. This is the Moray Rat, a vicious variation of the normal rat that is the staple monster killing diet of many low-level characters.
What makes the Moray unusual is that it has nasty backward angled teeth that mean that once it has latched on to its prey it cannot let go or be shaken off. It will hang on to its prey until it eventually bleeds out.
Game mechanics-wise treat the rats as standard rats but if the rat delivers a critical that does at least 1 point of bleeding damage per round then the rat is attached. It will no longer attack but it just thrashs around worrying at the wound. I would give the victim or helper +50OB to attack an attached rat but I leave it up to the GM to decide what should happen if you try to hit a rat attached to your own leg and miss.
There is of course the option of the Moray Giant Rat but that is your own choice.
Morays tend to be found in much smaller numbers than typical rats due to the fact that their natural internal squabbles tend to lead to more fatalities which keeps numbers down. They are perfectly suited to living in burrows, pipes and crevices where prey may wander in as opposed to living in large packs and scavenging.
After my last PC Perils post (Whats in the hole?) we left the party facing trolls, hill giants or maybe an entire abandoned mine complex. We catch up with them again fleeing the woods and heading for higher ground and so their adventure continues in our little photo story.
Is that some sort of spire I cna see through the trees?
Yes it is a definite spire
It doesn’t look like a church.
What on Earth is that? It looks like a three sided pyramid.
Hmm, that says “Resurgem” above the crest or “I will arise”.
Who puts a door in the side of a pyramid? Wait a minute what’s that?
Oh you are kidding me right? Someone has tried digging their way into the burial chamber of whaterver it is in there!
So there they are having emerged from the woods to find a granite pyramid wth a door in the side that someone has had a go at and inscribed in Latin “I will arise”. The family crest reads Nil Desperandum” or Never Dispair.
This just has to end badly for the party doesn’t it? In a world with magic and ‘long door’ or ‘portal’ spells the stone door is no barrier to something magical within but would stop frightened peasants from getting in and burning the thing whatever it may be.
From a real world point of view this pyramid is real and really is at the top of the same hill with the abandoned mines in the previous perils post. The person who paid for its construction also left a trust fund to have local children brought up to it every 5 years to dance around it. It was intended to be his burial place but by chance he was away in London when he was taken ill and died just outside the city. They still open the doorway every 5 years to see if he has risen from the dead yet as per his instructions despite the fact that he isn’t in there. If you want to read a bit more about it there is a wikipedia article about John Knill.
As a GM there are never enough really good reasons to use the undead if find and it would be a shame to pass one up.
I made a few changes to the blog today and here is the story why.
I woke up this morning to an email from Colin @ ICE which was a pleasant surprise. He asked for a few things, They wanted a link to the rpgnow site on the blog (you can see it to the left now) but more interestingly they asked if I would make it clear that this was an unofficial blog and put a link to the official blog (also on the left now).
As Colin put it “They thought this was the official ICE blog”. I am not out to masquerade as anything I am not so obviously I was more than happy to make the changes. What is interesting is who ‘they’ are? I kind of hope it was some completely new people first discovering Rolemaster for the first time. That was sort of the reason for starting this blog, to spread the word about Rolemaster.
The really cool thing is that Colin has offered to share pre-release copies of products for review. I really hope this turns out to be possible as I could then give you all my personal take on the new products.
I am perfectly happy to admit that I am a snob. Not just any kind of snob though, I am a monster snob. I am running my campaign set in Faerun and the Forgotten Realms but using Rolemaster in preference to AD&D. There is no problem doing that and Rolemaster gives you a set of conversion rules (Creatures and Treasures pg 92-93) for doing the job. As it happens the majority of common monsters have already been converted so there are not that many to do most of the time. So where does the monster snobbery come from?
Part of the conversion process from AD&D to Rolemaster is in balancing the adventures. A pair of 3rd level AD&D fighters may well wade through 2-24 Kobolds but you try that in Rolemaster and you have a pair of very dead fighters on your hands probably in under 30 seconds. You need to balance the encounters for the much more dangerous combat system for a start. Sometimes you can just reduce the numbers encountered but that often just isn’t an option. Any sensible Dark Lord would not just put a single guard at every gateway, they don’t use just three warders to escort the party of five PCs who have just been captured and that viking longship did not just have two rowers!
So if you cannot balance the game and the challenge there where do you look? Many of the Forgotten Realms source books provide starting adventures and that is where my party of adventurers are right now below the Tower of Ashaba. In addition to the Drow they are going to have to fight, the main point of the adventure, there are a number of incidental encounters.
Here are the cast of monsters (just the races not the numbers) that make guest appearances as one-off encounters: Aballin, Cave Badger, Gambado, Gelatinous Cube, Huge Spider, Moray Rat, Mud-man, Piercer and Rats. That is quite a cast and that is in addition to six additional races including a Drow priestess and an evil magician that make up the core adventure.
Now looking at the supporting cast an Aballin is a pool of intelligent living water and a Gelatinous Cube is a giant single cell creature. It is these two that I have a problem with. Funny enough a Mud-man I can cope with. There is enough wild magic around (akin to Eassence storms on Kulthea) to animate a Mud-man, after all there is an awful lot of life in a pool of goo. I just cannot believe in malignant intelligent water or giant cubes of jelly.
Working on the principle that I am god ergo I don’t like it so it doesn’t exist. And that is probably the ultimate snobbery. If I don’t like you, you don’t count. This also goes part way to the balancing of the adventure.
There was another creature in that cast that you may not know, the Moray Rat. This is a Faerun creation and one that I do like. I will share the stats for them in a future post.