The new public playtest editions of RMU are monsters. Creature Law weighs in at 898 pages (Spell Law is now 475 pages) and to do them any justice is going to require time to really read them. That said I thought I would share some first impressions and first up is Creature Law.
I am really pleased to see the inclusion of the genric NPC tables. In old versions of Character Law there was always a table that gave you each profession and typical stats and skills at 1st, 3rd, 5th level and so on so if you needed a quick NPC you could just lift one off the page. Well this is now back and it is better than ever before. They are now called Archetypes and they have been developed for every level from 1st to 50th. Rather than having a list of Magicians from 1st to 50th and then Thieves 1st to 50th now you have generic descriptions such as Offensive, Defensive, Skilled, Semi Spell User and so on. The advantage to this method seems to be that however many new professions* the powers that be decide to add to the game these tables should continue to hold true.
Staying with the Archetype tables this gives me something else that is valuable. When you are creating new PCs for the first time with a new ruleset, having a benchmark you can measure your creation against is a useful tool.
You are not going to buy Creature Law just for a list of generic NPCs. You want monsters and lots of them. This leads me on to a negative point. Creature Law does not look or feel like a second beta version. What if feel like is something any one of us would cobble together in word if you were making a load of new monsters for a particular game. The tables of stats are all over the place. It just feels like a mess. Worst of all the terrible terse enviornmental codes still exist. I do not know anyone who likes these and these days they serve no purpose except to make the book hard to read, understand and use.
All in all I would say I am disappointed at first glance. This book simply is not of the same quality as the other RMU works to date and feels like someone was ruhing to get their homework in on time.
To sum up, great ideas but terrible execution.
* I get the impression that the intention is after the initial release of RMU core rules is to release companion after companion. I understand that the percieved wisdom is that every company has a need to continue to generate new sales but the main criticisms of Rolemaster has been that it is too complicated, has too many optional rules and too many charts and tables. Following the same route again that taking a new set of rules and then adding in more and more options, complications and charts just seems to be repeating the mistakes of the past.