We love our Giants

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I have spoken about giants and the local legends before in When is a rock not a rock? Now it just so happens that I encountered a couple more giants last weekend then they deserve a bit of an honourable mention, especially as they stood still long enough for me to catch them in a photo.

It appears out first giant has just woken up and could be in a bit of trouble. I think I read somewhere that the head represents about 1/7th of the entire body so the bit you can see was about 5′ and was half his head making him approximately 70′ tall if he stood up straight.
Out second lady giant is considerably smaller at a meer 35′ tall and somewhat more shapely than her male kin. Obviously both giants have been slumbering sor quite a while which is why nature had almost entirely concealed them.

Giants are cool. They make a complete mockery of most parties battle formations. For most spells if you are close enough to fire a spell at them you are close enough to get hit with a pretty big rock by return post.

In my world I get to choose from a whole host of giants from the Arcane and Cyclops which are fairly distinctive to (and this is a pretty give list) Cloud, Desert, Fire, Fog, Formorian, Frost, Hill, Jungle, Mountian, Reef, Stone, Storm and Wood Giants plus Ettins, Firbolg, and Verbeeg.

In the RMU Creature Law (I know, I just couldn’t keep away!) you get a selection of the most common eg Cyclops, Cloud, Fire, Frost, Hill, Mountain, Stone, Storm, Forestand Water Giant plus three known as Minor, Normal and Major. In RMC you get same cast as RMU.

So who has the toughest giants? The answer has to be RMU giants kick arse! The reason being is magic. In AD&D giants did have inate abilites and there was always a chance that a giat has a low leve cast with them. In RMC wach giant has a couple of spell lists (up to four lists for Cloud Giants) but RMU Giants are incredible spell casters with the king of the heap being the Mountain Giant with 14 spell lists to pick from all to the giants level.

Reading the RMC and RMU giant monster descriptions I am reminded somewhat of the original Greek myth variatons of the giants rather than their Norse brethren but most of all I was really impressed with the reworking they have recieved in RMU.

But what about the missing giants? The Jungle Giant, Firbolg and Verbeeg etc.? These are going to be pretty easy to convert over for my game if and when I need them but now I have refreshed myself with the Rolemaster image of giants I think I may be giving them a bit of a shot in the arm and a general beefing up. Now that has to be a job for a lazy summer afternoon.

Forgotten Realms, Not In the Ghetto

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One of the things I like about the Forgotten Realms setting is that unlike so many other settings the non-human races are not ghettoised.

Take middle earth for example, if you are looking for a dwarf then they are pretty much allowed to live in Erebor or the Iron hills. Need and elf? That will be Lorien or Rivendell. If Hobbits are your problem then head to the shire.

Pretty much the entire planet is human with just these little nature reserves or enclosures for the non humans. Greyhawk was not much better with elves being found in Celene, Highvale, the Lendore Isles, Sunndi, the Duchy of Ulek, the Valley of the Mage, the Vesve Forest.

Faerun is more cosmoplitan and racially integrated than either of these and more than most other settings. Take Waterdeep as an example, the city itself holds almost every inteligent race capable of living in a civilised society and that includes races normally associated with the tag ‘monster’. As long as they are kept in check there is no reason not to employ Orcish bodyguards.

This integration does not only extend along racial lines. Your magic users are not all holed up in their towers. Every spell caster who can manipulate fire or water can find a place in the cities version of the fire brigade. It is one of the ways that spell casters can make their living if they are not the adventuring type.

From an adventuring perspective what this means is that for the starting player every race is available without having to come up with some tenuous reason why they are where they are. If you want to be from foreign lands then great but if you want to be local but still be a dwarven berserker then that is cool too. If you need someone who can read dwarven runes then chances are there is going to be a dwarf in your local tavern at some point. Whether that causes more problems than it solves is one of the day to day hazards of adventuring. (Getting a dwarf to translate the runes of a grave piece from a noble dwarven family can be a bit dicey!)

The whole Dwarves don’t like Elves and Elves being patronising to Dwarves is a bit cliched and totally unnecessary in an integrated society.

This doesn’t mean that you don’t get ‘homelands’ for these races. In fact within Faerun you get elven homelands that have been abandoned (Myth Drannor), those that are in their ascendancy (Evereska) and those timeless lands that have always been and always (to the inhabitants perception) will be elven lands.

The same is true with the Dwarves. There are enough dwarves around that are looking for clues of their lost family halls that they are almost queuing up to repopulate former dwarven halls and strongholds.

So when you are adventuring in the Realms just remember there is no place for ‘human supremacists’.


Broadcryers are part of the fabric of life in Waterdeep. These are the newspaper hawkers that we know selling the single page ‘broadsheet’ short scrolls that are popular in Waterdeep.

Short scrolls are a single sided scroll maybe 20cm by 30cm (8″ by 12″) that pass for a newspaper. There are several available and each is printed within the city. The most popular are ‘The Vigilant Citizen’, ‘The Blue Unicorn’, ‘Daily Luck’ and ‘Northwind’.

As a rule they carry tabloid style tittle tattle, scandle and rumours as much as any real news. The writers of the short scrolls are a mix of anonymous perveyors of rumour, often in reality scribes who become privy to private affairs through their work or through overhead snippets of information and semi professional reporters of news. The concept of ‘Journalism’ does not exist but chroniclers of events have been around since the dawn of the written word.

As a GM I absolutely love the short scrolls. Based on the premise that with all tabloid journalism 99.9% is made up crap designed to sell newspapers I can use Broadcryers to bawl out headlines which could be ‘rumours’ fit for investigation by the party of PCs, complete fabrication, events spun off from different PCs operating in the same area or a way of introducing colour and flavour into the world, names of important NPCs and what they are up to.

In the same way that Freddie Starr never consumed any hamsters I am in no way constrained by the truth.

Something that is interesting though is that according to all the official Forgotten Realms publications (City of Splendors: Waterdeep, Blackstaff Tower and Downshadow) these are printed not hand written. The printing press revolutionised fifteenth century Europe. As soon as you allow printing presses into the world you open a pandoras box of potential uses for this technology. If you look through Spell Law ways of mass duplication is something that is not are covered by the normal spell lists. Possibly you could use a Prosaic list for this or research a suitable spell but as it stands this is something that technology can do that magic cannot.

The reason Broadcryers and their short scrolls came to mind is that all week I have been making up stories to fill the short scrolls for my PBP game. When rules, reality and even truth are all optional it is really good fun creating little newspaper stories.


I am avoiding RMU! (and the missing subterfuge skills!)

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You may have noticed that I have not mentioned that much about RMU. The truth is that I have had a collegue on annual leave, I have had to go on 6 sessions of full day training, I have been away my self (a paintballing weekend) and various other demands on my time (blame the Greeks). I simply have not had time to read the books in the detail they deserve and conversely there is a really detailed discussion going on on the ICE forums that is far better than anything I could write with the added advantage of feedback from the actual authors.

If you want to know more about RMU then head over here http://www.ironcrown.com/ICEforums/. I will deal with each book in turn when I have the time to do it justice.

RM2 vs My brand of RMC

One of my PBP players today asked me where have all the subterfuge skills gone. RM2 players are used to having dozens of skills detailing the minituae of every aspect of life it seems. For example they have Build Trap, Set Trap, Detect Trap and Disarm Trap in addition you can learn Trap Lore to give you a knowledge base to work from.

In my world I still have Trap Lore but the only skill for traps is Disarm Trap. As I explained to the player if you are looking for traps and it is a trip wire or pressure plate sort of affair then Perception is the skill to use. Just tell me what you are looking for and roll the dice. If it is a complex lock mechanism that you are studying in detail and you want to know if it has an embedded trap then the Disarm Trap skill is suitable.

What about the building and setting of traps? As I see it if you are relying on a trip wire or noose then I would use rope mastery, if it is a snare to all intents and purposes then why not use a foraging roll? If it is none of those but you can explain to me how you want it to work and how to set it up then I am good wth that. Not everything has to have a roll but if there is a chance of failure then we have 10 stats we can use. I am inclined to use a different mix of stat bonuses from case to case depending on the design of the trap. Some will require a more reasoned approach others nimble fingers and a steady hand. Trap Lore would come into this as well. If the principles are well know and obvious then a knowledge of Trap Lore will warn you of some of the common reasons for failure and tips to aid success.

So is this Build Trap, Set Trap or Foraging?

So the most important thing is what are you trying to catch? If the answer is a rabbit then using the trap above is without a doubt foraging. If you want to catch an Orc then under RM2 you would need two completely different skills (Build and Set). Why is that?

Why Remove Skills from the Game?

I am not on a mission to remove skills from the game. What I noticed was that with every companion there were new skills being added. This puts pressure on the GM to give more Development Points each level, makes leveling up slower, makes each RM2 Character incompatible with any other game that didn’t use the same mix of companions and as almost every skills is coloured by how much scope each GM gives it makes playing the game under two different GMs potentially confusing.

Thieves are one of the nicest ‘skills based’ professions there is. They have good combat skills and their skill costs are pretty cheap normaly 1/3 for most subterfuge skills. RM2 then breaks this by adding so many skills that just to build and then set a trap requires two skills (effectively make a cost of 2/6) and two chances of fumbling (a net 10% chance or two attempts at not rolling 1-5 of an OE down roll).

It is not just thieves and subterfuge skills. Spell casters have Spell Mastery but also Spell Trickery. Why? I have rolled both these into one skill. We have different difficulty penalty gradings from Routine to Absurd for a reason. There is no reason as far as I am concerned to constantly break everything down and down into ever more granular skills.

There was a debate on the ICE forums about how many development points (DPs) do GMs give. Up until this current game I have always stuck to the original core rule for development points but I did used to give six free ranks as ‘hobby’ skills. This time I have tried using 25% of the characters normal DPs as hobby skills instead. Chances are I suspect that it will even out as pretty much the same but I would not be surprised if the the characters end up more limited by this method. I am thinking that if a character has just DPs to spend they are more likely to buy skills that are cheap for their profession. With a flat 6 ranks to allocate then you can pick from across the board of secondary skills irrespective of cost.

Rolemaster Lore

Rolemaster has ample scope for individualising a characters knowledge and learning from any possible background or upbringing. You can have as many Lore skills as you like and as many Craft skills as you like. This I do not have a problem with. I think it is one of the great things about rolemaster that every character cn be so unique AND true to the players vision. What I do not see is a cnstant need to add ever more skills or bloat to the a game system that already allowed heroes to be exactly what the players controling them envisioned.

How loud is your campsite?

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I was thinking about your typical party campsite the other day. We assume both as players and as GMs that a lot is happening during those hours camping that we do not normally play through. The fighters are practicing, repairing bits of armour, food is prepared and pots washed and so on.

It is easy for a typical PC to be ‘learning’ 15 to 20 skills each level and all of these will require a certain amount of practice time. I used to work in adult education and we would allocate about 20hrs for a student to grasp a basic skill. It is also generally bandied about that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill.

I imagine some campsites get quite tense with the characters trying to learn academic skills getting really hacked off with the fighters shouting, grunting and clashing weapons all evening. Combat practice is really hard to do quietly. I was at a fencing competition on Friday and there you have steel weapons but cloth armour or polycarbonate breastplates. The sound of the combat carried maybe 300meters or more. Imagine steel weapons against iron bound shields and steel breast plates. The typical ‘off guard’ or off duty party could probably be heard half a mile away on a still evening and that is without the swearing when the character fumbles a smithing roll whilst hammering out dents in his armour.

If your party, as I often do when playing, says they are going to make camp away from the road so they are not obvious you are in reality talking a very long way if they are going to carry  on the normal business of maintaining their skills and equipment. This doesn’t even take into account particularly keen ears of non-human races.

I think this is one of those things I have just taken for granted ever since I have been roleplaying back when I was 14 or so and that has just always been the way parties camp. In future I think unless other precautions are being taken you will be looking at an active zone nearly a mile in diameter when a full on PC party makes camp. No wonder orcs, trolls and goblins wander into camp so often!

RMU Beta 2 Spell Law

Rolemaster Unified Spell Law
Rolemaster Unified Spell Law

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.

As a GM the supporting material for magic has to be great enough to actually be supportive. Rolemaster illusions are absolutely amazing magic and much better in RMU that it was in RM2 and RMC. If you are coming from the D&D world then you need that detail on illusions as they are nothing like you are used to. This spell law still has the utterly rediculous rule that the weight of the illusionist specifies the weight that can be bourn by the illusions. Never trust the halfling illusionist but the obese guy in the corner may be in danger of a heart attack but his illusionary bridges are amazing. Under the RM2 creatures and treasures there was a most potent artifact (slippers) that allowed illusionists to stand on their own illusions, now illusionists have this ability for free!

I am pleased to see ritual magic wrapped into the core magic rules. I love rituals and having a coherent set of rules that apply to both players and evil villains alike is cool.

All in all I would say this book is a natural progression from Beta 1 and a marked improvement. There are lots of little changes, each quite minor but the sum of all of them is significant. There are bits of RMU I have already adopted into my normal play because they quite simply were good ideas well executed and this holds true.

The thing I am most interested in seeing is how Action Points work. they are briefly mentioned in Spell Law but are part of Arms & Character Law which I am only just starting to read now. It sounds to me like the initiative rules have take a major revamping!