Another Game Session comes around!

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A week on Friday and I will be off for one of our long weekends of gaming. Interestingly the way things were left at the end of the last session the characters had not actually finished they job they were hired for but events had moved on and because of their actions the powers that be have had to change their plans.

The party had pretty much cracked open a Drow stronghold, rescued the enslaved dwarves and killed almost every drow they found barring the one that fled using magic.

Some of the party are talking about going back down into the underdark to finish the job. the rest of the party are happy to leave it to the authorities who can flood the place with soldiers with the inteligence the party have brought back. So as a GM I have no idea where the party are going next. There is still plenty of challenge if the party head into the underdark on their own but they are quite right a few dozen soldiers can do the job just as easily.

I cannot tell you what they are facing next because they could read it here first and that will sort of spoil the surprise somewhat.

Between the two is the nice fact that they are now local celebrities and heroes. They have rescued nearly 25 innocent victims and alerted the authorities to a threat they did not know was there. All in all it was a good weeks work by anyones standard. Amusingly the biggest threat to the party was themselves and some of their tactics had them fleeing in fear of themselves.  They also seem to be developing a habit of taking incredibly dangerous risks with their own safety and writing those risks off as being inconsquential.  One of them nearly drowned and had to be rescued by the one party member who was paying attention. The others just wandered off and started busying themselves with other tasks as they had reached an apparent dead end.

So, although what the parties options are and the adventure hooks that are available to them I don’t know what they are going to do next.

We shall see what happens!

Rolemaster Critical Mass

Probably the greatest selling point for Rolemaster is its critical tables. Rather than rolling to hit and then rolling damage as you do in many other games in rolemaster the to hit and damage are the same roll. the higher the roll the more damage you do, the lower the roll the greater the likelihood of a glancing blow or complete miss. Once you have made that attack roll there is often a second d100 roll and that is for your critical (Yay!) or fumble (boo!). Your critical gives you a bundle of extras. It tells you the location of your hit, special effects such as knocking your opponent back or down, a description of the wound and bonus damage such as additin damage, bleeding (or being on fire if it was a fireball) and can lead to instant death.

A critical table normally has five levels of critical (A to E) and 20 criticals per level. An ‘A’ critical is rarely fatal in its own right. An ‘E’ critical is fatal about 15%-20% of the time. There are some wonderfully gory criticals such as “Nasty cut across both legs knocks foe down. Foe struggles back on his feet for 5 more
rounds, then his femoral arteries burst in a gout of blood, killing him.” That was one of the  ‘E’ Slash criticals from the new RMU Beta.

Criticals are defined by the type of wound. The most common are slash critical, puncture and crush (known as Krush in Rolemaster). These are used for your swords, arrows and maces etc. A sword may do a slash critical against an unarmed foe but a krush against someone in plate armour as the attack tables take into account both the armour and the weapon. There are criticals for each unique type of damage so on top of the traditional weapon type damage you have fire, cold, electricity, martial arts (strikes and throws) and less obvious things like steam and acid. If a Black Dragon spits acid at you then you are not just going to take a dozen d6 of damage, you are going to pretty much eaten alive.

These criticals have been in Rolemaster right from the start and have largely remained unchanged. Except for once (to my knowledge). ICE had a dalliance with weapon specific criticals back in the noughties (2008). These described damage by weapon rather than by damage type. What that means is that in the normal critical tables a puncture critical of the same severity with the same critical dice roll from a spear, an arrow and a rapier would all do the same damage. Lets say you did a ‘C’ critical and then rolled an 88 for your critical roll. The result reads “Point passes through arm. Blood comes out on both sides.” (I have removed references to additional damage as RMU has different ways of recording the additional damage.)

In a weapon specific critical table the results vary. Look at these three. (all are 88 results for C criticals)

Your blow takes his shield arm right off. +25 hits, bleeding 6
hits/rnd, stunned no parry 4 rnds and -10 to all actions. If he’s got a shield it’s shattered but his arm is only broken; -20 to all actions.

He bites his tongue as your point sinks into bicep and blood sprays everywhere whenever he moves his arm. +17 hits, bleeding 5 hits/rnd and stunned no parry 4 rnds.

Striking the bone in his forearm, your arrow deflects up and inwards until only the feathers are showing. +12 hits, bleeding 6 hits/rnd, stunned no parry 2 rnds, stunned 2 more rnds and at -15 to all actions.

It is fairly easy to see the difference between the spear and the rapier (the feathers give the arrow away in our little line up). I am a big fan of weapon specific criticals and still use them in preference to the standard tables. Even so with the typical sword it can do up to 300 different unique wounds just on the standard tables alone (A to E, and a mix of slashes, punctures and krushes). You cannot do that on just a d8 and don’t get me started on holy, slaying and burning weapons. they get really dangerous!

If you have never played Rolemaster and you get a chance to try out the RMU Beta I would take the opportunity. You can download the rules from the ICE forum if you have some players who are prepared to have a go!

Wrangling a Gaggle of Goblins

In my previous post A Safe Place To Camp I used a warband of Goblins as the force against the players. 19 Goblins used at top efficiency could do serious damage to any party of almost any level. Any arror or crossbow bolt in their case can get that open ended attack roll and deliver a killing blow. Organised ranks of light crossbow goblins loading and firing upon command can do serious damage particlularly to low level parties.

Defending Yourself in Rolemaster

Your defence in Rolemaster is a matter of natural ability through your character stats, physical protection through shields and armour, defensive skills such as ‘adreanal defence’ or ‘yado’ and then magic on top of all that. Most of these things add a positive bonus to your DB (Defensive Bonus) that is taken away from your attackers dice roll. Low level characters in Rolemaster generally do not have that much magical protection or the best armours this means that even a relatively unskilled crossbow goblin has a chance to hurt you. Multiply that by volleys of six bolts at a time and the odds are in the goblins favour.

On the other hand if the goblins are in disarray then they are a completely different proposal.

Big on Initiative

In all flavours of Rolemaster using a long weapon such as a halberd or spear gives you an advantage to your initiative in that first round of combat. This si because you can hit your opponent before they have finished closing with you. After that first round then the sheer length of the weapon is a bit of a hinderance. In rolemaster because wounds tend ot have a last effect, not just knocking off hit points, if you start to lose then you are likely to carry on losing in a vicious circle. Getting the initiative and then attacking first is valuable. Here our goblins, if they are allowed to get organised, can bring a lot of long weapons to bear on the characters and all with that initial initiative advantage. On the other hand if they are not given that time or using stealth the party can get in amongst them before the fighting starts then the characters have the advantage and are more likely to attack first. All damage is applied instantly in Rolemaster so if you stun your opponent then they are not going to hit you back.

Parry Saves Lives

Rolemaster is dangerous and wounds hurt. Parrying is the norm in combat. Just the same as you see in the movies where the protagonists circle each other probing for weaknesses in the others defense, so it is in Rolemaster combat. You can sacrifice some or all of your attack to deflect your foes attack. Our goblins though will find that hard with such a big weapon as the spears and polearms. They are pretty much half a good as a sword for parrying. This means that in this adventure the characters almost certainly will have to potential for greater defence and a better offence than our goblin defenders.

It really is a GMs call to decide how good a general Spartak the Goblin is and how he can organise his war band. Without changing a single number or creature in the adventure you can make this a warming up exercise for a new party to a humbling experience for a hardened bunch of adventurers.

What you should avoid is a total party wipeout as that is rarely ever fun!

A Safe Place to Camp

There are times when what you want is a world saving adventure and there are times when you just want to kill something. This little adventure is of the just kill something variety. This is really intended to be used with a beginning party of 1st  to 3rd level characters.

In many of the games I have played in it seems like Orcs get used almost as the default bad guy in beginning adventures. This time it is their weaker cousins the Goblin that is going to take the beating.

The entrance to this cave should lie on the parties route of travel and should offer some shelter from the rain or from a storm. As goblins are nocturnal the earlier the party decide to camp the more off guard the goblins will be. There are many lessons to be learned in this little side adventure, not least that it is sometimes better to run away to fight another day. The goblins operate at -75 during daylight so they will be very reluctant to chase a fleeing party. Mind you come night fall they will be out for revenge.

I have included far more goblins than any single party should be able to handle. The idea of charging in madly will probably get you killed but stealth can be your friend. The goblins are not good at coordinating but the players should be working as a team. Low level magic can work well against these 2nd level foes such as Sleep V and even projected light will give the characters the advantage.

You should remember that these round–headed imps  wear clumsy, stone clogs which certainly doesn’t help when they are trying to move quietly.

A Safe Place to Camp 01 (GM)




  1. Sleeping area: this area is where most of the warband sleep. They have nests made up of bits of cloth and vegetation such a furns. The goblins tend to sleep close to the walls as they feel less exposed and are not particularly trusting of their fellows. There are sleeping nests for twelve goblins here.
  2. SPARTAK’s sleeping ‘nest’: this area is where SPARTAK and his harem of five goblinettes spend their days doing whatever it is that goblin warlords like to do.
  3. Communial ‘Council’ Area: This area is not realy used that often. The goblins prefer to be further away from even the little little daylight that reaches here. What this is used for is pre-night raid prep talks. If there are disputes to be settled then the group will gather here sort it out the in a sort of no holds barred wrestling match.
  4. SPARTAK’s bodyguards: There are four burly Goblins here who like the rest are probably sleeping on duty or else slacking off. These are the body guard for the goblin leader. They have decent cured leather breastplates (AT9) and spears that they are wielding two handed. There is a flat topped rock in the centre of this area upon which are many flat pebbles and a leather cup. The goblins entertain themselves during the long summer days couped up in here trying to flip pebbles into the cup. The body guards names are RUSLAN, PETRO, OLGA and OLEK. If they are attacked they will try and form two ranks of two with their spears to the fore. If any of them fall then they will break and flee back to (13) below.
  5. Mess area: Small smoothish boulders have been scattered around here to serve a stools or seats. This is where the goblins come to eat and the northern wall is splattered with left overs flung from bowls and the floor to the north is covered with small bones and scraps.
  6. Work Area: This is where the war band are fixing armour, making weapons, fixing nets and even making shoes. Goblins love machines and as such mastered using leavers (wooden beams) to raise and drop stone blocks to cold forge metals (just poundng out the shapes). Stone hammers are in abundance.
  7. Dressing Chamber. SPARTAK has his armour (rigid leather 10) hung up on a T shaped wooden dolly. Beside it is his woolen cloak (no more than a cape on anyone else) and to the other side a low table holding his weapons (a dagger, short sword and light crossbow). He likes to make a big show of having his body guard ‘dress him for battle’ thinking it impresses the goblin minions.
  8. This area is fenced off using a crude home made corral just inside the narrowest point. Inside the corral is a young mountain lion cub. The goblins are planning on training it into a war cat.
  9. Entrance Guard Post:There are a pair of goblins here that have of course fallen asleep during their watch. They have light crossbows (Goblins love machines of all sorts) and halberds but nothing is loaded or to hand. These goblins are not brave and would rather raise the alarm and flee than die. They are called VSEVOLOD and WOLODYMYR.
  10. Kitchen: Such as it is. A large flat stone serves as butchery block and counter. There are basic rough made kitchen impliments suh as a stone club for use as a tenderiser, an old axe used for seperating joints of meat and cauldron style cooking pots and buckets for water. There is no designated cook, it is just whoever is bottom of the pecking order at that time.
  11. Weapons Store: The goblins are trying to make and stockpile spears, halberds and crossbows. The product of their labours are stored here in piles of shafts, piles of stone spear heads, a few halberd heads and so on. There are very few completed weapons as these are being handed out to the war parties members as soon as they are ready.
  12. Treasure Chest!:Out of sight behind this natural pillar is a small stone coffer holding the war bands loot. Currently standing at 14bp, 9sp and some pretty stones that hold no value to non-goblins.
  13. This area serves a dual purpose. It is SPARTAK’s and his body guards latrine and it is the fall back point for his body guard. The narrowing of the cave walls means it is easier to defend but also the buckets of urine can be thrown to put out torches. The goblins much prefer total darkness.

The total warband amounts to 19 goblins. En masse they will almost certainly kill any party but their leader is no genius. He has visions of crafting a phalanx out of them where a mass of spears and halberds will make them unapproachable. Their love of machinery draws them to the light crossbow and Spartak envisions ranks of crossbow goblins marching forward in regimented fire, reload,  and advance lines protected by a forest of spears and polearms. As it is the crosbows are slow to reload and these long weapons mean goblins struggle to parry and do not carry shields.

If the party enter the cave by day many of the goblins will be sleeping, one or two may be in the kitchen area. As evening falls they ecome more active with weapons being repaired and new ones being made in the workshop area. After night fall they will take a meal in the mess area. Late at night a patrol will be sent out of five or six goblins being three spear bearers and three crossbow goblins.

Each goblin is carrying just 1d10 bronze pieces as treasure. The four bodyguard goblins have have an additional d10 copper and Spartak has an additional d10 silver. That may not sound a great deal of treasure but this is only meant to be a minor distraction. Spartak and his crew are a breakaway group from a larget goblin tribe who have visions of world domination but are probably note going to realise those dreams.

If the players attack and then withdraw the goblins will try and harry them for days. Spartak will initially want to kill all bar one of the players. If they all die then no one will be able to carry the news of his victory and spread his fame. If the losses are too great on his side, say more than four or five actual fatalities then he will just try and drive them off and count that as a victory.

All the stats you need for the goblins are on page 123 of the RMC Creatures and Treasures or 571 of RMU Creature Law.

You can download a players map here.

Where is all the playable material?

The reason this blog exists is because someone asked on the ICE forums that amounted to ‘where is all the playable material?‘. Off the back of that I created this blog. It idea was/is that by having more fan based material may encourage more people into the rolemaster fold.

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Design-wise the blog has moved on a little.

It is nearly one year on and occured to me that I haven’t actually published a great deal of playable adventures. A couple of NPCs and a couple of monsters but not a single adventure.

So my next post will be just that. A small 1st to 3rd level adventure aimed at new to RM GMs and players. I need to check when my one year anniverary actually is, the only thing that brought this to mind was the domain name renewal notice, so it must be coming up soon.

Part of the reason I have not published much playable material is that I had kind of hoped RMU was on the near horizen. I was stalling waiting for that. I wanted to dual stat everything for RM2/RMC and the new RMU. As it is RMU is clearly not going to happen soon. You cannot make a masterpiece over night and juggling so many differing needs is not easy.

So next time you get to kill some goblins!

Who is Unified Rolemaster (RMU) For?

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This week Nicholas Caldwell published the October Director’s Briefing. I seriously recommend reading it if you are interested in any form of Rolemaster.

I think you should never be afraid of people who challenge your ideas or disagree with you. In business we say you will learn more from a single customer complaint than from 100 positive reviews. I love Rolemaster and think it is the best fantasy roleplaying game of all time (so far) and the second best rpg rules system across any genre. I have played a lot of games, as I am sure you all have. I also think Nicholas Caldwell is somewhat wrong in his conclusions of the right target audience for RMU.

It was me that asserted ICE needs RMU ( in the original discusion for all the reasons that he quite rightly outlines. You cannot expect the company to support so many incompatible systems. That I agree with. I think that RMU should be developed first and foremost to attract new players into the RM world.

Here is my reasoning.

As the briefing states trying to perform the balancing act between the wants of the two existing systems requires compromises. Trying to balance the needs of three groups, the RM2ers, the RMSS (that sounds sinister doesn’t it?) and completely new players is an even harder balancing act. You do not need to worry about us old hands. The truth is that all that is going to happen is from two factions you will get three factions, RM2, RMSS and RMU. In the same way that in the D&D world there are still people playing 1st Edition AD&D today when the current version is 5th Edition so you will still have your RM2 players playing RM2 after RMU is released. So trying to unify the audience into a single market will not work.

Secondly if you completely ignored the existing players and just made the best possible new Rolemaster then those people who are starved of new RM material will buy in. Some people jumped from RM2 to RMSS and some jumped from RM2 to RMC. A proportion of those will adopt RMU just because it is RM and it is NEW.

If you just make the best possible Rolemaster, then by extension, you will attract more new players. I defy anyone to argue that ‘the best possible Rolemaster’ will be in anyway inferior to ‘the best possible compromise between all old versions of Rolemaster’.

In the Director’s Briefing he says “Gamers who like very rules-lite systems or cannot abide detail are unlikely to play any edition of Rolemaster.” the flaw in this argument is that I am both 100% committed to Rolemaster (I am a volunteer editor for the Guild Companion, frequent contributor to the ICE forums and one of the few RM bloggers.) and I am one of those people who like very rules-lite systems. Maybe I am the exception that proves the rule or maybe the designers do not like rules-lite systems so assume that the players are like themselves? Who knows.

It is true that targeting the existing players is the easiest audience for ICE to reach but ‘easiest’ is both subjective and relative. How hard is any audience to reach these days? There are 550+ followers of the Shadow World facebook page. A single status update about the release of the new version could reach more people than habitually visit the ICE website (the busiest day ever on the ICE forum saw 276 people). A copy of the game sent to the top games websites for review can reach tens of thousands of roleplayers who have never even seen a RM rulebook. If the game is designed from the ground up for the ‘new to RM’ audience the barrier to entry will be extremely low. Building for the existing userbase is like taking an extremely short ladder into an orchard. Yes it works great while you are picking the low hanging fruit but once that is all gone you have a much harder job on your hands and your early decision is now a  hinderance.

I would send a press release to the top gaming websites asking for beta testers with the only qualification being that they have not played any version of RM in the last 10 years. That would give you a completely different kind of feedback to what we are seeing right now. It may bring lost players back into the RM world. It will definitely give free publicity to ICE and ICE’s products. I would be extremely tempted to create a closed forum just for these ‘new to the fold’ beta testers so they do not get shouted down ‘because they do not know how to play Rolemaster’.

Don’t take this the wrong way. I have never written a game or published a game. I admire everything that has been done so far. I am only writing this because I want RMU to be a raging success. There are something like 7million roleplayers out there and probably 6+million have never had the pleasure of experiencing Rolemaster. I just want the next Rolemaster to be the best possible Rolemaster.

I am a commercial animal at heart and I would love to know ICE’s marketing plans, the market research they did before starting work and how they intend to reach those 7million potential customers. Somehow I don’t think they will let me in on the secret(s) though for which I cannot blame them. I am in no way affiliated with ICE.

My final comment is this. I think I said in that ‘target audience’ thread that I will not be buying RMU. The truth is that, as I have written before, the beta test has made me reevaluate what I thought about all aspects of the different RM rules and options. As a consequence I have gone out and bought HARP. I would not have bought that if it wasn’t for the beta test. Another example is that I was against the game concept of Talents and Flaws but now I get them. RMU is not finished and it is foolish to say ‘I haven’t even seen the finished game but I am not going to like it whatever you do’. That is not what I meant or how I meant it. What I meant was that at that precise moment there were elements of the game that, for me, were what Nicholas refers to as deal breakers. That was then, RMU is the future.

Player Character Downtime

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There have been three mentions of this recently on the Ironcrown forums. How do you handle the time when the player characters are not adventuring? This is also part of the problem I have with sea voyages as I was writing about recently.

The discussions I mentioned involved playing an alchemist who by necessity requires great amounts of time to create magical items, characters that take to crafting or mining and simply healing time for fighters. In my case I was thinking of enforced inactivity while on a boat or ship.

The easy option is naturally enough to hit fast forward and say two weeks later you are all healed, the alchemist makes his spell casting rolls  to see if he was sucessful, the crafter make their craft rolls and so on. You then get on with the adventuring.

In a one player/one GM game you can easily jump days, weeks or even years and no one will mind. You can just as easily roleplay every minute of every day. There was once a brilliant session we had where the party were rightly accused of a hideous crime but it wasn’t really their fault. They did kill the dwarven queen but the queen and her body guard were covered by an illusion so they appeared as Uruk Hai. Once the illusion was lifted it was too late, the queen was dead and her dwarven body guard were not in a listening mood. I was playing a fighter and I really did my best not to kill anyone but I even accidentally killed a couple of the bodyguard. I was limiting myself to ‘A’ criticals and still managed to roll a straight 00. I didn’t even draw my Falchion, that was with martial arts rank 1. When things are going against you there is nothing you can do.

Anyway, it is really hard to escape justice in a magical world and we ended up in a dwarven prison cell. Half the party wanted to bust out and anyone who got in the way had better be able to take care of themselves. Myself and one other were dead set against taking any more dwarven lives. The arguement raged back and forth for 8 realtime hours and was carried out entirely in character. An elven PC was suffering a curse that he always belived anything that was stated as a fact so we had to be really careful not to make ascertions too strongly or the elf would change his opinion and swing the vote the other way.

The end result was that only a few additional dwarves died and the Iron Hills are not on my list of holiday destinations.

We really tried not to kill anyone but some characters will take in on the chin and turn the other cheek and others will rip your head off and kick it down the corridor.

The point is though that the entire session ened up being 8hrs of just talk, effectively downtime with the party locked in a room followed by 2hrs of on the hoof escaping. If we had fast forwarded through the debate we would have missed one of the best scenes in the entire campaign.

There are other considerations here. If you hit fast forward only good things happen. If as a GM you say “OK six months pass and your business fails, you loose your house and you are about to be chased out of town by an angry mob who you owe thousands of silver to.” the player may be upset. That may be the logical result of the player trying to use very poor skills to achieve the impossible but the player would not accept that result. The flip of that is what happens when only good things or nothing happens?

Our alchemist having aquired all the necessary components in the previous adventure presumeably make a couple of rolls and walks away with a free magic item.

A mentalist does not need spellbooks and libraries to research spells, just meditation so during the same perriod all the pure and hybrid mentalists walk away with new spells.

Channeler only need to pray to research new spells so they get a free gift too.

Essence users cannot research new spells so easily, they do need research materials, libraries and possibly mentors but on the other hand if they have rune paper they could fully ‘charge up’ all of it with their most useful spells. Normally this is a risky task out on the trail as to create a 5th level rune takes about 15 power points. The result is that if the caster does that last thing at night and then gets disturbed or attacked he or she may be seriously depleted in power the next day. That way it can take weeks to replace the scrolls used up in a single encounter or adventure. My illusionist uses scrolls a lot for movement type spells from fly to change self and also for spell extension spells. Airlifting the party a long distance can pretty much wipe out his stock of runes.

The crafters on the other hand gain a lot of sellable assets or pure money. I don’t know about your games but I often find taking money off the players is harder than giving it to them. That is the problem with treasure hoards, they tend to be full of money.

The fighters on the other hand do not gain a lot from these extended enforced rests. Yes they heal their wounds and you be able to say, yes you can learn that new skill because you found a trainer while you were in town but that is still not much of a gain.

This is one of those things that I have never really been satisfied with how to handle it. A pure adventuring party is easy but the non-adventuring professions such as labourers through to alchemists do complicate the issue as they do need that down time to use the skills that are the reason for their existence.