The Many Flavors of Shadow World


One of the great qualities of Shadow World as a game setting is the number of different “styles” that can be found in the various books. No matter what type of fantasy game you play, you can probably find a place or time in Kulthea that can work for you.

Cross-genre. SW’s sci-fi elements and tie in with Spacemaster were pretty novel for a fantasy setting in the late 80’s. For GM’s that like the “ancient astronaut” angle or want to run a Gene Wolfe style campaign, SW has a great back story and cool tech that co-exist with the more traditional fantasy elements.

Low Fantasy/Gritty. While arguably a pre-cursor to SW, The Iron Wind has a very dark feel to it. Ancient citadels, Demonic lords, icy plains and frigid waters gave the module a more mature feel than the “cartoony” D&D modules published in the early 80’s. Part of this was the artwork, but the prose was a marked difference as well. The Iron Wind is still one of my favorites with a distinctive grimdark atmosphere.

Anime. Eidolon brought a certain anime feel to SW. The sky-city, flying ships and interesting Elves evoked a more “wondrous”, lighter feel to SW than previous books. For GM’s that want to run a whimsical campaign in the spirit of Castle in the Sky, or Howls Moving Castle, Shadow World has all the right stuff!

Steampunk. Shadow World is the perfect setting for a steampunk campaign. Skyships, dirgibles, leather clad Navigators, the Elves of Namar-tol all have a great retro- tech feel. GM’s that want to run a  Butcher style campaign can easily create adventures in Shadow World.

High Fantasy. It’s a common criticism that SW is too high powered but for GM’s that want a high fantasy setting, SW works great. World spanning cults, an expansive timeline, powerful villains and the Grand Campaign make SW a perfect setting for high fantasy.

Horror. Emer, the Great Continent and the Atlas addendum brought a darker feel to SW. The Jerak Ahenrath, Aogthu, the Soulstone and the Ark of the Worlds is reminiscent of the Cthulhu mythos. Want to terrify your players—introduce them to Shards or a Herald of the Night!

Hyborian Age. The Interregnum, covering over 100,000 years is a great time to run Conan/Hyborian style adventures. Powerful Dragons, Earthwardens, scattered Elven empires and the ruins of the 1st Era. Perfect!

This is just a few ideas–what style of campaign have you run in Shadow World?

RMC House Rules – Character Creation #7 Spell Lists

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There are two significant bit so to learning spell lists for my house rules.

Firstly I will be using pretty much the Spells as Skills rules. You only need to learn the 1st level spell to enable you to start progressing up the spell list. This means that for the most part you will only need to spend 5 -15 development points to get the full list at first level.

Beyond first level it will typically take a week of study from a suitable source to gain the first rank in a spell list. That is taken from the spell research rules. That would give you the first level spell and from there you need to use the list to progress in it. If we take a list like lofty movement then that has no 1st to 3rd level spells so it will require 4 weeks of study or 20DP as a first level character to learn.

The second part is the way that spell effects are based upon level. There are spells that have a duration based upon level and these are the easiest to adapt. Here you read ranks in the spell list as the level with that spell. This means that you may have a duration of 3 minutes with one spell and only 10 seconds with another but then if you rarely use the second spell you are likely to be less good at it!

The second reference to level are spells like Sleep V that effects 5 levels of target. For this I will use 2 ranks in Body Development equates to 1 old style level. So Sleep V now effects upto 10 ranks in body development.

That seems balanced to me. Of all the changes to make to Rolemaster these changes to Spell Law are the simplest but also have the greatest effect on balance and game play.

Spending just 5DP (out of 50 at 1st level) to get a spell list means that anyone wanting to play a Mage like character can easily afford possibly 5 or 6 lists and still have a range of other skills.

All the rules for learning portions of lists are now gone.

Everyone is always 1st level so resistance rolls will work the same. If you are casting a (Base) spell then the rank in the spell will be the attack level.

That all seems to work. I suspect that in play spell users will end up with more spells sooner but the self regulating nature of the experience system means that this will soon level off. As it is at the higher levels that Rolemaster seems to breakdown that point should be almost pushed back to the points where it doesn’t happen any more.

Interestingly This house ruled version should work brilliantly with the RMU spell law when the final version is released as every list in that has all slots filled. That would standardise the cost of all the lists and give beginning characters a nice range of spells.

RMC House Rules – Character Creation #6 Skills

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I like few skills and broadly interpreted.

What I mean is, take the Athletic Games skill as an example.

Athletic Games: (Ag/Qu or Ag/St) Bonus for playing any one game
primarily involving agility, coordination, and motor skills.

You see I don’t agree with that in a fantasy setting. In the modern world you will get footballers, basketball players, rugby players and so on and they are all specialists and have coaches to work on sport specific skills. At the end of the day though they are all about core strength and hand-eye coordination, balance and spacial awareness.

In a fantasy world you just don’t normally get professional footballers. As far as I am concerned if you have that mix of strength, balance, coordination and awareness then you could, with a little time and practice play any sport. Here is an example from our real world. My horseback archery coach decided that we (I) were going to work on core strength and balance for a session so he produced a balance ball (a big round soft ball) that I had to kneel up on and shoot arrows at the target. At first I could barely get upright before keeling over sideways in slow motion. After 5 minutes though I was kneeling up and shooting a couple of arrows. I practiced each day and at the end of the week I could shoot an entire quiver of arrows. So with less than 2hrs practice I got to grips with an entirely new way of balancing and coordinating my actions.

This is me and my first time shooting from kneeling on an excercise ball.

So I don’t beleive that characters have to buy one copy of this skill for every sport. What I say is one skill for all athletic sports but if you have never done it before then he firs time it is sheer folly as a difficulty and as you get more familiar with the sport then the the difficulty factor comes down.

All the musicians I know can play multiple instruments and they teach themselves new instruments to a passable standard in a matter of hours and certainly no more than a weekend. So I apply the same method to Music and playing instruments. The Music Instrument skill encompasses the understanding of music but the individual instruments are simply a matter of time to practice and playing well get easier over time.

This is my approach to skills. I would rather use this broad strokes approach to skills, have less skills and each one enables the character to do more then the 200 skills that give Rolemaster some of its bloat reputation.

Some skills such read tracks I don’t use at all. As far as I am concerned  if you want to know more about the person you are tracking, make a harder tracking roll.

Really this  is my attitude to skills. Avoid the bloat and make every skill work for its place in the game.

For my game I have cut the lost of skills down to just 43 skills.

Shadow World Adventure Hooks: “Rock Star” fortresses!


My campaigns have never featured a lot of traditional RPG dungeon crawls; I’ve always felt they were a little contrived and disrupted the grittier/realistic feel I was striving. Instead of stocked underground mazes filled with traps, puzzles and commensurate rewards I challenge my players with fortresses, strongholds, castles and lairs. Creative architecture is not my strongest skill, so I look to real life examples for ideas and templates. A google image search under “archaeological floorplans” generates a wealth of great layouts that can be printed and used for gaming. Most of these archaeological layouts are for ancient sites destroyed years ago and forensically recreated from the remnants of historical records, foundation stones and building science so I’m always excited to see an intact site.

Structures and fortresses built on isolated rocks are my favorites. They look cool, they are manageable projects to map out, they represent a controlled finite game environment and they can be a challenging mission to infiltrate/access. Here are a few of my favorite “Rock Star” fortresses.

Aragonese Castle


During my trip to Italy I came across a fantastic fortress: Aragonese Castle on the island of Ischea. Just looking at it makes you want to explore it! The island is skirted with sheer cliffs and the only access is through a long causeway into a tunnel that accesses the fortress. A perfect adventure site.



Mont St. Michel Abbey

St Michel 1

This famous site is more of a walled city/castle than a small fortress. Nonetheless it makes for a great adventure setting. I see this as inspiration for the fortress of the Raven Queen in Shadow World.





Sigiriya 3



A huge exposed rock sticking out of the jungle? A winding staircase up to a fortress? An entrance gate flanked by huge carved lion’s paws? What’s not to love!



Agia Triada

Agia Triada 1

Some of you will recognize this as the monastery featured in James Bond “For your Eyes Only”. That movie came out in 1981—the heights of the D&D craze for my friends and I. The assault on the fortress in the movie—the crossbow, rock climbing and the rope basket elevator was pure awesome.


Those are a few of my favorites—do you have any real life examples you’ve used?

RMC House Rules – Character Creation #5 Profession

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One of the problems for D&D players coming to Rolemaster is that although ‘Profession’ appears to be pretty much the same as ‘Class’ they are definitely not the same thing!

There are significant flaws in Rolemaster professions.

  1. Once you choose a Profession in RM just about everything is set for life and is unchangeable. If your chosen profession virtually excludes magic then whatever happens in the future you will be forever pretty much excluded from magic.
  2. There are so damn many professions. Professions define the costs of your skills and the base spell lists that can be learned. The difference between a fighter and a barbarian is just the skill costs, the difference between a witch and an illusionist is skills and base lists. Choosing profession comes down to which profession has the best skill costs for the skills you want to buy and the closest fit for the spells you want cast. I have ended up viewing it as institutionalised min/maxing as when you get up to 70+ professions there has to be optimised to give the lowest price for exactly what you want.
  3. The professions are scattered though so many books that if every GM does not have all the same material then your particular profession simply may not exist.
  4. Not all professions are as equally balanced as others. There are some optional rules that when combined with some of the professions either makes them unplayable or unstopable. I have seen games where one single Directed Spells skill is used for ALL directed spell attacks. In the case of the Warrior Mage profession all of their attacking spells are on a single list so with a single skill they can attack with their full OB with every attacking spell. The magician who is meant to be the specialist with elemental attacks would have to spend 10 times the development points to be equally good AND could not even start to learn the skill in Lightning bolt until twelth level. The Warrior Mage could start learning it at 2nd level.

As you can see there are issues with professions as they stand. I propose using the No Profession as the basis for all characters.

The No Profession is a standard set of skill costs that are uniform to everyone.

Normally once you have chosen your profession you have to buy skills using your development points at least twice. The first time is your ‘apprenticeship’ level, essentially 0th level. The second time is your 1st level skills and then a third time to show what you are learning at the moment. As skills are spread thoughout most of the rolemaster companion and Law books it can be a challenge and very time consuming to evaluate all 200+ skills available to you. 200 skill costs for 92 professions makes over 18,000 different combinations.

In my version there is only the No Profession, only about 40 skills and you buy your skills only once. There will be more about skills later.

Professional Magical Realms

In addition to the skill costs your profession also gives you a Realm of magic, six base lists and a set of professional level bonuses.

The realm of magic remains the same as standard RM in that you get the choice of one realm from the three standard realms (channeling, mentalism or Essence). Technically I do not insist you choose your realm until you start to study some sort of magic. On the other hand though your power points will be based upon one of your stats. This means that if you envision casting spells then you will need to ensure you have some power points from your stats before you start.

If you have spell lists from just one realm then all your power points will come from the stat governing that realm (EM), (IN) or (PR). If you learn a list from a second realm then your power points will come from the average stat from the two realm stats. If you then learn magic from the third realm then all three stats will be averaged to find your power points.

You do not need to chose all your base lists right from day one. There are 10 lists in total that you can learn above 20th level and these will be the first 10 lists you learn above 20th level. As you can only learn spells but actually using them it is logical that your ‘speciality’ will be the magic you have proven best at.

Professional Bonuses

The professional bonuses or level bonuses will be the ones as described on pg 128 of the RMC Character Law. This uses the RMSS skill categories. The only variation here is that you may swap up to 2 of the bonus categories for example you may choose to move the +1 from Outdoor Skills to the Urban category and move the +1 from Athletic Skills to Directed Spells. This allows you to customise your professional bonuses a little so if you want to play a wizardly character you can shape him or her into a more academic type rather than the athletic type that the No Profession starts out as. Once you have moved a set of bonuses they cannot be changed later.

That is it. The No Profession is intended to be a bit of a blank canvas from which you start building your character.

RMC House Rules – Character Creation #4 – Cultural Background

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Cultural Background is another element of RMU that I really like. The mechanism is really simple. There are a number of predefined backgrounds such as urban, nomad, coastal and sylvan, plus 4 others in RMU, and there is a mix of skills that are typical for people growing up in that culture. So you choose your culture and you get free skill ranks to assign into skill categories defined by your culture.

This has two immediate effects. Firstly it replaces at least in part the adolesence level for buying skills. you are just given a few ranks in some or all skill categories and regardless of the cost you just pick the skills that you want. The second effect is to force every character to have a good balance of background skills.

Avoiding Meta-Gaming?

I have a player in my face to face game that has only spent development points on weapons, magic, body development and perception and a couple of other skills that I insisted on. For hobby skills I give away 13 ranks that you can assign to secondary skills and he always tries to assign some or all of them to combat and magical skills. Compared to all the other characters he has the most hits, the biggest OB and the most magic. On the other hand he gets very upset when the challenges facing the party require tracking, lore or any of the other useful skills he eskewed in favour of big weapons.

I will confess that every now and again I take great pleasure in seperating him from he rest of the party by a wall, pit, door or whatever and give him a really simple challenge that everyone on one side of the door could easily do and he is completely perplexed by.

It is also no surprise that this player is the biggest meta gamer in the party who most of the time is using his own knowledge to decide his characters actions rather than what the chracter knows.

How Cultural Backgrounds Work

Anyway back to cultural backgrounds! Each background in my variation comprises 35 ranks spread over 13 different skill categories. The average skill costs for a single rank is about 2DP so that equates to about 50DP as an apprentice level although the single biggest block goes to languages which are traditionally cheaper.

The point of these character cultural background ranks for me is two fold. It is both faster and easier to just pick skills from a list than to try and spend exactly a fixed number of DPs. We have all been in a situation where you have to trade off one skill against another to make everything fit into your budget. Secondly it will make a Barbarian from the Frozen North significantly different from a Warrior from Chult and that difference has an impact on those characters which will last a long time into the characters careers.

Actually implementing this I have skewed everything to fit my world setting of the Forgotten Realms. If you are from Thay then you will have a significantly different skill set than if you are from Chult. On the other hand I have not really split it alone national lines. Both Waterdeep and Thay are magically very rich places and the citizens will both have a great amount of day to day experience of magic.

Cultural Background Skills Table




(Sword Coast)


(Frozen North)
Highland Nomad Rural






Athletic 1 3 2 2 1 1 1 1 1
Awareness 1 2 3 2 2 1 2 1 1
Body Development 1 1 2 2 1 1 1 1 1
Combat Maneuvers 1 1
Communcations 13 10 6 8 10 8 10 10 12
Crafts 5 6 4 5 5 7 5 6 7
Influence 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 2
Lore 4 4 5 4 4 4 4 4 4
Martial Arts 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 1 1
Outdoor 3 2 5 3 2 1
Scientific Analytic 1 1 1
Subterfuge 1 1 1 2
Technical/Trade 7 6 6 6 5 8 7 5 6

When assigning these ranks the same rule applies as with buying skills. You cannot buy ore than 2 ranks in a single skills unless the skill is listed as 1*, 2* etc., such as languages. This forces players with say 7 ranks in Technical/Trade skills to buy a range of skills.

You will notice that there are no weapon skills or armour skills in here. That means that all of your OB has to come from your 1st level development points.

RMC House Rules – Character Creation #3 – Rolemaster Races

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I am not suggesting many changes to the Rolemaster races in my RMC variant but first a bit of background on the long running ‘issue’ of Elves and Self Discipline.

Elves and Self Discipline

Most elves in Rolemaster based games get a -20 on the Self Discipline (SD) stat. SD happens to be one of the stats used to determine your Stalk & Hide skill and Meditation skill.

When most people see that -20 they assume that elves have no self control or discipline which is not the way Tolkien’s elves are generally portrayed. Rolemaster elves are the direct decendants of Tolkien’s elves as the roots of Rolemaster are set in the world of the MERP (Middle Earth Role Playing) franchise.

Furthermore when you notice that when you read about the stalk and hide skill the elves -20 should be treated as +20 and that elves get a natural +20 to meditation. It strikes me that if you are having to ‘fix’ the figures because of something you did earlier then the initial thing was wrong.

Elves are not irrational and impulsive and clumsy. You firstly have to remember that all stat bonuses are relative and not absolute. Originally the common man had no penalties or bonuses at all and that all the tables were constructed as the common man being the absolute norm. From that point races are describe relative to a common man so if a typical dwarf is stronger than a common man then it gets a strength bonus. In this way elves are seen as being less disciplined than a man. Not bad at discipline, just less discplined than our common man. This idea was prompted by the idea that elves being immortal have all the time in the world to complete tasks and most problems tend to resolve themselves if given a few centuries to bed in. Your common man with a short and often hard life has to act now. An elf could spend several thousand years building an empire, a man probably has no more than 30 years if he wants to have any time to actually enjoy it!

I have no problem with this concept of ‘relative’ stats. I do have a problem with the elves -20 because obviously this is the wrong implementation if the rule has to be applied only some of the time or additional fixes have to be put in place to fix the problems that the rule introduces.

I would argue that although elves may not be as hasty as humans to interfere in affairs their long view almost breeds more self discipline in that they are inherently patient and this builds tolerance. If you have to cancel out the penalties for mediation and stalking then why not just forget the whole thing?

In my rules there is no SD penalty for any elves including half elves.

Base Hits

There is a table known as “04-01 RACE ABILITIES”, on that table it tells you the hit dice used for each race. Common men get a d8 as do some elves and halflings. Other races get d10. Why? Rolemaster is a d10 based game. The only places where you get all the other polygon dice used is in the variable amounts of healing from some herbs.

My first reaction was to say everyone gets a d10 hits but then I decided to go in a completely different direction.

The way hits are calculated in RMC is your Con stat/10 plus the accumilated dice rolls plus your Con stat bonus as a percentage. Almost every race gets a con bonus so most people get a few extra hits from this. So if you have a Con of 76 and a total of +10 Con stat bonus and you bought 4 ranks in Body development as an High Elf you would have 8 hits from your Con (76÷10) plus 4x1d10, lets say that comes to 28 plus 10% of the total from your con bonus. So 8+28=36 plus 10% = 40 hits.

Some GMs I have played with say re-roll hit points if you get a 1-3 on the dice and others have given out maximum hitpoints at first level. Letting the characters have a decent number of hit points gives the GM more freedom in what he or she can throw at the party.

With that in mind I am going to give a little, take a little and simplify things a little.

In my rules you always get maximum hits, so 8 for a human, 10 for an high elf and so on but you no longer get the con bonus percentage. So under my rule the above character would get 48 hits being (76÷10)+4×10=48. So we now have diceless body development. In fact as you will see all of character creation is now diceless.

Background Options

In table “06-01 RACE BACKGROUND OPTION TABLE” each Rolemaster race has a number of background options ranging from 2 to 6. I personally feel the options in Character Law were a bit limited and those in Companion One were too powerful. I like the HARP and RMU talents and I nearly included them but at the end of it they just seemed a bit ‘wrong’ to me. Instead I am going to steal another RMU feature and that is Knacks. In the RMU beta rules all characters get to pick to specific skills that get a +5 bomus. this makes a character just a little bit better than their peers in that particular skill. It is a one time only bonus and is always fixed at +5 and cannot be doubled up. I am going to replace the background options with knacks but each character will get between 2 and 6 knacks depending on race.

Race Background Options
Common Men 6
Dwarves 5
Halflings 5
Orcs 5
High Men 4
Half-elves 4
Wood-elves 4
Greater Orcs 4
Trolls 4
High-elves 3
Fair-elves 2

This does reduce the impact of background options but then I never liked the way that some good rolls could turn a character into an almost superman and likewise a bad roll could cripple them or destroy the players concept of the character they wanted to play. This solution puts the player in charge, is non-random and always give the character a slight advantage without making a massive impact. They are far easier to administer than Talents and Flaws.

Rolemaster: Too Cool for School.

rsz_1680x105018_77661982.I was just introduced to Rolemaster by my best friend. He had moved to the next town over and found a new gaming group; one that had found Rolemaster through a Dragon Magazine ad. His stories of their gaming experiences were VERY different than my experiences with AD&D.

I headed down to the local game store and picked up a copy of Character Law. (Blue cover with Jorgenson artwork). I distinctly remember pouring through that book to background music of “Safety Dance”! I remember the artwork was different—more gritty?—but the rule were a massive shift from AD&D where “skills/abilities” were bestowed upon certain levels.  Looking back, skill based abilities seem commonplace now but back then it was something else.

I never saw Campaign Law or Arms Law but did look through the 3 Tomes of Spell Law. Truth be told I’ve mostly GM’d but when I was a player it was mostly a Warrior Monk or Rogue. I never liked the intricacies of spell casting and our GM at the time was a bit of a “genius” who loved to argue over rules. Spell Law was a revelation and I may blog more about this as I cover my own redesign/rewrite but the first thing that punched me in the gut: Alchemy spells and Lay Healer “Prosthetics”. A mechanism for creating magic items? Too cool! A spell list for creating magical Prosthesis? Uber cool. It didn’t matter that the healing spells in SL allowed for total regen…

That early on in ICE we had Court of Ardor.  There is so much that’s cool in that module—much of it spilled over in Shadow World. Check out “Valmorgul”. He had a Red Laen Arm. Fully functional, made him immune to fire, casts Firebolt, flames on command, strikes as a mace and can parry melee attacks. How kick-ass is that?

What a great early introduction to the possibilities of the game system and magical item mechanics. Remember this was in the EARLY 80’s and it fit in well to the Elric fiction and other early fantasy tropes. However, even then we knew that the “prosthetics” list was alchemy and that alchemy should be a “Closed List” rather than a profession.

Anyway just another reason why RM was a ground breaker and “Too Cool for School”.

RMC House Rules – Character Creation #2 Potential & Stat Gains

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On Monday I covered how I intended to use a point buy system for generating characters stats. The point is to enable the player to play exactly the character they want whilst still being balanced.

When it comes to potential stats I was quite taken with the idea of giving the players an additional 100 points with which to buy their potential stats but the temptation to just dump that all on the prime stats for the character would be too great. That makes total sense to do that but in the end every ranger would end up looking pretty much the same as would every fighter and so on.

Turning to RMU again, with the point buy system they advocate every character has a potential of 100 in every stat. The player then has to choose which stat to improve. This would I think lead to exactly the same situation of the players being swayed towards improving the stats the give the greatest gains. What I did like was the generosity of the concept that all characters had the potential to be 100 in every stat.

In my system You will have a 100 potential in every stat but the players do not get to choose which to improve. That decision will be made by the skills they have used or the training they have undergone since they last made a stat gain roll. (There are no levels as you will see later so it is not a case of one stat gain roll per level.)

So if a character has been stalking, disarming traps and picking locks then they will get a chance to improve In, Ag and SD stats as those three stats govern those skills.

Making a stat gain roll will be a case of making a D100 roll and if you roll MORE THAN your current stat then the stat goes up by 1. There are no adjustments to that roll so a character with a 99 Strength would have to roll a straight UM 00 to get the stat gain but it is impossible to go above a 100 stat.

Under the old RM2/RMC rules a stat gain roll could yield up to +15 to a stat if you had a big enough difference between your temp and potential stats. In my version the gain will always only be a +1. This is intentional. The smoothed stat bonuses mean that even going up +1 at a time will bring regular increased in stat bonus. Secondly as all stats have a potential of 100, too rapid a stat gain process would even everyone out to exceptionally high stats too quickly. Because of the point buy system guaranteeing well above average stats anyway there is no need to advance low stats more quickly.

One of the objectives here was to take all the dice rolls out of character creation. The total process should be about the players vision of their character and not dictated by good or bad dice rolls.

These stat gain rolls should be made at the ‘end of each chapter’ of their adventure in the sort of same space that giving out experience occupies. As you will see later skills will also improve at the same time.

RM Combat Hack: Simplified armor & encumbrance


While both encumbrance and fatigue are critical elements in our game it’s always added an extra step of record keeping that was onerous. We’ve played around with several mechanisms but found that the new piecemeal armor and fatigue rule in RMU work great but we’ve taken it one step further.

First, we’ve eliminated the Maneuvering in Armor skill. I’ve always had an issue with it in concept and it unnecessarily complicated encumbrance rules by having this “dual path” calculation of min/max armor penalties, encumbrance by weight and the Quickness penalty. Since MnvArm is a skill that basically ties a characters ability to wear better/heavier armor to their level. I’ve heard the argument that it’s “for game balance”—I think that’s absurd. Can you imagine a game system that says a fighter can only use a dagger at 1st level, then moves up to a short sword, than a long sword and finally at higher level can use a 2-handed sword? That’s the same thing.

I’ve always seen armor as a “handicap”—it adds weight and restriction of movement. There are benefits (protection) and negatives (penalties) that a player has to balance out. I don’t think it’s something that’s “trainable” like other RM skills. Getting rid of MnvArm eliminates a skill (good) and eliminates the dual process of armor penalties & encumbrance calculation.

Second we’ve adopted the RMU encumbrance calculation as a % of body weight and applied adjusted %’s to armor pieces. I’ve inserted the table below. For example, a character wearing full plate would have an armor encumbrance penalty of 66% (Plate 40, Plate Sleeves 8, Plate Leggings 12, Full Helm 6). We’ve also added some armor penalties for Perception and Missile weapons. This simplified armor/encumbrance also makes it easy to create new armor types for cultures or materials.

With armor simplified, encumbrance becomes a pretty easy calculation. Tally total weight, convert to % of body weight, add armor encumbrance % and reduce by the weight allowance. I like encumbrance to have a real impact and armor should have appropriate draws backs to reduce the incentive for everyone to wear the heaviest armor. For weight allowance we use a much lower threshold than RMU: 10% + str bonus. So a character with 100str could carry up to 25% (10 + 15 assuming no racial Str mods) of their body weight before incurring penalties. That makes sense to me—a 200lb person could carry 50#s without penalty. If anything that’s still too generous. If that character were wearing Full Plate and carrying nothing else they would have a 41% (66-25) encumbrance penalty. For GM’s that want to lessen the impact of encumbrance just use a higher weight allowance: 10% + Str bonus x2 or even x3.

Finally because we have one simple encumbrance number that represents carried load and armor it can be applied in a variety of ways.

Encumbrance Penalty (Load – weight allowance)

  1. Modifies MMs or any action where weight is a factor.
  2. Modifies fatigue rolls.
  3. Reduces pace/distance. (replaces the encumbrance/pace chart)
  4. Cancels Quickness bonus for DB or optionally reduces DB.
  5. Total encumbrance % is used to modify Essence SCR.
  6. Calban, a 5th lvl fighter with a 100 str weighs 200lbs. His weight allowance is 25% (50lbs). Calban decides he’s going to wear Full Chain/Mail armor and a half helm. His armor encumbrance would be 47%. He’s also carrying 30lbs of gear (15%) for a total load of 62%. His encumbrance penalty is 37% (62-25).

                Calban attempts to somersault over an opponent. In addition to difficult modifiers and his acrobatic skill bonus the attempt will be modified by the -37% encumbrance penalty.

                Calban is required to make a fatigue roll—it’s modified by -37%.

                Calban wants to sprint x5. His base rate is 20’rnd so he’s attempting to move 100’ but the distance moved is reduced by 37% (63’) due to his encumbrance penalty.

                Calban has a -10 DB which is cancelled out due to his encumbrance. Optionally, if a GM wants encumbrance to have an even greater impact than his DB would be -27 making him easier to hit due to his lack of maneuverability! (does that sounds harsh? Keep in mind that he’s basically carrying a 134lbs load).

For our game these rules work great.

  1. The reduce skill bloat.
  2. They disconnect the idea that heavier/better armor use is tied to character level.
  3. Creates one encumbrance number that can be applied in a variety of situations.
  4. Eliminates encumbrance pace chart, min/max armor penalties.
  5. Allows us to incorporate strength buff spells and weight reduction spells in our Spell Law which have a real impact.
  6. Creates advantages/disadvantages to armor that fits into our “free market”, “no-profession” game.
  7. Creates a quick way to generate new armors for cultures/tech.
  8. Easy to adjust. A GM can change the armor %’s, the weight allowance calculation or both!
  9. Utilizes RMU piecemeal armor rules which we like!

To aid in record keeping we have a game work sheet for each player that tracks encumbrance, hits, damage etc, In the margin of the worksheet we include a chart to convert total weight to % based on the characters body weight. We usually round off the penalty to simplify even further. Most of the players can separate out their kit so in combat they can drop a pack or sack and immediately have and know their adjusted encumbrance.

Armor AT Type Percept Miss Pen Enc.
None 1 0
Heavy Cloth 2 VL 2
Soft Leather 3 VL 5
Hide Scale 4 L 10
Laminar 5 L 15
Rigid Leather 6 M 20
Metal Scale 7 M 25
Mail 8 M 30
Brigandine 9 H 35
Plate 10 H 40
Leather Sleeves VL 1
Hide Sleeves L 5 3
Mail Sleeves M 15 5
Plate Sleeves H 20 8
Leather Leggings VL 3
Hide Leggings L 7
Mail Leggings M 10
Plate Leggings H 12
Leather Cap VL 0.5
Half Helm L 5 2
3/4 Helm M 10 4
Full Helm H 15 6
Target 15 2
Normal 20 5
Full 25 5 10
Wall 30 15 20
Reinforced Cloak 5 5