Rolemaster Ghosts

In the next session I will be throwing 5 3rd level PCs at a few 3rd level Rolemaster ghosts. The undead do not drain levels like they did in D&D back in my day. Rolemaster Ghosts drain constitution from your Temp stat which you need to rest to recover at a rate of a point a day of light activity or more for complete bed rest. This is a lot less devastating than losing entire levels

The objective of the confrontation is to try and bring the characters low by using a massively underpowered foe. It is sort of my chance to play something to the maximum of its ability and not have to hold back and just see how they all cope.

Rolemaster Ghosts look like living beings at first glance

The ghosts earthly remains.

Using the ghost also means that I can justify all the bump in the night style of scary stuff without having to ‘break the rules’. Also in the Sinister Secret module there are a number of NPCs who are placed there to try and dupe the PCs and try and steer them away from discovering the smugglers. I don’t have the smugglers but I can replace the NPCs with ghosts and now they want to steer the PCs away from disturbing the ghosts earthly remains.

To my knowledge the players have never met a ghost before so it is one of those monsters that the rules lawyer in the party will not know exactly how to handle once they have even identified them as a ghost. You must remember that Rolemaster Ghosts appear like living beings at first glance.

Lack of skills

In the past I have mentioned that one of my players has focused all hist development points into Perception, Body Dev, Weapons and Magic and nothing else. This adventure is the one where he will need a wide range of skills. I want to emphasise his lack of skills beyond combat. Looking back at Brian’s Consolidating Skills post this character is a warrior mage but lacks any of the magical skills that would allow him to identify the ghostly apparition. The ghost being incorpreal can walk through walls and doors but the character cannot pick locks.

The ghost can definitely effect the physical world as its primary attack is a medium claw attack so it can leave a room by walking through the door and then lock it from the outside without trouble. If can unlock a door and let the zombie hordes in from the outside if the characters take refuge inside the house. If can of course slam doors and throw open windows in best hammer horror style.

Not a hack and slash event

Going by the NPC roster in Sinister Secret I have 6 figures I can turn into ghosts if I wanted. In addition I am surrrounding the house with a graveyard that I can raise as zombies. I don’t want this to turn into a hack and slash event but I can use the zombies to push the characters into the house if need be.

I am quite looking forward to using a monster I have never used before and one that lets me achieve everything I want from a session.


Prepping for The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh

Following Brian’s suggestion I have taken the haunted house from The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh as the basis of my haunted house. We are going to play this on the 16th so it is time to finalise my prep.

You can see, but probably not read my hand writing, that I am doing my usual sprinkling of post-it notes.

The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh
A highlighted page from the module

Noting the Encounters

The top post-it has just enough details for me to run an encounter with the snake(s). The original module had just a single poisonous snake at this point but I have swapped that out and made it a pair of vipers.  The note reads 2x Vipers and then just enough details from Creatures and Treasures, the level, Mv, hits, AT, DB and OB etc. The block handing down below are the details of the poison taken from Character Law about the type and effect of the poison.

In this way I have saved myself two book look ups just by copying the core details onto the page. From a prepping point of view it takes very little time to write out just a single note so I can do a page or two each time I take a tea break.

Keeping track of Experience

The other thing that is popular is the game journal. We play so infrequently that the chances of remembering every step or clue in the game from one session to the next is almost nil. By taking my post-its off the page when they are finished with, the combat done or the NPC encountered. I can move them to where I keep my journal notes. I also use that for experience; so the details of the fight or however the vipers in this case were circumvented goes with the note into the journal.

As I am converting from one system to another there are a lot of changes to make to a bought module such as this but no more than if I was writing an adventure myself. The point is that I cam looking up the rules that will be called into play now rather than at the gaming table.

What to convert?

The sort of things I have noting are:

  • Converting D&D Potions into Rolemaster Herbs where possible.
  • Converting Monsters over to Rolemaster creatures if they exist, if not I am doing a manual conversion.
  • Creating NPCs as RM characters.
  • Checking and inserting the rules for poisons, diseases and traps.
  • Setting difficulty factors for traps, locks and manoeuvres.
  • Converting money from D&D to the Rolemaster decimal system.

Funnily enough it is the conversion of the magical items into RM herbs or into RM spell effects that makes the biggest difference to the feel of the game. D&D just does not have the herb culture and being able to smoothly integrate the herbs into the setting where they did not exist before works well. Conversely Rolemaster does not have a potion culture like D&D so by toning the use of poisons down helps.

In the current adventure there is a ring of protection +1 to be had fairly easily. We all know these from our D&D backgrounds but again they are not a Rolemaster ‘thing’. In the game as it will be played it will be a Ring (Daily III item casting Blur). They are not exactly the same but the trade off is that the ring of protection is a constant effect item that would give +5DB but I am giving away a +10DB but can only be used three times a day for short periods.

It is little tweaks like this that make the module feel like it is native Rolemaster rather than converted D&D.

It is the potted rule lookups on the page where they are needed that save time at the table.

The monster stats on the page with any special rules to run them that helps speed up combat. As I have said before for NPCs I note down the general plan for the first three rounds of combat and if or not they would try to escape and how.

Keeping it Sinister

Finally I have one other type of post-it on these pages. I am using them to remind me to lay on the atmosphere. This is meant to be a haunted house. With all the ideas I have to use from the 100 Creepy things books ( ) I want to lay on the spooky effects. This is not intended to be a dungeon crawl and these little reminders are there to reinforce that point.

Weekend Roundup: September 25 2016


I stand corrected on a previous news item.

Are these the Yinka/Y’kin?

Changramai Warrioress? Followers of Inis? Female Warrior Monks Kick Ass.

Iuraic has no words for empathy.

20 ranks in Rolemaster Herb Lore?

What are the Kulthean Dark Gods up to?

Now that’s an Essaence Storm!

Nature, nurture, skill bonus, stat bonus, talents, professions…the DEBATE is endless.

Shadow World Chegains are now the new Cool.

Real life cool treasure. Ancient craftsmanship. Here, here and here and last…here.





Demons and Devils – 5ex5

Asmodius the Demon Prince

I have had an incredibly busy week, so much so that I missed blogging on Monday completely! What I should have been doing is working on the D&D 5th Edition conversion to a D100 system. I am doing this conversion very much with a Rolemaster hat on and it is interesting to see what D&D has that Rolemaster doesn’t and what it does very differently.  One of those are the Demons and Devils.

Demon Princes

You can tell I am working on the Monster Manual right now can’t you. Demons are a classic fantasy monster and we have our own rolemaster demons with our type 1 to 5 pales and so on. When you compare that to the D&D world you get an entire ecology of abominations to play with from relatively weak monsters to named demon princes. I had forgotten just how many of these there actually were in the core D&D books.

Asmodius the Demon Prince
Asmodius the Demon Prince

Crusading Knights

I think that D&D had its origins in a fairly real world concept. You can almost see the fighter class being cast as a crusading knight. As soon as you take a step in that Christian direction then demons and devils are nature enemies to be defeated.

Rolemaster has a strong Tolkien heritage

Rolemaster on the other hand has a strong Tolkien heritage and in that setting there are certainly no devils but the Balrog certainly seems demonic even if they are of the maiar. Once you step away from middle earth then that demonic niche needs filling. I think the developers gave us elven demons and human demons to fill the gap. Seeing as Middle Earth had no devils then Rolemaster has no devils.

I think it is interesting that in 30+ years I have never felt the need to reintroduce devils back into the monsterous ecology of my game world which is in fact their natural environment of Faerun.

Rolemaster Rant of the Day: Rule Bloat & Complexity


“Rules for rules”. To me one of the biggest drivers of system complexity and bloat is “rules for rules” ie—new mechanisms to modify original rules or to make  work-arounds to disliked rule restrictions.

Let’s use “Transcend Armor” as a perfect example. Why do we have “TA” as a skill? Because the addition of Paladins and other new professions in RM Companions required a mechanism for Channelers to cast spells. Why? Because the common trope of Paladins is that they are armored knights that cast clerical style spells. The solution? A new skill and a whole bunch of arbitrary new rules so Channelers (or Essence casters) could safely cast spells while wearing metal armor. Let’s ignore the fact that many fundamental rules that we don’t question are really just a result of acceptance to early D&D standards. Why is there a restriction on armor? Because in D&D magic users weren’t allowed to wear armor. Period.

Rather than add complexity to the system, why not question the original restriction in D&D on casting in metal armor to begin with? No reason except for “balance” and to reinforce class distinctions and class roles within a group. Sure, there is a hand-waving, quick reasoning that armor interferes with spell-casting and within the relatively simplistic rule set of early D&D that works. But in D&D, clerics would wear metal armor…so why not in RM?

Here’s a solution. GM’s, just remove any penalties or restrictions on Channelers wearing metal armor. Does that create a “balance” issue? Why would it? It certainly avoids a slew of issues, rule parameters and discussions about “Transcend Armor” and simplified things for new players.

The larger issue here is generating a whole slew of new rules and mechanisms to eliminate parts of RM that you don’t agree with, or want to work around. It’s a bit dishonest and many times the driving force behind rule changes or suggestions seem to come from players and not GMs. Some of the forum posts feel very much like players “working the ref”. You don’t need RMU developers or RM to canonize a rule so you can feel good—if you want Channelers to cast in armor just ignore armor penalties for Channelers.

What other types of changes were wanted that required new, additional rules? Players didn’t like 3 round casting (it’s more fun to cast every round) so ESF rules were introduced. Then more flexibility was required so “Grace” was added to offset various casting issues. Rules, skills and complexity layered over the original foundation that are completely unnecessary.

Is all this really necessary? Could the original rules just have been tweaked without the extra complications?

Rant over.

Rolemaster House Rules: Skill Consolidation


As part of our efforts to create a viable “no profession” Rolemaster rule set we’ve focused on distilling skills down to as few as possible meta-skills. I think I’m down to 45 or so total skills in our S.W.A.R.M. rules but after reading some of Peter’s ideas I think I can get it down further. Part of the goal is to just stop skill bloat, increase game simplicity and to create more parity between skill utility.

Today I want to talk about consolidating a number of power/channeling skills down to one meta-skill: specifically Power Points, Channeling, Power Projection and Power Perception. Let’s explore them individually:

Power Points: Obviously PP is a KEY skill—it sets the amount of power a spell user has to cast. From a functional standpoint this infers several things: this skill allows players to absorb power, store power and expend power. Sort of a receiver, battery and transmitter.

Channeling. Channeling appears to be a fairly major mechanic in the original RM rules. Not only are pages devoted to the concept of transmitting and receiving power and spells but there are a number of spell lists that concerning channeling as well. In all my years playing RM I have never used Channeling as written in the original rules, nor has anyone used any of the channeling related spells in Spell Law. There is an interesting idea here but not sure it proves practical in normal gameplay and/or combat. To make matters more confusing, Channeling the skill has really nothing to do with tapping your gods powers or the realm channeling itself except in terms of profession related skill costs. I’d be curious to hear if anyone has used Channeling spells RAW in game play. Either way, it’s clear that Channeling the skill allows a player to acts as a transmitter and receiver of PP’s and even spells.

Power Projection. In all honestly I’ve never used this skill, not sure what rule set it belongs too but I am intrigued by the concept of spell casters able to project their PP’s in some sort of test of will or strength. The last time I looked it didn’t seem very useful as written but there might be something there. As a stand-alone skill I’m definitely not convinced. Equally intriguing is the idea that spell casters could simply project, OR CHANNEL, raw power to inflict damage. (However, this might be a better idea to explore using Arcane magic). Either way, Power Projection may have some utility and from a practical standpoint the skill allows the caster to act as a power transmitter.

Power Perception. This is another skill that I don’t use—I try to keep a strong firewall between skill ability and spell ability and Power Perception blurs that line allowing a skill with magic like ability. However, in SW there is an argument that Power Perception could be a trained sensitivity to the Flows and Foci of Essaence or a racial ability. Basically the skill allows detection/attunement to raw power.

In summary these four skills are closely related: allowing for detection, receiving, transmitting or storing of power. Does it make sense to roll these into one skill? I think so and we have. We now use 1 skill, “Channeling” that encompasses these related facets.

The skill bonus is used to determine total PP’s, skill checks for sending or receiving power (we allow PC’s to charge items and draw PP’s from storage crystals). The # of skill ranks is used to determine the Rate of charge/discharge at rest. So a Mage with 75 PP’s and 10 ranks of Channeling would recover 10 PP’s/hour. Or would need 4 hours to re-charge a wand with 40 PP’s.

That’s our hack—what’s yours?

Weekend Roundup: September 18, 2016


Magical gem with a mysterious inscription?

Re-writing textile history again.

Do not try this at home. These are trained professionals.

Or just cast a Mentalism spell.

Chronagenic sleep around the corner?

I can’t resist…bring out the clowns!

The ancients collected ancient things.

More ideas for “Sound Law”.

And more clowns.

Death’s Tale spell?

Good GM advice.

Monte is at it again.

Workplace self-defense or Elvish hand crosswbow?

My No Profession & Level-less House Rules

In the past I wrote a fist full of posts about character creation and advancement in Rolemaster Classic without professions or levels.

Rather than leaving these as a scattered collection of posts spread over two months I have brought them all together in a single PDF. I have stripped out every mention of RMU for two reasons. Firstly, the RMU I know is the beta version and is liable to change before publication and secondly I agreed to a non disclosure agreement to get access to the beta documents. It is not right to then disclose any of the RMU rules in this case.

So having sanatized the document and collated it I ave also edited it and removed a shocking number of typos (I didn’t realise how bad my typing gets at times!). I have put the finished document on RPGnow where you can grab it for free just by sticking a 0 in the price box.ppn-rmc_professionless_levelless_roleplaying
I would be interested in hearing what you think of them when taken as a whole.

The Neological Naga Demon and the Franken Game

That sounds like a terrible B movie but right now I am preparing to spend a lot of time on Nagademon, or more correctly NaGaDeMon, and having never heard the words Franken Game until recently I have found myself using it twice this week.

What is a Franken Game?

A Franken Game is a game put together our of parts of other games. Originally Character Law was a bolt on replacement for must of the Players Handbook, Arms Law was a replacement combat system and Spell Law a drop in magic system. If you decided to take HARPs scalar spells and dropped it into RMC then you are now playing a Franken Game.

I once took the vehicle rules from Car Wars and converted them to d100 and used them as part of Spacemaster. It makes a lot of sense. How big a part of Spacemanster are 21st century cars trucks and motocycles going to be? The answer is tiny so the developers could not justify spending hundreds of hours perfecting rules for them. How big a part of Car Wars are cars, trucks and moticycles? Probably 95% I would say so dropping Car Wars into Spacemaster boosted that aspect of the game in an area I needed for the campaign I wanted to play.

This is insanity!

The best rules for insanity has to come from Call of Cthulhu, so why reinvent the wheel? Just make the minor changes needed to make it look and feel like Rolemaster (think of that as the surgical stitching) and there you go. you have sown together your own Franken Game. Most of us have shelves of games you have played int he past but are not playing now. All these games have elements we really liked when we played them and bits that we didn’t necessarily like. Using them as a library of body parts allows us to customise our own games to fit the worlds we want to play in. It is also great fun and as long as you don’t break the rules too much in doing the conversion to d100 OE (open ended) then the original games play testing should safe guard your Franken Games balance.

NaGaDeMons Ahoy!

I mentioned this in my last post. National Game Design Month. It is the NaNoWriMo of the gaming world. Let me digress for a moment.

There is an old joke about a school caretaker bemoaning the throw away culture of today and how they don’t make things like they used to where you could repair things rather than just throw it away and buy a new one. Take this broom for example, they don’t make brooms like this any more… Its had 5 new handles and 7 new heads but it is still going strong!

If you had a game you loved but you thought you could swap out the combat system for something ‘better’* and then you think “hey I like these scalar spells!” so you swap out the magic system. After a while you think there has to be a better way to handle all this profession bloat and skill bloat. So if you replace character law, arms law and spell law are you still playing Rolemaster?

I think the answer is yes you are. If you have magic structured into realms and roles are open ended and combat is driven by criticals, these are the hallmarks of the rolemaster system.

On the other hand what if like the broom with the 5 new handles and 7 new heads, there is nothing left of the original system? I think at that point you have crossed the line from Franken Game to a completely new system. If you then make sure it all works together and covers all the bases then you have a new game on your hands.

Most GMs feel we could write our own game

Most of us [GMs] feel we could write our own game. Equally most of us never will. This is where the Nagademon comes in. It focuses the mind into a single month of effort to actully write up all those ideas you have about how to create a perfect roleplaying game and get them down into a document. One month to break the back of the project. You can take as long as you like with the editing afterwards and that sort of thing. you could even go one step further and put your game on RPGNow or Drivethru. Afterall what have you got to lose?

*better is in inverted commas as your better and my better could be completely different!

D&D 5th Edition SRD and 5ex5

D&D 5th Edition SRD

I have had quite an intersting day today working as part of a two person team converting all of the D&D 5th Edition SRD over to D100. The project is called 5ex5 as in 5th Edition x5, th emost obvious way to get from d20 to d100.

What is interesting from the Rolemaster perspective is that it will make any future products based upon it very easy to convert to Rolemaster and many will pretty much be able to be used off the shelf.

Free content for RM GMs

If you consider how much is published on Drivethru or RPGnow for free or Pay What You Want, this could explode the amount of free content for RM GMs.

It sounds pretty easy just multiplaying everything by 5 so d20s become d100s and a +1 bonus becomes a +5 and so on. The reality is that in the Monsters section alone there are over 10,000 edits to be made. You would have thought that one could just find and replace to change one thing to another but it doesn’t work that way as you have to check every reference as no one wants a dice rolls for durations or areas of effect multiplied.

The inner workings of D&D 5th Edition

What I have learned to day is a lot about how D&D 5th Edition works. I had only read the free basic version rules before but today I have read in detail then entire combat section of the SRD and I am quite impressed. If nothing else I should walk away with a pretty good knowledge of the inner workings of 5e!

So how long is this going to take?

I have no idea but I hope it is only going to be a few weeks as I have decided I want to have a go at NaGaDeMon (National Game Design Money) in November and there is only so much of me to go around. I am not sure I will have the time spare to do both.