Just a thought…Diceless and bookless RM?

This was prompted by an idea that edgcltd put out there this week. He mentioned Hero Kids and the success it has achieved in bringing RPGs to a very young audience. Its very existence is great for our hobby. I honestly do not think you can make a viable Rolemaster for the 4yr to 10yr old market…”Sweep lays foe out and heel strike
to foe’s sternum collapses the ribcage. Foe is helpless and dies in 4 rnds.”…is the sort of thing that makes Rolemaster great and I just cannot translate that into fluent 4yr old.

But how about 12yr old?

I was fettling about with a spreadsheet last night and came up with something that looks like a playing card. In the top left is an open ended dice roll. You can add your OB to that and deduct the opponents DB. below that is a 5×3 table with the attack roll down one edge and three armour types across the top. They are unarmoured, soft leather/light mail and rigid leather/heavy mail and plate. The body of the 5×3 table has the damage and critical result for that weapon against that armour for that roll. A row would look something like this.

Slice to foes chest. +12 hits and bleeding 2 hits per round. Stunned no parry 1 round.-10% to all actions Cut to foes chest. +9 hits and bleeding 1 hits per round. Stunned no parry 1 round. Cut to foes chest. +8 hits and bleeding 1 hits per round. Must Parry 1 round.

There would be a pack of cards for each weapon, the result above is from a Dagger card on a total roll of 100, so it retains the unique weapons. The cards retain the A-E criticals and the location specifics. Some critical include armour breakages, fatal wounds and witty comment that we all know and love.

It gains armour by the piece as you can see each card is tied to a location so if you opponent has no leg armour then you apply the No armour column. If you strike him on the head and he has a full helm then you apply the heavy armour column.

The cards are generated by spreadsheet and can build in all the features of the Arm Law specifications such as slash criticals against lighter armours and crushes against heavy mail.

Using the same methodology I can make static actions and moving manoeuvre cards with a themed dice roll plus a simplified Absolute Failure to Absolute Success. One pack of cards for influence skills, one for perception and tracking, another for picking locks and disarming traps.

Initially I thought you would need too many packs of cards but then it would be no more complicated than the board game Talisman and my group love that game.

I could imagine each player would buy their own sets of cards. If their fighter uses a broadsword then you would want the broadsword pack, it they used a heavy crossbow then you would want the crossbow pack. Later on there may even be a market for additional packs to give different and new criticals.

Taking onboard other comments from the last couple of weeks then I would write a completely open source/ OGL simplified character generation set of rules.

What I am looking at is a really simple feeder game to try and attract a younger audience into Rolemaster. The mechanisms will be familiar the skill system will work the same way, combat will work the same way but the natural progression will be from cards to the ICE rulebooks.

I would like to keep the entire rules down to about 40 pages or less as Hero Kids which is the most successful of model has a 39 page rulebook including sample characters, stand up figures and first adventure. I am aiming at a slightly higher age range but we wouldn’t want to be accused of being rules heavy would we?

So the question is, if you could be 12 again and there was a version of Rolemaster just for you what would it be like? What would any feeder version NEED to have?



Blog Intro Death and Dismemberment

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned Dyson’s Dodecahedron as a great source of maps. Today I thought I would mention Lloyd Neill’s occasional Death and Dismemberment blog (http://deathanddismemberment.blogspot.co.uk/).

Neill is an OSR/D&D and Rolemaster enthusiast and house rule fan which is kind of a prerequisite for Rolemaster GMs I guess.

This is relevant particularly given this weeks discussion on OSR. Last year there were some interesting discussions on House Rules. I am not a fan of OSR roleplay as it, in my opinion, just a thief tax but each to their own.

Misc Whiskey Thoughts & Challenging RPG paradigms.

  1. First, we are really close to the end of the month and we’ve almost had 1 blog per day! Thanks for everyone’s efforts.
  2. This is going to sound close to criticism…but it isn’t. Obviously all of us that participate here as either bloggers or commentators have specific viewpoints and solutions and we tend to gravitate towards our own rule models when challenged or when rules are discussed. I try very hard to think outside the box, question my own pre-conceptions and challenge established tropes–my own personal Socratic Method. Many times when I blog I’m not taking a partisan stance–I’m trying to create a dialogue to test our views and solutions. To be honest, I can and do generate new Professions all the time. What I have found is that the only real distinction is in “Base” spell lists–otherwise skill costs are washed out by level 10. Nonetheless it is interesting to create and model cultural or pop-cultural profession models with class distinct skill costs. But doing that, I am led back to a more flexible system of “free market” approach that utilizes a cost/benefit system that actually reinforces the very tropes and archetypes that people enjoy.
  3. RR’s, Saving Throws & Innate Stat abilities. So what came first? Spells or spell defense? Does that seem a stupid question? Spell Law was conceived with the concept of Magical Saving Throw already accepted–a PC can “resist” magical influence. As we discussed in an earlier blog, RM took a step forward in at least acknowledging the difference between a physical manifestation of magic and meta-physical one. WTF does that mean? I’ve been working on this…and came up with a few frameworks. Now, I think Dan and his work with RMU Spell Law has improved upon classifying spells by “Force”, “Elemental”, “Informational” etc… Even in it’s earliest editions, Rolemaster had already identified various spell manifestations: physical bolts should be treated as a missile attack, elemental ball attacks were similar but used the targets DB, and most other spells called for “Resistance Rolls”. Not bad–but can we do better? Maybe the solution isn’t conveniently classifying spells by certain types to define avoidance/resistance ramifications but through the spell itself. That might mean that spells are treated more individually like original DnD than the commoditized Rolemaster system. I’m doing major work on BASiL combining it with various stat driven mitigation rules. For example “Levitation” is found on my version of WIND LAW, GRAVITY LAW and (not yet published Mentalism spells). So Levitation/Wind Law uses a cushion of air which can be countered by “Still Wind” while Leviation/Gravity Law would not be affected by “Still Wind”. Should an unwilling target be allowed to “resist” against either one one of these? Can we resist an air cushion or a manipulation of gravity!?
  4. BTW: Matt is over in Europe for a while longer. Peter, I’m heading to Iceland in June to reinforce my love of the Iron Wind!
  5. Only 3 people for our 50 adventures in 50 days? Sad.

Alright…time for bed but I have more to say about all this (in a more comprehensive manner!)

Random Musings: OSR, Retro-Clones, Open Source Rolemaster?

I want to start by quoting two sources that really struck home:

“I still love RM but the customer base is just too small to make a living from unless you are Terry.”

“Going hand and hand with that is the fact that for better or for worse the OSR is a thing. For the past decade and a half there been a group of hobbyists actively publishing, promoting, and playing classic editions of Dungeons and Dragon and similar RPGs. This is result of everybody taking advantage of the freedom granted by the open content found in the d20 SRD to expand the quantity and variety of material that supports classic D&D.” SOURCE.

I don’t know if Nicholas or Terry read this blog regularly, but I consider myself first and foremost an RM and SW supporter. At my age, I don’t have time or energy for other systems. But I’m feeling frustrated—less for me than the opportunities I.C.E. might be missing by not opening up their IP. There is a renaissance occurring in old school game rules and RM is not riding that wave. I want to publish RM material and I want to publish SW material no matter the size of the market—I’m much less concerned about monetizing my work or earning a living, but being paid or compensated IS affirmative feedback on your efforts.

Ironically, it seems that the bulk of Rolemaster system products are the result of collating house rules in various Companions or relying on third party authors rather than any centralized approached to core product development. In other words, Rolemaster has always been a polished form of crowdsourced content. Maybe RMU pulls these previous efforts back into a cohesive thread, but…will there be corresponding game and support material and modules to carry the new rule set? If not, that’s a big problem in today’s gaming environment.

Here at RolemasterBlog we are going to put out 50 small adventure/encounter/NPC/layout “squirts” in 50 days. Would these be more appealing, sell more, or pull more attention if they could be labelled as supporting “Rolemaster”? Terry and SW are slightly different—previous attempts at third party authors resulted in some good modules but not necessarily Shadow World modules. Terry wants to control content and protect his IP. I get that.

But just imagine the alternative. I apologize for sounding a bit morbid, but none of us are getting younger. Check out the ages for the active members of RM Forums. Most of us are late 30’s, 40’s or 50’s. Where is Rolemaster in 10 years if the fan base continues to slowly decline and new product output continues at the same current level. It’s called a death spiral–see the chart at the top. This is the Business/Industry Lifecycle curve: I use it extensively in my work as a mental model for analyzing businesses.  Of note is the inflection point that occurs after business/industry maturity. You either reinvent, reinvest or re-imagine or you become irrelevant or non-competitive. Certainly the whole RPG industry is tackling this with varying degrees of success.  I believe that that the answer is not in traditional strategies: marketing, research or new product development. It’s embracing the free flow of information, open sourcing, crowd funding new content, organic development and creative development seeding.

How can you develop new young writing and creative talent without a growing or stable fan base? In my mind, open sourcing Rolemaster, leveraging online creative communities and allowing new media channels to incubate and screen quality content is the only mid to long term strategy for Rolemaster to prosper.

Can Professionless provide all the detail of RM2?

I know that many people love the minute detail that the full spectrum of RM2 professions provided. The professions were basically a package of individual skill and base lists.

Keeping the base lists within professionless and level-less RM is easy.

The individual skill costs are completely compatible with level-less but I am open to ideas about how to create that flexibility with professionless gaming.

BriH has pitched the idea of getting rid of skill costs all together so that every skill costs 5DP (I could be wrong about who came up with that idea but that is not the point). I was thinking of playing with the idea of going to the other way.

As you can see the standard No Profession  character doesn’t have any real strengths.

How about allowing the player to juggle a few points around? So let’s give each player 10 points they can move about to make some skills cheaper and others more expensive. If no skill could cost less than less that 1 point for the first rank and 2 points for the second and no skill can cost no more than 3/6. This stops players from ‘dumping’ points into a skill they have no intention of every buying.

I would love to have peoples opinions on this. If you like all the old professions would the option of tweaking the skill costs at level one appeal?

To make it fair when you are thinking about this you should bear in mind that all characters get 50DPs. You do not have to buy Body Development (that is free), there is only one armour skill that costs 2* and in total there are only about 45 skills not the 200 from all the companions. You need that to know just how far 10 points would go in tweaking those costs.

Do you think that will make PCs more varied and do you think it would help you build the character you would want to play? After all that is the whole point of having a detailed character creation process in the first place.

First Level Shouldn’t Suck!

If we’re soapboxing, I’ll jump  on one of mine: First Level shouldn’t suck! The whole premise behind first level should be giving a player a character who’s gone through her formative years and experiences and is ready to set out on her own, not some abstraction of early adolescence who can’t survive being stung by a bee, let alone a minor encounter with a wild dog. The old joke about D&D magic users having to hide behind fighters until they were about fifth level has a sad basis in fact, and Rolemaster (in my opinion) seems intent on turning first level into a collection of those magic users. Continue reading “First Level Shouldn’t Suck!”

Random Musings: Dealing with Undead in Rolemaster.

Like a lot Rolemaster’s content, much of the mechanics around Undead are design artifacts from D&D; more specifically the issues of “Turning” and “Draining”.

Turning. It’s generally accepted in RPG’s that Clerics have the holy ability to “Turn” undead: basically, repel or even destroy them based on the level of the cleric. In D&D this is a class ability and in Rolemaster was converted to a Base spell list which is essentially the same thing, an implied core ability of the Cleric/Priest class.

There is a lot of talk on Turning in various D&D blogs—here is a good summary and discussion. Like many accepted fantasy tropes, once you step back from Turning as a core ability of the priest it’s pretty obvious that this power should be granted to specific types of priests—ones who follow or worship the god of life or death. In other words, an aspected list. Why should a Priest of the God of Fire have the ability to affect Undead? In fact, I moved Turning ability into a separate list Repulsions—basically a closed list.

I feel there are a lot of problems with the original Rolemaster repulsion spells—they try to maintain some of the elements of the D&D system by organizing undead by Class and then having spells affect a certain # of Class types. It’s just complicated for no reason. Why not treat Repulsions like a sleep spell? Any targets within the AoE must make an RR with the effects (cower, flee, destroyed) be based on the Fail? Higher level Undead will either resist or not fail by much while lower level Undead could easily be destroyed. You get the same solution without the complications of counting up the # of Classes present. Instead the spell is driven by the attack level and AoE.

Draining. The original RM had Undead causing Co drains. Later Companions introduced Life Levels with a corresponding spell list to regain lost life levels. D&D has LEVEL DRAIN—that was crazy. Why even try “Life Levels”? A while back Peter wrote a blog post touching upon stat drains as an effective Undead effect. I like the oringal simplicity of stat drain and a corresponding mechanism to regain the lost temp stat through time/rest or a restorative spell.

Stat drain is a great universal effect that could be applied to a number of agents besides Undead:

  1. The Unlife. The Unlife could drain a non-physical stats like Self-Discipline or Presence.
  2. Different types of Demons could drain different stats.
  3. Unholy Objects. Cursed or “evil’ weapons could leach stats point when used in general or when a specific power is used.
  4. New spells could allow a caster to drain and use a targets stat points for their own use. (like in Runelords).

The Undead don’t have to be complicated or identical to D&D–simple mechanisms and solutions work best within the flexibility of the Rolemaster system.

Rolemaster Combat Hack: Expanded weapon modifiers for Rolemaster.

Even in the earliest editions Rolemaster Arms Law contained a detailed chart of weapons with a variety of data: mods to hit ATs, length, weight, speed, notes etc. Beyond any additional to hit bonuses we never really referred to that chart at all–but it did give hints to useful information that could be incorporated into combat.

Recently RMU expanded various “combat maneuvers” and combat situations into the rules. Some of these set penalties can be offset by the appropriate combat maneuver skill (contra skill) or are just specific penalties based on certain situations (close quarter combat). Two situational penalties did take the actual weapon into effect: subdue and close quarters, but the rest just set a base penalty. (rear attack, protect, etc). It seems obvious that this concept can be expanded much further; that each weapon or weapon type should have custom penalties based on it’s speed, reach and style. For instance, the effort to strike behind (rear attack) should be much different for a martial artist than someone wielding a 2-hand sword.  Or the penalty to protect should be lower for someone wielding a polearm than someone with a dagger.

This simple solution adds another layer to weapon complexity without any new rules, creates real differentiation between weapons for specific combat circumstances and reduces the problem of multiple weapons sharing the same attack table. An additional benefit is that if new combat situations are created or a new weapon added, it’s easy to expand the chart without any other design work (like creating a new attack chart). We’ve added these mods right on the character sheet for easy reference.

(Another category I’m going to add is a “Thrown” penalty for melee weapons and initiative modifiers for use with our initiative rules)

I’ve uploaded the chart in Excel for ease of editing.  At the top is a simpler version which classifies weapons into 4 categories based on weapon reach. Below are a breakout of individual weapons, and SW special weapons. (Pete, not sure I did the file upload process correctly…)

RM Weapon Modifier Chart

Random Musings. Resistance Rolls in Rolemaster.

One of my recent posts discussed the basic concept of “Stats as Skills”. This ties into my whole experimentation with modifying the RM ruleset and creating a level-less game. Part of my research has led me to re-examining the whole concept of the “Saving Throw”. There has been a few other blog posts HERE and HERE.

Interestingly, Saving Throws are basically the same solution as Fate Points—a common house rule used by many RM players—but used IN ADDITION to RM resistance roles. Saving Throws were originally used to adjudicate powerful kill attacks (disintegration and dragons breath) predicated on a HEROIC assumption: unique and powerful individuals could somehow avoid a kill result based on luck, force of will or some superhuman effort. DnD established some arbitrary categories and situations that allowed for a Saving Throw and apparently in later additions switched to a stat driven resolution.

Rolemaster adopted the same conceit, but rather than a “all or nothing” approach, introduced a % of failure result (or the inverse of MM partial success) AND recognized the difference between “Resisting” a magical/metaphysical attack (RR vs spells) and “Avoiding” a physical/force attack (DB vs. Elemental Bolts). An improvement over DnD for sure, but is there a better way to handle RR’s?

Along the same lines, isn’t the use of both RR’s and Fate points allowing for double indemnity? It’s basically the same rule principle but gives the PC’s 2 mechanisms to avoid an unwanted effect.

I’m still playing around with various solutions, but have made a change in our upcoming session regarding Poison & Disease. Both Poison and Disease would seem to have little relationship to a PC’s level. They are physical, not meta-physical attacks, no different than an arrow or sword strike. A poisonous or viral attack is either delivered or not, and the impacts better addressed by the PC’s constitution and not level. So for Poison/Disease I’ve switched from level based attacks to the standard difficulty penalties to reflect the deadliness of the agent. (basically +30 to -100 although I use a broader, more graduated range). On the target side, the RR is now a Static Maneuver modified by the STAT (not bonus) plus any racial mods for Poison and Disease. So why the STAT and not the STAT bonus?

If the average player stat is 75 than a Routine +30 effect will be resisted pretty much all the time, barring a natural “01” roll. Results are than treated as a partial success/failure like any other MM/SM’s. A success still delivers the minimum effect since there was a successful bite/attack/puncture in the first place. Partial Success (76-100), Failure (26-75) and Absolute Failure (0-25) all induce the applicable effect categories.

Since I’ve moved Poison and Disease into a physical attack resolution all I’m left with for Resistance Rolls are Magic and Fear. I’m of the mind to make Fear also a level-less resolution, resolved with SD stat, with Fear attacks also defined by difficulty penalties like Poison and Disease.

That leaves me with Magic/spells. I’m still pondering this. Anyway, rolling Poison/Fear/Disease into the MM/SM resolution framework continues my push into a level-less game, better unifies game mechanics and doesn’t require any charts!!


Another Step Forward Downloads!

This blog is a bit of a lesson in humility for me. I set it up just because  there was a perceived need for this kind of blog and to attract more people to Rolemaster.

It started off as “I am trying this”, “I am trying that” now I am pleased to say it is very much “We are trying this”, “We are trying that”. We have a nice team of writers now and this blog is as much theirs as it was ever mine.

The big thing that I want to share today is our new Downloads feature. You can see it hopefully to the right if you are on a bog screen or below if you are on a mobile. This was kicked of by Brih but I am going back over old posts to find downloads we can add to the list. There is a downloads menu as well and as the number of downloads grows this will get organised into categories to make it easier to find what you want.

I know full well that there are part finished project I have started over the years. I hope this will prompt me to get those topped off and added to the the download list.