…and another Happy Halloween!

Brian got in there first with his Happy Halloween From BriH post. He signs off by saying that “I know  all of us at Rolemasterblog have a lot of work in store for the coming year.” This was timely as on Saturday we released our first mini supplement. I say mini as it is a single page adventure hook. This one was written by BriH and edited by Edgcltd, published by Azukail Games and sold on RPGnow. Now it only costs 50¢ but that is not the point.

Spires Reach is the first of 50. All 50 are already written and cued up. If we were allowed to give you NPCs in all their detail, Monster stats for the encounters and so on then these would not be just a couple of pages of adventure hooks, or locations or outlines of adventures. These would be much more substantial adventures.

You may ask who is going to pay even 50¢ for an adventure hook like Spires Reach? I don’t know the answer to that but they are selling as I can see the royalty reports.

I spent yesterday evening writing the next edition of the fanzine which looks like it is going to be the biggest issue yet. I am full steam ahead on converting monsters. These free to use monsters will mean that anyone can start to create adventure modules for any version of RM.

I am convinced that if there were a 3rd party industry for producing adventures and supplements for Rolemaster then the system would be more attractive to the gaming community. Right now RM is just a game people used to play in 80s. If anything Rolemaster is a bit like Latin, yes, sure a small number of people can still speak it but to most they think of it as a dead language. Rolemaster is not dead but it is going take a small band of plucky adventurers to take on the quest to save Rolemaster, especially if RMU is not going to be on the shelves until the 2020s!

If the RPG year starts now then the next year is going to be really exciting.

Happy Halloween from BriH at the RolemasterBlog.

Is there anything more connected to fantasy RPG’s than Halloween? Ghosts, undead, creepy tombs, dungeons etc?  For me the fall season is a great reminder of youthful pursuits, D&D and a new school season. Now, we get to enjoy the second season of “Stranger Things”–I blogged about this last year knowing that the show spoke to me, but didn’t realize how big the phenomena would end up.

In that spirit, I wanted to post several Halloween themed spell lists I put up over at the RM Forums.

Haunting Ways

Undead Hunter

Demon Hunter

The first(Haunting Ways)  is a bit whimsical, but could be  great lesser list for an Illusionist . Undead Hunter and Demon Hunter are great lists for specialized groups.

Anyway I hope you have a great Halloween..and…if you, like me, see the “fiscal year” of gaming around October, than all the best! I know  all of us at Rolemasterblog have a lot of work in store for the coming year.

The Ecology of the Vampire Bunny

Vampire Bunny

Vampire BunnyThe vampire bunny is a monster that appears in the Rolemaster Creatures & Treasures supplement, which is available as a PDF and print on demand book from RPGNow in the updated version, Rolemaster Classic: Creatures & Treasures, or as the original print edition from Amazon. This creature is not described in the Vampires section of the original book, and only its stats are listed.

Here is an ecology article on the vampire bunny, presented in the manner of the original ones found in older issues of Dragon Magazine.

The Vampire Bunny

The following is from a lecture given by the visiting Laan lecturer, the noted Blais Rongen, at the University of Kalingen in Sel-kai, in the year 6021 TEI.

“To this day it is not known for certain how the creature given the incongruously cute name ‘vampire bunny’ came about. Whether this creation was an accident or deliberate, or a combination of both is still open for debate, and there are different theories that have been put forward.

“One theory is that a vampire may have fed on a rabbit, for whatever reason – rabbits are not a vampire’s normal prey, so perhaps the creature was starving or otherwise desperate, or maybe it was just experimenting with new types of food, as a human or other intelligent being would.

“It is proposed that, for some reason, this feeding caused an unusual reaction in the rabbit – perhaps the vampiric disease combined with another disease which the rabbit was suffering from – and resulted in the first vampire bunny being created.

“Another theory is that the vampire bunny was a deliberate creation, whether this was done by a vampire or by a necromancer, or one who was both, who deliberately experimented on rabbits to create one that was vampiric in nature, using vampiric blood, magic, feeding or a combination to create a new type of vampire.

“Whatever the original origin, the vampiric strain has since been spread amongst the rabbit population at large, as the vampire bunny is capable of spreading vampirism.

“Rabbits are normally social animals that can be found in large groups. The vampire bunny is, by comparison, a solitary creature, although it will normally be found at least reasonably close to a rabbit warren, for the rabbit is the vampiric type’s normal prey. Two vampire bunnies in the same hunting region will attack each other, until one is either driven off or killed.

“The vampire bunny suffers the usual weaknesses of other vampires, and avoids sunlight and running water, resting underground during daylight hours. The vampiric rabbit also has many of the advantages of a normal vampire, too, which is what makes it dangerous. To harm a vampire bunny requires weapons that are silver, magical or wooden, such as the archetypal stake. They are also vulnerable to water and electrical spells.

“Just as there are different breeds of rabbits, there are different breeds of vampire bunnies. This difference would appear to be purely cosmetic, reflecting the appearance the rabbit had in life, as the vampires are willing to feed on, and able to convert, other breeds of rabbits, there are no reports of creatures other than rabbits being turned into vampires by the bit of a vampire bunny, nor do they seem to feed on other creatures, instead simply killing them.

“The differences between a vampire bunny and a normal rabbit are quite subtle and not immediately obvious. The rabbit’s incisors, which are already quite long, become much more pointed with the transformation. The hair colour of the rabbit also seems to alter, becoming paler. Some witnesses have claimed that a vampire bunny’s eyes “glow” in the dark, but this may simply be the normal reflection seen in an animal’s eyes when a light is hone in them which has been misinterpreted by the witnesses. Rabbits are normally active at dawn and dusk; the vampire bunny is completely nocturnal. The primary difference is, of course, that the rabbit no longer feeds on vegetation, but on living beings.

“The vampiric rabbit is more intelligent, or at least more cunning, than a normal rabbit, but it cannot change shape or transform into a cloud of mist, nor can it cast spells. One suggestion posits that the reason a vampire bunny lacks these normal vampiric abilities is that their intelligence is not raised enough to be able to use further abilities, and there is a theory that, if imbued with human intelligence, a vampire bunny would gain these abilities. Fortunately, no one has been foolish enough to attempt this as yet.

“The vampire bunny is a lot more dangerous than it sounds from its almost-cute name. Predators who normally feed on rabbits have had a nasty surprise when they tried to feed on the vampire bunny, and they are dangerous to larger creatures too, especially as the typical predator lacks the means to actually damage the rabbit. Warrens of rabbits that have a vampire bunny residing near and feeding off them tend to be larger than normal, as the vampire will not tolerate other predators hunting its food source, and will kill them when they are discovered, luring the predator in by pretending to be a normal rabbit, and then attacking.

“The vampire bunny is much faster than a normal rabbit, making it easily able to hunt them. It employs its bite as its primary attack, but it will also butt other creatures, especially those larger than it, often doing so in an attempt to knock them off their feet and thereby make them much more vulnerable to a bite attack. This butt has been known to knock full-grown men off their feet, in no small part due to the surprise incurred by being attacked by a rabbit.

“The vampire bunny does not generally seek out people to kill, unlike its larger kin, because it feeds off its own kind. However, any that blunder into its hunting range are in definite danger, a danger that is increased by it coming from what initially appears to be a small, defenceless prey animal. In conclusion, the vampire bunny’s lethality should not be underestimated; this creature is hard to kill, and impossible to harm for those lacking suitable equipment.”

New Generation Orcs!

Once upon a time Rolemaster was a drop in set of house rules for D&D. These monsters bring things full circle. These are the monsters from the D&D 5e SRD converted back to an approximation for any version of Rolemaster. Some monsters will be weaker than the official Rolemaster monsters for your version of Rolemaster. Some will be tougher. As a GM you should look at the monster and decide if you need to adjust the number encountered to take account of any variation in power.

Every monster has a mini stat block. Monsters exist to be killed, out smarted or avoided. They are not there to be invited home to meet the family, you do not need full PC quality stat blocks. These mini stat blocks are there to give you a ball park figures for when you need start making rolls for the monsters. Strength is a combination of Strength and Constitution, Speed is Agility and Quickness, Intelligence is a mix of memory and reasoning, Empathy is both Empathy and Intuition, Presence is a mix of Presence and Self Discipline.

Attacks and OBs.

I am not using the rules in the original Creatures and Treasures for converting AD&D monsters to Rolemaster. As Hurin pointed out some the RM2 monsters were a bit arbitrary. Another point is that original RM did not have multiple attacks. Two Weapon Combo did not arrive until RoCo2. The way that C&T dealt with multiple attacks was to increase the OB of the creature, part of the flurry of blows style of combat round. I am going back to the D&D style multiple attacks as that is what the PCs have. It also makes monsters slightly more dangerous as the more attacks, the more chances of that open-ended up roll!

Base Rate.

There is a big change between new and old Rolemaster and that is the round length. RMU rounds are 5 seconds, RM2 rounds are 10 seconds, HARP rounds are 2 seconds. The movement rates are quoted as per second, so you can time 2, 5 or 10 as you desire.

Armour Types

This is the biggest change between version. RM2 & RMSS have 20 armour types. RMC (with the combat companion) and RMU have 10 armour types. The listing will show both but 3/20 means AT3 if you are using AT 1-20. An AT of 2/10 means AT 2 if you are using ATs 1-10. Armour in HARP is expressed as a DB modifier. As a rule of thumb if you take the AT in the 1-10 scale and times it by 10 you can add this to the DB and you will not be far off the mark. So for example an Orc in this collection of monsters has an AT of 3/10, 2/10 means AT3 in RM2, AT2 in RMU and for HARP it will need +20 DB (2×10). Any number in brackets after the AT is the creatures natural DB rounded to the nearest whole +/-5. For example the orc has a Speed of 60. That is an approximation of its Agility and Quickness. Under RMU that would give a +2 stat bonus and a +6DB. Here it is rounded to a +5DB.


Comparing my Orc to a RMC Orc and we have the same movement and the same hits. The RMC Orc wears armour and carries a shield but this something that the GM can change. My orc has a higher OB. This is in line with the sample character sheets I have that all show starting characters are much more powerful than the original characters and NPCs bundled with books like Heroes and Rogues. The NPCs I was sent all, right across the board, had higher OBs, DBs and hits. They all also had higher perception skills which is equally life saving!

So here is the ‘open’ Orc that is usable with RM2, RMC, RMSS, RMFRP, RMU and HARP.


Orc Grunt

Level 3

Base Rate 5’/sec

Max Pace/MM Bonus Dash/+10

Size/Critical M

Hits 50

80 60 35 50 50
+15 +5 -10 +0 +0

AT 3/20 2/10 (+5) Leather Hide or by Armour type

Attacks OB 67 Weapon Spear or Javelin

Environment: Temperate hills

Organization: Gang (2-4), squad (11-20 plus 2 5th level sergeants and 1 leader of 9th level), or band (30-100 plus 150% non-combatants plus 1 5th level sergeant per 10 adults, 5 8th level lieutenants, and 3 11th level captains)

An orc’s hair usually is black. It has lupine ears and reddish eyes. Orcs prefer wearing vivid colours that many humans would consider unpleasant, such as blood red, mustard yellow, yellow-green, and deep purple. Their equipment is dirty and unkempt. An adult male orc is a little over 6 feet tall and weighs about 210 pounds.

Females are slightly smaller.

The language an orc speaks varies slightly from tribe to tribe, but any orc is understandable by someone else who speaks Orc. Some orcs know Goblin or Giant as well.

Most orcs encountered away from their homes are warriors; the information in the statistics block is for one of 3rd level.


Orcs are proficient with all simple weapons, preferring those that cause the most damage in the least time. Many orcs who take up the warrior or fighter class also gain proficiency with the falchion or the great axe as a martial weapon. They enjoy attacking from concealment and setting ambushes, and they obey the rules of war (such as honouring a truce) only as long as it is convenient for them.

Orc Sergeant

Level 5

Base Rate 5’/sec

Max Pace/MM Bonus Dash/+10

Size/Critical M

Hits 80

AT 3/20 2/10 (+5) Leather Hide or by Armour type

Attacks OB 95 Weapon Great Axe or Spear

Orc Leader

Level 9

Base Rate 5’/sec

Max Pace/MM Bonus Dash/+10

Size/Critical M

Hits 134

AT 3/20 2/10 (+5) Leather Hide or by Armour type

Attacks OB 150 Weapon Great Axe or Falchion

Orc Lieutenant

Level 8

Base Rate 5’/sec

Max Pace/MM Bonus Dash/+10

Size/Critical M

Hits 120

AT 3/20 2/10 (+5) Leather Hide or by Armour type

Attacks OB 135 Weapon Great Axe or Falchion


Orc Captain

Level 11

Base Rate 5’/sec

Max Pace/MM Bonus Dash/+10

Size/Critical M

Hits 150

AT 3/20 2/10 (+5) Leather Hide or by Armour type

Attacks OB 165 Weapon Great Axe or Falchion

So Where Next?

I think I have a working formula for doing a conversion from 5e to a sort of averaged version of all the RM flavours. These are not meant to be achieving a carbon copy of the Creatures and Treasures monsters but new and different versions. Many of the monsters will be completely new such as the Aboleth who simply does not exist in any flavour of RM.

I think these will be great fanzine material as that is less likely to fall into players hands. I can remember getting White Dwarf or Dragon magazine and really looking forward to new monsters that my players didn’t know. That is the effect I am after!

50th Level Adventures. Deconstruction & Design of Chapter 1: Legends of Shadow World.

Peter’s recent blog project, Thought Experiment, is leading RolemasterBlog into deeper discussions on design and balance issues. I thought this new direction creates an opportunity to review the issuesI encountered when playtesting my 50th Level Adventure Series. I just posted up a shortened version of Chapter 1: The Seers of Strok on the RM Forums, but I’ll include it below as well.

First off, the download is not complete and I intentionally left out some material that is either being fine tuned or will be included in the “final” product. Some of that material not included in the download:

  1. All Pregen characters, NPCs and creature stats. I’ll post these up shortly, since they are crucial to the use  of the material.
  2. Expanded encounters for Part II: The Journey.
  3. Detailed description of the Lense of Strok. Some info can be found in Emer boxed set MA addendum, but I’ve added powers and included in my growing Artifacts and Technology doc.
  4. Background on the Guthuruxx, Shadow Monks and overarching plot points–though I did outline the remaining chapters.

I don’t suggest I am a veteran of game design or module balance, but I have been GM’ing for quite a bit of time. Creating a 50th level adventure was a bit of a “blue water” challenge–the parameters of action and ability were broad enough that tight encounters or narratives no longer applied. I remember my first encounter with tourney style adventures; the “A” Slavers Series. In the first module of that series, every object encountered, every spell slot assigned had a singular purpose to problem solving. That doesn’t work in Rolemaster; the broad or creative application of skills or the sheer amount of spells expands the decision tree beyond a predictive narrative path.

Given that, I had to take into consideration: time lapse (a target of 3 hour play time), raw abilities ( can the PC’s win an encounter?), obtuseness of narrative (balance of clues, problem solving and continuation of storyline) and finally resource management (PPs, HPs, spells, herbs and magic items to finish the whole adventure).

My players ran through 3 iterations of the 5 part series. I didn’t change details enough that each run through resulted in new material for the players, but by that point we were more interested in play balance issues themselves.

Chapter 1 had 4 major parts/encounters:

Part I The Journey. The group used the mixed pre-gen party of “famous” personalities and thus, had Malim Pelax’s personal skyship for the travel to the Observatory from Eidolon.

Iteration 1. The players ran through a simple transit using my SW Encounter chart. Nothing of significance happened, it was a bit boring and didn’t create any conflict with the players. In a campaign, the time could have spent in exposition or role playing, but in a tourney adventure this proved to be needless. The choice was to add a relevant event or hand wave the journey away.

Iteration 2. To make the journey relevant, I added an encounter with Krylites. I imagined orbital bombadier bug from “Starship Troopers”: the Krylites fired slow but powerful “electro grenades” into the sky towards the Sky Ship. It added drama, but the players never felt in danger. Ultimately, I think it added some good atmosphere (along with randomly generated Essaence effects and weather ). I though Malim was going to throw some fireballs down but it wasn’t necessary.

Iteration 3. The Krylites added a cool effect, but I wanted to add real danger–but how do you that with a group of 50th lvl PC’s? A red dragon proved to be the solution! In the third run through the dragon approached the Sky Ship, curious and sensing the power of the players. I rolled for reaction and the Dragon was just curious, but his approach was seen as a threat and the players wanted to flaunt their powers assuming they were much more potent than the singular creature. They attacked the Dragon… Not the best idea. The Dragon eventually retreated but did some damage to the skyship (slowing it due to sail damage) and the PC’s lost about 10% PP’s, some small fire damage and 5% loss of magical item charges.

Part II The Approach. Once setting down the PC’s have to traverse 1 mile of extreme terrain: lava, searing melting heat and unbreathable gasses. since running wasn’t really possible (did I have Lava Running in my BASiL Fire Law?..note to check) I assumed 20 minute mile–120 rounds to the Observatory.

Iteration 1. Both Malim and Sundemar had “Elemental Shields” but they also needed “Gas Lungs” to provide total heat protection and breathing to the party of 6. However, the magic failure rate was 40%/Round and players suffered from loss of spell shields and incurred damage. The 40% seemed to high. Party lost 20% of hits, total PP expenditure of 7% of total and the loss of some magical items to melting!

Iteration 2. I reduced the spell fail rate to 10% but introduced the Karax to the environment. The party encountered 5 Karax, and lost spell protection several times. Vertogen died.

Iteration 3. I increased spell failure to 25% but added just one guaranteed Karax encounter for narrative purposes. PPs spent was 5%, HP loss was 10%.

Part III The Monks.

Iteration 1. In the first draft there were 12 Warrior Monks but were equipped with protective gear, Ceiling Running boots and potent shurikens. The battle took place in the library and caught the group by surpise. Combat was similar to the Matrix “Club Hell” ceiling fight , the Monks were hidden on the walls and ceilings and double teamed each PC. Vertogen was killed and 2 PC’s were badly injured!!! In fact the Monks probably should have won.

Iteration 2. I reduced the Monks to 8 but made them spell casting Monks. However, RM2 Monk spells basically suck and don’t add much to 50th lvl combat. The players won that battle easily.

Iteration 3. I went back to Warrior Monks but reduced the # to 10. The PC’s won, but they also knew what the encounter would be, so the Monks didn’t have the element of surprise. Nonetheless I was happy with this encounter but wonder if it needs to be run through again.

The Major Battle

Iteration 1. The first draft had 8 Guthuruxx Soldiers all with autoguns. The autoguns treated all AT’s as 1 (due to armor penetrating slugs)  and had a bonus to offset the implied DB that occurs with AT1. They strafed the group, killing 2 PCs (not Vertogen) but were killed quickly after. I was running a clock with The Hand having 20 rounds to complete the removal of the lense but the players moved on him quickly and Onyx intervened. Dragon, shmagon. Want a creature that can DESTROY 50th lvl characters? How about a Black Eog Golem.

Iteration 2. I reduced the Guthuruxx to 6 and dropped the time to 10 rounds. However, even with the shortened time, the players were able to bypass and intercept The Hand which disrupted the narrative.

Iteration 3. I reduced the Guthuruxx to 2 just to strafe and delay the players and had The Hand escape (with Onyx) quickly to the Portal. While a bit of a forced narrative, it allowed the PC’s to survive, NOT face Onyx yet and give them time to pursue The Hand through the Portal.

{{Updated}}. I just reviewed my notes and had the protective shield fail fail in Iteration 1&2 of the Major Battle. The building started collapsing, lava encroached and fires raged. It proved to be too much for the PCs, but it was dramatic and think I will add it back in my final revision.

At the end of Part IV, Iteration 3, the party was at 1/2 PPs, 25% HPs and averaged 15% in various injury related penalties. They could continue, but could they survive 3 more chapters?

Some broad conclusions:

  1. Since this was Chapter 1, it was meant as the introduction to the players, establish the narrative thread and become a test drive for the players.
  2. 5-10% resource loss seemed appropriate although that proved almost too much for them to survive later.
  3. Fixed timelines didn’t work for me. For fun and playability the GM needs to artificially force action events to continue gameplay.
  4. At 50th level, and for tourney adventures, subtle traps or clever “bits’ just don’t work, they impede gameplay. These adventures were more brute force events and storylines.

Some thoughts on the pre-gen professions.

  1. The Magicians (Malim and Sumendar) both faired well since by their levels they had virtually all Open, Closed and Base Magician lists. However, I think that’s a problem and in my own house rules total spells/lists are halved from RM2 RAW.
  2. The Navigator added a great mechanism via his compass and related Essaence flow competencies.
  3. Paladins aren’t a core profession but RoCo I was the most reasonable companion and so I allow for it. I gave Kroger the Phaon spell list and a handful of Channeling Open/Closed instead of the RoCo paladin lists. Kroger was the main tank of the group and while got beat up by the Monks, did well against the Demon warriors.
  4. Chomen Drah. With the Iorak base list, Chomen was quite different than the standard “Cleric” (you can see my thoughts on this HERE) The player really liked playing him and a did a great stoic,surly but competent PC.
  5. Jan. What can I say, I love Monks and always wanted to see a High level Changramai in action. While I stuck to RM2 Raw one small tweak I allow is missile parry–even for unarmed combatants. The Monk battle and the shuriken throwing was a fun battle.
  6. Final thought. Healing. Chomen was the only “Cleric” and Iorak followers don’t learn the Closed Healing list spells. I didn’t want to use the mage/fighter/thief/cleric trope so the only healing spells were a basic battle healing the Paladin had (concussion ways) and Jan had a self healing list. The rest of the healing was done via herbs. That also allows the GM to modify difficulty through herb allocation to the players as well.

Thought Experiment Update

I huge thank you to everyone that sent me character sheets!

The brief was intentionally vague to give everyone creative freedom. Most people produced a non spell using rogue or thief which is what I has sort of expected. My Xan is exactly in that vein.

Things that really stood out were that I got three RMU characters. Seeing as RMU is still in play test and the experiment was for people who had house ruled character creation I had only expected one RMU character and that was Hurin’s who uses individual skill costs.

An interesting aside here but RMU is not yet published and the developers are pretty determined to stick with category skill costs. On the other hand there is already one ‘officially sanctioned’ optional rule in the form of Hurin’s individual skill costs published in the Guild Companion completely undoing the developers work. Only in Rolemaster eh?

The fact that RMU character creation is being house ruled while still in play test make one wonder about what is being tested? My personal intermittent play test is still RAW but with JDales new tables applied.

Back to Xan

I have distilled the character down to just a few really basic numbers. If you were reading a module or adventure and she was an incidental NPC then you may just get a one liner.

The ‘average’ Xan taking every sheet I received looked something like this.

#Hits 64, OB (shortsword) +59, DB +14, Perception +28
She typically has 18 additional skill including primary and secondary skills.

If you compare that to the off the peg NPCs in Character Law (RMC version) you get

#Hits 20, OB (shortsword) +30, DB +0, Perception +15.

The house ruled characters are far more functional than the off the peg NPC. In addition nearly every Xan has a secondary attack and either multiple attack or two weapon combo and many have given her a thrown dagger as well.

Interestingly, one came back with a single spell list.

I do want to look at the characters in more detail later but I thought I should really do something immediately as you all took the time to send them to me.

So the immediate take away is that all these Xans are more functional than RAW characters. I make my starting characters more functional as it is more fun to be capable than not. There is more fun in being able to survive more than one hit with a sword, all baring the critical, than not. These heroes are more heroic than RAW player characters.

The impression I have got so far is that house rules in general are making RM more survivable for starting characters than the rules a written.

More to follow…

Random Musings. Sunday Thoughts on Rolemaster and other topics.

Random musings are my best way to cover topics briefly without any deep thoughts on a particular subject. Likewise, I appreciate quick responsive comments from our readers–insight may be elusive, but many throw away comments can create new ideas and inspiration!

  1. This blog article. I argue incessantly against tropes, but societal/historic/racial tropes are the easiest to embrace while creating the “theatre of the mind” necessary for gameplay. Tall, muscular, blond beserkers encapsulates the viking trope; small, fast, lithe with epicanthic folds is the default for asian martial artists and the associated social memes. Adopting historical cultural memes and transplanting them to fantasy is easy–both in terms of design and in terms of enforcing an imaginative world.
  2. On the same subject..part of the challenge as a GM using Shadow World is conveying racial identifiers with the corresponding culture. I think Terry did a great job creating a WIDE array of “races” (human) that mix many of our own worlds physical qualities. Yes, some suffer from the same mixture of stereotyped racial traits (tall, muscular, blond) or (lean, dusky skin, angled eyes), but he throws in enough differentials (black hair w/silver streak, or height etc) to mix it up. But, because of that, I find it harder to transmit these racial traits since they defy our common racial models. What do you think?
  3. New armor. I can’t remember what I was reading, but in the book, the protagonist had cloth armor reinforced with “magicked glass”. Sounds like Laen? I like that, and while Laen is rare, hard to work and expensive, it seems like a great armor type: cloth or leather sewn in with slim laen plates. I will add variations of this to my Shadow World “Special Armor“.
  4. Brian’s Book of the Month. The Thief Who Pulled on Troubles Braids. I’ve been tracing down good urban fantasy thief stories, but this turned out to be a bit different. In fact, it feels very Howard/Conan/Hyborean.
  5. Between this blog, referenced article elsewhere and RM Forums there is a intensive conversation about IP, self publishing, open or limited licensing of ICE and SW IP etc.  While I appreciate “ICE”‘s protection of IP, the reality is that time is not on their side.  I’m 48. The average RM Forums member is in their 40’s to 50’s. I think the owners of the IP are the same age or older than me. Where is this all going? If ICE was my client, and we referenced the “Industry Life Cycle” curve, I would say that we are on the down slope in need or reinvention. Is RMU the reinvention? Perhaps, but the market now requires liquidity for game adoption: easy or pregen character, ready to play adventures, high quality maps and graphics and a steady stream of product output.
  6. Activity. Does anyone note that the activity on the RM Forums is LOW? That’s not good. If you have a thought, idea, download or even an adventure, why not post it up to the Forums? GET INVOLVED.
  7. I’m watching “Halt and Catch Fire”. WOW. I was a startup in the web 1.0 days myself, had a building full of coders, a dream and crazy cashflow drain (that I mostly funded). After hours we played a Clancy game networked on our servers. Weekend nights we ran a live show venue with the hottest bands–our internet launch included String Cheese Incident, 500 people, 20 kegs and several summons for “disturbing the peace”. That was eVibe.com.
  8. Finally. I’m putting up the basic doc of the 1st Chapter of “Legends of Shadow World: The Seers of Strok”. This is the first part of a 5 part adventure for 50th level adventures. I purposefully did not include the stat blocks for the pregen characters, NPC’s or “monsters” due to IP issues, or just holding some stuff back. Mostly I’m doing this to create some activity (see 6 above) and because I keep getting emails and messages that I’m full of shit on the work that I do! (they actually say it much nice than that). I will say that I have sent Priest King of Shade to Peter and a few other people for their review so they can get a sense of the final product AND how close it is to publication. Here is Chapter 1–for GMs ONLY:

50 chapter 1 – The Seers of Strok

My only concern is that I do lay out the subsequent chapters to help GM’s plan ahead, but it’s also a bit of a spoiler. Also, apologize for the “graphics”–I’m doing this myself and it works for my own group.

Anyway, enjoy!

Why kill a PC out right?

What advantage does killing a PC actually bring to a game?

Does it add to the drama? Probably not. Does it add to the story? Again, probably not.

Imagine that a PC party is fighting a gang of orcs and the main fighter is knocked out cold and the fight goes badly. In the end the magician grabs the cleric and using long door they escape.

So what happen next?

The GM has two options. The fighter is dead and the game session pretty much ends for that player has they have to create a new character*. The rest of the party head back to town and try and recruit a new muscle man for the adventure to continue. The other option is that the character is a captive of the orcs and the remaining PCs now need to mount a rescue. The fighter is master of his own destiny to some extent and can try and engineer their own escape.

I am not suggesting for a minute that the PCs should never die. Without that threat it robs the game of some of the sense of danger. A one hit death on the other hand adds nothing. An unconscious character is maybe capable of being revived if the party have the right healing. An unconscious character is still an active part of the story. Even if they cannot talk then are a burden that needs to be carried, slowing the party and changing their tactical choices.

Sure, the orcs can kill the character, maybe even eat them, but does a random roll of 66 on the critical table need to be so fatal?

There will be times when the characters death is inevitable or even desirable and a heroic death can top off a campaign perfectly.

This is an off the peg critical:

Neck strike shatters bone and severs an artery. Foe cannot breath and is inactive for 12 rnds. The poor fool then expires.

What are the chances that the foe will live for 12 rounds? I am guessing that if it is an orc then the PCs will finish it off just to make sure of the exp. If it is a PC that has taken the critical then either some kind of Fate point will be spent which reduces the fatal result to unconscious or causes a complete re-roll or the party healer averts the death or the GM fudges the result to keep the PC alive or the PC dies.

The Fate point option just reinforces what I am thinking, that the death doesn’t add anything to the game so additional optional rules are required to fix the broken rule.

The Healer healing the wound is the perfect outcome, even more so if the healer is another PC and not a rent a medic NPC. The rent a medic is really just a walking, talking GM fudge.

If the GM fudges the result then it is just pointing to the death being ‘not fun’ and so why is it in a game?

If the critical read Neck strike shatters bone and severs an artery. Foe cannot breath and is inactive for 12 rnds the passes out. The victim will die eventually unless help arrives.

The effect during the combat is identical but the death is no longer certain. It is down to the narrator to decide what is best for the heroes story.

What I think I would love to see is a critical that reads:

Crush foe’s skull. +30 hits. Opponent dies immediately or if they are a PC then they are unconscious. Add +20 to your next swing. You have a half rnd left to act.

Yes, an entire two-tier system with the odds inevitably stacked in the heroes’ favour. Surely, we are sat around the table to tell the heroes’ story and have fun doing it?


*not all new characters are 1st level so creating an 8th level character, for example, can take a damn sight longer than just a 1st level one to re-join the party with.


Made Men. Made Weapons. Do you run a personification campaign?

I recently read “The Kings of the Wylde“.  A bit of tongue in cheek that played on common fantasy tropes but still created a strong image of a certain type of a fantasy setting. It was an irreverent version of Ambercrombies “The First Law” series.

The commonality between the two is the concept of “Named Men” and “Named Weapons” that is integral to the respective settings. The Kings of the Wylde took this concept one step further, embracing modern trends of fame, wealth and popularity.

While I don’t have the time to embrace other settings or rule systems besides ICE/Shadow World, I find this “extreme personification” setting very appealing!

“Named” people and weapons are not just for super powerful beings or historic figures–it’s the idea that adventurers can make a name for themselves and likewise “name” their reliable weapon. They don’t have to be demi-gods or artifacts to be named. Basically it’s adopting our societal embrace of famous actors, wealthy business personalities and the Kardashians to a fantasy template.

RM doesn’t have a rule framework for “fame” but it could be easily adapted. I just like the idea of my players earning fame (and not just fortune) along with their named weapon. It feels like a superhero game system or one of my favorite movies…Mystery Men.

While Shadow World has a DENSE timeline and history, much of that depth is lost on day to day play. My players can’t recall most of the famous people, alive or dead, that are included in the timeline. I like the idea of making it more immediate and visceral. A world where even the lowliest groups give themselves “rock star” names AND give name to their favored weapons, shields or armor.

It’s a bit over the top, but what a world! If murder-hobo’ing is a reality, why not create a setting that celebrates them!


The orcs are coming!

Before I get on with the main point of today’s post I want to digress somewhat…

I use Google Drive and in there is a folder of ideas. In the ideas folder there are a great many other folders. Every time I have an idea I create a folder for it and then stick a simple text document in the folder to describe what I was thinking. If it was inspired by an article or an image or whatever then I may stick all these things into the folder.

As a general rule I create more folders like this each week than I complete. Some of the ideas I will never touch again. Maybe I have a deeper look and realise that it was not a good idea. Sometimes I turn them into full on commercial products either RPGs or supplements. I have published one game (3Deep), one is about to go to public play test (Devil’s Staircase Wild West Role Playing) and one has been completed once but upon reflection needs revising. One game (Rolemaster Kids) is still in its infancy as I have not completely finalised the core mechanics let alone all the supporting material.

My supplements vary from simple 10 page adventure outlines to 60+ page more substantial supplements. I think I have published 30 or more or the smaller supplements like that.

There are the things that do not really fit in any neat category. These bounce around. Sometimes I work on them and they start to develop and then I look back and strike down a lot of what I had already written when looking at it again after a break.

This month is unusual as I have actually completed more of the mini projects in my ideas folder than I have created new ones. In addition I have learned some new skills that have solved a problem that was holding many of the other projects back.

One of these ‘bed blocker’ ( a terrible phrase used to dehumanise elderly patients being kept in hospitals because the UK has inadequate social care for the elderly ) projects was to convert the D&D 5e monsters from the SRD (Standard Reference Document) into Rolemaster compatible monsters.

The sorts of monsters I am talking about are orcs, goblins, giants and amusingly a Balor which is a D&D attempt to sidestep the Intellectual Property rights around the Balrog in role playing games. So D&D stole the Balrog to make the Balor possibly from RM 1st Edition and I am now converting the Balor from 5e back into RM. What goes around comes around. As all these monsters are part of the SRD we are free to use them as long as due credit is given.

So what is the point?

The point is that we spent the summer writing adventures that we really wanted to use to promote Rolemaster but we were hobbled at every turn because we cannot publish any of the monster stats as they are ICE IP. We cannot talk about what spells and lists the NPCs may have because they are covered by ICE IP and so on.

So I have had this project on the back burner since I first started this blog. I published a few monsters converting denizens of the underdark as new Rolemaster monsters. The intention was to encourage more D&D players to try Rolemaster. The more of the Forgotten Realms monsters that were available in RM means that players can reuse all their FR books but with RM PCs.

So last week I made an Orc. This is just the basic grunt of an orc and I used my own rules to create them. Bearing in mine that this is a D&D 5e Orc what do you think?

The stat bonuses include racial modifiers and there is still some work to do. I want to get rid of the (MS/AG) SL/MD crap and use real words that anyone can understand without having to use a look up table.


Orc Grunt

Level 3
Base Rate 55’
Max Pace/MM Bonus Fast Sprint/+10
Speed (MS/AG) SL/MD
Size/Critical M
Hits 58

80 60 80 35 55 50
+15 +5 +15 -10 +0 +0

AT 3 (20) Leather Hide or by Armour type
Attacks OB 38 Weapon Spear or Javelin
Environment: Temperate hills

Organization: Gang (2-4), squad (11-20 plus 2 5th level sergeants and 1 leader of 9th level), or band (30-100 plus 150% non-combatants plus 1 5th level sergeant per 10 adults, 5 8th level lieutenants, and 3 11th level captains)

An orc’s hair usually is black. It has lupine ears and reddish eyes. Orcs prefer wearing vivid colours that many humans would consider unpleasant, such as blood red, mustard yellow, yellow-green, and deep purple. Their equipment is dirty and unkempt. An adult male orc is a little over 6 feet tall and weighs about 210 pounds.

Females are slightly smaller.

The language an orc speaks varies slightly from tribe to tribe, but any orc is understandable by someone else who speaks Orc. Some orcs know Goblin or Giant as well.

Most orcs encountered away from their homes are warriors; the information in the statistics block is for one of 1st level.


Orcs are proficient with all simple weapons, preferring those that cause the most damage in the least time. Many orcs who take up the warrior or fighter class also gain proficiency with the

falchion or the great axe as a martial weapon. They enjoy attacking from concealment and setting ambushes, and they obey the rules of war (such as honouring a truce) only as long as it is convenient for them.

Comparing Orcs

So this is just the basic orc. How do they compare?

  • A rolemaster orc is 2nd level and mine is 3rd level.
  • A Rolemaster orc has a base move of 50′ and mine 55′
  • The default #hits is 50 and mine has 58.
  • The AT and DB was 8(30s) and mine is 3(20) but without a shield or wearing armour.
  • OB-wise the default orc has an OB of 40 for both melee and missile. Mine has 38 for both.

The first impression is that of swings and roundabouts. A few extra hits here and a couple of points less OB there. C&T offers us two orcs a lesser and greater. The D&D 5e monster comes in 5 flavours from Grunt 3rd level to Captain at 11th level.

All my experience is with RM2 and RMC and I was trying to fit the 5e Orc into the RM2 Orc’s shoes.

All my playtesting of RMU has been human vs human as the normalised monsters in Beta 2 filled me with horror. How would this Orc stack up against an RMU PC?

Rolemaster Monster Manual

I am not offering a Rolmaster Monster Manual, or at least not soon. What I am offering is to build a reference of monsters that will be free to all and free from IP restrictions. This means that we can finally properly stat our adventures.

This is work in progress but I will make two commitments. Firstly, I will not sit on this until it is all complete. I will be releasing each creature as I do it. I have not thought about formats yet but I think many GMs would like a physical book they can flip though and stick book marks in. So if that proves to be true then I will publish this, but that is a discussion for another day. The other commitment is two fold really. I will commit to doing this as fast as I can, not a monster a week as that would take years. One the other had I cannot say I will spend tens of hours on this each week; there has to be a compromise. That compromise will be that Rather than starting from A in the monster manual I will do things on a request and demand basis. If you are looking at publishing an adventure but want a monster then let me know and I will create the monster for you. That is the request element, if there is a request for a monster then I will supply it.  I work on many adventures, these days mostly for the Fanzine. If I need a monster then I will create it and then add it the public list. If there is a demand for a monster then I will meet that demand and then share it.

I will have a think about the logistics of all this this week.