You encounter 2d8 Zombies

I absolutely detest D&D style wandering monster encounters. Take the title example, the problems with 2d8 zombies are almost too many to list, where did the zombies come from, who made them, why are they there? Even the 2d8 bit irks me. Against a party of PCs 2 zombies is quite possibly a bit of a non-event. 16 zombies could quite possibly be a potential TPK.

What is the point of the encounter?

If it is resource attrition, to grind the party down before they reach the end of level boss then shouldn’t it be part of the primary adventure notes? Wandering monsters or random encounters are normally in addition to the set locations and encounters.

If the random encounter tables are well constructed then I accept that as the party move from locale to locale then the sorts of encounters they have will change with the territory.

If my memory serves I seem to remember that the GM would roll 1d6 every hour or so to see if there was a random encounter. The last time I made random encounter tables I created one for each floor of a castle keep. The random encounters on the upper floor were things like servants carry laundry, children of the residents with their governess playing with marionette puppets and a nurse with a baby. In the lower floors their were more kitchen servants, off duty guards, handymen carrying out minor building repairs. The random encounters reflected the day to day life of the castle. It meant that the players could not sneak around the castle corridors with impunity. Killing these people would have consequences even if the body was not discovered, they would be missed and mostly quite quickly. Incidentally I discovered that a random encounter with six kids playing hide and seek can cause absolute havoc with a parties attempt to infiltrate a castle!

This is not intended as a rant against D&D, I am going somewhere with this…

Last week I talked about Fate points and about using a toned down version for minor skill rolls.  There is a bit of that in what comes next.

I have also talked about relative encounters, there is a bit of that in this.

So imagine you scrap random encounters completely. We keep the encounters but we get rid of the random bit. What would be nice would be a non random way of getting unexpected encounters.

This is going to sound like a digression but bear with me…

Looking at skill checks RMC has two levels of nearly but not quite made it. 76-90 was Partial Success and 91-110 was Near Success. RM2 and thankfully RMU has ditched the Near Success band and you have 76-100 as Partial Success and 101+ for success. I have always hated the Eleventy-one+ for success, but that is not relevant here.

The only problem with this graduated levels of success is that starting characters have very little chance of ever succeeding at anything that isn’t an absolute core skill. In RMC you pretty much need an open ended roll do anything.

As a GM you cannot use any difficulty ratings beyond ‘normal’ or the party will probably hit a brick wall of an unopenable door or unfindable clue.

So imagine that as a GM we count Partial Successes as Success but you also keep a tally of each ‘bump up’. You then fix a break point for each location. If your tally of bumps equals the break point you trigger an encounter.

So for example you put a break point of 3 against the scene set in a bandit camp. The players are trying to sneak in to the camp, trying to spot any guards one player gets a partial success, you elevate this to success but keep a score of 1. The players make their plan and then try and sneak in, rolling their stalking skill. The mage gets a partial success making the tally now 2. The players approach a corral of horses and the ranger tries to use animal handling to calm the horses and gets another partial. The tally is now 3 and the break point is reached. As GM you can toss in an extra encounter (A groom checking on the horses?) and reset the tally back to zero.

What we are doing is making the characters more competent as we count partial successes as successes but balancing the books by throwing more complications at the party.

More heavily patrolled or traffic areas would have a lower break point value as people are more likely to maybe sense the slight feeling of something being not quite right or maybe the characters have left a clue or evidence of their activities.

This can work in any situation, if the party are moving around a souk trying to haggle over prices then a handful of partial successes may be enough to have marked them out as non-locals by a street gang.

If you want encounters to lead to combat, we do a lot of hack and slash so ours frequently will, then we can use relative encounters so they are always balanced to the power of the party, this gets rid of the 2d8 bit in the title.

So this idea makes characters more capable in a similar way to inspiration, removes the random element of wandering monsters and pitches the wandering monster to the power of the party. It can also give you that lovely warm glow feeling of being a really evil GM as you benevolently allow a character to succeed while at the same time knowing that there is one more tick on the ‘shit happens’ register.


Shadow World Breaking News! Is Rolemasterblog Resurrecting the Nomikos Library?


Many years ago, Matt Hanson (Vroomfogle on the RM Forums) hosted the “Nomikos Library” which had the full and complete timeline from Shadow World. It was a great resource, but after some years of hosting the site, he ended up shutting it down due to server issues, power usage, spam, hackers and all the other hassles of hosting a site.

There has been some discussion on the RMForums about restarting the site, but it’s doubtful Matt has the time or energy to tackle it again. Therefore, we here at Rolemasterblog are in discussions about whether we can resurrect the timeline here on the blog site and how it would work. Terry has been supportive and waiting on other principals to weigh in with their opinions.

As I touched upon in an earlier blog, IF there ever was a new Master Atlas it probably should leave out the detailed timeline due to size and ongoing changes. It makes sense to host it somewhere where it can be updated and edited as canon products come out. That’s just my opinion of course.

We’d like to add some filters so the timeline could be reduced by subject matter, geography or key words. I’m not the “coder” so much of that will be left to the experts. Obviously one concern is whether it’s important to keep the “secrets” of Shadow World fire-walled off from players and accessible to GM’s only. On the other hand, SW pdf’s are easily found online and Terry’s Loremaster Legacy spills a lot of the settings meta secrets so it’s not like the info isn’t out there if a player really wanted to find it.

We welcome your comments and thoughts.

World War Tree

This week’s 50 in 50 adventure is on of mine. Going under the title of World War Tree.

‘In World War Tree the characters are in a town which has greatly expanded over the past two years, due to a moss found on local trees. As a result of this, the nearby forest has suffered extensively, with large numbers of trees torn down. The forest has now decided that enough is enough and a force of living trees, of the appropriate type, is descending on the town to rip it to pieces.’

This adventure has real Rolemaster DNA at the heart. Herbs, which we all use as GMs and players, play a significant part. The destruction of the town is reminiscent of the end of Isengard, a MERP reference, and Arms Law combat makes the enemy much more dangerous than D&D hit point erosion.
Creature Law has several variations of active tree and in this adventure you get to use them all.

Incidentally, if anyone else is interested in releasing adventures or adventure hooks I have noticed that the name plays a big part in the amount of sales. I have been using slightly witty names, like World War Tree, and Star Mangled Manor. Brian in contrast uses much more traditional names like Cave of Spiders. These traditional named adventure hooks sell much better than the less serious adventures. The covers are pretty much identical as are the prices and prospective buyers do not get to see the actual content. About the only distinctive feature is the name.

If you want to emulate what we are doing
I suggest using very traditional adventure names.

Game Campaigns. Do they End with a bang or do they end with a whimper?

So I needed to take a small break from my 2000 word blog posts, so I thought I would write some quick thoughts on campaign endings.

As a GM it’s important that a campaign, or extended adventure series end satisfactorily. From a design standpoint, some of that can be charted through a multiple act structure, but the open ended nature of gaming (and RM dice!) means that things can go astray. It can be frustrating to have the final act end with the players feeling dissatisfied, the conclusion anti-climactic or the challenge easily met.

On the other hand, it would also be too easy to manipulate dice, events and other factors to force a cinematic ending to a long game session or campaign. Acting completely neutral means that hours of hard work managing a well designed narrative could “end with a whimper”. Uhh…”So that’s it?” the players ask. That can feel very deflating for the GM.

I’ve had both in my years of gaming–some incredible finales and some now real duds. Now, spending much of time writing game hooks, modules and adventures I’m exploring the mechanics behind these conclusions. This has become critical in my “Legends of Shadow World” tourney module. At 50th lvl things better be pretty epic!!!!

  • If at 50th, death has no real meaning due to lifegiving, is their any tension in combat?
  • If a great crit roll can kill the most powerful of entities, then a lengthy combat could last mere seconds, robbing it of impact.
  • What reward provides the payoff to players? There are no new spells, probably not any artifacts they haven’t obtained and not much upside to another level up is there a real payoff?

But looking at those above, I can’t help but think they are not unlike the same questions for lower level characters.

  • “The end” provides a out of game break that can hand wave away any severe injuries. There are no “next room” or “next level” to survive with wounds. So many lower level final acts lose some of that tension as well.
  • Crits are always the wild ace in the RM game.
  • What is a commensurate reward for any level?

The mere fact that it’s the “end” creates new problems the GM has to anticipate. What has been your experience? Is just finishing reward enough?

Here are a few blog articles (of varying usefulness) on the subject. HERE and HERE



I.C.E. Deep Dive. Loremaster Series Review pt.2: The World of Vog Mur.

For a long time, The World of Vog Mur was never my favorite Loremaster book (although still better than Shade of the Sinking Plain)! I recall talking with John Ruemmler on the phone back in 1988 or so and mentioned my “lack of enthusiasm” for Vog Mur. There was a long, awkward pause, and John said “I was the author for that….”. Oops, foot in mouth! Over time, though, I’ve grown to appreciate it–sort of the “Empire Strikes Back” effect. It’s a bit awkward but charming in it’s mixture of Rolemaster, Middle Earth elements and basic D&D. And there are great ideas and layouts that makes using the module as a drop-in side adventure easy. Shipwreck the players?

Vog Mur is a short supplement, only 34 pages, and was originally included with Gamemaster Law. The book conveys a sense of a tutorial: it has wide right margins with developer notes and space for a GM to add their own. There are many explanatory sections on how to use the material, handle NPC’s and encounters. As a section of Gamemaster Law that approach makes sense, but it feels a bit clunky as the stand-alone module.

Cover Art. First off, the cover art: it didn’t have the punch that Brian White’s Iron Wind cover had, and certainly it was no Gail McIntosh cover on Cloudlords of Tanara. But I like it now, for it’s color and realism. There is a ruined castle, an imposing black figure astride a horse and in the forefront, the gentle Vorig Kye releasing a small bird. Ha! He was cool when I first read Vog Mur but now that he has been promoted to a full Dragon Lord in Shadow World it’s much more interesting to look back and see his humble beginnings.

The Setting.  The world of “Vog Mur” (which means Death Watch) is comprised of 3 small islands: Dalov Perll, Ordye Throg and Dalla Veurd, all basically volcanic atolls situated to the north of Emer. Dalov is 14×11 miles, Ordye is 7×6 miles and Dalla 2.5×2 miles so these are small sand boxes to control player travel and maintain the adventure narrative. Again, as a introductory setting for a new GM this is a very manageable theater. Interestingly, there is no mention of Essence Flows, Navigators or Loremasters. So while this came out after Iron Wind and supposedly part of the cohesive framework, the “Loremaster Series” it seems to lie outside that framework. I’d be interested in more background on the genesis of Vog Mur. (Terry, are you reading this)?

Content and Organization. One of the frustrating aspects to Vog Mur is how information is delivered and organized.  Adding to the confusion are the naming styles: Ordye Throg, Dalla Veurd, Puirl Buirn, Oevaag Baas, Geleb Daart and Usiva Krem (and a ton of other 2 word names) don’t roll off the tongue!!!!

Inhabitants. Again, there is more confusion on how information is organized and transmitted. For example, Section 4.21 Plants has more material on geography, drops a hint about the haunted Mausoleum of Gart, then covers wolf packs, Ghouls and the Throk-Vurd. Those all should be in the other section on animals and monsters. Then, the next section 4.22 Wild Beasts and Monsters covers some other creatures that weren’t described in the Plants section. While these islands are very small, they have a very D&D like ecology. “Monsters” include intelligent baboons, a Hydra guarded and tended to by a Giant, a large squid, Firehounds, Ghouls, Trolls and even Sea Krals. (weren’t Sea Krals in Quellbourne as well?) Then you have a fisherfolk village, pirates, Half- Elven lords, and cliff dweller tribes.

Elor Once Dark. Like the Iron Wind, Vog Mur uses the writings of Elor Once Dark to transmit information and history. Here it feels very “Middle Earth”, for example:

The new King, Lembalas, married a woman of mortal blood, one Janella, who bore him two children — a boy named Tereborn and a girl called Eledrial.

Places. Vog Mur has some great maps/layouts that make for great adventuring on the islands or as drop-ins to your campaign or adventure:

Purll Cibur. This is a small town of 60 stone dwellings overlooking the cove. A few merchants and similar are described and then there are some “activities” which include brawling in the Inn & Combat contests of hand-to-hand, archery and jousting!

Encla Turic. Next we have the fortress of Encla Turic. This is a great small castle keep with mechanical functions, water tunnels, and a great library. This is the great tradition of these books and probably done by Peter and Terry. A great drop-in layout for your adventure.

The Mausoleum Gart. A old school tomb with 3 entrances that are a great dungoen crawl. Beware the undead inhabitants! Like Encla Turic, this is classic Amthor/Fenlon design and layout key with cool features, traps and treasures.

Gudd Tyl. A simple Elven manor but a nice little drop-in.

Vorig’s Manor. A simple building where the Dragonlord lives.

Last bits of stuff. At the back there is a Muri-Elven dictionary and a couple of colored maps. A simple, crudely drawn elevation style map and then on the back cover what is clearly a better version done by Fenlon with clearly marked locations of key spots.

Final thoughts. While I had to read through several sections to make sense of everything, it’s a fun little module. The islands have varied topography, there are ample places to explore and it’s small enough to control the action and give the party some “wins” without being overwhelmed with a larger world. Clearly, the module could use with a redesign and re-organization to present the material better, and maybe, just maybe, tone down or simplify some of the place names. The creatures feel very OSR and Sea Krals were never canonized by Terry, but it would easy to replace them with another race.

There has been some retro-modding to Vog Mur in later Shadow World material:

  1. Vorig Kye’s name was changed to Voriig (and he grew in power quite a bit!)
  2. Lon Lemira is now an Earthwarden construction and there were several built. btw, here is my list of the Earthwarden Golems and locations.

Yanie Steraiad, the Eog Golem.  Earthwarden temple in Vog Mur.

Arestiis Lanedri Laen Golem.  Isle of the Turning in Mythenis.

Renia Athos, Titanium Golem.  Under Nontataku in a cave

Zarin Deyroain, Kregora Golem.  Dawnswaters Edge, Mur Fostisyr.

Elezyii Ankyra, Diamond Golem  Earthwarden Ruins in NE Kelestia.

3. Dulcaborn and his 101 knights are integrated into the master timeline.

The World of Vog Mur is clearly an entry level module with it’s smaller size and scope might be a good candidate for a RMU makeover as the first introductory module.


Too much gold!

I have been thinking about character wealth. Really this span out of the discussion about Fate points and Inspiration.  As I said I don’t use any kind of fate system. I don’t need one as my party was sponsored by a powerful priest in the early days and the PC cleric is fast approaching the point where he can cast Life Keeping, buying enough time to effect any repairs and stave off death. If the PCs can dodge death then fate points do dodge death only devalue the role played by the cleric.

Of course there are conditions that the cleric cannot cure and when that happens Life Keeping can keep the victim ‘on ice’ until the characters can get to a cleric or healer that can effect the cure. At this point gold enters the equation as the cleric or church is going to require some hefty donation or possibly a duty in payment.

Healing by NPCs is a great way of taking excess money out of the campaign.

In my world getting permanent magic items made is hugely expensive, massively time consuming and alchemists of required skill are extremely rare. The net result is that no PC has ever succeeded in having an item made. This isn’t by accident, magic per se is rarer in my world than RM would have it. I have reduced the chances of finding magical items in the treasure charts and made spell lists harder to learn. Characters have less spell lists in general which leads to greater differentiation between different characters who would appear to be broadly of the same profession.

Right now the PC party are around the 5th/6th level and whilst not counting every copper coin, they are still having to seriously manage their money.

How do others manage excess money in their campaigns?

Stop Press! Publication Round Up!

Last week was an über week for us.

First up we have The Inn of Dusk. This is the latest 50 in 50 adventure  hook and the 17th so far.

The Inn of Dusk is an inn that has been haphazardly extended over the years. It is the focal point of the local community and sits near an old and now rarely used trade route. The Inn has a secret and is far more dangerous to visit than might be though; quite what the hazard is can be chosen by the GM from a list suggested for different power levels.

Next up we have had a bit of cross over with the Fanzine.

Issue 9 went out in both Print and Kindle editions. This was one of my favourite issues so far with three adventures, new monsters and the return of the Shadow World section.

Overlapping with the delayed print and kindle editions, the PDF version went out much earlier, we have Issue 10 of the fanzine (February 2018). This is a really important issue as it contains the first printing of BASiL (Essence pt 1), completely updated advice and notes from using BASiL.

Essence Part 1 added 35 new spell lists to Rolemaster. It is available on RPGnow/Drivethu as PDF and in print and Kindle on Amazon.

Oh and I am experimenting with new look covers. These latest editions are up to 70 to 80+ pages so we are putting out a decent magazine I feel.


Finally, Azukail Games published the Ominous Place Name Generator last week. It is a Pay What You Want product so if you want to treat yourself to something new then pick up a copy.

I.C.E. Deep Dive. Loremaster Series pt.1: The Iron Wind.

In a recent blog I reviewed some of the earliest ICE ads that were featured in the Dragon Magazine. Iron Crown’s two very first products were Arms Law, a drop in combat module for use in other game systems, and The Iron Wind, an expansive “generic” fantasy setting.

Later, ICE would formalize their modules into the Loremaster Series which would then morph into Shadow World.  The Loremaster series consistested of 4 modules: The Iron Wind, The World of Vog Mur, The Cloudlords of Tanara and the Shade of the Sinking Plain. Two additional modules were advertised but never published: “Cynar: the Cursed Oasis” and “The Gates of Gehaenna”.

I thought I would do a “deep dive” analysis into the 4 Loremaster modules, starting with the Iron Wind. The Iron Wind was written/published in 1980, the start of the “Golden Age” of RPG’s and is a informative marker for the trajectory of Iron Crown Enterprises, it’s creative style and future product development. There are 3 basic versions: a b&w Parchment edition, a colored cover parchment version and then the final blue/green cover edition. As of yet, Terry hasn’t expressed an interest in a new updated edition, but this may be due to authorship issues as well. (If I recall, authorship was shared by, or predominantly done by Pete Fenlon).

There are a number of traditional online reviews of the Iron Wind, but I wanted to review the original 1st edition b&w parchment, offer my thoughts and identify any material changes that occur with each edition. But first off, let me say this: in my opinion, The “final, 3rd edition” Iron Wind is one of the best RPG adventure supplements ever produced. It was a self-contained sand box with a great mix of cultures, geography, structures, cities and plot narratives. While Judges Guild, Midkemia Press and others produced third party adventure content for D&D in the same period, these were drop-in products, lacking distinct and novel cultural frameworks beyond the “re-purposed renaissance style” or “Gygaxian racial tropes”. Too me, the lack of Orcs, Goblins and “True Elves” in the Iron Wind is pretty amazing given the Middle Earth roots of Iron Crown Enterprises and industry trends at the time.

With that said, the first and second parchment editions were a VERY stripped down version of the later 3rd version. While it did include the Priests Arnak and mention of the Unlife, there was no “Loremasters”, “Flows of Essence”, Navigators” or other elements that later defined the module series and ultimately Shadow World.

Front and Back Covers. The Iron Wind was published with 3 different covers: The B&W parchment, the “red” contrast parchment and the glossy paper green cover.

The parchment cover (top left pic above) depicts a mountainous terrain and a small citadel with a perspective of looking out of a small cave. It’s initialed “RB”, so I’m assuming that is Richard Britton, one of the ICE staff. The back cover is a large size Syrkakar Warrior also initialed “RB”.

The red parchment is a more fascinating scene. A (top right pic above), horned helm warrior twirls a morning star from a cliff edge while looking over a distance city–probably Syclak. Far in the distance a volcano is spewing an ash cloud and high above a red dragon is flying. There is so much dynamism in this art and once again captures the raw, gritty nature of The Iron Wind and early Rolemaster. It’s hard to say who the author is, but in the upper right border is a faint dotted PCF, so it appears that Pete Fenlon drew that cover!! This cover art was re-used in the third edition on page 23. The back cover is a colored Fenlon map of the area–interestingly it’s not an island, but a coastal region. This goes back to the Iron Wind being placed on the northern shores of Middle Earth.

The third edition had a full color picture done by Brian White in 1984. It shows 2 “barbarian” style characters fighting a demon that has seemingly burst from the ice of a frozen lake. A cool citadel is seen in the background. While I don’t like the Demon’s facial appearance, I think this is a great picture and I used it for inspiration in my game hook, Gauntlet on the Ice.

Maps. So let’s talk about maps. There is a definite progression of maps in these 3 products. Of course, Pete Fenlon’s map skills won ICE the Middle Earth license, and ME and Loremaster maps are some of the best ever published. The hand drawn “relief” style maps with key symbols are the GM’s best friend. Unfortunately, the 1st and 2nd  parchment edition of The Iron Wind lacked the more polished Fenlon elevation maps found in the later Loremaster modules. The two color regional map that was included was for a whole different coastal geography! In the first two parchment editions, the Mur Fostisyr wasn’t even an island. Instead, the area is a coastal region. (I believe it was meant to be a northern coastal area of Middle Earth).

Content. Both parchment editions have the same material, which again, is quite sparse compared to the final 3rd version. Basically these two versions detail 6 locations, a section on the Iron Wind and 4 cultures. There are a few maps in the middle of the book and some scattered supplementary info:  a weather chart on page 37, 2 small tables of herbs and poisons on page 43, food and lodging prices on page 47, and a  “master military chart” on page 55 called “Basic Warriors of the Mur Fostisyr”. So right there you can see the primal DNA of future ICE modules, both ME and SW.

Narrative. Almost all of the books narrative is given via a storytelling device by Elor Once Dark. While those parts were included in the 3rd edition, in the 1st & 2nd it’s the entire “voice” of the product. This gives the product a more distinct and raw feeling. It reminds me of the voice over narration found in Conan the Barbarian–but that movie came out in 1982 and this product is dated to 1980.

Languages. One thought on “naming conventions”. The Iron Wind  established a naming convention using word construction and consonant use that  lends itself to setting depth. Check out these place names found in the Iron Wind : A-Arnaar, Uda Tyygk, Aalk Gaath, Taurkytadl.  A mouthful certainly, but conveys a a sense of history and realism. We are used to this type of naming conventions from Terry’s subsequent work in Shadow World, but in 1980 it was unusual to see place names that were different from D&D standards: i.e. Greyhawk, Black Keep, Cross Fell, Hommlet etc.

In the first two parchment editions there is a small section on the Ky’taari. The third edition adds language notes on Syrkakar and expands the Ky’taari dictionary.  Later Loremaster and SW modules continued building upon this foundation with language notes on Iruaraic, Kugor and others.

Citadels and Cities. Let’s get to the “meat” of the module–cool floor plans of amazing citadels. This is an area where Terry really shines and the Iron Wind is no exception.  A couple of thoughts. First, all of the floor plans are “grid-less” (no grid paper background)–a significant different from D&D modules. This might be a subtle change, but lends a certain authenticity to the floor plans. Second, the Iron Wind established a more minimalist approach to room description. There are no “narrative boxes” and many of the room descriptions can be quite terse. For example: 16, 18. Offices. Of the chief librarian. Chairs? Desks? Luxurious? Who is to say! So while you have cool structures and floor plans, they leave a lot of unknowns for the GM to work out. Last thought–each citadel has a exterior drawing which is a great GM tool and helps with understanding the spatial aspects of a building or city.  It’s nice to see a exterior view actually match the floor plan!

The parchment editions had 6 citadels/cities, plus a map of Syclax. The 3rd edition had the 6 citadels, a newly designed Fenlon map of Syclax plus Tharg Jironak (Tower of the Astrologer).

A-Arnaar. The High Temple of the Ky’taari. Parchment editions only had the lower hall layout. 3rd edition added the “upper hall”. There is a short narrative in the parchments that is expanded upon in the 3rd edition. Interestingly, both refer to the “master orb of the seeing stones of the Ryaani). Not sure if I missed who/what the Ryaani are, but this sounds like the basis for the Ilsari Seeing Stones established in later SW canon. Both had an exterior of the building, but I can’t tell who did the drawing.

Kaldaraak-Vaar (Dawnwaters Edge). Interestingly, both parchments and 3rd edition refer to the “master orb of the seeing stones of the Ryaani. Not sure if I missed who/what the Ryaani are, but this sounds like the basis for the Ilsari Seeing Stones established in later SW canon.

Uda Tyygk. One of my favorite RPG fortresses of all time! Not only is it a very “Bond Villian” style mountain lairs, it’s the home of the Udahir who fly giant birds. The floorplans were cleaned up from the parchment versions to the 3rd edition but none of them came with any floor plan key; instead the major areas were labeled on the map. The parchment versions did include one extra drawing of the “water entrance to the Uda Tyygk” that was left out of the final version.

Taurkytaal. This is the fortress of the Demon-Lord Astaur. This is a great stand-alone fortress with clever features: teleport thrones, retractable bridges and a “elven seeing stone” and cool magic items. There was some small changes to the layout from the parchment to the 3rd edition; basically rooms #28 & #28 vaults were relocated. There is mentions of Ryykaar the Mage and Darath but no stats in the parchment editions but they are stat’ed in the 3rd edition NPC section.

One last item of note. At the end of the section there is a small  passage, “The Texts of Arduvaal of Vraniis”. It describes: “…and of four Pales were demons made, the first being the most strong and fierce, and the fourth the least in might”. For those familiar with RM, this was flipped with the 1st Pale being the weakest. This was changed for the 3rd edition.

Aalk Gaath. Home of the “Dragon Lord”. Here, we have a major deviation between the parchments and 3rd edition. In the parchments this citadel is the Fortress of Dread and home to Muul Chort, the White Dragon. Obviously the Dragon Lord was changed to Oran Jatar in the later edition (and Shadow World. Confusingly, room #6 was left as “the forges of Muul Chort” in the 3rd edition. An oversight I presume. This is also the home to the Priest Arnak of Gaath and Athimurl so a pretty dangerous place!!!

Var Ukaak. Let’s see, a Dragon Lords citadel, a Demon-Lords citadel and now a tower of the Susymog an Ordainer!!! This Mur Fostisyr sure is a dangerous place! There was additional rooms added in 3rd ed. and the treasury gold was reduced from 50,000 gp to 5,000!!! Oh, and that skull at the top of the tower?…glows with a red light that can be seen for miles.

Tharg Jironak. This citadel was NOT included in the parchment editions and is the home of a ex-navigator. This is a very interesting place, with many “Lords of Essence” features like laen doors/panels, exotic marbles, mirror mazes, glass tubes that hold people in suspended animation. The tower is “ancient” and made using powdered stone and “huge molds and forms” and glazed giving it a obsidian appearance. The whole thing is odd, whimsical and very cool.

Art Work. The 3rd ed. is a much more complete and polished version of the original parchments and for the most part, contains everything in the earlier editions and expands upon it. There are however, a few pieces of art that never made it to the final version:


So there you have it! Certainly the 3rd final version of the Iron Wind is superior in every way. It’s more professional, expanded with full stats, it has Fenlon’s colored elevation maps and a cool section of magic items in the back. However, the parchment editions have their own charm. The fortresses and layouts are among the best of their time, the cultures are unique and interesting and the bones of Shadow World are clear to see.

There is a ton of usable material in any edition. pdf’s are available to purchase at HERE. A great value for $5.

Next deep dive…the “unusual” World of Vog Mur…





Shadow World Speculation. Who are The Xiosians?

One of the more dense and information rich sections of the Shadow World Master Atlas is the timeline. By the 3rd Edition of the Master Atlas, the timeline has reached 25 pages and would be much longer if it incorporated all the local and regional timeline material found in other SW books. Plus, the timeline is growing: since the original release of the SW Master Atlas Boxed set I believe the timeline has increased by at least 9-10 years (6045 to 6054 TE).

My recent posts about a definitive, final Master Atlas proposes that the dated timeline be removed to another channel. A few years back, my brother Matt (Vroomfogle) started the Nomikos Library; an online database that collected all the timelines and had various search filters.

In any event, the timeline is a rich resource for a GM, not only offering unlimited adventure hooks but providing endless opportunities to explore Kulthea in different times. Sprinkled throughout the time though are many unanswered questions, cool hints and vague references that Terry has yet to explain or explore in detail. One of my favorite:  the Xiosians.

The Xiosians were first mentioned in the original Master Atlas: Warrior-Priests that were servants of the Masters of Emer and rode flying magical chariots. In Emer I we got a few more pieces of the puzzle with several mentions:

Warrior-mages on huge steeds begin purging the wilds in central Emer, driving out the ubiquitous Gark and Lugrôki hordes. These knights are harbingers of thecoming of the Masters.

They rule through an order of warrior-mages (the Xiosians)

It is believed that the Changramai are disenchanted Xiosians who left
the service of the Titans (In fact, some are

Corruption spreads through the Xiosians as well.

I was always fascinated by these references and decided to flesh out a background for the Xiosians myself. So putting what few clues I had together…

  1. Warrior servants of God like beings
  2. Flying magical conveyances

…I thought this sounds like another group of mysterious warriors that fly on magical steeds and purge the wilderness: The Cloudlords of Tanara. I wanted to tie together a number of loose ends: the origins of the Changramai martial culture, ancient militant orders with ties to the Althans/Ka’ta’viir, mysterious warrior cults and the genetic origins of special warriors like the Cal-chah and Guarlu. I had an idea that tied them all back to the 1st Era.

The Althans and the Ka’ta’viir are primarily an advanced intergalactic imperial society. But there is also a strong oligarchy element of immensely wealthy merchant families. It’s not a leap to assume that both leaders and powerful “Houses” would have their own security force to provide defense, corporate espionage and personal protection. This is not an original idea. The Romans had their “Praetorian Guards“, the Emperor had his Royal Guard, and in Dune: every Major House had it’s own army, formally independent from the Emperor‘s own military forces. (the Dune setting fit’s well with the Althan/Spacemaster/Kulthea dynamic).

As an highly advanced society, these personal guards would be genetically and biologically enhanced with superior speed, strength, healing etc. Ka’ta’viir and various Houses would want to customize their soldiers to their own aesthetic and design whims; perhaps based on distant racial lineage, or for practical purposes. These super-soldiers were mostly destroyed or scattered at the end of the 1st Era along with their Althan and Ka’ta’viir masters but remnants of them still remain. Some advanced genetic traits were passed down from individual survivors on Kulthea; operational bases were discovered with Xiosian equipment, fighting skills were passed down through many generations.

For me this was a good solution. Again, it ties up loose ends, fits well into canon for the most part and feels right. Here is a my material on the various “Xio Cadres” that ties into the Xiosians mentioned in the MA, Cloudlords, Changramai as well as others:


Obviously, playing a pure Xio warrior or even a partially full blooded Xio could be unbalancing. But I incorporated 2 significant drawbacks for Xio: behavioral inhibitors against Ka’ta’viir and the inability to use Essence/increase succeptibility to Essence effects. Of course, a player with only a small amount of Xio ancestry would have less inhibitors but conversely would have less genetic benefits as well.

Finally, since Priest-King of Shade is languishing in development limbo I thought I would share three vignettes from the book. They deal with the Tor’lan, a race descended from the ancient Xio warrior caste.

Of the Tor’lan

…apparently the Kinn have traded with them for generations, but little is known of the Tor’lan, the Giants of the Sullen Mountains. Brutish and uncivilized barbarians they are called, and they seem to have little interest in lands or conquest—they are rarely seen, content in their high mountain retreats.

We were heading south along the Ember Road, an ancient trade route that winds precariously through the mountains. Our caravan must have been watched, for just a few moments after we made camp, figures stepped from the shadowed edge of the jungle. All three were imposing specimens: tall, broad and heavily muscled—their size reminiscent of the Zor or Myri of Jamain but their skin was dusky and their facial features seemed cruder. Dressed in furs and dark leathers, they were adorned with a variety of crude fetishes: skin inks, bone jewelry and metal armlets. Tokens were woven into their long black hair. As they approached our camp site I realized the scale of the trees behind them had skewed my perception: these men were giants, much larger than the Zor and perhaps approaching 8’ in height and weighing over 250 pounds. They stopped 10’ away, and I swallowed a brief feeling of unease. The three stood confident and relaxed, and while their hands were loose at their sides and far from the grips of the huge swords strapped to their backs, I had no doubts that they would draw swiftly with little provocation. After examining us for but a moment, one stepped forward and spoke a clear greeting in Korsi, the trade tongue common to these western lands. I had made contact with the Tor’lan.

The Journals of Arand de’Mel

Loremaster Field Report. 5898 TE.Excerpt p. 131


On my third day with the Tor’lan I was allowed to travel upland into the mountains escorted by several other warriors. The air was still humid but cooler under the jungle canopy and we moved swiftly and with few rests. I still had not learned much about these imposing warriors, but we had established rudimentary communication through Korsi, the trade language common along the Storm Seas. I was always a quick study and their tongue bore a strong resemblance to higher, loftier languages, reinforcing my suspicion that their culture was a remnant of something far more ancient.

We maintained a strong pace as our path steepened and got rockier—I was feeling pressed keeping up with my companions, but they barely seemed winded. At times our trail climbed almost vertically—without guidance I would have been challenged to navigate the route. After several hours of strenuous climbing we reached the edge of a broad plateau high in the Sullen Mountains. While the lip of the plateau was broken and worn, I could see that the plateau was dressed with enormous smooth paving stones. Some were cracked, broken or tilted, but their craftsmanship was unmistakable: this was the work of the Althans.

Loremaster Field Report. 5898 T.E. Excerpt p. 147


I sat in preparation on a warm paving stone of the plateau. Around me a dozen Tor’lan stood forming a wide circle, large powerful barbaric figures, seemingly elemental in their strength and stillness that they projected. I thought back to the simple instructions from my guide:  Prepare. Fight. Honor. The words seem ritualistic and I could only guess at their deeper intent and meaning. My opponent would be a youth, not yet a clan warrior but with some battle training. I secretly felt that they underestimated me, for they had not yet seen me fight. I had trained with the Bikal Sword Masters in Sel-Kai and learned the two weapon attack forms of the Duranaki. I had traveled with Changramai Monks and witnessed the battle forms of a Void Knight. I had been tested in combat numerous times. While physically imposing and intimidating, the Tor’lan seemed crude in their manner and styles. I was determined to be a gracious guest and fight at whatever my opponent’s skill.

The far side of the circle parted and a warrior stepped into the circle. Taller and lean from youth rather than heavily muscled, his tanned skin also had fewer tattoos than the warriors I had traveled with. His hair was braided into numerous shoulder-length tails and he wore only a simple grey hide breastplate and leggings. He held a long heavy bladed sword, though not as large as the back-sheathed swords the other massive warriors wielded. He was taller than I, perhaps by a hand but not overly so. His reach would be comparable and though he moved confidently, I felt my speed and skills would quickly overwhelm his slight advantages in size and strength.

I looked down at my weapons. I wielded a longsword in my right hand and a Loari parrying knife in my left. In fairness I thought I should drop the knife, but the young warrior’s heavier weapon would still be an advantage against my two blades.

I rose to my feet and walked slowly to the circle’s center while my opponent watched with dark eyes, his face expressionless and bland. Were he in the city streets of Sel-kai his only notable feature would be his unusual height. He nodded slightly and raised his sword high and to the side, an unusual guarding position for a long blade. Crossing my weapons I returned the nod. Without further delay I stepped forward and lunged with both blades, hoping to reach inside is guard. Before my lead foot had touched the ground, a precise blow to the side of my head knocked me sideways onto the ground. I hadn’t seen the warrior move but he must have struck with the pommel of his sword. I shook my head, pushed off the stone and considered the barbarian. He still stood as if he hadn’t moved while my own head was still ringing and my footing felt less sure. Crossing my blades, again I approached just outside of his reach. Wary of his speed, I would not make the same mistake twice. I spun, both blades turned in a flat arc, my longer blade carving a path toward his left side while my shorter blade was held higher to block any movement of the opposing sword. I was half way through my attack and I saw the warrior move—almost quicker than I could fathom. Stepping back and to the side, just avoiding the tip of my longsword, his left hand dropped from his sword grip and tapped my left shoulder. I felt a shock run through my arm and my hand involuntarily dropped the dagger as my fingers went numb. I was exposed, but the warrior made no counter-attack. My mind reeled for I had seen a similar move practiced by the Changramai elite!  After this there is not much to relate. The remainder of the battle was a blur: every one of my attacks was blocked or avoided, seemingly without effort. My movements seemed clumsy and slow compared to the graceful barbarian. For perhaps two or three minute we fought and finally, when I was covered in sweat and aching from carefully placed strikes, I stepped away from the center.

The circle was quiet and the surrounding warriors watched me: their expressions were inscrutable but I felt I had failed some test. Much later I learned the truth: the warrior I dueled was just a young student; his training had been measured in only a few years.

Not long after, I witnessed the full battle skills of an adult Tor’lan warrior…pray that they never have reason to go forth in anger or war…

Loremaster Field Report. 5898 TE. Excerpt p. 204

So can you incorporate Xiosians into your campaign? They may be a better alternative than having a player with Ka’ta’viir heritage, or may give a boost to a non-spell user fighter if they have some limited Xio ancestry. Or you can build a campaign around uncovering the Xio heritage that is imprinted in any number of cultures or organizations around Kulthea.

Certainly, the players could encounter an original Xio warrior; perhaps they were in chronogenic suspension. They might make a great ally against a Ka’ta’viir–they would be able to provide advice and assistance but couldn’t directly fight the Lord of Essence due to the genetic conditioning. Xio Cadres had both high tech equipment as well as ceremonial garb (like the Cloudlords kit) but many of the cadres consisted of very large warriors, so keep in mind that much of the equipment would not fit a smaller size player. It’s cool when they find 1st Era Battle Armor…only to realize they can’t work the neural interface and it’s just too large!


A Game to ruin your Valentine’s Day

I do not often review a completely unrelated to RM game but I thought I would break with tradition.

You and your partner have been fighting for hours. You are at the point where the intensity has started to drop and you’re not sure why the fight started in the first place. Most of the fight was just rehashing old arguments that you still can’t resolve. You are exhausted and you are at the point of not remembering why you want to be in a relationship with your partner. Inevitably your argument turns into an “I remember when” conversation.

I Remember When is a two page ‘story teller’ RPG that is as far away from Rolemaster as you could possibly get.

In my opinion this is not a fun game. In fact I think I am a pretty good player and can get into character quickly and I enjoy creating personalities where even I do not know how they are going to develop. Having said that, I would have difficulty playing this game but I am not sure why.

If you have a role playing partner then give this game a go, at your peril. It is just 2 pages and doesn’t require any dice.