Grosk’s Tavern

This week’s 50in50 is one with a printable battlemap or should I say battlemaps (plural). I think these add a great deal to the download as maps and floor plans are so easy to recycle that any GM should be able to make use of them.

It is also my understanding that this is one of Brian’s favourite 50in50 adventures. So please enjoy Grosk’s Tavern!

Grosk’s Tavern is an apparently former temple that has since been converted into a tavern for those who are down on their luck. The beer has absolutely nothing to recommend it but the clientele have an oddly military demeanour. For Grosk’s is actually a place to hire mercenaries and the tavern keeper is not just that either. Those starting a fight in the tavern may well regret it.

The adventure comes with two battlemaps, a 14″x24″ map of the tavern’s ground floor taking up six pages and a 21″x24″ map of the cellar taking up nine pages that can be printed out and assembled.

The core feature of RM


RM is famous, renowned, infamous for its charts, for its criticals, for its fumbles, but I don’t see these charts as the heart of the game. Charts? Yes. The central feature of Chartmaster absolutely must involve charts. But these are not the charts I’m looking for.

I’m probably wrong about this. RM has never been my RPG of choice. The real players have spoken! The game is still alive because of you, not me, and you know why you are here.

But RM crits themselves are a feature bolted onto a combat system that is largely D&D, with hit point damage and all, not even a substitute feature, for all that hit point damage is far less feared than side effects of criticals.

And really, are the critical tables as interesting as all that? Mostly, they all boil down to something like this (table results truncated):

01-20: I’ll get you next time Inspector Gadget! Next time…

21-40: You lose more hit points.

41-55: You lose more hit points and start to bleed. Arg! Blood, blood, everywhere! Does anyone have a Flowstopper? Why doesn’t someone have a Flowstopper?

56-65: You lose more hit points, bleed and suffer a minor setback for a round or two.

66: You are exterminated by a Dalek!

67-85: You are stunned for a few rounds, bleed, take damage and really hate life.  Don’t worry, at the rate you’re going it will be over soon.

86-98: They told you to wear a bicycle helmet. But did you listen? No? Well, next time you’ll listen. And by next time, we mean when you start rolling up your new character, which might as well be right now, because you can’t play this one any longer. Oh, you did listen? Fine. Then just take some minor side effects and damage. Damned helmets.

99-00: Great that you wore a bicycle helmet. But is it certified versus being pasted by an asteroid? Or pulped by Grond? No. No it’s not. No, a +3 helmet isn’t going to help either. Consumer Reports tested it. They roll that way. Speaking of rolling…

Don’t get me wrong. The critical and fumble charts do add character to the game. RM is among the first games to implement criticals, perhaps the first to really focus on these.

Other games out there just toss out hit point damage for crits and fumbles, but that’s admittedly kind of bland. Other games let the GM just pick a consequence, but that’s not quite the same as getting to slough off all responsibility for killing a PC by rolling on a chart. The Dalek wasn’t my idea. Don’t blame me! You were exterminated fair and square! Still other games feature a much smaller set of charts for criticals, wieldy and functional and that’s it.

When it comes to charts, RM wins. Even so, a player tends to use only a few attacks, and tends to generate similar results very often. Each edition of the game has a few sweet spots for weapons and armor, and players naturally gravitate toward these. That’s another conversation, about tactics and choices in rpgs. Maybe more than one conversation. Mostly, strange results happen to PCs, from the wider variety of Things that accost them. Regardless, because combat is so dangerous, and is avoided, these charts do not see life all that often. They do not shape a RM campaign.

The charts I noticed when I encountered RM in the 80s, the charts that dominate, the charts that most define RM for me, are the spell lists. Charts and charts and charts, filled with little spells.

I’ll talk about these more some other time.



Rolemaster Deconstruction: Familiars. How should they work?


Familiars are not only a staple of fantasy fiction but a core visual ingredient of Rolemaster book covers–specifically the ongoing series of Angus McBride covers from earlier RM books that featured a cast of PC’s with several small animal Familiars.

Familiars had a more sinister aspect in early fiction; most often a demonic imp, crow or other dark-aspected animal tied to an evil antagonist. Early D&D applied this concept to any M-U, and broadened it to a simple servitor or animalistic henchmen of a spell-caster.

First, let’s differentiate between “animal control” spells and “familiars”. Animal control spells are featured in the Animist, Beast Master, Druid and similar professional lists in Spell Law and Companions. These are spells that summon/call, control/master and sometimes allow the caster to sense through a controlled animal. These are all powerful affects, in in some ways SUPERIOR to the limitations and penalties associated with Familiars. So how does Rolemaster deal with Familiars? Fairly easily, in fact, so easy that it behooves a caster to immediately have one.

So why would a caster have a Familiar?

Familiars have a symbiotic connection to the caster where animal control is just a magical charm or affect on a creature. So what is the symbiotic relationship? What benefit does it provide besides cinematics? How does it work, mechanically via the rules?

The basic premise is that there is a REAL benefit to the caster, but at the cost of INVESTITURE. In other words, if the relationship is severed there is a real, physical or psychosomatic cost to the caster. Otherwise isn’t it just easier and less risk to control creatures when needed?

So what is the benefit, or possible benefits, of a familiar that differentiate it from other animal control spells? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Communication. The Familiar bond should allow for free two way communication between the caster and creature. This may not be actual “language” but at least a strong empathic bond.
  2. Awareness. The caster and familiar should have some base awareness in terms of location/distance of each other at all times.
  3. Shared Awareness. With concentration the caster might be allowed to project sensory ability and awareness through their Familiar.
  4. Control. The caster, with concentration, should be able to have some control over their familiar or, at least, give simple instructions for a Familiar to execute.
  5. Shared abilities. A caster might gain some extra-abilities through the Familiar relationship. Perhaps better vision, languages, strength, sensory etc. On the flip side, a Familiar could gain some intellectual ability bestowed by the Familiar bond.

Most of these benefits mirror other animal control spells. But those are temporary spell effects; a Familiar is permanent.

My belief is that GM’s are reluctant or adverse to Familiars. Why? Familiars are really NPC’s for the benefit of the PC’s. That really complicates the narrative.  GM’s not only have to manage normal NPC’s but a constant stream of Familiars that can upend the storyline unless the GM takes the Familiars into consideration!!! At that point, who is the audience? Additionaly, Familiars can change the challenge/reaction of normal adventures–familiars act as scouts or agents with heightened senses that can off-set the normal challenge-balance. At the least, Familiars can be the “canary in the coal mine” and alert the group of traps or other imminent obstacles.

Some additional thoughts:

  • Familiars are GM agents. You can better control the narrative through them.
  • They should be of animal intelligence. They may act with pro-forma intelligence via their caster, but their base ability should be simple animal intelligence.
  • Size. Should they be of smaller size? Should a caster have a bull as a familiar? Probably not. I would restrain the spell limits using the size rules to Small or less.
  • The penalty for losing a familiar should be EXTREME, or at least cautionary. The tie that binds should snap back accordingly and in proportion. This could be loss of temp CO. or even a permanent CO pt, a general activity penalty and even worse.

Again, this goes back to risk/reward. No GM wants to manage intelligent Familiars that run the unknown gauntlet, trip the traps and distract the monsters. At that point, who is playing? Familiars should be carefully hoarded resources–a cool benefit that needs to be defended! Are familiars a great resource in you game?

Of course, if easy and beneficial, every player will have a Familiar. But if the risks and rewards are balanced, would it be different? Maybe the whole concept should be reduced to a simplified, professional agnostic “Animal Bond” mechanic and spell list. That eliminates the whole D&D Magic-User familiar trope and become a generic but specific rule-set that could be used by a variety of PC’s or classes: Magician, Animist, Druid, Beast Master, Barbarian etc. What are your thoughts?




Gaming Post Mortem

Well we had a fun and interesting weekend of gaming.

To start with I spent many more hours playing than GMing. That is something that hasn’t happened for several years. The consequence is that we got less done in my game that I had hoped.

I had wanted to emulate a long and fruitless search, resolve the searching and then mount a successful rescue at the correct location. The dream sequences worked for the first two days but then a combination of Guess (Communal Ways, 1st Level) and Dream I (Communal Ways, 4th Level) soon dispensed with the entire need for hunting up and down the forest.

In some ways this was a clever solution by the players, effective use of low level magic and it solved a potential problem. I could just shift some simple encounters from inside the forest to the edges where the characters were travelling and a that was that. We ended up leaving the game at the point where they are about to launch the rescue mission itself. They don’t know it but there is another encounter they are going to have first but my year of worrying if I could pull off the fruitless search was completely pointless.

From a playing point of view the adventure was a brilliant first adventure and introduced the new setting, a homebrew world where magic is incredibly common and there seems to be a forgotten ancient civilisation and a legacy of old technology.

I am playing a Lay Healer and despite the potentially second string nature of the profession I got fully stuck in with the rest of the team. It was interesting to see the characters go through several iterations of the best ‘marching order’ as we investigated a subterranean complex. For a fair portion of it I was in the role of second warrior. This is not exactly what I had expected!

Here is a little clip from my equipment list from the start of the adventure…

And what happens if you make the lay healer the second guy through the door after the knight!

I think I did enough to accumulate enough experience to gain 2nd level but I will have to wait until the autumn to find out.

There was plenty of fighting undead and healing the party, especially during combat where those few extra #hits made the difference between standing and fighting and hitting the deck.

We shall see…

Gemsting Cave

This is one of the adventure ideas I had based around using a very specific creature, and a creature that doesn’t feature that often.

In Gemsting Cave, characters explore a cave once haunted by Gemstings – Giant Scorpions – which have now returned after many years.

The cave can be dangerous, as the Gemstings are able to climb on the walls and roof, attacking from three dimensions.

Gemsting Cave is meant to be a stand-alone combat encounter but has plenty of role play potential. I also liked the idea of attacking the players from all three dimensions!

Combine this adventure with one of many free cave system map makers you can find online and you have a full drop in location to use in your campaign. The Gemsting stats you can take straight out of Creature Law.

Two philosophies of RMU: rebuild or reorganize?

While it’s  much too late to change the course of events, there are still a number of detailed conversations going on at the RM Forums regarding the RMU Beta test.

For me the endless rules debates became too deep a rabbit hole that I didn’t want to go down any longer and there are still many players who are fiercely engaged. So rather than discuss actual rules, I thought I would discuss the rules making process. A bit of a meta-debate if you will.

I think the RMU development process has become a rorschach test for the RM community. It’s clear that there are variety of differing and strongly held beliefs about the rule resolutions and they are mostly the product of an individual’s ideas on versimilitude and their own tolerance for complexity. I discussed Chargen complexity in a previous POST, but I wanted to broaden the scope of my question into 2 parts. First, does RMU rebuild the ruleset or just reorganize and streamline it? Second, are peoples suggested rule changes a rebuild or a reorganize?

I think the answer to the first question is easy. RMU stayed “inside the box” and merged, streamlined and tinkered with core mechanics without any significant rebuild. Perhaps the only rebuild mechanic that was introduced was the size rules and those were discarded after community input.  Arms Law still kept weapon tables, crit charts and the basic combat structure. Does the round sequence or initiative rules rise to the definition of a rebuild? I think it was evolutionary, but certainly not revolutionary. Spell Law was left almost as-is, with some spell mechanics rewritten or clarified, spell slots filled but little else. Character Law seemingly reduced RMSS skill bloat (but not really) and added to the Chargen process with pages and pages of talents and flaws–rules for rules!

So my second question–are your solutions rebuilding or just tinkering around the edges? It seems like many rule suggestions (including mine) are just an attempt to get RMU to adopt house rules in some fashion. But are these suggestions meant to truly revise RM or are you painting within the lines? I think RMU met it’s name: it’s attempted to unify a diverse community within the established mechanics.

But did RMU need more? If so what?

Did rule changes take you out of your own comfort zone?

Are proposed rules to the benefit of growing the community or appealing to the current user base?

Do RMU rules advance the system into the contemporary gaming community?

I negotiate for a living and a saying in my profession is that the best possible deal is when both parties walk away somewhat dissatisfied.


The Long Awaited Game

This weekend I get to run my face to face game. The last session was nearly a year ago as the get together planned for the autumn last year was cancelled. In fact we wanted to meet up in the June and the September but neither of those weekends happened.

I am actually going to use one of our own 50 in 50 adventure outlines as an encounter, the cabin in the woods, and if you can remember back to 22nd of September last year I will finally get to throw my wicked witch at the characters.

I think these massive hiatuses (hiatusi? or just ‘gaps’) between game sessions, twelve months in this instance, are the main cause of our hack and slash game play.

The challenge facing me is that I need to create the impression that the characters are carrying out a long and fruitless search while making the game session exciting and engaging. The point of the fruitless search element is to make the end of the search feel like something of greater value. I don’t want them to walk into the forest, poke two leaves and then find the long lost ancient sword that has evaded legions of searchers for generations.

I also get to load up the characters with some useful single user magic items, some of which they will not know they are magical. Witches are great at making enchanted items and the BBEG this time is a wicked witch.

The only slight disappointment is that one player has had to drop out of the weekend due to a family crisis. These weekends are always best when the gang is all there. As a group we have now been gaming together for 34 years!

The final thing I am looking forward to is that I get to play as well. I have a 1st level Lay Healer called Otto. We are running around my GMs home brew world that so far appears to have a mix of fantasy and high tech elements. At least that is implied by the sliding doors and elevators we encountered in the first session.

Exciting times ahead!

A Knightly Encounter

This weeks publication round up brings you the 25th instalment of our 50 in 50, so exactly half way. I will also highlight A Baker’s Dozen of Pieces of Lore by Neal Litherland.

A Knightly Encounter

In A Knightly Encounter, the characters will be halted in their travels by a group of knights who will pick a fight no matter what. There are a number of different reasons provided as to why they might fight and there are five knights in total, each of whom is described. The encounter pits characters against a dangerous d100 foe.


<oh how I wish we could write Rolemaster NPCs in place of d100 foe!>

A Baker’s Dozen of Pieces of Lore

This is a collection of thirteen different histories, legends and myths that can be used to add colour to a campaign. They describe people, places, items and events. They can be used as possible adventure and encounter hooks or simply to make a world seem more alive. The pieces of lore are not tied to any specific setting so they can be easily dropped into the majority of fantasy campaigns.

I picked out A Baker’s Dozen because this is one of Azukail’s supplements created using freelance writers. I was thinking along the lines of Azukail is Rolemaster-Friendly + Azukail has a growing stable of freelancer writers, therefore if we ever get a license from ICE then RolemasterBlog + Azukail is an increasingly strong proposition for writing supplements.

And talking of supplements…

I am realy busy this week, next weekend I have my face to face RMC gaming weekend (this is the game being run using RMC RAW). I get back on Sunday and then Monday morning I am going on a weeks riding holiday. Once that is over I have the fanzine to put together.

Once all of that is out of the way the very next thing on my ToDo list is the Nomikos Library. I have some technicalities like installing databases and configuring a new wordpress installation but I hope to have something ready to show and tell by the beginning of May.

Watch this space, as the cliche goes.

Adding “dark things” to your Rolemaster and Shadow World games.

Poisons, diseases, curses. Oh my. In the earliest days of D&D, adventurers not only had to avoid traps, navigate mazes and defeat monsters, they had to contend with other insidious agents like poisons, level drains, curses or cursed objects, petrification and the diseased touch of the Mummy.  Not really a safe vocation when you really think about it! While much of the Saving Throw/Resistance Roll mechanic was built around these attack types, how often do GM’s really use these “dark things”? How often do you introduce poisons & diseases in your campaign?

D&D made many challenges fairly simple. Curses could be countered with a particular spell, poisons could be Saved or cured etc. They were designed to be yet another discrete challenge that has to be overcome. A binary mechanic: effect vs. cure. D&D didn’t bother with specific poison antidotes (unless part of the narrative) or even causation (what is a curse and why so prevalent in D&D). You Saved and you were good, you failed and you had to seek out a singular solution.

Rolemaster introduced a more realistic system for many of these challenges; and poisons were definitely more detailed! Not only were there many poisons, they were defined into 5 types, had specific antidotes, and had varying levels of effects. A similar approach was taken with diseases and whole spell lists were devoted to varying curses whose effects spanned the realm of imagination.

A few years ago I took a critical look at my own campaign and GMing proclivities. I realized that I rarely used diseases, never used curses (or at least hadn’t for many years) and was reluctant to delve into poisons.  Now I see these interesting affects as not just a quick add-on but great additions to my narrative toolkit. Let’s take a look:

  1. Poisons. Many GM’s are reluctant to use poisons due to their variety, unpredictable effects AND some sort of ethical standard (maybe established by D&D class restrictions). I think that’s just wrong and leaves a whole layer of complexity to gaming. Putting our own social norms aside, the widespread use of herbs in the RM/SW world clearly lays a path for the common use of harmful herbs and agents as well. I just finished then newest Mark Lawrence book that prominently featured the use of herbs and poisons–it really inspired me to add more depth to poisons and an added value to the skill. Luckily, RM and SW already has a comprehensive list of substances that I collated into a MASTER LIST. I also left Poison as a meta-skill that covers identification (by taste, smell, symptoms etc) preparation, application and use, and as part of our system that provides a benefit for ranks, the # of ranks in Poison is also added to any RR vs poisons.  (This models the idea of a poisoner taking low doses over time to build up their resistance). So now poisons are like spells, with varying effects, methods of delivery and counter-antidotes. To facilitate poison (and similar substances) it helps to use a variety of mediums: paste, liquids, powders, oils that have varying effect times and for pre-prepared antidotes to the most commonly known agents. And poisons don’t just have to kill, they can paralyze, knock a person out, make them dizzy etc, so they aren’t just a deadly, unethical or cowardly attack only favored by assassins and “low men”. Poison preparation also shoehorns into our alchemy rules and can be combined with various substrate delivery systems. I’ll be expanding on this in an upcoming blog or RMBlog fanzine edition in the near future.
  2. Diseases. I think my reluctance to use diseases is multi-fold. First, diseases are generally slow acting so they don’t create a sense of urgency. Second, Elves and even half-Elves are basically immune to diseases so in SW much of the population doesn’t eve worry about it. Finally, Spell Law healing makes curing diseases fairly simple and implies most societies are not going to have problems with disease in general. Besides having a disease as a core plot point to an adventure, I think diseases only work well if they have affects measured in days or weeks and not months or years. That may only be magical diseases. Like poisons, I avoided using diseases for many years, but now I like them a lot–especially the slow, sapping type. Perhaps it’s reduces Str & Co 1 pt a day or week, or there is a slowly increasing fatigue penalty. That hits home with the affected player as it directly impacts the game play–they’ll want to deal with it!
  3. Curses. I still can’t remember when I last used a curse. I specifically reduced “Curses” down to a single spell list in BASiL (and even then it was difficult to rank them by level) and I don’t think I’ve used a cursed object in RM or my SW campaign. I feel that curses are very setting driven and probably generated from Channeling/Diety. In Rolemaster, Curses are more “ill effect” than the common idea of curses that tend towards future effects and augury.  Traditional curses are too open ended and hard to fit into the gameplay. I’m open to ideas, so happy to hear other peoples experience with them.

But “dark things” are not just limited to poisons, disease and curses. Beyond these traditional agents, Shadow World may provide a bevy of interesting taints, attacks and complications that can add to your campaign. Here are a few thoughts and ideas:

Demonic Possessions. I’ve blogged about the problems with summoning and demonic possessions should be based on the particular setting. But Shadow World does have Demons, so it’s possible to have Demonic possessions beyond the thematic demons introduced by Terry. Having a player possessed could make for interesting sessions: Demons may not have any particular agenda beyond being a chaos agent and maybe they even impart some Demonic powers (like Frenzy).

Mental Illness. Introducing a mental illness to a player really relies on their roleplaying skills, but can add a interesting twist to group dynamics. Traditional Mentalism spells can cause mental illnesses, but how should they work and manifest in game play. Serious illness beyond phobias and violent tendencies are going to be metagamed by the player, but a players that really commits to it can be a lot of fun even if it gets the group into trouble.

Unlife Taint. There has been several attempts to mechanize Unlife taint in past GC’s and some other thoughts on the Forums. Obviously there needs to be corruption rules for SW. Should this work as a player accesses “Dark” spell lists? In my own campaign I differentiate between “dark” lists (that are the result of the Gods of Charon) and “Unlife” spell lists which tap into an alien, malevolent power. These lists are the various Priest Arnak lists I posted up on the RM Forums, and the lists Terry made for the Steel Rain and other Unlife organizations. Ideally, the Unlife lists should be really different from standard SL lists and more powerfully to justify and entice spell users to explore and experiment with them–and start down a slippery slope. Unlife corruption should be a core rule mechanic for SW. The concept of players “flirting” with learning and casting powerful Unlife spells and risking being corrupted or subsumed by the Unlife is a great fantasy theme.

Channeling Block. A priest who defies their god, behaves in a inappropriate way or similar should be punished. The quickest and most obvious is to sever them from their spell casting ability until they make atonement for their actions. This atonement process is a natural trigger for an adventure or quest!

God Cursed. Similar to the disfavor in a channeling block, a character could get a “mark” that shows they are cursed, outcast or disfavored by a god. This could be in the form of a birthmark, shaped scar, change in eye color, or symbol that can be seen in the person’s skin (excommunication). This would be an ill omen in most cultures, and make it difficult for the player to interact with society.

Just a few ideas that I need to explore in more detail or finalize as rule mechanics. RMSS and RMU have introduced Flaws that are similar to these, but I like for fluidity to these more than CharGen mechanics to offset talents. What has been your experience with “Dark Things“?



Interview with Jonathan Dale RMU Dev

Today I have for you an interview with Jonathan Dale about the current state of RMU and I did my best to get the release date out of him but he was having none of it.

Peter: For those people who are not part of the RMU Beta test on the ICE Forum could you tell us how you came to join the RMU Dev Team?

JDale: The glib answer is that I posted too much in the playtest forums, and now here I am. That’s sort of true. ICE is currently made up of freelancers and people’s available time changes, and an open playtest is an exhausting process, especially at the beginning when the rules are still rough. Some of the team were not going to stay closely involved and that meant some new people had to be brought on board. Some of the team had told me they appreciated how, in my comments, I was looking at other people’s views, explaining my reasoning, and suggesting alternatives rather than just criticizing. I also had met with Matt Hanson at an RPG event at Jetpack Comics. Initially I was brought in to help Matt, and we did a sit-down session as well as conversing by email, but as his free time ran out, I ended up the lead on A&CL. I also did some work on Creature Law, mainly on the talents and updating the giant spreadsheet used to create the creatures, and Vlad is plugging away on updating the creatures themselves. Nicholas also brought in Graham Bott to do some work on Spell Law (which did not get changed very much) and Treasure Law (which got more changes, unsurprisingly since it had only been through one beta cycle).

Peter: It has always struck me that you come across as the voice of moderation, on the forums as least, especially when there are some very strongly held views. How much of Arms & Character Law would you say is ready to sign off and how much is still open to change given that most people are praying every day for the RMU Singularity?

JDale: A&CL is basically done. I could have signed off on it a while ago. It’s Creature Law that is taking time. That said, because of that delay, I’ve continued to make minor tweaks and adjustments to A&CL based on feedback, mostly improving wording for clarity. The current discussion of tactical movement is an extreme case of that, I actually have two versions of the manuscript, one each way.

Peter: The problem I have had with play testing was getting the players. I took me over a year to get my RM2 stalwarts to accept RMC. Going to RMU was rejected out of hand. I did find one new player but he comes and goes and we didn’t get to play much. You on the other hand seem to have several games on the go. Did you hit many problems at the game table with the new rules?

My player’s biggest complaint is that…

JDale: I still don’t get to play nearly as often as I’d like. I’ve been forced to fall back on playing a D&D game although the current plan is I will take over and launch another RMU game when that campaign ends later this year. In any case, I started my current (still-running) RMU game before joining the development team. I think my player’s biggest complaint is that I keep changing the rules on them as we go from update to update; I started that even before joining the dev team. We did run into many of the same issues others have mentioned on the forums, for example injury penalties were too high and too frequent (these have since been reduced), and damage was too low (this is being raised). We also converted our long-running (but not frequently meeting) RMSS game, in which I am a player not GM, and conversion is different from starting a new game. Some things go up, some things go down, there were some complaints about the latter but nobody complained about the reduced need for spell prep or their skills that went up. The biggest issue there was with the very different number of starting language ranks between the two editions, which we mostly dealt with by giving everyone 20 extra ranks.

Peter: I would like to ask about monsters. I know you are mainly working on A&CL but the foes we fight are an integral part of combat. When the Beta of Creature Law hit it was dramatically behind in its level of development in terms of presentation and it stirred up a hornets over the normalised creature stats. Is there a secret ‘new and improved’ creature law that the dev team are using that we haven’t had a chance to look at?

“…to a mere 286”

JDale: The core of Creature Law is in the talents and archetypes. The archetypes are basically a streamlined way of handling normal level progression, so the GM does not have to pick individual skills and stat gains when creating a creature. And the talents cover everything else. The archetypes have been slightly updated to take into account other changes but we did a lot of work to clarify the talents, remove redundancy, and make the costs more consistent. That reduced the number of talents and flaws to a mere 286. All of the talents now have full descriptions in the same style as those in A&CL. That required us to update the creature-building spreadsheet to take into account the changes. We also made changes to how movement rates were calculated, how hits are presented (e.g. larger creatures now have more hits rather than taking reduced damage), etc. So, the framework is definitely improved. And I have used it to create creatures for my campaign. But ultimately the books (it will be two volumes, not one) will also present more than 800 creatures that are ready to go; the creature stats all need to be updated based on those changes, and that’s what’s still in progress.

Peter: That is really good to hear, I was one of those people who moaned mightily about the normalised #hits for monsters.

So the thing I like the most about RMU is the skill system. RM2 skills by comparison are a nightmare of inconsistency with some skills giving different bonuses per rank depending on the skill, the costs had no continuity and even really important game mechanics being given buried in the skills descriptions; such as all flying manoeuvres being at -75 only  being mentioned in the Flying skill but not under the manoeuvring rules. RMU by comparison is really neat, skills give bonuses and expertise reduce penalties.

If you had to point to one thing in RMU that really stands out as an improvement or a problem solved what would it be?

JDale: That’s tough. I’m mostly coming from RMFRP, so the streamlined skill list and similar skills rules are a nice improvement from the skills and categories of the previous system. I can definitely see the improved organization and clarity being a big step from RM2, that’s why we switched to RMFRP in our group after all, and there was still room for improvement. The improvements to the attack tables are big in my opinion too. But as someone who enjoys worldbuilding, I was really excited to get tools for creating and customizing professions, races, cultures, and monsters. Those are super useful for me and I think will also be useful keeping everything working when the system expands with future Companion books.

Peter: OK, this will be a bit of a curved ball but I actually did a bit of research before asking to talk to you. So without looking in Creature Law, what OB would you give a starfish?

JDale:  Maybe I gotta keep clam about that. 🙂 I’m sure they’re awesome grapplers with a secondary acid critical… if you just sit there and wait for them.

The answer is 25T(3)gr ;25D(2)be (grapple and beak) but to my horror I discovered that the number encountered is 2d8(!) I play Rolemaster, I don’t own 2d8!

Peter: OK, one last question, and this one I know you cannot really answer, but you have seen more of the books in their present state, the working spreadsheets and so on. You have seen how they have been progressing over the past six months. If I had to press you, when do you think the singularity will happen, at least to the nearest month or season? Should I be putting RMU on my Christmas list?

JDale: Even after the singularity, there will be a round of proofreading, probably a round of fixes to the issues it reveals, and then art and layout. I have no idea how long that will take. I would love to have a copy in my hands this year, but no idea whether it will happen.

My thanks to Jonathan for spending the time to answer my questions and what I think was the coolest bit was that he signed off saying “I am off to go run our LARP for the weekend so thanks for the chat!” In my experience there are not many conversations you can drop the word LARP into and get away without some fairly long explanations. 🙂