My Unpopular Opinion

This post is inspired by a SubReddit I found on Reddit.   It’s called Unpopular Opinion.  The beauty of that sub is that someone is allowed to express their opinion there, specifically because it’s unpopular, without fear of reprisal.  It’s a ‘safe haven’ (as safe as any opinion on the internet is able to be) for a person to get off their chest, that which they have been keeping inside.

To those ends, and owing to the fact that my brutal, orcish, task master has given me a break from Devil’s Staircase: the Wild West, I’ve found that I’m sitting here anxiously wanting to type something.  It’s partly owing to the fact that I spent so much of the past few weeks just buried in the DS:tWW, that I’ve come to see more failings in another gaming system.  So brace yourselves, because here comes the unpopular opinion.  And bear in mind that it is exactly what I advertise:  Opinion, unpopular,  merely my own.

RMU is not impressive at all.

This isn’t the first time you’ve heard me voice my thoughts on the latest hot topic on RMU.  The most recent topic is the discussion of the use of an Action Point to move a weapon from one hand to the other to start casting a spell.  There has also been the initiative system.  There has also been the DP cost for skills and the severe lack of variability between the professions.  There has been the stat buying system, but this one is just a general dislike that I have in any system and unfair to pin specifically to RMU.  The list is simply growing the more attention I give to the system.  Bear in mind, I’ve deliberately stayed out of the Beta2 Spell Law and Beta2 Creature Law forums and have very lightly dabbled in the Beta2 Treasure Law recently.  All of my displeasure has been limited to Beta2 Arms and Character Law.

I limited myself to the single forum for a several reasons.   RMxx (Insert favorite flavour here) is a huge, daunting, RP simulation-style system.  The entirety of RMU would have been too much to take in all at once to still be able to offer educated, in depth responses.  Now it’s been years and I’ve started to expand to the other sub-forums and rather than adding to the awe and excitement I had, it’s been adding to the dismay and confusion.  The more of the RMU system I explore, the more disappointed I am, not more excited.

The new armour system: Awesome!  I thought that was a great change and I like the mix and match type armours.  Clearly more ‘realistic’ and simulationist.

Simplified initiative:  Amen!  It’s still not as simple as I’d like though.  I use an extremely simplified initiative system for RM2.   D100+QU bonus.  Resolve from highest to lowest.  A fumble is simply a failure to act that round.

Slimmed down skills:  OK.  That’s a good thing.  Some people claim there is skill bloat and/or lack of DP to cover the skills available.  I’ve started to write a post on several occasions addressing that topic but never finished it.  I’ll save that for another time.  (Spoiler alert:  There’s no skill bloat and/or lack of DPs especially since I’ve recently picked up GURPS 4th ed!!!!  Holy Crap.)

Unifying the crit tables:  It’s a nice tweak to have a 84 E-Slash Crit target the same area as an 84 E-Puncture Crit, etc.   But it really wasn’t that difficult for the GM to change the word in the crit description to match.  “Slash to foe’s thigh… and you puncture his nose…”  Simply change it to “Slash to foe’s thigh… and you puncture his other thigh…”

Apart from a couple of other minor tweaks that I like, the wheels start to come off the wagon.  I don’t care about a set date for the Singularity Event.  I would rather see a fully developed, or extremely well-developed RMU, when it’s ready, not before.  I don’t want to see something rushed out the door that’s loaded with broken rules, things that need to be house-ruled, things that simply don’t make sense.  That would be more detrimental to the brand than the moniker of ChartMaster or RollMaster.  So the time delay is not the issue.

I, and I think maybe a good majority of us old-timers, have to look at the new RMU as decidedly Not-RoleMaster.  It’s a different game system, just as Vampire:the Masquerade is different, just as GURPS is different, just as D&D 5th is different.  It will not be the RM that we know.  I have to do this because if I try to trick my mind into thinking this is RM, the whole system breaks down.  To get fresh, new players, the RM brand needs to re-invent itself.  (This was also a topic of discussion.)  RM can’t half-ass its way between holding onto the existing RM community and trying to bring in the new generation.  It was generally accepted that if it tried to do both, it would fail at both.  Let’s face it… the RMxx brand isn’t going to bring in many new players because the system is so old.  Therefore, RMU has to be new and different.

So now I look at this as a brand new gaming system that I’m going to learn.  The only real ties to the old RM systems will be the crit tables and the ‘realism’ it brings vs. a board game or an arcade game.  Some people call this “grit.”  If it wants to be any type of competition in the RPG market, I don’t think RMU it’s going to succeed.  If it wants to pull players from the D&D franchise, it’s going to need to appeal to that crowd.  It’s going to need to shake its stigma of ChartMaster.  It’s going to need support material!  Bundle it with Something from Terry’s Shadow World collection!  Work out a deal to include Green Gryphon Inn.  What a great book that is for having a small, manageable region with plenty of starting adventures and plenty of room to expand into a grander adventure with well-fleshed out NPCs.

RMU is going to need to appeal to the masses, not the dedicated fan-base it currently has.   RM and ICE need to pull in NEW and younger players, not appease us old-timers.  I accept that fact.  I also accept that I have to forget what I know and love of the RMxx systems.  I have to learn a new game system.  For the record, I’m all for “Adventure Title – *Powered by RMU game engine”  That was another great idea that was brought up.

To put things in perspective.  I just spent nearly $90 on GURPS 4th ed., only to find out, I only needed one of the four recommended books… of which I only purchased three anyway.  It’s looking like RMU is a minimum of three books and probably a fourth book where I can run GURPS from one book.

For Christmas gifts, I purchased three copies of RMC-II and three copies of Elemental Companion for less than $50 total.  Of those copies, two of them are nearly New Condition, two look Used but still great, and two are brand new.  I purchased the new hardcover of Jaiman.  When Haalkataine comes out, I’m getting the hardcover as well.  I’m going to be extremely hard pressed to even consider buying RMU, even in electronic version.

Now where’s my revised copy of Devil’s Staircase???  Before I start going off on another rant.

Gauntlet on the Ice – Now With a Hex Map

The 50 in 50 (yes, they aren’t quite all done yet) adventure hook Gauntlet on the Ice has just been updated with a new hex grid version of the battlemap in a second PDF.

It’s taken some time to get to this point, but if you have the adventure hook already, and are subscribed, you will have got a message about the update.

Figuring out how to get the hex grid to actually work has been a bit of a problem, but I found something that looks like it does the trick. It is, of all things, a font.

So, feedback on this is appreciated. If it looks good to everyone the rest of the adventures with battlemaps will be updated too.

GM may I…?

You know that moment when you ask the GM if your character can do some thing which even to you sounds decidedly iffy?

Such as

Player: May I hold my spear in my bow hand while I shoot the goblins?

GM: No, you are on a horse!

Player: In that case can I hold it in the other hand and draw the string and hold the spear?

GM: No!

I think this came up recently in the RMU beta forums about could you swap a two handed weapon into one hand while you cast a spell. I think the idea was that a sword and shield user could probably hold their sword in the shield hand to cast a spell but the two handed weapon user possibly couldn’t.

Take a look at these photos from a horse combat competition in Iran recently. As with all horseback archery they are doing all of this at a canter, actually most of these arabian horses were doing a flat out gallop!

Here we have a spear being held in one hand while the rider is shooting a bow and the reverse of that of using the spear with the bow in the off hand.

This may not look that impressive but can you see the arrows sticking out of the ground? The archer is expected to reach down and pull an arrow out of the ground, traditionally it would have been a corpse but health and safety these days…, nock and shoot. They then swap to the spear to do some targets.

It is hard not to be impressed isn’t it?

Say it isn’t so….

I went back through our posts to refresh my brain on our crowd-sourced adventure.  Apart from the quick blurb we had for the “Park and Deadly Tree”, our last post was July 31st!

I’ve been reading through “The Folklore of Discworld” and it mentioned banshees (banh sidh) as horrible spirits who herald the coming of Death.  If you’ve not read Discworld novels, Death is the anthropomorphic representation of Death… and He loves cats.  That’s why they have nine lives.

Given the Gallows in the courtyard area, and the amount of death and corruption, there should be a banshee or two wailing through the night to terrify the players.  A ghostly visage, combing her long white hair, wailing at the coming of Death.  This undead would fit wonderfully into this area of the adventure.  The party could mistakenly believe the banshee is responsible for the petrified apple attack that is coming from the tree. 

The banshee could even be harmless.  It’s merely the herald of Death, not the cause of it.  However, they are vengeful spirits.  As told in the Folklore of Discworld, (I’m paraphrasing) “A man stole the banshee’s comb and it haunted him until he returned it.  He put the comb on the end of a pitchfork and put it through a window.  The banshee took the comb and the pitchfork.  The pitchfork was a twisted mangled mess outside the house.”

HARP Herbs & Poisons

I thought I would get back on to my HARP read through. I don’t want it to completely lose moment and there are plenty of good things in here. My initial thoughts when I saw the chapter on herbs and poisons was that I would wrap this up with another chapter to skip forward a little.

I was wrong.

OK, the herbs are fairly straight forward, they have different names to the ones we know from Character Law and the companions but everything you would expect is here. You get the name, price, description of effect and those terrible arcane codes that tell you it can only be found in your left nostril on a moonless Thursday.

You can tell I love those 2-m-P and 3-c-M codes!

The impression I get from the HARP herbs is that they are slightly more heroic than RM herbs. There are more that seem to give bigger and better magical effects such as haste for 6 rounds or make your eyes glow red but you can see enchantments or being able to see invisible things. I know that similar effects were available in RM but they just seem a little more common and a little stronger in HARP. That is no surprise really as this is High Adventure after all.


It was when I reached poisons that the fun started.

HARP has something called the Cascading Resistance Roll. The mechanism is simple, roll d100 and add your resistance bonus to it. Bonuses come from stats, possibly racial and possibly magical.

Not every poison has a cascading resistance roll (CRR). Some have a simple target number, roll over the RR target number and you resisted and the poison has no effect.

It is the poisons with CRR lists that are the fun ones. Here are the first three listed poisons. I will explain IPCT and EPCT afterwards.

Amaric 300 gp * Flower/Paste 7-f-M Black paste destroys nervous system, killing instantly. RR(100)
Arbarin 38 gp * Flower/Paste 4-h-P Pinkish paste delivers 1-100 Hits. RR(85)
Aren 150gp 1-10 rounds Dragon/varies 6-f-U Grey/Black blood rapidly dissolves affected area. Affects metals and organic material. Does not affect glass, sand, or pottery.
If Ingested:
CRR (150) – No Effect
CRR (130) – 1d100-20 on IPCT
CRR (110) – 1d100-10 on IPCT
CRR (90) – 1d100 on IPCT
CRR (70) – 1d100+10 on IPCT
CRR (50) – 1d100+20 on IPCT
Failure – Instant death as entire body dissolves into gooey puddle
If splashed on object or victim:
CRR (140) – No Effect
CRR (120) – 1d100-10 on EPCT
CRR (100) – 1d100 on EPCT
CRR (80) – 1d100+10 on EPCT
Failure – 1d100+20 on EPCT


In Character Law poisons are described by there different types such as Reduction or Nerve etc. You then get written descriptions of possible effects at each severity. As GM you can then roleplay the poison effect as each bad thing happens to the character.

HARP has a different approach.

The IPCT and EPCT are the Internal Poison Critical Table and External Poison Critical Table. How well, or badly you did on your resistance roll gives a modifier to the critical roll from -20 (safer) to +20 (not so good for the PC) 

The External Poison Critical Table is used for things like holy water vs undead and acid attacks.

I am not going to show you the critical table but here is an external result:

Foe loses a large patch of skin and flesh. Foe takes 27 Hits, is
stunned 4 rounds, bleeds 1 per round, and is at -25.

and an internal result for the same roll.

Foe stumbles in agony. Foe takes 24 Hits, is stunned 6
rounds, bleeds 1 per round, and is at -30.

These CRR and poison criticals do not just apply to applied poisons and poisonous plants. When you get to the monster descriptions also come with the CRR stack and critical modifiers.

I think they are really cool. I am not normally an advocate for more tables but these I like. There is also a complaint that comes up occasionally in RM that there are not really any viable poisons for using on weapons. I think a secondary poison critical would be a brilliant idea even if it was just for the first critical of the combat. It would make poison arrows and blowpipes more fun, that is for sure!


It seems to be a thing this winter that random rpg tools are becoming really popular. JDale has his brilliant RMU NPC Generator, I cannot link to the thread directly as you need to be signed in as a play tester but I am pretty sure if you are into RMU then you know about this already.

On MeWe there is an entire group dedicated to random tools. I have used random maps and random dungeons in the past. I personally highly rate Grozzys not just for random dungeons, but also terrain and cave systems. I am no artist so getting great looking maps is a real boon. The other standout feature at Grozzys is the gallery of precreated maps. People have uploaded images you can download and print off if they hit the mark for you.

I like random name generators and if I am running an adventure in an elven culture I tend to keep a sheet of random elven names, printed off double line spaced so I an spirit up an NPC on the fly and add a few notes to them as I go.

I was thinking last night that the mother of all randomisers in RPGs had to be the wandering monster table. What brought this on was that I am laying out a settlement of sorts, half way between a village and a fort. When the characters go there it ‘should’ be all peaceful, sweetness and light. When they leave chances are that there will be black smoke rolling from windows and widows wailing over their fallen men folk, but that is just my PCs for you.

What I wanted was essentially a wandering monster table but of normal things, normal people doing normal jobs. The point being that as the characters will almost certainly want to get in and out of areas without being seen. A maid cleaning a room is as big a problem as a patrolling guard.

So I wanted a wandering monster table for in the common areas, one for the more secure areas and one for the more affluent areas. The point of the random nature of this is that when the characters pass through an area once there could be someone going one way carrying laundry, the next time there could be a guard trying to sweet talk a lady in waiting, the next time a child playing a cup and ball game and so on. A charming PC may try to bluff the maid with the laundry. The child could be bribed with sweet money but the guard and his beau are a harder challenge. He has responsibilities and a resentment of being disturbed in the first place.

You could say that I could create all this on the fly as I go but what if I am having an off day? Or I get tired?

You also need a surprising number of random events before they start to repeat.

So I started thinking about just kitchen staff random events, just guard random events, just ‘upstairs’ (footmen, ladies in waiting, butlers and such) staff. Then guard movements, hunters, groundsmen, gardeners. Then the trades.

You may think that this is a lot of hard work but my adventure map has something like 60 locations and a simple 1d6 possibles would 360 random events. 1d6 is probably  the minimum. A 1d10 becomes 600 possibles entries.

Most of these will be throw away descriptions, the characters look around a corner and there is a girl playing with a length of ribbon so they go a different way.

So how to approach the random events? 

My first plan was to hand write these all long hand and create the random tables. Now I see how many entries I probably need it could easier to write either a spreadsheet or a javascript, in a previous incarnation I was a web developer, that will spit out loads of random encounters. The thing just spits out a sentence made of random parts that should fit together and make sense. I could then just copy and paste these into my notes.

I am now going to spend ay free time this weekend trying to build these urban random encounter generators. I will let you know next week how I get on.