Rise of the Nerds.

Image result for nerds arise

For those following this blog you might have noticed that I’ve been pretty quiet for the last year. Happily, my schedule is now settling down and I’m going to get back into regular postings on the Rolemasterblog and start uploading new material here and on the Forums.

One of the recurring themes over the past year is the recognition and growing popularity of Dungeons and Dragons. Here are just a few articles–all in MAJOR news publications:






To me, there are a few takeaways in these articles.

  1. D&D hit the bullseye with 5th edition. The shift to narrative and story was well-timed and it appears to have erased some the of the negative factors in earlier editions. Does this lesson lend itself, in anyway, to the future release of RMU?
  2. A rising tide raises all boats. Arguably, D&D has always been the doorway to new gamers. Niche games, alternative rulesets and even other genre games benefit from the D&D halo effect. RMU has been in production for over 6 years, and can still benefit from the resurgence in table top gaming. This doesn’t require another reset of the rulemaking, but perhaps a rethink of the marketing strategy.
  3. “Trickle down effect”. Even if many new gamers are casual, the enormous number of new players will still result in some of them seeking out other games systems. Rolemaster is positioned to appeal to players looking for more realism (verisimilitude). The original ICE marketing could work again!

I know every Rolemaster fan would love to see a resurgence in our chosen game system and it can be frustrating to see D&D explode in popularity. Our goal here at Rolemasterblog is to carry the torch and continue to produce “d100” content and Rolemaster appropriate products. It’s a small effort in the grand scheme, but helps keep the flame alive!

As we have mentioned, we encourage everyone that has a thought, idea or comment to contribute to the blog and the Rolemaster community.

Many Coppers

Copper Sales Medal

With RPGNow being shut down, sales figures for that site have been added to those from DriveThruRPG. This has resulted in many of the 50 in 50 supplements reaching Copper level. Sixteen of them in fact, a third of the 48 published so far, and a few are not that far off reaching Silver (and close to 80% of supplements on DriveThruRPG are not even Copper). Thank you to everyone who has purchased them!

Creatures Of The Night!

Far From A Baying Crowd

Gauntlet on the Ice

Release the Hounds!

Spire’s Reach

The Angry Druid

The Cabin in the Woods

The City of Spiders

The Empty Village

The Flying Monks of the Arba-ta Monastery

The Haunted Forest

The Hermit of Castle Ruins

The Inn of Dusk

The Warehouse Heist

Tie A Yellow Ribbon

Where Eagles Dare

RMU Update: Power Point Regeneration

One of the problems playtesters of the RMu beta often encounter is that they find it hard to keep up with the latest changes in the beta. The beta rules are free to download, but as the developers work towards completing the system, they are also continuing to make changes, and discussing them vigorously on the ICE forums. So as a way to bring our discussions together and update people on RMu, I thought I might try a series of RMu updates in blog form. The first is on a topic we’ve been discussing here on the blog recently: Power Point Regeneration.

But first, a little history lesson. Here is how different editions of Rolemaster dealt with power point recovery as well as hit point recovery (I am going to discuss them both together, because the systems are often parallel, and I want to blog about hit points soon too):

–RM2 allowed characters to regenerate 1 hit point per hour when resting, and 1 every three hours when active. By contrast, it allowed characters to regenerate all their power points only after a long period of ‘sleep or meditation (usually around 8 hours)’… and if the sleep was interrupted, you got nada. This was a very simple system, but you can already see the problems: hit point regeneration didn’t scale well, since a 100 hit point person would take 5 times as long to heal as a 20 hit point person; and there were two very different systems for regeneration (hits versus power points). It also raised questions such as, ‘Can I sleep multiple times in a day, and thus get my full PP pool back multiple times per day?’ That was ripe for abuse.

–The RM2 Companions (especially Companion 2) introduced the concept of PP development: that characters could develop PP as a skill. The companions also cautioned, however, that this would enable characters to have much larger PP pools, thus potentially wrecking game balance. It suggested options to address this problem, including introducing exhaustion penalties when a caster’s PP fell below certain thresholds (75%, 50%, and 25% of maximum), or increasing the time necessary to recover all PP via sleep from 6 hours to up to a week.

–RMSS/FRP brought the two systems (hits and PP) together by allowing the regeneration of 1 hit point and one power point per three hours when ‘active’. It also differentiated ‘resting’ from ‘sleeping’, giving accelerated hourly rates for regeneration during both of these inactive times. Resting allowed a character to recover (Co bonus/2) hit points and (Realm stat bonus/2) power points per hour. Sleeping allowed the recovery of (Co bonus x 2) hit points and (Realm stat bonus x 2) power points per hour. The only difference between hit-point and power point recovery now was that three hours of continuous sleep regenerated exactly half your PP (the same rule was not applied to hit point recovery as far as I can see). RMSS/FRP also implemented the RM2 Companion 2’s suggestion of applying exhaustion penalties to casters when their current PP fell below 75%, 50%, and 25% of maximum.

–The RMU beta initially tried to keep this parallelism, but clarify the language and simplify the equations with a new system. The idea was that characters would get their ranks in Power Point Development back every four hours of rest (e.g. if you had 8 ranks in PP Dev, you got 8 PP back for every four hours rest). Later, this was changed to ranks in PP Development + Realm stat bonus in PP every four hours. This raised some problems, however. One was that the scaling was erratic. Another was that the rapid pace of regeneration for casters with a good stat bonus seemed a bit too high, because in RMu, many of the other traditional limitations on casters — the size of their pp pool, the time needed to prep spells, the number of spells that casters can acquire through individual spell purchase, etc. — are all being lifted or adjusted in favour of casters. Compared to RM2 casters, RMu casters can have far more spells and more than ten times the power points. RMu’s initial system also kept in place the fiddly exhaustion penalties for falling below max pp thresholds.

This gets us then to today, and we now (in the last few days) have a new, more streamlined and I think much better scaling system for PP regen in RMU. The new system expresses PP regen in a simple percentage of your maximum PP per 2-hour period of sleep. The rates for the different power levels of game are as follows:

Average: 5%. Superior: 10%. Heroic: 15%. Legendary: 20%. Epic: 25%.

This keeps the equations simple and solves the scaling issue by using percentages, which remain constant across all character levels. This new system also ensures the equation to give you your hourly rate is simple: just calculate your normal regen per 2-hour period, then half it.

Example: A sleeping Magician with 30 maximum pp in a game set at the Legendary power level regenerates 6 pp every two hours (30 x 20%), or 3 per hour.

Overall, I think this new system of pp regeneration is a big improvement on previous editions. It allows a fully smoothed curve of scaling: no longer will your rates of regeneration vary erratically from level to level. It also allows us to dispense with the fiddly penalties when you fall below your 75%/50%/25% thresholds (those were a massive pain to track as a GM). I also like this new system because I think it can easily be applied to hit points in a way that makes the two systems of recovery exactly parallel. But I’ll blog about that next.

I hope you liked this update. Please feel free to say what you think of the new system, and also to let me know if you like the idea of me doing a series of RMu rules updates on this blog.

Power Point Development

All long term readers will know that I am a fan of ‘fixed’ #hits. It gets rid of a DP sink, removes the concept of people being able to be hit several times with a sword and survive just because they are high level and it makes low levels slightly more survivable. My version is based upon Co and SD and racial bonuses, stats do progress up towards their potentials so there is a slight increase in #hits over time.

Thrud posted on the forums yesterday about the reasoning behind being able to develop power points as a skill and then called into question body development as another example. You can read the post in the link above but I have quoted it here.

Stepping away from the rules for a while and instead just going with reasoning alone. 
Some aspects of a person are innate abilities, others are skills learned. 
Innate abilities grow stronger as you mature, but you can’t really practice them. Skills need practice for you to improve. 
Looking at a person quantified as a rpc. What is a skill and what is an ability?
You could easily argue that as you become better/more proficient at casting a spell, it should become harder to resist. 
You could also argue that it’s not a matter of proficiency, but your overall power that grows when you level up. 
Maybe it’s both?
What other aspects of a character should be seen in the same way? IMHO power points, since I don’t see a magician practicing getting more power points…
What about body development? Does it seem realistic that you practice not dying from wounds? Or is it more reasonable to see hit points increasing as you level up and become more powerful all around?
Shouldn’t there be a similar mechanic in place for resistance rolls?
What else share these characteristics?


Power Point Development as a Skill

I can rationalise PP Dev as a skill quite easily. Taking an Essence user as an example, they utilise essence from the world around them. There is essence in everything and everywhere. To cast a spell they gather that essence and then utilise it.

I am going to use an analogy of a juggler. They also gather things from around them and utilise them. An inexperienced juggler can keep control of two or three items whereas a master juggler of far greater skill can juggle chainsaws, chairs, clubs and axes all at the same it. Simply through the training their skill in juggling their ability to gather and control increases.

Don’t like that one? Then here is another analogy.

A biologist may know only a few genes in a specie’s genome. With that knowledge a few medical problems may be addressed. Over time and with study more genes in the genome may be learned and the capabilities in genetic medicine that the biologist has increases with every gene that is understood.

If the genes are power points and the medical treatments are spells you have an example of PP dev as a skill.

Looking at the Skill

I quite like the PP dev skill. As a GM I can tweak the cost to act as a throttle on powerpoints and consequently the prevalence of spell casters in the game. Under RM2/RMC rules one bad stat gain roll on your realm stat can wipe out many or all of your power points for an entire level. Now should anything happen to your realm stat it isn’t good but at least you can function.

I think there is a stronger case for power point development as a skill than there is for body development. You could even go so far as to scrap #hits altogether. Forget them completely even on the combat tables. Just read off the critical from the combat table and roll it. You do real wounds to each other until either one of you is unable to defend themselves or a fatal wound is delivered. Bleeding is simply accounted for after the fight to work out how many minutes you have to live before you bleed out. 20/amount of bleeding would work. By that time your companions have either saved your or you bled out. I am not recommending this but I suspect it would work. Most fights seem to last four or five rounds and end in a debilitating critical. It is relatively rare to grind down someones #hits to zero.

Stepping Forward

I am going to get to the big step forward later but I am going to tell you a story first.

My step son is an artist. He qualified with a degree in Fine Art last year and to the best of my knowledge he is the only one of his contemporaries that is actually keeping body and soul together working in art. He works most of the week as a freelance artist’s technician and the rest working on his own art in a rented studio space. As you expect as a artist, living in London, he has no money.

At the hospital I was in in Aberdeen a local philanthropist had built a 1000 space multi-storey car park for the hospital. The hospital has 1000 beds so he had one parking space for visiting every patient. The parking is also free. His inspiration for the car park was when he wanted to visit a friend in hospital and could find nowhere to park.

When we were talking about this my step son commented that this was the flaw in philanthropy, it is all on the whim on the philanthropist and what else could that money have been spent on.

I counter argued that this was the strength of philanthropy. If more than one person had been involved in the decision process they probably would have argued that improving the public transport links would have alleviated the pressure on local parking and been more environmentally friendly.

Aberdeen Royal Infirmary is actually the main hospital for a massive swathe of rural Scotland and while the arguement for public transport is true, no public transport system can reach every tiny hamlet or cluster of houses and with the frequency to make visits to see patients viable.

I can see the point that if you don’t own a car, that better or free public transport would be attractive. I think that as soon as you get to the committee stage probably nothing would have ever happened at all for years.

The point of this story is that I have noticed that I am applying the same principle to Navigator RPG. By keeping it all to myself I can forge ahead without the possible delays in discussion. This is really selfish but when I do ask for help it is when I really don’t know what is the best solution.

The title of this post was Stepping Forward. So the big step forward last night was that I have working rules for stats, species (race), talents, cultures, skill costs and I have one fully working profession. It is now possible to go end to end and create a viable player character.

This weekend I will work on filling in more of the blanks, creating more cultures and completing more of the professions. Neither task is particularly exciting so I will mix that in with writing more of the core rules.

What I am building here is the RPG equivalent of one of these…

Everyone’s vision of a lego house, city or star port will be different but with one of these the only limit is imagination, and we are good at that.

Navigator RPG and Psionics

I am nowhere near writing the chapter on psionics yet but they are implications to the skill system. Skills are definitely part of Character Generation and that is where I am.

White Star has about 40 ‘meditations’ which are direct one to one equivalents of OSR/OGL D&D spells. You have your Charm Person, Locate Object and so on.

Spacemaster has our familiar lists. I personally found the lists in Spacemaster to be rather bland, uninspiring and limited.

HARP SF has what it calls Fields which group similar psionic abilities together. Each has six to ten fully scalable abilities exactly like HARP Fantasy’s scalable spells.

So a HARP SF field is equivalent to a Spacemaster list but the psionic abilities are learned more like talents with an increasing DP cost as you go up the tiers.

Most Rolemaster folk who also know something about HARP have some admiration of the scalable spell system. You lose the Light I, Light II,… Light True progression that we see in most lists but you gain the ability to scale a basic Light spell in whatever way you need depending on your ability and the amount of power points you want to put into the spell.

The most Spacemaster thing to do is to copy the lists, change the names and some parameters to they are no longer the ICE spell lists, which I know ICE are very protective of. That gives maximum Spacemaster compatibility.

I could turn White Star’s meditations into Spacemaster style lists but that is more difficult as there are too few meditations to populate the lists.

As White Star has so much OGL D&D behind it I could go down the road of doing a direct one to one conversion of White Star meditations to HARP style scalable spells.

This would mean that psionics/spells would be learned by developing them as skills and we would need a power point development skill.

So that is the impact of psionics on skills.

Spacemaster broke the ‘anyone can do anything if you are prepared to spend the DP on it’ philosophy when it came to psions. I think they were right. You were either born psionic or you weren’t. It was not something that you decided to develop when you got to high level as the diminishing returns made buying your core skills pointless.

HARP has psionic potential as a talent that can be bought at creation but can also be bought with GM approval later on. Maybe you get some experimental brain surgery that enables your latent potential. I like that and I can go back and add the Psionic Potential talent to the available talents.

I am not entirely convinced this is actually a big deal. Spacemaster telepaths could do the stuff you expected telepaths to do. White Star mystics and Star Knights have exactly the same psychic abilities as to HARP characters.

It is more a question of presentation, they are all trying to model the same thing.

Does anyone have any strong opinions on this one way or another? I am leaning towards one to one conversion of the White Star discrete mediations using HARP style scalable spells but that is the least Spacemaster-ish solution.

Gamist Elements in Elizabeth Moon’s Sheepfarmer’s Daughter

Recently I read Elizabeth Moon’s Sheepfarmer’s Daughter, one of the most interesting Dungeons & Dragons novels I ever have absorbed. I call it a Dungeons & Dragons novel not because it contains oversized, fire breathing serpents, nor because it portrays sprawling, underground inhabitations of wealthy monsters—indeed, it contains neither of these—but because of its metaphysical system. Reviewer Judith Tarr identifies it in a tradition of “Fourth Age” Tolkienian fantasies—there are mere glimpses of Elves and Dwarves and rumors of Orcs within a mostly human-centric civilization—but, to me, the narrative is most interested in presenting a realistic martial milieu in which forces of magic originating from both the arcane and divine (or Essential and spiritual) sources are tactical components in conflict and warfare.

It’s this second that I want to explore with some depth. The first can be settled by pointing to other writers within the military fantasy tradition. Off the top of my head, two are Glen Cook and Steven Erikson, and only Erikson I have read with regularity. What’s striking to me with these novels—and this is true of Sheepfarmer’s Daughter, as well—is that sometimes a character “party” can be fairly diverse and be occupied with specific missions or quests, but mostly they are involved in military engagements, and usually their shared skills and identities are combat-oriented. In other words, there are few “balanced” parties composed of a Cleric, a Fighter, a Magic-user and a Thief (or their various sub-classes) but entire companies of these various classes individually pursuing their roles in the midst of a military campaign.

Or, in yet other words, these novels that are derived from the first game in the rpg hobby appear to cleave closer than D&D itself to its roots in war gaming. I expect that many a Rolemaster campaign does, as well, since, because of its skill system, parties might be composed wholly of one Profession but still allow for necessary variations within that Profession. The great resources of War Law and Castles & Ruins might provide for this kind of campaign, as well.

One effect that Sheepfarmer’s Daughter contains that I think would be worth exploring in an rpg campaign is the tight focus of a military recruit within the larger strategy of a military operation. I’m envisioning two games being explored at the table. The first would be along the lines of a traditional war game, players moving entire companies into engagements, and the second would comprise the true role playing component of individual endeavor, focusing on PCs within those various companies and the dramatic tales that arise from their actions. This, indeed, appears to be the structure of Steven Erikson’s and Ian Esslemont’s Malazan novels.

A component of Elizabeth Moon’s novel that is more traditional with how D&D has come to be played is its use of divine magic, specifically its use of holy symbols among the faithful. Moon’s perspective character Paksenarrion, Paks for short, appears to be being called to the office of Paladin. As such, she’s able to use holy symbols in a manner different from her fellow recruits. In fact, it may be that her fellow recruits can’t use holy symbols at all, but they wear them merely as dressings of their faiths and that they only believe that they might provide them with “luck.”

When Paks comes into possession of one, it does provide her with luck. She also uses it to Heal a character through laying on of hands. As some readers will remember, currently I’m a player in a 1e game, and I’ve been puzzled by the costs and uses of the two kinds of “holy symbols” in the equipment table. Should my Cleric purchase a wooden or metal one? What are the benefits—if any—of one over the other? My DM doesn’t seem to know or care. Obviously the wooden one is more liable to break, which, in his game, seems to be the only pragmatic consideration.

But the gamist in me wants more. Might the amount one spends on a symbol—the metal obviously is more expensive, and begemmed or artistically crafted would be more yet—confer a greater benefit, one awarded through this form of devotion and the personal “sacrifice” indicated in the expense? I also wonder if holy symbols might indeed confer a bit of “luck” for the casual worshipper, probably in the form of a bonus within certain situations, and have more powerful applications—or even be a requirement—in the hands of an established Cleric of the faith.

I notice that RM2 Character Law has no listing for a holy symbol in its equipment table. This and the removal of a Turn Undead ability for its clerical Professions is an interesting indication of what that game had become about in terms of the divine component in its role play. Maybe it should be reintroduced. Has anyone done so? How do Clerics and other divines function at your table?

Modern Adventure Role Playing (MARP)

I am back home and wading through my emails. In amongst all the work stuff was an email about MARP. Craig, the author is having trouble posting to the blog, his comments seem to disappear into the bit bucket, so he could not post this himself.

I have copied it below in so you take a look.

This may be of interest to you:

In the ICE forum vaults, there’s a PDF by Aki Heikkinen called MARP – Modern Adventure Role Playing.

I don’t know why it’s called that because it’s far more Sci-Fi than Modern – it’s actually a conversion of Spacemaster: Privateers to HARP.


By Aki Heikkinen.

This is 59-page, 3MB PDF is the updated 2.5 version of Modern Adventure Role Playing (MARP) using Spacemaster Privateers setting. This PDF contains ten chapters and character sheet:

Professions: Eleven professions including 5 completely new professions: Academic, merchant, pilot, psychic and technician.

Race and Origins: Privateer universe’s races and cultures. Requires Privateers: Race and Culture book

Skills: Skill list and description of new skills. Three new categories: Science, Technical and Vehicle.

Talents and Starting Options: List of possible talents and starting options including dozens of new talents and starting options.

Cybernetics: Cybernetic rules and list of cybernetics. Requires Robotic Manual book.

Robotics: Android creation rules. Requires Robotic Manual book.

Psychic Power: Psychic rules. Requires Spacemaster Privateers core rulebook.

Combat Rules: Rules for dealing ranged attacks, new piercing and armor value rules and over dozen new combat actions. New critical tables are not included in this supplement but it is designed to be used with Spacemaster critical tables and means that all necessary books including critical tables are reguired.

Construction Rules: Quick overview of construction rules. Requires Vehicle Manual book.

Training Packages: List and description of possible training packages for privateers setting.



There are two things that stand out about this, apart from Craig’s technical problems. The first is that ICE seem perfectly happy to let a 3rd party reproduce content from the Spacemaster and Privateers setting and they must have approved the download. The second is that you would have thought that ICE would try to protect HARP SF rather than have people basically get it for free by utilising old books from a now unsupported game.

It is possible the download got through because it obviously states that all the official ICE books are required.

Druids & Demons

I have been musing on this today after my comment on Hurin’s PowerPoint post this morning.

Imagine this setting.

The characters come from an agricultural society situated in a long fertile valley. It supports many villages and even a few market towns. The social structure is held together by Druids who provide all the spiritual support for the society.

Beyond the valley are hostile tribal nations lead by their own Druids.

Beyond those tribes the world is ruled by demons. This is a literal hell on earth setting.

In game mechanics terms the only spell casters are Druids on both the friendly and hostile sides of the coin. There is no magic except that which can be cast or forged by druids or demons.

Players may play druids only with the GMs consent because of their ruling class status.

Further details could be defined but this will suffice for now.

Would RMu work in this setting? This is a very restricted magic world. If you allowed a druid PC how would you stop them grabbing every available list?

With so little magical healing could anyone survive in hostile territory?

My first thoughts were in almost any set of rules this would be easy to run and play but under RMu it becomes exceptionally difficult.

Is this me just struggling with the RMu rules being spread over so many forum threads and the books being virtually obsolete, which means I cannot retain the information?

Personal Update

I will be leaving hospital, barring last minute setbacks, next Monday.

When I get home I will basically be 30% fixed but I am not going to die and there is nothing they can do in hospital that I cannot do as an out patient from home. Just periodic chest scans and x-rays.

What is facing me on my desk at home is nearly a month of real world day job work.

Although I have greatly appreciated you all stepping in and keeping the blog alive I will be coming back up to speed slowly.

I can also feel the pressure of all the hype I have been putting out about my RMu adventure path in the fanzine. I would like to get the June issue out in June.

I also understand that the ice forums have been down while I have been out of it.

From next week. You will get more from me and more frequently but still no promises.

As proof of my progress this is that I look like now…