Pure Casters! To Arms!

Over the gaming weekend I got to play as well as GM. Due to a complete miscommunication, I ended up rushing into the fray with a Wyvern when everyone else, ie. the guys with the big swords, didn’t.

On the plus side, it made me look really heroic in front of the innocent wagon drivers. On the downside the same wagon drivers failed their fear checks and one died on the spot and the other one was eaten before I got into melee range.

Technically, the fight didn’t go so well. The first critical I took ripped my shield away reducing it to so much kindling. My counter attack did little. The second critical from its stinger layed open my thigh, thankfully I resisted vs the poison. I was stunned for five rounds, no parry and bleeding so we will gloss over the next few rounds.

If I was a fighter type my battle would probably be over but as it happens I am a lay healer. So I could clotting III the bleeding and Unstun myself and on the 3rd round after taking the big critical I was back up and running. Not many hits left but not out by any means.

The next critical it did to me was grab my weapon arm. There was a sort of “For F$%& sake!” feeling going on at this point. Partly because I was running out of limbs, partly because the heavy hitters had decided that as I had its attention they were trying to outflank it. At this point, I had one hand in its mouth, no weapon, no shield, and limited options. So I punched it. Off hand, no skill and at that point I rolled a double open-ended attack but the damage cap for rank 1 martial arts meant that I couldn’t do a critical anyway. What it did do was give me mega kudos. It would have been nice to have dropped it from lack of #hits but sadly it still had plenty of those.

Eventually, the party put the beast down. We are in the 3rd/4th/5th level range but superior numbers plus the flank and rear OB bonuses were sufficient to put the odds in our favour.

I was the only PC hurt and I could patch myself up.

I am the highest level PC, at 5th, My OB is +48 from 6 ranks in Spear, +8 from stats and +10 from a superior quality weapon we found in an earlier adventure.

I don’t think my OB is too bad, on top of that I am pretty good at Adrenal Speed and Strength. I have the option of going for +10 and x2 damage or two attacks. I am also wearing AT17. I am not fully trained but I don’t maneuver much at the best of times. In my, no unbiased, opinion I think for a pure caster I have a reasonable and well-rounded combat ability.

Our party mage is in a slightly different position. AT1, but wielding a sword that is both +30 and shows up as cursed when we did our best at working out what it did. It comes with a ring, that cannot be taken off that is intelligent but keeping quiet so far. The ring gives an additional +10 OB just with this sword.

Our mage as an OB of +50, two ranks, no stat and +40 for magic.

In the game I am running the Sorceror has an OB of +15. Two ranks and +5 for stat. The same is repeated with the other pure and hybrids. They bought a rank or two in weapons at character creation and then binned the skill in favour of magic ASAP.

I hadn’t really noticed this until this session when I was throwing challenge after challenge at them and they had burned so many power points in the first encounter that they were coming up empty pretty soon. Their priority was where could the go to meditate, the elven sorcerer and half elf warrior mage were the worst culprits of this 5 minute work day assumption.

Yes, weapons are expensive skills for pure casters but the difference in learning a weapon for a Magician and a Lay Healer is a single DP. (8 vs 7). Subduing is not particularly expensive as an alternative nor is Disarm Foe.

The session I ran should have, but probably didn’t, highlight the weakness of being 90% dependent on your magic. Maybe it is my fault. I did tell everyone that this was a low magic game and there have been rumblings that they are 7th and 8th level and no one has a spell multiplier or adder yet. I think that the fact that they have limited power points should have been a warning light to them not to be so dependent or as I see it, to be more rounded.

The difference a GM and the optional rules they choose can make is really striking in this case. My Lay Healer has 70 power points at 5th level and typically been burning about 5-7pp per battle. I think it is kind of ironic that I have a huge number of power points but conserve them just in case. My players have about half as many, at higher level, but burn them like they are unlimited, which they clearly are not.

I think there is a mismatch in expectations somewhere along the lines.

Death is too good for them!

One of the things I wanted to do in last weekend’s game was to kill a PC. This is not as mean as you think because the party is rich in Life-Giving magic. The point was to really drive home to them that they are taking on really dangerous foes and the stakes are high.

Obviously, I didn’t tell them that I was out to kill someone. I didn’t ‘cheat’, my intention was just to unleash a situation that by rights they should not get out of unscathed.

Would you believe they survived?

They took down a 20th level lich with a lucky shock bolt. They killed a Brass Golem, which came close to killing a warrior mage at least. They took down a Cave Worm. The party average 7th level but they were killing multiple 10th to 12th level foes and BBEGs in the 20th level range.

Admittedly they were rolling like demons for most of the session and there is not much you can do about that. If the character rolls a multi-open ended attack and a 95+ critical they beasty is going down.

The one thing that came closest to killing anyone was bleeding. It is a long time since I have seen someone come close to death through blood loss. At one point a character was bleeding 20 points per round from accumulated wounds. As it was they were saved by the cleric using flow stopping.

You would have thought that killing a character would be relatively easy but my problems were caused by my players’ tactics. They held nothing back. After the first combat of the day, in just 7 rounds they expended about 85% of their power points. They were largely relying on there being no second wave of enemy. If there was then there was a serious risk of a TPK, which was not what I wanted to achieve.

It is a long time since I have done a dungeon crawl with them, I think it is about time I did one. If they know they cannot get away with a 5-minute workday maybe they will start to think a bit more strategically.

Coming Home To Roost

One of the funniest moments, in the game I was running, was when the parties past indiscretions came back to bite them. The party was trapped in a basement level of a castle. The castle’s guardians, the brass golems, were stomping around above, the only passageway they knew of out of here was blocked with rubble. They could have used longdoor to get up to the entrance level and try and escape, there was a magical portal into a watery world of hideous dark gods that they could have passed through, there was a magical transportation portal they could see through to an oriental looking palace they could have passed through and there was a secret door down to a lower level. The secret passage was under the altar to an ancient ‘old one’ and stained by the traces of blood sacrifices. Their initial investigations showed something dark moving in the shadows under the altar.

The party chose none of these and rather attempted to overcast Teleport to the crypt of a temple they had stayed in for a few days much earlier in their careers. Unfortunately for them the last time they had been in that temple they had found several silver altar pieces which they had sold off once they were way on their adventures and a few casks of sacramental wine which they had drank some of and the rest had used to try and get some orcish mercenaries drunk.

At the time they had thought nothing of this.

When they then tried to teleport into that same crypt the goddess herself intervened and made damned sure the teleport did not succeed, kicking the character back to where she came from with a severe ticking off about how one should behave when on sacred ground.

The lesson being that if you are going to steal the silver off of the altar in a church, you had better make sure you never need to go back there in an emergency.

Hitting the ground running

Since I posted last time I have moved house, away from the coast and into a proper crofter’s cottage. Downsizing from a 5 bedroom house to a 2 bedroom cottage means that we are inevitably swamped with boxes of stuff we don’t know where to put.

In the world of Rolemaster, since my last post, I have released the third part of Plague, Famine & War and I am writing the November issue of the Fanzine. This will be a bit late due to the house move.

So this year I have been writing the RMu adventure path which could end up as 10 to 12 parts. Plague, Famine & War is already three parts and is likely to be four full adventures. What has got me exciting to do next is some one-page adventures.

A one-page adventure would have a hook at the top, a plot, a location with a great looking map, a series of encounters, a conclusion, and a reward. Everything would fit on two sides of a single sheet.

What this brings to the party (haha) is variety. As a one-page adventure would be much faster to write than a full module or even a mini-module I could play around a bit. I am thinking of finding a monster that is underused and making it the star of the show. Once you know the monster that will tell you where it is most likely to be found, so you have your location. I buy about 100 commercial maps each year, it will just be a case of picking the best map for the adventure. That gives us the primary monster, terrain/biome, and actual location. The biome gives us random encounters and environmental hazards.

All my adventures this year were for, or started with, starting out PCs. These one-page adventures could be for any level, that would really be dictated by the star of the show monster. As a single page and only a couple of days work these would be real pocket money price adventures. The advantage to the Rolemaster community and the whole system, in general, will be that the Rolemaster name will continue to feature on the front page of DriveThruRPG on a near-weekly basis. New players of the game will have, and almost as importantly, see new products released on a regular basis. This creates the impression of a lively community around a game and makes it more attractive to potential buyers. It could also attract more people into adventure writing. This is one of the things that Rolemaster needs.

There is no community license or open content, which does hobble adventure writers somewhat, but it is still possible to write for a closed system. The trade-off is that ICE do not support their community but they also earn nothing from that community’s efforts. The other alternative would be that ICE do support the community and then take a royalty from all the content produced. Swings and roundabouts of course. Only ICE can say what they are thinking.

Hopefully, next week I will be back to regular writing. My gaming weekend is looming and I am looking forward to all the things that it throws up that I can write about, both as GM and as a player.