Adding Intrinsic Abilities to Spellcasters in Rolemaster.

It’s not uncommon that while I’m reading a fantasy novel, I’ll try to quantify how the magical rules might work in that setting. The original RM/MERP did a poor job of modeling Tolkien’s magic system (which was less codified than narrative driven), while it’s understood that Vance’s “Dying Earth” series was an inspiration for Gygaxian D&D magic.

There are some novels that strike me as being very “Spell Law” or “Rolemaster”‘; in these cases I will do a bit of research on the author to see if there is any tie ins. Other fictional settings lend the question of whether Spell Law could be modified to fit the magic system.

But rather than debate which work of fiction is best suited for Rolemaster, or what setting might be the best bit, I wanted to look at a few common “intrinsic” powers that are common in fantasy stories.

Magical Awareness. Magic users in many works of fiction have a sensitivity or awareness of magical fluctuations, momentous magical events or the nearby presence of great powers. Powerful castings can send reverberations through the “ether”, ascendant and immortal presences can create ripples through the cosmos or the types of magic casting can be detected by a like minded caster. Spell Law has several types of detection and analysis spells that provide similar functions, but they require active casting. Mentalists have a Presence spell that requires no PPs, and allows them awareness of nearby entities. Perhaps Essence and Channelers could also have some inherent awareness of their realm casting?

“RAW” Power Casting. In addition to casting spells with specific effects, often casters are able to channel raw magical energy waves, streams or emanations for devastating effect. Rolemaster had a “Power Projection” skill but if I recall it was pretty limp. Perhaps allowing casters a elemental Essaence attack that converts PPs to direct damage could be interesting.

Immunity. For spellcasters that have a “focus” or “aspect” to their magic (ie Firemage) they are often provided a natural defense or immunity from that aspect that increases with their power. Perhaps a caster receives a +1/rank vs fire for every spell rank of Fire Law?

These types of acquired abelites are more similar to AD&D than the skill focus of Rolemaster, but I do find it intriguing. Are there other abilities that could manifest for spellcasters that don’t require skill acquisition?

2 Replies to “Adding Intrinsic Abilities to Spellcasters in Rolemaster.”

  1. The raw power you mention was explored in RM2 Spell User Companion as “Spell Shaping”.
    There’s also the Mana-Molding list in RM2 Companion V, which is used to determine the power of granted wishes.

    In RMFRP, we’ve made use of the Power Perception skill at a penalty, when the GM would allow a character to “feel” an event/spell/power.
    There’s also the mana sensing talent. A player in my current Shadow World campaign uses it to be made aware of powerful areas, shifts in the Essaence flows nearby, etc.

  2. I love the ideas of intrinsic talents/flaws as additional “flavor” (“flavour” for you brits) to a character concept. My only concern is regarding the overall balance of the system if spell casters get too many freebies. After all, most RPG’s suffer from the “Linear Fighter, Quadratic Wizard” problem and adding non-skill costing abilities to Spell casters would, to my mind, exacerbate the problem even worse.

    That said, I see no issue with ALL characters (and NPC’s) having access to some of these intrinsic abilities. After all, it’s not all that unreasonable to assume that a society growing up in the presence of ‘Essænce’ wouldn’t have some ability to detect it, or manipulate it in some non-standard ways. Plus it might help reduce the LFQW problem some. For example: a Fighter who pushed to explore a natural resistance to some elemental aspect could be a nasty surprise to an overconfident Elemental caster.

    As for additional ideas I’d suggest taking a look at ‘Talent Law’ (RMSS #523). It’s got a pile of ideas for mental, mystical and special abilities. Also, perhaps something like RMFRP’s various ‘Spell Law: of xxx’. Case in point: Spell Law: of Mentalism; some of the lower powered Anticipations list spells might make for ‘interesting’ natural abilities.

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