I was struggling somewhat to write those city adventures last month, and I was talking on Discord recently and commented that Rolemaster is not ideal for dungeon delves, as the injuries and penalties mount up very quickly.

I have been playing Forbidden Lands recently and that is all about the hex crawl and a sandbox world with masses of things happening all around the characters. The characters can engage with those that they want to, or not. Other events will sweep up the characters eventually, like it or not.

I could see that working with Rolemaster. With the characters in the driving seat, the pace would fall upon them. Plenty of time for healing and recovery, but also a hex crawl calls for rounded characters with many cross over skills, something that RM does exceptionally well.

The one part of Forbidden Lands I was less keen on was the resource management side of the game. It felt a bit like an old Age of Empires game where you had to manage the amount of Stone and Wood to build different functions into your strongholds. Once you had a stronghold you can use it as an adventuring base or a point at which adventures come to you.

Underground Overground

One of the nice things about wilderness adventures is that you can mix up the adventure sites, ruined castles, natural caves or open terrain all come naturally. In the open, the long ranges of bows can be a deciding factor, if you are skillful enough to hit at range. Put the characters in a cave or building and melee becomes the order of the day.

With a much wider range of terrain and adventure sites you also get to use a much wider variety of foes.

Random Encounters

If I was going to run a wilderness game, the place to put all the effort in is random encounters. Randomly rolling for a bunch of orcs is frankly boring. It is boring on multiple levels. I have been playing RM with my group since the late 80s and we have butchered thousands of orcs, been there done that.

It is also boring because it is See Orcs, Kill Orcs, move on. The encounter does not really bring anything to the game.

I would want to rolled a dozen random encounters before the game starts. Look at what the table throws up and then take each one and make the absolute most out of each one. Ask why are these threats being encountered? What do they want to achieve? What are they doing and why?

Sure they may encounter a band of orcs, but what if the orcs have an elven hostage? What if the orcs are expecting the characters to be bringing them a ransom in gold? This is a possible mistaken identity situation. The orcs want to parley at first, they want their money. Maybe the orcs feel betrayed or double crossed? But, what if the characters do have enough gold to pay the ransom anyway?

Now we are role playing and not roll playing.

I would want to give this treatment to every random encounter. Look at what the encounter is with, where it is likely to happen and when. Is the creature nocturnal? Is it likely to be the hunter or the hunted? What complications can be weaved into the encounter? How can I increase the stakes, such as the hostage with the orcs.

The goal would be for the players not to know what was a ‘wandering monster’ and what was an intrinsic part of their plot or storyline.

Another part of what makes RM settings uniquely RM is the existence of healing herbs. Herbs that have specific biomes. Herbs can bring together character collaboration, a wide range of skills, region lore, foraging, herb lore, survival to name the ones that come to mind. If someone is carrying an injury, looking for the right herb can become a side quest in its own right.

Anecdote: In a MERP game we had a seriously hurt character and there was one herb that could possibly save him. I cannot remember the name but it was the one that could heal anything in the hands of an ordained king. We decided to try and look for it. The very first roll I made was a 350+ foraging open ended roll. The GM decided that I had idly picked one while the healer was explaining what we were looking for, so I held it up and said “Does it look like this?” Needless to say, the character survived.

I am not sure if I am just being lazy, urban adventures are hard to pull off, and dungeon crawls are equally hard, but I just instinctively think that wilderness and/or hex crawl explorations really suit RM as a style of adventuring.

Comments (5)

  1. egdcltd

    Reply

    If you take a look at The Northern Tier – a free hex crawl in PDF for S&W – it has some really interesting tables for generating encounters.

  2. Reply

    This of course is what the original MERP material tried to give you. Not as organised as Forbidden Lands, unless you understood ME history, but in essence a series of adventures that you could pick and choose from with a backdrop of various parts of history unfolding around you.

    EGDCLTD thanks for the heads up.

  3. Peter R

    Reply

    The Northern Tier sounds like what I am imagining. “Ten NPCs, over 70 significant random encounters and 42 fleshed out hex encounters are detailed herein, offering both “fixed” and random encounters as a party travels through the area.”

    • egdcltd

      Reply

      I like the supplement. There are also a number of dungeons that can be dropped into the area, available separately. Some of the random encounters can also change a lot, as they have random tables for them as well.

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