Sneak Peek

For some time now I’ve been rambling on about my modern game stuff (to the great annoyance of many, I’m sure…). Well, I thought it might be time to give people a sneak peak at some of its bits. Not much, mind. Part of an attack table, a bit of background, and one Profession with skill costs. They’re working drafts, so the formatting is a bit ‘off’ in spots and they aren’t pretty by any means. But it will give you an idea of where this is going.


Below is a link to the AT1 column of the Pistol Attack Table for my system. Note that it’s got two lines of division: overall weapon Mark and specific calibers. Since my system allows you to determine maximum damage based on actual numbers (bullet weight and muzzle energy), some calibers are capped at that point. This does two things: shows why it’s popular to “move up” in caliber and why small caliber weapons do maximum damage more frequently. With a lower max damage, recoil penalties (modifiers to hit) don’t hurt as much.

Attack Table


The next bit is a sample piece of one of the elements of my character generation system. This bit represents a generic college eduction OR four years of work experience. This is the third part of four in my character generation cycle when it comes to skills. The first two (Culture, Background – which is optional) come before this and the last piece (Entry Training) comes after. The end result is a first level character who’s MUCH more capable than normal for RM. The numbers here are skill ranks, not DPs or anything else.



Or more to the point – how much skills cost. This is the skill cost matrix for one Profession in my espionage genre system (which is the core product). You’ll see the biggest change is assignable skill costs. Any Category that has more than three sub-skills is broken up like Combat Training. Players may assign the lowest cost to whatever skill they wish, then the next cost, and so on. The last cost goes to any remaining skills in the Category. GMs may also set some of these costs, creating an agency that prioritizes (say) Rifle training for their Direct Action operatives. That puts the lowest skill cost in Rifle. It’s a flexible, yet standardized system.



Why put this out there? I’m doing it to show how the Rolemaster engine can be used in different genres. It’s also helpful to illustrate some of the things I run on about here and on the RM message board, especially when it comes to character generation and skill costs as they relate to Categories. I firmly believe you can retain elements of individual skill costs this way, and it keeps every character from looking more or less the same. Some of the reductions are small, but at lower levels that’s a big deal.

Game or Engine…is that the Question?

A recent discussion on the RM boards regarding splitting up Creature Law got me thinking about something that could be the elephant in the room: are we talking about RMU the engine or RMU the fantasy game/setting? By engine I mean RMU’s basic mechanics (character creation, skill system, and combat mechanics/format: basically ChL&AL without the races and professions) and by game I mean the fantasy RMU we’re looking at now (spells, races, fantastic monsters, and even professions). The engine is something that can be used in any setting or genre, while the game is tied to fantasy and a particular setting.

From a game engine perspective, it might be nice or advisable to have a number of fairly generic monster supplements out there. Things GMs could take and plug into their own settings confident they’d work with the RMU engine. But from a fantasy setting perspective, RMU the fantasy game needs a self-contained book of creatures designed for the official setting. Nothing else needs to be included if it doesn’t fit into the setting.

So What?

This discussion matters because RMU is really two things at once: the engine and the game. Things that make sense for the engine might not work for the game, and the reverse is also true. Clear thinking is needed when it comes to the initial game release. It should have everything required for the GAME to work in the official setting, but not necessarily those bits the ENGINE requires to be flexible and adaptable. It’s those engine bits that can (and possibly should) appear as supplements or add-ons: core GAME materials should not.

Since RM started life as a series of game engine plug-ins for AD&D, this may be something of a shift for people conditioned to think of RM as an almost-endless series of supplements and additions. But if the engine in its new form is going to have a chance the game (for once) needs to come first. What does that mean in practice? Tie the game officially to a setting. Ensure the core has the races, spells, treasures, and creatures to function with that setting and don’t worry about anything else. It’s the game (engine-setting-tools) that matters now.

It’s all about the Game

Once the game takes off, it’s possible to look at a series of “powered by RM” products focusing on the engine itself. But that comes AFTER the game is out. If a race being contemplated doesn’t fit into the setting, don’t develop it now. Spells that don’t fit? Hold them for something else. Same for creatures and monsters. Everything in the core is based on the engine, but HAS to support the game (engine plus setting). If it doesn’t support the game, leave it out. The CORE GAME should have everything a GM needs to start running adventures in the setting NOW, rather than wait for another book or two.

Right now it seems to be split between a discussion of the game and the engine, often without an awareness of the difference between the two. My sense is the engine is more or less done, at least in core terms (character creation, combat, skills) as I define engine. Maybe the time has come to draw a line around what’s considered the game (setting, professions, races) and just finish that. Monsters and races not part of the core setting can wait for future supplements. If the engine’s solid it can drive any number of game types. But it needs a game to get out of the garage and on the road.

Character Background and Culture – DPs vs. Skill Ranks

One thing I’ve noticed from my visits here and on the RM forums is that I appear to be alone in the method I use to develop both cultures and backgrounds for characters. Most GMs use the No Profession skill costs and a number of development points to generate both cultures and background options. I’ve gone a different route.

Continue reading “Character Background and Culture – DPs vs. Skill Ranks”

First Level – My Take

What does a first level character look like?
I’ve talked a fair amount about both modern gaming and first level characters, so I figured I’d write up an example of what a first level character looks like in my developing rules. Creating one of these characters takes a few steps, and I’ll try to provide some “time hacks” so you can get an idea of how long it takes. It’s a bit long, but this isn’t something you distill into 150 characters.

Continue reading “First Level – My Take”

First Level Shouldn’t Suck!

If we’re soapboxing, I’ll jump  on one of mine: First Level shouldn’t suck! The whole premise behind first level should be giving a player a character who’s gone through her formative years and experiences and is ready to set out on her own, not some abstraction of early adolescence who can’t survive being stung by a bee, let alone a minor encounter with a wild dog. The old joke about D&D magic users having to hide behind fighters until they were about fifth level has a sad basis in fact, and Rolemaster (in my opinion) seems intent on turning first level into a collection of those magic users. Continue reading “First Level Shouldn’t Suck!”

Rules or Setting?

My somewhat recent post about time in campaigns got me thinking about another of my favorite topics (aside from modern gaming): the relationship of a rules system to its setting. In my view, the best rules systems are always strongly tied to a specific setting. This isn’t so much about stats or combat mechanics, but rather classes/professions, races, and cultures.

Continue reading “Rules or Setting?”

Firearms in Rolemaster – The Mechanics

In my last entry I talked a bit about how I revised the attack tables for firearms in Rolemaster. That’s not the only change you need to make if you plan on adding realistic firearms to a game using any flavor of the Rolemaster rules. I’m a firm believer in using a two second, phased round for firearms, but you also need to make some core mechanics adjustments. That’s what I’m talking about today.

Continue reading “Firearms in Rolemaster – The Mechanics”

Rolemaster, Combat, and Firearms

Hurin’s recent post got me thinking about combat and general and Rolemaster’s combat in particular and how various Rolemaster products handle firearms. That (of course) led me to thinking about how I’ve revised those rules for settings outside of standard fantasy. It also got me thinking about the proposition that lots of combat mechanics equals an emphasis on combat. Continue reading “Rolemaster, Combat, and Firearms”