My Unpopular Opinion

This post is inspired by a SubReddit I found on Reddit.   It’s called Unpopular Opinion.  The beauty of that sub is that someone is allowed to express their opinion there, specifically because it’s unpopular, without fear of reprisal.  It’s a ‘safe haven’ (as safe as any opinion on the internet is able to be) for a person to get off their chest, that which they have been keeping inside.

To those ends, and owing to the fact that my brutal, orcish, task master has given me a break from Devil’s Staircase: the Wild West, I’ve found that I’m sitting here anxiously wanting to type something.  It’s partly owing to the fact that I spent so much of the past few weeks just buried in the DS:tWW, that I’ve come to see more failings in another gaming system.  So brace yourselves, because here comes the unpopular opinion.  And bear in mind that it is exactly what I advertise:  Opinion, unpopular,  merely my own.

RMU is not impressive at all.

This isn’t the first time you’ve heard me voice my thoughts on the latest hot topic on RMU.  The most recent topic is the discussion of the use of an Action Point to move a weapon from one hand to the other to start casting a spell.  There has also been the initiative system.  There has also been the DP cost for skills and the severe lack of variability between the professions.  There has been the stat buying system, but this one is just a general dislike that I have in any system and unfair to pin specifically to RMU.  The list is simply growing the more attention I give to the system.  Bear in mind, I’ve deliberately stayed out of the Beta2 Spell Law and Beta2 Creature Law forums and have very lightly dabbled in the Beta2 Treasure Law recently.  All of my displeasure has been limited to Beta2 Arms and Character Law.

I limited myself to the single forum for a several reasons.   RMxx (Insert favorite flavour here) is a huge, daunting, RP simulation-style system.  The entirety of RMU would have been too much to take in all at once to still be able to offer educated, in depth responses.  Now it’s been years and I’ve started to expand to the other sub-forums and rather than adding to the awe and excitement I had, it’s been adding to the dismay and confusion.  The more of the RMU system I explore, the more disappointed I am, not more excited.

The new armour system: Awesome!  I thought that was a great change and I like the mix and match type armours.  Clearly more ‘realistic’ and simulationist.

Simplified initiative:  Amen!  It’s still not as simple as I’d like though.  I use an extremely simplified initiative system for RM2.   D100+QU bonus.  Resolve from highest to lowest.  A fumble is simply a failure to act that round.

Slimmed down skills:  OK.  That’s a good thing.  Some people claim there is skill bloat and/or lack of DP to cover the skills available.  I’ve started to write a post on several occasions addressing that topic but never finished it.  I’ll save that for another time.  (Spoiler alert:  There’s no skill bloat and/or lack of DPs especially since I’ve recently picked up GURPS 4th ed!!!!  Holy Crap.)

Unifying the crit tables:  It’s a nice tweak to have a 84 E-Slash Crit target the same area as an 84 E-Puncture Crit, etc.   But it really wasn’t that difficult for the GM to change the word in the crit description to match.  “Slash to foe’s thigh… and you puncture his nose…”  Simply change it to “Slash to foe’s thigh… and you puncture his other thigh…”

Apart from a couple of other minor tweaks that I like, the wheels start to come off the wagon.  I don’t care about a set date for the Singularity Event.  I would rather see a fully developed, or extremely well-developed RMU, when it’s ready, not before.  I don’t want to see something rushed out the door that’s loaded with broken rules, things that need to be house-ruled, things that simply don’t make sense.  That would be more detrimental to the brand than the moniker of ChartMaster or RollMaster.  So the time delay is not the issue.

I, and I think maybe a good majority of us old-timers, have to look at the new RMU as decidedly Not-RoleMaster.  It’s a different game system, just as Vampire:the Masquerade is different, just as GURPS is different, just as D&D 5th is different.  It will not be the RM that we know.  I have to do this because if I try to trick my mind into thinking this is RM, the whole system breaks down.  To get fresh, new players, the RM brand needs to re-invent itself.  (This was also a topic of discussion.)  RM can’t half-ass its way between holding onto the existing RM community and trying to bring in the new generation.  It was generally accepted that if it tried to do both, it would fail at both.  Let’s face it… the RMxx brand isn’t going to bring in many new players because the system is so old.  Therefore, RMU has to be new and different.

So now I look at this as a brand new gaming system that I’m going to learn.  The only real ties to the old RM systems will be the crit tables and the ‘realism’ it brings vs. a board game or an arcade game.  Some people call this “grit.”  If it wants to be any type of competition in the RPG market, I don’t think RMU it’s going to succeed.  If it wants to pull players from the D&D franchise, it’s going to need to appeal to that crowd.  It’s going to need to shake its stigma of ChartMaster.  It’s going to need support material!  Bundle it with Something from Terry’s Shadow World collection!  Work out a deal to include Green Gryphon Inn.  What a great book that is for having a small, manageable region with plenty of starting adventures and plenty of room to expand into a grander adventure with well-fleshed out NPCs.

RMU is going to need to appeal to the masses, not the dedicated fan-base it currently has.   RM and ICE need to pull in NEW and younger players, not appease us old-timers.  I accept that fact.  I also accept that I have to forget what I know and love of the RMxx systems.  I have to learn a new game system.  For the record, I’m all for “Adventure Title – *Powered by RMU game engine”  That was another great idea that was brought up.

To put things in perspective.  I just spent nearly $90 on GURPS 4th ed., only to find out, I only needed one of the four recommended books… of which I only purchased three anyway.  It’s looking like RMU is a minimum of three books and probably a fourth book where I can run GURPS from one book.

For Christmas gifts, I purchased three copies of RMC-II and three copies of Elemental Companion for less than $50 total.  Of those copies, two of them are nearly New Condition, two look Used but still great, and two are brand new.  I purchased the new hardcover of Jaiman.  When Haalkataine comes out, I’m getting the hardcover as well.  I’m going to be extremely hard pressed to even consider buying RMU, even in electronic version.

Now where’s my revised copy of Devil’s Staircase???  Before I start going off on another rant.

Say it isn’t so….

I went back through our posts to refresh my brain on our crowd-sourced adventure.  Apart from the quick blurb we had for the “Park and Deadly Tree”, our last post was July 31st!

I’ve been reading through “The Folklore of Discworld” and it mentioned banshees (banh sidh) as horrible spirits who herald the coming of Death.  If you’ve not read Discworld novels, Death is the anthropomorphic representation of Death… and He loves cats.  That’s why they have nine lives.

Given the Gallows in the courtyard area, and the amount of death and corruption, there should be a banshee or two wailing through the night to terrify the players.  A ghostly visage, combing her long white hair, wailing at the coming of Death.  This undead would fit wonderfully into this area of the adventure.  The party could mistakenly believe the banshee is responsible for the petrified apple attack that is coming from the tree. 

The banshee could even be harmless.  It’s merely the herald of Death, not the cause of it.  However, they are vengeful spirits.  As told in the Folklore of Discworld, (I’m paraphrasing) “A man stole the banshee’s comb and it haunted him until he returned it.  He put the comb on the end of a pitchfork and put it through a window.  The banshee took the comb and the pitchfork.  The pitchfork was a twisted mangled mess outside the house.”

… whose inspiring gaming excellence you’re grateful for.

I had been preparing for this post for a couple of days and this one was an easy one for me.  Chris Elliott (co-creator of H.O.L.) was the sole reason I even started RM in the first place.  This experience started me down the path to new friends, all-niters, great times, gaming weekends, and maybe a disgruntled ex-gf too.

I had never been into gaming until my freshman year in college.  None of my friends up to that point gamed and it was still the stigma of the “D&D-cult” and suicides from PCs being killed and all the negative media hype.  Yes, it was the 80’s.

One night fateful night, I stopped by a friend’s room to meet up with a couple of others so we could head out for something or other.  I happened to walk into a RM session and Chris was the GM.  I was absolutely captivated.   Chris was so animated, so much fun to watch.  He had everyone laughing until we were crying.  He put so much energy into every dice roll.  It didn’t matter what the roll was, we were so intent in knowing what is was, what crazy thing was going to happen next.  Don’t stray, don’t let your concentration slip, don’t be distracted by the knock at the door, you could miss what Chris was going to do or say next.  Wait!  Chris is about to roll the dice!

After that one night, maybe 20-30 minutes of spectating as they wrapped up the session, I was hooked.  I asked if it was OK if I joined in, tried it out.  They said yes and helped me roll up my first PC.  It was a genre that I loved; medieval time.  I rolled up a Cavalier and I still have him today.  I dove in head first, body and soul too, into RM.  By the weekend, I had the core set and RMC-I.  Next weekend, next paycheck, I had RMC-II.

Chris is also a fantastic artist.  The best artist I’ve ever met.  When he wasn’t GM-ing, he’d draw the party on the chalkboard (we would sometimes play in a classroom on campus) in full life-size grandeur, including the scars we’d acquired along the way.  He’d bring his own chalk just in case there were no pieces laying around.  If ever someone suffered from an overabundance of energy, Chris was that person.  He could power a small city with his energy and creativity.

So here I am, 30 years later, several hundred dollars into RM2, a few other books for other gaming systems that I enjoy, countless days of gaming and fun, old friends who have lasted most of those 30 years, new friends who share the same love of gaming, active in blogs and forums, meeting authors of the very gaming system I love, making even more friends who publish modules and content for the gaming system that Chris Elliott exposed me to so long ago.

So there it is.  I’m tremendously grateful for Chris being the creative, friendly, welcoming person he was all those years ago.  Had he simply said “Sorry man, we’re in the middle of a campaign and it’s pretty big”  I wouldn’t be here.

Crowd Sourced Adventure – Weapons and Goodies

As we’ve been working on our group project, I’ve been fleshing it out on paper.  Sometimes it helps the brain to organize things (as you get older).  As I’m filling out the creatures in different areas, I’m running into the possible weapon/armour combos the party will encounter.

The octopus *could* wield a weapon, particularly if it’s being controlled by a sentient will.

The guardhouse would certainly have weapons .

Certain non-corporeal undead could wield weapons.

Heroes and Rouges Companion (RM2) has one of my favorite treasures “Ghost Shirt.”  Paraphrasing: A wispy shadow that appears around the wearer’s torso, protects as AT 16 encumbers as AT4.  A non-corporeal undead could easily wear this item or BECOME this item once dispatched.

For the possible Executioner at the possible Gallows location in the courtyard we discussed, I’m thinking of a non-corporeal controlling the skeleton of the Executioner who is wielding an executioner’s sword or broderak.  The party will think they are fighting a skeleton, but are really fighting the non-corporeal.  (Just another little twist we throw in with the pseudo BBG in the castle/manor.)

The ‘ruler’ in the castle/manor should have a crown, perhaps a spell or PP adder.  A scepter or sword?


These are just ideas I’ve been thinking of as we’ve been working along.  Are these things we would wait to add?  Do we finish off the module details, then add the loot?  I’m having a blast with this group project and maybe I’m getting ahead of where we are because of that excitement.

ABSOLUTE SUCCESS: 101+ vs. 111+

There has been some discussion in the forum and in the blog of the RMU 101+ success rate vs. the RM(#) 111+ success rate. I always liked the idea of having absolute success being more difficult to attain, i.e.: 111+ and here are some reasons why.

Adventurers in the gaming world, any world not just RM, are of heartier stock. They have attributes, qualities, skills, items, what not, that set them above the rest of the average society. There is something that makes them better suited to the adventuring profession than the average Joe and that is why they are adventurers. If not, then ANYONE could be an adventurer and no one would be in town to make society work. There wouldn’t be a society. If the average individual succeeds on 101+ in their real-world, average lives, then the rigors and dangers of adventuring should be more difficult for that same person to achieve that same success. In the adventuring world, when compared to the average world, 101+ simply won’t cut it. An average person not suited for adventuring should have to try harder to gain the success an adventurer gains because they wouldn’t have the better than average stats or items or blessings the adventurer has.

RM is D100, percentile. With that, 55% is roughly average. I say roughly because the fumble range varies with different weapons, maneuvers, difficulties, and take up the lower end of the range and open ended rolls take up the upper range of the dice rolls, so for the sake of argument and for keeping the numbers easier to manage, I’ll say 55-ish. If a player can roll a 46+ and break the 101+ threshold for Absolute Success, it’s easier than flipping a coin. To me, that isn’t an accurate representation of the type of game RM (any edition) was developed to be. The skills and the development of those skills, the stats and modifiers, lend to the “need” to develop skills with DP’s, unlike other game systems which simply require the “choosing” of a skill category (Parry, Power Strike, Back Stab, etc.) but that is a completely different game mechanic and not one based on percentile. In all fairness, it’s comparing apples and oranges, or maybe lemons and limes… very similar, but definitely not the same thing. This comparison will come up again at the end and may be clearer by then.  Hopefully.

By having Absolute Success at 111+, the DP’s become more valuable as the player has to determine how many 5%-ranks are “enough” and if the value of purchasing skill ranks 11-20 at a 2% value at the same DP cost is worth the investment. Is it more important to invest in a new skill or to continue with just one or two more ranks in the existing skill?

The players who have invested 10 ranks at 5% have a 50% chance of success right off the bat (assuming the DP was available to invest that heavily into a skill), then add stat bonuses and other possible bonuses for a value respectably above 50%, say 60%-65%. Remember, the “average adventurer” is already a cut above the “average citizen.” Even with above average stats 65-74 range, the stat bonus is still +0. *- I don’t have the chart in front of me to be more precise.

Stat bonuses, level bonuses, and “other” bonuses (Saddle of Riding, Boots of Traceless Passing, Cloak of Camouflage, +10 Lock Picks, etc.) have a wide and varying range so conservatively I’ll suggest 10%-15%? Any player willing to spend more DP in skill ranks 11-20 should have a better chance of succeeding than someone who has only invested lightly and that PC would hopefully (ideally) have the items to augment that skill. It should be more difficult for the 5-ranks PC to achieve Absolute Success than it is for the 15-ranks trained PC regardless of the numerical value Absolute Success has been assigned, 101+ or 111+. By having only 101+ as the threshold, it just became considerably easier for the lesser trained PC to achieve what the better-trained PC can achieve and for the better trained PC, anything over 101+ is irrelevant.

RM2 has plenty of ways to get additional bonuses added onto a skill to help the adventurer break the 111+ threshold. Special Items Category (+5 to +20 magic or non-magic item). Skill at Arms or Skill at Magic background option table for example: +10 to +25 to a stat bonus, +25 to all Adrenals, etc. At level 5, when a PC could have 10-12 skill ranks (50%-54%), then add in Stat Bonus (+10 to +15), and then add in Profession Level Bonus (possibly +5 to +15), cracking that 111+ threshold shouldn’t be difficult for an adventurer, save for an unfortunate dice roll of course.

When I first saw that 111+ was the Absolute Success threshold, many moons ago, I thought it was ingenious. Players had to invest more into becoming very good, not simply lucky with a dice roll. With open-ended rolls, there is still a chance for the lesser trained PC to reach Absolute Success. Sometimes someone just gets plain lucky and succeeds. It happens in real life all the time – Dumb Luck. Compare this to the Olympics. Any number of athletes (or PCs) can train (buy skill ranks), be good enough to make the Olympics (or to go Adventuring), and complete the race (or slay the bad guy). But the athletes who put more time training (bought more skill ranks) will have a better chance of getting a medal (ranks 11-20, that extra 2% chance). Yes, physiology (RM stats) will have an impact, but completing the race is not the same as getting a bronze medal (partial success), getting a silver (near success), and getting the gold (absolute success). Fumbled dice rolls? Certainly. The Korean speed skater favored to win but fell twice. Lucky open-ended rolls? The USA cross country ski team that edged out for the gold. Women’s Hockey, USA vs. Canada. I would argue two fantastic teams each with 20+ ranks in skills, superior stats, great equipment, coaching (Tactics)… and it came down to a shootout! A real knock ‘em down, drag ‘em out donnybrook! In the end, one could say the game winner came from the player who invested just a couple more ranks into the 21-30 range of skill ranks in Shooutout skill and that extra 1% helped her edge out the opposing goalie.

I’ve had players over the many years I’ve been playing, actually say “I’m not going to buy any more ranks. 50% chance is good enough,” and that is roughly 50% total after all the stats and bonuses have been added in, not 10 ranks at 5%. By lowering the threshold to 101+ it reinforces that 50% breakpoint and while it will certainly free up DP for other skills, I think it cheapens the value for the players who want to invest more DP into skills so be a specialist of sorts and it actually discourages investing deeper into skills. By having the lower threshold, there is no longer a need to invest. This tends towards the DPs being spent on more skills rather than specializing in a skill. Everyone is a jack-of-all-trades and master of none.

Consider the lemons/limes analogy once more. Any PC can get the Parry Skill, the Power Stoke skill, the Tumbling skill simply by selecting it at level-up. Then every single player who opted for the skill can do it with the exact same chance of success (D20 vs. 15). That isn’t skill development in the same sense that RM develops skills. There is no chance to get better at parrying. There are no points to invest in it to help you become better at parrying after you’ve chosen it. Lemons to limes, RM offers the opportunity for anyone to learn a skill but they have to invest in that skill for it to be of reliable use to them. Rolled a 37? Luckily, you invested deeply in Locate Secret Opening and had 75 points total to add to your roll.

Lowering the Absolute Success value, to me, feels like RM is moving away from skill development and more towards jack-of-all-trades. It’s a stretch of the imagination, I’ll admit, and I’m adding poetic license to illustrate my point, but if all the players only aim for 50% because they only need to roll 51+ to succeed, then they spread out those skills and aim for 50% across the board. With the stat, level, and professional bonuses tacked on, that equates to purchasing fewer ranks in any skill to reach the 50% threshold.