ERA for Navigator RPG

Last week, I wrote that I hoped to see ERA for Navigator RPG soon. Yesterday Voriig Kye sent me the files!

The digital assistant is now live on DriveThruRPG, the core listing is PWYW and contains all three versions [Windows, MacOS and Linux].

There will be more datafiles in the future.

Talking of the future, Bare Metal Edition is still making progress. BME is a Rolemaster style core system. Originally, I thought of it as having no implied genre, but that is wrong. It has every genre. We already have rituals, magic, and psionics. On my to-do list is superpowers, not an area that Rolemaster has ever gone before to my knowledge despite having a past relationship with Hero Games.

Once BME approaches completeness, you will be able to add BME data files to ERA for Navigator RPG.

You can find the latest ERA on DriveThruRPG.

Solo Play

There is a module in the new ERA that you will not find in the Rolemaster versions.

Voriig Kye has taking the solo rules from Navigator RPG, which are functionally the same as the rules in HASP [High Adventure Solo Play] and automated them in ERA. I will do a post. probably next week on how you can solo play Navigator RPG or any HARP/Rolemaster using the new ERA version.

Navigator RPG -Live!

“He who embarks on that fickle sea, requires to possess the skill of the pilot and the fortitude of the navigator, and after all may be wrecked and lost, unless the gales of fortune breathe in his favour.”

Scott, Walter. The Complete Novels of Sir Walter Scott

If you need a laugh, bypass this entire post and go straight to the video at the end!

I want to talk about a few things today. The first if that I am really excited about Navigator RPG. The game has reached release and is live on DriveThruRPG. The game is a free (Pay What You Want) PDF and is also available in full colour softcover and hardback editions.

But why do you care, this is not Rolemaster?

Because it is a complete rebuild going back to the original sources, or close to, and creating everything a new.

There is a huge amount that you will recognise.

Players select their race, they are called Species in the SF version, a culture, their profession, they roll all their stats on d100 and then spend Development points to buy skills.

There is stuff in here you will instantly recognise. You have your stats, professions and skills.

You have maneuvers, attack tables (one table per weapon) and critical tables.

The game is also a toolbox. When I talk about species, they are built out of talents and flaws, but I also show how to make your own. So I provide a few to get you playing and give you the tools to make as many as you want.

The same hold true for cultures and professions.

Everything in here is intended to be extended by the GM.

Open Gaming

Equally as important is the fact that this game is covered by the Open Gaming License. It means that anyone can take what I have done, add to it, change it, publish it even sell it.

Even if ICE were to disappear tomorrow, and forever. If someone bought up the Rolemaster IP and said they were never going to write another thing for it. You can use these books to play Rolemaster, well technically, Space Master but there is more to come.

Pilot RPG

The quote at the top of this article is a quote by Sir Walter Scott, from Rob Roy. This game is Navigator RPG. The next book will be the Fantasy version. That is Pilot RPG, but more ships pilot rather than fighter pilot. There are also going to be some draconic mounts involved.


For a bit of light relief I am not going to embarrass myself.

I have started a YouTube channel. It is mainly about the stuff I make and the mistakes that happen along the way. There is going to be quite a bit of Rolemaster in there, as you may have guessed I quite like the game.

The first few videos are desperately poor! I tried and failed to make an unboxing video for Navigator RPG.

Here it is. Please consider subscribing to the channel. When I started this blog I think I wrote twice a week for a year before anyone commented on a post. Starting out can be a bit like stumbling around in the dark, without feedback.

I promise the videos will get better over time!

Grappling with Grappling, Part II: The RMU and D&D Approaches

In part I of this series, I explained how the first editions of Rolemaster initially tried to fit wrestling into their normal attack paradigm. They used specific attack charts (Sweeps & Throws, Grappling), which were tied to specific critical charts (Sweeps & Throws, Grappling); and they also offered a non-lethal option by capping results at 105 if you wanted to pull your punches (or grapples as the case may be). The main problem with this approach was that it forced would-be grapplers to choose between being bad wrestlers (since even a maximum result at 105 on the attack chart was unlikely to immobilize an opponent) or good murderers (since the higher results often ended in serious injury or death). In an attempt to solve these problems, the RM2 Companions and RMSS/FRP offered options that mixed different attack charts (Grapple, Sweeps, even Striking) with the different critical charts (Grappling, Sweeps, Unbalancing) almost interchangeably. The Companions and RMSS/FRP also added more skills, such that RMSS had separate skills for Sweeps and Throws; Tackling; Wrestling; and Blocking. But all this really did was introduce skill bloat. In RMSS, you literally had to switch skills three times (from Blocking to Tackling to Wrestling) if you wanted to stop an opponent from running past you and take him to the ground. And RMSS/FRP never solved the problem of the grappler’s Hobson’s Choice between bad wrestling and good murdering.

The final result, then, was still rather unrealistic. I wrestle with my 5-year-old son pretty much every day, but if I used the RM2 or RMSS grappling rules to do this, I would either be very bad at catching him (an attack table result of 105 is unlikely to give me a good grip on him, unless I get lucky with my critical roll), or I would have outright killed him years ago. But in reality I can catch him pretty easily, and the worst injury I have ever given him was a small red mark on his temple due to the fact that I had not cut my fingernails closely enough that day. The earlier editions of Rolemaster never gave me a system that allows me to wrestle him effectively without risking murdering him.

So what’s the solution? The new edition of Rolemaster gives us with some very useful new tools, and I think we can add to them a few ideas from Dungeons & Dragons. Together, I think these finally solve the problem of grappling.

RMU offers us a new system closely tied to earlier editions of Rolemaster. There is still a Grappling table and a Sweeps Throws table, and both still have their own distinct critical tables. But there are also clearer rules for subduing attacks, as well as a Subdual critical table (I think that is an RMSS innovation?). There is also a Wrestling skill, which is a specialization of the Unarmed skill, right alongside Martial Arts Strikes and Sweeps & Throws, where I think it fits well. But thankfully there are no separate ‘Athletic Games’ or ‘Tackling’ or ‘Blocking’ skills to bloat the RMU skill list.

But perhaps the most important change RMU makes is the reworking of the Grappling critical chart. It now includes numerical ‘Grapple %’ results alongside its descriptions of other effects. The Grapple% is a penalty that applies to all the target’s actions so long as it remains grappled. This penalty represents how good a grip/lock the grappler has on her opponent. So when attacked by a grappler who obtains a critical against you, you might suffer a result of ‘30% Grapple’, which means you are at -30 until you break that grapple. Breaking the Grapple is a 4 AP or full-round action, and you can use the Wrestling, Contortions, ‘or other appropriate grappling skill’ to perform it. The amount you roll over 100 is the amount by which you reduce your Grapple% penalty.

So far, so good. The discussion on the forums in recent weeks focused on an apparent oversight in the RMU rules about moving while grappled. In the RMU Rules As Written (RAW), any grapple% result stops all movement for the grappler and the grapplee until the hold is broken. This is a bit of a problem, because it means a Halfing gaining the slightest Grapple% (5%) on a Troll could rather easily stop him from moving altogether. Forum posters suggested various ways of solving this. My own suggestion was to add a stipulation that a grappled target takes on the added encumbrance (including body weight) of his/her grappler. This would mean that the Troll could rather easily drag the Halfling around, but a Halfling grabbed by a Troll would be more or less completely immobilized. In commenting on my suggestion, JDale coined our new RMU slogan — ‘That’s reasonable’ — so I am hoping this might be the solution the developers adopt.

Overall, I like the innovation of adding a grappling % to the critical results, and I think it is one of the keys to improving grappling, but I feel RMU still lacks a two things, namely:

–A controlled, consistently nonlethal Grappling option. In reality, as opposed to the RM grappling rules, a champion wrestler is able to put you where he wants you, and keep you there. That control is to me the very essence of wrestling. But this also means a champion is not going to hurt you inadvertently. Yet, the RMU Grappling attack table still inflicts concussion hit damage (even if it is low), and the RMU Grappling critical chart still causes broken bones, severe injuries, and death on even B criticals. So I still can’t wrestle my son within the RMU Rules As Written. I still have to choose between having less control than I do in reality, or being less effective than I am in reality.

–More standardized maneuvers with specific AP costs, such as ‘takedown/tackle’, so I don’t have to constantly houserule common maneuvers. RMU has thankfully done away with the skill bloat that gave us separate skills for Blocking, Tackling, Wrestling, and Athletic Games. We can now just use Wrestling for all these, and treat Blocking and Tackling as Wrestling maneuvers. But to do that easily, we still need exact AP costs and some basic guidance as to how to handle these as maneuvers.

Dungeons & Dragons offers some ideas for how we can solve these last remaining problems. Why bother with D&D? Well, D&D has a system that is in some ways simpler and better at capturing nonlethal grappling (for a good breakdown, see: ). D&D is also by far the most heavily played and playtested system in the world, which means that there is a good chance your players are already familiar with it, and there are some lessons we can learn from the vast amount of feedback it has accumulated. The relevant aspects of the D&D system are these:

–Grappling is resolved by an opposed skill check (attacker’s Athletics skill vs. defender’s Athletics or Acrobatics skill) rather than a regular attack. Grappling therefore never does hit point damage. Its primary effect is to impose the ‘Grappled’ condition, which reduces the target’s speed to 0.

–Characters can make additional moves beyond the initial grabbing, most notably tackling/takedowns (the ‘Shove’ action).

–Size limits grappling. You can’t grapple a creature more than 1 size larger than you. And you can’t drag a creature you’ve grappled if it weighs more than your carrying capacity.

D&D thus offers quite a lot, namely: a controlled, nonlethal mechanic for resolving Grappling attacks (i.e. using skill checks rather than attack charts); clear rules for takedowns; and a detailed explanation of how size affects grappling.

In my third and final part of this trilogy of blogs, I’ll give specific rules for how similar measures can be implemented to improve grappling in RMU.

Update Time

Yesterday City of Spiders, one of the first 50in50 adventures became a Silver best selling title on That is no mean feat. We still get sales of those adventure hooks most weeks. It won’t be long until we get a raft of them going silver.

I am going all out to complete outstanding projects before the end of the year. Ladt week I was working on my Wild West game. That is now ready to go to kickstarter. That is new territory for me. I gave had to pause that for a few days as jump through the legal hoops.

As I cannot go any further with DS:WW right now my attention has turned to Navigator RPG.

Navigator RPG

Since Friday I have completed the Star Knight meditations and Mystic Gifts. These replace the Telempath’s psions in Spacemaster. I have also converted all the equipment over from White Star to Nav and started building the Nav version of Arms Law. Ladt night I finished the last of the melee weapons tables. Tomorrow I start the ranged weapons which include bows, guns and energy weapons.

When I am working on projects like this they often seem really simple before I start. They then go through a phase where for everything one part I complete I notice two more sections that I need to do.

I am in that phase now but I don’t think it will be long until I am crossing things off faster than I am adding them.

As of today you can create a character using any race, culture, profession learn and use psionics and beat each other up using hand to hand combat and ranged attacks, even grenades and make maneuvers.

No one will die because there are no critical tables.

There are no spaceship rules, no monster/aliens/robots. The only healing is through gifts and meditations. There is no natural healing yet.

There is no universe either.

I am sure there is a lot more that I haven’t thought of but the current list is not overwhelming.

I am mentioning all this as I think I am only a week or so away from sharing what I have so far.

I do need some help though. See right at the bottom of this post if you are feeling creative.

City of Forgotten Heroes

I started to detail the city last month in the fanzine. The first month I did the marshes around the city, the city walls and the gate house on the causeway. This month was the library, complete with ghost book, the orchard and a new location called the architect’s tower.

In the October issue will be the palace, the cistern and Octomancer.

I think I will have completed the entire RMu adventure path before the end of the year. I estimate the entire thing will take characters from creation to 12th/14th level.

I mention this because I am aware that sometimes I can seem really enthusiastic about something and then it disappears from view. I don’t just drop things, it is just that actually doing the hard bit of writing it all up isn’t very exciting and having a monthly publishing schedule means that nothing moves quickly.

Amusingly, I don’t know what the end of the adventure path is. I am not entirely sure how to get from the past bit I have written and the point where the characters save their world and defeat the BBEG.

I am sure it will come to me. I have 7 weeks to think of it and get the characters from where they are to where they need to be in time from the final climax in December.

I wonder if I will complete the adventure path before RMu is released? It is supposed to be in Nicholas’s editing queue now. How long will that take and the same goes for art commissioning and layout.

On September 22nd there are 100 days of 2019 left and we were promised RMu in 2019.


What I could do with is a bit of help coming up with witty and graphic critical descriptions.

At the moment I have need of the following critical tables. Puncture, Slash, Krush, Fire, Unbalance and Impact. I would really appreciate some suggestions for the criticals. There are 120 entries on a critical table and I have six to do giving 720 lines to come up with.

All help will be greatly appreciated. Just comment below.

2 Page Random Adventures?

What is that quote?….
There are only 7 plot devices for every metastory. Perhaps you only need a D7 


I always think of adventures as all being variations of “Put the characters in a hole, throw stones as them as they try to get out.”

Your plot is the hole, the stones are the encounters and the characters attempts to climb out is the story we tell over the campaign sessions. So I make that a D1.

Of course we are all talking about slightly different things here. There is a wonderful random adventure generator I have used in the past. It was written for D&D based upon tables from the Dungeon Master’s Design Kit by TSR, Inc. You can find it over at Donjon.

I use the generator, copy it all into word and then rip out everything I don’t like. I then create the NPCs I want to play, reprising any that I think deserve another outing and from there I can start the stage dressing. That is the thing about RPGs, they are all about the people. No people then no role playing. If the NPCs are barbarians then you get an instant impression of the locations. If they are ninjas then that suggest something else, wood elves are another thing all together.

For my random toys idea, I could:

  1. Run the Donjon random generator enough times and borrow the ideas to build some d10 tables. Eliminate the bits I don’t like. Then mash up Brian’s encounter tables to make it more Rolemaster.

  2. Buy the design kit myself and build a random generator myself with Rolemaster as a design criteria right from the start. It only costs $4.99 for nearly 100 pages of stuff that I could adapt.

Both options have problems. The first is that I would be using second hand random tables. There are only 7 possible ‘cruel tricks’ in the Donjon tool. Does that mean that there were only 7 in the original book? Did the original table say 1-3 no trick, then the 7 tricks were listed from 4 to 10? I personally don’t think 70% of adventures should have a cruel trick in the tale.

I also don’t really want to build a web tool. I feel I want to keep my cake and eat it. I was detail and sophistication but I also want the simplicity of a few tables and only a few rolls.

There is a part of me that would quite like to try and get the entire adventure generator on to a double page spread. That gives quite a lot of paper real estate to work on. Pages 1-2 could be Alpine adventures, 53-54 would be Waste/Barren adventures and so on. Creatures and Treasures defines 27 different environments.

Preselecting an environment would mean that I would know what monsters are viable, the weather conditions could be tailored as well.

Without having actually tried this I am guessing I would be able to fit four d100 tables, one per column over a double page spread or eight to twelve d10 tables. The Design Kit uses 22 criteria which I would have to condense into 12 or less tables. I could then combine things like Omen/Prophesy, Moral Quandary, Red Herring and Cruel Tricks into a single table. There is also the option of on an 99-00 roll twice and use both results. so they do not become mutually exclusive but also not every adventure will be driven by a prophesy and have the players face a moral dilemma.

The more I look at the Donjon tool the more I think it can be compressed into my double page spread format. If I don’t buy the Design Kit I cannot be accused of copying their work either. At most it is a derived work from a derived work with a healthy dose of Rolemaster thrown in as well.

Four d100 rolls or 12 d10 rolls are more dice than I originally intended but everything on just two pages also seems to be pretty light weight. It also does away, to some extent, with RM’s obsession with obscure codes for climate and terrain.

The last key factor is what monster to include in each environment. I could just go with my Creatures & Treasures but there are a few monsters that are in RMFRP/RMSS and RMu that are not in RM2/RMC. There aren’t many but there are some. If I put this project on a back burner until January we will have the actual Creature Law book to work from or at the very least I can work from the RMC Creature Law, which is the most restricted monster book out of all the RM versions.

I really think there could be a book in all of this somewhere. What do you think?

Plan A

When I have tried an ‘ideas gathering’ set of posts in the past what has happened is that because there is no real structure in place there are almost too many options. Once discussions become circular we stop making progress.

Another problem is the transient nature of blogging. Ideas soon drift down the list of articles and away into oblivion.

So to Plan A

I am going to hammer my way through a conversion of White Star to create something that is extremely basic but both reminiscent of Spacemaster and actually playable. This will be the Navigator RPG.

Navigator RPG will be a Pay What You Want game on DriveThruRPG so you can pick it up for free or make a voluntary contribution. It is also a Creative Commons Share Alike product so no company can ever own the intellectual property and restrict its use.

The rules will be extremely modular with the intention of swapping out core rules for optional rules. In fact this swapping out of rules will be essential.

Yesterday, in my free time I wrote the Introduction, The start of the character generation chapter, rolling stats section, stat bonuses and I have just started the Species chapter. I have a pretty heavy schedule for the next 10 days or so but by early May I hope to have Species, Professions and Skills completed.

This may all sound rather egocentric. It is just me, my ideas, my opinions and my game. Why would anyone what to play my idea of a overly simplified Spacemaster?

Because it is easier to criticise something that is already there. I don’t really have to create anything new in doing a conversion from an existing game to a game with Rolemaster principles. We all know the ‘Rolemaster way’ so where there is a mechanic that could be more rolemaster then it is easy to apply that.

In addition, the design philosophy is that every single section of the rules will be replaced. I am providing just three or four races or species. Anyone can create new species, replace the provided species or anything in between. We know races are going to be primarily a collection of stat modifiers and resistance roll modifiers. You could start creating a bunch of new races now because you know what the options are going to be.


There a few other things I have been working on. When I release Navigator RPG, on the same day, I am going to release three other downloads. The first will be a compatibility license.

This isn’t particularly exciting but what it does do is send a signal to the indie RPG developers that Navigator RPG is open for business.

The second is an Art Kit. A selection of art, backgrounds, spaceships, weapons, figures and so on. This is to make it as easy as possible for an independent developer to produce great looking supplements. The Art Kit exists already but it only contains three pieces of art. By the time of its release it should be a few hundred pieces strong.

The final download will be a document template for at least Word and inDesign. This is so that anyone can create a supplement and it will look and feel exactly like an official release.

That may not sound every exciting but the three, the license, art kit and document template are the three requirements to create a Community Content Programme [CCP]. You will have heard a great deal about CCPs on the ICE forums. This game will have all the required criteria to have a CCP.

Here is a curious thing…

This game will be OSR, Old School Revival. When it is listed it will be found on DrivethrRPG under HARP/Spacemaster and OSR/Old School Revival. So? There is only one other OSR community content programme and that is Zweihander. What this means is that most places where the Zwei CCP shows, Navigator RPG will show too. You have to like a bit of standing on the shoulder of giants.

Inherent ability or skill: another look at Perception.


Back in December I wrote a post about Perception and whether is was even a trainable skill. I think a lot goes into “perception” ( alertness, visual acuity, intuition, reasoning) and the way it’s used by Rolemaster makes it an incredible skill that covers a huge expanse of ability.

But even if you could make an argument (and many did) that perception is a trainable skill, it’s vast multi-disciplinary scope is harder to argue. For instance, while a fighter may be able to perceive an opponents sword skill, the apparent movement of troops or even a carefully laid ambush it’s harder to accept they might be able to detect a trap or secret door if they have no relevant experience in such.

Doesn’t that make sense? No matter how alert or perceptive you are, you can’t perceive small details or glean information on a subject with which you have no skill, training or education. I consider myself a perceptive person, but I can’t look at a horse and draw any conclusions the way Peter could. In other words, perception should be tied to subject matter fluency.

Of course one solution is to add a ton of perceptual sub-skills: perception: reality distortion, perception: traps, perception ambush etc. Of course the list is virtually limitless and would add dozens of new skills to an already bloated system.

With that in mind, I’ve been trying something new and it’s working quite well: I’m using the SKILL RANKS of the appropriate skill/lore as a bonus or modifier to the perception check. If there are no ranks then it’s -25 (along with any difficulty modifiers). So the Thief with 18 ranks in locks/traps gets a +18 bonus to their perception roll related to locks/traps. It’s simple, makes sense and once again creates a use for skill ranks as a measure of proficiency.

Two philosophies of RMU: rebuild or reorganize?

While it’s  much too late to change the course of events, there are still a number of detailed conversations going on at the RM Forums regarding the RMU Beta test.

For me the endless rules debates became too deep a rabbit hole that I didn’t want to go down any longer and there are still many players who are fiercely engaged. So rather than discuss actual rules, I thought I would discuss the rules making process. A bit of a meta-debate if you will.

I think the RMU development process has become a rorschach test for the RM community. It’s clear that there are variety of differing and strongly held beliefs about the rule resolutions and they are mostly the product of an individual’s ideas on versimilitude and their own tolerance for complexity. I discussed Chargen complexity in a previous POST, but I wanted to broaden the scope of my question into 2 parts. First, does RMU rebuild the ruleset or just reorganize and streamline it? Second, are peoples suggested rule changes a rebuild or a reorganize?

I think the answer to the first question is easy. RMU stayed “inside the box” and merged, streamlined and tinkered with core mechanics without any significant rebuild. Perhaps the only rebuild mechanic that was introduced was the size rules and those were discarded after community input.  Arms Law still kept weapon tables, crit charts and the basic combat structure. Does the round sequence or initiative rules rise to the definition of a rebuild? I think it was evolutionary, but certainly not revolutionary. Spell Law was left almost as-is, with some spell mechanics rewritten or clarified, spell slots filled but little else. Character Law seemingly reduced RMSS skill bloat (but not really) and added to the Chargen process with pages and pages of talents and flaws–rules for rules!

So my second question–are your solutions rebuilding or just tinkering around the edges? It seems like many rule suggestions (including mine) are just an attempt to get RMU to adopt house rules in some fashion. But are these suggestions meant to truly revise RM or are you painting within the lines? I think RMU met it’s name: it’s attempted to unify a diverse community within the established mechanics.

But did RMU need more? If so what?

Did rule changes take you out of your own comfort zone?

Are proposed rules to the benefit of growing the community or appealing to the current user base?

Do RMU rules advance the system into the contemporary gaming community?

I negotiate for a living and a saying in my profession is that the best possible deal is when both parties walk away somewhat dissatisfied.


Adding “dark things” to your Rolemaster and Shadow World games.

Poisons, diseases, curses. Oh my. In the earliest days of D&D, adventurers not only had to avoid traps, navigate mazes and defeat monsters, they had to contend with other insidious agents like poisons, level drains, curses or cursed objects, petrification and the diseased touch of the Mummy.  Not really a safe vocation when you really think about it! While much of the Saving Throw/Resistance Roll mechanic was built around these attack types, how often do GM’s really use these “dark things”? How often do you introduce poisons & diseases in your campaign?

D&D made many challenges fairly simple. Curses could be countered with a particular spell, poisons could be Saved or cured etc. They were designed to be yet another discrete challenge that has to be overcome. A binary mechanic: effect vs. cure. D&D didn’t bother with specific poison antidotes (unless part of the narrative) or even causation (what is a curse and why so prevalent in D&D). You Saved and you were good, you failed and you had to seek out a singular solution.

Rolemaster introduced a more realistic system for many of these challenges; and poisons were definitely more detailed! Not only were there many poisons, they were defined into 5 types, had specific antidotes, and had varying levels of effects. A similar approach was taken with diseases and whole spell lists were devoted to varying curses whose effects spanned the realm of imagination.

A few years ago I took a critical look at my own campaign and GMing proclivities. I realized that I rarely used diseases, never used curses (or at least hadn’t for many years) and was reluctant to delve into poisons.  Now I see these interesting affects as not just a quick add-on but great additions to my narrative toolkit. Let’s take a look:

  1. Poisons. Many GM’s are reluctant to use poisons due to their variety, unpredictable effects AND some sort of ethical standard (maybe established by D&D class restrictions). I think that’s just wrong and leaves a whole layer of complexity to gaming. Putting our own social norms aside, the widespread use of herbs in the RM/SW world clearly lays a path for the common use of harmful herbs and agents as well. I just finished then newest Mark Lawrence book that prominently featured the use of herbs and poisons–it really inspired me to add more depth to poisons and an added value to the skill. Luckily, RM and SW already has a comprehensive list of substances that I collated into a MASTER LIST. I also left Poison as a meta-skill that covers identification (by taste, smell, symptoms etc) preparation, application and use, and as part of our system that provides a benefit for ranks, the # of ranks in Poison is also added to any RR vs poisons.  (This models the idea of a poisoner taking low doses over time to build up their resistance). So now poisons are like spells, with varying effects, methods of delivery and counter-antidotes. To facilitate poison (and similar substances) it helps to use a variety of mediums: paste, liquids, powders, oils that have varying effect times and for pre-prepared antidotes to the most commonly known agents. And poisons don’t just have to kill, they can paralyze, knock a person out, make them dizzy etc, so they aren’t just a deadly, unethical or cowardly attack only favored by assassins and “low men”. Poison preparation also shoehorns into our alchemy rules and can be combined with various substrate delivery systems. I’ll be expanding on this in an upcoming blog or RMBlog fanzine edition in the near future.
  2. Diseases. I think my reluctance to use diseases is multi-fold. First, diseases are generally slow acting so they don’t create a sense of urgency. Second, Elves and even half-Elves are basically immune to diseases so in SW much of the population doesn’t eve worry about it. Finally, Spell Law healing makes curing diseases fairly simple and implies most societies are not going to have problems with disease in general. Besides having a disease as a core plot point to an adventure, I think diseases only work well if they have affects measured in days or weeks and not months or years. That may only be magical diseases. Like poisons, I avoided using diseases for many years, but now I like them a lot–especially the slow, sapping type. Perhaps it’s reduces Str & Co 1 pt a day or week, or there is a slowly increasing fatigue penalty. That hits home with the affected player as it directly impacts the game play–they’ll want to deal with it!
  3. Curses. I still can’t remember when I last used a curse. I specifically reduced “Curses” down to a single spell list in BASiL (and even then it was difficult to rank them by level) and I don’t think I’ve used a cursed object in RM or my SW campaign. I feel that curses are very setting driven and probably generated from Channeling/Diety. In Rolemaster, Curses are more “ill effect” than the common idea of curses that tend towards future effects and augury.  Traditional curses are too open ended and hard to fit into the gameplay. I’m open to ideas, so happy to hear other peoples experience with them.

But “dark things” are not just limited to poisons, disease and curses. Beyond these traditional agents, Shadow World may provide a bevy of interesting taints, attacks and complications that can add to your campaign. Here are a few thoughts and ideas:

Demonic Possessions. I’ve blogged about the problems with summoning and demonic possessions should be based on the particular setting. But Shadow World does have Demons, so it’s possible to have Demonic possessions beyond the thematic demons introduced by Terry. Having a player possessed could make for interesting sessions: Demons may not have any particular agenda beyond being a chaos agent and maybe they even impart some Demonic powers (like Frenzy).

Mental Illness. Introducing a mental illness to a player really relies on their roleplaying skills, but can add a interesting twist to group dynamics. Traditional Mentalism spells can cause mental illnesses, but how should they work and manifest in game play. Serious illness beyond phobias and violent tendencies are going to be metagamed by the player, but a players that really commits to it can be a lot of fun even if it gets the group into trouble.

Unlife Taint. There has been several attempts to mechanize Unlife taint in past GC’s and some other thoughts on the Forums. Obviously there needs to be corruption rules for SW. Should this work as a player accesses “Dark” spell lists? In my own campaign I differentiate between “dark” lists (that are the result of the Gods of Charon) and “Unlife” spell lists which tap into an alien, malevolent power. These lists are the various Priest Arnak lists I posted up on the RM Forums, and the lists Terry made for the Steel Rain and other Unlife organizations. Ideally, the Unlife lists should be really different from standard SL lists and more powerfully to justify and entice spell users to explore and experiment with them–and start down a slippery slope. Unlife corruption should be a core rule mechanic for SW. The concept of players “flirting” with learning and casting powerful Unlife spells and risking being corrupted or subsumed by the Unlife is a great fantasy theme.

Channeling Block. A priest who defies their god, behaves in a inappropriate way or similar should be punished. The quickest and most obvious is to sever them from their spell casting ability until they make atonement for their actions. This atonement process is a natural trigger for an adventure or quest!

God Cursed. Similar to the disfavor in a channeling block, a character could get a “mark” that shows they are cursed, outcast or disfavored by a god. This could be in the form of a birthmark, shaped scar, change in eye color, or symbol that can be seen in the person’s skin (excommunication). This would be an ill omen in most cultures, and make it difficult for the player to interact with society.

Just a few ideas that I need to explore in more detail or finalize as rule mechanics. RMSS and RMU have introduced Flaws that are similar to these, but I like for fluidity to these more than CharGen mechanics to offset talents. What has been your experience with “Dark Things“?



Rolemaster Spell Law. 5 problematic spell lists.

I thought I would stir things up a bit and do a quick blog on what I consider the most problematic spell lists found in the early version of Spell Law. I’m going to refer back to Spell Law #1200 which is the punched up version of Spell Law from RM2. Now that I am fiddling with a 4th iteration of BASiL I had a chance to review my original notes and comments.

Obviously this is just  my opinion and I’m not suggesting that these lists have merit–I’m sure I could make a counter-argument on the utility of these spell lists as well. However, in the process of re-writing spell lists, I found spells and many lists that were marginal, needed quite a bit of re-jiggering or some just beyond salvaging. In fact, I found real issues with virtually EVERY spell list in Spell Law! What started as a rewrite of just a few problematic ones turned into BASiL–a full renovation of the spell lists. So while I can point out issues in every list, here are my top 5 problematic lists:

#5 Weather Ways. Channeling Open. Problem: Needs a complete re-write.

At first glance, this list would seem to have quite a bit of utility and be an automatic for Druids and Rangers. On closer inspection though, there just aren’t that many useful spells here–and there are only 16 spells to begin with! First off, the first quasi useful spell doesn’t occur until 7th level: Breeze Call. The 1st spell is about as bad as the famed “Boil Water”: “Living Gauge” allows the caster to know the EXACT TEMPERATURE of the surrounding atmosphere!!!! The next three spells are various predictions: rain, storm and weather. The problem of course, is that the GM will need to decide what the weather will be over the next 24 hours in order for these spells to have any real value. So it probably becomes a self-fulfilling function where the GM has to set the future weather to provide a spell result.  Plus, do you need to break down the difference in predicting rain, storms and weather via individual spells? Can’t you just have “Predict Weather”? So once you simplify the various prediction spells you are left with 7 spells: Fog Call, Precip Call, Wind Mastery, Clear Skies, Rain Call, Storm Call and Weather Mastery. 3 of those are 20th+ level so won’t be used in 80% of play. You can see my solution HERE. (needs a RM Forum user name).

#4 Way of the Voice & Far Voice. Astrologer Base. Problem: Redundancy, thematic confusion.

I always thought the Astrologer profession was very cool–certainly different than any other classic fantasy profession that I had encountered back then. Of course one problem is that it implies a specific setting or magic mechanic around “star power”, but that’s easy to ignore.  The Astrologer spell lists Way of the Voice and Far Voice are so similar in concept that they are just begging to either be consolidated or further differentiated. The most obvious issue is Mind Speech and Mind Voice. Mind Speech allows the caster to broadcast thoughts while Mind Voice allows the caster to mentally speak with a being. Mind Speech allows broadcasting to all within the radius and Mind Voice is only 1 target.  Mind Voice is 2nd level and Mind Speech is 7th lvl.  Mind Voice basically does the same thing as Mind Speech plus has the added ability of 2 way communication. Given it’s name, the list “Way of the Voice” should actually focus on “Voice” spells and yet there are only 4 spells that do: speech, suggestion, voice of command and word of command. The rest are all “mind” spells. “Far Voice” is almost all Mind Voice spells except for one outlier: 20th lvl “Lord Voice” that allows the caster’s voice to be heard up to 100’/lvl away. So I would move that spell to Way of the Voice, and port over the Mind Speech spells. Overall, there is at least one good spell list or two  distinct ones.

#3 Plant Mastery. Animist Base. Problem: WTF?

I don’t even know where to start with this spell list. Like Alchemist spells, this list doesn’t add a lot of utility in actual game play; it’s more suited for downtime or just reinforcing the profession’s premise. But then the actual spells are confusing or utterly useless. Let’s look at the 2nd lvl spell Speed Growth. It increases the speed of growth for 1 species of plant within radius by 10x. So it speeds up growth 10 days in a 1 day period. Then 2 lvls later the growth rate is 100x! That makes more sense, but under what conditions is this even useful? Herbs? Are GM’s populating healing herb seedlings for added realism? Then we have Plant Growth: the spell doubles the size of any 1 plant. It requires 1 day of growth…but…then states that the plant when fully mature will be double its normal size. So does this mean that it will eventually grow to twice it’s size, or it grows to be twice it’s size in a single day? So it’s speed growth AND size growth? Or, if the plant is already mature it doubles in size in 1 day? It’s very confusing and while cool to grow trees to 10x their normal size, if it takes a normal growth period then it loses quite a bit of in game efficacy.  Solution: complete rewrite!!!

#2 Spell Reins. Essence Closed. Problem: Poor mechanics.

This could be a great spell list, but as is, it’s poorly executed. There are 3 spells on this list: Spell Hold, Spell Bending and Reverse Spell. All are great concepts and mostly work, but there is some confusion as well. Spell Hold will delay a spell for X rounds and the target spell gets an RR. Simple enough? Then there is this odd “movement” rule built in that says that if the target caster moves more than 20′ (that’s pretty random) then the delayed spell will instead target a random person within 10′ of the target caster. This needlessly complicates the spell. Spell Bending is also more complicated than it needs to be. Basically the caster can deflect a Elemental spell from it’s target, modifying it by -10/10% failure. I’m assuming the target spell makes the RR and not the caster? It says the spell is deflected up to 10′ but I’m not sure why that’s important–the important mechanic is the penalty incurred  to the attack. It’s an instantaneous spell, but it’s not clear how a caster would react that quickly after SEEING a elemental attack cast. Would they have time? Would they need to be waiting/Opportunity action? I’m not sure I like the RR mechanic here. Why not treat it like Bladeturn or Deflection and just apply a fixed penalty that increases with the spell level? Finally we have Reverse Spells. The attack spell makes an RR or is reversed to it’s caster. That’s simple, but it’s still a instantaneous spell and would require the caster to anticipate or see the spell coming. I think all of these spells work better with a duration to avoid that reaction mechanic. One last thought it to merge these three spells into the Dispelling Ways list (which could be trimmed as well) to make a single cool “counter spell/magic” list.

#1 Spell Enhancement. Essence Closed. Problem: Too powerful and not necessary.

12 spells. Out of a possible 23. Not a lot of bang for your buck, so what do you actually get? An ill conceived list that breaks the whole spell mechanic. Basically there are only 3 spells on this list: Extension, which increases spell duration, Ranging which increases it’s range and the 50th lvl Permanent spell that’s completely insane since there is NO level limit on the spell that can be made permanent! Ignoring that bit of crazy, let’s look at the first two. The caster casts this spell first and then it affects another spell that is cast in the next 3 rounds (allowing for Class III casting times I’m assuming). It’s a spell that improves another spell. But how? Spell scaling via PP expenditure is much simpler and makes more sense. Let’s look at Firebolt. The 6th lvl has a range of 100′ and the next one at 11th lvl has a range of 300′. So 5 PP’s to get a +200′ increase. In Spell Enhancement, the Ranging +200 is a 15th lvl spell!!! Ouch! Not a lot of value in the Ranging spells, but how about the Extensions. x2 Duration in only a 3rd level spell! That is a crazy good deal for any spell 4th lvl or higher and only get’s better as the spell level increases. Why cast a 20th lvl spell twice in a row for 40 PP’s when you can cast Extension II and the spell for 23 PP’s and get the same duration. This is broken. Spell Law already establishes a clear linear progression of ranges and duration in it’s spells in almost every spell list. This breaks that concept, it’s unnecessary and isn’t even a good value in terms of the # of spells and the cost of using them. Solution: get rid of the list.

So what are your thoughts? Are there any lists that you find problematic? Has RMU solved many of the Spell Law problems? Is there a spell list you like or dislike? Let’s debate!!!