My Take on Adventure Design

I was going to post the second instalment of my RMU playtest but I will try and post it later in the week. Instead, inspired by Brian’s post I thought I would share how I like to go about trying to create new and hopefully original adventures.

The basic premise is ‘take to its extreme limit’ by which I mean I like to take an idea or inspiration and then try and see how far I can take that idea.

When I say idea it is often not so much an idea but rather an inspiration. It could be a profession that I want to make the bad guy, it could be a particular spell on a specific list. In the past it has been a tactic that the players have used and I wanted to use against them.

Once I have this inspriation point I then see just using that core idea how much could you achieve with just that one thing. In a recent post I outlined an evil illusionist and his plans. Once I know what is happening I can then see where would this encroach on the characters lives. How would they first become aware of what is going on and how? Often this first possible contact is completely ignored by the characters. It could be just a mention in the Waterdeep broadsheets or a rumour in the market place. Once I have placed the events in the world though I try and advance the villains plans and see where and when the characters could next become aware of them. They may or may not take the bait that time but it doesn’t matter. In theory at least as the villain’s plans proceed he should be getting more powerful and the longer the characters ignore them they should be advancing in level as well so both are in step.

I think every spell list has the potential to be the inspiration for an adventure. If you only had Sleep V as a spell and nothing else what crimes could you commit?

Not every adventure needs a spell caster behind it. How about a single intelligent creature, an enterprising goblin for example? What could a goblin achieve if he really thought through his plans? Once he starts to make some alliances he suddenly gets a lot more threatening. If he plans a few raids and they are successful then others are more likely to follow a winning leader that beings in loot and freah meat. Put his lair or hold on an easily defending island or in a marsh, inhabited by something equally threatening from lizardmen to the undead to noxious marsh gas and the Goblin chief now has natural defences as well as his band of goblins and their allies.

Each and every adventure can be embedded in the game world and existed before the characters came along and continues to grow in scope until the characters deal with it.

Occaisonally if the characters are either staying in an area or revisit an area then I have had these embedded adventures actually come into conflict with each other. If you have two villains both of which have designs on taking the same town or goblins trying to raid traffic on a particular road and someone else using it to smuggle goods then there is going to be a conflict. Put the characters in the middle of that and you have potentially complicated situation for the characters to sort out.

I think to put it in a nut shell I think I am saying, take something simple and take it to its extreme.

“Chartmaster” or “ChartLESSmaster”? Simplifying Rolemaster is Simple!

So, it’s December 12th 2016 and the official Iron Crown website has been down for 3+ days, stalling a number of thread discussions on RMU development. This momentary pause got me to thinking. Rolemaster has always been criticized for being “chart heavy” but with RMU and a few tweaks, most of the charts can be eliminated. My own house rules have already done a lot of simplification but even a quick review of RMU indicates that most charts are illustrative and not really needed during gameplay. In overview:

  1. Character Generation. There are charts needed for character creation: stat bonuses, skill rank bonuses, equipment etc. But these are used initially or when leveling up, not for general game play.
  2. “Cool” charts. As Peter discussed in an earlier blog—individual weapon and critical charts are really the unique differentiation for RM. Those really are the heart of the system.
  3. RR’s. The RR chart is almost intuitive and could be tweaked so that RR’s can be quickly calculated without a chart.
  4. Consolidating most mechanisms into a d100 “unified maneuver scale” framework eliminates most of the charts and streamlines the system. RMU has done quite a bit of this but there are still “one-off” rules that have a separate resolution process. Basically the unified maneuver scale is: 0-25 Absolute Failure, 26-75 Failure, 76 Partial Failure/Success and 100+ success. This scale can be applied to RR’s, MM, SM, fatigue, breakage and skill checks. In reality, No chart is needed for almost all Rolemaster action resolutions.
  5. Simplifying armor penalties and encumbrance eliminates a number of charts and calculations. I have blogged about removing the Maneuvering in Armor skill and consolidating it into encumbrance here. It’s also been discussed on the RM Forums. This step takes away quite a bit of charts, calculations and unnecessary complexity.
  6. Eliminate name tags. Qualitative titles like “Easy”, “Hard” “Absurd” or “Small”, “Very Large” or “Quick”, “Blinding Fast” impart general information but are really just placeholders for a numeric value. They may add atmosphere but all require a quick look up on a chart to translate into their game mechanic or modifier. By eliminating the name tag you eliminate a number of charts. For instance, when describing a lock door in a module is it easier to say (-30 to pick) or (Medium to pick)? I have blogged about this here.
  7. Master Mod Chart. All the environmental, melee, combat maneuvers and health modifiers could be reduced to a single 1 page chart. The same could be done for all the magical mods. The GM screen would be simplified and streamlined.

So let’s go through the charts and see what could be eliminated. (Using RMU CORE 2014 March 15)


2-1. Skill Ranks. A small simple chart that is only used for char gen and level ups. It’s also easy to remember. Result – Chart barely needed.

2-2 Maneuvers. The failure/success ranges are intuitive that there is really no need to refer to a chart. Difficulty name tags (casual, routine etc) can be eliminated and a simple range of -100 to +100 applied by the GM (btw this actually provides more range of difficulty for the GM to implement than the pre-set difficulty levels). Light and pain mods can be included in a master modifier chart (with melee mods). Other modifiers are mostly encumbrance related and don’t need a chart. So basically 9/10ths of this chart can be eliminated or simplified or doesn’t need to be referenced during game play. Result – Chart eliminated.

2-3 Movement. Name tags (creep, walk etc) can be eliminated and just use pace multiples of ½ to 5x. As Hurin suggested in a RM Forum thread, a simple penalty per pace multiple can be set. In addition, the encumbrance penalty can be applied to MM and to the total rate itself. Result – Chart eliminated.

2-4. Sizes. A useful reference tool but once a size is applied to a creature than it is not necessary. Eliminated the name tags (Tiny, Small, Huge etc) and just using the size # (I-X) makes size calculations easier (see next table). Result – Chart only used as reference to assign a size to a creature.

2-5 Attack Size. I proposed a simpler size adjustment system: 1/X or X/1 per size difference and +1/-1 to critical results per size difference. Simple and easy. It’s the system I’m using with Beta 2 although there were some changes to the combat tables in RMU Beta 3 that might skew results.  Result – Chart eliminated.

2-6 High Criticals. This info could be included on each weapon table so it’s easily referenced when determining attack results. With the new chart design there is room on each page. Result – Chart incl. in each weapon table eliminates separate look-up.

2-7 Hit Loss Penalty. This small chart could be rolled into the master modifier chart (with melee mods and lighting etc) or a GM could just apply a penalty equal to hit loss (rounded to nearest 10%). Result – Chart consolidated or eliminated.

2-8. Resistance Roll. Stat RR’s can be included in the stat section and the failure results can use the unified maneuver scale. Result – Chart eliminated.

3-1. Races. Needed for char gen.  Result – Chart needed for reference.

3-2 Race Sizes. Rather than apply a name tag: “S”, “M” or “L” skip to the actual “numerical size”: III, IV or V. The remainder is just char gen reference.  Result – Chart simplified and used for reference.3-2

3-3 Cultures. Chart used for char gen only.

3-4 Profession Spell Costs. Chart used for char gen and level up only. In our NO Profession rules we’ve eliminated this chart and apply a standard 5* cost to all skills. Chart used for char gen and lvl advance only

3-5 Stat Bonuses. Chart used for char gen and stat gain only.

3-6 Stat Gain. We eliminated this chart and just use DP’s to advance stats. However, RAW, this is only used on level advance. Chart used for stat gain only

4-1 Skill Summary. Reference only. Not needed in game play.

4-2. Skill Similarity. Simple enough that you don’t need to refer to it. Include in GM screen or eliminate it at GM’s discretion of skill use.

4-3. Animal Maneuvers. I’m not a fan of a separate modifier chart for every single skill. Some basic guidelines on difficulty modifiers would be my choice. Chart used at GM discretion.

4-4 through 4-9, 4-11, 4-12, 4-14, 4-15, 4-16, 4-17 These are a perfect example of chart bloat and adds to the perception of “Chartmaster”. These should be eliminated and used as presented with the unified maneuver scale. Perhaps some examples of what a “failure” or “partial success” could be included in the skill description but results really depend on context and situation. Charts redundant and should be eliminated.

4-10. Knowledge Tier. Useful and ties the skill/lore system together as discussed here.

4-13. Channeling Modifiers. Small chart can be included in nFUX master modifier chart. Chart consolidated into master magic mod chart.

4-16. Driving Maneuvers. Again this seems like “Animal Maneuvers”. Unneeded complexity, lots of modifiers for a single skill. Chart should be simplified or eliminated or moved to optional rules or companion.

5-* Tables. Talents should be optional rules but are not needed for regular gameplay. Optional

6-1 Coinage Standards. Basic reference. Keep

6-2 Starting Money. Only used at char gen. Keep.

6-3. Equipment Breakage. Should be further simplified into unified maneuver scale. Eliminate chart.

6-4 Equipment Repair. Should be simplified into unified maneuver scale. Eliminate chart.

6-5 General Equipment. Reference chart. Keep

6-6 Armor Chart. Reference chart. Keep.

6-7 Weapons. Reference Chart. Keep & expand. We’ve proposed shifting various combat maneuvers into weapon specific mods. Shouldn’t the reverse strike penalty be different between a dagger and a polearm? Chart should be expanded into weapon specific modifiers.

7-1 Action Points Action. I think there are currently changes being made to the initiative and round resolution system.  In development?

7-2 Charging. This could be simplified. For instance, the size category can increase by +1/pace X. Pace modifier would still apply. Chart eliminated!

7-3 Attack Roll. This could morph into the master modifier chart to include the handful of useful modifiers in previous tables (lighting, terrain, position etc). Included in master mod chart.

7-4. Disarm Maneuver. Lots of rules for one skill. Personally I think disarm should just be a standard result in the critical roll or purely a maneuver resolution separate from melee actions. Disarm, dodge, ambush are problematic powerful skills with complicated rule resolution. Work needs to be done.

7-5 Katas. These rules may need some work but there are only a few mods in a small chart. Include in master modifier chart.

7-6 Protect. Include in master modifier chart or review for simplification. It seems that this should only work if the Protector is at the flank of the defender. Move protect mods into individual weapon chart.

7-7. Slaying. It makes more sense to just have Slaying bump up the severity and not add to the crit roll. Thus the chart would be eliminated.

7-8 Subdual. Roll into master modifier chart and/or use individual weapon modifiers. Chart eliminated.

8-1  Armor Flexibility.. Delete and/or incorporate into 8-2.

8-2 Armor Type. Reference Keep.

8-3 Shields. Keep or incorporate into equipment/armor table 6-6.

8-4 Piecemeal Armor. Confusing—simplify into table 6-6.

11-1 Power Level. Optional but should be expanded to include other mechanisms to adjust (equipment, DP’s etc). Move to optional rules or companion.

11-2 Levels. Confusing? Needed? Eliminate.

11-3 Starting Money. Only for char gen. Expand into larger random table? Keep.

12-1. Endurance. Use unified maneuver scale. EliminateThe few mods could be included in the master mod chart.

12-2. Injuries and Recovery. Simplify?

12-4 & 12-5 & 12-6 Cauterization and Defibrillation & Decomp. Too complex, granular. Move to Optional rules?

13-1 Biomes. Useful as reference. Keep.

13-2 Extreme Temps. ? Optional rules.

13-3 & 13-4 & 13.5. Fright & Morale & Rally Consolidate and use unified maneuver scale.

13-6. Feats of Strength. Simply with an intuitive conversion of weight to weight. Eliminate chart.

13-7. Poisons & 13-8 Diseases This is something that needs to be simplified for game play. Perhaps create 1 affect/poison or disease and use the unified maneuver role scale.

13-8. Lighting. Eliminate and incorporate into master mod chart.

You’ll note that most RMU skill charts do follow the Failure/Failure/Partial/Success unified maneuver scale—but many skills have their own chart. That adds to the perception that RM has too many lookup charts for gameplay. Rather than include a chart for various skills, some simple guidelines on what a “partial success” or “partial failure” may look like to help a GM.

All in all, the total modifiers for environment, health and melee situations can be distilled into 1 master table. All the spell casting and magic mods could be distilled into another chart: 2 pages total. The few remaining charts are either reference, optional or used only at character gen or leveling up. You still have individual weapon attack charts, fumbles and crits but that’s what people love about RM. Everything else can fall under easy to remember, intuitive or quantifiable labels to ease gameplay. All the mods can be consolidated into 2 master tables. In other words, a unified rule system.

Random Musings. War in RPG’s, Rolemaster and Shadow World.

Twice now I’ve run an introductory SW adventure in Emer that injected the players into the invasion of Miir by the Katra of Stroane (c. 6041 TE). The group, along with some interesting NPC’s (Bashar the Merchant and Livian a Cleric of the Festival) are tasked with uncovering the lapse in trade and communications along the northern coast of the Sea of Votania. Ostensibly this is a war scenario but the PC’s are still acting on an individual tactical level as scouts/spies. On the second run of this adventure the PC’s actually got involved in a full scale battle; a situation I wasn’t really prepared for, nor did I handle well. Rolemaster does have War Law and there are numerous other rule sets that would have allowed for battle resolution but I don’t have any familiarity with them. (I did play Squad Leader back in the 80’s!).

Since then I’ve thought about the issues of introducing mass combat and war into the RPG narrative. There are three basic aspects to this: integrating war generally into RPG’s, mass combat and Spell Law and the issues of Shadow World itself.

RPG’s. Again, most fantasy RPG’s have designed war/mass combat rules for conflict resolution and for use with miniatures. Rules aside, as a GM with specific goals in gameplay, I see role-playing and wargaming as two distinct “stories”. The former being personal/individual while the latter is more abstract and strategic. I’m not sure they co-exist peaceably in my setting, but curious on others views.

War and Spell Law. Before Rolemaster there was the “Village of Hommlet”. Reading that module was the first time I thought about the impact of fireballs on warfare and combat. In the module is a burned out foundation of a moat house—a structure clearly destroyed by a fireball at some point. That really got me thinking about how the accepted medieval tropes we use in RPG’s are really inappropriate once magic is introduced. What use is a castle when an attacking army has a mage with Earth Law? Many of the design standards of keeps, forts and castles are really pointless once you have powerful elemental spells. Other spells like Passing make entering an enemy installation fairly easy. Once you accept that historical fortification reasoning is out the door you can embrace truly interesting architectural designs. Form becomes more important than function. Some of my favorite SW buildings are those that eschew the traditional medieval elements of moat/keep/battlements: Tharg Jironak in the Iron Wind, Jinteni cities, the Secrets, the Dragon Lord citadel etc.

Two writers of note tackled magic and war in a fantasy setting: Cook with his Black Company series and Erickson with the Malazan books. Erickson was admittedly heavily influenced by Cook but his setting was driven by an actual RPG campaign. Both treat magic as pervasive, though users vary greatly in power and abilities. Combat in both series are very evocative of WWI trench warfare; magic is mustard gas and battle is gruesome, deadly and confusing. I think the ubiquity and disposability of magic users is the key here: a single powerful magic user could easily tip the balance of an army v. army battle. More interesting is the range in between: a few magic wielders on either side. Certainly tactics would dictate that an opposing magic user would be targeted first, making them vulnerable to assassination or counter measures. These “battles within battles” might fit well into a RPG narrative—it’s really two distinct battles where the magic-users fight each other while mundane combat goes on around them.

War in the Shadow World. SW has had many battles: Wars of Dominion, invasions by Ulor, the Raven Queen wars in Gaalt. But…in a setting where basic travel may require a Navigator due to unpredictable Essaence Flows and many regions are demised by physical Essaence barriers how do you move large armies or groups of soldiers PLUS the logistical supply lines needed for war and invasion? For me it’s simple: wars and invasions are rare in SW for these very reasons. Few nations have large standing armies and conflict is smaller and more personal. This puts the emphasis on player groups and the personal narratives of role playing. Wars are more a series of skirmishes and scattered actions than large fields of battle. The large wars are historic for a reason—they are notable for their scarcity.

Do you incorporate large scale combat and battles into your gaming?

Game Master talk: “Murder Hobos”



def. The typical protagonist of a fantasy role-playing game, who is a homeless guy who goes around killing people and taking their stuff.

Due to the holidays I only have time for a quick blog, but thought I would delve into this a bit–especially since Thanksgiving is really the “Last Supper” before we went all Murder Hobo on the native Americans!

A lot of GM’s pride themselves on running games that focus on other narrative elements than just combat; but let’s be honest, players love combat and Rolemaster’s critical charts makes combat more immersive and ultimately rewarding. RPG’s reward MurderHobo behavior! Video games have further reinforced this style. Digital games, limited in part by the defined experience and finite sandbox, also tend to focus on conflict and combat as the primary mechanism for player gains and advancement.

Despite mechanisms like “Alignments”, religious constraints and the good v. evil meme, many PC groups default to “kill whatever you encounter and take their stuff”. We certainly played like that when we were younger and in almost every game session since there has been at least one group member that opts for combat before anything else. In a game system that has terrible monsters, cruel creatures and real evil, their needs to be little rationalization: bad monsters should be killed!

I tend to a more grayscale approach to morality in gaming and Shadow World lends itself well to that. Most encounters are with other humanoids and while many of them may be selfish, greedy or dangerous they are probably not evil in the purest sense. Generally, people act in self-interest.

So while a GM can design an adventure that focuses on non-combat elements, that doesn’t mean the players will stay on script. So, how can you build some constraints into your gaming group?

  1. Actions have consequences. Combat results in criticals, and criticals can result in serious or permanent damage. At lower levels PC’s may not have the resources to regenerate a limb. Certain injuries could cause stat loss (temp and permanent). Scars can reduce Ap. Healing costs $$$!
  2. There are fates worth than death. Even if they triumph over the PC’s, opponents may still be seriously injured and will need to seek refuge and healing. They may not necessarily delivery a “coup de grace” on the players, but they could certainly loot them and take their valuable stuff!
  3. One size DOES NOT fit all. I’m not a believer that magic armor, bracers, rings etc have inherent magical “resizing” ability. In fact, that sounds like a fairly high level ability to enchant into an object. My players don’t expect to simple loot and put in opponents armor and have it fit or work effectively. This reduces some of their impulse to kill anything with nice stuff.
  4. What’s in a name? Horses have brands, armor may have insignia or religious symbols, “named” weapons may have a reputation. Flaunting your opponents marked equipment may be problematic—PC’s could be considered thieves or looters!

Hey, I like combat as much as anyone but when you really think about it, the “murderhobo” concept defines PC’s. What are your thoughts?

Meta Skills

Brian and I both share the same philosophy when it comes to skills, less is more. Meta skills are a way of having less skills that enable your characters do more.

More is less

The more skills you have in your game the less capable the characters are. If there are only 40 skills and a character can afford to buy 10 plus some body development, weapons and perception then they have 25% of all the skill bases covered.

If you have 100 skills in your game and they can afford to buy 10 skills then the character has only 10% of all the bases covered.

If you have 200 skills then 10 skills covers just 5% of skills.

As you up the total skill count one option is to increase the number of development points each character has. This was introduced with the firs set of secondary skills in Character Law. They added 45 secondary skills and recommended adding 25% more development points. So by the time you get to 200 skills you need to be giving the characters double development points just to stand still.

I can agree that if you have more skills you should give the characters more development points to compensate but this brings with it its own problems. If your character starts off with relatively few DPs because he or she has lowish temp stats (but decent potentials) then your fellow characters are going to be able to do more than you in more situations. This is already a  problem but now the effect has been quadrupled (it was doubled by doubling the demand on the limited DPs and then exacerbated by doubling the difference between a character with high stats and one with low stats). Your fellow characters have more opportunities to earn experience so they level up faster and get more DPs and so the problem gets worse. What you have is a vicious circle.

The other option is Meta Skills. Brian has a Survival skill but does not have Foraging or Region Lore or tracking. If you hae a full set of survival skills for a particular region then that includes where to find food, water, the lie of the land. You can also build a fire and probably tie knots covered by rope mastery.

RMU shows some of its strengths

This is where RMU shows some of its strengths. Firstly you get a fixed number of DPs per level, the default is 50 so having great stats or poor is no handicap but also it has the Vocational Skill.

Vocational is the ultimate meta skill

Vocational is the ultimate meta skill. If you take Vocation:Knight then you gain all the minor day to day skills that a knight would know from recognizing the devices and standard of other noble families to etiquette to handling hunting dogs and birds of prey. A character can have multiple Vocation skills so you could have Vocation:Squire and Vocation:Knight if your character came up through the ranks, so to speak. You can pretty much define your characters back story skills in terms of Vocational Skills. Vocation does not supersede any specific named skills, you cannot use Vocation:Knight in place of Riding:Horse by claiming that riding is a knightly pursuit.

This is how I think all skills should work. I don’t use the Survival skill but I do have Foraging and Tracking. Brian and I have identified the same problem arrived at the same answer but we started from different places. In my gaming group my players love the Tracking skill so it was not on the cards to remove it. It would have been missed too badly to take it away. On the other hand no one bought the survival skill, in those survival moments the players turned to foraging for food or tracking game (animals have to drink so follow the tracks and you will find water).

In both cases, Brian’s Shadow World campaign and my Forgotten Realms game we have both arrived at a total skill count of about 45 skills. The characters are going on similar adventures, facing similar challenges and coming to similar solutions I assume as people the world over are all the same. As long as the game and skill system gives the players the levers they want to pull the players are happy.

The reduced skill count actually makes the players happier as their characters are more capable and more of their ideas are successful ‘on the round’ as the characters are able to put the plans into action. It reduces the need for quite so many NPCs and so on.

As I get older I find I can retain the definition of 40-50 skills easily enough but on the other hand trying to remember 200 skills when about half of them ‘break the rules’ (things like the way that stunned maneuver works, or iai strike that have unique rules for just one skill). I am never going to retain that many skills and rules and I don’t think new players will either.

I kind of hope that RMU resists the urge to bolt on more and more skills a the system matures. There is no need to repeat the mistakes of the past when there are so many new ones we can all make!

Rolemaster and multiclass characters

I am spending the day travelling today. I was up at the crack of dawn to get the train to London and right now I am sat in Caffè Nero at Heathrow terminal 5 waiting for my flight to Switzerland. Initially I thought I may end up missing my Friday article this week. One the Iron Crown forum there is a discussion going on about allowing a character to change professions.

Professions are so ‘loaded’ in Rolemaster that I knew this would turn into one of those rambling threads.

Changing or having multiple character classes is so integral to D&D that I am surprised that this question doesn’t come up more often. D&D, as I remember it, has  two options, you can start out with two or more classes and your experience is split evenly between each or you choose to change from one to another and once your new level catches up with your old one you can start to use features of both classes. For a game with many hundreds of classes the need to create new combinations us a little odd but who am I to criticise, there are millions of D&D players and they all seem happy enough to me.

Rolemaster professions are not character classes. A Rolemaster profession is intended to be an entire way of life and represents the characters entire world view, their education and sets their aptitudes for their entire life. The are not something that you can change at gheeta drop of a hat.

In my Rolemaster Classic (Rules as written) game  the party met and have been adventuring for just 22 days but they are already on the verge of achieving 5th level. In the forum thread the character wanting to change profession is just 4th level. That is a pretty short window in which to shift ones entire world view. Of course the character in the thread may have been adventuring for years, we don’t know.

So in Rolemaster there are few if any hard limits on what a character can learn to do. Fighters can cast spells if they invest the points into spell lists and makes can wear armour if they are prepared to take the rusks of spell failure. These soft caps were meant to remove the need for multi classing to changing profession.

The fact is  that a fighter with a spell list is not a mage. Going against the professional archetype will never be the same as adopting the new archetype and that is what the player wants to do in the forum thread.

HARP does allow multi classes and is balanced to take these into account so it is possible but the RMC/RM2/RMSS/RMFRP development point system of individual skill costs mean that multiple professions will always be over powered. It will much more viable in RMU as the professions are much more like HARP professions, remember that HARP is a much younger system than RM and has the benefit of a lot of hindsight in its design.

The other option is to use the No Profession. This is my preferred solution. You cannot have multiples or change things you don’t have. It gets rid of some much ‘baggage’ that this forum thread has reinforced my view that No Profession is the right way to go for Rolemaster. It is one of the best things about this modular system that No Profession was available as a built in option right from the beginning.

Gaming Styles – Roll it or Role it?

Twice recently, once on the ICE Forums and the second time here ( the topic of how to check for traps has come up. There are two competing ideas, the first is what I call the Roll it option of declaring you want to check for traps and the GM says “fine, roll your skill”. The second option is you say you want to check for traps and the GM says “How are you doing that?” This is the OSR method or Role Play it version.

My Shadow World GM is one of the “How are you going to do that?” school. In that game I played a thief called Alfred and I was by far the most powerful character in the group. That is not egotism, it was an unfortunate fact. We were playing a high level game and we started out with pregen characters of 10th level. I have talked about this character a lot in the past so I won’t go into too much details. The GM made a mistake in the pregen character which both he and I recognised. The mistake was that in a group with only one fighter, in a very much hack and slash game, where the GM likes to put his villains in plate mail making the thiefs primary OB ‘thrown dagger’ was a serious problem. In Rolemaster it is not the hits that kill you but the criticals. If you have a character where the maximum damage they can do is 3CP and that  is from virtually point blank. Even throwing the dagger from 1′ away from your target incurs a -10 penalty on OB, at 11′ it is -20 and over 25′ it is -30. The character had a built in penalty to every single attack, extremely limited ammunition and pretty much anyone he fought could moving into melee in the next round and attack with a greater proportion of their OB than I could hit them with than I had used to attack them because of range penalties. The GM had given me AT5 with is a bit of a walking death sentence so overall beind cast as the second fighter in the group was not good for my prospects.

My solution was to immediately start developing two weapon combo and thrown dagger in the off hand. If I could only do tiny amounts of damage then I may as well try and double it up. The character was given Adrenal Move speed anyway so I could at least attempt to get 4 attacks in in the first round. If I could do 4 criticals then there was a chance I could put my foe down. Of course this was a long term solution as it was going to take many lavels to build up a new weapon skill and two weapon combo.

The GM soon realised that I was not effective in the role he had pretty much assigned me. In fact our first few combats went pretty badly. The fighter had been given 2H Sword and Frenzy and his best skills. The ranger was great with a long bow but was terrible with his shortsword. The fourth character was a magician. Our first four fights were all close quarters combats inside a tower, mostly on the stairs. Things did not go well.

The GM wanted a quick solution that was to dish out some powerful magic items. The fighter got a pair of laen broadswords and that motivated him to start investing in his secondary weapon and two weapon combo.

For me he gave a set of three uber daggers. They were +30 when thrown and hit as broadswords. At the end of the round they longdoored back to their sheaths. So all of a sudden from doing one ineffective attack each round I went to three full on broadsword attacks. I was throwing two of the daggers with my primary OB and one with my evolving off hand OB but with a useful professional bonus, plus stat, plus +30 for the weapon and just a few ranks made for an OB up in the 90s.

Within three game sessions I had totally eclipsed the fighter as the main battle tank in the group. I coordinated well with the mage and between us were were taking down the lions share of the enemy before melee even started. I had also from the very first time I spend DPs starteed to invest in a spell list. Concussion Ways was my first choice

But I was not a fighter I was a thief. It was me that scouted out the way ahead, it was me that defeated traps and opened the locks. Thieves are very much the skill using profession and they get a lot of skills very cheaply in RM2. Compared to almost everyone else I could ‘do it all’.

The GM had created this monster and in doing so he was finding it hard to challenge us. We played the game for seven years and during that time I tried to select magical items from our adventures that gave daily spell effects. So I had my own spells from just a few open channelling lists plus a handful of other spells that could be used a few times each day. Magically I was like a little low powered hybrid with maybe thirty spells to my name. Given that all my spells were 5th level to less my 50 powerpoints went quite a long way and then I gained a x2 multiplier so I pretty much had unlimited spell casting. In combat I was a death dealing gattling gun of magical daggers. The GM still used the combat phases so missile attacks, the GM included throw attacks in this phase, came before melee and movement. Out of combat I was the one with the broadest skill set.

I think the idea of ‘role playing your skills’ was introduced to try and limit my power in some respects. As I was accelerating away from the other characters in the party my skills were improving rapidly. So when I approached a lock I was throwing a +120 to +140 skill at it. Even absurdly difficult locks were 50/50 and in that situation I would use meditation that gives a +20 bonus. That pushed the odds to 70/30 in my favour. You cannot fill the world with everything being so insanely difficult that all rolls are made at -70 just to make it challenging. That was when the GM suddenly started asking me ‘How’. so when I said I wanted to check a lock for any traps he would reply with ‘How was I going to do that?’ This sort of had me on the back foot for a few minutes until I could think of a few logical methods for what I wanted to look for and how. As I am a RoleMaster player I started thinking abou this. If I am looking for any additional holes that could be exit holes for needles, for trying to feel for any weak spots or dimples on the wood that may suggest they are just a thin veneer hiding points where needles or blades may come from (just as examples) why am I not now using General Perception? If I was not a a thief profession and I asked my GM the same questions in the same situation he would probably allow me to roll perception to see if what I am looking for is discernable. No GM is ever going to say “No, you cannot roll to see if you can see that.” when the player is stood right next to the thing that they want to look at. They may not see it but that is another issue.

So if my knowledge as a player is less than a 23rd level thief is my thief’s ability limited by my lack of knowledge? Do you ask the healer exactly how they are going suture a wound? How the mage is going to cast fireball? I have never heard of anyone trying to use this roleplaying technique for anything except the stealth and subterfuge skills.

In the example of OSR role playing on the ICE forums the example given was again the poor old thief.

A thief suspended from a rope to steal something.
I defy anyone to describe their character doing it like this and not to end up on their backside with a duff roll at some point!

On another point if you are playing the thief character, you can possibly bring rangers into this as well, and you are asked “How are you going to do that?” you could quite possibly come up with a dozen suggestions. Each one you describe what you are attempting, the GM describes what you discover. You then try something else and you get the feedback on that and so on. You could quite easily ‘waste’ half the entire game session with just you trying to detect a trap on a chest when there is no trap there to be found. The rest of the party need not have even bothered to come.

I think in Rolemaster with its sophisticated skill system, particularly with the more compact meta skills that Brian and I use the OSR approach is unnecessary. It slows the game and devalues the skills. If you are only as good at Survival as the play playing the character why bother buying the skill? You would be better off just buying more ranks in General Perception as everything from tracking to detect traps to lip reading and interogation can all really be described in terms of perception rolls looking for tell tale signs.

The more I think about this OSR way of doing things the more I think of it as incompatible with the Rolemaster system.