RM Forum Revisited: The Argument Against Character Classes in Rolemaster. PT 1.

Reaching into the archives! One of my first forum posts in the RM forums was way back in 2011. I posted an initial post and then several responses and subsequently have touched upon this in several RolemasterBlog.com posts. Looking back, I see my forum post suffered from push back on profession/class belief and an unrealistic acceptance of my rule proposals! Either way, I think this in a topic worth exploring and I’ve posted a slightly revised version below.

Since its introduction, Rolemaster’s appeal was as a versatile system add-on integrated into traditional  Dungeons & Dragons.  In RM there are supposedly no class limitations: a fighter could learn spells, and a magic user could wield a sword.  At the time (c. 1982) this was a revolutionary feature in fantasy role-playing compared to the strict restrictions imposed in DnD and other gaming systems.  The wide adoption of a class based systems was driven by fantasy literature but ultimately led to a creative dead end for the following reasons:

1.   Character classes reinforce fantasy tropes.  By continuing to use class titles, RM has ultimately embraced a model it was attempting to challenge.  Over time, it made it harder to differentiate RM from other established gaming systems as they in turn have adopted some of RM’s ideas.
2.   Character classes tend to reinforce the need for the balanced party.  While the adventure group is a foundation of traditional fantasy role-playing, it may also pigeon holes players into class defined roles. Furthermore the game balance then breaks down when there are less than 4 players or there is an odd mixture of player classes in the group.
3.   Character classes should be driven by the setting, not the other way around.  RPG classes have become solid memes: each profession carrying fixed conceptions of its abilities, behavior, appearance or power.  The term wizard or magician may conjure up personal fantasy motifs that can overwhelm a GMs unique campaign setting or dispose us to specific actions based on our understanding of that class.

Rolemaster has always identified itself as a skill based system but it didn’t take the concept far enough.  The fantasy RPG genre is now a mature industry and new game systems and literature are trying to innovate.  Now may be the time for Rolemaster to fully embrace its original mandate: to become a system where a character is truly defined by the sum of his skills and not by accepted class restrictions and aptitudes.  By doing so, RMs system can be more easily adapted to any fantasy setting, regardless of its similarities (or lack thereof) to Middle Earth, Greyhawk or any other high fantasy setting.

Discarding character classes does not make the dozens of professions already defined in the original rule set or companions obsolescent: these professions can always be used as Templates.   The question of what character class fits into any given world setting never need be asked; instead GMs can create or choose skill cost sets that fit the society, guild, group or organization rather than trying to shoehorn RM character class into their setting

Do you really need different professions for a fighter and barbarian?  Are not those differences more defined by racial type, dress, armament and behavior than skill costs?  Do you need 3 different classes for magician, alchemist and illusionist? All are Essence users, defined by the family of spells they specialize in rather than a few arbitrary differences in skill costs.

A basic examination shows that skill development costs are still driven by the very tropes that RM should avoid:  thieves are weak fighters that rely on stealth; clerics are good and heal; magic users can’ t wear armor etc.  If the goal is to eliminate class limitations, then why reinforce fantasy stereotypes or channel character development into these stereotypes?

Problems with my approach.

Moving to a classless system would alienate current RM players.  There are already several versions of RM on the market that players can continue to use.  Personally, I’ve always used the original RM system and never chose to adopt the new versions.  However in terms of changing markets and ultimately RM as  a commercial product; does it make sense to undergo a system evolution rather than just another iteration?  The development discussion around Arms Law is more than a polishing so why not take a new approach to Character Law?

There is some comfort is settling into traditional gaming roles.

We are currently playing through an Expert D&D module using Castles & Crusades rules.  While it feels like putting on a comfortable pair of slippers, its lack of flexibility is already apparent to our group of experienced players.  It may just be that if you played a long time, eliminating these stereotypes and expectations can lead to a novel gaming experience.   Certainly the latest fantasy literature is moving away from these traditional memes: Erickson, Lynch, Rothfuss are all good examples and it is popular literature that can drive contemporary game design.

There is a strong argument for classes, predispositions etc.

Eliminating classes would homogenize characters and/or create the optimized (min/max)  profession.  While I haven’t gotten to some suggested solutions yet, I see a place for both a classless system and classes as templates.   And no, I’m not suggesting the No Profession option already included in the rule set.  There seems to be a belief that an open skill system would lead to player optimization: maximizing key spells, weapons and a few other skills to produce the ideal character.  While new rules can still account for that, I would argue that this  already occurs under the current system.  A quick review of the new character classes, optional rules, talents and background options all point towards the trend to balance individual classes out and then expand their abilities beyond their designed skill cost assignments.   In the end you have an exhausting list of optional rules and exceptions that complicates the system and perhaps leads to game imbalance.  And all of it really driven by one base motivation: more character flexibility.

A few last thoughts:  Is there any really guidance, rules or balance to the current character class generation process?  Besides an arbitrary assignment of perceived primary abilities is there a really way to balance classes?   Does anyone believe that character classes are equal in balance and playability?

So let’s move on to few ideas.

Step 1.  Skill Bonuses.

Before we tackle a skill driven based system we need to look at both skill progression and costs.  Perceived character balance is created by the careful structuring of skill costs but may not take into account player motivations.  These decision points can be simplified as the sum of three components

1.   Additional benefit = (skill bonus increase)
2.   Cost of additional benefit  = (development point cost)
3.   Opportunity Cost = (decision to forego a different skill)

The three of these act as a measure of Marginal Utility, a common economic measurement of consumption and decision making.  In simple terms, players look at the cost of a skill, the additional bonus against other skills they may need or want when making their skill picks.  Even with high DP costs, most players can afford a versatile selection of skills.  That’s because the first 10 ranks offer the highest marginal utility per DP cost AND most skills are limited by a maximum gain of 2 ranks per level.  By capping skill rank increases per level you force players to choose the skills that provides them better cost/benefit than CORE skills.  In effect this system has an unintended consequence of reinforcing character classes/tropes. So the marketing effort is ‘no limitations’ but is really ‘play by the common rules’.

One way to address this is to modify the skill rank bonus progression.  The current system is simple: +5 for ranks 1-10, +2 for ranks 11-20.  I would suggest a different approach, starting with Rank 1 a bonus of: +1, +2, +3, +4…..+8, +7, +6, +5, +4 down to +1/2 after Rank 20.  Ultimately this gives you the same bonus at Rank 20 you have under the current system.  Not only would this change players skill picks since buying 1 rank of a new skill has less utility,  but the progression has a more intuitive curve.

As discussed previously, a change to the skill bonus chart will have an affect on player skill picks.  This would then be combined with a change to the skill DP costs: basically making skill acquisition limitless at each level with a marginal cost increase per rank per character level.

So while this system can allow a player to increase a skill at a much faster pace than the current system it comes with a much greater DP and opportunity cost.    If Caylis had chosen to gain 1 rank per experience level his total DP cost for 8 ranks of that skill would be 16.  Instead he used 29.  The combined effect of this change to the skill rank bonus and DP cost adds a third dimension to decision making.  A player that wants to excel at a particular skill early will be able to do so, but at a substantial opportunity cost of other skills.

The added benefit to this system is that it can not only standardizes character class creation but also allows for a classless system as well.  The best of both worlds.

In response to forum feedback:

Despite the thread title, which was meant to be evocative, I’ve carefully stated that this system works for both a skill driven system or applied to the current RM classes.  I did skill cost allocations for all of the original 18 classes in about 45 minutes.  If players/GM’s want to use the existing classes then it’s easy and quick to adapt.  If a GM wants to generate a new class based on his campaign setting then he has a toolkit that allows for an efficient and flexible method.  If a player wants to tweak the skill costs on his character than there is baseline for doing so(in this case 162 pts to allocate as skill costs assignments).

 

I was never arguing removing professions.  “Argument against Professions” was meant to strip away preconceptions and then rebuild the class/skill/cost framework consistent with the rules and spirit of the original RM.

 

Get Off My Lawn!!!!! RPG Rant of the Day.

“Fair and Balanced” is not just a Fox News blurb, but a constantly cited principle for RPG game design. But what is balance? An arbitrary viewpoint? Neutral game mechanics? “Fairness”? Often it comes down to personal opinions and long accepted norms established long ago in D&D.

RMU development is a perfect case study in the tension between rethinking a ruleset and an unquestioning loyalty to RPG tropes. The most basic assumptions are often the most discussed: Magic Users can’t wear armor; magic is broken down into 2 or 3 realms; the balanced party (Fighter, Thief, MU, Cleric); Class tropes and the definition of a particular class, etc.

Rolemasterblog has discussed and deconstructed many of these tropes, but it always seems like the fall back argument is “balance”—without ever a real discussion of what balance means. Like most of you, I started playing D&D and AD&D—you know what? That was a broken, unbalanced system. I recall playing a higher level Cleric at a CON and just destroying everything. (Blade Barrier anyone?). It wasn’t fun, it frustrated the DM and while I got all the glory it didn’t feel earned.

Table top RPG games have too many variables to allow for true balance. Players can make unexpected choices, it’s impossible to create encounter parity and role-playing actions can usurp game mechanics. Also, the adventure or GM can emphasize other aspects that rely less upon game mechanics and more on problems solving or role-playing. The problem with “balance” is that it assumes the following paradigm:

 

This model positions the GM on opposing end with a ruleset balancing the two. This is a false dichotomy, with the main focus on the impact of rules on the player and PC’s.

However, if chasing “balance” is a false choice, then a better mental model switches the positions of “Rules” and “GM”.

This model accepts that no open system can ever be truly “balanced” and recognizes that the GM is the final arbiter AND best able to adjust game flow to handle unpredictable outcomes, player behaviors and rule shortcomings.

I’m less concerned with a PC being able to cast spells AND wear armor, than a flexible set of rules that handle in game action resolution. Profession constraints, skill access and player roles within a group are NOT really RM/RMU game mechanics. The game mechanics are maneuver resolution, skill check resolution, spell resolution and combat resolution. Period. Whether a mage can wear armor or what skill costs should be for a Ranger is purely arbitrary or setting specific and not part of game balance.

“Balance” is the last argument of the scoundrel! So GET OFF MY LAWN!!!!

Mobile Apps and RPGs

In the real world right now I am studying Android development and Java programming. As a roleplayer I simply cannot do this without thinking about how I could use this to make bespoke roleplaying tools for my phone.

I am also a big fan of open source software and freeware.

The only real problem with creating Rolemaster apps is that RM is such a closed system that ICE would never agree to anything open source that anyone could take, change, expand and share.

Anything I could create would have to be somewhat generic. The most generic of rpg apps has to be the dice roller and there are hundreds of those available.

Somewhere there is a middle ground of more useful than a dice roller but system agnostic enough to avoid the intellectual property rights belonging to ICE but also useful to the RM fan base.

Does anyone have any ideas?

Combat realism in Rolemaster & RMU. Good, bad, neither?

Interesting writing over on “Takeonrules

By this time, I had been playing Rolemaster and Dungeons & Dragons, games that placed a tremendous amount of rules explanation on combat and fighting.  And I maintain that by placing emphasis on combat, combat is more likely to occur.

Blog Post worth a read. Thoughts? I haven’t spent much time on 5th Ed., but I get the impression that the focus has deliberately changed to support role-playing and narrative rather than combat. Other new games like Monte Cooks Cypher System are paving the way for new role-playing narrative forms.

Is RM and RMU chasing down the rabbit hole for ever greater combat realism?

An introduction to Solo Roleplay

I thought I would write a short mini series on Solo Roleplaying, what it is, what it is good for and how to do it. At first glance the very idea of Solo roleplaying is almost oxymoronic, how can a hobby so dependent on conversation and social interaction be done on your own. Isn’t that just day dreaming?

Firstly I would say that solo roleplaying is slightly miss named. It should really be GM-less roleplaying. You can solo with a whole group of players or just a single player, namely yourself. The only thing you don’t need is the GM.

So how is this going to work?

I will get into the actual mechanics in a future post but the principle is this. You use your imagination to fill in 90-odd percent of the details but when you come across a key point, to phrase it as a yes/no question and roll the dice. To show you what I mean imagine your favourite RM character is in the dungeons of a castle and you are trying to escape. I hope you can see the character, the dark passages of the dungeons and so on. Your character reaches the end of the passage. If you were playing this in a group you would probably ask the GM “Are there any guards?” At that point you would roll the dice.

The rules and tables that make up a solo roleplaying set of rules are called an engine. A solo engine is a little like a magic 8 ball but give an answer something like ‘no, and…’ to ‘no’ to ‘yes’ to ‘yes, and’. You can think of that as almost open ended down, fail, success, open ended up. If you have ever had your players make a moving manouvre roll then you have been using a solo engine.

Player “Can I leap the chasm?”

GM “roll your MM”,

Player ” open ended downward, -200″

GM “Not only do you fail to make the leap but you fall and take 8hits and are stunned for 2 rounds.”

Anyone who has rolled a MM or a random encounter have to some extent abdicated their GMing responsibilities to the dice.

Solo engines just formalise this into a set of rules that take account of how likely the answer should be yes or no and how to move the plot or adventure on.

Solo engines also normally have a mechanism for plot twists or a chaotic factor that can force the story in a different direction. Normally you just use common sense for that setting to fill in the details. If you are in the dungeons of a human king then chances are the guards are going to be humans armed with culturally common weapons and armour. If you are in a orc stronghold then they are likely to be orcs. You don’t need to roll to determine that. Likewise the solo engine does not replace skills. If you want to pick a lock the you don’t ask the solo engine, you roll your skill.

Solo engines can be as complex as dozens of rolls from pages of tables to a single roll of 1d6, but they all do the same job to a lesser or greater extent.

In the next installment I will go more into why you may want to look into solo engines.

 

 

2017 ahead

Well we have completed the 12 days of Rolemaster as Christmas is now over.

We thought we ring a few changes for 2017 and the first of these is that we have a new blogger!

Hurin is a stalwart if the ICE forums and an avid RMU play tester. His Rolemaster background is very much RM2.

We have a new schedule. Individually we will be creating less posts. I will be posting every Friday or ‘something for the weekend’ as I like to think of it. Brian will be posting on Wednesdays. There will be weekend round ups as well. This gives us room to bring you Hurin’s posts and we hope to have a fourth voice to announce soon.

We also hit 500 twitter followers over Christmas which is really cool. The last time I looked we were at 520+.

I am hoping that in 2017 we will be able to bring you more product reviews. ICE certainly seems to be gearing up for more and more frequent new products.

So until next Friday, when I will post the second instalment of my RMU play test, have fun.

Season Greetings and Happy Holidays!

This may be my last post for the year due to the holidays and travel so I thought I would finish up 2016 with some random thoughts.

  1. I started posting earlier this year and I’m not really sure how many articles I’ve posted. I keep a running list of ideas that pop into my head: some random, some sparked by comments on the RM Forums and some when I’m working on RM/SW stuff. A few times I come up with great ideas and don’t write them down—only to forget them. That’s frustrating. Obviously Peter has been doing this longer and keeping up a 2 blog/week pace takes quite a bit of discipline. Other RPG blog sites post MUCH less frequently or have lots of contributors to share the load. Both Peter and I have encouraged others to write posts but haven’t really gotten a strong response. That surprises me given the number of people that write fairly long and technical arguments in the RM Forums; I would think they would have other material to contribute?
  2. I’ve posted up a number of blogs and RM posts regarding to big projects I’ve been working on for over 10 years. Project BASiL (Brians Alternate Spell Law) and SW “Red Atlas” (name inspired by the Redbook used for RMC I). Our SW “Red Atlas” is over 300 pages without charts, pictures, graphics, layout or any creatures and a narrative timeline rather than the standard date timeline and fills in a lot of fundamental information that we needed to address during our own gameplay. More importantly it consolidates all the “world level” info into one tome, drawn from all the canon books that Terry has written. Differentiating world info from local or regional info was a useful exercise—and allowed us to identify gaps in material that could be expanded in a future Master Atlas.
  3. Priest-King of Shade. Terry has hinted that he’d like to get “Priest-King of Shade” done this year. The module is 27 years in the making—the original manuscript was approved by Coleman in 1989 and sent back with hand-written notes by Terry but life got in the way and ICE when through changes and I never finished it. “Shade” is actually a spin-off of that original project: Empire of the Black Dragon (which is now a separate module I’m finishing up). There has been some speculation on its relationship to “Shade of the Sinking Plain” so I thought I would provide a few answers. In fact, Priest-King was meant to be a re-imagining or ret-con of the “Sinking Plain”—a module that really never fit in with the Loremaster or Shadow World series. I took some of the material from Empire of the Black Dragon and worked to make a loose adaption or “inspired by” module. If you have ever read “Sinking Plain” you know that there isn’t much info that fits into SW—it is very D&D in style and feels like an early Midkemia Press or Judges Guild product. However there were some cool elements that were used for inspiration. Here is an early blurb I wrote for the back cover:

Agyra. Far from the historic events of Emer and Jaiman, this region has been cruelly shaped for thousands of years by both natural forces and the powerful flows of Essence.  Scattered and isolated tribes peoples are a legacy of a nation that sunk beneath the waves in millennium past. Monolithic blocks scattered along deserted coasts and leagues of crumbled ruins lying in shallow waters are remnants of a lost civilization.

 However, these lands are not dormant. Powerful nations and secretive groups are at odds: a war of not just arms but of politics and commerce.  Into this conflict a new power has risen. A mysterious Priest-King and his devout followers have occupied an ancient citadel and are slowly expanding their power across the lands.  For the nearby tribes that inhabit the coasts, these newcomers are viewed with outright fear. Rumors of demonic armies, missing children and empty villages have cast a pall throughout these lands.  

But adventurers have come nonetheless. Ancient ruins have been discovered: a sprawling city lying submerged in the shallow waters off the southern coast of Agyra. Many believe the ruins date millennia back to the First Era and holds untold wealth and the secrets of the Ancients.

The Priest-King of Shade is a module detailing the lands of South West Agyra and the growing empire of the Priest-King of Shade.  This product contains a regional guide, maps and layouts of key places, detailed description of key NPCs and 12 adventures ready to play.  Designed for player’s level 5-20.  Will you confront the minions of the Priest-King?

 

  1. Empire of the Black Dragon. I was focused almost exclusively on getting “Shade” published and let EotBD idle for several years. Now I’m back working on it and hope to have a draft ready for review in the next few months. I’ve always found Ulya Shek the more interesting of the DragonLords and the tech angle adds to the creative design choices. It feels more like a “Fortress” book (MERP) rather than a linear adventure or regional overview module. We’ll see. I had also wanted to tackle Drul Churk but Terry covered him in Emer III.
  2. It’s amazing how much work has gone into the RMU re-design. Given the fact that it’s all volunteer you really have to applaud the contributors. House ruling professions or combat sequences is quite different than designing a framework for attack tables and critical charts or a foundation for creature development. Yes, some of it is very crunchy and may not need to be in the initial product offering, but it’s a tremendous amount of work. So Kudos to Matt, Vlad, Dan and now Jonathan (sorry if I missed anyone else) for all their effort. I’m sure they have felt unappreciated at times but they carried the load for all of us.

If you are regular reader here at the Rolemasterblog, thanks! If you have an interest in adding your voice to this blog than please reach out to Peter. Best wishes to all on this holiday season.

RPG Game Design. Leveraging familiar elements into your creative process.

The more things change the more they stay the same. When designing an adventure it’s difficult to avoid using established tropes—most stories can be distilled down into just a handful of plotlines. Some GM’s and players embrace common fantasy standards but for the GM that wants to create something a bit different what can you do? After 40 years of RPG history, thousands of modules and game ideas can you really come up with something unique?

 

Even Shadow World has been accused of being too “kitchen sink and it’s obvious that many of SW’s elements are fairly standard tropes are similar to our own world:

  1. Greek/Roman pantheon of Gods.
  2. Planets and moon names.
  3. Orcs, Goblins, Immortal Elves, High Men
  4. Classical western architecture.

If no idea or plot device is truly original, how can we continual design new adventures that feel fresh to our game group, challenge them, or surprise them? Here I want to discuss three mental models that I use when developing adventure content: the “Loki”, “Bohdi” and “Constanza”.

  1. The “Loki”. This is one of my favorites. Loki was quite the trickster and a good head fake can throw the players off their standard operating procedure. Embrace an established idea but give it a twist: the Dungeon Boss that the players confront for their final challenge? Make him a low level impostor. The Orc lair in the foothills of the mountain that the players want to raid? Turn it into a monastery and school of learning. Messing with established tropes can challenge player’s ready assumptions and tactics and put a new spin on the game.
  2. The “Bohdi”. The Bohdi is adopting an established idea, trope or reference as a framework to build your own material. For instance, I had a culture descended from an ancient high tech race (Xiosians) living in the mountains. The people were genetically modified but appeared to be barbaric due to the loss of the technical heritage. I thought that the depiction of Khan and the crew of the Botany Bay marooned on Ceti Alpah VI (fyi Star Trek) would be a great template to use. By adopting this idea I anchored a strong image in my mind as the basis of my desired culture which sped up the writing process.
  3. The “Costanza”. What does George do when nothing seems to be working? He does the opposite of his normal instincts! This is a more extreme example of the Loki—doing the diametric opposite of a trope or established idea. The supposed bad guys are actually the good guys, food has more value than gold or treasure, the “Good” gods are actual manipulative evil bastards, traps that heal not harm etc. A perfect example is the “Killer Bunny” in Monty Pythons Holy Grail movie (I think that deadly bunny is in C&T?).

Combined these three mental models help me write new adventure material. The “Loki” keeps the players off balance, the “Bohdi” helps create material that seems new or novel but with a foundation of familiarity and the “Costanza” teaches the players not to get to comfortable with long held beliefs and assumptions.

“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)

TABLE:

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.

Demons and Devils – 5ex5

Asmodius the Demon Prince

I have had an incredibly busy week, so much so that I missed blogging on Monday completely! What I should have been doing is working on the D&D 5th Edition conversion to a D100 system. I am doing this conversion very much with a Rolemaster hat on and it is interesting to see what D&D has that Rolemaster doesn’t and what it does very differently.  One of those are the Demons and Devils.

Demon Princes

You can tell I am working on the Monster Manual right now can’t you. Demons are a classic fantasy monster and we have our own rolemaster demons with our type 1 to 5 pales and so on. When you compare that to the D&D world you get an entire ecology of abominations to play with from relatively weak monsters to named demon princes. I had forgotten just how many of these there actually were in the core D&D books.

Asmodius the Demon Prince
Asmodius the Demon Prince

Crusading Knights

I think that D&D had its origins in a fairly real world concept. You can almost see the fighter class being cast as a crusading knight. As soon as you take a step in that Christian direction then demons and devils are nature enemies to be defeated.

Rolemaster has a strong Tolkien heritage

Rolemaster on the other hand has a strong Tolkien heritage and in that setting there are certainly no devils but the Balrog certainly seems demonic even if they are of the maiar. Once you step away from middle earth then that demonic niche needs filling. I think the developers gave us elven demons and human demons to fill the gap. Seeing as Middle Earth had no devils then Rolemaster has no devils.

I think it is interesting that in 30+ years I have never felt the need to reintroduce devils back into the monsterous ecology of my game world which is in fact their natural environment of Faerun.