In Search of the Unknown: Reintroducing caution to your players.


After decades of GMing one of my greatest challenges has been to consistently invoke the feeling of surprise, wonder, fear and even caution into gameplay. While they may not be “jaded”, my gaming group have seen it all: there is no plot device, game trope or foe that will truly surprise them. We will probably never replicate the wonder and surprise we felt gaming when we young teenagers but I would still like to instill some caution into my players—they often make decisions based on the assumption that every encounter is perfectly balanced or that they will get bailed out by “greater forces” if they get in over their head.

I think a number of factors have contributed to this:

  1. Simplified combat systems. Starting out on d20 game systems reinforced combat by attrition. Battles were a methodical race to 0 hits with no real impacts. You were either combat capable or unconscious. At mid to higher levels it was easy to keep a running tally of average hit damage; combined with players knowledge of monster stats combat became an exercise in simple math. The introduction of criticals in Rolemaster changed that calculation—combat could be decisive—quickly—and accumulated damage had a real impact on characters performance. Nonetheless there are still a great number of players who never parry, preferring all offense all the time.
  2. Assumption of “Game Balance”. There is a lot of lip service paid to game balance but let’s be clear—as long as there is a human arbiter (the GM) there really is no such thing as pure game mechanics ruled by random number generation. GM’s will often put their influence on the scales of balance. Players know this and rely upon the GM to tip encounters and balance in their favor to maintain the storyline. No GM wants to be considered heartless—this is after all a game, played for enjoyment—and allowing PC’s to die can be a fun killer. As a GM I want adventures to challenge, but I also want my players to act rationally.
  3. The Heroic Journey. Characters/players see themselves as the central characters in a storyline—and main characters don’t get killed. Heroes don’t retreat, don’t surrender and never take prisoners!
  4. Inside Baseball. Most experienced players are well versed in the rules and the monster stats. Combat becomes a quick calculation of abilities, offense, hits etc. Knowing what’s behind the curtain can take some of the fun out of the game and combat choices becomes a calculation of odds rather than true “role-playing” of the character.
  5. Magical Healing. Making most injuries healable, often instantly takes some of the penalty out of reckless behavior.

To counter these player mindset’s I use a number of strategies:

  1. Upend Tropes. I love using my player’s bias’s and assumptions against them. The “mysterious old man in a tattered cloak”: Disguised god? Powerful enchanter? Nope, he’s exactly what he looks like—a low level bum. The “red shirt” city guard: Low level fighter? Throw away nobody? Nope—he’s a retired army commander of considerable skill.
  2. Random Encounters. I use the random encounter table quite a bit without adjusting for the group’s level. They will encounter powerful beings or situations but they’ll have a chance to talk, parley, hide or run. Shadow World is a dangerous place and the players are a “tiny fish on a big hook”.
  3. Ancillary costs of losing. I don’t want my players to die but I’m not rewarding foolishness. There are other potential costs to losing a battle: being captured, losing possession/favorite items, temp stat loss from injuries or even more serious permanent stat loss or loss of a finger/limb/organ. Most damage be fixed with magical healing and items replaced but it’s going to cost the players time and effort.
  4. Personalize opponents. I think players react different when their opponent is personalized a bit more. Fighting “4 mercenaries wearing leather armor and wielding short swords” is antiseptic and anonymous. However, when the players are confronted by “3 men and a women wearing worn and dirty leather armor, all with long unkempt hair, dirty faces and rusty swords approach the party hesitantly but with a desperate look in their eyes…” the players will not only visualize their adversaries but perhaps react differently as well.
  5. Have foes behave rationally. Whether humanoids, animals or monsters, my foes behave to their nature. They don’t fight to the death; they flee when injured, surrender when beaten or call for the PC’s to surrender when triumphant.
  6. Most opponents are NPC characters. Our Shadow World is “monster lite” and we use a “no profession” system so it’s difficult to gauge the powers and abilities of NPC’s. My players have to be cautious when engaging with NPC’s and they can’t assume typical abilities implied by the profession system when a NPC utilizes a distinct skill or spell.

Over time my players have become naturally distrustful—mostly of my craftiness—but that translates to their gameplay. They are cautious engaging and they rely on an initial strategy of defense until they can take the measure of their opponent. They understand the importance of parrying and they know there are worse things than death! How about waking up unclothed, without any of their hard-won treasured items and missing your sword hand? Yikes.

Thoughts on growing the RM and SW gaming community.


For those that feel like table-top RPG’s are a stagnant market or that there is no growth opportunity for ICE, RM or Shadow World I would point out two facts:

  1. There are an average of 27 new forum members per day on the ICE Forums. That’s not a lot but that’s incremental growth. Every new member will be able to see the development of RMU, the large number of resources in terms of thread topics, file uploads and Q&A’s that are available and the active participation of product authors. Being able to get quick and detailed responses from the RMU developers or Terry himself is pretty cool—especially to a new ICE customer!
  2. There are still gamers that haven’t heard of, or are not familiar with Shadow World! Even after almost 30 years. I recently saw this thread where several posters were completely unaware:

There are three basic ways to grow sales: acquire new customers (grow the game community), convert competitor’s customers or sell/upsell to your existing customers. Many would argue that growth in new table top players is stagnant, lost to new media and video games. But growth is occurring and RM and SW have a place in that market. Converting gamers to RM and SW is a bit easier—RM started as a modular “bolt on” product to D&D and SW has never really been stat intensive and can and has been used with a variety of gaming systems. Selling more product to current customers is the fall-back approach; what we call “low hanging fruit”. Publish a new product or revision and you’ll get a certain percentage of existing customers that will buy it—baked-in sales.

There is certainly opinions and criticisms of each of these approaches. Some argue that RMU won’t bring in new gamers; that ICE needs a simple introductory rule set. Others feel ICE just needs to push out more products in general. If there was one right answer, or if business strategy was that definitive than everyone would be a millionaire! The truth is that all three channels need to be explored and I think that ICE is doing a fairly good job given its organizational footprint and resources to bear.

There are new tools for small or emerging companies: social media, organic growth strategies, guerilla marketing etc. Putting those aside, there is one essential strategy for growing a customer base: from the ground up: “boots on the ground”. RM and SW need to be introduced locally, whenever possible. Gaming nights at the local library, game store or youth center. Tournament modules at gaming conventions etc. Other industries use “sponsorships”; this might be worth exploring. Having GM starter packs, online private forums and other tools to encourage local GM’s to adopt ICE games and use them locally builds a customer base. Reimbursing GM’s for travel and hotel costs at GENCON might pay itself off quite well.

Let’s look at another industry that has some similarities: rapid adoption, youth client base, local growth. I used to be heavily involved in the paintball industry. The sport grew rapidly in the 2000’s: tournaments were televised nationally, fields opened up everywhere, there were at least 8 glossy magazines dedicated to the sport and equipment companies had robust sponsorships for teams and local retail stores. Over time, the equipment manufacturers started their own retail websites and sold directly to their customer base. Once they captured direct sales and the associated retail margins they became less motivated to spend money on local sponsorship and player development. They became direct competitors of the local stores. While the economic crash was a contributing factor, since the late 2000’s the industry has shrunk by 80%. Yes, part of the issue was the wholesale/retail strategy of the manufacturers, but a larger part was a slower and more insidious feedback loop: there is no place to play paintball.  Store retail sales suffered, which reduced player development, field investments and local marketing. Because of this, fewer players participated in paintball and store sales suffered further. Local paintball businesses closed and there were less options to play and thus less players. Overall a self-fulfilling downward spiral.

What are the analogs to the gaming industry? Local development can be an effective strategy to growing a customer base. I don’t think RGP’s will see the same boom that we experienced in the early 80’s BUT…aging gamers are teaching their kids to play and creating a new generation of RPGers. It’s a slower process that requires a broader strategy than a top-down advertising or point of sale effort. Supporting gaming conventions, creating a GM starter pack, reimbursing experienced GM’s to attend every con possible, creating a “game ambassadorships” for targeted cities/regions—these are low cost strategies to build the game base. Growing the local gaming community grows the base, which then grows company sales. A virtuous feed-back loop.




Nemeses: Introducing “Newman Groups” into your campaign.

Newman NEWMAN!!!

One of the more enjoyable elements of my past campaigns has been creating an opposing group of NPC’s that compete or thwart the party as their characters grow in experience and power. Seinfeld had his “Newman” and Indiana Jones had his “Belloq”; a fleshed out contra-group can add a personal and competitive feel to the gameplay more than just another nameless villain or mob-boss. Over a long campaign the relationship between the groups can evolve based on their shared experiences and conflicts and eventually lead to a final “reckoning” or confrontation.

This NPC Nemeses (Newman Group) doesn’t necessarily need to be similar in make-up to the PC’s but having similarities allows each PC to have their own specific nemesis as well. So there is a group vs group dynamic concurrent with a more personal and individual PC vs NPC dynamic.

Depending on your setting there are many ways to initiate a “Newman Group”.

  1. Opposing Gods. The most obvious mechanism for opposing groups is to have each group avatars of a pantheon or god. In Shadow World the conflict between the gods of Charon and Orhan sets that up easily.
  2. Opposing Employers. At lower levels PC’s are often just trying to survive, accumulate experience and wealth. Giving the PC’s a patron (Priest, Lord, merchant, scribe, mage etc) that assigns them tasks creates a tidy mechanism to start adventures. It’s only natural that such a patron would have an enemy or competitor that would also need their own group of henchman.
  3. The Unlife. Of course you could forgo subtlety and create an opposing group under the thrall of the Unlife. Perhaps they work for one of the 12 Adherants, the Priest Arnak or similar organization. This sets up a longer term campaign thread into the larger SW plotline.
  4. Familial or background element. Perhaps one of the PC’s has a brother, sister or family member they are at odds with. Jealousy, inheritance issues, rivalry or racial tensions could all be the spark to start the groups down the path of opposition.
  5. Friendly competition. Introducing the opposing group early only as a general competitor for a certain goal or treasure can leave the future open-ended. Later as the campaign progresses the groups could form an uneasy alliance to overcome a difficult task or transform into more serious and deadly rivalry.

The NPC group should plan, act and behave as the PC’s would. They will retreat or surrender when beaten; plan carefully when expecting an encounter with the PC’s and have their own goals, aims and desires. The more personal you make the relationship between your PCs and the Newman Group the more depth it will add to the gameplay. Once the rivalry is introduced it came become a great plot device to confound, frustrate and delight your players. Whether intentionally plot driven, random or capricious, the players will be left wondering as to the role of their nemeses when they encounter them!

Different GM-ing Styles

I am a bit of a minimalist in almost everything I do. Below is a picture of my gaming table.

The RolemasterBlog gaming table
The RolemasterBlog gaming table

At this end of  the table you can see the adventure, one set of dice, a notepad, tablet PC for the PDF rules and shades. What else does the modern GM need? Tea, but you can see liberal cups of tea around the table so that is sorted as well. (Actually through the tea is in Brian’s honour as that is what he thinks British roleplayers only drink!)

(The creatures & treasures on the table is not mine, the cleric is into summoning beasties to fight for him.)

You can also see the post-it notes on the players character sheets that I wrote about recently. I really do not like having to rummage through rule books, companions and supplements while I am playing because if I am doing that then I am not playing. The game has to stop while I try and find the answer the players  asked for.

I am not the only GM in our group and bearing in mind that both of us had to ship our games half way across the UK to get to the hosts home this is what GM#2 brought as a minimum….

The Sorcerous GM's game notes.
The Sorcerous GM’s game notes.

The most amusing thing here are the ring binders on the left. They are the RMC PDF rules! The blue clipboards are our character sheets and everything in between is either companions or plot notes.

The only way I can get away with my ultra light gaming is in the pregame preparation. It doesn’t really take that long to make sure that each character has their spell lists printed out with their character sheet. I also try and preempt and rule questions. I look up the rules and the copy and paste the actual wording into a Word document. I then have a single compendium of the rules at hand with the book and page numbers in case we want to look further. In this game there was a risk of characterskills falling, drowning and being poisoned so I had all those rules to hand.

I also maintain a pdf of the charts and tables I use the most. This takes the place of the GM’s screen. I have found that there is one chart that I had not added to it that we have used twice recently so I have updated my PDF to include it.

None of these things take very long. I am pretty sure every GM reads through their game notes before a session and at that time to just check any rules that you cannot remember takes but a moment. What it saves though is at least an hour of lost game time when you add it all up over three days of gaming.

Another plus point is that combat runs really quickly now. In a RM game I played in for 15 years or so each combat round used to take up to 45minutes and we were not a massive party. In one day my players had seven combats and fought 18 creatures ranging from a couple of osquips through half a dozen  skeletons and an 8th level Hook Horror.

A hook horror
A hook horror

I know my game is combat heavy, it is a consequence of playing so infrequently, but there is no way we could have done so much in a single day running from the crate of dead tree.

But then that is just how I am happiest doing things.

The NPCs of Daggerdale

Rolemaster Logo

My players have been working their way through the Doom of Daggerdale module. This was one of the things I have converted over to Rolemaster. Not only did I have to convert Hook Horrors and the Nightshade/Wood Wose creatures but there are three significant NPCs in Daggerdale. These are Randle Morn, Caldoran The Razor and Tren Hoemfor.

The first that the Players meet is Randle Morn the displaced Constable of Daggerfalls, the traditional ruler of the town and Dagerdale. According to the module Randle is a 7th level fighters/6th level thief. In my conversion I have made him a 10th level Rogue. This gives him the strength in combat as well as the breadth of skills. You can use the standard generic NPCs for him and just give him +5 Chain mail (AT14), +10 full shield (+35/+25), a +5 long sword and a +10 long bow. In my world these are all superior quality non-magical weapons. I chose to give him the leadership and public speaking skills required to inspire a band of 200 men to continue to fight a partisan war against the Black Network.

Tren Hoemfor is a D&D 7th level fighter. This translates into a Rolemaster 10th level fighter with Chain (AT13), a +10 broad sword and two interesting magic items.

The first is a Cloak of Displacement. I have made this a Daily Item that casts Displacement I once per day (5th level Guises, Illusionist Base). I made this decision because I did not want to introduce a magical item into the game that I would regret if it fell into the players hands!

The second item is a Ring of the Ram. This ring in D&D does 1, 2 or 3d6 damage in the form of a ramming attack depending on how many charges are used. My version is again a daily item embedded with Vacuum I (3rd level Gas Destruction, Sorcerer Base) three times a day this  delivers a single impact critical severity B. I thnk the damage it delivers is slightly less than the D&D version but it does not have a limited number of charges so on balance I think it is on a par.

The third and final NPC is Caldoran the Razor. I am not going to give you his complete stats but a general outline. In D&D he is a 6th level Mage. I have made him a 10th level human Archmage. The interesting thing about archmages is that they can pick their ten base lists from any profession and any realm. I this case I chose the Alchemist list Liquid Gas Skills that enables him to create potions. The eaty of this list is that it allows him to create potions. I have then given him a substantial stock of potions from his own spells (1st to 3rd level and those of his allies. What I have aimed for is to massively extend his pool of powerpoints and therefore how dangerous a foe he is without having to resort to giving him powerful magic items. Potions are inherently single use and in someways force players into making choices. If they use the potion now then it is gone or save it until they really need it. As it is they have no way of telling what any of these potions do without testing them the most basic way of holding your nose and swallowing it down.

I am a big fan of low level spells. I think there are some really cool powers in there that often get over looked by bigger and more powerful spells. Another option is of course you can give potions to somebody else and there is no skill involved in use it. In Rolemaster you need a certain skill to invoke a rune or scroll. Potions are just glug it down and hope for the best!

As it is Calderan is still alive and kicking and a danger to the PCs so I cannot go into much more detail. Once he is done for I will share what his stock of potions was and how he used them.

It is Game Recovery Week!

I am back from my weekend of gaming and these long weekends take their toll on this poor old GM. I feel this is game recovery week when I try and get over the effects of too little sleep and the diet of a 18 year old student. Gone are the days when I could game until 3am night after night!

The game went well, the evil magician escaped but following the antics of the players he is going to have to do some serious remodeling at home! The party are all spell casters and when faced by their third locked door resorted to using a pair of lump hammers and entering rooms like some kind of police raid. What was interesting was how often some of the situations turned on a single lucky dice roll.

The first instance of this was a situation where the party were bottled up in a small chamber, arrowslits and murder holes pointed into the room and before them were some heavy stone doors. Out side the room firing in were skeletal warriors under the control of our villain.

The priest tries casting repulsions and on a roll of 97 (base spells roll) destroys every single skeleton at the first invocation of his gods name (Torm, if you are famiiar with the Forgotten Realms panthion). That gave the lump hammer wielding front row the break they needed to get at the doors. I had expected that killing zone to pose a real problem for the players. Their first attempt was them getting as close as they could and then casting Sleep and waiting for the sounds of falling bodies. Two spell casters wasted sleep spells before they spotted the archers were undead.

The second dice roll was a perception roll. The bad guy was on the run and trying to make his escape with his more precious posessions. In the romm next door the party were searching for any sign of him, believing they had killed everything in this part of the underground chambers. At the first attempt one of the players made an open-ended perception roll of over 320! So much for the quiet get away.

It was not the slickest ‘dungeon’ clear out I have ever seen but I am beginning to see the start of the party gelling together. Several times they failed to communicate and we had people either casting completely contradictory spells. The Warrior Mage cast sleep on one foe just as the Sorceress cast Vacuum on the same target. In the next fight the same two clashed again by both preparing can casting Sleep VII and a Sleep VI on the same target. These at least started the conversation about working together.

It also highlighted the weakness in that the party have no real healer, the cleric doesn’t have any serious healing spells, just concussion ways, and the seer who has been playing the role of healer only has first aid and some herb lore. The party also lack a scout or thief. This time they got away with using lump hammers and they had left locked doors alone until they had probably killed all the other minions. Their approach is not so good if you are worried about maybe trying stealth for once!

The only creature left alive as far as the players know was a huge worm type creature trapped at the bottom of a pit. It looked somewhat like this…

A Giant Bloodworm

The party managed to gather up all the evil magician’s healing herbs, that comprised most of the ‘treasure’ in the adventure, and throw it down the pit. They knew the magician was performing dark rituals to create animated wooden effigies to do his dirty work. When they found his ritual chamber they gathered everything including the herbs, threw it in the cauldron and tossed the lot down the pit.

I suspect the party could do with a better herbalist as well!

Five Days until next Game Session plus traps and puzzles

Next weekend I will be running my next face to face game session. I have read over the game notes and the adventure module. I have just decided that the main trap/puzzle that the players have to solve I don’t like.

Lots of these old D&D modules have magical traps and puzzles in them which seemed fine when I was 14years old but now when I look at them I just don’t like them. Dare I say they are a bit silly? So I need to come up with my own replacement puzzle (in this case it performs as a lock to get deeper into a magicians tomb) that I feel comfortable with and gives a more serious tone to the adventure.

For this I think I want to construct something based around an astrolabe. I thought I was on a winner and being original until I did a Google images search and the top results were all for the Game of Thrones astrolabe. I read the books a few years ago and the idea must have stuck. What I did discover was that an astrolabe was not actually what I was looking for. What I was imagining was actually an Orrery.

An Orrery

Now, an Orrery is a great basis for a puzzle and seeing as the dead dude in the story was actually an alchemist the creation of a magical orrery is entirely consistant with the story and the world.

I am intentionally not giving my players any permenant magical items at the moment just scrolls, potions and single use items. One reason being that in a previous campaign I played in the game became completely overshadowed by the magic items the characters carried. To some extent it became that we were playing the equipment list not the characters. The other reason is that single use items force the characters to make choices. The item is used now or later but it cannot be used both ways. The only items that have are healing, the most powerful of which is a scroll of life giving, a single use bring a dead character back option. I like that one because it gives me the option of killing a character and knowing that it wil not be final.

Anyway back to the Alchemist’s tomb. I cannot tell you the actually trap/puzzle I intend to use as I am sure my players read the blog. What I have said here is not a spoiler for them as they have already know to expect something and its size and positioning will tell them exctly what it is when they see it.

Going right back to the beginning I have noticed now that in every D&D module I have converted over to Rolemaster I have removed either traps I think are immature or monsters that I simply cannot believe could have evolved or anyone would have created. The very first of which was the Gelatinous Cube. In the first game I ran for my players when they came upon a trap their first reaction was that “Oh this is a D&D adventure it wil be filled with silly traps.” It also brought out anecdotes about dungeons that had been ‘abandoned for centuries’ with corridors filled with locked doors behind which were two hobgoblins. How did they get there? Who fed them for the past 200 years? What were they waiting for? Needless to say I very quickly scanned through the adventure for any such room or other silly traps and I didn’t find any, thankfully.

Assuming we all started roleplaying with D&D back in the 70s and 80s we must have been much more accepting then or is it that I am now much more intolerant?

Making Monster Conversions (D&D to RM)

I have been away for quite a while but I am back in the land of the gaming now and I have a face to face gaming session coming up in just two weeks and I have a lot of monster nonversions to do!

I started looking at the game notes again this week and noticed I had quite a few D&D creatures to convert over to Rolemaster for the coming sessions. The main problem being that the party could go in one of two different directions and so I had to be prepared for both.

In the back of the original Creatures and Treasures book there are rules for converting D&D and Runequest creatures to Rolemaster. The RMC Creatures and Treasures doesn’t have this section. The reason for the omission is that the original RM rules were intended as an alterntive to the D&D rules that any DM could slot into his game. Therefore it was necessary to provide them with the conversion rules for them to work with. Rolemaster Classic on the other hand is a full standalone roleplaying game and is not intended to be used as supplimental material to another game. Rolemaster Classic then does not need the conversion rules. I am using RMC in the D&D setting Forgotten Realms and consequently I keep coming across creatures that are not in the standard Creatures and Treasures menagery so I need to do these conversions. Thankfully the conversion rules are also available on the ICE forums, in the downloads vault.

This week I grabbed the rules, created a spreadsheet and have been curning out the creatures I need. It doesn’t take long to get the basic stats but I still need to find the most fitting spell effects in Spell Law to finish them off and make them useable.

One of the things that stand out in this process is that D&D magic is in many ways both more powerful and less flexible than Rolemaster magic. Many of the Rolemster spell lists contain nearly useless spells (in combat situations mostly) such as heat solid that do not do any damage and in no way compare to D&D’s burning hands as an example of a spell at about the same level. Where your D&D magician may have 2x1st, 2x2nd and a third level spell at 5th level, the same level RM magician could have up to 15 power points that could be spent in any combination from 15 x 1st level spells to 3 x 5th level spells.

Some of the creatures I have been converting have druidic or animist type spell effects and if the creatures are not killed off in the first encounter they have some very interesting possibilities outside of combat because of the interesting nature of the spell lists.


After the game session, if the creatures come into their own I will share my stats for them!

Where Next in 2016?

The problem I have is this. I want to write about Rolemaster in general, the games I am running (Rolemaster Classic), the new Rolemaster (Rolemaster Unified), the Forgotten Realms, the new world of Aioskoru and I want to produce more actually playable adventures. I try and publish two posts a week and right now I am even failing to write that much. There is such a thing as being stead too thin and that is me right now.

I have recently bought both HARP Fantasy and HARP SF and I would like to get into those as well. I also have a face to face game weekend come up.

I think I am going to slow down a little and commit to producing one post a week but try and make it more substantial. The RMU side of things should go quiet for the time being as they are producing the final draft. That alone make all the current discussions in the Beta forums irrelevant as they are now discussing rules that will not exist.

The game I am running (Rolemaster Classic) and the Forgotten Realms side of things are pretty much one and the same for me and Aioskoru is game independent as it is purely a setting.

The single most useful thing I can do is produce the playable content. All memebers of the Rolemaster community can use that and there is very little of it out their on the web. If I make it fit in nicely with the Aoiskoru region I am working on I can tick more than one box at once with that.

I think you can also expect a bit more of a nautical theme going on as I am quite interested in seabourne adventures. So that is it. 2016 is going to bring more adventures. Next time (I am already working on this) I will share a ship with deck plans that will become the basis for a series of adventures. So until then have fun!

All of my Aioskoru content is made available under the Open Gaming License.

How do you like them odds?

The party in my table top game, you probably know, are a cleric, sorceress, warrior mage, elemental warrior and a mystic. In game terms the best fighters are actually semi spell users plus we have two hybrids and a pure spell user. The cleric and mystic are at present fulfilling the role of healer because they have no dedicated healer as such. The cleric can do magical healing and the mystic is the best herbalist.

In the last weekend the party had the option of taking the safe way around the woods or the dangerous way though the woods. No the party would not be real adventurers if they took the safe route would they?

Only a day in to the forest they came across the burnt remains of a wagon caravan and a little way off their slaughtered horses. They also managed to alert a couple of scouts looking for fresh victims. The party killed one but another escaped.

The banditry this time was being done by kobolds. I rather wanted to see how the party would fair against superior numbers. As characters they have not had much time to gell together and work out decent tactics and they had not really done much fighting yet either.

So half a dozen kobolds started to match pace with the party to the left of the road and another six to the right of the road. Seconds later two kobolds mounted on wolves broke cover ahead of the party and faced them down the road. The kobolds at this point had every intention to negotiate. Pitched battles were not their thing and being paid off to not fight suited them down to the ground.

Negotiation was not on the parties agenda. The lead kobold did not even get a chance to give his ultimatum. The warrior mage fired a sleep spell up the road. The cleric summoned a large crocodile and dropped it in amongst the kobold file on the left and the sorceress case vacuum amongst the kobolds to the right.

So at the start of the battle the five characters are facing 14 kobolds plus two wolves. Three to one odds in Rolemaster are not good odds to have against you.

I had told the players the wolf riders were about 100′ up the road and Surion the warrior mage announced he was going to cast sleep. (range 100′). I decided the range would be 90+2d10 feet and luckily for him they fell just inside the range. Not so luckily they made their resistance rolls.

The vacuum spell was more effective. It stunned three of the kobolds on one flank. It didn’t take any of them out but the kobolds were armed with light crossbows and it comletely disrupted their volley of bolts turning it into some sporadic fire.

On the other side of the track the crocodile landed amongst the kobolds and that drew most of their fire and certainly upset them.

Now we had the gods turn against the party. The warrior mage and the elemental warrior are actually doing OK. Another sleep spell goes off and takes out a the wolf riders. The elemental warroir is crashing through the undergrowth to engage the kobolds axe in one hand and sword in the other. The sorceress fumbles her spell casting roll but fortuneately only fails to cast the spell but keeps her power points. The cleric doesn’t bother trying to control the crocodile, just lets it do its thing now the kobolds are fighting it and decided to try and summon a second one to fight along side them. Bolts fly into the camp and one buries itself deeply into the clerics chest ad he is gushing blood.

The warriors try and chase down kobolds who are not really up for a fight against heavily armed and armoured warriors. Some of the previously stunned kobolds start to recover and loose off their crossbow bolts. The mystic decides to do her Florence Nightingale act and needs to get that bold out of the cleric so they can stop the bleeding. The cleric had just summoned a second large crocodile directly in front of himself which is now uncontrolled maybe it was the scent of blood or maybe it was a random dice roll but whatever the reason the croc turns on its summoner and starts snapping at the poor old cleric. the sorceress fails to cast another vacuum spell. Fast casting while low level is proving to be a challenge. The next crossbow bolt flying into camp and takes out the mystic transfixing her arm and pinning it to her chest.

The cleric is now losing blood in gushes, he is desperately trying to get control of his crocodile. The sorceress fails to case a third vacuum spell! The croc in the woods is doing terribly as well but it is at least keeping the enemy on that side pinned down. Another sleep spell does off and more kobolds fall and the warriors are fully in melee now. This is where the kobolds lack of armour and physical hardiness tell against them. Finally the sorceress gets a vacuum spell to fire and she stuns and wounds a couple of kobolds.

So the fight went on. The mystic shook off the stun from the hit on her and she managed to get some healing sove on to the clerics wound just before he colapsed. The sorceress gave up trying to kill kobolds, I think due to a lack of power points, and joined the cleric and the mystic. The mystic was bleeding heavily and so everyone was trying to first aid everyone else and the few herbs that were easily appliable were used up. It took four rounds I think for the cleric to finally get full control of the crocodile and at that point the kobolds were pretty much broken. Their tactic of striking from three sides with wave after wave of bolts obviously was not working and fighting what appeared to be heavily armed wizards (from the kobolds point of view) was not in the plan.

At the end of the fight I think only four kobolds got away alive. It cost the party dear in herbs and they were largely drained of magic to boot. It doesn’t hurt to hit the party hard, even in a casual encounter eespecially this early in their careers. It will I hope make them gell better as a team and it helps them figure out their limits. For me as GM the kobolds were on a par OB and DB-wise with the weakest members of the party and well below the ability of the warriors. The kobolds were two levels lower than the party members which should have given the party the edge in terms of resistance rolls. It also set the precident of fighting many foes from many directions which is something I like to do.

All in all I think it was a good fight and a good test of their abilities. The encounter was also converted over from a Forgotten Realms encounter and for once I did not tone down the numbers of creatures.

That was just a causual encounter next time we meet they should be gettng stuck in to their first real adventure!