2 Page Random Adventures?

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

Aspire2HopeGM

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

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

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

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

For my random toys idea, I could:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Itchy Adventuring Finger

When we [BriH, Edgcltd and I] wrote and released our 50in50 adventures we studiously avoided including any explicitly Rolemaster Stats (I was naughty and created a new monster or two along the way) to make them system neutral.

Since we released them we have sold over 2,200 copies.

Writing adventures is a bit of a fool’s errand as a great number of experienced GMs will always prefer to write their own adventures and almost ever adventure will need tweaking to make it work with your setting and campaign.

Since the end of the 50in50 we have had more ideas bubbling away in the background but we have not had the time to implement them. Isn’t that always the case? Ideas are easy, finishing them is more difficult.

I have been experimenting with a few different formats this year. The first is the regular adventures in the fanzine. I did two different styles. The first was a complete standalone adventure. Do you remember all those cliched starting adventures I was talking about at the beginning of the year? I wrote them up and published them in the fanzine. I didn’t include any monster stats or detailed NPCs. I just pointed the reader to the right Creatures & Treasures or Creatures & Monsters page. For the RMu I only used monsters that appeared in all editions of RM from RM2 to RMu. For NPCs I used the stock NPCs featured in Character Law for the existing versions of RM and JDales random NPC maker for RMu. In effect I did not have to publish any copyrighted material to create a fully RM compatible adventure.

The fanzine has sold a little over 750 copies so far so it is a ticking over nicely.

The second thing I have been doing with the fanzine is to create an adventure path. I start work on the 7th instalment this week and it has all been building up to The City of Forgotten Heroes. Last month included getting to the island where the city lies and past the gate house into the city. There were sea encounters, swamp encounters and the gatehouse. This month will be the library, if you can remember that far back.

Those were experiments 1 & 2.

Experiment 3 was to produce a RM compatible module. It was called The Corrupted Jungle Collection and it was a set of adventures on the coast of a jungle covered strange land. The adventure was basically a sandbox with locations the characters could visit and different factions that they may or may not encounter and at least one obvious bad girl who had nefarious plans. It has volcanoes, cataracts, jungle chases and lost ruins, what is not to enjoy?

No one is going to get rich from writing adventures but they are good fun.

It doesn’t matter what format we have used from stat-less system neutral plot hooks to standalone modules to the adventure path every single one has sold. There is an appetite for this stuff.

I see Rolemaster at its lowest point right now. There is almost nothing going on to draw in new players to the existing system, ICEs social media is woeful simply because they lack resources. The very existence of a pending new edition is a put off to some potential new players, why buy into something obsolete? And to put it bluntly we are getting older and the average RM player must be getting into peak heart attack territory.

I said at the top that many experienced GMs like to exclusively create their own adventures. All these factors, no new blood, a thinning of the ranks, the pending new edition and a lack of interest from GMs makes writing adventures for RM a labour of love and not a way to make money.

But I still enjoy doing it.

Following on from the Jungle Collection I can easily see a Mountain Collection, a Desert Collection and so on to offer mini sandbox campaign in a wide number of settings and a chance to showcase a wide range of monsters and threats from natural hazards alongside them.

Testing Professions

Hurin write a forum post about how most of the RMu professions shape up. I have a little thought experiment to keep you all amused.

(I have included some Sci Fi, modern and post apocalypse stuff here because I know people have turned RM to all sorts of settings and I personally have used this with Rolemaster and Space Master.)

The Experiment

I want you to imagine a map. Don’t draw it, this works best when it is purely in your mind’s eye.

You will need five NPCs, two goons, two lieutenants and a villain.

The map starts with a door with a goon either side. On the other side of the door is a room with the two lieutenants. There is a single exit to a short passage and then a second room with the villain in that last room.

That is a fairly basic layout and it is genre and setting neutral but let us change that.

  • Sci Fi: The villains are terrorist and they have hijacked a starship. The door is an iris valve portal to the comms and navigation stations and the villain is on the flight deck.
  • Fantasy: the goons are outside the cave entrance and the door is little more than fir branches pulled over the cave mouth. The floor and ceiling of the cave slope sharply together giving a very uneven floor. The two lieutenants are stood over a fissure with an iron tripod, buckets and coils of rope, one end of which disappears down into the ground. The passage in the description above is the fissure and the villain has uncovered an ancient burial chamber.
  • Urban: The goons are on the street outside a one up, one down slum terraced house. The lieutenants are in the parlour and up the stairs, the short passage, is the bedroom with the villain; a corrupt merchant in this case.
  • Fantasy: The goons are palace guards outside a guest suite. The lieutenants are minor nobles from a visiting but passively aggressive hostile state, the short passage is a leap from balcony to balcony and the second chamber is the suite of the foreign ambassador who has evil plans in the making.
  • Post Apocalypse: The goons are mutants protecting a bunker entrance. The lieutenants are in the first chamber of an underground bunker and further down is the villain in a secure room.
  • Modern: The goons are on the street in an industrial area, the room is a massive warehouse, the passage are steps up to a gantry level and the second room a small office overlooking the warehouse. This is the base of a smuggling operation and the NPCs smugglers and thugs.

You can run several missions with this map, get a document from the last room without shedding blood, get a document from the last room by any means, kill the villain, plant a bug/incriminating evidence in the last room or release a hostage. That is just a selection. It is not necessary to be overly creative for this experiment.

If a profession is going to be viable or playable then they should be fun to play. Although we normally think of a party of adventurers there is never a guarantee that they are all going to be alive and well. It could be that the villain is the key to healing the party (poison antidote?) and the last character standing is the party Mystic.

You don’t have to make dice rolls, you can kind of assume that if they have a decent chance of at least partial success that they scrape by but could you come up with a viable plan for achieving these goals in these situations with each and every profession? What skills are needed, what spells are needed? Would there be a minimum level you would need to be?

Lazy Worlds & Settings

For May’s Fanzine I needed something to fill the gap between when the previous adventure ended and the adventure featured in that issue started. With the recent posts about Lazy GMing I decided to take the lazy way out but it had some interesting spin-offs.

I started with a suggestion along the lines of have the characters do a few random encounters between adventures. I then thought, I hate random encounters why am I saying this?

I then came up with a table with ten entries and three columns for a person, a action and a motivation. So three dice rolls creates a stub of an adventure or a scene for the characters to walk in on. This seemed good. The results would be something like Farmer + Accuses + Murder but most GMs could work with that. The person column went from Village Elder to homeless beggar. So we had 10 people x 10 actions x 10 motivations for 1,000 possible random things going on in a village.

I not got a bit enthusiastic about this. These are so open to interpretation that they could be hack and slash encounters…

Farmer: You killed by son now I am going to kill you!

(farmer hefts his scythe and advances)

Player: I prepare Shockbolt

Or they can be nice situations to role play out. The random event, of itself, does not impose a play style.

For the GM a plot hook or random event is not really much help if they have been told role play an entire village or string of villages.

Random Villages

Using the same basic mechanism of 3x1d10 rolls I produced a table with three columns. The first was the first half of the village name, the second the last half of the village name and the last the villages primary industry. I thought primary industry was important. Once you know that it is easy to imagine all the supporting industry. If the place is known for leather working then the farmers are likely to have plenty of cows. Leather requires stitching and that requires thread. Already, we have fields of cows, a tannery, possibly old folk spinning thread in the village square. Where there are cows there are butchers. We can now start to give the players a picture of village life and give people employment.

The really curious thing was how I filled in the first two columns, the name.

I seem to be developing a bit of a thing for east Asian culture for fantasy. Here is a short list of things that I think are almost universally cool in RPGs. Himalayan style mountains, Tibetan style monks, Genghis Khan style hordes, Kung Fu Monks, Jungles, Ninjas, Pirates, ‘Lost Temples’ and finally dragons. All of those are features of this Asian culture. It also breaks the mould a bit of traditional fantasy being almost exclusively medieval European in style.

What you lose in moving away from the standard form is knights in shining armour.

This move to the east was never explicit or intentional. My regular RMC game is set in the Forgotten Realms, in the Dales region. All my online games through have a distinctly oriental feel and it is getting stronger with every iteration.

You can imagine that the name parts in these lists ended up as things like Phu, Dai and Ngu.

On my to do list is build my own setting. It has been there for a while. I am filing away copies of these things in my setting folder. I think there could be a future RMu fantasy Asian setting bubbling away somewhere in my subconscious.

But Wait…

The ‘random encounters’ so far have a village name, industries, actors, actions and motives but if the heroes are going to have a variety of side quests here the typical GM is going to want some more assistance.

I have been playing with Geomorphs recently. A geomorph in RPG terms is a fragment of a map, a bit like a jigsaw piece but one that it doesn’t matter which way round you use it. You can even flip them over and it will still fit. Most RPG geomorphs are for dungeon layouts but a few create towns and villages.

In the fanzine I have provided three Geomorph dice. You have to print them out and do a bit of cutting and gluing but at the end of it you should have three paper or card d6 with each face holding a section of map. I have included one here so you can see what I mean.

If you take the images and use an editor to flip or mirror image the images you can create 6d6 each of which can have four orientations. That is a massive amount of variations. In the example village I used three images in a triangular formation with the bottom image half way along the two above it.

The thing with visual maps like this is that they are open to interpretation. In the bottom corners of the 2 face above I can see a couple potential churches, one a western looking church and the other a ziggurat style one. The 6 looks like a market but is that a bandstand?

What started out in the fanzine as a one liner of give the characters some random encounters ended up taking about a quarter of the entire magazine and with random people, places and maps.

On the condition that you do not roll all this stuff in front of the players there is no reason for them to ever know that they are ‘between’ adventures at all. If the GM is good at improv, and most are, there is great potential to turn some of these little hooks into full blown side quests.

So this is my contribution to Lazy GMing, a thousand random villages, villagers and adventure hooks.

Bloody Hell! RMU Bleeding

So assuming we stick with the 2 second house ruled round, which I would like to, we don’t want people to bleed out too fast.

I really like Hurin’s suggestion that bleeding 1-3hits/round will clot. If we can keep that I will be happy. The criteria would be that the character much be inactive for the clotting to start and the wound reopens if the move.

This will stop the a solo character from dying after the very first fight they have almost every time (assuming the GM doesn’t intervene to save them).

So…

  • 1 hit/rnd stops after 10rnds of inactivity. (10hits received)
  • 2 hits/rnd stop after 20rnds of inactivity (40hits received)
  • 3 hits/rnd stop after 30rnds of inactivity (90 hits received)

3 hits per round will most likely still be fatal in most cases so it is the 1 and 2 hits of bleeding that we are really talking about here.

Bleeding in a 2 second round environment is a lot more dangerous than a 10 second round environment, five times as dangerous at first glance.

That is not actually strictly true because that assumes endless combat. In my game I find that unless I intentionally set an encounter up to be longer then most combats are over in about 4 rounds.

With the RMU beta 2 as written then they took a lot longer but in RMC and RM2 four rounds was about the average. I will assume that once the final Arms Law is out then the weapons tables will be delivering more damage. I think it has been increased by 1.5?

So if fights are short, as in sub 10 rounds then the actual bleeding is not going to be the deciding factor most of the time. If it is heavy bleeding of 5 to 8hits per round then yes, that can finish a character or villain off but that is outside the scope of these changes anyway.

The point is that the duration of a round is moot if you are counting time in rounds.

So our upper bound is that if a character falls unconscious and is bleeding 3hits per round or more then they will probably die. So that is pretty much rules as written.

The lower bound is that a character bleeding 1 or 2 hits per round that falls unconscious may survive taking either 10 or 40 additional hits from bleeding.

It was suggested, JDale I beleive, that outside of combat bleeding be treated as hits per minute not hits per round. This allows for people to die up to an hour or more on the battle field if no help is forthcoming. I like this and would like to accommodate it.

What that does is mean that bleeding in combat is no different regardless of the round length. Bleeding when the character will get no help is not always 100% fatal. Bleeding out on a battle field may take minutes or hours.

The times provided by Aspire suggested 10 to 30 minutes for bleeding out. If you are unconscious and bleeding 4 per minute then that will kill most characters in that sort of time frame. It is much easier to die from loss of hits in RMU than previous versions of RM.

The only thing I would like to add is compression.

I personally would allow a character to half the blood flow on a round by round basis if they forego their action and apply compression to a suitable wound. Obviously you cannot apply pressure to internal bleeding. I would do this without the need for a first aid roll. If it were fire damage then a character can drop and roll without a skill roll. I would think that anyone who has trained in using a sword would most certainly have hurt themselves at some point so the most basic idea of stopping the blood coming out would be known.

So compression would work on the rounds when it was applied. It does not count as inactivity for clotting purposes unless the character is actually inactive while doing it. The minimum bleed remains at 1 hit/round.

The compression rule becomes a tactical decision. Which now makes me think of concentration and mental focus. If I am told to keep hold of something and not move and my mind wanders I am quite likely to let my hand drift. So can you keep compressing a wound if you are maintaining a spell?

Taking all of that into account does that seem fair? I feel that bleeding per 2 second round in combat and per minute out of combat is roughly equal to Aspires ‘per 10 seconds’ if you averaged it out. The clotting does only cover the lightest of possible bleeding and is touch and go at 3hits. Compression forces characters to make tactical decisions. Characters will still die from blood loss.

So over to you. Can we make this better?

RMU Combat and My House Rules

So this time I am really wide open to suggestions!

What I have done in the past and certainly want to keep is the 2 second combat round. I use this in RMC and it works perfectly.

I have eliminated all notion of flurry of blows. Every attack is discrete. Short combat rounds have a few knock on effects.

Movement

Obviously in 2 seconds you can move 20% of what you could move in a 10 second round or now 40% of what you would move in an RMU round. I have never like the notion of the detailed 1AP count down in RMU but I think this is because my 2 second rounds provide almost exactly the same granularity but with out flurry of blows you don’t have to start an attack 5 seconds before you even see your target.

Shorter rounds make things naturally more tactical as it is entirely possible to get peppered by bullets/arrows/spears if you try and cross an open space without covering fire.

Spell Casting

RMC doesn’t have the fast and penalty free casting of RMU but 2 second rounds comes close to emulating that. If your mage is being charged down then because movement is 20% as fast they have more time to prep and cast. So I kept the requirement for 2 rnds prep, cast on the 3rd round despite the rounds being shorter, so 3 x 2 second rounds not 30 seconds.

This has produced some fun situations where one member of a charging party chose to accelerate faster to get to a spell caster that was prepping a spell hoping to get there before the spell was cast. The fact that the players’ plan was kind of dependent on the entire party arriving simultaneously went completely out the window. 

Spell Effects

I do not adjust the spell effects to take into account the shorter round. This does change things. Spells that last hours, minutes or seconds are potentially more powerful especially ones that have a combat usefulness.

Spells that last for rounds/level or rounds/ 5 or 10 RR failure are possibly weaker. If you wanted to blind an opposing magician while you all charge then the charge will take more rounds making Sudden Light less useful in that situation.

On the other hand shorter rounds make ranged spells more powerful as it is harder to get out of range or you need to spend more rounds in range if you are trying to close distance.

I have been playing these rules under RM2/RMC for something like 7 years and this has never been a problem, but it does have an impact of spell selection sometimes.

The impact under RMU should be half that as it was under RM2/RMC as the spells are all set up for 5 second round and not 10 seconds. I don’t think this is going to be an issue.

Bleeding

I do have a house rule that bleeding 1 hit per round will stop on its own after 50 rounds of inactivity. the reason I have this is because I spent a few years when I only had one player and multiple times they were knocked unconscious and bleeding 1hit/round. There was no chance of me being able to justify bringing in an unexpected NPC so they should have bled out. This happened just too often for my liking so once the character is unconscious, and therefore not moving, if there is no one around to save you or finish you off that 1 hit of bleeding will stop.

I mention all of that as bleeding is more dangerous with shorter rounds. I don’t want to halve the bleeding in all the criticals but there is another solution.

The first is the natural clotting I mentioned above and the second is staunching the flow.

Staunching the flow takes 1 hand to do and basically means the character is applying pressure to stem the flow of blood. No First Aid or medical skill roll is required. The character can choose on a round by round basis if they want to apply the pressure. The down side is that you cannot use that hand for anything else while staunching the flow of blood. So no shield or just shield by no attacks.

The effect of staunching the flow is to half the blood loss for that round. I tend to round down so staunching 5hits/round will result in bleeding 2/rnd.

This gives characters a way of mitigating the more dangerous effects bleeding in the 2 second rounds without having to make changes to every critical table. It also makes another tactical choice available for characters.

Action Points

I have never used an Action Point system. I am a big fan of the RMC percentage action system. I have just viewed AP as blocks of 25% activity.

If you eliminate the AP by AP tactical round then lots of the problems with the Action Point system disappear.

I know Hurin has suggested in the past adopting a D&D 5e approach to what can be done in a round but I don’t know much about what that entails now. The last time I played D&D it was in about 1993 and it was 2nd Ed. I think.

So what is the best solution to stay as compatible as possible to RMU but using a 2 second round?

RMU House Rule #2 Skills

Before we start I want to set out two core concepts.

  1. These rules are based around No Profession.
  2. Characters will only be buying skills once. (Thereafter training and experience will take over.)

So I am quite happy with the RMU cultures rules and free skills ranks. I do think that GMs should tinker with the ranks both number and distribution to fit their game and play style but apart from that I am cool with cultures.

The biggest bone of contention is the category cost vs individual skills costs.

The individual skills cost for professions is rather moot if you don’t have professions. The hang over is that I can see why people would want to differentiate their characters.

I don’t want to go down the Training Packages route which of course would put a ‘skin’ or ‘build’ over the top of the No Profession.

The No Profession has the nice feature of being able to choose where to place your professional skill bonuses. That guarantees that each player can customise their character.

The best solution so far is Intothatdarknesses variable skill costs.

So there is a standard skill cost progression which I assume will not change again. So I am think that in each category each player may reduce one skill cost by two steps and one skill by one step.

I was concerned that assigning skill costs up front may mean that should a future skill be introduced that characters are then unfairly penalised. I am thinking about RM2 and when Two Weapon Combo was introduced in RoCoII.

On the other hand if the players are only adjusting two skill costs in each category they are not actually locking themselves out of any skill.

This solution also solves another potential problem. The default number of DPs had has been increased from 50 to 60 but the No Profession profession is less efficient than most others so I have been upping the number of DPs 70. Now if each player can reduce the cost of their preferred skills that will redress that balance between the inefficiency of the No Profession and the off the peg professions.

RMU Skills

I like the RMU skills and I like the way combat expertise works. On the other hand I don’t like passive skills and passive bonuses. In all versions of RM each and all skill has been optional and I cannot see any real reason why I cannot simply drop the skills I don’t like, or more the case of redefining the skills. Just dropping the passive skill bonuses solves a lot of my issues.

So I think with just those two house rules I am good with the RMU skill system.

RMU House Rule #0

OK, so I thought I would take a break from my HARP series today and write about RMU for a change.

This is inspired by the comment made by Aspire2Hope on the post RMU to Infinity and Beyond.

So as you all know my RMC house rules do not use levels or professions. I also use point buy for stats and fixed concussion hits. Basically my entire character creation is dice free so I am perfectly happy to allow players to create their characters away from the gaming table. As long as we have discussed character background and motivations and that is all acceptable then the GM is no longer needed.

What I would like to start is another occasional series of posts where I/we:

  1. take what we know of the state of RMU
  2. for each aspect I state my intended goal
  3. We marry the two together to get a coherent house rule

So for example stat bonuses are neither linear nor exactly bell curve. I would like stat bonuses that don’t need a table to work out so I would throw out there (Stat-50)/3 gives a range of 0 to +/-17. That is slightly more generous than RMU as written with the rate of bonuses increasing and at the top end bonus, +15 vs +17 but it also does away with a table.

I don’t really want my house rules to break the compatibility with RMU too much. I would still like to be able to use off the shelf ICE products but at the same time I would like to promote my ideas of simplicity and speed of play at the gaming table.

Things that I think will cause the most debate will be what to keep in and what to throw out. So we could have a set of simplified house rules and a set of optional house rules that plug in things that I don’t feel the need to use but others do. Allegedly, I am not always right and if that is the case then having alternatives would be good.

This is also an opportunity to build things that are missing like dedicated two handed weapons tables and fix their lack of stopping power.

The big one will be magic. I have never been really happy with Spell Law but it was always too big a challenge to fix but committing myself to doing publically may force me to get the job done.

So that is my intentions. The first and foremost task will be to completely rebuild character creation.

Anyone up for a challenge?

All is quiet in Rolemaster world.

I have literally 5 minutes to spare so I thought I would get in a quick blog! As RMBlogs reader have seen, activity is WAY DOWN on the blog and even the RM Forums are pretty slow moving. Let’s chalk it up to the dog days of summer, real life commitments and a temporary lull in the conversation. I have 5-6 posts stewing on the dashboard that I hope to get to, some polishing up on the 50in50’s and then of course the rest of my projects.

So what have I gleaned from quick and random perusals around RM land?

  1. It feels like RMU is close. There was a flurry of activity on the development forums on several topics and it looks like some tightening of the rules. Generally though it feels like most everything is now set and close to publication. That is just my sense–no inside info.
  2. GenCon. I was sad to see Terry had to cancel  his GenCon game. I think his presence would have been a big hit and brought some exposure to Rolemaster and Shadow World. On the other hand, it’s time for newer younger players to take up the banner and run with it via RMU and new products.
  3. Real life news. No not politics! There has been a ton of cool archaeology news lately. I should do a weekend round up soon!
  4. According to Terry, my SW submission and Lethys are on the shelf! He has asked Nicholas to find a new editor since he is busy with his own projects. That’s discouraging… I’m leading towards just publishing it for free so I can have closure and move on to the next one.
  5. When things free up we are going to put together a super edition of the Fanzine with a compilation of updated SW material. I promise Peter!

ok, back to the grindstone. If anyone wants to put their big toe into the land of RM or RPG blogging now would be the time! And it would be a great help.

Rolemaster Deconstruction: Is it a Skill or an Ability?

As part of our Rolemaster deconstruction I’ve followed two processes: consolidating small “skills” into larger meta-skills and changed traditional skills into inherent abilities. (Perception and Body Development being the two foremost).

Obviously, one of Rolemasters differentials with D&D was shifting almost all abilities into trainable skills. The contrast was clear: D&D imparted abilities through racial mechanics, classes and levels and was on one end of a game  spectrum while RM’s skill focus sat at the other end. The problem (in my mind) of course is that under RM’s approach, EVERYTHING became a trainable skill. Skills became parsed further and further into niche secondary skills, skill bloat became rampant and a more complicated similar skill mechanic was necessary to manage the interrelationship between overlapping skills. Lost in all of the Rolemaster Companions, RMSS and RM bolt-on’s was questioning the very premise of “what is a skill?”

There were a few early exceptions: DB and RR’s. Those kept to their D&D roots and RM never allowed a trainable skill to offset poison, disease or the realms of magic. Adrenal Defense was a skill, but had lots of restrictions and has now been mostly nerfed  in RMU.

As discussed in my various blogs, I’ve reverted some core skills into inherent abilities using stats or other approaches. Just a few examples:

  1. Body Development. I’ve mostly embraced Peter’s approach and set HP’s by race and constitution. However, we also add +1 HP/# of skill ranks in Endurance.
  2. Perception. I’ve moved the skill into a 12th stat. This measures the characters PHYSICAL perceptual abilities: eye sight, sense of smell, alertness, hearing etc. This also is easier to use with a racial modifier.
  3. Feats of Strength/Lifting. Purely based on strength.
  4. Maneuvering in Armor. It’s been discussed in previous blogs and now is being talked about at the Forums, but I just don’t see maneuvering in armor as primarily a trainable skill. Instead I see it as a “handicap” (like adding weight to a race horse). Plus, making MnA a trainable skill, armor becomes a video game like level ability: players progress up in armor type as the gain in levels. As I have argued before, thats akin to players proggressing up in weaponry: start with a dagger and eventually getting to a 2hand sword at 10th lvl.

There are arguments for aspects of a established skill as a being trainable. For me, it’s weighted the other way: if the argument is less than 50/50 for it being trainable I want to work it into an inherent or stat based ability. I know many people want to stick to the core of RM and it’s skill system; but think outside the box…what RM skill should really be an ability?