The Warrior Mage for RMU (Homebrew): Spell Lists; Skill Costs; Sample Character; and Discussion


As Brian already noted, this is Warrior Mage week here on the Blog, so here is my version of the Warrior Mage for RMU. You will find the skill costs in Downloads>RMU>Profession: Warrior Mage, and the Spells in Downloads>RMU>Spell List: Warrior Mage Base. I have also rolled up a sample Warrior Mage character (High Elf) that you can use in the same section.

The Argument for the Class: To me, the Warrior Mage archetype is more recognizable than many classes already in Rolemaster – yes, Dabbler and Magent, I am looking in your direction! If you ask someone to tell you what a Warrior Mage, Dabbler, and Magent are, I am quite certain the vast majority will be able to give you a better description of the first profession than either of the two others.

     The Warrior Mage archetype also has a longer history. D&D players call the archetype ‘Gish’. As Mark noted, the Gish has been around arguably since ‘Elf’ was a class in original D&D, when Elves could multiclass between Fighting Man and Magic User. It later took its unofficial name from the iconic Githyanki Fighter/Mages in Fiend Folio (one is on the cover, actually, as you can see below), though they were not yet a distinct class. The Gish was formalized in 4e DnD as the Swordmage class, which had many of the spells/feats the RM Warrior Mage exhibited (things like shield, teleportation, elemental attacks, etc.). 5e cut down on the number of classes overall, but has presented several Gish-type options in subclasses such as the Bladesinger. The archetype then is well established, as attested to by the many names it goes by, whether Gish, Swordmage, Spellsword, Warrior Mage, or several others.

A Chronological History of the Warrior Mage in Rolemaster: But let’s focus on the Warrior Mage in Rolemaster, because it has undergone a lot of changes over the years. Here are the main ones:

     –The Warrior Mage class first appeared in 1987’s Rolemaster Companion II. The original lists included the most problematic of all the Warrior Mage lists, Elemental Ways, which gave the WM all the best Magician spells in a single list.

     I would like to make one important point on this original version of the WM, though: The class sure looked overpowered, but in practice he wasn’t quite as powerful as he seemed. He paid high costs for skills and spells, and on top of that needed to develop an additional skill (Transcend Armor) just to function in armor. His best mundane weapon cost was 2/7, Directed Spells came at 3/6, and Transcend Armor was 2/5, meaning an average character would be spending more than 50% of his entire DP allotment on those three skills alone (and that is with just 1 rank in Transcend). This doesn’t include buying the actual spells themselves (at a cost of 4/*), to say nothing of Body Development, Perception, or even Maneuvering in Armor itself. So I think part of the sharp difference of opinion people have on the Warrior Mage is a reflection of the difference between the people who merely read the Warrior Mage’s spells and those who actually tried to buy them. That said, I freely admit that Elemental Ways was overpowered.

     –In 1989 came what was specifically described as ‘a variant of the Warrior Mage’ called the ‘Elemental Champion’ in the RM2 Elemental Companion. This toned down the WM by restricting him to a single element.

     –Next, in 1990, was the RM2 Companion IV which offered a few more base lists to the WM (the Monk base Evasions and the Open Mentalism Illusions).

     –In 1997, perhaps the biggest change happened in the Essence Companion, which attempted to rebalance the Warrior Mage/Elemental Champion as a way of converting him to the new edition of Rolemaster, RMSS. Here an attempt was made to address the elemental attacks issue by removing the ability to cast elemental balls altogether, and limiting the range of the Warrior Mage’s Shock Bolt to 50’. However, the RMSS Warrior Mage also got to use the same spell (not list, but actual spell: Jolting Blade/Flame Blade, etc.) to give her weapon an extra elemental critical until she ‘threw’ the bolt from it. That was arguably more powerful than an elemental bolt alone! And the RMSS version also allowed the Warrior Mage to use multiple different elements too (she essentially got Shock Bolt at level 3, Fire Bolt at level 8, and Lightning Bolt at level 18), with the higher level spells having greater range.

     –Then in 2002, Fire and Ice: The Elemental Companion gave an RMFRP version of the Elemental Champion. This provided more elemental abilities (including immolation-type effects and the ability to summon and control elementals), but removed altogether the class’s ability to cast bolts and balls; the addendum, however, added the ability to cast bolts and balls (limited to one specific element) to the Closed Elemental lists.

     –Finally Rolemaster Classic gave the Elemental Champion another go, adopting the solution of having the class choose only one element, but retaining the ability to cast bolts (and at level 16, a ball too). This version also gave the class buffs/abilities based on its element (e.g. if you specialized in light you could cast Light).

Overall, then, I think it is fair to say that the biggest problem people have had with the Warrior Mage is balancing their elemental attacks. Each new version of the class has tried to get that balance right. I think we can all agree that the concept of a Semi-Spell User has always been at the very core of Rolemaster, but if the Semi’s spells are as powerful as the pure caster’s, then that isn’t very balanced. That, together with balancing skill costs, is the ultimate challenge of the Warrior Mage.

Ways to Balance the Warrior Mage: After appreciating this history and the challenges inherent in the class, I adopted these first principles/solutions to guide me as I created my own version of the Warrior Mage for RMU. These principles are:

     –We can help balance the class’s Elemental Attacks by restricting each individual Warrior Mage to one chosen element. This solution also has pedigree, as it is almost as old as the class itself, and spans both RM2/Classic and RMSS/FRP. The class should not have access to Shock Bolt, Fire Bolt, Ice Bolt, and Lightning Bolt simultaneously!

     –We can also promote balance by making some of the Warrior Mage’s spells self-only. Spells such as fly, shield, invisibility become less game-breaking when the WM can’t cast them on the entire party.

–One of the reasons the WM was unbalanced in earlier editions was that it got an optional self-healing list (the Monk’s Body Renewal). I don’t think this sort of healing fits in the repertoire of a semi-spellcaster of Essence, especially now that the Monk has been moved to Mentalism. So my WM has no more clotting spells, wound-repair spells, etc. That’s just not his jam. Every class needs an Achilles heal 🙂

     –Finally, we can also use the new tools provided by the new edition of Rolemaster (RMU) to help balance the class. The new tools include new size rules (which can be used to ensure the WM’s Elemental Attacks are a step below those of the Magician), as well as clear rules for creating professions (which help ensure the Warrior Mage’s skill costs aren’t just the best costs for all the useful skills).

Skill Costs: You can hopefully now navigate to the RMBlog’s section Downloads>RMU and find my skill costs for the Warrior Mage there. I have used the RMU rules as written for this, because RMU provides an actual formula for assigning skill costs, and all classes in RMU follow this formula.

In the end, the RMU Warrior Mage’s costs are not that different from those of a Paladin (though the two professions have different spellcasting Realms of course). This cost similarity makes sense to me, since both are martially-oriented semi-spell using classes. Thus, if the Paladin’s spell costs are balanced in RMU (and I think they are more balanced than in any previous edition, because  RMU finally has a system for balancing them), then I think it is fair to say that the Warrior Mage’s costs are finally balanced now too.

Spell Lists: I looked through all the old spell lists for the various versions of the Warrior Mage/Elemental Champion in all previous editions and came up with the following six base lists. They represent a distillation and rebalancing of the old spells:

–Warrior’s Bridge is similar to earlier WM movement lists as well as the Closed Essence: Lofty Bridges. Note that the WM can still take Lofty Bridges as a closed list, at a relatively high cost, but the WM-specific version is cheaper, with the downside that it tones down some of the spells by making them caster only. So if you want to be able to fly, you can make a Warrior Mage. But if you want to be able to make your entire party fly, you’re much better off choosing to be a Magician.

–Warrior’s Element tries to balance the WM’s elemental attacks. It gives the WM the ability to make a bolt, ball, and wall, but only of one element: like the old Elemental Champion, my WM has to decide which is his ‘chosen element’, and can only cast elemental attacks of that chosen element. Furthermore, this list also uses the RMU size rules to ensure that a Warrior Mage’s elemental spells are a step behind the Magician’s in power level. Thus for example, the Magician gets a normal-sized Shock Bolt at level 2, but the Warrior Mage’s version of the spell would be size ‘small’, meaning it does only 75% concussion hit damage, and gets a 1 critical severity reduction. So when the Magician’s Shock Bolt does 24C, the Warrior Mage’s would only do 18B. The Magician still reigns supreme for pure elemental power.

–Warrior’s Shield is based on previous WM shield spells, and provides the basics such as Shield, Blur, Deflections (available to most other classes on other open/closed lists), and some elemental defences. The WM could already access many of these on Closed Essence lists, but these ones on his base list are tailored a bit more to the WM’s elemental focus. They are balanced primarily by only affecting the caster.

–Warrior’s Weapon is based on some previous WM/Elemental Champion lists, especially ones that buffed her weapon with elemental damage. I’ve tried to balance these by comparing them to similar spells at the same spell level on other lists in RMU Spell Law; I tried to keep the levels as close as possible.

–Warrior’s Will is loosely based on some of the WM/EC buff lists, but I’ve added some more utility in terms of buffs to skills such as Attunement (which I think a class like Warrior Mage is especially well suited to, given their combination of arms and spellcasting). And as per my basic balancing principles outlined above, I have removed the self-healing spells.

–An Elemental List: For the final list, I recommend that each WM take ONE list corresponding to his element (the same element that he chooses for Warrior’s Element) from the Elemental Specialist lists in Fire and Ice: The Elemental Companion (RMSS). These give really great flavor to the elemental utility lists because they are focused on a specific element. The Earth list Earth Mastery for example includes the ability to oxidize or sharpen a metal weapon, create a corridor through stone, etc. I am currently working on updating these lists for RMU, but they are mostly usable already, and help to distinguish different builds/varieties of Warrior Mages.

So, if you have some time, definitely take a look at these lists and let me know what you think!

Two 10th Level Fighters Dueling With Daggers

There is a guy on one of the OSE Discord servers I lurk in that reminds me a lot of Hurin. He isn’t Hurin under a different name unless Hurin has a secret double life in Australia, but that is beside the point.

This guy is one of the big personalities in the OSR/OSRIC/DnD nerd community. He happened to say the line that is the title of this post that two 10th level fighters dueling with daggers was a low point of DnD.

It was a throwaway line but it struck a chord with me. I can see the scene being imagined as two guys, probably with 60-70HP grinding away hours doing 1d4 + strength bonus damage when they did manage to hit. In old school DnD a combat round was a minute long. This fight could go on for hours.

Except that it doesn’t.

There are two flaws in this thinking. The first is that if a challenge carries no risk and has no consequences to the character’s story then you shouldn’t be rolling for it. The other flaw was the idea that 1d4+ strength bonus was damage, it isn’t.

I will take the second flaw first. The very concept of hit points is widely misunderstood. Hit points are your character’s skill, and an element of luck at avoiding being hit or harmed. In Rolemaster terms, it would be like having a finite pool of Parry that you burn through adding it to your DB.

That description of Hit Points was in the original Dungeon Master’s Guide. It would be ridiculous to think that just because a character had had a successful adventure or two, that they could now survive being stabbed with a sword more times. Hit Points as skill at parrying, dodging and evasion make perfect sense in contrast. This is why Fighters get more hit points than Magic-Users, they are trained to parry, dodge and evade. You Con bonus is not because you are ‘meatier’ it is because fatigue can slow a person’s reactions when parrying, dodging and evading.

DnD and Chainmail evolved out of tabletop war games where typically a unit that was hit was destroyed. To introduce named heroes into that needed a way for them to have more than a ‘one hit, you are dead’ mechanic. The core concept that if you are stabbed with a sword, hit with a mace or stabbed with a dagger, you will die unless someone saved you. That is why HPs go down to -8, each describing the severity of the mortal wound.

DnD characters are binary. They have 1HP if you think of hit points as meat. If you have 1HP then you are fighting fit, if you don’t have 1HP then you are dead or dying. All hit points above 1 are burned up in avoiding being hit.

Those are the rules pretty much as written in the original DnD.

The next problem with our two 10th level fighters is the hour-long combat. Knowing what hit points are has eliminated the idea of them each being stabbed 15 times and still standing. We have turned that into an interplay with both fighters lunging, feinting, dodging.

The problem is that the first half of the battle is of little or no consequence. You cannot kill a 10th level fighter is a dagger strike. Many strikes may but the first definitely won’t.

It is relatively easy to eyeball a battle as GM, or DM in this case, and see that Fighter 1 has a slightly better to hit number and slightly better damage due to a bigger strength bonus. Why not play the first round or two, let the Character get the size of his opponent. Ask the player how he intends to play out this fight, underhand and dirty or is it more an elegant gentleman’s duel? Now skip forward 10 rounds. If one fighter is more likely to land hits than the other then one takes four dagger strikes and the other may only take three. You can make sure that the number of hits and the damage is in line with the actual abilities of the two combatants. Now describe how the fight went up until this point. Is the other fighter the better or more skilled fighter? Is he or she using their strength to their advantage or is their speed frustrating your attempts to corner them? Tell the player what the character would know. If the character went into this thinking it would be an easy win but now finds themselves at a disadvantage they may want to change tack.

You get the player’s input and then skip forward another 10 rounds. Deal out typical damage and describe the impact this duel is having. Where was the fight taking place? In a banquet hall? In a clearing in the woods? Are there seconds standing by looking concerned? 10 more rounds have gone by, you could be down to half hits and your opponent is looking a lot fresher and more confident than you. What do you do?

By now it is possible that one or the other is at half hit points. Does that change their perception? Is the duel taking place in a larger context? Is now the time to concede honorably?

You can now skip forward another 10 rounds. At this point, you could if you wanted to, play out the rest of the combat. The banquet hall could be a complete wreck with tables upturned, benches smashed to smithereens and the floor awash with trampled food. From this point on the actions can have real consequences, the rule to not roll for things that don’t matter no longer applies.

What could have been a grinding hundred rounds of roll to hit, roll 1d4 for damage has been avoided and turned into narrative description in which the player gets to take an active part.

So What About Rolemaster?

A RM2 10th level Fighter probably has about a 100OB with dagger. Based on one rank per level of half of their sword skill, about +18 from Stat and +30 from Professional bonus.

Assuming this is an unarmoured fight in a banquet hall, just because I like the idea of food fights, with both combatants using AT1. They need about 90 to make contact with each other and about 100 to do a critical.

If they parried with half their OB and we give them a +10 Qu DB they, open ended rolls to hurt each other. One in 20 strikes will yield any damage and assuming a typical final roll of 96 + 50 at the attack roll, + 50OB – 60DB give a final result of 136 or 16ES.

Just eyeballing it suggests that you would need to do a typical 4 E criticals to take someone down, they are fatal or debilitating 25% of the time. So we are looking at possibly 1 in 20 x 4, or 80 combat rounds. I would say that the first bleeding critical on either side would finish the fight. Not so much from breeding out the penalties from lost hits would wipe out your OB, reducing your ability to deliver any damage and reducing your parry DB.

Almost all E Slash criticals do bleeding and 2-4 hits per round are common.

For all their training and experience, a Rolemaster fight between two high level fighters will actually be decided, more often than not, but the very first lucky roll.

You could even strategize for this. Fight until you have that first crit and then all-out parry until your foe bleeds out.

Looking at RMu and there is a bigger issue, passive DB inflation. Our 10th level fighters are likely to have +20 ranks (at least) in Running. By 10th level, you can have a decent Qu bonus with is x3 for DB. If you parried with +50 of your OB, you are looking at +80DB vs a +50OB, a net -30 on your attack roll. Open-ended is needed to even do hits of damage and a 96+50 attack roll yields only 4BP. I know that JDale has increased the damage in the RMu tables but they have not made 4 and a B puncture equal to 16 and an E slash critical.

I am not known for using things like exhaustion points but it looks like having to wait, a statistical average of, 20 rounds just to do 4 hits of damage. A fight like this could last three-quarters of an hour for the characters and take days of real time to play.

The chances of the fight coming down to just a lucky blow, probably a double open-ended roll is more likely than any actual skill on the part of the combatants.

This does not seem right to me.

New Druid Spell Lists (RMU, Houserules): Druidstaff; Insect Mastery; Stone Mastery

Catharsis, by Kevin Moran:

I’ve just adapted and reworked three of my favorite old RM2 Druid lists for RMU. You can download them in the Downloads>RMU section at the top of this website (just click on ‘downloads>RMU if you don’t get a dropdown menu). Let me know what you think!

This is of course part of our ‘Druid Week’. Peter and Brian and Mark have already weighed in on the Druid in their own blogs, so here is my take. I think we do have a split here between on the one hand Mark and Peter, who tend to prefer the RM2 Animist, and on the other hand myself and Brian, who generally feel that the Animist’s spells sucked. I personally play a combat-heavy game, which I imagine deeply affects my expectations, so keep that in mind: these lists are made to give the Druid some mojo.

Despite our different perspectives, I think we can all agree that the RM2 Druid’s spells had balance issues. I agree with Peter’s critique of the power level of several of the RM2 Druid’s spells and lists. However, I would also note that RMU has corrected most if not all of the general Druid issues (apart from the three specific lists I redid) of yesteryear:

–The Druid’s Peace list is unnecessary (and absent) now in RMU, since the Druid already can take spells to put animals to sleep (Druid Base: Animal Mastery) or calm other living targets (Closed Channeling: Calm Spirits).

–There is also no longer any Plantskin spell in RMU, and indeed the wider issue that made Plantskin so great in RM2 (namely, the wonky attack charts and the fact that armor types such as 1, 4 and 12 were ridiculously good) has been corrected across the board in RMU. RMU has also more appropriately balanced armor-granting spells.

–RMU has also tempered the effects of spells such as Spike Growth and Animate Stone, to make them more balanced. For example, instead of the Spike Stones giving 1d4 +100 dagger attacks, we now have Earthen Spikes which just gives a single A puncture critical.

So, RMU has pretty much fixed the general balance issues with the Druid. They have added one combat-oriented list, Nature’s Ire, true, but it is much more balanced than the old RM2 Druid lists. I think this will allow more people to accept a more combat-oriented Druid into your RMU game if you wish. And if you don’t wish, and instead prefer the original RM2 Animist to Druid, then you can just cut out the RMU Druid’s Nature’s Ire list, and you’ll have your Animist virtually intact from what he was in RM2. The spells will be almost exactly the same.  

But the old RM2 Druid spells were really great, and they have not survived into RMU. I still love the flavor and the feel of the old RM2 badass Druid, so I’ve tried to resolve the balance issues by reworking these three lists, to give the Druid more combat options while keeping the balance in-line with other casters.

–Druidstaff brings back the beloved (or behated!) list from the original RM2 Companion I. I’ve tried to solve the issues here by toning down bonuses across the board. I’ve also made the ability to throw the Druidstaff a separate spell that costs Powerpoints (rather than being an inherent quality of the staff). This list is especially good for a Druid who wants to use spells at a long distance and a staff up close/medium distance.

–Insect Mastery brings back a list that was first introduced as an extra Druid list in RM Companion V, and later copied in slightly modified form into the RMFRP Channeling Companion. I have modified it to fit the new RMU action economy. Since the original list often did not give very good guidance on specific spell effects (esp. attacks), I have also given specific statistics for the insects themselves in the notes at the end (basing them on the templates one finds in RMU Creature Law, which gives stats for Bee/Wasp, Giant Wasp, and Ant Colony). I’ve also given stats for the insects’ enlarged versions. I’ve also added a few new spells (Detect Insects and Speak With Insects) to fill a few gaps (thanks to JDale for some suggestions there!). This list is especially good for a Druid who wants to be more of a controller, harassing and poisoning enemies with swarms of insects.

–Stone Mastery rebalances one of the original RM2 Druid lists that was overpowered. I have tried to maintain the flavor and distinctiveness of this list, though, because it was one of the unique things about playing a Druid. I have toned down the most problematic spells in various ways: Magic Stone is now Bursting Stone, which is more in line with the general power level of other casters’ spells of that level (it just gives an A Krush critical). The list also provides variety insofar asa its attacks are not bolts or balls, but real physical items: Hurl Stones uses RMU’s Rock attack table, for example. Druids have been literally brought down to earth. This list is especially good for the Druid who wants to focus on medium- to long-range combat.

As with my other spell lists, these are drafts, and my main concern is balance. So do enjoy, but if you see something that you think is still to powerful, let me know!

Wyrd Bow and Wyrd Blade: New Ranger Base Lists (RMU, Houserules)

Art by Conor Burke:

The following lists are my solution to what I feel is one of the weaknesses of the Ranger class in Rolemaster: a lack of combat spells. You can access them in our Downloads: RMU section, above.

The Ranger has some good utility spells, but imho it has always lacked some combat oomph. These two lists give a lot of oomph. Too much? let me know what you think.

Each of these two lists allows the Ranger to create a personal ‘Wyrd weapon’ (ranged or melee), a magical bow, blade, or other weapon attuned specifically to him or her (or it). They then use that bow or blade to buff their own attacks, striking more intuitively with it (Intuitive Strike), using special arrows with it (Elemental Arrow), having it change shape to grow spikes, etc.

The concept of a ‘Wyrd Bow’ originated I believe with James W. Canavan Jr., who published the list of that name in the Guild Companion in 2000 ( ). I have adapted that list to RMU, and also used it as the basis of my ‘Wyrd Blade’ list that extends the favor to the melee Ranger.

Note that the intent is that a Ranger character will only take one of these two lists, picking between being primarily a ranged or primarily a melee character (yes, the shadow of Drizzt is long!). A character can only have one Wyrd blade at any given time, so developing both lists would not be very practical or effective.

These are rough drafts, so please let me know what you think.

Mockery: A New Bard Base List (RMU Houserules)

Art by inXile, Concept 4:

In response to Peter’s most recent discussion of the Bard, I offer this new Bard base spell list, Mockery. Although I designed Mockery for RMU, I believe you could use it for earlier editions. If you try to do that, I recommend changing any instances of the words ‘action point’ to a -25 modifier per point.

You should be able to find a Word file of the list in the Downloads>RMu section in the banner above. I have included both the original version and a new, less silly version for those of you who have no sense of humor 🙂 .

Why this new list? As I’ve noted recently on the ICE forums, I feel that some of the RMU semis (Bard, Dabbler, and Ranger especially) lack effective combat spells. This isn’t a problem unique to RMU: this is a problem RMU has inherited from previous editions. These classes have always had lots of utility spells, many of which are great; but my group is quite combat oriented, and in this department, these classes have few options, despite the fact that semis pay a lot of development points for their spells. I hope then to address the paucity of combat options by creating my own lists.

So what does the RMU Bard, specifically, need? Having just pregenerated a Bard character for my upcoming Gen Con sessions, I feel I now have a bit better handle on the class, both its strengths and its weaknesses. One weakness is that it isn’t very easy to make a combat Bard. In my opinion, a combat Bard needs more quick, low-level combat spells: some instantaneous ones that are minor debuffs (similar to the useful, instant-speed buffs other semis like the Paladin get); and some non-instantaneous spells that impose major debuffs or exercise battlefield control.

Being an Essence semi-spellcaster, the Bard needs these sorts of spells even more than Channeling or Mentalism semis in my estimation because the Bard has to develop Transcendence, at a cost of 4/6, in order to wear any armor at all (Channeling casters can wear up to heavy leather without Transcendence, and Mentalists can wear any armor except helmets). My level 2 Bard couldn’t even put on soft leather without it interfering with his spells. This makes for a very squishy caster, especially at low levels. Thus, the Bard needs some good, low-level combat spells – ideally debuff and control-oriented to fit with the class concept – in order to protect himself and make himself less of a liability in combat.

Please note that the spells on this new ‘Mockery’ list are not ‘songs’ that follow the rules for Bardic Songs in Spell Law 10.1. The Bard has two lists (Controlling Songs and Inspiring Songs) that follow these rules for songs, but that means they can be slow and clunky to set up. The spells on the Mockery list, on the other hand, just follow the normal spellcasting rules. I see the Mockery list in particular as the Bard’s backup plan, allowing her more combat utility, especially in cases when the party is surprised by hostile creatures.

Another thing to note is that some spells on the Mockery list have what I believe is my own new mechanic: they allow modifications to their RR based on the ranks the Bard has in a particular skill.  These modifications allow the Bard to use the ability she has developed in otherwise non-combat skills, such as Composition and Social Awareness, to enhance her spells, thus making these skills more useful in combat. This also makes for some interesting tactical choices. The Bard can for example choose between casting more powerful spells that are easier to resist (i.e. have no RR mod.), or less powerful spells that are harder to resist (i.e. have an RR mod.). The Bard can also choose between casting lower level spells with no RR mod., or higher level spells with a mod.

One last thing to consider as you read the spells on this list is that, while many of them are quite powerful control spells, they have one big downside: they are only effective on targets that have a language the Bard knows. Thus the Bard is especially good at controlling foes she can speak to, but much less effective against mindless undead, giant amoeba, etc. The Bard is also better at facing foes if she can spend some time researching who they are, and learning their language (which most Bards consider a very Bardic thing to do), or if she knows/learns spells on other lists that allow her to speak her target’s language. That is one important balancing factor for the list.

This is a rough draft, and I welcome all comments and criticism. I am especially interested in any comments relating to the power/balance of the different spells. I sometimes found it hard to judge what level a spell should be, given that I introduced another variable (RR mods for skill ranks) to the power equation.

I’d also like to give a shout out to JDale and Technobabble66, one of the developers of RMU and a poster on the ICE forums respectively, since they gave me some good ideas that I have incorporated into this list.

So, what do you think? Is this the Bard you’re looking for?

A Note on Hurin’s RMU Houserules: Thanks to Peter’s kindness, I now have a section of the blog devoted to my RMU houserules. Over the years, I’ve had quite a few requests from posters on the ICE boards to formalize my houserules so that they can use them. Over the coming months, I plan to use this section of the blog to do just that: to post for everyone’s use all of the rules I currently use, as well as all the ones I will make in the future.

Since this is my first time posting my houserules, and I’m still figuring out how to post documents and make them downloadable, I am also posting the spell list here. I don’t want to post all about the list and then not have you able to access it! So enjoy.

Bard Base


Level) Spell                                   Area of Effect     Duration              Range    Type

1) Minor Mockery *                        1 target                2 rounds              100’       F

2) Clumsify                                          1 target                1 round                100’        F

3) Annoy *                                          1 target                1 round                50’          F

4) I Wouldn’t Do That                     1 target                1 rnd/5 fail          100’       F

5) Fyre of the Fae                             10’ radius            3 rounds              100’       F

6) Trip                                                   1 target                2 rounds              100’       F

7) Confusify                                        1 target                1 round                50’          F

8) Stinkify                                            15’ radius            2 rounds              50’          F                                             

9) Major Mockery *                        1 target                3 rounds              100’       F

10) Sartorial Savagery                    25’ radius            2 rounds              50’          F

11) Taunt                                             1 target                2 rounds              100’       F

12) Boogeyman                                10’ radius            2 rounds              100’       F

13) You Mock Me                             1 target                1 round                20’          F

14) Pyre of the Fae                          30’ radius            3 rounds              100’       F

15) You’ve Been Served                1 target                5 rounds              50’          F

16) I Really Wouldn’t Do That      1 target                1 rnd/5 fail          100’       F

17) So Tiny *                                      50’ radius            3 rounds              Caster   F

18) Mass Taunt                                 10’ radius            2 rounds              100′       F

19) He’s Copying Me                       1 target                1 rnd/10 failure                 50’          F

20) Mass Stinkify                              30’ radius            2 rounds              100’       F

25) Mass Confusify                          20’ radius            1 round                Caster   F

30) You’ve All Been Served          25’ radius            5 rounds              50’          F

35) Ultimate Boogeyman              50’ radius            4 rounds              100’        F

40) Seriously, Don’t Do That        50’ radius            1 rnd/5 fail          200’        F

50) Lordly Mockery                         50’ radius            3 rounds              300’        F

1. Minor Mockery * – [RR Mod.: -(caster’s ranks in Composition: Writing)] Caster’s mocking limerick unnerves the target. Target is at -10 to all actions.

2. Clumsify – Caster’s cautionary sonnet informs the target of the immense gravity of the current situation, how terrible it would be to screw up, and the inescapable difficulty of life in general. If the target attempts a melee attack, missile attack, or spell, the target must first roll a fumble on the appropriate table and apply all results. If the target attempts a moving maneuver, that maneuver is performed at -75. If the target makes no melee or missile attack and casts no spell, Clumsify has no effect.

3. Annoy * – Caster’s biting stream of insults prevents target from concentrating and breaks any current concentration (see rules for ‘concentration’ in Arms and Character Law, 7.1).

4. I Wouldn’t Do That – [RR mod.: -(caster’s ranks in Social: Influence: Duping)] Caster sings a cautionary little ditty, explaining the finer points of why trying that sounds like a very, very bad idea. Target suffers -50 to one skill of the caster’s choice.

5. Fyre of the Fae – Caster’s passionate scorn causes enemies in radius at the time of casting to glow bright red in embarassment, making them easier to see. The glow adds 10 OB to all attacks against them, and prevents the targets from benefitting from any concealment-type spells (e.g. invisibility, unseen, cloaking, shadow, blur, etc.).

6. Trip  –  [RR Mod.: -(caster’s ranks in Performance: Acting)] Caster warns target not to trip over an unseen imaginary deceased turtle. If the target moves more than 1’, it must roll an RR; failure means it falls prone and is stunned for two rounds. (Note the target only makes the RR if and when it moves).

7. Confusify – Caster’s willfully incoherent poem compells target to pause and ponder the fundamental principles of logic. Target is incapable of making decisions or initiating action; target may continue to fight current foes or in self-defense.

8. Stinkify – Caster calls attention to the unique body odour of one target in the radius. Target’s allies within the spell radius who fail their RR will not willingly move closer to the target, and must move at least their BMR away from target each turn of the spell’s effect, if they have an open path.

9. Major Mockery * – [RR Mod.: -(caster’s ranks in Composition: Writing)] Oh no, did the caster really just say that!?!? Target is red-faced and overcome with existential ennui, at -30 to all actions.

10. Sartorial Savagery – [RR Mod.: -(caster’s ranks in Social: Social Awareness)] Caster’s savage derision calls everyone’s attention to the target’s most questionable fashion choice. The target and all of the target’s allies within the radius who fail their RR suffer -30 Perception due to being unable to stop glancing at target. Affected allies also must spend 1 action point/round laughing uncontrollably at target’s apparel (or lack thereof).

11. Taunt – Caster’s incredibly annoying mime impression enrages target. Target must spend its next two rounds charging towards and attacking caster with full OB. If target’s path is completely blocked, target will attack anything and anyone in its way. Target can make a second RR, using SD stat bonus rather than Essence RR mod, to avoid striking allies; failure means target will use full but non-lethal force (eg: grappling/shoving) to get allies out of the way in order to continue charging.

12. Boogeyman – [RR mod.: -(caster’s ranks in Social: Influence: Intimidation)] Caster’s deep-throated shout of ‘I’m your boogeyman!’ strikes fear into all enemies in a 10’ radius. Targets suffer -15 to all actions and -30 to any fear-based RRs.

13. You Mock Me – Target is convinced that one of its allies (chosen randomly if any real allies are within sight; otherwise, an imaginary ‘friend’) is mocking the target behind its back. Target spends all action points for the turn moving towards and attacking this ally.

14. Pyre of the Fae – As Fyre of the Fae, but with expanded area of effect.

15. You’ve Been Served – [RR mod.: -(caster’s ranks in Performance: Music)] Caster disrespects the target’s dancing skills so harshly that the target feels compelled to show some moves. Target must spend 2 ap/round dancing.

16. I Really Wouldn’t Do That – [RR mod.: -(caster’s ranks in Social: Influence: Duping)] As I Wouldn’t Do That, except the penalty is -100.

17. So Tiny * – Caster’s mocking couplet makes the target seem far less imposing, preventing the target from casting any Fear spell or spell effect, and negating any fear effects the target has already imposed within the area of effect.

18. Mass Taunt – As Taunt, but with expanded area of effect.

19. He’s Copying Me – Caster prevents target from casting any spells by mimicking the target and humming annoyingly when target tries to cast a spell.

20. Mass Stinkify – As Stinkify, but affecting all enemies in radius, who must move 2x BMR away from all other affected targets.

25. Mass Confusify – As confusify, except it affects all enemies within 20’ of caster, and targets may not attack caster for duration (even if they were already fighting caster).

30. You’ve All Been Served – [RR mod.: -(caster’s ranks in Performance: Music)] As You’ve Been Served, but with expanded area of effect, and targets must spend 4 AP/round dancing.

35. Ultimate Boogeyman – As Boogeyman, but with expanded area of effect and penalties: targets now suffer -30 to actions and -60 to fear RRs.

40. Seriously, Don’t Do That – [RR mod.: -(caster’s ranks in Social: Influence: Duping)] As I Really Wouldn’t Do That, except all targets in the radius are incapable of using the chosen skill (caster can only choose one skill total for all targets).

50. Lord Mockery – [RR Mod.: -(caster’s ranks in Composition: Writing)] Future Bards will tell the tale of the unrivalled epicness of this insult. Emotionally shattered, the targets are rendered catatonic in disbelief.

Note: Spell on this list only affect creatures that can understand complex (i.e. non-bestial) languages. The caster must have at least skill rank 2 in one language the target speaks.

Note: This is a silly list. Just go with it.

2 Page Random Adventures?

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


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

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

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

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

For my random toys idea, I could:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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).


  • 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?