The Armsmaster and the Warlord for RMU

As part of my project of translating RM2 classes into RMU, I am turning to consider a personal favorite class of mine, the Armsmaster/Noble Warrior. I’d be eager to hear your opinions on how to make him awesome in RMU.

As I’m doing that, I’m also considering another pet project: creating a Rolemaster version of another favorite class of mine, Dungeons & Dragons’ Warlord. So if you have any thoughts on the Warlord, now is the time to make them known!

Why am I treating them together? Because I think they are quite similar classes, and work best as semi-spell users with a martial, heavy-armor focus. I’d like to make them into two separate classes. I see the Armsmaster as a kind of supreme individual combatant, a Kensei/Swordmaster devoted to swordsmanship; but I see the Warlord as a battlefield commander/centurion/tactician who is all about buffing and empowering the group as he leads from the front.

Why do I want to bring these classes to RMU? Well, aside from the fact that they are just darn fun to play, I think RMU does lack a heavy-armor based Mentalism semi; and we had one in previous editions. JDale has even given us his own suggested costs for the Armsmaster in RMU. But by default, RMU offers us just the Magent, who is more stealth based, and the Monk, who tends not to use armor at all. What if you want to maximize one of the great benefits of the Mentalism realm (i.e. no Transcendence penalties) to create a more martial semi who combines martial skill with a commanding presence and force of will? What if you want to play as Alexander the Great, William the Conqueror, Saladin, Genghis Khan, or Oda Nobunaga? Then the Armsmaster or Warlord is what you want.

First, let’s do a little history of the Armsmaster/Noble Warrior class. The Noble Warrior first appeared in RM2’s Companion III. He was presented as essentially a Paladin without the religious element: he had an exacting moral code, and high entrance requirements, as Paladins had in past systems going back to D&D, but he was more of a vassal to a lord than a champion of a god or goddess. He was therefore a semi-spell user of Mentalism rather than Channeling. Companion III only offered two new spell lists for him: Noble Armor, which had defensive and armor buffs; and Noble Weapon, which had weapon and attack buffs. RoCoIII advised taking his other lists from those of the Paladin (one list was suggested), Beastmaster (two lists), and Monk (five lists).

Rolemaster Companion VII offered a similar class, called the Armsmaster, with virtually identical skill costs, but presented it more as a kind of soldier-class (without the moral code), and fleshed the class out better with a full suite of five spell lists: Battle Trance; Commands; Encampments; Martial Law; and Warriorblade. These lists included several more group-oriented and military style lists, with spells that buffed groups and military skills (tactics, military organization, leadership), and were useful in mass combat. The archetype here was more William the Conqueror than Miyamoto Musashi.

Finally, the RMSS Mentalism Companion seems to me to have brought these two classes together, under the name Armsmaster, with six full base lists of their own: Armor Mastery; Battle Law; Fortress Law; Martial Law; Warrior Law; and Weapon Mastery. It had both individually oriented and group oriented lists.

This brings me to the Warlord. I see an opportunity here to create two quite distinctive classes for RMU. Many of the Armsmaster spells deal with group buffs, in a way that the Noble Warrior’s spells really did not. There’s enough in the Armsmaster lists to just focus the Armsmaster on individual combat. This version of the Armsmaster could be a lone Samurai, a Kensei ‘sword-saint’ like Musashi, or a knight errant. He would be to the Fighter what the Magent is to the Rogue: namely, a semi-spell version of the class, whose power comes as much from mental discipline and force of will as from physical training.

Doing that gives me the space necessary to create another, more group-combat and command-oriented Mentalism semi, namely, the Warlord. As I understand it, the Warlord emerged out of D&D 3.5 expansion material’s Marshal class, which was intended as a group-oriented commander. (Real history note: the medieval ‘marshal’ was usually the officer who commanded the army on behalf of the king – the king’s tactician, if you will). The class was renamed Warlord for 4th edition D&D, and it was a ton of fun to play. I played one through an entire campaign and in fact it was perhaps the most enjoyable character I’ve ever played.

Reactions to the Warlord class were mixed overall, it should be noted, for several reasons. Some people really disliked the idea of a martial class that could heal; the Warlord could inspire his allies to regain hit points in a way that broke the suspension of disbelief for some players (‘shouting a severed arm back on’ was one common complaint, even if it was a little misguided, since D&D did not normally describe hit point damage in terms of severed body parts). Others objected to the name: in English, Warlord has a somewhat sinister connotation, as a term one might apply to Somali pirates or Taliban terrorists. Still others disliked the class because it was a core class in 4e when some others were left out (e.g. Druid and Sorcerer). And some people criticized the class because they just plain old hated 4e in general.

So how can we translate the Warlord into Rolemaster without cheesing people off? I plan to do the following:

–The Warlord will be a group-oriented buffer, but he will not be healing wounds like a Cleric. He won’t be casting clotting or severe cartilage damage healing or regenerate limb. Instead, his spells will be doing things like granting temporary hit points through spells like Unpain (the Warlord inspires you to push through your pain), fatigue relief (the drill sergeant is on your case to get up and move), and stun relief (your commander snaps you back to reality and gets you back into action).

–The Warlord will have an alternate name or names for those who don’t like the connotation: Marshal is probably the leading candidate, though I also like Captain (which was used in the Middle Ages for someone of the knightly class). We can’t use Leader because that was already used for a pure Arms-using class in Rolemaster Companion IV, and the debate about the term ‘Warlord’ has shown that many players dislike ‘leader’ because it implies that the rest of the party have to take orders from that character.

So that’s the plan so far. What do you think? Are there any particular Armsmaster spells or Warlord powers that you can recommend I include? There are lots of spells to make – 6 lists each for two different classes! – so there’s probably a slot for your favorite. Let me know.

Grappling with Grappling, Part III: New Options for Grappling in RMU

Indian Wrestler by Lordeeas: https://www.deviantart.com/lordeeas/art/Indian-Wrestler-677553936

In the first two installments of this trilogy of blogs, we saw how previous editions of Rolemaster struggled to simulate grappling, primarily because they tried to fit grappling into the standard paradigm of attack chart and critical chart. This forced wrestlers to choose between being bad wrestlers or good murderers, because successful attacks always did some concussion hit damage, and criticals were both erratic and deadly. The RM2 companions and RMSS/FRP tried to solve the problem by adding new skills, but this just increased skill bloat, without reducing the swingy-ness or the lethality of Grappling. We also saw how D&D currently offers a simple and reasonable nonlethal option for grappling, and how RMU innovates as well by adding a Grapple% to the Grappling critical chart and changing the action economy to one that runs on Action Points.

Using the new tools provided by the beta RMU rules, and simultaneously adopting the best of what previous RM editions and the present edition of D&D have to offer, I here present two options for better representing grappling in RMU. I call the first suggestion the ‘Tweak’ Option because it represents some relatively modest additons to the existing RMU rules: mostly just adding a couple of basic grappling maneuvers. I call the second option the Alternative Option because it offers an another way of resolving nonlethal grapples that you can use instead of or along with the default RMU option. But note that you can mix and match elements of these two options to produce exactly the system you want. You could for example implement the Tweak Option’s two basic maneuvers but also use the Alternative Option’s method of resolving grappling attempts with skill checks rather than attack and critical charts (see below).

Both solutions involve adding some additional actions, or combat maneuvers, to the RMU list of actions and their action point costs. I think adding some specific moves is the secret to enabling varied and realistic grappling without risking skill bloat. Thus, instead of RMSS’s Tackle skill, you just have a Tackle maneuver, which you can use so long as you have at least 1 rank in Unarmed: Wrestling. Now, you don’t have to worry every level up about buying a distinct Tackle skill in addition to Wrestling skill; instead, tackling just enters the repertoire of things you can do with your Wrestling skill. We thus avoid skill bloat while also allowing wrestlers to do all the things they love to do.

Another beneficial feature of this maneuvers system is that it allows you to choose which specific maneuvers you want to add to your game, thus enabling you to tailor the RMU grappling rules to your own playstyle, whether it is simple, complex, or anything in between. You can also easily adjust the Action Point costs of individual maneuvers to whatever you think appropriate for your game. And if you like the system, you can add further distinctive moves for various grappling styles, such as Judo’s rear naked choke, and you can assign them different prerequisites in terms of position, Grapple%, and even skill ranks (or you can keep the move simple, and your combat more fantasy-esque, by just ignoring those prerequisites).

Adding formalized maneuvers works especially well for grappling because although real-life wrestling involves a great deal of improvisation, it also encompasses a vast array of set moves with specific names, both offensive and defensive (single-leg takedown, double-leg takedown, fireman’s carry/throw, sprawl, etc.). These manuevers are thus somewhat analogous to the standard maneuvers Rolemaster has already implemented for its weapon combat (e.g. parry, shield block, dodge, disarm, subdue).

Perhaps best of all, adding these sorts of moves to Rolemaster is now easier than ever, because of the changes RMU makes to the action economy. As Aspire2Hope noted, the shorter RMU round (5 seconds as opposed to 10) makes RMU’s combat considerably more specific and less abstract. The fact that the 5 second RMU round can then be broken down still further, into 4 action points of roughly 1.25 seconds each, moves Rolemaster further away from the abstract ‘flurry of blows’ approach of earlier editions and towards a true second-by-second and move-by-move combat system. It is almost as if RMU were tailor made for this sort of grappling system.

The Tweak Option

            The first of the two options I offer here is the Tweak Option. The Tweak Option just adds two new, basic combat actions – Takedown and Shove – to RMU’s grappling rules and action costs table. These additional actions (detailed below) are the sorts of actions that grapplers are going to want to make frequently, so formalizing them with specific AP costs, prerequisites, and written descriptions provides helpful guidance for how to implement them, mechanically.

I express these maneuvers below in a manner similar to the way JDale presented his combat styles a while back (IIRC, since the forums are down and I can’t check this); I suspect my moves could be integrated into his system with little effort. Do note though that the prerequisites I list are optional, and the action point costs are tentative (feedback especially welcome on these!). These actions are also similar to the combat moves you find in games such as All Flesh Must Be Eaten (thanks Mark for that reference!). The fact that we can express these maneuvers so simply is also a feature of RMU’s streamlined action point system:

Tackle/Takedown

Cost: 3 AP

Prerequisites (optional): Unarmed (skill)

Modifiers: As melee attack

Effect: You try to tackle your target. Roll an Unarmed skill check, opposed by your target’s skill check (Acrobatics, Contortions, or Unarmed). If you win, your target is knocked down (supine), with you on top. If you are using tokens/figures and squares or hexes, you occupy the target’s square.

Shove

Cost: 3 AP

Prerequisites: Unarmed (skill)

Modifiers: As melee attack

Effect: You try to push your target. Roll an Unarmed skill check, opposed by your target’s skill check (Acrobatics, Contortions, or Unarmed). If you win, your target is knocked down (supine), or 5’ backwards (your choice). 

Size: The last thing to consider is how to handle size. Because in grappling, size really matters; that’s why wrestling has so many weight categories. D&D as we saw prohibits characters from grappling creatures more than one size larger than their own. But RMU has many more weight categories than D&D, and the RMU categories are more finely graded, so we should probably add some typical Rolemaster open-endedness instead. I suggest that combatants in RMU get a bonus to size-dependent maneuvers equivalent to 50 times the square of the size advantage. So a human fighting a Halfling (one size difference) gets a +50 bonus to any maneuvers. A Troll fighting a Halfling gets a +200 bonus. So yes, the Halfling can still try to take that Troll down, and might get very lucky. But he’ll probably have to roll at least double open-ended to do it. And he’ll have to roll high open-ended 8 times or more to trip a dragon. (If you want a still more granular approach to relative weights, you can use the bonuses in the RMU Feats of Strength rules, which rely on a precise comparison of combatants’ weights even within a size category).

The Alternative Option

            The Alternative Option involves adding a few more moves, but also offers an alternative, nonlethal method for resolving basic grappling attacks: namely, opposed skill checks. This is the system that D&D uses, and it seems to work fine; at least I don’t see too many people complaining that grappling isn’t random or deadly enough in D&D. The system I present here is influenced by the D&D system, and is thus both simpler and in some ways more realistic than the present RMU system insofar as it requires no attack chart (or even critical chart – see below). It also has the advantage of allowing me to grapple my young son without killing him, just like I do every day in real life. This solution also has an RMU twist, though, because it uses RMU skills, and can still use part of the RMU Grappling Critical chart if you want it to. To resolve grapples nonlethally in RMU, then, try adding this move:

Grapple (basic, nonlethal)

Cost: 3 AP

Prerequisites: Unarmed (skill)

Modifiers: As melee attack

Effect: Make an Unarmed skill roll, opposed by your target’s skill roll (target’s choice of Acrobatics, Contortions, or Unarmed). If you win, roll a critical on the Grapple critical chart. The severity of the critical is determined by how much your roll exceeded your target’s: 1-10 = A critical; 11-20 = B; 21-30 = C; 31-40 = D; 41-50 = E; 51-60 = F; etc. Apply any results of ‘Grapple%’ to your target, but ignore all other results. All other RMU Grappling rules apply (see Arms and Character Law, 2.7 ‘Criticals and Injuries: Grapple’).

Alternatively, if you don’t want to use the Grappling critical chart at all, then the Grapple% you impose with a successful attack equals the amount by which your roll beat your target’s (e.g. if you beat his roll by 30, you impose a 30% Grapple).

Note that this system allows you to resolve grappling attacks without any chart at all. You can still use the RMU Grappling critical chart whenever you feel like it of course, if for example you want your combat to have a chance at being lethal; and you can also at any time switch to the current RMU Grapple attack chart if you want to represent the more hostile grapples of the sort that wild creatures perform, or if the party Ranger is possessed by a demon, and the party Fighter is trying to wrestle him to the ground. You still have that flexibility.

This chartless method of resolving grappling explains how wrestlers can spar for hours without dying due to concussion hit loss. In the Rolemaster rules as they are currently written, which rely on both attack and critical charts, each successful attack causes some concussion hit damage, and even B criticals can be deadly. This means that wrestlers (especially level 1 adolescents) cannot sustain such attacks indefinitely without being knocked out or even killed. In real life, though, a single practice session for wrestlers sees them subjected to literally dozens of attacks; yet they aren’t constantly falling unconscious and dying. This is what I mean when I say a nonlethal method of resolution is actually more realistic at representing wrestling.

Now that we understand the basic system of moves and nonlethal skill resolution, we can proceed to offer some sample advanced maneuvers:

Single-Leg Takedown

Cost: 3 AP

Prerequisites: Unarmed (skill); at least 25% Grapple (position).

Modifiers: +15 to your skill check; otherwise as melee attack

Effect: Roll an Unarmed skill check, opposed by your target’s skill (Acrobatics, Contortions, or Unarmed). If you win, your target is knocked down (supine), with you on top.  

Double-Leg Takedown

Cost: 3 AP

Prerequisites: Unarmed (skill); at least 50% Grapple (position)

Modifiers: +30 to your skill check; otherwise as melee attack

Effect: Roll an Unarmed skill check, opposed by your target’s skill (Acrobatics, Contortions, or Unarmed). If you win, your target is knocked down (supine), with you on top.

Rear Naked Choke

Cost: 8 AP

Prerequisites: Unarmed or Subdual rank 5 (skill); at least 50% Grapple (position); rear (position); a breathing target

Modifiers: -25 if target is standing; otherwise as melee attack

Effect: Having taken your opponent’s back, you leverage your arms around his throat and squeeze.Roll an Unarmed skill check, opposed by your target’s skill (Acrobatics, Contortions, or Unarmed). If you win, your target falls unconscious.

Note that the single-leg takedown is better than the basic grapple or takedown: it benefits from a +15 modifier. This is because it also requires that you have a hold of one of your opponent’s legs first (the 25% grapple prerequisite). So if you can set this up by doing a basic grapple first, you will have a better chance of landing it. Similarly, the double-leg takedown has a better modifier (+30), but requires that you have a hold of both legs (50% grapple). Finally, the rear naked choke renders an opponent unconscious, but has the highest requirements and takes the most time: it costs 8 AP, and can only be performed if you already have rear position. These different maneuvers simulate the way a grappler breaks down an opponent.

Suggested Additional Rules

–Close Quarters: If you think these options make wrestling too strong, you could allow a target’s Grapple penalties to be reduced by her RMU Restricted Quarters skill, since that skill represents training in fighting in tight spaces, with a restricted range of movement. This creates an appropriate and pretty effective counter skill to wrestling, but one that only Arms users are likely to be able to afford. (Spellcasters already have lots of other tools for evading grapples, such as Teleport spells).

–Multiple Hands: How do you handle a grappler with multiple hands? You could give a bonus (e.g. +10) to grappling attacks/defenses for each additional hand a combatant employs, beyond the first. Vard Orcs will definitely be happy with that!

–Subdual: One skill that could nicely complement Unarmed: Wrestling is RMU’s Subdual skill. I like the idea of making Subdual an alternative grappling skill that could be used for moves such as the rear naked choke. This is why I list Subdual as an alternative prerequisite skill in my Rear Naked Choke move above.

–Ground and Pound: If you want to simulate an MMA-style ‘ground and pound’, whereby a wrestler first gains position on an opponent and then delivers strikes to him, you can just switch to Unarmed: Strikes once you have obtained sufficient Grapple%. All positional bonuses still apply, and you can still use the default RMU rules for breaking grips.

Conclusion

I could throw some more moves at you, but this is already a ridiculously long article, and I think now you all get the basic idea. You can probably think of many more maneuvers to add. I certainly will, and both earlier editions of Rolemaster (e.g. the Martial Arts Companion) and other games (e.g. All Flesh Must Be Eaten) give dozens more moves too. And that of course is part of the fun of the system. You can create entire combat styles that represent real or fantasy fighting traditions. And you can make grappling as simple or as complex as you want it to be.

            The most important point to note, though, is that RMU already has a chassis better built for grappling than any prior edition of Rolemaster. The action point system, the 5-second round, and the new grappling critical chart all make our job far easier than it has ever been. As long as you are willing to recognize that grappling doesn’t really fit very well into the standard Rolemaster attack chart, and that D&D can have a good idea or two sometimes, then I think the door is open to a much better system of grappling for RMU.

Grappling with Grappling, Part II: The RMU and D&D Approaches

In part I of this series, I explained how the first editions of Rolemaster initially tried to fit wrestling into their normal attack paradigm. They used specific attack charts (Sweeps & Throws, Grappling), which were tied to specific critical charts (Sweeps & Throws, Grappling); and they also offered a non-lethal option by capping results at 105 if you wanted to pull your punches (or grapples as the case may be). The main problem with this approach was that it forced would-be grapplers to choose between being bad wrestlers (since even a maximum result at 105 on the attack chart was unlikely to immobilize an opponent) or good murderers (since the higher results often ended in serious injury or death). In an attempt to solve these problems, the RM2 Companions and RMSS/FRP offered options that mixed different attack charts (Grapple, Sweeps, even Striking) with the different critical charts (Grappling, Sweeps, Unbalancing) almost interchangeably. The Companions and RMSS/FRP also added more skills, such that RMSS had separate skills for Sweeps and Throws; Tackling; Wrestling; and Blocking. But all this really did was introduce skill bloat. In RMSS, you literally had to switch skills three times (from Blocking to Tackling to Wrestling) if you wanted to stop an opponent from running past you and take him to the ground. And RMSS/FRP never solved the problem of the grappler’s Hobson’s Choice between bad wrestling and good murdering.

The final result, then, was still rather unrealistic. I wrestle with my 5-year-old son pretty much every day, but if I used the RM2 or RMSS grappling rules to do this, I would either be very bad at catching him (an attack table result of 105 is unlikely to give me a good grip on him, unless I get lucky with my critical roll), or I would have outright killed him years ago. But in reality I can catch him pretty easily, and the worst injury I have ever given him was a small red mark on his temple due to the fact that I had not cut my fingernails closely enough that day. The earlier editions of Rolemaster never gave me a system that allows me to wrestle him effectively without risking murdering him.

So what’s the solution? The new edition of Rolemaster gives us with some very useful new tools, and I think we can add to them a few ideas from Dungeons & Dragons. Together, I think these finally solve the problem of grappling.

RMU offers us a new system closely tied to earlier editions of Rolemaster. There is still a Grappling table and a Sweeps Throws table, and both still have their own distinct critical tables. But there are also clearer rules for subduing attacks, as well as a Subdual critical table (I think that is an RMSS innovation?). There is also a Wrestling skill, which is a specialization of the Unarmed skill, right alongside Martial Arts Strikes and Sweeps & Throws, where I think it fits well. But thankfully there are no separate ‘Athletic Games’ or ‘Tackling’ or ‘Blocking’ skills to bloat the RMU skill list.

But perhaps the most important change RMU makes is the reworking of the Grappling critical chart. It now includes numerical ‘Grapple %’ results alongside its descriptions of other effects. The Grapple% is a penalty that applies to all the target’s actions so long as it remains grappled. This penalty represents how good a grip/lock the grappler has on her opponent. So when attacked by a grappler who obtains a critical against you, you might suffer a result of ‘30% Grapple’, which means you are at -30 until you break that grapple. Breaking the Grapple is a 4 AP or full-round action, and you can use the Wrestling, Contortions, ‘or other appropriate grappling skill’ to perform it. The amount you roll over 100 is the amount by which you reduce your Grapple% penalty.

So far, so good. The discussion on the forums in recent weeks focused on an apparent oversight in the RMU rules about moving while grappled. In the RMU Rules As Written (RAW), any grapple% result stops all movement for the grappler and the grapplee until the hold is broken. This is a bit of a problem, because it means a Halfing gaining the slightest Grapple% (5%) on a Troll could rather easily stop him from moving altogether. Forum posters suggested various ways of solving this. My own suggestion was to add a stipulation that a grappled target takes on the added encumbrance (including body weight) of his/her grappler. This would mean that the Troll could rather easily drag the Halfling around, but a Halfling grabbed by a Troll would be more or less completely immobilized. In commenting on my suggestion, JDale coined our new RMU slogan — ‘That’s reasonable’ — so I am hoping this might be the solution the developers adopt.

Overall, I like the innovation of adding a grappling % to the critical results, and I think it is one of the keys to improving grappling, but I feel RMU still lacks a two things, namely:

–A controlled, consistently nonlethal Grappling option. In reality, as opposed to the RM grappling rules, a champion wrestler is able to put you where he wants you, and keep you there. That control is to me the very essence of wrestling. But this also means a champion is not going to hurt you inadvertently. Yet, the RMU Grappling attack table still inflicts concussion hit damage (even if it is low), and the RMU Grappling critical chart still causes broken bones, severe injuries, and death on even B criticals. So I still can’t wrestle my son within the RMU Rules As Written. I still have to choose between having less control than I do in reality, or being less effective than I am in reality.

–More standardized maneuvers with specific AP costs, such as ‘takedown/tackle’, so I don’t have to constantly houserule common maneuvers. RMU has thankfully done away with the skill bloat that gave us separate skills for Blocking, Tackling, Wrestling, and Athletic Games. We can now just use Wrestling for all these, and treat Blocking and Tackling as Wrestling maneuvers. But to do that easily, we still need exact AP costs and some basic guidance as to how to handle these as maneuvers.

Dungeons & Dragons offers some ideas for how we can solve these last remaining problems. Why bother with D&D? Well, D&D has a system that is in some ways simpler and better at capturing nonlethal grappling (for a good breakdown, see: https://www.enworld.org/threads/the-grapplers-manual-2-0-grappling-in-5th-edition.468737/ ). D&D is also by far the most heavily played and playtested system in the world, which means that there is a good chance your players are already familiar with it, and there are some lessons we can learn from the vast amount of feedback it has accumulated. The relevant aspects of the D&D system are these:

–Grappling is resolved by an opposed skill check (attacker’s Athletics skill vs. defender’s Athletics or Acrobatics skill) rather than a regular attack. Grappling therefore never does hit point damage. Its primary effect is to impose the ‘Grappled’ condition, which reduces the target’s speed to 0.

–Characters can make additional moves beyond the initial grabbing, most notably tackling/takedowns (the ‘Shove’ action).

–Size limits grappling. You can’t grapple a creature more than 1 size larger than you. And you can’t drag a creature you’ve grappled if it weighs more than your carrying capacity.

D&D thus offers quite a lot, namely: a controlled, nonlethal mechanic for resolving Grappling attacks (i.e. using skill checks rather than attack charts); clear rules for takedowns; and a detailed explanation of how size affects grappling.

In my third and final part of this trilogy of blogs, I’ll give specific rules for how similar measures can be implemented to improve grappling in RMU.

Grappling with Grappling, Part I: The Problem

Rolemaster has never done a particularly good job of capturing the mechanics of grappling or wrestling. With the new edition of Rolemaster around the corner, discussion of RMU’s grappling mechanics recently came up on the ICE forums (before they went down). I thought this would be a good occasion to review these rules and offer a few suggestions as to how they can be improved.

In this post, which is the first of three I will make on grappling, I will just survey the rules for wrestling in previous editions (pre-RMU) of Rolemaster. This will get us all up to speed on how Rolemaster has tried to solve the problem of wrestling, and I think it will also make several things abundantly clear: The original Rolemaster’s system of attack charts and criticals never really captured wrestling’s effects very well, and subsequent editions merely added new skills without fixing the underlying problems, which resulted in a confusing proliferation of skills, and frankly a rather hopeless mess of mechanics. I think Rolemaster can do better than that.

Full disclosure: this is a topic dear to my heart. I actually wrestled a little bit (the real kind—what Americans call ‘amateur’ or ‘olympic’ wresting, as opposed to the fake ‘professional’ wrestling) in middle and high school. I love the sport. It is the hardest one I have ever done, for it demands every ounce of your energy and attention. And the list of UFC champions will testify that it is one of the most effective martial arts in the world.

The rules for grappling in RM2 were pretty simple. There was an attack table for ‘Grapple/Grasp/Envelop/Swallow’ (the picture showed a squid and a snake), which did relatively few hit points in damage and resulted in Grapple criticals. One unique thing about this table was the note at the bottom saying that for each round that a creature obtained a critical against its target, the creature got a +10 to OB against that target. This seemed to be an attempt to show a creature sinking in a deeper hold on its target. There was also a Martial Arts: Sweeps and Throws skill, which was meant to simulate martial arts such as Judo and Wrestling. Its attack chart too did relatively few hit points and resulted in Grapple criticals. There was a note that combatants trying to subdue an enemy without doing serious damage could roll on the Grapple or the Sweeps attack table, with a maximum result of 105; this was the cutoff for ‘Small’ attacks, with a maximum critical of ‘B’ severity, which ensured that the attack would be non-lethal… but also make the attack less likely to actually grapple or immobilize its target. On more severe results, the Grapple critical chart could inflict some serious injuries, including death. 91-5 on a C for example resulted in the target being stunned and unable to parry for 44 rounds (is that a record?) and at -95 afterwards. This forced wrestlers to make a choice between the lesser of two evils: play it safe and be a bad wrestler; or be a good wrestler and risk murdering your opponent. That wasn’t ideal.

I imagine RM2’s Unbalancing chart could also be used to represent grapples, but it includes lots of broken bones and very serious injuries, including death, so it isn’t ideal either for capturing two wrestlers in a sparring match.

RM2 also had the Subdual skill, but is was far more Vulcan Nerve Pinch than Rear Naked Choke, and it required a lot more setup than wrestlers did. It was more of a fantasy skill to render unconscious a foe that you approached unawares, and who had no armor on its upper body. You also had to develop the skill separately for different types of creatures. Mechanically, you had to roll 101+ on a skill check, and your bonus was halved if your foe was in melee, so it wasn’t really something a wrestler thought of doing. Even if you succeeded, the defender still got an RR versus your skill ranks in Subduing. To this day, I’m not quite sure what stat affected this RR (I am assuming Constitution?).

The RM companions did not add much more. Companion IV lamented the lack of ability to attack to subdue, and offered some additional options for that, such as changing lethal criticals to non-lethal criticals, provided the attacker accepted a penalty (-20 or more) to the attack’s OB, and that the attack was of a type that could be used non-lethally (e.g. yes for Grapples, no for Lightning Bolts). The Arms Companion added the ‘Melee Scuffle’ skill, which was essentially a tripping skill that used 40% of your activity for the round.

RMSS/FRP tried to solve the problem by adding many more wrestling-like skills. However, these skills seemed at times to overlap with and even contradict one another, and even then, they never really offered wrestlers any other option than the traditional ones of being either a bad wrestler or a good murderer. The RMSS core rules added a Tackling skill, which fell under the Martial Arts: Strikes category. The description of Tackling said it was the skill to use for bringing someone to the ground and temporarily immobilizing them. Tackling used the Martial Arts: Strikes attack table, but with results capped at rank 1, and the criticals were Grappling rather than MA Srikes. Confusingly, RMSS then added that if the contest continued after the initial tackle, then a separate ‘Wrestling’ skill was to be used (I guess no one was thinking of Greco-Roman wrestling here). This Wrestling skill was in the MA: Sweeps category rather than Strikes, and used the Sweeps attack chart rather than the Strikes attack chart, but again with Grappling criticals and a cap of rank 1 results. One problem with this was that the skill descriptions said Tackling had more of an intent to injure whereas Wrestling was just aimed at immobilization, but mechanically, both attacks used exactly the same criticals (Grappling). And those Grappling criticals resulted in lots of broken bones and even instant death.

To add further confusion, RMSS also had yet another separate skill called ‘Athletic Games’, in an entirely separate category (Athletic Games: Brawn), whose written description specifically cited ‘Wrestling’ as one of these games. The lesson here, kids, is that adding more skills is not the solution to every problem! RM2 had had a secondary skill called ‘Athletic Games’, but the description in Rolemaster Companions I and II never mentioned Wrestling, so I am assuming RMSS just added that in here.

RMFRP also redid the Grappling critical charts, changing some of the results. For example, it changed 00 on an E critical from crushing foe’s windpipe to crushing foe’s windpipe and literally ripping his head off. So much for sparring I guess.

The RMSS Martial Arts Companion added an optional rule that adjusted the maximum damage of Wrestling according to the difference in sizes of the combatants. That was kind of neat. It also offered a ‘Locking Holds’ skill, that used the Sweeps attack chart (again limited to rank 1 results) and a new ‘Locking Holds’ critical chart. Again, that was pretty cool. Unfortunately, that chart’s results included lots and lots of broken bones, so it wasn’t very suitable for wrestling.

The RMFRP School of Hard Knocks further confused matters (to me at least) by citing ‘wrestling’ as an example of its Athletic Games: Brawn skill, but then going on to talk mostly about ball sports. To further confuse you, the School of Hard Knocks’ description of the Tackling skill was illustrated by two figures that are clearly Wrestling.

So what does this trip through memory lane prove? To me, it clearly shows that adding a plethora of new skills will not solve the problem of realistically representing grappling. RMSS’s multiplication of skills just amplified confusion over how to resolve wrestling actions. The real solution – for me at least – lies in using existing skills and mechanics instead, and simplifying them to produce a more realistic and workable system. Wrestlers should not have to choose between being bad wrestlers or good murderers.

My next post will compare how two other systems can offer help in achieving these goals. The two systems are: Dungeons and Dragons, which offers a very simple and reasonably good method for resolving grapples (especially the non-lethal kind); and RMU, which presents a new Grapple critical table, new size rules, and a simpler action economy, which enable us to simplify the rules for grappling while at the same time making them more realistic than they have ever been. In my third and final post of this trilogy on Grappling, I’ll offer my own houserules for handling grappling in RMU.

RMU: Pregenerated Characters of (Almost) Every Class

Bored at home? Looking for something to do? Check out these RMU characters I made by hand. You can find them in the Downloads>RMU dropdown menu above. They were done in Excel, on my own homemade character sheet. They include two of almost every class (at level 2 and at level 5).

I built these characters for several reasons. First, I wanted to have a stable of pregens for any playtestests I run, like the one I did at GenCon last year. I also wanted to include them in the introductory adventures I am writing. I find that one of the barriers to playing Rolemaster for new groups especially is the complexities of the character creation process, so having characters ready to go I think might entice more people to give the system a try. Another thing I wanted to do was to see which classes are viable in combat, and which might need help — and indeed this process was quite enlightening. Finally, I wanted to have a list of ‘Templates’, or a set of skills to buy for 60 DP (the allotment each character gets each level), as a guide to players for how to make a viable build. That too can be overwhelming for new players: not just making a character, but levelling her up.

I built characters of almost every class. I didn’t include the non-PC classes Laborer or Scholar, nor did I try my hand at a No Profession (though a heavy armor Mentalist semi would be a very good class indeed in RMU!). I also didn’t build a Dabbler, because I simply could not make a combat-viable one; I preferred instead to make my own (homebrewed) Warrior Mage, which is much more capable. I also didn’t make a Healer, since I think players already have lots of Healing options, most notably Cleric and Lay Healer.

A few things to note about my characters:

–‘RAW’ or ‘Kosher’ means characters built according to the RMU beta2 Rules As Written. Homebrew means I have included either my own new spell lists (for the Bard, Druid, and Ranger) or both my own new spell lists as well as my own new class (the Warrior Mage is one I made from scratch).

–I built these characters without using the Footwork skill or Knacks, since I don’t need or use either of those. I also didn’t much use the Grace skill, since the mechanics of it are still in flux, and I worry it is a bit overpowered. But I did use it for a few classes that I thought could make the most use of it.

–Some of the later costs for Combat Training skills are a bit of an estimate, since the released beta2 rules only include costs for the first four Combat Training skills.

–The full list of talents for each race involved a bit of guesswork, since the talents are changing as we speak (as Creature Law reduces the number of them). JDale was very helpful however in giving guidance on the talents for the new races I used (High Men, Hvasstonn, Idiyva, Nycamerith, and Sstoi), though, so those should be accurate,. Thanks very much to the always helpful JDale!

–These characters are built for combat. My players are classic Hack and Slashers, which means that in my group, any classes that can’t contribute in combat simply don’t get played. That’s why I needed to add new spells lists (many of which were reworked versions of old RM2 spell lists) for the Bard, Ranger, and Druid. Otherwise, these classes really did not offer much in terms of combat ability. If you play a more combat-light style, you would probably want to exchange some of the combat skills for more spells, and Lore, Crafting, and Social skills.

–I have built Clerics and Druids as both healers and as more battle-versions, so that’s why you’ll see multiple Clerics and Druids, with some focused more on healing and others fighting. I found that even the battle Cleric could still heal quite well though (the Druid wasn’t as effective at that, since he doesn’t get Lifekeeping/-Giving spells like the Cleric does).

–The characters are all Shadow World characters insofar as their languages and lore go, so as long as you are ok with some of the new RMU races being in Shadow World, these should be ready for Kulthea.

I have also added my templates for each class. You will find them in the Downloads>RMU>Templates for RMU Classes file. I also plan to blog soon on what I’ve learned about which classes in particular need help. But for now, enjoy!

A Mystic Character (Pregenerated) for RMU (Homebrew)

As part of Mystic week here on the Blog, here is an RMU Mystic character, a level 5 Grey Elf, for your viewing/playing pleasure. You can view it in Downloads>RMU, accessible above (once Peter approves it).

 This is the best I can do for the Mystic. I don’t have a new take on the class, nor a supplemented or redone set of spell lists, nor really much of an idea as to what to do with the class. That’s not because I disagree with what Peter wrote; rather, it is because I pretty much agree with everything he said. The Mystic lists really are very unoriginal – as they have been since first edition Rolemaster – because they mostly reproduce spells other classes get on other lists. My players have been entirely uninterested in the class: I have never had a player play a Mystic or even ask what they were; in fact, when I started to build one for RMU as part of my project of building a pregen character of every RMU class for a set of introductory adventures, I had to look through the lists to see what they actually did, despite the fact that I’ve been playing Rolemaster now for over 30 years. Your mileage may vary of course!

 The definition of the class is really vague. And that isn’t just a Rolemaster problem: Dungeons and Dragons recently introduced a Mystic class (in a series of Unearthed Arcana articles), and its class definition is likewise vague. It pretty much does everything: it has elemental balls (Detonation), utility, skill boosts, defense, healing, even resurrection. And the DnD Mystic also seems to have an additional problem that the RM one does not: the DnD Mystic seems to be quite overpowered, at least at some levels of play. The general consensus seems to be that the lack of focus and the excessive power are closely related: the class is overpowered because it is just too versatile, often outperforming other classes in their primary role: https://www.reddit.com/r/dndnext/comments/8378ac/the_full_mystic_class_has_been_out_for_a_year_now/  .

I can attest to the fact that the DnD Mystic is overpowered. We just finished a Princes of the Apocalypse DnD campaign, and in the final battle, the Mystic dropped a fireball for mass damage (Detonation), teleported herself and the entire party across the battlefield to the bad guys so that the fighters could instantly start going to town on their casters, then resurrected multiple party members when they died. I think the main culprit for the power imbalance in DnD is that the Mystic works kind of like a Rolemaster spellcaster in that she has spell points rather than slots. Thus, the Mystic can keep resurrecting till she runs out of spell points, where a Cleric could do only one or two res spells (since the Cleric has to use up high-level slots rather than just spend a number of spell points).

 If one wanted to unify the class, one might begin by considering the etymology of the word Mystic. What does it mean? It seems to come from words that mean hidden and mysterious, and are associated with secret or hard to acquire knowledge: ineffable, unquantifiable, experiential as opposed to rational and analytical. When we talk of medieval ‘Mystics’, we mean people who claimed to have visions from god or the gods, such as the Oracle of Delphi or Hildegard of Bingen. The visions were strange, cryptic, and at times terrifying. In many traditions, mysticism is also associated with ascetic practices, as in Christian monasticism and Muslim Sufism. But of course Rolemaster has Monks (and even Clerics in a pinch) for that.

So where does this leave the RMU Mystic? Well, in a similarly vague place as the DnD mystic I guess, but happily I think with less concerns about being overpowered. I think some of the old RM2 Astrologer spell lists, such as Holy Vision, Far Voice, and Time’s Bridge, could actually be resurrected to fit the classical definition of a Mystic, to give it that ‘Mystical’ element it seems to lack. But those old lists would need a lot of work, because they have more gaps than spells for long stretches, and RMU does a good job of requiring that there be a spell at every level of its lists.

So, unable to completely revamp the Mystic class, I focused instead just on making a single, combat-viable Mystic character. Because from my perspective, if a Mystic can lay some smackdown, I might not mind so much that she is a bit of a mess thematically, and my players might be intrigued by the class. I enjoyed taking on this challenge, even if I’m not sure if I succeeded, because trying to make classes dangerous is fun to my min/maxxing mind.

I began by asking myself: what advantage does the Mystic have over the Magician for having access to the Mentalism realm? To me, it seems the answer is things like: good self healing, including stun relief, as well as the combat buffs/enhancement from the very useful Open Mentalism lists. So I thought the class would work best as a light, stealthy DPS class that has the unique style of going invisible/unseen, sneaking up on a foe, unloading a deadly elemental bolt, and then escaping. That seemed intriguing. So I loaded up on Quickness (for DB), Directed Spell and elemental bolts for attacks, stealth/disguise/influence skills and spells to get the drop on foes, as well as movement and damage resistance spells/abilities to get out of dodge if the surprise bolt attack fails.

I have no idea if this will work in practice, because it does seem like a somewhat insane playstyle. But it could be a lot of fun.

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

Source: http://www.amokanet.ru/gallery/gamedev/jagger_1598.html
Source: http://www.amokanet.ru/gallery/gamedev/jagger_1598.html

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!

Mockery: A New Bard Base List (RMU Houserules)

Art by inXile, Concept 4: https://www.artstation.com/artwork/bard-s-tale-iv-bard

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

Mockery

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.

Two philosophies of RMU: rebuild or reorganize?

While it’s  much too late to change the course of events, there are still a number of detailed conversations going on at the RM Forums regarding the RMU Beta test.

For me the endless rules debates became too deep a rabbit hole that I didn’t want to go down any longer and there are still many players who are fiercely engaged. So rather than discuss actual rules, I thought I would discuss the rules making process. A bit of a meta-debate if you will.

I think the RMU development process has become a rorschach test for the RM community. It’s clear that there are variety of differing and strongly held beliefs about the rule resolutions and they are mostly the product of an individual’s ideas on versimilitude and their own tolerance for complexity. I discussed Chargen complexity in a previous POST, but I wanted to broaden the scope of my question into 2 parts. First, does RMU rebuild the ruleset or just reorganize and streamline it? Second, are peoples suggested rule changes a rebuild or a reorganize?

I think the answer to the first question is easy. RMU stayed “inside the box” and merged, streamlined and tinkered with core mechanics without any significant rebuild. Perhaps the only rebuild mechanic that was introduced was the size rules and those were discarded after community input.  Arms Law still kept weapon tables, crit charts and the basic combat structure. Does the round sequence or initiative rules rise to the definition of a rebuild? I think it was evolutionary, but certainly not revolutionary. Spell Law was left almost as-is, with some spell mechanics rewritten or clarified, spell slots filled but little else. Character Law seemingly reduced RMSS skill bloat (but not really) and added to the Chargen process with pages and pages of talents and flaws–rules for rules!

So my second question–are your solutions rebuilding or just tinkering around the edges? It seems like many rule suggestions (including mine) are just an attempt to get RMU to adopt house rules in some fashion. But are these suggestions meant to truly revise RM or are you painting within the lines? I think RMU met it’s name: it’s attempted to unify a diverse community within the established mechanics.

But did RMU need more? If so what?

Did rule changes take you out of your own comfort zone?

Are proposed rules to the benefit of growing the community or appealing to the current user base?

Do RMU rules advance the system into the contemporary gaming community?

I negotiate for a living and a saying in my profession is that the best possible deal is when both parties walk away somewhat dissatisfied.

 

Anatomy of an online game

I have reached the point with my Play By Post game where I am adding the players and starting to upload the information they need to create their characters.

The way that RPOL works is with a collection of discussion threads with restricted permissions. This means that players can only read or add to their own threads but can also see threads set to ‘public’.

Each player will have access to two threads, one is their story where everything is ‘in character’ and a second thread where they can ask my, the GM, questions or for clarifications. The characters story thread then reads like a piece of LitRPG.

So I am adding setting information known to everyone to the public threads as well as the character creation rules.

All the chargen rules will be straight out of the beta Character & Arms Law. I am actually trying to keep house rules to an absolute minimum just to make it a viable play test.

On the topic of play test, I wonder if it is actually even worthwhile now? I get the real impression that Character Law, especially, is pretty much ready to ‘go to print’ and if that is true then any feedback is of limited value. This s probably just an RMU game for the sheer fun of playing Rolemaster!

On the other hand…

PBP games are amazing playtest tools. The reason for this is that absolutely everything is trackable. Every dice roll is recorded (in RPOL this is the case) and the whole narrative there as a permanent record. In no other game format could you replay an entire scene and have everything identical.

So hopefully by tomorrow I will have all the Chargen rules up for the players to start creating their PCs.