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.

Merry RMU Christmas

You will be glad to know that I am not actually here on Christmas morning writing a blog post. For me it is Christmas eve and family are all dozing on the sofa after lunch.

I am spending any boring moments reading up on RMU as I have not used it much. I have decided on a few rule choices and house rules.

  1. First up it is definitely a No Profession game.
  2. No Passive bonuses from skills such as footwork, running and Shields
  3. Stats will be point buy.
  4. Skill Costs, the 9/12 (Combat Skill #4 and Closed lists) will be 7/10.

Behind the scenes I have the combat tables spreadsheets from Merkir and Thrud from the forums. I will be using the 7 sizes on a single table, see this thread for an idea.  I need to make these tables but I will be trying to create unique tables for every weapon in use in the game. Related to the tables I will be doubling the basic #hits damage done by each attack.

That is all I have for now.

Merry Christmas to everyone! Have a great day!

Is it better to beg forgiveness or ask for permission?

Rolemaster Unified Character Law Cover

I know for certain that it is a damn sight faster to get things done if you just do it and then ask for forgiveness afterwards.

Here is my dilemma and objective. I spent last evening rereading all of JDales ‘New Tables’ thread to try and come back up to speed with RMU. The motivation is to try and put together a set of rules I am happy with that use the rules as close to what will be in the final released game as possible.

The cornerstone will be the No Profession profession as that is RAW. There are lots of things that I want to house rule and the problem is do you house rule and have a better game or do you play RAW and have a viable play test?

I am coming down on the side of house rules. ICE have had years of play test feedback and the impression I get now is that the rules are pretty much set. Even with house rules I would not be changing EVERYTHING so all that remains unchanged will be viable playtest feedback.

What I would like to do is play a game and then publish my impressions here on the blog. Now that is very dodgy considering the NDA but if I do not publish the rules as written, which is what I think the NDA is there to prevent, then I feel morally comfortable with that.

I would then want some players who are happy for the game to be publicly discussed although obviously they would not be discussed, just their characters and what happened in the game world.

The blogs would then cover character creation, the selection of the house rules and the official optional rules and how the game sessions played out.

I would run the game as a PBP so that I had a written record that I could then review for the blogs.

This blog exists in part to promote RM in all its forms so publicly promoting RMU has to be part of its remit surely?

My Christmas Day post will be the list of options and house rules that I intend to use, these will be up for discussion so anyone else that is playing RMU can chip in their own suggestions as to anything they think I will regret.

‘Well sir, if I were you, I wouldn’t start from here’

Rolemaster Unified Character Law Cover

This is my reply to Brian’s http://www.rolemasterblog.com/rmu-mission-accomplished/

Well here is a real bunch of thoughts for you…

Firstly, I don’t think the RMU devs have any intention of attracting new players. Through their inaction they have proved their intention. If they had reached out to any one of the other games systems communities and looked for play testers they would have got fresh eyes on the rules. They would have found out if the rules as written are enough to engage those new to RM. They would have started the discussion about the new version of RM with the wider gaming community. They would have raised ICE’s profile all over the world and the on going conversation would have drawn in more people.

They didn’t do that.

There was never any hope that RMU would really unite the RM2 cohort and the RMSS cohort. There are things in each version that do not appeal. None of us ‘need’ RMU as we all have bought and paid for games that fit us like a glove. We have nations of NPCs that would all need recreating and ploughing thousands of hours of work just to get back to where we are now. On top of that there are bound to be parts of RMU you don’t like compared to the version you play now. I don’t like the size rules but the experimental tables on the forum get rid of most of the problems, the complete rewrite of creature law to get rid of normalised stats get rid of more. I have never liked talents and flaws and that is for the most part the last bastion of the size rules. That is just my perspective. Hurin, not to put words in his mouth, will not be using the skill category system. He wants individual skill costs and the RM2 professions. I like his 5AP variant of the combat round as well.

The point is that the existing community are so used to house ruling and the modular design strength of RM that none of us are going to play RMU, we are going to play a personalised variation of the rules. As you say above, you have already decided what will make it into your game and what won’t.

RMU has been designed for people who want a new RM but they want it to be just like the old one but better. The problem is that those people already have a game that is just like the published RM but better, that is their own house ruled version.

Look at us… Brian has his own character law (SWARM), his own spell law (BASiL) and working on his own arms law (that I think should be called BAAL Brian’s Alternative Arms Law).

Intothatdarkness has the modern weaponry rules and unique variation of character law.

Hurin is the most dedicated to RMU but will also the biggest issues with Character & Arms Law.

Edgltd doesn’t even play RM.

We haven’t seen Warl on the forums for a while but I have played in his game and it is very heavily house ruled when it came to Character creation, combat and magic. What else is there?

RMU cannot and will not meet all these peoples’ needs. It cannot be a unifying force.

So here is a hypothetical question for you.

If you sat down at the gaming table and your character has the right stats in the right range (1-100). They had the right magnitude of stat bonuses the right number of skills and those skill to the right level of competency do the rules that creating the character matter?

We all have our own hybridised versions of Character Law and yet all our characters fight the same monsters in Creatures and Treasures in the same numbers, deliver the same criticals and take the same wounds. Do the character creation rules actually matter?

Brian has SWARM, it sounds like OLF on the forums and I are going down the same road with Spell Law and the open and closed lists. Spectre711 on the forums does not even use spell law, they exclusively use Elemental Companion, then does it matter what the source of the characters spells are (from a rule book perspective) as long as they are all on the same power level regarding ranges, durations and effects?

I am creating a new monster book based upon creating all the D&D 5e SRD monsters into Rolemaster compatible monsters. This will mean that I can produce completely statted out adventures without using any ICE intellectual property. I can also share that document so other adventure writers will be able to do the same. The book will be published under the WotC license as I am using their intellectual property. Edgltd said himself in a comment only this week that RM could go back to its roots and engage with the 5e and Pathfinder community.

Long ago I used to write this blog completely on my own, producing two posts a week, week in week out. In 2015 I produced this post http://www.rolemasterblog.com/roleplaying-games-do-not-exist/ and I still hold to that idea. The problem for RMU and ICE is that if the experienced players do not need Character & Arms Law, Spell Law and Creature Law and none of these have been designed to be attractive to new players nor to draw in players of other same genre games then who is going to buy into RMU?

I think ICE are going to have to do the most outstanding marketing task I have ever encountered and I am a lover of marketing, both in my professional life and privately. I would love to be in charge of marketing RMU. The problem is that I would have wanted to start 5 years go. There’s a well known joke about a tourist in Ireland who asks one of the locals for directions to Dublin. The Irishman replies: ‘Well sir, if I were you, I wouldn’t start from here’.

Things I would have done…

I would have posted invitations to the first beta on every major gaming community. To give you an idea scale I rarely ever see more than 7 names and as many as 15 guests as being active on the ICE forums. Right now there are 3 registered users and 11 guests the best ever was 276 back in 2006. On the first D&D forum I look at there were 191 members and 398 guests right now and the best ever was in March this year 18344. The first War Hammer forum I looked at had 600 users online at that time.

I would have bundled up a play test set into a single zip file and put it on RPG now as a public play test. By letting people download it that way you can automatically send out updated version and you are immediately building a marketing contact list for when you want to sell them the finished rules (at a hefty discount but everyone appreciates a thank you).

I would not have produced multiple hundred page PDFs for each book. Each chapter would be a separate document so they are easy for the tester to read and digest. You can then hold a separate discussion on a chapter by chapter basis with your testers. That sounds like a Dev action but it is actually marketing. The more people you engage with the more good will you will engage.

There should be a playtest adventure and playtest pregen characters as a single download. This will get people actually play testing your game without having to read and understand 1200 pages of text. Play first and look under the hood second. You can commission some great evocative art for that first adventure and the characters to fire the imaginations of these first play testers. Art does not have a short shelf life. You can reuse it in the final paid product so nothing is lost.

That art is the only expense in everything I have just outlined. You can pick up some great art on Deviant for $20 a piece so there is no real need to spend more than $200 in total. I would set myself the aim of getting 300 active play test groups. That then would show up the flaws in the system but also bring in 300 advocates for the new game. That isn’t a limit either 300 would be my failure test. Any less than that and I would have considered my efforts a failure. There is no real maximum limit for the number of testers you could reach. Over time that community is likely to grow as more people discover the game. The more testers you get at the beginning the bigger their online footprint becomes.

With a large testing community the flaws will be found faster, the rules refined faster and the game would have been brought to market faster. I would have expected it to be on the shelves back in 2013. By now we should have SMU and some companions out!

I don’t think that is overly optimistic. I do recognise that this is a rambling mess of a post. I think the nub is that RMU isn’t really for us, it is for the next generation. That is its mission. Whether it is accomplished or not remains to be seen.

 

Play Test Session #2

This actually took place a while ago now but what with Christmas and the #12daysofRolemaster this post got pushed back somewhat.  My playtest player is back from university soon and it suddenly dawned on me that I never posted this write up. It was also useful to me to come back up to speed with where Gao is.

We left Gao out cold after losing a sword fight with a couple of assassins. Unbeknownst to Gao the assassins had left him for dead. The Emperor had used the body of the assassin that Gao had disabled to cover himself with fresh blood and had played dead.  Eventually the assassins had been discovered by the palace guards, the alarm raised and a running battle ensued as the assassins attempted to flee though the Forbidden City.

The Emperor had been recovering in bed when the assassins had attacked having been magically healed by a court healer (lay healer). The Emperor’s wounds and Gao’s had me go over the healing rules in Arms & Character Law. I did really want to use the rules as written but there is no way on earth I am ever going to apply those healing rules. The rules would have had Gao laid up in bed for 10 days given the Injuries and Recovery roll and by chance there would have been a permanent injury because of an even double roll! In my RMC game we use cinematic healing and the same will apply here. The issue is not just with, possibly, realistic healing times but also the plot was supposed to follow this thread. The Emperor has witnessed first hand that Gao saved his life on the night of the first attack and saved it again on the second when someone had obviously arranged for the guards to be elsewhere. When no one can be trusted at court Gao is the shining exception. Thus the Emperor can entrust Gao with the task of finding who the assassins are working for. If Gao is laid up for 10 days then this is ridiculous and any trail would be stone cold by then and even the Emperor would not sit on his hands for nearly two weeks doing nothing when assassins could strike at any time. One option would be to massively up the level of the Lay Healer. The way the spell acquisition works in RMU a 25th level Lay Healer would be more than capable of solving the whole conspiracy anyway without Gao so the whole adventure is moot. Option ‘B’ is to go back to Cinematic healing. This heals Gao’s broken bones in 10 hours rather than 10 days and giving him his #hits back is not a problem.

So on with the adventure!

Gao wakes up in a comfortable bed overlooking a tranquil palace garden being attended by many servants. His aches and pains have gone but he has no memory of anything since being in the fight with the assassins. Soon after he is awake an official brings him the Emperors gratitude and a request to attend the Emperor in his chambers. What happens is the Emperor explains that no one can be trusted except just a few of his closest advisors, including the court healer who could easily have declared the Emperors original chest wound fatal and allowed him to die though inaction. Simply by healing the Emperor he has proven his loyalty. As no one else can be trusted it falls on Gao to find the traitor that is plotting against the Emperor. There are some clues to start off with. The assassins’ weapons all bear the makers mark of an honoured sword smith here in the Forbidden City. Furthermore, three of the assassins that were killed have been identified as men sentenced to months in a cangue (punishment cage) for violent crimes. It is possible that these men had bought their freedom in agreeing to slay the Emperor. Gao gets a set of documents that give him freedom of movement around the city and a rank equivalent to an auditor or tax collector that means he had great authority. This comes complete with an over robe bearing a square badge displaying a Peacock known as a Mandarin Square.

The audience ends with Gao being given a fine quality Qi Jian. I am not normally in favour of giving out free bonus items but the combat last time was so disappointing and the fact that with only one PC the chances of him being out numbered is great I think he needs a bit of added fire power.

Gao leaves the palace and decides to investigate the sword smith first. What follows is three failed perception rolls cumulating in an open ended downwards which leaves him completely miss informed. The emperor had sent a couple of trusted guards individually to shadow Gao with two ideas in mind. If they are loyal then should be able to lend him some assistance if he gets into trouble. If one is loyal and the other is not, then chances are the traitorous one will try and kill Gao and the second will still be able to assist him. If both are traitorous then Gao will die but two more traitors have been exposed.

The player had been trying to see if anyone was following him through the narrow streets of the city or looking suspicious. The failed rolls had meant that the guards were not spotted but at this point I made a mistake. I thought that with the open ended roll leaving Gao completely miss informed I would tell him that one of the stall holders was paying a bit too much attention to him. This send the player into a spin of paranoia and and at one point the player was considering doubling back to kill the stall holder. I think in retrospect I should have ignored the OE downwards and just treated it as a normal failure. That cost us a great deal of the game session, we live and learn.

Eventually we arrived at the weapon smiths abode. It is a double storey building with sloping red tiled roof and a central courtyard. Dragon shaped ‘gargoyles’ project from under the roof tiles carry rain water away from the walls and ornate iron gates, again with the dragon motif give access to the courtyard.

Gao has the vocational skill for Oriental Administration so he knows how to act as a tax collector and his plan was to inspect the weapon smith’s order books to see who bought the weapons. Gao decided to go in heavy handed and try an intimidate the weapon smith. Seeing as he is dressed in official mandarin garb and has all the right credentials I gave Gao a +20 to his intimidation attempt but as it happens he didn’t need it, he succeeded with his natural skill. Furthermore, Gao makes a Vocational skill roll to understand the order books and the abbreviations and marks. This is only partially successful but he gets the weapon smith to explain what he doesn’t understand. It turns out that weapons were ordered and paid for by a Magistrate here inside the Forbidden City. The only address is for the palace and the weapons were collected in person so he does not have a delivery address. These blades stuck in the weapon smith’s memory because he made 4 sets of 8 blades. 8 is the luckiest of numbers representing fortune but 4 is the number of death. Most of his orders are for pairs of blades as these are both lucky and bring peace.

Gao decided that he was probably dealing with an innocent here and commanding the weapon smith to report any more orders by the magistrate directly to the palace for approval in future he left the workshop.

Leaving the shop Gao again totally failed to spot anyone following him or acting suspiciously.

Before the session started I had not decided if one, both or neither of the guards following Gao were actually traitors. I try and have one combat per session but with all the faffing about with fake spies earlier I decided to just roll and see if either of these guards had it in for Gao. As it happens the first I rolled for turned out to be a traitor. I also habitually roll the Empathy, Reasoning and Self Discipline of my casual NPCs so I can get an idea of how to play them. This first guard has a 12 Empathy, 92 for Reasoning and 19 for SD. It is not a great leap to guess that he has worked out that Gao is now heading to the guard house and this is not good for the traitors. Gao is heading straight towards him when Guard 1 draws his Qi Jian and attacks. This fight turned into another grind it out, chipping away at #hits. Neither combatant moved much, the first guard caught Gao flat footed etc. but the attack roll was abysmal and after that they stood in the street and parried and counter attacked at each other. Gao slowly increased the percentage of his OB to attack once he realised the person fighting him was not getting through. The worst critical inflicted in 6 rounds was 5AK. Previously I had not read up on the changes to stun so this time rather than having Dazed, staggered and so on we just had the different levels of stun (-25/-50/-75). This didn’t make much difference but the important thing in this fight was the fact that the traitor guard is alive despite being unconscious.

That is where we left this session. Gao is down to 12#hits and is standing over the knocked out guard.

Next time…

I am hoping next week to be able to continue this game using RMU Beta 2. I am using the Beta RAW with the exception of the changes listed in JDales New Tables thread on the forums and next time I will be using double the #hits damage as discussed on the forum.

 

Legends of Shadow World pt3: The %#!@ hits the fan.

Image result for it's a trap gif

Last night the group attempted Chapter 3 of “Legends of Shadow World”. It did not go well. The session only ended up being 2.5 hours with 3 out 5 players killed and the other two “tapping out” since they could see the writing on the wall. This section was just too hard, and there are still 2 more! However, there is a gap between C4 and C5 where the group can rest, heal and gear up for the final confrontation.

I’m running these with loose notes, a rough outline and after the session I do an edit and then update the online files. Since they are meant as “tourney style” modules there is considerable railroading built into the adventure to segue between the chapters.

I’m heading off for an overseas adventure, so we won’t run Chapter 4 until next month. That will give me time to adjust the first three. What I would like to do is have another group play test these for feedback and other ideas. I can’t really run my own players through again and get good feedback now that they’ve already done it.

Keep in mind that these are not “publish ready”–it’s some bare-bones copy, a bit of exposition, pre-gen characters and hand-drawn layouts. I’m not interested in an editor or idea feedback–I need a 5 person group and GM run it in a session for gameplay feedback.

If you have an interest let me know. I can be reached at bhportland at yahoo.

Looking Forward

The second half of 2017 (yes,  know that June is technically in the first half of the year!) seems to be about completing projects.

After much badgering, Lightning Source found the print master for the RolemasterBlog Fanzine issue 1 and that is now in print and available.

This weekend  I will start the selection process for issue 3 and start to write the new unique content. I want the Fanzine to diverge from what is posted here and contain more playable content, more detailed NPCs, more new magical items and more fully detailed hoards using the treasure rules in C&T. Out posts here are open for all to read but the Fanzine is easier for a GM to keep close to his or her chest and not spoil the surprise if an adventure has a sting in the tail.

Why a fanzine?

I was asked last week, “Why a fanzine?” The answer is that paper has a longer life than a blog post that rolls off the front page on the site in just a few days or weeks and is then rarely seen again. A fanzine will hopefully be bought by one member of a gaming group and passed around. Hopefully for every one copy bought ten people will read it.

Moving forward I am selecting posts that have the most upbeat and positive views of RM. I don’t want someone to read it and think ‘these are the fans and all they do is complain’.

I hope to have the June issue in the can by the 10th of June and then we will see how fast it gets into print. Issue 2 was much faster to produce and layout than issue 1 and I can apply all of that to issue 3.

Now we are easing off on the blog posting this leaves more time for completing other projects. There is much hinting at the 50in50 project. We now have almost all fifty plot outlines sketched out, thirty of the fifty are written up in long form. I have also seen some of the graphics and battlemaps and they are looking great. We have mooted a September start and I cannot see that being a problem at all.

40th to 60th level adventures

Brian is full steam ahead with his 40th to 60th level adventures and I would like to join him in that. I have two ideas of my own for that. As it happened I was reading the stats for Titans last night. I had no idea how tough they were but surprisingly low level (15th). Thankfully it is easy to level them up to make a tougher version.

Gamemaster or Rolemeister

I also have, possibly two, child friendly versions of Rolemaster to write over the summer. I really want to keep the rules for each to under 30 pages and the cards used for skill, maneuver and combat resolution will all be generated by an algorithm which will save me a lot of work. I think that will be branded as Gamemaster rather than Rolemaster or some other variation. I quite like Rolemeister but I am not sure it is appropriate for a childrens RPG.

If that doesn’t keep me busy I have some games to run. My RMU playtest is back up and running. My playtester has returned from university for the summer. Before I know it my autumn gaming weekend will be coming up.

Not much gaming content in this post but if you get bored over the weekend look up Titans. They are seriously impressive.

First Level Shouldn’t Suck!

If we’re soapboxing, I’ll jump  on one of mine: First Level shouldn’t suck! The whole premise behind first level should be giving a player a character who’s gone through her formative years and experiences and is ready to set out on her own, not some abstraction of early adolescence who can’t survive being stung by a bee, let alone a minor encounter with a wild dog. The old joke about D&D magic users having to hide behind fighters until they were about fifth level has a sad basis in fact, and Rolemaster (in my opinion) seems intent on turning first level into a collection of those magic users. Continue reading “First Level Shouldn’t Suck!”

Play Test Session #1

Gao discovers the Emporer, still alive and grasping at a knife in his chest. Rushing to him and kneeling by his side Gao attempts us use his medical skill to preform first aid. the rules are very sketching on the scope of First Aid in RMU A&CL (Arms and Character Law).

I made the difficulty Very Hard (-20) and Gao rolls a 94 + 20 skill – 20 difficulty, a partial success, that should buy the Emporer some time. While Gao is working on the Emporer the doors to the apartments burst open and the Emporer’s body guard enter. They take one look at Gao covered in blood, knife in hand and the fallen Emporer. Putting two and two together in the way that only happens when PCs are around the enraged guards draw their swords and charge.

Gao knew things didn’t look good the minute the guards entered flees for the only other obvious exit, a pair of open doors on the a roof terrace that surrounds this end of the appartment. He easily out distances the more heavily encumbered guards but realises that the terrace affords no easy means of escape. He is faced with two options either out along the roof tiles or using silk ropes that suspend lanterns over a courtyard below. Gao opts for the ropes thinking the guards would not be able to follow.

A terrible agility check sees him barely hanging on when the first guard arrives, makes an opened ended Perception Roll and reaches out to grab Gao by the wrist. To avoid escape Gao tries to use his weight and strength to get the rope to break by swinging and jerking on it. Thankfully for him it works and he goes from certain death to near certain death as the rope snaps and he starts to fall to his death.

The result of the fall is 11 and a D Impact which reads Foe’s hand gets in the way, two fingers broken. + 2 Hits, -25, Ftg(-20), Daze but he is now on the ground with the guards up on the terrace and he is alive.

The guards start shouting the alarm and pointing down to where Gao is regaining his feet. Some of the guards leave the terrace to try and capture him.

Looking around for where he can run to take cover. To his left was an arch heading towards the gardens and palace kitchens and that was the way he went. He soon had plenty of soft cover and could hear a hue and cry going up looking for him. Gao broke into a shed and buried himself into some sacks of vegetables. He got another partial success on his concealment roll. A second attempt at concealment got the job done.

Another medicine roll with a bit more time spent on it allowed Gao to strap up his broken fingers. Outside he could hear the search come close and then move away.

All this took place late in the evening. Waiting a few hours Gao decided to try and find out if the emporer was alive or dead. If he lived then he could clear his name. Sneaking out of his shed he headed towards the kitchens when he heard movement. Moving quietly through the gardens were other armed men with drawn swords and theatrical masks hiding their faces.

Gao knew they were not imperial soldiers looking for because they were not dressed correctly, the way they were trying to avoid being seen and it was just not normal to have armed men running around the palace grounds like this. Assuming the emporer still lived then maybe these were sent to finish the task of killing him.

Gao attempted to sneak up on one and take him out using his martial arts. The modifiers for rear plus surprise stacked up to nearly twice Gao’s OB and his hit delivered an E crit that knocked the guy prone. A second strike with the prone modifier was enough to kill him having broken all his ribs. Gao then took his Qi Jian.

The night time raiders entered the palace via the kitchen doors as well as scaling trellises attached to the outer walls. Gao thought that the target was probably the Emporer and these assassins were there to finish the job. The most direct route was going to be us the trellis so he attempted to climb. I had reduced his penalty for the broken fingers because of this successful medicine skill earlier and the trellis was easy to climb. With a very good roll Gao managed to follow the assassins up the trellis and back onto the roof terrace. There he found a dead imperial guard and the doors were open into the Emporers appartment.

Gao failed to notice that there were two other assassins on the terrace and failed a perception check to hear either of them sneaking up behind him. Being a kind GM I did not kill the PC out of hand. Instead I had one of the assassins put his hand on Gao’s shoulder and whisper to him to “head that way.” whilst pointing towards the inner bed chamber of the appartment. Gao made an SD check not to cry out when he was touched by the assassin!

He didn’t really have much choice but follow the instruction as there as he didn’t feel capable of fighting both of them. Thinking he could double back and try and take these two out one at a time he headed to the bed chamber. Inside was the emporer apparantly asleep and looming over him was an assassin, sword raised, who stopped at the sound of Gao entering. Gao made a silent “Shh!” mime which silenced the assassins question and he turned back to the task of killing the emporer. Gao then took the opportunity to try and take the assassin down. He was relying on surprise and I requested a stalking check to actually move up behind the assassin which Gao failed. The bad guy looked around a fraction before Gao hit him so he was still hit from behind but not with surprise as he could flinch.

Gao’s strike dazed the assassin but did not take him down. We now had our first proper combat where the Action Point system came into play.

I hate the 2-20 initiative system, Rolemaster is a d100 system so why we have a 2-20 initiative is beyond me. Both rolled 10 for initiative both had a +2 for quickness. Gao has -1 for his momement penalty but the assassin had -4 this round due to penalties (-15 from the critical + -25 from Dazed). Gao went first. The assassin had turned to face him so Gao just did a full 4AP attack. The assassin already had his sword draw so chose to put all his OB into parry this round while he was Dazed. His movement options were limited anyway with Gao in front and a bed behind him.

Gao only clipped him for a couple of #hits but I made the assessing make a 0OB attack to check for fumble and he did actually fumble. an 07 on the fumber was a bit of a non event.

Round 3 and Gao wins initiative but is now facing an undazed assassin. Both go for a full OB attack. Gao blow to the assassins check leaves him stunned unable to parry for two rounds and knocks the wind out of him. The assassin cannot reply.

Gao keeps on pummeling the assassin and gets another decent strike in rolling an 85 + 48OB, + 20 for a stunned opponent – 10 for his broken finger. The assassin bits off the tip of his tongue and is bleeding, stunned and staggered and basically very unhappy. He has no OB left to parry with even if he could.

In a change of tactic Gao swaps to sweeps and throws to see if he can keep him stunned. The total attack is +155 and the resulting critical throws the assassin 5′ and is enough to put him unconscious. As he is bleeding 5 #hits a round that will actually finish him off but in just a few minutes.

Gao takes the opportunity to wake the emporer and explains that there are assassins all over the palace. He gave him the assassin Qi Jian. The emporer is really in no fit state to defend himself after the attack only a hew hours ago but it does suggest that Gao is not one of the assassins.

Gao then tries to take down the two assassins on the terrace. He has been very disappointed so far with how effectived martial arts have been so is hefts the sword. This gives him a 31OB instead of his 48 for unarmed strikes.

He attempts to stalk up to one of the assassins without being seen but completely fails the stalking. Thankfully assassin#2 failed his perception roll (obviously looking out over the palace and not back into the appartment). Assassin#3 does spot Gao and is a little confused as to what he is up to until Gao lashes out with the Qu Jian.

The attack cuts assassin#2’s two leaving him staggered, stunned and unable to parry and bleading. The damage delivered by the sword even with a OB that is almost half the unarmed attack was significantly better.

We now went to AP combat. Assassin#3 reacts first and has to move for 3AP to engage Gao. Gao waits for him to arrive and does a 4AP attack. Assassin#3 completely misses and Gao doesn’t do much better delivering #hits and no critical.

What followed was a couple of rounds of no one being able to hit anyone until Assassing#2 recovered. Everyone was parrying for at least half their OB and they all needed to roll roughly 80 to 90 or more to hit for any sort of critical. Eventually Assassin#3 landed a blow on Gao that stun/no parry’d him and that was lights out for him.

We ended the game at that point and talked about how it went. The players impression was that it was too hard to do anything. Skills that seemed quite good (+48 to +51) for a starting character just did not translate into a competent hero.

The positional modifiers in combat played a massive part in the overal effectiveness and that martial arts seemed very underwhelming compared to the sword attacks.

Gao is not dead, but he is now a captive of the assassins. The player is happy to carry on play testing and to see what happens to Gao.