Rolemaster Unified Character Law

I decided on Friday night that is is kind of senseless to keep on plugging away at RM2 and RMC when although it is probably the second best roleplaying game every written and the best FRGP it is after all a very old system. Rolemaster Unified is the latest incarnation of Rolemaster and seeing as the guys who make Rolemaster make no money any more from RM2 but are working their socks off to make RMU as good as it could possibly be it seems churlish to ignore all their good work and stick to what I know.

Rolemaster Unified Character Law Cover
Rolemaster Unified Character Law Cover

Part of problem with releasing a new version of a popular game will always be inertia:

  • Why should I pay out money to buy a new copy of a rulebook I already own, know and love.
  • Why should I start to learn a whole lot of new rules just to carry on playing a game I already own, know and love.
  • Why bother changing rules when it will not make me a better GM or player but it will throw up a gamut or short comings in the rule books that I have already addressed in the rule system that I own, know and love…

You get the idea.

The answer of course is that there is very little new material for RM2/RMC and there will be even less in the future. House rules that you have put in place to make your game unique just makes it incompatible with other GMs games but a unified solution will solve that. If RMU succeeds then we will get a whole bunch of new players and GMs in the community and that will help us all out with ideas and new materials etc.

I am only just starting to read through Character Law now. What I have decided is that I am going to continue to write for RM2/RMC as that is what I am playing but I will also create everything in RMU as well and share it. This way I get more and more familiar with creating characters and adventures in the new system without having to learn on the job with a bunch of players chomping at the bit trying to run an adventure.

So in the future you will start to see RMU material here as well as the good old trusty RM2.

Drow Weaponry

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To illustrate this post I wanted a nice image of a Drow with their stylised hand crossbows which is the absolutely iconic drow weaponry. Every image I could find that was useable seemed to be anatomically challenged.

demon_hunter_diablo_3___talia_by_shikamaru_no_kage-d31op84 photo demon_hunter_diablo_3___talia_by_shikamaru_no_kage-d31op84-2.jpgSo here is our ‘internal organs probably relocated elsewhere’ drow sporting the crossbow of choice.

Before I get into the actual game mechanics of the drow weapons I want to say something about their construction. The material of choice being Adamantine, a jet bacl metal allow of Adamantium and other metals. It reputedly has a green sheen when seen in normal light but a purple/white sheen in magical light. Adamantite is very light and very strong, most of the time.

In play all Adamantite weapons are at least +10 non-magical due to this alloy but when exposed to sunlight they start to decay and corrode losing at least +1 per day of exposure plus and aditional +1 for every combat they are used in. This loss does not stop when the weapon loses its +10 but continues as the weapon degrades until it breaks (normal breakage rules apply).

This, along with the drow’s poor eyesight during the day accounts for why drow surface raids happen mostly at night!

S drow weapons are black alloy and don’t like the sun, lets get to the weapons.

The Hand Crossbow

In play I normally rule this to be a light crossbow but put the maximum damage threshold at 140. To compensate I take 1 round of the reload times.

The point of the drow crossbow is not actually the raw damage inflicted as you will see below more about being a poison delivery system than a killing weapon.

The Longsword

The drow weapon of choice is the longsword and you will often find this used in a two weapon combo with the hand crossbow.

The Spear

Anyone who knows me as a GM will know that I think the spear is the almost perfect weapon (there is probably a good blog post purely on why the spear is so perfect but that is for another day).  The drow use giant gecko-like lizards as mounts. In this situation the spear serves as their lance and this is the only time when using a shield is the norm. Mounted lizard combat should be considered a 3D venture with walls and ceiling being entirelly valid planes of attack.

Poison

The drow love poison. Their preferred poison comes from their beloved spiders. It is a level 2 mild reduction poison. (on a failed resistance roll it takes effect after 10-100 rounds causing great pain and causes 4hits/round until the victim falls unconsious) This is the ideal vehicle for collecting slaves and for a drow patrol to take on forces much greater than themselves. Obviously the Use/Remove Poison is a highly valued skill amongst the drow warrior class.

All drow weapons should be considered envenomed at the start of a combat.

There you have it, the accessories the well dressed drow is sporting this year, longsword on the hip, hand crossbow on the thigh and spear and shield on the gecko parked outside.

PC Perils #2 Whats in the hole?

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This is the second of my PC Perils posts. I have dropped the “…that I haven’t used yet” as some of these I actually used in the past. This one is best described as “What’s in the hole?”

(In the little journey we are going on today when I say “the party” I do not mean a group of hobbit lycanthopes that may appear in some of the pictures below.)

I thought I would present this ‘Peril’ as a bit of a photo story.

The party decide to leave town early so the road to the forest is not too busy.
The party decide to leave town early so the road to the forest is not too busy. The map says just carry rigth on into the forest.
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But the road soon becomes little more than a lane and then a single track

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They all look to the ranger, “The map says the road carrys on dead ahead!”
20141129_103738“This at least looks like a decent enough place to camp. Why don’t the rest of you go look for some firewood and forage for anything edible. No point in wasting our rations right from day one!”

20141129_104219“What on earth is big enough to knock full grown trees over?”

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“There are two more over here that look like they were just flattened.”
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“Are they burrows? There are at least three of them and each looks about 8″ wide to me.”
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“Three more over here too!”

So what is in the hole? Hill Trolls? Hill Giants? Do you lower the scout in to find out? Whatever it is can you take on at least six of them? Is this the best place to camp?

Answers on a postcard please (or just comment below).

How Drow Elves compare to other elven races

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In the Forgotten Realms there are five races of elf, High, Grey (or Moon), Green (or Wood), Sea and Drow Elves. For most people I guess the High, Grey and Green equate pretty much with Moldar, Sindar and Silvan. For the purposes of this discussion I am going to ignore the Sea Elves as they are not typically found in most MERP or Rolemaster campaigns.  The others most players or GMs, I would have thought, wil be familiar with.

What I have done is create a basic 1st level warrior/fighter character. I personally prefer characters with a wider range of skills than loads of boxes in just a couple of skills so that is what you will find here.

The guy has learned his weapon left and right handed, has two weapon combo (with long swords), light crossbow (a preferred Drow weapon), blind fighting, disarm foe (armed), iai strike, tumbling attack, tumbling evasion, ambush and general perception.

I have attached all their character sheets below so you can do a direct comparison but you can see there is not much to tell them a part except that even at first level the combat skills of the Drow are typically a point or two better than their brethren.  It is not always on the OB, sometimes it is on the reverse stroke, iai and tumbling skills, sometimes it is mainly on their OB.

The Drow trade off OB for Hits

The trade off is that the drow elf gets the least #Hits. In this example he gets a total of 49 compared to 51-53 for the other elves. It seems they may be a bit more fragile and better able to deal out damage than take it. These totals are based upon exactly the same dice rolls for all four characters.

Our example elf here is trained in Chainmail (AT13) which is not an unreasonable armour type for a first level character. As it happened his stats were not particularly brilliant and he didn’t get that many development points (just 32). If I had had a few extra developent points I would have liked to buy a box in Stalk/Hide and probably at least one box in Use/Remove Poison for the Drow warrior which for the others probably would be better spent on Herb Lore.

The most striking difference between the four elves is the Drows weakness in Intuition. The Drow do not make good thieves or channeling users.

Here are the four character sheets for you to have a look at.

Drow and Drow Culture

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In my opinion the Drow are an almost perfect villain. As they are a race you can pitch them at almost any level and you can have as many or as few of them as you like whenever you like. I found their rolemaster stats in Companion I, page 45. The problems is though that the companion does not convey even one percent of the essence of drow that make them this perfect foe.

For starters lets take drow culture.

The best way to describe it would be the decadence of Rome under Caligula crossed with the fascism of the third reich. That is isn’t far from the mark. To start with the Drow worship a spider goddess called Lloth. This puts a female drow at the head of the family, known as the Matron or Matron Mother. Only the Matron Mother is allowed to have children and any others will be sacrificed to Lloth. It is perfectly acceptable and indeed normal for the Matron Mother to sacrifice the father of her own children to Lloth after mating, taking a different partner for each child. Although if she thinks the father is a good specimen or has some other value he may be allowed to live for a while longer.

A drow using one of the hand crossbows for which their race is well-known. (Image taken from the Dungeons & Dragons WikiAll of drow society is ruled by the matron mothers of the eight most powerful houses in council and the way to become one of those is by wiping out one of the houses above you in social ranking. If you try that and fail then it is almost certain death as the ruling eight close ranks. No one in power likes the idea of a powerul usurper trying to upset the status quo after all!

The worship of Lloth is everything to the drow. All drow females are enrolled into the church and the number of priestesses and high priestesses is a matter of pride to a house. The men are allowed to be warriors or magicians but are by far the lower class. Few live long enough to attain great power because should they be seen as a threat then the church will dispose of them. The drow maintain academies for warriors, magicians and the church and upon completion of their studies every drow is tested. Those that fail are sacrificed to Lloth although not killed, Lloth has other plans for them.

Below the matron mother’s children are the other drow not part of any recognised family. These could come from houses not wealthy enough to maintain an entire ‘noble’ household so family members are forced to work for other houses. This could be as housefld soldiers or other more refined rolls.

For drow that cannot be supported by their family or find employment in a more powerful house then to them goes the title of renegade. These are often mercenaries employed by houses as and when needed to bolster a families defences or even for an attack on another house or for  more subtle duties. to most though the very thought of the renegades is distasteful but renegades are not the bottom of society.

The drow economy runs on slaves, slave labour and limited trade with cultures that do not outwardly object to slavery. Slaves farm the mushroom groves, work the mines and build the aquaducts that bring in the water. Slaves carry messages across the city and carry out most of the other fetching and carrying for a household. The drow will happily force any intelligent race into servitude except surface dwelling elves whom they would rather kill on sight especially elvish children.

The drow carry forth an almost innate hatred for the surface dwelling races. This is taught to every drow from birth and reenforced at the academies. It was, to hear the drow telling of it, the surface races that robbed the drow of their right to inherit the surface world and forced them underground. Drow not infrequently mount surface raids by night to capture slaves although they prefer to take races that live below the surface such as orcs, goblins and bugbears. If on a raid they encounter surface elves they will do their upmost to leave no survivers. Anything that can survive living without the sun and can be beaten into submission is prime slave material in the drows’ eyes.

To human eyes what we are most likely to see are the remains of Drow fortresses left over from the last time the drow ruled parts of the surface. These are often magically raised or at least desiged and built with powerful magic in mind. They often include landing platforms for flying troops and whole levels or balconies that can only be reached by air and not from the ground or by non-flying or levitating troops. Each fortress is then connected to the underdark and to each other by passages that run underground, normally miles underground, so that each can be reenforced from other fortresses without the need to move on the surface.

Although most if not all of these fortresses are now abandoned or lost to the drow you can be assured that they are not forgotten and the loss will be avenged.

Next time I will tell you some more about drow weapons and equipment and their love of spider venom.

Roleplaying software review Rolemaster Character Utility

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One of my favourite pieces of software as a GM is the Rolemaster Character Utility or RCU. This is a piece of freeware (you can download it from here Rolemaster Character Utility full) that you can share and anyone can use. This is the windows version but I have run it under WINE on linux boxes without a problem.

What the programme does is allow you to step through the character creation process from name and profession, race, stats and skills in a wizard style interface. Every time you make a choice it eleminates things that no longer apply, so chose a mentalist and all the channeling and essence spell lists drop off the lists. Chose a halfling and all the height and weight charts adapt to give sensible results for halflings.

Once a character has been created it can be saved and recalled to do the leveling up including stat gain rolls, spell aquisitions and hits and skill. It automatically calculates level bonuses, stat bonuses and updates the spells available.

You can when developing a character go back and keep the same basic character but change their profession or race to see if they would be better as a different realm, profession, race etc.

It is easy enough to set the GM specific optional rules such as if you allow characters to reroll paticularly low stats, whether to add stat bonus on to spell aquisition rolls and such. Everything is optional and you can just skip things that do not apply to your game. When you are buying skills it shows you just about every possible skill with the correct costs for that class. The programme was written back in 1999 and seems to include every profession, skill, spell list and background option from every book published up until that point. In my case this inlcudes many skills and spells that I do not have in my game but that is not an issue.

Creating a 1st level character takes about 15 minutes for a spell user, slightly less for a realm of arms character and then leveling up takes about 5minutes to 10 minutes depending on the level as I find some are more significant than others especially 4th level and 9th.

The only thing this doesn’t do is spend the points for the coming level, the ‘learning’ development points.

The output is clear and simple to understand and all the ‘DruTam’ character sheets in this post were created using this programme. If you are playing RM2/RMC and you have not used this before then I would seriously consider giving it a whorl. It looks dated because it is but it will save you hours upon hours in creating interesting and fully developed NPCs in any ongoing game.

 

Rolemaster & the Forgotten Realms

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The original inspiration for this blog was my Rolemaster game set in the old D&D world of the forgotten Realms. As it is I have put out a handful of posts and have not mentioned the realms at all.

First a bit of background. I was at a charity event nearly a year ago now and I saw some of the forgotten realms books including the boxed set campaign setting and a few of the original novels on a second hand book stall. Purely for the sake of nostalgia I bought them. Roll the clock forward and the GM in the current main game (a RM2 ShadowWorld based game) I am playing in announced that at the end of the next adventure the campaign was ending. The players and GM in this game have been playing together in various games since 1984 and for the last two decades we have met up twice a year for a long weekend of gaming. One adventure can take two years of human time to complete so the game is not in imminent collapse but it will end.

I agreed that I would start the next game and on the Friday night when we meet and the Saturday morning we will play a new game with me as GM and then Saturday/Sunday will be our ShadowWorld game. When that ends I will take on the Satuday night/Sunday shift and we will start another game ont the Friday night/Saturday morning. This way everyone gets to play and the GMing duties are split between two of us. It sounds like a plan…

So I thought, I know that Rolemaster started life as a set of house rules for AD&D, I have a load of adventures sat here for D&D how hard can it be to do the conversion from one to another. I have a coherent world to set all the adventures in, this should be easy.

One the face of it it certainly is pretty easy but there are some wonderfully quirky things about AD&D adventures that I just haven’t seen in Rolemaster games such as almost every single adventure module feels the need to introduce yet another new monster into the game. It is not as if there weren’t enough monsters already!

So, so far we have played two sessions, one weekend, of Rolemaster in the Forgotten Realms setting. Character generation went OK and I have started to inject a little FR lore into the game, the cleric in party is worshipping Torm the god of duty and loyalty for a start. We have been back filling the characters backgrounds by email over the past few weeks and I have been grounding them firmly in the fabric of the Realms. One lost his family in the war against Zhentil Keep, another has touched on the Elvish retreat.

As I prepare for each session I am having to do more and more conversions and I am creating shareable material. The treatment of the Drow in Rolemaster is superficial at least and with the Drow go a number of associated creatures and races. I will over the coming weeks and months share creature and race descriptions of the creatures I have needed to convert and where I have found incompatabilities between Rolemaster and AD&D I will publish my solution and whether that solution seems to have worked or not.

I am going to try and publish all my forgotten Realms posts on Saturdays from now on. I fyou have any questions then please comment below.

PC Perils I haven’t been able to use yet #1

Copyright; 2002-2014 by Aurigas Aldbaron LLC. All rights reserved. No reproductions without permission.

So the party of PCs are on a ship. It goes without saying that at least once the ship is going to sink or that the PCs will end up in a small boat and told to head for shore.

Below is a photo taken this weekend of a typical Cornish cove. If you want to land a boat without it being seen then what better place.
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At first glance you may think you may think that OK guys in plate armour may have dificulty climbing out but given the obligatory 50′ of rope and enough time that is no biggy but let us take a closer look.

seals

Every single red ring represents a grey seal. Try clicking the image for a closer look! Grey seals are very protective of their young and you really do not want to upset them by running your boat right up amongst them during the nursery season! Bearing in mind that an  adult male grey seal is typically 2.5–3.3 m (8.2–10.8 ft) long and weighs 170–310 kg (370–680 lb) and in that one picture alone there are 14 of them and there were more out to sea they are quite a fearsome sight. When you check out C&T (page 20) they are not as scary as you think as long as you can stay on dry land. I defy any self respecting PC not to be worried facing a charge from these guys.

Here is just one small one stealing a fish! Despite the video title it is not gruesome unless you are fish in which case it may keep you up at night.

Finished Rolemaster NPC (Little Miss Defensive)

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I have been thinking abou this NPC for a while and I know what she looks like, how she acts, how she fights and the nature of her magic. All that really remained were the actual skills on the page and which profession best realised the concept.

She has a working title of DruTam as part of her original concept was a mix of Drusilla from Season 2 Buffy the Vampire Slayer and River Tam from Firefly/Serenity. the actual character name will be decided when her twin brother is created and has a name.

The dilemma with DruTam was always that she she could easily be one of several classes. What I have done is create her as each class, Astrologer, Seer, Monk and Mystic. We have the same stats, potentials and background options (all skill with magic and all ended up as stat bonuses) The only variable was the character profession. That of course changed the stat costs, professional level bonuses and to some degree the spell lists available.

All the character sheets are below, the one marked Ch is the character sheet with stats equipment etc, skills is the full list of skills and totals and the spells is the list of spell lists and actual spells.

None of these characters can cast spells at first level. The lists chosen just do not not have first level spells on them, except for the monk who simply did not make the spell gain roll. She is capable of defending herself as descussed in this post on her kick boxing fighting style. She also has an interesting mix of predictive skills in weather watching, stargazing and divination. By changing the two spell lists she has aquired you could easily make her far more proactive if that was your choice.

It should be noted that I do not use stat bonuses on spell gain rolls. This would make a significant difference as she would possibly have had four or five more development points per level to play with.

I think the most agressive character here is the mystic but the best fit for my game and the party I have in mind will be the Seer.

As an aside I have also created another version of this NPC but in this case I have used slightly more mainstream rules, stripped out the combat abilities and taken her all the way to 20th level. I will be submitting her with her story to the Guild Companion this week. If they publisher her then I will post a link to the article, if not I will share her here. She has a sligthly diferent name but you would recognise her.

Researching Riddles Online -Fail!

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You know how sometimes online one search leads to another and another and before you know it you a n a completely different track? I was thinking about riddles and bits of interesting nonsense for an NPC to spout now just to make him really annoying to the party.

At the same time I was on the Guild Companion website to get the email address to submit articles to. There appears to be two conflicting email addresses; one on the contact us page and one on the  about page. I have used the contact page address but if I get no response I will try the other. While I was there I glanced through the archives for any articles on the Forgotten Realms as they have published material before for RMSS. In the archives there was an article on alternative verse. I was looking for something more along the lines of Edward Lear.

Anyway, back to my non-productive searching and I ended up on the Wikipedia page for “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck”. I have included a screenshot below. I know a picture is meant to be worth a thousand words and including a picture of a woodchuck was useful as I didn’t know what one looked like but the second picture! Really? Is there anyone so divorced from the outside world that they had to label a picture as ‘wood’. The more I look at this the more disturbing it is. Do woodchucks really have chainsaws? I would have thought they were more used to wood in its more natural form with the green bit at the top and the little thin bits disappearing into the ground to suck up the water. Maybe the image is of a woodchuck takeaway service, sort of ‘just eat’ for woodchucks?

screenshot of wikipedia with really stupid images inserted
Not all pictures are worth 1000 words

Anyway there is no actual point to this post beyond having to have a rant and get that off my chest. If you are waiting to see some of the character sheets for Little Miss Defensive I can tell you that the Seer one is done so far and I hope to have some comparative ones done by the end of the week.