Roleplaying software review Rolemaster Character Utility

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

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

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)

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!

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.

Little Miss Defensive and her profession

I have been looking at suitable professions for an NPC I am working on. I want her to be potentially useful to the party but at the same time I don’t want her solving all the problems instead of them.

She is particularly non agressive in combat with all of her skills in that department being dedicated to parrying and avoiding being hit.

I had always intended that shw was going to be some sort of spell user and I quite liked the idea of her being some sort of astrologer/seer/mystic with a monk as an alternative if the other three didn’t work out. I am looking at those classes mainly because I kind of like the idea of someone who has such insight into the future and the fates of the characters but then cannot actually communicate except via one person whom she is tied to.

Looking at the spell lists available, all of the classes above have access to spells like blue, shield and blade turning and that satisfies my need for a really strong defence and all of them have some kind of self healing, body renewal lists. That was something else I wanted. I want the PC to whom she is linked to have no good reason to leave her at home. IF she can protect herself, heal herself (and him potentially) and be useful in other ways as well then more the merrier!

Two of my favourite spell lists are gate mastery (or equivelant) and rune mastery. In this case I do not think that gate mastery woudl suit her but I could imagine her with elegant carved ivory scroll cases and scrolls written in beautiful eastern style caligraphy. I would happily give her a brush and a pot of ink for creating these. So right now I am leaning towards the mystic or the back up monk character. I am not really taken that much with the idea of the monk, it doesn’t quite have the other worldlyness of the pure and hybrid spell user professions.

Surprisingly, I had never noticed quite how aggressive mystics were! I would certainly consider playing one as a PC and there is nothing wrong from what I can see with the spell lists. It looks like she will be able to do everything I am looking for in this NPC.

Next up I am looking at the seer profession. We are talking pure mentalist here. We get the healing and attack avoidance spell lists, some excelent future prediction and interrogation spell lists. What we don’t get is the rune mastery but I can live without that. This profession is also ticking all the boxes so far. The party are not really going to be looking to their seer to bail them out if things go horribly wrong for them.

The astrologer, looking at the available spell lists encompassing Channelling and Mentalism is interesting. Of the three this has the strongest healing spells taken from the closed channeling lists, good future prediction lists and the attack avoidance spells. Looking at it though the channelling realm is only contributing to the healing everything else is being provided by the realm of mentalism. I am not at this time overly taken with the astrologer.

I suspect that I will end up generating at least three first level characters and seeing which one ticks the most boxes when the pencil hits the paper.

I will start creating characters this week and will share the character sheets once they are done.

How many hands?

I have a party of adventurers clearing out an underground complex. Most of the fighting has been sword on sword against intelligent foes. In the first session of the new game we only had three PCs and no NPCs. There will be another regular player who could not make the first session so we have four PCs. I want to introduce an NPC to the party.

As a GM I am not a huge fan of NPCs in the party. I don’t do accents so they can become a bit bland and I have seen NPCs save the entire party when they got themselves stupidly slaughtered (I was one of the party in most instances of this) and it begs the question of why didn’t the NPCs just do the job without the party in the first place.

I also dislike the NPC healer as that just encourages either the GM to fix things when they get broken or for the party to be completely wrecklous in their battles. Why not the NPC will sort out the mess.

I don’t like NPCs who end up as mouthpiece of the GM proding the party in the right direction when they get stuck or coming up with the right solution just as the party are about to get themselves killed.

You can gather I am really not a fan of NPCs but this time I think the party needs one. The great thing is that the main healer is one of the party and of the three party members so far all three potentially have access to healing magic to a lesser or greater degree. Theymay not know the spell lists yet but it is always there as an option.

As I have a new PC entering the story I am temped to give him a twin sister. This one is slightly damaged and knows no other languages than a ‘twin’ language that only she and her bother know. That gets me off the hook with the NPC being asked to come up with ideas and I have been know to even forget there is an NPC in the party for hours at a time so if she is effectively mute then so much the better.

So I have been toying with this idea of the hardly ever speaking twin sister of one of the heroes. I have a few ideas for her and as I have been bringing them together then quite an interesting character is emerging. So why would a hero take his slightly damaged twin sister out on monster filled adventures? Because they fight really well together is my answer. So I have to make her really useful to have around in a fight but I don’t want her to be killing everything and making the party redundant. So how about makingher defensively really strong? There are some nice parrying weapons in Arms Law like the Shang, a parrying scimitar.  When not used to attack it gives +30DB. So a Shang in one hand, a small shield in the other, a bit of a quickness bonus and you have a DB of nearly 60. Not that impressive. Now I noticed in Arms Law that there are descriptions of how many attacks a person can do in one round depending on what weapon and shield combinations they have. The most extreme is probably the single handed weapon, thrown weapon and shield. The idea is that the attacker can swap their weapn into the shield hand momenarily, throw a knife and the get back into position to defend with the shield. There are minuses on both attacks (-20 on the single handed attack and -20% on the thrown attack).

We are probably all falimiar with seeing Broadsword (LH) as a skill as the player is learning the weapon as part of a two weapon combo. Why could I not learn Martial Arts (strikes) rank#1 (kicks only). So this character is going for the kick boxer look. I wouldn’t have a problem with that if a player came to me with it.

Going back to Little Miss Defensive (LMD) and now we have a Shang in one hand, a small shield in the other and martial arts. (in our gaming circles we call skill ranks ‘boxes’ after the record sheet so that is what I am going to use here.  So lets give LMD one box in martial arts kicks at adolescence and another at appenticeship and a +15 stat bonus. That doesn’t seem too excessive. Total OB +25. She can parry with that, not attack with her Shang giving another +30DB, her small shield gives another +15DB and lets give her a reasonable Quickness and now we are looking at a total DB of maybe -90. that is a fairly hefty DB for a 1st level character. I would give her at least one box in using the Shang but the total development cost is one box a level in martial arts and a one off purchase of a box in shang. She is not going to attack with the Shang so I don’t feel the need to buy two weapon combo. I am not buying any armour skills so the total cost is pretty small and I have not really reduced my choices in character profession either.

roundhouseSo so far I have LMD who parries away like mad tying up the foe while her brother does the killing. That works. There is one particularly cinematic shot that I love and that is the martial artist with their leg elevated in a poised round house kick slowly uncoiling and standing at ease if you know what I mean.

I have not go so far as to rolling any dice yet or developing LMD any further yet but if any other GMs read this would you allow a character to use a parrying wealong, a shield and attack with a kick all in the same round?