Optional Rules Options

The way our gaming group is set up is that we are a group of five that meet regularly and when we meet we normally play two games, both Rolemaster. Up until recently that has been one Shadow World and one Faerun/Forgotten Realms.

When we next get together to play; the Shadow World game should come to an end as we are about to take on the ultimate bad guy and either save the world or die trying with no other options on the cards.

What this means is that we need a new game and it is someone else’s turn to GM. As it happens the new GM has not game mastered Rolemaster for many years (in fact his rule books are so old his spell law is printed in a hand written style font in blue ink, what was going on with that?). What we are doing is taking the opportunity to go through ever single companion and every single optional rule and skill and between us trying to unify exactly what options we are using.

The Cover of Rolemaster Companion IV
Rolemaster Companion IV

One of the nicest features of all the Rolemaster Companions after Companion IV is that they contain a couple of pages of tick lists with all the optional rules and how important that option is, whether it is considered a core rule now, is it highly recommended, does it add a lot of complexity to the game and so on. As two separate GMs we can complete the tick lists apart, see what is the same and then look at where we diverge and discuss those particular rules.

I think this is a brilliant concept of not only identifying every rule and where to find it but also how important the game designers felt each rule was. I am a bit of a miserable git at times and think that every optional rule I introduce has to add something substantial to the game, to pay its way so to speak.

The framework we create in the coming months will probably be our default game now for the next ten years unless I can convince them all to do a Rolemaster Unified Beta II play test.

Watch this space.

Game Tweeting Failure

I did say on Friday that I was going to try to tweet live updates as the gaming weekend progressed. I managed a grand total of zero tweets. The problem was that there was never a convenient time to tweet and if my players had kept picking up their phones to text or tweet I would have been unimpressed so doing the same to them just wasn’t going to work. I have written the whole idea of tweeting from game sessions off as a bad job.

So here is a quick run down of the players progress…

The party have been trying to map the tunnels under the tower of Ashaba in the town of Shadowdale. Their first incurson ended when they rescued an escaped dwarvish slave. The party had fought a couple of Quaggoth lookouts, avoided a larger patrol in the caves and now had a non-combatant civilian to try to evacuate. They managed to get out with only one more fight which went relatively easily for them and no one was injured beyond a few cuts and bruises. The party at that point consisted of a sorceress, a warrior mage and a cleric all of whom are on their very first adventure.

The Dwarf hostage was given over to Lord Mourgrimm’s healers and the party returned to the Old Skull Inn to rest.

That was the first two sessions in the briefest of detail. This weekends session took up where the last left off with the party coming down for breakfast.

Jhaele, the landlady of the Old Skull Inn, had heard that the party had rescued a slave from the tunnels and as a reward breakfast was on the house for our three heroes. Having fed themselves they make their way back to the tower, greet a few guards they have met before and are show down to the tunnel entrances below the tower. There they are met by the Chief Warder and he has two companions with him. He introduces them to the party and Arnie and Dru.

Having spoken to Simon, the rescued Dwarf the Chief Warder has learned that he was enslaved by the Drow before he escaped. The Drow are almost certainly too much for the three heroes to deal with so he had scoured the town for available adventurers and come up with these two. He introduces Arnie as a warrior and Dru as healer.

The party introduce themselves and then set off to reenter the tunnels. It doesn’t take long before it is obvious that the first incursion has been discovered at the party are confronted by two half orcs and four boorgin (the more intelligent half-breed variant of the quaggoth).

The battle is touch and go for a while and without the new warrior to strengthen their front rank the original party certainly would have lost. The odds are 6 vs 5 in favour of the bad guys but the cleric summons a crocodile right behind one the half orcs and that causes some confusion in their ranks, the fighters engage all four boogin which is brave of them. Dru is sticks with the sorceress and cleric but is ready with her scimitars to defend them but luckily it doesn’t come to that. The battle goes on and the croc takes out one orc, three boogin fall to the fighters and then finally a sleep spell fells the remaining half orc and boogin.

The party is more than prepared to just finish off the boogin, not even entertaining the idea that they could be an intelligent race (they look like grey haired Wookies carrying two-handed swords). They do attempt to interrogate the half orc but his common is very poor and they do not speak Orcish. They even attempt a bit of torture but the half orc is more afraid of his Drow masters than he is of the party and does not believe they would kill him in cold blood. He was wrong is seems.

The party stop a while and tend their wounds, and then press on further into the cave system and eventually having nearly drowned and riled up an already angry cave badger they finally make it into the Drow inhabited portion of the cave system. The do their best to sneak around without giving the alarm and make their way around quite a way. They identify some Drow set booby traps on some disused tunnels, when I say identify I mean the hard way(!) and eventually discover the lair of one or more giant spiders. The party can hear them clacking away amongst a forest of web. The party being dyed in the wool heroes decide that that is too scary and try to find a less dangerous tunnel to investigate but most of them around here seem to show signs of giant spider activity. Eventually they find a tunnel that seems too small for giant spiders and they is more to their taste. In here the find their second dwarf escapee. This chap is in a seriously bad way. He has lost all his fingers to torture, what remains of his hands have been smashed, he tongue ripped out and they even tried to cut his throat. He was then left for dead but amazingly survived.

This chap had difficulty communicating but tries to show them that he is a priest and does manage, at great risk to himself, to heal one of the remaining and more serious wounds that the warrior mage was carrying.

It was not long after this that the party met their first drow. The party tried to retreat to a defensive position before meeting them but well into such disarray that the Drow using their ability to create darkness managed to sneak up to the party and launch an attack, the healer fled immediately and that was enough to put the entire party to flight. At the next junction the party decide to turn and face the Drow before they run headlong into something worse and end up surrounded. They try to arrange themselves in time but this is a new party and they do not really know what each other are capable of. As it happens the cleric has a gift that allows him to create a demonic gate and control the minor demon that comes through. What he does is try to summon this behind the advancing Drow. The sight of the demon puts the drow to flight and the party see the drow rushing them with a demon at their heels. There is no way the party can fight three drow warriors AND a demon so they panic and flee. Everyone bolts past the cleric who is entranced trying to control this demon who kills the first Drow decapitating it. The drow are fleet of foot and soon they are in amongst the party and pushing them out of the way to get away from the demon. The party push back but with swords and it doesn’t take long for the drow to fall in a blood bath.

You have rarely seen such an angry party round on their cleric. I think some of the party will have to clean their armour when they get out of here!

That then was the end of the their time in Faerun until later this year. There was a bit more going on but those were the highlights so to speak.

 

Faerun Campaign Update

Today I am traveling to meet up with my players for the second weekend of my Rolemaster / Faerun campaign.

For the first session I only had three of the four players so the party looked like a Sorceress, Cleric and Warrior Mage. This time those three will be joined by the fourth player character and an NPC being a Paladin and a Mystic, The mystic is “Little Miss Defensive” from previous posts. I finally made up my mind on Tuesday night as to which version I was going to use and the mystic won out in the end.

All in all this is a very magical group of characters that is pretty much what I wanted. Every realm is represented to some degree and there is a little bit of cross over which is good. In my world magic users of all persuasions tend to have less spell lists each to force players into deciding what is really important to them. If you look at the realms of magic in this party you have essence/channeling (sorceress), channeling (cleric), arms/essence (warrior mage), arms/channeling (paladin) and essence/mentalism (mystic). Everyone is unique but at the same time they can share and learn from one another.

I have seen a few people on twitter talk about tweeting their game ‘live’. I am in two minds about this. Would it be distracting to be constantly picking up your phone to tweet? I think it will not do any harm to try it at least once so it is my intention to tweet the party progress tonight and if it seems OK then tomorrow as well. We will see how that works out.

I have given the stats for a few monsters that are common to Faerun but new to Rolemaster over the past three months. Once the party have met them, and that should happen this weekend all being well, I will share a few more creatures with you.

If you are a D&D DM considering trying Rolemaster then let me know any creatures you know and love and I will make sure you have the stats if they are not in any of the official books. The conversion process is pretty simple and not particularly time-consuming.

In the meantime there is a link to my twitter account to the left and look out for some tweets from me after about 6pm.

Rolemaster and Faerun – A little Background

I thought I would share a little bit of background as to why I am so interested in Rolemaster and Faerun. The game I am running is not your usual Friday night gaming session. My players and I get together just twice a year for a gaming only weekend where we manage about 30hrs of pure roleplaying once you take out the time needed for sleeping and eating. The next of these mammoth weekends is just eight days away and I have been working up to this session since November last year.

The game is set in Faerun as you know and after the time of troubles. I have never played a game in the forgotten releams before but I do own a lot of the materials, picked up cheaply second-hand, and none of my players have adventured in there either. Due to the infrequency of the gaming sessions I wanted something that would keep the game alive between meetings. There are so many forgotten realms books now on kindle for free or so cheap as to be almost free

Forgotten realsm books on Amazon
14 books fo 99p or if that is too expensive then you can have books for free.

that both my players and I could read about the world gaining in our understanding of the setting and its lore.

My players are familiar with Shadow World, a native Rolemaster game setting, and one of the features of Shadow World are Eassence Storms. Faerun after the time of troubles had areas of wild magic and for me I can make the two almost synonymous and give my players a point of reference they can identify with.

I hope you can see that as a setting the realms is an incredibly easy option even if like me and all my players you have busy lives and obligations and cannot devote the hours and days required to create a believable and rich bespoke gaming world of your own. I honestly believe that if you have never visited the realms and you are planning on starting a new campaign then it is definitely worth your consideration.

If you are coming from the D&D world then as a transition to Rolemaster it is easier to have as many familiar points of reference for your players and again the realms can serve you well. Not every monster or race has a direct one to one equivalent but that is one of the things I am addressing here. I am creating the Rolemaster statistics for anything I find in the forgotten realms that I cannot find in the Rolemaster rules and more importantly I am going to create them for the forth coming new edition of Rolemaster, Rolemaster Unified (RMU).

I have up until now been holding some things back. These are creatures and such that my players have not yet met and I do not want to reveal before the game session coming up just in case they stumble upon this blog. They do not know I am writing this and I am not going to tell them. Once they have met/defeated and have the measure of the next new monster on the menu then I will happily share the stats with you all.

I will of course share with you the parties progress as they get on with their adventures.

PC Perils #4 The Wamping Willow Has Nothing On This One!

Don’t say I didn’t warn you but this is going to smack some one up really badly when it unwinds!

Tree showing distinct twisting in the trunk.
This is going to hurt when it unwinds and takes you full in the face!

In the Monster Manual we had Treants, in MERP they were Ents and Active Trees. If you are just coming to Rolemaster then Creatures & Treasures (Page 51) gives you three varieties to play with, the Awakened Tree, Slowroots and Treeherds being 5th, 10th and 20th level respectively.

Your Awakened Tree is the the classic horror moving dark forest that the innocent fool wanders into before disappearing never to be seen again while everyone in the audience is thinking “Why do they always go into the forest in the middle of the night all alone when people are disappearing?” (If you know what I mean.)

Your Slowroots and Treeherds are the more ‘goodly’ variants and the Rolemaster equivalents of Tolkien Ents as seen in the Lord of the Rings.

I am pretty sure the tree in the photo above is completely natural and the twisting just a turn of fate (groan!) and that I didn’t catch it about the beat the hell out of me. If that is true then how would a party of adventurers ever be able to tell when they walk into an ambush of this kind?

Rolemaster Unified in 2015

I did say a while ago that I was going to give the gameable stats for both RM2/RMC and RMU for everything I write about. In Nicholas Caldwell’s directors briefing this month he says how well the second beta of Rolemaster Unified is coming along and there is the promise of the RMU Creature Law to come too.

I cannot see the benefit of statting things out for RMU Beta 1 when Beta 2 is just around the corner so for the time being I will skip the RMU stats and just stick to RM2/RMC.

What I am really looking forward to is getting some RMU stats for the Undead. There are a few adventures I would like to create using the undead as the main existential threat with an evil cleric or necromancer pulling the strings in the background. I like playing an NPC to the absolute max of their ability to see just what they could achieve.

This is one area where Rolemaster spell casters massively out-gun their D&D counterparts. In the AD&D that I used to play Animate Dead was a 3rd level Cleric and a 5th level Magic User spell meaning that the characters needed to be 5th or 9th level respectively to case it. In Rolemaster your evil cleric can go around raising his Zombies or Skeletons from 1st level although they will only last for a minute a level at that point. From 5th level onwards he or she can create permenant undead followers.

One of the beauties of Rolemaster spell users and spell lists is the way you can combine things. With Channeling users such as Clerics they can use Symbols to create your classic standing stone type shrine that will happily create an undead ‘guardian’ once a day if an infidel were to wander by. Again this is a 5th level spell. So even if the evil cleric isn’t at home when the players come knocking they still get to fight any permenant undead they ay have created and have others effectively respawn should the players return the following night.

Fearûn definitely has enough evil gods to give any GM ample opportunity to play with the undead, evil clerics and necromancers in abundance.

Rolemaster and Faerun

As a setting Faerûn can be a bit of a marmite setting. The diehard Gygax followers have never accepted it. Greyhawk adherents never needed it and it seems that with every new edition of D&D they feel the need to reinvent it. So why bother with Rolemaster and Faerûn?

I will not deny that Faerûn is not perfect. The original (grey box) edition barely sketched out the world as a setting for half a dozen modules and we were kind of teased into it by Elminster articles in Dragon magazine. After then there were so many seismic shifts that it is hard to keep track of it, gods dying, Mongolian hordes and volcanic eruptions not withstanding. Another criticism leveled at the Forgotten Realms setting is the über powerfull NPCs such as Elminster and Drizzt Do’Urden.

I, like many other roleplayers, cut my teeth in the D&D world, Greyhawk in my case, but then moved on to other games and other worlds. Last year I started to plan a new campaign after not GMing for a few years and I offered my players the option of a D&D game just for old times sake and I was surprised at the negative reaction. Despite that the D&D game had moved on generations since we last played no one was interested. We have always been dedicated Rolemaster players and that is what they wanted.

Setting a rolemaster game in Faerûn is pretty easy. Creatures and Treasures (I, II and III) cover 90% of all the creatures you will ever need. There are very simple rules included in C&T I to convert any that are not there over to Rolemaster and you are 50% of the way there. The other 50% is the NPCs.

There are numerous excel based spreadsheet type character sheets to help speed up character creation and my favourite piece of software (Rolemaster Charactder Utility) makes creating a middle to high level character the an hours work. This is where you can decide if you want and all powerful Elminster or not.

If you have a party of experienced D&D players then having a go at Rolemaster, even with a fairly simple adventure will be an eye opener (in a good way I hope)!

I am a RM2/RMC (Rolemaster 2nd Edition and Rolemaster Classic) player but there are other flavours available including a freebie 3000L_HarpLite (High Adventure RolePlaying) which has everything you need to get playing.

Why not give it a go?

The Moray Rat (A Forgotten Realms Creature)

In my Monster Snobbery post I mentioned a creature that is unique to the Forgotten Realms setting. This is the Moray Rat, a vicious variation of the normal rat that is the staple monster killing diet of many low-level characters.

What makes the Moray unusual is that it has nasty backward angled teeth that mean that once it has latched on to its prey it cannot let go or be shaken off. It will hang on to its prey until it eventually bleeds out.

Game mechanics-wise treat the rats as standard rats but if the rat delivers a critical that does at least 1 point of bleeding damage per round then the rat is attached. It will no longer attack but it just thrashs around worrying at the wound. I would give the victim or helper +50OB to attack an attached rat but I leave it up to the GM to decide what should happen if you try to hit a rat attached to your own leg and miss.

A Sabretooth Rat. Image by allison712
http://allison712.deviantart.com/art/Sabertooth-Rat-109701170

There is of course the option of the Moray Giant Rat but that is your own choice.

Morays tend to be found in much smaller numbers than typical rats due to the fact that their natural internal squabbles tend to lead to more fatalities which keeps numbers down. They are perfectly suited to living in burrows, pipes and crevices where prey may wander in as opposed to living in large packs and scavenging.

PC Perils #3 I Will Arise!

After my last PC Perils post (Whats in the hole?) we left the party facing trolls, hill giants or maybe an entire abandoned mine complex. We catch up with them again fleeing the woods and heading for higher ground and so their adventure continues in our little photo story.

Is that some sort of spire I can see through the trees?
Is that some sort of spire I can see through the trees?

Is that some sort of spire I cna see through the trees?

341
Yes it is a definite spire

342
It doesn’t look like a church.

344
What on Earth is that? It looks like a three sided pyramid.

345Hmm, that says “Resurgem” above the crest or “I will arise”.

346

Who puts a door in the side of a pyramid? Wait a minute what’s that?

347

Oh you are kidding me right? Someone has tried digging their way into the burial chamber of whaterver it is in there!

So there they are having emerged from the woods to find a granite pyramid wth a door in the side that someone has had a go at and inscribed in Latin “I will arise”. The family crest reads Nil Desperandum” or Never Dispair.

This just has to end badly for the party doesn’t it? In a world with magic and ‘long door’ or ‘portal’ spells the stone door is no barrier to something magical within but would stop frightened peasants from getting in and burning the thing whatever it may be.

From a real world point of view this pyramid is real and really is at the top of the same hill with the abandoned mines in the previous perils post. The person who paid for its construction also left a trust fund to have local children brought up to it every 5 years to dance around it. It was intended to be his burial place but by chance he was away in London when he was taken ill and died just outside the city. They still open the doorway every 5 years to see if he has risen from the dead yet as per his instructions despite the fact that he isn’t in there. If you want to read a bit more about it there is a wikipedia article about John Knill.

As a GM there are never enough really good reasons to use the undead if find and it would be  a shame to pass one up.

It is now officially unofficial!

I made a few changes to the blog today and here is the story why.

I woke up this morning to an email from Colin @ ICE which was a pleasant surprise.  He asked for a few things, They wanted a link to the rpgnow site on the blog (you can see it to the left now) but more interestingly they asked if I would make it clear that this was an unofficial blog and put a link to the official blog (also on the left now).

As Colin put it “They thought this was the official ICE blog”. I am not out to masquerade as anything I am not so obviously I was more than happy to make the changes. What is interesting is who ‘they’ are? I kind of hope it was some completely new people first discovering Rolemaster for the first time. That was sort of the reason for starting this blog, to spread the word about Rolemaster.

The really cool thing is that Colin has offered to share pre-release copies of products for review. I really hope this turns out to be possible as I could then give you all my personal take on the new products.

Watch this space!