Rolemaster Fighters Rock pt III

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Question:What are the differences between a european-esque knight, a centurion, a samurai and a viking berserker?

Answer:What the player wanted to get out of the game.

In Rolemaster there are two approaches to getting exactly the PC you had in mind. The first is the hard earned cash version where you go out and buy all the Rolemaster companions and build the character to the profession as defined in those books. There will be as many companions for the new RMU as there is demand for and there are more companions for RM2/RMC/RMSS/FRP than any sane person requires (but we are roleplayers so we have them all).

The other approach is the ‘distilled essence’ approach. What makes a viking a viking? Well I would say, a bit of it is equipment, chain shirt, big shield, battle axe and a brace of hand axes would just about do it.

Skills-wise then the must have is Frenzy (bonus ‘to hit’, double damage and can take more damage before falling down), sailing/navigation/rowing and tale telling would just about cover it if you asked me.

You can have all of that with a stock fighter profession with points to spare.

The Samaurai? Well, rigid leather armour, katana, wakizashi (short sword), long bow for both skills and equipment and caligraphy as a skill. There is a useful skill called tumbling attack and a couple of combat skills such as reverse strike to attack people directly behind you and Ia strike to draw and strike in a single movement. I think that just about does it.

The knight is heavy on the weapons and armour, platemail, broadsword, flail, and lance, ride horse and some heraldry skill.

The centurion I would give a platemail breastplate (Armour Type 17 in Rolemaster parlance) and shield, shortsword, pilum (javelin) and definitely some skill in seige engineering and tactics.

Rolemaster has some really useful skills to compliment the straight weapon and armour skills. You do not need them all but you can use them to add that bit of something extra to a fighter. There are tumbling skills for evasion and attacking, reverse strike for attacking those behind you, two different ways of getting a quickdraw (by adreanal move and by Ia strike), ambush, martial arts (several), jousting and subduing to name just a handful.

I have found with some groups of players they start out with a strong sense of identity and a concept behind the character but as soon as you wave a nice magic item in front of them the concept goes out window.

Here is what I mean Player: Thrud is a barbarian from the wilds and shuns heavy armour as a sign of cowardice. 24 hours pass… GM: You open the chest and inside is a suit of +3 platemail Player: Cool I’m having that!

In Rolemaster you generally end up sticking to your original concept more because the choices you make at character design time can have a long term impact. You rank the different weapon skills so that one is easy to learn (cheap to buy with development points) and the others get progressively more expensive. If you have already chosen to learn broadsword, flail and lance then you regardless of how good that battle axe is it is going to be a major investment in time and effort before you get any good a wielding it. The same goes for the armour skills. To become fully proficient in moving in any type of armour takes an investment and commitment. Really light armours are easy to learn but your chain and plate armours will take you many levels to learn.

Going back to professions (character classes) Rolemaster Classic with no expansion of the rules has nine pure spell casters, three hybrid spell casters, three semi spell casters and only four non spell casters (realm of arms as they are called). This is not because Rolemaster is lop sided and bias towards the magical side of fantasy rolepalying it is because you can do so much realise your charcter concept right off the page with no need to define new professions. Those four are actually just Fighter, Rogue, Thief and Warrior Monk but with that spectrum from heavy armour to no armour as the default starting point you can pretty much build whatever you want.

My favourite theif character (may the gods rest his soul) wore platemail, he used a spear, hung out with knights most of the time, he had learned a little mentalism magic (attack avoidance and self healing) and was very adept at adrenal moves.  He could hold his own in a joust using a lance, which is treated as a similar weapon to spear so can use half his spear skill. When his skill is combined with adreanal move strength to get a boost to his attack roll and deliver double damage and magical protection from his spells (staking shield and blade turn) he could get pretty far in a tourney. He was even mistaken for a Paladin once and whilst he never claimed that himself he didn’t see the need to set the record straight too vociferously.

Buying Platemail for that character was a nightmare and a real drain on his development points but I wanted the character to be more con artist and confidence trickster at court and for that the armour was worth the investment. Without the amour on he was a competent thief and forger more inclined to steal documents than coin.

A different arms user I built recently was the one I described on Monday that leads with a volley of hand axes, one in each hand and with Adrenal Move Speed. He really does pile in like a ton of bricks. His weakness is that he is as stealthy as a bucket of bolts in a tumble dryer.

In Rolemaster there are so many choices beyond the “long sword, long bow, shield and plate” fighter of my D&D days but you can play that too if that is what you want.

Rolemaster Fighters Rock! pt II

It is easy to build almost any kind of fighter in Rolemaster but you should not be blinkered, there can be a lot of cross over between the different types of non-spell caster. Is a pirate a fighter with some maritime skills who steals things or a thief that likes to fight first and ask questions later? In Rolemaster the answer is which ever you want to play it.

Armour skills are increasingly expensive as the armour gets heavier which means that if you want to play a light, nimble warrior then what you save in armour costs you can spend on other skills. A platemailed knight will spend more on armour but probably would not be spending points on acrobatics and tumbling.

Now I am dredging  my memory here but as we went up levels in D&D fighters got to do more attacks, something like:

Fighter Level Attacks per Round
1-6 l/round
7-12 3/2 rounds
13&up 2/round

In Rolemaster you have more than one option for doing this and none of them are hard and fast level based.

You really have two options which are not mutually exclusive. The first is two weapon combo or fighting with a weapon in each hand thus:

It is expensive to learn fighting with two weapons but it is open to everyone. If you are not particularly skills you will get a penalty while using this style and it has disadvantages. Unless you are seriously deformed in some way you will not be able to use a shield and I would like to see you parry an incoming arrow.

Your second option is what is called an Adrenal Move Speed, this is a skill where you take a minus in one round to ‘prepared’ and in the next round if you are sucessful with your skill roll you are effectively hasted for one round. So no you can have your three attacks every two rounds if your adrenal move speed skill is good enough.

If you really have the need for speed why not combine these two? Yes you can really get two attacks/four attacks/two attacks/four attacks but combining two weapon combo and adrenal most speed. From a game play point of view  the balancing factor is that the rounds when you are preparing your adrenal move you would be at a minus, if you failed the skill roll then you don’t get the bonus and the development point costs would limit the character in other areas. You would also be at a disadvantage compared to a shield user against bow fire or other missile weapons.

Now almost every combat system I have ever experienced has the same feature of when you start to lose it is very hard to swing the balance back the other way. In Rolemaster this is equally true. With things like criticals giving wounded characters penalties to their actions, stunning them and bleeding wounds losing can be a steep slippery slope. Figthers can use this to their advantage.

I always like to start a fight by going in hard and fast, the proverbial bull in a china shop. Most fights take place in relatively confined spaces and at short distances. If you are surprised then there is not a great deal you can do about it but if you are the agressor then heck lets give it to them! Learning skills like two weapon combo with thrown weapons like hand axes means that you can open the fight with a opening barrage before they even get into melee. Hopefully you manager to get your sword out before they do crash into you but that double hit in the opening round can make all the difference between back foot or front foot for the rest of the fight. Unlike arrows axes do not go that far so you should be able to recover them If over time you manage to build up that adrenal move speed then you will be truly scary in that first round.

In a recent game we knew there were a group of Uruk Hai guards beyond the next door guarding a staircase we had to get up. The ranger wanted me to open the door so he could take a shot with his long bow to which I argued back that compared to him I had a broadside like a battle ship in such close quarters. It was true at such short rangees and with us choosing when to open that door and open fire I could prepare everything. I killed, maimed or otherwise put down two out of four Uruks and wounded a third. There was no way the Ranger could have done anywhere near the same damage despite being better with a bow than I was and him having an item that give him haste.

So if you like your fighters big and heavy then build them to go in like a ton of bricks and you will be very pleased with the results. you may not be able to cast fireball but you can be just as dangerous all day everyday as a fighter.

Enough about Spell Casters, Fighters Rock!

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I have spent most of this month telling you how Rolemaster spell casters are streets ahead of their D&D couterparts… wait until you see a Rolemaster figher in action.

My memories of playing D&D fighters was something like:

Round 1, Kobold hits you, take damage, roll to hit, roll damage, kobold is dead.

Round 2, Kobold misses you, roll to hit, roll damage, kobold is dead.

Two to one odds, kobolds vs first or second level fighter and the kobolds have little or no chance. Try that in Rolemaster and I wouldn’t like to say which way the fight is going to go. It is not that Kobolds are dangerous it is just as soon as anyone starts waving swords around people are going to get hurt, that is just the way of things.

One of the really nice things about Rolemaster combat is that a 1st level character can take on a 10th level one and the result is not a forgone conclusion. The rolemaster rules have two mechanisms to faciitate this. the first is the ‘open ended roll’.

Open Ended Rolls

Ever since I played D&D there was always some rule in place that if you rolled a 20 on your to hit then you got some sort of bonus be it double damage or you did max damage. Open ended rolls are Rolemasters answer to that. As RM is played with D100 and not a D20 the magic starts when you roll a 96+. You then get to roll another D100 and add the result. This can go on forever if required. There is a bad version of this and roll 01-04 and you have to roll again and deduct the second dice roll. Once the direction is set, open ended up or open ended down then that is set. So roll and 01 and you are going downwards, roll a 96 and that is another open ended roll so you roll again but the result continues going downwards. If the third rol was a 50 the result would be 01-(96+50) = -145. That is never going to be a good result.

In RM the attack roll and damage roll are one and the same so an exceptionally high roll not only is going to guarantee the hit but also do pretty good damage. Now anyone who has heard anything about any flavour of RM knows about the critical tables. There is a second D100 roll that you may get if your attack was good enough and that is your critical. For the most part these range from A to E with E being the most likely to kill you.

The way that the combat system works (Arms Law) is that with light armour you are hard to hit but take a lot of damage and more severe critical, with heavy armour you are easier to hit but take little damage and less severe criticals. An A or B critical will not kill you even on a roll of 100 but they could knock you out cold. An E critical will probably kill on a roll of 80+. Delivering E criticals is good taking them regularly is not good.

To tell you more about critical, they often give the location specific details, the gorey details of the strike and additional damage. Slashing and puncturing weapons may cause bleeding, crushing weapons are more likely to stun you, you can have muscles and tendons slashed and lose the use of your weapon or shield arm and so on.

Being stunned is really bad, you cannot attack when stunned*, you are easier to hit and find it harder to parry and to carry out manouveurs.

So lets glance back to our 2 on 1 kobold fight and each kobold has a 1 in 20 chance of getting that open ended attack roll and as there are two of them that is a 10% chance that one of them at least will be lucky. Should one of our lucky kobolds manage to get a critical strike in and stun the fighter then he is immediately on the defensive. he becomes easier to hit, cannot easily attack back and finds it difficult to defend effectively, our kobolds suddenly have the upper hand regardless of what level you are and that is something that almost never happens in D&D.

Creating a fighter in RM is just a case of picking that profession and then buying the skills that you want. Moving in armour is a skill so you can pick the type of armour that you fancy, weapons are learned individually and then there are lots of other combat skills that allow you to quickdraw, blind fight, reverse stroke, dodge opponents attacks and a multitude more. It is very easy to build your vision.

Fighters are balanced in the game mechanics by a system of deminishing returns on skills so the more skill ranks you buy eventually they start to add less to your skill bonuses. Th emore different classes of weapon that you know the more expensive the skills are to buy so it is harder to be really good with swords, bows, polearms, crushing weapons like maces and thrown weapons. You could of course be that jack of trades but you would pay for it elsewhere in your character development.

Now just like the spell casters there is more to the RM fighters than sword, shield, platemail and big muscles. Next time I will highlight some of the features that can make a fighter a really scarey foe.

* There is a skill available to learn called stunned manouveur that allows you to attempt to overcome the effects of stun but it depends on how hard you were hit and good you are at the skill.

Magic Is One of Rolemasters Strengths pt III

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The spell casters from two out of the three realms of magic, essence and channeling, have relatively simple to learn ways of storing power in inanimate objects. There is a fourth ‘realm’ known as Arcane that can be utilsed by any realm that also has this ability if and only if as a GM you choose to use this option from Rolemaster Companion One. As a rule and for the purposes of this post I am going to assume you are only using the four core books (Character Law, Spell Law, Arms Law and Creatures & Treasures) and therefore mentalists do not have this ability.

Anyone who has played a magic user of any description in almost any level based roleplaying game has been through the trauma of being first level and having barely a single squirt of magic to use per day. Things do not improve much at second level with maybe two sqirts and at third level three or four squirts. Rolemaster is less restrictive because it is a power point based system. In my game most spell users have typically two or three power points per level because I use an optional rule that bases power points on the total stat bonus a character has in the controling stat rather than the basic stat itself. This makes elves a more magical race and more inclined to manipulate mentalism and essence and it makes trolls less likely to be spell casters. The maximum number of power points for a player character is going to be 4 per level and the minimum is zero.

First level spells normally require one power point, second level two points and so on until you reach 50th level spells that take 50 power points.

That should be simple enough. So your first level spell caster will probably have two or thress spell lists and would be able to cast two of three of the first level spells on those list.

So now to storing magic…

I want to deal with Channeling users first. The realm of channeling has a closed list called Symbolic Ways. What that means is that pure channeling spell casters can learn this list as can hybrid spell casters but the semi spell casters such as rangers cannot nor can non spell casting classes. The first instance of spell storing on this list occurs at 4th level (in the RMC spell law) and allows a 2000lb stone or slab to be incribed with a single symbol. That symbol can be any first level spell. The symbol creator can then set a criteria that will trigger the spell and that spell can be triggered once per day.

In my Fearun most towns and villages do not have a temple to every god. Instead what you get is on the outskirts of these places are shrines to gods that are important to the people. You will find shrines to Chauntea commonly in rural areas, Mielikki on the edges of woods and forests and so on. So under Rolemasters rules any 4th level channeller who has chosen the symbolic way list of spells can create a semi permenant magical standing stone. This is not going to be of earth shattering power. At that level only a symbol of a first level spell can be enscribed but it is a start. As the character levels up then more powerful spells can be enscribed. At 7th level a second level spell can be enscribed, at 9th a 3rd level at 11th a 5th level, you get the picture.

Creating the symbol involves casting the required symbol spell and then the spell the be enscribed within the rounds (30 seconds). This is not particularly onerous and if we take the example of a resident priest demanding a penance from a sinner of assisting with raising a standing stone is a perfectly reasonable thing to ask. Villagers may not have a lot of money to give to the church but a days labour is always an option. Over time then the countryside around this village becomes dotted with standing stones, caves where villagers can hide from bandits can also become dedicated by the priest.

What a manifestation of power it is to have a stone in the centre of your village that anyone who prays to it is cured of disease.

You can have stones that heal, create food and drink, raise the dead or even summon demons to defend the church.

As a player character you are not going to carry one of these things into battle but if the party set up camp in a cave or outcropping of stone then you can certainly use that to your advantage, especically if you then fell in battle. The possibilities are really down to the lists of spells you have, the access to stones and your imagination.

And so to essence….

I dealt with channeling because stones are to some extent fairly common, you could throw a stick and have a fair chance of hitting one. The Essence version of spell storing requires something a little less common. In D&D when you read a scroll then *poof* the scroll is gone, dead, deceased, it is no more. Rolemaster is different. Firstly scrolls are pretty much exclusively called Runes and secondly the paper survives and can be reused.

The spell list for creating the rune on the paper is called Rune Mastery and is an open list. This means that any essence spell caster can learn it and even non spell casting professions like your fighters, thieves and barbarians can attempt this if they choose the realm of essence.

Rune Mastery do not allow you to create the paper, only to scribe your own spell on to it. As with channeling the higher level you are the higher the level of spell you can store. at 3rd level you can store a 1st, at 6th a 2nd, 8th a 3rd, 10th a 4th, 12 a 5th and so on. So an Essence user can start doing this sooner than a channeling and rune paper is more portable. The down side is that rune paper is less common than big rocks, slightly more flamable and liable to water damage.

Not all rune paper is equal. When it is created it is given a maximum level of spell that it can hold. This is determined by the power of the alchemist that creates it. A master alchemist is capable of far greater things than an apprentice. Alchemists are a fully developed profession in Rolemaster Classic and they have their own spell lists for creating all sorts of magical items including rume paper, potions and enchanted objects. Rume paper features on the standard equipment and suplies price list in Character Law but it would be down to the individual GM to decide on the actual cost and availability.

Having a stock of rune paper available does mean that you can extend the essence spell casters ‘operational range’ significantly, especially when on a mission the party can prepare for. In a recent game all the magic required to get the party into an enemy stronghold (flight, invisibilty, silence and sleep spells) all came from runes meaning that I had my full set of power points available when our stealth finally failed us and the alarm was raised.

Ten sheets of rune paper in the hands of just a 3rd level essence spell caster adds a potential ten more first level spells. Considering that that spell caster may have only six power points of their own that is nearly a tripling of their available magic and leaves those six points free for their more powerful spells.

In play I have found that the hybrid and pure spell users gain the most from runes. These are the ones most dependent on their magic and extending the amount of magic available gives both the player and the character greater flexibility.

As a GMing tip I would say if you are new to Rolemaster then I would not allow the party to buy rune paper. Let them find runes as part of their treasure they find and reuse the paper. That means that they have earned every sheet. The party has to reach 3rd level any way before they can use it so there is enough time to trickle a few sheets into the game and see how it effects the balance of play before you decide how much more to allow. Rune paper is easily removed from a game as well at the hands of a fireball.

Magic Is One of Rolemasters Strengths pt II

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I think that the variety of spell casters that Rolemaster provides makes the system very flexible. The profession you choose defines not only the spell lists available but the skills that profession is inclined to buy, illusionists are observant, mystics subtle, mentalists are a bit gungho. The spell lists open to each profession also help define that profession, obviously. If Rolemaster stopped there then it is possible that all magicians would end up the same, all clerics the same and so on.

That is the situation with D&D last time I played it. Every magic user was desperate to get to 5th level so they could cast fireball. If you made that that far then finally you had the fighters’ respect and could do something they couldn’t. Rolemaster doesn’t stop there though. The magic is only just beginning.

There is a really important part of the Spell Law rule book on magical research. What this relates to is creating your own spells to fit into the spell lists you have learned. Most spell lists in Rolemaster do not have one spell for every level. There are gaps in the spell lists so you may have a 1st level spell, a 3rd, 4th, 7th and 10th but no spell available for the other levels. Illusionists for example have no spells at all between 15th and 20th. With spell research you can either fill in the gaps in your spell lists or define new spells to sit alongside the existing ones. There is really no reason not to have two 5th level spells.

It is quite a good starting adventure for a new spell using character to have his master send him some where to complete some research and give him a spell that no one else has. There are loads of really simple things you could do with just first level spells. As an example if the player wanted to play a fire based mage and has Fire Law then researching a Detect Fires spell. Give it the same parameters the other detection law/mastery spells but allows the caster to detect fires through walls, floors and ceilings. This will teach the player the mechanics of researching spell and open them up to the potential.

I have one player that always misses not having ‘magic missile’ in Rolemaster. I think Shockbolt is meant to fulfill that roll but it is not the same. This is one of the things that spell research is meant to address. You want it your way? You got it! As the advertising slogan says.

Researching spells takes a week per level of the spell for spells 1st-5th level and 2 weeks a level for 6th-10th and so on if you are researching a spell to fit into your own lists(in RMC, RMU uses a different formula). In addition to the time you need access to research materials; books, ancient scrolls, other mages research and so on. Here in is the basis of a first adventure, get to a library or another spell caster’s personal library and complete the research, that is the reason for the spell user to leave his master and set out in the world.

With spell research in play you can have two spell casters of the same level and profession, knowing the same spell lists and even freakishly having the same stats and number of power points but playing completely differently and having different abilities because they have researched different aspects of their spell lists.

The rules (in RMC) literally take up less than two pages in Spell Law so this is not a complex, advanced players option despite the fact that many GMs and players treat it that way. The sooner you get your players creating their own spells the sooner you will have them putting their own stamp on their characters. Then of course you have the option of having players teaching spells they have learned to other characters. This only takes a quarter of the time but does make player cooperation really interesting.

Now even with professions, spell lists and their own custom spells Rolemaster has even more to give the magic user. I will continue with that next time.

Magic Is One of Rolemasters Strengths

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I remember when I first saw Spell Law, the rolemaster magic rule book, I was not overly impressed. When dealing with magic my background was largely D&D with the hundreds of PHB spells and probably an equal number of add on spells from Dragon magazine and from the backs of modules and such. Spell Law and the Rolemaster magic system takes a bit of getting used to but if you leave your preconceptions at the door it is an amazing system.

The first danger facing a new gamemaster is to make learning magic too easy. There are several optional rules about learning spell lists and entirely alternative learning methods availabel to the GM in the core rules and companions. Every one of them makes magic easier to learn. I have tried most of them over the years and have come back full circle to using the strictest rules and these give the players the most fun. There was an awful lot of moaning from my players when I did impose the strict rule set but that was because they had become spoiled by the overly generous rules they had been playing under. It doesn’t help that in our gaming weekends we have spent half the weekend playing 20th level characters created under the generous rules and half playing 1st level characters under the strict set. That is one hell of a culture shock.

At first glance it appears that Spell Law gives distinct sets of spells with each ‘set’ or list going from 1st to 20th and then 25th, 30th and 50th. The spell caster can cast all the spells of his level or lower from all the sets they know. Lists have to be learned in blocks of 1-10, 11-20th and then the three highest level spells are learned as up to 25th, up to 30th and up to 50th.

The first thing to realise that that basic model is not always true. Some character classes, ‘professions’ in RM, have specific lists that work differently. The two that spring to mind are healers who have a transference list that is a list of just one spell and illusionists who have their prime illusion lists completely interconnected so that they would all have to be learned before they can effectively create illusions, more on this below.

What you can do within rolemaster’s magic system is layer spells. Many spells work on the next spell you cast for example to increase the duration of a spell you would cast and Extension spell followed by the spell you want to extend. Runes can be written to specially prepared paper the same way and a door could be warded or a standing stone inscribed with powerful symbol. Other lists need to have their spells used together, different protective spells will only protect against one type of magic and so you will have to layer different protective spells.

There are rules on which spells ‘stack’ and which don’t. The rule being that spells with the same name do not stack. Using Extension as an example Extension II is a 3rd level spell and doubles the duration of a spell, Extension III is a 7th level spell and triples the duration. Despite the numbering these are the same spell so you could not cast both and try and get six times the duration on your spell. Certain spells do not stack simply because they are contradictory. There is a spell called Aura that makes the caster appear incredibly powerful and adds to the caster’s defence. There is another spell that makes the cast hazy and indistinct. It also adds to the casters defence. You cannot use Aura and Blur at the same time. Apart from a few exceptions like this you can stack pretty much anything and use that option to create so many more magical effect. A mid to high level magic user of about 10th level can litterally have more than 100 spells to choose from. Although many spells are very specific and of limited day to day use having them to hand for that one time they are just the right tool for the job is invaluable.

If you are new to Rolemaster then it is certainly worth reading all the spell lists available to a profession and seeing which lists work together before planning which lists to learn.

Now Illusionists in Rolemaster are NOTHING like a D&D illusionist! Firstly, you cannot disbelieve and illusion. There is no saving throw, Resistance Roll in Rolemaster parlance, as the illusion is actually created. What I mean is that a simple light mirage spell does actually create the image, if you stick your hand through it then you will know it isn’t a real elephant or whatever but the image is really theree. If you create an sound mirage of a claxon to raise the alarm then there really will be a big loud noise, the device that made it may not exist but the noise does. Illusionists have seperate lists for dealing with light, sound and touch/feel etc. They then have a master list called Greater Illusions but you can only use the ‘senses’ in your greater illusions if you know the corresponding spell for that sense. What the illusions (stationary) and phantasms (mobile) do is combine the different mirage spells into coherent multisensory illusions. If the illusionist know the touch/feel mirage then you can actually touch the illusion, pick it up and carry it off if you wanted or on the other hand it could fall on you and do real damage. For the duration of the spell an illusion is on the verge of being a real thing under the mental control of the illusionist. I would not recommend an illusionist as a first character in Rolemasters until you are really au fait with the magic system.

I have writen about this before but there are so many more types of magic using profession in Rolemaster that you will have to leave a lot of your D&D preconeptions behind. The sheer power of many spells simply is not apparent from reading the description in the book, you have to see it in action. There is a spell that make herbs more effective. Healing herbs play a big part in most rolemaster games. A typical common healing herb is Rewk, you brew it up and drink it and it heals 2-20 hits. Most mid to high level characters have 130-150 hits for comparison purposes. Rewk is both common and cheap to buy but is often over looked by characters because they would have to carry so much of it because of the disparity of healing to total hits. As an animist goes up levels they can double and triple the effectiveness of herbs and by 15th level they can times that by 10. Now you common or garden Rewk is healing 20-200hits. Rewk costs 9sp, less than one gold piece a dose. Yavethalion is a herb that heals 5-50 and costs 45gp, Gefnul heals 100 hits and costs 90gp. A starting character starts the game with 3gp typically (I seem to remember about 150gp was common in D&D as starting money) so you can see that that simple spell can mean the difference between life and death or at the very least empty money bags!

Spell Law I believe contains about 2000 spells split between three realms of power and those can be stacked and combined to make a lot of variations to fit your characters vision but the spell lists as presented only account for one part of the magic system within Spell Law.

Next time I will give you a primer on magical research.

Springtime for Magic Users

Interestingly I have noticed that my fellow GM and I have been discussing magic users of all varieties and how they get their spell lists and on the Rolemaster forums there has been a rather heated debate on the new RMU and about how the spells that spell casters can cast define the archetype of that magic using profession and whether they should be able to learn lists normally reserved for other types of spell caster.

In Rolemaster spells are learned in lists and these lists fal into three strata, Open lists are open to anyone, even a fighter could attempt to learn some spells from open lists. Closed lists are reserved to the pure and hybrid spell casters. Base lists are defined for each profession or character class are are reserved to that profession. So an illusionist and a magician are both pure essence users so they could choose from the same open and closed lists but the magician can choose from up to 6 magician base lists and the illusionist from the illusionist base lists. The magician does have access to a lesser illusion list so illusions are not the sole preserve of the illusionist and the illusionist can manage some minor elemental attacks (Shockbolt and much later Lightning bolt) utilising his light based list. A cleric has clericy base lists and a ranger has rangering base lists and so on…

In the flavour of Rolemaster I play (RM2/RMC) a spell list does not necessarily have a spell for every level, some do but most do not. I have encouraged my players to research their own spells to fill these missing spells. This makes each spell caster unique. Also I make learning each spell list difficult and relatively expensive. This gives spell users less lists to choose from and as a consequence they ake better use of all the spells they do know and makes researching your own spells even more important. My fellow GM is more generous with learning spell lists so spell casters have more spells and more higher level spells and spel casters tend to throw more higher level spells piking from the top strata of each list. It is not uncommon in the other game for a spell caster of high level to know every possible spell that that character could possibly cast. This has never happened in my game and almost certainly never will.

Getting back to the RMU discussion the starting point is somewhat different. In RMU you do no learn an entire block of a list at once but spell by spell. You learn as far up the list of spells as you want and you can learn from multiple lists at once. You can also learn at least in principle spells from other professions base lists. Another difference is that list has no empty slots. The basis of the argument was that the base list system built very high walls between the different magic using classes and that as a consequence all mages were going to be pretty much identical and if you had a visiion of playing a mage that could control the weather, a spell list normally reserved for channeling users such as an Animist then you simply could not mix and match that within the core magician profession.

I think the real flaw is the way in that the spells are learned. In RM2 it would cost you 20 development points our of probably pool of 35 points to learn the list that gives you invisibility , and another 20 points to learn the list that allows you to fly and another 20 to learn the list that allows you to detect magic. These are three pretty core magic user abilities. As the character goes up levels then the invisibilty gets more powerful covering greater areas with the cloak of invisibility, flight get faster and starts to encompass teleport type spells and the detection spells get greater ranges and the number fthings that can be detected such as curses, living things and so on.

In RMU on the otherhand you only need to learn the first 4 spells to be able to go invisibly, the 5th level spell to fly and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd level spells to be able to detect all three realms of power. The total cost would be 24 development points and a character gets 50 points a level. The option to get a really wide base of just enough spells from every possible list means that characters hit these walls defining the profession really quickly.

Because the primary way of defining a spell casting class in rolemaster (all flavours) is through the base lists available to them in RM2 we ended up with about 70 professions if you used every single class in every single rolemaster expansion and companion. I suspect that RMU will rapidly go the same way.

It is interesting, I thought that the most heated discussions on magic both occured at about the same time but as they say Spring is  meant to be the most magical time of the year!

Khelben “Blackstaff” Arunsun

Khelben “Blackstaff” Arunsun is a major player in the culture of Waterdeep. He is described in the source material as interfering in events often years into the future. To this end ‘my’ Blackstaff is going to be a Seer.

The sourcebooks describe him as just a ‘magic user’ but Rolemaster gives you plenty of different types of magic user to choose from. There are three realms of magic. The Eassence is Mystra’s Weave, Channeling is power derived from your god or deity and mentalism is that inner magic controlled by the mind of the caster. We are in Jedi territory with the mentalists!

Eassence is proably the most overtly powerful magic, this is where you will find your fireballs and lightning bolts and such. The three core magic users of this realm are the magician, illusionist and alchemist.

Channeling includes your cleric, animist (druidic type) and the healer. All Channeling casters have access to some level of healing magic with Clerics being able to raise the dead and healers instantly healing the wounded by taking the injury on themselves and then healing themselves with their magic.

Khelben “Blackstaff”Arunsun

Mentalists focus on the mind and bodily control for the most part. Their magic rarely effects more than one target at once and can be more subtle. The mentalists have a healer called a Lay healer and a Seer who can work with past and future knowledge. This is where I want to put Khelben Arunsun.

Don’t think for one second that a Seer is a push over. Mentalists are great ones for Telekinesis and he can easily pick up objects and throw them across the room with devastating effect (don’t think vase of flowers, think ripping up a cobble stone and throwing that 300′).

There were more options for my Khelben. In addition to those nine options Rolemaster has three ‘hybrid’ magic users that straddle different realms to give us a sorcerer, mystic and astrologer. These are really fun to play and Mystic was a really strong contender when considering this NPC. In Rolemaster terms Khelben is 39th level which does give a lot of scope.

It was while I was developing Khelben that it occured to me that although creating NPCs is a great way to learn the basics of any roleplaying game, for a new game master creating a 39th level character is not the best way to start. I would strongly recommend creating a fist full of lower level characters before tackling anything like these more powerful NPCs.

I would also say for NPCs don’t fall into the trap of always going for Magicans and Clerics as stock magic users. If you mix it up a bit and use the entire spectrum then you players will never know quite what is going to hit them next.

Creating Waterdeep’s NPCs

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Probably the most significant NPCs for any game set in Waterdeep has to be the Lords.


I am going to talk about the D&D and Rolemaster levels and classes for some very significant NPCs so if you don’t want to know don’t read it.

We really have to start with Piergeiron. According to the City of Splendors source books he is 14th level or higher Paladin. So translating this into Rolemaster speak and you are looking at a 21st level character. That seems fitting as 20th level in Rolemaster is sometimes referred to as “Lord Level” so that was easy enough. Now the Paladin bit gives you a number of choices. The core rule books do not provide a Paladin class. The reason being that the flexible approach to character design does not really need to define every possibe flavour of possible PC. Now two of the Rolemaster Companions (Rolemaster Companion 1 & 2) do define the Paladin profession. General consensus seems to be that the Paladin profession is best reserved for a high powered campaign although I do not have a problem with them. The question is do we really need a Paladin class? There are three ways of creating a Paladin…

Option 1: Use the defined profession, problably from rolemaster companion 2, being the most balanced version.

Option 2: Use a cleric and spend more development points on the arms side and less on the magic.

Option 3: Create a fighter and invest in some slepp lists.

Options 2 & 3 require a slightly higher level of roleplaying as it would be very easy to abandon to the archetype of he Paladin and just buy the skills and spells etc that are the cheapest for the base profession.

In the game I am in the process of setting up I am not using the professions from the companions so option one is out any way so that only leaves me with 2 & 3 to play with.

For Piergeiron I am going down the route of the Cleric based Paladin. The only things I need to do is make sure I buy just enough Transcend Armour skill (a skill that allows the caster to overcome the penalties for wearing, in this case metal, armour and casting spells) so that our chap can wear his platemail and of course Platemail as a Maneuvering in Armour skill. Both of these skills are skills that can be built up little by little every level just s single skill rank every level. So what you get is a Competent warrior imbued with the power of his God. that pretty much is the very definition of a Paladin to my mind.

So lets look at the third option…

To be the classical Paladin of RPG yore you need to be able to lay on hands to heal people and scare the undead. There is pretty much it. There are really three spell lists that the character would find desirable. Light Ways, Purifications and Concussion Ways. Learning Magic is not going to be easy but with Rolemaster you can start to learn a spell list and let that investment of development points ride until you are successful.  I would suggest that you buy just 2 skill ranks in the first spell list and then roll the spell gain roll every level until you get it. Two ranks equates to a 10% chance of success. Given those odds our 21st level Paladin would probably have made 22 attempts (characters get a chance at 0th level before starting play) so statistically getting those three lists is not impossible or even that improbable. As a player I would most likely be quite disappointed if I had not learned at least two by then.

I would also say in my reinterpretation of the Realms that if a group of Paladins, such as the knights of the round table, rode out on a quest, to find the holy grail, that it would be made up of both types of Paladin with neither seeing any distinction between themselves. Every group is made of individuals of differing strengths and weaknesses. Going back the Waterdeep and the Lords Piergeiron is not the only Paladin on the council. Texter is 17th level (D&D)/27th (RM) and also a Paladin. Taking into account Texters feats then I would certainly make Texter a fighter based Paladin.

Whilst my versions of the Paladin are definitely less powerful than the Companion profession it does not suffer from the accusation of being over powered. If anything I would say that those characters would suffer for their convictions but as a GM I would compensate for that giving the characters access to support from their order and opening doors that may not otherwise be open to them. I have always rewarded good roleplaying and the Paladin definitely does give plenty of opportunities for that.

It also goes to show that although the companions do define some 70 or more additional professions you do not need to rush out and buy all those books and then read 1,000 pages of rules just to play the game.

Paladin or scary cleric?

Giving Waterdeep the Rolemaster Treatment

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I am very pleased that my game will be going from two long weekends a year to three weekends. Furthermore rather than my game being the Friday night/Saturday morning game it will be moving to the Saturday afternoon, evening and Sunday morning slot. In real playing terms that will mean 16hr+ hours of actual game play rather than about 10hrs. Over a year we are talking 48hrs play compared to 20hrs. The game is going to get bigger in another way as well. I am starting some players in Waterdeep this summer.

As you know I am primarily a face to face, paper and pen roleplayer. I have been dabbling with play-by-post (PBP or PBM) gaming and  I have been enjoying playing that game. It is my intention to start a PBP game this summer set in Waterdeep but still in the same campaign as my face to face game. Geographically the centres of action will nearly 1,000miles apart so they should not interfere to frequently but there is always the chance that news will flow in both directions about significant events. What I do have to do is get Waterdeep ready for the players.

I am a GM that likes to have everything prepared. One of the really nice things about the forgotten realms materials is that it gives the race, level and class of all the significant NPCs. So right now I am creating all these NPCs as Rolemaster characters.

If you are new to rolemaster then creating characters is one of the best ways to become familiar with all the rules. As a GM it will be your responsibility to assist your players to create their characters so the more NPCs you create the easier it is to help other new players get started. It also helps, I think, to create many NPCs to make you faster at creating characters. It can take inexperienced players and GMs the best part of an evening to create their first characters if they do not know the rules.

I would have said that the biggest single difference between the systems (Rolemaster and D&D) is the way that magic magic is handled. It would definitely be to the GMs advantage to have created a few magicians and clerics before trying to help a player create their first PC magic user.

 When you are converting the significant NPCs from the Forgotten Realms source materials then as a rule of thumb you should multiply all levels by about 1.5 so that a 12th level fighter in the D&D rules such as Helm Dwarf-friend, Master of Sundabar would be an 18th level warrior in Rolemaster. For a more powerful game you would make the NPCs higher level but as a rule x1.5 works pretty well.

Right now  have a number of sourcebooks to re-read to refresh my self about this location and maybe fifty important NPCs to create before I can let any innocent PCs loose in the city. All the new players will be running around as solo characters initially, probably for the first couple of levels, ‘enjoying’ adventures created especially for them to let them bed in and get a feel for the setting. As always I will share as much as I can here.