It is now officially unofficial!

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

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!

Monster Snobbery

I am perfectly happy to admit that I am a snob. Not just any kind of snob though, I am a monster snob. I am running my campaign set in Faerun and the Forgotten Realms but using Rolemaster in preference to AD&D. There is no problem doing that and Rolemaster gives you a set of conversion rules (Creatures and Treasures pg 92-93) for doing the job. As it happens the majority of common monsters have already been converted so there are not that many to do most of the time. So where does the monster snobbery come from?

Part of the conversion process from AD&D to Rolemaster is in balancing the adventures. A pair of 3rd level AD&D fighters may well wade through 2-24 Kobolds but you try that in Rolemaster and you have a pair of very dead fighters on your hands probably in under 30 seconds. You need to balance the encounters for the much more dangerous combat system for a start. Sometimes you can just reduce the numbers encountered but that often just isn’t an option. Any sensible Dark Lord would not just put a single guard at every gateway, they don’t use just three warders to escort the party of five PCs who have just been captured and that viking longship did not just have two rowers!

So  if you cannot balance the game and the challenge there where do you look? Many of the Forgotten Realms source books provide starting adventures and that is where my party of adventurers are right now below the Tower of Ashaba. In addition to the Drow they are going to have to fight, the main point of the adventure, there are a number of incidental encounters.

Here are the cast of monsters (just the races not the numbers) that make guest appearances as one-off encounters:  Aballin, Cave Badger, Gambado, Gelatinous Cube, Huge Spider, Moray Rat, Mud-man, Piercer and Rats. That is quite a cast and that is in addition to six additional races including a Drow priestess and an evil magician that make up the core adventure.

Now looking at the supporting cast an Aballin is a pool of intelligent living water and a Gelatinous Cube is a giant single cell creature. It is these two that I have a problem with. Funny enough a Mud-man I can cope with. There is enough wild magic around (akin to Eassence storms on Kulthea) to animate a Mud-man, after all there is an awful lot of life in a pool of goo. I just cannot believe in malignant intelligent water or giant cubes of jelly.

Working on the principle that I am god ergo I don’t like it so it doesn’t exist. And that is probably the ultimate snobbery. If I don’t like you, you don’t count. This also goes part way to the balancing of the adventure.

There was another creature in that cast that you may not know, the Moray Rat. This is a Faerun creation and one that I do like. I will share the stats for them in a future post.

A Drow Fighter RMU vs RM2

Rolemaster Unified Character Law Cover

I have created a Drow fighter using the current Beta version of RMU Character Law. I have tried to stick as closely to the previous Drow warrior I used for comparing the four elven races so as to be directly comparable.

To boil down a character to the absolute minimum I have a little comparison table for you.

System DB Primary OB
Perception #hits Stalk/Hide
RMU 15 38 11 53 15
RM2 20 35 8 49 -25/0

The RMU character is 2nd level and the RM2 character is 1st level but if you take into consideration that an RM2 character goes through Apprenticeship and Adolescence and before becoming Level 1 and starting play both characters have two levels worth of development points and a single lot of stat gain rolls.

So the RMU character has slightly higher OB, perception, #hits and Stalk & Hide skill but the RM2 character has a higher OB. To be honest the differences are negligible.

If you look in more detail at the character sheet then you will see that we have lost the blind fighting skill, Iai Strike and the tumbling skills. Those skills do not exist in RMU (yet) and the Tumbling Evade works slightly differently. What the character does get is a much wider education, a greater range of combat skills including more weapons and unarmed combat and I said when I created the original character that I wanted to buy Poison Lore but couldn’t. The RMU character has Poison Lore (2 ranks).

What this has shown me is that although I quite liked the stripped down skills lists, that demand will almost certainly that they be reinstated. All the mechanics are in place for how blind fighting would work (it would be a Combat Expertise:Blind Fighting, the cost would be 1/2, no stat bonus and it would reduce the penalty for fighting whilst blind). Iai strike would be identical and it would reduce the penalty for drawing a weapon in the same round as your attack. It is all there ready to roll but that just means that so is all the skill bloat. It may not be quite as bad. Mechanical:Traps seems to serve as Build  Traps, Set Trap and Disarm Trap and that has to be an improvement. I never liked having to separate out Build and Set as two skills.

Just so you can go over them here are the two character sheets. The RMU one is a bit rough(!)

Just to clarify a little bit of shorthand I have used. After a skill it may say something like RC1 or C1122. That means that the first skill rank came from his racial background and the second from his culture the third from his 1st level DPs. In the second example he has one rank from culture and bought two ranks at each of level 1 and level 2.

I hope that makes sense.

 

Boys from Brazil or the Girls of Genghis Kahn?

Everyone knows that nearly every 12 year old girl wants a pony. Now I had always assumed they were suitably conditioned into the Barbie or Cindy lifestyle and because Barbie and Cindy have ponies then they must have them too. But No!

I can shockingly reveal what those 12 year olds are up to with their little ponies! As this film shows they are training to become a  horde of Amazonian. Were you aware that there is an army being trained right under our noses to fight on horseback? Whatever happened to teenaged girls sitting at home on Facebook, Habo hotel and MSN and having anxiety attacks everything they leave the house?

Less ‘Hello Kitty’ and more ‘Hello Genghis Kahn’.

Maybe they are the hope for the future, with North Korea hacking computer systems all over the world from Sony to South Korean nuclear power stations these children have turned their backs on technology and provide us with an unhackable hidden defence should the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea decide to invade.  Less ‘Hello Kitty’ and more ‘Hello Genghis Kahn’.

I am all in favour of everyone getting out more, taking exercise and learning new skills but at what point did someone think “Gymkhana would be so much better with weapons.” (Actually, to be fair, I have not been to a gymkhana for 35 years and it could be that every parent there could be thinking that.)

The moral of this tale is, I suppose, that the next time you are driving along and you see a horse on the road you have better slow down and pass them carefully and show a little respect because you never know…

May that be a warning to us all and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.

Quaggoths and Boogin

Rolemaster Logo

These are the two races/creatures I discussed last week as being both tied deeply into Drow culture. These two are in my opinion near perfect low level monsters to throw at beginer parties.

Why? Well if you look at their stats below they have a low OB, low-ish DB and not many hits. So they should in theory be easy to kill. When you are very low level with a poor OB yourself it is in many ways easier to kill a large creature than it is a man-sized one. If you are only doing A & B criticals then the chance of getting a killing blow is probably just 1% but Large criticals are open ended so you have a 5% chance of getting a takedown as any open-ended critical is enough to take out one of these guys.

It is not just that they are easy to kill that makes these two interesting though. They both have the tendency to go into a Frenzy. this gives them effectively more hits and a higher OB (+30). So if the characters are doing well then they can go into a Frenzy and get tougher if they party are doing badly then they are unlikely to go into a rage and they stay relatively weak. If they do go berserk then the tactical advantage goes to the characters and there is a likelihood that a Quaggoth may accidentally take out one of its allies.

When the party meet the Quaggoth they could be just in a small partol of just two or a small tribe of over 20. They may be lead by Boogin, their more inteligent half breed cousins or even orcs. Finally where you find Quaggoths and Boogins you find Huge and Giant spiders.

All in all you get a creature that is both weak and defeatable but also challenging and dangerous, you can use them in small encounters on their own or in mixed groups of varied races and species. Finally they are so closely linked to the Drow that I would suggest that a character with Faerie Lore (a fairly common skill) would recognise them as a race often enthralled by the Drow. Thus a single Quaggoth could be a plot hook into a bigger adventure.

So down to stats…

I have used the standard rules from Creatures and Treasures I to do the conversion to RM2/RMC

Quaggoths

Quaggoths are sometimes enslaved by other races, notably drow. Quaggoths usually live in underground lairs. They are about seven feet tall and covered in shaggy white hair, though brown-haired quaggoths are sometimes seen. When quaggoths live above ground they are savage, bestial hunters who live in nomadic tribes.

AT3(30), MV 150MS/AQ VF, Level 2, #Hits 20, Number encountered 2-20. Attacks Lge Claw (30OB) or Greatsword (20OB). All Quaggoth are immune to poison. They are 11′ tall and take Large criticals.

70% of Quaggoths groups are unarmed and will fight with their claws but 30% of groups will be armed with greatswords. For every 12 Quaggoths encountered there will be a leader wielding a battleaxe.

Quaggoths can speak haltingly and have a vary limited vocabulary.

They hate all surface dwelling elves.

Boogin

Boogins are brutish, hairy orc-quaggoth crossbreeds sometimes known as “spider killers,” a nod to the constant pressure from drow slavers. These half-breeds are more like quaggoths than orcs, though slightly weaker and more in control of their rages than their beast side.

AT3(30), MV 120MS/AQ F, Level 3, #Hits 55, Number encountered 1-10. Attacks Greatsword (35OB) or Spiked Club (20OB). All Boogin get +100RR vs poison. They will go into a Frenzy when attacked to get +30 OB and x2 concussion damage.

Boogin are the slightly more inteligent half orc/half quaggoth cousins of the pure quaggoth. They are often employed by drow as overseers of quaggoth patrols and are better able to follow orders.

 

Race Ag Co Em In Me Pr Qu Re SD St Chn Ess Men Poison Disease Size Fat Hits Rec Life DP
 Quaggoth -2 +1 -2 +1 -2 -2 -1 +2 immune L 25 x1 100 11
 Boogin -1 +1 -2 +1 -2 -1 -1 +2 immune L 25 x1 100 8

 Traits and Flaws

Quaggoth
Immunity to poison (costed the same as immunity to disease), Giantism I (11′ tall), Natural Armour AT 3, Natural Attack (Claw), Animal Empathy (Spiders), Frenzy.

Boogin
Immunity to poison (costed the same as immunity to disease), Giantism I (11′ tall), Animal Empathy (Spiders), Frenzy.

I have not created these races as player character races. I am just aware that there are a lack of creatures for the RMU playtest and with these, the drow I published this week and the orcs goblins and trolls from Character Law and the few creatures from the sample Creature Law (add in the special mushrooms and fungi from the herbs and poisons tables for good measure) that is almost enough to run an adventure into the Underdark.

The Drow Slaves and Subjugated Races

Rolemaster Logo

You have just got to love those Drow. They are the very model of political correctness and inclusivity, in fact they will make a slave of almost anyone!

Well actually that is not entirely true, they blame surface elves for almost everything (as do I) and the only good elf is a dead elf in their eyes. You see even Drow have standards!

To be more specific you should expect to find Quaggoths (more of them another time), Orcs, Half-orcs, Boogins (half Quaggoth, half Orc), goblins, bugbears, dwarves (one of the Drow Slavers all time favourites), gnomes and just about anything else that can see in the dark.

I was going to give you everything you need to know about Quaggoths and Boogins this time but two things have happened, firstly I have had a really irritating cough and cold this week which has slightly cramped my style and I have decided to throw myself into Rolemaster Unified (RMU). I am only just reading the new Character Law right now and I have just read the bit about creating your own races. Wouldn’t it be really cool to not just tell you about Quaggoths and Boogins but to actually create the race in RMU for you. Well I thought so. So the long and the short of it is that I will just give you a brief pen portrait this time but in a future post I will give all the stats and numbers.

Quaggoths surround a Drow Raiding Party

So down to business. The Quaggoth are a large hairy beasts who prefer great swords or huge clubs in battle and stand about 11′ tall as adults. They are of relatively low intelligence but most importantly they have a natural affinity to spiders of all sizes. Seeing as the Drow worship the spider goddess Lloth you can see the attraction here I hope. The Drow do like to keep Quaggoths around to train giant and huge spiders, a task they can do on long shifts as guard to stop them getting bored. You may as well kill two birds with one stone if you have the opportunity wouldn’t you say? The Quaggoth do make a ver good drow slave!

A boogin is a half Quaggoth, half Orc. One would assume the Father was the orc but I wouldn’t put money on it. Boogin are generally physically smaller but proportionally more intelligent and make better overseers of Quaggoth guards. They also retain the affinity with spiders. which makes them favoured by Drow. To be honest a Drow would never lower themselves to speak directly to a Quaggoth but a low-born Drow may value the spider services enough to speak to a Boogin or at least to an orc that knows a Boogin.

There is one more aspect of these two races that I want to keep back until I can give you the full stats and numbers but in my opinion these guys are the perfect monster to throw at a first level party and next time you will see why!

Rolemaster Unified Character Law

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

Rolemaster Unified Character Law Cover
Rolemaster Unified Character Law Cover

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

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

You get the idea.

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

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

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

Drow Weaponry

Rolemaster Logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hand Crossbow

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

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

The Longsword

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

The Spear

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

Poison

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

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

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

PC Perils #2 Whats in the hole?

Rolemaster Logo

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

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

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

The party decide to leave town early so the road to the forest is not too busy.
The party decide to leave town early so the road to the forest is not too busy. The map says just carry rigth on into the forest.
20141129_103249
But the road soon becomes little more than a lane and then a single track

20141129_103603
They all look to the ranger, “The map says the road carrys on dead ahead!”
20141129_103738“This at least looks like a decent enough place to camp. Why don’t the rest of you go look for some firewood and forage for anything edible. No point in wasting our rations right from day one!”

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

20141129_104344
“There are two more over here that look like they were just flattened.”
20141129_104425
“Are they burrows? There are at least three of them and each looks about 8″ wide to me.”
20141129_104522
“Three more over here too!”

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

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

How Drow Elves compare to other elven races

Rolemaster Logo

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

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

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

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

The Drow trade off OB for Hits

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

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

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

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